Second Sunday of Advent

Today’s carol comes with a story. I would hazard a guess that most of you have not heard this Christmas carol, written by a man named John Byrom in 1745. It is burned into my memory because of its association with a childhood memory. At my boarding school in Zambia, it was traditional to play this carol as a sort of reveille on the last morning of the term ending in December.

All the boys who could play a brass instrument would assemble in the middle of the playground and wake us all up by playing this song. It was indeed the happiest of morns for us because it was the morning of the day that we got to go home for the Christmas holiday! Those who were wide awake with anticipation anyway were allowed to rise early to join the trumpeters on the playground and sing the words.

Christians, Awake, Salute the Happy Morn

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
Whereon the Savior of the world was born.
Rise to adore the mystery of love
Which hosts of angels chanted from above,
With them the joyful tidings first begun
Of God incarnate and the virgin’s Son.

Then to the watchful shepherds it was told,
Who heard th’angelic herald’s voice, “Behold,
I bring good tidings of a Savior’s birth
To you and all the nations of the earth;
This day hath God fulfilled His promised Word;
This day is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”

He spoke; and straightaway the celestial choir
In hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire;
The praises of redeeming love they sang,
And Heav’n’s whole orb with alleluias rang.
God’s highest glory was their anthem still,
Peace on the earth and unto men good will.

To Bethl’hem straight th’enlightened shepherds ran
To see the wonder God had wrought for man
And found, with Joseph and the blessèd maid,
Her Son, the Savior, in a manger laid;
Then to their flocks, still praising God, return,
And their glad hearts with holy rapture burn.

Like Mary let us ponder in our mind
God’s wondrous love in saving lost mankind!
Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
From His poor manger to His bitter cross,
Tread in His steps, assisted by His grace,
Till man’s first heav’nly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, th’angelic hosts among,
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song.
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display.
Saved by His love, incessantly we sing
Eternal praise to Heav’n’s almighty King.

 

Rainy Day

We needed the rain, so I’m not complaining. It rained all night and most of the day. More rain is coming over the next two days. I love lying cozy in bed and listening to the sound of the rain falling outside our window. We both slept in this morning.

We worked in the house all day, of course. Walter worked on painting Lucy’s bed and I had to go buy more paint. I worked on getting the living room in shape and setting up the “stocking tree” and all the stockings.  I also got more done in the schoolroom.

I know what you’re thinking. How long can it take to organize one room? After 15 years of accumulation, it can take a really long time! I am encouraged by the progress I have made so far.

Our friends Don and Gwen arrived in time for supper. I made baked potatoes, and some caramelized onions as one of the toppings, thinking that I’d be the only one who would want them. They were very popular and there were none left over!

I also worked on more Christmas carols today and practiced the ones I’ll be playing tomorrow. I love my autoharp!

And, I am almost finished with my current knitting project, which must be done in the next few days. I think I might even be able to finish it tomorrow.

Lina should have landed in London by now.  Four more days!

When You Can’t Give Your Stuff Away . . .

I had high hopes for today. I have spent a fair amount of time culling my collection of homeschooling resources, since I don’t expect to use most of them again. Jasper and I lugged a bunch of stuff to the park today. I had stuff I was giving away for free, and stuff that I asked people to pay “what they could” for. I expected most of the free stuff to disappear quickly.

What actually happened was an almost total lack of interest. A couple of moms came to look and left with something, but most of them never even came over to look. Park days have become an exercise in loneliness for us. The other teens ignore Jasper, and I think maybe I am not young or hip enough to hang out with the other moms. And I can’t sit in the sun with them because of my sun exposure issues. I guess it’s good Jasper has friends in the neighborhood!

So anyway, almost everything we took to the park ended up coming back home with us. I can’t decide what to do with it all. If no one wants it, should I just burn it? Dump it on Goodwill? It’s not worth listing on Ebay and then having to go to the trouble of shipping. *sigh* And there is still plenty more that I have to get rid of.

I did some more excavation in the schoolroom and found a fourth hot glue gun to add to the three I had previously found. One was so gunked up I threw it out. I mean, I could afford to, right? I can only use one at a time.

I enjoyed talking to a distant friend this afternoon, and got some knitting done. I also began reading through the “rough draft” of the anthology which will be featuring one of my stories at the end of this month. I found quite a few errors in the pages I read, and sent the corrections to the publisher. This is where my nit-pickiness is actually very valuable. I’m not a pro, but I’m pretty good at catching spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.

Lina left Sakeji today on the first leg of her journey home. Excitement is building!

 

When in Doubt . . .

Throw it out! At least, that’s what my mentor, Miss Mary Poole, used to say. Today as I tackled the schoolroom again I had to make a hard choice. I threw out a huge stack of supplies that I’m quite sure were worth several hundred dollars. They were left behind in our former house by a person who was a stained glass artist. Sheets and sheets of gorgeous designs that you could peel off from the paper backing and apply to glass.

I thought I’d use them for craft projects, but I could never seem to get around to it. Today, I realized that I really need the space they’ve been taking up (for 15 years!) so I got Jasper to help me haul them down and toss them. I sheepishly admit that we saved a handful of sheets that were just too gorgeous to throw away.

Which brings me to a helpful tip I know I’ve shared before, but I’m going to share it again. If you have large sheets of paper you need to store, it can be hard to find a place to store them where they can lie flat. I’m talking posters, maps, or giant sheets of glass coating. Depending on the weight of the items, you can put one or more into the “jaws” of a skirt hanger and hang it up in a closet next to the wall, and your maps or whatever will stay nice and flat. I do this all the time. If it’s a map or poster that you might periodically need to hang up on the wall, you can just keep it on the hanger and hang it from any hook or shelf. So helpful.

So, I made some headway in the schoolroom. Lucy made fajitas for supper. I got some knitting done, and I figured out the chords for another Christmas carol. And Lina is coming a week from today!

Flat

Today was a day of getting some school done and some other things as well. I returned to my schoolroom reorganizing project and got some more done there. I also made some headway on my current knitting project.

I forgot to tell you yesterday that our Suburban has a flat tire. It picked up a nail or screw when Spencer was driving it back from Lindale on Sunday night. Walter tried to fix it tonight, but was unsuccessful, so we will have to take it in to the tire place tomorrow. Meanwhile, Spencer and Mercy don’t have a car to drive.

8 more days.

Trying to Get it All Done

I can’t remember a whole lot about Saturday, except that I wasn’t feeling all that great and I was trying to get a bunch of stuff done. I had to work on music and some other things. I spent a lot of time online researching and taking advantage of sales on certain gifts I wanted to get.

Yesterday I had to take Lucy to take care of the dogs in the morning, which meant we missed the first service at church. Fortunately we made the second service, since the violin player wasn’t there and it was just me accompanying the singing.

In the afternoon I got to talk to Lina via the internet–our last long-distance conversation before she arrives home next week! And Lucy helped me put the bead garland on the tree.

Today we had a huge thunderstorm in the morning while Jasper and I did school. I also prepared for my class. After lunch we went to pick up the twenty poinsettias he had sold for his 4-H club, and after my class we set off to deliver all the ones that he hadn’t already delivered in our neighborhood.

We had four stops to make and we had to travel rather far afield. The last two deliveries were surprise poinsettias for two sweet ladies we know. One didn’t hear us knocking so we left the plant on her porch and I called her about it later to make sure she found it. The other was very surprised and happy when we showed up at her door. I think I enjoy giving the flowers away more than I enjoy keeping them myself! Besides, we have cats. They think poinsettias are our Christmas present to them, and they have great fun playing with them until the beautiful plants are nothing but bare sticks. This year they only have one to destroy.

After supper, one of Mercy’s friends came over and helped put the ornaments on the tree. With him and Mercy and Lucy all working together, the job was done in record time! And I got some knitting done. I’ll try to get some photos tomorrow.

Eight days till Lina comes home!

First Sunday of Advent

Creator of the Stars of Night

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

Thanksgiving and the Aftermath

Well, another Thanksgiving is past and we’re on the express train to Christmas! I hope I will be recovered from this latest respiratory bug before things really speed up again.

Our day started, as it always does, with me baking our (gluten-free) breakfast casserole. On Thanksgiving we only have two meals–brunch and “lupper.” I love our holiday brunches with the whole family around the table talking and laughing.  Of course, this year there were only six of us, but it was still lovely.

The girls had made pies the night before, so after brunch we focused on the main part of the dinner. I had two smallish turkeys to roast and quite a few side dishes to make, but I was able to pace myself and lie down when I really had to. The girls picked up a lot of the slack.

Janet and her boyfriend came over shortly before our target dinnertime of 3:00. Only eight people around the table! That is a small Thanksgiving for us. There was a LOT of food. When everyone was fully stuffed, we waddled into the living room and watched a movie that Mercy had rented (Ant Man). By the time it ended, darkness had fallen, but we could hardly use that as an excuse to forgo our traditional paper airplane races!

We all got a piece of paper to make our planes and I made the kind I always make because when I asked for help from friends on Facebook, I didn’t get any! We turned on the porch light and the garage light so we could sort of see what we were doing when we went out to the front yard. Jasper’s plane won the “distance” competition and Mercy and Walter ended up having a fly-off  to determine the “air time” competition, which Mercy won. Walter got the “best-looking” plane by default since he’s the only one who really decorated his.

We came back inside for chips and dip and watched our second movie, which I’ve already told you about. Toward the end everyone was finally ready for pie. Mercy had made an apple pie and Lucy had made a pumpkin pie. I heard they were good. Neither one was gluten free or diabetic friendly!

Janet and Aaron left, and I still had to take both Lucy and Jasper to their dog-sitting duties. The streets were virtually deserted. When I returned from the second trip, there was still time to spend some time together and get a little more knitting done.  It was a good day.

Today we slept in shamefully late (almost 9:00!) and got a slow start on the day. I am still struggling with my cold so it was hard to feel like doing much. However, Mercy made the startling announcement that she wanted to put up the Christmas tree today. Why was it so startling? Because the way we like our tree to look is extremely time and labor intensive to achieve. No one likes to do it. Mary usually does it if she is here for Thanksgiving, and it takes her some 7 hours to set the tree up and get the lights on. Lucy flat out refused to do it, so Lina said she would do it if we can wait until she gets here. It never occurred to me that Mercy might be willing!

My part of the process was to move my chair from the corner where the Christmas tree goes and get it set up on the other side of the room, with all my knitting, etc. It was a good chance to sort through all my knitting supplies and put away all the things I’m not currently using.

Mercy invited a friend over for lunch and afterwards she got to work. Lucy did help a little at the beginning, but it was mostly Mercy working all afternoon on the lights. I know what you’re thinking. Why not get a pre-lit tree? Are you kidding me? The pre-lit trees the same size as ours typically have about 500 lights. We use a minimum of 800. And after so many years of doing it this way, we like it so much we could never be happy with a dim tree! I foresee that in the future, I may have to pay a college student to do this job for me. Thanks to my arthritis I can’t really do it myself anymore.

We had a great supper of leftovers and then Mercy went back to work on the tree. To my amazement, she ran out of lights. I buy a minimum of 200 new lights every year, so that even if a strand stops working, we’ll always have enough. So I figure she’s got at least 1000 lights on there. She and her friend had to zoom up to the store to get one final strand of lights so she can finish in the morning. Then it will be my turn to put up the bead garland.

Meanwhile, I got quite a bit of knitting done, and it’s a good thing because I’m quickly running out of time!

A Review and a History Lesson

One of the things we did yesterday was to watch the new Tarzan movie. I have never been much of a Tarzan fan, and never read the books because I figured they would just annoy me, seeing as they were written by a man who never set foot in Africa (from what I’ve been able to find out). I have not changed my opinion about the books. There are so many hundreds of books to read that I know I would enjoy; the Tarzan books aren’t on that list.

However, I did enjoy the movie, at least to the point that it piqued my curiosity about some things. One was the background of Jane. In the movie, she is portrayed as having been raised in Congo by a father who was a professor who taught English to the local villages. To me, this was laugh-out-loud funny. I guarantee there were no noble Americans teaching English to Congolese tribesmen during the time when Congo was the personal property of King Leopold of Belgium. If any language was taught, it would have been French, to make it easier for the Belgians to exploit the Congolese.

It would have been much more believable to have Jane’s parents be missionaries, because in fact it was missionaries who alerted the rest of the world to what was going on in Congo at the time. So,  before casting aspersions on Edgar Rice Burroughs, I did a little research and found out that the Jane in the books, though indeed an American and the daughter of a professor, was shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa as an adult (just like Tarzan’s parents) and therefore was not raised there. Whew! Burroughs gets points for that one and it was the movie makers who screwed up.

My research rabbit trail also led to the interesting fact that the movie’s antagonist, Léon Rom, and the Samuel L. Jackson character, George Washington Williams, were actual people who were in the Congo during the time the movie’s story is set. So of course I had to look them up too!

Rom was a Belgian official known for his brutality, a man who adopted the quaint local custom of decorating his garden with the severed heads of his enemies. Sadly, he was not killed by Tarzan. Instead he was rewarded for his barbarous leadership and lived to a ripe old age.

George Washington Williams, on the other hand, joined the Union Army under an assumed name at the age of 14. After his fighting days were over, he became a minister, one of the details the movie left out. He did indeed travel to Congo to investigate the treatment of the tribespeople under Leopold’s regime, and he did indeed write an “open letter” to King Leopold calling him out for the deplorable situation in Africa. However, he never confronted the king in person and he died of diseases caught in Africa when he was on his way home to the USA. He was only 41 when he died.

I applaud the makers of the movie for making the effort to place the Tarzan story into the context of actual historical events. Thanks to their efforts, I learned something new from this rather cheesy movie about Tarzan! Now maybe you learned something new too.

Mercy Returns

So, yesterday I had quite a surprise. I had planned to do a bunch of Thanksgiving pre-preparation. I lay down after lunch for a rest and planned to get to work after I got up. However, two of my kids burst into my room to inform me that I would be driving to the airport in Dallas.

I knew Mercy was coming back this week. I knew she was coming back on the 21st. But for some reason, I firmly believed that the 21st was Tuesday. I told everyone she was coming back on Tuesday. Then she mentioned to her siblings yesterday that she’d be seeing them that evening, and my delusion finally had to go.

So Lucy and I ran a couple of errands and then took off for Dallas. We arrived at the terminal just in time to meet Mercy. It was good to have her back! It was kind of a bummer that we still had to drive all the way home, but we made it.

This morning Jasper and I went to Aldi where I was very disappointed to find that they didn’t have several items I had counted on getting there. That means yet another trip to Walmart tomorrow . . .

Lucy has a dog-sitting job for the next few days and I had to take her over there twice today. I hope tomorrow Mercy will be able to take her for at least one of the times.

Mercy actually went to work today (at the university library) and got paid to set up and decorate their Christmas tree!

I had to sit down and prioritize my gift knitting today. I have finished a lot of it, but the rest has to be ranked according to various factors and I am beginning to feel a tiny bit panicky. Not much knitting is going to get done over the next couple of days!