DP Challenge: Ghosts of Christmas

My little magic tree
three feet high and fragrant fir
Sits on a shelf and breathes out
Scents of Christmases past,
Decorated with colored lights
Shines out scenes of Christmases past.

I see my Papa and my Grandma Ninny,
All of us gathered around.
My aunts, my mom,
my cats and dogs.
Some are well and truly ghosts
but today they are as warm and real
as they were years ago.

My papa laughing and teasing
My teenaged aunts,
My ninny smelling of cinnamon and vanilla,
Her gentle smile glowing brighter
than the lights on the tree.

My Puglsley, Miss Boot, and Sam B
eye the ornaments but do not touch.
Sandy wags her tail and prances
all around.
We are all together
Safe and warm and happy.
Dinner will be soon
and gifts will be opened.
The laughter still chimes in my heart
and the carols we’ll sing
I still hear.
My body has never forgotten
the touches of love
From all I love at Christmas.

Happy ghosts who visit to
let me know I am still and always loved.
My little perfect magic tree
says to me:
I’m now a part of Christmas past!
I’m part of you and your family.

The best ghost of Christmas
is the one called love.
I hope my ghosts visits you and yours
and you are touched with blessings
Peace, joy and light from above.
God bless us, everyone.

Born is the King – It’s Christmas by Hillsong

This has been MY song this Christmas season – it’s joyful, it’s fun, it’s true.  It’s one of those songs I crank up in my car and shake the speakers and make the windows rattle.

I had another singing at the moon fit last night.  I stood on my back steps, gazing out into the darkness and around my sleepy little neighborhood.  Oh yeah.  I started rocking, and clapping and let loose with this one.  If this one doesn’t make you smile, come visit me and we’ll talk and eat Christmas cookies, candy canes, and red and green M&M’s.  I think in a bit, you’ll be on those steps with me, singing your heart out.  A king is born, it’s Christmas.  Forever and ever, halleluia!  God bless you, every one.

Born unto us this day a Savior
Gifted from heaven to a manger
The hope of the world
A light for all mankind
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It�s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

Goodwill to all the earth
And peace divine
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

Winter Moon and Halleluia Chorus!!!

Andre Rieu is one of my favorite conductors. He conducts with such joy and passion! Tonight as I was gazing at the winter moon – so huge and luminous in the black sky, I thought back to that night in Bethlehem, long ago – and then I thought back even farther to that incredible prophecy of the Messiah to come. I could not stop myself – I stood on my back steps, flung out my arms and sang this.

The clip of Andre Rieu conducting and the chorus is much better. His words at the beginning are like a prayer for all of us – hope and joy to all. Since I’m only 4″10′, you can’t see me – but I am over behind the harpist doing cartwheels in pure joy at this music.. It never ceases to bring me to my feet with a feeling that I can well and truly fly.

Advent: Joy!!!…Yowzer Y’all

This candle is the candle of Joy or the candle of the shepherds. People ask, why shepherds? Why not someone…more important? Shepherds were not outcasts, but they were smelly, kind of rednecky, low on the totem pole of professions. But King David, from whom Jesus descended, was once a shepherd. Jesus was often likened, in prophecies, to be the shepherd of His people. Two songs for you today – Angels We Have Heard on Highand Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy).

And Bethlehem? Little backwater Bethlehem? David was born in Bethlehem. Prophets said the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, and He did!!! When Jesus was born, in a very messy, human way in a stable, He became accessible to all of us. He was one of us – people put their children in His lap and to play around Him, His feet were callused from much walking, His hands knew hard work.

In God’s perfect time, in the perfect place, Jesus was born. Angels appeared to the shepherds and gave them news of very great joy. Right now, in the city of David, a Savior is born. Run! Go see Him! Be joyful!  Joy for the World.

The Smell of Home – A True Christmas Story

a slice of sweet potato pie

a slice of sweet potato pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry.  This might be a little long for some of you, but I hope you will read.  I was born and raised in the South and except for occasional sojourns on Long Island, Philadelphia, London, Tokyo, and San Francisco, I have lived in the South.  I grew up in a neighborhood close to the Duke east campus.  People had lived there in the same homes for generations.  We knew each other, knew all the stories about each others’ ancestors, who had converted their sleeping porches and when and when finally (we were among the last) who sold their portion of the mews and sent their last horse to live with relatives in the country.

In 1968, the impossible happened – the Pollard family next to us, finally died out.  The house was sold to strangers – maybe even folks from up North!!!  Of course, if they were connected to Duke, it might be okay.  Imagine everyone’s surprise when an African-American family moved in.  Well, nobody moved from the neighborhood or did any nastiness; after all, that Greek family had moved in a couple of streets over and nothing bad had happened.  In fact, they organized block parties and gave away thousands of Christmas cookies!!!

The McGill family consisted of the father Richard, his wife Arlene and sons – Junior (my age) and Bob. Mr. Mc and my dad became instant and best friends.  The two sons kept to themselves and Mrs. Mc considered us all a bunch of jumped up low counts because after all, she was descended of long standing upper class Creole families in N’awlins, so there!

About three weeks before the McGill’s first Christmas in Trinity Park, the neighborhood was permeated with the most delicious, spicy, mouth watering odor.  It was slightly familiar, but better – richer and headier.  I took it upon myself to go through the hedge and knock on the McGill’s back (kitchen) door.  Mr. Mc himself answered and greeted me with a huge smile and welcome on in.  I looked in amazement – covering every surface in the kitchen and the dining room beyond, were sweet potato pies.  The kitchen was warm from the ovens (like us, he had two stoves – a gas and a wood burner).  My eyes were huge and I looked at him and without having to ask, he said, “Sweet potato pies. Every year, our church has a fund raiser to provide clothing, food, toys, rent, whatever for the needy in our parish.  I bake 100 pies for sale and I do that because I bake the best. I am the king of sweet potato pies.”

“Here’s one that is a little ugly and I was going to cut a slice and have with a cup of coffee. Want some?”  “Yes sir, I surely do.” and we proceeded to sit and eat and chat.  I discovered why my dad just loved him – funny, erudite, gentle, kind, generous….I fell in love with himself.  “That is THE best sweet potato pie I have ever had. How do you make it?”  His eyes twinkled at me and said, “Won’t tell you, it’s a secret.”  And from then until I left for college, sweet potato pie and coffee became a yearly tradition with us.  Sometimes we were joined by Junior who like his dad, was quite a cook.  Like his dad, big, gentle, kind, and funny.

Years later, I was living in Philadelphia.  One morning, I received a call from my mother.  My papa was in hospital and it was not going to be good.  I dropped everything and caught the first flight home.  All the way, I was  truly a wreck.  I jittered in my seat, bit my nails, thought about a future that did not include my father.  I wondered who would pick me up from the airport.  Papa always did.  I came to the baggage area and there was Mr. Mc waiting for me.  when I saw him, I began crying and he folded his big self around me and held me tight.  We grabbed my bag and went to the car.  In the car, as he was driving me home, he handed me his handkerchief and said, “Let me tell you how I make my sweet potato pie. But remember, it’s a secret and you can’t tell.”

My father died. I don’t remember much about the events of the days.  I choose not to.  Hidden in a blur of an unmended heartbreak, those memories will remain that way.

One thing I have learned in past years, is this:  Don’t fight with God. He always wins.  And when he tells you to do something, don’t argue, just do it and save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and stupid. More years later:  I was driving down a lonely stretch of Rt. 360 to go visit my mom.  It was a bleak, wet sleety day.  On the side of the road, a black van was pulled over with the hood up.  Two huge men were standing beside the van looking into the bowels of the vehicle and looked up hopefully as I drove past.  God says “Go back and help them.”  and of course, I argued.  it’s desolate, I don’t know them, they’re big, blahblahblahblah.  God says, “Go back and help them.”  and He said this several times.  About two miles down the road, I pulled over and just gave up.

“Alright already. I’ll do it.  But I’m just going to put my window down a bit and ask if they need help.”  God says, “Whatever. Go back.” I u-turned and headed back.  I pulled beside the van and inched my passenger window down.  The largest man leaned down and looked in the window.  Suddenly, he said, “Kanzen?”   I looked closer – “Junior?”.  Immediately I unlocked my car door and he climbed in.  “We need help. I’m on my way to Clarksville to preach a funeral and the van just stopped.  I can’t get a call through either.”  No good coverage in that area…”I go right past that funeral home. Y’all get in and I’ll have you there shortly.”

As we rode to Clarksville, the associate pastor crammed into my small back seat and Junior with the passenger seat back as far as it would go and our shoulders touching each other like old friends.  We talked about the past years to catch up.  Mr. Mc had died two years earlier. I told Junior how grieved I was to hear this.  “y’know Kanzen.  it’s hard and this time of year, it is just harder.  The house don’t smell right.  I know you understand.”  I nodded.  I did indeed understand.  “I’ve tried to fix those pies, but they aren’t right.  Mom lives with us now and she has talked about how she misses Dad. How she would love to smell one of his pies, just one more time.”

I sat in silence for a couple of miles.  I thought of my papa.  I thought of Mr. Mc and his grieving son beside me.  I smiled and though I had tears in my eyes, I turned to him.  “Junior, I know how to make your dad’s pie.  He told me when papa died.  I’ll tell you, but it’s a secret. You can’t tell anyone.”  and I began to tell him the secret of Mr. Mc’s sweet potato pie.

A couple of weeks later, I received a note in the mail.  “The house smells like home.  The home smells right.  God bless you.  Merry Christmas.”

And no, I’m not going to tell you.  It’s a secret.  Merry Christmas and God bless you. May your home be filled with love and joy and making of memories for your heart.

HOPE – エレミヤ書 29:11

エレミヤ書  29:11

主は言われる、わたしがあなたがたに対していだい ている計画はわたしが知っている. それは災を与え

ようというのではなく、平安を与えようとするもの

であり、あなたがたに将来を与え、希望を与えよう

とするものである

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Today, we need hope more than ever.  Thousands of years ago, God spoke to the people of Israel, exiles (captives) in Babylon.  They were taken away from their homes, their property, children – everything taken from them and their lives turned upside down and totally changed.  Their city and temple was destroyed.

A few years later, God would use Nehemiah to bring these exiles back to their home and rebuild their temple.  And years even later, God sent His Son, Jesus, to be born as a child (please read my post Why Christmas) and to live among us, die for us, rise from the dead to save us from eternal death and give us life everlasting.

God looked all the way down the millennia to then to now.  He still speaks to us.  He still has hope for us.  His Son still loves us. 

In spite of everything ugly, frightening, horrible, catastrophic, WE STILL HAVE HOPE!

John 3:16 – 17  God loves us so much, He sent His only Son to live with us, die for us, and rise from the dead to save us from eternal life.  He was sent not to condemn us, but to save us and give us hope. (my paraphrase)

It is Christmas.  Regardless of what you celebrate, how you worship, I share this with you.  Believe it or not, that is your choice.

But I want you all to know this and to know there is hope.  Be blessed.  God Bless You!  Merry Christmas!

 

imagesCAAF21JL

Kentucky Bourbon Cake – Yowzer Y’all

Fooled y’all.  This is really a fruitcake in disguise.  Now don’t get all hinky on me and stop reading.  This is not your ordinary doorstop last-forever fruitcake.  This is more fruit and nuts than flour.  And it is solid, but it is a good solid – doused with bourbon, redolent of nutmeg, and intriguing with orange marmalade.  We bake this in two of the large size loaf pans.  Usually we fix 3 recipes of this – one for ourselves and the rest to dole out to friends who know this is worth eating and wait for this every year.  It is not a cheap cake and it is not a quickie.  It is an expensive luxury call girl of a cake – wonderful with coffee, hot tea, cold milk, or a shot of bourbon.  We’ve been making this since it first appeared in the 1970 Holiday issue of Southern Living.  Give it a try.  You may also want a designated driver if you eat too much.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake

3/4 pound butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 pound raisins
1 cup chopped candied pineapple
1 cup chopped candied cherries (cut in half) red and/or green
1 cup orange marmalade
2 pounds shelled pecans, chopped (I use 1 ½ #)
1 large cup bourbon
additional bourbon for dousing

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add molasses and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, and ground nutmeg. Put fruits, marmalade, and nuts in large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the flour mixture and stir to coat fruit. Add remainder of the flour to creamed mixture alternately with the whiskey. Stir in fruits and nuts.

Grease 1 large tube pan (cut circle of brown paper and grease) or two large loaf pans and line with heavy brown paper which has been greased. Spoon batter into pans and cover with greased brown paper. Bake at 250 degrees F. until toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours).
Wrap cake in cloth which has been dampened with whiskey, place in a tin container or wrap well with foil. Douse cheesecloth once a week with bourbon. Let sit until cake has ripened. A month would not be too long to let ripen.  Keep in a cool place or cold room.

fruitcake

 

Why Christmas?

Below is one of my favorite stories of Christmas.  I am not sure who wrote it and most sources for the story say “author Unknown”  If any of you know, I would truly appreciate knowing.  “God loved us so much, He sent His Son to live among us as human.  For God did not want us to perish, but to find the true Light through the birth death, and resurrection of His Son, that we may be saved from darkness (sin) and live with Him forever.”  My paraphrase of John 3:16-17

Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.  I don’t quite believe this “Emanneul thing and I don’t understnad enough to truly believe.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized, that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. “If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety … to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.  “Father forgive me.  Now I understand.”

 

bird in snow

Miss Curly Jinxy Whimsypants

No, this is not the name of a new cat or poodle, or an aged disco diva:  It is my official Elf name as generated by the Elf Name Generator.  Equally sad is my blues name:  Jukin’ Blind Parker.  Find your elf name, and other things about Shelf the Elf – pictures of him taking a marshmallow bath, hiding, report an elf, etc.  Get your own elf name!!!  http://www.elfontheshelf.com

But I digress.  Fun During The Christmas Season is my own self generated Holiday name. I totally enjoy getting rid of my serious persona during this time and having full tilt, unabashed, unabated fun.  So I went online and found a place to get an elf name. I have a basket in the kitchen for my husband and mother to chose from various wrapped gifts for the season of Lent.  Not big things:  candy canes, a small toy, a can of cat food (Sam loves it when they pick one of these), a light up Rudolf nose.  You get the picture.  Gifts for Sunday are in special wrapping: an angel ornament, tiny nativity set, etc. 

One of my favorite fun items is the Tacky Light Celebration.  In Richmond, we have a long standing tradition of a Tacky Light Tour and Tacky Light Decorating.  You can spend a moderate amount of $$ and go on a special bus or chauffeured limousine to see the most popular and tackiest lights and have optional snacks and liquor along the way.  Or you can go to the interactive map and pick out your own.

What is Tacky Lights?  It is hundreds of thousands of lights at one house or a series of houses in a neighbor hood, blinking, trailing, synchopated to music….blow up figures, palm trees, working trains…..no limit.  I once lived about 8 houses away from such a site.  From dark until almost 3:00 am, the lights, animated items, music, cars, buses, limousines were in full travel and traffic mode.  We parked our cars and put out trash cans so people couldn’t park in front of our house.  Grinchy, sure, but practical and necessary for some semblance of sanity until Epiphany.

So I urge you to let that suppressed child in you out.  Have a rollicking fun joy-fill Christmas.  Laugh a lot.  Get an elf name.  Put on some felt antlers hung with bells or ornaments.  Give to the Local Food Bank and shelters for indigent or homeless persons/families.  Volunteer at Veteran’s hospital or Children’s hospital.  Adopt a pet for the holiday.  Let yourself go and give smiles and get smiles.  After all, it’s Christmas…..Joy to the World.  (and more about that in a different post!).

tacky 4

tacky ttacky 3

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