Sunday, November 29, 2020

What Does Christmas Mean To You?

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.

In the past I have started my Christmas Planner about this time as I don't like to be hassled by Christmas in a material way before the season sort of begins. I follow my planning so all the things in preparation get done and I don't forget anything. Following my plan also helps me to use the time of Advent as being all part of Christmas rather than just one day. I also have birthdays into November so I am still thinking of them.

However this year has been different...

"Tell me about it", I hear you say.

Who would have thought this time last year when we heard reports of a virus in China that the world would be changed in 2020.

In fact thinking of that, who knows what anything holds for us in the future.

Now don't get me wrong I am not putting a damper on Christmas or the new year or life in general ... but its made me think, "How do we use all this for good?"

As we take actions to keep ourselves and those around us safe; the scientists search for a safe reliable vaccine; we learn to live in this 'new' way of life - we indeed have to look at Christmas in a different way.

How do we do that, when we are so used to the way we have celebrated this time of the year and restrictions pose obstacles we don't like? (especially in other parts of the world)

Or maybe the whole world situation creates the way we go about this time different or with a sense of dread as to what might happen before we even get to the 25th of December.


What Does Christmas Mean To You?

It's a question to ask yourself as we go into the season to help us cope and put into place the things that really matter. 

When you stop and ask yourself that question I would suggest you really think about it.

Is it time with family?

Is it food and drink, and plenty of it?

Is it a holiday away from all the hassle?

Is it relatives that you really dread being with!?

Is it a time of expense that you hate?

For me it is some of those but it is mainly a time as a Christian that I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Yes we have food, there are decorations to put up and enjoy, we try to be with family and have times with friends, we exchange presents the I have saved for during the year, but I also focus on the nativity and what the meaning of the birth of Christ means to me.

I have an array of Nativity scenes I set up around other Christmas decorations. My tree is filled with angles to remind us of the host of angels who announced the good news of Jesus' birth to a group of humble shepherds.

Luke 2:8-16

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

What does Christmas mean to you?

This year the Hope Project are encouraging churches and people to put Christ back into Christmas.

Too many cards, treats and advertising media are removing the word Christ and either using an "X" or just calling it 'holiday' items. As a Christian for me Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus my saviour and although people may argue that it is a pagan festival or that I shouldn't push my views onto others, the point I make is it is a time for my family and I to celebrate and we will do it the way that means the most to us.

God says in His Word, the Bible

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Leviticus 23:2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies 

Now I know that these scriptures are actually meaning events in the Old Testament, which are part of the Jewish traditions, but God wants us to remember Him and to pass what we know onto others, and in celebrating Christmas for its real meaning we are doing just that.

I hope and pray that this Christmas as we adapt to what these times have caused us to now do, that you seek out the true meaning of Christmas.

Whatever your answer for the question this post asks, you need to make it what you want.

If you wish to follow my Christmas Plan it starts here.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Things We Say

I wasn’t sure what to title this post as I wasn’t sure what it was that I was wanting to say (write) but as it progressed, I released it was all about “The Things We Say.” 

For those of you who don’t know me I have five beautiful grown-up children (8 grandchildren) and Harry and I have been married for 42 years. 

I am immensely proud of our children; who they are and what they have achieved and become. I’m not so much proud for being their mum (although “Yes” I am) but more of who they are. Each is different in their own way but they are all ‘from’ me and the things I have said, not said, done and not done shaped the beginning of their life journey. And now I see them all as adults having succeeded in each of their paths and all they do. I love them all dearly and want to be apart of their lives but I don’t want to be that interfering, intrusive mother and create a feeling for them that cringes each time I turn up! I feel privileged to share in their journeys, the highs and lows and I admit it hurts a little when I’m not or if I have no idea what is going on with their lives. 
In fact for one of them I struggle that they don’t want that for me. I know that sounds all a bit 'what about me" but I'm a mother and you just can't take the mothering out of me 😀

I am presently going through a book/study titled “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans I bought through Book Depository. 

She titled October as learning the art of Gentleness. I thought I had that sussed but it appeared I didn’t. 

I have learnt through this that I say some pretty cutting things to not just family but anyone really, that are not ‘gentle’. 

Now let’s be honest here, there are things we don’t like about people even when we love them including ourselves but that’s what makes us who we are and we know that the only ‘perfect One’ is Christ Jesus Himself so don’t be hard on yourselves. People will often say nice things about me and I have learnt to take them on board and accept them but I have had the other side of the coin too. Some of my children have said they don’t like the way I talk to their Dad. I thought “What’s wrong with the way I talk to him?” and this month I have learnt why. 

Rachel talks in her book about a ‘Jar of Contention’ she writes, and I quote: 
So to kick some of my less-than-gentle habits, I have made a “jar of contention,” which works a bit like a swearing jar. 
Each time I am caught in the act of gossip, nagging, complaining, exaggerating, or snark I put a penny in the jar. At the end of the month, each penny represents one minute I have to spend doing penance on the rooftop of my house to simulate what it is like to live with a contentious woman. 
I had to look up the meaning of contention to truly understand it: 

noun: a struggling together in opposition; strife. a striving in rivalry; competition; contest. strife in debate; dispute; controversy. a point contended for or affirmed in controversy.

Snark is from the word’s “snide” and “remark”.  

"Snarky" is used to describe speech with a specific emotional tone, typically a form of sarcasm informed by cheekiness and a mild, playful irreverence or impudence. When the dominant intent of the communication is to express or convey direct or judgmental rudeness, the sense of mild cheekiness is lost and the overall communication crosses the line to become "snide."

And there it was – I make snarky comments. 

I have come to realize that my mother made comments to me over the years when she didn’t agree or like what I did or said and they were ‘snarky”. Whether she meant to or not she was trying to make herself clear how she felt and being family, one thinks one can get away with talking like that. Well you can’t because it still leaves a mark. 

They say that behavior is shaped by nature and nurture. I’m not sure what the percentage is but these all are part of who we are. Whether we wanted to or not we pick up some of these learned behaviours that may or may not be beneficial to us. 

I started my ‘Jar of Contention” halfway through October using marbles (instead of coins as Rachel had because we just don't have coins anymore) and I soon learnt that I used snarky comments when ever I wanted to get a response of action or have the last comment to keep the silence. I’m not going to go into them but I felt terrible as each day progressed. 

The first day there were 6 marbles, then 5, six again and after a couple of days there would be 3 or 4 a day. After two and a half weeks there were 51 marbles in the jar. Now that would mean if I followed through with Rachels course of action I was going to have to sit on the corner of our roof for 51 minutes. 

Proverbs 21:9  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. 

What is really interesting is that this verse is repeated again - And if there is one thing I have learnt is that if God repeats something its something He really wants you to know.

Proverbs 25:24  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.  

I hate to think what it would have been if I had done it for the whole month! 

I decided I wasn’t going to actually do this as Rachel had, because it seemed like a waste of 51 minutes and I had learnt my lesson well and truly. There may be times when I still think snarky remarks especially when ‘promises’ are not carried through but I have learnt that the remark does nothing to help and only cuts the person it is aimed at. I have learnt to listen more and say less. I have also learnt to “hear” what is being said (or not) and to think about what is the most helpful and nicest way to aid, if need be, the other person if it truly is an issue. But I have learnt most that “Dah” I can’t have it my way. If correction is needed then sure speak about it in a caring way to encourage a positive turn around but to get one’s own way is manipulative and controlling. 

OK I’m not saying I have won the battle. I still have thoughts and the urge to say something cutting or snide because I don’t like what has or hasn’t been done or said, but I feel so good when I realize what it is and I keep it to myself. I have learnt a fault of mine and am coming a long way to lose it and be one step closer to a gentle woman in her speech.

Scripture taken from the New International Version

Monday, October 26, 2020

Where do I start?

Some of you will be aware that its nearly a year since I last posted here on my blog.

Others will just have chanced upon here and be none the wiser...

But we all know that 2020 is and will be known as, and I quote Queen Elizabeth II in a speech she made at Guildhall on 24 November 1992, an "annus horribilis"  - meaning "horrible year". 

If you have been living in outer space or closer to the earth in the deepest parts of Africa you may not know that 2020 is the year that the world was infected with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. 'CO' stands for corona, 'VI' for virus, and 'D' for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as '2019 novel coronavirus' or '2019-nCoV.'   

For most of us our lives have changed and millions have been infected (at this time the world total is 43,355,163) and many lives have been lost (at the same date 1,159,200). We are now seeing a second wave across the world and some predict it will be with us for another year. [statistics taken from Worldometer]

We wash our hands a lot more than we used to, use hand sanitizer before and after we go in to shops, cafes, appointments etc and keep our distances. We keep records of where we've been and who we have been with and in New Zealand we now use the NZ COVID tracer app. We are reminded to cough and sneeze into our elbow. In the past you went to work when you were unwell after dosing up on some flu relief medication, but now we stay home and check to see if we need a COVID test. So much for the old advertisement slogan "Solider on with Coldral".

I admit this all threw me into a bout of anxiety especially when New Zealand went into 'lockdown' and I felt we were coming out of each level too soon, but it always seem to be OK and the rest of the world looked at New Zealand in awe at what we have achieved.

But 2020 was more than just the stress of COVID for me.

In January we lost my sister Ailsa to bowel cancer.

Mum turned 90 in April but we were in lockdown so it passed uneventfully. We thought we could celebrate her 91st next year instead, but...

In August Mum passed away to be with her Lord and Saviour.

In less than a month our pastor John, who I had worked along side and become very close to as a friend and colleague, passed away too from cancer.

Not to mention another friend who died within a week of that.

So yes this year has been sit (opps missed out the "h"😉) and its only October!

That is why I haven't been up to writing much especially on here. 

Over the last month or so I had a crisis of faith. God remained faithful and took me on a journey, even though at the time, I didn't think He was there at all and I am now on a new path and keen to get back to things again. 

You may wonder "Why the picture at the top?" When I was struggling with it all, I stopped by Lake Taupo on my way home from a trip to Wellington, to see my Dad. As I sat and watched the water, the birds and realized how I was feeling, this tree was just there - all on its own. 

And that was how I felt.

All alone.

But, as I have said, I have come through and the desire to post again was only held back by, "Where do I start?"

Friday, December 27, 2019

Boxing Day

In New Zealand along with a lot of British Empire countries, Boxing Day is a holiday, the day after Christmas (26 December). Its' traditional meaning is taken from the giving of a box or basket filled with holiday gifts or food the day after Christmas. It comes from a time when the rich used to box up gifts to give to the poor, a ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a special ‘Christmas Box’ from the master as a present. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.

These days it has taken on its own demises with commercialism meaning the Boxing Day sales entice most to spend more in bargains they might miss out on. There are major sporting events, traditional mid-winter swims in the northern hemisphere and before it was cancelled in 2004 fox hunts were a traditional part of the day.

I refuse to be drawn into the sales and this year family who had  stayed and celebrated at others were gone. Harry rode his bike to the boxing day bike street racing in Wanganui so I was at home alone. It was a day for me of clearing up after family, washing sheets etc and just resting and reading.

My readings for the day had been from Matthew 2:1-12 where it clearly states that the Magi or wise men were not there straight after Jesus was born. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea... 
so the three wise men did not visit Jesus for a week or so (Epiphany) after he was born although at Christmas we include them in nativity scenes. We know that the shepherds were the first to be told about the birth and went straight away to the stable to see the Christ Child, but who else knew?
Who else visited or saw?
Perhaps the inn keeper came to check on them and maybe some who heard the shepherds rejoicing  17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But what was that first boxing day, the day after the birth like?
Mary had given birth. It seems it happened at night.
Was a midwife called?
Was Mary and the baby checked that all was well?
Who cleaned up the mess?
They had been visited by a group of shepherds come in from the fields.
Were they a smelly lot? hovering around an hours old baby.
Did those who had heard come to look and see as well?
Did Joseph have to go out and get in some food and water?
Exactly when did they have to go and register for the census?

So for a time Mary would have been alone. In a lowly stable with her baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a food trough for the animals.
She had time to think.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

This boxing day I had time to think.
To ponder those first days of Jesus life.
What a start for a King, my Saviour.
I don't imagine those swaddling cloths being very clean or white. They were bands of cloth, probably cotton and the custom at the time was to wrap the new-born in these strips of cloth after washing the body and anointing it in powdered salt. First the baby was laid on its back diagonally on a square sheet of this cotton cloth. After folding the cloth around the infant the shroud was tied with ribbons. Then the baby was wrapped, arms and legs included, with the “swaddling cloth.” This binding prevented the baby from hurting himself by kicking or scratching or rolling over.
Mary would have seen this done and knew what to do.

But after the build up and climax of Christmas - that first Christmas - the birth of Jesus, the day after will have been quiet.

New born baby cries, the murmurings of animals in the stable, the noises outside by those passing by would just be happenings around but the stillness of a new birth will have been quiet.

In those days women would have been around mothers who had given birth to help and know what was involved, but Mary was away from family.
She was alone with just Joseph her husband of less than nine months.
A time of reflection and to wonder at what the future had in store.
Was she worried, afraid of what to do next?
Was she unsure of how to bring up this Child of God?

I too reflected on the events of the last few months for myself and family and wondered, as well, what the future holds.
We are encouraged at this time of year to think about the last year and the coming new one but it is often closer to the 31st of December.
I, whoever, focused on my journey and all that I hope and pray will be for my family, friends and me.

Take time over the next week to just focus and ponder on what you want in your life and seek to fulfill it.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas 2019

Wellington Harbour 

Christmas for 2019 was very busy, starting for me with a trip to Wellington the weekend before.

Harry chose not to come so I flew and was met at Wellington airport by my sister-in-law. We drove to the top of Mount Victoria to climb the steps and take the typical Wellington harbour pic so often used for Wellington. It might look nice enough but believe me it was very windy and a bit chilly!

We had a bit of a ladies day out having morning tea around in a cafe in Days Bay and then a bit of a drive around Eastbourne and its homes. These are rather expensive but actually are rather nice if you like large older early settler homes.

The following day we went to the airport again and picked up my sister who had also flown in to have a Purdie clan Christmas with our parents.

Adan and Kate - grandchildren
This was to be a special time for us all as a family, as my parents are both getting old (Dad is 90 and Mum will turn 90 in April next year) and some are experiencing ill health at the moment. It will be a time to nestle in my memory for the rest of my life.

The following day (Saturday) we all arrived at my parents including my eldest and her family for a lovely spread for lunch supplied by my two sister-in-laws. It was lovely to have this time together for a few hours and then we regrouped for leftovers for dinner.

Our family have always had the tradition of taking a family group photo on Christmas day.

Me and Gordon (holding his dog Hammy)at the back
(Sitting) Ailsa, Dad, Mum and Stuart standing on the right

Back Row:  Stuart, Liz, Dianne, Me, Gordon (holding Hammy)
Front Row: Ailsa, Dad and Mum
The following day I took Dad and Mum to their Church for a lovely pre-Christmas service where we focused on Joseph and how he felt about the fact that his wife was having a baby who was not his but, the Son of God. I had a last stop at my eldest and then they dropped me off at the Wellington airport to see the planes and after a twenty minute delay, I flew home.

The airport is very automated these days and I don't like not having the personal touch of check-in staff. I'm not a frequent flyer so its rather special for me to fly anywhere. I wonder if the two missing bags of luggage that caused our flight to be delayed, would have been lost had there been people overseeing all that.

Harry picked my up from the airport and we arrived back in Tirau just in time for the end of the annual Carols by Candlelight on the Tirau Community Churches front lawn. I must admit it felt a little odd not having had anything to do with the preparations as I no longer work in the office.

From the following day on it was a bit of a flurry of last minute shopping for food now I knew some family were coming to stay and then the arrival of our eldest and her family who stayed for two nights.

While her parents and brother went shopping Kate enjoyed some time with Opa and Nana, helping Opa in the vegetable garden - something they don't have as they live in an apartment and making some muffins with me. We also made lollie cake a traditional sweet treat I have associated with Christmas for years. My Granny made it and it was a rule in our family that you had to be thirteen and over to be allowed to have a slice.

When it was time for some lunch Kate and I sat out under the big spreading silk tree in the middle of our front lawn to enjoy a bit of cool from being in the hot kitchen baking and to taste the muffins warm from the oven.

Interestingly, Harry reminded us that the chair we were sitting on was made by Kate's mum when she was at high school and in a group of students in a YES team. (Young Enterprising Students.) They made the garden chairs and table (in front) using up-cycled fence strainers etc from local farms. It's stood the test of time for over twenty-two years but is in need of a little repair so it doesn't fall to bits when sat on in the not too distant future. Kate found it interesting that her mother had made the furniture.

Finally all those last minute things seemed to have been done and we had a light tea, settled into the evening with the two grandchildren putting up their stockings on Christmas Eve in the lounge.

As a child I had a large woolen sock of my fathers that was put at the end of the bed and some time during the night it would get filled. As a parent I couldn't understand how it was done without waking us up and it wasn't until even later that I was told the other sock in the pair that we had at the end of our beds was filled in another room and just placed in exchange of the empty one. No wonder I never really noticed it happening. - the magic of Christmas.

The children had pics in their new pajamas beside our tree. A tradition Theresa has started for her family. Of course Santa was left a large glass of milk and a Christmas mince pie which Kate got ready.

Keeping traditions that are special to you and making new ones of your own are important for memory making and building a strong family. The traditions and not the actually gifts etc are what make the special events in life, beautiful times.

Christmas Day dawns warm and fine and the children had unwrapped their stocking gifts before I rose!. We had breaky and after a family Christmas Church service we went out to Carl and Sarah's for a lovely time celebrating the birth of Jesus.

As usual Sarah had prepared a beautiful meal with some help from her siblings and then, as our family traditions are, the giving of gifts from under the tree was had after the lunch time dishes were done.

It was a special time as all our (Harry and mine) family were their except our youngest - but I believe that one day she too will join us on the occasional time that we can all gather together in this joyous time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ so long ago.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas Planner (8)

Christmas Planner
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

If you have been following my Christmas Plan that started here, you will have a planner with

  • A calendar 
  • Planner page with added menu 
  • Ideas sheet 
  • Stationary needs 
  • Gift list 
  • Gift shopping list 
  • Book or list of Card recipients 
  • Christmas letter
  • Important dates

This is probably it for the planner, but you need to keep it with you when it comes to Christmas things so you can be sure you are doing/getting what you need and no fall off the wagon. You may even have other things you would like to add to it like favourite recipes, addresses etc.
Keep the planner when Christmas is over for next year so you can use it again and make new lists or  slightly change things you have done. I also like to refer to it after Christmas to note anything I didn't like or forgot to do/add
It's also good as it lets you know what you gave/did last Christmas.

So today we are ready to go and shop.
Now before you rush out the door you need to think of the Christmas song

"He's making a list
He's checking it twice...."

Check your gift list.
Have you got all the ideas sorted?
Are you sure it is what the person wants/needs? You don't want to find they have sold it on Trade Me on Boxing Day!
Check for sizes, colours, title etc.
Sort out what shops you will need to go to, to purchase them.
As I have mentioned before I save for this time but I also need to stick to that budget.
If you prefer to buy online make sure you are only buying what you want not being sucked in by something extra for a few more dollars. Also take into consideration the cost of packaging and courier fees.

You might also like to check your other purchase lists for stationary and non-perishable grocery items.

Now armed with the lists go out for the day and enjoy the shopping. Remember to stick to what you have planned and don't get sucked into all the other enticing displays and adverts to get you to buy more.

Make sure you treat yourself to a nice stop for a coffee or what ever you fancy during the day to reward you successful planning. This is fun.

And please remember this is the time for joy - the true meaning of Christmas is Love.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas Planner (7)

Christmas Planner
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

So now the fun begins.

By now I have written all my cards and posted them.
I am confident in all my lists (Cos' I love lists - they help me not to panic!)
I know what is and isn't' happening for the Christmas Celebrations (Unless something changes and you can't plan for that, but just learn how to adapt! - breathe)
So although some things and parties have happened I am now ready to run with it.

Depending on what day of the week it is I either get the tree up and decorated or at least get it started.

Note Milly under the tree.
I love the season of Christmas and so decorate a few places.
My sister just has a table setting of candles and a few Christmasy things on a platter type arrangement. It is a precious time for meditation of the meaning of Christmas as she is on her own and so doesn't go for all the tree and trimmings.

So what ever makes you feel happiest then do - and if others want something else get them to do it. Just don't complain if you suddenly decide you want it done a different way to what they do e.g. the way the tree is decorated.

I don't like to decorate to far in advance because then I get a bit 'tired' of it, but I do want it up for awhile before the task of taking it all down is upon me and I end up thinking "I've only just put it up!"

Hubby does the lights outside the house and this is actually best started at the end of November so you can get them all up and connected well before you actually want to have them turned on.

Day 8 can be found here