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)


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)

Our Oldest Daughter’s First Christmas

26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:26-34 (NLT)

In 1979 we transferred back to the states from Japan. Our first born was three months old when we flew home from Tokyo. We stayed in Oil City, PA with family for a month before heading to Downeast Maine for our next duty station.

It was an expensive move for us, and although the Navy paid for much of it, there were still many things that we had to buy to get settled back into the states. This made for a few months of lean times. As we approached December I started to pray for $50 so we could give our daughter her first Christmas. I also prayed for some cute little shoes for her for church and a winter coat for her. She had a snowsuit, which would have worked, but, there was a part of me that wanted a special coat for her.

About the second week of December I received a card for me from my Dad. He never sent me a card, except on my birthday and inside the card was $50. I was thrilled! I knew it was an answer to my prayer.

Unbeknownst to me, Dale also had been praying for $50 for car repairs. Needless to say, we had a discussion on the best use of the $50. We each were holding our ground. A couple of nights after I received my card, our small group leaders stopped by. They had found some cute shoes and immediately thought of our daughter, and a good friend of theirs used to send along hand me downs to our baby. In the hand me downs was a beautiful coat and matching bonnet. All wool and lined. It was perfect!

Since they were our small group leaders, Dale asked about the money from my Dad, and where it should go. Our friend looked at him and said, “Since it’s from her Dad, it’s the answer to her prayer.” Dale accepted the answer and inside I was doing a happy dance.

The following day Dale received a card in the mail, addressed to him and from his Dad. Inside the card was $50. The answer to his prayer.

We learned a valuable lesson that year. First of all, God hears our prayers. Secondly, He knows the desire of our hearts. Third, He provides in many ways.

I often think of those little mary jane shoes and that beautiful coat and bonnet. Our Christmas was perfect for our little one’s first Christmas and for us as new parents.

During each Christmas since that time, I think back to that time in Maine. We didn’t have a whole lot, but, we had each other. Christmas, after all, is not about the gifts given, or the amount of gifts received. Christmas comes even when there are no presents under a tree. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. He gives gifts that are not visible or felt at times, but, they exist anyhow.

17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 (NLT)

Our First Christmas

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Ephesians 5:31 (NLT)

Forty seven years ago, Dale and I were preparing for our first Christmas together as a married couple. We were in our first apartment and preparing to move into our second apartment on the 26th of December. Emotions were high as we had just received orders for Yokosuka, Japan the following April.

I think Dale started buying me things in early November, and he could not wait to give them to me. Each night coming home from work, he would meet me at the door and excitedly tell me of something he’d bought. He would be anxious to give it to me and before I could take off my shoes, he would be bringing an unwrapped gift to me.

He was so cute and I had to urge him to keep something for me to actually open on Christmas day.

I was no better. That year I got him a race track, complete with a stick shifter, and bank curve. It was huge.

I did wait though, for the actual day to give it to him.

I had dreams of us picking out our first tree together, but, he was able to go to a section of the base where he cut down our first tree. It was a huge Charlie Brown tree. With our one string of lights and one package of ornaments,it was very bare. The dollar angel we had hidden at a store until payday so we could buy it, perched precariously on the top branch.

But, after it was decorated, we thought it was the most beautiful tree ever.

Christmas day came and we were like kids on that day. At the end of the day, the presents were all in boxes, the tree was down and outside on the curb. The next day we put everything into our new apartment and left for a late celebration of Christmas with our families.

The first Christmas with just the two of us passed quickly. Little did we know that it would be our last Christmas actually spent in our hometown. Neither did we realize how special that Christmas was for us. Being newlyweds, we were still in the glow of youth, and marriage that was not difficult. We were carefree, and looking forward to all the possibilities of what the future held for us.

Forty seven years later, we are older (obviously), and we show the bumps and bruises of life. We think fondly on all our past Christmases. Some very festive and full of gifts and laughter, some a bit leaner, some with just I.O.U.’s under the tree. What was consistent on Christmas was the celebration of the birth of our Lord. He was with us through each and every Christmas, the full, the lean, and the empty.

His love was what has held us together, sometimes only His love. Christmas is a time for reflection. The ornaments we hang each have a story. The decorations could tell stories if they could talk.

Each corner of each room hold memories, Christmas and throughout the years. As I sit writing this, so many memories of Christmases past race through my mind. The time has passed much quicker than I thought possible. Each Christmas has been the most beautiful, most wonderful, they blend together. In each thought, though, is the glue that has made Christmas wonderful, my family. The same silly stories, the jokes, the laughter over memories, the smiles over gifts, the ahh’s of favorite candy given. The excitement over stockings. All of those harmonizing together and threading through each memory.

Thank You Lord for the precious gift of You, and the reason for this season.

Our First Carolina Christmas

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NKJV)

Thirteen years ago we moved to South Carolina. After many years we were by ourselves for Christmas. It was as strange reality for us. We knew our girls were grown, one married, the other busy traveling for her job. But, it was the first time that the term ’empty nesters’ hit us hard.

We ordered Christmas gifts for our daughters, and sent them. We were still trying to find a church home. We had tried a few churches and none seemed to fit right. We were a bit homesick for our routine we had in San Diego, we missed our daughters and it felt strange.

Christmas Eve we decided we would try another church. We went to the old town part of the city where we lived. It was a quaint church. It has a storied history, built originally in 1699, it has seen the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It is a fascinating place and upon entering the building, you could feel the history in it.

Sitting down in a very crowded church, the balcony filled, the sanctuary filled, we felt like we were with family. Young couples holding onto toddlers dressed in Christmas finery, and wrestling with them to keep still and quiet. What we didn’t know was that this was the children’s service. The lights dimmed and the children took over, walking down the aisle and singing as only children can.

I sat crying through the whole service, remembering when our girls would sing like this, fidgeting with make-shift halo’s and wings, giving looks to shepherds who were acting like boys do.

Although it was not the church we ended up attending, that night, the Lord gave us a taste of family and home. The echoes of the past sang along with the children and as we left, we felt a bit more in love with our new home state.

As I remembered this today, my eyes once more filled with tears. This time of gratitude.

“God sets the solitary in families;” Psalm 68:6 a (NKJV)

The Balancing Act of Christmas

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts. ~Lenora Mattingly Weber (1895–1971)

The pulling of the heart and conscience starts. The heart wants to decorate and fill the home with garland and festive balls and bulbs. Go shopping and buy things to wrap with beautiful ribbon and paper. But the heart also yearns to keep the celebration about the birthday of the Christ.

We place our manger scenes near the tree to remind us that Christmas is not just in baubles and bows. But does it truly work?

This week I begin to decorate. The past year the toy room has been a haven for seasonal decorations that have been tossed in and not properly put away. I keep telling myself it will make it easier to get things out. I also chide myself for being so lazy that I haven’t put stuff away properly.

Today one wreath was hung on our front door. Thanksgiving decorations lay on the end table waiting to be lugged upstairs. The battle has begun for me.

Just looking at this tires me out, yet another part of me is thrilled. Christmas can truly be a battle. Yet, it is one that I happily face each year.

As far as decorating, I both dread it and cannot wait for it. This year is no different. I know that the decorations do not make Christmas better, but to me, they are a reminder that we are celebrating the greatest gift ever given to man. We are preparing to remember His birth. I am reminded that His life gave us a precious gift of salvation, and no other gift can top that. But, we can give a gift to those we love as a gesture and commemoration of that gift.

I strive each day of December to be balanced in my celebration. Yes, I love those Christmas songs about reindeer and red noses, I love to hear about Grandma being run over by an errant reindeer, I remember wanting those two front teeth. These are all part of the month.

I also try not to scream humbug! as my feet tingle after a day of shopping. I do sing to my daughters after I have purchased the first gift of the season. Christmas is coming… the goose is getting fat… I half hope it annoys them and reminds them of me singing to them in the car picking them up at school.

Christmas is a battle of all things. Celebration, remembrance, times of grief, times of loneliness, times of worship, times of glee. It’s compounded into four weeks of whirlwind activity.

I hope this year to avoid a battle and take each day and fill it with balance. To be like the Grinch and have my heart grow three times larger, or like Scrooge and carry Christmas all year.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10b (NKJV)