December Reflections

I wasn’t sure, at first, whether I’d do an end-of-December post. Probably many of our activities have been the same as yours, with getting ready for and then celebrating Christmas. But there were a few things unique to this month, so I decided to go ahead.

Family news

My oldest son is visiting, as he always does for Christmas. But he’s staying a week longer than usual, for two reasons. First, he usually leaves the Sunday after Christmas. This year, that would have meant leaving the day after Christmas, which would have been an abrupt end to our holiday togetherness. Plus, my middle son’s workplace is its busiest in December. On top of that, the temp agencies they work with this time of year promised 20 workers, but only two came. So Jason has been working nights and weekends for weeks. If Jeremy had left the 26th, he would not have seen Jason’s family much at all. So this week Jeremy is working from home here during the day, then we have more visiting time in the evenings. It has been nice to have the extra time together after the busyness leading up to Christmas subsides.

Jim and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary a few days before Christmas. We usually celebrate with a nice meal out and exchanging cards. This year we went to a ritzier restaurant than usual because when we sold our rental house earlier this year, at closing our realtor gave us a gift card to Ruth Chris Steakhouse. We had never been there before. It was very nice. I’m afraid I could get used to luxury all too easily.

Creating

This has been a banner month for card-making. I buy Christmas cards to send to extended family and friends, but I make them for immediate family. Plus we had some other occasions for cards this month.

This was for a friend’s birthday. The white part was done with a Cuttlebug embossing folder.

This was for our pastor’s surprise party for his 50th birthday. I got the idea from Pinterest and used the Cricut for the numbers and window. The words were stickers.

This was for our anniversary. My husband was a physics major, math minor, so when I saw this idea, it appealed to me.

This was Jim’s Christmas card. The deer and trees were done with the Cricut. I printed out the words for all the Christmas cards on the computer.

I did think about saying deer/dear instead of love, but I resisted. 🙂

This was Jeremy’s. I usually do something with a fox for him. But he has a cat, so I decided to use the feline influence. The cat was made with the Cricut, the presents from scrapbooking paper.

His cat isn’t totally black: she has some brown/tan/gold colors in her fur. But there was no way I could replicate that, so solid black would have to do.

This was Jason’s. I wanted to use the fa la la paper in some way, and he’s the most interested in playing different instruments. The instruments were done with the Cricut; the frame was done with decorative scissors.

This is Mitttu’s. The door was done with the Cricut. I printed the wreath from some free clip art and cut it out by hand.

Timothy’s is supposed to look like a snow globe. I was excited to work with clear acetate for the top of it. I had some little plastic bits from a package of snowflake confetti that I used for the snow–the snowflakes themselves were too big. But static cling keeps the “snow” from moving around much. If I ever do this again, I’ll use sequins. The snowman and trees were stickers.

Jesse’s contains something of an inside joke. For his white elephant gift for a young adults Christmas party, he found some pizza socks—a set of socks decorated with different pictures of pizza toppings, folded all together in a pizza box. So, I thought, since a pizza slice is the same shape as a Christmas tree . . . I’d use that as the base of his card. The pizza slice was done on the Cricut.

This year’s Christmas cards are some of my favorites.

Reading

Since last time I have completed:

  • Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis. His thoughts on literature, culture, church music, ethics, subjectivism, and more. Challenging, but good.
  • Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White. I had just finished this last month but had not reviewed it then. Lady Elizabeth takes her maid to the Isles of Scilly to escape the marriage her brother is trying to arrange for her. But she is mistaken for another Elizabeth and given strange notes and packages. The local vicar—the other Elizabeth’s brother—works with Libby to try to decipher the messages and find his sister.
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan. reminded me of I Love Lucy, but with a Southern accent. Not my favorite, but if you like that kind of humor, you’d probably enjoy this book.
  • A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas, a Civil war-era novel. A women makes a quilt for her husband while he is soldiering. It comes back to her in an unusual way. Plus her beliefs are tested when she is asked to shelter a runaway slave wanted for murder.
  • A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson. A woman plans to update a seaside cottage she inherited in order to sell it. But her son wants to stay there.
  • Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. Four friends plan to meet for Christmas in Paris after WWI ends. But it lasts much longer than expected. Several decades later, the last of the four travels to Paris for his last Christmas to read the one unopened letter remaining from their correspondence. Excellent. One of my top twelve of the year.
  • The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin. Victorian novel about an anonymous benefactor, the man who secretly guards and admires her, and another not so friendly stalker.
  • The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson. Separated after twenty years of marriage, a woman unpacks the special ornaments her husband had given her every year, remembers their lives together, and tries to figure out if they can get past the resentment and lack of forgiveness.
  • Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien wrote letters to his children as Father Christmas for several years, complete with disasters set off by the kind but bumbling North Polar Bear. Delightful.

That looks like a lot, but most of the Christmas stories were novellas.

I’m currently reading:

I posted my top twelve books of the year here and all the books I read this year here.

Watching and Listening

My husband and I aren’t binge watchers. He can barely stand to spend two hours viewing something. We started watching the last season of the remake of Lost in Space on Netflix here and there. Then one night, after a long and busy day, we got pizza and watched the next episode. And we had to find out what happened next, so we watched on . . . and on until we finished it. It’s such a good series. I love the emphasis on family. It’s much more intense than the original version.

We also watched A Castle for Christmas, a pretty cute movie about an author who travels to the castle where her father’s family worked in Scotland and finds out its for sale. The owner needs to sell but doesn’t want to, so he tries to sabotage her plans. Then we watched Elf with Jesse and Jeremy and found out later that Jason and Mittu had also watched it. I’ve seen it once or twice before, but still enjoyed it a lot.

I listened to a podcast series by Audible set up like an old radio serial: The Cinnamon Bear: A Holiday Adventure. It was a little too much at times—a little loud and bizarre. And the opening note of its intro music is the worst in the history of intro music. But it was cute and clever in places.

Blogging

In the last month, I have shared:

Writing

Of course, writing has taken a back seat this month. But in January I want to map out time to make it a priority.

Sad News

I wasn’t quite sure where to mention this. We found out a few days before Christmas that my husband’s second oldest brother died from Covid and his wife was in ICU with Covid. It’s been something of a shock. He’s the first of any of our siblings to pass. We’re still processing and waiting to hear more.

Looking Ahead

December has been a full month. I enjoyed the time with family so much. But I am kind of glad the Christmas hoopla is over and the last few days have been more relaxed (for me anyway—maybe not so much for those returning to work). We’ll still have some time together this weekend. Then it’s on to new calendars and a bright shiny new year.

I’ve shared this before, but I love this quote from Captain Jim in Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery:

“Welcome, New Year,” said Captain Jim, bowing low as the last stroke died away.
“I wish you all the best year of your lives, mates.
I reckon that whatever the New Year brings us will be the best
the Great Captain has for us.”

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

End-of-December and 2020 Reflections

Well, it’s been quite the year hasn’t it? Truly we never know what a day—or a year—will bring forth (Proverbs 27:1). Much has been written about the pandemic and other events of the year, so I won’t reiterate them here. Probably the top takeaways for me this year are:

  • Hold plans loosely.
  • God is still in control. Life’s circumstances have not taken him by surprise.
  • We walk the same way we do in any circumstances—by faith.
  • Listen more, assume less.

Thankfully, our family had a couple of excursions right before the lockdowns began. That helped the initial isolation not feel as bad. My husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary from last December a little late and went to the Gatlinburg/Sevierville/Pigeon Forge area in January to stay in a nice, cabin-like hotel, eat at a nice restaurant, attend a couple of attractions, and reread some love notes from college days. Then in February we visited the Biltmore House and Downton Abbey exhibit with all the family except my oldest, who lives out of state.

A friend and I went out for lunch during the early days of the virus and discussed it and what effects it might have. We had no idea it would be so widespread and last so long. But we were glad that we had that time together right before it.

Thankfully, my husband and three sons could all work from home for the most part. Jason, my middle son, had to go in a lot during December, their busiest time of the year. Because we were all isolating, we felt safe getting together (the strictest regulations here so far limited gatherings to ten, and we’re only seven when all together). My oldest son missed his April visit, but came in August and December via train, mostly on a sleeper car. So he hardly saw anyone on the trip, which he felt was safer (though much longer) than flying. Those gatherings and Zoom church sustained us.

We had some health issues: the atrial fibrillation which I had surgery for three years ago started up again and landed me in the ER twice. I have follow-up appointments in the next couple of weeks to see what we should do about that. The last hospital visit exposed us to COVID, as a nurse who talked about isolating from family because she worked with COVID patients kept pulling down her mask as she talked. That was the week before Jeremy’s scheduled train trip here, which made for some uncertainty. But we got a rapid COVID test the day before he was supposed to leave, and new guidelines said no symptoms and a negative test from day 5 or later after exposure only required a week’s quarantine, so we were good to go—and very thankful.

Normally I include “Timothyisms” in my monthly posts—quips from my six-year-old grandson. The only one I noted this time was when we were isolating due to one of Jason’s coworkers testing positive for COVID. They had helped us put up and decorate the Christmas tree earlier, and as we FaceTimed, I showed Timothy some of the presents accumulating under it. He said, “Granddad Claus is coming to town!”

We send store-bought Christmas cards to loved ones, but I make them for the immediate family. I try to incorporate their favorite colors and interests.

This was Jim’s:

The little squares were made with the Cuttlebug embosser.

This was for Jeremy, who likes foxes:

The background was embossed, and the fox and trees came from a scrapbook paper set. The Merry Christmas was a sticker.

This was Jason’s:

He likes blue, and I am often drawn to cheery, whimsical ideas for him. The words at the bottom were on a sticker.

This was for Mittu, my daughter-in-law, who likes purple:

The idea I had seen on Pinterest (where I get most of my inspiration) showed a tree made with heart-shaped cutouts. I decided to add the glitter-frosted edges. I liked it better before I added the Merry Christmas sticker at the bottom, but I couldn’t remove it once I glued it on.

This was Timothy’s:

I saw the idea here (via Pinterest) for using shapes to create the penguin. But mine must have been shaped a little differently—it didn’t look right to try to make it short and squatty like hers. But I thought it turned out cute. I had to get Jesse to help me with the eyes: I just couldn’t get something that tiny cut out and glued on. I wished later I had outlined the little sign so it stood out better.

This was Jesse’s:

And this was for our anniversary:

I usually list what we’ve been watching in these posts, but we haven’t watched much out of the ordinary the last two months (I missed November–there just wasn’t a good time to work an end-of-month post in). I’m still working through the Lark Rise to Candelford series while using the exercise bike. Somehow we didn’t watch any of the usual Christmas movies or specials. We streamed The Croods: A New Age and Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey to watch with the family. They were . . . okay. My husband and I watched Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors when it was on TV one night and were surprised that network TV allowed such upfront messages about faith and eternal destiny. I wouldn’t take all my theology from the movie, but the message of the need to trust in God was clear.

I won’t list the books reads in November and December since I just posted all the books I read this year as well as my top twelve.

And, since this is an end-of-year post, instead of listing posts from the last two months, I thought I’d look back at the posts from the year that seemed to resonate the most with readers. My five most-read posts of the year are:

I’m thankful people found something useful there. I need to go back and remind myself of some of those truths.

It’s hard to end the year with a sense of closure and look to 2021 as bright and shiny and new when so many of this year’s problems remain: the pandemic and its physical, emotional, and economic toll, the civil and racial strife and unrest, a new administration with alarming values. But my Daily Light on the Daily Path entry for this morning was all about God bearing His people as on eagle’s wings. My Bible reading in Exodus 33 told of the time just after Israel made and worshiped the golden calf instead of God. He was going to send them on to the promised land, but not go with them Himself because they were a stiffnecked people. But Moses pleaded, and God promised, “‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he [Moses] said to him [God], ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here'” (verses 14-15). Whatever happens in the coming year, we can rely on God’s presence and depend on Him to bear us up.

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, Senior Salon, InstaEncouragements)