Heart Choices: 2008-12-21 -->

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Thankful Thursday ~ Christmas Past

This year Thankful Thursday is on Christmas Day. And what better day to be thankful. Iris took a poll to see how many people would be willing to blog on Christmas Day and since I voted YES, here's my post. I hope you'll also head over to Grace Alone to visit other thankful blog posts. Our thankful topic for today is Christmas past.

My family heritage is Norwegian. Both my mother and father's parents came from Norway. So many of their Norwegian Christmas traditions became part of our family's Christmas celebrations.

I remember Christmas Eve was a special evening. We went to my grandparent's house for dinner. The tree was decorated beautifully. My grandfather took pride in the miniature village he set up under that tree. He had a train that circled around and there were little houses, a church and even a skating rink with little people.

There were always lots of wrapped gifts underneath the tree. My Nana told us that we just missed Santa. He had dropped off the gifts but had to leave so he could visit other children's homes.

We were permitted to open our presents on Christmas Eve but only ...after dinner and the dishes were washed, dried and put away. As kids, we didn't mind helping since it meant we could get to the presents faster.

During our dinner, my grandfather always took out his worn leather Bible and read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and then he prayed. Then the rest of the family would join together and say this Norwegian prayer:

I Jesu navn går vi til bordså spise, drikke på ditt ord. Deg, Gud til ære, oss til gavn, Så får vi mat i Jesu navn. Amen.

The English translation is something like this: In Jesus' name to the table we go. To eat and drink according to His word. To God the honor, us the gain. So we have food in Jesus' name. Amen.

I remember all of the Norwegian cookes, cakes and other goodies we ate for dessert. I think my Nana must have baked for weeks. I loved the spritz cookies, the rice cram with chopped nuts, rosettes, the thin waffle type cookies that were rolled into a cone shape. Some of my Norwegian blogger friends may have to write down the names of the traditional sweets that I love so much.

I remember when I was little I used to love baby dolls. At the risk of really dating myself, here's a picture of me with my new doll and carriage one Christmas. Notice the tinsel on the tree. Most people don't decorate with tinsel now but at that time it was quite common.

My mom continued many of the family traditions through the years since my grandparents are no longer with us.

And now since my mom died, my sister Christine works hard to keep those traditions alive. She inherited my mother's love for cooking and uses the Norwegian American Christmas recipes to make it special and keep the memories alive.

I'm the only one who lives on the opposite side of the country so I have to work at integrating some of our family traditions with my husband's.

I'm so glad that our common theme is ...to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I wish you all a blessed and a Merry Christmas!

Who Is Santa Claus?

Who is Santa Claus? Is he a made up character to entertain children? Or was he a real person?

I just watched the remake of the movie "Miracle on 34th Street" for the upteenth time. Each time I view it, I find myself smiling just like a little kid! If you've never had the opportunity to watch it ...I highly recommend it. Kris Kringle is on trial. He claims that he's really Santa Claus but he doesn't have evidence. You must have faith to believe.

I began to think about Santa. I remember as a child getting so excited about Christmas. I wanted to be sure that I was good so I would get presents under the tree.

My dad dressed up as Santa Claus and he sure fooled me. This is an old black and white picture and the little girl is me and Santa is my dad. Little did I know!

But I was also taught that Christmas was the day we celebrated Jesus' birth.

So, how do you reconcile Santa Claus and Jesus?

I have a book called "The Adventure of Christmas". It was written by Lisa Whelchel for moms to help them teach their children about Christmas. It really focuses on helping the children find Jesus in those traditions.

Since I learn best as a child, I unpack this book every year and reread it. I mentioned it in a previous blog post. I'm glad that one of the chapters Lisa covers is about Santa Claus.

Lisa told the true story of a young man name Nicholas who lived about the time of the third century in what is now modern day Turkey. He loved God very much. His family was quite wealthy and when Nicholas received his inheritance, he began to give it away to the poor and needy people. He would often give the gifts secretly and ...he especially enjoyed giving to children.

You'll have to read the rest of the story for yourself, but hundreds of years later, Nicholas was declared Saint Nicholas. It was pronounced Sinter Klaas by the Dutch. Another word used to refer to him was Kris Kringle which comes from the Dutch word 'Christkinkl', meaning "Christ child". The name was originally created to help refocus people's attention on Jesus ...who is the true gift giver.

So, what does Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas and Kris Kringle tell us? Although Nicholas gave gifts, God is the best gift giver of all.

God has such a loving giving heart that He chose to send His only Son into this world to save us.

Jesus is the real gift of Christmas. But in order to receive this gift, we must choose to appropriate it for ourselves. Otherwise, it's just another gift we hear about but never experience for ourselves.

May you experience the true meaning of Christmas this year!

Merry Christmas & Elf Yourself

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Impact of a Life ~ Remembering Georgia

It's with much sadness that I write this post about my friend. Georgia had been sick for some time and on Wednesday she died.

Although I will miss her, it's comforting to know that she's no longer in pain and can breathe easy. And I am so grateful for the impact that Georgia had on my life.

Sometimes people don't realize that a seemingly small act can have a ripple effect. This is what happened with Georgia.

I met Georgia about 16 years ago while I was working as a nurse in a cardiology practice. We bonded quickly as we discovered that we were both born with the same congenital heart defect. The difference was that mine was discovered when I was a child. Open heart surgery was performed to correct the defect early enough before any irreversible changes occurred within my heart. I was able to lead a normal active lifestyle.

But Georgia wasn't so fortunate. Her heart problem wasn't identified until after she was an adult and so the changes in her heart were much more challenging. She had surgery but the results weren't as good as had been hoped. She was evaluated at several medical centers and given experimental medications but eventually had to realistically acknowledge that her time was limited along with her activities.

I owe Georgia a debt of gratitude. She knew that I had begun to read my Bible and encouraged me to begin to attend Bible Study Fellowship. I had never even heard of this worldwide organization but Georgia thought this was the training that I needed to learn. She kept talking about homiletics and at that time, I didn't understand what she was talking about. But the very first time I attended, Georgia was sitting right beside me. And I was hooked. I had been so hungry to learn and this was just what I needed. Georgia was so right!

I think about all of the blessings I would have missed if Georgia hadn't taken the time to reach out and invite me to BSF.

I had the wonderful opportunity to become a children's leader for almost 8 years. Since I was unable to have children of my own, this was very special for me. The first time I told the children the Bible story, they ran up and gave me a big group hug. I remember feeling God's love like never before as I felt Him whisper that He never forgot my desire for children. And what better privilege than sharing God's Word with the little ones? It brings tears to my eyes when I think about that.

I met so many of my lifelong friends at BSF. If you click on the link to BSF, there's a short video in the lower left corner titled "Experience a class". The teaching leader of that men's class is my friend Todd and he is my good friend Jamie's husband.

Although this family has since moved to San Antonio, we continue to remain good friends. I initially met them through their daughter Ellie, when I was her BSF children's leader. She was only two years old when she was in my class. Ellie is now 10 years old and very smart and mature. And she still attends BSF in Texas.

I think of my special group of 12 women. For several years now, we get together once a month for lunch, laughter and prayer. I met each one of these women in BSF. All of us at one point were in leadership. And a few continue to serve as teaching leaders or discussion leaders. These women are friends for life. We hold each other up when we're going through the challenges of life and we laugh through good times. Through it all, we pray for one another. And because of Georgia, I had the opportunity to be mentored by Susie, a woman I greatly admire.

If you ever feel like you can't make a difference ... remember Georgia. Here was a woman who had previously taught Bible studies but had to adapt to a more sedentary life. But in the midst of her challenging circumstances, she chose to be content. And I believe she was greatly used of God. Georgia was a prayer warrior for so many people. She and her prayer partner Lori continued to meet on a weekly basis.

Psalm 116:15 says "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

Georgia, I'm so glad to have the assurance that you're being welcomed into our Lord's arms. And one day I will see you again. Thank you for the gift of your precious friendship.


Christmas Breakfast Fun

This morning, I attended a Christmas breakfast. Our Life Group Bible study decided to have the breakfast in place of our normal weekly gathering since it's Christmas week.

This is a new class for all of us. Since we're still just getting to know one another, the breakfast was a fun way to gather in a more informal and casual setting.

Katherine and Dave generously opened up their beautiful home to our group. Between the egg casseroles Katherine had prepared and the extra sides everyone brought ... we had plenty to eat. Nobody left hungry, that's for sure.

Katherine and Dave

Steve and Marcia; former missionaries

Richard and Theresa, my long time friends

Christine; you should hear her sing!

Mickie; another great singer

Andy, Meredith and little Quinn

The girls in frontof the Christmas tree: Marcia, Debbie, Theresa, Christine, Katherine and Meredith

There's something very special about making the choice to share good times with new and old friends. It's really good for your heart and health.

We had such a good time talking, laughing, eating and even praying.

This sign for the leftover pop tart was a joke since Meredith and Andy were going to be late. Mickie told them that pop tarts were all he knew how to make.

Dave and his very special friend served us and ... they did a great job.

Thank you Katherine and Dave for hosting our breakfast.

Thank you to all of the members of our Life Group Bible study.

Merry Christmas to all!

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