It’s Going to Catch up With Me

As I sit here at one in the afternoon, I am enjoying my third cup of coffee. To many, that is a normal day. For me, that is disaster waiting to happen. I love coffee, caffeinated coffee. (well any, real or decaf) I usually restrict myself to one cup and a possible swallow in another cup. I have done this for years.

Occasionally though, I slip into a bad habit. I think to myself, I can have at least one more. It’s because I am spoiling myself with a cookie or a piece of cake or pie. They go together so well.

Christmas Eve I had two morning cups and a cup mid afternoon. You know, it was Christmas Eve.

Yesterday, Christmas I did the same. I didn’t have any bad reactions the day before, so, why not?

As I finish this cup, I get a gentle nudge. Memories of restless nights and shaky hands come to mind. I understand. I cannot do three cups in one day, unless it is early and decaf.

So, although the smell of the freshly brewed coffee is luring me into the kitchen, I will grab my glass of water and be thankful for that.

I am learning how to say no to things that I enjoy. So far (besides the coffee) I have had a successful holiday season. I have limited my intake of chocolates, fudge, cookies and all the other baked goods. I have been proud of my success in this. I have not missed any of it.

Now I will carry my empty cup, pass the coffee maker, and put the cup in the dishwasher. Sometimes walking past the coffee maker is a hard thing to do.

Holiday Memories

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Yesterday at our Christmas day service, our pastor spoke on the “First Christmas”. Yes, he did mention the day, but he went on to talk about those whose day was the first Christmas without a loved one. I looked across the aisle and watched a young woman sitting there alone. Her husband died suddenly a couple of months ago. He was just a year older than my youngest daughter. My heart broke for her and yet in her eyes I saw a peace and strength that can only come from the Lord.

The other ‘first’ Christmas mentioned was for those whose health was not the same as it was a year ago, or the finances were not the same. Christmas amplifies changes in lives. The day is built around memories and times in the past that were different than the current state.

I cried through most of the sermon. Not because of any personal changes, but because the day often finds me teary eyed. I am a softy. I can cry at a song. Obviously, I can cry at a sermon. I cry when gifts are opened. I cry at cards from Dale. I’m a Christmas cryer.

The sermon also stirred up memories that I try to stuff deep down at this season. Christmas and New Years of 1966 was my first Christmas without my Mom. As I was 11, Christmas day was like any kid’s Christmas. My older sister made certain it was a Christmas to remember. I do. I remember most of the gifts I received that year. A new pair of ice skates that I didn’t have to rent any more. A new jacket, a book I often think about still. There were twelve board games under the tree. That was amazing! Christmas was a good one that year.

New Year’s Eve, though is what has made me dislike the holiday still. Each year I force memories of that evening deep down. New Year’s Eve going into 1967 found me in tears. I could not fathom a year without my Mom. No memories to make with her ever again. I didn’t think I would ever be the same.

In a way, I never was the same. But, as the scripture above says, God was near to my broken heart. He was there with my crushed spirit. Since that time, I have been renewed several times. My sisters and I grew. We flourished. We functioned. We accepted that death was a part of life. It was our normal.

Whenever I talk with my sisters about this, we have the same mind. Yes, it happened. Yes, we dealt with it. Yes, we are stronger for the experience.

Change happens. Bad change as well as good. We cannot dwell and continue to suffer the loss of loved ones, health, finances. We need to live in the present. To see what is happening now. To be blessed by the little things in life. To marvel at the cold winter days and glory in the heat of a winter sun.

“Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25 (NLT)

God is more than our sufficiency. He tends to us. He comforts us. He provides.

He provides even when memories stuffed away somehow make their way to the surface and come out in the form of tears.

Christmas Eve

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:13-15 (NKJV)

This time of year evokes memories. This time also pulls people into self-evaluation. How did I handle this year? What could I have done better? What would I like to see happen in the new year arriving next week?

Today it will be just Dale and I. We are doing last minute things around the house in anticipation of Little Man arriving the day after Christmas. So, today for the most part is a normal Saturday. Tomorrow we will go to church and celebrate the birth of Christ. It will be a quiet celebration for the day.

As I write, I wanted to say, Merry Christmas to all who are reading this post. At the beginning of this year I was struggling to write. This blog is almost a year old. The comments, the encouragement and the readers of this blog have given me gifts throughout the year. Your kindness and support hand me a treasure. Thank you for this year.

May this Christmas season be filled with blessings for you. May our Lord touch and heal areas that loom in the background of every day life. May joy become a daily presence in your lives. May laughter give you release and hope and increase your faith. As you celebrate through this season, may our God give you the desires of your heart.

Again, Merry Christmas and thank you for all you have done for me.

A Definite Benefit

“And friends are friends forever If the Lord’s the Lord of them And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end’

This morning I chatted online with an old friend. She shared some news that I had recently heard from another dear old friend. It was a sad bit of news for a lot of us, but, joyous for the one we were talking about.

While we lived in Winter Harbor, ME, Dale and I met some wonderful people. Most were military, like us, but some were town folks. One of the women that I had the pleasure to serve on a Women’s Aglow board with, passed away earlier this month. The news had hit hard for me and for the woman that I chatted with this morning.

After reading her obituary, the song above came to my mind, especially the stanza I quoted.

This led me to other thoughts. When I married Dale, we were very young. I only knew that where he went, I wanted to be there. My thoughts were to set off on the adventure of marriage and the Navy. I had no clue what that would look like, but as an almost 20 year old, it was like a fairy tale in my mind. Rainbows, flowers, and Dale and I slowly walking together, hand in hand. No cares. No worries. Nothing impeding us.

That bubble quickly burst. The first few months were filled with long days and loneliness. Then one day, a timid knock on our door. Another anxious face stared at me. She was holding onto a precious little baby. It was a nasty day out, and this woman hesitantly asked if I could hold her baby while she got her car from the back parking lot. From that timid meeting a friendship grew. That baby became our godchild. We haven’t seen that family in forever, but when we talk, it is like we still live a floor apart. That apartment building is now an empty lot filled with weeds and brush. It no longer exists, but the memories of that place burn bright in us.

Thus began the beautiful, unexpected benefits of Navy life.

Japan gave me two beautiful women who are my prayerful, joking friends. I talk with these women via messenger several times a week. In my mind we are still in our early twenties. I visit one of these ladies whenever I visit my daughter. Our conversations are easy, no space has distanced us. I often say our conversations begin, “And then…” A continuation of the last face to face visit.

Japan also gave us family. A family who we have mourned with and laughed with. He is like a big brother to me. One who will be there to pray with, argue with (though not often), and correct. His daughters are my nieces. His wife moved to heaven a couple of years ago and memories of her come with tears.

“Though it’s hard to let you go In the Father’s hands we know That a lifetime’s not too long To live as friends”

Japan also gave us our first pastors, dear,dear loved ones. This year’s card told us of a diagnosis that will remove any memories of us. As I have sat this week thinking of that kind of loss, my heart breaks. To be here and not be able to recall is a harsh thing. Yet, her words still were clear as she talked about our Lord. Giving strength to those who read her words.

The memories at Christmastime are always mixed. There are memories of laughter, joy, romance (I was proposed to at Christmastime),loneliness, loss. The memories are endless and dear.

I never expected to be at this point and to look back over the decades. Littered throughout the years are faces of friends. Faces that have brought joy and hope and belly laughs. Faces stained with tears and also tears of laughter.

The greatest definite benefit of this life I said yes to 49 years ago when Dale put a little diamond ring on my finger has been the gift of friends. We have lost many of our friends, but, I know one day we will be face to face once more. We will share our joy, our praise once more, this time Jesus will be laughing along side of us.

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 (NLT)

Christmas Carols

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

Everywhere you go you hear Christmas Carols. They begin in October in stores, so by December you don’t really notice them, they are part of the background noise while shopping.

I happen to love Christmas music. Today I thought of different seasons in my life and how Christmas music has affected them. When we had our first Christmas in Virginia, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” brought tears to my eyes. It was the first Christmas away from Pennsylvania and I missed the snow.

In Japan the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” made me cry each time it played. For three years I did not like hearing that song. I just wanted to be home, with my sisters and with family. It was strange to be in a foreign country and celebrate Christmas without talking to family and laughing over the day.

In Maine, we had plenty of snow and we were home in the States once more. We could easily call home and hear familiar voices at the other end of the phone. Our oldest enjoyed her first, second and third Christmas there and life was busy and happy.

While in San Diego Dale worked or was gone for several Christmases. “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters truly hurt my heart.

After our second was born (and Dale was away) “Away in the Manger” brought floods of tears. Remembering the humble birth of our Savior, but also holding onto a three month old baby and being in a big city where I knew there were babies with no place to rest their heads. It broke my heart as I clung to my baby while her older sister chatted away.

Music brings memories instantly. You can hear a song and know what you were doing when it plays. A first dance (Turn around, Look at me” by the Lettermen. A first date, “Maggie Mae” by Rod Stewart. A song played at your wedding, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. Your first dance as a married couple, “Silhouettes on the Shade”.

Each of those songs evokes a strong memory complete with feelings and smells. The same with Christmas Carols. Memories of past Christmases. They form part of the season. They mold your memories.

And although the songs I play bring back memories and smiles, there is a song sung daily over me that keeps me going, even though I do not hear it or know the words. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Gift Wrapping

47 years ago, Dale thought about investing in the 3M company. It was the first year he saw me actually wrapping gifts. I loved using tape. Every corner was crisp and clean and sealed with tape. It became a running joke throughout our marriage, especially at Christmastime.

Wrapping gifts was my favorite part of Christmas. I love the paper, the ribbon, and the tape. I’d never tire of wrapping and even volunteered to help others with their wrapping. People considered me odd. I was always disappointed when the last gift was brought out of the bag and was finished. Everything was wrapped in stockings also. Little bows of ribbon adorned each stocking gift.

Yes, I know it was excessive. It was me. Put me in a room by myself and I was close to heaven. I would pray over each gift for the person receiving the gift. I still do that.

This year the tape use was down by 90%. The ribbons? Just a bow tied on. No little ornaments tied to them. Stockings? Half wrapped and some just thrown into them.

I finished wrapping most of the gifts we are giving this evening. I am sore and tired. I haven’t gone to all bags, but it was tempting tonight.

I whined about a sore back during dinner. I left my mess laying in the dining room. I will get to it later on. I put the packages under the family tree, but didn’t spend several minutes making it look perfect. I may do that later this week.

I was amazed at the difference even from last year. I never thought I would get this way.

As I pondered this, it occurred to me that the fussy ribbons and bows are just window dressing. Important, yes, but not necessary.

From that thought came the remembrance that the most precious gift I ever received was not wrapped. It had no tags on it. No beautiful ribbons. None of that. In fact, the most precious gift I have received came from a brutal and messy situation. The Giver of that gift died for me. The little baby that we celebrate this time of the year was born to die for us. Was born to give us salvation. Was born to be tortured and beaten and crucified for me.

I have recognized this each year. Yet, it hit me a bit differently this year. I think of the Grinch, who realized that ““Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

Perhaps we all need to think about this. That infant that we pause to think of during this season, is the reason we give the gifts. We try to find the perfect toy, the perfect outfit, the perfect whatever. When what we are meaning with gifts is a reminder that we love people, love family, love those who have stood beside us during the year. We give because we have an example of the perfect gift.

““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

Now, Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

Faith is a funny thing, not in a ‘haha’ moment, but in how it can ebb and flow within us. Each of us have gone from firmly believing in something to the reverse, questioning and wavering in our faith.

I believe that God is big enough to handle this. After all, we are human and sin factories and weak.

Tonight I have thought about healing (of course, I was watching The Chosen, episode 2 of season 3). It talks about healing. It is a powerful scene. It invokes deep feelings and tears.

I think of my younger sister, to me, she is an example of faith, courage and strength. I have admired her for my life. She nursed her husband during a long battle with ALS. At the same time, she nursed my niece, a childhood brain cancer survivor. During this time she exemplified courage. Yes, she would grow weary, but her love for her husband and children never floundered. She kept a family united with love, laughter and a bond that is felt to anyone entering her home.

I could go on and on about her. I remembered when she called to tell me that the diagnosis of cancer had been made for my niece. I hadn’t thought about it for years, but today, it has been in the forefront of my mind. It was a short conversation. She was in Maryland, and we were living in San Diego. She called to tell me two things, one, our uncle had passed away and two, they had for the first time put the descriptor cancer to my niece’s condition.

The conversation left me numb. I really did not know how to react. I had a elementary school friend visiting me at the time and she crossed the room, hugged me and took me out for the evening. We went to the movie to get my mind off of the conversation, to distract me. I remember it did not help really.

When our children are young, mothers will rush to do what we can to help our children when they are ill. We linger by their bedside at night, praying over them, gently touching them assuring ourselves that they are there. They will often stir with being touched and we quickly pray that they do not awaken fully.

Each of us, as mothers, have experienced this. Hovering over a feverish child, checking to see if the fever is rising or falling. Listening to a child with a cough, making certain it is not creeping into the little lungs. We hover. We pray. And our faith is increased.

That is how you grow to where I am now, I can look at a young mother and reassure her that things will be okay. Things will work out. We can boldly know that our Lord will be with that child, and that He can heal.

I haven’t stood over a child with a fever in years. I haven’t hovered over a child’s bedside. Those days are behind me.

Recently, my adult child received some news. It stirred this mother’s heart. The faith I so boldly write about faltered. I know that I know that I know how our God works, and yet, I questioned.

Does my questioning change anything? No. Will my prayers be put on a shelf in heaven somewhere because I faltered and questioned? No. God does not work like that. He knew in advance how I would react. He didn’t put His hand over His mouth aghast at my thoughts. (I always wanted to use aghast in a sentence, this was a first)

Our God knit us together. He formed us. He intercedes for us. He sings over us. I just needed to step back and remember this. I think that is why our Lord talked about mustard seed faith. If our faith had to be enormous, we would fail more often. But, a mustard seed. That’s a little thing.

“The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!” Luke 17:6 (NLT)

So, after pondering and remembering and thinking about the size of my faith, I recognize that my faith is enough, because of Whom I believe in. My God can do all things. “For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37 (AMP)

Rediscovering the Meaning

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

This is a quote that has gone through my mind this week. It’s been a busy week for me and one that has blessed me in more ways than I can even relate.

This Christmas is about more than gifts. It is reflecting on the celebration of the birth of our Savior. It is about savoring each family moment we can.

We are taking nothing for granted this year. Each event, each trip to the mall, each evening sitting in the cozy living room surrounded by granddaughters and their family is precious.

Life happens quickly, sometimes it throws curve balls or fast balls, but never do we notice the slow balls heading our way.

We have seen some curve balls this week, so plans of buying and getting and doing are taking back seats to just being together.

Laughter is wonderful. Laughter with tears is precious. Hugs are incredible. These three have been Christmas gifts I have relished.

Hug someone you love today. Tell them how you feel. Be unrestrained in hugging and sharing love. After all, it is Christmas.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies . Psalm 103:2-4 (NLT)

A wonderful wake up today

Just before my alarm went off at 8 a.m., there was a little knock on the bedroom door. After the knock the door opened a crack and a beautiful little head poked in. It was Little Miss.

She came in to say good morning to Dale and I.

Nothing could have been better for us.

Thus began our day today. A snuggle, a hug, and day with my girls.

That’s all. My heart is full tonight.

Anticipation

Trying to think of a scripture for this title and all I can think of is Carly Simon’s song, ‘Anticipation’. That, and a heinz catsup commercial.

But, I am filled with anticipation tonight. Tomorrow we travel to see our granddaughters, Little Miss and her sister, Middle Miss. I haven’t seen Middle Miss for a couple of years and my arms are yearning for a hug from her. We both planned trips for early Christmas at the same time. I know the ride to their home is going to take forever. I am already trying to get out of the car and run into the house.

I never experienced grandparent visits, and so it is something I try to do right. Personally, I think I am an okay grandma. I managed to raise my girls, but my grandchildren are the very best things for my heart.I will try to keep my posts coming this week, but can’t guarantee anything. I have plans to sit, visit, snuggle and hold onto these precious girls.

Life is precious and at Christmas, I think we remember it more during this season.

“We love each other because he loved us first.” I John 4:9 (NLT)