A Deliberate December

 

Thank Heavens for Bob Evans

How is it December already? There are still Thanksgiving leftovers in our refrigerator!

As in past years, it was a laid-back holiday, right up until the meal was served. The turkey was carved, and then there was the usual mad dash trying to get all the dishes onto the table while they were still hot. After years of serving cold mashed potatoes, Bob Evans made his inaugural appearance last Thanksgiving. Problem solved. He’s been a frequent dinner guest ever since.

Finally the candles were lit, the blessing was shared, and the long-awaited meal was before us. I looked around the table and my heart was full. My husband and children were beside me, and my brother was with us too. He stopped to visit Mom on his way to our house. Her absence was on our hearts, but we knew she was safe and warm and where she needed to be.

God has blessed my family in so many ways. His grace is sufficient for me.

🕊🕊🕊

Advent Arrives

Today we begin the Season of Advent, in watchful anticipation of our Savior’s birth. Immanuel . . . God with us.

Each year I vow to slow down and be part of the season, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the stress of it all. That’s no easy task. Amen?

It’s a rainy First Sunday in Advent, and I am quietly sipping my coffee while admiring our Christmas tree. It has become a family tradition to decorate the tree after Thanksgiving dinner, simply because we’re all together. And knowing that my brother might be tempted to not have a Christmas tree this year, I drove to his house yesterday and we decorated together. As we unpacked his ornaments, we talked about past holidays, and happy childhood memories when life was simpler — and slower.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could slow down the month of December to a more leisurely pace? It would be fun to attend every tree lighting ceremony, Nutcracker performance and choral concert I could squeeze onto my calendar. I’d like to have several weeks to decorate my home too, instead of an hour here and there. And I would love to wrap my gifts long before the task becomes completely overwhelming.

“But,” I remind myself, “it’s only the First of December!” For a moment I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he realizes that he didn’t miss Christmas after all — there’s still time!   

After church today, I intentionally planned my afternoon to include a little shopping, a little decorating, and a few more leftovers. I have a new devotional to read and ponder each day during Advent, and at the end of the coming week, we will once again be participating in One Starry Night in Bethlehem at my church. Now in its fifth year, there truly is no better way to share the joy of Christmas!

How will you slow down and enjoy the coming week?  How will you celebrate this wonderful Season of Advent? I’d love to hear all about your plans!

Sun, Sand and . . . Blizzards

Fall quietly arrived in Virginia while we were on vacation. We are home now, surrounded by colorful leaves and all things pumpkin. Our daughter held down the fort while we were away and confessed that she finally turned on the heat. We were glad for that warmth when we arrived home.

The photo above was taken in Little Sarasota Bay on the morning of our last day of vacation. Tropical Storm Nestor had blown through  overnight, and was just making its exit during my morning walk. The rain had ended, but it was quite blustery and overcast. If you look toward the opposite shoreline, you will see that the ocean was still churned up with white caps in the outer bay. But the shallow waters and mangroves within the inner bay were protected. I was happy to be safe onshore.

🌊🌊🌊

Blossoms and Beaches

This was a relaxing time away. We found time to meet up with friends and relatives, but also set aside time to just relax and explore. One of the highlights of our week was a visit to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. We discovered an amazing exhibit on the Blossoms of Asia, which is a stunning collection of colorful orchids.

On the day of our visit, Selby was launching their annual fall concert series. We grabbed a couple of chairs and enjoyed our lunch while listening to Big Band tunes beneath a huge Banyan tree. Relaxation at its finest! 😎

🐚🐚🐚

On our last full day of in Florida, we took a day trip to Sanibel Island. We hadn’t visited Sanibel since Hurricane Charley tore the tiny island to pieces. It had been our favorite vacation spot as newlyweds, and again as a family after the kids had outgrown Orlando’s theme parks. We have many happy memories of our days on Bowman’s Beach, swimming, snorkeling and shelling. I remember feeling heartbroken as I watched news footage after the devastating hurricane.

Sanibel has changed a lot over the past 15 years, but some things have remained the same. The Gulf water is warm and inviting, seashells are abundant, and the Dairy Queen still serves Blizzards. We sampled them all, and my heart was full as we drove back over the causeway. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived. Hearing about the massive damage, I thought it would be unrecognizable.  But in the face of adversity,  Sanibel not only survived, but thrived in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.  With determination and compassion, neighbors and snowbirds alike worked together to restore and rebuild their island paradise into what it is today.

I’ll be back, sweet Sanibel!