December 28, 2009 | My Jottings

I hope your Christmas was blessed in some special way. Even if not in the ways that you expected, I hope you were able to detect at least one specific blessing and give thanks for it.

We Americans are spoiled – we forget that if we have something to eat, a roof over our heads, the ability to get out of bed, and at least one person in life who cares about us, then we are more blessed than many on our planet.

Our Christmas was so blessed I almost didn’t know how to contain it. I was missing Sharon, Chris and their three children who were far away in Maryland, but aside from that void, our celebration was wonderful.

First of all, our house now gets decorated in ways it never did before. Since Sara is a floral designer, she took a few branches of cedar and some cast-off, destined-for-the-trash roses, a few yards of my ribbon, and the results were little pockets of beauty all throughout the house.

In the living room

On the kitchen counter

Over the kitchen table

I didn’t take pictures of the tiny arrangements she did for two bathrooms and the den.

Everything started when Jeremy, Carolyn and their four children came over on Christmas Eve day. Unfortunately, Jeremy had to work on Christmas day, so our plan was to spend lots of time together on Christmas Eve, then get up early on Christmas morning so he could be part of the gift opening before he went to work at the hospital. I was thrilled when they decided to spend the night so there wouldn’t have to be any packing up and going home in the cold.

We had carols playing softly all day, the kids were reading and playing with Legos and coloring pictures, and the snow was falling heavily outside.

We ate a late lunch/early dinner around 2:30, and had ham, scalloped potatoes, broccoli and raisin salad, red cabbage slaw, and buttered rolls.

Christmas dinner

After dinner we cleaned up a bit and kept commenting about the weather, which had reached blizzard status with many inches of snow predicted. I felt so sorry for the people who were trying to get home to Minnesota for Christmas; flights were canceled and the roads were so treacherous that driving was almost impossible.

Here’s a photo of our gang, without Elijah and Audrey. He was at the table but somehow isn’t in this picture. She was napping with her glow-worm.

Carolyn, Clara, Vivie, Sara, Jeremy, Julie, Michael

Jeremy and the children had written and planned a Christmas play, and staged it in the third floor guest suite of our house. When it was time, we all went upstairs where the seats for the audience had been placed, where a stage with stage lights had been set up, and all the props and “costumes” made. The play was about a little dog named Shorty (played by Vivienne) and what she learned after she ran away from home for not wanting to wear her new Christmas collar. She had to deal with the dog catcher (played by Elijah), landed in a cage in the pound, and had a change of heart after talking with another dog in the pound named Cocoa (played by Clara) who helped Shorty see how good she really had it.

Jeremy was the director and provided background music

Vivienne and Elijah playing their parts

Vivie, Clara, Elijah

Shorty learning her lesson at the dog pound

Audrey was still too young to take part in a play. Maybe next year.

Later that night we joined together in the living room and sang Christmas carols. I think the highlight for me was when four year-old Vivienne, who was comfortably cuddled on her mama’s lap, decided to sing one of her own carols a capella. She often makes up her own lengthy songs and we sat and listened as she introduced this new one about praising the Lord: “O price the Low-udd, O you’ve got to price the Low-udd, because you should price the Low-udd, yes we price Him…” I wish I had a recording of this because it was so funny and so sweetly heart-wrenching at the same time. I can imagine the Maker of Heaven and Earth smiling at Vivienne’s song.

Jeremy read the Christmas story to us from Luke, and we were reminded about why we were together in the first place. Why we exist, why we are on this planet, why we are a family, all have to do with the coming of Christ to the earth. How amazing that the Creator of everything so willingly limited Himself to show us His love. How humbling that even when we pay no attention to Him, He has His eyes of love on  us. How comforting that when we are His, nothing can touch us without His permission and His good purposes. How wondrous that He left the splendor of Heaven to dwell in whomever would ask Him in.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’   Acts 17:24-28

After this, each child got to open one gift before they went to bed.  There have been many times when I have not been as grateful as I should be for this big house, but Christmas Eve 2009 wasn’t one of them. We have enough rooms and beds that each person could have a warm, private place to sleep. Thank you Lord, for your many blessings.

After the kids went to bed, the adults played Whoonu?, a fun game that tests how well you know someone else’s favorites. I learned that Sara does not like baseball caps but loves big cities, that Carolyn isn’t crazy about roller skating but loves birthday parties, and that Jeremy likes museums better than cats.

And the snow continued to fall outside. We checked the weather report and found that over twenty inches of snow was predicted, with blizzard conditions, and hoped that Jeremy could get to work in the morning.

our back yard, early in the storm

Early on Christmas morning when it was still (as Vivienne says) “peach black” outside, we got up to open presents before Jeremy went to work. Carolyn put yummy cinnamon rolls in the oven to bake, and we all sat around and watched the children open their presents. There was a Star Wars sword, some Tinker Toys, some pom-poms, many books, a Teddy bear, a Misty of Chincoteague model, some punch balloons, a doll…we watched them all ooh and aah over their gifts, and I was impressed with their gratitude. Blessings abounded.

Jeremy took one of the four-wheel drive vehicles to work (23 inches of snow would eventually fall in our city) and we enjoyed a leisurely day of quiet music, lots of food, happy children, and the movie Little Women. After lunch Carolyn made Reese’s bars and we found that they, along with cold glasses of milk, were the perfect accompaniment to a game of Yahtzee.

We ended the day not with leftovers from the night before, but with homemade pizza. Two-year old Audrey is rapidly becoming very verbal, and each time we asked her if she wanted another little piece of pizza she would enthusiastically smile and yell, “Shuh!” (sure!)  More blessings.

After dark fell and the snow tapered off a little, Carolyn and I loaded bags of gifts and four children up into Michael’s truck, to take them home, about two miles away. They were all dressed in their winter snowpants and boots and mittens and hats. The side streets were still not plowed, but the main streets had been, leaving chest-high snow banks in front of the driveways on Jeremy and Carolyn’s street. Even with a big four-wheel drive truck, we could not get through into their drive. Carolyn had to climb over the mountain of snow and trudge down the driveway, making trips into the house with the bags of Christmas goodies. Clara, Elijah and Vivienne were able to get through the drifts by walking in Mama’s footprints, while I held on to Audrey until Carolyn came back to carry her in.

When Jeremy was through with work that night, he couldn’t get in to their driveway either, so spent two hours shoveling the piles of wet, heavy snow in order to be able to park the car and go inside for the night. Thankfully it was about twenty-eight degrees out, so bitter cold was not a factor as it so often is for northern Minnesotans this time of year.

When I returned home we watched my favorite HGTV show Divine Design, cleaned up a little bit, talked over the highlights of the holiday we’d spent with our loved ones, and Sara stayed the night with us again, which was another blessing.

I do not know why our Christmas was so blessed.

I know a young woman who just found out she has an aggressive cancer, and she has a husband and three young children. I know a man whose heart is giving out, and he’s aware that he may not see another Christmas with his family. I know a woman whose brilliant, talented, only son is getting ready to go to prison. I know a family who doesn’t know where they will live in 2010, nor how they will make it financially. I know of a family whose father just had a brain hemorrhage and they don’t know if he’ll ever be right again. I know a man who lives in his car and doesn’t know how bound up in chains he is. I’ll bet you know a few people going through their own terrible trials too.

I don’t know why today we are so blessed. And I don’t pretend to think that someday we won’t have more serious trials of our own. We do have some now. And as long as we live, we’ll probably have some more. It’s just the way it is.

But at this moment in time, I want to be found being grateful. And not just anemically grateful. Powerfully and exuberantly grateful! I want the Lord to find me clapping my hands in applause and looking to Him and saying, “Thank you! I have noticed! You have blessed us! We can hardly contain what you’ve done for us, Father! Thank you, thank you! You are so good to us!” And maybe I’ll even sing with Vivie, “O price you Low-udd, O how I price you, my Low-udd!”

What will happen if next year, if I’m still writing away on this little blog, I have bad news to report? Will I still think we’re blessed? Will I still be proclaiming how good God is to anyone who will read? I pray so. I pray I am always able to give thanks to Him no matter what. He is my rightful owner and can do with me what He will. I will always try to praise and thank Him no matter how plenty the blessings or how heavy the burdens. I trust Him, and long to trust Him even more.

In one of my favorite books, At Home in Mitford, the main character, Father Tim, has a moment when he can hardly believe the blessings of God in his life. He quotes Psalm 68:19 aloud as he walks along (“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation!”), and then shouts out the verb in the verse that means the most to him…


That’s how I felt this Christmas season. Loaded down with blessings.

And for this I most fervently price the Low-udd…


  1. Kay says:

    Your writing never fails to bring me to a state of gratitude and praise. GOD is SO GOOD!! PRICE the LOW-UDD!!

  2. Sharon says:

    What a wonderful Christmas. I hope we can be there next year!

  3. Pat says:

    I couldn’t agree with Kay more. I was moved to tears reading this. Julie, you have such a wonderful heart and I am always challenged to draw closer to the Lord when I read your blogs. Thank you!

  4. Ginny the computer challenged friend says:

    Jewel I heard first hand all about your Christmas and envied the way you celebrated! I have hoped for a more Christ-centered Christmas with my family, but some of them just aren’t there YET. This year I finally realized that until that day comes, I can and will continue to celebrate His birth all year long. To be disappointed and feel like I have missed celebrating His birth, is silly. I can instead welcome the year long joy of celebrating His coming to earth and fulfilling the Words of God spoken by the prophets! I hope your family knows what a blessing it is to have you and Michael…

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