A Detour and a Christmas Treat

Detours seem inconvenient, but sometimes they lead us to beautiful destinations. Such was the case yesterday when the guys and I were on our way to my aunts’ homes to do drive-by Christmas visits. A stopped train and a long line of traffic compelled us to take another route.

We worked our way around through Church Street in the historic part of Madison, Alabama and found it transformed to Christmas Card Lane. Each home had on display a giant “card” [created by local artists] in recognition of the holiday season. Some cards were traditional, some were whimsical, and, of course, some were biblical . Some even featured local themes.

The whole block celebrated the festive spirit of the season and boosted the holiday cheer.

I captured 26 “cards” as we drove slowly down the street. Here are our favorites:

My son’s favorite:

“Merry Christmas in Sweet Home Alabama”

My hubby’s favorite:

Christmas in the style of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote

My favorite favorite is above, but here’s another favorite.

“No Place Like Gnome for the Holidays”

I’m running low on WordPress space, but you can see all 26 cards in my Flickr album: Christmas Card Lane.

I hope the holiday spirit is still with you!

May You Have Peace…

My Love Notes friend, Suzette R., created and sent the gorgeous collage above and I can’t resist sharing it with the blogosphere.

She appropriately added Casting Crowns’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The song is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells,” which I shared on the blog six years ago.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
 
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
 
But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
 
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep 
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
 
And the bells they’re ringing  
Like a choir they’re singing 
And with our hearts we’ll hear them 
 
Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?
The life the angels singing 
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Like Wadsworth’s poem, the song decries the hate and hurt that mock the “song of peace on earth, good will to men.” It is appropriate for the bizarre year we’ve had in which all the chaos seem to scoff at our attempts to live in peace and harmony. But just as Wadsworth’s poem ends in hope, so, too, does the song.

If we tune our hearts to the bells, to the true meaning of Christmas, we will tune our hearts to hope, love, and yes, peace.

May you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas!

Holding on to Christmas

I thought about taking the Christmas decorations down today, but my not-so-little one convinced me to leave them up a little longer. I figured, if I take them down by Friday, I will still be about three months ahead of my normal schedule. 😀 .

Like my son, I’m having a little difficulty letting the Christmas season go. It took me a while to get in the spirit of things, but I’m not ready for the parts that I love so much to go away–unrushed mornings, Christmas movies, uninterrupted time with the guys, reading and writing, creating and crafting, and hours of contemplation without the nagging “things to do” list over my head.

I’m certainly not ready for the end of [receiving] über cute Christmas postcards from pen friends–like the card above.

My Love Notes pal and literary twin, Bianca, sent the sweet postcard featured. Immediately after retrieving it from the post office box–and before reading the message–I knew who sent it! Who else but Bianca would find in Germany a little girl with my skin color hugging a snowman? She always finds the perfect, most adorable cards that speak to some part of my identity, interests, or character.

The postcard was designed by Tanja Angermeier of Monimari, who creates “sustainable stationery for children’s hearts.” You can find more about Tanja’s work and Monimari by visiting her website. To get a steady diet of Monimari, you can also follow her on Instagram and even purchase some of the items in her Etsy shop.

Thankfully, even after the Christmas decorations have been stored and the last Christmas postcard has been received, we can still make the choice to carry the Christmas spirit with us all year. We can choose to walk with a spirit of love for humankind every single day. After all, that spirit is always in season.

Ordinary Moments of Joy

I had zero holiday spirit. None. I did everything I could to conjure the warm feelings the Christmas season usually brings. I went to Christmas parties. I decorated the house. I participated in gift exchanges. I read and meditated on scriptures about the birth of Christ. I even bought an ugly sweater (really, a hoodie). Nothing worked.

I was deep in a hole of exhaustion, confusion, stress, grief, and it was far too taxing to exact from myself anything other than that strange mix of feelings.

Until last night. As I was scrolling through Instagram posts, I ran across a one by Brene’ Brown in which she talks about spending Christmas in her mom’s hospital room. She begins that post:

The purest form of joy comes to us in ordinary moments, and those moments can happen any place where gratitude is alive. —Brené Brown

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments.”

It’s amazing how a single statement can prompt a shift.

I paused and asked God to help me to recognize and seize moments of joy, despite those contrary but legitimate emotions.

So today I opened my heart and with gratitude welcomed joy in all the ordinary moments and in all the ways in which it presented itself–watching my guys open gifts; chatting with my mom; preparing a dish for the family dinner while watching funny YouTube videos with the guys; texting Christmas greetings to friends and loved ones; enjoying Christmas dinner with my aunts, cousin, and her kids; listening to my aunt’s hearty laughter, knowing this first Christmas without my uncle is so difficult for her; eating way too many sweets; spending this moment with my blog before grabbing my fuzzy blanket and cuddling up with the guys to watch more Christmas movies.

Ordinary moments imbued with gratitude. Pure joy.

May you walk with gratitude and joy during the holiday season and through the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

A Dear Deer in the Snow

Watercolor Deer by Eileen V. “Frohes fest und die besten wünsche für das neue jahr.”

I promise I will not do another “12 Days of Christmas Postcards,” but I will share a few (?) of the super cute and original ones that come in–like the one above. The watercolor of an adorable deer relishing the snow was created by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

Don’t you love how she captures the deer’s delight? It seems humans aren’t the only ones who can’t resist looking up and losing themselves in the wonder of snow.

Interestingly, the card Eileen sent last year also featured a [rein]deer in the snow. Coincidence? Maybe, Eileen has a thing for deer. 🙂

Oh, Christmas Tree! | #WordlessWednesday

Christmas is not a story of hope. It is hope. –Craig D. Lounsbrough

The university held its annual Christmas party yesterday. The theme this year, “Christmas in the Alps,” matched the cold, cold of outdoors.

The team always does an amazing job with the decor, and we felt like we were in Switzerland. I’d intended to photograph some of the cozy elements created to capture the theme, but I’m still a bit fatigued–it was a hard semester. I did manage to get shots [on my phone] of some the ornaments adorning the very tall tree.

The images speak for themselves, so they are perfect for a #WordlessWednesday. [Click an image for a closer look].

 

How to Carry the Christmas Spirit Year Round

Fall 2019 is O-V-E-R! The grades are in, and I’m a couple of short reports away from winter break. I am beyond exhausted–too tired to write a post–so I’m sharing a post by my Brittany of Ordinarily Extraordinary Mom. In this post she offers three ways to carry the Christmas spirit all year.

As I turn my attention fully toward family and holiday preparations, Brit’s Christmas spirit is just what I need to spark a little holiday magic. Maybe, this post will do the same for you.

ordinarilyextraordinarymom

“Christmas is here everywhere.

Christmas is here is you care.

If there is love in your heart and your mind,

You will feel like Christmas all the time.”

(Writers: Mariah Carey, James Horner and Will Jennings; Singer: Faith Hill)

***

3 sure ways to carry the Christmas spirit all year long. #christmas #christmascheer #christmasspirit #holidaycheer #gratitude #love #grateful

*Please note this post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Last year I created Christmas cheer.  I needed it.  I needed a year to recover.  I needed a reason to get my mind off life’s curve balls and back on to the reason for the season.

This year, I am grateful for peace.  I am grateful for normal.  I am grateful that my biggest worry is which paycheck I will use to cover which gift.  I am grateful for a decluttered Christmas schedule.

In searching out the source of this newly discovered peace, I found that peace should always accompany the Christmas…

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12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 12

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

–Howard Thurman, “Christmas Is Waiting to be Born” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations 

Our final “12 Days of Christmas” post features a card Michael Lomax, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and former President of Dillard University (DU) in New Orleans (1997-2004), sent to University employees in 2002.

Of course, this card wasn’t just lying around waiting for this moment. I found it a couple of weeks ago during my latest “I’m going to purge for real” session.

The cover, entitled “A Tribute to Peace,” features the work of Damion Hunter, who was then a sophomore at DU. A native of New Orleans and DU alumnus, Damion now resides in Houston, Texas. Like this piece, much of his work reflects New Orleans themes.

“A Tribute to Peace” pairs well with Theologian Howard Thurman’s “Christmas Is Waiting to Be Born,” and both work well to end our 12 Days of Christmas.

Hoping you will join me as we begin the real work of Christmas…


If you’re in the Houston area, you can see more of Damion’s work up close and personal on January 11 downtown at Kulture Restaurant. If Houston’s too far to travel, see below for links to some of my favorites from his Instagram profile.


12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 11

My friend David P posted a Facebook status Christmas morning that poignantly expressed the meaning of Christmas. We spend so much time on the circumstances and the miracle of the virgin birth that we often miss the reason Christ came to earth—God so loved the world. Christ came not just to be born of a virgin and perform miracles but to rescue us through His shed blood at Calvary. He came because of His inexplicably deep love for humanity. It’s just as simple–and complex–as that.

David wrote:

We Christians believe Jesus was sent to Earth because God loved the world. To me, that means all of us: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus; those who practice Santería, Vodou, the Yoruba religion and other African-based beliefs; pagans, Wiccans and yes, even Satanists; .agnostics and atheists, too. And those of any other belief, or of no belief at all. God’s love is a big patchwork blanket of grace that covers all of us, no matter what state we are in, no matter how we perceive or don’t perceive God.

This is the good news: God loves us lavishly, unconditionally and relentlessly. So we who believe can relax, enjoy the relationship, and grow in it. And we can trust that for our loved ones who don’t believe or aren’t sure, God doesn’t pout or hold grudges. God loves them, and courts and cares for them night and day. In fact, God’s love for them far exceeds our own. So don’t worry. They are in good hands, just as we are. Happy Holidays to all…and to my fellow believers, Merry Christmas!

David’s words align with the sentiment of the image I shot for our holiday card this year: Christmas is about love for humanity, and that love is always in season.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 10

Christmas magic is silent.
You don’t hear it–
You feel it.
You know it.
You believe it.

Today’s postcard was not handmade, but it so thrilled me that I have to share it. It was sent with warm holiday greetings and love by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

I love the seeming simplicity of the art and the subtle nod to the magic of Christmas.

The watercolor reindeer is the work of Claudia Brandt, an artist I have fallen in love with. You can see more of her art on her website, A Painting a Day or Two or Longer, or on her Facebook page.

The postcard arrived in pristine condition because Eileen placed it in a bright red envelope and stamped it with a breathtaking Chagall image.

[Enlarged for detail]

I think she was trying to send me over the moon for the holiday season!

The stamp features a small part of one of the nine stained glass windows Marc Chagall (1887-1985) completed for St. Stephan Church in Mainz, Germany. The image depicts Mary cradling Baby Jesus with an angel hovering above them.

Chagall worked on the windows from 1978-1985, completing them shortly before his death. They feature themes common to Christians and Jews and serve as Chagall’s contribution to reconciliation between the two groups.

Here’s an image featuring the full panel: Chagall Window by Tomosang.

For a visual feast of Chagall’s stained glass windows:

For more information about St. Stephan’s windows:

Hang in there with me! We have just two more days of Christmas postcards to go!