It 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!
A little African drum solo to add to the merrymaking!
Remember the old Operation game? It’s still fun!
Me and my boys….
The whole crew…look carefully…Don is in mirror!
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!
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!
Silly boys..climbing around like monkeys!
Joy and her girls…
The keeper of the trash! Thanks, Ian!
And to our parents, who are celebrating Christmas in heaven…we love you and honor you and miss you everyday…and especially at Christmas.
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!
(To preface this post, you should know that I’ve attempted to wrap 43 Christmas presents for friends and family today.)
I get it. Every retail store (well almost all) have to price their product. Fine and well. They should put the price where it is easily found and easily read. Some of the higher priced stores have begun putting the tiniest of prices at the very bottom the product description tag. Which insures it is always priced….but causes those of us with tired eyes lots of trouble. If you can find the price…you can’t always make out the numbers. You know…you’ve seen it…is that a 9 or a 7? Is that a 3 or a 5? It’s not fun! But that’s not even what the rant is about….so that’s just an extra little opinion I’m passing along…no extra charge.
What is driving me up a wall are those big sticky squares that are on all the other products. You find them on picture frames, glasses, toys, dishes, decorative items, jewelry, food products, shoes, ornaments, mirrors, books, etc. Almost anything you can name has one. Which is good, because you can usual see it well.
But, it’s way more bad than good for me. Ever try to get one of those suckers OFF? Well, of course you have. Have you ever in your entire lifetime had one peel off nicely and leave no residue? Why of course not. They tear off in strips so you have half the words and the other half glue mess. Or the top layer comes off and then you start all over. I suppose that is why God gave us fingernail to scrape at minute pieces unit they change residence from the item to under our fingernails and then we have to dig them out. And do that over and over again to get it all off. Or you can just mark it all out with a Sharpie…which is such a nice addition to your beautifully wrapped gift!
Use Goo-gone, you say. The Goo Gone folks say it takes off everything…it does not. Use Goof Off, you suggest. Some times it works, mostly does not. The latest I read on the internet was to rub with Dawn dishwashing liquid and it would just dissolve, pretty as you please. Don’t buy that one either. I’ve heard try rubbing alcohol…it takes off the paper, but not the glue. I’ve heard to use a hairdryer…or even nail polish remover, or WD40. They perhaps will work if you happen to have the glue they will dissolve. If you don’t, it’s still a search mission. Use a knife and you’re libel to slice off a finger! Here’s one I made up myself…if it is on a solid object like a glass or plate…pull off what you can and then rub a piece of heavy duty duct tape over the remaining glue. When you pull the tape off, all the glue should come off too. ‘Should’ being the important word here! Sometimes it does, other times it doesn’t. Don’t ever use this idea on something made of paper, like a pretty box you lovingly chose as a gift for someone special. It could, perhaps, maybe just pull off a big piece of the box the size of the tape. Never do that! Then you have to go back out in the horrible Christmas traffic to find another gift.
This will cause extreme agitation, let me tell you! Cause every single driver is on a search and destroy mission to get to a certain store and get a certain gift at a certain price! They are so certain it is waiting patiently for them there, they do not see anything but the road in front of them. Their lips are pursed, their eyes are fixed. You can forget if you are attempting to get out of a parking lot or onto a street. They will not allow you into that line leading to the goodies. Don’t even try to ease out slowly in hopes of coaxing them to do a kind deed and allow you into the line. They are so tuned in they do not even know there are other drivers on the road. The true fact is …most everybody in that line that stretches all the way from Wiregrass Commons Mall to Northside Walmart over to Barnes and Noble feels that way! I’ve seen it for myself and it’s not pretty! But, I digress…
Have you ever purchased an item with tags like these below? Been discounted so much, it should be given away! Beware, though…sticker glue resting upon more sticker glue is double the trouble! Flee from this sort of aggregation…it is not worth losing your sanity over trying to make a gift presentable to the receiver!
Occasionally, I will have a moment of unbridled joy when a sticky tag comes off easily. This doesn’t happen very often. Very rarely, as a matter of fact. I’ve only had the experience once or twice in my lifetime. I think whatever retailer has this type of sticky tags should be honored near and far. Obviously, they care about the mental health of their customers.
It seems to me that the manufacturers of sticky tags for the world of retail should all get together and choose one type of glue. One type that will peel off with no residue. There are many types of glues in the world…bone glue, fish glue, hide glue, hoof glue, albumin glue, casein glue, meat glue, natural resin, coccina, gum arabic, latex, library paste, methyl cellulose, mucilage starch, urea-formaldehyde resin, acetone, hexane, citrus terpenes, ethanol, acrylonitrile, cyanacrylate, acrylic, resorcinol glue, epoxy,polyamide, polyvinyl acetate,polyvinylpyrrolidone, rubber cement….and on and on. Perhaps some of these I’ve listed are toxic and we don’t want that, of course. I am not smart enough to understand all the chemical makeup.
What I am, though, is smart enough to know it has been done…and it can be done again…and retailers can copy each other and use a glue that would make the lives of their customers easier. Perhaps if we asked the check out clerks to remove all the pricing before bagging our merchandise, we may hear a bigger outcry.
OK…so in the grand scheme of things, this is not a major problem…unless you have a gift to wrap quickly. Forgive yourself if you think some unkind words about the tag makers of the world…it happens. Forgive yourselves if you break a nail and some of those words escape your mouth…it happens, too! Or you can just get a box of generic stickers and slap one over the offending tag residue and leave it to the recipient to wonder why there is a wonky placed sunshine sticker on the bottom left corner of their gift!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
“ Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.
“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.”
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.
And, that’s today’s lesson. Merry Christmas!
Oh! My! Isn’t it just the most glorious thing when you experience a serendipitous moment!
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.
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!
*****SPOILER ALERT: MANY CUTE PICTURES!*****
We talked for over a year and we planned for several months and carefully made reservations. We read and studied and knew just what we wanted to do…or so we thought! We waited until we thought Levi was old enough to really enjoy it…we got that part right! We filled our gas tanks and headed south...DISNEY, HERE WE COME! Early on the morning of Nov.9, 2016 we began our trip. A couple of stops along the way…and we were there….in the land of the mouse!
Quickly we checked into our room around lunch time…we had passes for the first ride at 1:45! And we made it! Oh! it felt good to walk those streets of the Magic Kingdom again! All the happy people, the music, the quaint buildings and more smiles than you could count! Two more passes during the afternoon and then we made our way to dinner!
Pirate beds in our rooms…
New ‘BB8’ pajamas…
The next morning we slept a little longer cause the big Mickey’s Christmas Party was tonight! We had a nice breakfast and then hit the Magic Kingdom again!
Levi found these funky glasses at breakfast…
Many were the times his feet didn’t touch the ground…
The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast…then headed to the Magic Kingdom!. Tonight is Mickey’s Christmas Party, so we want to pace ourselves through the day! HA! Pace ourselves? With a 5 year old? Didn’t happen!
All decorated for Christmas…
At the Christmas parade was where I saw our Levi the most animated. With snow falling overhead and a cool chill in the air, it was perfect weather for a parade. Once it began, it was a continual feast of lights and sounds and singing and lovable characters. One after the other they came! Levi would push his little body outside the edge of the crowd to keep us informed. “Y’all its Goofy and Pluto! Y’all it’s dancing girls! Look it’s tin soldiers marching! Hey! It’s Mickey and Minnie” First he climbed up Don’s shoulders, then a while in my lap (the wheelchair raised me up) then on Adam’s shoulders, to finally collapse in Suzanne’s lap when they were all gone! What a glorious parade! What Christmas joy it brought to those watching! Delightful!
“It is God who has given us these times of joy!” Psalm 81:4
Day 3 was our big day at Hollywood Studios. Levi was looking most forward to this! He is a big StarWars fan (along with his daddy and uncles) and he wanted to do the Jedi training! They had to be in line at 8:00 to try and get a spot. But Don and I didn’t. We rested a while, then ate breakfast and joined them at the park about 11. Levi was able to meet several of the characters and see so much of the Star Wars paraphernalia they used in the movies. He was beside himself with excitement!
And a Jawa…
Then the time came for the show and he was picked to participate! What fun! He was a ‘young padawan’…boys who will eventually learn to be a Jedi Knight. He got to fight Darth Vader with his lightsaber!
Oh, what a special treat! Afterwards he went to the store and got his own costume and made his own lightsaber! It seems young padawans are exhausted after a fierce battle with the Dark Side!
Day 4 was Epcot Day. This was not as much fun to any of us because there was a food and wine festival going on and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder…literally. We couldn’t stop to see anything much in the countries area…we just got swept along with the crowds.
A highlight here was our dinner where the characters come by and speak to all the children. This made Levi even more excited~
And, we came to Day 5, our last day…back at Magic Kingdom. We rode lots of rides today. I had promised Levi that he and I would do “It’s a Small World and “Dumbo” together and we did! Sweet memories of riding these same rides with my boys 28 years ago on their first Disney trip…and a couple of other times since then. He rode a few others as well. One of his favorite seemed to be riding on my electric scooter, though!
Little boys and their little toys…tiny droids he made…
On the monorail…
With Mama and Daddy…
With Lulu and Pa…
We also rode over to see the cars from the movie “CARS” and “CARS2”. He loved being able to see these in person…we have about 100 of the small ones in the Studio and at his house…
Good ole Mater…Lightning McQueen…..and Fillmore…
And the end came on Day 6, as we packed up the cars and headed back north to Dothan. It was a trip full of good times…one Levi and his parents will long remember…as will Don and I. We talked of the sweetness of having a grandchild as kind and loving as Levi. He was a trooper…never whined…never complained…even took it with a smile if we could not ride something. However, he did not like one of the little roller coasters even though his parents were with him. Don’t blame him a bit!
As I observed the crowds of folks around me at any given time…I noticed how lovely it really was. Not just the surroundings, which were exquisite. But, families spending times together…each making sure the others were happy. Little ones having their parents full attention. And parents doting on their kids…each thinking their child is the cutest in the park. Grandparents tagging along or sitting out while the kids all rode….but remembering when these parents were the little ones and they were the parents. It was only a few years ago. Why, we were all together in this same place…doing the same thing…riding the same rides…and eating mouse shaped ice cream. Falling into bed exhausted in the evening and bright eyed and bushy tailed by morning…ready to go again! This time our pace is slower…and some resort to wheelchair and electric scooter. We try to placate our big children when they get weary and cross with the little ones. Cause we finally learned the secret. That a child can’t help but be a child. God built into them a sense of excitement and wonder and joy. Add that natural exuberance to a place created for just such things…and you have “The Happiest Place on Earth!” There is so much to see and so much to do (and eat and buy)…that it can be overwhelming! But such a glorious overwhelm! Don’t you wonder what is running through their little minds when they finally lay their heads down on their pillows? What will they remember about such a time when they return to their homes? (For myself and Levi…I will document our trip with this blog post, and a scrapbook for him to look at and remember) Its been said that ‘we don’t remember days…we remember moments.’ And I, for sure, saw many moments well worth tucking away and pulling out again and again! “Thank you, God, for blessing us with this trip! We acknowledge that “every good and perfect gift comes from you.” James 1:17
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Today is his birthday. He turns 35. He is my middle son. He is my hero. He is my example. He is my sunshine.