Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Grants Pass

We spent a good part of our Christmas vacation in Grants Pass with Michael's side of the family. This is our home town! Both Michael and I grew up there. This is where we got married and where our two middle kids were born. Three + years ago my parents moved out of GP to the Salem area, leaving just one set of parents there. It still feels very different to visit and not go to my old house that I grew up in. There are a lot of memories for both Michael and I and even for our kids. While we were there we drove by almost all of the houses that we lived in and took a trip down memory lane, driving by those places that mean the most to us.

Christmas Eve was spent going to the Christmas Eve service at our home church. This was the first year in almost 15 that Michael has had Christmas Eve service off. It was so nice to sit together as a family and enjoy someone elses creative work. This service was a wonderful way to prepare our hearts and minds of the true meaning of Christmas. What fun it is to see friends and folk from our past. My youth pastor is now the senior pastor and his family did the service. His four kids are all in high school now. Each of their four kids played an instrument in the band and led us in worship. I greatly enjoyed seeing them and how they have grown; both in appearance and in the Lord. Michael and I shocked a few people with our kids and how they have grown. One dear lady that I have known almost all my life commented on how she remembered me at Mandi's age. I am sure I wasn't near as poised and mature as Mandi is. Boy, how time flies!

After the service the family got together to do our Christmas present exchange. Every year we draw names and give to that person. This year we did something different. Instead, everyone got a five dollar gift or less and we played a fun little game to see who got what. This was orchestrated by my 20 year niece, Bre. She wrote a cute little story that involved all of our names and every time she read the word right or left, we had to pass the present we were holding that direction. It was so much fun! We all had a great laugh and enjoyed seeing who got what! We had lots of fun with Micahel's parents, his sister Nancy and her husband Dave and their two girls, Bre and Kady. Michael's brother and his wife and kids were in Texas visiting family. They were greatly missed!

Christmas morning was wonderful. We actually slept in later than six this year. The kids were instructed to stay in their beds until 8:00 am, of course we really didn't enforce this. We saw what Santa brought, opened stockings and had a yummy breakfast prepared by my mother in law. Later that day Dave and Nancy and girls joined us for Christmas dinner. I went to bed early because of a bad headache, but all in all it was a beautiful Christmas. We kind of missed the snow though. All we got in GP was lots and lots of rain.

The few days following Christmas were fun and relaxful. It continued to rain, rain, rain, but we were able to enjoy a couple of movies that are out in the theaters. The whole family saw "Bedtime Stories" together. This movie entertained both the youngest and the oldest. We never take the kids to the theater because of what it costs us as a family of six, but thanks to Nana and Papa for treating us!

Michael and I got to go on an extended date on Friday night. We enjoyed dinner and another movie. We also had fun shopping for Joshy's birthday which happens two days after Christmas. I am still trying to figure out how to make his birthday extra special and not just thrown together at the last minute because of Christmas. He turned 5 this year and for the first time it is a big deal!

Saturday we heading home. We got a later start than desired because we were celebrating Joshua's birthday with family. We left town around 2p.m and drove 1 1/2 hours before finding out that HWY 62 was closed due to falling trees on the highway. We had to make a quick decision because it was getting dark and the weather wasn't the best. We stopped off at the nearest small town, Shady Cove to plug in our dead cell phones. I felt very uncomfortable traveling the long way to Redmond via Lake of the Woods in the dark and on snowy, icy roads, but Michael's job requires him to be there on Sundays. Michael made a few calls to see if any of our worship leaders who lead on occasion could fill in for us last minute. The family prayed hard and Michael was able to get a hold of someone who was very willing to help us out. We headed back to GP to spend a couple more days with family before coming home today. This made my mother in law very happy!!

We are home now and have tons of wash and unpacking to do. I am back to making meals and cleaning house. The snow, sadly has melted but it is good to be home. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to GP and I even wondered if I would like to live there again, but decided that I love Redmond so much- this is definitely home.

Here are a lot of fun pictures of our Christmas in Grants Pass.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!


Long ago, about 2000 years, when King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel), God sent the angel Gabriel to a young women who lived in the northern town of Nazareth. The girl's name was Mary and she was engaged to marry Joseph. The angel Gabriel said to Mary: 'Peace be with you! God has blessed you and is pleased with you.' Mary was very surprised by this and wondered what the angel meant. The angel said to her 'Don't be afraid, God has been very kind to you. You will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a baby boy and you will call him Jesus. He will be God's own Son and his kingdom will never end.' Mary was very afraid but she trusted God. 'Let it happen as God chooses.' She replied to the angel. Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth who everyone thought was too old to have children, would have a baby boy whom God had chosen to prepare the way for Jesus.

Mary said goodbye to her family and friends and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was very happy to see Mary. She knew that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. An angel had already told Zechariah that Elizabeth's baby would prepare people to welcome Jesus. He was to be called John. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home to Nazareth.

Joseph was worried when he found out that Mary was expecting a baby before their marriage had taken place. He wondered if he should put off the wedding altogether. Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: 'Don't be afraid to have Mary as your wife.' The angel explained that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son and told Joseph that the baby would be named Jesus which means 'Saviour' because he would save people. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel had told him to do and took Mary as his wife.

At this time, the land where Mary and Joseph lived was part of the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Augustus wanted to have a list of all the people in the empire, to make sure they paid their taxes. He ordered everyone to return to the town where their families originally came from, and enter their names in a register (or census) there. Mary and Joseph travelled a long way (about 70 miles) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because that is where Joseph's family came from. Most people walked but some lucky people had a donkey to help carry the goods needed for the journey. Joseph and Mary travelled very slowly because Mary's baby was due to be born soon.

When they reached Bethlehem they had problems finding somewhere to stay. So many people had come to register their names in the census, that every house was full and every bed was taken in all of the Inns. The only shelter that they could was a stable or cave with the animals. In this poor place Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. In those days it was the custom to wrap newborn babies tightly in a long cloth called 'swaddling clothes'. Jesus' bed was the manger that the animals ate their hay from.

In the hills and fields outside Bethlehem, shepherds looked after their sheep through the long night. As the new day began, suddenly an angel appeared before them and the glory of God shone around them. The shepherds were very, very scared, but the angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I have good news for you and everyone. Today in Bethlehem a Saviour has been born for you. You will find the baby lying in a manger.'.

Then many more angels appeared, lighting up the sky. The shepherds heard them praising God singing: 'Glory to God in highest, and peace to everyone on earth.' When the angels had gone the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem to see what has happened.' So the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus was lying in a manger as they had been told. When they saw him, they told everyone what the angel had said and everyone who heard the story were astonished. Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God for sending his Son to be their Saviour.

When Jesus was born, a brand new bright star appeared in sky. Some Wise Men in faraway countries saw the star and guessed what it meant. They were very clever men that studied the stars and had read in very old writings that a new star would appear when a great king was born. They set out to find the new king and bring him gifts.

The Wise Men followed the star towards the country of Judea and when they got to the capital called Jerusalem they began to ask people: 'Where is the child who is born to be king of the Jews?' Herod, the king of Judea, heard this and it made him very angry to think that someone might be going to take his place as king. Herod sent for the Wise Men to come to him. He told them to go on following the star until they had found the baby king. He said: 'When you have found him, let me know where he is, so that I can go and worship him.'. But Herod did not tell them that he really had an evil plan in mind to kill the new king.

The Wise Men followed the star towards Bethlehem (where it said that the king would be born in the old writings). It seemed to stop and shine directly down upon the place where Jesus was. The Wise Men entered the house where they now lived and found Jesus with Mary, they bowed down and worshipped him. The Wise Men spread the the gifts they had brought before Jesus. The gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men were warned in a dream, by God, not to go back to Herod. So they returned home to their countries in the East by a different way.

When the Wise Men had gone, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' the angel said, 'take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him.' So Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary during the night they left for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died.

When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was furious and he gave orders to kill all the boys aged two or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This was to try and kill the new King, as his plan to find the location of the new king from the Wise Men had failed.

After Herod had died, Joseph had another dream in which an angel appeared to him. The angel said, 'Get up, take Jesus and Mary and go back to Israel, for those who were trying kill Jesus are dead.'

So Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary and they went back to Israel. But when he heard that Herod's son was now king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. So instead they went to Galilee, and lived in their old town of Nazareth.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Safe Travels and Fun with Family

Monday morning we headed over Santiam Pass to Aumsville which is a small town East of Salem. That is where my family lives. Our trip over was fairly easy. There was lots of snow but we felt quite safe in our travel. The worst of it was when we came to the valley. They have been experiencing ice problems. It was wild to see the Salem area covered in snow. What a beautiful sight. The kids are so use to the Juniper trees and other fir trees that all the deciduous trees looked fake to them with all the snow and ice on them. Emma kept saying that the trees looked fake.

As soon as we got in we made a pit stop to buy the fixings to make 5 pounds of fudge. This was our gift to my dad for his birthday. He needs a little fattening up! I am sure I will here abut it in January when mom calls and says dad needs to go on a diet because of me. I did well and just took one bite of fudge to make sure it was edible.

After making fudge, Michael, Kimmie, Jeremy and I left for Costco to get my parents Christmas gift. We have been working the past week on gathering 300 pics of our families to put in an album for them. All the way home I was stuffing pictures in the album in the dark car so that it was done in time. When we got back to Kimmie's house almost the minute we got in the house the power went off for nearly an hour. An adventure to be sure. In the dark I was still stuffing pics in the album. Jeremy was successfully making our dinner on the gas stove top, and the kids found enough flashlights to keep them occupied. We made my mom join the kids in the dark room so we could finish stuffing the album. You know, these are memories that we will have for a lifetime. I will always remember this night!

The lights came on just as it was time to eat. Good timing! We had a delicious meal of cheese ravioli with sausage marinara sauce and french bread. After dinner we did our present exchange and really enjoyed watching my two nieces as they tore into their presents. Isabella is 3 in April and Natalie will be 2 in March.

The highlight of the evening was watching mom and dad open the album that we put together for the year 2008. Now mom wants one every year. I can see why...I need an album myself. I promise myself to start on this project much earlier this next year. It was definitely a gift from the heart. It would have been easier to go out and buy a thirty dollar gift, but this one will last forever.

Our trip to Aumsville was short, just short of 24 hours but fun. Oh, except I forgot to mention that Jeff and Amanda threw up Monday night. We are hoping that it stops with them. Jeff is blaming it on anxiousness and Mandi thinks she is allergic to raviolis. I think they are in denial! It's called sickness!

We are now in Grants Pass with Michael's family. So far this morning everyone is well and we are having a relaxful morning. We had a little dusting of snow and it is trying to snow some more. I guess we brought it with us! Maybe we will have a white Christmas after all.

I have lots of pictures to post but my in laws internet connection is too slow to upload. I will post them later.

The Man Behind the Story of Father Christmas/Santa Claus

The following excerpt is taken from the website http://whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml

St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century AD in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don't know if any of them are true!

The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to get presents in first started! It goes like this...

There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't get married. (A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the brides parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today.) One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.

Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.

St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352 AD. In 1807, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.

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How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus

In the 16th Century in Europe, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became very unpopular.

But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the U.K., he became 'Father Christmas', a character from old childrens stories; in France, he was then known as 'Père Nöel'; in Germany, the Christ Child or 'Christ Kind. In the early U.S.A. his name was 'Kris Kringle'. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became 'Sinterklass' or as we now say 'Santa Claus'!

Many countries, especially ones in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas Day on 6th December.

St. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories. In the new stories and pictures about him, his Bishops robes soon became the hat and coat that he wears today - but as you can see, he went through a few colour changes!!

No one knows how St. Nicholas' traditional white horse became a sledge and pack of reindeer. A picture in a Victorian book show them: and the poem 'A Visit from St. Nicholas', written in 1882, by Dr Clement Clarke Moore for his children, describes the eight reindeer and gives them their names. They became really well known in the song 'Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer', written in 1949. Do you know all eight names? Click on Rudolph's nose to find out!

Click my nose to find out more about my friends!
The UK Father Christmas and the American Santa Claus became more and more alike over the years and are now one and the same.

New stories and customs about Santa Claus were written in the 1900s and they still exist today.

Some people say that Santa lives at the North Pole. In Finland, they say that he lives in the north part of their country called Lapland. But everyone agrees that he travels through the sky on a sledge that is pulled by reindeer, that he comes into houses down the chimney at night and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds, in front of the family Christmas tree, or by the fire place.

Most children receive their presents on Christmas Eve night or early Christmas morning, but in some countries they get their presents on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas tree

The following excerpt is from http://whychristmas.com/customs/trees.shtml. Check out this site for more articles on Christmas customs and how other countries celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Trees

The evergreen fir tree has been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.

Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably started about began 1000 years ago in Northern Europe.

The first documented use of a evergreen tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510. In the square there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Years Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages. Not much is known about the tree, apart from that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony they burnt the tree. This is like the custom of the Yule Log. You can find out more about the Riga Tree from this great website: www.firstchristmastree.com

The first first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. Some people say this is the same thee as the 'Riga' tree, but it isn't! The Riga tree originally took place a few decades earlier. Northern Germany and Latvia are neighbours.

Another story says that St. Boniface of Crediton (a place in Devon, UK) left England and travelled to Germany to preach to the pagan German tribes and convert them to Christianity. He is said to have come across a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree. In anger, and to stop the sacrifice, St. Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement, a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith and his followers decorated the tree with candles so that St. Boniface could preach to the pagans at night.

There is another legend, from Germany, about how the Christmas Tree came into being, it goes:

Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest sons own bed (he had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes!

Christmas Trees, as we know them, may have started as the Paradise Trees that represented the Garden of Eden in the German Mystery Plays that took place during the Middle Ages. These plays told Bible stories to people who could not read.

In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed to an angel/fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus, or a star like the Wisemen saw.

The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. Ever since then, Christmas Trees have been a part of a British Christmas.

In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. Because of the danger of fire, in 1895 Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the first electric Christmas lights, similar to the ones we use today.

Many towns and villages have their own Christmas Trees. One of the most famous is the tree in Trafalgar Square in London, England, which is given to the U.K. by Norway every year as a 'thank you' present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II. The White House in the U.S.A. has had a big tree on the front lawn since the 1920s.

In many countries, different trees are used as Christmas trees. In New Zealand a tree called the 'Pohutakawa' that has red flowers is used and in India, Banana or Mango trees are sometimes decorated.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!


I love you and appreciate you so much. I am so thankful to have you for "my" dad! Your love and dedication to us is so great. When I think about you, I think of how hard you work, how loving you are and what a Godly man you are. You have always put your family first and are always there for us no matter what. Michael, the kids and I are hoping to make it for your b-day, but if weather doesn't permit, please know that we really wanted to help you celebrate YOUR day. I hope that your birthday is wonderful; filled with lots of love and laughter of the family that you do have with you. Thanks again for being a man that shows God's love daily to the people around you.

I love you- Kristin and family

We are hoping to leave tomorrow after church for our Christmas vacation. As I am typing this, it is snowing pretty heavily outside and I am starting to wonder if waiting a day would be best.

I can't think of many Christmas Eve's that Michael hasn't been doing a service. Ever since moving away from parents we have either stayed home or traveled on Christmas day. This year Pastor Tucker gave Michael the service off so we could be in Grants Pass for Christmas Eve. This was the one present Michael's mom wanted; to have everyone together on Christmas Eve. So we are able to start our vacation earlier than normal. We were going to start it by going to Salem and celebrating my Dad's birthday and seeing my side of the family for a couple of days. Then we would head down to GP. This snow storm, that I am just loving, is just happening on the wrong day! I imagine it is changing a lot of people's traveling plans. With a Tahoe I thought, no problem, but safety comes first.

So, in case I don't make it, again, for my dad's birthday.... I wanted to wish him a wonderful birthday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Programs

We have had three weeks of Christmas programs! Every Thursday for the last three weeks each child has had a program at school. It all started with Joshua! I helped in this program with the preschoolers that I taught for three months. I just love how sweet and cute they are at this age. The songs we sang were: Little Drummer Boy, Do You Here What I Hear?, and Away in the Manger. What long songs for three and four year olds! But my kids really nailed the Rum Pum Pum Pum part! Here is a video of them singing and me prompting them. I think you can hear me too well! This video was taken by my camera so it is hard to see and hear. But I know that Grandma's and Grandpa's don't mind, they just want to see the kids!!
Last Thursday Jeff and Emma had their program. Jeff played the electric guitar and both of them sang with their classmates. The following pics were taken before we left and at the program. I also have vidoes of them!

On Sunday, Mandi, Jeff, and Emma were in the Christmas program at church. This was a very cute production that Mandi had a major speaking part as Gabriel the angel. Jeff, was on the tech team doing the spot light and Emma sang in the choir. Here are a couple clips of the program!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Party

Yesterday, Josh and I went to a Christmas Party! The girls and I officially elect my friend, Rosemary and her husband, the Christmas party throwers of the year. Five moms and 12 kids were present and all had a blast. Lunch was delish and the fellowship was perfect.

There were games: like the famous unwrap one layer of a package until all the layers are umnwrapped to reveal a present, guess how many skittles are in a jar (this was a funny one for kids who are under five. Josh guessed 20 when infact 300+ were in there) and there was stick the bow on the present, which is similar to pin the tale on the donkey.

The kids also decorated lots of sugar cookies with yummy frosting and toppings.

This particular mommy group has been meeting together for 2+ years. I am so thankful for the friends that God has given me. These ladies and others have been there for me through thick and thin. They encourage me, listen to me, cry with me, laugh at me and with me and help me get through tough seasons in my life.

Thank you to all my friends both near and far, old and new. I am blessed beyond beyond measure.

Here are some more pics of the party!


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