Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas!!

It’s Christmas Eve again.

It’s a day for memories and traditions, for pausing for a little while to think about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to appreciate the warmth that the love of God, my family and friends brings my way.

This is the first year in several that I haven’t been with at least one of my sons during the Christmas season. Phil and I are on our own this Christmas, and I am facing today and tomorrow with nostalgia and many memories. It’s not bad, it’s just very, very different!

I’ve decided to change my focus for the two of us this Christmas – possibly new traditions in the making - who knows? With one son in New York and the other in California, the chances of us all getting together for Christmas in future years is uncertain, so it’s time to look at the holiday with a different perspective. Past traditions, now updated for the two of us, and some new things this year are going to make our Christmas special.

Today I am taking Phil out to lunch at Social Circle’s new eating establishment, Lou’s Soda Shop and Grill. This is reminiscent of Christmas Eves when the boys were young. David and I would take them to the local Mexican fast food establishment (we couldn’t afford anything more extravagant) where we’d chow down on tacos and cinnamon toasted tortilla chips and use up Christmas Eve hours and little boy energy. Going out to lunch on Christmas Eve is a nice tradition to return to! We’ll get home in time to sit at the computer to watch New York’s Marble Collegiate Church’s Christmas Eve service at 4:00, where we’ll see Brian read the scripture and hear Roy sing “O Holy Night.” This will be a new experience, since streaming video is something that hasn’t been around for long. It will also make me feel close to my son, in a “virtual” way. After this is over, I am planning to go to our own church’s candlelight service, and hope that Phil will decide to go with me.

Christmas morning will be quiet with just the two of us in the house. The stockings will be filled with treats for our animals, who are getting some pretty good Santa surprises. I am then going to cook a hot breakfast of eggs and bacon, and add the spice of Mimosas for a little buzz . The rest of Christmas Day is unplanned. We’ll probably drive to Monroe to see what Santa has brought our little four-year-old friend, Lille, and then we’ll be home tomorrow evening for our new traditional Christmas dinner of grilled steaks. I’ll have my cell phone handy all day long for calls from Wade and Brian and Roy, and look forward to wishing them all a Very Merry Christmas!

There won’t be a lot of baking in my home this Christmas Eve and Day. Everything in the kitchen will be pretty low key. All of the cookie and bread baking is done, and baked gifts have already been delivered to everyone on our Christmas list. We’re not big turkey eaters, and have discovered that a good steak makes a perfect Christmas dinner. There are no grandchildren coming to add excitement to the day, so a quiet, serene day is what we’ll have. If it isn’t raining, I’ll go for a long walk with Diamond in the afternoon.

Even though Christmas is different for me now, the magic of the day is still here. I woke up this morning with a sense of anticipation of the day and with a song in my heart. The child in me is very much alive as memories of past Christmases flood my memory. I know I will cry my way through all of the Christmas carols at church this evening, and will hardly be able to sing a word; in fact, I’ll probably be on the verge of tears most of the day. I always think about Mary on this day as she gave birth to Jesus, and remember giving birth to my first son, Wade, in December 39 years ago. Since Wade’s birth, a special soft spot for Mary has been in my heart, as I imagine what she must have gone through in giving birth to her firstborn son in such lousy conditions. She was one very strong young lady!

Christmas is here again. It’s a new day, as each day is, but one that is special as we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us all.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Annual Christmas Letter - 2009

I love country music. I get a big kick out of listening to the lyrics of these songs, and while some are downright silly and make me laugh, others touch my heartstrings, or speak to me of something in my own life.

As a little girl, I remember my father’s voice bellowing from the bathroom every morning as he sang, “I’m walking the floor over you. I can’t sleep a wink it is true. Still hoping, still praying as my heart breaks right in two, I’m walking the floor over you.” He would also sing as he kissed my mother, and then lift me into his arms upon entering the house after a day’s work, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.” I can still hear his voice as I hum these tunes in my mind.

There are songs of current artists that have become my favorites. One line from a Sugarland song, “Girl, you’ll remember what your knees are for”, jumped out at me the first time I heard it. Such a simple statement, it reminds me of the importance of prayer and turning to God when things don’t go my way. I also like Rodney Atkins’ “If you're going through hell, keep on going, don't slow down, if you're scared, don't show it. You might get out before the devil even knows you're there.” These words teach me courage and perseverance and keep my focus on God. Kenny Chesney sings, “And today you know that’s good enough for me. Breathin' in and out's a blessin' can’t you see. Today's the first day of the rest of my life. And I’m alive, and well.” This song guides me back to a sense of gratitude for my blessings and thankfulness for my life and health.

One of my all-time favorites is Garth Brooks’ song, “The Dance.” In this tender ballad, he sings of a difficult memory: “And now I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance.” Even with painful things that come along in life, I certainly don’t want to miss the dance!

On the lighter side, I identify with Toby Keith as I contemplate growing older: “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” I also sing along with Brad Paisley about having fun and blazing new trails as we “get a little mud on the tires.” As the years pass, I am aware in many ways that I’m not as young as I once was, yet I want to always be ready to get out there and have some fun!

So, what’s the Christmas message in country music? I’m not sure that there is one. What I do know as I write this annual letter is that these songs remind me of who I am, whose I am, and that another year of living is something to celebrate. Join me in singing along with a little TWANG in our voices thanking God for the sunshine he sent our way in the person of Jesus, who promises to make us happy when skies are gray, and the assurance that “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.” He’ll never “take my sunshine away.”

Merry Christmas!