...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Present

Cookie baking, Midnight services, the tearing of Christmas wrappings, the joy of children's laughter, aah the sights and sounds of Christmas.

Christmas returned this year. Our grandchildren came to visit!

While we do understand the babe in the manger and his purpose for coming to earth and why we celebrate Christmas, having family to share in the celebration completes the picture for us.

Having had to celebrate a Christmas without our kids and grandkids last year, Jim and  I know too well the loneliness that can come without family members around.

Seeing  the anticipation in the children's eyes when they see all the presents under the tree and hearing their excitement upon opening their gifts. just accentuates how joyful the occasion of the Christ child is.

"Keep Christ in Christmas!" Is the chant on the street, in the church, and on this new communication technology called FaceBook. I wonder what God thinks as he looks down on his creation celebrating a holy day in honor of his son's birth. I can only relate it to how I feel to see my children and my grandchildren experience the joy of the day. Celebrate! Yes, celebrate with abandon this day.

Parents, teach your children the meaning behind the gift exchange, the lights, the tree, the manger, the star. Help them to see beyond the Santas and elves and reindeer.

It's impossible to avoid the commercialism, so use it to your advantage to save money, buy gifts for those that won't have any gifts, invite a lonely widow, widower, or someone that has no family to celebrate with you. The Christ they see in you may be the only Christ they will ever see.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010


In my humble opinion, Santa has been given a bad rap.  

My cousin sent me this and I love it! If it doesn't capture the spirit of the Christmas, I don't know what does. 
I re-post it here for you...
For those who refuse to believe in Santa...

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma.
I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that."Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: "$19.95."

May you always have LOVE to share,
HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care...
And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

With love, JoAnn

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree!

Replacement trees that will grow for years to come.
Earlier this week we went and cut down our Christmas Tree. We have been doing this for years. I always wanted to do this when I was a kid. You would think living on 75 acres of land we would be able to find one pine worthy of the role, but either the snow was too deep or we ran out of time. And believe me most trees that grow in the wild do not look as classy as the trees you find in the tree farms. They do trim them to grow that way or trim them just before the buying season starts so you will think they grow that way.

I do remember as a kid being dragged from lot to lot trying to find a reasonably priced tree (was Mom looking for a bargain?) the week of Christmas. I remember thinking, "why do we have to go out on THE COLDEST day of the year and get a tree at the last minute, when all the lots are cleared out of good trees???" Maybe it was because money was tight and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Whatever, it was not the romantic tree hunting expedition I saw on television or read about in books. (Thinking Little House on the Prairie here).

As I look back on old Christmas pictures from when I was growing up, the trees are pretty pathetic. (My sister's tell me there was one year that dad tied two trees together!!) But the only memories I carry are the decorating on Christmas Eve with either Christmas music on the HiFi or from Lawrence Welk on TV. I remember "singing along with Mitch Miller" but usually that was after the tree was decorated so I could follow along with the music book that came with album.

Why we decorated on Christmas Eve I never knew, today I cannot even imagine squeezing that in to our routine.

One Grandma and one grandson ready to go!
When my own kids were old enough to enjoy the thrill of picking out a tree, we would all pile into the van and go on our way to a local tree farm to find THE PERFECT TREE. On the way to and from the farms, we would play our favorite Christmas music. This always included Gene Autry's Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer album which was a favorite growing up and soon became my kids' favorite. Irreverent though it may be (sorry Jess) it started us off on our celebration which culminated in recognition of Christ's birth.

The one for us.
They all look good, but only one can be THE ONE!
When my nephew was a young boy, he and his father went out to cut a tree from the ones we had planted years before on the land we owned in West Shokan. That was as close to the romanticized picture I had at the time. What took away from that picture was the cigarette hanging out of my brother's mouth as he led the expedition and then cut the tree.

Dad gives a lesson in saws.
Let the cutting begin!

That is until years later, when I took my own grandson and went on the hunt for a tree. After many years of scoping out different farms and comparing prices, I settled on a nice farm on the Ulster/Greene county line. I loved the idea that these folks were common folks just trying to make a little extra money. (Greene county is one of the poorest in our state.) I also loved the idea that NY city dwellers hadn't "discovered" this hideaway and ruined its pureness. I also loved the "green" idea of always replanting new trees for subsequent years. It was a bit more expensive than buying a precut tree, but it lasted so much longer and made it worth the price.

So one year, I took my son and his son to the farm to search, cut and load up the perfect Christmas tree. They were staying at the Jollies (Jess' parents) so we met at the farm. On our drives to the farm it started to snow. PERFECT! When we arrived, because it was early we were the only ones on the lot - PERFECT! Bryan took the camera and started shooting. Eventually we picked a tree and as he cut, I shot the photos. The tree was beautiful. A memory was made. The romantic tape in my head was almost completely realized. (A roaring fire and hot chocolate with the rest of the family would have made it perfect.)

Nowadays, its mostly just Jim and I that head to the farm to pick and cut a tree. It's not quite the same without the kids, but it gives me a sliver of nostalgia that I would like to hold on to. We don't have the Christmas music on the CD in the truck as we head out, because we are usually reminiscing about the "old days" and when we get home it's Chai Tea Latte instead of Hot Chocolate. No, we are not stuffy, elitists -- we just like Chai better than the chocolaty stuff. If the kids ever join us again they will have a choice!

Oh, and for those that get their shorts in a tizzy about what a tree represents, get over it. We look to the tree (especially a living tree) to draw us closer to the Light of the World. It still is the one time of year, when most of the world is at least thinking about the Christ child and may ask the question, "What child is this?" and the gospel message goes out once again. Yes, I too hope we look beyond the trees, the gifts and the food to see the Truth of the Christmas holiday...that unto us a child is born, and he shall be called the The King of Kings! See Luke 2:1-20 in the Bible (yes, it's probably that dust covered book buried in your bookcase somewhere. If you don't have one, contact me and I'll see about getting you one for free.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Good Read...

I just finished a book that was both satisfying and enlightening.  

 Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin is a story of four generations of women and how the decisions they made in their lives affected future generations.

It was also a great piece to show the differences of two faiths that both believe in a Triune God, but relate to it differently and seeing the affect it has on decisions people make.

I love a book that gets me into the characters so well that I can literally take on their situations as I read about them. This one does just that very well.

I came away with a better understanding of two faiths I have followed in my life and a healthy respect for how committed each side can be. This is a must read for those who wonder who, what and why of main line religion without getting "preachy."

It also gives a wonderful perspective of why we keep some deep dark secrets and the effect it may have on the lives of those we love.

A pleasure to read.