MERRY CHRISTMAS to YOU & YOURS!

December 25, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

I wish you and yours a very Merry and Wonderful Christmas, filled with joy and peace, happiness and love!

manger

May God’s love be born and grow in your heart from this day forth!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

In this most blessed season

May we all remember

God’s Greatest Gift…

The Christ Child

Born in a stable

Come to save the World!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
from Staci Stallings


The Magic of Christmas

December 19, 2011

By: Staci Stallings

Around my house, Christmastime is a magical time. I don’t know why that is exactly, but I know it to be true. For one thing, I have three children who each in their own way absorb the season. One records every last second with her camera.  One gets into holiday baking and cooking. And my little guy was simply made for Christmas.

He loves the lights and the songs and the tree and the stockings.  He wears a Santa hat with reindeer ears for three weeks, and he can’t WAIT to put up the decorations. You can see the joy and anticipation in his eyes any time Christmas-anything happens.  It could be a television show or visiting Santa at the mall.  Even Christmas Mass and going to the Grandmas’ houses is just… special for him.

And I think when something is in-your-heart-and-soul special, special things tend to happen to you.  Magical things that maybe everyone else doesn’t even get to see.

So this story, which really, truly happened, shouldn’t be that big of a surprise to anyone who understands magical, special things.  To those who no longer hear the bell ring on Christmas morning, every word of this is true, and I hope in the re-telling of it, you might hear a single jingle or a little jangle and remember that Christmas is magical because of the hope and joy our Savior brought us on that morning so long ago.

Two years ago we had guests come to our house in mid-Spring.  I remember seeing the first one because it nearly scared me to death when it sauntered right by my office window in our backyard.  The second came shortly thereafter.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a real-life deer up close, but I will tell you–they are truly beautiful animals.  These two deer hung out in our back yard, nibbling on the trees and enjoying the peacefulness of our yard.  Then one day, I glanced out in our garden and was amazed to realize that one of the deer had just had a baby fawn.  I called the kids and we watched out our window as it took its first few steps.

In a week we had two fawns and two mama deer in our 2 acres in the back.  They were quite the sight all summer!  Sometimes they would leave, and we would wonder about them.  Then after a few weeks, they would be back.  Then in September, they left and I didn’t figure we would ever see them again.

Then… as miracles would have it… the day before Christmas Eve two of the deer showed up in our backyard.  Again, I was working, and again, that deer went sauntering right past my window.  I called the kids and the oldest grabbed her camera.  We took several pictures of them, amazed that they had returned.

I’m not sure who thought of it, but someone said they wondered if Santa was wondering where his reindeer had gone.  The two deer were quickly given the names Dancer and Blitzen.

My husband was working at the shop, which is just across the street from our house.  At lunchtime we were in the kitchen baking when a call came in on his cell phone.  He said to our 7-year-old son, “I think you’d better take this one.”

The caller ID clearly identified the caller… Santa!

My son got on the phone, his eyes wide as he looked at all of us wondering if it really could be Santa himself.  And it was, in fact, the big guy!  He told my son that he had lost two of his reindeer and he was really worried about them.  He asked if we had seen them.  My son said that yes, we had seen them.  They were in our backyard!

Santa was very relieved.  He said that it was okay if they just stayed here.  He would get them when he came through on Christmas Eve if that was okay.  Of course, my son readily agreed to that and told Santa we would take very good care of them until he got here.

When we awoke Christmas Eve morning (Santa always comes to our house early so we can go to the Grandmas’ for Christmas), there were indeed presents under our tree.  And when we went into the backyard, both deer were in fact gone.  We have not seen them since.

I’m sure glad magical things happen at my house.  It makes me remember that sometimes you have to believe before you can see.

 


Two Steps Forward…

December 6, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels like this–especially at this time of the year.  I know I’m making a lot of progress.  If I look back at my lists, there are dozens and dozens of things crossed off, and yet, why do I feel so behind?

Need to blog, upload one book to Kindle another to the printer.  I get one half-done, and then hit a snag.  I get the other 3/4 done, and hit a different snag.  I’ve got eight projects going, all waiting to overcome some snag.

Christmas feels doable until I remember the Christmas cards aren’t out, the presents aren’t wrapped, I haven’t bought anything for candy or for the dish to bring.  I have no decorations up, and nothing bought for our meal here.  I guess when you have so little done two weeks out, you figure some magic elf is going to come do it all or something.

Then there’s the outside projects–like the Sunday School game and the notebooks I haven’t graded.  Ready writing is just a blur at this point.  I’m supposed to sub on Friday.

Between now and then, we’ve got pictures with Santa, dresses to buy, at least one more present to get, a Christmas program, gymnastics… Oh, and I forgot homework–spelling test, reading test.  And then the real fun begins with semester tests for two of the kids!

I’d love to get the book I’m working on finished, and I’m only 180 something pages from doing that.  My house REALLY needs cleaned.  Laundry is stacking up.  It would be nice to eat off of clean dishes too.  My van hasn’t been cleaned out since Thanksgiving, so there are about 10 games in various states of together in the back.

At this point all I can do is the task that’s right in front of me at the moment.

I told my mom the other day when I had to hem my daughter’s choir dress that she (my mom) made all of this look so easy.  I was wondering if she was really winging a lot of it.  She just smiled.

My only hope is that I’m winging it somewhere in the vicinity of how she did because she sure had me fooled.

So, to you, have a blessed Advent season, try not to get too frazzled.  Just do the thing in front of you.  Somehow, everything will either get done or it won’t.  Either way, it will be what it is, and that will be good enough.

Take the steps forward you can, and don’t worry too much about those steps back.  I’m beginning to think we all do it, and with God’s help, somehow, it works.


Are You a Star?

December 28, 2009

By:  Staci Stallings

Our world today is obsessed with stars–celebrities who make a lot of money, gain a lot of fame, or otherwise dominate the chitter-chatter of masses.  Many of us wish, even if fleetingly, that we could be a star, but most will never attain that “level” of “success.”

I found, however, a different and probably more important way to be a star this weekend.  So if you’re interested or have ever thought it would be nice to be a star, here’s your chance!

Not sure where this thought came from other than “up there,” but I was thinking about how a year or so ago, my sister compared me to the Magi.  I believe I wrote about that at the time–how she said I was a Magi because I was always looking for signs that would point me to God.  I thought that was really cool at the time.  This weekend, I had cause while thinking about that, to look just a little higher into the story.

I happened to be at my hometown church, which is always good for a few hundred incredible insights into life, and at my hometown, they have this HUGE creche inside the church.  The trees are as tall as live trees, decked out in white lights with this star above it.  Of course, Mary and Joseph have the Baby Jesus lying in a manger underneath.  This year I had cause to think about that star.  The one so long ago.  The one that was there, shining in the night, guiding the Wisemen to the place where Jesus was.

You may have heard the saying, “Wisemen still search for Him.”  Wise men still look for stars, just as I was those years ago when my sister dubbed me a Magi.  But what about that star?  Maybe it had a story too.

Now, I know, stars don’t have feelings and thoughts.  They are put in the sky for a time by God, and for their time, they shine, then they burn out and disappear.  (A bit like us, don’t you think?) But consider what if… what if… that little star so long ago DID have feelings and thoughts.  What would they have been, since that little star was SO far away from the action and burned for much longer than most of us celebrate Christmas (at least a year by most accounts)?

It might have gone something like this, “This is pointless.  I mean, when I first got here, it was fun, dancing around and everything.  But now, all I do is shine and shine and shine in the middle of all of this darkness, and what has it gotten me?  Burned fingertips that’s all.  I’m not even making a difference.  Look at all this darkness.  It’s still here.  I look out there, and there are other stars.  Sure most aren’t as bright as me, but they aren’t doing much good either.  I mean, look at ALL of this darkness.  We can never hope to overcome it.  What’s the point?  Maybe I should just tell God I’m a failure and go home.  I mean, how long can He expect me to keep this shining thing up?  I’ve been out here night after night after night, and nothing.  Sure, I heard the choirs of angels singing a couple times at first, but they haven’t done that in months.  Now I’m just out here, all alone, shining for no one to even see.  In fact, I bet those people down there on the earth don’t even know I’m here anymore…”

That’s the way we get, isn’t it?

Discouraged.  Tired.  Thinking whatever we’re doing is so meaningless as to be pointless.

We don’t often see and understand the real difference we are making… or could be making in the lives of others.

We don’t see those three Kings looking at our light and following our light to the Presence of Jesus in the world.  So sometimes we’re tempted to give up, to go home, to tell God it’s too hard.  But maybe we should take a few lessons from that little star about how to be a real star in this world.

First, the star recognized the Presence of Jesus, and the Presence of Jesus lit up the star’s life.  Do we recognize the Presence of Jesus in our lives, or do we slog through the day with our head down and our bodies on auto-pilot, trying to just get to the end of the day or the end of the week?  There is a better way.  FIND the Presence of Jesus all around you and inside of you.  Be a Magi.  Look for it.  The star found it and wanted to tell the world.

Second, let His light shine through you.  That little star had the first burst of excitement, but after that, it needed God’s power to stay lit.  Let God’s power light your life as well.

Next, remember that you never know who your light is leading.  I guarantee you, no matter who you are or where you are, someone is paying attention to your light and your life.  They are watching how you live and taking their cue from that.  It may be someone you don’t even know.  When people walk into your office, do you smile and greet them happily?  Or do you grumble and wish they would go away and let you get some work done?  There are wisemen and women out there, looking for someone to point them the right direction.  Is that person you?

Are you a star?

You can be, but you have to recognize the possibility and then act on it.  And when you get discouraged, always remember, just like that little star, God put you here for a reason.  You may not know what that reason is, but I challenge you to shine as best you can and let God work out the details you can’t even see.  The star did, and because of that, we still sing about that little star today.  To me, that’s worth remembering!

*~*~*~*~*~*

“Absolutely Wonderful!” “Best Kind of Happily Ever After!” “Second Chances DO Happen!”

The #1 Christian Inspirational Kindle Tagged for December 2011…

COWBOY

One night, he walked away from everything…

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No Room?

December 21, 2009

By:  Staci Stallings

Many Christians lament the “taking over of Christmas” by retailers and the world in general.  They rail about the commercialization of Christmas, how harried and over-hyped it’s gotten to be, how secularized.  They love to tell stories about how their local chain store had Christmas stuff up before Halloween.  Maybe they always have.  I suspect they always will.  But I want to take one small moment and point something out to you.

The “world” has ALWAYS sought to co-opt God.  They have always sought to relegate Him to the corner, to push Him aside, and convince everyone that “there’s nothing to see here… oh, look at this shiny thing over THERE!”

I have been thinking of writing this post for about a week now, but last night I got a stark reminder of it once again.  My hometown of Nazareth (yes, you read that right) used to produce an entire pageant depicting the Christmas story.  You know, the original one from the Bible.  The pageant was written many years ago and has, after 15 years in mothballs, made a comeback this year.  Because they use literally the townspeople, who number about 400 total, and about 125 are required for the play, they have some who read the lines, others who act it out, some who sing, and some who do the technical backstage stuff.  This is no small undertaking.  One cool thing is that they don’t stay with only one Gospel.  They mix them all so you get the full story rather than bits and pieces here and there.  We went to see this awesome production last night, and WOW!  I had forgotten how powerful it is.

Seeing your friends and neighbors as the shepherds in the fields, the angels from on high, the three wisemen, Mary, Joseph, and even Baby Jesus.  It’s just… WOW!

However, the scene that struck me most (because I’ve been thinking about this post) was the scene with the innkeeper.  The song they sing is called, “There was no room for Him… no room.”  It tells the story of that moment, when the Savior of the world was to be born, and no one welcomed Him.  The moment He was sent to be born in a stable because there was no room for Him the world.  Few even knew He had arrived.  In fact, the world said, “I’m sorry.  There’s no room for You here.”  So, you see, this whole, “We’re losing the meaning of Christmas” thing is not new.  It’s as old as the very night Jesus came to this earth.

But the end of that song asks a simple question about if there is room for Him in YOUR heart.

That brings me to this post.

Sure, you can rail about no one saying Merry Christmas anymore.  That’s easy.  But what are YOU doing to keep Christ in Christmas?  What traditions do YOU have that remind you and yours what the season is really all about?  Are you about the business of passing on a legacy of the real meaning of Christmas?  If not, why not?

I love my sister and her husband for a lot of reasons.  One of the reasons is because the are both fanatical (in a good way) about establishing GOOD traditions for their kids, and by extension, us.  Interestingly, the traditions change over the years, but as one falls away, it is replaced with something equally wonderful.

They were the instigators who got us to go to “Christmas in the Canyon” years ago.  That was the cowboy Christmas celebration at the beginning of December.  It was celebrated at a local children’s camp.  We would go down, have supper, go on a nighttime hayride to the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon, sing Christmas carols, make sugar cookies, then come back up and go to this OLD church and sing more songs.  The end of the night was capped off with a sing along around a roaring fire.  It was awesome.

Well, a few years after we started going, they quit doing “Christmas in the Canyon” because the main couple that ran it had a wreck.  So the next year, unwilling to let a good tradition die, my sister and her husband invited us all over to their house for chili, decorating sugar cookies, and a sing-a-long.  That’s our new tradition, and it has stuck.

Some of the traditions I’ve started include singing the old carols with my Sunday School class and explaining the symbols of Christmas to them.  In my family, we always have our Christmas meal.  It’s the only night of the year when we eat on a tablecloth covered table, by candlelight, in the living room.  The kids look forward to it.  After that meal, we open our family’s presents.  The kids always get pajamas so the have something new and fluffy to wake up in the next morning.

We have certain songs we break out every year at this time… some that are traditional, some that are funky, but all are unique to our family.  We have a tradition of going to sit on Santa’s lap and getting a picture taken.  We have a tradition of nice dresses for the girls (the only time of the year they get to go to a “real” store–JC Penney’s for clothes).  We have a tradition of sending out a Christmas letter as my husband and I both have family in far-flung places.

We have a tradition of it being extra-special to put the angel on the top of the tree (this year it was a three person job up high and a two person job to take the picture down low).  We always decorate our tree on December 12.  Why?  Because the year my husband and I got married, I had a student teaching assignment two hours away.  The 12th was the first day I got to be HOME for real.  We have decorated the tree that day ever since.  We have a tradition of celebrating Christmas with both of our families as well as extended “friend” families.

Last night we got to add going to see the Christmas pageant to our list of traditions.

Each tradition, for us, is another little reminder not just that it’s Christmas but why we celebrate Christmas and passing down to our children how important Christmas is, so they will pass it on long after we’re gone.

So, it seems to me that although the world will always try to push Christ out of Christmas, the real question is:  What are you doing in your family and beyond to welcome Christ into YOUR heart?  Or will Jesus find a “No room” sign on your heart too?

To me, that’s a choice only you can make.  And if you don’t have a tradition, start one.  Sit in your living room and read the Christmas story out loud.  Sing a few songs.  Go to church.  Have a special quiet meal.  Whatever it is, find a special way to celebrate.  You will be glad you did!


Christmas Shopping

December 9, 2008

By: Dennis Bates

My wife and I were supposed to go Christmas shopping today. It is one of the annual rituals I really don’t look forward to.

 

First, I hate to shop. I have been known to  buy new clothes only when the old ones literally fall off of me. One year at our annual office Christmas party my suit pants split right up the seam just as we were sitting down to eat. I could tell by the draft. A good friend of mine literally covered me by walking close behind me as I snuck out of the party to go home and change. As I put the coat of my only other suit on I heard an ominous tearing, and I looked back to see that the sleeve had rent itself asunder and hung by only a few threads. And there I stood with my garments torn appropriately in Old Testament fashion but I was fresh out of ashes.

 

So, I put the coat from my first suit on and wore it with the pants of the second suit. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but the first suit was a basic charcoal color leaning toward the blue gray shades and the second was a brownish color accenting lighter tan tones…with a dark brown vertical stripe. I won’t even talk about how they looked with the soft pink shirt. Hey, that color was in the year I bought it; I just don’t remember which year (or decade) that was for sure.

 

Second, I really hate to shop at Christmas time. There is never any place to park, the crowds are too large and they are full of rude people. I might even be one of them after about a half hour of being jostled to and fro. And for what? To buy some useless present for somebody who will look at it for exactly what it is: some useless present.

 

I know that there are lots of people who love to shop and love to buy things for people at Christmas. I am simply not one of them. I prefer sitting in front of the fire, listening to classic Christmas music with an occasional playing of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” I love the cookies, the smells of hot mulled cider, the laughter of good friends and family as we embellish stories of Christmas past. I can do without the presents if I have those things..

 

I look forward to the candles lit around the perimeter of the small town church I attend on Christmas Eve as we sing “Silent Night” and for a few moments at least, there is true Peace on Earth and good will toward all men and women. You can almost hear the angels themselves join in. They don’t perform it as much anymore, but I loved the Christmas pageants put on by all the small children as they reenacted the Biblical Christmas story. What could be more genuine and pure than watching a six or seven year old Mary rock the Baby Jesus in her arms as the rest of the children who are shepherds, wise men and Joseph sing “Away in the Manger?”

 

That’s Christmas to me, and if we skipped all the presents and especially the shopping for them, I would still love this time of the year, maybe even more than I do now. So today, when my wife and I woke up and the second day of an ice storm kept us from going to the mall, I was happy and thankful. What’s even better is that the freezing rain is supposed to turn to snow this afternoon, so I guess we’re stuck inside where it’s warm, shopping on the Internet. At least virtual shopping avoids the crowds and I don’t have to worry about finding a parking place.


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