The Christmas tree from the "Free Stuff" on the sidewalk down the street is still in the box, as are the lights, glass balls, and tree top angel left in the house and gathered from the sidewalk give-a-way. The beautiful nativity set from the thrift store hasn't made it's way inside either. I have been working on this floor for two weeks and have finally declared it done. Just keep you eyes up! Don't be looking at the flaws in my floor! So the only shining and glittering going on this Christmas is the floor.
While I was on my knees working on the floor, I was imagining all the grand and glorious things that room could be used for - Bible Studies, prayers, entertaining, etc. As I refinished and restored the splendor of that house, I keep thinking about how God restores our souls. Then I noticed a feather floating down from above. I watched it silently glide right to my hand. There's no logical explanation for where it came from. But it came. And He restored my soul.
There's a lot to think about while working alone on a project. I've thought a lot about Christmas memories and what we expect from Christmas and what we expect to be remembered. While on my knees sanding and staining and cleaning and painting. I pondered perfect Christmas memories. Perfect trees. Perfect meals. Perfect gifts.
My Christmas memories weren't the beautifully decorated trees, or perfect gifts, or peaceful family times. They were the exceptions. The sometimes exceptionally crazy ones.
There's the Christmas that we brought the baby home to the house we'd lived in only two weeks when she was born. She had spent her first six weeks in Dallas Children's Medical Center. We brought her home recovering from surgery, requiring constant medical care and a sad diagnosis. She only weighed six pounds and still had clenched fists and stress on her sweet little face. Our new house had a cathedral ceiling in the great room. I remember that we hung sparkling red garland from each corner to the light in the middle of the room. Daddy and big sister brought home the biggest tree they could find and it was almost too tall. The best gift that year was being together and having that baby home.
One of our MOST memorable Christmas's was the one where we invited everybody on both sides of the family to our home for Christmas day. Then a horrific (is that a word?) ice storm took down lines, poles, and transformers leaving us without electricity in an all electric house. We stayed warm by the fireplace. Our meals came out of the barbecue pit and the coals in the fireplace. We played Monopoly and Uno and whatever else to the light of an antique kerosene lantern and candles. Our girls thought it was wonderful.
My always fair parents gave each of us an envelope with a twenty dollar bill, one Christmas. We opened the envelopes, oohed, aahed and thanked, even when we knew what to expect from our envelope. One son-in-law (that would be the one I'm married to) saw an opportunity for a good laugh. When no one was looking, he exchanged his twenty dollar bill for a one hundred dollar bill from his pocket. When all the treasures were opened. He said, "Oh, wait. I have one more." He pulled out the big bill, then said, "Oh my goodness. I always knew I was the favorite". You should have seen my mom's panic! We've laughed for years about that one.
Then there's the Christmas Eve when my handy man met a traveling family at the gas station having car trouble. Their car was packed with children and gifts. He called his buddy Dub to open his parts store, then helped the family limp the car to Pat and Charlie's house in town. He made the needed repairs laying on the cold drive into the night and sent the family on their way.
Another Christmas, we were working on some rental property and hadn't put up the tree yet. We came home late one night to find that the girls had decorated the furniture with silver icicles. Lots of silver icicles! We loved it so much that we left it. I think that was the first year we had, what we call, "Midnight Christmas". We opened gifts at midnight that Christmas Eve.
One Christmas Day, our girl was very sick. We ate a quick early breakfast, opened gifts, and headed to a Dallas hospital. The 250 mile road was still and quiet. We marveled that we were the only ones driving through the worst of the freeways in the metroplex. There was peace on our part of the earth for a few hours. It was sort of a bitter sweet trip.
The first Christmas without Heather, everything was hard. Decorating the tree. Cooking her favorite foods. Every gift was from her: framed artwork, photographs, memory lamps, recipe books with her favorite recipes. It was hard. It was sad. We shed lots of tears. But is was just something we had to get through together and we did.
The Christmas Eve of the angel we picked up walking along the interstate in freezing blowing cold weather wearing only a windbreaker for a coat, sticks out in my mind. We were on our way to meet our daughter and her family for lunch in another town. They were on their way to fly out of DFW to spend Christmas in Guatemala with their family there. The young man (angel) was driving from Albuquerque to Ft. Worth - through a winter storm. We took him back to his deceased car to get his "things", which were a tool set and three Bibles. No suitcase, no hanging bag, no Christmas gifts. Nothing. We fed him lunch and got him to his destination. He visited with me about the Bible and spiritual things. He just talked to everybody else about regular stuff. I am the only who thinks he was an angel - everybody else just thinks he was just crazy. He gave my man the tool set, the keys to his car and the title . I'm telling you he was an ANGEL!
So here we are - 1400 miles north of home. There's not even enough snow on the ground to make a decent snowball. No tree. No Christmas decorations. No tinsel. No holly. No snow. But we get to fly south in a few days to love on our family. I wonder what we will remember about this Christmas?
"What is Christmas?
It is tenderness for the past,
courage for the present,
hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup
may overflow with blessings rich and eternal,
and that every path may lead to peace."
-- Agnes M. Pharo
May your cup overflow with blessings rich and eternal.
Last night was sleepless in North Dakota. I was stressing over the stain job I did on the maple floors in the living room.
How would I fix them, short of re-sanding? I wanted it to be perfect. Does it really matter? I'm tired of living in one room. We've only been here two weeks. Why am I losing sleep over this? This is just stupid. It's not that important. But I wanted it to look good.......
While I was trying to re-adjust my distressed focus this morning,
reading Psalm 18 on the Bible application on my smart phone:
"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help."
My phone jingled with a message:
"Eclipse Right Now"
I slipped into some shoes, grabbed a coat and camera and headed into the warm
(well, warmer than yesterday)
26 degree snow in search of a good picture or two.