Category Archives: 7 Keep Christmas

My FAVORITE of all holidays (and holy days), rich with symbolism and meaning. It is not only deeply spiritual, but full of meaning I get to publicly share during the season, my best witnessing days each year!

Singing solo…

I recently looked back at my very first few blog posts, way back in the olden days of blogging. The first few were right around Christmas of 2006, so of course, I couldn’t help but talk about Christmas and all the ways I love it.

In this post {click here to see the original}, I shared a quote from a cup of Starbucks coffee. I liked it. I am glad I wrote it there.

singing solo...joining a group #quote

We can sing beautifully alone, but to add harmonies, to join with voices blending, sharing the emotion and depth of meaning in the words: this is best.  Life and songs and Christmas are meant to be shared.

Sacred Days and Holy Nights

Yesterday was the final day of Christmas (today is *Epiphany!)…

Christmas afternoon 2014

Our tribe on the first day of Christmas, December 25, 2014

I bet most of you have long since packed the ornaments away and vacuumed up the needles of the tree. You have probably moved on to making resolutions, starting a diet and setting personal and professional goals. You have purchased the newest organizational containers, a fresh planner and have thrown out the remaining candy from Christmas stockings by now.

But what, I wonder, is our hurry? Why do we so willingly follow merchant’s schedules for when to begin Christmas, and when to be rid of it? As believers, we are often miffed that we hear “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and we send cards saying “Jesus is the reason for the season,” yet we fall right into line with the most secular of thinkers on the exact perimeters of celebration. 

First Thanksgiving, then Black Friday for frenzied shopping: decorate, bake, wrap, shop some more. There are parties and programs and quick-holiday-themed worship services to attend. Then the relatives show up and we all enjoy too much food and revelry together and by the time the gifts are unwrapped and paper is strewn about, we are ready for it to. be. over.

Jesus was most assuredly NOT the reason for a season that looks like that.

But like every other pooped-out celebrant, Christ-following-believer or not, we immediately start putting our joy-to-the-world away and clearing all signs of festivity, usually because we just can’t stand another second of this go-tell-it-on-the-mountain season of decking-the-halls.

By 8:37 pm on December 25th (technically the first day of Christmas) the over-buying, the round-the-clock shopping hours so kindly provided by “caring” retailers, the extreme-indulgence in “making merry,”  it’s all just too much. We’re ready to pack every vestige of the season away (after hitting a few clearance sales for next year’s celebrating, of course), and then it’s off to the future. We emerge from Christmas absolutely unchanged by the observation of the birth of the Savior of the world. We limp from Christmas day relieved to have it over instead of filled with renewed devotion, knowing Jesus more.

Why on earth we spend all year looking forward to something that wears us plumb out, I am not sure. We are excellent at romanticizing our traditions and must-dos, even if they will eventually suck the life right out of us.

Oh how utterly conventional, how completely secular we have really become. Is a casual reading of Luke 2 on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning really enough to call what we just did a celebration of the Christ?


What if we added 12 devotion-and-worship-filled days to Christmas and topped it off with an *Epiphany?

What if we celebrated, I mean really observed and worshiped through Christmas in the liturgical-church-calendar way, all the way through Epiphany? I am not from high-church tradition at all. We didn’t observe religious customs or days in my Pentecostal upbringing (often eschewing them as mere “traditions of men”), but I have realized through the years that there are parts of my faith still so unexplored, holy things I have yet to comprehend, though other church traditions have been careful to recognize and make way for their understanding through a careful liturgy.

The less days I have, the more willing I am to give more of them annually to find Jesus, to know Him, to press in to know Him.

“So let us know Him, let us press on to know the Lord.”  Hosea 6.3

What if we could become whole and healed by setting aside time, consecrating days on the calendar, sanctifying a season for deeper reflection, time to rest, time to heal, time to focus on the Light of the World?  What if, instead of letting Target and WalMart determine our celebrations, we let Christmas, as I-have-decided-to-follow-Jesus types, really begin on the 25th and we spend the days until Epiphany seeking Him like the Wise Men did, following that bright light of mercy in our darkest nights?

What if we pondered the things of Jesus and held them in our hearts like Mary, who, while carrying the Him within gave us one of the richest examples of worship (Luke 1:46-56) in the scriptures? Or what if, on some day after the retail madness has died down, we become filled with the Holy Spirit, like Zacharias, and prophesy the goodness of God to a world who needs to know Him, the One who so loves them?

“Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”   Luke 1.68-69

We often end the story on Christmas day with a babe in manager, but what if were like Simeon, so longing to see Him, led by the Holy Spirit to witness an 8-day old baby – he just blessed God. He saw the babe and his heart found total fulfillment and utter peace, complete satisfaction. He said to God, “Your servant can now die in peace!” Now that is a full heart!

And what about the very old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple, but ministered to the Lord there day and night with prayers and fasting? Thanksgiving to God poured from her as she came up to find Jesus there with His parents. Is the gratitude flowing from us?

What if we marked the days off on the calendar and decided to find Him again, perhaps having drifted off course during the busy year? What if we used the sacred days and holy nights, all now made holy by His coming, to know Him, pursue Him, and meditate on His goodness? Would He honor that? Would He show up to meet with us there?

I usually post a flurry of blogs during Advent and the Christmas season {you can find these by clicking on the “Keep Christmas” topic at the bottom of the page}. I believe there should be no more devoted celebrant than those of us who have received His salvation. I love it all, the sights, the sounds, the symbols of Christmas. I believe Advent holds much treasure we are often too busy to observe. But I have only recently begun to wonder what we miss by not REALLY making Jesus the reason? What of these days between Christmas Day and Epiphany?

Let’s not be so quick to move on. There is more than the hustle, so much more than the bustle. Next year, for sure, the lights will stay in place, the symbols of my faith represented in the decorations and the tree that represents everlasting life  because of the tree Jesus hung on will stay put. Until I emerge a little more like Him, having spent the time seeking Him and keeping on until I really find Him. That is how to “keep Christmas well,” I think. That’s what I am after!

“he knew how to keep Christmas well” ~ Dickens

How do you keep Christmas? How do you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, spiritually? I would welcome your ideas as I think about Christmas future. SEND INSPIRATION!

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Oh and…

I did just get this for my Kindle today. Can’t wait to explore it and use it next year with my grandkids! Be sure to read her post on “The Essence of Epiphany” and the first commenter, who had some awesome thoughts about  the Wise Men’s journey). Good stuff!

Experiencing Epiphany – 6 Days of Intentional Epiphany with Your Kids by Lindsey Bridges

*epiphany: The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (see Matthew 2.1-12); the festival commemorating the Wise Men arriving to find Jesus, celebrated on January 6th;  the striking appearance or manifestation of a divine being.


A Christmas Lullaby Playlist – for the grown-ups

Three days out. And for the joy and the love, for the Savior who came, may we live in the peace He brought, the Peace He is. For He came, Emmanuel – God with us {GOD – actually WITH us!}. Don’t miss the magic, the mystery, the relief of a Savior who came and now abides.

This is for all the little girls, from 1 to 92, or so, for quieting your heart this week. With love.

Spotify playlist, {{click here}}

christmas lullaby playlist

“Come, Emmanuel

Come and reign in us

Come and speak to us, fill and renew us

Come and live through us, Emmanuel”

sig keep christmas

He gave us Himself

The greatest gift of all, a Savior, Jesus!

gifts he gave himself

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” -Sigrid Undset

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3.16

And isn’t all our gift-giving just a variation on the amazing theme of God’s most amazing gift? If I can just include, somehow, a little of myself – infused with the love in my heart towards the recipients: good gifts! Even on Cyber-Monday, ha!

It’s that time of year again…I cannot help myself!  :)

sig keep christmas

“Christmas Eve” Font: << see lots of other great fonts

The Days Leading Up to our Savior’s Birth – The Jesse Tree!

It’s almost CHRISTmastime!
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Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

My sister-in-love, Robin, is an accomplished communicator and teacher.  She has poured her heart and soul into creating an incredible, heirloom-quality resource available to families for Christmas. The Jesse Tree connects the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the glorious story of God and His amazing plan of redemption all the way from Genesis to the birth of Jesus and beyond.

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A Jesse Tree is decorated with ornaments symbolizing the people of the Bible, the prophecies and the events that led up to the time our Savior was born!

A Tradition that Matters

If you end up feeling frustrated at the end of the Christmas season for how little time was spent getting to know the story of Jesus better, HIStory, plan now to use the Advent season as a time of worship and discovery.



Each beautifully handcrafted ornament will become a lasting imprint on the hearts and minds of your children, your family.  Understanding will grow, joy will be increased, and you’ll be helping your family know how to explain the hope we have.

“…in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. ” 1 Peter 3.15 NIV

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Read more about it here:

Each set includes: 28 ornaments – one for each day of Advent, a book of devotions and Biblical references (written by Robin) to go with each ornament and a sturdy, divided storage box for storing this keepsake set safely.

Meant to be enjoyed again and again throughout the years with your familia, each set is $95 (plus $7 s & h).

Limited sets available, shipping this week! Quick – get yours!

buy now


On the 12th Day of Christmas – it is Epiphany!

12 drummers drumming, people!  That is what you get on the 12th day of Christmas!

12 daysSo this is it.  We have finally come to the end of the Christmas season on the Day of Epiphany, a Christian Feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son who came as a human being in Jesus Christ, and of course – the observance of the Wise Men visiting Baby Jesus.

I got my Christmas cards done!  Now to get them mailed to the out of towners…a whole different project!

And may I just say – getting the one perfect shot for this card…well, it never actually happened.  Stormie had to “fix the stall,” and paste in a face or two from a different shot and you might notice the pot near the manger?  It isn’t just crooked, it was actually falling.  When everyone else looks best in the pot-falling shot, you just ignore the pot!

card back new christmas

This is the back of the card. The Nativity in the living room…because we felt Evangeline should not actually have to be in a real barn quite yet…everyone owns a manger, yes?

Nativity-Photoshoot day was as loud as 12 drummers drumming, I can guarantee you that!

It was a wild, hilarious, very short, but intense sliver of time.  My little lamb so wanted to scurry away and the littlest Wise Man was an hour past his nap time.  The tiny angel’s halo didn’t fit right and the biggest Wise Man’s head gear was strapped on so tight he almost got a headache.  There is the cutest shot of Guini laughing, which I thought was maybe her Uncle Rocky being funny, but Averi informed me it was when Kai tooted right in the middle of getting the pictures taken.

cmas card, inside left

Inside, left of the Christmas card

And it is always so funny, because I am always hoping for this one perfect shot for the card, but honestly, when you go back later, it’s the crazy ones that make you laugh and re-live the fun moments of the day.  However, for posterity I must write this here: we only used 1 camera and that is a mistake with a big group like this.  We’ve usually always had 3 or 4 going and that way – something is bound to work.  Must do that again from now on…for as long as these sweet-peas will let me do this.

Baby Jesus slept blissfully through it all, swaddled in a Jessica McClintock fleece and green velvet throw.

cmas card inside right

This is the inside, right

Amelie Belle told me today that she plans to be Mary next year and Averi says she wants to be a Wise Man.  So, I guess it’s still on for 2014!  :)  Happy Nonna!

On the card, I adapted some of Howard Thurman’s words, which seem appropriate in light of the Christmas season coming to a close:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The real work of Christmas begins.”

card front

Because, Christmas = Christ Mass = Worshiping Jesus Christ.  It’s never really over.  So it’s time, friends and family to do the works of Jesus (Luke 4) as an act of worship: proclaim good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  We have our marching orders – so much great stuff to do in His Name!  Merry Christmas, bright New Year and God’s favor upon you!

Only 352 days until Christmas…  :)

A bonus song with a wish for you.  May you be blessed in the coming year and find Jesus to be your all in all.

“‘Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again,” by Kenny Rogers

“May the new year be blessed with good tidings

‘Til the next time I see you again

If we must say goodbye

Let the spirit go with you

And we’ll love and we’ll laugh

In the time that we had

‘Til the season comes ’round again”

012 12th day of christmas ornament

Somewhere it’s Snowing ~ A Song for one of the Final Days of Christmas

On the 11th Day of Christmas it may or may not be snowing here and in Indiana and South Dakota and LOTS of other places!

12 days

I used to really-really hate snow.  I’ve mostly lived in places with long winters and snow to the rafters.  It slowed me down, snowed me in, made life a little more difficult if it lasted more than a day or two.  Then about 20 or 22 years ago, I saw this video on TBN  of Carman singing, “Somewhere it’s Snowing,” and forever, the beauty of the thought that grace and forgiveness cover our sin like snow covers the earth and “gives nature new birth,” well, I fell in love with God’s ways through this white blanket of wondrousness.

Snowy days are fun at first and get old fast, but I never cease to be amazed by the even the ugliest, most uneven ground, or sooty factories and broken roads – they all, under a coat of fresh snow, are beautiful again. And the picture of that, the miracle of it, is so profound, I really do thank God for the most vivid reminder on days like today.

I once read in a poem, when snow covers the earth,

That it hides the worlds scars, and gives nature new birth,

And they say when a man turns from sin to the Lord,

That forgiveness, like snow, covers him evermore!

And somewhere it’s snowing –

somewhere it's snowing

Now, I’ve heard that the angels lift their hearts and rejoice,

When one traveler turns homeward from his ways, to the Lord.

If somewhere someone’s turning, he’s giving his all,

And God’s grace, like the snow, is beginning to fall!

On the 11th day of Christmas, I am overwhelmed as I realize the gift of Jesus, and all He came to bring,

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow…”  Isaiah 1.18

Our sins, all the ones we committed before we knew Him and received Him (“while we were yet sinners”), and all the ones since – they fall powerless in the face of the grace-full and free, forgiveness-laden blood of Jesus Christ.  He fulfilled all sin’s demanding requirements and He is enough, setting us free from the law of sin and death.  Don’t just sit there consumed by your pain and shame and sin – run to the forgiver.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1.9

Seriously?  You can take this to the bank.  If you confess – He is faithful, He is just, He is able and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from that stranglehold of sin and unrighteousness.  Run to Him for forgiveness, to Him.  You’ll never find what only Jesus gives anywhere else.  Let the good, sweet and amazing grace of Jesus cover your sin like the snow is covering Colorado!

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Song, Somewhere it’s Snowing by Priscilla Coffey

And somewhere it’s snowing –

see the soft drifting down

As the snowflakes surrender

to the hardening ground.

Like the good grace of Jesus,

that now covers our sin,

In the kingdom of Heaven,

it’s snowing, again.”

On the 10th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me-me-me-me-meeeee

A whole lot of fluffy, white snow!

12 days

It’s cast party day at The Rhoades Ranch.  :)  That means lots of chicken enchiladas and shredded pork enchiladas ready to pop into the oven, plus a party-size roaster full of my *ahem, famous Swedish Meatballs, among other things.  One of those other things is “Christmas Crack,” and I just hope there is some left by the time human beings arrive because I l-o-v-e it sooooooo much!

And we have a marshmallow, snowy, fluffy, white, Christmas-y world outside!  How fortuitous that I have LOTS of hot cocoa mix ready to go and a nice big rug for feet-wiping!  Finally, on the 10th day of Christmas, it looks it – like Christmas!

The outside lights are going to be aglow for our guests, the cast and crew of Jesus, Mary and Joseph! (otherwise known as “10-Lords-a-Leaping”).


Christmas morning

And so, on this, the 10th Day of Christmas, let’s keep meditating on WHY Jesus came.

Even though we have packed away our Nativity sets and moved back into life at our usual speed, let’s not forget how the Word-made-Flesh came to us as a vulnerable, fully dependant baby, but with a great purpose.  Understand His plan, receive it – or Christmastime is in vain.   He came bringing life, and not just life, but life more abundant!

John 10.10 nkjv

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

9th day of christmas

On the 10th Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me – Abundant Life!

That manger-baby grew up and powerfully counter-acted anything the thief tries to do to you or take from you.   By His perfect life, His death and resurrection, Jesus negates that enemy’s power over your life. The gifts of Christmas aren’t over – they’re overwhelmingly true today and everyday!  Joy to the World!

T H R E E x the JOY!

January 3 – The 9th Day of Christmas

12 days

This year, for the first time ever, I got to have THREE Kings for my Nativity.  I finally have 3 grand-boys who represented the Magi.  I had waited a long, long time for three boys.  We are rather a girl-heavy family.  :)  Good times.

wise guys 2

PLUS – I actually-truly-delightfully-joyfully got THREE new grandbébés this year.

Three in one year!!!  I mean – that is a wildly amazing bunch of generousness straight from heaven, I tell ya!

three new babies for christmas

Now, please note, my husband took these photographs.  I think he focused so much on the babies that my poor, good-looking son-in-law, Dave, was cut out.  There were like 12 pics just like this and Dave is headless in every shot!  Haha!

Malakai, or Kai, as we generally call him (which means rejoicing – and he has brought so much of it), was born last January, quite early and just as Christmas had been packed away and was the BEST way to start the year ever!  Then, as spring broke in the Rockies, the dazzling Bailey Sophia arrived and just tripled the stunning beauty emanating from Rocky and Jovan’s little house, being their 3rd girl and all.  Finally, just 9 days before Christmas, the highly anticipated Evangeline Lilly made her debut and there they all were for our Christmas: three fresh, beautiful, bright-eyed, adventurous, lovely babies – gifts under our tree to last our whole lives long.  Our heritage is being increased at an astonishing rate!

three new babies

Please note how GOOD all these people look (Jovan, Tredessa AND Dave) for just having had babies this year!  :)

three new bebes this year


Interesting, very interesting:  the 3rd of our new-babies was born 9 days before Christmas.  Then, these three babies bring our total to nine grandbebes.  I really did not plan all these threes and nines.  I promise.  I am just sitting here cracking myself up…as I hear the Twilight Zone theme song in my head.  Haha.  Anyhoo…

9th day of christmas

Nonetheless – here is what I want you to know on the 9th Day of Christmas ~

I really feel led to encourage you on this message:

Deuteronomy 31.6, 8 NIV  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you…  The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Hebrews 13.5b NIV   “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.’”

And finally, in case you need to hear this three times:

Isaiah 42.16 NIV  “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

 And this is what I heard for you, friends and familia and readers passing by – even if by your own decisions and actions you are in a place of chaos and despair, even if you know you’re on a rocky cliff or a wilderness of your own making, you are not abandoned!  It does not matter one iota WHY you are there or HOW you got there.  Just know that even though you ARE there, God has not forsaken you, not lost track of where you are.  He will NEVER leave you.  Because HE is faithful and HE is a God of His Word.  If it were based on us, we’d all be sunk, seriously!  Sunk!  But He is God and He is faithful!

He is so faithful that even if we make our bed in hell, even there you can reach out and find Him…Don’t believe me?  Psalm 139.7-10  “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [Sheol-the place of the dead], you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

WHERE could we possibly go that His faithfulness could not find us?  He will never-ever-ever leave you.  This is Good News, it is joy unspeakable.  Are you suddenly aware?  Did you just realize He has been waiting for you to notice that He has not let you out of His sights?

Be at peace, welcome His Presence.  It’s going to be Ok.  Let the merry continue brightly.

On the 8th day of Christmas, sick

If you’re sick?  Stay home.  Get well.  Make lists, lists of every kind.

  • Places to go
  • Movies to see
  • Movies to make of the grandbebes
  • Restaurants to try
  • Languages to learn
  • Books to read
  • Projects for the house
  • Blogs to write
  • People to have coffee with
  • Recipes to try
  • Scriptures to memorize
  • Pre-school ideas for Amelie Belle
  • And ok, yes, the obligatory get-in-better-shape schedule

So, on the 8th day, it beginning to look less and less like Christmas.

on the 7th day of christmas

I have to hurry, because my goal is Christmas cards by Epiphany.  ;)  Oh, Lord, help me.

And for that matter, for real, help me!!!

help me

I was noticing the 8 maids-a-milking on that ornament up there, but I actually only see one and she is carrying two pails.  I feel like she has been abandoned by the other maids and some one else might not be carrying their part of the load.  And there are times when that is actually true.  There are times we are called to carry more than we think we can handle and for sure something some one else should have been carrying.

Sometimes we forget to ask for help {or are too prideful to ask – though I have never personally been guilty of that, really, ever, for sure – are you doubting me here?!}.  Sometimes no one else can help us even if we do ask, no one, but Jesus, anyway.

So heading in to the New Year, let’s remember this about HIM!:

Psalm 55.22 AMP  “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail).”

1 Peter 5.7 AMP  “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”

Hebrews 4.16 NKJV  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Don’t carry the heavy baggage longer and further than is needed.  Turns out we have a High Priest with ready access to the God of the universe and He actually knows and understands and empathizes with what we’ve been going through.  So READ THESE 5 translations of Hebrews 4, get encouraged, ask for help and lay your burdens down, fresh and light for the New Year.


Was this just like 2 1/2 weeks ago???  It was.  Wow, time flies when you’re having fun!