Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Moments

This year, Christmas was a leetle different for us. For the 2nd time ever, I did not make it home for Christmas(the first being I was great with child and hypertensive and the OB said "No, you cannot travel 350 miles to spend Christmas with your family in Alabama." Worst. Christmas. Ever. Bleh). This year, my parents came here. We had a great time, but honestly, I'd rather be "home" for Christmas.

Besides that minute detail, this Christmas was the most fun I can remember (of my married life). Maybe because the kids are all getting old enough to really participate and get excited. We did not wrap any presents, or at least put them under the tree, until a couple of days before Christmas. I only had to re-wrap one gift (Miss Emma's doing), so all in all, they resisted temptation pretty well. When the gifts started piling up, the stars in their eyes begin to light. And not for the reason you would think children would light up at the sight of gifts. No, this year, they were more excited about the giving part.

We have a wonderful neighbor who has adopted our kids as surrogate grandchildren (or maybe they adopted her). She came to me about mid-November and asked me if she could take each child to town with her, one at a time, to do something special for Christmas. She explained that when her grandchildren were little, she would take them to the Dollar Tree, one at a time, and let them pick out a gift for every member of their family. With no interference or direction about what to buy, she just let them choose on their own. Oh boy. I knew right away this was going to be interesting. And it WAS.

It was the highlight of every family gathering. My husband's grandparents, his Dad & step-mom, his Mom and my parents were all recipients of some quirky, and some downright hilarious gifts:

*My Dad (who is a few hairs away from complete baldness)--a hairbrush (!!)--from Elijah

*Papaw Bobby -- a bobbing dashboard hoola girl :)--from Gracie

*Poppy--a crystal growing kit (What in the world?)--from Elijah

*Beamie--a pack of hand sanitizer and a water bottle

*John (Daddy)--an oversize Santa hat (from Grace)

I received an antebellum woman porcelain figurine from Elijah and a snow globe from Grace. How sweet is that? I was touched that they picked things of beauty and fascination (to them) for their Mom *tear*.

Miss Patsy (said neighbor) was tickled because Grace picked out this horrible dinosaur mask thing for Elijah, and when it was his turn to go shopping, what did he do but pick up that very mask and say he wished he had one! I'd say she knows her big brother pretty well.

Children have such a beautiful way of reminding us of the simple truths. I walked by my foyer table one day, and noticed my oh so precisely arranged nativity scene had been re-arranged a little.

Does this strike you as deeply as it did me? The face of every animal and every person was turned to gaze at the beautiful, brand-new baby Jesus. It looks as if they couldn't get close enough, couldn't get enough of the miracle of Him. Even the little sheep have their noses pointed to the manger where He lay. Little Miss Gracie, with her innocent child-play, stopped her Mama in her tracks that day and reminded me to forget about the list, the baking, and the decorating, and fix my eyes on Him.

Another moment of note happened on Christmas morning. Elijah, always the first to rise, had been dying to get up since 6:45, but I managed to keep him in bed until 7:15. He woke his sisters up, and they ran giggling down the hall, only to be stopped by their Dad. "Follow me", he told them, and then proceeded to lead them all over the house, single file, before finally leading them to the tree. The kids loved Daddy's "Christmas march", and I hope it's something they do until they are 20!

Mom with her re-upholstered purse I made her out of a skirt and a woven purse (more about that later).

Listening as my Dad read "Fancy Nancy" to the girls--french accent and all!

And last but certainly not least, Christmas dinner. Turkey, mashed potato, pea salad and cheesy olive bread with snickerdoodle cake and pecan pie for dessert. Our meal was simple but flavorful and filling, and I spent more time with my family and less time in the kitchen as a result :).

My centerpiece was compiled of live holly branches from our neighbors' tree, some feathers from Hobby Lobby and those twirly things I pulled off the tree. That'll do it!

As I recall these moments, I realize how blessed beyond measure I am. The words of the Psalmist ring truer every year--"He daily loadeth us with His benefits."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Pics '10

We have not had out kids photoed professionally in over 3 years!! Isn't that sad? And Miss Emma-Rae has never had her pictures taken. Ever. :(

Somehow the extra $$ just isn't ever there. But I do have a pretty good little camera (although I am wanting a new one BAD) and usually do their Christmas, Easter, & Birthday pics myself. Here's this year's photo shoot.

And might I add, I do have some pretty good-looking subjects :).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Unexpected Gift

The greatest gift ever given to me is my family. My DH and our three beautiful babies. The raising of our children and making of our home is the "highest calling" of my life. But sometimes in the midst of the training, the housekeeping, the day-after-day sameness, the little nagging voice of doubt starts in. FAILURE. That word sneaks in more often than I'd like to admit. Fail, fail, fail. And some days, my craving for a little encouragement is overwhelming. It wouldn't take much...just a little bit would make such a difference.

This week was the week of the dreaded numbers game on Facebook. I watched, annoyed, for a little while, and finally joined in and sent out my number to a few people who asked. One girl, who I attended church with when DH & I were newlywed, and is now a mother of two herself, posted this comment:

" have such a beautiful family!! Always thought that you would make a good friend : ). Love it that you're talented and self-sacrificing! You're very beautiful woman and I'm sure the Lord has more great things in store for you and your wonderful family : )"

Wow. I sat there and was stunned to find tears flowing down my cheeks. This girl & I probably haven't even had a complete conversation in over 4 years. We run in different circles and just haven't the opportunity for more than a friendly "How are you?" when we do run into one another. I never expected that she saw me in that light. I never expected to receive encouragement from her.

But God knows that the most precious moments in our lives are the unexpected,and every now and then He sends us an unanticipated gift. Isn't he the best gift-giver?

Let's pay it forward. Give the gift of encouragement to someone this weekend. A simple text, a card, or a hug and a compliment is all it takes. A little goes a long way.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Time Jam

You know how when you're trying to get somewhere and it's really important, or you've been driving for hours on a long trip and outta nowhere, you look up and all the cars in front of you are stopped. It's the dreaded. traffic. jam. You creep and you inch and you. stop. And then there's these annoying people who keep trying to nudge in front of you and hop in your lane {not sure what that has to do with anything but it always happens to me. HATE that.}

My point. Here we are, a mere 3 weeks way from Christmas. And my whole family has strep throat. For the 2nd week in a row.

*There is a Christmas tree, halfway put up.

*Christmas pictures, un-taken, un-addressed, un-mailed.{and a computer that will not import pics from memory cards}.

*Christmas gifts, un-shopped for and un-wrapped.

*Christmas baking, un-planned.

*Christmas programs for Children's Church, un-rehearsed.

*Those mouth-watering Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls, un-made.

*And my parents are coming here for Christmas this year (!!!)

And here I sit, quarantined in my house nursing a highly-contagious, potentially deadly strep throat that has attacked me and my family.

What I am experiencing, folks, is a time traffic jam. I do not recall giving my permission for this.

It's got me feeling downright Grinch-y!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Memories At Thanksgiving

{Alabama road where I roamed as a child}

Farewell, Thanksgiving. After the weeks of thankful anticipation, you came and went in the blink of an eye. Every moment was savored and enjoyed; maybe that's why they slipped through my fingers like sand. Time flies when you're having fun.

We traveled across two states to my hometown in Alabama for Thanksgiving this year. Usually, we host Thanksgiving at our house for DH's side of the family, but this year we rearranged things a bit. My Dad's older brother (his only living family member) and 3 of his 4 daughters, along with their families, made the trip all the way from Georgia, and we had a family reunion Thanksgiving. None of us had seen each other since my Grandmother, "Nanny" passed away, six years ago in January. It was time for a reunion, don't you think?

{all the cousins, except for my brother, Jonathan (died 1991), and another cousin, Sandra, who had to work)

My brother, and his family of 6 (, now reside in the "homeplace", my Grandparent's house, where they raised four boys and farmed for a living. We all gathered here to give thanks, and it really was a good day. Despite John coming down with strep throat, Emma falling off the top bunk, Grace throwing up at the dinner table, and cousin Jamie falling in a hole and spraining her ankle, we still managed to have a great time. Some of us cousins haven't spent much time together as married adults, and it was fun to get to know the newer versions. Our children met some of their 2nd cousins for the first time, and I believe lasting friendships were formed.

{a hayride full of cousins. I love how my daughter, Grace, is captured in a full belly-laugh)

{gathering of great-grands. Eight were missing. My two girls were napping, and Leta's oldest was absent, as well as Sanda's four and Cynthia's daughter}

It was bittersweet for me, reflecting on days that are now by-gone. I found myself fighting a lump in my throat, thinking about the precious ones that are already in heaven, making it even sweeter. Both grandparents, two uncles, and my own sweet brother were not there in body, but certainly in spirit. I saw Papa Cooper in my Dad's soft, smiling mouth and twinkling eyes. I heard Nanny in Uncle Vernon's laugh and saw her in his gestures. I heard Uncle James Harold in my brother Bradley's voice and was reminded of Jonathan when I looked in my oldest nephew, Emory's eyes.

My Mom surprised me with a stack of pictures that I had never seen before, snapshots from childhood and before. And as I looked at faces that I will never again see in this life, I was thankful, for the time we did have with them and the memories we will never forget, that death cannot rob us of. And for the hope of heaven and the final reunion of all reunions.

{Jonathan and I, a couple of years before he died}

Now that's something to be thankful for.

*Thanks to Leta & Lisa for all the awesome photos!