Saturday, December 25, 2010

God Can Touch and Change A Child.

This week I have been remembering back to the first Christmas sermon I can remember. I was about five years old. I was so excited because the paper mural, which was huge, had been put on the wall behind the pulpit. There were life size shepherds, angels and wisemen along with Mary, Joseph and the precious baby Jesus. The guiding star was bright in the night light showing everyone the way to the manger. I thought it was a beautiful picture and it signaled the change of focus in the church. The wire had been strung across the front of the raised platform and dark burgundy curtains had been hung so that a three act Christmas play could later be performed by the teenagers. All of us little ones simply memorized short verses to recite. The big gas stove had been lit to keep the church warm and I enjoyed seeing the flames and feeling the heat.

I loved our minister. We called him "Preacher John" and I can remember him always opening his arms to me and lifting me high into the air. He called me, "Sambo". He was in his late twenties and was still attending seminary. He and his wife had three young sons. Often they would come to our home after church to eat lunch and visit until it was time to return for evening service. Sundays seem to last at least twice as long as they do today. No one was ever in a hurry to go home.

But I must tell you about the sermon, the one that has been etched in my heart for over fifty-five years. Before Preacher John began to speak my oldest sister (by sixteen years) who was home from college for the holidays, came up front and completely from memory told the story of "The Littlest Angel". I was enthralled, I was amazed, I was proud. My big sister could tell a story with no book to read from and the congregation could hear her. I could hear her with my ears and with my heart. It is a beautiful story.

Then Preacher John read the Christmas story from Luke and his sermon began. He intertwined there being no room at the Inn for Jesus with the story of the "Little Match Girl". I heard him, I felt Mary and Joseph's pain that there was no where to have their baby, I felt the little Match Girl's hunger and freezing hands. For a moment I felt what it was like to not have a mother or father to take care of me. God used this sermon to touch my heart and changed it forever. This message prepared me to open my heart, my life and my home to adopt a baby girl whose birth mother had no home or time to give her when I was twenty-five years older. I actually thought back to that Chistmas message when our Kati was coming to us.

Can you imagine that a sermon from the heart of one person can make an imprint so large on a young child's heart? It did. When my father died thirty years later and Preacher John was asked to return to officiate the funeral, I had the chance to tell him what a difference he had made in my life. I am grateful for that opportunity. So often time passes and the chance to let another person know they touched us slips by.

Mother use to tell me, "Some of us will plant the seed, others will come along and water it, and yet others will see the harvest. None of these works are more important than the other. If you feel God nudging you to do your part for another person by word or deed, don't question which role you play. Do what God asks of you and know that you are part of His plan".

Thank you for letting me share my stories with you from time to time. As I do I get to experience the joys and the memories one more time. Merry Christmas to each of you and may all of our lives and hearts continue to be touched in this special and holy season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ring The Bells....Let The Whole World Know!!

I have wanted to ring the bell for the Salvation Army for more than thirty years. You may wonder why it took me so long to do it. I would think about it every Christmas and wonder who one contacted to be a bell ringer. I had never met anyone that had rung a bell to ask them so I just procrastinated over the years. I thought about calling the main number to ask if anyone outside their congregation could do it. As with all things, the time passed so swiftly with me continuing to take action. That is until this year! A gentleman stood up one Sunday during worship, rang the bell, and said something to the effect that if we really want to feel the Christmas Spirit sign up and ring the bell for one hour at Lowe’s Food Store in King. Ah, finally my answer after so many years of wondering how this process worked. I approached Don after the service and asked if he had the 3:00 slot open. It was his last one open; further assurance to me that this was meant to be.

I showed up that Saturday afternoon with a folding chair in hand. I knew how tired my legs could get standing on cement for an hour. I talked with the people I was replacing. They had enjoyed the experience. People had been very nice to them. It was fairly cold in the shade of the overhang at Lowe’s but soon my thoughts were a long way from where I was standing. My eyes were overflowing and tears were running down my face as I saw, in my mind’s eye, children shivering when they got out of bed in the morning. I “saw” fathers and mothers that were hungry, tired and worried about letting their children down at the holidays because they was no money. I “heard” them thank me for not letting them remain invisible. They “told” me that when we ring the bell, we are their voices and they are no longer forgotten. I don’t have adequate words to describe this moving and powerful spiritual experience. I can tell you that it was overwhelming and meaningful.

Observing humanity for one hour was an interesting experience. What I observed was that the better dressed people did not make eye contact with me nearly as often as those who appeared to have very little. The folks who seemed to have the least hurried to the bucket to make their donations, as parents they used it as a learning experience to teach their children about sharing, and often they would thank me for giving my time to ring the bell.

The experience was worth the wait, I felt my heart expand enough to allow more of God’s love to fill me

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Thrifty Christmas

We have a rather unusual custom that has developed over the years at our house for Christmas! You may have figured out that I love garage sales, antique malls....pretty much anywhere a bargain can be found. Years ago when our girls were in their teens and were getting pretty picky about what they liked, I decided that I would place all the bargains on the table. They could take turns picking out what gift they wanted, they could trade gifts after all the choosing was over. There was a lot of laughter and fun (and oh the money that was saved). Sometimes, the gifts were wrapped and they had to just gamble on what was in it but always they could trade. It is a fun way to celebrate and not spend much money. If I do say so myself, some of the bargains (thought slightly used) were still divine.

We found it is the spirit of the gift and not the price tag or the look for perfection that seems to matter the most to us.

Merry Christmas to each of you!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas.....I Remember Mama.

I Remember....

When the seasons are about to change and Fall and Winter are on their way; when the school bells chime and the buses are out in full force, I can expect that my thoughts will return to my home in the mountains and memories of long ago.

It was a cold, blustery night and the snow was beginning to come down. At 6:00 pm it was already dark. Daddy was not home yet but we had already eaten dinner. It was good to be inside where it was warm. I was about five years old. Things were quiet in our house. My sisters were doing homework and Mom was cleaning the kitchen. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was seldom that someone came to the house after dark. Mom turned on the porch light and there was a man and three little girls at the door. The man explained that he had no job and that his children were hungry. “Could you spare some money or some food?”, he asked. Mom brought them to the table and heated up leftover food from our dinner and added canned applesauce and lots of milk. I had never seen anyone be so hungry. I hung back in the shadows and watched. Mom offered seconds and thirds and still they ate with vigor. She packed food that she had canned and made sandwiches. She talked with them, hugged them and they returned to the dark night.

Before she cleaned the table, she lifted me onto her lap and started to rock me in her rocking chair. “Terri”, she said, “you must remember this, when people are hungry, feed them, make sure before they leave that the children are full. Sometimes people have alcohol problems and if you give them money they might buy liquor and the children will continue to be hungry. The Bible says that there are times we care for angels unaware. I think that is who knocked on our door tonight”.

I remember it like it was yesterday, my heart pounding with the loud knocking on the door, the strangers coming in to our home, the children so tiny with huge eyes filled with hunger and the how humble their Daddy was. I remember with pride my Mom stretching food and giving them plenty to take with them. She treated them like family, like there was nothing unusual about their requests.

About twenty-five years later I became a foster parent in West Virginia. Again I saw the faces of hungry children; kids who were eight and nine years old that had never been asked if they wanted seconds on milk or food. I had to learn as an adult that hunger still existed in this country and it was within a few miles of my home. I remembered my Mom’s words as I too treated these children as though their hunger was not unusual and tried to make them feel at home. My Mom planted the seeds in me to help the hungry when I was just a little girl. I hope I passed this compassion on to my girls. I hope someone, somewhere touched your heart in this way too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Bit Like Christmas.....

Come on in and make yourself at home in our home for Christmas. I am just starting to get things together enough that you will hear and see Christmas in the air, at least I hope so.

I am really trying to simplify Christmas decorations this year. The old stained window out of an older NC church beside pottery and glass Christmas trees speak to me of the holy and sacred and call my spirit to prayer as much as any nativity set ever has (though I still have a nativity in another room).

More pictures coming in another post.....I still have to finish decorating my tree with oranges and candy canes. Oh, did you see the Cardinal in the wreath??

I found the huge round iron centerpiece that is shaped into pine branches and pine cones with red candles in a copper pot in the middle at a "sale" for a song. I added Magnolia branches to it this evening.

I hope you are having a good time decorating for Christmas as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the sacred birth of Christ and ultimate Love.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is There Something Special About A Simple Christmas?

Hmmmmm, I am wondering and I wonder if you are wondering too? At Christmas, maybe more than any other time of the year, is there something special about keeping it very simple, very natural? What about real pine with a few real pine cones thrown in? Did you know you can go to nearly any real Christmas tree lot and they will GIVE you all the branches you want that they have cut off the bottom of trees? I've been doing it for nearly 40 first out of necessity and then out of love! I make boughs and tie with a pretty ribbon or fill an old rusted bucket or a huge basket on the front porch.....add some Magnolia branches and berries and voila.....even a florist can't beat it and oh, the scent. Heaven.

Last year a friend told me all she put on her tree was white lights and under it?? Just old toys (unwrapped). Keeping it simple she said.

I've been dragging out tubs of Christmas decorations this year but have decided to sell most. They just don't make my heart rejoice. I saw a post this Fall on Nester's blog and the only thing on the dining table was a dough bowl full of pine cones. The picture has haunted me for months.

Simple decorations, real not plastic or silk or twinkly or showy (no judgment here), a lit candle, some traditional Christmas music. I don't know about you (but I would like to) but it calls my heart to a simpler and perhaps for me a more spiritual time.