Thursday, October 30, 2008

That Joyful Noise!

Don't you just love CHRISTmas cantatas? Well, I do! Our choir started working on ours some time ago. It's called JOY, JOY, JOY and was written by Deborah Craig-Claar and David T. Clydesdale. What I love about this collection of songs is that it s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s our choir's musical ability. That's good - hard but good! Our choir at the Matthews Church of God is under the direction of Mary Locklear (husband Ron pictured with her below). Mary is also a music teacher so she gives us quite a work-out and doesn't allow us to be lazy or sloppy. That's good too - but hard (sometimes). She doesn't allow us to offer "crippled sacrifices". I like that. When the wisemen came from afar they were bearing the best they had to offer; they brought priceless, precious gifts to worship the infant King! We are presenting this cantata on Sunday, December 14th at 6:30pm. When we stand on that stage and sing these songs, we will be offering the best we have. Nothing else will do as we celebrate the birthday of our Savior.
Ron and Mary Locklear (Mary is a sister to Judy Jacobs-Tuttle)
At this time of year there is all kinds of joy. We may be overjoyed because family and loved ones are near, because of what may await us under the CHRISTmas tree or the memories of CHRISTmas' past when we remember the good ole' days. There is also joy at the thought of the birth of JESUS - the Savior of the world. After all these years I still love to hear about the joy that filled Mary's heart when the Angel told her of the coming Messiah and how the Shepherds' hearts must have sang out with joy and excitement as they raced across the hillside to Bethlehem to see the Baby Jesus! Deborah Craig-Claar writes in the foreword of this musical collection the following words and they ring true in my heart today.
"But most of all, there is the joy of celebrating the Savior, Immanuel, God with us. The Father's greatest joy was sending us His Son; our greatest joy is believing in Him." I pray that you experience that joy this holiday season!

Our church is in a building project and this picture is of the window in our foyer. This is what you see from the inside. Love it! See the disciples sleeping in the background? Wake up, boys! As much as I would like to think I would have stayed awake and alert, I am afraid I might have fallen asleep too. By 10pm I'm usually out.

This is the window at the front of the new Sanctuary. Our new baptistery is just below the window. Makes me want to go under all over again.

This is a shot of the same window from the outside front of the Church. This was taken the day of installation (I think). I am praying very earnestly that we get moved in to the new Sanctuary by our cantata. That would be an AWESOME CHRISTmas gift for the entire church body. If you are in the Charlotte area on December 14th, stop by and enjoy JOY, JOY, JOY.
Matthews Church of God
517 E. John Street
Matthews, NC

Monday, October 27, 2008

Holiday Whimsy

60 Days and counting! Okay gang we are officially two months or 8 weeks until CHRISTmas. I prefer to count the weeks. I've moved on to finalizing my plan for our Media Room. This is where the kids hang out, watch TV and movies, play video games and play music. Last year we put up a 6' tree in that room and decorated it with whatever was left over from years gone by that wasn't used elsewhere. This year I wanted to add some child-like whimsy to the room and bright colors. I've noticed that ICE BLUE seems to be a trendy color for this season. Add it to bright green and red and you have the perfect mix for a kid-friendly, fun and festive spot to welcome the holiday and entertain your younger guests. The picture above highlights some of the bright fun colors of CHRISTmas. I love the punch of bright green on the walls in this holiday gift shop.
Here's another shot showing how a few simple additions to a year 'round vignette goes a long way in bringing seasonal cheer to your home. Love the black & white ribbon on the topiary.

Above is a page from the 2008 CHRISTmas catalog from Home Interiors. These wonderful, whimsical characters are knows as Snow Buddies. Aren't they too cute?? I think these playful little guys might just be the ticket for our Media Room. Who can resist a happy little Snowman at Christmas time? Brings back memories of sitting in front of the TV, munchin' on popcorn and sippin' hot chocolate while watching "Frosty, the Snowman" when I was a kid. The coordinating stockings are 3-D. The details and appliques are just lovely.

Just add the coordinating tree skirt to give color and festive spirit to your tree and all you need is to carefully place your packages and you are ready to go.

I love it when my kids help decorate the tree. We will put on some CHRISTmas music, make hot chocolate with heaping spoonfuls of marshmallow cream (yum, yum), laugh, giggle, act silly and just enjoy each other. There's no place I'd rather be. Tomorrow I go on a quest to gain some holiday inspiration for the dinning room and living room. Be sure to visit again soon. Who knows where my camera will strike next!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Memories through the Lens

Do you ever set down to look through old pictures at the holidays? Every year about this time I drag out a shoe box filled with old photos and albums that have seen better days and revisit times when things were different, the kids were little, Grandma and Grandpa were still with us and life seemed a little less crazy. Photos of family and friends, those special people who always seem to make the season brighter, are so cherished. Since the invention of digital pictures we've got a way from photographs carefully placed behind plastic protectors and have opted for flash drives, hard drives and external disc storage so our memories are just a click a way. Even so, I found myself going through last year's photos last night. This next series of photos are from last Christmas Eve which fell on a Sunday. I'd like to introduce you to Sweet Linda Charlene - my sister-in-law / sister by choice with the Royal Princes, Adam on the left and Lucas on the right.

Linda has a God-given talent for seeing things through the lens of a camera that ordinary folks like me never see. I say God-given because when I look at her work I usually can't find words to describe its beauty. To capture the heart and essence of someone and memorialize it forever is no easy task. Last CHRISTmas when Linda and Ann (my Mother-in-law and second Mom) spent the holiday with us, Sweet Linda brought her camera. After church on CHRISTmas Eve morning, she took my boys and her camera and went to work making CHRISTmas magic. The end result was a beautiful gift of CHRISTmas memories for me to cherish forever....

Sweet Linda getting some royal sugar!

Baby Prince with his sweet Aunt 'Da

This IS my ALL-TIME favorite picture of my Royal Princes. When I look at this picture the essence of who my children are shine through to me. This photo sits on my desk in a full 8x10 glossy everyday. This was taken behind our home in NC on one of the nature trails. I really dig black & white portraits. If I'm lucky Sweet Linda will snap some new shots at Thanksgiving. One just might find its way in to my CHRISTmas cards.

A Mother's pride and joy! Two young men of might & valor!

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him."

(Psalm 127:3 NLT)

Find some time this season to dig out your old photos. Revisit times when things were different. Reacquaint yourself with CHRISTmas' past as you anticipate CHRISTmas present.
May God bless and favor you today!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A New Twist on Tradition

62 Days and counting! I spent the morning reviewing my decorating plan room by room. Last year I put up 10, yes 10 CHRISTmas trees! Yeah, I know. I am a little crazy about this time of year. I am going to practice restraint this year so I've decided to put up only 6! But they will all be full size trees. I usually start in the family room. This year I want to "freshen" my decor by adding a punch of lime green. I've noticed that lime is very popular in CHRISTmas decorations this year. Every where I go I see this color featured. I decided to take a trip to my favorite store for home accents - the Black Lion - for some idea gathering and inspiration. Here I am in their florist shop in Charlotte previewing their handiwork. I love the design team at this location. Very elegant.
Lime green complements brown and copper beautifully. I currently use brown, gold and copper in the family room. It will be any easy job introducing this fresh, fun color in to the decor. Next week I will be painting my family room a lovely muted shade of mossy green. Oh, I've had this planned for awhile but have just been reluctant to get started. With the holidays quickly approaching it looks like I better make quick work of the three walls. The paint color is called Caraway Shield and it has golden undertones. This garland would look beautiful draped around our white mantel.
Here is a full view of the garland. I love the way they have featured pheasant feathers and brown and gold ribbon. Anyone out there have a quick and easy way to tie CHRISTmas bows? Where is my good friend Teresa Hamm when I need her???

A coordinating wreath is just the thing to tie the whole look together. All we need now is the tree! I took a trip to Old Time Pottery the other day and found some great lime green glittery ornaments and lime velvet ribbon to add to my tree. I spent less than $20 and have the beginnings of a new twist to my traditional family room tree.
Here is a shot of an over head display featuring lime, gold and silver ornaments. With this over head I felt like I was walking in a Winter Wonderland. I think I have in mind my game plan for our family room. I plan to disassemble the "Great Pumpkin Patch" on November 1st. Once Halloween is over, I am ready to undertake the job of adding holiday panache to ever room. In order to accommodate the CHRISTmas tree we will have to rearrange some furniture. That's a job for Prince Charming. Yes, I admit it. I use a pre-lite artificial tree in this room. It is a 10' downward swept Frasier Fir and it is absolutely beautiful. I can't wait to see the finished product! I just love it when a plan comes together!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The BIG Countdown!

Okay, today marks 63 days until Christmas! By this time the house has been readied to meet the Autumn. Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin Patch has officially arrived on every table, mantle and nook and cranny. This is such a magnificent time of year that we can't contain the celebration to a single day or even a week! At our house we begin the celebration by welcoming the harvest. A trip to the mountains inspires us to bring the glorious color of fall inside. The picture to the left is on the way to Grandfather Mountain, NC. The leaves are just breathtaking and the foliage isn't even at it's peak in this picture!

Just like Mary planned and prepared for 9 months to birth the Promise, we begin planning and preparing long before the big day actually arrives. Okay, maybe not 9 months early!

I officially started my plan 10 weeks out. Sitting down with pen and paper to sketch out tablescapes, tree placement and color schemes. I start by decorating for fall. A nice seasonal change out for accents, pillows, accessories and some wall art prepares us for what is to come. Every year I try to introduce a new twist to an old tradition.
Many people get so caught up with Christmas that they gloss over the wonder of Autumn. What is so wonderful about it? Here in North Carolina, the mountains are filled with glorious color - orange, rust, yellow, red, green and gold. Colors that will later be refined into brighter, more vivid shades and used to celebrate CHRISTmas. We also reap a bountiful harvest of the good things from the earth - corn, pumpkins, squash, gourds of every type and color. As we take in the fresh air, enjoy the coolness of a fall day, we are reminded that "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him." (Psalms 24:1) As we chronicle these next 63 days let's not forget to celebrate each day for it truly is the day the Lord has made. Thank him for the harvest of blessings you've received this year.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wonderful CHRISTmas Joy!

I just love the fall! From the first hint of cooler air blowing down from the north to the hint of Autumn color in the mountains surrounding my North Carolina home, fall marks the beginning of the year's climax. You see the day after Labor Day signifies an annual ritual in which I begin the final countdown - making a list and checking it twice, planning and preparing for the greatest, most joyous time of the year - CHRISTmas!

CHRISTmas has always been a magical, wonderful time for me. As a little child I would listen to Dad preach about the "greatest gift ever given". How God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son - a Son that would take away the sins of the world, whose kingdom would never end, whose peace would fill the hearts of mankind. Growing up I knew from the beginning the real reason for the season. JESUS. The Christ. The greatest gift I've ever received. So to honor the King, I hold the season close to my heart. I remember that my Redeemer came in the humble stillness of a Bethlehem stable. Shepherds came to worship Him. Magi traveled from far, far away to pay homage to the little King and present to him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. So as I endeavor to chronicle this CHRISTmas season, my heart longs to give Him worship as the shepherds did - pure and holy; to offer to him my gifts, the best I have, all I've got surrendered regardless of the lengths I must journey to lay them at his feet.

For then and only then can I truly know the joy of CHRISTmas, that joy that is unspeakable and full of wonderful CHRISTmas glory. May this CHRISTmas be a time of "re-birth" as we celebrate his birth.