This Christmas we cannot be with our grand-children and their parents, so I wanted to make the children something special in honour of our baby King, and to teach them about our very sacred family tradition. My husband bought me a Precious Moments Nativity Set some thirty years ago. Precious Moments are Sam Butcher’s creation.I pulled them back out of the box and crafted a story.Now that this little video has been made perhaps we’ll need to come up with another way to share the Nativity next year?
I did suggest to my family, (the ones that are here) that we go down to Hildebrand Motors and tell the story using their Nativity Scene, by moving the almost life size figures around, and video taping it. They thought that was a tad weird. It would have been great fun.
Anyway, thank you to Sam, Garage Band, and Facebook, oh yes and iMovie
We were expecting a rather quiet, but blessed Christmas season, with our youngest daughter who teaches at a Bible School, flying in from Australia. It would be her first Christmas at home in three years.
We learned months prior to December we would be blessed for four days the week before Christmas, by our daughter’s bestie, whom we endearingly refer to as ‘number four’. She was flying in from Toronto, where she studies dance. Accompanying her would be her fiance, whom we had met the year before at Christmas time. He was flying in from Florida.
Monday night I left work in the dark and walked home along the snowless sidewalk, excited to see who would be gathered around the fire at home. The air was crisp, but unusually warm for the week before Christmas.
I rounded the final block and a car came out of no where, and drove up beside me and stopped. The window went down and I heard a voice say “can we help you with your bags?” I bent down to see a familiar face smiling at me. It was our son’s girlfriend. I looked behind the wheel and there he was – our son. But how I wondered? They were in Europe skating. We had just Face-timed them the day before.
Still in shock, I hopped in the back seat. Seconds later their rental car was parked in our driveway. They had flown all the way from Utrecht (Netherlands) to surprise us. Although they were given five days off, much of that would be travel time. I was overjoyed at their adventurous spirits and their huge sacrifice to be with us for a few short days. Due to the nature of our son’s work, it was his first Christmas at home in seven years.
Although our eldest daughter and son-n-law and two precious grand-children would not be able to join us, I cherished our time together in October and November.
As if things couldn’t get better, I looked out the window Monday night and saw the snow begin to fall. Every bed in our house was full and so was my heart.
The fullness would continue with a spur of the moment family dinner planned for the next evening, Mom and Grandma, and other dear friends travelling up the next day.
I knew in a few short days our circumstances would be quite different. Our full house would not remain full, but the memories made, our conversations and warm embraces would be more than enough to keep a smile on my face all year long.
Yesterday coming home from church I was reminded about the annual Hitman Game and the Teddy Bear Toss, http://hitmenhockey.com/teddy-bear-toss. The news announcement brought back a difficult, but heart warming memory. Thank you – to our communities and the Hitmen Hockey Team, for your generosity and kindness during the Christmas Season. It made a difference to our little family, and we will never forget you.
One afternoon around Christmas time in 2007 I had gone down the stairs to our daughter’s bedroom to see why she wasn’t answering my call. We were all getting ready to go out and visit with friends. When I found her in her room she was not able to speak or walk. She was eight years old. I carried her out to our vehicle, and drove her down to the clinic. Her younger siblings were crying and frightened because their big sister didn’t recognize them.
Soon after our arrival at the clinic we were told about her Grand Mal seizure. Her Daddy arrived from work to comfort our children, and I got in the back of an ambulance to ride with her to the Children’s Hospital. After a very long night of nurses coming and going, poking and prodding and shining lights in her eyes, the sun arose. I waited to see if our little girl would open her eyes, if she would talk. I had been cautioned that she may have sustained brain damage.
Our daughter opened her eyes. She didn’t smile like she usually did, but she did look around the room. I told her where she was, but she didn’t seem to react, however she noticed she was sharing her room with another patient, a little boy in the bed next to hers. She shoved off her covers, and slid out of her very tall hospital bed. She walked over to a book shelf and pulled a book out. I then watched her go to the boy’s bed and reach for a chair that was nearby.
The seconds that followed were magical. I watched her turn the pages of the book, and heard her voice begin to read. Tears trickled down my face. I didn’t know what the days ahead would bring, but our little girl had come through a very difficult challenge. She was walking, talking and able to see another child’s needs.
Later that morning while we were resting I tried to stop my mind from worrying. I knew our daughter was in good hands, but the fatigue and the weight of our daughter’s health cast a long shadow on my heart. The word ‘Epilepsy’ had been used in the nurses’s conversations. What did it all mean? Would our daughter ever enjoy a normal life? Would she have another seizure?Just as my head felt like it might explode a group of men in hockey uniforms came into the room. They were all holding Teddy Bears. Our daughter sat up and blinked. The men smiled and three of them offered her a bear. I think it was because they had learned she had a brother and sister back home.
Their visit reminded me that so many people cared. We were not alone and forgotten in our sadness, but cradled in the arms of others, even strangers. The Teddy Bears were a symbol of compassion.
Later that day a neighbour and her son came to visit. They were frequent visitors to the hospital and heard we were there. Her son had had several seizures as a young baby and boy, and was in a wheel chair. Our daughter didn’t say much, she was very tired, but she looked at the little boy then back at her three bears, picked one out, and offered it to her new friend.
It was at Christmas time so long ago, in the Calgary Children’s Hospital, where our daughter was indeed given the diagnosis of ‘Epilepsy’, but it was then she also decided to be a Nurse. She never wavered from that call. Her health condition improved, and four very challenging years later, on September 9th, 2011, she was given a clean bill of health. Today she is married, with two beautiful children, and practices nursing on the Sunshine Coast.
Thank you Calgary Hitmen and all the Teddy Bear donors, for keeping the Annual Teddy Bear Toss tradition alive. We are witness to the difference a Teddy Bear can make in the life of a child.
Years later when another Christmas was fast approaching, my children and I were coming home from a medical appointment in the city. It was somewhere around 5:00 p.m. and the sky was already dark as I drove in a southerly direction back into town. My children could hear me praying out loud as I drove. A very dear neighbour was terminally ill with cancer, and I was begging God for a miracle of healing. The next day I planned to stop in to see her at the hospital, if she wanted visitors.
She had been battling stoically, but privately, and even that summer when I happened to bump into her on the sidewalk with her rainbow toe socks, and Birkenstock sandals, she didn’t want to talk about it.
I dropped the girls off at the house. Our son was away. I then turned around and went back to the office to finish up where I left off. When I got to the shop my husband’s face said it all. She was gone.
With my head buried in my hands, I quietly sobbed behind my desk. With only an hour left until closing, my husband insisted I go home. For some reason I picked up the phone, and called our eldest daughter to give her the devastating news, and to announce I was coming home early. God then prompted my daughter to be an instrument of hope in the moments that followed.
We lived only a few blocks west of the store, but the blocks stretched into miles. I pushed my foot down on the gas pedal, but the van belligerently crawled along. Streetlights lined the road, but not one of them seemed capable of beating back the darkness. The bleak winter night grew blacker than ever before and threatened to swallow me whole. My lungs lamented beneath my ribs. Why had God not answered my prayers?
“Why did you allow her to die?” my spirit screamed into the darkness.
“Her children needed her, her husband needed her, and I needed her!”
My emotions were all over the map. I felt betrayed, and deeply wounded. For one very dark moment I believed God had abandon us all. I cranked the wheel to maneuver up our driveway. There on the peak of an enormous white snowdrift, which had conquered our front step, was one small candle propped in a mason jar, shining defiantly.
God could have healed my friend, he could have made the moon stand still, but instead he chose to reveal himself to me through a tiny yellow flame, and the love of my children. The vast expanse of snow was indeed a vicious cruel reflection of the unfair world we live in, but the candle’s flame profoundly commanded the view, and spoke volumes.
“I hear you, and you are not alone” I heard Christ speak as I stared at the incredible view.
Christ’s presence lit up the sky and surrounded me. I went into the house and embraced my children. Together we walked to the window and silently watched the flame of the candle burn brightly.
Struggling with pneumonia, I laboured to pull out the piano bench quietly. Once seated my right foot found the middle peddle, and pushed it down to the left to lock it in place. This way I could play and not disturb anyone’s sleep. It was the middle of the night. Only the street light’s glow on a fresh fallen blanket of snow lit the keys before me.
Christmas was coming, and I had been too sick to do any shopping or baking. Little did I know that a song would be my gift to those I loved.
“Seasons come and seasons go, and every year the sight of snow, threatens to paralyze my soul. Christmas finds me questioning your gifts of joy and suffering and memories send me off in search of hope.”
My parent’s marriage had its ups and downs. When they divorced Christmas was never the same. I know now that Christmas does not hinge on humanity’s imperfect state.
As I wrote at the piano, their pain and mine, of never being a whole family again, flowed out of my heart and onto the page. Mysteriously, for every sorrow a remedy followed. Each melodic, aching admission turned into a revelation of hope.
“I am weaker than most; you came to a manger. I am broken to the bone; you were pierced for a stranger. The past has left its mark, but Christmas heals the heart with memories of a child who offers hope.”
The next day I printed the song onto fancy paper and fashioned small pillows with pockets, from scraps in my sewing closet. Each pocket was sized to hold a copy of the song.
When Christmas day arrived, our family drove almost two hours north to my sister’s place for dinner. Unfortunately I was still very short of breath, so I attended the festivities in my pajamas. Like Linus from ‘Charlie Brown’, I toted a blanket behind me. Although my ‘song pillow’ gift to everyone was small, I trusted they too would be lifted by the musical revelation of hope God had inspired.
I was running errands today, which required a lot of loading and unloading. Back and forth I went between the indoors and the outdoors. On my last run I flung open the door to the outside world, and was greeted with an amazing heart warming sound and sight. I heard my friends, the geese, honking at each other. I looked up to witness the fine feathered flock paint their “‘V’ across November’s sky. Usually their familiar song stings my heart. After all, their flying south means Old Man Winter has swallowed up all of autumn’s warmth, and the last of our coloured leaves.
This time their song was saying something else. I stood, both feet planted in the parking lot and listened, and watched carefully. It was almost as if I was afraid I might miss something important. I watched until they disappeared into the glare of the late afternoon sun. I was awe struck. I had made a new discovery.
I’ve always known their V shaped flying formation is to prevent wind resistance. But this time I saw something more.
A few geese fell out of formation, and the perfect ‘V’ was ruined. I wondered for a few moments what the stragglers were up to, but then recognized a consistent pattern. Could it be the geese took turns with each other? Those in front would tire, so others would take their place?
I couldn’t help but smile. God uses His creation to teach us something every moment of every day. What I was witnessing was a lesson for all of mankind – a perfect ‘team work’ analogy. My curiosity got the best of me, and I went home to look up more information about geese, and their flying habits. To my surprise I found an article that echoed exactly what I had been musing about, and said it very well.
In 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” hit the big screen. The title means humans observing aliens. This past weekend when I traveled to the coast and back I had the experience of “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind”, which stands for humans observing humans.
There was the intoxicated fellow of asian descent who wanted to butt in front of me in the boarding line-up at YYC. I knew he had missed his Zone 1 cue, because he stayed too long at the bar. His pungent breath gave him away. I let him in. I was amused with his greying pony tail. Why is it men think a pony tail or top knot is cool?
Then came the ever so late stewardess who dramatically arrived behind me in in the security line up. Her exaggerated watch glancing, toe tapping, and head poking up and over the conveyer like a spastic gopher, got under my skin. She would inch forward, and I would inch forward, and she would huff again. “Tough time in traffic?” I wanted to ask. “Bad case of asthma?” The lady in front of me was so kind, and let the frantic stewardess run ahead. She could have asked, rather than play charades. Secretly I hoped when she walked through the full body scanner, Scotty from Star Trek would beam her up to another planet. Poof!
I couldn’t forget the red neck from the outskirts of Saskatoon, sitting behind me on the plane, who insulted the fellow coming down the isle to sit right next to him. Ole’ Red Neck blurted out “Look Martha, why do we always get someone REALLY BIG sitting next to us?” Thankfully for Red Neck, the Big Fella was very kind and didn’t use Mr. ‘mouth piece’ as a seat cushion. And to clarify Big Fella wasn’t big at all, he was tall.
On my way back to Vancouver there was a man waiting to board the Ferry at Langdale Station, who told a little girl in her stroller, to pull up her pants and say ‘no’ to crack. What was he thinking? His remarks were highly inappropriate! I was stunned. There are those people who should think twice about opening their mouths in public. Her mother did not respond, but stared off into the distance. If it had been my little girl the stranger was speaking to, I would have stuffed him in a crack between the board walk.
I spied a ‘stick figure of a man’ wearing blue jeans, a lumberjack vest, and a toque, carrying nothing but a plastic shopping bag. When we boarded the Ferry he disappeared, only to appear next to me in the elevator. I wasn’t sure which button to push to get us to the passenger deck, so I asked for help. He pushed a button and then turned to me and said “I have bad teeth…..and lung cancer”. “I am so sorry” I replied. “It’s okay, I smoke, but I am trying to quit”. It took a few seconds for me to recognize an opportunity for prayer, but the elevator door opened, and he was gone. After lunch I went to find him, before he threw himself overboard. I spotted him talking to another perfect stranger, only this time letting him know he was “paramilitary, and he didn’t like killing people, because of what it does to your insides.”
I found a place to sit on the warm side of the sun deck, just out of the wind. Along came a woman wearing a kid’s polka dotted blanket for a scarf, over a khaki rain coat, wearing floral rubber boots, with her pants tucked inside. She waddled, kind of sort of, or maybe that was the wind. I thought her idea of walking was better than my sitting, so I got up and circled the deck.
I noticed a charming down syndrome man who road the 257 Express from Horseshoe Bay to downtown Vancouver. He tried to talk to the lady next to him, but she said she couldn’t understand him. I could, and I was sitting across the isle.
I hid behind my sun glasses and watched. He removed his hat and glasses and rubbed his face, then ran his fingers through his hair. He eventually moved closer to a young woman, who had a large tiger patterned suitcase. He told her he liked her suitcase, and reached out to touch it. She nodded, then quickly turned away. Every once and a while a ball of white would protrude from his lips, and my stomach would turn, thinking it was saliva and spit. Turned out it was gum. I couldn’t help but think he was very courageous. Who did he belong to? Was it hard for them to let him ride the bus alone? Was he ever greeted warmly?
To my disgust I witnessed a very tall elderly gentleman ‘hack a lube’ (is this even the way you spell it?), on the skyline pathway, a few feet away from me. I almost threw up right then and there, but miraculously held my breath. I concluded he had probably been an orphan his whole life, with no mother to teach him manners. He was dressed like a businessman, with the behaviours of a barbarian.
Once I got seated on the Sky Train at Canada Line Station, I witnessed a middle aged man come running through the open door. His lips were pursed and he was making an odd breathing sound like a woman in labor. Once he was seated he continued to furiously push his air in and out loudly, his lips never changing shape. I quickly scanned his person for a backpack, a bomb, a terrorist? He pulled out a piece of paper and nervously flapped it around. He rocked back and forth in his seat. After some time I realized he may be mentally challenged in some way, but very brave, and able to navigate to his next stop. He took his backpack with him. Whew!
I was almost home, plane touched down and I paused from observing the human race, and looked into my heart instead. I asked myself “Do I love my fellowman without measure?”
My “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind” made me realize something astounding. God is amazing. He loves us all without measure. He loves the drunks, the tardy. He loves those who put both feet in their mouth. He loves those who are sick and hurting, and those who commit fashion suicide. There is no intellectual prerequisite for God’s love. He loves those who mind their manners and those who are socially inept. He even loves me, which ever category I find myself in at the moment.
While walking to a meeting this morning my thoughts drifted to a relative who seems to have traded the faith of her youth (in Christ Jesus), for the moon and the stars. I’m not sure what happened. I think of the verse in Galatians 5:7b “…who cut in on your to keep you from obeying the truth?”
I’m reminded of history, where Israel was rescued from the Egyptians by the hand of God, and in a short span of time – were complaining about the desert and worshipping idols.
Why is it some will be rescued and seek to know their rescuer deeper, while others will be rescued and tire of His faithfulness? I believe God can give us the gift of faith, a desire to seek Him more. As I get older I thank him for his mercy, and pray that I will not wander off after some pretty, empty thing…..
The Pretty Things
Vs 1. You can sway, you can swoon, you can stare at the moon
but I know the one who hung it for you.
Can’t you hear him calling for you now?
But it’s all about the pretty things, the sound of your voice analyzing.
Your heroes wear capes, and the cross is passe – hey,
I’ll take Jesus any day.
Vs 2. You can gaze at the stars, read your horoscope charts
but I know the one who knew your birthday
long before your parents said hello.
But it’s all about the pretty things, your ideas advancing.
Let your heroes parade, there’s no room for a grave, hey,
I’ll take Jesus anyway.
Chorus: When tradition falls hard, and contrition fades
I will not be alarmed, He predicted today
When the moon waxes cold and your magic is frayed
Lay your pretty things down and pray.
Vs 3. You can question the truth, you can trust in your youth
but I know that somewhere in the middle
everyone plays second fiddle soon.
Well I highly doubt the pretty things, it’s all about the meaning,
and the life that He gave when the stone rolled away, hey,