Christmas greetings, dear Giving Grace family!

This is my Christmas letter to you. I hope you’ll open it, read it, and be blessed by it.

Imagine we’re sitting down for a one-on-one chat, perhaps with a hot peppermint mocha or some chai tea. We’ve made this uninterrupted time a priority and we’ve so looked forward to it. Snow softly falls outside the window, but inside among glittering Christmas decorations we’re cozy with conversation as our hearts connect.   

The tree keeps me company

As I write, the Christmas tree shines beside me a beacon of love, joy, and hope.  (as well as beauty*) 

The older I get, the more I’m aware of God lavishing these gifts on us. Yes, life is hard sometimes. Yes, it throws us curves we never expect, but, truly, He gives us the grace to get through it all…

If… we trust His capable, loving hands which are full of joy, beauty, and hope. (wisdom, too!)

For example, some things in my family are not what I ever imagined they would be. I don’t like these situations. But, I believe God is in control. He knows all things and sees all things. He alone can bring change and renewal!

Consequently, I’m learning more and more it just doesn’t pay to worry. Trusting is far less stressful!

Our 3 eternal gifts

  1. Love-Personified in Jesus. God loved us so much that He gave His only Son. Such a thing is unfathomable to this mother.
  2. Joy-My Christmas tree gives joy by its beauty.  When I practice JOY (Jesus-Others-You), I also receive joy. God is so smart.  🙂
  3. Hope-Supernaturally comes from God and bubbles up inside us.

*Beauty. No doubt, our Christmas trees are beautiful…

Just as we are beautiful when we dare to show our real, true selves; the selves God made us to be.  🙂

On that note, let me share some highlights from the past year, and then you do the same in the comment section.  😉

Hot fun in the wintertime

So far this year, I’ve delighted in many gifts. Among them: family, friends, and 3 (!) vacations.

To begin with, in March, Rick and I journeyed to Apache Junction to spend time with his parents. Not only did we thaw from Omaha’s winter and appreciate many wondrous sights, but Calie was in nearby Yuma so we enjoyed her crazy company as well.  😀

 A few of the “wondrous sights” were: The Superstition Mountains, Goldfield Ghost Town, and the town of Jerome situated above the stunning Verde Valley.

Click here to see more of this AMAZING trip.

Fun at Queen Creek Olive Mill, Queen Creek, AZ
Canyon Lake, AZ
Wild horse at Saguaro Lake, Butcher Jones Recreation Area, Gold Canyon, AZ
he absolutely stunning Superstition Mountains
Jerome, AZ
Palm trees over Apache Junction, AZ

What do you call Santa’s little helpers?

Subordinate clauses.  🙂

New adventures

For our 2nd vacation, we trekked to Colorado in June to see our son, Luke, and to set foot on new-to-us mountains via climbing Twin Sisters Peak. With its many astonishing views, Twin Sisters quickly joined my list of favorite hikes! On the way up, it felt like we were on the edge of the world.

Likewise, Ouzel Lake was another first, for which we braved misty rainy conditions all 6 hours on the trail.

Riverview Pines, on the Fall River, was our temporary home for the week. Elk and moose visited us there.  😎

We cooked breakfast each morning on a double burner in our room and grilled out in the evenings. Eating outside while the river rushed past and hungry elk grazed was pure refreshment.

Hiking to Ouzel Lake in drizzel
Top of Twin Sisters Peak, near Estes Park, COHiking to Ouzel LakeElk visits Riverview Pines in Estes Park
Wildflowers in RMNP
Many Parks Curve in RMNP
Wildflowers in Estes Park
Rain on wildflower in RMNP

What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa?

A rebel without a Claus.  🙂

8 states!

And **last, but certainly not least, November took us through 8 states with the final destination being North Carolina (a new state for us) to watch Calie compete and win her 3rd high-intensity tactical training (HITT) competition.  She is one tough, determined little cookie!  🙂  It was great fun watching her and reconnecting with others from last year’s competition.

On top of that, we felt blessed as Calie allowed us the honor of pinning her as Staff Sergeant before the week got started. 

Calie and her activities as a Marine were our first priority for this 3rd vacation, however…

Blackbeard the pirate

After the week’s festivities were over, Rick, Calie, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering unique towns and sights up and down the Carolina coast. One such place was Beaufort, a 1709 historical town, where Blackbeard had stayed. I highly recommend a visit there!

In addition, we left our footprints on four beaches.  😀

Fascinating historical beauty

Our second priority consisted in visiting 4 mansions from the 1800s, 3 in Nashville and one in Asheville, NC. I love history, especially this time frame.

About 5 years ago, I took delight in an inspirational historical romance novel called “A Lasting Impression.” This wonderful book began a desire in me to visit the real mansion where the story takes place, the Belmont in Nashville, TN.

Additionally, I figured while we were in Nashville we should see other historical homes, so we added Belle Meade and The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, to our plans.  We relished each one’s beauty and character while learning of its history.

Huge, stunning and beautiful

Comparatively, the 4th mansion we visited was the most stunning…the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1895, the Biltmore holds the record for “largest private family residence” in America at over 175,000 unbelievable square feet!

Well preserved, the Biltmore showcases 19th-century history, luxury, and boasts of priceless art among other treasures.

Incidentally, notice the lighting in the Biltmore pictures below. The light bulbs used are the same wattage as would have been used back then; they’re not as bright as our bulbs these days and make for a nice ambiance. Very cool.

(To give a taste of what HITT is like, I documented last year’s competition as well as our time spent in San Diego. Here is the first of 5 installments. It was a crazy, adventurous trip; we’d never been to California before and the competition was harrowing! Check it out.)

Pinning a new Staff Sergeant of the US Marines
A new Staff Sergeant and her proud parents
HITT 2018
HITT 2018
Final event of HITT, 2018
After the final event of HITT 2018!
Fort Fisher Beach, NC
Wrightsville Beach, NC

Now, perhaps, for the best part.

Soak in the holiday spirit through these beautiful Christmas trees courtesy of the Biltmore Estate. 

The Biltmore foyer
The winter garden in Biltmore
The family dining room at the Biltmore, Asheville, NC
Forming dining room at the Biltmore Estate
The beautiful blue salon at the Biltmore
The awesome ceiling in the salon at the Biltmore
The 2-story, 22,000 volume library at the Biltmore Estate
Louis XV room at the Biltmore
Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom
Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom
Two Christmas trees upstairs at the Biltmore Estate
Guest bedroom at Biltmore
Tree in the music room at the Biltmore
4-story chandelier and Christmas tree at the Biltmore
Christmas tree at the Biltmore Estate

Maybe 4?

**I stated the North Carolina trip was the last one for the year; however, we do have another tentative trip on the calendar.

Calie is planning to be in Colorado over Christmas and she would like us to come out for a few days. Lacey might go with us, too.  🙂

In the event the weather cooperates, we will take a record 4 vacations this year. (I get lots of great photos to share this way!)

In addition, while there, we’ll get to visit with Luke and a long-lost cousin of mine.  (Hi Danna Tullis!) I do hope the weather is sunny and dry.  🙂

Big news…

Two more tidbits from this year:

1. We lost our Annie-baby this summer. She had a great life of 15 years, 2 months, and 9 days. ♥  😥

2. My sister, Tricia, became a first-time grandma, and I’m now a great-aunt!!  

Say goodbye to Annie, and meet Terrance Stephen Michael Lowe, born Nov. 19 ⇓⇓  😀

Apricot-colored Malti-poo

Frail little Annie

Cute baby

Meet Terrance Stephen Michael Lowe

It came without ribbons. It came without bows.

It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~ Dr. Seuss

Did you enjoy our visit?

If so, and if you haven’t already, be sure to leave your name and email address on the form at the top right of this page. I’ll add you to our Giving Grace family and make sure you never miss a fresh new post.

But for now, as we say goodbye, I’d like to thank you for being here, for reading my Christmas letter to you…for sharing some of your precious time and a peppermint mocha with me today.  😉

I sincerely enjoyed our chat and sharing the beautiful Christmas trees with you. Aren’t you glad we made the time? Now, I’d like to…

  Wish you a wonderful, truly blessed Christmas season as you “love well” the others around your tree.  

Please give a listen to this fun version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and leave a comment with your favorite tree!  🙂

With blessings and blooms (well, Christmas Trees), 

Pam  🙂

Merry Christmas! ♥♥♥

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. ~ Romans 12:10

Author: Pam

Glad you’re here!