Christmas is coming

What happened to December? I blinked, and here we are right at the brink of Christmas. My to-do list feels manageable most days until there’s a delay I wasn’t counting on—like a sick pup earlier this week (she’s getting better). Or the morning spent sitting trapped in a parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for a some-might-argue useless valet to point me to an empty space. All so I could go inside and wait another 30 minutes at the big ham store. (The inside line went much faster than I was expecting, but the ‘bah-humbugger’ in me had already taken over.)

Anyway, Christmas is coming, whether we get everything done just the way we want.

When I polled you a couple of weeks back about your favorite nativity figures, the overwhelming majority of you said your favorites are Jesus, Mary and Joseph (aka the holy family).

Today, let’s remember that Christmas can be as simple as celebrating the birth of the Savior. And also honoring the young man and young woman who traveled to Bethlehem and, while there, brought Him into the world.


Of all my nativity scenes, these two versions of the holy family are my favorite. The one above because of its simplicity and the one below because my mother painted them for me as part of a larger nativity set.


Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. —Luke 2:4-7

Merry Christmas, my friends! I hope your travels will be easy, your joys immeasurable and your heart light in the coming days. Even if you still have to wait in line at the big ham store.

A question for you: if the baby Jesus is separate from the manger in your nativity, do you put Him in there as soon as you put up the rest of your nativity? Or do you wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

One swan a swimming and other cherished sights

I’ve had the Twelve Days of Christmas going through my head this past week. Well, truth be told, it’s Jimmy Buffett’s new version (where “a purple parrot in a palm tree” replaces the partridge).

I love Christmas music—both holy and secular. It fills me with joy, delight, peace, faith, or even a longing for home and family and slowing down to enjoy cherished moments. This year’s Christmas for my husband and me will be here in California, and that means no trip to North Carolina. But we recently snuck in one last trip of the year to the western part of North Carolina, and today’s photos come from a most cherished place.

This swan is one of two that has taken up residence in a lake I love to visit. I’m not sure where its mate is, but seeing it reminded me of the seven swans a swimming.


A watchful swan at dusk

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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.


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!