Friday, December 27, 2013


Recently, I had the opportunity to witness a Christmas of a different era.  While family was visiting for the holidays, we bundled up the kids and went on a trip to Stone Mountain. Though this park is being built up into a major modern attraction, I am grateful that they hang on to their pieces of educational history.  And while we enjoyed the Sing-Along Christmas Train – which actually told the story of the Nativity! – and glided down hills of beautifully manufactured snow, my favorite among the parks attractions were the Christmas exhibits at the Antebellum Plantation.  I can’t imagine a more gratitude-inspiring and conscience-nudging experience than seeing the lifestyles of those who lived in eras not so terribly long ago.

This year’s Christmas season – Advent season, to be exact – has been one of contradictions and struggles for me.  I have preached about wading out of the shopping frenzy and embracing the humility and simplicity that we actually see in Christ’s birth.  Still, I constantly find myself pressured to buy more, to spend more, to make my way back to the stores for yet another thing.

I am as astonished as the next person over the insanity that surrounds days like Black Friday.  People fight one another for cheap electronics as if they were the starving grappling for bread.  And yet, with gritted teeth, I march to the checkout aisle with my daughter’s Angry Birds Go! Jenga Knockout Game, while trying not to find out how much we spent on this year’s electric train for my son.

At the Plantation, I peered into stark wooden cabins and read about the gifts of fresh fruit that made joyous and welcome Christmas presents.  It felt a bit like breathing clean air.  I don’t mean to say that I wish for that lifestyle.  Were time travel possible, I probably wouldn’t have to live long in a 1783 house – especially in the winter – before pining for the home I am in right now.

My historian dad making friends with the plantation pigs.
I am just reminded again of the thing that we always say but never seem to really believe: 

that happiness doesn’t come from stuff.  That in an era of low technology and few luxuries, children could be made just as happy with wooden toys as modern kids are with an electric “Racing Showdown” NASCAR games.  The joy of gifts once came with the things that simply exceeded the norm, the indulgence compared to everyday life.  We do ourselves no favors when we strive to set the bar ever higher, and there is a poverty that results from having so many things we can no longer be wide-eyed or experience awe.
How on earth did become this Christmas?  How on earth did the humble birth of our savior become this carnival of acquiring?  The wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child, but I doubt they put the same stress into their decision of gold, frankincense and myrrh that I did for the things I put under my tree.  And while their gifts may have been genuine riches, they were also fitting for the occasion and significant.  They are a far cry from the items I buy to fill up space in a stocking; things that will barely be noticed and will likely rest in a landfill sooner rather than later.
I suppose the reason we can call this madness “Christmas” is because this is why Christ came graciously among us; for our poor, pitiable longing for the things that will never satisfy us and for the struggle to keep our heads above the deep waters of expectation.  When I step back and witness my own struggle to keep Christmas, I find myself often praying sincerely, “Lord, have mercy.”  And the Lord does.
The mercy is the point.  Though we can point to the first Christmas as a model for our own, Jesus came into the midst of people just as lost and as foolish as we are.  Though they lacked cheap electronics to brawl over, like humanity throughout the ages, they found reason enough to fight and to frenzy.  The insanity we witness today isn’t what Christmas became over the years, it is what it always has been.   It is what we have always been. 
The mercy of Christ, come in the midst of our grasping and our recklessness; this is the real meaning of Christmas.
So . . .
Lord, have mercy on me in my struggle to keep Christmas.  May my desire to celebrate your birth in all its humility and austerity be counted, by your grace, as if I am really doing it well.  And may the awareness of my own absurd response to your coming be the first step in creating a new and better way.
This I pray in the name of the Child who leads us in the way of humility and peace.  Amen

Blessed Eating!
The recipe below was given at the Cook’s House on the Antebellum Plantation.  I haven’t tried making it yet, but I sampled these on site and they were very good!
Traditional Sugarplums
½ cup raisins
1 cup dried apricots (any fruit will do)
1 ½ cups whole almonds (any nuts will do)

Chop all above . . .


2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. anise
1 Tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp. vanilla

Combine above with next column . . .

½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup of honey

Pinch off into 1 inch lumps, roll into balls and coat with powdered sugar.  Makes 30.  Will keep for a week, or refrigerate for longer.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Greetings from the Johnson-Piersons


Though we are coming close to the deadline, we wanted to write our holiday letter to you.  In our usual effort to save a few trees, we are using electronic media, with the hopes of also reaching as many of our friends as possible.  Thank you for being one of them and for reading this post!

What a year it has been!  Every year brings new adventure and this one has been no different.  Our family has been active in school, work, exploration and fun and now we are looking into increasing the population in the Johnson-Pierson house.  (More on that later).

Our children continue to grow in exciting ways and participate in lots of learning experiences.  Roland completed his first year of Cub Scouts and having left behind the status of Tiger Cub is now active in his Wolf Den.  He has rekindled his love of trains and we have been spending a lot of our time lately at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia. 

Vivian has startled us all by entering her “tween” years.  (Who could have seen that coming!)  She has rediscovered her interest in horses and art, and makes horse drawings and paintings for all her friends and family.

Both kids are having a great time in school.  They have been commended by both teachers for the progress they are making and they have enjoyed making new friends.

Todd continues to do great work in our growing youth program at Christ Church.  He led them on their first trip this year to Disney World as they took part in the YES – Youth Educational Series – program.  This helped the group not only bond with each other, but grow personally from all that they experienced.  He continued to work with them through the fall even as he battled kidney stones and related health issues.  Todd continues to use his talents as a percussionist in our worship at Christ.

Nancy continues to pastor Christ United Methodist Church in Roswell, Georgia.  The congregation is filled with wonderful people and wonderful things are happening there.  She continues to look for ways to worship God and serve others both inside and outside of our walls.  Nancy has been blessed through both this and her previous appointment to remember that she can sing, and she has become a loyal soprano in the choir.

This year, Nancy has also had several devotionals printed in the Upper Room magazine.  (The next one is in the upcoming edition, on January 4.)  She is praying for the time and energy to continue to devote to her writing and her blog (as well as her cooking), and praying for God’s direction as she moves forward.

An interesting new addition to our family this year has been our new camper.  Back in April, we bought a pop-up camper (the largest we could pull with our mini-van), and have had some great trips and some of our best family time in it.  So far, we have visited locales around Georgia and Florida and we hope that it will help us explore many new destinations.

By far the most exciting thing we have done this year is our application to become foster parents.  It was, for us, nearly a year’s process to take the classes, complete the forms, and have the home study visits.  We have now accomplished all of this and are waiting for our final approval.  We don’t know when we will have a child placed into our home, but we pray that it will be God’s timing and that we are able to share God’s love in this new endeavor.

In this season, we fight the common battle to keep our hearts trained in the right spirit; to set aside the stress and busyness of the season and remember the miraculous grace and love of our savior.  We live in that grace every day.  The trick is to be mindful; to be reminded in each day and each moment of the love of our God that infuses our lives, and to remain thankful.

May God bless you in this holy season of new birth.  May you, like the shepherds, perceive the presence of angels awakening you to the light of Christ, and may you live in that love throughout the year.


Nancy, Todd, Vivian and Roland