On the Ninth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Just Love Christmas

Tonight’s Christmas adventure-seeking took us to Murfreesboro to the coffee roaster that helps us raise funds for adoption: Just Love Coffee. Tonight they had an event called Carols and Coffee, which was a fundraiser put on by another church to raise adoption funds for an adoptive family. Because we’re an adopting family, we were able to direct the money we spent toward our adoption, and enjoy some great coffee and awesome music.

The coffee shop is nearly impossible to find without a Garmin and a good amount of faith that it’s correct, but we loved the shop. Lined with 1980’s classic video games, it was like we had stepped back to 1985, when Donkey Kong, Robotron, and Karate Champ were quarter-sucking entertainment magnets. There were many seating options from the counter, to table-top video games, to traditional couches and tables. There was a wooden loft with extra seating and many video game options as well. But the best part of Just Love Coffee was the coffee itself. I enjoyed a pumpkin spice caramel latte, and Ken had a caramel mocha. Having been a barista myself, I must admit that I’m a bit of a coffee snob, and of course it must be fair trade. My cup of coffee was perhaps the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Perfection. We also each had a dessert, a red velvet roll and a pumpkin roll. Also excellent.

We stayed to enjoy the music for a while, but soon realized that there were so many people standing, we gave up our seats, bought the Christmas CD and headed back to Nashville.

If you’re ever in the Murfreesboro area, and craving a cup of coffee, make the effort to find Just Love Coffee at 129 MTCS Drive.  You will love the coffee, and the atmosphere, and you’ll know that you’re supporting farmers around the world, and supporting adoption. If you mention our names, we’ll even get a portion of the profits!  And if you’re not near Murfreesboro, check out Just Love Coffee products online at our coffee shop!

Coffee. Dessert. Christmas carols. Supporting a good cause.

It was a great evening.

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On The Eighth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Bright Lights in the Big City

I must confess, I have not put up our Christmas tree this year. Exhausted seems to be the theme for this year, and I just didn’t have the energy over Thanksgiving break when I usually put it up, and we’ve had plans almost every night since. Then I thought my semester would end last Friday, but alas, I continue to have to plow through must-do lists before Christmas break. Add on top of that a case of bronchitis, followed by a head cold, which of course makes my asthma crazy.

No. I haven’t put up my Christmas tree yet.

So when I pulled into our driveway this afternoon, I was shocked to see twinkling lights coming from our living room window.

Ken put up the Christmas tree. All by himself. And it looks amazing. He saved two ornaments for me to hang. Each year, we purchase an ornament or two specifically for that year. This year’s ornaments are two black children dressed up for a Christmas pageant — both as angels, with the girl holding a sign that says “Hope.”

This evening, we toured some of the best residential Christmas light displays in Nashville, including the official Metro Nashville’s Best Christmas light display. We drove from Donelson, to north Nashville, to Hermitage, to Antioch, to Brentwood, and finally to Franklin, to drop off our Christmas letters to Santa. (Apparently the Franklin Parks and Recreation department has special connections.) We listened to Christmas music, and had a great time just spending the evening together.


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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: The Night of the Child

For today’s Christmas activity, we had the opportunity to view Christmas through the eyes of over 100 artists’ nativity scenes from around the world in the Night of the Child Exhibit at The Upper Room Museum.

More than 30 cultures were represented, in media ranging from wood to porcelain, wax to paper, and everything in between.

The exhibit was amazing. Each scene spoke something of the birth of Christ, and about the culture from which the artist came. From pocket-sized nativities meant for those who couldn’t make it to Cathedral at Christmas in Hispanic cultures to an exquisite oragami nativity, each was a wonder to behold.

In addition to sculptures, there was also a lovely collection of paintings of Mary with Jesus as a baby. Many were rich with symbolism and expression reflecting the paradox of a mother raising God Incarnate.

My favorite nativity was an elaborate one, taking up a whole corner of the museum. The scene was a busy Bethlehem. There were merchants, and busy households, musicians, children playing, men fishing, etc. I had to look carefully for the manger scene, tucked away behind one of the houses. And indeed, up behind the city was a group of shepherds tending their sheep, but no one was paying attention to them. It was strange that the artist depicted so much going on while Jesus was lying in a stinky barn in the background. Why weren’t all of the characters facing the manger? It was as if they were so wrapped up in the busyness of the census that they never realized that their attention should have been focused only on a tiny baby just inches from them who had come to save the world.

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And in a quiet corner of The Upper Room Museum, I saw a reflection of us, and of me. Busy with party after party, baking, wrapping, standing in line, shopping, grading papers, worrying about two precious children who may not even know that it’s Christmastime. Meanwhile, the Savior of the World waits quietly to for us, for me, to take note.

And really, every artist’s reflection echoed the same message. Quiet. Humility. Pausing to kneel. Worshipping. God With Us.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Divas and Dirty Santa

Thanksgiving through Christmas is a busy time in the life of our church. From the all-church Thanksgiving dinner, to the children’s and the middle school Christmas productions, our church loves to gather around some good food and good company each Sunday evening.

Tonight’s Christmas celebration is what has become fondly known as the Diva Christmas show. Traditional carols and newer tunes are sung by ladies, and they were joined by a male vocalist (divo) this year as well. It was a sweet evening of music while enjoying our potluck soup and salad dinner.

The “after party” for the Diva Christmas show was the annual college ministry Christmas party. Students who have gone away to college have now returned for Christmas break, and it was awesome gathering together for awesome food, a chance to catch up, and a “regift” Dirty Santa gift exchange.

Much fun was had on the sixth day of Christmas!

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me: Canines, Carbs, and The Real Meaning of Christmas

It was a beautiful day in Middle Tennessee today, and was  a perfect day to enjoy two outdoor Christmas events.

Our day started out with Miracle on Music Row — a Christmas dog parade in support of canine adoption. The parade was led by a marching band and Santa, and we were among at least 100 dog owners marching their pooches down Music Row. Buddy and Holly weren’t quite sure what to think at first, but they soon fell in line with their canine counterparts and enjoyed the hundreds of sights and smells of Edgehill and Music Row. It was a beautiful day for a walk, and a fun activity for the dogs as well! After the parade there was a ginormous line for pictures with Santa, and live music, but we had our eye on something else . . .

And at most good and free Nashville events there is usually a food truck, and indeed Riff’s was there! We got to try a couple of new-to-us items: the Choi burger (a burger with Korean spices, BBQ sauce, cilantro slaw, salsa verde, and a fried egg with a side of sweet potato fries) and Jerk Chicken Mac-n-Cheese, which combined two of my Riff’s favorites. We got it to go and brought it home, and LOVED every bite. Riff’s consistently gets better and better.

After sleeping off the Riff’s mac-n-cheese carb coma, we went to the 50th annual neighborhood nativity in our subdivision. This was the first year that we were actually able to make it, and we hope to never miss another year. According to other attendees, the event started with some children who put on a nativity play for their parents. The next year, they invited their friends. And then more neighbors came. And 50 years later, it is still a simple but stunning production. We huddle together outdoors. Scripture is read. We sing Christmas carols that accompany the story — even ones that actually include Jesus in them. And then as a neighborhood, we prayed together. Then everyone is invited into their beautiful farmhouse for refreshments and fellowship. There were donkey rides for the kids. Live animals to pet, and to play characters in the production.  There was an abundance of Christmas cheer. Over 100 people came. It was gloriously politically incorrect. We loved every minute, and love our neighborhood even more.

The fifth day of Christmas is definitely one to remember!

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On the Fourth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Nazarenes A-Noshing, Hockey Players Hitting, Donuts A-Dunking, and Sheep A-Baa-ing

We were quite ambitious in our festivities this evening . . . .

Our evening began with our university Christmas party, which is always a great time. There is plenty of delicious food (even better if you haven’t eaten all day!), fun table conversation, our Christmas bonus, and activities. One of the outdoor activities was a couple of sheep for the children to pet. Or maybe the adults too.

From there, we headed to the Mt. Juliet High School hockey game, because what says Christmas more than a hockey game? Wait. Mt. Juliet has a hockey team? That’s what we said! How did we NEVER know this!? It was a pretty good game, including a fight, which we couldn’t quite see. But seven players were ejected from the game so apparently this means that the fight was quite awesome. I’m not sure their mothers would agree.

Afterwards, we joined our hockey-watching friends Mike, Jill, and Erin for donuts, coffee, and conversation at Krispy Kreme.

What a fun evening to mark the end of the semester!

On the Third Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me: Dinner with 60 of Our Closest Friends

Today’s Christmas event was our annual Christmas dinner with the staff, board, and ministry leaders at our church. Always a time with great food, good conversation, and especially amazing desserts. We all know each other, we all love each other, we all love our church, and we all love Christmas.

One of the things that I believe sets our church apart is how much our staff family loves being together and I think that spills over into our Christmas celebration with the rest of the church leadership. Our tradition is to gather and eat some fantastic food, sing several of our favorite Christmas carols, and then enjoy a holiday story. I love that it’s not a long party, but it is meaningful time spent together. I love that the Pastor doesn’t spend 30 minutes saying something that he can say in 10 minutes. He respects our time and how busy this season can be. That being said, we know that we can always look forward to a great and meaningful time together.

So thank you to our church staff and leadership team for making the third day of our Christmas celebration a wonderful evening with friends and loved ones. You have meant so much to us, especially this year, and we look forward to many Christmas celebrations to come!

On the Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Fifty Kids A-Crooning

Today’s Christmas celebration took place with 50ish teens from our church’s Next Gen ministries, as we enthusiastically carolled around a subdivision near the church. While not well-versed on lyrics, there was no shortage of enthusiasm or holiday cheer, bolstered by the unusually balmy 65 degree weather — even after sunset!

I was hoping we would burst into “Santa Claus on a Helicopter,” but alas “Jingle Bells” won out every time. I guess not everyone has caught on to the musical stylings of Wing.

Most residents were good sports in listening to our attempts at lyrics and tone, realizing that our hearts were more pure than our talent. 😉

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On The First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: A Totally Tubaular Christmas

With Ken and I both having to work late tonight, we decided to kick off our 12 Days of Christmas celebration with the midday festival of all things tuba at:

Tuba Christmas!

Over 100 tuba players ranging in age from 11 to 96 gathered to play Christmas carols as the audience sang along in a manner of good cheer at First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville. The instruments, which represented the entire tuba family, literally made the pews rumble from the volume. So, an unexpected benefit of the event was a pew-massage!  

Tuba Christmas has been a holiday tradition since 1974, and local tubists gather at locations across the country. Chances are, there’s an upcoming Tuba Christmas near you!

We plan to make it a part of our annual tradition!

Happy first day of Christmas!

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On a Wing and a Helicopter

Our friend Michael Waller introduced me to the musical stylings of Wing a few years ago. How does one describe the music of Wing? I find the best description is merely to say that it is indescribable. The level of her professional talent is astounding, and unforgettable. Some might even say it is life-changing. While Wing covers many other artists’ works, when she comes up with her own piece of work, it is indeed a piece of work.

Michael shared this soon-to-be-classic Christmas carol with me, and I knew immediately that I could not keep it to myself. And thus, I introduce to you “Santa Claus on a Helicopter.”

Thank you, Wing, for bringing so much laughter-to-tears into this Christmas season.