Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas Trees and Ebenezers

I love words.  Not like Steve loves them in that he uses them well.  I have a fondness for certain words.  Fidelity. Membership. Ebenezer.  There's a word you don't hear every day!  The dictionary defines ebenezer as "a commemoration of divine assistance".  It has its origins in Hebrew, meaning stone of help.  Samuel used the word in reference to the "stone which he set up in commemoration of God's help to the Israelites in their victory over the Philistines at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:12)".  (Also from the entry in the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary).

We don't see ebenezers around much these days.  But if you look, you can find them.  They may look like Samuel's:  I have a stone in our back yard to commemorate the amazing, miraculous way God blessed us with this house.  But they may look completely different than Samuel's:  Our Christmas Tree.  Our Christmas tree is my favorite part of the holiday.  It is a collection of ebenezers for our family.  We have so many ornaments.  Each one has a very specific story or remembrance for us.  Each year we get to look back over all of the ways God has blessed us.  It is a beautiful activity.  It is also the sole reason I enjoy taking down our tree.  As I wrap each ornament I again think back on what God has done and thank Him - for He is good and gracious and glorious and great.  And I can see it right there on our tree.

So I want to share a few of our ebenezers with you!  This SIUE ornament is one of the most exciting.  When I see it I instantly go back to the day when we received an envelope in the mail informing us that Victoria had been awarded a full scholarship for college.  Room and board for four full years!  I get giddy just thinking of that day.  All the emotions and excitement flood back.  God truly provided and blessed us (and Victoria) beyond belief!

We have ebenezers to remember those that are no longer with us.  We do
think of these people more often than Christmas - but it is a beautiful thing to hang an ornament and tell a story or two about people we have loved and lost.

I cannot put up a tree without a flood of feelings of gratitude for family.  Specifically, this tree ornament
 brings back childhood memories.  My mom made this blue Christmas tree.  The year was 1977.  I see it and am forever grateful for parents who love me and love the Lord and who are still such an absolute blessing to me and Steve and the kiddos.

Our favorite ebenezers to put on the tree (and they may actually cause arguments among us for who gets to put which one on the tree!) are a set of simple cardboard "Adornaments" that are pictures depicting the "I AM's" of Scripture.  Jesus says "I am the Door", "I am the Good Shepherd", "I am the "Light of the World", "I am the King of Kings", "I am the Living Water", "I am the Bread of Life", and so on.  What a glorious reminder of His goodness, provision, grace and mercy to us.

This snowflake is a gift from Steve's days at the Journey.  What a blessing that church was to us.  We learned so much of the grace of God while we were there and God used the leaders of that church to change our lives forever.  We put this ebenezer up with thoughts of love and fondness and gratitude.

The 80's Precious Moments ornament was a gift from my parents for the first year of marriage for Steve and I.  1989.  Oh so long ago.  But I will be eternally grateful for such a wonderful man.  I hang that ebenezer with joy each year!!

There are ebenezers for places we have lived (California, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois).  We cherish each one of those states and homes.  There are ebenezers for adventures that God gaves us - Ireland, Rock City, Land Between the Lakes, Vail, Phoenix and the list goes on and on.  Each a sweet remembrance of "divine assistance".  My ornaments are back in their box until later this year.  But I loved taking each one out and rejoicing in the faithfulness of our good God.  We commemorate Him.

Music Concerts - My Favorites

We just saw a great concert last month - the Lone Bellow at the Old Rock House in St. Louis.  Perfect.  Perfect band.  Perfect venue.  Perfect crowd.  One of the best concerts I've been to.  Which leads to the question:  What are my favorite concerts?  Here's a list!

U2 at Savis November of 2001.  This was one of their first stops in the US after Sept. 11th.  Powerful.  Who would have thought that a group of four Irish guys could help a crowd full of people heal.  But it happened.  We wept as the band sang in front of a massive screen with the names of the 9/11 victims scrolling.  One of the most moving musical experiences of my life.  So happy that I got to share it with Steve.

Mumford and Sons - Off Broadway June 15, 2010.  What can I say?  Mumford and Sons with a small crowd of 200 on their first US tour.  Doesn't get any better than this!  It was like we were in on a little secret that the world hadn't discovered yet.  Now the whole wide world knows.  And I am still a fan!  (Check out a Riverfront Times concert review here).  It helped that this was Victoria and Esther's first concert experience.  What a great first!

The Lone Bellow - Old Rock House November 10, 2013.  This is the perfect venue.  The group sang without microphones on several songs and even walked out into the middle of the crowd and sang on
the dance floor.  And the whole place sang along!  There were also moments when you could see the crowd leaning forward, holding their breath, listening intently.  Amazing. (photo from July 2013 at the Pageant)

Snow Patrol - Soldier Field, Chicago September 12, 2009.  I love U2.  This was the fifth or sixth time we got to see them.  They are
always great.  But it was actually pretty cool to see Snow Patrol.  They were obviously ecstatic to be playing to such a huge crowd.  Lead singer Gary Lightbody couldn't stop smiling.  It was contagious.  They were having fun, so we were having fun.  Gotta love those concert moments.  I have since become a huge Snow Patrol fan.  First started listening to them after a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland where they are from.

Nylons - Humphrey's, San Diego Bay 1990.  Finally, we go back to the beginning.  Our first year of marriage.  One of the best surprises from Steve ever was a concert the first year we got married.  I have always been a Nylons fan.  For those of you who don't know, they are an a cappella group singing songs such as "Happy Together" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  They're great!  I had wanted to see them at Humphrey's - an outdoor venue on the bay in San Diego, where we lived.  Steve said the tickets were sold out, but offered to take me to the restaurant for dinner.   I remember being sad, but enjoying the evening.  When I could hear the crowd getting excited, he walked me out to the concert!  I was so surprised!  A fun night.  Fun music.  Amazing beachside venue.  (Fun first year of marriage!!)

Lots of honorable mentions...  Rocco Delucca at the Duck Room, Punch Brothers at the Sheldon Concert Hall, U2 at Busch Stadium in '92.

So, what are your top five concerts?