I am writing a new blog these days, and will continue to post some of the information here. The new blog is oilsforthejourney.blogspot.com

So….. I’ve discovered essential oils.  That is to say, I’m discovering essential oils, and have decided to repurpose my blog to chart the process. So far, I have learned what I am coming to believe are the fundamentals of natural healing … a more holistic approach than the medical path I had been on for some time now.

I paused in my blogging journey some time ago.  Years, in fact.  I started during a season of life when I was bored mentally but physically feeling awful.  There were days I couldn’t walk to the restroom without pausing from weakness and fatigue. I stopped cooking. I stopped cleaning. I stopped…. Well just about everything.  My family reapportioned the chores around me. My husband, bless his soul, picked up many of the things I had always been able to do without thinking. (He told me later, he had resolved within himself my condition had scared him.  He was preparing himself to live the rest of his years without me, just waiting for the last coffin nail to drop.)


I went to our family doctor.  During this time, I went through two physicals. My numbers were fine… maybe borderline in a few areas, but I was healthy as a horse.  I was taking supplements, pro-biotics, and a mitt-full of herbal capsules. The kids even laughed about Mom’s morning “gag and choke” routine when I “did the healthy.”

(I started to wonder if I was just lazy – or worse, crazy….. Was it all happening in my head?)

Moreover, I ate whole grains. I limited my intake of sugar. I had lost over 90 pounds three years prior, but had gained it all back. Along with the weight came an intense weakness and fatigue that just wouldn’t go away. No matter how much sleep I got.

(Was I depressed? Didn’t think so. Was I burned out? How was that possible?  I was sleeping all the time!)

Sure, our oldest daughter had gone through cancer treatments a couple of years before. She was doing great, and had just been married. Our youngest was getting ready to go off to school. Our middle was living at home and doing very well at her job. Bill had just finished his doctorate. And I was finished with menopause.

(Could it all be hormonal?  Who could tell?  I researched and found really scary possibilities.  If you are relating to this blog, please don’t do that to yourself.)

Then, after two Christmas seasons of not being physically able to do the decorating and baking I so loved to do; and not being strong enough to entertain guests in our home like we had always done – I became scared.  But, by the end of the spring of 2010, I was just plain mad. I had prayed. I had asked for healing. I was doing all the “right things.” But I was gaining weight and feeling worse and worse.

What on earth was wrong with me?

Then came July 4th of that year. The day before, I decided I would refuse to spend yet another holiday on the couch. After all, there really is nothing on television…. Or any other screen for that matter, that is life altering, or heart fulfilling. And honestly, I was a little tired of reading – At that point, I would go to work, come home and sleep. But I was desperate for a change.  I decided to “just put my mind to it.”

You know. You’ve probably done it too.

I asked the family if we could all go to a local amusement park on the afternoon of July 4, which in 2010 fell on a Sunday.   We could ride roller coasters in the daylight and eat funnel cakes and hot dogs. After sunset, we could watch the multi-dollar fireworks display from inside the park this year.

Everyone agreed. We needed a family day; together; on an outing. We all missed them.

“Is Mom up to it?” our kids asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” I thought.  But I said, “Absolutely!  Let’s do this!”

Bill and I were excited. The girls were too. That day, our oldest daughter and her husband joined us, and we all made a day of it.  Well, sort of. After two roller coasters, I was done. Discouraged, I sat on the benches for a time and watched everyone else ride ….. what a bummer!

“Maybe your blood sugar is too low,” someone suggested.

“Okay,” I thought. So, I bought a hot dog and some French fries. I remember thinking I wished they sold salads – but I kept dipping the fries in the ketchup anyway.  (Did you know there is sugar in ketchup these days?)

I felt a little better. We rode another roller coaster. And I was physically exhausted once more.

(Now, just for reference, I had always been the first one to repeat the coasters – front row too – during the girls’ childhoods.  The girls had always referred to their Mom as the “ride warrior.” But on that day, it was all I could do to stand in line! After that last ride, I had some water, and decided to rest until it was time for the fireworks.  I told the family I where I would be when the show started.)

Close to sunset, Bill bought me one of my favorite treats: a funnel cake. We got one doused in cinnamon sugar, and it evaporated between the two of us in less than three minutes.  A little later, we purchased another, and consumed it just as quickly.

I remember sleeping soundly that night, and late into the morning of the 5th. But then, all day on the 5th, I was unable to do anything! All of the exhaustion symptoms I had pushed to the side, willing myself to forge into a family day on the 4th, had returned with a vengeance.

The evening of the 5th,  I felt like my heart was pounding in my head. Bill had recently been placed on blood pressure meds by our family doctor, and he expressed concern.

“Check your blood pressure, Babe,” he suggested.

Finding the cuff under the bathroom sink, I set it up according to the instructions. A few minutes later, I was also concerned. The screen read 188/101. I had no idea what those numbers meant, but I knew they were high. I practiced some breathing regulation exercises, and put an ice pack at the base of my neck. An hour later, it read 165/84, or something close to that.  Assuming the numbers were coming down to normal range, I helped in the late-night routine household chores.

“I’ll have to ask the doctor about this,” I thought, shrugging it off. I headed up to bed with Bill.

Now, so we’re clear; I still had not really mentioned my frustration with my symptoms to my husband. Or even disclosed half of what I had been physically dealing with. I thought I was protecting him.  And, for the same reasons, he had not ventured to bring up his fears of my death with me.

The morning of July 6th, 2010, I awoke around 4:00am with a start. My head was pounding like it was about to come off. I couldn’t seem to focus my left eye, nor did I have any feeling in my left cheek.  My left arm and shoulder were numb. Come to think of it, so was my left leg and foot!

“I’m just lying in a funny position,” I reasoned, trying to shift. I mentally prepared myself for the pins and needles feeling that would certainly follow my movement.

As my brain worked to communicate with my body, I became terrified. Nothing responded.

I couldn’t move my left side!! Over and over again I tried, and couldn’t move even one muscle!  With my right arm, I reached over my body, and tapped my sleeping hubby’s shoulder.

“Honey?” I called. I waited a minute. “Babe?” I tapped him again.

He turned over, and faced me, his eyes still closed. “Mm? What?”

“Honey, can you help me?” I said. “I can’t move.”

Bill was instantly awake, and alert. “What?” he repeated.

“I can’t move. I’ve been lying here for about 30 minutes. Can you help me?”

“Sure,” he answered. He helped me roll over to my back, and then just held me for the next two hours. We prayed together for healing, for wisdom, for a miracle. Slowly feeling began to return, and the headache began to subside.

Had it been a stroke? A heart attack? What was going on in my body?

At 6:30am, we called the emergency number for our doctor’s office.  I had gone through a physical just a month before. For that reason, I didn’t want to go to the local emergency room. Instead, I opted to wait for our doctor’s office to open. (Besides, who wanted EMT personnel in our messy bedroom that night?)

The triage nurse asked for my symptoms. As I shared them with Bill, his eyes grew wide. The nurse also expressed concern, and said we should come in when the office opened at 8:00am.

Needless to say, my entire life changed that day.  My non-fasting glucose (A1C) was out of control at 13.9 — (14 is coma range). My blood pressure was high also 167/90  or something ridiculous like that….  The EKG was normal, as were many other tests. Our doctor gave me the name of cardiologist I “really needed to see to be sure,” and then sat us both down for the bad news.

It was full blown diabetes, and a few other things. (I have since learned the name for the condition is Metabolic Syndrome, or Syndrome X).

“What could I have done differently?” I asked, sure he would say ‘diet and exercise.’

“You could have chosen your parents,” he answered. “It’s genetic.”

He sent me home with insulin. And needles. And prescriptions. Lots and lots of them. (More than 5 that day….. 9 more later). Strange. Hadn’t I been taking my vitamins, and limiting my sugar, and doing teas and herbs? What was wrong with this picture?

Great. Just great. (I just want to add at this point that a period of emotional struggle began for me at this point, along with a sense of futility!)

So……. Let’s fast forward to today, early summer of 2016.

It’s been a full six years since my diagnosis.  I still am giving myself two injections each day, and faithfully taking the prescribed drugs for diabetes, along with several other things; fourteen medications all told. For the first year or so, I took the classes, and tried to follow the advice given by professionals. After three years, I was able to bring my A1C down to a healthy 6.1, and have remained there to the present time. There was a season when I tried to go to the gym, but would come home and collapse, once again unable to do anything productive.

I have discovered low carb protein, thanks to the Unjury company. (Check it out at Unjury.com). Unjury is a medically developed protein for patients who have undergone gastric surgery. I mix it up each morning with fruit, powdered vitamins and greens.  (I plan to post recipes here in the future). This concept provided me with an incremental improvement in my energy levels. The protein also helped me to experience better sleep.

I have also discovered the value of drinking greens – not that I thought it would be a great idea when I started. I was raised as a missionary child, and was taught it was polite to try a bite of everything. Still, the idea of drinking something green was a concept I had to come to slowly. (Those recipes are also coming). This addition/change provided an additional incremental improvement to my health levels.

Exercise has also been helpful – mostly walking, and light cardio.

So then, in consideration of all I have said to this point, I now come full circle to my opening sentence: I have discovered essential oils.  Since beginning to use them – diffusing, applying, and drinking a drop or two here and there – I am actually experiencing marked and positive change in my health levels.

Oils have definitely brought positive change into my life. For example, a month ago, I travelled to Mexico on a short term mission trip.  That was a miracle for me! Eight years ago, I never expected to ever go out of the country again, much less on a missions trip!  And I didn’t collapse!  It was amazing. And the best part?  I can’t wait to go back to that beautiful country in the fall of this year!

Father God has provided tools for healing in His creation. As I continue to blog here, it is my hope to be able to encourage many, help some, and provide hope for those who find themselves stuck in a place of “un-health” and “dis-ease,” as I was.  I can feel my body becoming stronger every day. I can sense my immunities being rebuilt, as I follow this fresh and natural path.  It is my hope to one day soon, find myself without a need for my medications; healthy and whole.

Next up: What are essential oils, and why are they important?

©2016 Debbye Graafsma/Awakened to grow. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission.


What’s in a Valentine?

Did you know?  Valentine’s  Day began as a memorial; held for a man in the early church ages known as Valentinus. In his book, “Foxe’s book of Martyrs,” John Foxe records the story of this amazing man.  Apparently, during the second century, Valentinus was imprisoned by the Romans for performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers forbidden to marry.  He also gave food, shelter and comfort to early Christians, which was also a crime.

While he was in prison, his jailor, Asterius, communicated with Valentinus that his daughter was ill and about to die.  In desperation, the jailor asked Valentinus to pray to his God for a miracle.  Within days, the woman was healed and had returned to her healthy self.  She began to visit him in prison, and the two became very close friends.

On the day Valentinus was to be executed, Foxe records he sent a letter to her, as she had become the closest person to him. In the letter, he declared his love to her, and wished her well; signing the letter with “from your Valentine” as his farewell.  According to tradition, his execution day was February 14.

As word spread of Valentinus’ experience, the practice was repeated by early Christians who were about to die.  The term “Valentine” eventually became associated with the concept of expressing undying love in the face of difficulties.

Several hundred years later, during the Middle Ages, knights were assigned to care and protect for the female members of royal families. Because of time spent together, and inevitable conversation, the term “courtly love” became accepted.  This term became a description of the unspoken love and attraction between a maiden and her protector.  In that age, a knight would be executed if he expressed love for his charge as his objectivity in the situation was considered a major asset in serving as her protector.  In his writings, Geoffrey Chaucer used the term “Valentine” to explain this frustrating circumstance, and as a result, the practice of sending notes from a secret admirer became a practice in England.

In our day, Valentine’s Day still has the same symbolism, but without its history, we can forget the depth of its meaning.  But no matter the depth of meaning, the words “Happy Valentine’s Day” communicate affection and the desire for closer relationship.

Blessings! Enjoy your day!


©2013 dcg/atg

Every time I see a picture of a dragon, I wonder whether they really existed.  They are a fascinating subject, and so it seemed natural that when I began a series of allegorical/fantasy based novels, I would start with the subject of dragons.  I mean, why don’t we ever see a baby dragon?  Where do they come from?

The Trouble with Dragons is my second attempt at fiction; this time in paranormal subject and allegory. The story is set in the Kingdom of Hausse, which is ruled by an evil queen, Souhaites. She outwardly shows allegiance to the king, whose name is Suzerain.  That word was new to me when I began writing — it is a description of a chief ruler, or emperor, who, although they are in complete control of an empire, allow their sub-states and subjects the luxury of ruling their own inner realm.

The story is filled with Light-Bearers, and fallen Light-Bearers, known as Pythons, Shades, Weavers and Muddlers (depending on their strength). In Hausse, the invisible is visible, and interaction takes place between mortals and those entities. The Dark Prince, Sausmas, who used to be a Light-Bearer, has dominion over the BorderLands and the DarkLands.

In the story, it is the mission of a gypsy family (who are actually the king’s agents in disguise), to rescue a princess.  The agents range in age from five to beyond ancient, with introduction of allegory and symbolism to help the reader understand the reality of the spiritual realm.  What began as a short story has now become a series.  I am now working on book two, “The Trouble with Tyrants.”

Particularly satisfying in regard to this particular book, is that I have had readers in my “test market” tell me they “couldn’t put it down.”  One was 18 years old, and one was over 65!!  I would love to getyouropinion!

Writing this stuff is just too much fun….. Please order it and read it, and then give me your feedback! Here is the link:


And Here is a preview of the first section of the first chapter:

Chapter One

  “Five Years before It All  Began”


“There’s the signal!”

Startled by the hand shaking his arm, as well as by his friend’s loud whisper, Peyton looked up quickly.

“Are you sure it wasn’t more lightning?” he asked.

“No, look!” Jaret pointed towards the castle window. “The lantern went back and forth three times. You’d better get a move on.”

Jaret let out a low whistle. In response, a horse’s snort was heard from further in, behind the trees.

Stepping out from under the cover of branches, Peyton grimly assessed the rain which continued to fall. “Hope I can get there through the mud,” he muttered.

“You cannot fail,” Jaret spoke with determination, handing his partner a bow and quiver of arrows. “Here; just in case.”

Peyton stroked his horse before he took the reins, swinging up into the mount. After checking to be sure his rapier was still in its sheath at his belt, he took the additional weapons. “Thank you,” he said. “Now, remember, if I’m not back before daybreak….”

“I know what to do. Don’t worry.” Jaret gave the hind quarters of his friend’s horse an encouraging whack. “Good speed. Be careful.”

Lurching just a little in the saddle as he began to move forward, Peyton looked back over his shoulder. “You as well,” he replied.

Watching his friend ride away, Jaret spoke quietly, more to himself than to anyone. “Without help, we will all be dead by morning.”

Slipping quiver and bow over his shoulder, Peyton put his attention forward.  He pulled the thick black hood of his cloak over his head, to further hide himself in the darkness.  Perhaps the rain was a good thing, he considered.  No one would be walking the castle walls tonight.  More likely, they would be inside warming by a fire.

Nearing the castle, he noticed the drawbridge had not yet been drawn up for the evening, and the gate was still open. He breathed a sigh of relief.  The informer had been genuine after all; they had kept their side of the bargain.

Just before reaching the drawbridge, Peyton dismounted and tied his horse loosely to a nearby tree. He took off his cloak. As he wrapped up his sword and quiver in the cloak, he spoke gently into his horse’s ear.

“Stay here, Goliath. Wait. I’ll be back, and I’ll need you.”

He then made his way into the cold water of the moat, holding his cloak and weapons over his head, to keep them from soaking.  Arriving at the gate, he silently slipped through, staying against the walls and in the shadows.

Once through the gate, he looked for the…. What had the informant said?  Oh yes, the second door to the left.  Look for the burning torch mounted on the wall.  He was to go through that door, and wait in the darkness for his contact to come. Strange, he reasoned. He still had no idea what the purpose of his mission was. It was better that way, he decided. If he was caught, there would be nothing to deny. He could not endanger the rest of the Protectorate – or, as the Queen referred to them, “The Rebels.”

Shutting the door of the little room, Peyton took a quick breath, double-checking his movements. Was this mission going too easily?  Could a trap be waiting for him? Well, it was too late to worry about it now. Hurriedly, he stepped away from the grate-covered window opening in the door, and leaned against the cold stone of the castle wall. Just as he did so, two of the Queen’s Guard walked by on patrol.

Had they seen him?  No, apparently not. He was safe for now.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Peyton slid down against the wall, into a sitting position.  After a few moments more, he caught himself nodding off into sleep.  He shook himself awake.  No, this would not be the time or place to take a nap, he thought.

Suddenly, there was a noise at the door.  Peyton reached for his rapier, and slid up the wall to stand on his feet once more. As the door opened, he readied himself to run the intruder through.

A girl’s voice spoke softly and carefully.  “Is anyone in here?”

Startled, Peyton remained silent, not sure whether this was his contact.

The girl spoke again into the inky darkness. “If you are here, the Prince will come.”

Relieved to hear the code words he had been waiting for, Peyton replied. “And the King will rule forever.”

“Oh good,” the girl replied. “This is my second time to come since the signal was sent, and I wasn’t sure how I would explain another absence to my mistress.”

“What is my mission?” Peyton asked her.

“Here,” she whispered in reply, lifting the rather large bundle she had been holding close to her chest. “You must take special care of this package. Don’t let anything happen to it. Strap it to yourself if you must.  But hold it lightly. It can be easily broken. Don’t undo the wrappings until you are sure you are back in a place of safety.”

“What is the package?” Peyton’s curiosity posed the inquiry before he realized his question placed both the girl and himself in grave danger.

“I cannot tell you,” she replied.  “But you will find out soon enough. Seeing that you were the one trusted for this task, you must know that to succeed you will have to move with great speed and speak to no one. The Sausmas has his spies everywhere. The entire future of the Protectorate Cause might rest on what you do tonight.”

Peyton stuttered. “I –I wasn’t told. I’m sorry.”

The girl lowered the shawl she had pulled up over her head, smiling.  “Don’t worry. I am sure there are Light-Bearers all around us. Do you know the way out?”

“I came by way of the moat and inner gate.”

“Oh, no,” she whispered. “You cannot go out that way.  We met in this room, because there is a tunnel entrance which begins here and lets you out in the trees.  There is a small cottage there, where you will find provisions to accompany your package. Here; let me get a little light to show you.  Hide behind the door. Crouch under the window.”

From her cloak, the girl drew a candle. Opening the door, she looked carefully to and fro to be sure she wasn’t observed. Then, she reached up to the burning torch and lit her candle.  Cupping her hand around the flame, she pulled carefully back into the dark room.  From there, she moved to the corner of the room and lifted an escape hatch hinged in the floor boards.

“Come!” she urged. “Quickly!”

Peyton clutched the package tightly, and prepared to go down the short stairs into the tunnel.

“Here,” the girl said, “take the candle.  You will need it down there.”

As the candle passed between them, Peyton caught a glimpse of the girl’s face. She couldn’t be much older than I am, he thought. “What is your name?” he asked as he took the candle from her.

“Elda,” she replied. “Yours?”

“Peyton.” He paused. “How old are you?”

“I am the Queen’s third handmaid. I am nine years,” she whispered, motioning for him to hurry.

“I’m ten years a week last,” he whispered back.

“Good to meet you,” she said. “Now get out of here before you get us all killed. Remember the instructions I gave you about the package. Don’t open it until you are sure you are in a place of safety.”

Waiting until she saw the candle’s glimmer fade into the tunnel, Elda lowered the escape hatch door once again, and stepped back into the center of the room.  Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath.

“Please, please surround him with safety,” she whispered.

Then, pulling her shawl back over her head, she stepped out of the room into the castle courtyard, and pulled the door shut behind her. Hastily, she made her way back to the Queen’s bedchambers, hoping her absence had not been noticed.  Even one hint of a doubt, or shadow of a question would endanger the plan they had all worked towards for months now.

Exiting the tunnel in the woods, Peyton was thankful for the candle Elda had given him.  He blew it out and decided it would be wiser to place it in his pocket and take it with him, than it would be to leave a trace of his presence behind.  Taking in his surroundings, he discovered Goliath no more than ten feet away.

Now, where was the cottage she had mentioned? Looking around, he saw an abandoned guard house.  It probably hadn’t been used since the drawbridge was built, he supposed. No need for a guard or a guard house when one added a moat to a castle.

Stepping into the guard house, Peyton saw a rather large basket on a table.  Next to the basket was a wooden crate, filled with various containers and scrolls.

How would he get all of this onto the back of his horse, he wondered?  After some consideration, the boy decided to place the package inside the basket and then surround and cover the package with as much as would fit from what was in the crate.  Then, he realized, it would be easy to travel, with the basket held in front of him as he rode Goliath back to the Protectorate Encampment.

As he completed the task at hand, Peyton’s thoughts turned philosophical. Funny how even what they called themselves came down to the side someone was on.  The King, Suzerain, (Soo- zee- rayn) had decreed that those who stood against the Queen and Sausmas (Sawz-mahs) were to be given honor and respect.  He had even issued orders to his Light-Bearers and all those in His Realm were to offer assistance to the Cause in any method necessary.  In fact, the title “Protectorate” had been his creation. But to Queen Souhaites (Soo-hay-teez), and to everyone else under Sausmas’ controlling influence, they were considered Rebels.

Preparing to mount his horse again, Peyton remembered Elda’s words. “Hold the package lightly.  It can be easily broken.”  Sighing, he readjusted the items in the basket, placing the package on top.

Riding stealthfully back to meet Jaret and the others, and then to the Encampment, Peyton once more found himself thankful for the rain. He wondered just why the mission had gone so easily.  Upon his arrival, the sentries wasted no time ushering him to Commander Carel’s Pavilion.

The Commander was pacing back and forth, anxious for news of Peyton’s mission. “How did it go, boy? Were you discovered?”

Here is the link to lulu.com for purchase.  The book is also availabe in epub format.




(c) ATG 2012 Duplication without permission prohibited.  All rights reserved.

 In the 4th century (300’s AD),  a man named Nicholas, wanted to serve God with his whole heart. His family was wealthy, but he didn’t want to live like a rich man. He wanted to help poor people, and help people come to know Jesus Christ.  Nicholas was born in a Greek town called Pantara.  When he grew up, he became a pastor in a Myra.  The area where he lived is now known as the country of  Turkey.  Nicholas love to worship Jesus. He spent his entire life helping the people in his church come to an understanding of why Jesus came to earth.

 One story of his generosity and caring for people helps us to understand what kind of person he was. There was a family in his village with three daughters.  They were very happy, and welcomed Nicholas, their pastor, into their home on a regular basis.  The father was a nobleman, and many times  sought Nicholas’ advice for decisions he needed to make.  One day, the nobleman’s wife became sick and died.  The man and his daughters were hard hit with grief. In fact,  the nobleman stopped asking Nicholas for advice, and began making impulsive and selfish decisions.   Soon, all his money was gone.  As the years went by,  he lost his large mansion.  He and his daughters had  to work in the fields to find food, and their home became  a small cottage. 

Now, in that day, young women could only marry if their parents could supply a dowry for them.  A dowry was a  sum of money that would help a newly married couple  not have to work so hard to make ends meet, and be able to get to know each other during the first year.  Well, the nobleman  no longer had any money; and no dowries for any of his three girls.  One night, Pastor Nicholas was invited for dinner.  He spoke to the  father, and offered to supply dowries for each of his daughters, out of his own pocket.

 “No,” replied the father stubbornly.

 “God will take care of us.”  Nicholas noticed during dinner, that  the girls had apparently done their laundry that day.  Stockings  had been hung by the fire to dry. That night,  the young pastor  climbed up on the roof of the house, and dropped three small bags of gold down the chimney.  As the story goes, God directed the  money – one bag into each girl’s stocking.  In the morning, the girls were surprised and overjoyed.  God had truly taken care of them!

 As news spread of Nicholas’ generosity, everyone in the village began  hanging their stockings by the fireplace at night, hoping  Nicholas would drop a gift down the chimney!  

Nicholas died in 340AD. His body was buried in Myra, but in 1087  Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to  Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout  Europe.  His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to  claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.  Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and sometime around the 12th century an official church  holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity. After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the stories were kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.

In 1822 Clement C. Moore composed the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, published as The Night Before Christmas as a gift for his children. In it, he portrays Santa Claus:

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Other countries feature different gift-bearers for the Christmas or Advent season: La Befana in Italy ~ The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico ~ Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria ~ Father Christmas in England ~ and Pere Noël, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France. Still, the figure of Santa Claus as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore’s poem remains with us today and is recognized by children and adults alike around the world.

In our home, we have a small cross-stitched picture we hang in the entryway at this time each year.  It is a picture of Santa Claus, hat in hand, at his knees at the side of the Christ-Child in the manger.  How simple it would be to resolve the debate over the Santa Claus symbol, if we all would just consider that picture in our celebrations……  For example, have you ever stopped to consider that in depicting Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, we have actually reproduced an emblem of the True and Living God?   He rides the wind in his chariot (Psalm 104:3);  He never sleeps, but keeps watch over us (Psalm 121:3-4);  He rewards the obedient (good) and disregards the disobedient (Deuteronomy 28); He gives gifts from above and shows no partiality (James 1:17); He tells us to ask Him for what we need (James 4:2); He will come in the “middle of the night” (I Thess. 5:2);  He keeps His promises (II Peter 3:9).

Why would we censure people from seeking this figure this time of year?  Why not enlarge who he really represents? Especially, dressed in the symbolic colors of red and white!! Blessings!

Remember:  There are many Santa Claus

figures out there this time of year.

The real Santa Claus

was/is the gift-giver who

loves and obeys Jesus first.

(c)2011 dcg/atg. Duplication without permission prohibited.  Thank you for your integrity.

Why Do We Wrap Gifts?

Did you know that the original Christmas gifts when given were  placed in a treasure box, or inside a vessel?   Paper was invented in China in 105AD, and since that day, gifts were wrapped. The method and procedure for making paper was kept secret by the Chinese for several centuries.  However, by 800AD, the process was known in Egypt.  Then, knowledge of the process spread to Europe, where the first paper mill began production in 1085.

In 1509, during the reign of Henry VIII in England, wallpaper was invented. For a short time, gifts were wrapped in wallpaper, but it cracked or tore when folded. By the early 1900’s, gifts were wrapped in plain brown paper, or tissue, and tied with cord or string. A reference to this practice is found in Richard Rodgers song lyrics for “My Favorite Things:”  “brown paper packages tied up with string; these are a few of my favorite things.”  Printed tissue paper in varied designs was also used.

In Kansas City, MO, a man named Joyce C. Hall owned a stationery store, selling his own card designs.  Hall is known for being the founder of the greeting card industry, but is also credited with the “invention” of present-day gift wrap.  Hallmark’s launch of printed gift wrap actually happened by accident.  Just before Christmas in 1917, the Hal Brothers’  store had sold out of the white, red and green tissue and one holly pattern for customers to use to wrap holiday packages. So, in an effort to help customers, Rollie Hall, Joyce’s brother, had an idea.  Why not bring some of the envelope lining papers from France, and sell them for 10 cents a sheet?  That year, they sold out quickly.  The next year, the sheets were offered 3 for 25 cents.  Again they sold out.  Soon, Hallmark began manufacturing their own wrapping paper; the first product they made as a departure from greeting cards.

In the 1930s, the brothers introduced Hall Sheen ribbon, which sticks to itself when licked like a stamp.  It is still the company’s most popular ribbon, even now. In 1970, they introduced jumbo plastic gift bags, and paper gift bags with hands in 1987.  Curling cascade ribbon was invented in 1994.  Today Hallmark is the leader of the giftwrap industry, in addition to greeting cards, and unique gift items.

“I never saw anything accepted so quickly,” J.C. Hall said in his autobiography, When You Care Enough. “We didn’t realize it then, but for all practical purposes, an entire new industry had been born. In fact, the decorative gift-wrapping business was born the day Rollie placed the French envelope linings on top of our showcase. Soon gift-wrapping paper became the first product we made that was a departure from greeting cards.”

When I wrap gifts, I am reminded of the Charles Wesley’s words in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing:” veiled in the flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.”  When someone receives a gift, they might remember temporarily how it was wrapped, but they will remember forever the gift inside. It is the gift that remains.  When we receive the gift of Life in Jesus, the outer trappings of image and status fall away, and His Life begins a transformation process with us.  The Holy Spirit changes our values, and our methods of relating to others. He calls us to growth.  He calls us to discipleship.  It is His Life that remains – for eternity.  And, in the process, we experience the Kingdom of God – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness,  Long-Suffering and Self Control.

In essence, the Incarnation happens all over again.  Jesus comes to live His life in us — We become the Manger.

People may forget us, but they will remember forever what God does through our lives.  Blessings!

Why do we give gifts at Christmastime? After all, for years, our children told us it was the best part of Christmas!  I’m sure most children feel that way—the anticipation, the excitement, the WAITING! What would it be like to observe Christmas Day, and NOT exchange gifts?  And yet, that is exactly what the early church did.

Originally, gifts were exchanged on different days, based on cultural traditions. For example, in the past, some countries have given gifts to each other in honor of Nicholas of Pantara, the pastor who became known as St. Nicholas, or Sinter Klaas. These gifts were usually gifts or acts done in secret to help those in need. Other countries waited until January 6th to give gifts to those they love.  These gifts were given in honor of the treasures given to Jesus by the wise men, or Magi, who came from the East (China, India, or other lands, undisclosed in the Scriptures).  In the Catholic church, January 6th was set as the day to remember the wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem to find the Christ Child; otherwise known as “The Epiphany,” meaning “The Manifestation, or Appearance.” Historically, the feast celebrated on this day observed three events:

1)      The appearance of Jesus as Who He is – God come in human form, recognized by the Magi.

2)      The disclosure of Jesus as Who He is – God who works miracles and brings all things together for good for those who believe, recognized by the servants of the house and his disciples at Cana, when He changed water to wine (His first miracle- John 2 ; Romans 8:28)

3)      Heaven’s endorsement of Jesus as Who He is – The manifestation of God on earth, recognized at his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

In the first five centuries, the early church celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus in conjunction with Jewish Passover.  Next to that celebration, the most important became the Feast of the Wise Men.  Both holy days were remembered with prayer and fasting prior, and feasting and rejoicing on the day.  On the Day of the Feast of the Wise Men, many people were baptized, or even re-baptized, to renew their commitment to Christ during an age when the Church was just learning her identity. Also, during this feast day, the doorways of believers’ homes were sprinkled with water, as a symbol of the inner cleansing that occurs when a person gives all they have, and are becoming, to Jesus Christ in surrender. Over time, it became a practice to write over the doorposts of those homes, “C+B+M,” which meant  “Christ blesses this house (Christus bendicat mansionem).” Since the three gifts of the wise men were also remembered on that same day, someone decided to remember the Latin blessing with three initials – CBM.  Over time, these initials were given names – Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. The names stuck, and so did the concept that there were three kings who came to the house in Bethlehem.  In actuality, there was a company of more than 50, who traveled in caravan for two years or more to arrive in Israel, led by the “star.”

After the Reformation, as the Protestant Church moved away from the more formal liturgies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the concept of gift giving remained.  The quandary became, “when do we give gifts if we don’t celebrate the Feast of the Wise Men?”  For a time, the twelve days between December 25th and January 6th were known as “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  Gifts were given on each day, similar to the practice of Jewish Festival of Lights, or Chanukah, also celebrated at this time of year.  During the years when this was a widespread practice, it was a small reach to teach those in learning that the Incarnation, (the indwelling of Christ in human form), marks the beginning place of growth and discipleship for believers. Subsequently, then, came the second lesson: Our life on earth is a journey, through which we follow the Light we receive, and in the end, we offer all of our treasures to the One Who came to rescue us.

During the Middle Ages, the feast of Christmastide, became more universal, incorporating the practice of gift giving to honor and remember the Gift of Life in Jesus, even by those who did not yet know Him.  By the mid-1800’s, the general practice of giving gifts to loved ones on Christmas Day, as well as the custom of secretly giving to help those in need, had melded into the celebrations on one day rather than twelve – Christmas Day.  In America, many writers of fictional works have added to the Christmas culture, shaping our celebrations and adding other aspects to the holiday.

For me, the key to giving gifts at Christmas, is not about what day I give them; nor is it about keeping up with traditions.  For me, gift giving at Christmastime, and any other time of year, keeps my heart open and filled with gratitude.  When the Season becomes a dry practice, or feels like a chore, I have to remind myself to step back and consider:  Why am I doing this?

And then it comes:  An Epiphany – Because Jesus gave, and I want to be like Him.

 (C)2011 atg/dcg.  Duplication prohibited without permission.  Thank you for your integrity.