Heart Choices: 2011-12-18

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Norwegian American Christmas Traditions



Christmas traditions create special memories.  Since both sides of my family are from Norway, our celebrations always incorporated many of the foods, decorations and Christmas Eve celebrations.

Now that I've been married for 27 years to someone who is not Norwegian, we've adopted a few of his family's traditions into ours. But I love to remember many of the Christmases when I was growing up.
St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13 in Norway.  A girl is chosen to wear a wreath of candles on her head to represent St. Lucia.  My niece Kristin is wearing the wreath at our Sons of Norway Christmas celebration.  Her sister Katie is standing beside her.  (Both girls are grown now)  My friend L-Jay writes all about A Norwegian Christmas on her blog My Little Norway.

Norwegians love their Julenisse or little elves.  Here I have my Norwegian Christmas elf seated with a very American Bullwinkle.  You know us Norwegian Americans!

I love to bake Norwegian Christmas cake every year.  That is one tradition that I will keep.

I love the smell of cardamom.  This is a Norwegian spice that is often used in baking.  My Norwegian waffles wouldn't be the same without cardamom.  I make these every Christmas and many other times during the year.
Although Norwegian meatballs are not a typical meal for Christmas, I love to make it during this season.  I know my dad wishes he lived close by me because this is his favorite meal.  Norwegian meatballs and mashed potatoes and ...Dad has his happy smile on.
Thankfully, my mother gave me many of her beautiful Norwegian linens.  I always put this one on the table every Christmas.
There are always a few Norwegian decorations for the Christmas tree, of course.  Can you find one in this photo?
Photo Credit: Iris Nelson of Grace Alone
One family tradition that has continued is the reading of the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2.  My grandfather always read it before we began eating dinner.  When he died, my father continued the tradition and still does.
This last photo is one of me that was taken several years ago.  We were living in our dream home and life was good.  However, even though my life has changed in so many ways my faith is strong.  God is good and I never forget the reason for the season; the birth of Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Blessings and love,

QuickEdit

The Wise Men and Gifts


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Which character in the Christmas story is speaking to you?

This is the question Bonnie of The Faith Barista asked for this week's Faith Barista Jam.

The three wise men or magi speak to me in the Christmas story.

Matthew 2:9-11 says:
"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."

The wise men were overjoyed.  Upcoming coming to the house where Jesus was, the first thing they did was open their treasures and present Him with gifts of value.

What do I have of value to offer to Jesus?  

In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered to God.

But Mark 12:33 says:
"To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices ."

Like the three wise men, I want to offer Jesus something of value.

  • I make the daily choice to give Him my heart. 
  • I choose to allow Him to love others through me.
  • I choose to offer my hands and feet for His use.
  • I choose to allow Him to work in me and through me to impact others.

What character is speaking to you from the Christmas story?

And it's not too late to link up with Bonnie at Faith Barista.

FaithBarista_Christmas_JamBadge

Blessings and love,

QuickEdit

WFW ~ The Path of the Righteous



This is the path that began my daily morning hike for years.  There's something so wonderful about seeing the beauty of God's creation and getting exercise.  It gets my creative juices going.  I would climb down the mountain and write my insights into my journal or blog about it.

I no longer live close to this mountain. And I don't get to run up the mountain each morning.  But I've learned other ways of getting that same inspiration that helps me to write.  Having a daily morning quiet time helps me stay on the right path, even when other avenues seem to beckon me.  I will not be shaken!

I'm linking up with Internet Cafe Devotions for Word-Filled Wednesday.



Blessings and love,

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Counting Blessings at Christmas


With less than one week until Christmas, I continue to be on the lookout for everyday blessings.

I had a busy week with several Christmas parties and lots of excitement from the children in our school.  It's such fun to be around little children at Christmas.

A wonderful blogging friend named Sonja (wink, wink) sent me a box of treats for "Miss Debbie's Kids".  I gave each child a chocolate covered pretzel to take home.  You should have seen their sweet smiles. :)


I also had the opportunity to spend an evening with friends that I've known for years.  We always have lots of laughs when we get together and this was no exception.
We did pose for a more serious picture but couldn't resist being silly.  Of course, Georgann's husband captured this moment of fun.

Since the weather in Phoenix this past week had been cold and rainy, the children in our class were indoors playing when I arrived at school.  I got to see them play freely in our classroom and got such a kick out of it.  Normally, when I arrive they are out on the playground.
They love to play dress-up.  They also have a little kitchen with pots and pans and enjoy 'baking' pretend food for Heidi and me.

Aanika is wearing this crown on her head because it was her birthday.  She turned four years old.  The children feel so special when they wear their crown all day.  I think she was offering me something she whipped up in the kitchen.  Yummy!
It's so precious to see friendships blossom.  Little Evan and Max have such fun together.  On the playground, they are ferocious as they play Darth Vader or Monsters.  But during story time, I captured this photo of two little boys quietly listening.

 The parents of our kids hosted our class Christmas party.  They were in charge of the food, entertainment, and crafts.  And they did a fabulous job! Here is Maya working on her gingerbread house.

I love Christmas trees and Christmas music.  I finally have two weeks off to get ready.  This is a photo from the home where I used to live.  I have such fond memories but life goes on ...

The reality is that I've not even begun to set up the Christmas tree.  However, my goal for this week is to get it done.  Even though this house is much smaller and I hope I can find the boxes with my ornaments, I am trying to focus more on the reason for the season.  After all, it's all about Jesus.

I found some wonderful resources to prepare my heart for Christmas.  I downloaded the weekly prayer guide from The Church at Brook Hills here.  It contains Bible readings for Christmas along with Scripture memory verses and prayer.

I also purchased a book on my Kindle called "Away in a Manger: An Advent Devotional" by Ian Strachan.  I first read about it on The Faith Barista blog where they were doing a giveaway.  I've found this very helpful as I read each day's reading.

#263 Thoughtful gift for the children from a precious blogging friend
#264 Seeing the smiles of the children as they are given the special treats
#265 An fun evening of laughter, good food and lifelong friendships
#266 Cooler weather in Phoenix (which is perfect for Christmas)
#267 Observing children at play
#268 Getting to pretend taste the children's baked goodies
#269 Seeing children make friends with each other
#270 Getting to spend time with the parents of the children in our class
#271 Enjoying our class Christmas party that was planned and hosted by the parents
#272 Christmas trees all decorated (except mine; not yet)
#273 Christmas music
#274 Christmas devotionals
#275 Reading Matthew and Luke's account of Jesus' birth
#276 Two weeks off work to enjoy Christmas with family


I'm linking up with Ann Voscamp of A Holy Experience as I continue to count my everyday blessings.

This might be a great time to join in.  I encourage you to do so as it definitely changes your perspective.



Blessings and love,

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Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry


Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  But there are times when I really miss my loved ones who are no longer here.  I have such wonderful memories spent with family.  

This photo was taken back about 1969 or 1970.  You can tell by the hairstyles and short dresses.  

My grandfather, Nana, and my Mom have gone on to Heaven.
Grandma, Uncle Ivar, Mom
My mother's brother Ivar died last year.

Thankfully, my dad is still alive and kicking despite his pacemaker and implantable defibrillator.  

I heard Mandisa sing this song on the radio and loved it.


I think of loved ones who've passed away
And I pray their resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder its them instead of me
For my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Chorus
Tears of thankfulness tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that's why Christmas makes me cry

[Chorus]

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I'm amazed by how much God thinks we're worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

[Chorus]

Most of my tears are tears of joy though.  How thankful I am for wonderful memories.  But most of all, I'm thankful for the gift of Jesus.

Blessings and love,

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