Monthly Archives: December 2021

Let It Snow

When the day is gray and cold and damp, as it is today, I think of snow. It only snows here in south Georgia on the very rarest of occasions. But I can remember some lovely snow days in north Georgia, remember the dark hemlock boughs burdened with snow and the delight we felt in finding rabbit tracks on the perfect covering of the forest floor.

One Christmas season in particular, I remember we woke to see every bush and rock, holly tree and hemlock laced or even banked with fluffy snow. When I first opened my eyes that morning I saw a soft white reflection on the ceiling. Looking out, I saw our whole yard turned into a fairyland. Usually slow to crawl out of bed on cold mornings, I bounced from the bed that morning in a second. As fast as I ran down the stairs and out the door, I was preceded by my little sister whose excitement was coming out in squeals and yells of delight.

We ran and shuffled in the white stuff with Crusoe, Suzanne’s small brindle dog, barking frantically as he tried to keep up with us. Then we stopped to admire the wood stack topped with white like a huge frosted cake. The chickens were subdued and obviously perplexed about the strange cold stuff. Mamma called out for us to come in and put on more clothes. Daddy laughed at us when we came in and backed up to the warm stove. We slurped cups of hot cocoa before we ran out in our coats and mittens. That was when our brothers came back from milking the cows and began bombarding us with snowballs. Not that we let them have all the fun. It was really good snow for forming snowballs and I can remember right now the pleasure when I ambushed Charlie and Stan from behind a white pine tree.

It wasn’t our first time to experience snow. We usually had snow once or twice every winter. But that particular snow stands out in my mind as one of the best days of my childhood. Stan had received a plastic flute for Christmas and played it a lot between snowball fights and building snowmen. The sound of the flute echoed oddly in the snow covered world. We played until our fingers were like ice in our mittens, then ran in to get warm before going out again. Mamma and big sisters made a huge pot of stew that day, I think, or was it meatloaf and mashed potatoes? Whatever it was, it smelled so good when we crowded into the kitchen and, better than the smell, tasted wonderful.

Midafternoon, when it seemed the snow was starting to drip from the eaves as it thawed, suddenly flakes, fluffy big flakes, began falling again sticking momentarily on our eyelashes. Mamma gave us a saucepan o fill with good clean snow and she made snow cream. Nothing has ever tasted so good!

It was another snow day years later when one of our married brothers, John, came over with his family of four and we all took turns sledding down our steep hill on flattened cardboard boxes. Another snowy day we somehow had acquired an old round Coca-Cola sign. It made a delightfully dangerous sled, it shot so fast down the hill. Dodging pine trees was a big challenge. The shocker that day was when our Mamma sat down on that makeshift sled and took off lickety-split down the hill while we screamed in terror.

Even though snow days in south Georgia are so rare, we do occasionally have flurries, even sometimes an inch or two!

It snowed one Saturday when our son was small. We lived at that time next to a pine grove and the fluffy flakes falling amongst the evergreens was so beautiful. Charles was out treating a herd of poisoned pigs and missed all the fun, just had the added challenge of dealing with the bitter cold. I played with William all day as if I were still a kid myself. When William was about six years old we lived in a different house and he then had a dog named Floofy, his constant companion. I took a picture of him and Floofy on one of those rare snow days when tiny banks of snow piled up on branches of the palm trees.

Now our son lives in Birmingham where his family enjoys a good snow almost every year. He is good to send me pictures of snow both at home and in his travels around the state for his job. He and Christi have one very treacherous story to tell about a snowstorm when the roads were all closed and neither of them could get home. Charles’s brother Ronnie sends us pictures of snow in Michigan and talks of shoveling snow, of cleaning up when the whiteness turns nasty.

I know I am better suited to this climate where no one has to shovel snow, where I can step out the backdoor without fear of sliding down on ice, where flowers bloom year round. But when we have a gray day with a winter chill in the air I do think of snow. I think of how it covers even ugly heaps with perfect white, how every twig and leaf is transformed into a wondrous sight, how it feels to mush through snow before anyone else has set foot on it. I remember the sight of little brown birds hunting for morsels in the snow, the joy in watching a flurry of snow in the pine trees knowing that every single flake is created like none other by God who loves us each as unique individuals.

As snow turns even trash into a beautiful hump, so God through His son, Jesus Christ, turns us into new creatures. This is true no matter the climate in which we reside. I love Psalm 51:7 which says Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Wherever you are this Christmas–enjoying a beautiful snowy day, groaning as you clear your icy driveway one more time, or trotting down a sunny beach–I wish you a Merry Christmas and pray you will know you are loved as a unique person by our Creator and Redeemer.


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Away in a Manger

I so enjoy listening to Christmas music the whole month of December. Of course, one of my favorites is “Away in a Manger.” How could God send His Son who was with Him at the creation of the world to be born as a helpless baby? How could He? Only because He loved us that much!

Now that we’ve wound pre-lit garlands around the porch railing, I think we have signs of Christmas almost everywhere. I admit I did contemplate not asking for everything to be pulled down from the attic–so much work to put it out and then in January to put it away again when I can do little myself. But Charles and the children said of course we’d have a tree and all the decorations. So here we are again celebrating with twinkling lights, stockings hung, manger scenes proclaiming the reason for everything.

Our niece, Evelyn, and her two teenage children, along with Ulysses, our gardener, helped Charles set up the life size nativity scene on the lawn. Will and his two tall sons put the Christmas tree up with glowing star on top. We had a chance to talk about many of the ornaments as they hung them on the tree, including hand crocheted snow flakes by my Aunt Emma and our friend Juanita, a cardinal on its nest which was our first Christmas tree ornament, handmade candy canes and tiny brass instruments. Charli and Kaison helped me set out the manger scenes inside. I told them they could arrange the shepherds, the wise men, the angel, even Mary and Joseph, where they wanted in each set, but I asked that Baby Jesus be in the center of each scene.

I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom of children. Charli considered carefully as she placed the figures, disturbed when she discovered that one set had no Baby Jesus. We found another one that would be beautiful in place of the lost one, though it is ceramic in a wooden manger. We agreed it was perfectly fine. Then Kaison expressed all our feelings when he said, “Without the Baby Jesus we’d just have a group of people here.”

As the children arranged the figures, including the creche made of olive wood from Bethlehem, lines of “Away in a Manger” began to play in my head.

What memories and thoughts play through your mind as you sing or listen to “Away in a Manger” or contemplate the Babe in the manger? Here is one of my childhood reflections lifted from my book Christmas Carols in my Heart:

We had a stable at Pinedale. It was a small gabled building with stone walls and a slate roof–a tiny imitation of our own big house but with no windows and, of course, no chimneys. Inside the stable was a manger. We didn’t have donkeys or sheep or camels. But we did always have at least one milk cow.

Though the Bethlehem stable Luke described was probably not stone, my image when we sang “Away in a Manger” was of our own stable, its interior dark as a cave even at midday because there were no windows. I imagined it as it was on Saturdays when my brothers had just shoveled out the muck and laid down a thick layer of fluffy, dry oak leaves.

The manger was in one corner and it was a generous one worn smooth as silk on the inside by the licking of many rough tongues. I examined it while Scamp, our cow, was out grazing on a grassy slope. Here was a deep wooden box, rough on the outside, smooth on the inside. I ran my fingers over the boards where, between cracks, I found a vestige of sweet grain clinging. I squinted my eyes to picture hay cushioning a baby wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes. For a while I thought swaddling clothes were thick, bunglesome things like some of our heavy quilts, wrapped around and around the baby until he almost smothered and would have “waddled” had he tried to walk. Then I was told the clothes were strips of cloth that a mother wrapped around and around her baby’s body to confine his limbs so they would not grow crooked.

With arms imprisoned, He wouldn’t have been free to curl His fingers around mine as my baby sister did. But He’d have smiled even as a very tiny infant, I was sure, and His eyes would have gazed into mine with recognition. Because this was Jesus, not just a baby.

As a child standing before a real-life manger, I could feel Mary’s warm hand on my shoulder, hear Joseph clear his throat. Then, the soft thud of many feet approaching. I imagined the shadowy flapping of shepherds’ plain wraps as they approached up the hill outside. The stars were so bright in the dome of the night sky as to be almost touchable, even though, in reality, the sun was shining, and there was Scamp the cow lifting her head to look at me curiously as if to say, “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. Somebody step on your grave or something?”

I could smell hay the instant we began to sing “Away in a Manger.” Maybe it’s not surprising that I met the risen Savior at a very young age sitting on a rock just up the hill from our little stable. An older sister, Ginger, explained to me how to become a Christian and prayed with me. I felt right then that I was one of the children sitting on Jesus’ knee after He scolded His disciples and told them to “let the little children come to me” (Matt. 19:14)

Back to the present: I wholeheartedly agree with Kaison. Without the Baby Jesus we’d all be just a lot of people, lost people. Without the manger and the cross, we’d be a hopeless people. But good news! The Baby Jesus did come, grew up a perfect Lamb, and died for us on a cruel cross, then was raised again on the third day by the power of God, ascended into heaven after being seen by hundreds of witnesses, and sits now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

The Baby Jesus, the grown Jesus, the sacrificing Jesus has been found! Because God loves us that much!

Away in a manger no crib for a bed the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head…


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