Snowshoes for Christmas

A white Christmas is always lovely. But this year a white Christmas seemed ever more desirable because we were giving the girls snowshoes as a main gift.

It turned out that we had a white Thanksgiving and a brown Christmas. November and December traded places. We did have big snowflakes falling down on Christmas day, but somehow those didn’t stick. It’s Murphy’s Law — if Minnesotans give their children snowshoes for Christmas, there will be no snow.

Much to our delight, in the evening the day after Christmas, the backordered snow arrived. It fell thick through the windy night, and by morning we had 5 or 6 inches.

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Southern girl that I am, I had no idea if 5 or 6 inches is enough snow to snowshoe in. But a few friends I consulted thought it was, so the girls and I bundled up and headed to the backyard with our brand-new snowshoes. Yes, I received a pair, too!

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Snowshoes attach to your snow boots, and I think I got mine on right.

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As a test, the girls trekked around the backyard for a bit.

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Then we headed out onto the frozen lake, feeling very adventurous.

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I can’t decide if snowshoes make me feel more like a mountaineer or more like Big Foot. But I do like them.

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We left a few tracks on the frozen lake. We didn’t make it all the way across yet since it was 11 degrees and getting dark.

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We’re looking forward to another snowshoeing adventure soon!

“Is It Christmas, Mommy?”

PLEASE NOTE: Happy Advent! I’m re-posting this sweet tale from five Christmases ago.



Every day this month, my youngest has asked at least once, sometimes more frequently, “Is it Christmas, Mommy?” I keep saying over and over, “Not yet! It’s Advent.”

For some reason, my answer isn’t getting through to her 3-year-old brain.

This afternoon I wrapped all of my gifts for the girls and my hubby while the girls were playing in their rooms. When my youngest came downstairs, I told her to look under the tree. She noticed the gifts but didn’t seem too excited. Then I explained that all the gifts in the red wrapping paper with gold stars belonged to her. Her eyes bugged out and she put the most shocked expression on her face. “For me! What did you put in them?” As if I would tell her!

I explained that the gifts would be a surprise that she would unwrap on Christmas Day. She started jumping up and down with the child-like Christmas excitement you’d expect from a 3-year-old.

Later the girls wrapped a gift for their daddy. They almost used all the Scotch tape in the process. When he arrived home from work, my oldest met him at the door reporting excitedly that she had wrapped a present for him and it was waiting under the tree. My youngest, not to be out-done in the reporting, said, “Yes, Daddy! We wrapped you a present! It’s pajamas!”

As you can imagine, big sister was pretty upset with little sister for ruining the surprise. Tears were shed. But I’m sure they both will be telling this story over and over again for Christmases to come; someday it will be funny to them.

The Story Behind the Red Kettle and Bells

by Linnea, age 9

Catherine Booth was very bold. She was born in 1829 and died in 1890. She was a woman who preached sometimes. She married William Booth, and they started the Salvation Army together.

It was very hard work. People threw rotten fruits and other stuff at the Salvation Army Band. The Salvation Army tried very hard and succeeded a lot in telling people about Jesus.

If you would like to help the Salvation Army, put money in one of their red kettles. You can find them at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc. If you hear some bells ringing at a store and see somebody, there should be a Salvation Army kettle nearby.

If you would like to learn more about the Salvation Army and the Booths, you can read Kidnapped by River Rats  or Heroes of the Faith by Dave and Neta Jackson or watch Torchlighters Heroes of the Faith: The William Booth Story on DVD.

Would you like to know Jesus, too? If you want to know more about Him, you can look at •

Linnea is 9 years old and a 3rd grader at Starlight Home School. She thoroughly enjoys lessons in ballet, tap dance, art and piano. When she isn’t devouring chapter books, Linnea delights in numerous craft and sewing projects, nature walks, fishing, boating and swimming. In 2011 she rode a horse, a pony and an elephant, and she took a llama on a hike. She recently learned to crochet, and she has become thoroughly ambidextrous this fall while healing from a severe arm injury.

Re-Membering with Thanks This Christmas


One adjective describes so much in this fallen world we all live in. A broken prong on the dishwasher. Broken springs on the garage door. A broken air conditioner in the heat of July. A broken vacuum cleaner. A broken pie plate. Two broken drinking glasses. A broken faucet handle. A broken lid on the trash can. A friend’s broken tap shoes, spilling tiny screws across the dance floor. A broken chair. Our neighbors’ broken mailbox. And, most memorable of all, our oldest daughter’s broken arm.

Yes, we live in a fallen world, teeming with brokenness. It can leave us broken down, broken-hearted or just flat broke.

Yet through the cracks of all our broken pieces, the Light shines.

“Here are the broken spots,” the tall doctor proclaims as he points to X-rays of my firstborn’s forearm, six weeks after her infamous fall on the playground.

And then he quickly corrects himself. “Actually, what I should say is: Here are the healing spots.”

Healing spots.

Yes, broken spots can become healing spots when exposed to the Light. A perfect spot at which to pause and thank God. He is the One who can not only heal us physically but also restore our broken relationship with Him when we believe in His Son, Jesus. And isn’t that relationship what needs fixed most of all?

Remembering to pause and give thanks to God has become a priority this year. From January to October, I counted up more than one thousand gifts – memorable moments of grace captured in words and photographs. In thanking Him regularly this way and watching closely for His goodness toward me and my family, I’ve learned so much about His unchanging character. God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do.

Even when little upside-down legs let go and bones crack and the whole world seems to come crashing down in a helpless heap near the monkey bars. Even then God never lets go. He never lets go. And even then, in those terrifying moments of brokenness, we can thank God for holding us together.

Author Ann Voskamp says it best: “Because when we remember how He blesses and loves us, when we recollect His goodnesses to us — our broken places re-collect. We re-member. We heal. In the remembering to give thanks, our broken places are re-membered — made whole.”

This Christmas we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us – His Son Jesus, the One holds us and all of creation together. Jesus is very familiar with brokenness. Isaiah 53 says Jesus was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins; He was beaten so we could be whole, and by His wounds we are healed.

And so we commune with God when we remember this truth, when we stop complaining, when we accept every moment with gratitude. In the Last Supper, Jesus himself exemplifies this. 1 Corinthians 11:24 says, “…when He had given thanks, He broke {the bread} and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ ”

Our joy this Christmas is not in perfect appliances or perfect dishes or perfect shoes or perfectly healed bodies. Our joy is the best gift, Jesus, the perfect Savior, the perfect Lamb of God, the One whose bones were never broken.

We also have joy in watching for the thousands of ways God loves us in every moment.

Won’t you take the dare, too? Won’t you count the ways He loves you? Count the ordinary, the amazing, the grace-filled moments of 2012 and see for yourself just how much He loves you, too. •

Diana has been happily married to a guitar and sailing fanatic for 15 years. She is a homeschool mother of two who regularly shares stories and photos here at

A Quiet, Simple Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and I have time to blog because we have no family visiting this Christmas, and no relatives nearby expecting us for dinner.

Of course family isn’t really what we celebrate at Christmas anyway, as much as we dearly love all those grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who have decided against braving a frightfully White Christmas in Minnesota.

No, Christmas is about Jesus, celebrating Him and worshiping Him. Sometimes it’s easier to remember that when Christmas is simpler, quieter, and settled comfortably in a picturesque, snowy white background.

Every year our little family of four worships at our church’s 4 p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight service. The girls love getting all dressed up for the evening. Most years my husband participates in the worship band, playing guitar and sometimes singing. This year he also played the mandolin. The music was beautiful. Reverently the service closed, as is tradition, with everyone singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Seeing my children’s hopeful faces glowing in the candlelight, that’s my favorite gift.

Back at home, with the pot roast still simmering in the slow cooker, the girls endure posing for a few photos.

 And then they ask — for the 100th time today — if they can open presents. They typically exchange gifts with each other on Christmas Eve. Perhaps someday when they are grown and have families of their own, this tradition will continue.

At dinner we light all five of the Advent candles, and the girls eagerly lead our discussion the story of Jesus’s birth. Linnea wonders about all the many details the Bible doesn’t tell us in this ancient story. A deep thought for an 8-year-old.

Once the dinner dishes are cleared, I mix up some bread dough and tuck it under a towel, letting it rise. The girls like to think of the dough as sleeping when it is rising, so they tell it “goodnight” and blow it kisses. I tell the girls it’s almost time for me to tuck them into bed, too. Already sporting their matching striped pink pajamas, they beg for a story. Of course, I was already planning to read one. 

Tonight we read Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Written in 1956, the book was a gift given to us last year by my dear friend Kate. And what a lovely story it is about a son who gives his father, a dairy farmer, a gift they both treasure for years to come. Be sure to read this heartwarming tale!

Next my husband reads the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2 and Matthew 1. We talk about favorite Christmas memories and the best gifts ever given or received. Then we ponder together what it would have been like to see Jesus as a baby. My husband decides he’d want to see the angels that appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord that shone around them. Five-year-old Laurel is still pretty sure she doesn’t want to have anything to do with angels. (Click here to read about her recent angel trauma.) Will we ever convince her that real angels help protect her?

After prayers comes bedtime for little girls, and then comes stocking stuffing, cinnamon roll rolling and gift arranging for us grown-ups. As the evening closes, the tree boasts way too many gifts beneath its boughs, and all through the house the smell of cinnamon rolls lingers. 

This is our quiet, simple Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!

A Glorious Peace!

Merry Christmas!

The remarkably polished Minnesota Orchestra was performing “Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel when some questionable subjects slowly crept into sight. The first one appeared on stage and then two more, and then another two began slinking mysteriously down each aisle of Orchestra Hall.

Only a moment earlier the conductor had cheerfully announced that we were in for a fantastic treat: puppets from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis.

These larger-than-life puppets – some towering near 12-feet tall – masqueraded as angels. However, two of these so-called angels had deer heads, and two had squirrel heads. In their dream pantomime, they quietly kept watch over Hansel and Gretel as the children peacefully slept all alone, deep in the dangerous forest.

For our very sensitive 5-year-old Laurel, seeing these enormous puppet angels dwelling among us was certainly no fantastic treat. Rather than peace, they brought trouble. At first sight of them, Laurel shrieked in utter terror, hid under her coat, and then sobbed uncontrollably for the rest of the performance. Her daddy sat beside her, attempting to quiet and comfort her, but feeling trapped and helpless.

Fear Not!

The puppet angels truly terrified Laurel. And they did look exceptionally sinister.  They not only broke the rules by having animal heads and sneaking in unexpectedly from the back of the hall, but also they failed to announce what all Biblical angels know is the first order of business when appearing to humans. You already know the line: “Do not be afraid!” or “Fear not!”

Real-live angels must be quite terrifying, too. Remember the shepherds – those burly tough guys who weren’t afraid to take on any lions or bears that threatened their sheep? Even they were terrified by the angel that appeared to them and by the glory of the Lord shining around them that night when our Savior arrived.

The first angel the shepherds saw had a mission of utmost significance: to proclaim good news of great joy. Peace on earth! The Savior of the world had just been born!

One must be calm to be able to listen to such a meaningful message. That’s why the angel had to calm the shepherds with his words, “Do not be afraid.”

The spoken word is such a powerful thing – and even more so when it’s the Word of God. Clearly these words calmed the shepherds, as they soon heard the angel’s message of peace and then found the baby Jesus.

Imagine the rush of wings as a whole crowd of angels then came into sight, all praising God together and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Find Peace

That said, Christmastime should be peaceful, right? Yet isn’t it hard to find peace when so many distractions masquerade as necessary to our Christmas celebration? Like giant puppets, distractions can trouble us and sometimes even make us want to hide under our coats.

But we have an ever-present heavenly Father – One who is always able to quiet us and comfort us in times of trouble. He is mighty to save!

We genuinely find peace when we, like the shepherds, fix our eyes on Jesus, gaze upon His divine excellence, and behold the glory of the Lord. His glory is shining all around us, too, when we look for it and let it transform us.

In the song “Everything Glorious,” David Crowder sings, “My eyes are small but they have seen the beauty of enormous things… From glory to glory, You [Jesus] are glorious. You make everything glorious, and I am Yours. What does that make me?”

We pray you embrace true peace this Christmas and throughout the new year, and we pray you join us in fixing our eyes upon Jesus and allowing Him to transform us. May our small eyes see the beauty of enormous things in 2011!

From glory to glory, He is glorious!

More Piles of White Stuff

As the snow continues to pile up in frightfully large amounts outside — they say it’s the snowiest December on record here in Minnesota — the girls and I are making some additional piles of white stuff in the kitchen. You know, piles of flour and powdered sugar and sparkling sugar sprinkles…

Ahh, sugar cookies. Michael and I had mixed up the dough last night, so it was nice and chilled this morning. The girls and I started rolling out the dough mid-morning, and I don’t think we stopped until nearly 3 p.m.! Whew! 

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve made sugar cookies, and my children’s decorating skills seem to have progressed noticeably. The funniest thing about today was the red hot cinnamon candies because Laurel kept referring to them as “hot rods.”  Linnea decided that was easier and more fun to say, so all day long it was “hot rod” this and that…

After shoveling in countless cookies topped with buttercream frosting, I put my “sugar rush” to good use by shoveling the entire the driveway. Sadly, the snow was coming down at a rate of one inch per hour, so the driveway was completely white again when Michael drove in from work. At least I still had some sugar cookies left to show for our efforts!

Tree Quest 2010

Today’s quest for a Christmas tree felt magical. All the trees were completely laden with snow. Such breathtaking, verdant beauties!

This is the first year we’ve had to shake so much fresh snow off the tree before confirming it was THE one! It was also the first year that my cousin Rachel joined us in the adventure. Thanks for coming, Rae!

Below is a slideshow of my photos from the quest. Merry Christmas!

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O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

How It Glistens

The fresh snow on our next-door neighbors’ tree this morning — with a little emphasis added — looks so peaceful.

What a snowfall we’ve had in the last 24+ hours. Of course it comes on a weekend already packed with a piano recital, company party, and church dinner — just to name a few activities. Yet somehow we managed to squeeze in a trip to see the movie Tangled, which was wonderful. We all loved it!

Peace to you this weekend!