Finding an unexpected gem for Advent in a Christmas Treasury

I know some of you are not fiction aficionados,  but please, I plead…  Read this through.  It is so much more than just a short story book review.  An unexpected Advent gem I want to place in your hands today.  :)  A joyful reminder and snapshot of our Emmanuel, God with us… this post has been on my heart for over a week now…

Joyful studio shot of a Christmas tree with colorful ornaments, isolated on white - stock photo

So, I used to think a deep fog was romantic – in that Wuthering Heights on the moors, lovely Gershwin, foggy day in London town sort of way.

Or — even deliciously mysterious, as in Sherlock Holmes’ favorite out tracking hidden clues kind of day.

But, so many days upon days of barely-see-through, mist-dampened, dripping skies round here have been like a recalcitrant gnat in my face all week. Swat and push away as I might, lack of light is wringing me out and leaving me sopping in the melancholy of it. The world is so wearingly dark as early as three in the afternoon, that it fools me into thinking all time is slipping away…

Till, sitting here by my porch window this morning, I actually see blue rimming the cottony grey puffs! Sun dappling! That tad of color is a beach flag soaring in winter. A gift!

And quite suddenly, I understand Mrs. Hargreaves and the gift she found in a fresh and heart-opening way. But I am getting ahead of myself. You haven’t met her yet, have you?  :)

On one such gloomy recent afternoon good for little else than sitting entrenched under artificial light, my eyes and heart hunting for God’s carefully hidden advent treasure waiting for me (and, I think,  for you too) behind the calendar door so to speak, I scanned the index of a lovely new-to-me, but used copy of A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems. A hardcover book that called to me from store shelves the other day and made its way into my shopping bag for really a few pennies (mmm, relatively speaking). This was as good a time as any to steal thirty minutes leisure reading in a small story…  And to hopefully banish the glums!

Perusing the content list, my finger landed on a seemingly incongruously  placed author’s name, Agatha Christie. To say the least, her title did not grab me. “The Water Bus.” What did that mean? And in what way was it – Christmasey? But I’d just been thinking how I’ve never read anything at all by Agatha Christie and had wondered if she might not have had a cosy style belying the films that – perhaps – pidgenhole her works.

And here she was, so unexpected, in this seasonal tome!

Divine appointment?

Did she write more than murder and mayhem we’ve tagged her for? Finding her here now, amongst light and joyful stories, I felt a bit of that foggy day romanticism stealing back over me.

And so, I dipped into her story where she plunges me immediately into the mind and heart of… her Mrs. Hargreaves and her unusual (but perhaps identifiable with each of us in other ways?) dilemma.

“Mrs. Hargreaves didn’t like people.

She tried to, because she was a woman of high principle and a religious woman, and she knew very well that one ought to love one’s fellow creatures. But she didn’t find it easy – and sometimes she found it downright impossible…
Her largest subscriptions were to communities of nuns in Africa, because they and the people to whom they ministered were so far away she would never have to come in contact with them, and also because she admired and envied the nuns who actually seemed to enjoy the work they did, and because she wished with all her heart she were like them.

She was willing to be just, kind, fair and charitable to people, so long as she did not have to see, hear or touch them. But she knew very well, that was not enough…

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Throughout the pages, we find Mrs. Hargreaves challenged by people and just wanting to escape them.

First there is her housekeeper, sobbing about her daughter’s fate. Mrs. Hargreaves longs for words of consolation but can only find herself trapped and rigid within herself – so that when she sends the woman to half day off, volunteers to do the household shopping in her place, she immediately berates herself for recognizing too late that the woman’s greater joy would have been to keep working and talking herself out, to chum around with her cronies at the stores. Because of course, she reasons sadly, Mrs. Chubb liked people.

Instead, “Mrs. Hargreaves stood there wanting to be kind, but not really knowing how, because she couldn’t really feel the right kind of feeling…” Again and again, she muses how more than anything, she wished she had this gift.

At the butchers, she is pushed and pulled first by one woman who shoves her way to the front, then berated and steamrolled by others who command her to stand up for herself and tell the so and so off. She finds herself embroiled in their snipping and snapping at each other until her head is splitting. At another store, the owner is so ingratiatingly happy, dripping her “luv” and “ducks” like treacle,  Mrs. Hargreaves’ nerves jangle like keys. Returning home for solitude, the window man follows after her around her home like a barking puppy, disrupting her peace. “O, for the desert island,” she thinks! But then… she’d have to see people to get tickets and travel… Wherever could she go to be alone?

She thinks first of taking the bus across town, but that would mean standing shoulder to shoulder with teems of others. She simply could not bear it. The water bus is a sudden inspiration. A sort of ferry across the river… and on this brisk day, not likely to have many others out for a pleasure trip. Entering the boat, she immediately spots a party of noisy children up front, and makes her way to the back. Good! Only one solitary figure there. Slipping in to a seat, “she looks gratefully around her.

... 29, 2014 South bank walk of the river Thames Editorial Stock Image“The boat drew away from the pier out into the Thames. It was peaceful here on the water. Mrs. Hargreaves felt soothed and serene for the first time today.

(Ah, like I am with the fog lifting!)

She had got away from – from what exactly? Away from it all – that was the phrase, but she didn’t know what it meant….

Blessed, blessed water – so insulating. Boats plied their way up and down the stream, but they had nothing to do with her. People on land were busy with their own affairs. Let them be – she hoped they enjoyed themselves. Here she was in a boat, being carried down the river towards the sea…”

As the boats pass through the docks, Mrs. Hargreaves “feeling of happiness and serenity grew stronger… For the first time, she pays a little more attention to her fellow traveler in the bow… He was wearing a long cape-like coat of woolen material. An Arab, perhaps?” she ponders vaguely… “What beautiful material the cloth of his coat was. It seemed to be woven all in one piece. So finely woven, too. She obeyed an almost irresistible impulse to touch it…”

.

In that moment, the feel of that coat’s warmth still on tingling on her fingers, Mrs. Hargreaves is embraced by freshness wafting light across her spirit…

Hydrangeas kaleidoscope Stock Photo“She could never recapture the feeling that the touch of the coat brought her. It was quite indescribable. It was like what happens when you shake a kaleidoscope. The parts of it are the same parts, but they are arranged differently; they are arranged in a new pattern. She had wanted when she got on the water bus to escape from herself and the pattern of the morning. But she had not escaped in the way she had meant to escape. She was still herself… but it was a different pattern because she was different…”

In her mind, she is suddenly standing beside Mrs. Chubb again. Only this time she understands her poor housekeeper’s heart as though it were her own.

Home > Clipart > Cartoons > Cartoon ... 4801 of 16481“In fancy, Mrs. Hargeaves arm went round Mrs. Chubb’s shoulder…” Others came back to her thoughts too. The women enjoying their fight at the butchers. “Characters, all of them. Fun, really!…” And, “why on earth, Mrs. Hargreaves wondered, had she minded the woman at the greengrocer’s calling her ‘Luv?’ It was a kindly term…”

Now, transformed from within like a light turning on, she realizes… she was no longer just part of the kaleidoscope. She was “inside it, part of it…

Rainbow Mosaic Kaleidoscope Royalty Free Stock Image“In a brief space of time, she was one with her fellow beings. She liked people. Almost – she loved them! She knew now that what the thing she had coveted was like. She knew the warmth of it, and the happiness — knew it not from intelligent observation from without, but from within. From feeling it. And perhaps, knowing now just what it was, she could learn the beginning of the road to it…? She thought of the coat woven in the harmony of one piece. She had not been able to see the man’s face. But she thought she knew who He was… Already the warmth and the vision wer fading. But she would not forget – she would never forget!

Thank you,” said Mrs. Hargreaves, speaking from the depth of a grateful heart. She said it aloud in the empty railway carriage.”

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And here at the end of the story, Ms. Agatha Christie has shown me the superb deftness of her art of unfolding mystery. For I can’t believe that I did not see the clues that seem so blatant to me now!

That coat… the reaching out and touching… His transforming, miracle holding, hem!

My mouth is agape with an “O” as I read the last lines of this ordinary story filled with such wonder.

“The mate of the water bus was staring at the tickets in his hand.
‘Where’s t’other one?” he asked.
‘Whatchermean?’ said the Captain who was preparing to go ashore for lunch.
‘Must be someone on board still. Eight passengers there was. I counted them. And I’ve only got seven tickets here.’
‘Nobody left on board. Look for yourself. One of ‘em must have got off without your noticing ‘im – either that or he walked on water!’
And the Captain laughed heartily at his own joke.”

An unassuming little story… not Christmas in the usual way. But, oh, Advent treasure, certainly a “divine appointment” put here for this foggy day, a warming, transforming reminder to reach out and touch His Hem where miracles await.

Are you recognizing a touch of Mrs. Hargreaves in you today too? 

A fog wrapped around you? 

I pray the retelling of this jewel from Agatha’s pen sparkles like the colors and shimmer of a Christmas ornament for you too! And inspires us to look expectantly, reach out and touch Him in the moments of gnat-like hubbub that so easily steals our Christmas wonder!

He is waiting, often unobtrusively, beside us! :)

Stock Photo: Christmas ornament gold and silver

© Pam Depoyan

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* Quotes excerpted from Agatha Christie’s The Water Bus, as found in A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems

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A Dedication of Heart Song, for Advent

scan0001I seated myself on the red plush pew this Sunday, drinking in the glory of the soaring colonial windows on either side….the white candles set in the generous windowsills, graduating in size like those on menorahs, framed by ruby poinsettias…

If I’d had my camera, I’d have clicked again and again. Instead I tried to paint every detail in my mind for future capture of pen on paper.   The way the chandeliers dipped down alongside, holding cascading white candles in hurricanes gracefully off each curve. The dance of white lights on the Christmas tree just below it and aside the window.  The presence of… Majesty.

And…L.I.G.H.T. It was singing and winging all round me. In the carols we sang and in the live John Rutter symphonic Gloria we were graced by, awestruck. In the response prayers written on programs held hand to hand as white flags pew to pew. In the sermon. And in this music somehow playing across my memory…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiZkfQN7ps0

Just one more Marty Goetz jewel that I decided to save to share till now…

Christmas White Drawing Outline Tree Stock Photos, Illustrations, and ...

Written from the heart of Old and New Testament prayer in him…

It also seems a song and a prayer for all our Advent heart’s treasure…

Make my heart a temple, Lord as this season starts…

During this feast of dedication, I dedicate myself to you…

Make my mortal body a house worthy of your Name…

Kindle in me my Messiah, a desire for your fire, your light!

   Mmm…

Won’t you listen and sing a prayer with me (and Marty)?  :)

© Pam Depoyan

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An Advent Loverly

This week bustled by in a whirlwind of “to-do’s,” but I have several posts equally whirring in my thoughts and hope to share them here over the next coming days.

In the meantime…       here’s a loverly for your   ‘Stillness’ Advent pondering!  :)    

 

The Holy Night

We sate among the stalls at Bethlehem;
The dumb kine from their fodder turning them,
Softened their horned faces
To almost human gazes
Toward the newly Born:
The simple shepherds from the star-lit brooks
Brought their visionary looks,
As yet in their astonied hearing rung
The strange sweet angel-tonge:
The magi of the East, in sandals worn,
Knelt reverent, sweeping round,
With long pale beards, their gifts upon the ground,                                                                  The incense, myrrh, and gold
These baby hands were impotent to hold:
So let all earthlies and celestials wait
Upon thy royal state.
Sleep, sleep, my kingly One!

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Advent Treasure from One of You…

Continuing here with the fourth entry for my “Advent Treasure Box” series,  I’m posting a guest poem penned by my good friend, Lynn D. Morrissey.  Certainly, Advent is entwined with the Glory Light of Resurrection promise… so it makes perfect sense that in referencing this piece, Lynn says “I’ve just finished writing our family Christmas newsletter and I say ‘Jesus was born to die.’  I realize now, I often share that at Christmas.  And truly, it is always important to remember, isn’t it?”

Thank you, Lynni, for sharing your heart’s gold here with us…

Paradox

 

He always was

eternal.

He was the Light,

who curled inside a mortal’s womb,

confined nine months in darkness.

He was the Breath of Life,

who pushed through fleshly walls

to breathe—

to usher in new life, the hope of ages.

He was the Word,

whose speech flung stars to jewel the skies,

yet speechless, cried and clung to mortal’s breast.

He was Creator,

making those who placed Him, helpless, in a trough,

where animals fed.

There was no room in the inn for Him.

 

He was the Savior,

saving those who nailed Him, sinless, to a cross,

where criminals bled.

There was no room in their hearts for Him.

He was the Light,

extinguished in a stony tomb,

obscured three days in darkness.

He was the Breath of Life,

who died,

then pushed through hellish walls of fire

to breathe,

and ushered in immortal life.

He always is

eternal.

... of Nativity scene showing baby Jesus and the Star of Bethlehem

© Lynn D. Morrissey

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Please leave Lynn your thoughts in my comments below!  :)

Lynn Morrissey Lynn D. Morrissey possesses the rare ability to probe beneath the surface, striking the heart of a subject, while sharing transparently from her own heart. She is passionate about journaling, through which God healed her of suicidal depression, alcoholism, and guilt from an abortion. She empathizes greatly with those who endure pain. A poetic word-stylist, Lynn sculpts beautiful language with her pen, and is the author of Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer, and other books, contributor to numerous bestsellers, a Certified Journal Facilitator (CJF) for her ministry, Heartsight Journaling, AWSA speaker, and professional soloist. She lives with her husband Michael and college-age daughter Sheridan in St. Louis, Missouri. Connect with Lynn on Facebook or email her at: words@brick.net.

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Announced by Trumpets of the Sky…

Stock image of 'Beautiful winter landscape with snow covered trees'

 I came across this poem in a Christmas book the other day…  and thought I would ‘clip it out’ for my Advent treasure box and yours. :)  

In this season of God’s most glorious wonders, Emerson’s word painting reminds me of our Father’s artistry,  beauty He forges when all seems tumultuous.  Whether or not you live where it snows, tis beauty to stir and hold in heart! To cherish His light, warm and living, and know — because of Christmas… storms may rage, but we are safe “and gathered around the radiant fireplace” of His home made royal within us.

 

The Snow-Storm

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
.
Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
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O, Lord, let my heart glow with you!
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What Mary Treasured…

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2: 8-19 NIV

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Softly, I inquired of the Lord to place some ‘Advent treasure’ in my hand to share and hold with you.   Three separate whispers, seemingly unconnected,  dropped into my thoughts like ribbons curling down from  Christmas bells…

Loneliness.

Divine appointments.

Mary treasured and pondered these things in her heart.

(What things?)

Vector Snowflake Stock Image

Mary had been dreaming of her new life with Joseph, perhaps imagining the days of her life out, like pearls on a string…

Her upcoming wedding day.

The cozy home she would make with her new husband, safe among family and friends.

The sons and daughters they would have someday.

She did not imagine that daydream string to break and send those pearls flying askew. Some to roll off completely, irretrievably away. Was it difficult to give up her dream for His? Did being so-chosen ever feel, even for a fearful moment, too daunting a task for one so young and forever solitary in this experience?

In that room diffused with warmth and light of the Holy Spirit, God surely enfolded Mary in His unsurpassable peace with the angel’s enjoinder, Do not be afraid… His presence so deep and love-encompassing that her heart melted with her love for Him too, and with assurance that He would carry her through to even greater blessing than she’d ever thought.

But in the days and months to follow, life was real and earnest and maybe felt a long way off from that beautiful, tender moment in God’s presence. Could she ever have envisioned the deep, hungering loneliness, the over-sweeping ostracizing of saying ‘yes’ to the Father’s design? Being human, she must have wondered at times (as we do in our own God-called circumstances) – If God was in this plan, why was it so hard?

Maybe she pleaded for a kindred spirit to confide her heart. And God, again warming her hands and heart in His, led her to Elizabeth… at… just… the… right… moment. So infusing was His light and tenderness and grace upon them in their meeting, He moved upon Elizabeth’s unborn babe to leap in greeting of Mary’s own! And in that leap, gave them both a wondrous sign of EmmanuelGod with them.

Still… beautiful as those moments of closeness were… they were respites only in ongoing struggles to make a home.

Perhaps, it was just when she and Joseph had prepared their new baby’s room, set out a lovingly hand-carved cradle, made plans to settle in for his arrival, that the warning came for them to flee with nothing but a donkey to carry her.

Did she put on a happy face for Joseph, yet trudge on, weary in heart and body and spirit at all these losses?

Did she feel like she couldn’t take one more disappointment when everyone turned them away and the only place left for God’s royal son to be born was a dank and lonely stable? With no loved ones there to even rejoice with them?

When the shepherds arrived and told her their story – excitedly tumbling words over words in their effort to portray just how God had sent angels to sing over them, given them such explicit directions (Go to the city of David, you will find the babe in a manger…) – what wonder must have filled Mary in that telling!

Wonder at her God who sent angels to let these shepherds know they were not lowly in His sight, but chosen for royal assignment.  (As are you and I!)

Joy in her Father who went to such lengths as to lead them on to celebrate the birth of His son with her and Joseph in this once unmemorable, now remarkable place.

Suddenly, all the pieces of these last months were coming together like fresh pearls strung on a far more precious string than she’d ever dreamed…

How God had sent an angel to let Joseph know the truth, when no one else would believe her.

How He had prepared and planned the delight of visiting Elizabeth.

How He must have prepared and led to this time and place for Royal birth.

And now this celebration in the Heavens.

God was surely with them. And Mary knew she would treasure and ponder these things… forever… in her heart…

Maybe you’ve been feeling alone, sad, daunted or overwhelmed,                            sorrowful and solitary in your own circumstances, as I have.                         Wondering, If God is in this – why is this calling so hard?

 Let us ponder and treasure the ways God has shown us He is with us, tuck the following as keepsake hope into our Advent box today:

  • Write down  a specific time when you just know that God was reaching personally into your life, thinking of you, calling you His treasure (as He did to the shepherds, who until that starry night must have felt more than insignificant).
  •  Think about the warmth you know in the presence of God when you are worshiping or spending time alone with Him, and write down the way it makes you feel, what He is saying to you even now as you think of Him…
  • Make note of a time when God has opened up a meeting between you and someone else that could only have been a Divine appointment.  Record, ponder and thank Him for these!  Ask Him to make you a Divine appointment for someone else this season!
  • What Elizabeths has he sent into your life at just the moment you needed?  If possible, send a note to one or more to thank them for what they have meant in your life.  Or write a note of thanks to tuck in for your eyes only (and His), as remembrance.  Is there someone you know who needs you as their Elizabeth?
  • Have you had to surrender a dream – or are you in the midst of doing so?  What hope is the Holy Spirit speaking into your heart through your “yes” to Him?

 

NOTE:  If you have a post relating to this theme of “Advent Treasure,” please feel free to put your link in my comments!  :)

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Read the introduction post to this Advent Treasure Box series here: Starting an Advent Box of Christmas Treasures

© Pam Depoyan

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Starting an Advent Box of Christmas Treasures

scan0027 Sometimes a Christmas card is a treasure we want to keep in a memory box…  :)

Here’s one for you…

Fancy-Letter-I.jpg still have a tiny magic trinket box somewhere in my closet, reminding me that oftentimes wonder comes in small packages.

Magic…because it has a “hidden” compartment where I once squirreled away my two or three silver Kennedy half- dollars. (Even back then, in my Walter Mitty way, I vividly conjured scenes of a coming day – perhaps in the far off fantasy era of the new century 2000 — when I would reveal this treasure to a coin dealer and he would hand me over hundreds of dollars at their escalating worth!)

Trinket because it is a childhood souvenir of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and thus held invisible memories most of all.

There is nothing in it any more. Not sure where that silver slid away to…and somehow, the wooden veneer has lost luster. But thinking of it just now, I’m curious…

Did you ever keep a hidden treasure box? Collecting odds and bits – a mismatched earring, a piece of ribbon, a fancy button or a small empty perfume bottle? Wanting to hold on to wonder… like capturing fireflies in a bottle? To treasure them again… one by one, like opening little doors on Advent calendars and pulling out the mysteries anew?

Do you have one still?

Growing up, I think I always wanted to. I remember an old cigar box I loved in Kindergarten. But I only remember storing favorite crayon colors in it. And another little cedar chest with a golden latch… I used to take it out and breathe in the scent of it like a flower (it was a gift from an aunt) and kept small notes and bracelet charms inside.

As we begin to look towards Christmas, what if we thought of Advent as a treasure box to be opened throughout the season for one small savoring tidbit at a time? I’d like to put in some words and stories, maybe bits of poems or prayers, Christmas memories that hearten and hearken of the stable and the star. Then pull them out and place them in your hands to hold with me…

To invite you to link up your own posts of Advent treasure box pieces in my comments, or share a line or two there of a memory or a recent Christmas moment you hold special.

Or if you don’t have your own blog, maybe… to invite some guest posts here this month where you might share a small Christmas treasure story, poem, psalm or song with us all…

I’m not completely sure what this will look like till we start… but that’s the fun of opening Advent calendar treasure!

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Are you in?  :)

treasure box photo: Fairy Treasure Box fairy3.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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© Pam Depoyan

Christmas Card, mine, available for individual purchase.                                          Please do not copy without permission.

See pen & ink HOME PORTRAITS   for ordering details of this and all of my Christmas designs. Look there for the dangling ornament image, then scroll down till you see it again with the card info…

You can reach me at pam.depoyan@gmail.com  :)

 

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