Thursday, December 25, 2014


Luke 2:8-14King James Version (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
A Blessed Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

BACK IN THE DAY - Christmas!!

There was always snow, we always had a big tree, there were always lots of presents under the tree, Santa always came and brought just what I wanted, we ate turkey and stuffing and had lots of people over to spend the day with us, we sang Christmas carols at school and made red and green paper chains to decorate our classroom . . . .
The above description is called revisionist history—looking back and seeing what we want to see.

I don’t quarrel with revisionists in general. But my looking back on Christmas wasn’t always the rose-colored picture I painted in the first paragraph.

Living in east central Illinois, we sometimes had snow for Christmas. When we did, it was beautiful, covering lawns and shrubs and getting caught on tree limbs. Evergreens held out sturdy branches to catch drifts of white stuff. But when we had a green Christmas, there was less chance of having to be pulled out of a ditch when the car skidded out of control.
In later years our family often lived far from “home,” so we traveled back to Illinois for Christmas whenever possible. That meant there was no tree at all in the place we left. But I do remember receiving presents, wherever we happened to be on Christmas--just what I wanted or even better than I’d dreamed about.

The Christmas tree I remember most was when I was in fifth grade. My mom decided that year we’d have a blue tree—all the glass balls, all the light bulbs, were blue. After those were attached, we hung tinfoil “icicles” all over, and they turned blue in the reflected lights. I never had a blue tree after I got married; the multi-colored light bulbs always seemed more cheery.


I don’t recall turkey dinners. For just three of us, we had roast chicken or maybe ham. When we went to a relative’s house, we ate whatever they served. Later on, when I was the homemaker, we had turkey dinners for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. They just seemed the right thing to have. With stuffing, cranberry sauce or salad, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, daiquiri salad (a frozen thing, halfway between a sweet salad and a dessert), rolls, pies (pumpkin and apple at Thanksgiving, pumpkin and mincemeat at Christmas).
Back in the day, we did indeed sing Christmas carols at school. My favorite year was fourth grade, when Miss Kincaid taught us simple two-part harmony. I fell totally in love with music that year. I learned to read notes, both bass and treble clefs, as well as the time and key signatures, and began to sound out the tunes to unfamiliar songs. Thanks to Miss Kincaid, I became an alto for the rest of my life.

I suppose we made paper chains—that seems a normal things for kids to do—but I seem to recall we cut out shapes from construction paper and fashioned other holiday decorations for our room. Best of all, we learned to draw simple shapes, like evergreens, to decorate notepaper.


Last year's snow

Christmas today is much different for me. I’m seldom downhearted if the snow doesn’t show up in time for December 25th, because I know anyone traveling needs good clear roads.
If my Christmas tree is small, it’s still a symbol for me of this festive season. If I can’t have one for some reason, I enjoy the trees of my friends and in my children’s homes.

Presents? Sure, I love getting presents. But at my age and stage of life, receiving isn’t as important as giving. I love making things for my family—quilts, scarves, wall hangings, baked goods, even soup!—because I know they’ll be used, enjoyed, and appreciated. I know because they tell me so.
Holiday dinners don’t have to be lavish or covering three tabletops. If they’re eaten with people I love and whose company I enjoy, then they’re great meals. Memorable meals.

Nowadays I decorate less, and seldom make the decorations that I do use. But I listen to Christmas carols on the CD player, watch movies on the DVD player, and do some shopping to feel the excited energy of people revving up for the holidays.

In the past ten or fifteen years, Christmas has taken on new meanings for me—deeper meanings. My church celebrates Advent, a time of waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ, the four Sundays prior to Christmas; we listen to Scripture readings that speak of the end-times and point us toward the reason for Christ’s coming in the first place—to die for us.
We also have a Christmas Day service at 9:00 AM; I’m playing the organ for that service for the second year. Fewer people attend Christmas Day—many because they have large crowds at their homes, and they’ve probably come on Christmas Eve, a festive celebration indeed. But the size of the congregation doesn’t matter—I’m blessed to be able to play the carols that have come down to us through the centuries, as well as a few newer ones that have become familiar, and to worship in the beauty and holiness of the season.

Now I’ve come full circle. When I was young, my parents made Christmas for me. Then when I had my own family, their dad and I made Christmas for the kids. Now my children make Christmas for me.

I celebrate the joy of being connected again to my own childhood through my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The toys are different, the music may be different, the movies are new and goofy (just my opinion), but the excitement is still there.

God bless you all this Christmastide!


Thursday, December 11, 2014


I’ve often heard the lament, “Whatever happened to good manners?”
I can testify that good manners are alive and well in Northeast Indiana.

Well, maybe not all over the Northeast Corner, and maybe not all the time. But certainly in my small city and in Fort Wayne, frequently.
For example, last Friday I went to the big Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store in Fort Wayne. Now early December isn’t exactly the best time to shop—everybody and her sister is out there looking for deals on fabric, stuff to make things, books/magazines, you-name-it. So I decided to be crafty (like the pun?) and get there early.

Arrived at 9:15—parking lot wasn’t crowded—not much traffic between me and the store. Got inside, found everything I wanted, went to the cutting counter and took my number. I was next in line with my cart load of bolts of fabric to be cut when a new clerk came up to help. Another young woman customer stood to one side of me with a big piece of 4” thick foam to be cut. That was her only item.
So I did what I always do and said, “Is that all you’re going to have cut?” When she said yes, I told her to go ahead; my order would take some time.

She thanked me. Another 30-ish customer getting things cut also thanked me. And the clerk smiled at me.
Really! All I did was give someone 4 or 5 minutes of my time. Apparently that was a big thing to the other few customers around me.

Okay. That was Friday.
Saturday I went to my Walmart, my Kroger store, and my Speedway. Everyone was pleasant and I got my shopping done without mishap. As I left the Speedway store, a young man held the door for me. I thanked him. I, in turn, held the door for a young dad and his child. The dad thanked me.

At the dollar store, the clerk asked if I’d found everything all right, and I said, “Yes, I found everything I was looking for.” She thanked me!
So I’ve concluded that while it doesn’t take much effort on my part to be polite, it appears to be catching!

Or maybe I just got lucky? No, I don’t think so. I will admit I’m not shopping at the peak of season hysteria—I value my sanity. And I rarely shop at places that have a lot of pushing, shoving, knock-down fights (that’s on Thanksgiving evening, I’m told).

Here’s what I think: I think somebody got a thank-you campaign going; something like—“See how many times in a day you can thank someone out loud.”
Or it could be my gray hair. I’m at that uncertain age—I can hear them thinking, Is she in her 70s? 80s? Can she hear all right? Why is she smiling?

Whatever. I like knowing other people still remember to say thanks and smile.
And I’m all for it being catching!

 P.S.--In case you think I'm a paragon or campaigning for sainthood, I have to correct that. Tortoise-like drivers still send my BP up several points. Mistakes on my online orders get me growling. And the little loaves of bread I baked a few days ago--and burned--made me scream. Well, didn't make me, but I screamed anyway. I try to keep those times to a minimum, make allowances, give others the benefit of the doubt, yada yada  . . . but I firmly admit to being human. (Sorry if that bursts your bubble.)

Have a lovely day anyway!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Looking back, at this time of my life—some people would say that’s all I do, but please don’t pick up that ball and run with it, okay?
As I was saying, looking back, I believe I’ve always needed something to look forward to. I’m willing to stick my neck out and say everybody has that same need. It’s one of those primal things.
As a little kid, I looked forward to the day I could officially go to school and learn things. Reading a book! Writing on a tablet! Adding up numbers! My very soul tingled with the anticipation.

Once in school, there was more to look forward to: holidays meant we made stuff in art class to decorate our classroom or to take home as a gift to our parents. And the biggest anticipation of all—going to the next grade. It wasn’t so much the new teacher, the new room, or being bigger, it was what all that stood for: growing up! Heady stuff.
That was the macro. The day-to-day stuff was the micro—getting assignments done, reading the book before it was due at the library, going to club meetings or play practice after school. We were totally caught up in the microcosm of school and its self-contained world.
Actually, we were as close to living in the Now—that state of being present in the moment that everybody talks about these days—as we were likely to be ever again. We had the Past—last year’s class; we had the Future—next year’s studies. But what really mattered at any one time was Right Now.
As I grew older, I found other anticipations: college (more school); marriage and children; working after the kids were in school all day; the empty nest. Again, these are all Big Things—the macrocosm of Life.
These days I look forward to all sorts of things . . . the clunk of the mailbox that tells me the letter carrier brought me something (never mind that it’s probably an ad from the cable company or an insurance company trying to sell me health coverage) . . . each day’s special event (Monday, sewing at Jane’s house; Tuesday, yoga; Wednesday, shopping; etc.) . . . an early morning walk at the Y (and the days I don’t walk, I look forward to sleeping a half-hour later) . . . a new book by a favorite author . . . email from one of my kids . . . the last stitch in a quilt that signals “it’s done!” . . . .
The list threatens to be endless.
I try to keep time for quietude—not every minute must be crammed with activity, but not every moment needs to be meditative. A good balance of the two keeps me occupied and allows time for being thankful.
The greatest benefit of anticipation? It keeps despair at bay. If I can look forward to an event, then I can deal with a sadness in the present. So long as I have hope, I don’t drown in emotions that can swamp me.
The best thing about the Past is that it’s gone. Over and done with. Sure, there may be fall-out from happenings in days gone by. But we can’t live there and still be useful in the Now.
What do you look forward to today? Make a little list. But be prepared—it might become a gigantic list.