advent thoughts

InnkeeperHappy third week of Advent. Advent is a season to prepare for the coming King, both the Baby King and the soon returning King. I'm trying to live Advent mindfully. 

Decades ago, there was a Motel 6 commercial that ended with, "We'll leave the lights on for you." I recall that phrase every time I get up during the night and see the lit-up living room. I leave the lights on the tree burning 24-7 during Advent as an on-going conversation with Jesus. "Jesus, my home and heart welcomes you. The lights are on so you can find your way. Do you see the welcoming light proclaiming, 'this house over here?'"

Unlike the innkeepers in the gospels who had no room for the Holy Family, I want Jesus to see our welcome from afar. My blinds are open and the tree lights proclaim, "You are welcome, Lord Jesus. My heart and home have room for you. You will be honored here. You, your mom and St Joseph, are welcome to stay here. The simple (and smelly) shepherds are welcome to worship you here. The esteemed Magi are welcome to bring their gifts to you and pay you homage." By assuring him that my "inn" has room for him, I'm committing that the ones who worshipped him in the manger are welcome to worship him here, too. "I have made room for you and all of them in my heart and home. The lights are on so you can find us easily. The blinds are open so we can easily be seen as a welcoming place. Jesus, please join us through this Advent."

I welcome his second coming, too. Might the lights that I'm leaving on for him shine symbolic light on my heart to reveal areas that aren't ready for his return? I want to be pure and holy, like a bride washed clean, pure, with eyes only for her bridegroom, radiant in his pure love. Are there areas that aren't ready for his return?

Jesus, be born anew in me and in my home. Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Holy Spirit, convict and cleanse me. May my heart be fit to welcome the coming King. 

2010 christmas letter

December 2010

Merry Christmas from the Gordon Dykstra Family! I say this every Christmas, but it bears repeating: I love this time of year. One of the things that make it special is hearing from you and learning how the year was for you. We’re not the greatest at keeping in close contact with all our friends, but I try to connect at least once a year just to communicate that we still think of you and love you. If you’re reading this letter, know you’re thought of and loved.

Gordon is in his 13th year with Edmonton Transit and has had a good year in the Business Development Section; he’ll complete his 3rd year there in the spring. Early this year he took an occasional Saturday evening pad-his-wallet job driving a 16-passenger limousine. It turned out to be not so occasional in the summer; but he always has fun stories for us on Sunday. He stays busy, be it as a landlord, our go-to fix-it guy, or loving on all his electronic gadgets. That gadgety love is an area in which I go cross-eyed listening to his exciting tales. As a fix-it guy, he’s the best. He saves us thousands of dollars I’m sure. On more than one occasion I’ve said, “Can’t you please just let it die so I can get something new?” I’m grateful for his ability to fix almost anything – and so are our friends who benefit from his Midas touch. He went camping with friends in the summer and it’s been a long, long time since he’s done something like that without his estrogen-loaded family. He had a great time.

Our summer holiday consisted of camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park with our family friends, the Lozchuks. That was a good time too, as usual. Our kids really enjoyed each other, in spite of all the complications of teen life, and it was delightful for the adults to see. As icing on the cake, Deborah caught a big fat delicious walleye, her first fish ever!  It turned out to be quite tasty, and our girls overcame a bit of their general aversion to fish. It was quite a memory.

Deborah and I went to Arkansas in October. Rachael and Hannah went with me several years ago while Debs stayed home. Deborah finally got her trip this year. While there I saw extended family (cousins, aunts and uncles) that I’ve not seen in 20 years. That was one of my highlights. The main highlight was babysitting my grandkids, Roman and Avery, while Stephanie and John Mark went to Cancun. That was how the trip originated; Steph and John Mark booked a holiday and that seemed a prime opportunity for bonding, and it was. I enjoyed my grand babies so, so much. And, of course, I saw my precious mom, dad, siblings, and my delightful son Christopher. He lives in Tulsa now and starts avionics studies in January. And did I mention I’m going to be grandma again? Stephanie and John Mark will welcome another little lady to the family in March.

Rachael is 15 and in high school. She has two paper routes, loves music, enjoys her friends very much and has a boyfriend who spends way too much time at our house. (Just joking. We like Scott.) She has had three poems published and loves to write. Her musical tastes are drifting seriously toward “hard rock”, which Gordon and I find somewhat hard to handle, and she is going to begin electric guitar lessons in the new year.

Hannah is 14 and in her last year of Junior High. Hannah gave us lots to worry about this year, and as you can imagine, that’s just what we needed. I am happy, very, very happy, to report that she’s back to the Hannah I always enjoyed so incredibly much, but more “grown up.” It seems Gordon and I produced kids that morph into aliens for about a year around their 13th year. Two down, one to go. (If it’s going to happen again before they leave home, please don’t tell me. I can’t bear the idea right now. Ignorance is bliss, I maintain.)

Deborah is in grade 6 and I don’t know how she got that old. She got a lot more freedom this year and it’s been hard letting go. That’s a lie, I’m actually enjoying letting go. Gordon and I have dates whenever we want them and even got away to a marriage retreat this year which we loved. Deborah’s still the sweet and polite child (more often than not) that makes us look like decent parents. I’m glad we got one of those. She took up swimming this year and does lots of that - sometimes three or four times a week. She is growing up a bit earlier than her sisters did since she has them to emulate, oh gaity, bliss, oh joy. Sometimes it gets a bit scary, but we make steady progress in our own character and hopefully theirs too.

I started a new job in March and love it. At this time last year I had just started a new job. That turned out to be a very bad experience and I was “delivered” from it in March when I got this job as an office administrator. I’m incredibly happy to be back in this line of work. I’m working full-time for the first time in 18 years. I paddled again this summer. Although my dragon boat team didn’t do quite as well this past season, it was fun in its own pain-seeking way. I walk lots, read lots, write lots, and in January I start cross country skiing lessons. I published my first book of family memoirs this year and am pleased with my lovely book called Don’t Count the Cows. It was also big highlight of my year.

As I write this, it’s -20 degrees Celsius (-4 F) and a good day to be inside thinking of all the people who’ll read this letter. I love summarizing our year as a family for my own recollection and I love hearing from our friends and family, especially those we don’t hear from all that often. I hope we’ll hear from you.

It’s a great time of year. I love, love, love this season. I hope you experience the joy, love, and peace that this Christmas season represents, and remember the greatest reason we celebrate.

God’s blessings to you all.

With Love,

Valerie, for the Gordon Dykstra Family

2009 christmas letter

December 2009

Merry Christmas from the Gordon Dykstra Family! I say this every year, but it bears repeating: I love this time of year and one of the things that make it special is hearing from you and learning how the year was for you. We’re not the greatest at keeping in close contact with our friends, but I try to connect at least once a year just to communicate that we still think of you and love you. So, if you’re reading this letter, know you’re thought of and loved.

You may recall that we moved out of Edmonton to St. Albert (a “bedroom community” of Edmonton) last year. 2009 was our first full year here and it was delightful. We rode bikes all over town in the spring and summer; school, church, library, farmers’ market, shopping and the like. Lovely! We’re about three blocks from the girls’ school, which too is a grand bonus.

Gordon and girls

Gordon is still with xxxxx in the Business Development Department, working with xxxx programs. Amazingly, he’s been with xxxx for 12 years now. I don’t get to see him “work” but reading between the lines, I think he’s pretty dang good at his job. He’s my hero and I love him more as the years pass. He’s into electronic and technological gadgets that give me a headache just thinking about. He is a landlord, since we kept our house in Edmonton and have rented it out, and he is a voracious reader. He takes the occasional course as well – the latest one was on “change management”, in the spring it was “project management”. He also taught Sunday School for a few months this year, finishing up the 2008-09 year, but took a break this fall after teaching the class for two years.

This summer we didn’t do a typical family vacation. We went to Family Camp with Gordon’s siblings and their families. Gordon and the girls thoroughly enjoyed the week – definitely the highlight of their year.

My big holiday was three weeks in Arkansas in October. I have a new grand-daughter and I went to make her acquaintance. Avery Claire and I got along famously. Many folks say she looks like me and I’m honored. Roman is such a sweet big brother and I loved being with these precious grandbabies. Stephanie and John Mark are loving, committed parents and I’m so grateful. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom and I affirm that commitment with everything in me. She and John Mark refresh my spirit.

Chirs and val

Christopher will soon be 21. He’s tall and handsome and gentle as ever. He works for The xxxx, a company that’s located at airports nationwide. He didn’t go to school this past term but hopefully he’ll be back in full swing in January. He is living in Fayetteville in Northern Arkansas, not too far from Stephanie.


Rachael is 14 and a lovely independent soul, but a totally different ball of wax than I’ve ever dealt with. She’s a lot like her dad, a heart of gold but doesn’t worry much about what others think. It can be both beautiful and scary in the same day. I often find myself staring at her with my mouth agape wondering “huh?”. (Something I do regularly with Gordon, too). J Fortunately, Gordon is familiar with a lot of her ways, as he was similar as a teenager. She’s delightful, but tee-totally off the scale as to what I’m familiar with. She’s really into art and music. She has a paper route and works hard on it. She bought a cell phone recently and spends a great deal of time texting friends. (Grrr) She finally got her braces off this year and has a lovely non-metallic smile.


Hannah is 13, goofy, meticulous, and artsy. She has more expendable cash than her parents. A few days ago, she mentioned something she wanted. I asked her why she didn’t buy it and she said, “Well if I bought it, then I’d just have $300 left.” She’s amazing with money. She bought a horse this year. She makes $40/month payment to her Uncle Trent for Grapes. (Grape Expectations is a retired racehorse). Hannah loves her once-a-month weekends at Uncle Trent and Aunt Joanne’s working with the horses, and we're grateful they’ve given her this opportunity. She too has a paper route. She applied herself well this year in school and made the honor roll.


Deborah is our musical child and I’m so glad we got one of those. We love to hear her play. She has a paper route too, but since she’s only 10, either Gordon or I help her. She’s quite unlike Hannah in the way she handles her finances. When she has money, she can hardly rest till it’s all spent. She loves to buy treats and have “parties” for friends and family and will be happy to help with groceries or buy supper to get rid of cash. It’s sweet in many ways, but in other ways I hope she outgrows that tendency. She’s the sweet and polite child that makes us look like good parents. Every parent needs one of those.

I recently started a new job as a bookkeeper/payroll clerk. I’m learning lots and enjoying it, but being stretched. I’m thankful for the job, as it’s a good one. I love going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week; blogging, which I’ve been dreadfully negligent in since I started my new job. ( ) I’m also a Tumblr fiend. Tumblr is where I put pictures of things that make me smile. It’s mostly pictures of animals, scenery, crafts that inspire me and things like that, The girls and I still volunteer at a seniors’ home of Saturdays, playing games with the residents with Alzheimer’s (whom we’ve grown to love); I love volunteering at the women’s prison where I teach journaling, but it’s also very exhausting. And I read lots, matter of fact, we all read lots.

As I write this, the snow is drifting down steadily and we’ve shoveled the walks three times today. It’s finally looking like Christmas around here. Inside it’s cozy and warm and the air is thick with anticipation. We hope the same good spirit is in your home. May you’re season be delightfully full of peace, love and joy. God’s blessings to you all.

With Love,

 The Gordon Dykstra Family


a homemade christmas

 Xmas cookies

I think these cookies turned out pretty.

Reindeer cookies

The reindeer, well, not so pretty.

Hannah's bag

Hannah wanted a new funky bag for the library. This is it.


The girls and Gordon do the gingerbread house thing. I just stay out of the way.

Cloth bags

I like our fabric gift-bags that scream, "we're saving the planet one gift at a time." :-)

I don't have pictures of the ornaments I made this year, but trust me, they're cute.

The meal was divine and we're stuffed beyond safe capacity.

It's been a wonderful, perhaps even glorious, couple of days. And tomorrow is Boxing Day which we'll spend with the Dykstras.

I hope all of you are enjoying this most wonderful time of the year.


memory tree


Christmas trees are a beautiful thing. I like to think of them as lights pointing heavenward. So many trees are majestically big and dynamic. Mine isn't huge, it's actually on the small side. Yet still I wouldn't trade my Christmas tree for any beautiful tree in the world. My tree is 100% memories, precious memories. That's why I call it my memory tree.

One of our family traditions is getting a family ornament every year that symbolizes something special about that year. For instance, this year I'll get a "New House 2008" ornament. Also, if something special happens in the lives of one the kiddos (or Gordon, or me) I commemorate it with an ornament. For example, if I can find something symbolizing Deborah's baptism this year, I'll get it. Or my Canadian citizenship...

Here's a little history from our family.

The Memory Tree. 2008
Our angel topping the tree, handmade by our dear friends and pastors (the Wests) at Crossroads in 1996.
2002, the year of getting a new church. Zion.
The "first grandchild, 2007". The back of it tells the pertinent info on Romie Boy.
Mt Rushmore, 1991.
Deborah made this candle in Kindergarten, 2004.
That's my man Christopher, 4 years old, 1992.
The oldest ornament on the tree, from 1981. I bought it at my first job, Village Florist.
Deborah's first ornament, 1999.
2005, Gordon and I went away without kids for the first time ever. That's two moose in a bed if you can't tell.

"became a woman". 2007
The girls and I spent a month in the States in 2004. This is a smore holding a US flag, if you can't tell. I got it in North Carolina.
Stephanie and John Mark, 2006.

I bought this little angel in China when I smuggled Bibles in. 1991.
2006, Family holiday at Capernwray Habour, Thetis Island. (The guy at the Christmas store misspelled Capernwray.)
The year of the girls' first airplane ride. 2001
Frodo, our perfect little dog who got run over. 2005
The Memory Tree. 2008 Doesn't it seem more special having heard some of its history? Of all my possessions, our pictures, my prayer journals and these ornaments are the most valuable.

Some of my favorites are plain ornaments that have pictures of the kids glued to the back. These are from years when finances were too lean to buy a special ornament.

(And you only heard the history of but a few of my ornaments.)


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I just took down the Christmas tree. But before I did, I sat and looked at it to see if I could conjure up a poem. This is a tradition I started last year (hopefully I can maintain it); a poem that is Christmas tree related. My Christmas tree is very personal, so I wanted to capture some of the memories. Again, I'll say what I say every time I write a poem: I am not a poet. However, I do find the exercise and discipline of trying to write a poem good for me.


White paper angel
crowning my tree
Hailing love and good tidings
from friends near the sea.
Christmas morning
A heavenly being of
gold sequins and thread
Bittersweet reminders
of memories dread.

A blond angel in a red dress
and a brunette in blue
Bearing pictures of daughters
aged one and two.

White feathered angel
that shines a blue light
Bidding me love from
my darling tonight.

Angels of beeswax
and alabaster too
Crystal and gold from
friends old and new.

My angels bear greetings,
love and goodwill
Bringing annual joy to
my heart with appeal.

boxing day

(Deborah, Rachael, Hannah, Frodo, Lucy 2005)

Deborah, Rachael, Hannah Today is Boxing Day. Every country settled by the English, except the US, celebrates Boxing Day. I had never heard of Boxing Day until I met Gordon. But now I recognize it nearly with as much celebratory gusto as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Boxing Day originated in England and some say it was the day that servants were given off. They worked Christmas Day, but were given a boxed gift from their employers on the day after Christmas. Hence the name, Boxing Day.

Another theory is that it's the day that people gave boxed gifts to those who had served them throughout the year; postal workers, milk men, porters, etc.

Scan20020 The tried and true facts, I really don't know. But Boxing Day, December 26, is a holiday up here.

Today we had our big Christmas meal. Gordon's mother joined us. It's been a really good day. We think we are onto a Christmas rhythm that we want to remember for the future. It's been one of the most relaxing, deeply fulfilling Christmases I can remember. Blissfully low key, yet totally satisfying.

I did a serious no-no though. Unknowingly, I dealt my family grief. Here's how. I have never ever bought Stove Top Stuffing. But I've been served Stove Top quite a few times and have grown accustomed to it and even kind of like it. I always make cornbread dressing, all from scratch. I didn't realize till today that my family is committed to the Southern style of dressing.

The trouble started when the kids came from the pantry wanting to know why we had Stove Top boxes. I told them they were on sale 50% off and I thought, Heck, why not. No one will care and it will make my day lots easier. The groaned like I told them we drinking strychnine for cocktails.

Later Gordon was on the phone to our friends in Calgary who are coming to Edmonton tomorrow. Gordon was telling them we would eat leftovers tomorrow. "Valerie makes this cornbread dressing like you wouldn't believe..."

At this point, much too late to start the cornbread dressing, I realized, Oh shoot, it really does matter to my family. So with shame, I served my Stove Top Stuffing. I really felt like a cheater. The time and effort saved were not worth it.

As we hashed all this over at the table, I remembered a conversation I had with my family when I was in Arkansas recently. We were discussing dressing and how it comes in two versions: Yankee and Southern. We discussed our tastes, all of us, being from the South, agreed that Southern dressing is the only way to go. I however told them I had had some good Yankee (Northern) dressing.

My brother mockingly rebuked me for my lack of loyalty. He sighed and said, "Valerie, there was a war fought for this cause."

(Just in case you don't get it, he was joking that the Civil War was about Northern versus Southern Dressing.)

cold and christmasy

(Rachael, Deborah, Hannah 2006)

Xmas 06 Merry Christmas! We have had a wonderful wonderful day. It's been fun and relaxing.

Gordon and I have commented several times today about our girls being great gift givers. They obviously studied their subjects before buying gifts and gave every one gifts they will enjoy. This is saying a lot in this household. When Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah were much younger, they were selfish Christmas shoppers. Their unspoken motto was, "It's all about me." For example, once Deborah got Gordon pink lip gloss, Hannah got him red nail polish, and Rachael got him a pink tape dispenser. They were clearly hoping he would pass his treasures on to them. No longer! We've come a long way. It's been a fun, yet relaxing day.

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."  George Matthew Adams

let the festivities begin

(Our family, Christmas 1997. How do you like Gordon's Mr. Bean (or is that Gumby) stance?)

Scan20063I have to admit, I've been kind of blue this wonderful season. I usually get into the festivities; decorating, baking, guests, blah, blah, blah. But this year has been kind of bah hum bug. I kept trying to get excited, but I never quite accomplished it.

Tonight at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, the Christmas spirit awakened in my soul. I don't know why it waited so long, but I could hardly wait to share the joy with my family.

After the service we came home and did "the stocking thing" that we do every year on Christmas Eve. It was so fun, as usual, seeing the joy on everyone's face as they opened their stockings. I loved it.

I am the family stocking stuffer; I presume most moms are. It's the one time of year I absolutely love being the martyr. I feel so good when everyone realizes I didn't get anything in my stocking. It's such a special time. "Aaawwhh, poor Mom. I'm so sorry," the kids lament. 

Gordon does his annual speech: "Honey I am so sorry. I didn't grow up with stockings, so I didn't remember to put stuff in yours. It just didn't cross my mind."

(Christmas 1999)

Scan20030I reply as usual: "Really, don't worry about it. It's that sick martyrdom thing. I love it that you all feel sorry about forgetting me. It's worth far more than gifts in my stocking."

I know this means I'm one sick puppy, but I really love my empty stocking. For a few brief moments out of the year, I have them all eating out of my hands. It's such a powerful feeling.

Everyone is gathering downstairs to eat junk food and watch The Grinch. I must get down there.

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. -- Calvin Coolidge

a christmas story, by hannah

Scan20122 To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult every year. -- E. B. White

Is it everywhere or just the pagan city I live in? Christmas is so not a religious thing anymore. I have seen no front yard nativity scenes anywhere. None. Zero. Zilch. It was this way last year too and I told Gordon I wanted to have one made for our yard, but I never did. I wish I had carried through with that. Perhaps that should become one of my New Year's Resolutions. Yes, I think I'll include that. Surely I can pull that off if I try hard enough.

Last night I found a report that Hannah had to write for school about a true Christmas story at her house. It amused me. I didn't know this story had happened. It sounds just like my girls, but it surprised me still. I will write it out just like it reads in her story.

(Hannah and Rachael on our backyard rink, 2005)

010_10 (2) "I was 5 years old and it was 3:00 am Christmas morning and I was awake. I was very exited about Christmas and was eager to open preasents. I had been awake since 2:00 am. The rest of the family was in bed. I snuck out of bed and went to wake up Rachael. When I got to her room, she was already awake. "Rachael", I wispered so nobody would hear. Rachael answered, "Yes." "Are you exited about the preasence" I asked. "Yes" she said "lets go see." "ok" I said. We tiptoed to the living room and looked under the tree. There were so many presents. I took one of the presents under the tree that had my name on it and said, "I am going to open it if you won't tell. I won't tell if you open one of yours!" Ok I won't tell" she answered "and I'll take one too." She grabbed a present for herself and tor the rapping off, so did I. I had a book called The haunch Back of Notor Dam. "Cool" i said. Rachael had a pair of socks. They were green with red dots on them, "there so cute" rachael squeeled. The sock were cute. "Lets hid our things under the sofa so mom and dad won't see them" I said. "OK" Rachael said. "I wonder when everybody is going to wake up," Rachael asked. "I do not know" I replied. We went to look at the clock. It was 3:30. "They're not goin to be awake for a long time" Rachael said grimely. She looked at me and said, "Well see you later, I'm going to bed. are you?" "Yup, good night." Rachael went to her bed and I went to mine. I got all snuggled and warmed up and had a good night's sleep."

Big Smiles.

Christmas. A time for love, goodwill, peace on earth, lies, deception, and mendacity.

bah hum bug

Christmas morningI'm feeling blue. Lethargic, unmotivated, yuk. I put up the Christmas tree early in the week and I've been melancholy since. It's my first year without Stephanie's ornaments on my tree. It's part of a tradition I started when she was a baby. Furthermore, it's a very very dumb tradition, at least that is how I'm feeling right now. 001_1
(Stephanie's Senior picture)
Every year each child gets a new "special ornament." Then one day in the very distant future, when said child has his or her own home and own Christmas tree, their special ornaments and the ones they've made over the years go to their home to their tree. For 21 years that has seemed so noble. Now it's a pile of pooh.
(Grade 1)  
059_59Last year I cherished Stephanie's ornaments all season, knowing it was my last year to have them. I boxed them with love and care when I took last year's tree down. I never mailed them. I kept them on my sewing table, neatly boxed up all year long. When I went to Arkansas last month, I hand delivered them.

I honestly didn't expect to have gross sadness over the whole ordeal. Shucks, I've had 21 years to get used to the idea. I think the problem is giving her the ornaments she made me. I look at my tree and what I see are the ornaments that aren't there. I don't really miss the store bought ornaments, but the hand made ones are the ones that are dealing me some misery. The baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes that she made at Little Lamb; the bear from kindergarten; the hand painted wreath with her picture in it. Gosh, it makes me want to cry just typing it.

What a stupid mistake. Now I realize the one's made for me should have stayed with me. The ones I bought for her should have been the ones to go to her.

As I told my sister all this, she consoled me by saying, "I could have told you that was stupid." And sure enough, that was stupid.

merry christmas

(Smore time. Deborah, Hannah, Rachael, 2005)  We are on chocolate overload. At this point (I know this emotion is fleeting)Smore time I never want to see another chocolate. I have a reputation for loving chocolate and I've definitely had my share over the past couple days.

We were awakened by the girls around five this morning. I was pretty grumpy and told everyone to go back to bed. At seven we got up and found them all sitting on the sofas waiting for us. Holy cow, how do they go on so little sleep?

After reading the Christmas story from the Bible and praying, we began opening presents. As usual it was a long drawn out affair with lots of excitement. I am pleased with how the kids show kindness and gratitude.

A subtle shift has taken place in the gift giving. Rachael and Hannah are getting fewer toys and more young girl type gifts. Rachael got her first loop earrings and they both got body spray, a watch, and incense for their rooms. Oh my. What happened to the doll and lego days? Deborah still loves toys; Polly Pockets, Barbies, My Little Pony.... She also got a hamster cage and tomorrow will be going to the pet store to pick out her little rodent. 
After gift giving we went to church. None of us really wanted to, but it seemed like the right thing to do. We got dressed in a hurry and away we went, looking like we just rolled out of bed. We were so glad we went because it was such a warm, intimate service. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The girls were called up to light the advent candles. I had totally forgotten that I had agreed to that. Thank God Rachael dressed appropriately. She looked like a perfect lady. Hannah looked like a farmer in her overalls and Deborah had on the same dress she's had on for 2 1/2 days. Yep, we sure made an impression, I feel sure. I had on my favorite sweat suit. Anyway, it's not about how we looked, is it? It really was a good service. I was thankful we went.

Gordon had to go to work this afternoon. We found out on Friday that he got a promotion. I'm proud of him. He has a "good name." He's a hard working man of integrity. I'm thankful for him.

Later on, the girls and I will watch It's a Wonderful Life and make s'mores as we do. Several years ago, Stephanie got us this nifty s'more maker and boy do we make memories with it.

no presents under the tree - yet

(Frodo 2005)
People often ask why we don't have presents under the tree. Well it so happens that I have a very good reason. For one, where would Frodo sleep if there were presents under the tree? He has claimed this spot as his own. Doesn't he look cute?

But the real reason I don't put the presents out is because I am trying to teach the children that presents aren't what Christmas is about. Since we've done it this way all their lives, they don't think it's strange.

There is great excitement in the house on Christmas Eve and their expressions are priceless when they walk into the living room on Christmas morning and see a huge stash of presents. It's a fine tradition. I'm glad we have it and I'm glad my kids are starting to "own" our traditions.

This year, because of Frodo, we don't have ornaments on the bottom of the tree. He found everyone of them that were within reach the first day. I promptly moved them out of his little snout's reach.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

christmas eve at the dykstra home

(Deborah, 2005) It's been another delightful day. We had our big Christmas meal today. After plenty of time allowing it to digest, Gordon took Rachael and Hannah to see Narnia. Deborah and I stayed behind for some quality time together. I wanted to see Narnia too, but Deborah didn't. We've heard from several people that Deborah looks like Lucy on Narnia. Since Deborah doesn't like the way Lucy sounds like she looks in the book, she isn't fond of the idea of looking like Lucy. She has a tiny bee in her bonnet regarding this. Having a dog named Lucy doesn't help.

The highlight of the day was opening our stockings -- our Christmas Eve tradition. Everyone was excited and slightly goofy through the whole thing. My girls are so sweet. After pulling out each item, they would hug the giver and say thank you.

It's been a great day.

christmas eve 2005

We started our Christmas festivities tonight. First we had a "finger-food" dinner with wine (non- alcoholic) then we watched Ernest Saves Christmas. When that was over we took hot chocolate and went to view Christmas lights.

It's been a fun-filled family evening.

(Hannah and Deborah, 2005)

the light

I sit in silence
The ticking of the clock is the only distraction
The fir tree in the corner lights the darkness with delicate intrusion

"He is your light," they say
"He lights the way"
"His light drives the darkness away."

His light is His gift to me.
My gift to Him? Receive His light.
Let Him light my dark path.

He is in my darkness.
Only in darkness can I experience
the the dawning of a new day.

Only by dying can I be resurrected.