Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some Christmas Memories

To be honest, it all feels like a blur. I wanted to post some memories though because if this remains our scrapbook, I wanted to save the moment, so we won't forget.

Emily was not feeling well and Hannah was not quite herself either, so we kept everything light. Our birthday cake this year was an Angelfood cake. Emily admired it stating, "Well, it's only fitting:)" Christmas Eve was peaceful, minus the frenetics of getting many places and to some degree that brought us all into Christmas with a real reverence.

I had mentioned gifts the girls made for Daddy. Rob is a contractor. He specializes in bathrooms and kitchens. Most days he comes home with pockets full of hardware of one sort or another. We saw a cute pattern in a magazine, (cannot remember which one now) for a "Catch-it" box. The girls picked out an unfinished box. We painted it red (Dad's favorite color) and then added several coats of clear coat to seal it. Once dry, we applied clear glue and set all of the hardware (they LOVED this part!) They even found a giant bolt to place in the center for a handle. Now, all his knick-knacks can be transferred to his box before his clohes hit the hamper - everyone is happy:)

Christmas morning, the girls were up early and ready to open gifts. Emily was quieter than usual and had to take some breaks, but that didn't stop her from mugging for the camera, just a little. Hannah loved every blessed moment. She loved tearing off the wrapping paper and was enamoured with each gift, one at a time. She even enjoyed watching Emily and paused often to say "Oooh and Ahhhh".

My father's birthday is the day after Christmas and though Emily was still on the mend, we did get out to visit that night. My family, always pretty laid back and relaxed, we really enjoyed one another.

"That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior..." 1 Timothy 2:2-3

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Argument for Santa Claus

I am a self-professed believer. I believe in Jesus Christ and that the word of the Bible is pure truth. I believe the best in people, and believe that people can change if they choose to. I believe childhood is a divine opportunity and everyone has the right to root their beliefs in the glory and joy of childhood innocence and yes, I believe in Santa Claus.

I love the jolly old guy in the red suit. I am partial to vintage forms of him, red robes flowing and gold rimmed glasses slipping ever so gently off of his rosy cheeks. In my heart, Santa embodies the philanthropist in all of us. He is the personification of childhood bliss, concerned only with the duty of bringing joy where he goes. As a world, we have commercialized our saintly friend to the point of ridiculousness. But as a mother, I love knowing that although my children know the true meaning of Christmas, they can also experience the wonder of an earthly character in the business of serving up joy. I prefer the actual role of Santa as opposed to the role we play as receivers. He is a giver, he has a devotional quality about him. Now, I am not about to compare him to the earthly one God sent us that we might know Him. However, as a young woman in the middle of a beloved homeless shelter, I was on the receiving end of one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned.

Our youth group used to do a fun Christmas party for a shelter we had established a wonderful relationship with. I began going as a volunteer. We took cookies and juice. We took stockings filled to the gills with toys for the appropriate ages. We sang carols and told the story of when Jesus was born. The first few years, we noticed that the children thoroughly enjoyed the party atmosphere, but the mothers, hurt and wounded by a world they could not trust were closed off and aggitated. A little boy with the brownest eyes stood very still by the small wall of the room. I approached him and he made it very clear. "Santa don't love us, lady. He is not coming here. Nice of you to bring all this, but I ain't gettin' my hopes up for any Santa Claus. He don't even know we exist." We thought we were serving our community, when really we were reminding them fo what they felt they were missing. The true meaning of Christmas was not able to reach them because if they felt Santa wasn't interested, then surely the King of Kings was not going to recognize this lost group of people.

So, we made some changes. Moms came forward and organized crafts for the moms and for the kids. Their sense of accomplishment was heightened when they felt they had made something special for each other. We no longer took gifts, we allowed them to make them with their own hands. We took musical instruments and offered the kids and their moms to play them for worship time. We took less food and more hugs. We took sacks of candy canes and a polaroid camera and yes, we began taking Santa. A wonderful, God-loving man, our Santa read the gospel each year and they listened. The folks in the shelter showed their greatest joy when we took pictures of each of them perched upon his knee, whispering their heartfelt prayers. In a saintly man dressed in red, these folks found worth and hope and were able to hear the message, the truth. Hope, pure and simple...hope was restored.

I vowed from that time forward that I would always allow my children the wonder of Saint Nicklaus.

This year Emily was sick as Christmas approached. One of her favorite traditions is a time honored party that my brother and sister-in-law inherited about six years ago. When Carol's aunts could no longer host the Christmas Eve fete, they passed the baton. With a new family hosting, new family members became part of the tradition. We became part of the fun.

Emily realized quickly that she would not be with family she adores and she would miss dear ol' Santa Claus crash the party with her Christmas pjs and maybe even a toy. What she didn't realize was that Santa was not about to let her down. As she prayed for some way to be better enough to attend, the elves were fast at work depositing this lovely bag on our property.

I told the girls there appeared to be a surprise. Delighted and squealing, they opened several gifts meant just for them. Of course the pajamas were in there, but the elves had ensured there were some fun items to take Emily's mind off of her aching belly and to help Hannah celebrate as well.

What happened next is the most beautiful part of the story. As soon as the girls had completed opening the bag full of sweet fun, Emily jumped up and said, "I have to go write Santa a thank you note. That was so sweet of him to remember us even when I am sick. He probably had to go out of his way because he'll have to come back later. Wow, I bet he didn't even get dinner because of the extra travel." And she sat right down and wrote him a letter.

She said her thank yous and asked him a few questions, but took much pride in asking him if he understood the true meaning of Christmas. She told him it is not about the toys or gifts, but about a baby born in a manger stall in Bethlehem. She is sure he knows...and so are we.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Said the king to the people everywhere,
"Listen to what I say. Pray for peace, people everywhere,
Listen to what I say.
The child, the child sleeping in in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light!"

From our home to yours, blessings for a beautiful and Merry Christmas.

Signs of Christmas

"For to us a child is born...And He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

This month has passed with great speed. We found ourselves flitting from activity to activity, fitting it all in.

I feel so encouraged that I was able to participate at a church outreach that ministered to many, many families. I feel blessed to have planned and implemented a Christmas party for Emily's class that truly encapsulated the reason for this beautiful season. I feel thankful that God walks me through each life's treasure with my steps carefully numbered and my heart in His capable hands. I have great joy in new friendships and the prospect of keeping the old ones alive and well. I feel gratitude that even in the adversities of each day, He is there. In Jesus Calling, this month, one particular devotional spoke to the "opportunity" of each persistent problem we face.

The learning possibilites are limited only by our willingness to be teachable.

This month, I have taken an unplanned blogging break. Not because I don't care about the blog, but because I care so much about the lessons God is showing me right this minute. I want to be an example to our children. I desire to learn that they will want to learn as well. I want the moments to feel meaningful and rich, not empty or rehearsed.

We made gifts for Daddy this year. It was fun and there was lots of red paint involved. In the future, I don't advise the use of red paint with a two year old :) but I loved the time we spent planning something special for Daddy and seeing it come to life. (I will post pictures)

Emily wanted to write a book... A child after her mother's heart. And she did. But she wanted to "publish it". So, when she had completed her work of art, we laminated each page together and then bound it. She is giving it to her father for Christmas. Truly a sign that the spirit of Christmas in it's purest form is moving around here.

Dear friends of ours invited us to do some special things this year. It is our blessing to have friends like these. One of the evenings we were together, I had one of those moments. A moment of complete peace and I never want to forget that. God brought our lives together and He has a purpose for our union. Just another sign that He lives.

Emily has just finished "round two" with the stomach flu this season. As ugly as that is, I am grateful for time spent snuggled with her, talking about the things that are important to us. I love hearing her heart. I get panicky when everything is not done or done to my satisfaction (there is a difference:) and priorities show up to remind us of our committment and ultimate goals.

Hoping your days have been filled with signs of the season...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree!

The tradition began years ago. Hop on the ol' hay wagon, out to a field full of holiday greenery and choose the perfect Christmas tree. This year the girls threw us a curveball when they found a tree they loved, a little tree, just perfect for little hands to decorate. However, Rob and I had visions of a taller, leaner tree for the front window. What is a family to do?

Yep, brought both trees home. So, now we have our children's tree in the family room and our more formal tree in the living room. We love the new spin on our old tradition.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Cup of Christmas Tea

But if you find you have some time,
how wonderful if we
Could have a little chat and share
a cup of Christmas tea.
Tom Hegg, 1981

In 1981, Tom Hegg's pastor asked him to write something to honor their church's 125th anniversary. Compiling a plethora of Christmas memories and depositing them gently into A Cup of Christmas Tea, Tom's poem embodied the desire of all to stop the world and share a visit, if only for a moment.

When I visit my past, I realize it is rich with tradition and the beauty of true family history. It is my deepest hope that my children will have memories of their own and will learn the importance of tradition.

We began a new tradition this year.

Back in October, my dear friend Sharon, and I ran into each other at the dentist's office. We see each other all the time, but it was that morning that she shared with me her own legacy of taking her mother and her daughter to tea in the city. Knowing my affinity for tradition, she offered we might like to join them this year. And join them we did.

Each little girl received a tea set in a heart shaped box - adorable!

A gift for Emily and my mother, it was I who received the greatest gift of all. Just watching their faces, feeling their happiness and bearing witness to complete joy, I want for nothing more. The hotel was lovely, but paled in comparison to the company we shared and the laughs we enjoyed. The food was excellent, but certainly not as good as the time spent learning more about one another and watching relationships being nurtured.

Our little girls sat rapt with attention as dancers slid effortlessly past them dancing scenes from the Nutcracker. Our eyes were big at the beauty of the decorations and the sheer glimmer of the large silver teapots that circled the room. Our time together was blessed beyond measure from beginning to end. We encountered little traffic despite a city filled with holiday frivolity and even the snow knew to begin falling just as we exited the hotel.

Aunt Anne with the girls

I am grateful that my friend knew me well enough to know this would be my cup of tea:) And I feel so thankful that God paved the way for our new tradition. I look forward to the day when Hannah will join us and any newcomers that might want to capture the nostalgia of a time that we have forgotten or dismissed. Our biggest surprise of the day came at the very end. Aunt Anne (Sharon's sister) visited the restroom and she came back announcing that Cindy McCain was in the restroom. Aunt Anne composed a note to be delivered to Mrs. McCain and all three little girls went with her. She was dining privately with her son and after reading the note, got up and came to each little girl and shook their hands. Her son also came out and greeted several of us. These little girls will never forget this beautiful encounter and the kindness expressed to them by a woman they each knew readily upon seeing her. Though we have no pictures, we have an indelible imprint of her gentle handshake.

Perhaps this season, you will find the time to share a cup of tea with someone you love...it will be precious time, I assure you.

Emily, Gabrielle, Leigha

The whole group

The girls with Alice in Wonderland

Lucille & Leigha

Sharon, Gabrielle, Gabrielle's NanNan, Aunt Anne

Each Mommy stole a shot with the lovely little girls!

One of my favorites of the day, celebrating Leigha's birthday!

We went inside and then before
I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose
was Christmas past, alive, intact
My spirit fairly bolted
like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments
of calico and glass.
Like magic I was six again,
deep in a Christmas spell.
Steeped in the million memories
That the girl inside knew well.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What Happens When You Combine Wordless Wednesday and Thankful Thursday?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Remembering the Fur Kids

I am not an overly dramatic woman. Drama makes me cringe. But this month, it seems as though a bit of drama slipped just beneath our radar and approached with warning, but without welcome.

When Rob and I met, we both had fur kids. He had a spry 85 pound German Shepherd named Louie. Louie had the energy of four dogs and shed enough hair that I could have built another dog on any occasion. He was a love of a dog and though my watering eyes and sniveling nose would not permit me closeness to our big ol' Lou, I did enjoy seeing him with his crooked ears and feeling protected by the sheer magnitude of him. I was certain very quickly that Rob and Louie were a package deal - allergies or no allergies, if I married Rob, I was inheriting Louie:)

I, on the other hand, had a small, yappy four pound poodle. The complete antithesis of Lou, Molly sprang from spot to spot jingling ever constant behind me. She was groomed three or four times a year whether she needed it or not. She slept faithfully at my feet or on my head, depending upon her mood. Molly played like a champion and was loyal to a fault.

These dogs, whether we ever intended them to or not, rescued my husband and myself at difficult times and were definitely family members. Lou's health began to fail last year. We were prepared to put him down at that point. Because of the nature of his problems, he went to live at Rob's parents' home. He would stay with us while they were away and the last time he came to spend time, we knew that he was not long for this world. The day before Halloween, Louie went home to Heaven. We all grieved Louie's death. I thought the girls would be the saddest but surprisingly, when I explained he was whole again and could run and jump like when he was little, both girls were so happy.

Exactly one month later, Molly began breathing inconsistently and I was worried. She did not run or play, she struggled just to sit. An emergency appointment would confirm that Molly was in heart failure. So, the day before Thanksgiving, alone in the vet's office with just the vet and his wife, we allowed Molly to fall asleep forever. She too, is now whole, joyful and breathing easy.

I never noticed how much of my day revolved around this four pound wonder. In the past thirteen years, I have never closed a door behind me, I close it part way, wait for Molly to escape and then close it the rest of the way. I am still doing this. I keep looking for her when I don't hear the pitter patter of her little feet - she followed me everywhere. When I sit down, which is not often:), I keep bending to pick her up and lift her onto my lap. I know these habits will die hard, but they are encouraging to me that I did love her in the most precious ways while she was here with me.

So, today I am remembering the fur kids. I am thankful for them and the special times they brought to our family. I know that eventually, we will introduce a puppy to our family. In the meantime, I will continue to lick my wounds and remember our sweet pets.


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