Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Memory

Sitting at the computer this morning, I thought of Christmas memories.  As everyone does, I have quite a few wonderful recollections from the past.  I thought I would share one, but I am wondering which one is the best to share.  I loved going to the Grandparents’ houses as a child.  The Nixon side had a ton of older cousins to terrorize me and aunts to follow around the kitchen.  At the Hedahl’s we always had my Grandmother’s delicious cookies, scrumptious lefse, and playing my child version of pool upstairs.  Staying home was never as much fun except the year that our neighbor’s family came to visit from England.  He had two grandchildren just my age.  We played games and sledded for days on end.  I also remember getting to attend the Catholic Church midnight Mass with family friends.  The year I didn’t attend seems to be the memory that stands out the most.
                Thinking back to that time, I haven’t a clue of what age I was at the time.  I believe I was probably in fourth or fifth grade.  I should ask, but I don’t know if Mom would remember either.  The friends that always took me to Mass were like family.  I have talked about some of them before.  The parents I called Aunt and Uncle and the kids (five in total) were like cousins.  Their oldest daughter had graduated from high school and lived in a town about an hour from ours.  Her and her cousin were driving and got in a horrid car wreck due to snow and ice on the road.  I don’t remember the details, but I remember this being the first time praying for a friend in crisis.  I cried and worried like crazy.
                Being this is a childhood memory, I could be very wrong about the details.  However, I remember a movie coming out right after the wreck.  It was about a bus load of teenagers getting stuck on the train tracks and getting hit by an oncoming train.  The main character was a young girl who then had to overcome the struggles of learning how to walk again.  I got it into my head that my friend and her cousin wrecked on the train tracks and were fortunate a train didn’t come.  This could be wrong.  I so related my friend to this movie.  Also, my friend, though I hadn’t seen her yet, was in a wheelchair.  To this day, I get an eerie feeling when crossing train tracks and I always double check.
                Christmas Eve night, when their entire family stopped at the house, it was decided that since getting the wheelchair into the church would be really difficult, she would stay at our house while the rest attended Mass.  I was invited along.  I  struggled with the decision.  The pull of attending the celebration was great, but the chance to spend time with a friend who we could have lost in the accident was greater.  I chose to stay with her.  We watched television I believe or sat around chatting.  My gratitude to God that year was huge.  Though the wheelchair intimidated me, I was so thankful we still had her in our lives.
                Do you have gratitude this season?  Though it is not as poignant, I am grateful again this year.  I can’t pinpoint it to anything huge like a saved loved one, but instead it is simply for life in general. 
Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Graceful Christmas

                Christmas gracefully approaches for me.  Usually I have a list a mile long of shopping, wrapping, addressing, baking, and decorating to do this time of year which I frantically dive into right after Thanksgiving while listening to my favorite Christmas music.  In November, I started making the lists, but then set them off to the side.  Occasionally, I have picked them up and started a project at a turtle’s pace.  Amazingly, almost everything is done without the frantic attitude well except the baking.  I am still debating whether to do that or not.
                I keep wondering, what is so different about this year.  My daughter and I are doing the advent wreath almost nightly while reading a story about a Jewish girl who at the end gets to meet baby Jesus.  We have gone to all the band concerts, a choral concert, recitals, The Nutcracker, Peter Pan, and Christmas pageants.  The cards are sent, packages sent, gifts bought and almost wrapped.  All of this has been easy and relaxed and fun.  I didn’t decorate as elaborately as I normally do and the tree just went up last week.  The other thing I haven’t done like normal is baking.  I usually bake three to four different types of cookies and decorate them.  I also make a couple different types of candy plus lefse.  Since I am dieting, I haven’t done any of the cooking and baking.  This may be the big factor of my relaxed attitude, but I do think it is more.
                Looking over the past year, I have put more of a focus on my relationship with Jesus.  Now, I have always prayed, studied, and attended church and other activities relating to faith.  I do think I have had a very close relationship with God my entire life.  The difference this year is that I have focused all of these activities into a project, the project being this blog.  I am always thinking about what I want to write next.  By doing this, I listen more.  I immerse myself more.  I am now using my talent (whether it be good or not) for God which is enriching my life a hundredfold.  How great is that?
                A while back I wrote a letter to my son.  I was frustrated with what I was supposed to be doing in my writing and my ministries.  I always feel pulled in so many directions in both areas of my life.  In writing, I am pulled to write about theology, history, fantasy, young adult, adult, and where ever else the wind will take me.  In ministry/volunteering, I am pulled to Eucharist, school, Family Promise, football, Girl Scouts, the library, funerals, and this list can go on and on.  He wrote back that we are called to do these things in His time.  I started letting go at that point.  There have been other moments of clarity from my mother-in-law and a friend or two.  Instead of hitting all my activities with huge amounts of gusto or looking for opportunities, I am listening. 
                Sure, my book hasn’t made any editorial progress.  In fact, my fiction writing has come to a screeching halt in the middle of the road.  I am not worried.  It will come back in time if it is meant to be.  My giving to others is decreasing in the area of football, but ramping up in Girl Scouts and school.  I might this year add some Family Promise time.  I will wait for other opportunities to come in God’s time.  I will probably get frantic again because that is who I am.  For the moment though, I am enjoying a very relaxed advent season, listening and waiting.
                Blessing to you all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Best Friend

                While my son and I were anticipating traveling to Washington State to attend Creations Northwest, I listened to many youtube videos.  I also bought a couple of CDs of the Christian music artists that would be there throughout the week.  Chris Tomlin and the Newsboys played over and over in my home.  We also listened to them and CDs my son and some of the other kids had on our way there.  On the way back, we of course had even more of a selection after buying additional CDs while at the concerts.  During all of this music listening, one lyric haunted me.
                When the song would play, I tended to tune it out because it wasn’t my favorite of songs.  Yet, when the one line played, I always stopped and paused.  At the concert of the Newsboys, the song Jesus Freak started to play.  For some reason I have problems with the idea of Jesus freaks walking around in the world.  It can turn others away from Christ and we are to do the opposite.  Granted, I am sure there are those out there that probably think I am a freak, but I hope more people see the qualities in me that Jesus asked us to live: love, patience, understanding, faith, and the list goes on and on.  I know I don’t pull off being this way all the time, but I do prefer this over being a freak.  As the song played that evening, the lyric boomed all over the fair grounds.  My favorite line of all time was in the song I probably like the least.  “That my best friend was born in a manger.”
                These words resonate in my soul.  “My best friend was born in a manger.”  He didn’t come from rich parents.  His birth was far more humble then my own.  I will never gain monetary riches from this dear friend of mine.  However, He loves me through thick and thin.  He carries me through my struggles and rejoices with me through my triumphs.  Daily He walks beside me.  I can’t think of a better best friend to have.  Does this make me a Jesus freak?  Maybe, maybe not.  Most of the time, I don’t care what people think.  And why should I?  Jesus is my best friend.
                Soon many people around the world will be celebrating my best friend’s birthday.  Hopefully He is their best friend and yours.  Oh, and another cool thing is I get to go to His house and celebrate.  Life couldn’t get much better.  Happy Birthday Jesus.
Blessings to you all

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Part V: Gardening and Sewing

I have always had a traditional side to my life that many people find outdated or behind the times.  They look at me oddly when I discuss with passion my gardening, crocheting, or desire to quilt.  I long for the days when women sat around knitting or having a quilting party.  I think this would be a ton of fun, but many of my friends don’t participate in any of these activities.  Also, in this busy world, time to do these tasks is minimal and financially less lucrative. 
She picks out a field to purchase;
                Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength,
                And sturdy are her arms.  Proverbs 31:16-17
                Gardening is one of my all-time favorite activities.  Playing in dirt, soaking up the sun, watching seeds spout, encouraging plants to grow, and witnessing the blooms and fruits bring vivid colors and products to the world keeps me smiling and reveling in God’s natural world.  Now, I am not the best gardener, but this year I produced basil, chives, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, chokecherries, peas, cauliflower, beans, and zucchini.  I didn’t have a good year with the rest of the items, but it was a cold year and I had a graduation to pull off.  Life happens.  With the graduation though, I did get complements on my front flowerbeds that greeted my guests with flowers and foliage.
                I haven’t always gardened vegetables.  The work is hard and when I was busy working a fulltime job, weekend drills, and kids to run after, I just didn’t always have the time.  We also had rotatiller issues.  Even now if I am out of town for a week or more, my garden suffers.  Also, many people don’t have the yard to do gardening.  With these drawbacks in life, how can a woman be an Ideal Wife?  Well, out of her earnings, she can bargain shop for produce that is in season.  Instead of doing the expensive restaurant tour, she can make meals at home which are much cheaper.  I haven’t done this successfully, but container gardening is also an option.  When I have a bad year with one of my vegetables, I like to go to the local farmers market for produce.  This next summer I am hoping to take a few road trips to farms that sell their goods when you come to pick it.  I am not sure if these two latter ideas are cost effective, but I really love fresh produce from the sweet earth of the region.

She obtains wool and flax
                And makes cloth with skillful hands.
Like merchant ships,
                She secures her provisions from afar.  Proverbs 31:13-14
(Merchant: literally, “Canaanite” probably because the merchant class had been composed chiefly of Canaanites.”
She puts her hands to the distaff,
                And her fingers ply the spindle.  Proverbs 31:19
She fears not the snow for her household;
                All her charges are doubly clothed.
She makes her own coverlets;
                Fine linen and purple are her clothing.  Proverbs 31:21-22
She makes garments and sells them,
                And stocks the merchants with belts.  Proverbs 31:24
In today’s world, it is cheaper and easier to buy material already made by machines.  At the fair, there is usually a booth with people using the old techniques explained in these verses.  In fact, it is cheaper to buy clothing and bedding at local discount stores then it is to make it homemade.  Even to make the items and sell them, a woman would not get a good return.  When I took time off from my career to have my oldest son, I thought it would be awesome to sell the afghans I make.  One of the guys at Guard Drill, asked me to make him one.  After buying the supplies, it took me hours to make the blanket.  Because he was a friend, I only charged ten to twenty dollars above the cost of the yarn.  Though he treated me alright, he was not happy with the price.  Two years ago, I donated a beautiful blanket to our school’s auction.  It went for $35.  Hours and hours of my time went into making this blanket with prayers interwoven for the person who would receive it.  The money barely covered the yarn.  I couldn’t pay the electric bill or really any one of our bills consistently by selling things I can make at home.  Granted, I may be going about it all wrong, but times are different.
I can though bargain shop.  I have a friend who buys all her clothes at name band stores.  She especially loves Columbia coats.  I really like Columbia coats as well.  Someday, I would like to get one on a clearance rake.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.  When I need a coat, I go to a discount store and save a good $100s on my purchase.  This will pay a bill.  Last month, I had to buy birthday presents for kids and I started getting presents for the grandparents.  With a few coupons (and let me reassure you, I am not a coupon person), I totaled getting $130 off on purchases I had to make.  This paid the water bill and the insurance bill.  All year I save money to pay my daughter’s tuition early giving me a good $300 discount.  We do the same with our car insurance.
Years have gone by during the college years and early years of our careers where we weren’t able to do a lot of this saving.  But we continuously worked on saving money.  We have gone without.  Even right now, we do need a new couch.  I am thinking about doing a little sewing to fix a couple of areas because with some recoupment of back pay being taken out of the last couple of checks, tires needed for a couple of vehicles, a few more new windows this summer, four car insurances coming due, and a son who will need some help with tuition this next semester, we are tapped out.  The couch will wait.
Really, the short answer to these verses isn’t really about gardening and sewing.  The point is that we need to be thrifty and provide for our loved ones.  I will continue to garden and crochet blankets.  I will even continue to donate them to the school.  They make awesome gifts.  In fact, I didn’t have to buy my son any blankets for his college dorm.  One nana made a quilt; plus, he has an afghan I made him.  One aunt made him a quilt for his vehicle in case he gets stranded.  These items will wrap him in love and prayers.
Blessings to you all.