Christmas comes but once a year. Thank goodness! I know I should love Christmastime, but, honestly, as an adult, I just don’t. Not really. Not like I should. I love Jesus, I love that He was born. I love what Christmas stands for. I even love putting up Christmas decorations. And, I especially love the tastes and smells that go along with Christmastime. (Real Christmas trees smell so good. Sweets and candies and baked goods, taste so yummy!) I don’t like Christmastime for the simple fact that it is stressful. And, I hate anything that is stressful.
Now, that stuff being said, there is another thing that I do LOVE about Christmastime—the music! Oddly enough though, I can’t listen to it nonstop for the whole month of December anymore. I used to be able to do that. Now, I have to enjoy it bits and pieces at a time. I will listen to it for a while, then switch to something else. Then, later, I will switch back to it. I think the main reason is because I hear a lot of the same old Christmas songs over and over and over. And, while I do love what I refer to as the “old classics”, I can’t deal with hearing them over and over and over in the same day. I know, I know, I know…I am turning into a crotchety old lady!
However, there are some great Christmas songs that I adore, that I can’t get enough of. In fact, most of these I only hear because I play them for myself. They don’t get much air play on the radio, or Pandora, or XM. So, I thought I would share them with you. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite Christmas songs of all time that I don’t hear much on the radio. This is my Christmas gift to you. Merry Christmas! You can thank me later!
1) “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Viva Voce on Happy Christmas Vol.2
Ok, I lied before. (About the “in no particular order” thing. After this song, that applies.) This song is my very favorite Christmas song ever. That is why I have it first. I have always liked the lyrics of this song. But, Viva Voce cranks it and their version ROCKS!!! I can listen to this one song on repeat for hours. (Yes, I know, it’s sad.)
2) “Santa’s Beard” – They Might Be Giants
I am a huge TMBG fan. I have been since high school, thanks to my friend Sabrina. Two guys named John make up the band. They are just fun. Most of their songs are completely crazy and/or silly and I love it! I mean, sometimes life just calls for things that put a huge smile on your face.
3) “Blue Christmas” with Porky Pig
I am also a huge fan of cartoons. I grew up on Bugs Bunny. If you are at least my age or older, I am sure it was a staple for you too. So, I know you love Porky Pig just as much as I do.
4) “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – Alvin and the Chipmunks
My mom and dad bought me this album, yes the vinyl kind, when I was a kid. I always thought Theodore was the best. And, their version of this classic, where they talk to Rudolph, is my favorite version of this song. I love to hear Rudolph talk!
5) “Christmas in Hollis” – Run-D.M.C.
This song and the video make me laugh. And, if you grew up in the 80’s, Run D.M.C. is a staple.
6) “Father Christmas” – The Kinks
When you grow up in a household where your dad is a musician, you tend to follow his taste in music. The Kinks are one of my dad’s favorite groups and this song has a great beat!
7) “Grown Up Christmas List” – Natalie Cole
Now this song is one of my hubby’s favs. As an adult, I love the lyrics and agree with them completely. Add in Natalie’s spectacular voice and this song brings tears to my eyes every. time.
8) “Wonderful Christmastime” – Jars of Clay
No offense to Sir Paul McCartney, but I do NOT like his version of this song. Actually, I have heard other versions of this song and didn’t like those either. I am not sure exactly what it is about this Jars of Clay version, but they not only make this song good, but they make it heart-filling. (And, as a side note, their whole Christmas album, entitled Christmas Songs, is really good.)
9) “I’d Like to Hitch a Ride With Santa” – The Andrews Sisters
I am a sucker for the swing and boogie-woogie era. I could watch those movie musicals all day long. Of course, The Andrews Sisters are the epitome of that era. They had the vocal range and harmonies that many people, even today, would kill for. And, this little ditty is just a fun and different Christmas tune!
10) “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Aaron Shust
This song they actually do play a good bit on the radio. And, I am sooo glad. It is different in that the music sounds like it is from Israel or something. It is super cool!
11) “We Three Kings” – Hugh Jackman, David Hobson, and Peter Cousen
This Christmas song is one of my all-time favs. And, you NEVER hear it anywhere. I just don’t understand. I even had a hard time finding a version online to share with you guys. But, I did come across this cheesy version featuring Hugh Jackman. And, I am a fan of both Hugh and cheese!
12) “2000 Miles” – The Pretenders
What woman who loves music, doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde? Her voice is so, well, Chrissie. And, this song isn’t strictly a “Christmas” song. It is one of those rare songs that you can play year-round.
13) “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” – Harry Connick, Jr.
I am a HUGE Harry fan. When his Christmas album “When My Heart Finds Christmas” came out in 1993, I went out and bought it and basically wore it out, I played it so often. The whole album is great, but this song and “(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus” are my two favorites. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” is a song from the movie “Babes in Toyland”. This is a fun old Disney movie from 1961. If you get the chance to watch it, you should! But, in my humble opinion, the best “Babes in Toyland” is the 1934 version with Laurel and Hardy. Talk about a fun movie—it is one I try to catch every year at Christmas. It is a classic, and even though it was made 83 years ago, it still holds up well. The simple, silly comedy makes it such a pleasure to watch. Sorry, I digress…
14) “Carol of the Bells” – Family Force 5
“Carol of the Bells” is such a popular song, you can find a plethora of different versions of it, and just about all of them are good. While Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version is probably everyone’s favorite and the most played and well-known, this version by Family Force 5 is cool and kitschy and addicting. (At least, I think so.) Give it a listen and see what you think.
15) “Most Beautiful Time of the Year” – Beckah Shae
Never heard of Beckah Shae? I hadn’t either until about a week ago. I am not sure what rock I have been living under, but thankfully I have seen the light! Beckah is a Christian pop artist and her voice is AMAZING. I just had to include it. High energy, it makes you want to get up and dance. And, it is another one that I can listen to over and over and over.
So, what do you guys think? Did I leave your favorite off the list? Have a rare gem you want to share with me? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below. And, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
Yeah, I know, I am a little late with this post. But, as the old saying goes, “better late than never.” So, here is my Thanksgiving post. Thanksgiving is a national holiday that started out as a day to give thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. And, while it is nice to have a nationally recognized day to give thanks, one day just isn’t enough.
We, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians, should be giving thanks to God each and every day of our lives. That is how God wants it, and it should be how we want it too. We are to give God thanks for everything in our lives, even the trials and misery that we face. While that sounds backwards to many, once you become a Christian, you start to understand why this is a vital part of our spiritual growth.
God wants us to take the adversity that we face in our lives and use those opportunities to lean on Him. He wants us trust in Him to get us through. He wants us to have faith in Him that everything will be okay. Or, at the very least, that He will work everything out for our good. How do I know all of this? The Bible tells us so. (This is why it is so important to read your Bible daily.)
Do you remember being a kid and having some aches in your legs? I sure do! I had them often. When I complained to my parents, they would always tell me they were growing pains. If I wanted to get taller, that was the price I had to pay. Our spiritual growth is the same way. Anytime we grow and stretch ourselves, there will be pain involved. So, while giving thanks to God during our trials is tough at first, and maybe even counterintuitive, it is the best possible thing you can do for yourself during those times. God sees and hears you and eventually He will bless you for it.
So, as we continue through this season of thanks, remember to give thanks to God each and every day for every circumstance, good or bad that you have. Stretch your spiritual muscles and grow strong in your faith and in the Lord.
If you are a fan of “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, today’s devotional lines up perfectly with this post. Sarah writes:
“Rest in the deep assurance of My unfailing Love. Let your body, mind, and spirit relax in My Presence. Release into My care anything that is troubling you so that you can focus your full attention on Me. Be awed by the vast dimensions of My Love for you: wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything you know. Rejoice that this marvelous Love is yours forever!
The best response to this glorious gift is a life steeped in thankfulness. Every time you thank Me, you acknowledge that I am your Lord and Provider. This is the proper stance for a child of God: receiving with thanksgiving. Bring Me the sacrifice of gratitude, and watch to see how much I bless you.”
1 Peter 5:7; Ephesians 3:16-19; Psalm 107:21-22
I will end by circling back around to what I said at the beginning: giving thanks only one day year is just not enough! Let’s all remember to give thanks to God every day.
Thinking ahead to Easter and in writing my blog post last week, I have been reminiscing a lot lately about the old hymns that we sung in church while I was growing up. I really miss those songs of old. So, in this post, I thought I would share with you some of my all-time favorite hymns. Check them out below. They are in no particular order. I was trying to decide which is my favorite, and I just can’t choose. I hope you enjoy!
Easter will soon be upon us once again. I love Easter for many reasons—warmer weather, pretty flowers and trees blooming. (And, if I am completely honest, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. Those little peanut butter and chocolate eggs are divine!) But, mainly Easter is an awesome reminder of Jesus’ love for us. Jesus gave himself willingly to die on the cross. He shed his blood to pay for all of our many, many sins. It’s truly the most humbling thing I know, or can even think of.
Easter also reminds me of that song, “Are You Washed in the Blood?” written in 1878 by Elisha A. Hoffman. (I love the internet and being able to look this kind of stuff up!) It is one of those great old hymns that we sang often in the church I grew up in. As a kid, when you hear the words “washed in the blood” your mind can think of some crazy stuff. Well, in my case, I was often literal. I remember picturing in my mind a bathtub full of blood, and having to take a bath in it. Eww! I also remember thinking that blood couldn’t possibly get you clean, only soap could do that. Thank goodness, I have grown up and learned about metaphors!
Being a theatre nerd, I also think of Jesus being crucified in conjunction with Jesus Christ, Superstar – the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I can hear the chorus members shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” over and over. (I have to give a shout out to my awesome college professor, David Moore, who gave my friend TeeJay and I tickets to see Jesus Christ, Superstar at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I think it was 1994. It had Carl Anderson as Judas and Ted Neely as Jesus—it was spectacular!!)
Thanks to seeing that performance, it was easy to picture the real Jesus being tortured and crucified. What I can’t imagine is what it must have been like actually be Jesus. It would be horrible enough to see that happen to someone, but I’m sure it doesn’t even begin to compare with having it happen to you.
Of course, I have a feeling that what caused Jesus to suffer most was not necessarily the corporal punishment he received, which was horrendous and brutal, but the sadness he must have felt for humanity. Why do I think this? I guess because it has always stuck with me that while he was on the cross dying, he prayed to God and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgive them. Forgive them. Can you imagine asking for forgiveness for the people who are killing you?
But, that is what Jesus came to earth to do. He came to die on the cross so that our sins would be be forgiven. He didn’t die because of anything that he did, but what we did. Our sins. Ours. Not his. And, he gave his life willingly. I doubt that there are very many people alive today who would do that.
Let’s all take some time to reflect on this gift that God gave us: His son, Jesus. His son, who died on a cross for our sins. With a crown of thorns on his head, and nails through his hands and feet, He suffered mightily. (J. Lee Grady has an eye-opening blog post on How Jesus Endured the Pain of the Cross – read it. You won’t look at Jesus the same afterwards.)
The fact that He gave His life, means that we can live. I don't know about you, but I believe that this is the greatest of all gifts ever. It is certainly something worth celebrating. This Easter, I will thank Him and praise Him, for He is worthy!
Listen to Willie Nelson sing "Are You Washed in the Blood?"
This Thursday is Thanksgiving. If you are like me, you are finding this hard to wrap your head around. It has been so warm here in the metro Atlanta area that has made it even harder to grasp.
The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is for us to give thanks. As a nation, we have set aside this one-day each year to do just that: give thanks. But, as Christians, shouldn’t we be doing this each and every day anyway? My answer is YES!
Knowing that God loved us enough to send his own son to die on the cross for us should make us thankful every single day. (See John 3:16)
Knowing that God is full of grace and mercy that is new each day should make us thankful each day. (Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23)
Knowing that if we are truly sorry and ask for forgiveness from our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. (See 1 John 1:9)
These three truths alone should be enough to make us grateful and thankful each and every day. Cicero was noted as saying, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”
But, just as a reminder, below I have a list of other things we can be thankful for. Now, all of these may not apply to you, but I am hoping that most of them do.
Things to be thankful for:
I also wanted to share with you some of my favorite quotes on gratitude and being thankful. These top the list:
It is necessary, then, to cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ~ Wallace D. Wattles
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. ~ Denis Waitley
O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
And though I ebb in worth, I'll flow in thanks. ~John Taylor
For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o'er life's sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord! ~ Walt Mason
Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks — I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. ~ Irving Berlin
Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~ W.T. Purkiser
I hope these reminders will help you to be thankful not only on Thanksgiving Day, but each and every day of your life. Because, as an unknown author has so rightfully shared, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
I hate to say it, but it’s that time of year again--that time of year when we have to start thinking about Christmas shopping. Some of you may actually enjoy it, and I hope you do. Me? I am not really a fan. For some reason, I find shopping for others hard.
Luckily I don’t have to do that much of it, so for that, I am thankful. But, for the majority of you who do have to shop, I wanted to share an idea with you: Shop Senoia.
It is no secret that The Walking Dead is filmed in Senoia. And, thanks to all the publicity that comes along with that, we have some great shopping here. The reason I like it so much is because, being in a small town, it has a genuine small town feel. And, I think that that makes your shopping experience so much better than if you were just shopping at the mall.
We have a variety of one-of-a-kind shops and places to eat that will make your visit worth the time from just about anywhere in the metro Atlanta area. Come early and plan on spending the day, you won’t regret it.
My favorite food in the world is breakfast food. And, if you want to start your day out right, I highly recommend having breakfast at Katie Lou’s Café. They offer fresh, homemade breakfast starting at 8:00am on Fridays and Saturdays. But, best of all, they serve breakfast all day long. All. Day. Long. YES!
The parents of Rutledge Wood own Katie Lou’s. If you a NASCAR fan or like the TV show Top Gear, you probably know who he is. You will usually find Rut’s mom, dad or sister at the café. They are really nice folks who serve up some really good food!
Do you have a thing for antiques? If so, Senoia is going to quickly become your favorite place. With shops like Beyond the Door, Foxxhollow Antiques, Gail’s Antiques, and Relish, you will be in hog heaven! Oh and Gail’s Antiques sometimes has set pieces from The Walking Dead for sale. It is creepy cool!
Are you more of a clothes hound? Yes? Then you have definitely GOT to come here. We have a vast variety of new and slightly used clothing stores that carry men, ladies, and children’s fashion. Get your shop on in Southern Heritage Outfitters, The Pink Chair, Sam’s Eclectic Collections, or Lace N Boots.
How about just some cool, unique gifts? We have got you covered there too! With shops like Table Talk, Beads & Lace Boutique, and The Woodbury Shoppe, which is the official Walking Dead Store, you can count on finding something that you and loved ones will melt over.
I especially like Beads & Lace Boutique, as 90% of their store is filled with handmade items from local artists! Plus, owner Lindsey Frazier has a heart for giving back and helping local people in need. She states on her website, “When you buy one our pieces you are blessing someone in need. God has blessed our business and we love to give back.” They support Community Welcome House and Pathway Home. So, if you are looking for some cute artisan gifts, accessories, jewelry making supplies, or bridal gifts, be sure to check them out!
Now, I have saved my two favorite stores for last. First up: The Queen’s Jewels.
The Queen’s Jewels is owned and operated by Jan Hipp. She, along with Master Jeweler, Jimmy Wheeler, make you feel right at home in this fabulous jewelry store. They have a nice assortment of jewelry, from items for special occasions to items for your everyday wardrobe. But, what I really like is that they don’t pressure you to buy anything, or spend more than you have allotted. If you tell them what your spending range is, they gladly show you what they have. They treat you like a friend, which is so refreshing in a jewelry store environment! They also sell Firefly jewelry, which if you haven’t seen it, you MUST check out. The Firefly pieces are bright, colorful, and gorgeous!
My second favorite store is The Georgia Mercantile Company. They specialize in Georgia based items such as jams, jellies, sauces, rubs, books, art, postcards, t-shirts, stationary, and more. All of their items are locally made, grown, or produced. It is an awesome place to find gifts for the foodie or hard-to-shop-for people on your Christmas list.
I told you to start out your day with breakfast, but shopping is hard work. As you shop your day away, remember that you need to stop and eat some lunch, snacks, and dinner as well. We have plenty of fabulous food options for you to choose from. Grab a great chicken salad sandwich at Senoia Coffee & Café, or some yummy pizza from Matt’s Smalltown Pizza. There is also Maguire’s Irish Pub, Main Street Fudge & Ice Cream, The Tomato House, or Nic & Norman’s Bar and Grill. All of these places are good in their own right. Actually, you probably want to make plans to come back and visit again, just to eat at all of these places. They are that good. Really.
I am sure I have left out some places…and I didn’t mean to. These are just the places that I frequent as a resident. There are lots of great places in and around downtown that you can visit. I hope I have convinced you that you need to come down and spend a day with us. We would love to have you!
Christmas is less than a week away. I, for one, will be glad when it is over. I actually love Christmas and what it really stands for, but it has turned into something so very different. People don’t seem to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they just use it as an excuse to spend money and buy stuff for each other. Stuff, that while the sentiment is nice, is just…well, stuff.
Unless you are really young or really old, odds are, you can buy the things you really need. Or, buy the things you really want. And, while presents from others are nice, I feel like it has become so “dumbed down” that people just buy something for the sake of buying something. People don’t seem to put much thought into what they buy or give.
In my family, we realized quite a few years ago, that we would rather just spend time together. We don’t even bother with presents anymore. It is much more important to us to just hang out and visit for a while. (Ok, and eat some really good food!) This makes things so much easier.
I am naturally shy and introverted. And, while I have good friends whom I enjoy spending time with, you can normally find me at home reading. Christmas is stressful. Going anywhere around Christmastime is stressful. Just doing your normal things, like going grocery shopping, is stressful. Why? Because people are out shopping, buying stuff they don’t need. At least, this is how I have come to think of it. And, this is why I will be glad when it is over.
In my perfect world, people would buy a few nice toys for their kids at Christmas. But, they buy them in September and October. They would think of some nice, useful gifts to buy elderly people they know that will make those elderly folks feel remembered and appreciated. They would spend time with their families, put away their mobile devices, turn off the TVs, and play games or share stories and make memories. They would volunteer their time to help a neighbor who needs it. They would donate all that money that would normally spend buying “stuff” to nonprofits that are doing good works in the community or around the world.
It all comes down to adjusting your mindset. Christmas is now just a commercialized holiday, where companies are counting on you to buy their “stuff.” Don’t make Christmas about “stuff”, make it about people. Make it about Jesus. Make it about sharing the story of Jesus’ birth and the Good News that goes with that. Make it about helping people. Make it about spending time with people you love. Make it about being kind to others.
Take some time before Christmas gets here on Friday and read the story of Jesus’ birth again from the Bible (Luke 2: 1-20). Remind yourself what this holiday is really all about. Make a transition within yourself this year and turn Christmas back to what it was meant to be: a joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ with those that you love.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.