This Christmas we did all the things we traditionally do as a family,
and yet,
this Christmas felt just
a little bit more
than typical.

we felt
a little bit more delight...

we had
a little bit more laughter...

we noticed
a little bit more excitement...

we enjoyed
a little bit more fun...

we moved
a little bit more s-l-o-w...

we were
a little bit more restful...

we became
a little bit more peaceful...

overall, just
a little bit more full.

Even when i woke up boxing day morning with that now familiar pressure feeling in my chest, the Lord provided a wonderful morning of rest with the kids and a fun afternoon and evening skating at my folks place with friends and family. 
 (and the feeling left and hasn't yet returned!)

God is good ALL the time, 
but I continue to count my gifts
~not the ones from under the tree~
and praise Him that the list seems never ending.

O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing! 
psalm 103:1-2 (msg)



The other day I was driving across the bridge on my way to the church when an unexpected rise of emotion came over me.  The trees were covered in hoarfrost and the river almost frozen.  Christmas music played softly on the radio as I mentally ran through what I needed to accomplish at the coming rehearsal.

I hummed along to the current song and suddenly my eyes filled with tears.  The song caused a wave of memories from Christmas 2010.

That was the last Christmas my Grandpa was alive.

here's the lego version of our Christmas Eve tradition
that my kids created last year!
At our annual Christmas Eve celebration, my mom's side of the family gathers for food, prezzies and carol singing.  We even have a special visit from Santa himself, but before that happens, the Christmas story is read.  As long as I can remember, my Grandpa, our patriarch, read the story.  Several years ago, he passed the honour to my uncle - almost as a way of preparing us for when he would no longer read to us.

Part of the reading and singing time always includes some concert recitations from the kids and a song sung by yours truly.  I tend to feel a little embarrassed doing it, but I've committed to the Lord to always be prepared to use the gifts He's given if called upon.  And my dad will always ask me for my song! :)

Two Christmases ago, I sang the song I heard the other day on the radio: "In the Bleak Midwinter."  It was soft and simple, but it meant something to me that year.  After I finished, my Grandpa asked me to sing it again.  He moved to a seat right beside the piano and I sang just for him.

In the bleak midwinter, icy wind did moan.
The earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had softly fallen, Snow on snow, on snow.
In the bleak midwinter, so long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor the earth sustain.
Heaven and earth shall fade away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed.
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What then can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet, what can I give Him? I must give my heart.

I've often wondered why he asked me to sing it again.

Was it because he couldn't hear me?

Did he simply like the way it sounded?

Did he somehow know that it would be the last Christmas song he would hear me sing?

Or was it because the words spoke truth to him?  I like that answer the best. My Grandpa often said he wasn't the smartest man, he certainly wasn't the richest and he wasn't without faults.  But he loved Jesus.  And so I like to think that the truth of the last line of the song was why he asked me to sing it again.  That it was a recommitment to once again offer the Lord his whole heart.

It's the example I hope to remember this Christmas, every Christmas, and all year long.



 Into the middle of December, and all the Hall family traditions are well underway.

We've packed shoe boxes (just in the nick of time - as usual!).

We've enjoyed school Christmas programs.

We've decked the halls (and made the traditional remarks about how that carol is offensive to our family - haha).

We've baked up a storm, and have watched the supply dwindle as we've enjoyed family and friends.

We've also done the traditional "relaxed" approach to gift shopping (as in, I'm nowhere near done), and the equally unfocused tradition of the Christmas card photo....(or maybe New Year's card?).

Our family traditions seem to mean more to our kids every year.  This is an amazing gift I did not expect.  But I have found that the same traditions that we look forward to and intentionally make part of our family Advent season can be the very things that distract me from taking the time to really listen to what the Lord wants me to learn this Christmastime.

And so, as the opportunities come in bits and pieces through the weeks, I must steal away - maybe light a little candle - and be still.  I must make the time to focus my heart and mind on the coming of Christ.  Not only the first coming as a baby, but His promised second coming.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord

    and wait patiently for him;
psalm 37:3-7

May my days never be too busy to look to Him 
and may my heart never be too distracted to see.

What are you doing to stay focused on Jesus this Christmas?


let every heart prepare

December 1st was our church's annual Women's Christmas Potluck Brunch.  I was asked to provide a musical program, that traditionally has some spoken words throughout.  After searching and searching online for someone else's words that would communicate the things I had been thinking about, I felt the Lord calling me to write my own words.  I sang a song to get us started and my dear friend read the words while I played softly.  Together the group sang familiar words of Christmas carols.  We had a blessed time of worship.  Someone told me afterward that I should put these words "on the internet" for others to use.  
So here they are.

song: Once More (from Travis Cottrell's Christmas album, Ring the Bells)

In the beginning, God.
Before there was time and space and people, God had a plan.
He created the earth, sky and sea, animals of all kinds and then He breathed.
He breathed life into the first person.

From that point on, God watched His people try to be good enough - try to do right and live right.  He watched them fumble through on their own.
They thought they were so smart, some of them.
Others felt so lonely and insignificant.
God loved them all the same.
God so loved His world.

In His perfect timing, God laid out His plan and in His perfect way, God chose a small and seemingly insignificant town to be the landmark that would change eternity.

song: O Little Town of Bethlehem

O come to us.
Abide in us.
Lord, You are God with us - Emmanuel.

God, do You see me?
God, do You hear me?
God, they say You love me.  How can I know?

It's Christmas - a time thick with memories and traditions.
A time to remember You, Jesus.
You came to be with us, to be one of us. To show Your love for us.
There was so much confusion surrounding Your birth and Your life.
Should I shy away from confusion in my own life?

Christmas.  Noel.
Jesus You came.

song: The First Noel

God's Word says:
"See I care about you, and I will pay attention to you."

God's Word says:
"I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stoney, stubborn heart and give you a tender and responsive heart."

God's Word says:
"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."

The Lord comes in a whisper.
Will I quiet myself to hear it?

song: Silent Night (Emmanuel) ~ Matt Maher

We are here today: we face the dawn of Redeeming grace.
The sun rises and the sun sets - You, O Lord inspire our praise.
The gift of Jesus, the Love poured down: fill our hearts once again.
Refresh our imaginations.
Renew our commitment to live, walk and love through Your grace.

You alone are worthy.
Jesus, precious gift of life for now and eternity.
We bow our hearts, we bow our lives before You.
Only You.

song:  O Come Let Us Adore Him

I'm linking up with Sunday Setlists - even though this was a Saturday - to share this reading and offer it for your use.  Please let me know if you plan on using it!
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