21 December 2012

Christmas/Winter Decorations

My little tree, as decorated at my home in Vero Beach.
Historically, I have had a mish-mosh style of Christmas decorations. Most of my decorations were gleaned from my parents' collection, or varying other gifts/re-uses. This year, I knew we were buying a new tree (to replace the one I had purchased right out of college that was small enough to work in little apartments), so I knew I wanted to re-think how I decorated the house.

Our new tree!
We also have mostly completed the interior of the house (except the kitchen - yick!), and I wanted our Christmas decorations to look like they belonged with the rest of our home.

Aside from the bathrooms and kitchen, the entire house has wood floors, and we've done the main portion of it in 2 shades of the same gray, with white trim. (Gray is neutral, and much prettier than beiges and creams, as well as less clinical/stark than straight white. I hate, hate, hate beige. It looks dirty. It's depressing. I refuse to do beige in anything. Blechth!) Most of our accents throughout the house are purples and greens, which is partially borne of our wedding which was pewter gray, silver and purple. We've been able to use a lot of the wedding decorations in the house, and it looks like we meant to do it!

Jingle bell ornaments on our kitchen
cabinet doors are from the dollar
store. I call that a win. :)
 All of that adds up to mean that our new Christmas decor was going to be tied together with silver and purple. Beyond that, I like to decorate and have my decor be seasonal, rather than based on a holiday. I went mostly with a snow/snowflake theme, so that even when the "Christmas" decor comes down (trees, ornaments, etc), the winter decor can remain until it's time to usher in spring.

Cute, huh?
I started early. I wanted the decorations to be mostly in place before Thanksgiving, so that we could enjoy them when my parents were in town. I also wanted to take my time and not just rush to put things up. We bought our new tree in October, and thus it began.

I went to the dollar store, and they had all kinds of purple decorations, so that helped me begin to incorporate the color scheme I wanted into the decor throughout the house.  My kitchen cabinet doors are festooned with cheerful jingle bell ornaments from the dollar store, and these pretty purple tinsel trees (above) were there, too. I made a little snowy vignette with them on top of the living room shelves.

We have this monstrous kitchen, of which we seldom make adequate use, so I decided it was a good place for my little tree to live, since the new one is now in the living room. I wrapped the pictures hanging on the walls on either side of the tree to make them look like presents, and it really made the kitchen feel like it was supposed to be part of the house, for the first time.
Our front door always has
a wreath, with a cross in
the center.
Having been inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I had been contemplating making a snow-flake tulle wreath, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in a sturdy enough way to put it on the front door, so I went with our regular evergreen wreath on the front door. At the orders of 2 of my friends (our teen-aged neighbor girls), I needed a wreath for the wall inside the front entry, so that's where the snowflake wreath was destined to be. I'm still making adjustments to it, and now that I look at the pictures I took, I see more that I want to do. Here it is at it's current point (below). My darling husband is gracious enough to allow me to put girly-looking decorations right in the front entry where everyone sees them. That's a man who is secure in his manhood, let me tell ya. Smile.

One of the things that I've been giving a lot of serious thought in the last months is the reality of the eternal spiritual world and what impact it has on my day-to-day life. (Some of this will be in another post.) You know, the just day-in and day-out living? What impact does eternity make on how I take care of my body? Washing my face, brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, getting dressed? What impact does it make in how I decorate my home? Present myself? Act in public and in private? How much am I willing to cede to the world, as opposed to living peculiarly in this world? (Titus 2:7-15)

New cross that will remain
out all year.
When it came to Christmas decorations, I had to consider how much of my home I'm willing to cede to frivolity, not that frivolity is entirely bad, in itself. It's just that if I'm living a life that's eternal, shouldn't my home show that? So, I very carefully considered what we kept from prior years' decorations. I gave thought to each Santa/Father Christmas or Frosty themed item, each instance of secular folklore, and was careful to weigh them against what we really celebrate in the Christmas season.

A Christmas gift 2 years ago,
from my godparents. 
For that reason, things that might be considered "seasonal" didn't make the cut this year. Things that didn't have sentimental value or a reason for being displayed were taken out of consideration. That helped me to severely curtail the clutter, too, and it left me with a much clearer picture of why we believe that this world is better because of the coming of Christ, and why we celebrate it every year.

This year, there are more crosses, because that was the point of His birth-- His redeeming death and resurrection. This year, there are at least 5 nativity scenes, drawing our eyes and minds to that ineffable moment when God became a little, helpless child, entrusted to the humans who were created in His image, so that He might experience life as we know it, live it fully in submission to the Holy Spirit, as we're called to, and ultimately take my place in a brutal death to pay the price for my sin.

This nativity scene is a year-round decoration in our living room book case. My dad had it carved for me in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and gave it to me some years ago. I love the image in my mind that he described of the little old man with his carving knife creating his view of the birth of my savior. It makes me smile, that He was here for all of us!
Great gift!! Wish the picture was
A dear friend of ours dropped by to bring me a birthday gift, this year, not knowing that these were the thoughts I was mulling. She brought me another reminder that, yet again, the Holy Spirit was doing His mysterious work and tying together the thoughts of two of His girls, without aid of our communication with one another. She brought me this lovely silver cross, with the nativity scene in it. How perfect is that!?!

I am working on finding the perfect place to hang it for year-round display in our home. It's so loaded with imagery that I don't think I could bear to put it away for most of the year. For now, it's lying on our coffee table, as a focal point in our living room. I love it!

As the night closes in and we turn on our lights, I'm reminded of the Light that came to this world, and of the light I'm supposed to be in it. As I walk through a lovely home that was entrusted to us for our care and keeping, I think of all the little miracles that I've witnessed in the creation of this story woven around my life and marriage, and I pray that God will give us opportunities to extend His hospitality and love to those around us. As I survey the decorations, I think of the purple robe of the Eternal High King of Heaven, and the precious metals that show the abundance of His wealth and generosity to us. As I go from piece to piece, I remember the people whose lives have touched mine, however much or long, and the places that they occupy in my heart and the Heart of their Creator.

Our entry table (under the snow-flake wreath)
When this Christmas has passed, and the trees come down and the ornaments get packed away, I will leave the snowflake decorations up until spring to remind me that God creates us to be unique expressions of His Image, and the "Christmas"decorations that remain around our home will remind me, as we move through the next year of the inscrutable mystery of the birth of God, when the Eternal Creator became a normal guy and got dirty and had to trim his toenails and lived and breathed and died and rose again to save our souls from eternal death.

May the breath of God be on your face. May you see His hand at work around you. May you marvel at things that are too great for us to ever wrap our minds around. May you be blessed by the simple faith of little children experiencing the joys of this season for the first few times. May you learn to know Him, grow to be like Him, and become holy as He is holy.

With love and Christmas blessings,

01 December 2012

Stroke Indicators

So, this isn't a fun topic, per se, but it's important. If, like ours, stroke runs in your family, you may need to know this at some point. I received this in an email from a friend, and thought I should post it here. Both my grandfather and aunt suffered massive strokes, leaving them in a semi-vegetative state with numerous medical issues until their deaths, a few short years later.

One day, when I was in high school, my dad sat me down and told me to look for these things. He also told me that if he suffered a stroke, that I was to load him in the car (not call an ambulance) and take him to a specific hospital. (At the time we lived in the Kansas City area, and St. John's had a state-of-the-art Stroke treatment facility.) He said that an ambulance would have to take him to the nearest hospital, not the one that could do the most good, and that if he got to St. John's in time, they could reverse the effects and keep him from landing in the same condition his dad had been in. Fortunately, I never had to follow his instructions.

If stroke runs in your family, it might not be a bad idea to check out the medical facilities in your area to find one that has specialists in this area. It could make the difference between a few remaining years of being a vegetable and resuming your regularly scheduled life.

Much love,

STROKE: Remember the 1st Three Letters
S. T. R.

During a BBQ, a woman stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics). She said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Jane went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening.

Jane's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - at 6:00 PM Jane passed away. She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today. Some don't die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.

If a neurologist can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he may be able to totally reverse the effects of a stroke. The trick is getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.


Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S *Ask the individual to SMILE.
T *Ask the person to TALK and speak a simple sentence or statement, coherently (i.e. Chicken Soup)
R *Ask him or her to RAISE both arms.

If he or she has trouble with any ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

Additionally, recently they've added a fourth indicator.
Ask the person to stick out his tongue. If the tongue is crooked, if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.