New book, old posts

When I was in girl scouts oh so many years ago, we had a song we sang in rounds: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.”

For the next few weeks, I’ll be insanely busy with a cross-country move, and while I want to be here in this space with you each week, you wouldn’t get the best I have to offer. So I’ll remind you each week that my book (the new friend) is available—in paperback and as an ebook through Lulu—and would make a great gift under the tree. Each week, I’ll also offer a popular repost from Christmas 2012 (an old friend).

And I promise to reply to your comments as soon as possible. Thanks for your grace and patience. Happy Advent!


Tis the season of Advent, a joyful time in the calendar as we prepare for Christmas. My husband and I got an unusually early start on our Christmas decorations this year, and our weekend of stringing up lights and hanging stockings on the mantel has me pondering the colors of Christmas.

In the coming weeks, I’ll focus on a different color of Christmas, starting today with the color white.

closeupChristmasangel2012FT

One of my favorite Christmas decorations: a white ceramic angel holding a book and lit from within

In our western culture, white represents many good qualities: innocence, purity, light, goodness. We sing songs dreaming of a white Christmas and get a little excited (at least in some parts of the country) if the weather forecast calls for snow to blanket everything in its stillness and quiet on that magical day.

White is the color you get when all other colors get absorbed. I think the Christmas season is a bit like that, absorbing all of our prayers and dreams and hopes and expectations, even our fears and sorrows.

A little white book
I have Enuma Okoro to thank for opening my eyes to this color of the season. I’m reading her latest book Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent. The simple white cover drew me to the book, probably because I’ve found myself craving simplicity more than ever this year.

Read the rest of this original post.


What I didn’t point out to you two years ago was the crack in the angel’s right wing. When I was packing her away the year I bought her, I was being careful to support the wings in bubble wrap. So careful that the whole thing slipped out of my hands as I was putting it in a box. Her wing snapped off, and I superglued it back on. I found myself thinking of her recently, wondering how she will fare in the move from North Carolina to California. Here’s hoping she arrives with her wings still intact!

Simple lessons from the nativity scene

I shared with you last week that Thanksgiving was threatening to overwhelm me, but I was really in denial about what would come before the leftovers were even all gone. The “commercial” Christmas season has come roaring in, practically running down Thanksgiving in its wake. Not that it hasn’t been around since before Halloween, but this week has brought a new level of frantic Christmas messages.

Neighbors have lights and greenery and blow-up snowmen out on their lawns. I still have pumpkins on my front porch and feel a sense of camaraderie with others whose front porches are still decked out in Thanksgiving decor.

The catalogs are screaming with deadlines for shipping in time for Christmas. My inbox has became an unmanageable beast shouting about Cyber Monday deals and extended Cyber Week sales and last chances and one-day coupons and so much more that my head is spinning. Exactly when did Cyber Week become a thing anyway?

I got an email from a big crafts store yesterday with a list of one-day deals and a lead-in sentence that said: “This year, take the stress out of the holidays by simplifying your DIYs …” The sale was for ribbon and fake poinsettias that I could use to transform my normal (read: boring, blah, unacceptably plain) chairs into appropriately festive ones with perfect chair ties.

I thought to myself, “Hey – I know. I’ll make my holidays even less stressful by not going to the store and buying festive-chair-tie-making materials.” I also convinced myself I did not need “Celebrate It pre-lit entryway trees,” even if they, too, were marked down 60% for one day only.

By not jumping in the car yesterday, I saved a little piece of my sanity and 100% of the money I would have spent. I also solved the issue of my family exchanging glances behind my back, wondering when I started feeling the need to decorate perfectly good chairs when what I really need to do is just figure out how to bake a pie without filling the kitchen with smoke. (I admit that this is a recurring event in my kitchen.)

Whether I prepare and decorate and learn how to bake the perfect pie … or not, Christmas is coming. I want to get my heart right for it. I’m determined to find some quiet in this Advent season, to carve out some space for preparing for real Christmas. And I think the nativity scene is the perfect place to look.

Shepherds2013

These nativity shepherds look so calm and happy and relaxed. That’s how I’d like to be this Christmas.

I wrote a bit last Christmas about the nativity set my mother painted for me, and these are the shepherds from that set. Stop and look for a moment at their faces and what they have with them: a few of their animals, a water canteen, a musical instrument and some food. That’s all.

When they heard the angels singing of Christ’s birth, they didn’t rush around looking for ribbons and fake poinsettias to decorate their chairs. They rushed to the manger and brought only what they already had with them.

Friends, will you take a cue from the shepherds this week and drop what’s not important so you’ll have time and energy and joy for what is? Are you willing to set the Martha Stewart expectations aside and prepare your heart and home for the presence of Jesus?

Got a good tip for how to make the coming celebration a simpler one, less filled with stress? Please share it below!

The colors of Christmas: red

Last week, I began a series for Advent on the colors of Christmas. This week’s focus is on the color red, one of the most traditional colors associated with the season. I remember a few years ago seeing a friend at church in November wearing a beautiful orange sweater, and she said she was trying to wear it one more time before December fashionistas dictated red as the “must-wear” color.

In Western culture, the color red has widely varying associations: blood, passion or love, danger, stop (like the color of most of the traffic signals I seem to see these days) and many things Christmas (candy canes, Santa’s suit, Rudolph’s nose, bows, holly berries).

Even our expressions use the color in varying ways. You don’t want to be “in the red” (in debt) at the end of the year. The parking deck at the mall may have you “seeing red” (feeling angry) as you struggle to find an open space.

“Red-letter days” are ones we anticipate for their celebrations and importance. We “roll out the red carpet” to celebrities and dignitaries. And we can even “paint the town red” on a fun night out. But we don’t want to get caught “red-handed” (in the act) when we’re snooping to discover the contents of our wrapped Christmas presents.

For Christmas reds, there seems to be no end in what we can find in red. Let’s start with what blooms during this season: Continue reading

The colors of Christmas: white

Tis the season of Advent, a joyful time in the calendar as we prepare for Christmas. My husband and I got an unusually early start on our Christmas decorations this year, and our weekend of stringing up lights and hanging stockings on the mantel has me pondering the colors of Christmas.

In the coming weeks, I’ll focus on a different color of Christmas, starting today with the color white.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations: a white ceramic angel holding a book and lit from within

One of my favorite Christmas decorations: a white ceramic angel holding a book and lit from within

In our western culture, white represents many good qualities: innocence, purity, light, goodness. We sing songs dreaming of a white Christmas and get a little excited (at least in some parts of the country) if the weather forecast calls for snow to blanket everything in its stillness and quiet on that magical day.

White is the color you get when all other colors get absorbed. I think the Christmas season is a bit like that, absorbing all of our prayers and dreams and hopes and expectations, even our fears and sorrows.

A little white book
I have Enuma Okoro to thank for opening my eyes to this color of the season. I’m reading her latest book Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent. The simple white cover drew me to the book, probably because I’ve found myself craving simplicity more than ever this year.

Continue reading