Friday, December 23, 2016

The Perfect Hallmark Christmas

I'm a big movie person.  Sadly, with two small children, this often entails TV movies rather than the actual theater.  1 1/2 hours, if I forward through the commercials, seems to be just about as long as I can stay awake before I start to nod off in my chair.

The kids are in bed, so I make my tea or hot chocolate and settle in for another movie with a guaranteed happy ending.  This year, Hallmark has taken over my viewing while the couple of shows I normally watch are on hiatus for the holidays.  I have watched most of the 2016 Hallmark movies and I have to say that I've noticed a trend.

This year's favorite plot line seems to entail a youngish woman who works too much and focuses solely on her career.  She starts out on a journey and gets sidetracked or has an accident, landing her in "Christmas Town" or some version of the sort.  At first she is annoyed.  How will she continue to work in such a middle of nowhere place?  But as she notices the decorations, the holiday traditions and the handsome man she bumps into while looking at Christmas trees, things start to get interesting.  She more than likely will fall in love and realize that the spirit of Christmas is family, traditions and love. She'll ultimately decide to move to "Christmas Town," and the movie will end with a kiss!

I love it. I eat it up, because I love Christmas, I love romantic comedies, and some days I just want to experience a happy ending, even if it's just on TV.  Of course, after watching so many and figuring out the plot line, I do get a little bored at times.  A friend said she had to take a break from them and go back to her crime series.  My husband began questioning why I watch them and why I need to see such "perfect" Christmases play out?  He has started to wonder whether he needs to dress more like the Christmas Town hunk.

It's a fun holiday tradition, but I know that real life is not a Hallmark movie.  Real life is messy and exhausting and doesn't always end up the way we wish it would.  To be honest, Christmas is a lot of extra work.  Especially for a mom with two kids under five, equaling approximately seven loads of laundry each week, daily dishwasher emptying, cleaning and much more.  Buying, wrapping, decorating, finding the perfect Christmas photo.  (See past posts!)  It all takes time and has really prevented me from taking time to think about the reason for the season.

I'm realizing that I'm ok with messy.  I'm ok with a Christmas that isn't perfect.  But what I will take away from my Hallmark binge watching is that the spirit of Christmas is what's important.  God's son Jesus brings us love, peace, joy and hope for the future.  He reminds us that love and family and a future with him are what is most important at Christmas and throughout the year.

Blessings to you this Christmas.  May Christ meet you in the mess and lead you to peace abundant.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Quest for the Perfect Santa Photo

I admit it. I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  Especially when it comes to Christmas and photos.  I want to have the perfect photo of my kids to send out with Christmas cards or post on Facebook.  This year it led to a crazy journey!  Santa loves our new town very much, so we had the opportunity to see him four times.  Each time we tried for the perfect photo and failed.  The last one, however, everyone agreed is a classic.  Enjoy!

Santa Quest #1
    Santa is very surprised by something.

Santa Quest #2
            "This candy isn't real!!!!"

Santa Quest #3
    "It's the big man in the red suit, nooo!!!"

Santa Quest #4

     Santa is very tired from so many photos...

Santa Quest #5

    The expressions are priceless...
Pie is the reason for the season
A week ago I was enjoying a rare child-free lunch at a restaurant chain.  As I was breathing in the quiet and slowly savoring each bite, I looked at the dessert menu.  I snapped this photo because I couldn't stop laughing.  "Pie is the reason for the season"?  Really?  

Interesting how advertisers and even restaurants try to capture your heart during the holiday season, claiming that their product is the reason for the season.  I do like a slice of pie now and then, but can we really claim that pie is responsible for an entire season of love, joy and peace?  Gift-giving and receiving.  Time with family and friends, enjoying each other's company?

And then, in the same day, I saw the other extreme.  On this mattress store, they had painted the words "Happy Birthday, Jesus."  Now, that's a message I can get behind.    

The reason for the season is someone who came in quietly, born as a babe in a lowly manger.  

As Placide Cappeau so beautifully wrote in 1847:

Led by the light of faith
serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by his
cradle we stand.
So led by the light of a star
sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men 
from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus
in lowly manger
In all our trials born to 
be our friend.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016


                Photo by: Maxime Le Conte des Floris

A quiet
willing to carry inside of her
the quiet comfort
sustaining presence
that captures fears
with the silent wisdom
of a single star in the pitch black sky

Willing to carry inside of her
the deep longing
for calm surrender of white flag waving—
angers distilled
hate stripped away
beauty pouring over
filling up the aching gray spaces inside

Willing to carry inside of her
a coming out of the empty places
with laughter
with arms wide open

Willing to carry inside of her
the indescribable,
heart of God

A quiet
humble teenager

~A.Laska 12/7/04

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Meditation: Peace
                            Photo by:  Ian Schneider                                     

Slowly, Peace Ascends

Flames dance on pools of color
Reflections in the eyes of a hurting people
Silence of a solace found,
awaiting with quiet
the hope which is to come.
Still with wonder,
uncovering the darkness,
of hearts left in silence.
Slowly, peace ascends
etched in silver,
dances with the eternal flame.
Love comes,
resting in straw
crying as a babe.
Hearts open to infinite peace
of the Savior born as child.

A. Laska ‘99

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Harder than it has to be.

Christmas cards...the bane of my existence....I mean, the things I love to create for my loving family and friends... 

Every year I love receiving Christmas cards.  I can't wait to come home each day and check the mailbox to see which ones have arrived.  I love the pictures cards with smiling faces on beach vacations.  I love the sparkly snow-fallen landscapes.  I love hearing from friends I haven't heard  from in a year.  It's a fun tradition that I enjoy.  

However, sending the cards is something I've come to dread.  Every year I seem to make it harder than it has to be.  I have to find the perfect photos from the past year or have a family Christmas photo taken.  This is easier than it sounds, since I take thousands of photos each year and it is pretty much impossible to get a Santa photo without someone crying.  (Santa post to come next week!)  

After picking the perfect photos, I spend hours looking through layouts and comparing prices from online retailers.  I usually end up with the same one, but I always check just in case.  As I'm uploading the pictures to the site, something usually goes wrong.  The site crashes, it doesn't save my card, it won't take my payment method, something.  I try to take a deep, cleansing breath and start over again.  Inside I want to throw the computer across the room and say "The heck with Christmas cards!" But I refrain.  

Christmas stamps are another thing.  I love all the different types that come out each year.  Of course, instead of buying one type, I decide to buy one of each.  Then, as I'm addressing and stamping approximately 80 cards, I decide it is a good idea to pick a stamp for each person.  So wrong.  So much harder than it has to be.  

And then there are the years when I decide to write little notes with the cards.  Don't even get me started...

Needless to say, I have recently finished my cards and needed a moment.  

Maybe the good news comes not in Christmas cards, but from the angel.

"The angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'"  ~Luke 2:10-11

I need Jesus to save me.  For many reasons, but mostly to save me from myself.  I make many things so much harder than they have to be...

Baby Jesus

My son is in love with the baby Jesus.  

Since becoming a big brother 16 months ago, he has loved babies.  He loves to hold and hug his sister.  He loves making her laugh and shows her his toy cars.  He's also come to love other babies.  Whenever he sees one in a store or on a walk, he'll say, "Look Mom, a BABY!" with a huge grin on his face.  

I'm pretty sure his preschool has been talking and reading about the first Christmas story recently.  The other day, we were reading a book about it and he pointed to Jesus, and said with the same huge grin, "Look Mom, the BABY Jesus!"  On another occasion, he was looking at the book and put his hand on the manger and kissed the head of baby Jesus.  Beautiful. 

I look to my son's example and think about his precious, innocent view of the Savior's birth.  It reminds me that the God of the universe did in fact come to earth as a tiny baby.  One we could hold in our arms.  One who would cry at night and need a diaper change.  He became a tiny human so that we could find grace and love.  

Let us look to the King with wonder and awe as He comes to us as a babe.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

TGIF Moment
                                             A. Laska

Apparently the three kings have given up their camels and upgraded to a Passat this year...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Meditation
                                       Photo by:  Alisa Laska

"The holiest of all holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; the secret anniversaries of the heart."  

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Holidays"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Broccoli, Band aids and Multi-Tasking

The other day I cut my thumb pretty badly.  I'd been working in the kitchen to cook a meal for my family while also thinking about the million and one other things I needed to do.  I quickly grabbed the broccoli, a cutting board and a knife.  I sliced it quickly, not really paying too much attention.  Probably thinking about my Christmas card photos.  I looked down and realized I had not only sliced through the broccoli, I'd sliced through my finger as well.  

My first thought was annoyance.  I'd have to stop what I was doing to deal with my cut finger.  Ain't nobody got time for that! Especially at Christmas.  

I dealt with the cut and continued to cook dinner.  It was only later when I realized that I have two similar scars near this cut.  I couldn't believe it when I saw that.  I have cut this same thumb three times in almost the exact same spot!  (One of them was an unfortunate incident with a muffin pan.  Don't ask.)  

It made me realize how much we really aren't paying attention in life.  We are so often busy worrying about the next thing or trying to multi-task that we forget about the thumb right in front of us.  (Sometimes literally!)  

This season, lets remember to relax and do one thing at a time.  Breath.  It will all get done.  As Sir Richard Cecil aptly stated:  "The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time."  

A Gift for Jesus
My son's recent preschool picture made me crack up laughing. Of course he would draw a car,  his current obsession.  Second only to trains, of course.  (I also think it looks a little bit like a sheep, which could be symbolic...just sayin'...)  It also made me think.  Don't we all bring our fascinations and interests, personalities and quirks as we bow before the Lord?  We bring him all of us.  Our favorite things and our challenges.  

What gifts would you bring to the Lord?  If I went along the lines of my son's thinking, I'd bring movies, books, pizza and ice cream.  Going a bit deeper with it, I'd have to think about gifts and talents that God has blessed me with.  It is those gifts he gave to me that I in turn give back to him as I serve and adore him. 

What gifts do you bring to the baby Jesus?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


1. Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

2.  Continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.*

As an English geek, I love looking up the definitions of words.  As I was thinking about what to title my blog, I came across this definition and I was captivated by it.  The idea of steadily persisting in spite of difficulties or discouragement seems a lot like my life lately.  

"Continuing in a state of grace to the end."  Isn't that so true?  How much we need God's grace each and every day.  We must live in a constant state of grace.  Wrestling with the difficulties and challenges.  Walking beside God, yelling at him, being held by him.  Figuring it all out with friends and companions on the journey.

In my blog, this is what I'd like to pursue.  Meeting joy in the everyday challenges of life.  Persevering through humor and moments of grace.  Looking for God's love, strength and hope through it all.


Pancakes?  Why pancakes?

As a mom, I help my kids make tons of pancakes.  My son is a connoisseur of sorts. His current obsession is chocolate chip pancakes.  He could eat them every day if I let him.  However, he once told my friend that she was putting in too many chocolate chips.  We laughed because, really, can you have too many chocolate chips?

The thing about pancakes is that they are messy.  Whew.  I have spent many a Saturday morning cleaning up flour and pancake spatter from my kitchen counters, walls, stove and floor.  Not to mention my clothing.  Pancake batter never really goes away.  It will show up when you least expect it.  Such as at church when you stand up to sing and you look down and see a huge spot of it on your shirt...

Pancakes are messy, but they are worth the mess.  After all the measuring, pouring, watching, waiting and spatulaing, you end up with something really good.  Something sweet.  And who doesn't like to start the morning with something sweet?

Life can be a lot like pancakes.  Most of it is hard.  We have daily challenges that we must navigate through.  Some expected, some out of the blue.  Some weeks it feels like all we have are challenges.  Like we always have the spot of batter on our shirt and we just can't seem to get it out.  Other days, we are enjoying the sweetness of the final product.  Hanging out at the table with family or friends, talking, laughing and enjoying life.

Pancakes are messy, and so is life.  I say, let's walk together through it and meet joy wherever we find it.  In the mess, in the grace, in the mystery that is life with God.  Will you join me for some pancakes?