Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year Joys!

Trusting your Christmas was more blessed than you could have imagined.  And I'm watching with you for a New Year filled with JOY!

There have been so many adjustments for us all during 2021.  I don't want to elaborate on this.  We all know what our own adjustments have been and to be honest, many of us are limping into 2022.  

With that in mind, I think it best to simply offer some encouragement and happy thoughts for my final post of the year.  

I'll start with one of my favorite pictures from our Christmas Day.  Many of you remember that Kristin, Cody and Parker are still living with us until their house is ready.  That's why Papa had the opportunity to put together a basketball goal with the three year old engineer.  So Precious!

This assembly project was a little less joyful.  But you gotta take the good with the bad and eventually, Papa had a fully functioning racetrack built.

After our Christmas Eve service and the final Sunday service of the year, Frank and I took a couple of days to celebrate our 42nd anniversary.  We've been blessed by friends to stay at their little place on the coast.  My favorite part of visiting their getaway spot is a screened porch overlooking a canal.  It's the best spot for resting and recovering.

We went to dinner at a fun Greek restaurant in the nearby town of Tarpon Springs.  It was such fun sitting beside an open window and watching people walk along.  The sidewalk was busy well after 8PM.  

A young lady who was walking by noticed Frank and I trying to snap a selfie that would include the interior of the restaurant.  She stepped up and said, "Would you like for me to take it for you?"  

"Well, umm sure."  I answered a bit hesitantly because if she had decided to take off with Frank's phone, there would be nothing we could do.  Fortunately, our faith in human kindness paid off with this fun shot.

Our meal was a delicious reminder of the time we spent in Greece as newlyweds.  No, we didn't honeymoon there.  We had the honor of doing a short term missions work about six months after our we were married.  

The missionary I worked with the summer before invited us to come as a couple and do vacation Bible school for children.  It actually became an adventure filled with unexpected twists and turns but we navigated it well and actually bonded even more as a ministry team.  Did I hear someone whisper "Baptism by Fire"?

Frank snapped this picture as we shared a dessert and coffee.  (Decafe for me, of course.)

Let me close this post with a scripture I've had on my refrigerator for several months:    "I pray that God the source of Hope will fill you completely with Joy and Peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident Hope through the Power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans 15:13 esv

May HOPE be yours as we move forward into the new year.  There will certainly be some disappointments in 2022 but if we watch, there will also be JOY.  And most of us know from experience that choosing to focus on Joy is the best way to travel.  

God Bless Your New Year, Dear Friends!  

Monday, December 20, 2021

Eat the Train

It's Christmas and I think you should Eat the Train.  Eat all of it, Quickly!

No, I haven't lost my senses.  In fact, this may be one of my more enlightening posts this year.  

For regular readers, I do apologize for the long time of silence.  I've just been walking through a tough place and writing always opens the door to my more vulnerable self.  That kind of ugly was better shared over coffee with a trusted friend.  But I'm back and I thank you for your patience.

So, why am I urging you to consume some mode of transportation - and a rather large one at that?!  Perhaps this photo will help.

This is the artwork representing an afternoon of frazzled fun.  Six grandchildren came straight to Noni and Papa's house after a morning of celebrating and parties and sugar and excitement as school dismissed for Christmas break.  (Probably should have thought more carefully about that timing.)

We ate pizza for lunch then commenced making a gingerbread castle (girls) and a train (boys).  Let me tell you, those small creations in the picture in no way represent the mammoth task of encouraging six children to make room for one another, stop eating the materials, keep working as a team, and stop bossing one another.  

Many of you remember that we are a family of first borns.  With the exception of Joy and Meagan, every other adult is a first born and there are even a couple of only children in that mix.  It seems the firstborn traits of leadership have been passed on to the grandchildren, too.  Talk about headstrong - we've got that covered.

I don't have any pictures of the gingerbread decorating process because . . . well, refer back to the earlier paragraph.  But I did capture this moment as Papa helped Ava glue pom poms to her Christmas ornament. 

A couple of years ago, I bought a two foot tree for the babies.  Last year we bought ornaments with each of their names.  This year, I couldn't find the ornaments anywhere!  How frustrating.  So, we made new ones.  

Here is our Christmas treasure gathered around the tree they decorated.  No, they aren't all looking in the same direction and you have to look closely to see a couple of the faces but they're all represented.

"Okay Sheri," I can almost hear someone in MN saying.  "You pulled us into this post with the title urging us to eat a train.  What's that about?"

I'm glad you asked.

Our entire family came back on Saturday morning to celebrate our Christmas.  Yes, a week early but adult children have other family to visit and crazy work schedules.  So, we determined a long time ago that holidays can be any date we designate.  

Almost as soon as the older children arrived, they started asking, "Noni, can we eat the train?"  My answer?  "No, let's wait until your parents see what an awesome job you did."

Several more times through the day one or more of them would come up to me and say, "Now?  Noni, can we eat the train now?  Mom and Dad already saw it."  Each time I would say, "No, let's wait."   My answer was disappointing to them but they waited patiently.

As I straightened the kitchen again this morning, I had to move the castle and train around several times.  Suddenly, I stopped and asked myself out loud, "Sheri, what were you waiting for?!  Why didn't you break that train apart and let them eat it?"

To be honest, friends, I didn't want the evidence of all our hard work to be gone in a flash. Selfish but true.

And now, we won't all be together again until after Christmas.  Selfishness on my part caused us to miss a fun moment (gingerbread is meant to the eaten) and created an added burden (where to store them) all in one fell swoop.  Who knew a candy train and castle could serve as such powerful spotlights of revelatory self-examination?

Consequently, I'm calling out to you today - Eat the Train!  Don't waste energy on choices that feed selfishness this week of Christmas.  We can afford to be generous with far more than gifts.  We can be generous with our attitudes, our actions, our choices.  After all, look how generous God was with us. He sent His only son to make a way for us to be together.  

I'll leave you with a couple of final pictures from our church Christmas party.  We called it PJ's and Pancakes.  It was a great evening where everyone wore Christmas pajamas and we served breakfast as the meal.  Games, prizes, singing of carols, lots of fun and lots of laughter.  (Our grands had pajamas that looked a bit rough so we opened their traditional gift of pjs early. If you click on the picture, you'll see it more clearly.)

I'll try to post again for Christmas Day but for now, here's my challenge for us all.  

Don't fret the small stuff, Friends.  Don't overspend and over extend yourself physically.  Do the simple things that will make this a memorable time for the special ones in your life.  Prepare a favorite dish.  Write a card. Call a friend.  Offer a smile or a prayer.  

Making a memory may also be as simple as . . . eating the train.  

What choices have you made this year or in years past creating precious memories?  We'd love to hear about them in the comment section.  Who knows?  You may even help others to create a new tradition in their family...