Daily Archives: December 16, 2013

traditions: over the miles

Printers have been cashing in on Christmas since the eighteenth century (that’s a long time!) – at least in London and other large cities around the world. Schoolboys filled in with their best penmanship pages pre-printed with special holiday orders – they were called “Christmas pieces.”

Or hand-written letters…

Can you imagine sitting down and penning 125+ letters to loved ones?

I can. I tried one year and after my hand and wrist felt as if they would fall off, I opted to stick to printing and the bi-annual photo card.

The first Christmas cards for sale commercially were created by John Calcott Horsley. He was a respected illustrator from London, England, and in 1843, he was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole to create the card. Cole was a wealthy businessman who wanted to bring awareness to the need to help the poor.

See Christmas card here (it actually made the news today!).

Louis Prang became the first printer to sell cards in America in 1863, after he had paid a visit to Europe and learned about their cutting-edge German lithography.  He began creating American greeting cards and is sometimes known as the “Father of the American Christmas card.”

This tradition has grown through several generations in my own family and I find it incredibly sad that it’s becoming a lost art.

We have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram – all sorts of other ways to stay connected online. Why add to it?

Each year when I was growing up, Mom would sit at the kitchen table with a list of names and her address book. She’d spent an entire Saturday, or a weekday afternoon when us kids were off at school – little interruption (genius, I might add), and fill out envelopes and cards for Christmas. We’d do photo cards every other year, or as money allowed, and send them off sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I remember helping her lick the envelopes and place stamps and, when I was a little older, she would sometimes include little hand-written notes from us kids.

I loved it.

I’ve since moved away from home (10 years ago), but that tradition is alive and well in my own life. Each year, I write a letter capturing the last twelve months and what God has been teaching me through those events, both big and small. I didn’t want to simply state everything I’ve experienced and leave it at that; I wanted to use that holiday letter as part of my testimony and get the gospel out there to my friends, family and neighbors.

Honestly, Christmas cards and letters have always added that extra personal touch for me. I’m a sucker for a good, hand-written letter received via snail mail. And I don’t care if I end up being the only one sending out cards to loved ones each year. Sure, it gets to be expensive when you start getting into the hundreds on your list, but…if you divide that cost among that number, it’s like purchasing a $2.00 Christmas gift per person (and sometimes less if you’re sending a letter to a family of six). It’s worth it for me.

He placed it on my heart while I was in college that this should be a tool to share his love with others through the window that is my life.

The ups

The downs

The trials

The good

The bad

All of it

All of it

I have nothing to hide. I am not ashamed of who I am or Whose I am. I’m inviting you to come along with me on the journey that is my life, even if only for a short while or via a glimpse through the kitchen window. It’s my story – one that God has given me – and I’d rather use it to bring him glory by sharing it with you. Perhaps some aspect of it will touch your life and help you get through whatever circumstance you may facing or dealing with. We all have them and, even though it may feel that we are, we are not alone.

If you’d like to read this year’s letter, click here.

How about you?

If you were to send out holiday cards this year, who would be on your list? Who would you want your life to touch? There are numerous ways you can reach out to those your life directly affects – physical cards, photo cards, printed letters, handwritten letters and, for those of you who are thrifty, take the e-card route – those are usually free and require a little of your time.

And if you don’t want to write out a snapshot of your last year, simply tell those people what they mean to you.

Kind words go a long way and I encourage you to extend a little love to someone today.

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

dearest friends and family: a holiday letter 2013

Dearest Friends and Family,

What a whirlwind year 2013 has been! It’s been a season full of growth and each moment, especially those that have been the most trying, have added to the adventure that is my life. Thanks be to my God for all of it!

Minneapolis is great, as usual. I’ve grown quite accustomed to calling downtown my home and thesample_2.2 sounds of city are almost like a lullaby to me. I’ve learned quite a bit about this city in the last year and have found a few places that I’ve dubbed “mine” where God and I hash through my questions on life, who I am and His love for me.

I’m still at [insert place of business] and enjoy my job immensely even with the operating and phone system changes we’ve experienced this year. Nothing stays the same in this fast-paced, constantly-evolving world and embracing change makes things that much easier. Then again, I guess I’ve always been one to pursue things that make me grow. After all, aren’t we all a work in progress? And what is progress without change?

In September, I became an independent PartyLite consultant and have enjoyed sharing the company product and decorating ideas with clients and friends. Plus, I get to do what I love doing when I’m not at my day job: candles, decorating and party! Well…in the clean sense, of course. *Smile* That part time job also gives me the space to have a life and continue to serve my church.

Speaking of church, The Vine has also seen some growth and community has begun to come alive. We continue to get to know one another and are learning what it means to hold each other accountable and are discovering what true community looks like. Please continue to pray that God would move according to His will, that those who are coming with continue to grow in their faith, that we continue to build deeper relationships within our church, and for the hearts of those God brings through those doors and into our individual lives.

All in all, some things are the same, but I’m different.

I tried some new things year and each trial has forced me to take a long, hard look at who I am and who I’m becoming; who God created me to be. I’ve built new relationships and deepened old ones. I’ve discovered what it means to disciple and be discipled. I’m learning new ways of reaching out to others and discovering passions I didn’t know I had. I’ve been writing more and even made an attempt at finishing a novel. It’s still a work in progress. And my relationship with Jesus has also grown deeper.

I’ve learned plenty and I’m still soaking up all of the details.

This Christmas, I found myself contemplating the gift He so freely gave: Himself. For us.

He came.

He lived.

He died for all.

He loved.

He set the standard based upon the will of God. And while that type of sacrificial love is beyond our understanding, we can learn from His example and follow Him.

We have that choice.

I pray that with this next year, you’ll discover and come to believe deep down in your heart just how loved you are.

Choose joy. Choose to love radically.

Be blessed,


Photo: © NBdesigns

December 16: a most successful setback

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2.9-11

Christmas was God’s most successful setback. He has always delighted to show his power through apparent defeat. He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories.

Joseph was promised glory and power in his dream (Genesis 37.5-11). But to achieve that victory he had to become a slave in Egypt. And as if that were not enough, when his conditions improved because of his integrity, he was made worse than a slave – a prisoner.

But it was all planned. For there in prison he met Pharaoh’s butler, who eventually brought him to Pharaoh who put him over Egypt. What an unlikely route to glory!

But that is God’s way – even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave – a prisoner – and was executed. But like Joseph, he kept his integrity. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2.9-10).

And this is God’s way for us too. We are promised glory – if we will suffer with him (Romans 8.17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure. But if Joseph and Jesus teach us anything this Christmas it is this: “God meant it for good!” (Genesis 50.20).

You fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.

© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org