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My favorite Christmas pageant

When I was in my early twenties, my church asked me to sing “O Holy Night” while the children dressed as shepherds, kings, Mary and Joseph, took their places on the stage for the live nativity scene.

The live nativity scene included a little lamb.

lamb by karnaphuli via flickr

A very vocal little lamb.

That loved to sing.

(Turn the video above way up and you might get an idea of what a singing lamb sounds like.)

In those days, I was a very serious music student at Wichita State University. Music for me at that time was no laughing matter. I took every note to heart.

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Apparently, so did the little lamb. Because every time I hit a high note–so did she.

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We sang a duet while the congregation did their very best not to laugh. But you know how it goes with laughing. The harder you try not to, the more you bust a gut.

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Because I was, you know, a very serious singer, I was at first annoyed with the lamb’s audacity. But then, I thought, how appropriate, really. I mean, when the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, I imagine the singing was loud enough to wake every little lamb from their slumber.

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So, if God’s angels could be accompanied by a precious little lamb, I was honored that God would see fit to give the congregation a taste of that first proclamation even if I was the butt, er, lamb chop of the joke.

We often have idyllic notions of how things went that night. But the fact is, it probably was just as messy and imperfect as any church Christmas pageant.

At least I like to think it might have been.

Lamb Raspberry

Luke 2:8-14:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

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Happy vintage Christmas!

Vintage-Christmas-Label-GraphicsFairy-1024x593I love all things vintage. I can’t help it. I was raised around my grandmother’s antiques and to this day I love looking at pictures of them and seeing them when I manage to make it to my parents’ house ever few years.

So I’ve included some of my favorite vintage free use images I’ve found around the web. You can make great gifts with these! Gift tags, cards, decoupage — the ideas are endless!

Which ones are your favorite?

I’m partial to the green Santas, the bunnies and the pugs ringing the bells. Birds, too. Anything with birds I’m all in it. Oh, and the foxes sledding. What a hoot.

But I have to be honest. I think the snowmen are a little creepy. What say you? (Tweet this.)

(Sorry for having to scroll so far down but I don’t yet know how to insert pics side by side into WordPress. Tom Threadgill hasn’t tutored me in that yet.)

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Autism + Christmas = Nightmare

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Let’s get something out of the way up front.

Autism and Christmas don’t mix.  (Tweet this.)

For so long I dreaded the holiday because of the stress it brought to our house. From the week prior to Thanksgiving until January 1, the tension in our home was through the roof. The screaming and tantrums were non-stop. I was covered head to toe in bruises.

Candy for Christmas Wallpaper

Looking back, I marvel at how we survived in the beginning when the twins were severe. Christmas was a nightmare for them when they were small.

After the first few years (they showed autistic symptoms as infants), we learned that we had to open our gifts without them because they screamed and banged their heads during the ceremony. For this idealistic mother who worked toward and longed for a Walton-family-style Christmas, this was devastating.

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But the fact is, Christmas meant nothing to the twins but scary unpredictable change. Kids with autism long for sameness. It’s how they keep fear at bay. The fact that there was a tree–that belonged OUTSIDE– standing in the living room completely freaked them out.

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Not to mention the people unwrapping the very gifts that for weeks they’d been told to leave alone. And then there’s the color red. There’s so much red.

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Frankly, Christmas simply made no sense. And some of our traditions are kind of silly when you think about it. But that’s part of the “hidden curriculum” that people with autism struggle with. All those unwritten social rules that those of us without autism just “get.”

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Thank God the twins eventually grew to accept Christmas and trees standing inside houses and fat guys in red suits.

Now, they are 18 and I’m happy to say that it’s a holiday they enjoy and look forward to. Christmas is still the most stressful time for them, and they do have more conflicts with us and their siblings (all adults now) during this time of the year. But it’s soooo much better than it used to be. They even look forward to watching their nieces open their gifts.

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If you have a relative with a child with autism, don’t judge them. Be patient and offer to help. Give them hope. It can get better. And most likely it will. My guys who used to be self-injurious head bangers and biters (of themselves and each other) no longer hurt themselves this way at Christmas. Now they put themselves to bed early on Christmas Eve so they can get up early the next day.

And instead of screaming there are squeals.

 

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There’s not a more pure spirit of Christmas than a soul with special needs grinning ear to ear after opening a simple gift. Even if its socks, the twins are thrilled. (And there’s always socks. It’s a tradition in our house.)

Really, when you think about it, every day that’s a good day with autism is like Christmas. I’m thankful we’re having more of those these days than we used to.

Here’s hoping you do, too.

14All images via Bing search of free use images.

The war on Christmas giveaway!

I’m very excited to be part of the #waronchristmas book blog tour. The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge is an excellent resource book for every  Christian Sunday School teacher, pastor, and parent.

The two chapters I’m assigned to review are Chapter 6: “Timeline of Events Surrounding Christ’s Birth” and Chapter 7: “Making the Christmas Sermon Relevant for Today’s Culture.”

These were great chapters for me to have since I’m a historian and a pastor (and a pastor’s wife). I slurped them up with great enthusiasm and will be keeping this book among my collection of Christmas books. I know I’ll be reaching for it often as I teach all ages about this wonderful story of Christ.

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In Chapter 6, we travel back through time to immediately after Jesus’ birth. We stop at circa 4 B.C., eight days, 41 days after the birth,  and the time during Christ’s first year of life on earth to early 3 B.C. There is a brief discussion of the magi and Christ’s family returning to Bethlehem from Egypt after King Herod’s death. These little tidbits of trivia are great for including in your next advent presentation.

In Chapter 7, the writer encourages pastors and teachers to share the message of Christ via the story of Genesis, the fallen state of man, and the issues of sin and death. Today’s culture touts a faulty view of God. If those listening will hear that God is the maker of all things good (he did not declare sin to be good or part of his creation), it would help them develop an accurate picture of God and one very different from the world’s secular view of Him.

The foundation of the birth of Christ is found in Genesis. From Genesis 3:15 God had a plan to reconcile us to Him. In Genesis 26:4, Christ is a descendant of Jacob. It is in Genesis that the Christmas season begins.

The author of this book believes that people don’t listen to the Good News because they don’t understand the bad news. If people know why they need Jesus, they will understand their need for Him.

What do you  think of his point of view? Leave a comment below and I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win your very own copy of The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression plus a free t-shirt! Giveaway ends December 10.

Christmas widgets!

I love widgets. Yes, I know, they are kind of tacky sometimes. But isn’t it fun to be a little tacky and little lampoon-Christmas-lights-crazy at this time of year?

Here are some fun Christmas goodies for your online celebrations. The hard part is picking only one!

Enjoy!

Christmas countdown widget (if someone knows how to help me make this smaller, please let us know in the comments below. I did put smaller dimensions in the code but it’s not transferring, thanks!):

How about your blog’s own Christmas tree?

Another countdown theme:

Here, have a yule log:ku-xlarge

Or another Christmas widget:

If you love pets and especially cats, you will want to check out this adorable site where a kitty teaches you how to set up and maintain your Christmas tree (Lilybits will love this one!):

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Another adorable countdown:

Days until Christmas:

Bronner’s: Christmas fantasy land!

It’s a Holly Jolly Blog Hop

One of my favorite motorcycle trip memories is when my husband and I rode our motorcycles from Northeast Indiana to the charming town of Frankenmuth, Michigan (“Michigan’s Little Bavaria”) in order to pick out a Christmas ornament for our 25th Anniversary. (Click on images to make them bigger if you like.)

Downtown Frankenmuth

Downtown Frankenmuth

Why travel 250 miles (one way) just to pick out a Christmas ornament? (Tweet this!)

Because, for one thing, it’s fun to ride motorcycles together. And for another thing, there’s a HUGE Christmas ornament store there!

Bronner’s was founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner. It’s opened 361 days a year and features over 50,000 trims and gifts. If you are a Christmas decorations fanatic, this is the store for you.

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Bronner’s Entrance

I tend to get overwhelmed easily in stores like this, but Bronner’s isn’t as chaotic as it may seem. The store is beautifully organized by color or theme.

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Inside Bronner’s
More ornaments than you ever imagined!
More ornaments than you ever imagined!
So much to choose from!
So much to choose from!
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The Christmas trees are stunning. Photos don’t do them justice. 

 The outside of the store is just as fascinating as the inside!

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Check out those herald angels on each side!
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Nativity
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The wise guy and his camel were my favorite.

Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel sits on the grounds and is open daily for viewing and meditation. Every evening there’s a ½-mile long Christmas Lane that glistens with thousands of twinkling lights. Over two million people, including 2,000 group tours, visit Bronner’s attraction annually! Wow!

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Silent Night Chapel

There is one ornament I’ve been yearning to get. (If you read my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots, you’ll know why!)

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Sasquatch!

Stop by next Thursday when I share what we bought to take home with us to celebrate our 25th Anniversary (way back in 2007)!

Do you like decorating for Christmas? Why or why not?

It’s a Holly Jolly Blog Hop!

I love Christmas!

And to honor the holiday, I’m inviting all bloggers to join our Christmas meme!

To quote Patty Wysong (the queen of all things meme):
“What’s a meme? A meme is when a group of people get together and post on a similar topic or theme. It’s the blogger’s version of a progressive dinner…or a potluck dinner. Full of variety and fun.”

Don’t know what to post for a Christmas blog hop? Here are some ideas:

  • Post anything at all to do with Christmas! ANYTHING!
  • This is a great way to post easy-to-think-of topics during the very busy holiday. You can plan weeks ahead!
  • Include pictures of Christmases past, or present. What are you doing to decorate? Where are you going? What festivities are you planning? Church activities?

The meme starts THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21 and ends WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 25.

You can post anytime Thursday to Thursday. We will keep the linky code open for six days. You don’t have to make a month-long commitment and you don’t have to post every week. Just jump in and join us as you are able!

What’s a linky code? It’s an html code you’ll place at the end of your post so you can link up to others in the blog hop!

I do ask that you comment on at least two of the blogs that link up to yours. It’s better to give than to receive, right?

Want to know more about memes and why you’d want to participate? Check out Making the Most of Memes for more information.

If you’re joining the hop, you may add the button to your sidebar or inside your post, or both. You can grab the code below:
It’s a Holly Jolly Blog Hop

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<a href=”http://karlaakins.com/its-a-holly-jolly-blog-hop/” target=”_blank”><img alt=”It’s a Holly Jolly Blog Hop” border=”0″ src=”http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p194/impeej/Holly-Jolly-Blog-Hop_zpse348f95c.jpg” /></a><br />

Hoppy Christmas!