My Jolly Christmas

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Christmas is here, with decoratios, presents, finery, and festivities.  What does every festive party have?  Piles of food with cakes, cookies, pies, and spiked eggnog.

The problem with all that jolly fun?  We end up rolly polly.

I’m  obsessed with food lately.  I am obsessed with desserts.  When we go out for a meal I absorb the dessert menu.  I study the pastry shelves at the grocery store.  During fellowship times, I  study the cookie and cake offerings.  Last night I drempt I ate an entire quarter of a chocolate cream pie topped with an inch of whipped cream.  Heavenly!

I log every bite of food.  My thanksgiving plate made people sad.  I admit to feeling less than jolly.  I felt left out.  I felt that way until I thought about it, an realized the holiday spirit isn’t about food.   The holiday spirit is about the people you are partying with.

It is spending time with family, and friends that make us jolly.   And pets.  Those critters that we have brought into our lives that give us unconditional love year round.

With bad knees and  a squeaky voice I will not be doing a lot of dancing with the Lord’s and Ladies,  nor singing with carolers.  I will be focused on those people that I  find myself near.  I will learn what their hopes are for the year ahead.

I will not be deterred  from my goals.  I will plan every meal.  I will log every bite.  I will go to the gym, and share a holiday walk with those I love.

I’m not just losing weight.  I am building a new lifestyle.   A lifestyle full of shared activities, even including shared meals, with the people in my life.  I’ll  be living April’s life 2.0, the new and improved version of my life.

There are still holiday traditions I enjoy.  I have more decorations around my home than in recent years.  I have sent out Christmas card.  I call family and friends.   We enjoy tree and light displays.  We watch our holiday movies, and enjoy holiday shows (The Nutcracker), and enjoy holiday music both secular and sacred.

I love watching my cat, Shadow, taking ornaments off the Christmas tree, or sitting curled in my lap in the Christmas tree glow.

Maybe my diet has opened my eyes to the true meaning of our jolly celebrations.

Christmas Symbols, A Devotional

 1 John 5:11  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

Romans 12:11-13  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

So this is Christmas!

We have been out shopping for weeks now, and the pile of presents has grown around the tree.  Some of our Jewish friends have Christmas trees and give Christmas gifts.  Our atheist friends have Christmas trees and piles of gifts under the tree.

Have you ever tried to explain Christmas to a child who long ago lost faith in anything?  A child let down by the people in his life, and hurt by life?  I believe, but not everyone has had a life that they can believe in much of anything.  We adopted our youngest, from foster care when he was 14.  He mocked our Christmas traditions, but he took the presents

Maybe you are asking yourself where is Christ in this thing called Christmas.

Before you chuck the entire holiday, let me share a little bit about our traditions, as I did with our son.

As a child, my favorite thing about Christmas was…the tree.  An evergreen tree pointing straight up to heaven.  A tree that is alive with green, when all the other trees are dead.  A green tree that represents eternal life, and is covered with heavenly lights, and a star on the top.  The star, of course, represents the star leading the wise men to Jesus.  Today we have an angle on the top of our tree, like the angle that announced the coming birth of the Christ child.   Or the angle that announced the birth to the shepherds in the field on the night Jesus was born.

We would hear the Christmas story while watching the lights of the tree reflected off of ornaments.  We would make our evening prayers by the Christmas tree, bringing our hands together, pointing up to heaven.  Even with all the presents mounded around the tree, it was the tree, that was the focus, not because of the sparkle and glitter, but because it represents the eternal nature of God, and the gift of Jesus who came into the world as any other baby, but would give his life for us.

I explained to our son, that no, Santa is not really a man who delivers gifts to everyone around the world in one night.  Jolly old St. Nick represents the spirit of giving.  Like the Christmas tree, Santa is a symbol.  St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra was the original Santa, and he wore a red bishop robe.

St. Nicholas was born of wealthy parents, but orphaned at a young age and left a fortune.  He would secretly give gifts to the poor.  When he answered the call to ministry, Nicholas gave away all his wealth.  But St. Nicholas isn’t the only reason we give gifts.

We also give gifts to each other, as a symbol of the three wise men bringing the baby Jesus gifts.  Giving gifts, we share generously with our family and friends, with those in need, and to share our hospitality.

Making Christmas

 

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Shadow loves Christmas

Here we are again, making Christmas.  It may not be about roast beast, bobbles, and packages tied with bows, but it is something special, and Shadow loves it all, from wrapping to unwrapping.  Shadow is totally unimpressed with the panoply gifts stacked up around the tree, except as it affords her places to hide.

Today was about buying presents for others, something Shadow knows nothing about.  The cats do bring home the occasional mouse or other gift to keep us all well feed.  Shadow doesn’t know the stress of going to a store for the perfect gift, only to find out it is sold out, everywhere, until mid January.  Shadow doesn’t know anything about finding the perfect gift for someone you love.  Shadow gifts me with a chance to pet her, and knowing we are both content is all we need.

So I can’t give you details, but let me just say that I have the perfect games, toys and art supplies an Oma can find.  I am so excited just thinking about the look of delight on the faces of my grandchildren as they tear into their packages.  That is what gift giving is all about, the excited smiling faces of the children.  Their smiles are all the gift I need from them.

It is a good thing I didn’t find those sold out items I had been looking for.  Instead, each child will be given the perfect gift of love.  Not pricey items, just the perfect gift for each one.  You know what I’m talking about.  The educational gifts, underwear and socks.  (That is what I always tell them they are getting.)  I can’t wait to play with my grandchildren and their gifts at our holiday party.

Now, Shadow and I have some work to do. Some lucky grandchild could end up with a playful cat for Christmas!  Paper and ribbons are Shadow’s favorite things.

We Ruined Christmas

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With blonde tossled curls

Smile breaking in her eyes

For us, but no tree?

Her toys stop tears, lifting lid

Empty Box!  No!  Storm breaks.

(That’s my cat, Shadow.  The jury is still deciding on the new tree.)

It Came

I wasn’t sure it would really come.  You know what I mean?  That warm happy Christmas feeling!

I’ve been carrying the weight of the world: worried about the recent widows I know and the rest of their family and friends, worried about ugly politics, worried about those fleeing war and terror, worried about the state of the world, worried about families rearranging, and worried about a relative being evicted (over Christmas???  What kind of Scrooge does that when a pregnant woman and two kids are made homeless!).

There is none of the fluffy, white, sparkling snow I associate with Christmas.  Others have ornaments, but I just couldn’t find the energy, but I did get my Santa and a Nutcracker out of storage.  I did love the advent preparation and services at all the wonderful choir music, but there was no music in my home or heart.  Hallmark movies were not getting it done!

I am full of gratitude for the blessing of security , stability, love and plenty in my life.  Yet, even with all my blessings, I felt an ache in my soul.

Hubby and I decided to do some last minute shopping (our first shopping of the season) and we picked up a few gifts.  We selected items for the little girls being forced to move again, worried if they would have any gifts for Christmas.  When we got to their home, the look of joy on their faces when they saw us warmed my heart.  It finally came.  The girls introduced us to their cousins as Oma and Opa.   They loved their gifts.  We took the family out to dinner, and learned some housing options had opened up for them.  Relief for all.

I guess the cure for the ache in my soul was to  bring some joy to  someone else.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all.

So This is Christmas

Here we are at another Christmas.  A recent social media posting of one family’s 300 presents got many people commenting on the true meaning of Christmas.

For the non-Christian, Christmas may be an opportunity for a party.  For those who believe, the piles of gifts wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons, lights on houses and trees, and the parade of parties can be enjoyable, but are not the main event.  The main event is the quiet celebration of simple thankfulness, and acts of generosity to help make another’s  life better, as we believe Jesus would do.

These acts of generosity extend beyond the red bucket outside of every store with a bell ringer to attract attention.  Our gifts to family and friends not only bring them momentary joy, but the real gift is taking the time from our busy lives and giving them the gift of our time and attention.

Christmas is often full of as much sadness as happiness. We remember Christmas past with those we love who have died.  IMG_0013 In the picture is my sister and parents, everyone is having a good time, making our celebration as happy as possible, even though we already had a terminal diagnosis on our parents health.  Now on this second Christmas since my parents passing, we still feel that empty place.  The circle of life keeps going.  Our family, like other families experiencing loss, have also experienced the joy of new additions to the family.  Births and  marriages expand the family, bringing new joy.

All around us are people who need a kind word, a moment of time and good will.  In addition to those who are grieving death there are those separated by distance, pride, or estrangement.

When so many families tolerate their kleptomaniac relatives, suffer their alcoholic relatives, argue with their opinionated relatives, and pray for compassion and wisdom, it is difficult to understand what could cause the estrangement between mother and child of a woman I know.  Mother and child have not spoken to each other in years.  The mother has never met her grandchildren, and cards and gifts have been returned.  I can’t imagine what could have caused this estrangement, but I know her Christmas is full of regret.

I know a person so set on being in the right, that the idea of claiming some responsibility for a rift and meeting a loved ones half way is unthinkable.   I know families that have struggled with a relative that can’t find their way out of addiction, or mental illness, or just a series of bad decisions and reject well meaning attempts to help.

Families can be divided by large things or small.  Past failings become future grudges.  Smiles and lights can hide a multitude of problems.

Take the time to have a kind word of greeting for those around you.  This Christmas, may all your words be loving, because once they leave your lips, you can’t take them back.  Right or wrong.

A Most Memorable Christmas

As I write this, the temperatures are headed to a winter warm of nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but news of the coming winter storm bringing snow and rain to much of the United States caused me to reflect back upon one of our most memorable Christmases. It wasn’t the Christmas where we drove home and realized we could see no light and came home to a dark house with no heat, so we brought our blankets down before the fireplace and slept huddled together before its warmth.

The most memorable is the Christmas I risked my life (and my daughters life) to get home to my boys. It was the same year the kids all got Chicken Pox. Our daughter got the Chicken Pox a few weeks before Christmas and she was recovered by the time Christmas arrived. Her two brothers were in full breakout at Christmas, so Dad stayed home with the boys, and I took Kristy to the extended family Christmas celebration at my parents home. I enjoyed time with my sister and brother, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

A Christmas Eve blizzard did not put a damper on our celebrations, but I turned down the invitation to spend the night and headed home as planned. This was a big mistake! Not only did the blizzard provide near white out conditions, but the temperatures were so cold that turning on the radio caused the lights to dim. I expected the trip to take longer than the usual 45 minutes, but with the weather conditions the snow plows were having trouble keeping up. One hour stretched to two, and as I crept along the highway the defroster was having trouble keeping the windshield clear, I began planning my emergency response to getting stuck, and keeping my daughter happy and warm.

Here was my plan: Open every package and pile the sweaters, pajamas and other clothing on to help keep us warm, and cuddle under our woolen car blanket until we were found. We had leftovers, so getting hungry would not be a problem. I had gas, but if I got stuck, I would have to try to conserve that as much as possible to get relief from the cold.

Praying all the way, I made it home safely and without incident four hours after I left my parents home. I swore never to travel in such weather again.

No-one else in the family even attempted the drive home. They all had Christmas morning breakfast together, and the Fiat and Mercedes belonging to my uncles had to be jump started by my sister’s little American car.

My boy’s were happy to have Mom and sissy home for Christmas, and the only gift I remember is the gift of getting home safely. I’ve never been so happy to spend the day with two sick, itchy, miserable boys in my life.

Merry Christmas to all, and make wise travel choices.

You Better Watch Out

Our dogs got an early Christmas gift: a great tasting food.  I know the food is great tasting because Piggy Penny, our Miniature Pincer, not only gobbled hers up, but Brutus’s share also, and begged for more.  Brutus is a Boston Terrier and he has allergies, and the new food will hopefully help his itchiness and tendency to ear infections.  The new food is half the cost of the not as tasty prescription food Brutus was on, so we thought we would give it a try.

Brutus is a lover with a tongue that a frog would be proud of, and takes dead aim for your mouth.  Brutus is one of the more expensive dogs we have accepted into our home.  Brutus has had nose surgery as a pup to allow him to breathe, knee surgery, continuous ear infections, and now a malignant Mast Cell Tumor.  One problem Brutus does not have is over weight.  Brutus eats when he is hungry.  We can leave food down for Brutus all day and he will only eat when he is hungry.

Min-Pins are known as high-strung dogs, and Penny is no exception, but she is so hyper that she is on doggie Prozac.  She intimidates dogs twenty times her size, and though she has never bitten anyone, she is a snappy dog and I would not put it past her.  No amount of food leaves Penny satisfied.  Penny loves the new food and is begging to eat even after eating Buster’s food also.  Penny is twelve years old, and not slim and trim as the delicate pup she was, but she is lucky to have me to enforce some degree of moderation.

Eating healthfully is difficult for many of us people also.  I tend to eat more like Penny than Brutus.  I once read that those of us who want to eat all the time have more active taste buds.  Food tastes better to us.  Science tells us there are many things that contribute to overeating, including stress, inactivity, distracted eating, boredom, and loneliness.  Whatever the reasons science might find to explain why we overeat, add holiday fare at parties and during family get togethers, and it is easy to understand why some of us just relax our healthy everyday standards of eating and enjoy.  Include the fudge and cookies that are in many homes, and the result is holiday weight gain.

We are all adults here, and I am not going to tell you not to eat.  That is our choice, yours and mine.  Penny has me, and I will keep her at a healthy level.  Now if I could only take care of myself as well as I take care of the dogs.

Blue Christmas

Warning. This is not a happy post, full of starlight and joy.

You probably know someone who is experiencing a Blue Christmas. Many are sad, even depressed during the Christmas season.  Some people are dealing with estrangement from those they love. You may know someone separated from their loved ones by distance or death. You may know someone faced with life threatening illness, facing hospitalization, or surgery. Perhaps you even know someone tending a loved one in the process of dying, or the person actually struggling against death. There are people with financial problems who can’t get their kids toys, facing the loss of a home, or the roof over their heads. There are people dealing with addiction. There is suffering of all kinds.

Last year, after the death of both of my parents, I didn’t feel much like a big celebration for Christmas. We did attend a Blue Christmas service at our church. It was a quiet and pensive service, with candle light and soft music. Each person stepped forward to light a candles and say prayers to offer their concerns up to God.

At a time when it seems everyone is celebrating with decorations and holiday parties, some people feel left out and forgotten. Yes we can pray for them, but we are called to do more. We are called to bring comfort. Here are some of my ideas

  • A gift in memory of their loved one to their favorite charity would be welcome.
  • A letter expressing how much their love and friendship has meant to you.
  • Send a picture to help them remember a happier time.
  • Take them a casserole, a selection of teas, or a favorite coffee.
  • When you are running your errands, see if you can pick up something for them.
  • Offer respite if you can.

These ideas are just to get you thinking.  I am sure you can think of even better ideas.  Add them to the comments.

May your Christmas be full of joy.

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