Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Sale Table

Tomorrow, we pack away all the items that didn't sell in our after-Christmas clearance sale.  We've marked it down in three stages over three weeks.  As time went on and selection dwindled, the savings got bigger and bigger.  But, eventually, we have to move on and get whatever remains boxed up to make room for the new merchandise.  The Valentines.  The spring.  It's time to freshen things up and that's what we'll do this weekend.  Such is the cycle of retail. 

Today, I condensed the remaining Christmas items down to one little table and it hit me how we can, sometimes, treat people like stuff.   

There are a few people who may seem to be hot the stuff that sells at regular price.  Sometimes, it's wanted even before it's unpacked from the box good.  They're in high demand, these people.  We seek to have them in their lives.  We're drawn to them.  Like looking at a hot item in a store, our heads are turned maybe by their looks, their quality, their usefulness, their label....or maybe just because others are crowded around them.  Sometimes, we can mistakenly put a lot of people in this category by what we see on social media.  Their lives look flawless.  They seem to have millions of friends surrounding them.  Rejection doesn't appear to be a problem in their lives.  They're always the feature in the front window display.  Coveted by many.  Always wanted.  And we treat them differently because of their high demand and popularity.  They're put up toward the front in a place of prominence where everyone can see.  We realize they can do a lot for us.  They really draw in a crowd.          

Then, there are people who have to do a little more convincing as far as we're concerned.  Sure, they have some great traits but they don't always catch the eye right off the bat.  Maybe they're nice but we don't really see where they're much different from what we already have.  They're just average. I mean, we want to get where there's high demand not mediocrity.  Maybe they don't really jump out at anybody.  They're just sort of standard us.  Kind of like the stuff that takes a little more arm twisting to sell.  They don't always make the cut but, with a little extra effort, we recognize their value and take them into our lives.  We're almost always glad we did.  They can become some of our greatest treasures.  Good quality stuff just without all the bells and whistles.      

And, sometimes, there are things that we just give up on and box up for storage.  They sit around and sit around and not one of us stops to look at them or pay them the least bit of attention.  Nothing that they have to offer is seen as a benefit to any of us who come in contact with them.  Maybe we notice that no one else is drawn to them and so we back off.  Others try to pawn them off on us but there are no takers.  Nobody feels that they're worth the price that's asked of us and so they're ignored and left behind.  Onlookers may think the buyer made a big mistake with their purchase.  They may wonder what He ever saw in them.  No one is drawn to the reject. The misfit.  The failure.  And, so, none of us will ever know what they have to offer.  Or what a blessing they could be to us.  Or what a blessing we could be to them.     

I was thinking that all of that stuff/people have one thing in common.  The store owner paid a price to buy them all.  He saw something in them that was loveable and endearing to Him and He wanted to take them home and so He paid the price to make that possible.  He paid the full amount for both the ones that flew off the shelves with their sparkly charm and the ones that got crammed back in the box because no one ever saw any worth in them......but Him.

In this new year, I hope that I'll make a more conscious effort to treat people like they are valuable.  Whether I'm wowed by their charisma or if they just blend in with the background, God paid the bill in full for both of them and all the ones in between.  If He saw something that was beautiful there, maybe I will, too.  If I stop long enough to really look around instead of just window shop.   

I hope y'all have a great weekend. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Big Easy

Well, the New Orleans trip was a success!  We left home in the sleet but drove out of it before too long.  We had a great weekend. A really, really great weekend.  The happy couple has done most of their dating there in the Big Easy and fell in love with its food, music, and southern charm and so we braved the elements to see if it would be feasible for them to get married there. 

It's always better to visit a big city with someone who knows all the good spots and so John Samuel, who goes to school there, came in handy as our tour guide.  He took us to tucked away restaurants that we would've probably passed right by without having a "local" to advise us.  He may have "advised" us a little too well, though, as I gained 2.5 lbs. in 3 days of gumbo-ing and beignet-ing our way through town.

Anyway, the trip was wildly successful.  After traipsing all over the city and crossing the duds off the list, we now have a venue.  We have a date.  We have a preacher.  We have a caterer.  We have a florist (Not me, yay.).  We have a jazz band.  We were what you might call a "productive people".  We have a long way to go but I'm feeling a tad bit cocky after coming off such a fruitful weekend.
(Davis is the one on the right who looks like he has a lot of numbers floating around in his head.)

I also got some Christmas outdoor illumination ideas for next year.  I can't even begin to imagine how many extension cords this took as these were OAK trees not some wimpy plant material.  It was absolutely stunning!  With Davis being retired, I'm thinking he could pull this off for me.

The trip was not only productive but it also reinforced a couple of personal beliefs which I already held to be true:
1)  I was not meant to live in a large city where people are packed into street cars like a warm can of biscuits.  If I can see the nostril hair of the man pressed up next to me, something is bad wrong.  If I can feel your breath in my hair and we are not married, you are not where you belong.  I was not designed to live in such tight quarters with those I don't know.  If I can discern that your deodorant is of the powder fresh scent variety, we are entirely too close.  Period. 

2)  And no matter the down sides of New Orleans living, when the brass band blares out "When the Saints Go Marching In", well, you want to be in that number! 
And for those of you who are interested, Sugar and my mother survived the weekend without incident.  Well, except for that one time when Mama said, "Sugar, come get your food" and Sugar thought she said, "Sugar, I'm gonna get your food" and there may or may not have been some sort of  scuffle involving the baring of teeth.  But, it's one's word against the other.  It was all just a big misunderstanding, I'm sure.  I just forgot to tell Mama that she needed to really enunciate when addressing Sugar. 

Well, y'all have a good Wednesday!    


Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Blizzard of '17, the Reluctant Dog Sitter, and Unlikely Friends

Well, we're predicted to have a blizzard here in Mississippi today.  Well, by blizzard, I actually mean that the word, snow, has left the lips of the weatherman which, in the South, means that hysteria has ensued.  School is cancelled for tomorrow.  Offices are closed.  And I'm sure there's not a loaf of bread left in the Bible belt.....especially here in the buckle where we believe that white bread is manna in times of wintry despair and that God will help those who go out to gather it for their families.       

We don't know how to handle wintry precipitation down here.  We just don't.  We are experts in tornadoes.  Twisters love it here and we know just what to do about those.  We know how to stay safe in hell-like heat.  We know all the precautions to take to avoid being burned alive by the sun which is about 30 feet from the southern U.S. in the summertime.  And hurricanes?  Well, we wrote the handbook on how to survive those.  But, let the weatherman mention snow and we go to buying pallets of canned goods and bread and milk....totally losing sight of the fact that the temperatures will likely climb back into the upper 60's in a couple of days and we'll be running the air conditioning.  I know you, people from the North, get a big kick out of our snow frenzies but we just do better with weather that requires chain saws not tire chains. 

We're all headed to New Orleans for the weekend so we'll miss any snow fun that will be had.  It's our first wedding planning excursion as we're going to check out some possible venues.  My non-dog loving Mama is coming to dog sit.  Sugar knows when our bags are by the door that her Grandma is probably coming for a visit.  I can tell you that neither is excited.  Sugar's been looking at me like, "I see you've gotten the Vera Bradley out and I'm onto you.  You're going to leave me here with that lady who makes me go out every 10 minutes because she's afraid I'm going to wet the floor, aren't you?  Well, that's just great.  Just great."  I believe the last time they cohabitated, Sugar uncharacteristically did a boo-boo on the dining room floor just to spite her.  I can only hope this weekend goes more smoothly or our chances of securing her services again will be slim to none.  I'll let you know how it went when we return. 

Since this post is all over the place already, I wanted to share something sweet.  A year and a half ago, when Carson went on choir tour with our church youth group, the teens were each given the name of an elderly church member and they were asked to write a letter to the person during week.  I love that about the annual youth choir trips.  The kids are usually given some sort of writing assignment in which they have to use an actual pen and paper to express themselves for the benefit of others.  The world could use more pen and paper and less technology if you ask me, but I digress.

Anyway, Carson was given Mrs. Cowart's name.  He wrote her and the church mailed all the kids' letters when they returned home.  Assignment completed.  He did tell us about the letter when he got back from the trip but not much thought was given to it after that, I guess.  Until........she wrote back.  As is characteristic of the older generation, they never let a correspondence go unanswered or a gesture go un-thanked.  I love that about them.  We, younger people, could learn so much from the importance they place on relationships and the diligence with which they approach social graces.

Well, she wrote Carson about her love of fishing as she knew that would interest a teenage boy.  He would write her back and, before too many weeks would pass, another letter would arrive in the mailbox from her.  She told him about the largest fish she ever caught and so many other interesting things.  Some of her precious letters included a few dollars for Carson to use for "school supplies".  He would always be excited to write her back.....the boy who doesn't particularly care for writing all that much.  It's been a sweet thing to watch.  Two people, generations apart, who didn't really know each other, becoming friends through written words. 

Mrs. Cowart is very sick now and, tonight, I sat in the car while I watched Carson knock on her door.  He handed flowers through the door to her sitter and asked if she'd deliver them to her.  I thought how wonderful it was that the two of them connected through that writing assignment.  And how much his generation could learn from hers.  How much they have in common even though they grew up in such different times.  Please pray for Mrs. Cowart.........that the Lord will give her peace and mercy.  She is a sweet, sweet lady who took time to write a young man she didn't really know.  And she touched his heart. 

And mine.   

Y'all have a good weekend.  Stay warm and keep your bread handy.                    


Sunday, January 1, 2017

After the Holidays is Here, People

We had such a great Christmas!  It was a little on the warm side but Mississippians know that's always a strong possibility.  We wouldn't know a white Christmas if it came up and slapped us in the face.  For some reason, it seems like the heat just creeps up on us at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas down here.  After a while, you just learn to steer the kids toward the more ventilated Halloween costumes, forget looking seasonal and just wear short sleeves to eat turkey at your grandma's, and always be ready to run the air conditioner if you plan on serving hot Christmas cider.  Mississippi holiday problems.  We've got 'em.   

Well, here we are in 2017.  You know, for a couple of months now, we've been able to use the holidays as the comfy cushion between us and almost everything.  Our front airbag, if you will.  "I'll start that after the holidays" and "I'm going to do better after the holidays."  Well, dang it, it's after the holidays now. 

I don't know about you but I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year's.  Seriously, is there another week during the year that expects less from us?  We've all been walking around here in sweat pants for a week.  Watching football 7 hours a day.  Asking each other what day it is.  Eating like those people who are missing the part of the brain that tells them that they're full.  No, I don't believe there's another week on the calendar that gives us all a pass like that last week of the year does.  No one ever says, "Let's get started on that project on December 27th" or "Let's start going to the gym on the 29th."  Pshhh.  Nope, eating, spending, working, exercising-December has already been blown to smithereens so why not just see it all the way through?    

Of course, it takes a good week to recover from the category 3 storm which is Christmas.  No other day of the year blows through with such force and dumps a mountain of "debris" in the middle of your house.  You know that first day after Christmas when everyone has their own pile of opened gifts in the family room?  Most of the wrapping garbage has been bagged up but there are still straggling pieces of tissue paper and stray shirt box halves with that one remnant of wrapping paper still hanging on by the Scotch tape......all scattered between the mounds of new stuff.  A day or two later, the gifts may make their way to their respective rooms where they sit on the floor there for another couple of days and may look something like this.....
Eventually, someone has to bite the bullet and make room in the bloated closets for all this new stuff....and we all know who that person usually is. 

Then, there are things like this laying around.  Those unfulfilled Christmas aspirations.
I saw this beautiful Christmas puzzle in the store and had visions of us all in our Christmas pajamas sipping hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies and working on it together while engaging in meaningful conversation and sharing what was on our hearts.  I got the 1,000 piece.  I think we're more of a 500 piece family.  Especially when 800 of the 1,000 pieces make up the sky.......the solid colored purple/pink sky.  None of us signed up for that.  The only thing on our hearts that we wanted to share with each other was how the puzzle was stupid and how it made us want to throw something through a window.  So, if you're looking for a family who has the perseverance to see a difficult task to its end, don't stop here.  That sucker went back in the box and into the attic.  Maybe, one day, if we all simultaneously break both of our legs at once and that puzzle is the only option we have to fill our time, then we may get it back out.  Otherwise, it will be available at our next garage sale for a more committed family. 

And there are the decorations that everyone dreads taking down during that week.  If nothing else does, that alone justifies a little extra down time.  The needles.  The glitter.  The ornament hooks getting hung up in the vacuum.  I'm that person who is always itching to take it all down on Christmas night.  I know I've just appalled some of you, twelve days of Christmas people, but it's just how I am.  I usually refrain until the morning after but then it's got to go.  No one likes Christmas more than me but when it's over, it's over.  There's no sense in drawing out the after-Christmas letdown.  You just have to rip the Band-Aid off and face the task of trying to remember what went where.   

Yes, all good things must come to an end.  Our week of hiding is over.  We knew, eventually, we'd have to put on pants with zippers again.  Wear a bra.  Go back to earning money.  Eat dishes that don't contain cream cheese or heavy whipping cream.  Begin to exhibit some self-restraint.  Wake up at an hour when it's not a struggle to decide if we should have breakfast or lunch.  And, yes, shower before the six o'clock news.   

Because a new beginning is nigh and yoga pants aren't allowed at the office.  We have to get back up and face life again without all the twinkly lights, the Bing Crosby music, and the tins of goodies in the break room.  It's gonna hurt for a few days.  But, there's something wonderful about getting back to normal.  Christmas is all good and warm and fuzzy but normal is where most of life happens.  It'll be good to go back there for a while. Twinkly lights wouldn't seem near as pretty if they burned all year.

Whatever you said you were going to start after the holidays, I hope you get a jump on it today!          


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

So, Just a Couple of Things

Warning:  I'm about to be like that friend who just had her first grandbaby and you see her at the mall and she traps you in the Dillard's shoe department forcing you to look at her slew of pictures and listen to her go on and on about every detail.  I mean.....just so you know. 

So, Davis' retirement party was so nice.  So much food.  Good ol' southern food that went on for what seemed like miles down the tables.  Let me tell you, there's not much better in the whole world than 9x13 Pyrex dishes stretched out in the deep South topped with an assortment of fried onions, corn flakes, Ritz crackers, and melted cheese......oh, and a brisket so tender that it melts in your mouth like a wedding mint.  There were people there from his current co-workers all the way back to some who worked with him when he came on board at 22 and in his words, "had no idea what I was doing." After the food, they presented him with a plaque, some cards and gifts, and his retirement pin.  I mean, everyone looks forward to the day when they can finally get their hands on a coveted retirement pin, right?  I'm sure he'll wear that everywhere.  The best part- they had so many kind things to say about Davis.  Words like integrity, faithful, steady, and dependable kept coming up and they made me proud with their stories of how he always does the right thing.  That's the Davis we know at home, too.  There's no doubt that what he'll miss most about his job are those friends who he considers to be his second family.  Having that kind of comradery at work is a real blessing.

So, you might think that the Millers' big news stops there but you'd be wrong.  The day after Davis' retirement party, Blair and John Samuel got engaged!  They'll be getting married sometime next fall which is the start of Carson's senior year of high school.  Clearly, they have all conspired to induce in me some sort of emotional breakdown by cramming as many life changes as possible into a short time frame. 

No, really Davis and I couldn't be happier!  Isn't that the prayer of parents of daughters from the time their little pink bundles arrive?  That, somewhere in the world, there are parents who are teaching their little boy to be kind, forgiving, and faithful.  That they're taking him to church and reading to him about Jesus.  That they're teaching him how to be a man and how to treat a lady.  Urging him to be independent and responsible and a hard worker.  And that when they've done their job that God, somehow, would let that little boy find your little girl in this big, big world.......hoping that you've taught her all that she needs to know, too.   

Through the years, there have been young men come to our door to pick up our daughter for dates.  They've come to take her to the movies, ballgames, dinner out, and proms.  They've come dressed in blue jeans or in formal wear with a corsage box in tow.  They've all been polite and said, "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" and nervously opened the car door for her.  They've shared meals with us and joined us on trips.  Different personalities.  Different backgrounds.  Different goals. 

As it goes with parents, we've trudged along with her through the years of dating and the heartaches and crushes and everything that goes along with the process of elimination which we all have to endure.  Then, there came John Samuel and something was different about him.  The difference was on his face when he looked at her.  It was a love that I recognized because like I told him when he asked for our blessing, "You love her like we love her.  You take care of her like we take care of her."  

John Samuel is another blessing our family received from Davis' job.  John Samuel's dad works in the same office as Davis.  The two of them would discuss their college kids and give and receive updates around the water cooler, so to speak.  Funny story.  At some point, it was decided between the dads that their kids should meet and so when John Samuel came home for Christmas, two years ago, he gave Blair a call at his father's urging.  He asked her for a date and they went out the night before they had to go back to different colleges at the end of Christmas break. 

I remember their first date.  It was raining.  No, not just was like a deluge of Biblical proportions.  Blair had gotten ready ahead of schedule which is almost unheard of and she was trying to decide if she should be in the back of the house when he got here or if she should be in view when he arrived.  So many things to consider when trying to execute a successful first date. 

The doorbell rang and a tall, dark, handsome young man stood there at the door....with raindrop marks all over his shirt.  He came in after shaking the rain off of himself.  He was a little nervous which is understandable considering he was meeting his date, her parents, her brother, and their old, ornery dog for the first time......and all at once.  You'd have to have nerves of steel to not be a little uneasy about all that.  He shook Davis' hand and said all the appropriate things expected from a young southern gentleman.  After a few minutes of conversation, they were gone.  Out into the stormy night. 

Well, the first date led to another and another and here we are two years later.  Not many couples can thank their fathers for finding the love of their lives. 

Of course, John Samuel did it in grand style using the southern backdrop of the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation.  He's had the proposal planned for months.  He even arranged for her sorority little sis to be there in hiding to take pictures.  After things settle down a bit, I'm interested in enrolling Davis in John Samuel's course on romantic event planning.  I feel he could benefit from some refresher classes.

So, we have a wedding to plan and we couldn't be happier!  For 20 or so years, I helped brides and their mothers plan weddings......the flower part, at least.  I'd meet with them and take notes of their likes and wishes and preferences.  I worked with all kinds of brides and all kinds of mothers.  All sorts of mother/daughter dynamics. All kinds of flowers.  All types of venues and budgets.   I was familiar with most of the caterers, photographers, rental businesses, and churches in town.....basically, all things wedding.  I could plan other people's daughters' weddings with little problem but now it's hit me that WE'RE going to have a wedding in 2017 and I'm like.......
You know, like I don't have a clue what I'm doing or where to start.  I'm sure this is just a temporary condition brought on by all the excitement of the moment.  Yeah, that has to be it.

So, all of these life changes should give me plenty to blog about in 2017.  I can't wait......I think. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. I appreciate your time and loyalty to my blog.  I'm greatly humbled by it.  You'll never know how much it means to me. 

May God bless you and yours this holy season. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What's Going On?

1) Well, tomorrow is Davis' retirement party at work.  Because Davis is not one who enjoys the warmth of the spotlight, he insisted that they not make a big thing out of it and so his co-workers are going to have his celebration in conjunction with their district Christmas party.  As his loving wife, of course, I'm invited.  The retiree's spouse is not a role I've ever played before and so I will be forging new ground tomorrow.  After working for the same agency for 33 years, this is going to be quite an adjustment for him........and if I find him loafing around the house unshaven in his pajama bottoms very often, well, it's going to be an adjustment for me, too.  Davis has never been a loafer so I don't expect it to be a problem.  I do look forward to him having more time and flexibility to be with us, his adorable and irresistible family.  I'm sure I'll have pictures and stories about the retirement party that I'll force you to look at so don't go too far.

2) Like you, we've been so, so busy!  This was our first night at home in a while and so I was able to finally put up some Christmas adornments outside.  You'll be happy to know that we don't look quite so atheistic to passing cars now.

3) We've covered a lot of Christmas party ground since we last talked.  So far, we've eaten a lot of saturated fats, played our share of Dirty Santa and got to visit with people we love.  But, one of our very favorite treats is always celebrating Christmas with our dear friend of 25 years, Mrs. Wright.  She was one of our very first neighbors as a married couple and we've kept up with her through the years even though that was two houses ago.  Mrs. Wright is only a few days from turning 92 and if I'm.......well, alive at her age, I will consider it a blessing and if I'm still as active and engaged as she......well, mercy.  She's something else!  

I don't know what it is about Christmas that makes us more emotionally aware of the preciousness of those around us but it sure does.  Everyone seems to have a heart that sees the value in others at Christmastime.  Eyes that can see the treasure they possess by having that person in their lives.  That's how we were feeling about Mrs. Wright, the other night.  She's tossing around the idea of a move to be near her children which would take her away from us and so just the thought of that may have produced a tear or two as we were all reminded of how much we cherish being part of her life.

4)  Christmas is such a fun time of year but there are a lot of people who are hurting, too.  Our sweet friend, Barry, just lost his mother and I know that there are so many others who are grieving and trying to navigate the holidays for the first time.  It's just a hurdle that has to be overcome and it's not the least bit fun.  Like we talked about, the other day, Christmas has so many memories attached to it that it just brings those we're missing to the surface of our minds over and over again.  I'm praying for all those who are sad in the midst of all the merriment.  Those who have something tugging at them so hard.  Someone they're missing at the table.  Something that's weighing down the light spirit of Christmas for them.  God, be close to them during the holidays.

5)  Well, my sweet cousin, Amy, took some pictures of us for a Christmas card.  We were ill and void of color when our appointment with the photographer came around and so, after the plague finally subsided,  Amy was kind enough to work within our 1 hour time frame in which we were all available at the same time. 

So, I sat down to design the card on the computer and I started thinking about addressing all of them and mailing them out and I talked myself right out of doing cards this year.  I guess I'm suffering from a lack of motivation.  It could be a lingering effect of the virus but I'm taking the easy way to Christmas Day and I'm kinda liking it.  So, if you would have received a Christmas card from us, it would've looked something like this......
Merry CHRISTmas from the Miller family! 

Wow, so much easier. 

6)  One more thing before I go- I wanted to share a sweet Christmas song by a group called Track 45.  They're siblings and they're precious and so talented and from right here in my hometown.  As an added bit of trivia, their granddad was my pediatrician when I was a child and, as I recall, ordered many-a-penicillin shot for my little derriere but that is neither here nor there.  Hope you enjoy their beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" as much as I did. 

I'll check in next week before Christmas!  Y'all enjoy this sweet season and squeeze all the goodness out of it that you can! 

See you soon.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Like I Remember

It's true.  There are a lot of perks to being an adult.  No bedtimes.  You can eat what you want to eat.  Nobody's telling you to eat the green beans if you don't want to.  You can buy what you want to buy.  You can drive where you want to go.  No studying or sitting in class.  You can plan trips.  Watch as much television as you want to watch.  Wear what you want to wear.  Stay out as late as you want to stay out.  Make decisions for yourself. 

Yeah, adulthood is a pretty good deal, I have to say.  We even spend a good part of our early life wishing for it.   

But, there could be a time of year when being a child might have the advantage. 

Yeah, I'd definitely say so. 

It's Christmas.

At Christmas, there's no contest.  It's better to be a kid.  Before the innocence is gone. Before the anticipation wanes. Before the busyness crowds out the wonder.  Before the mysteries are all solved.  Before something simple is turned into something so complicated.     

I remember the building suspense leading up to Christmas when I was a child.  It was so strong, sometimes, I just thought I would explode!  By the week of Christmas, the butterflies in my stomach were in full flutter mode and I didn't know if I could wait another second.  I'd remember all the things I'd circled in the Sears catalog and I'd imagine what I'd find under the tree.  There was always an item or two that I really hoped would be there.  A Barbie Styling Head or an Easy Bake Oven or a Merlin electronic game.  And time just seemed to stand still.  Like really, really still.  And those days after school let out were brutal in their snail pace.  The days in December just lumbered along while I slowly went insane with anticipation.   

I remember there being a coziness about home during the Christmas season.  A lot of music and movies and food and decorations and Bible reading.  We had some Christmas albums that played on the stereo almost non-stop during December.  My favorite was a boxed set we had.  It was a treasury of Christmas music and it will forever be the sound of Christmas to me.  It was a time when there were special homemade candies and lots of really good food that we didn't get any other time of the year.  I remember helping Mama roll the pecan sandies in the powdered sugar and using a fork to crisscross her little cheese wafers before they went in the oven.  Mmmmm.  Those were special things reserved only for Jesus' birthday.  We'd decorate our real tree from the grocery store as a family.  Usually with a Christmas cartoon special playing on the console TV.  Daddy would put the lights on the tree and we'd hang all the ornaments plus the ones we'd made at Sunday School usually featuring our school picture, some felt, sequins, and a lot of Elmer's glue.  I remember it being a warm, fuzzy time of year.  Daddy would read the story of Jesus's birth from Luke and something about his deep voice reading those words seemed to officially declare it a holy time of year....even to us as little kids.  I just remember there was more being together at home than usual.  I liked that and so much else about Christmas.    

And the night before Christmas, well, that was generally a sleepless night.  I mean, who could sleep at a time like that?  You were on the brink of the biggest event of the whole year, Christmas morning.  The thrill of the unknown.  The mystery of Santa.  The smell of new baby doll plastic and the pleasure of ripping cellophane off a new board game with all the pieces.  The excitement of looking over to see what your brothers got, too.  It was enough to make your heart pound.  All night long.     

There are a lot of wonderful moments in life.  Times that our minds go back to and wrap us with the warmth of their recollection.  But, not much in this life can rival the memories of being a child at Christmas. 

A lot has changed about Christmas since then.  The month goes by a lot faster.  It's here and gone before you know it.  It's definitely picked up the pace since I was young.  Now, the thrill is found more in giving than in getting.  The anticipation is for the reactions of those that I love.  There are people missing at Christmas now and some traditions have changed.  The stress and bustle of the season can dull some of the sparkle.  Christmas is more complicated than it used to be.  Sometimes, we can feel like we're backstage handling all the ugly details while the real thing is taking place on the other side of the curtain and we're missing it all. 

Like you, I'm waist deep in all things Christmas.  The gift shops are in the middle of their busiest season.  Until next Wednesday, tonight was the last night we had without a social commitment.  I've yet to put one single, solitary decoration outside our house.  Currently, from the road, we look like the neighborhood atheists in need of a salvation track.  Appearances is the only thing drawing me to put them out at this late stage of the game.  And after a solid couple of days in stores and post offices and two nights in the middle of the floor, I've finally finished buying, wrapping, and mailing our gifts.....including the last minute additions and the stack of dirty Santa gifts we'll arm ourselves with for our various parties. 

The joyful, innocent spirit of the holidays can get lost in the stampede of the season.  There's so much to do.  So much to think about.  So much to prepare for.  So many expectations to meet. So many boxes to check off. 

I can easily let the childlike wonder of Christmas get buried in the details.  But, I think Jesus wants me to keep His birthday pretty simple.  Just like I remember it being.  So long ago. 

With the wonderment of a child.  With the joy of a child.  With the heart of a child. 

Y'all have a great weekend celebrating!