Gingerbread Houses

IMG_5759.1lowrezAfter a morning of cleaning the church with Roy, Anna and I went over to make gingerbread houses with Hannah and Jacob, who also go to our church. They take their gingerbread house making very seriously – They’re pros. It turns out a number of people at Southern Hills take gingerbread house making very seriously. We might need to have a church gingerbread house making party and contest sometime.

Because of nearly constant space constraints since I was little, my family never got into making gingerbread houses. It was fun to see the variety of design, even though we were all using the same materials. But more than that, it was fun to spend the time with dear friends, sharing Christmas traditions, leading up to the celebration of one of the two most wonderful holidays, the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

IMG_5302.lowrezFor Christians, even the secular traditions should be a reminder to us of what we are celebrating – We are celebrating the coming of God to earth, the long-promised, long-awaited Messiah, the Blessing of Abraham, the Davidic King who will reign forever, the one who will one day destroy Satan and dry all tears. That is something to celebrate!

Laura Elizabeth


Christmas Cat

One more picture of darling little Kashka. She loves Christmas, apparently. Or, at least she loves the tree and lights. IMG_5733.1lowrez

Pets are such a delight! Even if I’m allergic to them…

Laura Elizabeth

Outdoor cat

IMG_5723.1lowrezLet’s make it very clear that the cats are outdoor cats. I’m allergic to cats. Enough said.

That said, Kashka the cat has picked a new favorite spot in our house. For awhile when she was littler, she could always be found in the darkest, smallest corners of the house, under things, inside the closet, behind book cases. Then she decided our folks’ bed was her favorite spot, and could always be found curled up in a pool of sunlight. Lately, her favorite spot has been on the table underneath our Christmas tree.

Animals are one of God’s many wonderful gifts. Everyone should have pets. And every house should have a cat. Even if it is an “outdoor cat.”

Laura Elizabeth


A time to celebrate

IMG_5301.lowrezEvery day, winter moves a day closer and Christmas is right around the corner. Traditions and family habits mingle with new ways of doing things, in our new home in the Hills. The smell of cookies baking recalls last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the festive bustle of preparation adds a spice to otherwise ordinary activities. The hymns are sung in church with perhaps a little more gusto than during the rest of the year. “Joy to the World” rings loud in the sanctuary. We have such cause to celebrate! What a beautiful time of year.

IMG_5254.1lowrezOne tradition, though, almost got sidelined this Christmas because of space constraints, but the girls and I raised a cry of opposition – We live in a tiny house, but when it was suggested that we wouldn’t decorate a tree this year…Well, we didn’t hesitate to voice our opinion. So Saturday morning, Dad and I hopped in the truck and went out to cut us down a Christmas tree. It was a chilly, cloudy, breezy December morning, but the trees don’t mind. We were looking for a small tree, one that would sit on top of a table by our window, so it couldn’t be any more than three or four feet tall. We went out to a stand of trees near the highway, and started hunting.

IMG_5265.1lowrezWe cut down about ten trees, I think, trying to find one that would work. If an “environmentalist” had seen us, they probably would have burst an artery. But we called it “thinning.” These little stands of trees reseed and become overgrown in a matter of years, and responsible land maintenance would include thinning them or clearing parts of them completely in the next few years. Some environmentalist efforts in the Black Hills have included leaving the forest entirely alone until it is so overgrown that even animals don’t want to live there (the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, for instance).  So anyway, we chopped down a passel. There are literally millions of trees on the home place. There isn’t a shortage. There is an over-supply.

IMG_5253.1lowrezWhile Dad and I were looking for the perfect tree, Remington and Dove were nearby. The cold seemed to have gotten into Remington’s blood and made him frisky. He kept coming up close, then galloping off, bucking and kicking and racing circles through the open meadow. Little Dove kept to herself, but watched us. I don’t think the cold worked in her veins the same way it worked in Remington’s.

We took our findings back home and ran the choices by Mom and the girls. The final choice was a somewhat ugly but symmetrical tree, which fits perfectly by the window. We have a long, glorious memory list of trees that were much wider when in the house than they were outside of the house, trees that fell over, trees that we wired to the wall to keep them from falling over, trees that had two points (which one do you put the topper on?), trees with bald spots…This little ugly one fits right in with all the rest of our wonderful Christmas tree memories.

IMG_5332.1lowrezThat evening, we opened boxes of ornaments, like opening boxes of memories – Each one has some sort of memory tied to it. Whether it was a gift from a special friend, or whether it was Mom and Dad’s first Christmas ornament (they got married two days after Christmas, in 1989), or whether it was handmade at a girls’ craft evening, or whether we simply remember laughing at how funny certain ornaments look, each of the ornaments has a memory tied to it. We packed as many strands of Christmas lights on our little tree, as many as we could, and hung as many of the special ornaments as would fit. We made every twig earn its keep.

IMG_5288.lowrezOur Creche is my favorite of our Christmas decorations. When I was little, Dad started buying the pieces of the Creche for Mom, and gave them as Christmas gifts over several years. I loved it as a child, and I love it still – The pieces each look like a watercolor portrait, and the wistful, worshipful expression on Mary’s face is such a beautiful interpretation of the Virgin Mother.

IMG_5295.lowrezChristmastime is possibly my favorite time of year. It is a time to celebrate, to remember, to rejoice, to mourn, to sing and make music to God, to fellowship – Although the cultural view leaves Christ out of Christmas, many still don’t. And, if I may say so, those of us who don’t leave Christ out of Christmas have so much more cause to be joyful, to celebrate, to make merry, than those to whom Christmas is simply a time to spend money and receive presents. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the gift-giving, the tree, the lights, the other traditions. But without Christ as the reason for the celebrating, Christmas would be a dead holiday.  But it isn’t a dead holiday. At Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of a living Messiah, who came to fulfill the promises in the Old Testament, the promise of a Person who will one day defeat and destroy Satan, the promise of a Blessing which all families of earth can enjoy, the promise of a Davidic King, a King who is reigning now and will reign forever and judge righteously, the promise of a Prince of Peace who will one day return. What a cause to celebrate!

Laura Elizabeth