Take down the tree... its over!

For years it became the joke in our house that by midnight on December 25th, our tree was down, the ornaments were put away, the Christmas placemat were in the box, the Christmas cards were tucked in the basket, and toys and new clothes were distributed to their appropriate homes.

Christmas was over - back to normal, enough needles picked up from the floor (even from our artificial tree) for another year. 

In typical fashion Frank began putting away the tree and all the fixins' late on December 26th this year.  When I returned, I was a bit taken aback.  Oh no, we need that tree - my family is coming this weekend... how can we sit around and open gifts without the glistening lights and family ornaments that encompass our tree?  It was a bit of a dilemma...  I had a few additional errands to take care of, and most of you can guess what my sweet guy did.  When I returned, the tree was back in place with all 726 ornaments in tact.  :)  Well, not quite that many, but it is close.

I was so very appreciative and thankful, reminding him that he didn't "have to" do that, but we both knew I was hoping and even expecting that he would.

So after this weekend, it will all be put away a second time...  What will stay with us?  I have toyed with the idea of leaving one angelic ornament or one favorite decoration out all year.  What would I choose and why? 

If you continue reading The Story in Luke 2, (we usually stop at verse 20 when the shepherds left glorifying God) He (Luke) takes us along with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to offer Jesus to God 'as commanded' in the temple. 

Simeon was there; he had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  He knew when he took Jesus in his arms and began a tender oration about who the Messiah was including a blessing with the reality of coming pain for Jesus.

One translation says Mary and Joseph were speechless with surprise; another says they marveled at what was said to them; one adds they were amazed and in wonder.

Speechless is not often an adjective that would be used to describe me, but in this quiet morning moment, I will join Mary and Joseph to simply sit in amazement at this Savior of our world... Who promises to walk before, beside and behind.... even me.  Which ornament might I leave out this year - how about this one - the posture of Mary; quietly, tenderly with hope bowing in prayer..  May that be my posture for the coming year...

Tell me

Hallmark commercials are the best, aren't they...  you just better have the tissue box handy.  I recently was struck by one of their commercials that I would title, "Tell me".  Various people of various ages spoke one sentence that began with "Tell me". 

The statements included these:
Tell me you appreciate all the things I do...
Tell me I bring out the best in you...
Tell me that you are thankful..
Tell me that it won't be the same without me..
Tell me that you love me... even if you say it every day...

Wow, wouldn't you love/long to hear any of those statements.  The producer of that commercial, of course, hopes that we will need a little help in the "telling" and buy the perfect card, and sometimes we do need help!

When Clay was a preschooler he and I spent much time in the car.  With three girls involved in high school, middle school and elementary sports, school activities, and church events, the car became our world.  Without exception when I buckled Clay into his seat and before I could even buckle into mine, his request was always the same... "Tell me a story, Mommy!"  Many of you would chuckle and say, "Wow Susan, that is your favorite thing to do", and you would be absolutely correct.

Clay loved family stories, but his favorite were Bible stories, mostly Old Testament stories.  So many of those stories offered intrigue, mystery, and such adventure.  Think about it.. the flood, all the plagues and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and that mean 'ole pharaoh, the crashing walls of Jericho, the fiery furnace, the lions' den, David and Goliath, Samson and his strength...  The list goes on and on.  If I left out a detail he had previously heard, he corrected me.  For an extremely active little boy, he was captivated by a good story (probably didn't hurt that he was securely strapped in)!

Our technologically savvy society is stacked with numerous devices and options of communication.  I could begin a list, but I would likely misspell and leave out many of them.  You know! 

What I believe is that people still prefer to hear from a real person sitting across the table or at least in the same room.  Revealing "something", whether the information of boy/girl with an expectant family, a recent proposal of marriage, an elaborate announcement of a new album or movie, has become the creative challenge for so many.  I have noticed, though, that the "reveal" does involve, no matter how elaborate, people... usually face to face!

Oh sweet friends, we have the best news... and the best opportunity during this time of year to share it...

When Gabriel brought these words to Zachariah (father to John, the Baptist),  “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news."  Zachariah's news was that he would have a son, John.

Then to the shepherds.. the angel said, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." 

While doing some shopping yesterday, I began to just study the faces of people I saw.... you could probably agree that in your recent shopping experiences, folks aren't showing much joy.

So our simple challenge for this week, show THE JOY!!!  If we truly believe Jesus Christ is the good news, the best news, let's show the world... then let's tell them!

A baby changed... everything!

Christmas Day, 2008.... 10:00 pm - All the food had been put away, the wrapping paper and boxes discarded, family had departed, and Frank and I had just settled in to watch the movie he had given me for Christmas.

I have heard it said so often... a phone call changes everything.  And it did.  Katie, on the other end, nearly 9 months pregnant with our first "grandboy", was scheduled for a C-section 5 days later.  "Mom, I think its time - we are headed to the hospital."  In a second all of our family sprung into action.  My job - the camera, and knowing that Chris and Katie had just been in movie, she would surely need a pillow.  Graciously they had asked that I be in the delivery room, so I was on the move.  We lived about 40 minutes from the hospital, so I was not waiting for anyone.  I jumped in my car and headed to the hospital.  Mollie and Kellie were right behind me in the second car.  Hmm... Frank and Clay certainly weren't going to miss this huge event, so they followed... yes, in the 3rd car.  Clay was 10 and concerned that Frank was nervous and needed comfort, so he proceeded to read the entire 2nd chapter of Luke on their trek while bringing up the rear of our parade.  What a sight we must have been!

At 11:35 pm as I watched the doctor slowly, meticulously scrub each finger on each hand, I quietly asked, if she thought this baby might be born before midnight.  She glanced up at the wall clock... and without even a thought, replied, "Absolutely!"

Caden Frank Gaither made his appearance at 11:46 pm December 25th - watching him come into the world was unexplainably overwhelming! 

We all headed back home somewhere around 2:30 am.  I sat in the den, quietly and contemplatively..  You can't attend a birth on Christmas Day especially that of your first grandson, and not have a time of emotional explosion!  How is it possible that my baby just delivered a baby? 

So I began to reminisce about that evening, about the day, about the year before, then the decade before... and then the day Katie was born... only 22 years ago.... just the other day!

Then I thought about Mary; it WAS Christmas night, after all.  Who was she, really?  A young Jewish girl... visited by an angel.  His first words to her were of greeting, a proclamation that she was favored by God.  She wondered about the visit, so the angel reminded her NOT to be afraid.  Then he told her she would have a son... NOW I would be afraid! 

Luke continues the story with Mary's visit to Elizabeth, and the glorious song Mary offered to the Lord in praise.  But my very favorite thoughts and record of Mary come a little later.  Jesus was born, the shepherds saw the star and visited Bethlehem, the Heavenly Host of angels sang...

Then... tucked into chapter 2, quietly, gently..."But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  The Amplified Bible adds that she "was keeping within herself all these things ... weighing and pondering them in her heart."

Oh sweet friends, please join me in challenging all of us to read, reread, and ponder these miraculous events surrounding our Savior.  Spend some time thinking, journaling, praying, listening, pondering what HIS birth truly means in your life.   Our hearts should be so unexplainably overwhelmed that we simply must share this good news of great joy - Share it with someone in whatever way HE leads...

We announced to many even in the middle of the night that our Caden had been born - that sweet baby changed our lives...

Christ is born!  That baby changes EVERYTHING...


Now depending on which word in the title you emphasize, you will greatly affect the meaning, intent and response to the directive.

I realize I misspelled everybody, but I typed it as I heard it in my living room just the other day from our 3-year-old grandson, Charlie.

That's our Charlie, and that look describes his personality - he's just HAPPY to be here!  Pop Pop (Frank) suggested that since the whole family was present, we should all watch a movie... To which Charlie responded by leaping toward the couch and inviting all to join him.  Can you hear him?? "EHVA-body get on the couch!" and in Charlie-fashion, he giggled with glee!!  I love that boy!

He really had no idea what movie we might watch, and I can assure you, he didn't care at all what it was.  The goal was everybody on the couch... together...

Nostalgia crept up on me... as I took a journey back in time to a particular Friday night.  I could have picked any of them, because for several years, Friday night was Family Movie Night at our house complete with popcorn and cokes, a movie, and everybody on the couch.  We didn't own a sectional couch then, so all 6 of us on the couch was a bit tight, but we made it work - at least 2 blankets and we were off to the movie!

Often on those glorious Friday family nights, I would find myself a little distracted by the dust on the coffee table, the popcorn kernels that inevitably ended up on the floor, and the bickering that ensued because the popcorn bowl didn't get passed down at the first request. 

It didn't seem to ever turn out just like I wanted or planned; I wanted everybody on the couch, but I wish I could have ignored the dust, not been bothered by the kernels, and gently smoothed the ruffled feathers of my children's frustration. 

  Over the years I read numerous books, articles, and devotionals about how to create memories for our family.  Most of them included extensive planning, specific activities and even some scripted dialogue.  We never seemed to have all the ingredients, the right tools, or the best attitudes to create these glorious memories.  I ended up feeling extremely ineffective and terribly defeated which equaled FAILURE! 

What I have recently realized is the memories are SWEET - not just for Frank and me, but also for our children.  They do remember the bickering (not the dust or the popcorn kernels), but they laugh at the thought of all 6 of us squished on the couch... no wonder they bickered, they couldn't  breathe!

I have decided that Family Friday movie night has some biblical basis....

From Ecclesiastes 3:1,
"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens."

A time for everything means WE have to allow the time for the activity.... and sometimes the activity isn't planned to perfection, it is to be still and...