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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Snow-Covered Cheery Hill Cottage

Cheery Hill Cottage in the Snow

It may not be astronomical winter, but it sure feels like it. Here in southern Minnesota, our first snow started to accumulate late last Monday night. I happened to have our first snow-covered day off. I put on some Christmas music, lit a candle, and made ginger spice cookies.

Delightfully cozy on the first snow-dusted evening

Delightfully cozy on the first snowy evening

Last week, I read this article explaining why Denmark is the happiest country on earth despite their long, dark winters. In one word: hygge. It’s a concept that’s hard to explain in English, but has to do with coziness, togetherness, and well-being. It’s defiant merriment. I like to think my Danish ancestors settled here in Minnesota because there are more opportunities to practice hygge. Maybe that’s why I’m still here, not 20 miles from where my great great grandparents settled all those years ago?

Winter Skies

Winter Skies

I hope to practice hygge and hospitality this winter. Winter can be long, but I’m thankful for the cold weather. Without the cold, we wouldn’t have this:

I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by snowflakes. At least I hope not!

I don’t think I’ll ever cease to be amazed by snowflakes. At least I hope not!

Because of the bitter cold, nights spent like this are more satisfying:

Enjoying the hospitality of friends -- and their warm fireplace!

Enjoying good conversation, the hospitality of friends, and their warm fireplace!

Because it’s dark by the time I get off work, I spend more time reading. And every time I sit down to read, this dashing kitty curls up by my side:

Mr. Dashwood enjoys big cups of coffee, long books, and cuddling on cold nights.

Mr. Dashwood enjoys big cups of coffee, long books, and cuddling on cold nights.

They’re saying this may be a milder winter. I don’t want to get my hopes up, because March (and May) of 2013 is still fresh in my memory. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime I’ll say, along with Jason Gray, let the winter come.

Crossing into Winter

Crossing into Winter

 

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Ordinary Day

It might have been 12-12-12, but it was just another ordinary day, as Melanie Penn might sing about. I woke up feeling wonderful, or as wonderful as I can feel at 6:25 am on a mid-December morning.

I made my daily stop at Starbucks on my way to work, a habit that I know I need to break… I ordered my usual grande whole milk latte and decided it was a good morning for a sausage and egg muffin. As I handed the barista my gold card, she said, to my surprise, “It’s already been paid for!” Someone had left a gift card at the register to pay for the following customers. (I still owed a whopping 45 cents. ;)) What a delightful way to start the day! This has happened to me more than once at Starbucks. A co-worker lamented that it never happens to her, but I reminded her that I make daily trips, so the chances of occuring to me are greater. I’ve also had the joy of being on the giving end, which is even more fun!

It was an ordinary day at work, one of the last ordinary days before construction starts on my office. I will relish every last moment of having my own office, my own space to work mostly uninterrupted. On Monday they will take down the wall in between my office and the front desk area, something I am not looking forward to. You probably wouldn’t be either, if you were an introvert that had enjoyed eight+ years of having an office to yourself…

After work, I stopped at my parents’ before running a couple errands. I bought a pair of good sewing scissors at The Least Special Place* – at least they were the best that they carried. Then I stopped at Cabela’s and Caribou in search of something to include in my Secret Rabbit gift. I have to admit that buying gifts for someone I’ve never met (at least not yet) has a certain sort of excitement to it. I love putting shoeboxes together for Operation Christmas Child for that reason. Although buying a gift for a fellow Rabbit Room reader is a little different…

I finally pulled into my driveway at 8:00 pm. I paused while getting out of my car and gazed up into the night sky just in time to see a shooting star, with its blazing tail sailing across the void for mere seconds before fading away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in my driveway on a clear night, with my face toward the sky, waiting for just that to happen. I’ve seen countless shooting stars in my life, once a record of 43 in one night during the Perseids, but this was the first I’ve seen from Cheery Hill. And I silently cheered. (I think the neighbors already think I’m peculiar as, just the night before, I stood in my driveway after dark staring at swiftly moving, cotton-like clouds pass overhead while listening to Ralph Vaughn William’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis on MPR.)

I could hear Zoey and Dashwood both begging me to come in a pay them some attention. I got the mail and was happy to see a Christmas photo and letter from some friends who live overseas. Her words about waiting were ever so encouraging, and so I will leave you with an excerpt:

But God asks us to embrace (waiting) and to learn to wait in life. To wait well. To be patient and even fully alive in the waiting. Not merely biding our time, but looking for Him and finding all the gifts He has left for us along the way. We can Hope in who He is and what He is doing. Even if we can’t see it, or it looks different than what we had wished, or it is s-l-o-w in coming.

‘We live with hope in the Eternal. We wait for Him, for He is our Divine Help and Impenetrable Shield. Our hearts erupt with joy in Him because we trust His holy name. O Eternal, drench us with Your endless love, even now as we wait for You.’ -Isaiah

*When asked if the nesting doll ornament was from someplace special, I had to admit that it was from The Least Special Place. Everyone knew what I was talking about. 😉

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O come let us adore him!

O come let us adore him!

I love going to concerts, and I especially love going to concerts at Christmastime. I kicked off my concert season last Thursday with Jason Gray’s Christmas Tour in Mankato. His new album has quickly become a favorite of mine. He approached the album by asking what the first Christmas might have looked like from the perspective of the characters themselves. He got to bring a band along with him on tour, including his 16-year-old son on the keyboard – very cool! It was a great way to start the Advent season. And wouldn’t you know, the same people who sat in front of me and recorded the Sara Groves concert last month were front and center on Thursday night. (You can see the concert here.)

Then, on Saturday, I hosted a Christmas service in my home. Two years ago, a couple friends and I created a program based on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College in Cambridge. (Thanks to Lanier for the idea!) We had fun picking out carols, prayers and poems for each of the nine Scripture readings. In each of the past two years, we’ve made some minor changes. This year, we added a clarinet to our acoustic guitar and violin. (Last year we had a friend accompany us on electric guitar to jazz up some favorite carols.) We also included Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Song of the Stars and Andrew Peterson’s The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats. After the service, we enjoyed some tea, treats and conversation.

Here are some photos from the evening:

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept through half of the service.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept (and snored) through half of the service.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Who doesn't love candid shots while eating? ;-)

Who doesn’t love candid shots while eating? 😉 (Also, this is one of the only shots of Joel and Jon.)

Here’s the band! Darlene (violin), myself (guitar) and Heidi (clarinet).

We had a fun evening of reflecting on the reason we celebrate Christmas each year!

Last night, I happened upon a live, online concert. I’ve never participated in a concert like that before, and am pretty sure I was the only one there that didn’t know the musician or the rest of the audience – which made it even more fun! I lit some candles, brewed some tea and enjoyed some reflective music while Winter Storm Caesar decorated the town for Christmas. (Yes, it looks like we may have a white Christmas afterall!)

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My niece came over to help me hang ornaments on the lower branches.

My niece came over to help me hang ornaments on the lower branches.

I love this little owl from Crate & Barrel!

I love this little owl from Crate & Barrel!

A nesting doll in honor of my sister-in-law who's from Ukraine.

A nesting doll in honor of my sister-in-law, who’s from Ukraine.

Felt snowflake from West Elm to add a pop of orange.

Felt snowflake from West Elm to add a pop of orange.

My first year with a white Christmas tree! I'm loving it, especially since it looks like we may not have snow cover for Christmas... (I'm still dreaming!)

This is my first year with a white Christmas tree! I’m loving it, especially since it looks like we may not have snow cover for Christmas… (I’m still dreaming!)

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