Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Last of a Generation

Mary Leota Strother, age 92, went home to be with her Lord and join her husband, Francis, and a host of family and friends who had gone on before her.

Leota was my great aunt, sister of my grandmother on my father's side. She was always special to me because she helped me know my grandmother who died when I was three. She was the link to a part of my extended family that I could have missed out on knowing.

Two years ago when she celebrated her 90th birthday, I wrote her a letter...

You have meant so much to me over the years…your special love to us, your great nieces and nephews…your place in our family, always a reminder of how special extended families are…and whether you realized it or not, you were our link to our grandmother whom we did not get to know personally. We knew her through you, through your stories, and through your love for us.
I was always proud to tell people at Belmont that Francis & Leota Strother were my great aunt and uncle…the two of you were role models not only for me but for many in our congregation…strong Christians who worked hard and lived their faith daily. I know the two of you lived through trials, but you allowed the Lord to work them for good, strengthening your faith and dependence on Him. What a testimony!
Although I have greatly missed seeing you, I am so proud that you picked up and moved in the sunset of your life to a new place, made new friends, and found a new place of ministry. I can only think how many more people have been witness to your love and faithfulness to your Lord.

Aunt Leota was one of the last of her generation with only one younger brother still living, Rex Cate. She left a daughter, Karen, and son-in-law, Ed, a granddaughter, Heather, and a grandson, Chris. And of course nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews. She had lived in Mississippi near Karen for the last several years, so I did not have the opportunity to see her or celebrate her 90th birthday with her, but I kept in touch with her...she was a wonderful letter-writer! And I will always remember her and what she meant to Aunt Leota.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas sort of 'snuck up' on us this year. It was Halloween, and Connor's birthday, then Thanksgiving....and now it's Christmas....much too soon! I think other people must feel the same sense of surprise and urgency because I've heard people say such things as, "I just can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit" or "I don't have the Christmas spirit yet." This seems very curious to me....and I've been pondering this for a couple of weeks now...what exactly is the 'spirit of Christmas'?

Last Saturday, I think I figured it out. And it has nothing to do with Christmas lights (that some people start putting up before Thanksgiving), or trees (that are supposedly 'pre-lit' but have several strands that won't burn), or decorations (that take up more space in our storage units than anything else). It has nothing to do with going to special Christmas programs, or having Christmas parties, or singing Christmas carols. It doesn't even have anything to do with gifts and presents, although I have always believed that Christmas is about not only things but also time and to family and friends as a way to show love as well as giving to any number or assortment of charities, agencies, or families who need a little extra help this time of year. No, I'm pretty sure the 'spirit of Christmas' doesn't have anything to do with any of these things.

What it has to do with is forgiveness.

Saturday, with it's varying degrees of success and disappointments, had a little lesson tucked away inside for me. On two separate occasions Saturday, God placed in our path people from the past...a past that we don't like to visit very often. I thought, "How strange that we would come across these people...How strange that God has brought the past to our attention twice in one day." That's when it struck me....the past is sometimes filled with regret and grief and hard feelings. Had we met up with either one of these people at any other time, it may not have been the right time. But over the course of time, God has allowed healing on both sides, and that can only come from....forgiveness. In both of these 'chance' happenings, hugs were exchanged! True, honest-to-goodness warm hugs! And when did these 'chance' happenings occur? Right in the middle of the Christmas season!

What does forgiveness have to do with Christmas? It has everything to do with Christmas! I think perhaps it is the spirit of Christmas! Why did God send his only beloved Son on that very first Christmas night? To forgive mankind! To forgive me! And you! Every child in a Sunday School class learns this verse: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life! (John 3:16) That's forgiveness! Forgiveness for being the rotten, sinful beings that we are so that we may live forever in His Heaven! Now that is a Christmas gift!

Forgiveness = the spirit of Christmas. I've been rolling this new concept around in my head for a few days now. And you know what else I've decided? That forgiveness is also the key to carrying the 'spirit of Christmas' past December 25, past January 1, into the new year, each and every day. God forgave us...why can't we forgive each other? I'm not sure what it will be, but I am going to find some small token from this Christmas season to keep with me all year long (because this rotten, sinful being is so human) to remind me that I need to have the spirit of Christmas with me all the time, and to forgive others because I have been forgiven.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May you experience forgiveness from both your heavenly Father and your fellow man, and may you know the joy and peace that only Christ can bring.

Wintry Bullets

This is not my normal style of blogging, but I decided it would do....the ol' bullet stand-by because there are several things running through my head and I don't have time to stylize!
  • It is C-O-L-D! Definitely our first real taste of winter. The cold front hit around 11:00 this morning with wind and is now 5:30pm and 38 degrees with the wind chill at 28! It is not raining now, but they 'say' we could have the 'S' word tonight! (snow)
  • Our Sunday School Christmas party is tonight....which means I have to get out in the cold. And Kerry is gone....which means I have to go by the cold. I think I would really rather stay home, put a 'cheater' log in the fireplace, and break out my new Karen Kingsbury book. Not that I don't love Christmas parties....I just don't like to go by myself. And did I mention that it is cold outside? And that it know...that 'S' word?
  • Yes, Kerry is gone. He left Sunday morning and will be back Wednesday night. He has gone to a training meeting. Would you like to guess where? Yeah....warm, sunny Florida. I hate it when he's gone. Everything I do, I feel like I am just going through the motions. I stay up too late. I eat whatever is easy. It helps having Tater here during the day....two-year-old company is better than no company!
  • Since Kerry is gone, I got to tackle decorating the tree by myself. Actually, I always decorate it myself after he gets it put up, but at least he's usually here to tell me where I need a little more red or another ornament. And he did set up the tree on Saturday before he left....but that's another bullet all it's own.
  • Saturday was a B-U-S-Y day. Mid-afternoon on Saturday, we got out the tree, put it together (minus the second-to-bottom tier making it a 9' tree instead of a 12' tree), plugged it in, and.....over half the lights were out....on our pre-lit tree. Plus, the angel which I had already attached to the top tier, which worked when I checked it, did not work when we got it up on top of the tree. SO...we pondered and discussed...and decided to go see if we could find another tree. (It was about 5:00 and we were supposed to be at the Symphony at 8:00!) After an hour and a half, we came home with no tree. I decided I would just get some lights and add to the tree. So off we go to the symphony....not great...big disappointment. I guess off-pitch Broadway-Jazz just isn't our style! So we did something I've never done at the symphony....we left before it was over. We decided to go get some hot chocolate and try to change the mood of the afternoon/evening. We went to Cheddars, ordered a decaf coffee for Kerry and a hot chocolate/hold the whipped cream for me....alas, the little gal came back to the table to inform us that they were out of hot chocolate! NO!!! So I had spinach dip instead....suitable substitute.
  • Saturday MORNING was great. Jenni & I went shopping and had lunch! Without Tater! Yes, it seemed a little strange not to have the little monkey hanging on to us and chattering non-stop. It was indeed a treat...thanks for the invitation, Jenni!
  • Sunday after church and after going to a baby shower for a girl that Melynda used to babysit (now that will make you feel old!), I came home and began to tackle getting the lights on the tree. Success. Plus, I got the angel on top to work!
  • I hope you are not looking for any chronological order here, cause there is none!
  • It is time for me to leave to go to my Christmas the cold....and there may be white flaky stuff falling from the sky when I get ready to come home. There is one more thought I have running around in my head, but I now think that I will try to tackle it when I get home later and actually 'stylize' it into a stay tuned for 'The Spirit of Christmas'.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Non-Traditional But Oh, So Traditional

Thanksgiving at our house may be considered a little non-traditional...we celebrated on Friday, we did NOT have turkey & dressing & all the trimmings, we had steak & ham & squash casserole & lots of other yummy things to eat. We DID have some pumpkin-flavored foods...pumpkin cheese ball, pumpkin trifle, and pumpkin mousse. And yes, we had cranberries...I just chose to put them in the vases with the tulips rather than in a dish with the other food! But if you looked past the food table, it was all about tradition.

We have celebrated on Friday for several years now because the kids have other family gatherings on it is now our 'tradition'. And family....that is what it is all about. We have been so blessed with children and grandchildren! And parents! My mom is our only parent still this side of heaven, and she was with us to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Five of our six kids were here, and four of our in-law kids....we missed Royce and Levi. And ALL seven grandkids were here...actually all eight if you want to count the one who won't be here to bless us until late May or early June!

Here is Samm with all her little boy cousins and her little brother...Connor, Jordan, Caleb, Tater, & Aidan. They loved having a big cousin to play with them! Actually they loved attacking her and climbing all over her!

And where was Annaliese? She was playing in the closet! All the kids love to play in this closet in the 'grandkid room'!

Some of the older kids and I got a hot game of Chicken Foot going, with Caleb, Aidan, and Tater coming in periodically to sit in someone's lap and 'play', throwing out the dominoes just like the adults. And Kerry and the other kids enjoyed watching the football game.

It was an enjoyable afternoon and evening with family. And as non-traditional as our family is, we have come to the point where we actually have our own traditions, which is good. Best of all, we are truly thankful for each one of our kids and grandkids and the family the Lord has blessed us with. God has been good to us, and we thank Him.