Comments are welcome but please have the courtesy to sign your name. Unsigned comments will be deleted.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Overview

Here's just a few glimpses into our Christmas celebration this weekend. (Click on photo to enlarge)

The new drapes Leroy gave me for the living room arrived on December 23.

Our family was here on December 24. All 28 of us still fit at the tables in the basement.

We were certainly gifted parents. Just one of these things would have been enough.

The grandchildren enjoyed their gifts too. This is Lauren and Kayla sharing theirs.

Justin and Kaden compare their (battery operated) hamsters.

The hot dog roast for supper was a new activity for Christmas (fueled by the branches that came down in the October snowstorm).

After supper the boys played Monopoly with the John Deere version of the game.

On Christmas Day we went to my sister Carol's house for supper with my siblings. My Canadian brother could not be with us but connected by phone during the party. We changed to an Easter dinner after Mom died in 1993 so it has been a long time since we were together for Christmas. We had a very nice visit and uplifting conversation. It was a lovely end to the Christmas weekend.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

We're having our family for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I've done as much as I can today. The rest must wait until tomorrow morning. Cheryl and her family will arrive in time for supper tonight and stay until Sunday afternoon. We will go to my sister then Sunday evening to round out Christmas Day. I will not have time to check in here before Monday so here's wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas that will live on in memory and spirit all through 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Arrival

The noise and the bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts.
The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most in the town. After all, the inn was full, all the beds taken. Every available mat or blanket had been put to use. Soon all the customers would be stirring and there would be a lot of work to do.
One’s imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Perhaps. Perhaps someone raised the subject. But, at best, it was raised, not discussed. There was nothing that novel about them. They were, possibly, one of several families turned away that night.
Besides, who had time to talk about them when there was so much excitement in the air? Augustus did the economy of Bethlehem a favor when he decreed that a census should be taken. Who could remember when such commerce had hit the village?
No, it is doubtful that anyone mentioned the couple’s arrival or wondered about the condition of the girl. They were too busy. The day was upon them. The day’s bread had to be made. The morning’s chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred.
God had entered the world as a baby.
Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.
The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.
A more lowly place of birth could not exist.
Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can’t remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn’t figured it all out. The mystery of the event still puzzles him. But he hasn’t the energy to wrestle with the questions. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes, he remembers the name the angel told him to use . . . Jesus. “We will call him Jesus.”
Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel,
“His kingdom will never end.”
He looks anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.
Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.
She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!
This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.
Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking. (emphasis mine)
Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?
Max Lucado

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve Story

This is, of course, a fictitious story but still touching.

On a snow blessed Christmas Eve a young man found himself alone in the back of an old city bar in the rundown section of town. Using his solitary drink as something of a moat between himself and the rest of the world, he was surprised when an elderly gentleman asked to join him at his table. Reluctantly, he nodded his permission but within minutes he found himself engrossed in a story that the old man related to him; a story about another Christmas Eve when the Lord looked down from above at all his children. It had been nearly two thousand years since the birth of His Son and turning to His youngest angel the Lord said, “Go down to the Earth and bring back to me the one thing that best represents everything good that has been done in the name of this day.”
The angel bowed to the Lord and spreading his wings, descended from heaven to the world of man, all the while contemplating his mission. So much had been done in the name of honoring the birth of the Christ Child. For this day wars had temporarily ceased, cathedrals had been built and great novels had been written. With so little time, what could he possibly find to represent all this?
As he soared above the earth, he suddenly heard the sound of church bells below. Their tone was so beautiful that it reminded him of the voice of God.
Looking down, he saw a small church whose bells were ringing out the carol, “Silent Night.” As the final note died away, it was replaced by one lone voice singing inside the church. It was shortly joined by a second voice that embraced the first in perfect harmony, and then another and another until a choir of voices rose through the night. Enchanted by the magic of what he was hearing, the angel found himself listening until the song was finished. As he resumed his flight through the night, he was delighted to hear these sounds everywhere, from the largest cities to the smallest villages. And any place where he heard these songs, he found hope in the hearts of men. Grasping a song out of the air, he held it in his hand (angels are able to do this) and thought that maybe, these songs could be the one thing that best represented Christmas. They seemed to give voice to man's greatest joys as well as hope to those deepest in despair.
But, though at first glance it appeared to be the answer he sought, his heart told him that this music was not enough. There had to be something more. So he continued his flight through the night until he suddenly felt the touch of a father's prayer on its way to heaven. Once again looking downward, he saw a man who was praying for his child; a child whom he had not heard from in a long time and who would not be home that Christmas. Seizing upon the prayer, the angel followed it until it reached the lost child.
She was standing on a corner, in a quiet snowfall, looking very small in a very large city. Across from her was an old city bar, the kind that only the lost seemed to know how to find.
The patrons of this establishment rarely looked up from their drinks and so seemed not to notice the young girl. Suddenly, the door opened wide and into this world walked a small child. The bartender could not remember the last time that a child had been in this place, but before he could ask the child what he was doing there, the child asked him if he knew that there was a girl outside their door who could not get home. Glancing out the window, he saw the girl standing across the street. Turning back to the child, the bartender asked him how he knew this. The child replied: "On this night of all nights, if one could be home, they'd be already there.” The bartender looked back toward the young girl as he reflected on what the child had said. After several seconds of thought, he slowly went over to the cash register and removing most of the money, came out from behind the bar and followed the child across the street.
Everyone in the bar watched as he spoke with the girl. After a few moments, he called over a cab, put the girl inside and told the driver, "J.F.K. Airport." As the cab pulled away, he looked around for the child, but the child was gone. And what was stranger still, even though his own tracks leading from the bar were still clearly marked in the snow, the child's were nowhere to be found. Returning back inside, he asked if anyone had seen where the child had gone, but like himself, no one had, for they also had been watching the departing cab. 
Later that night the angel returned back to heaven and placed in the Lord's hand, the prayer of a father for the return of his child. And as the heavenly host looked on, the Lord smiled.
At the end of his story the old man then told the youth that he had enjoyed their time together but that it was time for him to leave. After the old man had left, the youth found himself rushing out the door only seconds behind the elderly gentleman's exit so that he might ask his name, but not only was there no one in sight but there wasn't even a single track in the snow.
The young man stood there for a moment perplexed but then he suddenly felt a sense of gentle peace and contentment flow through his body. Buttoning his coat the youth slowly walked home where for the first time since his childhood he dreamed a Christmas dream.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Village

We went out for supper last evening for my birthday (on a gift certificate). On the way home we passed Koziar's Christmas Village which is about four miles from our house. This elaborate display started out as a family decorating their farm in 1948 and continued to expand until the family made enough money from it that they could quit milking cows. After 60 years, cars still line up for miles waiting to get into the place.
I drive by this place in all seasons of the year. Many of the decorations remain in place all year but the lights don't go on until the fall. This place has put the sleepy little town of Bernville on the map. People from far and wide know about Christmas Village and if you say Bernville they immediately say, "Oh. Up there at Christmas Village." Yes, and the road that goes by the place has even been named Christmas Village Road.
Since I'm not big on decorating I've never had a burning desire to pay to get in and see it up close. ("A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.")  But I do like to see this view from the hill when I pass by this time of year. So for all of you who have never seen or heard of it, here is Koziar's Christmas Village. (Click to enlarge)

This link will take you to more images of some of the displays on the place

But don't forget what Christmas is all about---Jesus, the Light of the world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Three Sisters

This might be an old one to you but it was new to me. It fits like a glove.

Three Sisters

We are three sisters
Three sisters are we
I love each of you,
And I know you love me.

We’re not always together,
Life sometimes keeps us apart.
But we're never separated
We’re in each other's heart.

Now I know we've had our troubles,
But we always get thru.
The real message is you love me,
And I also love you.

We have had lots of good times
That we'll never forget
Sometimes we worry
And sometimes we fret.

But if God ever gave me
Something special you see,
It might have been the blessing of,
Three sisters are we.

The Lord above has gave me lots
Of happiness and glee
But the most special thing he did was
Make us sisters, all three.

This was taken four years ago when my youngest sister received her doctorate in English education at Pensecola Christian College. She is the English teacher at Terre Hill Mennonite High School. It's the best most-recent picture I have of the three of us together.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas & Birthday

We are having our family for Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Believe it or not, that's only two weeks away. This morning I finished shopping for gifts and everything is now wrapped and waiting. A few things need to be slipped into gift bags the last day. I do not do well with cramming to finish and it's a good feeling to be ready two weeks early.
I've actually been ahead of the game the whole way this year. The cookies were baked the day after Thanksgiving. The Christmas mail went out this week. I still need to bake the Moravian Sugar Cake for our Christmas breakfast but that is never done far in advance so it doesn't get stale waiting.
The mail is more interesting in December than any other month of the year. We both have a birthday in December which adds to the mail. We have a gift certificate for a restaurant which will do for a joint birthday supper. The place is decided by the gift certificate but we still need to decide on whose birthday we will use it. He thinks we should go on his birthday because it's a Saturday and I think we should go on mine three days earlier. Shouldn't the cook have off on HER birthday? Come on, cast your vote for me!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Hurricane Irene knocked out electric out for five days in August. That was the longest we've ever been without power. We managed to keep the food in our frig and freezer from spoiling by running a generator Leroy brought home from work. But it was not big enough to pump water so we were handicapped and ever so thankful when power was restored.
A freak snowstorm in October brought down the lines again and we were without power for four days. It was colder and we were without both water and heat. We stayed warm with the help of a kerosene heater and again borrowed a generator to run the frig and freezer but were without water.
That did it! Leroy has been talking for a long time about getting an alternate power source and after those two storms he decided it is time to get serious and do something. Yesterday he got a generator that is big enough to run the furnace and pump water. He is working on making a plug arrangement so it can be connected to the dryer receptacle and operated by turning individual breakers on and off. We can run things without a tangle of cords running through the house.
When we said we were considering doing this someone said, "Go ahead. That will be good insurance. If you have one you won't need it." It may turn out that way and I won't complain if we don't need it. But you know the old saying, "Seconds, thirds." We've had two strikes close together and blizzard season is coming. If the power goes off again for an extended period, we're prepared.