Thursday, December 22, 2016
Nora and Joe and I lit the first Advent candle the day after Oliver was born. We have been marking the days by hanging the tiny figures on our vintage Advent calendar. We have baked Candy Cane Cookies, joyed in the twinkle lights of the Christmas trees, and tried out a few carols. Solstice has come and gone, darkness leaning now toward the light - Advent reflections are in everything. Even in our part of the South Texas Gulf Coast we have had a share of cold weather. Winter is here, although the picture is one from years past. Our Peace sign in the front courtyard is out for Christmastime, but the blessing is for always.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, Advent begins tomorrow. The 2 days are not always so close together, but it seems appropriate to move from the posture of marking gratitude to these next weeks of waiting and expectancy. I love so many things about these celebrations. There is the time set aside for personal reflection and recollection. There is time for family gathering and celebrating. This Thanksgiving has brought a keen awareness of how precious our times together are and how much I appreciate the occasion because it draws people home. The coming year brings great change for all of us, some already known. Jobs and homeplaces are relocating, our grandchildren are growing up. Next year gatherings may be different in numbers and place. So I need to say one more time how grateful I am that all our thirteen of our sons, their wives and our grandchildren were together for hugs and laughter, fun in the kitchen, remembering, and circling our great feast for Joe to pray a blessing and thanksgiving for our family, our food, our being together. Not many pictures, but so many, many good memories.
Thanksgiving 2015. Blessed.
Friday, December 19, 2014
What traditions are important to you in all the busy preparations for Christmas? How do these change your "list?"
Friday, December 21, 2012
Carol of the Birds
I am strangely attracted to a Christmas carol rarely sung -
treasure of music, words with sweet mystery,
quiet, wondering melody
Questioning feathered twitters.
“Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.
Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
Hastening we seek the newborn King
And all our sweetest music bring.”
Stirring some ancient warmth within me
I play the notes and sing each verse,
decorate a small Christmas tree
with vines, berries, woodland birds.
Greenfinch, Philomel sing
Re, mi, fa, sol in accents sweet
from woodland edges, farmland hedges
Noel, Christ on earth with man to dwell
Someone singing this tune for 400 years,
before that, once an older one now lost?
Could it be I am pulled by what I cannot remember?
Song and my great grandmother both born in southern France
She died when I was a baby.
Did she sing it, rocking me
in the old wooden rocker in which I rock my own grandchild?
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Howard Teal and his first grandson, Sean Parker, Christmas 1968
This picture speaks to me of Christmas past and Christmas present, even Christmas yet to come. My Daddy is holding our first son. How proud he was! Sean loved his Papa, and already loved books. They are delighting each other with the reading of The Night Before Christmas. Can't you hear "...up the chimney he rose?" With this book, as in most, arriving at the last page meant "again, read it again!"
So, as I bring in the boxes of decorations and begin pulling out all the old familiar ornaments and set up the manger scenes, I am brimming with both tears and smiles, thinking how good it is to do it again. I set up our advent wreath and candles and fill the big basket with all the children's Christmas books read and reread so many times. I stack my Christmas piano music and practice the arrangements of White Christmas and Silent Night that I have played for so many years now. I am thankful that I did most purchases for gifts before Thanksgiving, so that shopping is not on my to do list, and I can spend more time re-calibrating during Advent. I listen to my favorite Christmas CD, James Galway's Christmas Carol. On the way to Bethlehem, again.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
At this time of year for a number of years, Joe and I became innkeepers. No, we didn't open a Bed and Breakfast, but we did set up a cozy inn with a fireplace and welcome guests so that we could share our stories. Our church, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Texas, has a custom of offering a gift to our community each year at Christmastime, called Experiencing Christmas. This is not the expected scenes from a live nativity, as special as those can be - but a group of people who put on the characters from the Christmas story like they put on the robes and headwraps. We became Jacob and Rachel, innkeepers who find a place for the holy family that is clean and quiet and away from the public, their stable. As small groups of guests came in to sit by our fire and talk to us, we talked about our fears, our amazement, our wonder, our belief.
Every year, the drama changes to tell different parts of the story, and this year, the inn changes too. It will come after groups have finished their walk through the story scenes. But Jacob and Rachel will still offer their hospitality in a reception area. No cookies and punch though - there will be flatbreads and cheese, olives, and dates, and pomegranates. Looks like I just can't get out of the kitchen. But then I don't really want to. Welcome to our inn!
Saturday, December 24, 2011
December 24, 1959
Daddy bought roman candles
to celebrate Christmas Eve.
My little sister and I knelt on the ground watching.
Each pop and whoosh threw red and green trails
into starlit sky.
We thought it was how he liked to spend Christmas eve.
Mother never joined us, staying inside,
then coming to the screen door
“Come fast, guess who has just been here?”
Santa came and we always missed him
but gathered our presents and drank hot chocolate -
No visions of sugar plums when we dreamed because we already had them.
December 24, 1963
I gave Joe a tiny red book
with poems about love.
He fastened three pins on my jacket
three letters: M, A, and P
my new initials.
We were married three days later.
December 24, 1964
In Oregon, our tree was a tiny Grant pine
cut from a friend's farm.
hung with snowflake cutouts and lacy string balls
I knitted a green sweater,
sleeves twice as long as his arms.
He painted a recipe box
“Good Things You Can Fix”
December 24, 1965
Planning a time full of surprises.
driving four hours on Christmas eve.
Our gift would be an announcement,
Good news faded, pain exploded,
no tree in the operating room, no joy in the telling.
December 24 1968 and 1970 and 1973...
Lights shining in the eyes of a new baby.
Is there anything more beautiful?
What better time to celebrate birth and babies?
Christmas carols make wonderful lullabies.
December 24, now.
We go to church on Christmas eve
Once it was snowing when we came back outside,
something that never happens in South Texas.
We danced in the snowflakes.
Then we came in for mulled cider and tamales.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
One window at a time, our sons opened the view to Bethlehem,
from the Little Golden Book Story of Christmas with its own Advent calendar
I found the book on sale in Cokesbury, downtown Dallas
displayed with all the wonderful children's Christmas books.
never knowing it would become a treasured vehicle
for keeping Christmas as three boys grew strong and tall
In the beginning a story was read from the book and they took turns (reluctantly)
opening windows, naming what could then be seen
Years passed, they read their own story.
How did those little cardboard windows last?
They were not always opened slowly or gently!
First page, first image –sad swirls of darkness, clouds
As windows and story opened more -
angel, donkey, closed door, open stable,
cow, shepherds, sheep, one star
kings, camels, presents
Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus
Tiny windows in Bethlehem, opening one by one
counting down the days to Christmas.
telling hope and mystery and miracle
singing He is coming, He has come.
Story not finished but beginning! Jesus, born once more
entering our world bringing light and life.
Christmas does not come all at once.
One window at a time, we open our eyes to Bethlehem.
One step more and we are home.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Skye and her doll Molly have matching Christmas dresses. Our house has its Christmas dress on too. The outward preparations for Christmas start Thanksgiving weekend although I always give myself the gift of beginning to listen to my favorite Christmas music on my birthday two weeks prior to that. Once I get the bins of decorations into the house from my garage, I am always eager to get everything "out and up". I find it takes me longer these days, so here it is only a few days until the 25th and I am still tweaking the tree...trees, actually. Skye is here in the afternoons after school and she has helped with getting ready. We have a small kitchen tree with handwritten recipes from my mother and cookie cutters I have used since I was a child. The tiny tree in the dining room has small china teacups and saucers for decorations plus a few tea bags and the pieces of Joe's mother's spoon collection that came to us. The decorating is only a sign of what goes on inwardly for me. Advent is a time for making my heart ready.