Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Days of our lives...

Dr.David Jeremiah shared this poem on TV recently...

Methuselah’s Diet

Methuselah ate what he found on his plate,
And never, as people do now,
Did he note the amount of the calorie count.
He ate it because it was chow.

He wasn’t disturbed as at dinner he sat,
Devouring a roast or a pie,
To think it was lacking in granular fat
Or a couple of vitamins shy.

He cheerfully chewed each species of food,
Unmindful of troubles or fears
Lest his health might be hurt by some fancy dessert,
And he lived over 900 years.

I know that I won't live 900 years, but the amount of years that I DO live are full of decisions and choices every day, most of them are choices that only I can make!

One of my dad's favorite one-liners was... 'do you know the secret to living a long life?' And with a big smile he quietly said... 'don't die'. Then he would grin again at the thought... one of those sayings that we as his children would groan over, and he thoroughly enjoyed!

Of course we all know the truth about how long we will live...

We don't know.

But right on the heels of that thought, is the sure knowledge that God knows, and has ALWAYS known exactly how many days we will live on this earth. He knew when He planned our lives and created us into being.

It's one of those things that makes me wonder sometimes, and after a little reflection, I am sure it is best that I do NOT know. If I knew the day and hour that Jesus had in mind for the end of my life, I wonder how I would cross the finish line. I pray that it would be like my friend Judith, who crossed that line a few weeks ago, with such grace , purpose and faith, that all who knew her were impacted and challenged. (This memorial was written by Amy, Judith's daughter in law.)

No matter what the day or hour, the amount of days that I live is not going to catch God off guard.

My greater concern is that I spend the days He has given me, doing it HIS way, every day.

I am excited about a New Year... 2012, and I am intentional about many things that have been on the 'fringes' of my life. I have heard God reminding me to address these things, and I have grabbed the bull by the horns in some areas that have needed change. There is NOTHING He has asked from me that WITH HIS STRENGTH living in me, cannot be done!

How about you??

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas then and now... part three...

Fast forward from Norway, to California, and now to Texas...

The Christmas traditions that began with my mother in Norway are the same in our home each Christmas.

The preparation begins right after Thanksgiving, and plans always include what we can do for someone else, just like you do in your homes. It's such a special time to share, and God always puts the right people in our path or on our hearts.

On Christmas Eve, the whole gang comes to our house. We have a Christmas Eve buffet, with appetizers and tempting dishes of every kind, and lots of yummy desserts! We have 6-1/2 grandkids, and each of the 6 decide which song or scripture to share at our Christmas Eve service in the den of our home. I print a program, and they each take part. Last year our son and his kids built a manger, filled it with hay and the kids all dressed up and acted out the nativity as The Revelation Song played in the background. (Note the staff of the youngest, a last minute empty wrapping paper roll). I love how each of the kids do their best, and participate so sweetly.

One of our sons plays the guitar, so we all join in singing several carols with the candles and tree lights twinkling, and the sound of Christmas filling our hearts. It's one of the best times of my whole year!

We read the Christmas story from Luke, and we thank God together for the miracle and the hope of Jesus, because He was born and came to live and die for us. Miracles of all miracles!

From our home to yours this Christmas... MERRY CHRISTMAS to each one of you. You bless my life every day of the year. We are a whole bunch of kindred spirits and our sweet friendships will continue as another year begins....

May your hearts and homes be filled with HIS peace and joy, during Christmas and every day!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas then and now... part two...

Tromso, Norway...

Way up in the cold frozen northern part of Norway, beyond the arctic circle, is where my Christmas traditions began, in the childhood home of my mother.

In her words, as she shared this story with women's conferences and church groups all through her life, and as I read them tonight on these now fragile sheets from her journal...

"Let me invite you to take a trip with me to the land of the midnight sun, to my country, Norway. We will fly over the top of the north pole, but you won't see much there, only snow and frozen land, and finally, after landing in the capitol city of Oslo, we board a small plane and fly much farther north to Tromso. Now I invite you into our large old home to share Christmas with us...

My father was the mayor of the town, and there were 7 of us children, and a constant flow of guests coming and going. Christmas came like a bright light every December, and we children were filled with expectation and excitement and we all pitched in to help shine the copper pieces that hung on the walls, and bake the never ending sheets of cookies that went in and out of the oven. All month the cookie baking continued and they began to fill the jars and tins, which were stored up in the attic.

"For days, leading up to Christmas Eve, friends and neighbors would drop in and visit each other in their homes, bringing their cookies and baked goodies, and their children. They would sing Christmas carols together and no one seemed to be in a hurry.

"We celebrated each day as 'tiny Christmas', until Christmas Eve finally arrived and all the planning and baking and cooking was almost finished. All the children were scrubbed in a hot steam bath in town, and our braids froze on the way home. The shoes were lined up to be polished, the goose was filled with apples and prunes and ready to bake, and the last excited secrets were whispered between us as we wondered with expectation what would be in the boxes. The gifts and the Christmas tree were decorated and kept in the large parlour where NO ONE was allowed to go until Christmas!

"I remember as a child hiding up in the attic about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and listenting to the church bells ringing in Christmas. I hadn't yet come to know Him, whose birth I was about to celebrate, but I stood by the window, looking out at the blinking lights and boats in the harbor, and I knew that God had sent Jesus to be born at Christmas, and I worshipped in a child's way, Him who I didn't yet know.

"And then suddenly, the bells started from one church, then from another, and soon together they joyously chimed all over the city as they rang in the news 'Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord"...

Now me...

When I visited Norway more than a year ago, we had to fly that same route from Oslo far to the north, into Tromso... There, on the main street of this most picturesque and beautiful city, was my mother's family dry goods store. When we were there, we saw the building, it has been modernized, and like many things that have changed, the new isn't nearly as wonderful as the original!

In northern Norway, during the winter months, it was not only cold and piled high with snow everywhere, it was also dark. One of the most cherished memories she shared were the lights, all around Tromso, in homes, in the windows, in the stores and on street lanterns, tiny dots of light made the whole scene like a dream. Candles and lights were always part of our growing up Christmases in California, and I still love them.

Side note on the attic in her home... During the winter, they hung their washed sheets in the attic to dry and they were as stiff as boards from the cold frozen temperatures. My mother did confess to playing among those sheets and if I know her... there was probably some peeking and snooping along the way as Christmas came closer!

At her dad's store in town, each window was decorated with a different Christmas scene. She said they covered all the windows with paper while they went to work and created a picture for the people of the town. When the windows were unveiled, people came from all around excited to see what this year would bring. One window depicted a cozy warm home with a fireplace and Christmas tree and candles glowing everywhere, one might be a candy store scene or a church choir... it was magical to the children to be part of such a tradition.

Then Christmas Eve finally arrived...

The whole family bundled up and headed out into the snow to their large 'state church', for the Christmas Eve service where by candlelight they joined together singing Silent Night and heard the familiar scriptures read. Finally they all headed back home for the feast ahead and 'the gifts'...

As the final preparations were put together and the goose was browning for the last few minutes, my mother would take a quick walk through the empty snow piled streets with her father, and pass by the lovely homes where they could often watch through the windows at the people singing and walking around their Christmas trees, hands joined, in a circle, babies to grandparents.

After the feast had been devoured, her father read the Christmas story one more time from Luke, and prayed. Then they all shook hands, wishing each other a Merry Christmas, she said their was a lot of handshaking with 7 kids and all the relatives. Then they each sat in one place until every gift tag was read by her father and distributed, before anyone could open a gift. And then, the papers and ribbons flew!

I can't sing or hear Silent Night, without thinking of Norway. It's a funny thing, but I have tears in my eyes, good tears, as I write this and remember Christmas in Norway, even though I was never there. The memories and stories and the twinkle in my mother's eyes as she shared her December dreams of long ago, are as real to me as if I had been there myself. When she met and married my dad, and followed him to America to begin life as a preacher's wife, all that was familiar and dear to her was left behind in her beloved country, but she instilled it in each of her 3 children with great joy. She kept her traditions going in our home as I grew up.

I am keeping that love for Norway alive in my heart and in our home...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas then and now... part one...

I find myself thinking of Christmas when I was growing up... a lot..

(everyone tells me it's cuz I'm getting older and that's what older people do... look back!!)

I'm not buying it!!

Instead, as I look back, I can see how the Christmas traditions we celebrate in our home now, were formed in the home I grew up in, probably most of yours were too.

The whole month of December was just different than all the other months, and it still is. There is a special glow to December. Everything is intensified, joy and fun and laughter are brighter in December. Sorrow is also deeper for many in December.

I have not found a single picture of our family at Christmas as I was growing up. Our kids today not only have gazillions of photos of their kids, but full movies as well, and lots of them are contained in the mystery of that little cell phone...

With or without photos, my memories of Christmas at 270 South Parkwood are as clear as a bell.

My mother baked all month long, and she gave away her Norwegian cookies by the hundreds, probably 1000's... but she also saved enough to satisfy the 3 of us all through Christmas.

She was born in Norway, and they celebrated on Christmas Eve with their gifts and dinner, and later the midnight church service in the frozen snow of Tromso, Norway. Her traditions were also ours as I grew up.

All of my dad's family came on Christmas Eve. The 3 of us kids could hardly stand it until that night came. Our tree was piled high with gifts for everyone. We didn't have a lot of money, but we sure knew how to use Woolworth's 5 & 10 cent store and wrap it up like gold! We used to ask my mother WHERE did you buy that? Her answer was always the same... 'at a nice department store', and we knew it was W.T. Grant or Woolworth's!

After a scrumptious dinner, the grown ups always insisted on doing the dishes before we finally got to the tree. We were practically jumping up and down by the time they were finished.

Dad always read the Christmas story from Luke, and we sang carols and Dad prayed. The candles were gleaming and the love was all around...

But part 2 is really part 1... it began as Christmas in Norway, when my mother was a child...