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Stockings Filled With Love {Magic of a Childhood Christmas Series} And LINK-UP!

Magic of Christmas

I am over the moon to have my good online friend, Amanda Williams, from Life. Edited. (she just happens to be hosting a rockin’ giveaway right now, btw!) share our final Magic of a Childhood Christmas series post! I found Amanda’s blog through a mutual in-real-life friend and was immediately hooked. Her poetic, lyrical, honest writing grips the heart and buoys the soul. I’m honored to have her share her memories with you today. After you read her beautiful post and leave some comment love, be sure to link up your own Christmas memory post! Let’s shine the light of Christmas out in the darkness.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams

Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams

When I think of Christmas morning as a child, I picture the living room of our small brick house in Mobile, Alabama. We only lived there three years – a fraction of the time spent in other homes, in other towns – but for some reason it is this room I picture. That worn carpet. Those windows. That tree. Those Christmas mornings.

We always did the Santa thing growing up. Even years after the cat was out of the bag, we woke to the surprise of unwrapped gifts displayed around the tree and stockings filled with goodies. The stockings, they are one of my favorite things about Christmas.

Sure, the one big gift that Santa brought was always a hit. But as I grew up, and even then as a child, the stockings held the most Christmas magic. They were filled with as much love and thought as candy and presents, tiny items carefully chosen by the one who knew us best. She knew what we loved and what we needed, what little things would make us smile wide. Even everyday things held more meaning in a Christmas stocking. Oranges, candies and wool socks; they were all magic.

We moved out of that small brick house in Mobile to another brick house further north. I graduated high school and college and then settled down in Tennessee. And through all the changes that came with all the years – changes of heart and circumstance and location – I’ve always had a stocking hanging somewhere. Each Christmas Eve, without fail, it has been filled to the top with precious and ordinary things. Filled with love spilling over from my mother.

Some years I got to help, Mom and I choosing who got which candy, which socks, which trinket and which prize. Clementine oranges in first, then the chocolates, then the lighter things arranged just so. Candy canes hang over the top; two if we had extra. Some years we had more family than stockings; those years we just used socks. Everyone was included, without exception. No one would be left out. This was Christmas, after all, and Christmas is for everyone, every single one.

I have a house now of my own, not made of brick but wood. I have a husband and three children and a mantle with stockings for each one. Every year as we hang them up I remember all the years before. Those are some of my most sacred memories, watching my mom pour her heart into those Christmas stockings. And though it may seem silly to some, I pray one day my kids can say the same.

Amanda WilliamsAmanda Williams is wife to David and stay-at-home mama to 3-year-old twin boys and a spunky 5-year-old girl. Tennessean by birth, Nashvillian by choice, Amanda uses her free time to stare at the wall, inhale coffee and chocolate, snap photos and play with words. Amanda laughs at herself – a lot – and she believes honest words can unearth beauty and truth from chaos and doubt. She writes about motherhood, faith and writing at Life. Edited. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Now it’s your turn! Click the link below and you’ll be taken to the form to link up your own Christmas memory post! Be sure to check out the other memories and share the love! Let’s spread the Christmas Magic, shall we?

Ring-A-Ling, Hear Them Sing {The Magic of a Childhood Christmas Series}

This post is part of our Magic of a Childhood Christmas series. I’m so happy to have Leigh Kramer from HopefulLeigh join us today to share a touching memory from her childhood. 

Magic of ChristmasI never believed in Santa Claus. My brother and I read books explaining Old St. Nick’s origin and Christian roots. Our family focused on the birth of baby Jesus and I never felt I was missing out by not believing in Santa. If anything, it gave me an excuse to be mischievous.

Like arranging a plate of cookies for “Santa” and putting the cookies Dad didn’t like there.

We left plenty of room for the wonder of the season. Still, by the time I arrived in junior high, all that mattered was being cool. Christmas wasn’t cool. I didn’t feel like celebrating anything related to God anyway.

I was not popular at my small Christian grammar school but I had a few like-minded friends. It should have been enough but it wasn’t. By the beginning of 7th grade, I was fully depressed.

Good moments were few and far between but Christmas 1991 was a bright beacon amidst the darkness.

I joined the junior high choir because I liked to sing. I held no illusions about my voice. I can carry a tune and my voice blends well with others but no one will ask me to sing solo. Most of the time, I was content to be in the background.

When Mr. Wright announced our Christmas concert would feature the first verse of Silver Bells as a soprano-alto duet, my heart stormed right out of my chest. He told us anyone interested should pair up and stay after practice. My best friend Ruth and I decided to audition, along with 6 other girls. We were a mix of 7th and 8th graders, cool girls and not-as-cool girls.

There was no way Mr. Wright would pick me, I knew it deep down. But I had to try. The spotlight’s allure was a siren.

The room was bright and cold, our voices filled the air with the song of city sidewalks, busy sidewalks. Before I knew it, Mr. Wright decided we’d be an ensemble instead of whittling us down to a duet.

He chose me. And seven others. But still, he chose me. The sensation of happiness had become foreign to me. It didn’t stay long but oh, the elation of that moment!

Over the next few weeks, the eight of us practiced the first verse, learning where to bend and emphasize. We kept large smiles on our faces to prove how very merry we were. During the dress rehearsal, we moved down from the risers of one accord when it was Silver Bells’ time and then seamlessly reintegrated ourselves into the choir when our part was through.

The night of the concert, we arrived early, everyone pacing and complimenting on hair and choice of attire. Girls in red, guys in green, if I recall correctly. Dots of Christmas cheer. At some point, we filed out into the gymnasium and stood before our loved ones. I love Christmas music but I can’t remember one other song we sang that night. Only Silver Bells mattered.

Butterflies drummed about my stomach. Suddenly, this special ensemble thing seemed like a horrible idea but there was nothing to do about it. Ruth and I exchanged glances from our respective places just before we stepped down toward the microphone.

The eight of us paused in our semicircle; we summoned our inner cheer. And then we sang.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks

Dressed in holiday style

In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas

Children laughing, people passing

Meeting smile after smile

And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear

It was through. We exchanged grins of triumph as the choir joined us on the chorus.

Silver bells, silver bells

It’s Christmas time in the city

Ring-a-ling, hear them sing

Soon it will be Christmas day

Our ensemble departed back into the choir as we began singing the second verse in unison. Adrenaline pumped through me. The crowd may not have been able to pick my voice out in the ensemble but I’d played a part in it. The spotlight was mine for a brief moment and while I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis, it had been entirely worth it.

I imagined the scene described in the song, a depiction seemingly of an idyllic time from long ago. I  pictured the lights in downtown Chicago and downtown Wheaton, a bustling city and an idyllic town. Happiness overwhelmed me once more. Perhaps Silver Bells doesn’t place sufficient emphasis on Christ’s birth but how else could I attribute the inherent happiness and joy in that song?

The wonder of Christmas restored to me by a grammar school concert.

Leigh KramerLeigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Family. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.

Make a Memory {The Magic of a Childhood Christmas Series}

I am so delighted to bring you today’s guest post for our Christmas series! Sweet Nicky writes at Salt and Sparkle, a lovely blog with amazing photos taken by Nicky and lots, and lots of talk about food and friends. You really should check her out! You can also find her on Twitter. Nicky hails from Northern Ireland, and has sent us a lovely piece sharing one of her favorite and most beloved Christmas memories/traditions. This originally aired on BBC Radio in 2010.

Magic of Christmas

Today is the anniversary of my Gran’s birthday.  We were very close.  There really isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about her.  When she was alive we spoke nearly all the time, sometimes several times a day.  We talked about everything; the birds she had seen in her garden, the people who had come to visit, my latest romantic panic, but mainly we talked a lot about food, what she had baked that day, what we had eaten, what we were going to eat, who was coming for dinner and where we would seat them at the table.  On Christmas Day we often had 30 people for lunch. There was a lot of preparation to do the day before.

Nicky and her Gran one Christmas

Nicky and her Gran one Christmas

On Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember Gran and I hung out together in the kitchen – cooking and listening to ‘Carols from Kings’.  She taught me how to make stuffing, and prepare the turkey, how to cross sprouts, and peel vegetables – leaving them in bowls of cold water with wedges of lemon so they didn’t go brown – how to boil and roast the ham, with a special clove, honey, cider mixture, and how to make trifle, and fruit puddings.  As we followed ancient handwritten recipes in our family cook books Gran shared stories with me from when she was a little girl.  Stories that have become a part of my history – like when her sister, my great aunt decided to make a Christmas cake under the dining room table complete with butter, fruit, flour and no bowl – you can imagine the mess – this story has entertained people for generations.  Today as I prepare the traditional Christmas dinner for my family, I remember these stories, all her little kitchen tricks, the carols we sang and the laughter we shared and the importance of a well-set table and a good placement.  My mind is full of marvellous memories.

This winter as you prepare for Christmas enjoy listening to the stories of the older generation; they have great tales to tell and when they pass their stories pass too.  Take time to listen, to make a memory, you won’t regret it.

The Magic of A Childhood Christmas

Magic of Christmas

Rusty hills dotted with sagebrush and paddle cactus blurred past the window. I rested my forehead on the cool glass and stared at everything. And nothing.

Would there be snow?

A familiar fluttering of anticipation ebbed and flowed in my stomach.

I was at a crossroads. A borderland, if you will.

One foot still planted firmly in my childhood. The other testing the waters of that strange vista of preteen-hood that so badly wants to play; but longs even deeper to be cool.

Inside, the heart of a little girl beat with giddy excitement at the prospect of Christmas in the mountains. With snow. Even armed with the knowledge that the elevation of the little cabin made it possible for flurries of the magical white powder, full on snowman-making-snowball-fight-inducing-must-make-a-snow-angel coverage was rare.

If you could have seen the heart of me you would have found a freckle-faced girl with pigtails in a plaid flannel nightie clutching her teddy bear hopping up and down unable to stand the suspense.

To look on the outside you would have seen the stereo-typical preteen (sorry, can’t bring myself to say tween) girl. AKA – I played it cool.

The true definition of apathy embodied. That is until we rounded the bend and saw it.

Snow! Loads of it. Tons of it. Everywhere. Insert cheesy Snow song from White Christmas here. 

My brother and I living it up in the snow...and some rockin' puffy jackets!

My brother and I living it up in the snow…and some rockin’ puffy jackets!

Cool was holding on tight, refusing to give in… until we saw the cabin.

Like a gingerbread house come to life, it sparkled in the crisp powder. The corners of the windows frosted, leaving only a circle in the center. Perfect for peering through while sipping cocoa. (I would find out later it was snow-in-a-can applied by my grandparents, but I didn’t care).

Once inside and unpacking, it didn’t take long to figure out that the pipes were frozen solid. Not a hope of thawing.

Back into town we headed to get bottled water and other essentials.

Driving down the ever so charming “main street” of this quintessential quaint little town we took in the beauty and serenity only the aftermath of a blizzard can provide. In a small courtyard off a side street stood a fountain. It’s spray completely and perfectly frozen in formation.


Playing games with Grandma

Playing games with Grandma

There’s talk among the adults of packing it up, calling it a day and heading the two hours back down the mountain; back into the plain desert full of brown and sun.

We can make this work. Let’s do it.

The can-do spirit oozed from every person, young and old.

The next few days were spent cooking with bottled water; snuggling under insufferably itchy woolen blankets watching The Man from Snowy River on the tiny retro screen. Melting snow in a cast-iron pot over the fire to use for washing faces and flushing the toilet.

I felt like I had stepped into the pages with Laura Ingalls Wilder and we were pioneering some uncharted territory with our little family spanning four generations under one roof.

My brother and I jumped with both feet back into our childhood and spent days playing in the snow; exploring; laughing; throwing. Sitting on a boulder staring up at the too-blue-for-words sky listening to the pines creek in the breeze. Utopia for two city kids from the desert.

Christmas day brought laughter, hot cocoa with whipped cream, gifts and more laughter. Our dinner was made simple out of sheer necessity. But somehow no cuisine has ever tasted so rich.

Yeah, I did it. Picture of me taking a picture of you. And slouch socks.

Yeah, I did it. Picture of me taking a picture of you. And slouch socks.

You might say that was my last Christmas as a child.

All I know is that year – the Christmas at the cabin – goes down as the most magical, memorable, and happiest of my entire childhood. And I marvel at the magic that was rekindled in the heart of moody, socially awkward 12 year old just by the presence of some snowflakes and a family that loved her and let her be who she really was. Who loved who she really was. And who wasn’t afraid to rough it for a few days to make sure she got to really experience the Magic of a Childhood Christmas.

This post is the first in a series relaying stories from friends from around the world sharing their favorite childhood Christmas memory. The last week of the series we will host a link-up so you all can share in the magic! So get thinking, dig out the old photos and be ready to link up your story, too!

I’m linking this post up with The Better Mom, Time Warp Wife

Are You Ready?

Ready or not, Christmas is a comin’!

The Big Day will be here in just 11 short weeks! That’s right, eleven!!

No matter how I plan, some things about Christmas just seem to sneak up on me. Take, for example, my decision last year to use a brand new Advent eBook with my kids, Truth in the Tinsel. It was a bit of a last minute decision, and I was left scrambling to find the appropriate craft supplies for this fun, awesome experience with my kiddos. Lest you forget, I’m uber horrible at keeping crafty stuff around the house.

So, I’m starting early this year! I’m already working on getting my supplies together for us to do Truth in the Tinsel at home, as well as once a week as an after school program at our daughters’ school. I can’t express the level of my excitement – and nerves!

So, since I’m working on getting my little duckies in a row, I thought I’d give you the same chance shove nudge. :)

If you’re still not sure about this whole Truth in the Tinsel thing, check out the Manger Mondays tab up there and you can see how it went for us. One of the things I love about this curriculum is how flexible it is. Never mind how it makes the Bible come alive for my kids. Or gets them focused on the true reason we celebrate Christmas. And gets them excited about reading God’s Word!

Not organized? No problem! Amanda’s done all the organizing for you with a master supply list, daily supply lists, and even a script to follow in each lesson! Not crafty? Also not a problem! I can craft a story with relative ease, but craft an actual craft?? Not a hope. These crafts are easy, fun and quick!

So, what do you say? Do you have your Truth in the Tinsel yet??

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