Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Illustrated Little Roundup of Things That is Actually Pretty Long. . .

Ah, isn't it cute?!

1. Thrifty. I was at a thrift store with my mom and one of my sisters recently when I spotted this green mug. I held it up in front of the two of them, and they immediately sang out, “Grammy!” Yep. It made us all think of sweet, funny, charming Grammy (we all miss her like crazy). She kept mugs very similar to this one in her kitchen and drank coffee from them every day. So, for 50 cents, I bought the mug, and it is now my new mug of choice when I drink my morning coffee and tea.

Yum. Seriously.
(I cut it in half to show you.) 

2. Tasty. I made the best “raw” and “healthy” treats today! I made my usual chocolate truffle recipe, but today I had the bright idea of forming the truffle balls around a smaller ball of peanut butter (the peanut butter is actually not raw, but the rest of the truffle is). I make 1/3 of a batch of the following recipe: 3 c. dried, unsweetened coconut; 1 ½ c. cocoa powder; 1 c. maple syrup; 1/3 c. coconut butter; 1 T. vanilla; ½ t. salt. Stir everything together. The mixture will be wettish, but add a bit more coconut if is just too wet to handle. Shape into a ball. Make an indentation in it, press in the peanut butter, and reshape the chocolate truffle around the peanut butter. Set in a dish dusted with cocoa powder, and when all truffles are shaped sift more cocoa powder over the top. Cover and keep in fridge (they will firm up in the fridge).

3. Good Reading. I am loving the book I am reading right now. It is called Miriam’s Kitchen (by Elizabeth Ehrlich) and was given to me by my daughter Aimée at Christmas two or three years ago. I’ve started to read the book a few different times, and I’ve liked it, but I've gotten sidetracked on every attempt. The book tells the story about how the cooking and kitchen of the author’s mother-in-law draws her back to her own Jewish roots and faith. I don’t know if it’s because I so very much enjoyed my “Jewish Cultures in America” class last term or what, but the book is just the right thing for me to read right now. It is extremely warm, engaging, and well-written, and the book is full of deep observations and insights.

My favorite college player!
If you follow college football, and you don't know who he is yet,
you will.

4. Coming up. The Rose Bowl. January 2. Oregon vs. Wisconsin. Watch it (and root for Oregon, even if you live in Wisconsin)! I’ll definitely be watching (the game, not you).

Update: Yay! What a crazy game. And my favorite player amazed a lot of people.

A humble, but warm (!), room.
This photo was taken the week I moved in.
The towels have now made way for books and flutes and coffee mugs.

5. Where I hang out the most in my house in winter. The bathroom! It’s so warm in there. Actually, I only retreat to the room now and then throughout the day when it’s extra chilly, but on really cold days, I spend quite a bit of time in there. Sometimes books pile up on that bathroom counter, along with little notebooks and pens. I peruse cookbooks and other books there, play my flute (you didn’t know I played the flute, did you? my playing is nothing to jump up and down about, really, but I’ve been enjoying it again), and I talk on the phone. I take my coffee into the room on extra cold mornings and read my Bible and devotional there. It’s the warmest room in the house by far, and the closest I’ll get in this house to having a woodstove. But, hey—I’m not complaining! I'm thankful to live in this wonderful place.

 Look at me! I stole one of Kim's pictures without permission!
(Kim, if you are mad at me, I will remove this.)
But I wanted you others to see. It's a magical, wintry photo
and it's just one out of about a million nice ones at Kim's blog. (Click.)

6. Good blog. Have I ever mentioned Kim of Starry Sky Ranch here? If not, I don’t know what has taken me so long. I’ve been reading Kim’s blog for years, and she’s been a steady favorite of mine from the very beginning. She’s got a houseful of kids ranging from very little ones to adults (even though she looks about 25-years-old!). She and her family left their Colorado ranch behind and now live in Germany. Kim’s photos are beautiful, her spirit is clear and refreshing, she lives lovely (but wouldn't want me to publicly lavish praise on her), and she has accumulated lot of wisdom over the years that she doesn’t try to foist off on anyone, so just watch and listen, and you’ll glean much from Kim. (No pressure or anything, Kim!)

7. What I ate today. (I used to do these posts occasionally, for some odd reason, so I thought I’d go out with one last food list because I’m sure you care!) Sprouted grain toast with almond butter-miso-honey spread. A whole quart of green smoothie. Three chocolate-peanut butter truffles. Delicious maple-roasted butternut squash (I ate a whole small squash all by myself—there are perks to living alone). Pomegranate seeds. Cashews. Collard leaf wraps with mango-veggie-slaw and peanut sauce (made with raw almond butter). Normally, I eat a big salad, but it didn’t happen today. I got plenty of greens and vegetables, though.

8. Celebrating. It’s New Year’s Eve, after all, but I’m home alone. I suppose I could make some popcorn or eat another chocolate truffle. For sure I’ll relax and read. I think that makes a great celebration. : : : Later, I'm still here--I hear occasional fireworks going off outside, and it's not even close to midnight. I guess I'm celebrating by attaching photos to this post. : : :

Resolutions? I don’t really do them. I just try to start anew whenever I need to. When I realize I’ve gotten off-track (with exercise and health habits, Bible reading and prayer, or anything else), I try to get right back on. When I fall, I just stand back up, dust myself off, deal with any obstacles or hindrances that are tripping me up or blocking my way, and get moving again. I don’t wait for a new day, a new week, a new month, or a new year to do it. God’s mercies are new every morning, but they are also available every minute of every day.

But still, the end of one year and the start of the next naturally lead most of us to reflect and even rethink some things. It’s a good time to remember, appreciate, reflect, pray, and sharpen the vision. And resolutions should be made by all who find them useful! :-)

9. Another good book. The Hidden Power of Kindness by Lawrence G. Lovasick. Becoming truly kind is not a New Year’s resolution, but it’s a lifelong aim or vision that began when I became serious about this book a few weeks ago. I’ve had the book around for years, and when I first got it I liked it fine, but it struck me like one of those old positive-thinking-be-nice-to-everyone-in-order-to-elevate-yourself-or-become-successful books. It seemed to have some good thoughts in it, but I just didn’t get into the book. But when I picked it up again recently, I began to read the book in my normal fashion: I opened it; browsed through it; skipped to the middle, then to the back, then to the front, and all over the place at random, stopping wherever something struck me; looked at the table of contents for the most compelling parts and read those; began to become engrossed in the book; began to be confronted and challenged by it; began to realize the profundity of it; and began to develop a deep desire to live according to its principles (which are really Biblical principles, but expounded wonderfully). I eventually finished the whole thing. This is a deep, powerful, inspiring book, and I realize that being truly kind (loving well) is a serious, challenging discipline that can only happen by the grace of God in person’s life.

Oh, who are those adorable children?!

10. Super fun. Saving the longest part for the end. Christmas at Michelle’s house was fun. She made homemade cinnamon rolls, not only on Christmas morning, but (per unanimous request) she also made them on Tuesday morning. And we ate them with good coffee! (Yay, Michelle! You are awesome!) The kids, as always, cracked me up. Let me tell you just a few little (gripping!) stories of things they said or did.

Let’s start with Liya. We (adults/women) were in the kitchen chatting, as we like to do, and we heard two-year-old Liya gasping and grunting really loudly. We glanced into the living room, and there she was, sitting neck-high in a round basket, and pulling up on the handles with all of her might. She saw us look her way and sputtered, “I can’t pick myself up! I’m too heavy!”

And just a little while later, six-year-old Roman called from the living room, where he was playing legos with Jayden. “Hey, Momma! Is God just playing play with us? Is he controlling us?” Michelle looked at me, puzzled and sort of amused, and I suggested, “Does he mean in the same way he’s playing with his legos?” Michelle asked him if that’s what he meant, and Roman said, “Yeah, is God just playing with us and moving us around?”

And then there was four-year-old Jayden. Just try reading a book straight through with Jayden. It’s not going to happen because the boy is thinking about everything on every page and has a lot to say about it! Aimee and Josiah gave him One Morning in Maine for Christmas, and we read it together a number of times (I don’t mind; I love Robert McCloskey). First, he was tickled pink that Sal (from Blueberries for Sal, our old favorite read-together book) has grown up a bit and is in this new book! We had to talk about that for quite a long time. Then Jayden started noticing things. Like, on one page, when a fish-hawk was flying with a fish in its mouth to a nest high in a snag beside the water, Jayden wanted to know, “Why is the bird flying that way with the fish when the water is over there?” (The bird was flying from the direction of the woods and not the water.) “Good question, JayJay! Why do you think?” And then we talked about the reasons that might have been. And, on another page, when Sal slipped on seaweed on a rock, a loon on the water was said to “laugh.” Jayden said, “Why did the loon laugh at Sal? That was not very nice!” I told him it was okay because Sal was laughing, too, so they were laughing together.

And I suppose I shouldn’t leave out 11-month-old Avery, who thinks she is one of the big kids. She follows them all over and plays what they play. We had to keep an eye on her because she liked to head for the stairs to attempt an ascent, and we meant to keep her safely downstairs. The three older kids were playing “Super Hero,” all in capes and masks. They had created a little fort with a foam sleeping pad, blankets, and pillows. Aimee noticed Avery was suddenly missing and asked where she was. Jayden called out, “We have her in the Batcave,” and Roman announced that they weren’t letting her escape. I peeked over the side of the cave, and there was Avery, happy as could be in her diaper, wearing a red cape with a lightning bolt on the back. The cape was twice as long as Avery.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ 

Okay. Enough of that. I am working on a post to answer all of the questions that came up in the last several days. It's getting pretty long, and I still have a long ways to go, so I think I'm going to try to cut things way back and be concise(ish--relatively. . .) for once, even if it does mean leaving out a lot.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some of us on Christmas. . .

Our Gang (most of us), Christmas 2011.
At Michelle's and Monty's place.
(You can click the photo for a better view, if you want.)
 I love my family! It was so much fun to get together.
Monty was the photographer,
and I was the one who worked to get the attention of the little ones
so that they would look at the camera.
(I'm not sure how I inspired that look on Jayden's face!)
Hope your Christmas was lovely.
And I hope the rest of the holidays will be, too.
I'll be starting winter term classes on January 9,
and I'll probably put up at least another thing or two or three before then.
For those who asked, I will leave all of my blogs up
and open for reading when I end this one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You a Lovely Christmas. . .

 I'm going out of town in the morning to celebrate Christmas with my children and grandchildren. Yay! But I want to wish any stragglers at my blog a truly lovely Christmas/Advent celebration. I think I'll add the wonderful little poem left for me in comments by Rebecca (thank you Rebecca--and everyone else, too--for the comment(s); I'll get back to those when I return):

"Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
...Eternity shut in a span. Summer in winter. Day in night.
Heaven in earth and God in man! Great little one!
Whose all-embracing birth lifts earth to heaven, Stoops heaven to earth."
(Richard Crenshaw, 1648)

I really do appreciate the thoughtful comments very much. Jennie, if you see this, I'm thinking about your request. I don't know if I can actually finish those speaking notes you referred to, but I might write a thought or two before I go. So sorry you were watching for that and that I didn't finish it. I'm not sure I'll get a chance to add more thoughts, so don't count on it! :-)

Adding to this post Saturday morning: I turned on the quiet music of Arvo Part this morning, wishing I had not run out of coffee (!), and sat on the carpet of my peaceful living room floor to open stocking gifts from my mom and my sister. I thought it would be a nice thing to do before leaving town later this morning. As I unwrapped one gift, strong whiffs of coffee wafted out from the paper (yes!). So, I made a French press pot of coffee and sat at the computer with the  intention of working my way through the recent comments so that I could pointedly and mindfully pray individually for each and every one of you.  And I do pray that God will touch you, bless you and your families, give you wisdom all along your way, direct your steps (even when you don't think you know where you're going--He does!), and fill you with His Love and Light and Hope this Christmas season (and always). I pray you (and I) will increasingly know the Great Joy that is found in Him. Have a beautiful, merry Christmas!

The sun came out today, and, inspired by sunlight coming into the house, I started to snap some photos. I was just getting warmed up when my sister called to see if I wanted to go for a stroll in today's amazing, gorgeous sunshine and blue skies. Of course I was glad to go. So, I had just these few photos, but they will have to do (I'm posting them because thought I'd put up a few "parting shots" in the next post or two before I go away for good):
I think my first photo ever on this blog featured this table in very early
morning light. Oh yeah--there it is up on my header.
This is later-in-the-afternoon light with a
much more cluttered table (it's not always cluttery!)
and more "stuff" on the wall.

I think I took a summer photo from this same angle
when the maple was in full green leaf.
Winter gives a much different look.

 O Tannenbaum!
This is my official Christmas tree.

The hutch in winter afternoon light.

Because everyone is dying to know what is attached to my fridge!
Postcards from friends and family.
Roman's picture.
A verse written on a card by Aimee
that she included in a letter she mailed to me.
Various magnets.
"Susywawoozy Woman"
is what my nephew and niece call me.
Or sometimes they call me "Sushi."
They made me the magnet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Time to Move Along. . .

Well, it’s time to close up shop here. And I don’t really see myself ever blogging again, either. There are a zillion blogs out there. Mine is just putting more noise into the blogosphere, and I’m not inclined to want to do that anymore.

Thank you for being such sweet readers! I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting you through this blog, reading your comments, and visiting your own blogs. It's been a pleasure to "know" you, and when/if I have time, I'll pop in and say hi.

But it's time for me to really jump into the life that God has for me right now.

I don't want to merely pass through this stage. I don't want only to surrender and nod to God’s sovereignty, but I need to dive in, fully embrace each day and each thing as coming from the hand of God, and strive to glorify and honor Him—wholeheartedly and with joy—in all that I do.

When I kept my old High Desert Home blog, I was writing of things I’d been living, thinking about, writing about, speaking about in various groups and organizations, and sharing with both women and men in meetings in my home for years—decades, actually. My writings on that blog were simply a communication of the real life I’d been living for a long time. The posts were easy to write, and it seemed natural to keep a blog.

But then my life turned upside down and everything changed.

At the same time, nothing changed. I still affirm everything I have written on any of my blogs about home and family, creating and learning, relationships and domesticity. I know that no matter how many times I explain the point of my posts about home-life, people are going to misunderstand my meaning, but I can’t worry about that. I can only assert, again, that this is not about being domestic and “home-makey” for its own sake, but it’s about doing what the Bible says a wise woman does: She builds her house.

Home is the most potent force in a child’s life (in all of our lives), and the deep spiritual potential of creating “warm and cozy”—when done with the right vision—is vastly misunderstood and undervalued. Doing this is not an inclination or a hobby—it’s a spiritual calling. But I won’t belabor this point. I’ve done that elsewhere.

As I mentioned, I wrote on that High Desert Home blog about what I had been living for years and years. I had walked through the ups and downs of that life, the trials and challenges, and the heartaches and joys, so my ideas felt tested and somewhat stable. And, while I blogged, I continued to live that same kind of life at home, only now with kids who were grown but were coming home often and bringing their own children along with them.

But my circumstances have changed, and I am now on a path that requires whole-hearted attention and energy. Last summer when I was kicking back and taking things slow and easy, there was room in my life for putting up blog posts at this Summer Notebook blog, but I’ll admit that I never really felt fully engaged in it in spite of regular blog posts. Then summer ended, and I resumed classes at the university. I’ve been back in school for almost two years (and have accumulated so many credits, because of my four years of college back in the 1970s, that my advisor says she is in awe—haha!).

Now my focus is narrowing, and I need to throw of whatever is a distraction or a hindrance to what God is doing in my life. I am walking a new path, and I have no idea where I’m going or what I’ll actually end up doing, but I know that God does, and this is good enough for me! I am exploring uncharted territory, and I’m just beginning to discover a sense of adventure in this.

Plus, I don’t think I need to be writing about what God is doing and teaching me when I’m right in the middle of it. Now is time to settle down, quiet down, and learn from Him. If I am writing about these stories and lessons before I’ve really learned them entirely (though I’m not looking to ever write about them, actually), I disrupt the process. I lose the real, organic flow of the walk.

My one goal right now is not to figure out my life. It is to be faithful. To walk faithfully with God to the end of my days. To walk hand in hand with Him wherever He leads me. To trust. To live quietly. To do whatever little thing He gives me to do. To let Him make me what He wants me to be without trying to figure it out or help Him. I have no designs on doing any big thing or being noticed in my life. Just keep me faithful, dear Lord. Make me a servant. And may my life truly bring honor and glory to You.

P.S. If you have anything you're dying to ask me in the next day or so before I turn out the lights, go right ahead. I'll do my best to answer.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

 Coffee making this morning.
A seventeen year ritual.
(Yikes. That's a long time!)

Wow. Time doesn't fly when there's nothing at all pressing to do. I've done about a million things today, I think, and it's just mid-morning. I like this!

I tried to sleep in this morning, but once my eyes popped open they stayed that way. So, I caught up in my Advent reader, prayed, thanked the Lord for His blessings, read my Bible, and climbed out of bed. By then it was 6:00 a.m.

While I lay in bed thinking and reading and praying and thanking God for His blessings, I thought of something that came up in my Judaism class. We were discussing brachots--the blessings Jews recite daily for just about everything they do. They have specific blessings for their food--for each food, a blessing for a rainbow, a blessing for seeing a friend for the first time in a while, blessings for everything--even the toilet! It is a way of being mindful and thankful. Brachots are reminders that, in busyness and distraction, we are not in control. They can remind us that we are blessed and that God is the giver of gifts. The rabbi who taught our class said more than 100 blessings can be given in a day. Wow. That is commitment. I may not recite 100 specific blessings in a day, but I can certainly lift my heart continually in gratitude to God and speak out blessings to those around me instead of holding my appreciation for them inside my heart.

On the other hand, I've also been thinking of the old Orthodox prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." Like the brachot, this is another thing to be asserted often, at least in my life. When I am fearful or fretting or frustrated, it comes from wanting to control my life. It comes from looking for a sense of security that is derived from my own efforts and abilities. And this fails me every time. So, in the night, when I couldn't quiet my heart, I didn't pray "Lord, help me--please do something about this!" Instead, I prayed, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner," and I meant it, because fear and fretting is anti-faith. Peace does not come from circumstances that are momentarily calm and controlled. It comes from a heart that is yielded entirely to God, and my heart is too often revealed as not yet surrendered and at rest. This is a grace because it continually points me back round to Him. "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." This is the real story of Advent: Jesus Christ came to earth to die for sinners, and now he extends His grace, mercy, and love to us when we call on Him.

"Silence shatters to pieces the mind's armor." 
~Dag Hammarskjold

So, once I was out of bed this morning, I began to clean--the kind of clean that is motivated by eyes that have been opened. Much-to-do can clutter the mind and blind the eye, and this temporary blindness can be a grace when circumstances squeeze me, but when the blessing of ample time is given again, I begin to see the true state of my surroundings, and my heart begins to crave what is truly simple.

"Affected simplicity is refined imposture." 
~La Rochefoucauld

I'm not trying to practice voluntary--or involuntary--simplicity. I'm not determined to declutter. I'm not trying to shed materialism. This isn't about participation in any kind of simplicity movement or statement or conscious lifestyle. I just want simple. The kind that comes from way deep in my heart and I don't need or want to understand what or why. I just want to do it. So, I began to remove things from counters, shelves, and corners and put them in boxes to be given away or in cupboards to store. And now the ambience is becoming roomy and airy, and it feels so good. "All in order, sweet and lovely." (I'll keep quoting Blake on that til the end of my days.)

And then I made coffee in my French press, as I do as often as I can. And I used my favorite old round Polish pottery mug. The mug doesn't make me sad anymore. For a long time I didn't want to drink from it because it seemed connected to so much that was lost in my life. It was just like it was the year I was in a dark depression at Christmastime and someone gave me a CD of beautiful classical guitar music. To this day I cannot listen to that CD because it is so connected to that dark time. But the ache of recent years has faded (thank the Lord!), and the mug seems friendly again.

Yep. There it is in all its crazy, tacky, colorful glory!

 And then I decided to put out a few Christmas things. Not much, though, because I'm not a gung-ho decorator. Or crafter. Point in case: I made a garland today. Sort of. I was putting a few ornaments in a pretty glass display bowl (because I'm not going to have a tree this year except for that ceramic one on my table), and I got the idea to string some of the ornaments on a line for a garland to hang across my kitchen window. All I could find was kitchen string, and I wasn't motivated to look for something better, so I decided to experiment with that string, and if I liked the garland, I'd change the string later to something more transparent or tasteful. So I quickly (that word--quickly--is a key trait to my crafting projects because I really am not Martha; I prefer to enlist my daughters' to make things for me) tied random ornaments (kinda sloppily) to that thick white piece of kitchen string and strung it across the window just to see if I will enjoy the look. Well, there it still hangs, and I'm pretty sure it's going to continue to hang there just as it is until Christmas is over. I'm sure I could look online and find some amazing ornament garland tutorials to follow, but I don't want to know about them. I'll just enjoy my rustic, simple, thrown-together garland. It is cheerful!

And now I will carry on with my day. Happy Saturday to you!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Briefly, A Good Day. . .

Up at 4:30 a.m. Decided not to go over my study notes. Just read my Bible and spent some time in prayer. Bundled up in layers of clothing and tramp to the bus stop in icy-cold early morning darkness. Arrived on campus before daylight. Drawn irresistably to beautiful Lillis Hall, all lit up, warm and cozy in that strange light that comes between night and morning. Sat in that nice ambience with a surprising number of other early risers while drinking coffee and looking over my study guide. Then the unusual experience of an almost pleasant, cozy classroom vibe for my early-morning Judaism final. Everyone happy and friendly before class. All went well. Back home by mid-morning. Crunchy steps across a dry-leaf-carpeted yard. Enjoyed the fact that I can leave them there--that last bit of fall color--because I have a gardener who collects the leaves! Into the house for coffee, brief magazine browsing, and a bit of tidying. A surprise drop-by visit from the sister I see least often. Finally time to drag my tired brain into study-mode for my last final. Can't do it yet. So off to the kitchen for homemade biscuits with peach jam. Time to study; time dwindles. Brain full to bursting, but the end is in sight. No thinking about ideas for this final, thank goodness. Just memorize. By noon tomorrow, my brain is mine again. So. . . Studied. Took a break. Checked email: grades trickling in. So far, so good. Chatted with one of my kids on the phone. Drank a green smoothie. Stood in the bathroom over the heater because it's the warmest room in the house. Memorized. Quizzed myself. Paced. Progressed. Took a break. Snuck in a round or two of Spill 'n Spell. Pounded out these words.

It's a good day. I'm so grateful for so much. God is with me. And with you.

Now back to my study guide!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

There it is! My one decoration so far.
The old ceramic Christmas tree.
All lit up for when my grandkids arrive today.

When I climbed out of bed this morning, I intended to clean the house, put up a few Christmas decorations, exercise, and spend the rest of the day typing out answers to the two really-involved study guides I have for my last two finals.

The house was a bit out of sync and not-so-cosy, so putting it in order before studying seemed like a good plan. I brewed a really good pot of French press coffee and turned up the Christmas carols while I made some headway in the clean-and-cosy department. I managed to put out one Christmas decoration (the old ceramic tree) before I was hit by a blizzard of phone calls and text messages, and now my plan has changed.

Aimee and Avery are driving down from Portland this afternoon to spend the weekend with me, and Michelle and her gang are coming to spend the afternoon and evening here as well. Yay, fun! I'll get to those study guides here and there and in between whatever is happening. Family first!

I really think the celebratory atmosphere and ambience we create in our homes is special and powerful in all of our lives, but especially for our children. We shouldn't underestimate the power of the sense of mystery and magic we nurture in the minds and hearts of our children by the environments we create. I really believe it can help open hearts to the mystery and magic of the meaning of Christmas and to God's love. But it's the intrinsic ambience and spirit of a life and of a home that does this much more than the external decorations we put up or the activities we enjoy, though the external can contribute, too.

I don't really decorate for holidays in a big way. I am certainly no Martha Stewart, and neither do I want to be. I like things to be very simple but sweet. And in these past three years, the celebrations of my family have gotten simpler than ever because they've had to. We didn't give gifts to one another last year--not a single thing. And you know what? There was a sort of freedom in it.

We all love to give and receive gifts, but not one of us wished that last Christmas was any different. We bought small things for the children, and we gathered to make a delicious meal and enjoy being together to give thanks for the one gift that really matters: God sent His Son to Earth to be the Savior of the world. The Savior of me. And you.

We likely won't give gifts again this year, but we will, again, be together, and it will certainly be a happy family time. What we give to each other is time and love. They don't cost anything, and these are the best gifts of all.

I was flipping through the pages of Elspeth's Wonderful Weekend Book, and my bookmark landed in the "winter" section. Elspeth begins her winter notes with these simple words:

"As the evenings draw in, I find real satisfaction in simple pleasures such as lighting a wood fire, making the Christmas cake and inviting friends for tea after a brisk wintry walk."

I love that spirit and attitude. And here's from Gladys Taber:

"The smell of pine and spicy hot cider drifts through the house. The buttered popcorn in the old wire popper adds extra fragrance. Outside, snow falls on the old orchard, the dark pond, and the giant maples towering above the roof. The children come in from sledding spangled with flakes."

Well, that certainly matches some of what my family experienced in the high desert, and I think it's lovely. We so enjoyed those snowy, crisp, magical days when we drank hot chocolate together at the table and watched snow pile up around our house, when we took long walks down a lovely, snowy road, and when snow-frozen hands were warmed by the fire.

The chances of snow and sledding where we live now are almost impossibly slim, but that's not the point. It's not about longing for an idealized atmosphere of the season; it's simply, as both Elspeth and Gladys communicate, making my own kind of atmosphere where I am now--one that is simple and magical even in its simplicity--and sharing it with others. This doesn't need to cost a thing except for time and love, and, again, these are the best gifts I can give.

That's what I'm going to give to my family today. I will study for my finals when I can, but I don't get to see my children and grandchildren everyday, so I'm going to make the most of this day with them. Popcorn doesn't cost much. I can make that. And I can certainly create a clean and warm and cosy environment. And I can read stories and play with my grandchildren. I will give the gifts I can and enjoy the gifts God has given me in this season when we are all focused on celebrating the One gift that really matters.

Wishing you a lovely day!