Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas all year long.

As I carefully wrap the stained glass crèche’, I remember the artist that made this for me. He has passed on now, but his elegant art pieces still delight my heart and soul. This crèche’ is still in the box that he made me to fit the long mirror behind the manger characters. The mirror reflects their colored garments and creates a “double” manger effect. I wonder each year if that happens in heaven. Is whatever I do to celebrate the birth of Christ reflected in my Father's eyes? I am grateful that twenty-five years ago, I spent our grocery money on this lovely symbol of Christmas. Each year, it helps me understand the gift of Christ. Next, I pack away music boxes that still play as well as the day I bought them forty years ago. Each music box is housed in its own cardboard box ( some tatterted and bulky) but easily recognizable to me when I unpack the decorations each year.

I think I compartmentalize my life in much the same way as my Christmas decorations. My favored art items are framed, and my art supplies are tucked in special spaces in my art room. I recognize them quickly and feel an endearment within. I appreciate the process of painting as much as the end result. Bright colors, rich paints, fine watercolor paper, treasured rubber stamps all bring me so much pleasure. It is a kind of celebration each day with these colored papers , stimulating art books, or my quick sketches of birds and flowers. These items decorate my life in such a special way.

I am in much the same box that I have been my married life. I quickly recognize that I am too round and too bulky when I pass a mirror. I just keep me in this same container and begin every New Year’s journal with, “This is the year I am going to lose thirty pounds and keep it off.” My intentions outweigh my results at the end of each year.

Another compartment that I reuse year after year is collecting wonderful friends. My circle of friends grows more diverse each year. I join new groups, meet new people, or try new classes. Each of these activities introduces me to new and interesting friends that shape me, mold me, teach me, and affirm me. Without these dear people, my life would be empty, boring, and useless. As I add friends, it reminds me of how I have added boxes of Christmas décor through the years. The old treasures remind me of good times past. The new decorations bring new life to me and my surroundings.

Every year I think I have gathered all the Christmas decorations and completed my task. However, when I get around to New Year’s cleaning, I inevitably discover a Christmas angel or a carved Santa that I have forgotten to pack. I am amused that this little token escaped my “thorough” scan on packing day. Isn’t that just like my life? I think I have all the loose ends tied and completed. I determine that my chores are completed for this day and realize I didn't turn on the crock pot before I rushed out of the house in early morning. Then, on a sunny summer day I discover a missed appointment because I have frolicked in my gardens too long and not consulted my calendar or my watch. Sometimes , I get a phone call from a friend that I have neglected and just needs to chat. As I hold this unpacked ornament, I realize that my job of packing and closing is only partially done until that very last day of my life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Lessons

For over forty years, my husband and I have sponsored Christmas families. They have come to us in various ways. I suspect God has sent them all to help shape us and teach us His love. I will retrieve a few past memories to share what we have learned.

One of our first families was a family of nine. I was a full time mom at the time, and we lived on a very limited budget. I have always enjoyed giving our "adopted family" a fabulous gift laden Christmas. I wanted it to be the best Christmas they ever had. I hoped the family would relate this special blessed day with the birth of Christ . My philosophy was that if they remembered that the name of Jesus brought them such a wonderful Christmas, that they would one day choose to serve Him.

So, back to my family of nine. I began making stuffed animals out of all my fabric scraps. I asked my seamstress friends if they would help me by making pajamas for every child. The ladies at Center Chapel were so enthused they made each child and mom a brand new outfit. I understood that God had a plan much bigger than mine.

These children were tall and thin. So, we all made long legs in each garment. I remember the joy on each seamstresses' face as they showed me their finished product. We all chipped in and made food baskets , and I asked our sons to give up one of their three gifts to these children. They did this with a willing and cheerful heart. They went with me to select the gifts. I knew this was the teaching God intended. I could share my need to bless others , and God would teach all of us the real meaning of the Christmas spirit.

I remember many Christmases of singing " We wish you a Merry Christmas" as we entered small homes which we filled to the ceiling with brightly colored packages. One family of six little tykes stands out in my mind. The children were more excited to have a homemade gingerbread man than they were about the gifts. As the little hands reached for my tray of goodies and munched on their cookies, I tried to tell them of the love of the Christ child. As I looked at those sweet faces, I began to cry. That year someone else had to finish the manger story. As we left, my youngest child said, " Thanks , Mamma for baking them cookies." Again, God's love was magnified through the eyes of a child.

I was driving from downtown one wintery day and noticed a child standing alone on a dilapidated porch. I felt a nudge from God and pulled to the curb. Soon, a mother stepped out of the door holding a small child in her arms. I went up to the porch and asked if they needed help with Christmas. She began to cry. She helped me make a list of sizes and gift ideas for her five children. I promised I would return. I hurridly went home and called friends to see if they would help. Many times it was Young Life teens who pitched in with great fervor. They loved the afternoon of wrapping and singing carols. We would enter the home with our cheery songs or stay outside and carol. This family had a dirt floor, so I gathered many warm blankets and quilts and pajamas. We filled the tiny kitchen with cans of food and baskets of fruit and boxes of canned and frozen meats. Of course, I was crying too hard to tell the story, but one of the Young Life kids did a wonderful presentation of our manger gift and the story behind it. The mama's eyes caught mine and said, " You all are God's helpers. You helped Him answer my prayers." That was the lesson I learned that year. I could include others in the act of answering prayers to God. This was the Christmas we realized that we could be His messenger, His hands, and His heart to others.