Each Tree Has a Story, Part 9

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 9

I hinted a little about this one in Part 2 of this series. But I don’t know how many of you caught it.

The year before last, our family room tree had so many ornaments on it, I actually had to search and search in order to find a place for them all. Which meant I seriously started thinking about how to solve that problem. 

After a total of 4-5 hours of placing ornaments on it, I knew I had to make a suggestion for the following year. I hinted to my husband about it, but he just looked at me like I had two heads, and said, “Yeah, right! We need to do that like I need another hole in my head.”

Well. He should’ve known by now not to say anything to me like that. I already had it planned. And the hole in his head could be arranged.

So the following year as soon as the artificial trees were out in the stores, I started looking for what I wanted. And since I wasn’t being totally successful, I finally told him about it. And believe it or not, he bought into the idea!

As I mentioned in Part 2, I’ve collected the Hallmark Barbie ornaments since they came out with them in 1993. I think I have almost all of them, but I do check eBay every so often to make sure. And if I happen to find one that’s not already in my collection, somehow it finds its way to our house. Can’t imagine how that happens….

And yes, when Barbie was first introduced, as a toy in 1962, I certainly got one. Then another, and, well, the rest is history.  Thus my Barbie fascination. I even added several collector Barbie dolls that I really liked, which are displayed in my curio cabinet.

I’d envisioned a skinny white tree like we have for the flamingos, but Ben quickly decided if we were going to put it in the master bedroom, and really there was no other place for one, it needed to be a regular full sized tree. 

Who was I to argue?

So we found one, brought it home, and set it up. That year as I started decorating our family room tree, I pulled out all the Barbie ornaments to put on the new tree. I started to count them, but I saved that for another time. (Actually I lost count.)

Over the years I’ve also collected the little shoes from the “Just the Right Shoe” series, and had dozens of them around the house, so I made them into ornaments to add to the new tree, using hot glue and ribbon. Perfect!

The ironic thing about my little shoe collection? I don’t like shoes. I don’t like buying them. I’m not fond of wearing them. Give me boots or sandals (in the summer, of course), and I’m ok. Shoes just aren’t my thing. However, that’s another story.

Even adding all the shoes, the tree wasn’t quite full enough yet, even for its first year, so I decided to add some retro style ornaments, along with glitzy things like champagne bottles, pink poodles, pink cars with Christmas trees on them, and similar goodies, as you can see from the pictures! It turned out great! And if you look carefully, there are even a couple of Ken ornaments.

It’s still a work in progress, but it really looks wonderful. Unfortunately it’s not in a public area of the house. Getting to see it in person is by invitation only.

Until I find a place to put it downstairs.

There are still a few more little tree surprises, though. So be sure to read the final installment of “Each Tree has a Story, Part 10,” to be published on December 23.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 8

By now you’re thinking we have to be a little bit ( or a lot) crazy to have all these Christmas trees, and they’re only up for about 6 weeks til it’s time to take them down and put them away until the  next year. 

All that work for such a short time. There are so many times I’d say how I wish we could leave them up all year.

Which brings me to the next tree.

Many of you know about our flamingo fascination. Over the years we’ve both collected all kinds of flamingo stuff. Figurines, pillows, outdoor decor, dinnerware, and yes, flamingo ornaments. We had them on our family Christmas tree for years, but the collection grew so quickly we had to move a lot of them to a lighted palm tree in the Florida room, and another one in the family room corner.

But the palm tree in the Florida room finally gave out, and we really didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t find a suitable replacement. The flamingo ornaments HAD to have a home. And not one that only came out for a few weeks each year. How could those gorgeous pink birds possibly survive without being on display year round?

Flamingos as you know are very flamboyant creatures, and they like to be in the spotlight. The center of attention, so to speak.

Finally I decided the only way to do this right, and keep the flamingos happy, was to find the perfect Christmas tree that we could leave up all year long.  But what kind?

The corner of the Florida room isn’t that big, but problem solved when we found a skinny shaped white tree to put there. Pink and white…a perfect combination.

Of course my husband and I disagreed on this. He didn’t want a Christmas tree up all year. Well, this one isn’t really a Christmas tree. It’s a flamingo tree, because most of the ornaments on there aren’t really Christmas themed. And I’d fix it so it didn’t look like a Christmas tree.

So we did it. The flamingos were delighted with their new perch, especially with the little white lights. And it certainly serves as a topic of conversation when we have guests. 

The ornaments that are actually Christmas themed flamingos are still on the family room tree, and they understand that’s because they’re special and need to be given that place of honor. Jealous flamingos are not a good thing.

What else can I say? It’s a flamingo tree. We’re into flamingos. Just wish I could take a better picture!

And flamingos love Christmas, too.

Now we’re not quite done with this. There’s one more tree to talk about. So be sure to read “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 9,” to be published December 22.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 7

I know you’re thinking when is this going to end…well we’re sort of almost there. I mean, how many Christmas trees can one family possibly have?

But this time it was actually my husband who came up with this idea. I was surprised, but I certainly didn’t argue with him. I was also excited about his idea.

It happened when we were once again walking through the Christmas section of Macy’s, I think the year after I’d done the little pink tree. And we saw a huge display of wine themed ornaments. 

As soon as he saw them, he immediately suggested we do a wine themed tree. Well, why not?! I was always happy to add another tree. But where? 

He already had the perfect place. In the hallway upstairs. Since we have a two level foyer, it would show from the outside and look great with the lights from our decorated ledge he does every year. 

I decided I’d better take him up on the suggestion before he changed his mind. Or recovered his senses, even though to me, it was a perfect idea! Why not? We both like wine, and what’s one more tree in the scheme of things?

So he immediately found a shopping basket and started grabbing one of each of the wine themed ornaments, and sometimes a couple of the same ones because they were decorative wine glasses and (fake of course) tiny wine bottles. Thank goodness it was another 60% off sale!

We went ahead and bought another 5 foot tree, and I used some of my collection of wine corks and bright colored beads to make the garland for it. 

My husband, who can’t stand to put lights on trees, found some hanging grape lights from a local Christmas store that he wanted to use, and he PROMISED me he’d put them on every year for me. How many years do you think that lasted? 

I even pulled out some acrylic grape ornaments that came from my mom that I hadn’t been using and added those to the tree. Plus I made a few dozen wine cork ornaments to add to it. After all, I had the beads and the corks, and at that time I’d been making wine cork crafts for quite a while.

And that first year that tree looked like it had been around for years. 

Of course, like I do for the other trees, I still buy a few more ornaments each year, and it’s amazing what I’ve found at the local wine stores to add to it. So many cute little holiday wine glass ornaments, single wine cork holders, and some really perfect wine related signs! 

Yes, my husband had a great idea for this tree, even if he won’t help put those grape lights on there any more like he promised.

And if we need a few more corks for more garland or ornaments, we’ll just open another wine bottle from our collection.

What theme could there possibly be left to do? Those of you who know us personally won’t be surprised at the next one we did. 

Read “Each Tree Has a Story.  Part 8, to be published on December 20.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 6

It was the Christmas my husband jokingly said to me, “I think we have a Christmas tree everywhere but the bathroom.”

Yes, he should’ve known better to say something like that.

Because a few days before that statement I’d seen the cutest little 4 foot skinny pink tree. I’m not much for pastel colored trees, but this one really caught my interest, and of course it gave me an idea.

I’d also seen a bunch of beautiful glass ornaments with an underwater theme at Macy’s that were, you guessed it…on sale. 60% off. I had wanted to add those to my collection so badly, and when I saw that little pink tree, I knew exactly what I wanted to do!

We have a large master bath off our bedroom. It’s for me, because as Ben says, the secret to a long marriage is having separate bathrooms, and he’s actually sort of correct. 

And there was plenty of room in there for a little 4 foot tree. The color was perfect as well, since the bathroom is in shades of rose and green.  It was meant to be.

Since the tree was small, I could set it up myself with no problem, which is what I did. One night after he’d already gone to bed and was sound asleep. 

It didn’t take long to set up, and those glass ornaments were just perfect! I couldn’t wait to show it off!

The next morning I turned the lights on the little tree and waited for him to notice it when he walked by on his way to get dressed. 

Do you think he did?

Of course not.  And he walked by there a couple of times that morning.  I had to finally show it to him.

His reaction?  “Well, it really is cute, but no one is going to see it but us.”

Well, I fixed that. And the next year that little tree found a perfect place in the corner of my home office on a little stand, surrounded by a pink tree skirt and pink silk poinsettias. 

It’s been there every year since. I’ve added a few new ornaments to the glass starfish, jellyfish, shells and tropical fish, including some I made myself to resemble ocean bubbles, and of course a glass flamingo, and this is now one of my favorite trees.

And now that I’ve been working remotely for almost two years I get to enjoy it every day.

But wait….we’re not quite finished here. Don’t forget to read the next installment of “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 7” to be published December 17.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5

Today’s homes don’t usually have a formal dining room, opting for a big eat-in kitchen or a gathering room, an all-purpose room where family and friends can eat together in a casual setting.

The house I grew up in had a formal dining room, and I had that as well in several of my homes. The house we live in now is no exception, and because we’d added a few feet on to the living room to accommodate my piano, the dining room beside it is a bit oversized as well. But since I have my mom’s large dining set and the bar cabinet my grandfather made, it all fits together perfectly.

Except at Christmas time, when it just seemed a little dark, compared to the living room with its big fancy tree.

And like the area by the fish tank, there’s a corner in the dining room that has a large silk tree in it that could easily be moved for the holidays…

When I told my husband my brilliant idea for yet another tree, he reminded me we hardly ever use the dining room. 

Except at Thanksgiving and Christmas I reminded him, and people could see that tree as well when they walk in the house….it would really look great.

And another 5 foot tree just sort of appeared a few days later, right in that corner. 

I hadn’t really thought about a theme, but since Christmas colors are red and green, I decided to use those colors and just go from there.

Of course I started looking through the ornaments I had on our family room tree, to see what I could move around (and make room for more ornaments on that one, of course). I found a number of red ornaments, and birds, and a few similar creatures, and all of a sudden the ideas started flowing.

It started off fairly simple, but in a few short years, it quickly filled up (imagine that) with a collection of red and white birds, including my grandmother’s little antique glass birds perched carefully on the branches, fancy pine cones, and some adorable little woodland creatures. And since our two Yorkies have a “thing” for squirrels, there are several of those on the tree as well. The dogs aren’t allowed in there unsupervised, of course, or those animals would probably not survive.

The finishing touch was adding a number of our acrylic dated Hallmark ornaments to it, making the tree really sparkle. 

This year I added a couple of strands of garland made with red Buffalo plaid wooden beads, and that really set it off even more.

Lots of our friends have said this is their favorite tree. But I love them all!

And there’s still a few more to come. As you’ll see in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 6” to be published December 15.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4

Being that someone I’ve already told you about who just has to buy a few (ok, sometimes quite a few) new ornaments every year, eventually that family tree started really, really getting full. Again.

Yes, I’d already added a tree in the living room, but I soon noticed I was going to be “forced” into adding another one if I wanted to keep up with my collecting ornaments every year.

And I couldn’t have that, could I?

Looking around at the ornaments I had on that tree, I realized there were a lot of them in the candy/cookie/gingerbread theme. Maybe there weren’t enough (yet) to fill another big tree, and we didn’t have room for another really big one. But being the resourceful fanatical ornament collector that I’ve become, there was always a way.

So…we have a fish tank in our side foyer off the kitchen, and I noticed there would be a space for another tree if we moved the big silk plant beside the tank. I think I remember asking my husband if we could. Or maybe I just brought another 5 foot tree home and set it up to surprise him. I can’t quite remember.

But the fish needed to have a little Christmas in their space as well, didn’t they? And the smaller trees I can usually set up by myself, just in case I want to surprise someone.

Yes, he thought I was really getting a bit crazy by now (he had no Idea what was coming), but he did agree that the fish probably needed a little Christmas, too, and that’s all I needed!

I collected all the cooking and Christmas treat ornaments I already had, and of course added a few (dozen) more. And once again, very conveniently, the craft stores that year were filled with those clay cookie ornaments that you could even personalize, so I was thrilled to get them (on sale, of course)!

Combining those with all the similar ones I already had, and adding my old candy garland from many years ago, made my Christmas baking tree really easy to put together.

Hallmark had even cooperated with me and came out with a series of cooking appliance ornaments, like mixers and things, and their own line of cupcakes, so what more did I need!?

That tree of course has now expanded by more (ok, quite a few more) ornaments in the same theme, and our grandchildren just love it! They spend probably half an hour looking at it when it first goes up, and it’s so cute when our granddaughter Rachel keeps telling her little sister not to touch it as she points out her favorite ornaments. And of course, she’s touching them as she says that!

Looking at some of my collection of ornaments on here, you can tell this is definitely a tree that children just love!. And since it’s right off the kitchen, where we always bake our Christmas cookies, how more appropriate can it be?

So what do you think of this one? It would probably look better if I knew how to take better Christmas tree pictures, but you get the idea.

seem to be

The fish seem to be happy, too! And they’re even happier now since last year my husband gave them their own set of decorations for their tank! So their home gets decorated when ours does.

And what did I do next? Find out in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5” to be published December 13.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3

Since I was sure we needed another tree, I had to figure out a reason for doing it that my husband would agree with. While he’s usually pretty good at seeing things my way, well, I wasn’t sure about something like this. I also didn’t know what it would lead to.

When I first mentioned it to him he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But after a little bit of giving all the good reasons for doing it, like the living room is the first room guests see when they come in, it would look pretty through the windows at night, and I just really thought we NEEDED it, he sort of agreed. 

Then he asked how I’d decorate it. Good question.

But one of my contractors had just given me a Christmas ornament a few days before which was a cat dressed as an angel. Why? Because I’d shared with him earlier that year how we’d almost lost our white Fluffy cat to a bladder blockage, and how we knew he had a guardian angel that saved him, with the help of our excellent vet of course. My contractor told me he saw the ornament and just thought I needed to have it!

So I told my husband it needed to be an angel tree and that kitty angel ornament would always be on there to remind us that miracles still happen. 

How could he refuse that? So a new 7 foot tree appeared in the living room within a few days! Coincidentally that same year, our local craft store had a ton of Christmas picks that were different styles of angels, and they were conveniently on sale. So obviously I bought several dozen of them and made them into ornaments, and they’ve been on that tree ever since.

Of course, over the years new ornaments have appeared, and now although the tree still features the angels and my kitty angel ornament, it also has jeweled butterflies, glass roses (my mom’s favorite flower), and loads of other delicate ornaments in shades of pink and rose. (Remember, you have to get a couple new ornaments every year for each tree. Just to keep it interesting.)

You can see we even have lights with acrylic roses added to them that my mother gave us many years ago.

As you can see from the pictures, it’s a beautiful tree, and everyone loves the story of why we started it.

Obviously though, that wasn’t the end of the trees….

So be sure to read about the next one in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4” to be published on December 10.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2

Yes, I do love Christmas trees. For me, the Christmas season starts as soon as the first tree is decorated. It just brings such a festive, happy feeling to the house. And yes, I did say the “first” tree. As you’ve probably figured out by now, we do have more than one.

I’ve always had a Christmas tree every year, even after I had places of my own. I started collecting ornaments my last year in college, and actually still have a few from those early years. They were inexpensive ones, of course, but I bought them because I liked them, and even almost fifty years ago, my tree had a theme to it. I liked the strands of plastic popcorn and candy for the garland, as well as the cupcakes and cookie shaped ornaments and a set of pink popcorn shaped ornaments that I still have, although they’re now on another tree. (Some of my ornaments do move around.)  

But I’ve come a long way from that first tree that I created for myself.

When my husband and I were first together, he helped me decorate my tree. We collected new ornaments together, and we still have a very special Hallmark ornament “First Christmas Together”.  It quickly became a tradition every year to collect at least one special ornament that was dated, so we could watch the progression of our life together. Our family Christmas tree was created.

Of course, it wasn’t just one ornament a year…more like four or five. Four or five each time I’d go out Christmas shopping, that is. After all, they were there in the stores, staring at me from those display trees, and well, I just couldn’t resist some of them. They were so cute. And I knew they’d look perfect on our tree.

There’s always room for one more ornament, isn’t there? And we had a big tree…

And there really wasn’t a theme then. Like most of you, I imagine, I just started collecting ornaments I liked, and because a Christmas tree can really be anything you want it to be, that tree became a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes. Candies, animals, Santa Clauses and snowmen, flamingos, and oh yes, let’s not forget all the Hallmark Barbie ornaments. I don’t think I missed a year of not getting at least one, and now if I find one on eBay I don’t have, well, let’s just say I make sure it joins my collection. But more on that later.

It turned out that we didn’t have a big enough tree after all, because after our daughter was born, we had to have the Hallmark series ornaments for Baby’s First Christmas, and then the rest of them which went through year five. And yes, they’re still on there. Of course we started collecting a lot of ornaments with children’s themes then, many of which I’ve actually given to our daughter now for her tree.

Still, that one tree kept getting fuller and fuller every year, but I still had to have just one or two (or five or six) more ornaments each year. It was tradition. After all, it was our family Christmas tree. And it was filled with a wide array of different ornaments we’d collected over our years together, so many that I was actually running out of branches to put them on.

I soon realized that one 7 1/2 foot tree in the corner of our family room just wasn’t going to be enough any more. And looking around the house, I realized the rooms looked kind of plain compared to the family room, even with all the silk poinsettias and holly and other decorations sitting around.

So what do you do?

That answer should be obvious. I’ll tell you all about that in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3” to be published on December 8.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 1

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Christmas trees. Whether they’re decorated in restaurants and store windows and displays, part of an outside holiday display, or in someone’s (or my) home, there’s just something almost magical about the beauty of a Christmas tree.

For me, it just seems to evoke all the feelings of the season…peace, joy, beauty, and love. The sparkling lights and the ornaments, whether glass or acrylic, homemade or purchased from stores, or made lovingly by little hands for special family gifts, are beautiful reminders of things and people we love, as well as the beauty of the Christmas season.

When I was growing up, we always had a real tree. Of course back then there were very few artificial trees, and the ones available didn’t really look that great. (And remember those silver aluminum ones with the colored swirling light in front of it that changed color? I think we all had one! What were we thinking?)

I do vaguely remember my father bringing home a tree each year about a week before Christmas so he and my mom could decorate it just in time for Santa. It would sit outside in a pail of water for a few days to keep it fresh until it was time to bring it inside. I didn’t help much, of course, because I was too young. I certainly couldn’t help with the strings of lights, and the ornaments were glass and fragile, and broke easily, and we always had a colorful glass sphere on the top of it. 

I did get to help throw those aluminum icicles on it after everything else was hung. I just loved that finishing touch. And for those of you in my age group, I’m sure you remember the same thing. And weren’t they messy as could be when it was time to take that tree down? I don’t think they’re even made anymore. And if they are I’d never get them again!

But every year, once that tree was decorated, I thought it was the most beautiful tree ever! Those old, now vintage, ornaments were so special.

And because the tree was real, we had to water it every day so it wouldn’t dry out. Plus the old lights weren’t nearly as safe as the ones now, and there were lots of Christmas tree fires back then from overheated or frayed tree lights.

And those needles made a mess when they started dropping, so we had to constantly vacuum around it, but it sure smelled good…just like Christmas!

Even then, I was always a bit sad when Christmas was over and we had to throw the tree out and pack up those shiny ornaments. It just didn’t seem fair for all that beauty to only be around such a short time. And back then, we could only leave it up for about two weeks before it started drying out too much to be safe.

After my father died, my mom and I always went together to get our tree from the Christmas tree lot set up in a vacant lot in town. It always smelled so good there, many times with a small fire burning in a barrel to keep the attendants, and the shoppers, warm. Sometimes they even served hot chocolate. We’d carefully pick out a tree, and they’d tie it on top of our car. 

Because my mom had no one to help her with it, especially after my aunt and uncle moved a couple hours away, a lot of years one of the men who’d been helping at the lot would follow us home and help get the tree set up for us. 

Yes, times were a lot different back then. And being in a small town, everyone tried to help out everyone else. Especially at Christmas.

Unfortunately I don’t have hardly any pictures of our Christmas trees growing up, and none in color, but in my mind’s eye I can still see them, and still see the colors in the ornaments and lights. Yes, they were old fashioned compared to today’s styles, but they were beautiful to us.

Unfortunately over the years most of those precious fragile ornaments have gotten broken. Between various moves and accidentally dropping some of them, which really upset me every time, there are only a few left, most of which are now used in decorative bowls of ornaments set around the house.

I couldn’t ever imagine Christmas without a tree and all those lights and ornaments; without the beauty they brought to our home, especially when I was a child with my father no longer with us.  And I’m sure if it hadn’t been for me, my mother wouldn’t have ever had another Christmas tree after he died.

I guess my love of Christmas trees sort of sprang from those childhood days, and has slowly evolved to the craziness my husband and I have now.

Craziness you ask? Well I’ve been told having a tree in almost every room is a little crazy, but then again, I’ve never claimed to be totally normal. But I like to collect things, so why not Christmas trees? 

Which I’ll tell you more about in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2” to be published on December 6.

The Sounds of Christmas

I don’t know about you, but I love the music of Christmas. (Just not played 24 hours a day on so many radio stations starting on Thanksgiving Day! That’s a bit much.)

It seems every musician has their own versions of popular Christmas songs, as ell as some that have been composed over recent years and quickly became well-loved classics. Each year it seems as if I collect a new favorite.

manger-sceneMy mother’s favorite carol was “Silent Night.” To this day I cannot hear that song, or sing it at church, without thinking about her. How she’d often explain how it made her picture the shepherds at the manger that night, seeing baby Jesus for the first time, and the wonder and amazement they felt knowing that tiny child was the savior of the world. She said she could almost feel the quiet of that night, no sound at all, until a tiny baby began to softly cry, then close His eyes to sleep in that heavenly peace.

“Away in a Manger” was also a favorite of hers, and even to this day I can’t help but think about my mom every time I hear those songs. In fact, I can almost still see that old record player we had with her favorite Bing Crosby record spinning around on it at 33 1/3 rpm. We played that record so much it got really scratchy, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying it. (I actually still have that album in storage, but of course nothing to play it on now.)

Mom also loved “The Little Drummer Boy” and taught it to every one of her kindergarten classes. That was when teachers could still talk about Christmas, have class Christmas parties the last day before school was out for the holiday, kids could give their teachers Christmas gifts, and even have Christmas pageants with the children dressed up to recreate that first Christmas.

In those early years I always enjoyed hearing “Silver Bells,” perhaps because I liked the images it created in my mind. People rushing around, dressed in heavy coats, walking past festively decorated store windows, carrying stuffed shopping bags, and walking past Salvation Army bell ringers with their silver bells tinkling away in the chilled frosty air.

snowy-christmasAnd then there’s “White Christmas.” That song was really special to a lot of us kids, because after all, who didn’t love snow back then?! Especially at Christmas time. We’d dream of waking up Christmas Eve or Christmas Day morning and finding the ground covered in snow, and it still coming down. I think we only had that happen a couple of times at Christmas while we were kids, but I have to admit, there’s still enough kid left in me that I’d really like to see it happen this year! But I’m probably still dreaming.

The old songs are wonderful classics that will never go out of style. But there have also been some other Christmas songs that have come out over the past years that have been quickly added to my list of favorites.

Although “Mary Did You Know?” came out years ago, it feels like it’s new every time I hear it. The poignant words, when you really listen to them, and digest them, so clearly detail all of the myriad of emotions Mary must have felt when she was holding her new baby. Joy, mixed with the sorrow of knowing what His future entailed. How she wanted to protect him from all of that! Yet she knew in her heart that God’s plan was so much better than hers….

“The Christmas Shoes” was recorded by the Christian vocal group Newsong in 2000. I still remember hearing it for the first time, the feelings of sadness and hope combined into one huge emotional mess, but at the same time evoking feelings of what true love really is. Christmas and faith…through the eyes of a child. And because so many of my friends have lost loved ones at this holiday season, that song will forever have a special place in my heart.

santa-reading-listThen there’s another song I keep hearing in my heart and in my mind every Christmas season. I’ve written about it before, and how I felt the first time I heard “Grown-up Christmas List” recorded by Amy Grant. That list is still in the forefront of my heart today. If only we could have just a few of the items on that list….

Yes, certain songs, certain Christmas carols, will always bring to mind memories that are beautiful, comforting, and nostalgic, making me wish I could relive certain special Christmases just one more time. But those memories will have to continue to live only in my mind, because I wouldn’t want to miss the joys of Christmas today with the ones I now have around me to love.

In our memories, past Christmases were always happy and joyful, whether they really were or not. Because the very meaning of Christmas is just that. A time of unconditional joy because of the gift of love we were given on that night so long ago.

The musical sounds of this season are special, and unlike any other. They can create emotions and memories inside of us that we didn’t even know were there.

What memories do your favorite Christmas songs bring to mind?

Unexpected Encounters

Over the past several months I haven’t been shopping that much. And for someone who began her career marketing and promoting shopping malls, that’s a bit unheard of. Those younger days were fun, and I still remember the very late 2:00 AM nights those few days before Thanksgiving that were spent with my maintenance and security crews installing the mall decorations so we’d be ready for the big shopping season.

And it was worth it all…so rewarding to see the looks on the faces of the children and their parents when the big day arrived and the beautifully decorated mall was unveiled! Along with Santa’s special welcoming center for all the children.

Now fast forward some 40+ years.

A different mall, in a different city. Professionally decorated by the decor company’s professional crew at least two, if not three, weeks before Thanksgiving to put shoppers in the mood to spend money as early as possible.

A different and older me…no longer a young woman just out of college, but a new grandmother with my first book being published….a five year dream come true.

Having not been to the mall in a while I hadn’t really noticed this new store there. It had actually opened back in April! It looked far too expensive for my shopping budget, but my husband said let’s just go in and take a look. The windows were beautifully decorated, so we went in, thinking we just might find something interesting in there.

Christmastime is full of stories and divine encounters. It’s a time when God puts us in certain places for the sole reason of helping someone we’ve never met before.

Yes, this was one of those times.

2016-12-09-19-37-33As I walked through the store enjoying the wonderful unique gift items and one-of-kind clothing items, I wandered back to the dressing rooms, which were also beautifully decorated. And there I saw it. And I knew my visit to that store was more than coincidence.

A prayer journal. Available for each customer to write in and request prayer for others, or themselves. And you can believe I added a prayer request for the father of a very dear friend, as well as prayed for one of the other requests in the book!

A young woman, probably not much older than our own daughter, had greeted us when we walked into the store. We’d talked briefly, just small talk between customer and sales associate, and she’d gone on to assist other customers while Ben and I looked around. Suddenly, there she was again, talking with another customer just a few feet away. When they’d finished their brief conversation, she turned to me and asked how we were enjoying the store.

Obviously I told her how impressed I was with the prayer request book, and how I’d written a request in there.

Then the God-ordained moment came, as I casually mentioned to her I was going to contact their home office to inquire about putting my new book in their stores, which had just been published that same day. She asked me what the book was about, and when I explained it dealt with losing my mother and surviving the grief afterwards, she started tearing up and trying not to cry.

“My best friend just lost her mother a month ago, and she’s going through an awful time. I don’t know how to help her. Where can I buy your book? I want to give it to her, and I want to read it as well. Maybe it’ll help….”

Of course I told her where to order it, and also gave her one of my new business cards that coincidentally I’d just received in the mail that afternoon. We talked for a few more minutes and I promised I’d pray for her friend, and that I’d contact the store’s home office and try to get some books in there. She added that she certainly hoped so, because she’d love to have a book signing there for me!

Coincidence? Absolutely not! This was one of those divine appointments that the Lord had orchestrated. He knew what this young woman and her friend needed, and He also knew I needed some encouragement that my book would be well-received and important to others.

I have no way of knowing whether she has ordered the book or not. I sincerely hope she has, or that she will. But I do know this. Visiting that store was not just a spur of the moment, “let’s go in here!” visit. It was a result of perfect timing, and following what that little inner nudge, that still small voice, said to do.

“In his heart man plots his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) And that’s certainly what happened to us that night.

We never know whose lives we will impact when we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit: when we just do what we feel we’re led to do. Who knows what this one innocent encounter in a retail store just two weeks before Christmas will do in someone’s life?

I know how it impacted me. And I pray the repercussions in that young woman’s life, and her friend’s life, will not only make a difference in both of their lives, but the lives of others they come in contact with as well.

This Christmas season especially, be watchful, and be listening to that still small voice inside of you. If your heart leads you to do something, don’t hesitate; just do it. You have no idea what a difference one encouraging word can make on someone’s life.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to someone else this Christmas.

 

As a companion story to this one, read “Finding An Angel”, which can also be found in my book, “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart.”

The Mystery of Santa Claus

This was originally published in December, 2015, but I wanted to share it once again. Because the mystery of Santa Claus is still with us!

A big part of Christmas when I was growing up, like most of my friends in my hometown, was wondering what Santa Claus was going to bring us.

Sure, we all knew the real meaning of Christmas, because back then there were nativity scenes everywhere, not just at the churches, and no one complained at all. Almost of us went to church regularly with our families, and participated in Sunday School Christmas pageants as well, so we were quite familiar with the reason for the season.

But that didn’t stop us from believing in Santa Claus, and knowing that when we got up Christmas morning, he’d have been there and left presents for us under the tree! And we couldn’t wait to see what he’d brought!

I don’t remember the first time I saw Santa and told him what I wanted for Christmas, but I did find this photo several years ago, and that may well have been At Wannamakers 4 yr oldmy first visit to see the man in the red suit. It was taken at Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia, most likely in 1954 or 1955. As you can see, I was all dressed up for this special visit, in a new hat and coat my mother had probably bought for me just for this important occasion! It wasn’t real commonplace back then to take pictures of kids with Santa Claus, so this picture is even more special, and the only one I’ve found of me with him.

And from the look on my face, I can’t tell if I was excited to give him my Christmas list, or just wondering who in the world this person in that furry red suit was, and why I was there!

Back in the 1950s Santa Claus was everywhere. We never questioned why. Because he was Santa, and he was, well, a bit magical. And we never questioned how he could be in two or even three places in town at one time; we never even thought about it. He just could. We never noticed that his beard didn’t look that real, and how it didn’t feel like our own hair, and how it didn’t even look like it was actually growing on his face.

Just like we never thought about how truly impossible it was for a sled to fly through the air pulled by reindeer, who certainly can’t fly, and even if they could, they could never pull a sled all across the world in just one night while their driver had them stop at each house, go down a chimney that he certainly wouldn’t fit in, and leave a bunch of toys under someone’s Christmas tree. All those toys would never even all fit in that sled! But we didn’t stop to think about any of that.

P1070253Of course we all left milk and cookies out for him. And we expectantly checked the next morning to see if they’d been eaten. Of course, all that was left were crumbs, and a few dregs of milk in the bottom of the glass. Reason tells us there’s no way someone can eat thousands of cookies and drink gallons and gallons of milk in one night and still function, let alone deliver toys! But that never occurred to us.

We never questioned. Because that was the mystery and the magic of Santa Claus. Eventually, though, we all figured out there wasn’t really a Santa Claus. Our parents had made it all up, just like their parents before us, and probably their parents’ parents as well. But it was a huge part of our Christmas tradition. And we never got upset that he didn’t really exist when our parents told us he did. We accepted it just as one of those rites of passage of childhood into adulthood. And we made sure we didn’t let on to our friends’ younger brothers and sisters and spoil it for them!

Today some of my friends don’t believe in telling their children about Santa Claus. They’re worried that if they tell them about Santa, when they discover later on it wasn’t true, they’re afraid they won’t believe other things they’ve told them. They don’t want them to miss the true meaning of Christmas. And that’s their choice; they have a right to believe that way if they wish. But personally, I can’t imagine not growing up without my dreams of Santa!

For all of us who grew up with him, the love and mystery of Santa Claus is always going to be alive and well in our hearts, whether we’re four years old, forty years old, or even eighty-four years old.

And do you know, to this day, I’ve never figured out where my mother hid those presents that were marked “From Santa”, and how she managed to get them all under the tree to surprise me without somehow waking me up!

I wonder…….??? Is it somehow possible……..???