And just like that, it was over

And just like that, it was over.   Christmas came in with a fury, many furry friends, and left in a flash.   Why do such joyous times pass too quickly after so much planning and preparing for celebrations?

My Christmas began in October.  This was the year the entire family would be gathering at our house.  All our children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, all in-laws, and a few out-laws as well.  Oh, and let’s not forget the furry pets that would come with them.   Now that I think about it, I probably should have begun in September!

The tree was decorated two weeks before Thanksgiving, menus were planned for multiple days, and there were so many shopping lists, I kept a file.  The grocery store down the street thought I was an employee and offered me an apron.  Amazon sends me notes questioning why I haven’t ordered something if I miss a day.  Now, I may apply for that job at the local grocery store to pay Amazon!

Dream began to crumble

My dreams of a sugar plum Christmas filled with extensive gaiety began to crumble a few days before the much-planned holiday.   Omicron visited my husband’s daughter’s family with a bang even though the parents had two vaccinations each. Mother, father, and two precious small children fell ill when this uninvited intruder walked into Christmas.  Because they were quarantined, they would not be able to join us.  We were heartbroken. 

The house began to fill with guests and those furry critters as Santa was loading his sleigh.  Preparing all the meals and listening to laughter fill the house eased our worry, especially since the sick family was on the mend by Christmas Eve.

 David’s other daughter with her little boy was to drive over early Christmas morning.  One of the presents for our 6-year-old grandson, Jax, was so large, I would require help to bring it downstairs and place it under the tree before he arrived. However,  when my husband answered the phone in the wee hours of Christmas morning, I saw his face fall into shock.

Presents remain unopened

An ambulance had taken Jax to the hospital.  The flu invaded his little body and wreaked enough havoc on a vibrant soul to ruin his Christmas day.  Luckily, he was released after a few hours but would spend much of the next few days in bed.  His big present remains upstairs.

Since we are usually a blended happy family, David could not see any of his children this Christmas, and he tried to smile as we gathered with the others and all the furry critters.  He did an excellent job of masking his sadness, and we still argued about how to cook this or that, which put some normalcy back into the festive day.

The day after Christmas, folks began to return to their homes.  My son and his love were the first to leave as they needed to catch a flight back to Denver.  After I waved goodbye as their car drove away, I turned back toward the house.  I could see the crowd gathered in the foyer through the beveled glass in the front door. 

Tears brimmed my eyes as I paused and watched the faces of those I love.  My husband was still smiling, dogs were jumping,  and children laughed as their parents hugged each other to bid goodnight.   I couldn’t help but wonder what changes would occur in the days ahead.  What heartache lies ahead of us, or what surprises are in store for us to enjoy?

Watching life through the glass

 As we watch a moment in time, one never knows what time will do.

We walk a tight rope daily, taking each cautious step for granted.  I have learned no matter how much planning and preparing we do, life happens.   It can upend us, make us cry, and fill us with unbridled joy, especially when we love others.  Lives change, children grow up, we grow old and take our memories of it all with us.

The Christmas tree ornaments will be packed away, and the house will fall into an eerie silence as I begin to sweep up crumbs and dog hair.   I will continue to worry about the children as they grow and the others as they age, and I pray we will all be together next December.

God reminds me to watch life as if I am looking through a glass door and realizing that all I see is a gift from Him to me.  He tells me to trust Him through the pain and illnesses and praise Him for the joy.  Because he knows life begins in a great fury, and just like that, it is over.

May you take these words into 2022, appreciating each day and those gifts God bestows upon you.

The Magical Ferris Wheel

My brother, John, was destined to become an engineer.  Since the boy was tiny, Mama said he always tried to figure out how things worked.  He took toys apart and put them back together simply to see if they would work the same.

There is a story my grandmother told that still makes me laugh today.  John was three and staying at her house during the day.  She put him in the crib to take a nap.  Thinking he was sleeping, she went out on the front porch to string a batch of green beans from her garden.

After a long while, she heard her sweet grandchild triumphantly yell from the bedroom, “Now I fix it! Now I fix it!!  She ran to his room and into shock!  The sweet little devil had fixed it all right. 

The crib was against the wall where little John noticed a small tear in the wallpaper.  He certainly didn’t think that was right, so he began to peel the wallpaper off the wall in tiny strips that were scattered across the crib.  According to John, as far as his little arms could reach, a section of the wall was indeed ‘fixed’!

A Christmas to remember

 One memorable Christmas, when my older brother was twelve, and I was six, he created magic for his sister.  His bedroom was upstairs in our small home, but his room was quite large because it was a dormer area.  Dad built a work table with a large plywood sheet sitting atop two sawhorses for his son’s room. John used the table to create a village where his electric train wound through the little trees and stopped at the depot.  Nothing I loved more than watching the locomotive pull its cars and imagining myself a passenger traveling to far-away places.  My brother wouldn’t let me touch anything on the plywood board, but I still could dream.

When Christmas arrived that year, it brought an extraordinary gift.  It was one of those holidays that I still recall with clarity.   Santa brought John a Ferris Wheel Erector set on Christmas morning.  It wasn’t his first Erector set because he had built many contraptions from the boxes of metal components, but they held no interest for me. 

After we opened our presents and Christmas morning turned into afternoon, the young engineer went to his room and began assembling the Ferris wheel.  I played with my new doll and pretended my way through the wonderous day. 

“This one is for you!”

“Lynn, come upstairs and see what I did!”  John shouted that evening.  We all ran up to his room.  The train was winding its way through the village, and John had only a bedside lamp illuminated so that we could see the lighted Ferris wheel in the center of the town magically going round and round.  He even found a tiny little doll of mine to sit on the ride. 

“This one is for you, sis!”  John knew I loved the county fairs with all the rides and fun.  “You can touch this one, Lynn, and even ride your little dolls on it!” I was beyond astounded.

The years passed, and John indeed left home to attend Georgia Tech, become an Industrial Engineer, and until his life ended in 1998, he always tried to figure out how things worked.

How things work

My friend’s grandson, Whit, was nine months old on Christmas nine years ago.  He was sitting on the floor when he realized music was coming from a box near him.  I watched him as he crawled toward the music.  He quietly and methodically tried his best to figure out how the sounds came from the mysterious box, even looking underneath it.

 “Well, we have another engineer in the making!” I said immediately.  Honestly, I think I was right.  Today, the child can build anything and take it apart. 

Every Christmas, I try to buy him a gift of Lego blocks or anything an intelligent, gifted nine-year-old can build.  However, as I was searching online for a proper present this year, a picture of a toy popped up on my computer.  It was a Ferris Wheel Erector set complete with lights and magic.  Of course, I bought it, and just before I wrapped it, I sat for a while in my rocker, holding the box in my lap.

I closed my eyes to clear my mind so that I could once again return to the house where a six-year-old sat in wonder, watching her older brother build beauty from metal parts for his baby sister.

John sent a message from heaven this Christmas.  How life works is when we figure out that creating beautiful magic for someone other than ourselves is how our world goes round and round and becomes fixed.

God bless you all.

The Heart of Christmas

The fog settled in for the evening and a steady drizzle chilled my bones.  While driving a short way home after visiting a friend, I noticed the Christmas lights on neighbors’ houses were blurred, and their decorations were barely visible through the dense air.   In poor visibility, I navigated down the hills, past the lake, and toward my house. 

 Christmas will be difficult for many this year, especially if they are trying to weave their way through the blur of loss, grief, sadness, or troubles.  Those suffering desire to break through the darkness and clearly see the light of happiness once again.  However, sadly, many believe they never will.  It is as if the fog and foul weather will continue to dampen their lives and chill them to the bones.

Since Christmas Eve two years ago, the world has lost 5 million people to COVID alone.  And countless others have suffered the loss of a loved one through another illness or tragedy.  Death’s stings and hardships are part of our earthly journey, and they, unfortunately, will never go away.  However, sometimes even in our darkest hours, we can find a spark of light to help us heal and regain our hope.

When Christmas joy seems forever lost

Several of my friends have lost the loves of their lives this year.  We can sit and hold their hands, offering comfort and encouragement, but Christmas can be the most challenging time for those in the middle of grief.  They recall the past and the delight of sharing their special day with their partners, children, and friends.  Then, with stark realization, they understand their usual traditional holidays are over. The thought of Christmas being joyful again for them seems unfathomable. 

Yet, it is actually Christmas that brings the light, the healing, and the aide.  A baby lay in a manger on a clear evening long ago, who brought joy to the world and redeemed hope.  Even when we are in the middle of a struggle, it is this day to celebrate and be thankful.   

Jesus came into the world to save us.  He taught us about a merciful God who understands our suffering, heartaches, and doubt.  Christ showed us life goes beyond our days here. If we just believe in Him, we will again be reunited with those we lost.  When the Lord’s earthly 33-year tenure was over, He again explained to us through the Resurrection that He is with us through all our days, including those shrouded in haze and sorrow.

The true definition of Joy

I love Christmas, as you probably know by now.  I love all the hoopla, the Hallmark Channel, the decorations, and those sinful cookies.  But none of those things are the heart of Christmas.  The holiday festivities are not only about being with family, friends, or opening presents. In reality, Christmas is celebrating our Savior who gave those gifts to us in the first place.

For Heaven’s sake, it is His Birthday!  Even when we don’t feel quite up to life, he is entirely up to help us through it if we just ask.   That is why Christ is the heart of Christmas. He is the true definition of joy. There is nothing he would want more than to hand us the lamp to guide us through our dreadful and dreary days.

We travel to our churches, light candles on Christmas Eve, and wish each other a Merry Christmas.  Our personal traditions of these holidays are stamped in our memory forever.  We make sure our children visit Santa, hang their stockings, and be good so they will receive the toys they desire.

Heart of Christmas

During our busy, bustling Christmas holidays, Christ quietly remains in the wings. He waits for all children to come to Him to seek refuge from pain, hope for tomorrow, and be filled with love.  He watches and waits for us, yet we can overlook the very one who is the reason for our celebrations.

I have lost much in my life, struggled with depression, divorce, broken relationships, traumatic events, and dumb decisions.  I have sinned, and I have failed numerous times.  However, I have been blessed with enough faith in the little baby born on the first Christmas to sustain me always.  I know I can survive because He lives.  With clarity, I know that when the fog sets in, I will eventually find the light to navigate my way home.  

The heart of Christmas is the gift of joy God gave us all when his only child was born into our world and became our miracle.   

And the angel said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  Luke 2:10. 

I wish you all a blessed and beautiful, hope-filled, safe, and joyful Christmas.

Mrs. Shirley Claus and her Elves

She is just under five feet tall with rosy cheeks that illuminate a pixie face.  Her smile can light up not only a room but a heart.   This Mrs. Claus does not reside in the North Pole because she dislikes, rather abhors, the cold.  No, this merry soul prefers palm trees, ocean breezes, and sand, not snow, between her little pink toes.

Mrs. Shirley traded Rudolph for a Cadillac years ago and prefers listening to Elvis on her radio rather than Christmas music.  At home, pink flamingos hang on her Christmas tree along with an array of mermaids, shells, plus tiny beach umbrellas and chairs.

If you gaze toward the sky when summer fades to fall, you might see Mrs. Shirley flying south with the birds.  You will recognize her by the sleigh, or rather the grocery cart trailing behind her.  You better wave, holler and wish her well because Mrs. Claus is always watching out for the ‘good’ in all of us.

All children belong to Mrs. Claus

I had the great fortune of meeting Mrs. Shirley years ago, and we became close friends.  I knew her to be a generous soul but didn’t recognize her lineage from the North Pole Santa Claus family until recently.   I guess kinfolks of Santa, or his wife, are not recognizable when they prefer to wear pink T-shirts instead of red coats or aqua flip flops instead of black boots.

Mrs. Shirley has children who refer to her as Grandma, but they may not be related by blood.  Like her kin, Mrs. Claus, Shirley views all children as hers.   I would become so confused speaking with Shirley about “her family” that I finally gave up and decided the whole world was related to her.

For over 20 years,  Grandma Shirley has gathered her brood during the Christmas season, loading them in the Caddy with its reindeer antlers adorning the roof.  They listen to Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” while driving to a local department store, yet they know there will be nothing blue about the day.

Stay away from the naughty list

Before pulling into the parking lot, Mrs. Claus discusses the rules of the day.  The smallest and newest member of the grandkid group, eyes widen as his Grandma Shirley explains what they will do once they are inside.

“Each of you will take your own sleigh, rather grocery cart, and we travel together toward the toy aisles.  No one is to ask for anything for themselves, and if you do, you will go on my naughty list very soon.” 

The small boy’s eyes now appear troubled.  “Son, you will have so much fun; you will not think about yourself, especially when I sprinkle you with my pixie dust!” 

He relaxes a bit yet remains focused as his Grandma Shirley continues, “You are to fill each cart with toys for both girls and boys of all ages.  If you have questions, ask me, for I know all about what my children love.”

The children form a line trailing one another with their carts and scan each shelf in every row.  Dropping toys in the carts with precision care as they begin to feel the effects of warmth and wonder from Grandma Claus’s pixie dust. 

“To know the joy of giving is a fundamental rule all children must learn.” She tells them each year to encourage them to “load more.”   “You will find this is the day you will remember as the years fly by.  You will not recall what you received every Christmas, but you will remember what you gave to others, and it will always warm your soul.”

The wide-eyed little boy looks up to her, “Grandma, can we do this next week?” Her rosy cheeks turn red as she giggles down the aisles, watching the pixie dust as it settles on the floor.

Teach the wonder of giving early

If we are blessed to be grandparents or just grand people who adore children, and we can share or spare a bit of money or time, let’s teach our little ones early the true meaning of giving and the immense joy it brings for all. 

At the end of Grandma Shirley’s big day, they all piled the toys in the back of the big Caddy and dropped them off at the Claus Family Bank, which was collecting Toys for Tots. 

The bank employees were accustomed to the scene unfolding before them.  As the children placed the gifts around the lobby, smiles began to illuminate faces throughout the bank as if magic had spread and the glow of Christmas shone brightly.

We all can become a Mrs. Claus if we take the time to teach our children and grandchildren the wonder of giving from the depth of our hearts to those who need to believe in the splendor of kindness.

Become a Child at Christmastime

For the next month, hopefully, most of us will be in Christmas mode.  You know, the days we scurry about trying to find deals on everything from bicycles to bathrobes.  It is when glitter is fashionable, children squeal, and decorated trees take over our living rooms.

This is my favorite time of year.  I have a picture of myself at age 5, sitting on Santa’s knee, grinning like a Cheshire cat.  My little coat is trimmed in black velvet, and Mama pin curled my straight hair for such a special occasion.  I recall that day and know for sure, the visiting Santa at a department store in Tennessee flew his sleigh down from the North Pole just to see me.  He must have magically thrown elfin dust over me because I haven’t been the same since. 

I try my best to act like an adult during Christmas, but that just never works.  Why do others not become age five every year? Surely, I am not the only one!  I never told my children the supposedly “truth” about St. Nick because I never believed that hogwash about him not existing.  He sure does, and I have a picture to prove it! 

Watching over the herds

Another time when I was around seven years old, my parents rented a house on a farm.  In the back of our white house was a rolling pasture surrounded by a matching white fence.  I loved climbing the fencing and watching the cows slowly meander about and gather.   I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve because I was so full of excitement, so I went to the window and looked toward the pasture.    The moon illuminated the frost on the ground, and when I gazed up toward heaven, a brilliant star cast more light on the sleeping herd. 

I rubbed my eyes, not fully believing the vision, but as clear as a bell, I knew that star was announcing that Jesus was born just on the other side of the fence. 

When I told my parents about it the next day, they simply nodded their heads and said, “That’s nice, Lynn.”   But as for me, to this day, let me assure you, I saw that star!  

When a child becomes an adult and throws away all childish things, they give away too much.  Some things we all should hold on to.  We need to retain some wild-eyed wonderment, the belief in miracles, and the spirit of Christmas in our hearts every day.  Why would any of us want to grow up and not welcome such a blessing?

Christmastime is meant for all

When we give up the notion that Christmas is just for children and remember that Christmas is for all of us; then, we might begin to see the miracles it brings.  If we were to wrap up our cynicism, doubt, and complaining and throw it away, would we see the brilliant star that shines above us?  Perhaps we just might if we are willing to try.

 You should see me when I encounter a “Bah Humbug” person who would preferably not go to the trouble to celebrate the holidays.  They may say, “I dread all the work and the shopping!”  Oh my, are they in for “Lynn’s famous Christmas lecture!”  You don’t want me to come to your house with that speech!   It goes something like this:

“There is one time of year that emphasizes giving is more important than trouble.  December 25 is the day in our lives to celebrate all that is good because God sent His only child to remind us that He loves us.  And this is the season for all of us to thank Him for doing so.  Christmas reminds us  to put aside our desires and bless others with our faith.”   Yep, I preach that sermon praying it takes the Scrooge syndrome away.

Behold good tidings

If there ever was a Christmas season to behold good tidings, this one is it.  We are so inundated with bad news we need to press our noses to the window and look for the good news found in the star above us.   It just begins with a sprinkle of elfin dust, a seed of faith, and a determination to return to the innocent child within.

Oh, the inner child is still in your heart!  The child of long ago who sat on Santa’s lap and believed in wonder.   And, above all else, the baby born in the stable years ago still lives with us today.   His star forever shines if only we look upward and believe.

“Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:3.  

I sure am glad I am still just a child.