Dec 31, 2011

Simply Christmas: ♫ 'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free ♫

I'm pondering the past month and thinking about what I did differently this year, what I enjoyed, and what I missed from the way things have been in the past.  Because of all the care-giving and the lack of extra funds, I did miss some of the "magic" of the preparations for Christmas.  I love to have time to bring out all the decorations and make my home look beautiful and special for the holidays.  I also love attending parties and concerts and baking,  entertaining and doing fun things with the grandchildren.  I enjoy the shopping and wrapping and seeing tons of gifts under the tree.  All of that was kept to a minimum this year.  

So what did it look like?  Well, I didn't spend a dime on any new decorations.  And I didn't bring out everything and take a week to arrange and rearrange things.  

Instead one evening shortly after Thanksgiving, Ethan and Elylah came over and decorated the tree for me.  I sat and watched and my heart was full of joy to see them taking such pride in their work.  A couple days later I did some finishing touches so there would be some ornaments on the top half of the tree!  The garlands on the bannisters I had made several years ago.  They only took a few minutes to tie on. 

This is something new I had hanging on our tree... Well, not exactly NEW...these flashbulbs were decorated by my hubby about 55 years ago when he was a cub scout!  His mom gave them to us this year!

 Last year I had made new bows for our window wreaths, and hubby hung those for me.  It took no time at all to place  garland on the mantle and hang the stockings...

Other than getting out the nativity set and a few Santas and trees, that was the extent of my decorating this year.  

You might be wondering how that is different from any other year.  Often I like to pick a "theme" and decorate every room in the house to tie in with it.  I try to use things I already have, but often it does involve purchasing some new decorations as well.  None of that this year...

By joining a couple local on-line "Swap, Shop and Give" groups this year, I was able to barter or purchase things inexpensively to use for gifts.  I also sold and gave away things from my home to help others do the same.  I parted with a nice old tea cart for only $35 and even took a post-dated check for it to help a stranger out.  She originally wanted it for herself, but instead decided to give it to her friend who had just lost her grandmother and had inherited her tea pot.  Another girl was looking for a juicer for her mother who has cancer.  I gladly gave her ours as we rarely used it and it took up precious cupboard space.  A friend of a friend sold me a one year old Keurig coffee maker for $35 that I used for a gift, and included about $20 worth of coffee for free. (This gift went to our son Sam, who very much appreciated it!)  I made up several gift baskets by using a small devotional book our pastor wrote, and added coffee mugs and other small items like tea, coffee, and candy and small gifts.  The examples could go on and on...but all to say that not only was I able to find nice used things at a fraction of their retail value, I was also able to bless others and in the process I've made some new friends! 

 This basket, wrapping, ribbon and decoration were all recycled from last year...

Here are a couple of the gifts that were fun and inexpensive to give:

Andy, a lover of anything vintage and especially if it reminds him of his grandpa Sam, inherited this circa 1940-1942 Royal portable typewriter that was my father's. 

Hubby scored a vintage (1976 ~ the year we were married) oak shoe shine kit box which I acquired at a good price from someone in the Swap group.   

Our South Carolina family was able to be here for Christmas this year, and it was wonderful to spend lots of family time with four generations.

My mom provided these home made gingerbread (graham cracker) houses and the candy for the SC boys to decorate since they had missed the family party the week before.

I re-discovered some Christmas plates and green glasses in the basement, and made a simple lasagna for our dinner.  I let go of some pride and used sauce from a jar to save time.  A friend sold me some home made artisan bread and we had a simple tossed salad.  My mother-in-law donated several dozen of her home made cookies since she knew I had no time for baking this year.  It was the easiest holiday dinner I ever made, and it was delicious.  There were 14 of us.

Before opening gifts, Ellie led the singing of Up on the House Top and The Twelve Days of Christmas!

Andy, Ellie, and Sam took the three oldest kids ice skating and sled riding downtown Akron...

Four adults and the six kids went to the hands-on Children's Museum in Cleveland one afternoon...

Our granddaughter wanted a birthday tea with a rainbow theme for her family party on Christmas Eve day.  We made our own decorations and I kept things as simple as possible by buying deli potato salad, chicken salad & croissants, and some sweets to go with our tea.  Even though it cost little more to buy the food ready-made, it saved a whole lot of time and stress.

After the tea, we switched into the Christmas Eve mode and eight of us attended our church service together.The four generations ranged in age from 9 months to 85 years!

Above all else this Christmas, I have experienced peace, love, and joy that transcends all the other blessings because...

A Christmas miracle has come to our family and heartache has turned to hope.  Just a few weeks ago my brother was spending most of his time on the hospital bed in their family room, taking morphine by the hour, and hooked up to an oxygen tank.  He was in excruciating pain from a vertebrae crushed by a cancerous tumor.  This 59 year old marathon runner couldn't even walk more than a few steps.  They were wondering if they should tell their out-of-state family not to come for the holidays.  On December 14th he had surgery to bolster up the crushed vertebrae.  He has finished two rounds of chemotherapy.  A few days after Christmas he came over to visit us and walked unassisted, sat in the chair without pain, and even got down on the floor and up again.  He was able to enjoy Christmas with his kids and grandkids.  We don't know the long term outcome and he has a long road ahead with more treatments and potentially a bone marrow transplant coming up.  But I'm so glad I wasn't too busy to witness the miracle!  So glad I have been able to walk this journey with him from the valley to the mountaintop.  So eternally grateful that Emanuel has come to us and that we have seen His mighty works. Because without HIM, none of this makes any sense.  No amount of celebrating, decorating, family time...none of it means anything if you can't see Jesus in it all.  Jobs, health, name it.  It can all be here today and gone tomorrow.  Keep that in mind friend.  And hold on to the Solid Rock because life can bring some strong storms.  God bless us everyone in the New Year!

My brother Don with his five grandchildren Olivia, Abraham, Aslan, Isaac, and Caleb.


Vicki said...

Jacquelyn, this is a beautiful walk through the holidays with you and your family. I am struck with the thought "nothing , absolutely nothing is missing". It may have been different, but it was wonderful and full of memories. I rejoiced with you. I cried with you. I longed for the old ways with you as I was in the same point in time with you. I am right now very encouraged and I have been mostly DIScouraged this past month. I will try to look closer at the blessings that I know are there.
AND I sure wish I had known about the juicer. I want one SO BAD, to help me kick my pepsi addiction. :)

Jess said...

Everything changes but JESUS!
I praise Him for His continued blessings in all of our lives.
Thank you for sharing His Goodness and Faithfulness to your family during the Christmas season.
Love you~

Trish said...

How beautiful...praying for your brother Don. Jesus never fails!

Walking on Sunshine... said...

So beautiful! LOVE your Christmas! Love the great report for your brother and praying it will continue to help with his pain! Your hubby's shoe shine kit is very similar to one I have that my grandfather made YEARS ago. My father used it for many years and when he passed away I took it home with me. I don't use it, but just keep it nearby to remember him. The pictures of your family are beautiful as well! Thanks for sharing!

Judy said...

Such a wonderful post! I am so thankful to read about your brother. It looks like a great celebration was had at your place!