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Holy and warm

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

A recent conversation with a friend:

Me: How was your Christmas?

Friend: It was good. Christmas Eve service was fantastic. Why can’t all sermons be like that?

Me: Short and sweet?

Friend: No. Holy and warm.

Me: Maybe it’s not about the sermon. Maybe it’s about the people hearing the sermon.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the Christmas Eve service marks the point of the holiday season where I can finally put on the brakes. No more gift shopping or shipping, holiday baking, finding something to wear to so-and-so’s Christmas party. Christmas Eve service is when I’m gathered with family in a candlelit venue (ours is a junior high cafeteria–yours may be a church building) and FINALLY turn my heart towards the reason for the season. Oh, I’ve been MEANING to focus on Jesus daily…But, you know, I’ve been BUSY! Now I have time for the Christmas story. I’m done with all MY stuff. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

Maybe not. Maybe if I were to approach each day with the gratitude worthy of the sacrifice God made for me, for you, then every sermon would be like the Christmas Eve sermon–Holy and Warm. Maybe if we approached each Sunday morning as an opportunity to worship a God whose love is so compelling, so intimate, so extravagant that we would allow our hearts to be captured. For the first time or for the hundredth.


Not feeling like Christmas?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“It just doesn’t feel like Christmastime.”

A sentiment I’ve heard more than a few times this year. Maybe it’s the economy or all the bad news coming out of Washington. Maybe it’s too much political correctness run amok.

I’ve noticed fewer and fewer people wishing each other a Merry Christmas these days, and when I wish someone a Merry Christmas, their response is often a surprised, “Oh. Merry Christmas to you, too.”

It’s certainly not a recent phenomenon. This time of year is filled with sadness and longing for many people for all kinds or reasons. Take Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for example. The tragic death of his wife and his son being severely injured in a Civil War battle left little for him to be merry and bright about. He poured out his despair in a poem entitled Christmas Bells on Christmas Day, 1863.

So, if you’re not feeling much of the Christmas spirit, take heart. Know that you’re not alone and know that there is still hope to be found.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

Their old familiar carols play

And wild and sweet the words repeat

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along the unbroken song

Had rolled along the unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:

And in despair I bowed my head:

"There is no peace on earth," I said,

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

"For hate is strong and mocks the song

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth good-will to men!"

Of peace on earth good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men."

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,

Till, ringing singing, on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Demystifying graduation correspondence

There are some things you know because you’ve been taught, some things you know through experience, and some things you just sort of figure out through observation and equal portions of common sense and courtesy.

Lately I’ve felt convicted about my attitude towards my fellow human beings. Where I used to try and see the good in people, now I seem to only notice an abundance of rude and self-centered behavior. I mostly blame this phenomenon on my spending an inordinate amount of time in grocery store parking lots, but that’s a whole other post and I digress…

As graduation season comes to a close, it occurs to me that there is an unspoken etiquette one must follow when sending and receiving graduation correspondence–at least that’s been my experience. And because I’ve decided it’s better to shine a light than curse the darkness, I wanted to share with you, dear reader, my wealth of information about graduation season, and perhaps prevent a potentially embarrassing faux pas in the future.

I know. You’re welcome.

The graduation announcement

Dear katdish,

Over the past several weeks, I have received several graduation announcements from distant nieces and nephews, children of women in my Bunko group and the young lady at the end of the block I used to buy Girl Scout cookies from. Since many of the graduation ceremonies are being held on the same day, I can’t possibly attend them all. How can I graciously decline these invitations and how do I determine which ceremony I actually do attend?


Perplexed in Poughkeepsie

Dear Perplexed,

Relax. A graduation announcement is not an invitation to the actual ceremony, it is merely an invitation to send the graduate a gift, preferably in the form of a check or money order. In the event that you receive an actual invitation, be advised that the graduate or the parent of the graduate considers to a special friend or relation, therefore the gift should be at least thirty dollars. If you were actually expected to attend, you would have already received a phone call confirming your attendance.

The graduation party

If you receive an invitation to a graduation party, congratulations. You are in the inner circle of close family and friends. You probably already know whether your presence is expected. It’s been my experience that if the graduate is young enough to be your son or daughter, you may politely excuse yourself after hors d’oeuvres and/or dinner has been served so that the young folks can crank the music and get their freak on.

Decoding the thank you card

Thank you so much for the gift! It really means a lot to me. I had a very special day.



The above was an actual thank you card I recently received. Unless you bought the graduate a new car or paid for their first year of college tuition, a generic thank you card is perfectly acceptable. In this age of electronic communication, it’s nice to get a hand written thank you note from anyone, let alone an 18 year old whose main source of written communication is texting on their phone. And while I know the same note may have been written to several people, knowing the kid (and his mother), I also know that his appreciation was sincere.

So there you have it. I hope I’ve helped in some small way to demystify the secret language of graduation correspondence.

Any recent graduates in your life?

Any sage advice to pass on that I may have missed?

Moving past your fear

It’s graduation season again. It seems like every year we get at least one of two graduation invitations–mostly from kids we know from church, but this year we received invites from some very special kids, special to me, that is. Because these kids grew up right before my eyes. I swear it was only last week they were graduating kindergarten, and now here they are about to enter college. Even though they’re not my own, I’m so proud of them all, and their graduations remind me how little time I have left before my own kids will be sending out those invitations.

But that’s not the only graduation invitation we received. We also have a good friend graduating from law school. After three years of juggling a blended family with four kids (the fourth being born a little over a year ago), heading up the children’s ministry at our church, AND going to law school, she now has a law degree and a bright future ahead of her.

High school graduation gifts are as easy as writing a check, and that’s exactly what I’ll give to the high school graduates. But what do you give someone graduating from law school? A nice pen set? That would be good, I love a good pen set, but that’s so typical. In the end, I decided to combine two things I love: painting and a good quote:

In case you can’t read my scripty writing, here’s the quote again:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
~Marianne Williamson

I love that quote, and not just for the graduate. It’s for you, too.

Instead of thinking of a thousand reasons and excuses why you’ll never be the person you’d always dreamed you’d be, instead of insisting that you could never be good enough to do that thing that makes you feel truly alive, instead of asking yourself, “Who am I to think I could ever reach the stars?”, ask yourself, “Who am I NOT to?”

It’s your life. Live it or live in it.

Congratulations, Kerri. You’re amazing.

Unexpected Gifts

For the first time since my now 14 year old son was an infant, we spent Christmas away from home. This was also the first year we didn’t leave milk and cookies for Santa, because my 10 year old daughter informed me a few months ago that gig was up. Spending time with both sides of the family during the holidays can be difficult to do. Throw a divorced set of grandparents into the mix and it can be a logistical nightmare. Fortunately, my divorced parents are both within a few hours drive of us, so we usually visit my dad and his wife one weekend in December and reserve Christmas day for spending it with my mom and sisters, who live here.

This year, we exchanged gifts with both of my parents, my sisters, my brother and his family (via airmail from Hawaii) and with each other prior to December 25.

My in-laws have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to spending time with the grand kids at Christmas because my husband and I decided when the kids were still small that we would spend Christmas at home. But this year was different. Because not only were we celebrating Christmas, we were also celebrating my father-in-law’s 90th birthday on December 22. That’s a pretty big deal in my book. So we packed up the kids and Buddy Love the Dog and headed to New Mexico. The party was wonderful. My father-in-law shared a little about each decade of his life. It’s really quite amazing all the modern conveniences we take for granted.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, all of our gifts had already been opened. I thought it would be a let down not to have any gifts on Christmas morning, but it was far from that. Because I was the recipient of gifts void of wrapping or bows, but they were still wonderful and will be cherished:

-An unexpected White Christmas

-A nine hour car ride home on Christmas Day with nary an argument between my kids. Thank you, Jesus for books and electronic devices beginning with the small letter “i”.

-Time away from my computer. Time spent reading 11/22/63–Stephen King’s latest novel. It’s a monster of a book, and I seriously doubt I would be almost finished with it had I not been away from all of my usual distractions. I’ll let you know my final verdict when I’m done, but based upon what I’ve read so far, I’d say it’s one of his best. If you’ve read “It”, you gotta read this one. Some old friends from Derry resurface in 11/22/63. There are few things in life I enjoy more than getting lost in an epic story.

-Games of train dominoes, homemade Chex mix, cookies, candy and way too much food. Conversations and nightly play along Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune viewings. Little things, but memorable ones.

These gifts were unexpected but cherished, but not all gifts received are cherished. Sometimes when you receive a gift and you say, “Oh, you really shouldn’t have”, what you mean to say is, “No, you REALLY shouldn’t have!”.

But more on that later…

Hope y’all are having a blessed holiday season, if not downright joyful.


At the end of a day dedicated to mothers, with gifts both store bought and hand made

the very best gifts are not from the ones bearing gifts

but the gift bearers themselves.

Feeling very blessed and grateful. Hope you are as well.

Pillow Talk

A rare photo of my bed when it’s made

There are too many decorative pillows on my bed.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate.

I should say there are too many decorative pillows on the floor next to my bed: 3 euroshams, 2 king sized shams, 1 large square, 2 smaller squares and 2 rounds. I don’t make the bed every day. It takes too long. That’s my excuse, anyway…

Why all the pillows? Because I love the idea of a beautifully made bed, I just don’t like to spend the time it takes to make that idea a reality. I would prefer to have bedding that was less fussy, but I resist the change. Why?

Investment – The bedding is seven years old. Even so, it’s in good condition. It was also custom made and a lot of money was spent on it. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that my mom is an excellent seamstress, so the cost of labor wasn’t the issue, and my mother-in-law bought the fabric as a house warming gift. But the fabric was still expensive, and money was spent.) The matching window treatment is also custom made, as are the coordinating window treatments in the adjoining master bedroom. Then there’s the coordinating paint and accessories, etc. It seems like such a waste of time and money to redecorate just to avoid making my bed every day.

Coordinating window treatments in the master bath

But in the end, it’s just stuff. Pretty nice stuff, but stuff all the same. Perhaps I should make my bed every day. Then I could enjoy the beauty of a beautifully made bed.

But sometimes I think the things we want to own end up owning us. It’s a struggle for me. I need to simplify, and enjoy the gifts that cannot be bought with money. The gifts that are priceless.