Christmas Eve Light and Love

Twenty-two years ago Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, just like this year.  My baby girl was three months and three days old, and she was being baptized at the morning church service.

Christmas Eves at our church then were quite full.  The church couldn’t be decorated until after service on the fourth Sunday of Advent, which Christmas Eve was that year.  After church, folks ran home, changed clothes, and then came back to decorate or “green the church.”  Another quick trip home and then we were back for a Wassail party (not a fan myself) and Covered Dish Supper.  Caroling was after, and then midnight service began at 11:30.  A beautiful day filled with joy and being together.

Together.

During the morning service, the two dear friends we had asked to be Auburn’s godparents stood up next to us and promised to love her and help teach her right from wrong, kindness from cruelty, caring from apathy.  Auburn’s godfather wasn’t yet married to the woman who had come with him that morning, but I know she must have promised all of those things too, sitting in the pew, watching as these bonds were formed.

I know this because that day she also became Auburn’s godmother.  In every sense of the word.

Over the years she has written notes of encouragement, given hugs of comfort, listened to my girl (and me), and laughed alongside us–often helping us to find the humor in situations.  She loved with a passion that one isn’t always lucky enough to come across.  Bless her, as my sister Mess Cat says, “She was larger than life.”

This past week, this dear soul left this world, ending her fight with cancer.  Amidst people who knew and loved her, her husband, and her son, we said goodbye on Thursday, gathered around the tent as the cold wind whipped around us.  Her husband got up and shared through his tears the joy and love she gave them all these years.  It was a time of celebrating and remembering one who loved and was loved with great adoration.

Last weekend my friend sat and told me and Auburn how when he first met his wife, she had said, moving things out of the seat next to her, “You just come sit right here beside me,” with her lovely Southern drawl.  Bless her, that’s who she has always been–welcoming, comforting, hospitable, and seemingly on the verge of a joy-filled laugh at any given time.

Today, as my littles have the wiggles and giggles and excitement abounds, I remember my friend–this dear woman who never missed an opportunity to make me, Auburn, or anyone else feel welcome and important.  I remember her standing by her husband twenty-two years ago today, holding my baby girl, and smiling with all her heart with joy.  It was a precious day.  I am thankful she was there.

As I am thankful she has been there for so much of our journey.

My heart is mindful of the ones who knew and loved her best–her husband, her son, her sister, her mother–and I know that in great contrast to the holiday music, bright lights, light-hearted movies, and cheerful greetings everywhere we go, they are bathed in the darkness of grief and pain and loss.  I am mindful of others who will spend this holiday missing someone they hold dear, for whom Christmas does not evoke visions of sugarplums dancing.

And I remember my sweet friend’s words, “Come sit here right beside me.”  If you are bathed in darkness just now, I hope that you will hear these words from someone.  I’m here, as are many others who have walked the path you are on, and we understand the darkness.  Come sit by us.

Or perhaps you are like my friend and could welcome someone who needs to hear those words.  They are indeed words that can change a life.

Wishing you all much love and light in the darkness, as the world celebrates glad tidings of Joy and Good News.  As I remember the baby from 22 years ago whom I held close as I sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” walking across the churchyard in the dark, I give thanks for 22 years of wonderful memories.  Time passes way too quickly, so may you all find time to make merry memories to recall and enjoy in the years to come.

Love to all.

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Car Trouble

“You got a car, you got car trouble.”

I think it was my Papa who first said that.  But I heard my Daddy say it many, many times over the years.  Usually followed by that sigh of his.  And the acceptance of the inevitable.

And it’s the truth, isn’t it?  Eventually, something will go wrong.  And it’s rarely when you’ve planned for it ahead of time.

This afternoon, following an appointment, the littles and I went to the big craft store to pick up some gift bags and other small things for holiday festivity’ing.  We left in good spirits and headed out into the misting rain and a nip in the air that hadn’t been quite as chilling when we walked into the store.  We got to the vehicle, unlocked it, loaded up, and were ready to head out.  Only the vehicle wasn’t.  I turned the key.  All kinds of blinking lights on the dash and distressing sounds and then…..nothing.

Well, that’s new.

Actually, it was new to this vehicle. But not new to me.

My Daddy knew his way around a vehicle.  He had to, considering we never owned a brand new vehicle.  He could usually diagnose and often fix what ailed a vehicle.  And when he couldn’t he knew a good mechanic whom he trusted.  “I’m bringing it over, so I reckon you can make your next payment on your car,” he’d tell the mechanic.  It usually was something significant if Daddy took it to the mechanic.

In that moment of realizing we were stranded, I became a sixteen year old girl again.  Needing my Daddy to come fix things.  Everything.

And the feeling of missing him was so overwhelming.

Not just for fixing my vehicle, but for fixing me.  He knew how to calm me down.

I used to joke that when things went awry, I did what all good southern girls do, I called my Daddy.  This grief of not being able to do so was not a six year old grief–suddenly it was raw and new.  All over again.

Unable to fix it myself or call my Daddy, I did the next best thing.  I called the Fella, who did what needed to be done to get to us as soon as possible.

Which he did.  But being he was finishing up work and we were all the way across town, it took a little bit.

I took the littles back in the store so we wouldn’t be sitting in a cold vehicle.  We window shopped and then went back to the vehicle when he texted that he’d be there in a few minutes.

Two things went wrong.  First, it hadn’t occurred to me until we were walking out in the parking lot that I have electric locks.  ELECTRIC.  Battery needed.  UGH.  Also I have one of these weird keys now that isn’t really a key so no way it’s going to unlock a door the old-fashioned way.  I looked it over and over as the cold set in and I started shivering, again regretting that I hadn’t gone back in the house when we’d set out and gotten a jacket.  I saw a little piece that could slide from one side to the other.  I figured it was the key (pun intended) to solving my problem, but none of us could figure out how to free the key that I was certain was hidden inside.  I even texted my law student, who is studying for first semester finals (all the good thoughts needed, by the way), who assured me that yes, sliding that thing would reveal the key.  Ummm, okay, sure.  But no.

That was when our Fella pulled up.  Before I could tell him that the slide thingy wasn’t working, he had a key revealed and was unlocking my door.  Okay then.

The rest of the story is long and wears me out thinking about it again–two different jumpstarts, a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road, Leroy bringing tools from his house (which was closer) so he and the Fella could install a new battery, having the alternator checked and cleared, and two hours later…..I was on my way home in my vehicle.

The littles had stayed in the truck with their Daddy, so I had the rare moment of driving by myself.  I belted out music from Cooter’s program that I had enjoyed so much, and I sang, and then a sad one came on, and I realized I was finally just then defrosting, and I bawled at a stop light because Daddy and…..I just miss him.

It was beginning to get dark as we finally headed back home.  Not even 6 pm.  (Whoever’s idea this getting dark early is, you are off my birthday list!) It wasn’t dark dark, but the light was dimming.  I knew my vehicle was running–I was driving it for goodness’ sake, but I had this fear that my headlights weren’t on.  It wasn’t dark enough for me to tell if they were yet, but I knew they needed to be on so others could see me.

Good gravy.  So much to worry over in this life, isn’t there?

It occurred to me as I searched for signs that my lights were on (besides the light on my dash indicating such–it’s been telling me my brake is on for the past several months–sorry–NOT) that this is how it is when things take a turn we weren’t expecting.  When things start to go south, we don’t know, we can’t see that our own light is there.  That we are still shining out for others to see.  We doubt that we are doing any good.  Sometimes it takes pure darkness setting in before we realize that our lights are indeed still shining.

And by then we’re so tired from worrying over it all.

Friends, your lights are shining.  I see them.  If you doubt it, come sit by me, and I’ll hold your hand and tell you stories about the laughter and joy and light that was and will be again.  And I’ll tell you how your light has blessed me.  Encouraged me.  How your light has been what I focused on through the tears, as I cried through the grief and sadness and pain.

Your light is a gift to this world.  And even when you can’t see it, the rest of us can.

May it shine forevermore.

But if your battery ever needs recharging I wish for you to have someone–a Daddy, a Fella, a friend, a sister, a Leroy,  a stranger–there to help bring it back to its beautiful brilliance.

Shine on, friends, it won’t be long and the days will be lighter and brighter again.

Love to all.

headlights in the dark

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Route 52 Snow Storm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

the crack in the darkness

what if

as we sit in the darkness,

trying to figure out how to piece it all back together

again

each time we feel the pain of the losing

 

what if,

as the darkness threatens to envelop us,

and all the light that we cannot see

is just out of our reach

 

what if

the one good thing we can do

the smile we can give

the hand we can hold

the love we can share–

 

what if

that is how the Light gets in?

 

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Jesus on the Roof

“There’s a house…..on that street over near the DQ on the way home, you know?  Well, they had Jesus up on the roof!  I could scarce believe my eyes…..up on the roof–JESUS!”

“Jesus on the roof, huh?  That’s different.”

“But it’s for Christmas!  I think it’s kind of cool…..definitely different.  He wasn’t all lit up when I passed by this morning, but early this evening, there he was, lights all shining!  I’m betting airplanes could see him from the sky!”

“Airplanes?  Must not have been baby Jesus–they had a grown-up Jesus, up on the roof?  For Christmas?”  The disbelief in the tone of the questions made me realize we weren’t on the same wavelength.  And I laughed.

“Nooooo.  Jesus is on the roof.  J. E. S. U. S.  In LIGHTS.  For all the world to see.  Isn’t that awesome?”

“Well, it’s definitely different…..”

A conversation that took place many years ago came to mind today as I traveled down an old road from the past.  As I turned beside the Dairy Queen, I remembered that house.  And those lights on the roof.  And I wondered if I would remember which house it had been that kept the lights up there all year long, but only turned them on around Christmas.

As I rounded the corner…..was it that one, no, the slant on the roof was wrong, it was just a little further, and then…..

there it was.

J. E. S. U. S.

J. E. S. U. S.

AND THERE JESUS WAS.

Still up there.

For the love.

The leaves from the fading trees helped outline the letters.  I could just make out the letters against the brown roof.

And I smiled SO big.

That right there brought me so much joy.

Something that hadn’t changed after all those many, many  years.

Years of heartbreak and pain and loss and tears and joys and love and light.

Something that hadn’t changed one little bit…..

and looka there–

it’s JESUS.

Still the same.

Right where he’s always been.

Up high for all to see.

Shedding light.

Tonight I’m thankful for the things and people who are constant in my life.  Changes are a part of life, but the people and places and Lights who don’t change bring me joy and peace and also bring back happy memories.

And Jesus on the roof?  I think that’s pretty awesome.  Someone showed a lot of love and skill and Christmas spirit about twenty years ago, and it is still bringing me joy.

May we all do something today that will bring joy to others for years to come…..

Love to all.

 

What She Sees

Do you know what a “meme” is?  According to Wikipedia (a great resource, right, I know), “a meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.”

Yeah, okay, now that I’ve cleared that up, the “What I do” one really cracks me up, especially this one about homeschooling.

Hi, I'm a homeschool Mama, and only one, well okay, two of these may be accurate.  Don't ask me which ones.

Hi, I’m a homeschool Mama, and only one, well okay, two of these may be accurate. Don’t ask me which ones.

We have an example of the “What I do,” or rather “What I see” meme going on around here.  I was watching my middle one riding her bike up and down our dead-end street the other day.  She was so happy and free riding along.  It’s one of her favorite things to do.  She was so proud the day she learned to ride her bike on  her own.

Only it’s not her bike.  Exactly.

This is my daughters’ bike.

My daughters' bike--about twelve years old. Many a happy mile has been ridden with this one.

My daughters’ bike–about twelve years old. Many a happy mile has been ridden with this one.

That was not a typo.  It belongs to both my daughters.  It was my oldest daughter’s bike, a gift about twelve years ago, from my great aunt.  She was like a grandmother to me, and she delighted in getting this bike for my girl for her birthday.  I can remember how happy Aub was riding it.  Mama and Daddy would load Aub and the bike up and go down to see my aunt, letting her walk along while my oldest rode it on her paved driveway.

Fast forward about ten years.  Daddy knew that our Princess had outgrown her little bike with the training wheels.  He remembered he had kept this bike out in his building all those years, and he told me he thought it was time.  It was bittersweet as he was the one to teach Aub to ride how to ride without training wheels all those years ago…..on this bicycle.  The lymphoma had taken away his ability to teach this granddaughter, but not his desire to have her learn.  So we got the bicycle out, brushed the dust off, and brought it home.  And that was the beginning of the shared love of this bicycle.

I did have good intentions.  Those rusty handlebars?  I planned to paint them.  The hand grips?  They could be easily replaced, as could the seat with a chunk taken out of it.  (Ouch.  I do NOT remember how that one happened.)  I even had plans to replace the pedals.  But in truth, with the chaos of our lives the past two years, those things never happened.  In fact, all we have replaced is the tires.  Out of necessity.  (Dry rot–vicious stuff that.)

As I watched our little butterfly fly up and down the street on her bike, I thought about her bike and the fact that she LOVES it.  The rust and oldness of it do not bother her at all.  In fact, I think this is how she sees it.

How I think our butterfly sees her bike

How our butterfly sees her bike

Of course, as I look around at our plethora of “interesting” things in the yard, on the porch, and so forth, I am afraid that this might be how some folks around here see her bike.

How I'm afraid the neighbors see the bike

How I’m afraid the neighbors see the bike

But not this girl.  Oh, how I love her vision!  We say she’s our sunshine, only sometimes we have to wear sunglasses.  Things like a little rust or old pedals don’t slow her down.

Tonight I am thankful for this child who dresses herself in what we would call mismatched colors and patterns but still looks beautiful, who sings and dances and asks us to sit for her performances, and who giggles when we ask for autographs.  I love how she sees this world.  I adore that the bike she is riding is made all the more precious to her because it belonged to her sister. This child who loves animals and cannot stand to see anyone have their feelings hurt, this child of mine will have her own hard time of it in this world.  But this I know, her sentimental heart and sweet smile and special way of seeing things has shed light into many a dark day, and I am thankful that she is just who she is.

And one more, just for fun–how SHE sees herself on her bike:

This is a real princes, not OURS.  Princess Amalia, Dutch heir, riding HER bicycle. But I am sure our girl sees herself as a princess riding her beautiful bicycle.

This is a real princess, not OURS. Princess Amalia, Dutch heir, riding HER bicycle. But I am sure our girl sees herself as a princess riding her beautiful bicycle.