Saturday, December 31, 2011

My One-Word

A few years ago Mrs. 'Joe set a challenge she had seen in a book ... write your memoir in six words.  Yes, a six-word memoir.  How can a lifetime be summed up in just six words?  I took her challenge and "discovered" my six-word memoir had actually been a culmination of my entire life.  God actually revealed my memoir to me pretty quickly.  From the various friendships through the years to work environments to ministry involvements ... 
my lifetime was summed up in just six words ...

being where God needs me most

... that's me ... that's my life.

A couple of months ago I started reflecting on the year 2011.  And now I've come up with a challenge of my own: 

Write my year of 2011 in just one word.  

If I could describe my year of 2011 in just one simple word, what would that word be?  Now I'm not talking of words such as:  
blessed, grace, mercy, success ...  
To me there's some words that are obvious that God is active in my life every moment of everyday.

So, I want to dig a bit deeper into myself to find my one-word.  It dawned on me a couple of months ago what my one-word is. 
Life-changing events ... relationships ... health issues ... community ... responsibility ... life-purpose ...  
Yes, I can sum it all up in just one little word ... 
365 days ... 
five letters ... 
my one-word ... 


I know, I know.  It sounds pretty obvious, but to me ... it filters inside my very core.  
I'm aware ... 
I'm aware that my very breath is God-given ... 
I'm aware that each breath is God's gift to me ... 
I'm aware that my next breath is not promised nor guaranteed.  

I'm aware that my family is God's greatest gift to me ... I'm aware that my friendships are God's provision for sharing life's joys & challenges ... I'm aware that health is not to be taken for granted.  Cancer seems to have touched many people within our community just this year.  We are so very thankful that my Mother's surgery in June cleared her from that cancer that was creeping, and that her radiation treatments brought the chances of a return at a minimal. 
I'm aware. 

I'm aware that the tiniest of angels will hold our hearts until we see them again ... I'm aware that life begins at conception no matter when the pregnancy is revealed ... I'm aware that miscarriages affect the whole family & not just the parents.  I'm not quite sure that Grandad & I each had time to grieve the loss of our 6 week old grandchild, but Heaven gained a beautiful angel that we both look forward to meeting one day.  
I'm aware.

I'm aware of expectations ... I'm aware that I may not always know what these expectations are that have been placed on me ... I'm aware that there's times when I fall terribly short from these expectations.  We all do it, and sometimes just don't want to admit it.  But, we set expectations yet do not always inform others of those expectations.  Is it fair to those around us or to ourselves when we set silent expectations on others?  Wouldn't it be best all around to just come right out & say what we expect of others?  We set them up for a downfall in our eyes, and we set ourselves up for frustration over unmet (however *silent* they may be) expectations. 
I'm aware.

I'm aware of my relationships ... I'm aware that my family is the greatest blessing God has entrusted with me ... I'm aware that my grandchildren will grow up before I blink my eyes.  With Lucy 3 years old and our little grandson to make his appearance anytime between now & mid-February, my days go by faster than I have ever imagined.  Time seems to go by at a much faster speed with Lucy than it did with her Mommy (and I worked full-time & had all the activities of school, church & family to keep up with too).  
I'm aware.

I'm aware that some things are more important than others ... I'm aware that when it all comes down to it, some things are just meaningless ... I'm aware that I am the only person who can distinguish between the meaningful and the meaningless to me.  Don't get me wrong, we all have "things" that are important to each of us.  But when we allow something small to get blown out of proportion --- well, maybe that's when we need to take another look at our expectations.  Just a thought for which ... 
I'm aware.

This is just the tip of my awareness of 2011.  My New Year's Resolution for 2012 is simply ...  

to be aware. 

And my priority of awareness is 
to be aware of God ...  
to be aware of His blessings ... 
to be aware of life.

What one-word would you describe for your 2011?  
I encourage you to reflect on your past year ... 
to be reflect on your blessings, your challenges & your very being ... 

to be aware. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Future

With Christmas 2011 drawn to a close, we now look ahead to the beginning of a new year ... the year 2012.  We had a wonderful Christmas at our house this year.  My parents, my sister & her family and all of us.  
Lots of presents and lots of food 
(which of course included G-G's mash-a-tatoes) ...
lots of laughter and lots of eating ... 
lots of wrapping paper and lots of "thank you's".  
It's always good to see everyone having a great time together.  

So this Christmas actually leads into Christmas Future ... 
our kids, grandchildren, niece & nephew ... and traditions.  
Just as I reflect on Christmases of the past, so will my daughter, grandchildren and my sister's children.  There's been other Christmases that everyone has gathered at our house, so our tradition of gathering at my parents' house isn't set in stone (depending on what life event is in family lives at the time).  And this Christmas saw Mrs. 'Joe on complete bed-rest for the next several weeks.  So, everyone came to us.

We opened presents before we ate Christmas dinner, and my nephew headed up the line to get a plate of food.  I love the fact that my family feels "at home" in my home.  I'm not saying anything against those who don't open up their kitchens.  But to me I feel like my family & friends are comfortable enough in my house to be themselves.  My Granny and my Mother always had an open kitchen ... everyone felt comfortable to go and get whatever they wanted at any time they wanted.  And I have their same kitchens.  

Since Christmas I've been wondering ... these kids are our Christmas Future.  They will keep some traditions, and file others away as "when I was younger, we would ______ at Christmas."  And some questions too, such as:  Will they go to church for Christmas Eve services?  Will they open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?  Will Santa be a welcomed visitor on Christmas morning?   
Two things I pray for ... (1) Our Savior Jesus Christ to be the center of Christmas; and (2) the tradition of family continues on for all of our kids.  

Of course, none of us knows what our futures will hold ... and being a military family brings its own set of uncertainties.  One thing that Grandad & I pray for future Christmases is that we will be close enough to continue our tradition of family.  Since Christmas Eve is also the 'Joe's wedding anniversary, Grandad & I have spent that day with Lucy while her parents would celebrate their marriage.  So, I can visualize this being a tradition for Christmas futures to come -- Christmas Eve with our granddaughter & grandson. 

I'm very thankful I can't see into the future.  But I'm thankful that God knows.  One thing for sure, though ... my family's Christmas Future is in goods hands ... 

Lucy with her cousins & her Mommy

I had debated on when to post Christmas Future.  Afterall, one of our "futures" hasn't yet made his grand entrance into our world.  However, we're pretty sure that Little Disney Boy is not going to stay put til February.  But he will undoubtedly add his own personality and gifts to our group of young kids.  
My family is blessed with our Christmas Futures ... for Him we are grateful.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Present

As much as we would love to keep our family traditions ... they do change. Children get older, they marry, they move away from "home", they have children ... loved ones faith becomes sight as they bow singing Holy Holy Holy to The One whom we celebrate on Christmas.  Traditions may eventually become a treasured memory that become oral history to pass down to our future generations.  

My Christmas present actually begins when Grandad & I celebrated our first Christmas as husband & wife ... in 1984.  It was then that we discovered we had a sneaky little mouse in our apartment.  One that would gently lift the tape off of his presents to me, then would re-tape the wrapping paper to the gift as well as it could.  Yes, that little mouse was a sneaky little thing, and got me in trouble more than I care to admit throughout our past 28 Christmases together. (And just for the record ... I will always plead my 5th Amendment rights when it comes to being "interrogated" over Christmas presents ... I have no idea why that little mouse never bothered the gifts that I would give Grandad ... I just do not know why at all.)

Back to traditions ... 

When our daughter (the now Mrs. 'Joe) was younger, the three of us always would go out for a nice Christmas Eve dinner, followed by Christmas Eve church service.  We would then go back home, get out our snacks, and make my Mother's Christmas Eve punch ... and exchange gifts. The Christmas Eve opening gifts tradition stayed with me, and I carried it into my own family's new traditions. 

Then, on Christmas morning ... Santa left his presents for our daughter ... oh yeah, and the elves filled her stocking (Santa wanted to make sure that if he had to work on Christmas Eve, so did his elves:) 
After Santa came, the 3 of us would load up our car to drive to my parents' (at that time they were 3 hours away from us).  My sister & her family would be there, and we would have dinner, open more gifts, and spend the night with them.  The next day (normally) we would head out of state to visit Grandad's family and the rest of my family.  So, Christmas was a celebration that lasted for several days in our household.

Christmas Eve 2005 brought another change in our traditions ... Mr & Mrs 'Joe's wedding day.  They were married Christmas Eve morning and my parents, sister & family, and one of my cousins attended from our family.  It's a challenge to get everyone together these days with some of us away from home & out of state.  But, we actually pulled off a Christmas Eve wedding, and had our traditional Christmas Day celebration at my parents' house (around 1 1/2 hours away now).  It was a different Christmas, but Jesus' birth was still celebrated that weekend.  

My husband walking our daughter down the aisle on Christmas Eve 2005 ...  

The father of the bride singing at his daughter's wedding ... The Day Before You:

The following year brought another change to our traditions.  'Joe was still deployed.  It was a totally different feel and emotion to our celebration of Jesus. The year had passed us by & their first year of marriage was behind them ... Mrs at home and Mr in the sandbox.  But, God was and still is good in His provision of grace and He brought Mr & Mrs 'Joe through it.  And we celebrate Jesus for it.

You know, there is one tradition that has not been broken since its inception December 1964 ... I have always seen my parents on Christmas Day.  I know that may sound a bit trivial to some, but with all the changes in traditions and changes in family ... no matter what the circumstances surrounding each Christmas Day ... I have always seen my parents on Christmas Day.  And to me, that's one of my favorite gifts, and one of my favorite traditions.

So as I prepare for sleep tonight ... and prepare for Santa to leave his presents for Lucy ...
I look forward to spending Christmas Day 2011 with my family ...
and celebrating the Greatest Gift whom has been given to each of us.

Happy Birthday Jesus ~~~ Thank You for being my Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Past

This time of the year always has me reflecting ~~~
childhood memories of Christmases gone by ... 
Christmas family trips with our daughter ... 
Christmas has always been family.  

And family is one of my most treasured Christmas memories.

 When I was a young girl, my parents & I lived with my Granny and my Mother's youngest sister. Every holiday meant a family gathering with cousins, aunts and uncles (along with my parents, Granny & Aunt K).  We always had a house-full in the grocery-store-converted-to-my-grandparents' home-place.  

My parents & me at my Granny's house.
Let's see ... there would be close to 25 of us at Granny's on Christmas Eve.  My Mother would make punch (Canada Dry Ginger Ale, 7-Up, pineapple juice, orange juice & vanilla ice cream or orange sherbet) ... my aunts would bring snacks, desserts ... and there would be laughter, fun and (of course) presents!  We kids had so much fun and never wanted the night to end.  Our celebrations would normally come to a close somewhere before midnight so all of the kids could be in bed to wait for Santa to arrive. 

My sister & me in our "new house" over-looking Granny's house.

And then Christmas Day began ...

Since several of us lived right around my Granny, we cousins would wake up early & go from house to house to see what Santa left for each of us.  I think we enjoyed seeing what the others got for Christmas almost as much as we enjoyed our own presents.  

And then, we all gathered at Granny's for our Christmas Day dinner.  Which meant more good food ... ham, turkey, casseroles, green beans, corn, breads, desserts ... more desserts ... oh yes, and my Mother's famous mashed potatoes.  When my Mother was running late, dinner would be held up until she had her mashed potatoes all ready.  
These mashed potatoes have stood the tradition of time ... 
they were always a favorite of my daughter's and now a favorite of Lucy's. 
(And yes, we still hold dinner until "G-G's mash-a-tatoes" are ready :)

My cousins have always been some of my best friends.

Christmas past brings wonderful memories ...

of laughter ... 

of dinners ...

of family ...

What are some of your favorite memories of Christmas past?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Time Flying By ... and Disney Baby Boy Update

I'm having a hard time believing we're less than TWO weeks from Christmas ~~~  where has
 the year 2011 gone?  Didn't we just give thanks to God for His blessings ... wasn't Thanksgiving just yesterday? It seems like the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas pass by faster and faster.  Yes, each day has the same 24 hours but for "some reasons" these past weeks have flown by (at least to Granny).  

So, I'm sitting here this morning try to grasp "what have I done over the past couple of weeks ... where has the time gone ... how am I going to get everything done for Christmas in less than 2 weeks?"  

The first two questions can be answered together.  (I'm still trying to figure out the second answer.)  You know the old saying "time flies when you're having fun" ... well, this is where my time has been spent over the past couple of weeks:

Family room Christmas tree

This is our family room Christmas tree ... 
the one Santa finds on Christmas Eve. 
Mr & Mrs GI Joe were married in front of this tree on Christmas Eve 2005.  We've put it in our family room every year since.

Santa's cutest elf

More decorating with Santa's elf ... oh, how cute this little one is!  She has her "Santa's Little Helper" elf ears on & had a blast wrapping up in her silver garland ... and Grandad was in the background holding her giggly attention!

We have some of the best Christmas lights downtown ... so there's at least one trip a year to see how beautiful the city is decorated.  
And Lucy LOVES the lights!

I think Lucy wanted to take this giant nutcracker home.  Her Daddy collects them, so we try to get him one every year ...

or I should say LUCY collects them ... (she's taken over Daddy's collection now).

Yes, her little wheels were turning as to how we would fit this nutcracker on top of Grandad's truck.

Doesn't Lucy make the cutest center of this wreath?  This was actually in the walkway between buildings.  She loved the wreath & looking over the enclosure to see all the lit-up deer (which she informed me is NOT reindeer ... only Santa has reindeer to pull his sleigh).

 "It's not Good-bye ... just see you later.  I promise I'll be back to see you soon!"

So, we've had a little bit of Christmas already going on in our household.  And I haven't even gotten to our baking parties yet!  I'll save those pictures for another post.  

But now, some Disney-Baby boy news ... 

He's so anxious to make his appearance and enter into our "fun & exciting" household, that he gave us all a big scare over the weekend.  Mrs 'Joe had some complications Saturday night that landed her in Labor & Delivery at the hospital.  Not sure the "whys" but this little guy really wants to come into our world sooner than he should.  Please keep Disney boy in your prayers that he will stay-put for a little bit longer (she's 30 weeks along now), and for Mommy to get some much needed rest before he makes his grand entrance.  And for Daddy who is in and out on assignments (it's a challenge to be away from his wife and daughter during this time ... and now with his son on his little way to rock our world).  

And last but certainly not least ... for Lucy.  This is an unusual Christmas for this little 3 year old.  Yes, children adapt and go along with the flow ... but they do have feelings & adjustments that are very real.  Afterall, God made them flesh and blood with emotions just like we adults have grown from our youngest days.  She is a wonder of fun & enthusiasm ... and knows the TRUE MEANING of Christmas.  Lucy talked non-stop Sunday about how the angels told the shepherd to follow the star to Bethlehem to find Baby Jesus.  
Yes, children pay attention so much more than what we realize.

I hope each of you follow the Wonderment of Christmas as a child ...