Monday, December 10, 2012

Lists, a Chain, and Gifts

[UPDATE: The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt is FREE on Kindle December 14-17 - Grab Your Copy Here!]

On Friday, Marji Laine posted Chapter Five Part One of The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt. Today, she posts Part Two.

Chapter Six begins today on the Pix-N-Pens blog. Author Sheryl Holmes wrote Chapter Six and today, she shares with us her favorite Christmas memories, and a recipe that I'm definitely going to make - probably BEFORE Christmas!

Lists, a Chain, and Gifts
By Sheryl Holmes

Lists.  Secret lists. Not Santa’s, but mine.  That’s how it all started.

Giving and being the giver.  Now that is the Christmas Tradition I will call my favorite.

This tradition was always tagged on the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.  I would grab a notebook and a pen and retreat to a quiet corner of the house and begin by listing all the names of my family members and friends with whom I so desired to surprise with a gift.  My mind would swirl with ideas of crafty things to make.  Ever so carefully I would browse through the catalogs and choose just the right item for this one or that one.  Lists of materials & resources needed were made.  Lists of days of days were outlined to make time for the crafts & creations.  My secret list would be stashed somewhere in my room to ensure there would be no other eyes upon it.  This is how I began the tradition of lists and giving,  when I was a pre-teen.

Many years have passed, yet I still seek out a clean sheet in a notebook, retreat to a corner of the couch, scrawl the names, and brainstorm gift ideas the weekend following Thanksgiving.  The process delights me!   One solid tradition that resulted from my long standing ritual of list making is my “Christmas Chain.” Colored construction paper cut into 1” strips were laid out and prepared.  When my first children were about 4 years old, I began this 25 linked chain tradition to help them count down to the long awaited Christmas Day.  Inside each link I would write special activities to do in preparation of the holiday upon us; Scavenger hunts, ornament making, cookie baking, card creating….doing secret good deeds, crafting gifts for shut-ins, praying for loved ones, making  a meal for the neighbor….and always scripture readings to focus on the familiar Christmas story in a fresh way.  Each day, beginning Dec. 1st, a new chain link was taken down and read and my children and I would engage in the love of preparing our hearts and minds for the celebration coming on the 25th. I was giving each of my nine children time to revel – time to ponder – and I think I gave them the gift of considering.  Considering Jesus and the gift of love He is to us, from God.

Giving.  It is my heart’s desire and joy.  I love to plan the activities for the chain and the gifts for Christmas morning.  I love to watch the anticipation and the excitement of the receiver.  It makes me smile and giggle til my cheeks ache.

Currently, my youngest is nine and my oldest is twenty three and this year we decided to consolidate the actual paper chain into tiny slips of paper placed inside our advent wall/box display.  This morning, my twelve year old lifted my two year old grandson up to open the box and take out the “chain activity” – the Tradition is jumping into the next generation – wheee!  My heart was so tickled.  I love to give!  I love being a giver!

I suppose it is the natural course of my born-again status.  As I am being molded to become more like Christ, I should inevitably love to do as He did.  Jesus, the ultimate giver, gave up His own life for each one of us.  In love, Christ humbly came to earth as a baby and we celebrate this birth every December 25th.  Yet, I believe the true joy in our celebrations is in the knowing that His birth was just the beginning of the gift.  In His death, I imagine Jesus must have felt the most exquisite joy as a giver, as He made the Way for us to receive the inheritance of eternal life with Him.  Oh, if I can imagine it ... what achy cheeks He must have!

Yes.  Giving.  It’s decidedly my favorite Christmas Tradition.

Mom’s Christmas  Morning Egg Souffle
by Sheryl Holmes

This is the casserole my mom prepared for every Christmas morning since I could remember.  The delight was that it could be put together & refrigerated up to two days prior to Christmas Day and so only requires the energy to pop it into the oven an hour before eating time!  Ever since I was married and on my own, I have prepared this same soufflĂ© casserole for my family, accompanied by cinnamon buns which also can be made ahead of time.  Let’s face it, who wants to be cooking on Christmas morning?

8 slices of bread – I use the white air bread – buttered then cut into cubes
½ lb. of grated cheddar cheese

4 eggs – beaten with all the stuff that follows:
1/8 tsp of paprika
2 TBS of prepared mustard
2 ½ c. of milk
½ tsp of salt (pepper if you like or season salt also works)

Layer the bottom of an 8 cup baking dish with 1/3 of the buttered bread cubes.  Top with cheese.  Repeat the layering 2 more times.  Pour the egg mixture over the layers.  Chill 1 – 2 days.  Bake uncovered in an oven 350 degrees till puffed and golden – about 1 hour.

About Sheryl: 

Sheryl Holmes, a daughter of the King, enjoys a loving marriage with her husband of twenty-six years. She is a devoted mother of nine, currently home educating five of her children. Sheryl serves as an active member of Dwight Chapel’s Christ Community Church, in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Sheryl is the author of:

Towdah: A Cancer Survivor’s Song of Hope which is available in our Give One Get One Free Sale!

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt

Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.

Chapter One by Joan Campbell
Chapter Two by Ruth O'Neil
Chapter Three by J. A. Marx
Chapter Four by Deanna Klingel
Chapter Five by Marji Laine
Chapter Six by Sheryl Holmes

Sheryl is the Featured Guest today at Magnificent Hope's Christmas Party! Come on over and join the fun!


Jennifer Fromke said...

We do a similar Advent thing. We have a garland with knitted pockets, each with a number on them, 1-24. I place a scripture and clue inside. THis year, the clues reference books we've read aloud, and then I send them to a place in the house where they find a treat or an activity. Even my 10th grader gets excited about this.

Glenn said...

My three favorite traditions:
1. I save the Christmas tree trunk from the year before and cut into logs. Each of us writes down our regrets and disappointments from the year, tie it to our log and we burn them on Christmas Eve.
2. Christmas Eve @ midnite I go outside & wish Jesus a happy birthday and worship Him.
3.We gather every candle in the house on Christmas morning & have a candlelight breakfast.