The best gifts can't be wrapped
With Christmas just a little over a day away, kids of all ages (from 1 to 92, as the song says) get itchy fingers to know what is hidden in mom and dad's closet, or under their beds (after they do their annual removal of the dust bunnies), or at the neighbor's house. I'm no different. Oh, I've finally outgrown--at least a little bit--the temptation to get up the night before Christmas to sneak out into the living room to see if I could pry a corner open on the most curious gifts and try to figure out what it was. Over the years, my family became experts at REALLY taping their packages shut. I guess that's what made me quit that ritual. Either that, or as I've gotten older, the sleep I might miss is more valuable than knowing ahead of time. Oh, and in case you wondered, I became a real expert at "faking it" on Christmas morning.
I think the most frustrating one was the year I asked Ivan (my other half) for a hint. All he would tell me was "I got you a green apple in a black velvet bag." Well, there were no visions of sugarplums dancing in my head that year. It was more like belly aches from the green apples I'd always been forbidden from tasting when I was growing up. When Christmas morning finally dawned, I anxiously tore the paper off the package I'd been teased by for so long. Inside, sure enough, there was a beautiful green jade apple pin, with gold leaves and a little white pearl. I still have it. I wear it quite often. I love it. And every time I do, I remember all the times I was told what it was--and I was too dumb to "get it"!
Anyway, sometimes a gift of great value drops into your lap when you least expect it, and there is no way to put it in wrapping paper and tie it up with a fancy bow. I got one of those just yesterday. Who was the Christmas fairy who brought it? It was a CNN news broadcast. Queen Elizabeth was announcing that she has "come of age" for her Christmas message to the people this year. It will be aired by Podcast.
I smiled, as I thought that I had beaten the queen to the modern age by about four months. That's when I started my two Internet broadcasts at http://internetvoicesradio.com . One of them airs on Monday evenings at 8:30 ET; it is "Marketing for Fun and Profit." The other one is on Thursday evenings at 9:00 ET; that one is "Vamos a Hablar Español" (Let's Talk Spanish). I wondered if Queen Elizabeth enjoyed it as much as I do. I hope she did.
Anyway, here's where the gift came in. They announced that the Christmas Podcast could be accessed at Queen Elizabeth's website. They did not give the url, but I figured my good friend Google would solve that problem in a minute or less. I don't know why I had never thought about the fact that Queen Elizabeth would have a website, but I hadn't.
When I got there, I was amazed. The site is loaded with all sorts of links and historical information on not only England, but Ireland and Scotland. There are pdf's of family ancestral charts. There are tales about various kings and queens, as well as their children, their parents, etc. It is a wealth of information. I marked it as a "favorite" in seconds. I just barely scratched the surface, but oh, the fun things I found there. One of the most fascinating parts was all of the links to information that is geared to children. I would love to share this gift with each of you. Just go to http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page1.asp and take your time browsing. It will take hours and hours to absorb all of the information that is there.
And today, I received another gift. There is a fellow writer, his name is Gale Sparks. He goes by "Papa Gale" in the groups we are both members of. He sent a message across to his friends in the group. Now Gale is a very special man. He lives in Tennessee and is a self-proclaimed "redneck." He and his wife are raising a couple of their grandkids. Circumstances don't matter; when they needed him, he was there. He idolized those kids, and this story he told explains why.
One of the kids, his firstborn grandchild, is named Haley, but he immediately nicknamed her "Haybug."
In preparation for Christmas, Gale's wife had taken the two girls to the mall. After they finished their shopping, they went to a little stand to get a pretzel. They sat at a table, and Haybug was distracted, as Grandma and her sister sat and chatted, by a little girl who went up to the counter and bought a small box of "corn." (I am assuming this is the redneck term for popcorn.) She went to a table and the family of four shared the one tiny box of corn. Haybug watched with interest, not saying anything, while Grandma and sister ate their pretzel. Haybug sat there, watching, not touching her pretzel.
After a bit, Papa Gale came to pick the threesome up. As they left the little deli, Haybug went over and gently set her pretzel down on the table for the little girl to have. She didn't say a word, just walked out and went to the car. On the way home, she told the rest of the family about the incident, explaining what she had done and why.
Yes, today I had two Christmas gifts. Neither one cost me a cent. Neither one could be wrapped and put under the tree. But they are among the most valuable gifts I will receive this year--even if it's another green apple in a black velvet bag.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you. I am so glad we have become friends through my blog, my various e-groups, and through whatever means we have met. May you find some special gifts of your own, and may you be willing to share them--like the pretzel.
Christmas from a Lamb's point-of-view
Almost every family has their own holiday traditions. As long as we had kids at home, we had a live Christmas tree. With changes in tow, we opted for a small artificial tree. It seems strange to me, since I grew up in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota. I get it out the weekend after Thanksgiving.
We also had two of our daughter's dolls that played the part of Mary and Joseph for the "creche" under the tree. A small antique baby doll made it complete. When she moved to her own apartment, the Holy Family went with her. I'm glad she has them, but it looked really bare by our more demure tree, so I hauled three much smaller dolls out of my own doll collection, wrapped them in a soft gold-colored cloth and placed them on top of the organ. It looked just right.
The "final straw" in the manger scene was the addition of "Lambie Pie." Kevin, the youngest of our trio of kids, got Lambie Pie (he named it) when he was about 2 years old. It was already showing signs of being well loved when he found him in a corner at a garage sale. Kevin slept with Lambie Pie for several years, but on Christmas he knew that the proper place for the little ovine creature was there, watching out for the baby Jesus' well being. Like the original Holy Family, when the kids left home, Lambie Pie was nowehre to be found. Kevin said he didn't have him. Raquel went out in the storage shed out back to see if it was there. Nope. So, while it left a hole in the scene, it just didn't seem right to replace Lambie Pie.
Kevin, after several places of trying to find the "home" that felt right to him, settled in New Orleans. He went through several traumatic experiences there, and I am convinced that he had a guardian angel watching over him. One day I'll blog about his special angel. Meanwhile, he was determined to stick it out through Katrina's warnings, but at the last minute he sent a very short e-mail to his dad. "Have a ride out. Leaving. Will call when I can." Those were some of the most nerve-wracking hours we had ever spent. Did they make it out? Were they stranded someplace on a rooftop, waiting to be rescued? Not knowing is usually the worst part of waiting.
Ivan and I were gone for a bit to do some errands, but when we came home, there, sitting on the kitchen table, stood--Lambie Pie! It was as if it was a sign from God that Kevin was going to be OK. Ivan went over to the computer and there was a note from Kevin, stating that they were in a motel in some little town in Arkansas. They (Kevin and his dog, Windigo) were fine, and he gave us the phone number of the motel. No voice has ever sounded better!
A bit later, we had a call from our daughter, Raquel, who lives here in Grand Forks, ND. She had been going through some boxes and discovered that she had Lambie Pie. She couldn't remember packing it when she moved from our house to her own apartment, but that didn't matter. Lambie Pie was back, and both last year and this year he has stood proudly off to the side, guarding the baby Jesus. Yes, most people would think he is too tall to be there. Not after all he'd been through. He has become a symbol of the hugeness of God's love and grace and protection to us.
Last Christmas, our neighbor boy, Joel (about 10 at the time), came over and was looking at the scene on the organ. He went around to the organ bench and took something off it and headed back to the Christmas scene. Ivan has a collection of stuffed lions and tigers, in various and sundry sizes. Joel had taken two of the littlest lions and set them beside Lambie Pie. He grinned as he announced, "The lions shall lie down with the lamb. One day there will be peace on earth." So, the lions are there again this year. They, too, are a symbol of hope and faith in a better world. Will it be in our lifetime? Who's to say? I think it is a good thing that we can't see into the future. Without knowing, we still have hope and faith.
As I share the picture of our Christmas scene, and the story behind it, I wish you all a joyous and blessed holiday season. Despite some people's claims, God is alive and well!