Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ground Hog Day Otherwise known as 'Taking Down Christmas'}

On Friday (Groundhog Day), I took down our Christmas tree. Now some of you are probably thinking: "How lazy!' or 'Isn't it a little late?' Let me explain, please. Part of the problem is my husband's love of all things Christmas. If he had his way, our tree would stay up until at least June and there would always be Christmas lights in the window, regardless of the season. In deference to his sensibilities, we have part of our Santa collection out all the time, I have agreed to keep the paper snowflakes up in the windows at least until the end of February, and the Christmas village is in the kitchen window all year round. The rest of the stuff had to come down (and here comes my part of the problem).

Putting up Christmas means parties are coming, carols will be sung, cookies will be baked and presents will be opened. Putting up Christmas means reminiscing about past Christmases as each ornament is put on the tree, new decorations are lovingly selected and new arrangements are tried. Putting up Christmas is anticipation and expectation of good things.

Taking down Christmas is much less fun than putting it up. Taking down Christmas is finding the evergreen boughs around the manager scene have spread needles to rooms all over the house and you are never able to sweep them all up. Taking down Christmas means ornaments that won't fit back in the boxes you took them from, missing everyday items you put away temporarily until the season was over, an attic space that has shrunk two sizes since the boxes were taken out in November, and a feeling of emptiness at unadorned rooms. Taking down Christmas is missing those you weren't able to see during the holidays and memories of past hurts. If I take down Christmas during the dark month of January, there is a double load of depression.

So, for me, Ground Hog day is the perfect day to take down Christmas. On the day that we find out (according to a furry rodent) whether spring will be early or late, I choose to put away the best part of winter and begin to look forward to Spring. February is anniversaries, Valentine's day, the first primrose and pansies, with the occasional crocuses. February is trimming my rose bushes to get ready for loads of blooms this summer, clear my garden to winter's debrie and planning my vegetable garden. February is a short sweet preparation for everything that is to come. By taking down Christmas on a day of anticipation, I just move from one celebration to another. Join me....let's make Ground Hog day the official 'Taking Down Christmas Day'. Who knows, we may start a movement!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Peace Child

Last week, our small children's department put on a wonderful Christmas pageant, complete with Mary, Joseph, a rather hyperactive angel Gabriel, a grumpy innkeeper, two shepherds, two sheep, a cardboard donkey, a grandmother and her little granddaughter. It was charming to see and hear the wonderful story told by children in words and song, and everyone came away feeling closer to what God had done for us in this miracle. We laughed at the littliest wise man trying to say 'frankensence' and at the smallest sheep's disasterous encounter with the cardboard donkey, but we also had tears in our eyes as one little girl sang 'Silent Night' and as Mary and Joseph sang 'Away in the Manger' with the angel Gabriel. What a blessing! We are fortunate to have had this story told to us over and over each year, but sometimes in the retelling, we lose sight of the miracle that God worked that night long ago.

Recently I finished a book called 'The Peace Child', which recounts the experience of a missionary in Irian Jaya (the former Dutch New Guinea) with the cannabilistic Sawi tribe. This tribe survived only when the various bands had limited contact with each other, since their tradition was to trick, kill and eat their enemies, even within the same tribal territory. When presented with the gospel, they actually admired Judas, since he successfully tricked his friend Jesus before betraying Him. The missionary was in despair and was actually getting ready to move from their area due to their escalating warfare. The tribe, wanting to keep him there, invoked a rare ceremony, called the Peace Child, where a cherished infant from each band was given away to the other band to serve as the link that would stop war. As long as the peace child lived....there was peace between the bands. The missionary, overcome with what he had seen, immediately told them of the Peace Child that God had sent many years before. This Peace Child links all God's children, taking away the need for war and hatred amoung God's children. This Peace Child will never die, but lives today, just like He did in that stable 2000 years ago, to restore us to God. The Sawi tribe was overwhelmed with what they now understood of God's love for them. After a millenium of warfare, hatred, trickery and death, God's light had come into their world. May your hearts this Christmas understand as well what God's Peace Child means for you.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Unexpected Guests

Once upon a time, there was a mom and two kids who had a lovely home in the country....but who also had an insatiable sense of curiosity. There were tall trees, green grass and all they could ever need at home, but the grass always looked a little greener over the fence. One day, they decided to see if that greener grass really was better. Slipping out of their lovely yard, they took a walk through the woods. The kids didn't like the woods because it was rather dark and they could sense that wild animals like coyotes lurked there. They were relieved when they came to a large, green meadow with lots of room to run. Mom thought to herself that this really did look better than home.

In the middle of the big green meadow was a large, fine home with a broad porch and many flowering plants. Being very polite, the mother went to pay her respects to the people in the house, but didn't meet with the reception she expected! The woman wouldn't let her explore the porch, or sample the beautiful ornamental cabbage growing in the pots. In fact, the woman wouldn't even let them stay on the porch, but rather rudely motioned them to return the meadow. They tried several times to get closer to the house, but the woman insisted that they keep their distance. The pet cats on the place were very friendly (friendlier than the people in the house), so they decided to stay in the field and enjoy the beautiful green grass.

About that time, the man came out of the house. He was dressed in a heavy coat, a warm hat and had a walking stick in his hand. The mother was rather frightened of the stick and tried to keep her distance, even when he kept following them and tried to communicate by waving the stick. Then, a strange thing happened....he began to talk their language. You see, the man is a linquist and besides speaking many human languages.....he could also speak theirs. His accent was strange and the words hard to understand, but they understood that he wanted them to follow they did!

Across the lovely meadow, back through the scary, dark woods, they followed the man until suddenly they saw something familiar...HOME. Strange as it may seem, the place that had seem ordinary now seemed safe and welcoming. They hurried past the man with the stick and ran to their place in their yard. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but there is no place like home.

(I am having trouble uploading the picture - so in case you haven't guessed by now.... three goats came to visit!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whiter Than Snow

We have had our first snow of the season and are enjoying all the beauty of the woods and fields transformed by almost two inches of pure white. I am always amazed how a blanket of snow can turn the drab, bedraggled, and very muddy (we have had 12 inches of rain recently!) woods into a winter wonderland. It looks almost magical and when the sun shone briefly today, everything sparkled.

It reminds me of the verse from Psalms 51:7 that says: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." My life is often drab, bedraggled and very dirty with sin, but God has washed me until I sparkle like the snow in my woods today. He is truly an awesome and wonderful God!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Optimist Gardener - An Update

I probably should have called this the 'Forgetful Gardener', because after I planted the total of 300 bulbs mentioned previously....I got a surprise. The 250 bulbs that I ordered last spring (and forgot about) arrived last week and also needed to be planted. So, for those of you who care, here is the list:
180 Daffodils
100 Tulips
100 Crocuses
80 Hyacinths
50 Mountain Bells
25 Dutch Irises

Okay, so that only adds up to 535....but each one was planted by my own two hands. Now, if the deer and the squirrels and the moles and the rabbits and the gophers (plus the cats) will just not dig up or eat up all my hard spring should be pretty spectacular. I will keep you all posted!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Optimist Gardener

Gardeners are optimists. We believe that there will come a spring, even when the weather right now is turning cold and rainy. We believe that something brown and rather ugly will become something beautiful and inspiring. We believe that a sore back, tired feet and aching muscles will translate into a beautiful vista from our front porch.

Today, I planted 100 tulip bulbs and tomorrow I hope to plant about the same number of crocuses and of daffodils. Only a gardener ( or parent) spends so much time and effort on something that will only show fruit in the uncertain future.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dancing with the Stars (Sort of!)

Art and I have been fascinated with the TV show 'Dancing with the Stars'; rooting for our favorites , booing the judges, and having fun trashing the dancers we think are terrible. Ever since last summer when it started, we have been saying that we were going to learn to do ballroom hard could it be?

Of course, two foot surgeries have (conveniently) delayed our entry into the world of waltz and foxtrot, but my full recovery meant that we didn't have any more excuses. So....when the local community education offered ten weeks of lessons for less than $100 total, it was time to put our money where our mouths have been for a year.

So far, we have had two lessons. The picture is of us attempting to waltz.....attempt is literal because we have found that some stereotypes are not true! If blacks have rhythm, then Art's Irish and French blood have blotted out any black rhythm he has!!! As for me...I do okay if I don't have to twirl too much...the knee definately does not like twirling!!! So far, we have learned the rhythms for fox trot, Texas Two-Step, and Swing (all the same rhythm, just different variations); the rhumba rhythm, the waltz basics and some steps for the West Coast swing. We are so confused! Most of the time we can't remember which rhythm goes with which dance name, so we still pretty much make up our own steps.

All I can say is....we will be talking a lot less trash when we watch the professionals and not so professionals on 'Dancing with the Stars'. This stuff is really hard work!