Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Little Mandy

Another Christmas memory of my childhood is of my mother reading us the same story every Christmas Eve.  I remember she read it from a yellow note pad of paper that had been laminated and stapled together.  The story poem was written in her hand writing.  I don't know where that yellow laminated note pad is now, but I found the poem and have included it below.  It wouldn't be Christmas without Little Mandy.

by James Whitcomb Riley

LITTLE Mandy and her Ma

'S porest folks you ever saw!--

Lived in porest house in town.

Where the fence 'uz all tore down.

And no front-door steps at all--

Ist a' old box 'g'inst the wall;

And no door-knob on the door

Outside. My! but they 'uz pore!

Wuz no winder-shutters on,

And some of the winders gone,

And where they 'uz broke they'd pas'e

Ist brown paper 'crost the place.

Tell you! when it's winter there,

And the snow ist ever'where,

Little Mandy's Ma she say

'Spec' they'll freeze to death some day.

Wunst my Ma and me--when we

Be'n to church, and's goin' to be

Chris'mus purty soon,--we went

There--like the Committee sent

And-sir! when we're in the door,

Wuz no carpet on the floor,

And no fire--and heels-and-head

Little Mandy's tucked in bed!

And her Ma telled my Ma she

Got no coffee but ist tea,

And fried mush--and's all they had

Sence her health broke down so bad.

Nen Ma hug and hold me where

Little Mandy's layin' there;

And she kiss her, too, and nen

Mandy kiss my Ma again.

And my Ma she telled her we

Goin' to have a Chris'mus-Tree,

At the Sund'y School, 'at's fer

ALL the childern, and fer her.

Little Mandy think--nen she

Say, "What is a Chris'mus-Tree?" . . .

Nen my Ma she gived her Ma

Somepin' 'at I never saw,

And say she must take it,--and

She ist maked her keep her hand

Wite close shut,--and nen she kiss

Her hand--shut ist like it is.

Nen we comed away. . . . And nen

When it's Chris'mus Eve again,

And all of us childerns be

At the Church and Chris'mus-Tree,--

And all git our toys and things

'At old Santy Claus he brings

And puts on the Tree;--wite where

The big Tree 'uz standin' there,

And the things 'uz all tooked down,

And the childerns, all in town,

Got their presents--nen we see

They's a little Chris'mus-Tree

Wite behind the big Tree--so

We can't see till nen, you know,--

And it's all ist loaded down

With the purtiest things in town!

And the teacher smile and say:

"This-here Tree 'at's hid away

It's marked 'Little Mandy's Tree.'

Little Mandy! Where is she?"

Nen nobody say a word.--

Stillest place you ever heard!--

Till a man tiptoe up where

Teacher's still a-waitin' there.

Nen the man he whispers, so

Ist the Teacher hears, you know.

Nen he tiptoe back and go

Out the big door--ist as slow!

Little Mandy, though, she don't

Answer--and Ma say "she won't

Never, though each year they'll be

'Little Mandy's Chris'mus-Tree'

Fer pore childern"--my Ma says--

And Committee say they guess

"Little Mandy's Tree" 'ull be

Bigger nan the other Tree!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She's copyin' me!!!

They say that copying someone is the biggest form of flattery.  Well, let the flattering begin!  My dear friend writes a blog that I really enjoy.  She has been telling stories of her family's Christmas memories over the years.  You can stroll on over and visit her if you like.  Just click here and get you a warm cup of tea or coffee and settle in for some great reading.  Reading her blog is like sitting and having a heart to heart conversation with a great friend. (which she is!)  So in honor of my sweet friend, I will share some of my own memories.

I love hearing about what other people do for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Everyone has their own family traditions that make special days "complete" in their minds.  I usually spend part of one class period at the end of school before Christmas break having the students share something about their family's traditions.  It is so much fun to listen to them get excited about the smallest things!  Isn't it really the little things that mean the most?

My Dad is a minister and therefore our family was always extremely busy during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Christmas music rehearsals, Hanging of the Green, children's choir programs at church, handbells, the Singing Christmas Tree, and of course the Christmas Eve service.  My Dad always planned the Christmas Eve service.  Our extended family lived in Alabama and we were in Florida.  While my grandparents were living we would travel to Alabama for Christmas some years.  We would finish the Christmas Eve service and head home to have my Mother's chili.  We would eat chili and crackers every Christmas Eve.  After that my brother and I would go to bed and around midnight they would come and transfer us to the car for the all night drive.  My Dad would drive all night and my brother and I would fight over who got to sleep across the back seat and who had to sleep in the floorboard of the Oldsmobile.  With not having to wear seat belts, sleeping on all night trips was pretty easy.  When we woke up the next morning we would stop for some breakfast and then finish the drive and arrive by lunchtime.  Somehow Santa always found us at our grandparents' house.  It always amazed me.

One year I remember the usual chaos approaching Christmas.  I remember having to pack the suitcases and get everything ready for the trip.  As we got older we were responsible for packing our own suitcases.  This one particular year my Dad was pushing us to leave on time and wanted to get on the road immediately after the Christmas Eve service was over.  "Are you suitcases packed?"  "Do you have everything you need?"  "Is it ready to go in the car?"  We heard these questions over and over again.  The last statement will forever ring in my ears.  I believe it went something like this...

"If you don't have it when you get up there, we are not buying it!  You will just do without!"

We made the journey and arrived in Alabama.  The next day we were supposed to have a family portrait taken with all the cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandparents.  We went to get dressed for the picture when I heard my parents discussing something quite loudly in the next room.  Apparently my Dad had reminded everyone to pack their suitcases....but forgot to pack his own.  He had no clothes but the clothes on his back.  At least that's the way I remember it.  Nice children would have sat silently and never commented on the irony of the situation....but we had too much fun saying...."If you don't have it....we are not buying it!"
Every time we look at that family portrait and see the shirt my Dad had to go out and buy for the picture we tell the story over and over again.  It never gets old!

And to this favorite saying is....

"If we don't have it when we get there.....we'll just buy it!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Comfort and Joy

I have been thinking a lot lately about loving and worshiping God.  Why is it that we don't just fall face down daily in thanks to God for all his mighty deeds.  Why is it that we don't praise Him continually for his  surpassing greatness.  Our human nature is so tied to "comfort and joy" that we are so fallen when it comes to true worship and UNconditional love.  We are incapable of loving unconditionally apart from God.  He is love.  He alone can give us the desire to love, worship, praise and proclaim his mighty deeds!  

I have no one to blame but myself when I fall short in my worship of my Lord.  I think we all realize and know full well that unless we are saturating our lives with God's Word--living in it---that we will never give Him the glory He deserves.  

I don't know what it's like to suffer deeply.  There are people who are put through dark times like Job.  True, we all suffer and have trials to go through...but some people are really put through dark valley's "of the shadow of death".    There is never a "fence sitter" in this company of people.  They are either going to choose to praise God or curse Him.  Sometimes it is a journey. Everyone faced with suffering on any level will go through the normal human emotional roller coaster.  It is only human for us to struggle with our thoughts and emotions.  It's how we come out on the other side of the trials that shows our heart.  If we choose to remain angry and bitter we allow our circumstances to determine our love for God.  If we choose to praise Him and love him despite our circumstances then we stand to grow closer to Him and love Him even more deeply than before.  

I have never had a "Job" experience....and personally, I am thankful.  I don't know anyone who would consciously choose to walk that road.  I do know people who are walking this road today, though.  Maybe not to the extreme that Job did, but pretty close.  Each one is choosing one road or the other.  I am praying that those who's circumstances are so desperate will surrender to the molding of the Holy Spirit.  I can't even imagine how difficult it is.  I don't even come close to understanding that kind of desperation.  It makes me more mindful of praying for people.  I am watching them...not with judgement or criticism...but with prayerful anticipation of what choice they will make.  How are they responding?  What can I learn?  Intercessory prayer is so important.  I believe that God also teaches us profoundly about Himself through our prayer life and our intersession for others.  I don't believe that I tap into this nearly enough.  There is so much to learn about God in praying for others who are suffering.

I came across an article by John Piper recently.  You can read the full article HERE.

Here is an excerpt from the article that I found very helpful.

Four Lessons from Job

The lessons for us are plain and simple and profound:
  1. Believe with all your heart in the absolute sovereignty of God. Pray that God would give you that conviction.
  2. Believe with all your heart that everything he does is right and good. Pray that God will give you that assurance.
  3. Repent of all the times you have questioned God or found fault with him in the way he has treated you. Pray that God would humble you to see these murmurings as sinful.
  4. Be satisfied with the holy will of God and do not murmur.
Be like the great George Mueller of Bristol England. On the Lord's Day, February 6, 1870, his wife Mary died of rheumatic fever. They had been married 39 years and 4 months. The Lord gave him the strength to preach at her memorial service. He said,
I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more. But as a child of God, and as a servant of the Lord Jesus, I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me.

"...I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me."    Wow.  That is truly a choice of submission.  The pure sweetness and agony of those words have a profound peace wrapped around them.  That is a peace that only God can give.  Peace in the midst of suffering and agony.  Jesus is surely the "Prince of Peace".
He is the source of our "gentle and quiet spirit".  

May Christ reign in our hearts today.....with true peace....that brings true comfort and joy.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Precious jewels

I have a very unique wedding ring guard.  It is a wrap that has six tiny marquise diamonds...three on each side that surround my engagement ring.  This sweet little ring guard has quite a story.  Before we had children we moved to Florida from Alabama.   I woke up one morning and went about my normal routine.  I showered, dressed, ate breakfast and went to work.  I taught school all day and then went home.  As I was preparing supper, I noticed that one of the diamonds on my ring guard was missing.  I was very upset.  I couldn't imagine where in the world it had fallen out and because of it's delicate size I knew there was no possibility of EVER finding it.  As I sat thinking about the lost gem, I remembered that the night before I had awakened in the night time because I hit my hand on the night stand and it really hurt.  As I was thinking about hitting my hand, I remembered that I always sleep with my hand under my pillow.  Could it possibly be there?  I ran to the bedroom and unmade the bed and ever so slowly lifted my pillow and looked underneath.  I could not believe my eyes!  There was the tiny little diamond!!!  I am still amazed when I think about it.  It was a long time before I got the ring fixed.  Two pregnancies and life got in the way.  One day, many years later, my husband had it fixed and gave it back to me.  I was thrilled.  It was like getting a brand-new ring because I hadn't worn the guard in so long.  We had moved to North Carolina and went back to Florida to visit my family in the summer a few months after I got my ring back.  I was doing some laundry and as I was pulling clothes out of the washer, I knocked my hand on the agitator.  I finished putting the clothes in the dryer and went to put some ice on my hand.  I had hit it pretty hard and it looked as if it would bruise.  As I looked down at my hand.....yep, you guessed it.....the little diamond had once again disappeared!   It had been quite a while since I had knocked my hand.  If the diamond had fallen in the was gone.  It was so small it would have gone down the little drain holes.  I was once again very sad and disappointed and added quite a bit of frustration to my feelings this time.  How could this happen twice?  I sat there and thought for a few minutes about how I didn't want to tell my husband.  As I was fretting over this news....I noticed I was barefoot.  A fleeting thought went through my mind...a very strange thought.   Was it possible?  I looked on the bottom of my foot and THERE IT WAS...stuck to the bottom of my foot!!!  I can't believe this little diamond has disappeared and been found not once, but twice.  I mean it's not like it's a large diamond that you can see across a room!!  Sadly, the diamond guard once again got put in a drawer and went unfixed for quite some time.  I took it myself over the summer and had it fixed....again.

The story doesn't end here.  Yesterday I was coming out of my classroom and knocked my hand on the doorknob.  I walked down the hallway and into my office and sat down to check email.  I don't know how much time went by when I looked down and noticed diamond was once again....gone.  (the big sigh)  Really?  Again???  I mean this is three times in 18 years that the same diamond is lost and then found.  What are the odds of that?  I got up and thought that it was useless.  The hallway tile is white....and very dirty. Many feet had trampled the hallway.  I walked down the hallway to my room anyway.  I walked slowly and looked at every inch of the floor between my office and my classroom.  No diamond.  I got to the door of the classroom where I'd knocked my hand.  I looked down on the carpet....and there it was!  It was so small I almost missed it.  I laughed out loud.  The odds of this happening three times and being found three times were so high that it was quite comical. 

As I put my ring up today in a safe place to await the day I can once again have it fixed, I was thinking about that little gem.  Valuable, yet small.  It is a diamond and diamonds are precious.  It's size makes it vulnerable.
I got to thinking that God looks at me as a precious jewel.  I look at me as "small" and "hard to see" sometimes---not very significant.  God is so faithful.  No matter how many times I get "lost" along this journey, He always finds me and fixes what is broken.  I am never lost to Him.  No matter how small or how lost in the crowd I may feel, God knows where to find me in that haystack and He fixes me over and over again.  He never throws me away!  He never gives up and leaves me there for the vacuum! 

I will take my ring and have it fixed again.  And I will remember how much my God loves me and considers me His jewel. 

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;

So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.
“ They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts,
“ On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
Malachi 3:15-17

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the season to be

What will you choose to "be" this Advent and Christmas season?  Busy?  Stressed?  Happy?  Tired? Overworked?   Bitter?  Lonely?   Sad?  Hurried?  Rushed?  Frustrated?  Excited?  Occupied? Generous?  Joyful?  Broke?

For  years I have been many of the things in the above list----sadly, the negative ones.  This season of the year has often found me waking up each day wishing I could pull the covers back over my head and hide.  One more program.  One more rehearsal.  One more meeting.  One more field trip.   One more concert.  One more church function.  One more project.   I met each morning with dread and exhaustion. I would hear about Advent and the anticipation we should feel about the coming of Jesus.  My joy was lost.  I used to enjoy all the activities and "stuff" I was doing.  But as I've gotten older and had children I realized how the time is slipping away.  My schedule had gotten so packed with "good Christmas things" that I was starting to dislike it more and more.  Bringing others cheer was causing me bitterness.

Now, I don't think that the actual programs and activities were wrong.  The problem was that it wasn't in moderation and was in excess.  Excess=too much!

The brakes had to be put on to slow the speed...and at one point I even came to a complete stop. Something had to change.  We made some significant decisions within our family about how we would spend this past year.  We have done pretty well sticking to our "plan".  All in all, life has slowed down to a steady pace instead of a runaway train.

Advent.  I have heard about Advent.  I have participated in the lighting of the candles and the meaing behind each one.  But I don't believe I have ever lived it.   Christmas comes and I am not prepared.  I have often fretted over not being prepared with gift purchases or travel plans.  But I don't feel I am ever spiritually prepared for Christmas.  By the time it actually arrives, I usually crash.  I have nothing left.  I don't really want to celebrate because it comes so quickly when I finally have time to think about it. 

 Tonight we began our Advent devotions.  We opened the first window on the Advent calendar and read the first lesson in our study as a family.  The investment of time together studying God's Word has been such a blessing to me this past year.  Consistency with family worship has shown through our relationships with God and one another.    I am so grateful to my husband for leading our family in our times together.  It is never time consuming or anything that takes lots of planning.  We just open up the Word and read together and discuss.  We pray.  Sometimes we even sing!  I hope that my girls will always remember the times we spend together and they will continue to spend time with God, and lead their own children, "talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates".  (Deuteronomy 11) 

This time of year is still busy.  There is a lot to do and accomplish in the lives of my children, my job, my husband's job, church, and family.  But God has given me perspective.  He has given me His wisdom in making some choices for my family that I think have made all the difference in our outlook on each day.  I no longer dread the morning.  (most days, anyway!!!)  I still may need an extra cup of coffee, and we may eat out a little more during the month of December while rushing here and there.  But the rushing isn't nearly as out of control and the schedule is more balanced.  It is my prayer that I will be prepared for Christmas when it gets here.  Prepared in my heart, that is.  Come, thou long expected Jesus!

'Tis the season to......BE.