Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Thoughts on Christmas Eve . . .
I think most people have a love of tradition, and that is never felt more so than it is at this festive time of year. We all have our favourite tree ornaments, and our favourite Christmas foods, cookies and desserts. In my family we have always had fish chowder for supper on Christmas Eve, Turkey for Christmas Dinner and meat pies on Boxing Day. The Cards are always strung up on a string for us to admire . . . the Queen's Message always watched after Christmas Dinner as we loll on the sofa and think about the plum pudding we didn't have room for and the turkey sandwiches we will be enjoying a bit later on.
When I look through the rose coloured glasses of my memory I have come to realise that the things which have mattered most through the years have not been in the trimmings and tinsel . . . or even in the gifts beneath the tree . . . but in those things which are enduring and built upon the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh of familial love and kindnesses . . . there are probably very few Christmas presents I received as a child that I could tell you about . . . but I can tell you how wonderful it felt to sit next to my father in church on Christmas Eve, the only one of us three children invited to attend with him . . . or the flavour of my mother's stuffing and date squares . . . the joy of sitting around a table on Christmas Day and playing word games with my brother, sister and our father, as my mother sat on a stool and watched . . . she isn't in to games, but we were and are a family . . .
There was never ever a lot of money about . . . not when I was growing up, nor when I had my own family, but there was always plenty of love, and that is what I remember most going back through the years in my mind. I love this picture of my oldest son glorying in this small tree sitting on top of the buffet in my parent's home. My first marriage had broken up and we were back living with them. His wonder at everything that year is so magical and I can see it in this photograph and I can feel the blessing I had of having a family that I could always come home to and know that I would be safe and loved and cared for . . .
And of course I got married again and had more children and we never ever did have a lot of money for presents, but we brought into our home the traditions that we had grown up with and they mingled together and we created traditions of our own through the years and I hope that my children have happy memories of those times. I know I do . . .
One year we saved up our pennies to rent a sleigh ride for the whole extended family on Boxing Day. My ex's family came from Toronto and Windsor, and my sister came from Windsor and my brother from Ottawa . . . my mother was with us from Nova Scotia and there ended up being no snow so we turned it into a waggon ride. I can remember looking at my mom being a good sport sitting on the back of that waggon . . . this woman who never had a hair out of place and hated being cold. . . but she was having a good time and so were all the children and their cousins and the sisters and brothers and in laws, all of us together . . . and it began to snow and by the end of the ride we were in a winter wonderland . . . all was Merry and Bright. We went back to ours and had a huge buffet with my Sister In Law's Lasagna, and my Brother in Law's Cabbage Rolls and German Potato Salad that he used to get at a great German Butchers . . . and all of my Christmas Baking and it was all just a very wonderful day . . . the best part being we were a family and we were together and . . . yes, Love was there. I hope the children have fond memories of that day as I do.
There were years when we had plenty and other years when we didn't . . . one of our things as a family had always been putting together a Christmas Box and delivering it anonymously to someone in need on Christmas eve. One year we had very little ourselves and were going through Bankruptcy . . . but we knew a family who was even worse off and so we gathered what we had and gave to them and then worried about what we were going to do for ourselves later. I remember sitting at our dining room table in the dark on Christmas eve . . . next to the old Mennonite cook stove which we used to heat our home, looking out the window at snow falling. I watched a car struggle up the drive and then saw a man get out with a box and watched him tip toing up to our doorway to leave it. Inside was everything we needed to make our own Christmas merry . . . a turkey, vegetables, goodies for the kids and an envelope with some money in it. God was good. And we felt of His goodness.
It wasn't in the tinsel and the holly. It was all in the love. That was always what mattered and counted the most, and I have been blessed through the years to have always had it in abundance.
That first Christmas after my marriage broke up, I found myself living alone in a rented bedroom in a stranger's house . . . it could have been a very sad Christmas, but it wasn't. My sister sent me a lovely gift that I know she probably couldn't afford to send me and it was wrapped in love . . . I will never forget that simple act containing so much love and compassion for me . . . nor will I forget the love of a good friend from church who had me over for the day to spend Christmas with she and her family so I didn't have to spend it alone . . . again the milk of human kindness. And then . . . just a year later Todd and I were enjoying our first Christmas together as a family He who had spent twelve years on his own hating Christmas and eating hamburgers for Christmas Dinner would never be alone at Christmas again . . . and I, who had for the most part had years and years of Christmas's filled to overflowing with noise and people and activity, have learned to enjoy the blessings of being us at Christmas and whilst this mother's heart still misses the presence of her children and the grandchildren . . . I still feel the blessings of being safe, and cared for and loved . . . oh so very loved.
And I share it with whomever I can . . . because . . . it truly IS in the giving that we receive. And that is what the spirit of Christmas is all about.
There is a carol service tonight at the chapel, and a story telling date on Facetime afterwards to look forward to. Ariana has to work tomorrow . . . boo hoo . . . but we have the Missionary Sister's coming over to help us celebrate the blessings of the day. Can you believe they had no place to go? I know! I expect everyone thought they were spoiled for choice! We will be blessed in having them. Plus I always cook dinner for Doreen and Billy. Doreen cannot cook for herself anymore and Billy is not much of a cook so I am really happy to be able to do this for them. I do it every year. They used to come here, but Doreen's mobility isn't so great anymore and Todd will take it over to them instead. My mom will call tomorrow and I'll get to speak to everyone at the house.
God is still good and we are still blessed. Joy is found in making the best of the hand you've been dealt . . . and then in sharing it with someone else.
A thought to carry with you through today . . .
"It is only fitting that we . . .
like the Wise men, Shepherds, and Angels . . .
take time to rejoice and celebrate
that first Christmas Day."
~Dieter F Uchtdorf
I'm sharing the whole Christmas Feast over in The English Kitchen today . . .
Happy Christmas Eve. Time to relax now and enjoy the festivities as best you can.
You are loved. Always. If I had one wish for each of you, it would be to know that this simple truth . . . is real. God is real. You matter. You count . . . and you are loved more than you could probably ever know.
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