OUR CHRISTMAS IN PICTURES…2016

fc66It was a grand and glorious two day celebration!  Our Adam (who is a paramedic) had to work on Christmas Day.  So we had our immediate family celebration on Christmas Eve!  Because of God’s great goodness, Alex was feeling well enough to be up with us the whole evening!  He so enjoyed time with his brothers, as they did as well!  Isn’t it wonderful how God just drops in a miracle to give us joy and happiness.  We all truly doubted Alex would be able to join us.  But, God came through.  Praise His name!

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A little African drum solo to add to the merrymaking!

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Remember the old Operation game?  It’s still fun!

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Me and my boys….

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The whole crew…look carefully…Don is in mirror!

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On Christmas Day, Don and I attended worship service at our church.  It was lovely!  We sang all the old Christmas carols, had an inspiring message, and then shared communion as we departed.  How blessed to be able to attend worship on Christmas Day!

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Back home, Ian and Don and I began to prepare dinner for the extended family.  I had put in my JENNIE-O COOK IN THE BAG TURKEY  🙂 in the oven before I left!  (By the way, it was as delicious as ever!)

Family began arriving around 4 and from there on it was a cacophony of laughter and squeals and paper tearing and singing and love…lots of love!  (Alex was here in spirit, but unable to be up today…we missed him so).

First order of business, make the little boy’s pics in their Christmas pajamas!  They were really not in the mood to pose for pictures…but we cajoled and threatened and promised and managed to get a few good ones!

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Photo bomber!!!

 

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Silly boys..climbing around like monkeys!

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Joy and her girls…

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The keeper of the trash!  Thanks, Ian!

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And to our parents, who are celebrating Christmas in heaven…we love you and honor you and miss you everyday…and especially at Christmas.

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Thank you, God, for sending your dear son, Jesus, to us on earth.  He is the reason there is love and hope and happiness in the world.  He is the one we strive to be like.  He is the one who cares for us and cherishes us and forgives us and saves us!  To Him be all glory and honor and praise!

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GOOD KING WENCESLAS

Once a teacher, always a teacher!

I have always loved the music to the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas.  It has an odd, moody sound that carries me to a cold, dark winter’s night…snow on the ground and a full moon casting shadows all around.  It also makes me think of those Old World Santas that are so elegantly clothed with layers upon layers of clothing and a big hood covering the head.  But, here is an artist’s rendering of what King Wenceslas looked like…

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Not quite like the Santa figure, I’d imagined!

I must confess that I have learned the words to the first verse only by osmosis.  I’ve heard it a lot, but it is not one that I can ever remember singing.  Hearing it so many times in my lifetime, I guess those words just stuck.  But, since the words are very unlike today’s spoken language, I’ve just never bothered to read more of the verses or learn about the song.  It certainly is not among the more popular Christmas songs.  And you may have only heard it in a collection of Christmas music.

King Wenceslas was a Catholic and was martyred…assassinated by his brother Boleslaw and his supporters.  His Saint’s Day is September 28th, and he is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic.

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The words to this carol were written by John Neale in 1853.  The music itself comes from Finland some 300 years earlier. King Wenceslas was the King of Bohemia in the 10th century.

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What is most unusual about this Christmas carol is the fact that there is no mention at all of the birth of Jesus or any of the Nativity story.  St. Stephen’s Day is September 26, which is why this song is sung as a carol.  The words do lead you, however, to see a miracle occurring and it reiterates the Christian values of aiding the poor and needy.  Interesting how the King went on this mission himself and didn’t just send his page to deliver the goods.

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Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen,

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even.

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel,

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel.

 

“Hither, page, and stand by me

If thou know’st it, telling,

Yonder peasant, who is he?

Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence

Underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence

By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

 

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Bring me pine logs hither.

Thou and I will see him dine

When we bear him thither.

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Page and monarch forth they went

Forth they went together

Through the rude wind’s wild lament

And the bitter weather.

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“Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how,

I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, my good page,

Tread thou in them boldly.

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

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In his master’s steps he trod

Where the snow lay dinted.

Heat was in the very sod

Which the Saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,

Wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing.

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And, that’s today’s lesson.  Merry Christmas!

SERENDIPITY

Oh! My! Isn’t it just the most glorious thing when you experience a serendipitous moment!

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I have been helping out at the preschool this week helping to get the place all spiffed up for Christmas! It really is such a joyful place to be! And, I do so love decorating with the children (and parents and teachers) in mind. So, I had almost finished and just lacked a couple of things to put the finishing touch in place. Since it was ‘Levi’ day, I decided I needed to make a run to ACS (a  certain store) before he was out of school. I also needed to pick up a gift for a Christmas Wish our Sunday School class was doing.

So off I went with my list of 4 …just 4…things. Found them all quickly and for some unknown, crazy reason…turkeys came to mind. Perhaps the adventure from Thanksgiving was on my mind, or perhaps I remembered that I usually get my favorite turkey at W M. Any way, I made my way from one side of the store to the other.

Now, I don’t know about you…but it is dangerous for me to be turned loose in ACS. I just pass by so many things that I had forgotten I needed. (I used to favor the one with the big red circle and still like it better than ACS, but that’s another story for another day. Sure do miss that store. ) Anyway, by the time I had made my way to the other side of the store, I had picked up a blanket, 2 candles, a box or two of cookies, toilet tissue, paper plates, a magazine, 2 candy bars, 2- 6 packs of Coke, 1 -6 pack of diet Dr. Pepper, 6 bottles of Fanta orange, 8 bottles of regular Dr. Pepper, a gallon of Gold Peak Tea, and a bag of white mini doughnuts and 2 containers of chicken salad and a box of Wheat Thins! Along with the 2 robes for the Christmas class, and 4 tiny trees for school…and a ‘partridge in a pair tree‘! Why there was scarcely any room for a turkey if I did find one!

I looked around and didn’t see any turkeys at all! Finally I asked a lady who was in the process of putting something out in the freezer section.  WAIT!  I held my breath and said a prayer at the same time. “Ma ‘am, by any chance would they be Jennie-O Turkeys? “, I asked. “Honey, I don’t never even look at labels…they’s just turkeys all I know.” she replied. So, I thanked her and stood back by the cheese counter and waited for her to open the box. She had to go and find a box cutter! Of, course! And, I had to pick up Levi in 45 minutes! Back she came…she opened the boxes and began heaving turkeys over her shoulder and into the freezer section. I stepped closer and ‘what to my wondering eyes should appear…but 5 Jennie-O turkeys…right there! so near!’  Then, just as fast as my heart soared…it fell to the floor. There they were…Oven Ready Jennie-O turkeys…CAJUN STYLE ! CAJUN STYLE ? Who ever heard of a Cajun Style turkey?  (Yes, I know many of you would like that!)  She turned to walk away and I asked her if that was all. She looked at me with weary eyes and said, “Nope, these 4 boxes is filled up with turkeys. But, I bout threw my back out putting those in so I think I’ll go on my break before I finish.” I decided to be bold and asked her if they were all Cajun Style. She sighed and said, “I don’t know…but if’n you want me to, I’ll check.” “I would be so appreciative, ma ‘am…if you don’t mind…”  She sighed and began opening the boxes.  First…more Cajun Style…Second…Cajun Style,  Third…Jennie-O, but not the Oven Ready.  

She opened the last box and little blue birds flew down the aisle…and the top of the store opened up to a cloudless blue sky and the sun shone brightly…I even think I may have…perhaps…possibly, heard an angelic chord or too! And, there was my Jennie-O turkey. Oven Ready. Just snip 5 holes in the top of the bag and put it in the oven and stand back and bask in the compliments! “That’s my turkey!” I said. “Well, good for you,” she said…not at all as if she really meant it. She then asked how many I wanted.  “Only one, “ I answered. “Huh, figured you want 4 or 5 way you ’s waiting around and all. These any good?” And, I started to tell her my story…but I could tell she really wouldn’t be amused…so I just said, “The best I’ve ever cooked.” “Humph, “ was all she said.

I thanked her profusely and asked if she needed any Tylenol for her back.  She had some.  I told her again how thankful I was for her.  And, then I said, “You know, I’ve searched everywhere for these turkey…for several months.  I even prayed about finding one.  I think the Lord just planted you right here in ACS today to answer my prayer!”  She smiled, “Well, to be sure, no one has ever said I was an answer to their prayer before!”  And, since the opportunity was there, I asked her if she was a Christian.  She said, “Dearie, I don’t know much about much.  I’m tired and don’t have much money and got a bad back.  I got children to feed and bills to pay.  I wonder every day about making it on to the next.  But, I’m shore of one thing…I will see Jesus one day!  He saved me and He saved my children.  And, if that’s all I ever have, then it’s fine by me!”  I said, “Wow!  what a testimony!  Not only did I find my turkey, I got an uplift to my spirit.”  I told her I would pray for her…and she said, “I wisht you would.”  Then I slipped some money into her hand and walked away.  She said, “I can’t take this.”  I said,  “It’s to buy yourself one of these turkeys…and not the Cajun Style!”   And, I quickly slipped down the next aisle.

I practically floated to the check out aisle. And, this is how I know it was a God thing that happened to me.  When I got to the checkout… I didn’t have to wait in line!!!!! I have never in the 44 years I’ve shopped at TCS, ever walked up and paid and didn’t have to wait. See they have about 25 registers, but only about 3 or 4 people working  them….strangest thing.

Anyway…come Christmas time…I’m ready. No thawing. No heat gun. No patting. No dancing with my turkey by the moonlight…she cooks from the frozen state.

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Friends, I don’t like to cook. I don’t even like to be in the kitchen. I despise grocery shopping. But, I am smart enough to know that of the things I do cook well…it’s best not to go trying to change them up. Stick with what you know. And, wait for the turkeys to finally make it to the store.  And, perhaps, if you’re lucky…the Lord will meet you there with one of his angels!

QUESTIONS

A few days ago,11-7-16,  I gathered Levi from school and we picked up some lunch for he and I and Alex. As we were sitting in the kitchen eating, The following took place…out of the blue…

Levi…Uncle Alex, have you always been sick and hurting?

Alex…No, Buddy, I always had bad headaches even when I was a little boy like you. But, I got really sick when I was about 14 years old.

Levi…Well, did you tell your Mother.

Alex… Yes, I told her.

Levi…Did she do something for you?

Alex…She took me to a doctor…then another doctor…then another doctor…and we went to lots and lots of doctors…all over the place.

Levi…You couldn’t find one to fix you?

Alex…No, we haven’t. But, they do give me medicine to help me feel better.

Levi…Why can’t they fix you, Uncle Alex?

Here’s where I stepped in.

Tonja…Levi, all kinds of people get sick…all kinds of sick…and all over the world. Sometimes there is medicine to help people get well. But, sometimes there is not any medicine. Some times medicine just helps you feel better…but not get well. And, there are times that God chooses to heal people that are sick. But, there are also times that He doesn’t heal them.

Alex…That’s right, Levi, sometimes even with medicine you still don’t get well or you could get sicker.

Levi…Why did God say Alex couldn’t get healed?

Alex…Levi, God has a plan for everyone that lives. But, we don’t always know His plan. I just know that God has a plan for me. He loves me and He doesn’t plan for me to be healed right now.

Levi…But, do you have to stay sick and hurt?

Alex…yes, I do…unless God changes his mind and heals me.

Levi…then we have to pray for you everyday. Do you pray for you everyday, Uncle Alex?

Alex…yes, Levi, I ask God every day to heal me if He thinks it is a good idea.

Levi… I love you, Uncle Alex, I want you to be well. I will ask God every day. You do to, OK?

Alex…I will, Levi. I will.

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I share this with you, my friends, to tell you of the absolute positiveness I have in my heart of hearts that God is working every hour of every day…in you and me…and in little 5 year old boys and their 34 year old uncles.

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Levi has heard about Jesus forever.  He was prayed over at conception.  He was bathed in prayer as he developed within his Mother.  He was sick and nearly died the first two weeks of His life.  But, God stepped in.  And he has learned at church and learned at school and he has learned from his parents and both sets of grandparents, and his extended family.  He has been wrapped up in the love and stories of God the whole time he has been in this world.  He has heard and learned.  And, today, this question came.  Alex and I answered him as honestly and as plainly as we could.  Telling him truth in words he could understand.

May, I step out here and make a quick observation…

There will be other questions along the way.  But, a child needs to have an atmosphere around him where he can ask any questions, about anything, at anytime.  No question is frivolous.  No question is silly.  And, I don’t think any subject is taboo.  I raised my own boys with this idea…and they took me at my word.

If a child or even an older child has questions…about anything at all…there should be adults around to answer that question then and there with no hesitation or embarrassment.  Because, they will get the information somewhere.  And, who better than you?

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This exchange today at once made my heart soar with  proudness as well as break with sadness. I felt proud  of the way Alex was so gentle and careful answering Levi’s questions.  And, I am proud of the man that Alex has grown into.  He lives the life God planned for him with kindness and gentleness and grace.  But, I am overcome with sadness at what the reality of the situation of his life is.  I break in two when I think of what Alex lives with every day…what he has endured all his life…and the prognosis of the future.  I’ll tell you straight out…I’m no saint.  I hate it!  I don’t want to shoulder it and I don’t want him to suffer.  It awful for anyone to live like this.  I can say it’s not fair…but I’m not in charge of the fairness of the world.

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But, if I believe that God is who He says He is…then I believe that He does what He says He will do. My faith is not what I am feeling in the minute.  I’m human…I’m weak.  And, above my whining and complaining….I know He knows what he is doing.  He created this beautiful blond little boy to carry out a plan in our world.  I make a conscious decision to trust in His life course for Alex…even if I don’t like.  His plan for my son has everything to do with His goodness and wisdom…it does not depend on whether Alex or Don or I agree or not.

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Perhaps his job is to be an example to all of his family.  Perhaps his job is to be near to answer honest questions from his nephew. Perhaps his job is to be an encourager to the rest of our family.  He lifts me up and is always ready to help me when I’m having a particularly bad day.  He gets out of his sanctuary to see about me.  He treats me with kindness and respect and gentleness.

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Today is his birthday.  He turns 35.  He is my middle son.  He is my hero.  He is my example.  He is my sunshine.

dscn1037_1I am beyond proud of how he shoulders his life .   I love him with my whole heart.  Happy Birthday, Alex!

BIG TASK

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A few weeks ago a dear friend who lives in Birmingham called me out of the blue.  Immediately I thought something was wrong, but no, she just chatted joyfully about things going on with her.  I should have known she was just buttering me up!   Cause then she dropped the question.  “Oh, by the way, since I am in women’s ministry at my church now (along with children’s minister) I need a speaker for a big banquet we are having.  I feel you will be perfect!  Then she went on to guilt me out in such a manner, you could not even believe!  (No..she really didn’t.) But, she did tell me how the Holy Spirit had impressed upon her to call me two years ago and she didn’t and then last year, she wrestled with calling me and this year, again she felt the Holy Spirit telling her to call me.  She asked several others.  I don’t know what happened.  Either they couldn’t or it fell through…but anyway…here she was on the other end of the line asking me would I please not grieve The HolySpirit and come to Helena.  (See what I mean by guilt).  I mean who is going to ignore the work of The Holy Spirit intentionally?    I told her I’d think about it.

I have been impressed lately , by the Lord, of several things I need to work on in my life.  One of these is realizing that others we come in contact with are not just random people.  Every person I meet deserves a smile and a kind word from me…and if possible a word of encouragement.  That’s what Jesus would do.    I also need to always be ready to tell anyone, anytime about my God and what He means in my life. I have been very conscious of this lately and have attempted to do better.  Now here the Lord drops a group of 60 ladies right in my lap…what am I to do?  If I said I would try to do better…then I must try.  That was my answer.  So, I called her back.  I told her I would be happy to do it.  She was very happy…then told me the number was up to around 100!  Oh! My!

“Quietly trust yourself to Christ the Lord, and if anyone asks why you believe as you do. be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.”         1 Peter 3:15   TLB

I began writing on the topic  How I Know Prayer Really Works.  It wasn’t hard to write the text.  It is the story of my life.  But, I needed to back up everything I said with Scripture…and so this is where the work came in.  I began searching The Word to find  certain verses I remembered were somewhere in that big book…I could quote them fine…just not exact reference.  I knew them, had lived them, believed them…couldn’t find them.

And, I’ll admit here to you, my friends.  I have a big problem with procrastination.  I have had ADD forever and it is extremely hard for me to stay focused on one task for very long.  But, when it gets down to the wire…and a task must be finished…I can whip it out…correctly…in no time!  Just the way God built me!  So, two nights before the meeting I finally had the speech ready.  THAT’s why i desperately needed that ink on the Saturday before I left…it was just then finished.

And, I’m here to tell you…  Satan did not want me to give this speech.  Immediately after I said yes, I began to feel inadequate.  I am in no way good enough to stand in front of people and talk about Jesus.  Who was I to think I could do this?  I began having bad dreams.  Dreams in which I was attempting do do a task and I would continually fail.  This happened several nights.

Now, I say this to you as a matter of fact…not  boastful.  I learned a lot from my Mama.  She could get in front of a group and sing or talk or do something silly, and she always did it with confidence.  Not a shy bone in her body.  I was pretty much the same.  (Except the singing part)  I never minded giving speeches in school.  I could give reports of trips at church.  I could talk in front of our groups at a moment’s notice.  I just did not have  fear of speaking in front of people.  I even spoke at Mom’s funeral.  I liked, as she did, being the leader, and the responsibility that goes along with a leader.  God puts that trait into some people, just as He puts a more studious nature in some and a following spirit in some.  One isn’t better than the other….it’s just the way God built us.

But, in this instance, I was getting very nervous.  My sweet Alex said, “Mom you do that kind of stuff so well.”  And, he listened as I told him the whole speech.  BTW…she said 45 minutes!!!!!

I did not sleep well on Saturday night before leaving on Sunday.  But, about 4 in the morning I awoke with the worst stomach cramps.  And, just what you can imagine followed soon.   I could not go to church.  I could not leave the house.  I couldn’t even leave the bathroom!  And, Joy was picking me up to go around 2.  This was not just a passing episode…I had some sort of virus.  But it stopped finally and we left.  We stopped and got a plain baked potato for supper.  She was beginning to feel a few grumbling in her own belly area.  We checked into the hotel and I pulled my papers out and began to study.  But, I really needed sleep.

The next morning…the day of the meeting., Joy got up early to go and get her car serviced, as she had bought it in Bham.  I ate a few plain cheese crackers and drank some tea…and studied.  And, I prayed. I prayed for strength, for the virus to go away, and for a clear mind to remember my notes.  I worked until she came back…then we walked around the Galleria for  little while.  They had put us up in the Wynfrey which is attached to the Galleria.  But, neither of us felt much like shopping.  We came back to the room and rested.  Bless Joy’s heart, she even listened to my speech.  Then we had to leave!

Both of us still had uneasy stomachs, and I tried to think maybe she was just feeling nervous for me and I was just feeling nervous for my own self.  We drove up to the church.  And, the virus hit her hard.  She went in and found a bathroom.  And, I didn’t see her for about 2 hours.  I went and checked on her a few times.  The last time I went, the bathroom was dark  and quiet.  I said “Joy, are you in here?”  She said, “Yes…please turn the lights on I’ve been sitting in the dark and quietness for 30 minutes!

Fortunately she got better, she ate none and I ate very little of the food they had prepared.  And, then we sang and prayed and my friend introduced me…and it was time!

I told them when I first stood up “Ladies, I’ve been trying to get here for 3 years…FINALLY, Susanna asked me!”  And, I started my speech.And, I talked and tried to convey to these dear ladies how I know prayer works.  By showing them how He worked in my life, and how much a part of that was prayer, I hoped to give glory to my Lord for His mercy and goodness.  And, I think I did.  I had very favorable comments, and many tears.  They were all so gracious to us for coming and made us feel so welcome.

I was pleased with what we did…not alone, me and Jesus.  As I told them, I’ve heard all through my life, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Friends that is a lie.  There will be times that so much will come upon you, you will feel like breaking into.  What you have to remember is that it’s not just you.  If you are a Christian, you have  strong, strong Helper who can match anything you face.  His mighty strength matched up with our puny strength is an unbeatable combination.  And, the most wonderful thing is…you can access it any time ¥ou want.  For big problems or small.  Doesn’t matter to Him.

“Then He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness…”

I felt small and I felt weak…for more than one reason.  But, when He came along beside me, I knew I would do fine.  Does that sound boastful?  I hope not!  Does it sound confident?  I hope so!  Because I am confident that God will always stand beside me in tough times…or just uneasy times.  I’ve seen Him do it too many times and my testimony to you is that He will do it for you, too!

 

ADD TO SB…

So, Queen Bee of Green Springs Ave…former beauty queen…imitator of barnyard animals extraordinaire, dear, sweet friend, thanks for the invite.  Thanks for finally giving me a chance to be a part of your ministry  and I love you!