Thoughts at a concert

Last night we attended a Christmas concert performed by the 399th Army Band from Fort Leonard Wood.  It was very good, and the kids danced the entire hour away.

Halfway through, one of the sergeants invited the audience to join her in a moment of silence to honor those who had lost loved ones that morning. Afterward she commented that music connects people of every creed, race and religion, and how if we focus on the beautiful, it can prevent the ugly things in our world.

I was struck with sadness at how utterly hollow those words must seem to those who had lost their loved one to any kind of senseless violence.

The sergeant then began to sing beautifully one of my favorite songs “What a Wonderful World,” and the song struck me as almost ludicrous to follow up the moment of silence designed to commemorate such carnage as some families had suffered.

Maybe I really over thought the entire thing, but as I listened to the words: I see trees of green…….. red roses too… I began to think of how all the ugliness of this world must make a heart hunger for what is not ugly, what is Light, and Beauty and What is Utterly Good. As Ann Voskamp penned in her book 1000 Gifts:

That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him.” 

I see skies of blue….. clouds of white…  And I thought, maybe this song is more fitting than I first thought, especially to those of us who have a Hope.  God has given us so much beauty, and yes, it is a wonderful world, because He is a wonderful Creator God.

We are here, in this undeniably imperfect and hard world, but we can choose to see the beauty with the ugly through a lens of true thanksgiving and remember that God is with us and for us. He weeps with us, treasures our tears, and He is good.

“…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
― Ann Voskamp

The sergeant may speak of an overly simplistic view of life, perhaps because she failed to acknowledge God where we most need to see His face, but as a Christian, I was thankful for Louis Armstrong’s reminder, intentional or no, of the beauty that abounds here, and how much we do have for which to be  thankful and joyful.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  Phillipians 4:8

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Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Striped

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We love these bright little cups which were a gift from a very dear friend, and which started us off on a quest to collect similar bright colors for the kitchen of our new house.

That kind of counts as striped, right?

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A housewarming gift from another friend… these knives are incredibly awesome, and if you are looking for a set of good knives, I highly recommend them.

The early morning light made for some harsh shadows in the kitchen window, but you see the stripe effect, right?

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I love my vintage lamps. I pressured mom into buying these and when she realized that they didn’t fit her decor she passed them on to me.

Oh, so devious.

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Berry Red

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I really don’t have much red around the house, but at Christmas time, there are always little pops of cheerful red to be found when you look hard enough!

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This is still one of my favorite pops of red around Christmas time. I have blogged about it before…

A gift from a dear friend [the same friend that sent me this!]. I think it was given to us on our first Christmas together, but it may have been our second. They’re all starting to blend now…

When I was due with Sophie around Christmas time two years ago, we kept her name to ourselves. We were actually going to name her Lucy Sophia, and had experienced a few negative reactions to the name Lucy, so we decided not to share the name until there was a tiny girl to go with it. My little sister, Hannah saw this ornament hanging on the tree, and was certain that she had learned the name of our baby girl!

As it turned out, Sophie’s name got changed while I was in labor to Sophie Lucia Marie, so all that secrecy was for naught.

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The Christmas tree skirt has been in my family since my first Christmas, and maybe even longer. I used to kind of wish I could have some fancy Anthropology tree skirt, but I am really glad that this is the one we still have and use. It’s really quite cozy!

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Another gift from a very good childhood friend who also moved way too far away. Geeze, what is it with these people?!

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My thrifted ice bucket sports a cheerful red!

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A lovely ornament, made by Hannah, and particularly loved and adored by Sophie, who simply can’t resist bling in any form.

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Our handy dandy red rubber scraper.

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My red hymnal, as mentioned by Mom.

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Really, once the kids and I got started looking for red things that we were thankful for, it was hard to stop!

A Very Awesome Christmas Package…

…arrived in the mail from a friend who moved to some distant, cold and strange place this last fall.

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It is completely adorable and has been one of the most sought after books in the house, of late.

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Trux has pronounced all the recipes to be “Yummy!” and I have to agree with him.

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Black coffee canes? Count me in!

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The girls have been pulling out all their tea stuff, and pouring over all the vintage fashion tips, like:

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Tying the vintage headscarf

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and how to apply false eyelashes. Thankfully they haven’t tried that one, yet.

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Baked grapefruit? What a great idea! I see a new Christmas morning tradition in the making!

Thank you Rowena… you’re awesome!

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Ice Cold

I have NOT really been looking forward to being thankful for anything cold as ice. Cold is not really my thing. In fact, this first gift of cold comes to you courtesy of Dan. I was snuggled up with a fuzzy-sleeper-clad baby under three blankets and a down comforter.

Winter Morning Beauty

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photo credit – Astro Bob

This morning it was cold. This I can personally attest to. Apparently it was under 20* when Dan headed out to work. But the sky was clear and according to Dan the crescent moon was gorgeous and there were three planets all in a row.

I am sure if getting up early in the frigid cold is your kind of thing, you would have loved it. I am thankful that my husband gets up and goes to work to provide for the family who is all snuggly and warm in bed.

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When we did get out of bed this morning, the children and I enjoyed the sight of thousands of tiny diamonds sparkling on everything. A picture really can’t do it justice!

Sonic Ice

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A good friend of mine told us about Sonic Ice, which has been a life saver for teething babies, children with sore throats, and lazy mamas who don’t make ice in trays OR unload children from a van to buy ice from a service station. We just pull through the drive through, ask for a bag of ice, fork over a buck-seventy and that’s all there is to it. Handy-dandy.

Cool Touch Kleenex

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I accidentally grabbed a box of these Kleenex the last time I made an emergency kleenex run, and boy, were they a treat for the nose!

This post ended up being quite commercial in the end!

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Ugly Beautiful

My mom has an explanation of what Ann Voskamp meant by Ugly Beautiful posted on her blog, but since I had taken the photos for this Joy Dare before I read that, mine aren’t exactly the same idea, but that’s okay, we were thankful for these things today!

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We raked leaves from the front yard yesterday (or at least Dan did, while the rest of us sort of offered some form of moral support) and the kids and I were talking about how the dead leaves sort of fit the idea of Ugly Beautiful in several different ways.

Kinsley brought me the piece of evergreen which had come from a shrub in our yard and said “Can you believe that this is really, truly golden?? It’s so pretty!” She was right, though I probably never would have even noticed that little dead twig as beautiful.

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Our chalkboard and the never ending to-do lists are both Ugly Beautiful. Where would we be without either? 😉

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Can you see the grubby little hand prints? We have lots of those. If I forget that they shouldn’t be there, then they are actually kind of charming and beautiful. At least that’s what I will tell myself when I contemplate adding “window washing” to mo to do list.

Joy Dare :: A Gift Hung, Held, Heard

A Gift Hung

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My black and white crayon art was a birthday gift from my super talented brother Jacob. I asked if he could pull of an Ansel Adams feel, and he sure did! It’s one of my most favorite pieces of art.

A Gift Held

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I had to include Gillian here, since she makes certain that she is the main thing I find myself holding. That’s okay though, she’s pretty cute!

A Gift Heard

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When we snagged our bird-songs clock from a neighbors yard sale, I was thrilled that both the kids and I could learn some of the bird calls in such an easy way. Unfortunately, I neglected to make sure that it was accurate, and after several months of me calling the name of each bird at the top of the hour, Dan pointed out that the clock must be set wrong, and I realized that we had learned all the wrong songs to all the wrong birds. Oh well. We’ll get around to bird songs someday.

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts From Your Saviour

This Joy Dare has had me pretty well stumped. When we think of the gifts given by our Saviour, we realize of that course every good and perfect gift comes from Him, our abilities to recognize, and our affinity to enjoy those gifts is God breathed into us and then it becomes hard to name just three. 

The first thing I thought of were my children. I watched them play around the Christmas tree last night and even took pictures of them, (which our decrepit, greedy computer then completely destroyed.)  But watching the little rascals got me thinking, and I kind of switched gears.

These are three gifts I am loving to contemplate.

I am thankful for imagination. We surely could have survived this life without imagination, but just think how dull it might have been!  Our Creator lovingly formed us to reflect Himself, I think we can be pretty certain that our God is an imaginative God.

How I love to see our children testing, developing, exercising this amazing gift in their play, and we already see them applying this gift to all that they know. The world is a wide, startling and amazingly beautiful place given them by the God who has so much more in store for their souls. They see that God might have created anything, but the wild goodness of possibility is what He imagined, and their tender little hearts are filled with love and awe.

Which makes me think of the second gift of the Saviour which I am thankful for tonight, and that is Life. Because it is so fascinatingly wild and interesting, and because it is the foretaste of all the Life that is ahead of us in this eternity which we have already begun. The girls have been memorizing Longfellow’s Psalm of life, and I often think of those lines:

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
  Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
  And things are not what they seem.
 
Life is real! Life is earnest!
  And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
  Was not spoken of the soul.

As I continued to watch the children play around the Christmas tree, I absentmindedly began snapping pictures of the twinkling lights. I thought of how many times we are reminded that God gave us Himself as Light. How He is Light, with no room for darkness. I am thankful there is no darkness in Him at all and that he has given us the ability to know the difference between what is darkness and what is Light and to choose the Light. It is amazing that He also gives us the task of reflecting that Light into the darkness, imperfect mirrors that we are.

Imagination, Life and Light make me think of this:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

I am most thankful for what He is.

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Sweet

Mom and I were talking about Three Gifts Sweet, and we realized that could go a couple different directions. There’s sweet like, “Oooh, that tastes sweet!” Sweet like “Awww… so sweet!” and then sweet like “Schaweeet!” (didn’t think of that last one till just a bit ago, Mom!)

So, really, I only thought about the “Oooh, yummy!” kind of sweet.

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We snagged these at our discount grocery store during an emergency run for flour and nutmeg. Yes, no nutmeg DOES qualify as an emergency. They were cute, festive, and dipped in white chocolate, which made the children very happy.

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But look! Papa is helping the girls identify a bird that they spotted. Awww, so sweet!

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I am very thankful that Dan can make it home on lunch breaks now. It’s nice to see an adult (and one I like so much!) halfway through my day. Plus, we give him a rundown of the school day while he’s here, and he often has something to add. It’s one of my happiest blessings right now!

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I also managed to score this yummy Christmas-ish coffee at the discount store. Which is schawheet! (But shhhh… don’t tell anyone about this last one, because some just might make it under the tree for certain family members at Christmas time!)