12.02.2014

I Don't Like Christmas

I don’t like Christmas.

I said it.

Go ahead, call me a scrooge, a Grinch, a heathen.

What Christmas is:
Stressful
Costly
Busy
Over commercialized, WAY over commercialized
Tiring

I just don’t see it as “the most wonderful time of the year” anymore.  I did as a child.  Not anymore.  I don’t like it.

Now I must shop and shop and shop, going to store after store, mall after mall, spending hours online.  I spend way too much money but I HAVE to get that perfect gift for everyone.  Then I spend time worrying as to whether or not I bought the right thing and if the recipient will like it or not.  And I have to make sure I spend the same amount on everyone and have the same number of gifts so no one will get their feelings hurt. Then I hide everything until I get time to wrap.  It’ll take a while to remember where all I have things hidden and drag them all out for wrapping.  I’m not an elaborate wrapper.  I learned a long time ago that the pre decorated gift boxes and gift bags are quick and easy and don’t require any cutting in a straight line.  I must make the parades to see the grandbabies.  I must decorate the house which means rearranging the furniture and sticking my normal d├ęcor somewhere for the holiday.  I must clean the house because guests are coming.  I have to decide when this side of the family comes and when the other side of the family comes and who works when and how to work around everyone.  That has become a major issue as the family grows.  I plan menus, buy groceries and cook for what seems like days.  Then I clean up.
 
All this while working a full time job.  No, my job doesn’t stop so I can “celebrate” Christmas. 

So when do I enjoy the holiday? 

Who decided this is how Christmas should be?  WHO?

In the words of Ellen Griswald, “I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.”

Then there’s this:
I think of loved ones who've passed away
And I pray their resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
And Sometimes I wonder why
It's them instead of me
For my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of families, I think of home
And say a prayer
For those who spend this time alone
Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that's why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I'm amazed at how much
God thinks we're worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

(Written by Matthew West and recorded by Mandisa)

Christmas isn’t always the jolliest season for everyone.  Some people are struggling with illness, family issues, homelessness, grief, depression.  Even if we are busy and run down and have spent all our money, take time to reach out to someone, pray for them, send a card or message, bake a cake, give to a charity if at all possible.  Make the season mean something.  We won’t all be here for the next Christmas.

What Christmas should be:
Joyful
Family time
Reflective
Worshipful
Holy

Charlie Brown: [shouting in desperation] Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you.  Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie brown.

(A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965)

I think Linus was spot on.  I think we need to slow down and come back to the heart of Christmas.  I think it should be more about the birth of our Savior and less about us.  I think we should spend TIME with family and not so much money on family.  Celebrate, yes that’s fine, but keep things simple and don’t forget why we have Christmas to begin with. 

I have to again give Matthew West credit for being such a big part of my blog post but he has already sang so perfectly what I’m talking about:

“Heart of Christmas”

I’m gonna make a wish this Christmas
I’m gonna say a little prayer
I’m gonna stop here for a moment
Before the moment disappears

The world’s in a hurry this December
City streets and shopping malls
I wish we could slow down and remember
The meaning of it all

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

Let’s make it feel the way it used to
Let’s find that wonder of a child
You can see the magic all around you
Come on, and open up your eyes

You can find it in the warm embrace of your family
Or calling up a long lost friend
You can even find it in the eyes of stranger
When you reach out a helping hand

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

In the shadow of a steeple
In a star that lights the way
You will find Him in a manger
The heart of Christmas has a name

I’m gonna make a wish this Christmas
I’m gonna say a little prayer

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can and cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas
(Written and recorded by Matthew West)

So where do I start?  When do I start?
One day maybe I can enjoy Christmas again.  One day.

9.12.2014

Hooked on a Feeling

Do you ever get that “feeling”?  I don’t know if there’s a word for it or how to describe it.  It’s a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, dread, wonder.  It’s just different.  But it’s there and very prevalent when it happens.  And I like it.  I think.

I can think of at least three things that cause me to get that feeling.
First, Fall.  It’s my favorite season (other than FOOTBALL season but that’s a whole other blog so I digress).  *singing* It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Yes, Fall, not Christmas.  Christmas should be about that precious gift we received a couple of thousands of years ago and a celebration of the birth of that gift but it has become a glamorized, money grabbing, commercialized, stressful, hectic, rushed, (and I could go on but you get the picture) mass chaos.  But again, that is a whole other blog so I digress.

Back to fall.  Nothing is more beautiful to me than the colors of fall.  Golds, oranges, greens, browns.  Warm colors.  The colors I have in my house because they comfort me and appeal to my senses.  There are the gentle breezes bringing in the cooler and dryer air and pushing out the heat and humidity that’s held us captive for three months.  I love driving with the windows down and watches the trees move and shake the leaves off their branches.  I love to watch those leave fall and float ever so slowly to the ground.  I love the colors of those leaves.  And no, it may not be as colorful way down here in the south but it’s still beautiful.  Such a contrast to the dark green we’ve had all summer.  With fall comes mums and pumpkins.  Nothing is more beautiful to me than a display of those flowers with pumpkins and gourds and maybe a hay bale or two with a scarecrow standing guard proudly as if to say “see, this is my season and my bounty!”  

With fall, comes some good eating!  Daddy always planted his greens in the fall.  Mustard, turnips and my favorite, collards.  Oh my.  Nothing but greens and cornbread make a full meal for me.  While those mustard and turnips are still tiny and tender, we’d have wilted salads.  First you fry some bacon up crisp and save that grease!  Mother always mixed in some lettuce with the greens, then added green onions, chopped boiled eggs and crumbled bacon.  Then you take that hot grease and pour it over all of this.  You can hear the crackle.  Add a splash of vinegar and that’s it.  You might have some greasy lips while you’re eating but it sure is delicious.  Once the greens were older then we’d have them cooked down.  Daddy considered himself the expert green cooker.  He had a specific cast iron pot and some tricks he used to get the bitterness out and a certain length of time he cooked them.  I guess he knew what he was doing because they were delicious. 

And fall brings my favorite holiday.  Halloween.  Yes, I am a Christian and know other fellow believers that will cringe when they hear me say that.  I’m not getting into the origin, that’s what google if for, as to whether it began as Christian or pagan nor am I arguing with anyone about it.  And you will not change my mind about it if you have an opposing view.  Growing up, we participated in Halloween every year.  I did not become a witch or satan worshipper because of it either.  Neither did any of my family or friends.  It was all fun.  That’s how I see Halloween.  It’s not stressful.  All fun.  You buy the children costumes, or make them if you’re frugal and creative, and buy a few bags of candy and enjoy.  No cooking, no tons of gifts to buy, no worrying if someone will like that gift or not, no messy egg dye, no flowers that will die in three days.  We have an enormous festival at church every year.  Now it’s a Hallelujah Festival mind you, not a Halloween festival.  There are several hundred people there to eat, have fun and get candy!  It’s just such a wonderful time of fun and fellowship. 
Ah yes.  All this brings on that feeling. 

Second, vacation.  Now I am an extreme homebody and a mysophobe so vacationing isn’t exactly my thing but sometimes I do get brave and break out.  It’s just something about the planning, packing, getting ready, loading the car and then leaving early in the morning for a trip.  Pulling out of the drive brings on that feeling.  The worst part is over and all we have to do is look forward to some rest and relaxation.  No worries for just a while.  And the biggie…NO ROUTINE.  I have spent almost my entire life doing the same thing every day.  First school, then work.  Same thing.  Every day.  Sometimes you just NEED to break out of the routine.  Even us homebodies do.  Especially us homebodies.  Oh the feel of cool, crisp air in the mountains, or the cool breeze blowing off the ocean water.    
Vacation brings on that feeling.

Third, a hurricane.  So this is where the anticipation and fear part comes in to play the most I think.  And excitement.  Okay, now I’m not “excited” about devastation and destruction that a hurricane brings.  Hey, Katrina smashed my house down so I know what that’s like.  It’s just something about an approaching storm that brings on that feeling.  My snooze button gets lonely because I always wake up and get dressed early to watch all of the forecasts before I head to work.  They always show that path prediction cone…that dreaded cone of doom!  Even with all of today’s technology it’s still just a gamble predicting which way it will go and how strong it will be.  I watch all of those people standing on the shore with the wind whipping their hair.  Soon it will be rain beating them in the face.  But they stay there.  Well except for Al Roker who was blown away.  And they always, always show that stop sign flapping in the wind.  If it’s coming ashore near us I love to feel the wind pick up.  First gently and then it gets a bit harder.  Then the rain.  I’ve always loved the rain.  I love sitting on the porch while the elements do their thing.  I’ve even spent my lunch break watching the heavy interstate traffic coming from the south when there was a storm approaching Louisiana. 
So, a good, mild tropical storm, without any spin off tornadoes, gives me that feeling.

Okay, so maybe I’ve nailed down that feeling or maybe I haven’t.  It seems like one thing all of these three have in common is the wind.  Have you ever seen the movie The Happening?  The wind comes blowing in something (I never figured that part out) and causes people to go crazy and kill themselves.  Don’t fret if you’ve never seen it.  It was the worse movie M. Night Shyamalan has ever done.  Anyway, I don’t know if the winds are blowing something over me or what.  I still can’t explain the feeling. 
And right now there’s fall and vacation just right around the corner.  I’m kind of getting that feeling just waiting for that feeling.  You know that feeling, right?  Or am I just a bit crazy?

3.28.2014

Final Days

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately.  I don’t consider this anything unusual.  I assume most people do this as they get older.

Am I ready for death?  Yes, spiritually.  But it’s certainly not anything I want rushed up.  I do think about my grandchildren and hope I can see them graduate and get married.  And I’d like to hold my great grandchildren.  I think about family and friends who do not know the Lord and hope there is more time to witness to them. 
As I age, each little ache I get makes me suspicious.  What is this?  Will it go away?  Is it something serious?  Relax, it’s just an ache.  It will go away.  Hopefully.  

I have several friends that are dealing with catastrophic illnesses. I have watched them battle courageously and wondered if I could fight the same way or would I hang my head in defeat.  I seriously believe our attitude has a lot to do with how we heal.  Some of those friends will be healed.  Others will not.  Death does not discriminate. 
             “This world has nothing for me.  This world is not my home.”              
             - Building 429

I’ve lost several friends over the past few months.  Unexpected deaths.  This really hits home.  I’d love to have one last chance to spend time with them and to hug them and tell them just how much I value their friendship.    

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
– Joni Mitchell
At times I consider social media, namely Facebook, a nemesis.  It digs into our time we could be using more productively, reading our bible, talking to our family.  Then again, I love the way it has brought me back in touch with so many of my old friends and school mates.  You don’t realize how much you’ve missed someone until you see them face to face again.      

“When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame?  Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car?  Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement?  Of course not.  What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn't they matter most now?”     
- Max Lucado

Death does not discriminate.  Be prepared.  Be ready.  Tomorrow is not promised.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” 
- Helen H. Lemmel
Young people, stay in touch with your friends.  Don’t sit back and say “they never call me”.  Make the first move and send them a message.  If there are any hard feelings, apologize.  Just don’t lose them.  Death will come knocking on your door one day.  And theirs.  Then it will be too late.

“Make new friends but keep the old.  One is silver and the other is gold.”