Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best Christmas

You know how my family's Thanksgiving was just perfect? Well, it turns out that our Christmas is too.
We have tons of happy children.

Big imaginations.
 Apparently I gave lots of costumes this year...

Multiple generations.

Anticipated traditions. 
 Touring Opryland Hotel with Mom

New memories.
Quality Time.
Mario Kart

And as I have gotten older the Christmas scene has changed a bit. Traditions are altered. Festivities are relocated. Schedules are moved around. But I am thankful, because that means that my family is growing and changing and that legacies are living on through new generations.  And even though we might celebrate on the wrong day or in a new way, the miracle of Christmas lives on because Christmas is so much more than a day. Christmas is an entire season. A spirit. A love. A baby. A gathering. Plus, I have finagled these new schedules to my benefit. I have been Christmasing for two months now. That's how I like it. 
P.S. - I hope I still appreciate the Christmas season when I get back from Hawaii and my decorations are still up. I never got around to that...
Speaking of Hawaii, my friend helped me pick my outfits for the trip. Check out her blog post with specific tips for me. Have an event or trip coming up and don't know what to wear? Drop her a note on her blog. She can piece together cute, affordable styles in a flash. And you know that we all need a friend like that.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Birth Story - The Holy Kind

God chose a young woman. Someone normal. Someone ordinary. Someone original. She may have been a quiet, shy, and sweet girl, but she may have also been a little bit sassy, strong, and driven too. She probably liked to cook for her friends, make crafts at her house, and grow organic foods in her own garden. I’d imagine that she got tired of doing laundry, rolled her eyes at the marketplace when the people in front of her were taking forever, and occasionally dreamed of something bigger than her current circumstances. Honestly, Mary sounds a lot like me. And you.

But when God enters your world, everything changes. And after a divine encounter, Mary is still Mary. But now, Mary carries Jesus into the world. The tiny baby fingers that will heal the broken, the eyes that will look into faces and see souls, the lips that will calm nature, and the tiny little heart full of a perfect love is living in Mary in a pure and perfect way. And on a silent, holy night a baby was born that changed the course of time, the hearts of the holy, and the way that God relates to His people.  The God who created mankind to live in relationship with Him came to His people. He entered our broken world and our wounded lives because He is a God that always meets us right where we are. And when He meets us, nothing is ever the same. 

On a silent night in the little town of Bethlehem when the herald angels sang in celebration of the first noel, the God of Abraham and Moses and Esther chose Mary to deliver Jesus into the world in a physical, redemptive way so that He could move from living in our temples to living as a human. Immanuel. "God with us". And through His life and resurrection, the God of Elizabeth and Paul and Timothy moved to living in our hearts. And while we don’t have mangers or messages from angels or three valuable gifts from some very wise men, you and I are just as much a part of the birth story as the original crew. We are all Mary. Jesus has never lived in our swollen abdomens, but He has taken up residence in our hearts. And we are called to do something huge with this holy resident. Something extraordinary. Something divine. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking of Christmas…

Christmas is this weekend and I am so excited. I can’t wait for the traditions, the food, the family. I love all of it.

Speaking of loving Christmas, this person in my neighborhood apparently loves Christmas a little bit more than most of us. Seriously, can she fit anything else in her yard? I’m not so sure that she could. It's scary how much stuff she has stuffed onto her lot.


Speaking of scary, my nephews were in town recently (which I loved) and we spent a lot of time together (which was fun) and I habitually jumped out from around corners to scare them (which was hilarious).  Okay, that makes me sound so mean. It may be mildly mean, but the oldest (4) is old enough to scream and then laugh about it. One of my absolute best scares ever was one night when I came home from work. My nephew had apparently been crafting all day with my mom and made all sorts of things including a yo-yo from a toilet paper roll (which did not work… not surprising), a drum from an oatmeal container, and a scary mask from a paper plate. Apparently he decided that the mask is the "Red House Monster”.

Red House Monster

Sure. Anyways, when I came home and into the kitchen, my mom called “Oh, look who’s here!” I heard the patter of little feet scrambling to get to the kitchen. I could have greeted him with hugs and a hearty “I love you”, but instead I saw a mask sitting on the countertop. I quickly snatched it, put it on, and crouched down around the corner. As the sound of little feet got closer, I lunged out from my hiding place and screamed (more like roared) as loud as possible. I heard a tiny little voice scream in response. OOPS! Wrong nephew. It was the 2 year old little brother who had just woken up from his nap and had not seen the mask until that point. Okay, that was a little bit mean and more than a little bit scary. But I didn’t intend to be. But then I heard the patter of bigger feet. I crouched again. I lunged again. I roared again. This time:  Success. My nephew screamed the loudest, purest scream that I have ever heard, which was immediately followed by an eruption of giggles and “Never do that again, Aunt Em.” And “I’ll get you back!”. I laughed so hard that I was literally on the floor crying. I still get that watery-eyed smile every time I think about it. But, no. I didn’t quit while I was ahead. At one point I hid in the bathroom in a clown costume and elf hat. Another time I jumped out from behind the couch with Dalmatian ears on. They were all pretty good, but none as good as the Red House Monster.

Speaking of doing bad things, Santa is more than welcome to bring me coal this year. In fact, I hope he does. Has he seen the price of commodities lately? He’s gotta pick something cheaper or the North Pole will have to start outsourcing.

Speaking of cheap, most people think that I am a very healthy eater. But I am here to tell you that I love Taco Bell. It’s true. Nachos Supreme with no Sour Cream. Double Decker Tacos. Bean Burritos with no onions and extra hot sauce. (Disclaimer: I don’t eat all of that at the same time.) And all for just a few dollars. And who is always up for thinking outside the bun with me? My dad. We went recently after a Preds game.  Ryan Suter (my pretend Predators boyfriend) played a great game, but the Preds just couldn’t pull out the win. Preds Game. Taco Bell. Perfect.

I Do.

Speaking of fake boyfriends, some day I will marry Tim Tebow. You are all invited to the wedding.

Speaking of smart choices, Hello, 21st century. It was a sprint, but I finally caught up with you. You move too fast! Just 5 or 10 years ago it was a thrill to have a cell phone at all, but now it is inconvenient to not have a smart phone.

Dumb Phone

Enter: iPhone. Finally. I can now send/receive picture texts, check my email from my phone, find my parked car, use a full touch screen keyboard, and play pacman anywhere I want. My favorite app? Shazam. In the car I am always trying to guess the title of a song or who the artist is. With Shazam you just tap the screen, it listens to a few seconds of the song, then it tells the artist and title. It fuels my obsession with knowing artists and titles of all songs at all times.

Speaking of songs on the radio, I have been loving a few of the remixed Christmas songs this year. My favorite classic? Joy to the World. So of course I love the remix by Chris Tomlin.

I’m also a big fan of 33 Miles' O Come All Ye Faithful remix. 

But my absolute favorite modern Christmas song is Welcome to our World by Chris Rice. 

And while I do rock out to the Christmas tunes and get in the Christmas spirit during rush hour every day, it is also true that sometimes during the winter I try to make it feel like summer.  I crank the heat in my car until it is unbearable – just like that Tennessee July Heat.  Then I blast the AC to make it feel like summer while blaring Keith Urban’s "Long Hot Summer". It happens… often.

Speaking of warm weather, I’m getting close to my Hawaii trip with my mom to see one of my friends get married. I can’t wait. I just know that she will be a gorgeous bride. I am going to Oahu and Kauai. I know that I will just love it. I am a beach girl at heart. Like, I love it almost as much as Kenny Chesney does.

Speaking of country music, my sister got me this awesome guitar for Christmas. It is signed by Lady Antebellum among many others. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by my generous gift!

Speaking of pleasant surprises, I just purchased gasoline for an amount that started with TWO! My first time in a long, long time.

Speaking of cars, try to make your car a No Phone Zone. It isn’t worth the risk to try to do much of anything on a phone while driving. (Not to mention that it is illegal to text and drive in Tennessee anyways.) Just ask the grandmother and little boy that I saw get backed into at Target last week.  She was pushing her buggy with her grandson in the red buggy seat when a distracted man on his phone put his SUV in reverse and never even bothered to looked. He slammed into the side of the buggy, but fortunately the woman and little boy were both okay. You know how the Target buggies for kids have the two red seats in the front? He was on the side farthest from the car. If he had been on the other side, I’m sure he would have been hurt. That’s close enough of a scare to count. And yes, I do say buggy instead of cart. It’s one of those things that I never knew was Southern until the past few years. Like wearing pearls and saying “fixin’ to”. Siri (the iPhone 4S smart girl) has a hard time understanding my Southern Belle charm.

“Siri, Do you have a hard time understanding my Southern accent?”

“The time in Blantyre, Malawi is 8:35 am.”


Speaking of misunderstanding, I was recently invited to a Christmas Panty Exchange. Yep. I went. Just to check it out. I read the invitation 10 times before it sank in. I kept thinking it said “party exchange”. Nope. Panty. I had never heard of such. Before the party you exchange names/sizes. At the party you take turns opening your gifts. I thought that you take Christmas panties. I searched high and low for the tackiest pleather snowman with googly eyes or something, but due to my procrastination I ended up just taking a red, festive pair. Well, sometimes procrastination pays off. Turns out that this was an exchange that happens to take place at Christmas. Not actual Christmas items. Everyone brought nice sets. So glad I didn’t go the tacky Christmas route! I would have been so embarrassed!

Speaking of gifts, check out my manly dirty santa gift that I ended up with at our family’s Christmas party last weekend. A knife and a Chili's gift card. Nice.

Speaking of food, my family recently got our citrus order from the Agriculture students in town. A full box of oranges and grapefruits. I ended up with most of it. You know how you are supposed to eat citrus if you have a sore throat because all of the Vitamin C will heal you? Well, turns out if you don't have a sore throat and eat as much citrus as I have, your throat will actually start hurting from all of the acid. Oh well, I do love oranges.

Speaking of colors, I always pull out my red high heels this time of year. And while I wear them I sing Kelly Pickler's "Red High Heels" in my head nonstop. They are my festive party shoes. Other than the tacky ones.

And speaking of Christmas parties, Christmas is this weekend and I am so excited. I can’t wait for the traditions, the food, the family. I love all of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

White Christmas

If you are like me, you have already been to approximately 57 Christmas parties, each one with more desserts than actual food. And you know me. I don't like sweets. I love baking (just not eating it), so I usually take my standard Fresh Fruit Salad to a party because I am... well... boring.  But, if you are looking for a great dessert to make for a party, I have the perfect recipe.  When we were younger, my mom used to make a special Christmas Mix for us that I always called "That White Chocolate Christmas Mix Stuff". Well, I recently made two batches of the mix, one for work and one for a party. It was a big hit - after I renamed it "White Christmas". 

White Christmas Mix

White Christmas Mix
1/2 box Rice Chex
1/4 box Cheerios
1/4 bag Pretzel Sticks
2 handfuls of Pecan halves
1 Tray Vanilla Candy Coating 
1/2 bag red and green Christmas M&Ms

Honestly, I don't measure my ingredients because you can mix just as much stuff as you want, but I mixed the approximate amounts of cereal, pretzels, and pecans listed above in a large mixing bowl. (You may want to start with less and add in more at the end to make sure that you have enough of the candy coating to cover it all.) In the microwave, melt one package of vanilla candy coating. (I bought the Kroger brand which comes in a microwaveable tray in little squares like bark in the baking aisle). Pour the candy coating over your mixture and stir to completely coat. Add in more cereal or pretzels if necessary. Spread the mixture out on wax paper to let it dry (about 20 minutes). Break it apart in small chunks and toss it in a bowl with red and green M&Ms. (Don't put the M&Ms in the mixture until the mixture is dry - it's prettier with the M&Ms uncoated.) Salty. Sweet. Addictive. Voila. 

White Christmas is one of those things that people love so much that they will kind of get mad at you for making it because they can't stop eating it. But then they'll ask you to make it every year. The best kind of party treat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As soon as I put down my fork from Thanksgiving dinner I anxiously move into the next holiday. Why? Because I LOVE the beauty of Christmas.

I love the smell. 
 Evergreen Sprigs in my Poinsettia Plants

Cinnamon-Scented Pine Cones

I love memories. 

Kelsie T. painted this ornament for me several Christmases ago. She now celebrates every Christmas with Jesus himself.
I love the hope. 
THE THRILL OF HOPE. The weary world rejoices for yonder waits a new and glorious morn.

I love the star of Bethlehem (and Brentwood).
And we are amazed by shooting stars? Imagine a star that leads to Jesus.

Granny and Pa's Christmas Star - One of my favorite Christmas decorations now

I love stockings hung by the chimney with care. 
Yes, sometimes I do buy myself gifts. "To: Emily. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the happiest holiday season yet. With Love, Emily" It's festive.

I love the crazy Christmas apparel.

I went to a Tacky Christmas Party last night with a bunch of friends. We were supposed to dress up in funny old Christmas sweaters, so I went all the way. I wore my mom's reindeer sweater from the 80s complete with full-length matching plaid skirt and bows/bells on my shoes. At one time my mom, sisters, and I each had an outfit to match this. Anyways, I showed up at the party and was one of very few people who actually dressed up. Classy. 

I love the lighting. 
Especially when the Christmas tree lights come untangled easily and every strand works.

My little Cranberry Candle Light creation. I bought real cranberries thinking that they are an indestructible fruit. It occurred to me recently that they may in fact start to spoil. In fact, my tea lights on top have "cooked them down" a bit. They used to reach the top of the jar. Oh well. It's pretty. And red. Which goes with my red, white, and silver theme.

I love Baby Jesus. 

My nephews moved to Indiana a few months ago, but I can still read them a bedtime story any time thanks to Hallmark's recordable storybooks. The one I chose was about my favorite story of all time:  the miracle of God coming to this earth as a baby.

I love evergreen trees. 
My artificial tree from mom's old kindergarten classroom. When it grows up, it wants to be a Douglas Fir.

I love tradition. 
 My mom and dad's tree covered with our handmade / gifted ornaments from our childhood.  The three of us girls each have our own side of the tree divided by a ribbon.

 Little Emily

 Little Emily 2.0

One of my favorite ornaments. I was a Sesame Street Girl.

I love hustle. 
I did go shopping on Black Friday but got nothing for Christmas presents. I did all of my shopping on Amazon this year. 21st century girl. I'm a bit ashamed.

I even love bustle.

(That was a lie. I don't actually know what bustle is. Picture submissions welcome.)

I hope that your holiday season is full of traditions and family and glitter and baby Jesus and pine cones and beauty and music and love.