Tag Archives: holidays

Day 358: Merry Christmas From The Land Of Smiles

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Even the plants are displaying their Christmas colors.

“A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” William Hazlitt

Being in Thailand on Christmas is always a highlight.  The weather is nice. The Christmas lights are beautiful, and walking downtown puts a smile on my face.  Here, we get to celebrate with family and friends, and we have a chance to tell the meaning of Christmas to many who want to know.

A few nights ago, we met with a group of friends we call family along with our two daughters.  We missed our son, but it was a cozy time as we each shared what God has done to encourage us this year.

Christmas is not white in Thailand, but I love the tenacity of our Thai brothers and sisters.  We’ve been through a lot together with the severe flooding this year, the Tsunami that came the day after Christmas several years ago, and the political troubles we had last year.  Through it all, the Thai people remain kind, patient, and full of smiles.

Whether we sing near an open fire or with palm trees swaying, we’ll remember the importance of family and friends.  May the Lord speak personally to each of us today as we prepare our hearts for celebrating the coming of the Christ child.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

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Life is short: celebrate often!

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Tom Peters

Today is our yearly Christmas concert.  It is a difficult time of the year for the students and teachers because everyone spends hours sitting “somewhat” quietly in the auditorium between scenes.  Students get a load of commands barked at them within the few minutes they are on and off the stage.  “Quiet!”  “Sing Loudly!” “Quit laughing with your friend!” “Smile!” “Walk softly!”  “Stop running!” “No hitting!”

Is it worth all of the time and effort, and for what reasons do we celebrate?  Yes, it’s worthwhile, and here are a few of my reasons for celebration.

Children learn when they perform:  Each time children perform, they gain confidence for future endeavors.  Putting a child on stage helps build the whole child.  I’ve seen some brilliant adults who were never taught to perform.  The result is an awkward presenter, with an even more awkward audience.  That’s one reason I love to put children on a stage.

Parents see the culmination of the learning: The Christmas celebration at school allows children to express themselves in a different way than normal.  Some students who are unable to show their talent on a written test, might shine on the stage.  When parents get a chance to see the whole picture of their child, including their abilities in the arts, they can better understand how to help prepare them for the future.

The reason for the celebration is important: Ultimately, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who spent His first hours in a simple stable.  It was not the usual arrival of a king, but that is the way of God’s kingdom.  Shepherds celebrated his birth, and that lowly birth allows us to celebrate life.

As you prepare for Christmas day, remember why you are celebrating. Watching performances, completing Christmas shopping, and spending time with your family and friends can all be celebrations.  May His gift of life shine through you as you move through each day of the season!  It’s time to celebrate life!

Day 346: The Music Of The Night

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Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Psalm 150:6

“I believe musicians have a duty, a responsibility to reach out, to share your love or pain with others.” James Taylor

Last night, my friend took me to the 25th anniversary presentation of The Phantom of the Opera filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  I’ve been singing ever since.  There’s something about music done well that stirs my deepest emotions.

Because our souls were made by an inspiring creator, we have a continuous need to express ourselves with passion.  I am grateful for artists who, rather than suppress those feelings, find ways to express them through the mediums of sound, paint, charcoal, and words.

I am an adorer of these artists.  I appreciate how they bear their souls, and I don’t take them for granted.

During this Christmas season, I hope we each take time to connect deeply with our creator.  His creative hand print is seen in every aspect of our natural world.  From the trees, the rocks, the mighty seas, and the beautiful sunset, we hear His voice crying out to us.

The opera God has written for each of us is most beautiful.  May we take time to learn and to perform it with excellence.

Day 345: Bread From Afar

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"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Jesus Christ

Yesterday, my husband got a gift from some dear friends.  It was no easy task to get it either since the family traveled from Japan via. Australia to Thailand. They arrived bearing a special gift of Brumby’s Bread from “Down Under.”  Would I dare share a piece of this bread my husband offered me?  …Not on my life.  This gift was bought with love, a lot of trouble, and at a fine price.  I want him to savor every bite.

At Christmas time, we are reminded of the many sacrifices made for us.  How dare we take for granted this gift of life? This week, my husband and I have been reminded of the many people living in bondage.  We’ve been given so much, but an unfair world prevents many from having even basic human rights.  Some are in prison because they flee to us for safety.  Some are separated from family members for no just cause.  Some are tortured, and some have no home.

More than 2,000 years ago, a young family traveled a distance to bring Jesus to His rightful birthplace in Bethlehem.  Following the law, they arrived in their home city to be taxed.  They were without close family, a decent place to lay the head of our Lord, and proper medicine.

This bread of life gives us hope, regardless of our circumstances.  It opens doors and sets captives free.  May we have an open heart to accept this gift of life and to give it to others.

“Grace is available for each of us every day – our spiritual daily bread – but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

My Top 5 Ways To Avoid Good Health During The Holiday Season

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My attempt at a healthy breakfast...

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” Thomas Fuller

In my case, pride surely comes before a fall.  While teaching, I’ve always prided myself in the fact that I have never called in sick, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been sick.  In fact, on several occasions, the students have asked, “Shouldn’t you be at home, Mrs. Claudia?”

I will openly confess that I’ve been quite sick for about two months now.  There it is.  It’s out there.  Sickness does come to all of us, and it brings many lessons to be learned if we are willing.

Here are 5 mistakes I’ve made that have extended my time of sickness:

1. Don’t stay in bed just because you have a fever.  There’s work to be done and things to be accomplished.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let your body stop you from accomplishing “important” goals.

2. Don’t go to the doctor for meds.  Doctors appointments take time and money.  Just treat your symptoms, and you’ll eventually get better.  This was my bad choice.  In the end, I ended up going to the doctor 3 times because the infection moved to several other organs in the body, which would have been avoided if I had gone to the doctor initially.

3. Don’t keep a regular exercise schedule.  After all, it’s the holiday season.  Who has time to exercise?  This healthy habit may have kept me from getting sick, but as my health deteriorated, I could barely make it walking to the top of the street.  I am envious every time my husband goes out the door to exercise.  I’d love to do it, but because it’s not my regular habit, I’m too sick to join him.

4. Don’t take vitamins.  My husband swears by zinc and takes a handful of vitamins daily.  It seems funny to me, but it’s interesting that he’s the only one who avoided the flu this year.  Maybe there is something to it.

5. Don’t partake of health foods; they are for the birds.  Who needs to eat all of those nuts, oats, and seeds?  Birds will be hungry this winter if I eat all of their food.  Donuts, cheese grits, buttered toast, and coffee probably aren’t the best breakfast foods to help me avoid sickness.  Yet, they all sound better than the oats I had this morning.

I hope your holiday season is full of good health.  As for me, I’m eating humble pie.  I can see that I’m approaching good health again just in time to finish off the holidays. Should I get prideful about my health again, I’m recording my 5 mistakes for posterity.

Do you ever feel smug when you see a sick person, taking pride in your own good health?  Please feel free to amuse me with your stories.

“Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them.” Mahalia Jackson

6 Reasons Why Starting A Diet Today Doesn’t Make Sense

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Not the best condiments for starting a diet...

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Jim Davis

I’m much more tempted by fatty foods than by sweets– unless that sweet  is pecan pie, lemon icebox pie, or coconut cream pie.  The reason of course is that I love coffee and all of those go perfectly with it.

What am I talking about?  Today, I picked tiny black seeds out of my teeth because I snacked on a Thai version of peanut brittle made with black sesame seeds instead of peanuts. All of this to say, I need to lose five pounds, and my pathetic methods aren’t working.

Since we’re all heading into the holiday season, I thought it would be nice to share my list of six reasons why we don’t need to be starting a diet right now.

1. We bought too much food expecting the flood to hit Bangkok, and now we need to eat it all.  If you’re not in my situation.  Go out and buy a bunch of food for an unexpected disaster, and then you won’t need to start dieting today either.

2. Next week is Thanksgiving.  To be safe, you might want to run a trial version of your favorite holiday pie or try one of those new desserts that just came out in this month’s magazine.

3. The weather’s getting cooler–the perfect time to make cinnamon rolls.  It improves the smell of the place, the heat of the oven also keeps you warm, and it puts everyone in a good mood.

4. You can’t let the trick-or-treat candy go to waste. It’s awful to find a bucket of Halloween candy in January.  It’s better to eat it now so that there is no temptation to snack on it later.  Besides, you’ll be on your diet in January.

5. Christmas is just around the corner.  If you start dieting today, what will you do when everyone at the office starts bringing in treats?  If you don’t join them, you’ll seem unsociable.

6. Tradition is important, and you should teach your children to make your traditional holiday foods.  So get in that kitchen and start cooking.  Are you waiting for an invitation?  Aren’t people depending on you?

Simply put, today is just not a good day to start a diet.  I’m thinking of starting in January when I’m finished with my Postaday 2011 Challenge!  When is the best time to start a diet?  Drop a line and share your best dieting experience.

Day 251: Where Markets Call Your Name – A Walk Down Under

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All nature sings at Fremantle Markets.

“And I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.” Wole Soyinka

If I could drop back in on Western Australia for a day, I’d be in Fremantle visiting the markets.  The bustle of a Saturday morning there intoxicates.

The fresh, crisp air on a fall morning along with open-air coffee shops offer something for everyone.  Traveling with a family, we dropped our son at the skateboard park, visited markets, and took the prison tour.  Should I go again, though, I’d spend another day perusing the market.

Australians amaze me in their green efforts.  Being there makes me want to pick up a bucket of worms for composting and start my herb garden.

If craft is your forte, visit the artisans and gather ideas from more than 150 craftsmen at the Fremantle Markets. We found fresh beeswax, homemade soaps and candles, fresh fruits, veggies, handmade paper, jewelry, and stained-glass.  It may have been my imagination, but it seemed that lavender was taking root right in the market.

For a feeling of nostalgia, the market, started back in 1897, is a step back in time.  The next time you’re Down Under, take a walk about Fremantle Markets.

Day 183: To Ride or Not To Ride? A Question of Freedom and Support

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In some places, translation is needed-even for the signs!

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.  A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.  The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” Sloan Wilson

Perhaps the gender caused the unusual quote above.  I’ve raised three children and can honestly say that teaching them to ride a bicycle is nowhere on the list of “hardest part of raising a child.”  However, I like the idea that support and freedom are things we all need in life.

I want to ride my bicycle: I’m proud of my girlfriend who has started biking to work every morning. In some countries, having a bike is an essential mode of transportation.  Several years ago, I spent a lot of time travelling in and out of South Vietnam.  In those days, having a bicycle and a motorcycle to own or to borrow were both essential for daily travel.  It seemed there were no rules for how one must ride or what could be carried on a bicycle.  We saw large pieces of glass, chickens, four to five people, and many other things being transported by bicycle. My husband and I thought it would be fun to put together a slide show (that’s how long ago this was) of the things people could carry on a bike to the tune of Bicycle Race by Queen.  Bicycles for these hard-working people were necessary, and yet they did provide a sense of freedom.

Taking a bike out for a walk: It’s a new concept for me, but about twice a week, I see someone walking their bikes instead of walking their dogs.  I suppose bikes need some TLC too.  Seriously though, some cities don’t provide support for bikers. It does make one wonder how well the bike serves its purpose when for a good portion of the trip, riders are required to get off and walk the bike. When people choose a more healthy mode of transportation, they surely need our support.

When to ride and when not to ride: Each day is full of choices.  With this fourth of July coming up, we can thank our forefathers for the liberty they provided us to make our own choices.  We are fortunate to live in a country where support and freedom are both valued.  It is important, however, to keep questioning how both of these are still being played out in our daily lives.

In life, we all need both support and freedom as do our children.  Being people of great thought, it is important to continue to question the amount of freedom and support still being given to us.  Do we really have the choice to ride a bicycle? The example of the bicycle is a simple one, but freedom and support reach other parts of our daily lives as well. Is the law for man or is man for the law?  A good balance should always be in our minds.  Fighting for rights remains as important today as it was for our forefathers many years ago.

Do we still have a choice to ride or not to ride?  That is the question.

Day 171: For the Love of My Father

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A long chat with my father is like reading a good book!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” William Shakespeare

It’s been a season of celebrations.  A few days ago, I got to help celebrate my mother and father’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  No one is promised good health, so I am thrilled to have been here for such a celebration.

What does a father do that makes us feel so comforted?

‘Fix it’ man- My dad can fix most things.  A few days ago, the car wouldn’t start.  Dad rearranged a few wires, and it was working like new.  I was so grateful he was around.  Granted, some of his projects could be compared to those done on the Home Improvement show, but over all, I have confidence in Dad’s ability to get the job done.

Strong presence- My dad came to help us get adjusted to our new city.  He took us around to find everything we needed.  When it was time to go to sleep, he locked all of the doors and double checked everything so that we would all sleep comfortably.  I slept like a baby while he was visiting.  After he left, I realized it was his strong presence that has always comforted me.

Gentle voice- Dad says that it takes a lot to make him angry, but when he is mad we’d better watch out.  What I remember about him, though, is his gentle, calm voice.  His voice relaxes me like reading a good book.

Good heart- I know that if I have trouble, Dad will find a way to drive to Timbuktu if he has to in order to help.  He’s that kind of man.  On a day like today, I’m happy to be able to call my dad and wish him a happy Father’s Day!

In these days, it’s difficult to find strong, gentle, and good-hearted men.  I cannot be more grateful for the outstanding men in my life.

What are some special memories you would share about your father?

Day 128: Four of the More Than 100 Things I Love About My Mother

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Happy Mother’s Day from a distant land!

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

To all of the fantastic mothers out there, and you know who you are, Happy Mother’s Day.  I am forever blessed to have an excellent mother.

Here are four of the more than one-hundred things I love about my mother:

My mother is Supermom.  She can do anything she sets her mind to do, and she will do it with excellence.  That set the bar high for all five girls.  Once I remember hearing someone say to my mother, “You can’t make that!”  In all fairness to the person, they did not know they had said the magic words. We were all shocked, and we all looked at that person with big eyes.  Of course Mom had to show him, and she made a very excellent one within a couple of hours.

My mother did not hover.  Mom had a knack for giving us space.  We grew up in a house with a big family.  We did not have our own rooms, but we did have space.  Mom never got into our business.  She let us make mistakes, and she helped us find ways to get better at not making the same mistakes again.

My mother taught us to work.  We grew up working around the house.  Since Mom was so creative, we learned how to do many things.  Mom sewed for all of us, and we would help by cutting out patterns or by gathering a ruffle here and there.  Mom wasn’t the kind of mother who had to get everything perfect.  That made things easier for us.  She allowed us to help, and that gave all of us skills.  To this day, I’m amazed that there are girls who can’t sew, cook, hammer a nail, build a closet, or anything she might want to do.  Because we were allowed to work and to try lots of things, we became very versatile.

My mother loves new ideas.  I am so grateful that Mom loves new ideas because we were constantly exposed to new things.  Mom made sure we had an appreciation for music, art, and theatre, as well as many other experiences.  This gives me the ability to try something new without hesitation.

My mother protected us.  You can be sure that if my mother heard someone say an inappropriate remark about us, she would fight.  Because we had a large family, it seems that everyone wanted to add their two-cents worth in suggestions.  However, Mom raised us to believe that we could move above all of those comments, and she showed us clearly that we are not doormats.  People can keep their rude comments to themselves, or at least when my mother is around.

So today, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to a very special mother of mine!  May your children rise up and call you awesome!  May you live long and have the peace of God in your life!

I love you, Mom!