Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Enjoyed

        Well, the family Christmas went off without a hitch. Well done, us! Or I should say, well done, God. I did pray that there would be a minimum of tense moments, a good measure of sobriety, great food and lots of laughs. And all prayers were answered. My brothers and sisters-in-law cooked up a fantastic turkey dinner, with all the family favourites included: green bean casserole, Caesar salad and stuffing! I had been given many forms of dessert, so they sat on the table all day and we ate those before the sit down deal.
          My father always stews when that many people converge on his home. He wants things to be simple. He frets when we move furniture, and drag out old treasures from drawers. He'd rather have paper plates on knees. But somehow this Christmas, with most of us there, the dining room and Mom's treasured China beckoned. If Mom could see me from the Lord's side, she would have laughed as I rampaged through the house looking for the quilted pad to protect that pricey table top. I exhausted all possible nooks and crannies and settled for a bed quilt to do the job under the white linen cloth. All plates and crystal in place, I went to the front closet to look for something and there in plain view sat the table pad. I set about dismantling and resetting before my dad could wander in and say again, "It's too much trouble. Let's just forget it. Who's going to put all this back?"

As we gathered around the table and prayed together, I rejoiced. Even though my mom is no longer with us, beloved family graced our table. My sweet nephew, a cancer survivor, and avid outdoorsman talked of his upcoming, outdoor camping trip. My youngest brother Tim, a master of anecdote told many stories that kept us laughing. Sweet sister Kathy, a dedicated Christmas celebrator wore a string of lights necklace that blinked. All things seemed festive. In the evening, in the midst of a frantic cleanup, my sweet Aunt Leona and cousin Karen arrived for a short visit. Way too short. We had to hit the road for the two hour drive home.
         So Christmas was enjoyed. God is good. He is the God of families. He places us in the midst of such interesting people and asks us to love unconditionally. This year was easy, this year was good.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Truth

A shortened, devotional version of this story appears Christmas Eve on the PCC Website. No less true.

        In late fall, the year I was in second grade, a disturbing rumour surfaced at St. Anne's Elementary School. Few things could upset the apple cart the way this did. Pam, from grade five, the street "wise-apple", told me that what I heard was actual fact. Cathy and Patty from across the street were skeptical. Martha just cried. I was tempted to believe it, but needed to go to the people I trusted most in the world for confirmation. That Saturday, determined to set this to rest, I approached my dad as he was giving his '62 Ford Falcon a thorough waxing. "Dad," I said, "The girls at school are telling me something mean. I need to know if it's true." My lower lip trembled as I spilled out my concern. He slowly stopped what he was doing, looked into my eyes and confirmed the worst. "Yep, it's true. Santa Claus isn't real. We pretend. It's just a fun game we play. Your mom and I put the gifts under the tree. Santa Claus is a tradition, something to make believe in for little kids. But you're a big girl now, and I know that you want the truth. That guy couldn't fit down our chimney, right?." I knew that was logical, so I nodded, sucked back tears to show my Dad that I was a "big girl." My dad's instructions were clear. "Now, don't go telling your little brothers. Let them have some fun with this for a couple of years." 
         Well that helped. With that, I felt a new found power, the power of a secret and started to skip down the driveway. I had another thought, stopped abruptly, turned around and went back. "Dad, is it the same for the Easter Bunny?" "Yes," he said, "and the Tooth Fairy too." Well, I kept that secret until almost dinner time. When my dad came in, there were my two little brothers bawling their eyes out. Dad was not too pleased. Mom neither. But it was the truth, and I thought they should know.

        Finding out that there was no Santa Claus got me thinking. For one thing, it cleared up what I had always wondered about...why did Santa Claus, who was a virtual stranger give me gifts, but my parents, who loved me, did not? Now I knew. That was a relief. And more importantly, with Santa out of the way, my heart opened more fully to hearing about the Christ Child.

        Attending Catholic school, I heard all about the baby Jesus. Christmas was a time of great celebration. Mrs. Duke would sing "O Holy Night" from the choir loft accompanied by her daughter on violin. In our church, there was a life sized Nativity scene. My favourite part was a little angel that would nod its head if a nickel was placed in the slot in its hands. I loved that and took more than a few nickels to make the angel nod. My parents always took us to church, determined to make good Catholics out of us. Even then, I knew that Jesus was real. A real and living God.

        As things ramped up to the big day, we could hardly contain our excitement as we anticipated opening presents, going to Grandma's and seeing the cousins. I was really hoping for a Barbie doll and could picture it wrapped and under the tree. But something was nagging at my young spirit. Amidst the decorating of the tree, the baking of the cookies and the traditional family car ride to see all the lights, I sensed more and more that Jesus was the focus in all this, or should have been. I didn't tell my parents or anyone else what I was thinking, but I felt sad a lot that Christmas, thinking that not enough attention was being paid to the Saviour.

        On Christmas Eve, we had the usual problem settling down to sleep. I made myself stay awake, as I had something important to do. I waited until my brothers were asleep, and then dozed fitfully until I saw the light go off under my parents' bedroom door. I waited a full five minutes and crept out into the living room. The tree lights were safely unplugged, but the streetlights, streaming in from the window were reflected in the shiny tinsel and glass ornaments on the tree. I found my way to the television set and knelt down in front of it. On the top, my mother had set out the nativity scene, complete with a glittering star I had made in Kindergarten. I picked up the little ceramic baby Jesus and started to cry. "It's you, it's you, it's you. It's not Santa, it's nobody else. It's only about you. It's all about you." That was the first time I felt the presence of God. The Holy Spirit was drawing me to Jesus, the Truth.

        I would like to say I grew up and followed him all my days, but sadly, I cannot. Through all my wayward teenage years into young adulthood, no matter what, I knew that Jesus was real. I gave my heart fully to him when I was 23, and I'll never forget that night in front of the television. It was a Christmas of revelation, a Christmas of Truth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What To Do?

            Have you ever been in such a quandary that you don't know which way to go? I'm in one right now. My decision will be life changing. My usual approach to a situation like this goes as follows: Google. Read many articles. Talk to anyone who will listen. Bore my friends silly. Interview someone who has gone through the same sort of dilemma. Make a pros and cons list. Lay awake at night and stew. Try to get my husband to make the decision for me. And do all this at high speed.

             Usually when the decision has been made, I realize that slowing down would have been the wisest course. Shutting up would have been good too. Talking less and praying more would have netted better results all round. 

            This time, I started out on my usual course. But today, I've decided to wait. Just be quiet and wait. I'm setting the whole thing on the shelf, contrary to any approach I've used in the past. This is not a decision that has a deadline (except the one I imposed on myself.) This decision affects no one but me, so I can wait. Wait, I will.

              And I will pray and expect God to send the answer. The scripture says,
" If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." James 1:6-8

So today, I wait. That's what I'll do.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


          Today I love my living room. Our little scoliosis tree, purchased years ago when my son was a toddler, still stands. Strung with brilliant white-blue lights, it barely holds the heavy blue ornaments and plastic snowflakes. The homemade star on the top tilts backwards, hanging on for dear life, not knowing it if can resist gravity until it is carefully taken down and stored for next year.  The green wires of the light strand are thick and undulating, clearly visible in the twisted branches. Too bad the lights can't rest there, hidden in foliage, as if it were a naturally occurring phenomena. I suppose lights on trees are to mimic beads of moisture catching sunlight.  But I like the tree none the less.  It peers out the window at the blue spruce on the lawn, drenched with real Christmas rain.

          On the mantle is the green, plastic, cedar garland that we used at our wedding. I like taking it out of the box, white ribbons still entwined with the odd coral coloured dried flower...a tickle to the memories of a vowday those many years ago.  There is a glass vase filled with precious-to-me, old ornaments. Striped and glittered, some scratched, they hung on Grandma's tree way back in the 40's. Relegated to the curb, I snatched them readily, fragile though they are.  There is the standard poinsettia on the hearth, a hand carved Santa reading a long list of familiar names and a red twisted candle I found deep in the bottom of my father's sideboard.

         Before long, it will be time to hide away these meager treasures. Covered in tissue in dusty boxes they’ll rest till next year to be reclaimed again. But for today, I’ll light a fire and watch the flames dance in their shininess and remember.

Grandma's old Christmas ornaments

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Annual Christmas Letter

Just for fun....News from up country....

       Well, one and all, it is that time of year again when we like to sit down and catch you up with all the adventures of the past year. It has been a doozy. What, with Grandma “going away” for a bit and that unfortunate incident regarding Cousin Alphonse, we have had our hands full.

        In January, just to start off the New Year right, we once again started a weight loss campaign. I only have 75 pounds left to lose compared to last year’s 81! My dear hubby of course has his own battles, but is confident this year to cut down on the beer consumption and lose some of that belly! Little Martha and Mattie were enrolled in Tai Kwon Do as we had heard that young kids respond well to the discipline of it. Too bad about the kick to the head and the subsequent hospital stay for wee Mattie, but the doctor says she should regain use of her left eye eventually.

        To celebrate Valentine’s day, Hubby and I left the kids with Grandma, which as you know, turned out to be the beginning of the end for her. But it was a romantic stay at Gwen’s Hideaway up on Route 40 just the same. We find it’s always good to renew the romance, if you know what I mean.

         March Break saw the kids home from school for a couple of weeks. We baked cookies and ate cookies and watched a whole slew of movies. It rained continuously, but that didn’t dampen our spirits at all, as dear cousin Alphonse was visiting and likes to play indoor soccer. The twins just loved that until the “Big Break” as we have started to call it. It’s all fine now. We got a line of credit to pay for the contractor to restore the ceiling and fix the pipe. The smell is nearly gone.

        April and May were pretty non-eventful, except that Hubby got his hours cut at work. That’s okay, with my second job, we’re making out fine and may even be able to put an extra payment on Grandma’s dentist bill. Things always seem to work out, don’t they?

         June brought the most vicious humidity. We wore wet tea towels around our necks and took turns sitting in front of the fan. The kids were so looking forward to the end of school and good news - both the twins will be “moved on” to the next grade. No need for repeating. We surely breathed a sigh of relief, especially with Mattie’s left eye and all.

         This summer was a blast. Our friends, the Garbotts, lent us their trailer up at River Bend Park and did we live it up. Hubby got all but laid off his job and spent a lot of time up there with Mr. Garbott, also out of a job. But those two daddies did a great time of looking after all those children. They swam in the river, (the leeches aren’t too bad if the weather is cool), they barbecued cat fish caught in the river and they taught the kids how to sing the funniest songs. Martha drew many pictures of those two Dads sitting on the deck of the trailer just relaxing, snoring on the foldable lawn chairs. Jeannie and I would come up on weekends to give the men a much needed break, then we were off again to our jobs. As summer came to an end, we were sad to pack up all our belongings and get ready for school. But the town had its traditional end-of-summer fireworks display and we ood and awed with the best of them.

         This fall brought only good things. The twins are now in baton twirling club and we are thrilled as the equipment is so inexpensive and the lessons almost free. We are encouraging them to practice outside now as they are strong throwers. Who knew? The weather has been divine - the fall colours brilliant and we have had many bonfires as we’ve cut down that row of rotted trees at the back of the property. Did you know, our neighbors have two rottweilers back there? Well, that was a surprise to us. They watch us all the time now. It’s a little unnerving, but it’s the drool that bothers me.

          November came and went without much new, except that Hubby was finally hired back at the plant. What a relief. I quit my third job. Well, it was not such a big deal anyway. Cleaning the mayor’s horse stall was a somewhat peaceful job, away from all the noise in town.

           Which brings us once again to the end of the year….Happy to report I lost 27 pounds this year. Well, I gained a bit back, but hey - every little bit helps. Hubby is just so excited about Christmas. He loves to give and give. He has something wonderful planned for those kids and Grandma too, if we can spring her for the day. 

           So dear ones, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. We love you lots and hope you can drop by for some Christmas cheer if you’re in the area. Please call though. You never know what Grandma might be up to.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heart on the Key

It's a bit of a bleak day today, cloudy, breezy and there's snow on my car. Soon I'll need to bundle up and make the Saturday errands, doing all those tasks the weekdays make no time provision for. As I've gotten older, I've lost my fondness for the winter months and today my heart is elsewhere.....

Key River Remembered

For months on end I've envisioned a boat time
Sunlicked, bare-armed, leaning on gunnels dreamed.
Bleak imaginings not once could enter my mind
As weedbeds and riverholes by me streamed.

Fantasies of sleepy bass, pickerel and black green pike
In lily beds, creakfaces, searching from far below
Hiding and peering, remain for lure surface strike
Baitwaiting, concealed in the dark, streamlined flow.

But daydark is long, so long this month December
Sweeping white billows, flakes, piles belie summer ever.
Mind's eye returns to north Key River remembered
The sun, the waves, the breezes, the soul's endeavor.

For soon skies will change, bright green to emerge
Hungry fish to find within full leafy spurge.

The Key River can be entered right at Highway 69, just before you encounter the French River. There's about an hour's boat ride (depending on the horsepower of course), to the open waters of Georgian Bay. We fished against high rising rock faces and in weed-filled channels and beaver ponds. On every occasion, we marvelled at the beauty of this place.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding the Ahhhhh

Yesterday I fled to the shopping mall
I parked at the back against the wall.
My hat blew off, I tripped and fell.
My arm was bleeding and started to swell.

But I had gifts to buy and wrap
I had fallen into the purchasing trap.
Will I get the gifts I could afford?
I am so stressed, please help me Lord.

Wait – is this what Christmas is about?
Squeals and deals and getting burned out?
Forgive me Lord for forgetting today
That your love is what I need to display.

Not gifts, nor treats nor a perfect house
Not foods to delight my guests and spouse!
But a gentle, peaceful, joyful face
That shows your love and sweetness and grace!