Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas eve service is being held at 6 pm again this year. With this time being smack dab in the middle of our Christmas celebration, I was reminded of the way it used to be: the way my family celebrated and the way our children were used to celebrating.
As a child, my parents would take me and my siblings to an early (4 pm) candlelight service. I would like to digress a minute if I might, to tell one of my favorite stories about my father.
My Dad prided himself as a good dresser. His job required that he dress well and he did. Expensive suits and , dare I say, clip on ties. They were the rage at that time. This particular Christmas, he had his best suit on and we were all sitting in the pew towards the front of the church. He must have been chastising me for the condition of my shoes. (We needed them polished regularly) Shortly after, attention was drawn to his shoes. Imagine his horror when he saw that he still had on the shoes he had on earlier in the day when he was painting. He had on this old brown, scuffed, white paint spotted shoes on to go with his expensive black wool suit. He panicked. We sort of did too because we could not stop laughing, silently of course. Silent night and all. Our shoulders were all shaking and people behind us must have wondered what we were all so joyful about.You all know what it is like when you aren't supposed to laugh and something occurs that is hilarious. After the service, he had his family literally surround him as we made our way out of the pews so no other church attenders would see his shoes. Being faithful, we all did as he asked.
After the service, we would drive around Rice Lake and look at the Christmas light decorations. They did so much more with lights in those days. We had a Christmas eve dinner and then opened presents from aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. because Santa would bring presents at night. This led automatically to the worst nights sleep of the year. Santa was coming, Santa was coming. Of course, waking up waaaayyyy before any one else, was a given.
The Christmas I most remember was the year I hardly got any presents. I was so low, moping at all the presents my siblings were opening. We took turns opening so I had to be skipped time after time. Finally, a note was found in the tree addressed to me. It led me on a "treasure hunt" and the tradition began. It had me go all around the house, only to find a note to where to look next. Finally! I said; FINALLY I was in the basement and there wrapped up was the most beautiful pair of skis. they were so much nicer than anything I thought I might get. They had steel edges, ebonite (plastic) bottoms, ski free bindings, ( so I wouldn't break my leg)
Mother would always fix a wonderful roast for dinner and then we would play with our new toys, or put together puzzles of car models.
The traditions that my wife and I started with our own children mimicked what I had been brought up with. Her catholic family would open presents at night and then go to mid-night mass. I knew that would not work with our kids so we adopted the same sort of tradition: church, lights, meal, followed by presents being opened. Christmas Day found us traveling to Rice Lake and have our Christmas with Nana.
A Christmas with my children that sticks out is reminiscent of my "skis Christmas". Mom and I planned on giving Don and Brian Nintendo for Christmas. This was an expensive gift for us, so not much else was planned on for the boys. Don did not handle it too bad but our sensitive Brian was just devastated. No presents, except maybe some under wear and socks. Finally, FINALLY, there was this note in the tree that led the boys on a treasure hunt with the Nintendo at the "end of the rainbow." Talk about elation, talk about extreme low to high of emotions, skyrocketing like a firework on July 4th.
Now, with most of our children married, we must share them with the in-laws and that is just the way it must be. So, we trade off holidays. If we get them for Thanksgiving, the in-laws get them for Christmas and visa versa.
So, the excitement still builds for me. I still have trouble sleeping right before Christmas but the cause is different now. My excitement now is the result of my anticipation of our children coming and I know laughter and fun will soon follow.
Lastly,the older I get, the more I try with some success to realize that Jesus, is indeed, the reason for the season. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving of a Life

During my prayer time this a.m., I was thanking the Father for my blessings that He hears from me about every day; Salvation, family, health, etc. My mind went back to the previous hour when I was reading the paper and saw a picture of a young girl sticking her head out the door of a hut. She obviously lived in deplorable conditions. Then I thought of my life and how much more I have had and failed to give thanks for. It brought to mind the saying, "There but for the Grace of God, go I".
The country that I was born in. The richest country in the world and one of the freest. The mother and father that God gave to me. A young couple that truly loved each other and were not afraid to demonstrate that to their kids. We never said, "get a room!" A standard of living that provided myself and my siblings with all our needs and some of our wants. We always had the best health care. Mother was a RN nurse. She even gave me shots of penicillin when I would get sick and "mothered" me to healing. A work ethic; My mother "forced" me to go down town and find a job when I turned 16. A college education was provided for me. A trip of Europe with the college choir was paid for by my parents. After the USCG service, my widowed mother bought our first home and provided the financing for it while I finished up my education degree. When we moved to Amery, she again was my mortgage holder and we paid her what we could afford. As a result, the mother of my children could stay home and raise them. We were blessed with 5 healthy, normal children and two others we will meet someday in Heaven. My Father led me to Amery where I could work, and provide for my family for 28 years. Now these children are on their own and continue to enjoy God's ever-present blessings.
So, rather than the usual "thank yous",during my prayer time, I have come to realize I need to go back much farther than the present. I have been blessed every single moment of my life.
What did I do to benefit ALL these blessings? Not a dang thing. I could have been born in the Sudan, the Congo or so many other places where life is so hard. But I wasn't. Do I have anything to complain about? Not a dang thing.
And yet, I look forward to so many more blessings but let me never ever, ever, forget the origin of them all.
When thanksgiving is given, there must be a recipient of that thanks. For me and really for you too, it should be to the origin of all good things. God the Father.