A few weeks ago, we had our annual Christmas ladies’ meeting at our church. Each year our planning committee chooses a theme, and this year’s theme was “Christmas Treasures.” A friend and I collaborated to decorate for the event…and we had so much fun doing it! The resulting primitive home scene was so lovely- mostly because all of the items we used were someone’s treasures! Many of our ladies willingly offered their special items to add to our scene, creating a very realistic feel of Christmases gone by. Here are some of the photos from our evening:
We chose burgundy and cream/gold for the tree colours. I enjoyed using my favourite garland, but this year decided to make “puffs” instead of wrapping it around the tree. The lights made the garland look like it was glowing- love it! And of course we had to have ‘brown paper packages tied up with string!’
To the right of the tree we put the fireplace. I had an old window that I cleaned up and hung a curtain on with wool string. The lanterns were lent to us by two ladies, as was the string of mittens and the birch logs. The infant cradle came from another lady, who knows the history of it coming off of a settler’s boat- it is very old! Isn’t it darling?!
To the right of the fireplace we set up our baking/sewing corner of the one room house. The spinning wheel was lent to us, as were the kitchen utensils, including tin cookie cutters and an old egg beater, among other culinary antiques.
To the left of the tree we hung a homemade quilt, and arranged my own wooden rocking horse, handmade by my Grandfather before he died. One lady brought in the wicker baby cradle and carriage. The carriage still had a straw tick in it! Laying over the baby bed are some dainty infant gowns, also lent to us. I so enjoyed examining these handmade items- they boast such tiny stitches, and the teensiest buttons you have ever seen! Also impressive were the long hems of 6-8 inches, so the garment could be let out as the infant grew. So resourceful!
The tablescapes were simple….tables covered with brown paper….baskets filled with pinecones and vintage Christmas balls….tied with burgundy cording.
Stepping back, this is the finished scene. I thoroughly enjoyed helping to create it, using treasures from so many different ladies. We had a really special evening as we gathered together and sang carols, ate treats, played games, heard a stirring devotion, listened to stories of Christmas treasures, and enjoyed each others’ fellowship. It was a fabulous evening!
In meditating on aspects of treasures, I realized that often when we have a treasure, we hold it close so that nothing happens to it. But not sharing the treasure of Christmas may cost someone’s soul.
Share the treasure of Christ this season and always!
Just now joining me? Read Part One of this story here.
Christmas Day dawned… and there was a tiny candy cane on my breakfast tray. It was tied with a strand of red and green curling ribbon.
And we began another long day of sickness and no answers.
On Christmas night the vein that my IV was in developed an infection and collapsed. Nurses tried in vain (or maybe it was ‘in vein?’) to get it back in. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that I had had so many IVs in the past two months. My arms, wrists, and hands were so scarred (and still are today) that it was hard to find a place in which to insert a new IV.
Finally…success. “Ah, that is a beautiful vein” the nurse said. (I think that was supposed to be comforting)
I struggled to manage the pain without getting sick, so a porter named Peter (he must have been an angel because God brought him across our path so many times in that hospital during different stays!) came in and held my hand while they put the IV in. He told me to squeeze the life out of his hand if I needed to. I think I did.
And then the tears came. And came. And came. Floods of grief over what was happening to me- to our little family- to my Christmas dreams.
They were shattered. I was stuck in the hospital and no one knew for how long. I was maxed out on doses of several nausea medications and yet I was still sick. The doctors were running out of answers to help me recover and stay that way. Aside from the physical part, the loneliness we felt was overwhelming that it felt almost physically heavy on our hearts.
We had God and each other, a baby whose life stayed on the edge of vitality day by day, and a tiny candy cane. That was Christmas the year 2005~ our first Christmas together as a married couple.
We were rich
A few days after Christmas, I was transferred by ambulance to the IWK (Childrens/Maternity Hospital) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was there that we spent our first New Year’s together. (That’s a story for another day.)
When we finally arrived home, I had been in two hospitals for three weeks. It felt like three years.
Upon opening our front door and stepping inside, we found our Christmas tree browned over. Completely dead.
I touched the tree with one finger. In the silence of our cold and neglected living room, a shower of needles hit the gifts underneath and then scattered on the hardwood floor.
So symbolic. So heart wrenching. Yet so reassuring….so hopeful. I had survived, once again, what doctors said I may not survive. I was home, at least for that day.
Christmas wasn’t a place. It wasn’t a tradition. It wasn’t even the dream of what I wanted it to be.
It was our hearts. It was Christ. It was God’s will, which was bigger than my dreams of the perfect Christmas.
Experiencing Christmas in the hospital changed me forever. I am so thankful for that trial. Now every December I remember with empathy those who are in the hospital. It’s been a lasting lesson in compassion and in what Christmas truly is.
Are you facing a trial that threatens to take your Christmas joy? It doesn’t have to. You, like Mary, can ponder and keep things in your heart.
Keep Christmas in your heart. Guard it with your very life.
Ravenous hunger. Insatiable thirst. A world grasping headlong and heedlessly for the unsatisfying sustenance it so deceitfully offers to itself.
Starving for the Bread of Life.
A starving world- this is the world to which Jesus came. Yet people were not hungry for Him.
A waiting world- this is the world to which Jesus came. Yet people were not watching for Him.
A loved world- this is the world to which Jesus came. Yet people were not aware of their Lover.
A sought world- this is the world to which Jesus came. Yet people were not seeking Him.
What a precious Gift. Yet people didn’t appreciate Him.
And yet again, the irony of the symbolism thrills my heart.
The Bread of Life was placed in a manger
The spiritual food that would keep souls alive in famine…and forevermore…was placed in a feeding trough for animals.
A tiny present of Bread to a starving world.
Oh, how sweet it is to those who believe! The hunger ebbs, and never returns. Hearts are satisfied. Souls no longer rush headlong into the tempting delights of the world.
All they needed was Bread.
The Bread of Life and the Water of the Word.
Even beyond salvation, the Bread of Life still sustains. Every day. Every moment.
Hunger strikes…a ‘need’ for possessions, for friends, for status, for money, for recognition of accomplishment, for the greener grass that seems to be better than reality, for the realization of a dream….the list could go on and on. For at one time or another in our human lives, these tempting ‘delights’ make us think we are hungry.
All we really need is Bread.
It was given long ago in the form of a tiny Babe- in the form of One who many would pass by. I can almost hear the scoffers in that day….
‘A baby? I need a baby?’
‘I need that baby?’
The enemy of faith invades and self-sufficiency chooses to push aside the Bread and reach for the crumpets.
And the hunger goes on.
I find it interesting, as a pastor’s wife, that some of the first to visit Jesus at the manger were shepherds.
Those who feed and tend others’ hearts.
It was as if He was saying, “Here I am- the Bread of Life. Feed me to the world.”
To those of us in full time ministry- do we take this calling to heart? Do we always realize the preciousness of the spiritual food, and are we eager and sensitive to the ministry of that Bread to the hearts of our flock?
Friend, have you tasted the Bread of Life for salvation? Have you embraced Him by faith and quenched your hunger and thirst?
“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
Perhaps you are satisfied through salvation, yet the temptations of the world grip your heart. Don’t believe the lie that those things will sooth your soul. Instead, they make you hungrier still, leaving you with the feeling that you can never get enough.
What you need is right in front of you. Embrace the Bread of Life. For salvation. For always.
“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8
Did you miss the first Christmas Vignette? Click here to read more!
December 22, 2005 found me staring at a ceiling (again).
In a hospital (again).
I had not yet been diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but this was my second stay in the hospital in just a few weeks’ time.
This was not the way I had envisioned our first Christmas as a married couple.
We had only recently moved to Canada, so I was a new bride in a new country. I had carried with me the dreams of every new wife- dreams of gathering around a twinkling tree and beginning her own Christmastime traditions.
Instead I found myself in an unfriendly hospital room, sandwiched between a white wall and a brown curtain that separated me from my roommate, an elderly lady who had just had surgery.
My lunch tray arrived. As usual, I was too sick to look at it. My husband was forbidden to even lift the lid. Today the menu said “Rappie Pie.” My roommate gushed over the glories of this particular dish. We weren’t going to eat ours? Could she have it then?
Sure. Have the whole tray. Have my supper tray too. And all of tomorrow’s trays.
After lunch time the doctor on call came in. I had so many foreign doctors that we began nicknaming them to tell them apart. Was it going to be Dr. Ravioli? Or perhaps Dr. Teriyaki? Maybe Dr. Linguine?
Doc came in and gave me a hopeful synopsis of my condition. I’ll never forget his flopping Santa hat or his jolly tone of voice as he said, “We ought to get you home by Ho-Ho Day!”
I was cautiously relieved.
During the next few days I kept hoping to be released, but it never happened. In the meantime, I was moved around to different rooms on the maternity floor, and began to feel like a medical guinea pig as different doctors with differing opinions tried all kinds of medications on me, including steroids. I was only 9 weeks along. The steroids gave me a horrible reaction, which pretty much sealed my fate at not going home for “Ho-Ho Day.”
I spent Christmas Eve in the usual custom of the past 2 months- violently sick and trying to wish away the awful nightmare that was my fate. If you’ve ever had an extended stay in the hospital, you know the feeling that the hospital is another world where time loses all meaning and the minutes might as well be hours. The hours might as well be days. You want to go home so badly that you daydream about the ‘little’ things of home that you usually take for granted.
We had no family or close friends. The reality of this ‘holiday’ was slowly dawning on me.
Later that evening, in spite of everything ugly, something beautiful happened. We began to hear music…faintly, but definitely moving our way.
By this time of day the nausea meds had eased my suffering somewhat and I managed to prop myself up so I could see what was going on.
It was a barbershop quartet. Soon they were singing right outside my door.
“Silent night, holy night….sleep in heavenly peace.”
“What child is this…the Babe, the Son of Mary.”
“There’s a song in the air…for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King.”
To this moment I can still hear their rich blend of tones, and my soul feels again the balm that that music was to my aching heart.
I remember the men smiling at me as they passed my door and moved on. I smiled back. Oh, how I wished they would stay and sing for a few hours….and never stop.
I remember that my husband and I both had tears after they left.
It felt like God had sent them just for us. I finally understood why folks in nursing homes and hospitals hang on to every note and word when someone comes to sing to them. Spending time on ‘the other side’ changed my perspective of holiday ministry.
Sometimes a carol is the sum of Christmas for a suffering heart.
This was the lesson of that Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day would bring a lesson of its own…(This story to be continued in Part 2)