Tag-Archive for ◊ christmas ◊

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• Monday, January 05th, 2015

I stepped into the kitchen the other day and Willow pointed to an open journal on the table.  “Chad thinks you should put some or all of that one on the blog.  He thinks folks might enjoy it.”  She looked at me with a familiar expression on her face–the one that says, “I don’t get it, but I’m willing to try.”

So, with a cup of the mint tea she grew and formulated herself in hand (remind me to tell you how she did that), I sat down at the table, rested my sore arms and even sorer back (this baby sure is taking a toll on my body!) and read.

 

December 26th

Another Christmas is over–done.  People told me that as the years pass, Christmasses without Mother would become easier.  They were right.  What they didn’t tell me is that they would also become more precious and, in that regard, more difficult.  The older my children are, the harder I find it to be without her.  I want to ask so many questions–things I never imagined needing to ask back when it was just the two of us working here together. Chad says that I forget how hard she found parenting me in the beginning.  I haven’t forgotten, not really.  But Mother had a beautiful quality.  I can’t find the right word for it, but she knew how to learn from her experiences and mistakes and grow with them.  She didn’t repeat those mistakes over and over.

To be fair, she also didn’t try to overcome all of her faults and weaknesses. Some she used as a mantle of protection.  But despite it all she tried.

Of course, this has little to do with Christmas. But pondering our times together made me think of Mother and sent me on that tangent. As we put away our decorations each year, Chad always says, “This was the best Christmas ever.”  I don’t know if it’s some tradition in his family, if he really thinks it, or if it’s a momentary expression of gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us throughout the year.

515068635But this year really did seem like “the best Christmas ever.”  The boys were old enough to appreciate the deeper meaning behind the tree, the gifts, the lights, and the joy of the season.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget my Liam’s face as he listened to his father reading Luke–again–and understanding dawned.  “Jesus was really a baby!  Like Kari was.  Like Aunt Aggie’s baby in her belly.”  He looked up at me and said, “Why?”  I suspect he was remembering Kari’s diapers.

I told him, “Because He loves us.”

And, apparently infancy is an even greater misfortune than I had ever imagined, because Liam’s response was simply, “He must love us a LOT.”

Lucas, on the other hand, while very fond of our nightly readings of the story of Jesus’ birth from one of the gospels, seemed to be most affected by our traditions.  I think he used the word why until, had it been minutes on his cellphone, he would have gone way over his limit. “Why do we have a tree, Mama?”  I explained how the tree came to be in use at all and how we choose to see a tree in our family. I don’t think he liked the idea of repurposing a pagan tradition to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but Chad’s discussion of choosing to use familiar things to tell a Bible story–kind of like Jesus’ parables and Paul’s sermons at the Acropolis–seemed to strike a chord.  His twenty-four hour disdain of the tree became a constant source of questioning and observations that seemed wise beyond his years–at least to me.  “Does the tree make Jesus sad?  He died on a tree.  A baby would be sad.”  And when I told them to let their lights shine before all men–even their little sister *cough*– he said, “Mama!  Like the lights on the tree.  Jesus dying on the tree helps us be lights for Him!”  Where do they come up with this stuff?  It’s so profound in a childlike way.

They know most of the words to most of the Christmas carols.  We sang them all day every day until I was thoroughly sick of them.  But it worked.  Even now as I write, I hear the words to “Joy to the World” interspersed between “Vroom, vrooms” of their cars and whinnies of their horses.  I wonder how Handel and Watts would like to hear the song with the percussion of little boys at play.  I suspect they’d like it better than said children’s mother.  But despite the repetition that sets my nerves on edge, my heart is blessed to hear the sounds of my sons singing praises to the Lord at their young ages.  It’s genuine.  It’s heart-felt.  And isn’t that what matters more than variety, peace, or quiet?

And little Kari, despite her constant trying of my nerves and patience, developed a heart for giving.  I had to limit her–direct her every step, but she gave each one of us one of her greatest treasures for Christmas.  Daily she brought me armloads of things to “Wrap pretty, Mama.”  And daily I had to redirect her to choosing just one thing for each of us.  Becca’s baby will have Kari’s favorite stuffed toy–a puppy I made her as a baby.  The poor thing cried a little as it went into the box.  I tried to talk her out of it, but she was determined to give Becca’s child “Fido.”  Yes, Chad named the silly toy, “Fido” and nothing I did would convince her to change its name.  She only has a couple of toys that were strictly hers and masculine enough for her tastes.  But she gave them to Liam and Lucas with such joy.  “For Jesus.”  At first, I didn’t understand her.  I kept correcting her by asking which one was for Lucas and which was for Liam.  She answered the same each time, but as we wrapped and decorated the packages, she kept patting them with a satisfied air and saying, “It’s for Jesus.”

I get it now.

I’d like to think that Mother can see us–knows how rich our lives are.  I know her fears, as with her tears, are wiped away in the arms of Jesus, but I would like to know that she is blessed by how the Lord has blessed us. I know that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” but I am not confident of what that means.  Does it mean that all Christians who are with Jesus now observe and pray for us to remain strong in the faith?  Or is it referring to just those who died shortly after Jesus’ death?  I suspect the former, but I am no theologian.  Maybe that’s what I’ll study this year. Maybe I’ll find the answers,, and even if I don’t, that much time in the Word won’t hurt me.

Christmas is gone.  Easter beckons. While some say we weren’t commanded to celebrate the birth of Christ–only His death and resurrection through communion–the angels did.  The wise men did.  And we could not celebrate His death if He had not been born.  So, I’ll say it again.  Happy Birthday, Jesus.  Thank you for the greatest gift of all–You.

• Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Every year about this time, Mother would get me busy with something that didn’t require my brain but did require my busy hands–cookie making, chicken de-boning, coloring–and then she’d just start reciting.  I remember the first time she ever did it.  I was about five and had gotten into trouble for something.  Why can’t I remember what?  Anyway, she’d set me to separating dried beans into jars.  Mother liked our beans to be stored in Mason jars with all rocks removed so we didn’t have to take the time to do it when we cooked them.  As an added lesson to whatever it was (I suspect I made a mess that only Mother could clean up, now that I think of it), she combined pinto beans, white navy beans, and split peas for me to separate into jars and from the rocks and rotten pieces.  I was discouraged and feeling a little sorry for myself.  Why Mother didn’t tell me to change my attitude and deal with it, I will never know.  Instead, she pulled out the table leaf and started mixing bread.  As she mixed, she recited.

Annie and Willie’s Prayer

‘Twas the eve before Christmas. “Good night,” had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed;
There were tears on their pillows, and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs,
For tonight their stern father’s command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven
Instead of at eight-for they troubled him more
With questions unheard of than ever before:
He had told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such creature as “Santa Claus” ever had been.
And he hoped, after this, he should never more hear
How he scrambled down chimneys with presents each year.
And this was the reason that two little heads
So restlessly tossed on their soft, downy beds.
Eight, nine, and the clock on the steeple tolled ten,
Not a word had been spoken by either till then,
When Willie’s sad face from the blanket did peep,
And whispered, “Dear Annie, is ‘ou fast as’eep?”
“Why no, brother Willie,” a sweet voice replies,
“I’ve long tried in vain, but I can’t shut my eyes,
For somehow it makes me so sorry because
Dear Papa has said there is no ‘Santa Claus.’
Now we know there is, and it can’t be denied,
For he came every year before Mama died;
But, then, I’ve been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear everything Mama would say,
And maybe she asked him to send Santa Claus here
With that sackful of presents he brought every year.”
“Well, why tan’t we p’ay dest as Mama did den,
And ask Dod to send him with p’esents aden?”
“I’ve been thinking so too,” and without a word more
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor,
And four little knees the soft carpet pressed,
And two tiny hands were clasped close to each breast.
“Now, Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we’re sure to receive;
You must wait very still till I say the ‘Amen,’
And by that you will know that your turn has come then.”
“Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favor we are asking of thee.
I want a wax dolly, a tea set, and ring,
And an ebony workbox that shuts with a spring.
Bless Papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us as much as does he;
Don’t let him get fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie. Amen.”
“Please, Desus, ‘et Santa Taus turn down tonight,
And b’ing us some p’esents before it is light,
I want he should div’ me a nice ‘ittie s’ed,
With bright sbinin’ ‘unners, and all painted red;
A box full of tandy, a book, and a toy,
Amen, and then, Desus, I’ll be a dood boy.”

Their prayers being ended, they raised up their heads,
With hearts light and cheerful, again sought their beds.
They were lost soon in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in dreamland were roaming in sleep.

Eight, nine, and the little French clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again:
He seems now to hear Annie’s half-suppressed sighs,
And to see the big tears stand in Willie’s blue eyes.
“I was harsh with my darlings,” he mentally said,
“And should not have sent them so early to bed;
But then I was troubled; my feelings found vent,
For bank stock today have gone down ten per cent!

But of course they’ve forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied them the thrice-asked-for kiss:
But, just to make sure, I’ll go up to their door,
For I never spoke harsh to my darlings before.”
So saying, he softly ascended the stairs,
And arrived at the door to hear both of their prayers;
His Annie’s “Bless Papa” drew forth the big tears,
And Willie’s grave promise fell sweet on his ears.
“Strange-strange-I’d forgotten,” said he with a sigh,
“How I longed when a child to have Christmas draw nigh.”
“I’ll atone for my harshness,” he inwardly said,
“By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed.”
Then he turned to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing gown,
Donned hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street,
A millionaire facing the cold, driving in the sleet!
Nor stopped he until he had bought everything
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring;
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store,
That the various presents outnumbered a score.

Then homeward he turned. Where his holiday load,
With Aunt Mary’s help, in the nursery was stowed.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree,
By the side of a table spread out for her tea;
A workbox well fitted in the center was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had prayed,
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled
“With bright shining runners, and all painted red.”
There were balls, dogs, and horses, books pleasing to see,
And birds of all colors were perched in the tree!
While Santa Claus, laughing, stood up in the top,
As if getting ready more presents to drop.
And as the fond father the picture surveyed,
He thought for his trouble he had amply been paid,
And he said to himself, as he brushed off a tear,
‘I’m happier tonight than I’ve been for a year;
I’ve enjoyed more pure pleasure than ever before;
What care I if bank stock falls ten per cent more!
Hereafter I’ll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve.”
So thinking, he gently extinguished the light,
And, tripping down stairs, retired for the night.

As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
Put the darkness to flight, and the stars one by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep opened wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied;
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts prayed for were all of them found.
They laughed and they cried, in their innocent glee,
And shouted for Papa to come quick and see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night
(just the things that they wanted,) and left before light:
“And now,” added Annie, in a voice soft and low,
“You’ll believe there’s a ‘Santa Claus’, papa, I know”-
While dear little Willie climbed up on his knee,
Determined no secret between them should be,
And told in soft whispers how Annie had said
That their dear, blessed mama, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down by the side of her chair,
And that God up in heaven had answered her prayer.
“Den we dot up and prayed dust well as we tould,
And Dod answered our prayers: now wasn’t He dood?”
“I should say that He was, if He sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf,
‘Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.”)

Blind father! Who caused your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
‘Twas the Lord Jesus who bade you steal softly upstairs,
And made you His agent to answer their prayers.

– Sophia P. Snow

I learned later that she’d spent every night after I went to bed, memorizing the poem in order to be able to recite it to me at will.  When people hear about my childhood and some of the cultural things I still don’t understand and say, “What kind of mother did you have?” I think of things like this and say to myself, “This kind of mother.  The best I could have hoped for.”

Chad went online to find a link to the poem somewhere and found this video of a man reading it.  We thought you might enjoy it.  You can also purchase the poem from Amazon either as a single book or in the collection of poems we recommend, The Best Loved Poems of the American People by Hazel Felleman

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