Friendships

There’s an old story that goes like this:
A man is sitting on his porch when a car comes down the road and a young couple pulls up the driveway, rolls down the window and says, “We’re thinking of buying the Smith house down the road and we were wondering, are the neighbors nice around here?”
The man asks, “What are the neighbors like where you live now?”
“Oh, they aren’t friendly at all! Don’t wave or talk to you. Rude people.”
“Well, the people here are kinda’ like that, too – you won’t like them,” he replies.
The next week, he’s sitting out on his porch and another couple pulls up and asks the same question,
“We’re looking at the Smith house down there, but we were wondering what kind of neighbors we’d have?”
He smiles and asks, “What are the neighbors like where you live now?”
“Oh, they’re wonderful! We really hate to leave them!”
“Well, you’ll find the people here are just as friendly as can be!” He answered with a smile.
With few exceptions, life is what you make it. Neighbors are as friendly to you as you are to them. A smile and kind gesture will reap wonderful rewards as time goes buy.
A recent conversation (via e-mail) made me laugh out loud at an old friend’s words – I miss inter-acting with people who aren’t in the same circles of work, church and family, but this thing called e-mail can help us weave in and out of one another’s lives from time to time. . .and that’s a blessing.
I often think about the settling of the old West in America and how people would leave their families behind, knowing they would probably never see them again, and often, they would never know what happened to them!
Can you see them looking at today’s technology where we speak into a little rectangular thing in our hand and have conversations with friends across the US and beyond? We put dirty dishes in a box, push a button and they come out clean?? Or see us typing with our thumbs and sending pictures of our cat? Mind blown!
Our ability to stay in contact with one another is an amazing thing, but we often have less contact because we know that it’s at our fingertips, available any time – and that time is always tomorrow.  
It’s hard to fathom how we got this way, but only because the act of fathoming something takes time that we don’t have to spare. We have to none to spare because we’re busy wasting it on cat videos and instagram pictures of our meals. (Disclaimer: I confess to the former, do not partake in the latter.)
Remembering to push the buttons on our conveniences (e.g. dishwasher, washer, dryer, crockpot, a/c, DVR) is now a difficulty??
“Honey, did you start the dishwasher?”
“Did you remember to push ‘record’ on the Twins game?”
So much stuff – so little time.
Remember the bumper sticker that said “JESUS IS COMING – look busy!” That will not be a problem these days, it’s just what we are busy with that is the problem.

Lord, slow me down from my busy-ness and help me be about Your business.
Help me reconnect with friends of old and make it meaningful. I know I can’t relive the old days, but the sweet fellowship of old friends helps define who we are and where we’ve been and acts like a straight edge to see if we’ve grown in grace and forgiveness. Let this follower of Jesus Christ show love to all and healing to those who need it – and may I be refreshed every morning by Your mercy towards me. Amen and amen.

Where’s your mind?

Usually, my day goes on without a single hitch,
but lately I am noticing a slight ‘abnormal’ glitch
It feels like I am seeking something just beyond my reach
and I realize the cause is – my mind is at the beach.

I started to count down the days back at day ’99’
I thought that it would go so slow – but, honestly, I find
the days have flown and soon I’ll get to plant my big old feet
in the sand that goes on endlessly –  which I’ll find at the beach.

Good friends and family join us – relaxing every day
Perhaps we’ll take an ocean cruise from Bogue Banks or the bay
Or maybe read a novel, or poetry from Keats
Or maybe we’ll do NOTHING when you find us at the beach

To see the blue horizon is as good as you can get!
Perhaps I’ll tan my left arm so I’ll have a matching set!
To hear the waves caress the shore in rhythm oh so sweet
-it’s this that I’ve been waiting for! You’ll find me at the beach!!

This is the actual view from our beach rental . . . 

Validation

Admittedly, we all seek some sort of validation in our lives. We want to know that our reason for doing things a certain way or keeping/storing/hoarding items has not been for naught. I know that once every 10 years or so my husband will find an item in the “stuffed to the gills” outbuilding that tells him he was right to keep it, validating the other 6,943 items stored there, including: 38 sheets of cardboard, empty gallon jugs of 50/50 radiator coolant, old National Geographic magazines from the 60’s – 70’s, and vacuum hoses with tears in them. Why?
1.) I can lie on them when I work on my truck
2.) Why pay for pre-mixed when I can mix it myself?
3.) They may be worth something someday!
4.) I can patch them when the new one gets a hole.
In all fairness, I have a couple closets that I haven’t cleaned out in years, and don’t really have the inclination to do so, but I believe I could get rid of 75% of the stuff in there if/when I do clean them, and we give credit for good intentions around this house! Yes-sir-ree-bob! (Although I do pity the boys having to clean all this junk out when we’re gone . . . just bring your phones and sell everything on the “let go” app, ok?)
And that being said, I want to tell you that I received some validation from a young mother today. I watched her grow up at church and now she is the mother of 4 boys and lives out of state. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years or perhaps more, and she was at church this morning visiting family. She came to greet me and told me she thinks about me a lot.
“Why is that?”
“Because I have 4 boys.”
I smiled and said, “Isn’t it fun? Boys always love their mothers and you will always be the most special woman in their lives.”
“Yes, and now I understand – I want you to know that.”
(I may have had a reputation of being a little over protective of my boys.)
Perspective changes when you have kids of your own. I explained to her that I was protecting the girls as much as my boys – having grown up with 3 older brothers and 6 neighbor boys, I understood ‘guys’ much too well, and I didn’t want my boys to break hearts or cause harm to other families. I wanted them to be friends with the girls, but nothing more. No need to be dating someone else’s future wife. Just laugh and have fun. That didn’t always sit well with the girls, but I wasn’t responsible for them, I was only responsible for teaching my boys to behave responsibly.
It’s nice to hear words like that from people who knew us oh so long ago, and to know your behavior back then is now understood. We don’t always get that kind of validation, but it sure feels good when we do.
Thanks Nesee! And best wishes and prayers for wisdom as you guide your 4 young men into adulthood! I give God all the glory!

Mostly hindsight

Somewhere back in time, my mind switched from what lies ahead to what has been accomplished in the past. I think it’s similar to coming of age – changing from a child to an adult. You’re anxious to grow up, but the child in you is afraid to take on all the responsibility and pain, yes pain, that comes with making poor choices and facing failure and defeat. When your parents were responsible for you, you could run to them for comfort and encouragement, but now, even though you want their comfort, you know you are going to have to face this stuff on your own and it just sucks. It’s exciting! But it sucks!
As parents, we watch all this going on during the ‘teeter totter’ years. . . one day they’re still in child mode, the next day an adult, until their teeter totter finally dumps them into the adult stage of life. They have to learn how to do the hard stuff – like saying ‘no’ when they need to, especially to themselves. (Something I haven’t yet mastered completely, either.)
They head into young adulthood wondering what will be, humming Que Sera Sera, like a Doris Day fanatic, always looking ahead. And when reality hits, it’s very shocking.
Suddenly, the corporate executive wanna’ be is wiping the butt of a 2 year old and cleaning up tossed cookies – literally. The person who felt they were something special in this world is just another shopper in the Kroger aisle with a fist full of coupons trying to make ends meet, listening to the background music with ELO taunting “Hold on tight to your dreams”. They furiously mail off their Publisher’s Clearing House entries and dream of what they will do with their $5000 a week for life – after they tithe, of course!
Routine sets in. They see themselves in their children’s faces and are confronted with the fact that they owe it to them to find meaning in this world of furious change, and they join Yoga studios, read DIY books, and play video games for hours to numb the pain. Some get lost in the world of movies. . . which wouldn’t be so bad if it were Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a wonderful Life” where, even though he’s messed up and thinks everyone’s life would have been better if he’d never been born, he learns that he DID make a difference in every life he touched with his kindness and understanding. But the days of inspiring movies with high morals are long gone and we now have to filter through the slogg of waste that qualifies for entertainment. (I don’t know where ‘slogg’ came from, but I like it and I’m leaving it in here to irritate my spell checker.)
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans” is not a John Lennon quote, but was attributed to others before him – he just used it in a song. (Allen Saunders quote -1957.)
It’s true. We fill our days with what we’re going to do tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I’m guilty – I’m going to be at the beach in 44 days! I am counting down every day. I have the countdown on my calendar at work and the one by my desk at home. My phone defaults to ‘how many days until May 21st?’ as soon as I say the word ‘how’. . .
(that remark can only be understood by the generation who did not recognize the previous Doris Day song reference.)
We long for stability in our lives and fear change in a world that guarantees nothing but change. And yet, when we find ourselves in that stability that becomes ‘routine’, (a.k.a. boring and repetitive), we long for change! When things change, we get upset because we don’t have the familiar around us and we feel adrift and lost and we, once again, want stability and peace, so that we can rest and not be on guard every second.
In short, we are a mess and need an anchor, a hold, a home that is unaffected by the storms of life that swirl around us. I have found that anchor in Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There are no surprises to Him, and He has my complete trust.
As I close in on retirement age in less than 2 years, I find myself spending way too much time rehashing my past and wishing for some ‘do-overs’, trying to balance out the screw ups with the good deeds in my own mind. Why do I do this??? Because I’m human. When did I switch from looking forward to looking back? I don’t know – it was subtle. This is the first time I’ve ever been a senior citizen and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do during these years except trust the One who holds whatever future I have left.
He has given me the gift of knowing who I am (in Christ) and this allows me the freedom to be me, unaffected by circumstances and CHANGE.
Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
It’s an adventure, a joyful one, and I will continue to try to ‘forget the past and press towards the mark’ – Here’s to tomorrow!

 

He’s still the one . . .

Today is our 42nd anniversary. Hard to believe where the time has gone, and yet those memories are as sweet as the day they were made.
Comfortable as an old shoe, as peaceful as a lazy summer day, a fit like a hand in a glove, and, since he’s an electrician, he has all the right fuses and splices that create a spark for me. . . . and since he’s a plumber? (You can thank me later for not going there.)
There are times during the day when I am driving around my little town delivering mail and I just can’t wait for the evening when I get to go home and see him. It’s a feeling I can’t describe, even to him! But I know that’s how he felt when I was staying home raising 3 boys and he was out there working 6 days a week to support us. How do I know that? He told me that years ago.
At the beginning of our marriage we determined that divorce would not be an option. Easy words to say when love is rosy and sweet and you haven’t had to deal with bathroom smells, bad breath and cleaning up vomit. But I knew that some safeguards would have to be put in place in order to keep our commitment to each other and, more so, our commitment to the Lord, so I came up with a rule that would remind me that – no matter what – I must always default to the fact that God had chosen this man for me, blessed me with more than I deserved and I will honor Him with my marriage.
Love is easy – but like??? Not so much.
I recognized that, as much as he could irritate me, I must be irritating him, (though I couldn’t see how that was possible since I was simply showing him the RIGHT way to do things, I mean, come on!) But I had to face the facts and I knew I would have to answer to the Lord for my angry moments, holding grudges, and burying fury under the surface – pretending everything was ‘fine’.
Fine. A word ripe with meaning when it falls from the lips of an angry woman.
So, before the bloom fell from the rose, so to speak, we agreed to ALWAYS hold hands when we prayed. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?? But this involved every meal, church service, wedding, funeral – anytime – anywhere that anyone would be praying within our earshot – those hands would find each other. This was a promise never to be broken. NEVER!
The reasoning behind this? When you are angry with someone, you don’t want to touch them. Touching requires acceptance, forgiveness, and an element of fondness for the other person. We all need touch. It makes us feel accepted as a human being. It’s the reason that shaking hands means something. You’re reaching out of your personal space and into someone else’s, which is outside of our normal behavior.
If I am angry about something, I can maintain my anger, feed it, help it grow and not deal with it, as long as I am not forced to touch the one with whom I’m angry.
You take a mother of 3 who’s had a bad day, something sets her off, and she wants to explode . . . knowing there’s a dinner table where everyone’s going to sit down and HOLD HANDS to pray and suddenly, I’m forced to deal with my anger. Why? Because I’m not going to be the one that breaks the rule. But this means touching and praying! Praying with hidden anger doesn’t work. It doesn’t sit right with a soul who claims to love the Lord, and your love for the Lord breaks down your anger into small chunks that can be swallowed and more easily digested. After all, you’re sitting down at a table full of food, surrounded by a loving husband and 3 beautiful sons that you don’t deserve, and you’re angry about what?? Your bad day would be the fulfillment of some other lonely woman’s dream come true. Get over it!
This has helped me deal honestly with the ‘stuff’ that goes on within my heart – keeping the big picture in mind and not sweating the small stuff of life. And by dealing, I don’t mean burying it deep. I mean dealing with it before the Lord and trusting Him to carry my concerns so that I can be free to live for Him. He hasn’t failed me in 42 years of marriage – I don’t think he’ll start now!
Isaiah 33: 2, 6 says; “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
And  ‘fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean hide behind a rock to avoid the lighting bolts – it means a respect and awe like a child has for their father. You don’t do the wrong   because you don’t want the punishment he will give when you’ve disobeyed and you can’t bear to see the look of disappointment in his eyes. That kind of fear. Why? Because you know he loves you and you love him.
This kind of love was the base line of our marriage. I love the Lord and He loves me and I don’t want to disappoint Him with my behavior inside my marriage or out in public.
God has been very good to Dane and me. Very good. And especially to me.
I did not deserve such a good man. He is accepting, forgiving, hard working, honest and kind. Generous to a fault, and tenderhearted toward the Lord in all things.
Many years ago, between high school and marriage, I was living alone in an apartment in Delaware and I had a very vivid and strange dream. (Who can explain these things?)
In my dream my inner self, faults and all, were somehow on display in front of all my previous boyfriends from junior high on and they were all asked who would take me. (I assume this meant marriage.) One by one they looked at these faults and struggles that would be ahead in our lives together and they all said no – except Dane. He smiled sweetly and said, “I’ll take her.”
When I woke up, I called his home in Minnesota because I wanted to talk to him. I hadn’t seen him or talked to him for a couple years, but he was gone to Montana for the summer and I missed him. I had no contact with him for another stretch of time, but he found out I had called and reached out to me. The dream had faded by then and I was busy living the life I shouldn’t have been living, so we lost touch again.
Eventually, we did make contact  and he came here to Virginia for a visit, got a job here, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We have worked hard on our marriage, forgiving, giving the other one room to grow, praying for one another, supporting each other, by mostly, enjoying each other. It’s the ‘bar of soap’ theory that I gave my boys. You can hold a bar of soap, but if you squeeze it too tightly, it’ll pop out of your hands. Don’t squeeze or suffocate your beloved. No one (well, other than a narcissist) wants to be worshiped by their spouse. “Oh, honey, you’re so wonderful! I can’t live without you!” gag and  blah, blah, blah. . . . Dane knows I can live without him – but I don’t want to. Mutual respect is the key. Our qualities compliment one another. Where I fail, he picks up the slack and visa-versa. It has never been a competition – it’s two friends on the same team with the same goal in mind which is a successful marriage that honors God.
The ‘work’ part never stops, but the rewards increase over the years and the peaceful, sweetness of long lasting love never wears off – it only grows deeper. I thank God everyday for giving me this man to walk with me through life and love me through the good and bad. . . but it’s been mostly good!

Perfume de plume

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. . .
When Dane and I went back to Minnesota for our 10th high school reunion, I was quite shocked to discover one of my classmates (from grade school on) had changed her first name to Patrice after I left. I felt violated at first, but realized there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I told myself she wanted to be me and felt bad for her not wanting to be herself. There’s just something wrong about someone taking your name.
Names are easily associated with good and bad feelings, like people who, upon hearing their name, make your face light up with joy and happiness. Weird Al has always been someone without guile whose songs/parodies make you laugh. Turns out he is a decent humble guy, too. I have watched several interviews over the years and always feel bad for the interviewer who seems to want to pull something ugly out of him to tarnish his image – to no avail. He’s just a nice guy.
On the other hand, no one looks at their little baby boy and says, “Oh honey – he’s so cute! Let’s call him Adolf Hitler Smith!” At least I think no one would do that??
I do remember hearing about someone local who named their child Harley Davidson – a real conversation starter,eh? There’s the classic “La-ah”.  How do you pronounce that? You’d be told – “Lah – dash – ah” because the dash ain’t silent!!  And a girlfriend of mine who took attendance at a local high school would have to call to ask why ‘so and so’ wasn’t in school today? only to run across a daughter’s name pronounced “Sha – theed”, but spelled Shithead – no, you can’t make this stuff up.
I deal with names everyday and you can imagine that I may make up little ditties to go along with them to tell them apart. I have 13 families with the last name Smith. And yes, one of them named their son ‘John’, can’t imagine what he has to go through on phone orders, or even renting a motel room???, etc. . .
Dane and I have had our share of struggles with name butchering. His can’t be Dane – it must be Dave, Danny, Dean, Dan, or better yet, DIANE.
Mine, being Patrice is always Patricia, or PATRICK, which goes hand in hand with the Diane above.
Our last name, Hamren must be, Harmon, Hammond, Herman, suffice it to say, we are always surprised when someone gets all 3 correct. Dane & Patrice Hamren instead of Patrick and Diane Harmon. (Even my spell check underlines Hamren every time it appears).
The advantage of having an unusual name is – it’s kind of unforgettable. Once stuck in the craw it usually stays there.
My mother and father-in-love liked unusual names. Their 7 children were Craig, Claudia, Dane, Marina, Blair, Erica, and Judd. I continued the tradition With Jarl, Preston and Nelssen – they stick with you! And each of them are as unique as their names.
I realized the value of a good name very early in our marriage and was determined to honor my husband’s family by doing everything possible to make sure our last name was one that brought smiles to people’s faces when they heard it. In essence, a sweet smell, a pleasant fragrance, a perfume de plume.
As we come up on our 42nd wedding anniversary this month, I’d like to think that we have a good name – one that honors the Lord and makes people smile when they hear it – as well as ‘say good things’ about it.
When we’re finished with our work on this earth, I would hope that people would still smile when they hear our name and that it brings good memories and stories of fun and laughter, fireworks and plumbing, singing and 3 fine sons who carry on our name with honor. This is all I ask. To God be the Glory.

The pressure to “jump”

Many years ago when the boys were all home and still youngsters, our youngest, Nels, spent several days up in our woods across the road working on a rope swing. There was a huge Oak tree, magnificent in stature, which presented itself to him as a potential high flying adventure. The lowest branch that stuck out almost straight sideways was as large as most of the other Oak trees in the woods. In short – there was no question of whether it would hold the weight of anyone who wished to test it. This tree was a beauty, and since the woods were uphill from the road, the short starting position would thrust you over the downhill side, making your flight seem incredibly high in the air because, well, it was. At the peak end of your swing you would be 30 feet above the ground, a.k.a. 3 stories. If you fell? Damage would be done. (Right Preston?)
Nels was excited as he worked on this swing. He had to build a platform, accessed by a ladder, on the side of a nearby tree from which you would leap into the air and grab the rope with your legs and sit on a knot made in the rope – I kid you knot! The rope itself had to be tied to the mighty Oak branch which required someone insane to shimmy out on the branch and do the deed, shimmy backwards off the branch and back down the tree via a ladder. That person was wise not to tell me in advance that he volunteered for the job, being the sole breadwinner for the family. . .
As the platform was being built, the rope’s precise length was being decided, and an additional smaller rope was tied onto the big one to enable one to climb up to the platform and reel in the infamous bottom knot that would be the last thing you’d see before you died.
The child could not contain his excitement and was constantly asking, “Are you going to swing on it, Mom?” to which I would casually reply, “Sure, honey!” not having seen the whole setup yet. Day after day, “You gonna’ swing Mom?” “Yup” I stupidly replied.
Then the big day came when we hiked up to the tree swing and I looked up and thought, this is not what I thought it was going to be – this is plunging to one’s death for entertainment!
The millions of visions that flashed through my mind as I looked into this boy’s eyes, filled with pride and excitement at his mom doing this brave thing, climbing up the ladder to the 12′ high platform, dragging the instrument of my death behind me – like carrying the ax for the executioner before laying my head on the block.
I know I was white as a sheet as I went up and sat on the platform. It was dizzying and everything was swirling around in my brain, local newspaper headlines, crime scene cleanup  crews commenting on how I bounced a couple times before being impaled on the splintered stump at the bottom of the platform. . . the stump of another who gave it’s life for the swing of death.
I heard the voices of those sweet boys encouraging me, “Just jump, Mom – you can do it!” to which I would reply “just give me a sec!”  I’m pretty sure I said that for several minutes before it became a ‘tinkle or get off the potty’ moment and I decided that I had told the boy I would do it and I could not let him down. I decided that I would rather die trying (literally) than to see the disappointment in his eyes if I went back down the ladder. So I jumped into the air and got a poor hold on the knot, but it was a hold, and I tried not to look down so I wouldn’t lose my lunch, (I never waste food.)
I swung back and forth a few times until I felt it was okay to say “Get me off this thing!” or something along those lines, and smiled and casually walked back to the house . . . and took a nap.
FYI, I did swing a second time just to prove to them, and myself, that I could do it, but I’m glad I never have to do that again.
The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to jump for your kids to show them that they are worth risking your life for, and to demonstrate to them that you CAN overcome your fears. You don’t have to back down from things that frighten you. I believe that they have gone fearless into the world and that this is one of many incidents that helped them do so.

Driving in the snow. . .

I started with the title Going in the Snow but realized that that had a whole different connotation. The things we alter to be clearly understood.
Being born in February in Minnesota means that I also got my license at age 16  by taking a driving test in February in Minnesota. Get the picture? Seeing as I moved away from there at age 17, you would think I didn’t get much experience with snow driving, but au contraire!
The Christmas before I got my license, my then boyfriend from here in Virginia flew north to visit my family, and when it came time to see him off at the airport in Minneapolis, there was a blizzard. Nothing stop planes from flying out of there – a blizzard is just routine winter. Somehow, my dad got us to the airport and, after seeing him off, we started home.
The snow was still falling and when we finally found our covered little aqua blue ’61 Corvair, (my car at that time) Dad said, “You drive.” Member Photos
Panic ensued as I began my vain arguments – complete with tears – that I COULDN’T do it! And his response was to give me directions of what roads to take and then promptly leaned back in his seat, pulled his hat over his eyes and fell asleep, snoring!
Bear in mind that the ’61 Corvair, a.k.a. the Ralph Nader car, had a rear engine and rear wheel drive so it ‘went’ in the snow without issue, but we’re talking roads covered so deep that they were fields of white with sign posts that occasionally popped up along the sides as navigational beacons.
I cried and drove and drove and cried, and dad slept. When we finally got home, he woke up and said, “Good job!” and got out of the car.
I never knew my dad to get stuck in the snow, nor my mom for that matter. I can remember them saying ‘use gravity as your friend’. A heavy vehicle wants to go where the weight is pulling it – if you can use that to benefit you, do it.
Yesterday, as I was leaving work, an elderly couple sat spinning on the ice in the parking lot of the post office. I drove around them, stopped and said, “I’m from Minnesota. Would you trust me to drive your car out of here for you?”
He said, “Yes!”
And I got in and drove it just as sweet as you please into the parking lot next door so he could get traction to get up the slight incline onto the road. He thanked me profusely, and drove out of there. Had I not wanted to get home to my beloved so very badly, (he called me and told me he had made a pot of home made split pea with ham soup), I would have coaxed him on how to do it himself, but the call of food after a long cold day is strong with this one . . .

Places we can’t stay. . .

That’s a funny title, I know, but let me explain.
We have all experienced moments in our lives which we refer to as “Picture Perfect”.
We got that term from our last century or two when photography came into being, followed by movies that started to create moments that, in truth, rarely existed in real life.
Christmas time is pretty high on the list of those moments. Remember ‘White Christmas’ when the whole platoon of soldiers give up their own Christmases to come to the Inn in New Hampshire to let the General know he’s never been forgotten?
“We’ll follow the old man where ever he wants to go –
‘long as he wants to go, opposite to the foe
We’ll stay with the old man as long as he wants to stay
‘long as he stays away from the battle fray.
Because we love him – we love him
especially when he keeps us on the ball!
And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call
with the grandest son of a soldier of them all!”
The feelings that rise within you when you experience that on the screen and imagine what that meant to the (fictional) General – it’s an amazing moment that makes you tear up every time.
I read this morning in the paper about an unforgettable Christmas memory for one guy who took his elderly parents to the Homestead here in Virginia back in the day when they were offering sleigh rides. After getting some help up into the sleigh, they sat back, covered with blankets against the cold, taking off with the jingle of bells on the horse and the smart outfit of the driver, only to have it begin to snow as though it was carefully orchestrated by some unseen force. He said it was akin to a Currier & Ives moment, (which most under 60 will have to look up . . . ask you phone what it is!)
I remember a painfully poignant moment when Dane and I took all 3 sons to DC and visited the museums. We were walking down the sidewalk, all 3 boys towering over us in height and mass . . .well maybe not mass, when I felt such a surge of emotion over the blessing of having such wonderful sons, kind and polite and handsome as all get out, (a southern term). I wanted to freeze that moment in time and bask in it – fall on my face on the sidewalk and thank God for his goodness to me. But I couldn’t stay in that moment, and I choked back the tears and kept walking. I realized that that type of moment was probably experienced by my mom with her 3 sons, and by my sister with her 3 sons . . .
There are certain parts of music that have brought me to those moments of such excruciating beauty that I want to weep for joy while wrapped in the sound. Tchaikovsky can do that to me, especially his “Pathetique” which is some of the most moving music you’ll ever hear. I’m not talking about pretty or pleasant moments here, I’m talking about painfully beautiful. Moments that reach down inside you and pull emotions out of you by force – emotions that you don’t want to reveal but you have no control over them and cannot stop them. Like a faucet opened up that you cannot shut off. I’m not talking about anger here, I’m talking about beauty and wonderfulness that are indescribable! Places you would long to stay at if you could, elevated plateaus of feelings from which you don’t wish to come down. If you think heaven might be boring – think about these moments happening endlessly, for that is what heaven will be like and more and these earthly moments are a small, meager taste of where you’re headed if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior!!
And these places we can’t stay while here on earth? Will be our resting place in eternity. Wow and WOW! God is good!!!

Delivery of the perfect gift

I’ve seen a few Christmases in my time – not as many as my 94 year old mother, mind you, but . . . a few. But there has never been a perfect one. Great, yes. Good, sure. Terrible, kinda’ sorta’ – but never perfect.
Being in the delivery business myself, I’ve seen a lot of boxes destined to make someone’s Christmas special. I looked into the eyes of small children waiting at their mailboxes who take the box from me and ask, “What is it?” as though I had given it to them, personally, from me. (No, I don’t take credit for them! I say, “I don’t know! It has your name on it so I thought I should bring it here to you!)
Moreover, I see the debris left at the end of driveways afterwards which tells me they got that new TV, the new laptop, the new Big Wheel, the Barbie Dreamhouse . . .
And I wonder if any of them had a ‘perfect’ Christmas.
I think they had great, good, and not so good ones, because there is no such thing as perfect. Having loved ones around you who give you thoughtful gifts, pretty decorations, and warm friendship over a meal is as close as we may come to a perfect Christmas.
Yesterday was called ‘Panic Saturday’ in the news. Kids are on Christmas vacation as of Friday, (and you may notice I used the politically incorrect version of that school break), so all these days ahead are filled with the rushing sound of dings and receipt tapes, bells ringing outside every store, carols in the air and traffic. Oh, the traffic!!
Our oldest van has ‘issues’, so we needed to get it to my son’s shop for fixing. It won’t shift out of second gear. Do we pay someone to tow it past downtown Roanoke? Or do we drive it ourselves, on a Friday night, during Christmas traffic?? You guessed it!
I volunteered to drive it and have Dane follow me, because, well, I love the old van! Dane likes to beat on the dashboard when all the gauges quit and the left blinker won’t work. I ask it nicely and stroke the dashboard. It doesn’t work, but I want the van to know I have no malice and am willing to drive without gauges and a left blinker.
Why? Because perfect doesn’t exist, except once it did. . .
In a manger full of hay, on a cold winter’s night, with a 15 year old mother, and a Godly father to watch over them both. The creator of the universe taking on human flesh to experience life on our level, to live without sin, and then be sacrificed on a cross – His blood pouring out of His body for you and me.
This was the delivery of the Perfect Gift, and our gift-giving at Christmas is a symbol of God’s gift giving to us.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  1 John 3:
May your Christmas be full of God’s love – the perfect gift lavished on us now and forever.