Tag Archives: Christmas

‘Tis the Season…

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C – Christ child, savior of the world.

H – Happiness, an unexplained warmth in your home and around the ones you love. A heart that is full and thankful. Hallmark movies on repeat. Hot chocolate.

R – Rejoice! Rejoice! A time to remember peace on earth.

I– Images of past Christmases flutter in your heart.

S – Santa and sleigh bells, silly drivers and mad shoppers, stress and savory smells.

T– Too much food, too many sweets, too much tension, too much fun. Tinsel, toys, time to reflect on another year gone by.

M– Malls to avoid, busy moms in a hurry. The miracle of little faces who are ready for Christmas morning. Memories.

AAngels we have heard on high. Angelic voices singing in a school program. Another Christmas has arrived with growing children, aging parents, hearts missing.

S – “At the last house, we always join hands and sing Silent Night. The reindeer, too.” –Memoirs of an Elf.   Finding solace on that silent night.

for unto you

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And Just for Fun – The School Version

C – Crazy children so high on Christmas they could float.

H – Hurrying feet rushing everywhere they go. Happiness and big hearts. Harried teachers holding on just a few more days.

R – Reindeer games. Ready for Christmas. No raising of hands, no resting of heads.

I – Idyllic smiles fill their faces. Icing on gingerbread houses. Imaginations in full bloom.

S – Sad or sappy, sighing and surprised, so many emotions. Sorry is spoken often. Santa just as much.

T – Toys. Toys. Toys.

M – Music and songs. Munchkins watching the Santa cam. Many smiles, many tears.

A – Ample love. Anticipation grows strong as days are counted down. Antsy and agitated, awaiting the 25th.

S – Smiles, stories and daydreams. Wishes for stuff, songs about sleighs. So excited they beam.

The Santa Cam – smiles blossom when they see it, and a few children will even stop, stare into the camera and give their Christmas lists in detail.

“Rest Beside the Weary Road and Hear the Angels Sing…”

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Why do I go to church? Why do I bother?

I woke up this morning and my first thoughts were worry thoughts, fearful thoughts. It happens to me often, I won’t lie. Will something bad happen today? Who’s going to die next? I hope our old house doesn’t burn down. Are my kids okay? What will I do if something happens to Bill? I spend a portion of each day (some days mere minutes, others much longer) fighting away these thoughts, doing my very best to find the good in life. I turn these worries over to God daily but still, at times, they linger. (I think I’m wired to worry, and unfortunately, I know I have a panic button that makes my brain fear the worst.)

So I went to church this morning, and I know it can’t be true, but our pastor, Lee, was talking straight to me. We haven’t spoken about my fears…it’s not something I go around discussing, but his words sang right to my heart.

Even though I forget, even though I sink in my own fears of life, I forget that this is a problem that plagues the world. Fear is not my own exclusive feeling, neither is worry. They cripple the masses. Since the beginning of time, they’ve crippled many of us.

We sang these words today:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

That is a verse from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, a poem written in 1849 that was later put to music.  1849 – how could words written so long ago still suit us now? Take away modern perks and we are still the same. We still feel crushed at times, still trudge through the hardships of life.

So why do I go to church? I go to be reminded that my troubles are not new or exclusive, that we have the greatest gift of all at our fingertips. We have the peace only Jesus can bring…peace and hope and love. I go to feel the love of community, to hear words that soothe my weary soul. I go to feel the sun warm my cheek as is filters through the stain-glass windows. I go because I need to be reminded often that I am not alone, that none of us are.

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Merry Christmas

 

Hello Christmas Break!

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It should be mandatory for every adult in the world to spend the week before Christmas break in schools.  Not only to experience the chaos…the squealing, running, chatty, messy chaos (and that’s just the teachers), but to feel, to remember what it’s like to be a child.  The children go to another place, a world adults forget about when they grow up. Children live in a perpetual realm of giddiness this time of year.  It’s exhausting but it’s also infectious. Every adult should get to experience that kind of giddiness at least once more in their lifetime.

In the midst of utter pandemonium, here are some of the things I heard over the week:

Little boy, age 6 – “I have ballet stuck in my head!  When I get home, my daddy’s going to ground me.”

Funny girl, age 6 – “When did people get in color?  Like not gray anymore?  I saw an old picture and people used to be gray.”

Too smart for me boy, age 6 – “Who first started using money…not just trading stuff?”

Precious girl, age 6 – “That sounded like two snowflakes singing together.”

Inquisitive girl, age 6 – “Who made the Earth? I know God, but like who did the landscaping?”

 And last but not least, after receiving a precious homemade card from a little girl…a handwritten card with a beautiful Christmas tree and lights and a star in the sky, I find another note folded up inside. She pointed to it and said, “It’s a zombie map, so if you need to get away from zombies.”

A journal entry from the week. I asked who the man was at the bottom and she said God. Sigh...sweet baby girl.

A journal entry from the week. I asked who the man was at the bottom and she said God. Sigh…sweet baby girl.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter.

C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

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The older I get, the more concerned I become about the world we’re living in.  The news is terrifying, people are afraid of neighbors, and somehow in my lifetime, we’ve become a society that is so politically correct that we have lost common sense.  Respect is slipping away…simple truths such as greeting others with kindness, treating adults with reverence.  This country is turning into something I don’t recognize.

Christmas is turning into something I don’t recognize.

Bear with me.  Let’s spell Christmas.  C..H..R..I..S..T..M..A..S.  Does anyone else see the beginning of the word as I see it?  I know I’m not alone.  It says Christ.  Not holiday.  Not Santa.  Not season.  When did Christ lose his standing on his own birthday?

This time of year bothers me…actually more and more each year.  There is a total disregard of what the season really is.  This is not just a holiday season…it’s Christmas.  This season is not about parties and gifts or stockings and Rudolph.  It’s not about anything except Jesus.  Period.  But somehow this time of the year has turned into just another holiday.  We’re not celebrating Santa’s birthday, we’re not celebrating anything but the fact that Jesus was born to save people like me…simple sinners who struggle each and every day.

Now let me clarify:  I am a Christmas nerd.  I love it.  Always have.  I love the time with my family and our decorated Christmas tree.  I love to eat holiday food (maybe a little too much).  I love my church filled with red poinsettias, a spiraling tree and the Nativity scene.  All of these things are wonderful traditions and very calming when I’m weary and agitated, BUT these things have always been celebrated because of Jesus’ birthday.

I am terrified of losing the meaning of this time of year.  I am terrified that self-proclaimed Christians won’t publicly stand up for Jesus (even if it is on national T.V.).  And I realize I’m not being politically correct by pronouncing my opinions for all to see, but in this matter I’m shouting from the rooftops:  Christmas is about Jesus!  Nothing else.  And it never will be.  I love my Jesus that much…the man who has stood by me through it all.  He’s my dearest friend…He sees every heart wrinkle, every personality flaw, every mistake, and He loves me anyway.

I can hear the non-believers in my head saying, “But shouldn’t every child have a ‘holiday’ even if they don’t believe?”  First of all, I’m a sucker for kids so of course I would say they should. It is not the fault of children if they’re living in an environment they can’t control.  However, as parents, we should step up and make sure they know the true meaning of Christmas.  Even non-believers should clarify what the day is about with their children because believe me, they hear it other places.  As a bare minimum, they deserve to know the definition of Christmas.  (Just this week, one of my students asked me how old Jesus is…in front of the whole class…on his own with no prompting from me.  Children talk, they express their views and ideas, they have vivid minds.)

Is there a time to stand up for your beliefs?  Is there a time to not be politically correct?  I believe the time is now.  This season is now.  My faith pulls me to declare that for me and my family, we will celebrate our Jesus.

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From the bottom of my heart, I wish a Merry Christmas to each and every person I know, to everyone on this planet.  I pray that we all feel peace and hope and love…things we can only know by finding the true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Is…

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The day Thanksgiving was over, Christmas began…and I know you’ve all been on the same spinning whirlwind as me.  Writing has come to a complete stop because I tend to fall asleep in my chair by eight! The children at school were WILD and there were times I wondered if we’d make it through, but we did and even in the chaos of the past few weeks, Christmas found me.

It found me in the smiles of kids – in the way they can make me laugh even when I’m stressed.  We tested several days this week; a mid-year check up to see how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go (guess what…we’ve got a long way to go).  I stopped the children to stretch between a test, fingers up to the sky, lots of deep breaths, fingers to the ground.  When I looked around, one little girl had her foot up on her leg in a (yoga) tree pose.  I asked her if she did yoga at home and she said not all the time but that her favorite pose is downward facing dog.  “Mine too,” I told her, and we shared a smile that warmed my heart and stripped away the stress I’d been feeling.

Christmas found me in a story I heard about a Kindergarten fellow who put a fuzzy pom-pom up his nose and couldn’t get it out.  The teacher couldn’t get it out.  The school nurse couldn’t get it out.  Last I heard, he was making a trip to the doctor.  I couldn’t help but laugh…even though I’m sure it wasn’t funny to any of the grown-ups involved.  Me being an outsider, it sounded like a story from a book or sitcom and it was a hoot.

Christmas found me in the responses of my students when I asked them what Christmas is to them.  Christmas is…

fun, it’s my favorite holiday

Jesus’ birthday

a holiday; it’s beautiful and it snows

time for people to think about other people and not be naughty and not cry or shout or be mean

But mostly, Christmas found me yesterday on my way to school.  I looked over just as I began to pull into the parking lot, and there, greeting each car rider, was Santa Claus.  Our custodian was dressed in full regalia, saying “Ho, ho, ho” and “Merry Christmas” to each car and child.  I slipped down to the car line to take a picture and another worker told me that some of the parents that never smile, smiled today.  Later in the day, our Santa visited the children in the building and handed out a treat bag to each and every one and to each teacher.  We have 500 children in our building.  To say that the children were excited is an understatement.

Our school Santa - and he was awesome.  We love you, Santa Albert.

Our school Santa – and he was awesome. We love you, Santa Albert.

Christmas is so much more than shopping at the mall, and long lines, and traffic.  Thank goodness.  Christmas is those moments with your family, baking and watching Christmas movies (because what Christmas would be complete without watching Christmas Vacation?).  It’s about giving love, sharing yourself, doing for others.  I love that when work has me wound too tight, the important things in life can still find me.  I love that even though I get bogged down with too much, smiles and hugs and laughter are always just there if only I’ll look for them and accept them.  I love that I’m surrounded by people who go over and beyond to give to others and spread love and smiles around.

Our Christmas party yesterday was chaotic, wild, fun and loud.  On a normal day, it would have driven me a little crazy, but yesterday on the way to work, I decided to just go with it.  And I did, and we had a blast.  The children were so happy and so very thankful.  Their giddiness is infectious.

Christmas found me, and my prayer for you, is that it finds you too.

for unto you

Merry Christmas! I love each and every one of you!

 

Kids and Christmas…Whew!

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for unto you

Where has the time gone?  The first semester of this school year has come and gone, zipping by so quickly that I’m left with moments of blur.  But no matter how blurry it was as a whole, I may never forget yesterday.

I’m still sighing.  I’m still saying, “Whew.”  And it’s the next morning.

Yesterday was the last day of school before Christmas break.  Five days before Christmas and the little ones and their wranglers were still at school, trying to trudge forward.  And all I can say is that these precious little ones…as bad as it may sound…were all strung out on Christmas crack.

Their bodies shimmied with joy, their voices trembled with excitement.  Sometimes bodies fell out into the floor for no reason.  Other times, little children would take off in a spontaneous run to places unknown – except our room is small and there’s no place to go!

“Do you know what my elf did last night?”  (Do you know how many times I’ve heard that over the past month?  For real, it’s hundreds and hundreds.  But, I smile and look into the sparkling eyes and let them tell me.)

“Mrs. Rackley, it’s only __ more days ’til Christmas!” they’ve chanted since December 2nd.  And I’m required by teacher law to know if they’re correct in the count or not.

But we survived it all!  We made it to our winter break, even as the most glorious full moon I’ve seen in a while hovered in the sky each night.  Just as with hospitals and animals, full moons and school really don’t mix very well.  Until you’ve lived it, there’s no way of knowing just what the pull of the orb in the sky does to little bodies.  It makes them nuts.  Add in a little Christmas frenzy and…well, I’m back to saying, “Whew.”

In the midst of the chaos, a few precious moments:

We’ve been discussing animal groups in reading…reptiles, mammals, etc.  The story we read informs the students that people are also mammals.  In one sentence, it glosses over the fact that mammals produce milk.  No further explanation (and that’s okay with me – my students are seven).  So we get to the comprehension test that covers the story and a question asks, “How are all mammals the same?”  The answer choices were ‘they make milk for their young, they have four legs, or they have scales’.  One little boy jumps up from his seat in the middle of the test and yells out, “But Mrs. Rackley, this can’t be right.  We’re mammals and how can we make our own milk for babies?  That’s crazy!”

I proceeded to stumble over my tongue for thirty seconds or so (“Well…you know…and females, like mommas, can and do…but I can’t tell you exactly…so we’ll just move on…but you know, it’s like…)  Yes, I’m a teacher.  And yes, that was pathetic.  I finally told him, “Just eliminate the two choices you know aren’t right and pick the other.  And when you get home, you can talk to your parents about the milk thing.”

Sorry, parents!  They are SEVEN…I just couldn’t bring myself to have a discussion about breast-feeding in a first grade classroom.

Another precious story I borrowed from a fellow teacher.  She teaches Kindergarten and asked her students what their favorite thing about Christmas was.  I’m sure many said the tree or presents or Santa but she had a few say celebrating Jesus’ birthday.  Another student spoke up and said that he didn’t know who Jesus was.  A friend beside him told him, “He is the savior of the world.”

Sigh…

This wasn’t a teacher led conversation…she just asked an innocent question about the holiday we are celebrating.  The children had the spontaneous conversation on their own – the teacher just happened to overhear it.  And honestly, I’m thankful she shared the experience with the rest of us.  Those are the moments that fill me with hope.

In the hearts of children, there lies the hope for the world.  Out of the mouth of babes, we hear the future unraveling.  Even as they bounce around the room like kangaroos, they exert so much love.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hugged this month or how many times I’ve been told I love you by my students.  And they mean it with their whole body and heart.  These precious children are the next leaders, the next teachers, the next doctors, the next artists, the next moms and dads.  My Christmas prayer for each and every one of them is that they never lose all the joy they feel as children, that they never let the world tell them it’s not okay to love each other as wholly as they do now.

If only, just for a moment, I wish we all could feel that joy and love.  The kind that children feel.  Wouldn’t our world be so much softer and kinder if we could?  That is my Christmas prayer for us all.

Loving Clark

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clark

Oh, how do I love Clark? Let me count the ways. Clark Griswald has visited my home, signaling the arrival of the holiday season. Watching his Christmas movie, snuggled on my couch, arms waving in the air to the song Christmas Vacation…ah, the simple things in life that make it wonderful. But exactly why do I love Clark so? Let me count the ways.

1. He’s goofy, sweet and full of heart.
2. When he plugs in the lights and breaks into song – “Joy to the World!” – such eagerness, like the heart of a child.
3. Dark hair and cute dimple!
4. Would do just about anything for his family.
5. Even Cousin Eddie…
6. He’s funny…and I love funny in a man.

(Wait a minute! Funny, dark, devoted…this could be my own hubby! )

The craziness of the holiday season is upon us, but it’s the moments of laughter and cooking and wrapping and maybe even watching a Christmas movie that bring the warmth of the season to my door.  Those are the warm fuzzy moments.  The heart-squeezing moments whisper in the candles at church and in the twinkle of a star.

No matter where you find your holiday joy, I hope it fills you this Christmas!  Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Gotta Love Clark

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Which holiday character are you? Come on, be honest!  If you’re like me, you’re a mixture of many.  Some days jolly, the next day grumpy and disgruntled.  The Grinch definitely visited my psyche today when I thought of all that was left to do in fifteen days.

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But no matter how stressed, I hope I’m never Scrooge.

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Instead, I’m working like an elf…busy, busy, busy.

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And it’s Clark…loveable, goofy, quirky, wants things to be perfect Clark, that keeps me smiling.  In the midst of family angst, tree squirrels, rowdy cousins, a stressful job, decorations and shopping, Clark pressed on.  Gotta love some Clark Griswold.  He brings laughter during a hectic month, silly to the mundane, and a wonderful outlet when things around you get too heavy.  Be somebody’s Clark over the next two weeks…find some spirit, make someone smile, break out the moose eggnog glasses and spread some cheer!

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…Sort Of

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Well, the tree is up, the lights are strung, the ornaments are hung.  Hallelujah!  It’s only the beginning of what needs to be accomplished in December, but it is a wonderful start.  A few presents have been purchased and will soon…(well, maybe not too soon)…be wrapped and stashed under the tree.

The nativity scene is waiting to be set, the stockings are far from being hung, and who knows if the Christmas china will even make an appearance this year.  Instead, I’m looking for a deeper, warmer Christmas.  I asked my son what ‘one’ thing meant something to him at Christmas time, which tradition, and I got a 16-year-old-I-dunno-shrug . I’ve been thinking and here’s what I want to make sure happens even if nothing else does:

I want to watch the movie Christmas Vacation with a blanket tucked over my legs and a bowl of popcorn in my lap.  The refrigerator will be stocked with fresh oranges and tiny bottled Cokes.  Peanut brittle and King Leo candy canes will be on the kitchen countertop.  I’ll listen to the choir sing carols at church, read a little Dickens, dip pretzels in chocolate, and do my very best to think of others each and every day.

Which holiday tradition is a must for you?