It is almost impossible not to get caught up in the frenzy of December.


When my children were small, I often bought Christmas presents on layaway.  It was the only way for a season.


I remember picking out an adorable Little Tike dollhouse for my daughter one year.  It was a hot ticket item, so I put it on layaway early.  When I went to pick up the prized gift, it had mysteriously gone missing.  All my other things were there, but the most sought-after gift of the season was gone. With only a week until Christmas, I was frantic.  And mad. December mad is worse than July mad.  Maybe it’s the cold.  I don’t know.


The only place I could find the dollhouse was at a specialty store and it was priced much higher than the one I put on layaway.  I wouldn’t let it go until the original store agreed to get it from the specialty store and give it to me as the low, low roll-back price. 


And they did agree, but the in between part was ho-ho-horrible.


I won the fight, but I lost a little of the magic of the season in the process.


I let my Christmas cheer slip away for a bit.  I lost sight of things.


I forgot about the fa-la-las and the hot chocolate with marshmallows.  I forgot about chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  I forgot about goodwill toward men.


Most importantly, I forgot about the Christ child.


So in this season of rushing, I pray you won’t fall prey to advertisers counting down the number of days you have to shop for the things they say you need to buy.  I pray a single gift will not be more important than the story of the birth. I pray nothing or no one will steal away the real joy of the season.


The mama behind The Mama Vault will be on holiday until mid-January, during which time I will be wallowing in everything Christmas—family, friends, baking, Johnny Mathis on vinyl,  addressing Christmas cards and putting up old tree ornaments.  I’ll be hanging stockings—thrilled to be adding a new one this year because the story of our lives is still being written.


And most importantly.


I will not forget the Christ child.


I leave you this season with a favorite story of mine from Christmas past. And I wish for you and yours a Christmas too beautiful for words.


Peace Be With You,




from December 11, 2015


We know December follows November.  Every year without fail it does that.  So how in the Sam hill does it still manage to catch me by surprise every single time.


Can you believe it’s December alreadyI hear myself say.  I’m immediately embarrassed by the cliché, like I don’t have the wits to see the October, November, December pattern each year.


I’m five days past the first weekend in December, henceforth to be called The Busiest Weekend I’ve Experienced in Eons.   It wasn’t anything a few days of R&R with the maximum dosage of Ibuprofen, a heating pad and stout black coffee couldn’t fix.


But dang it was busy.


Busyness is relative.   We’re all as busy as we want to be.  I happen to like being busy and it’s a good thing, because people were coming.


Lots of people.


To my house.


It was all part of holiday festivities in my little town to raise money for local scholarship.


The days leading up to it were a blur.  I can’t say for sure if I slept or ate.  I think I just cleaned.   And put up a tree.  And cleaned.


There’s nothing like knowing other women will be in your home—some for the first time—to drive you into a cleaning frenzy.  You know the little pullout in your kitchen cabinets where trash cans live?  Have you every looked behind and under those bins?   Stuff lives there.  I’m happy to report if you wanted to look there at my house today, I would happily show you.  I told you I was a mad woman.  I didn’t wash my hair for four days.


But something magical happened on Friday.


It was all done.


Well almost.  Only the slobber stains on the wall from Pearl, our 130-pound Mastiff remained.  Some stains reached record heights of six feet on my Sherwin Williams Flat Requisite Grey walls.  FLAT.  No washing them.  Only repainting, which didn’t happen.  So we released it, and by “we” I mean my husband released it.   I smiled and pretended the stains weren’t there.


So as I said, it was all done.  Basically.


I’m a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decorating.  Just touches here and there.  Still it takes up space in my head as I plan.   I live for the magic–when the loathed cleaning is done and I put little pine cuttings with red berries (cut Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s house) in little glass bottles sitting in my windows. When the Johnny Mathis Christmas vinyl first plays on my stereo.  When the candy jars are filled with Christmas chocolates.


It’s kind of sappy and I know it. Still I love it.  Judge if you must, but I won’t care.  It’s my own little private joy party.  You can come along if you like or not.  Totally up to you.  But if you come, bring candy canes.


My husband predicted I would be up half the night before the weekend started, but we laid our heads on our pillows at 10:30 the night before and drifted off to sleep.


At 5:30am I awoke with these thoughts.




My eyes still weren’t open and I was already thinking.  Already working myself up, because we are particularly good at it in the month of December.


I was lying in bed facing the window and the eastern sky when I finally opened my eyes.  I was almost too busy in my head to notice, but I quit thinking for just a moment and saw something.


The sky was ever so slowly changing.  Effortlessly it seemed.  The canvas of black became slowly streaked with the faintest hint of pink and blue—just a hint of it.  Like the palest colors in a baby blanket.


The sky was in no rush to get to the goal—a fully lit daytime sky.  It took its time becoming—like it was relishing the joy each second was bringing to anyone up early enough to see it.  I thought to myself how good God is that he would send daylight in such a way.


It’s not like I’ve never seen a sunrise before.  But I had never seen that one.  The one made for me.


I lay there and watched it until I was so captivated by it that I quietly got out of bed and fetched my camera.  Barefoot and still in my pajamas I went out on the upstairs porch to get even closer to the sky–to the light that was softly landing on me.


I live right smack dab in the center of town.  From my porch, I can see the soft awakening of things—the fog hovering just over the river that runs through the middle of town.  I can see the bridge with just an occasional car passing over it.  As I look at the bridge through my camera lens, I see a star.  Not a real one, but one that has been hung in celebration of Christmas.


There was a time in my history when these December days were ones of “flitting about and fretting”, both internally and externally.  Maybe some of that is unavoidable when there are little ones around, but now I have no excuse for falling prey to it.  I admit the temptation is still there to conduct myself in a manner that is driven by commercialism—letting total strangers get inside my head.  But you know what I really need–what I really want so much more than sweaters in every color from Old Navy at thirty percent off?   I crave for the joy of this season to land softly on me.


Over and over again.


It’s likely only a few saw my sky that Saturday morning.  I think I was supposed to be looking.  I think the reminder perhaps saved December for me.


Those Saturday and Sunday mornings—the first ones of the month of advent—were for me the beautiful beginnings of a December that once again arrived sooner that I thought it would.  All weekend I thought about the soft landing of that morning, resolving to be intentional about keeping the rest of them that way.


Candy bowls were filled.  The tree was lit.  Strangers and old friends and family came to visit.  A french girl, too.


The sound of children playing Christmas songs on an old piano filled a space that is otherwise silent.  A small-town Christmas parade happened just outside my windows.  A neighbor said, “Come on over anytime”.  A young friend danced as a sugar plum fairy.  A friend sat under the tree lights and drank hot tea with me.  And at the end of it, my husband and I soaked in the quietness of the house and the fullness of the days.


Every bit of it landed on me softly because of the Saturday morning reminder to see it that way.


There are several days left until Christmas.  I pray that every single one of them finds a soft landing on you and me.




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