Tag Archives: Holiday

The December Celebration Gauntlet

When Wendy and I married, December suddenly became much more than just a Christmas holiday. Wendy’s birthday is December 21, and we married on New Year’s Eve. That means that I have, arguably, the three most important gift-giving days of the year in an 11 day stretch. After 12 years (a number rife with Biblical significance) trying to find balance in this celestial conjunction of celebrations, our first grandchild unexpectedly, like the star of Bethlehem, appeared on the horizon last year and plotted his arrival on December 11th. An already crazy month just got crazier.

Milo and his parents (I state it this way because, let’s be honest, it’s all about the one-year-old) arrived home from the UK in early December. I picked up them up and drove them home from MSP. The kids made our house command central out of which “Operation Celebrations” would be conducted. Milo has four sets of grandparents, a full contingency of living great-grandparents, and at least one great-great-grandparent. Long story short: There’s a lot of people needing a Milo fix.

Our celebration of Milo’s first birthday happened the night of the 12th. We had a small cadre of family over for a relatively small affair. Ya-Ya Wendy made Milo both a chocolate cupcake and a white, funfetti cupcake. He seemed to prefer the funfetti cupcake, proving that his taste bud genes are inherited from his paternal DNA coding.

Walking is a lot easier with one of these things!

The rounds of family visitation continued on the 19th when Taylor, Milo, and I stopped by my folks retirement community to have lunch with the folks. Milo was, of course, a huge hit. Milo also had a fascination with all of the various walkers with wheels. As he is in training to get the whole “walking” thing down (we’re up to about six consecutive steps without falling at this point), it was a huge discovery for him that there are devices designed and manufactured to assist in this basic human motor skill (special “thanks” to Mary for letting Milo run free with her walker).

Skol! Vikings!

Wendy and I began celebration of her birthday on the 15th when we headed to the Twin Cities. On the 16th we went to our first Vikings game at their new “mother ship” stadium. An annual trip to see the Vikings had become a bit of a tradition for us until it was announced that the new stadium would be built. Wendy and cold get along like Hamilton and Burr, so we skipped the seasons they were playing at the U of M’s outdoor stadium. We finally decided to all the trigger on  our old tradition. It was a lot of fun. We’ll be back.

Wendy’s birthday was otherwise fairly quiet except for the doorbell ringing incessantly. She got a trifecta of flower bouquets on her big day. The florist here in Pella was grateful for the business, though they somehow couldn’t get the deliveries consolidated. On the following weekend our friends Kevin and Becky came to Pella to celebrate Wendy. A pint at the Cellar and a pizza from George’s was in order with the rest of the evening relaxing at Vander Well Pub.

Maddy Kate flew in from her home in South Carolina on Christmas Eve day. We visited Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne before I drove her back to Pella. She joined Wendy and me at Christmas Eve services at church while Milo and his entourage were making an all day tour stop at Na-Na Brenda’s.

Christmas day, I’m happy to say, was an all-out, love-and-laughter, food-and fun, lazy lounge-fest with just the six of us. Wendy made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, along with an awesome breakfast. I threw French Dip into the crock pot for the evening meal. Lunch was a charcuterie menagerie for all. We opened gifts together after breakfast, then moved a mattress into the family room next to the sectional for a blissful day of binge watching (This is Us took up the entire afternoon), eating, and napping together.

Easter at Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly’s

Easter with the Hall family last week got me thinking about family Easter celebrations when I was a kid. The day would always begin with mom having hid a bunch of small, bright, foil-wrapped milk chocolate Easter eggs around the house. My sister Jody and I would take our baskets and scour the house. When I was younger there were what looked like bunny tracks the folks made with flour and their fingers across the counters and tables of the house. We usually took in a pretty good haul of candy. Mom always had a sweet tooth. I remember her giving us warnings about not eating too much, but she never really policed it. Our older brothers, Tim and Terry, were seven years older than me, so by the time I can remember the easter egg hunt, they’d already kind of outgrown it.

More often than not, I remember going to my Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly’s house for Easter dinner. They lived on the east side of Des Moines on Hull Avenue. After church services at Immanuel United Methodist Church, where my family attended until I was in high school, we would make the cross town trek in our Mercury Marquis station wagon (complete with wood paneling on the sides!).

Our "Merc" was a lot like this one from a 1973 ad.
Our “Merc” was a lot like this one from a 1973 ad.
A Mercury dashboard with 8-track player.
A Mercury dashboard with 8-track player.

The “Merc” (as dad called it) was stylin’ transportation in those days. There was a rumble seat that flipped up in the “way back” so that two children (that would be Jody and me) could sit and look out the back window as you drove along. Tim and Terry are always in the back seat together. Mom and Dad were, of course, in the front. Tim and Terry would make sure they had their favorite 8-track tapes in the car and would encourage mom and dad to play their requests on the 15-20 minute drive across town. We might have listened to the best of Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, or the Guess Who.

Me with my Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly
Me with my Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly

When you got to Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly’s the first stop would always be a hug and kiss from grandma and grandpa. They were both smokers. I can still smell the smoke from grandma’s cigarettes and grandpa’s pipe as you hugged them. The next stop was the candy dish that sat on the end table next to the living room couch. Jody always beat me there. It was always filled with Brach’s hard candies or maybe some mint patties.

I loved my grandma, but cooking was never her strong suit. So, when a lot of family came over she often let “the Colonel” do the cooking. There would be a big bucket of chicken with all the “fixin’s” and sides. I always wanted the drumstick. On big holidays, we would occasionally get grandma’s sister, Aunt Ardie, joining us. I remember inexpensive red wine being served. Grandpa might enjoy a beer with his meal, though he often saved that for later in the afternoon when he’d have a “beer and a bump” which was a can of beer (e.g. Schmitz, Pabst, or Old Style) with a shot of Old Crow whiskey. Some people’s motto is “Go big or go home,” but Grandpa Spec’s motto would’ve been “Go cheap and go home.”

We would sit as a family around the dining room table and enjoy conversation while we ate. Grandpa liked to tuck his napkin in the top of his shirt and let it drape over his tie like a poor man’s bib. Dessert would usually be homemade pie (Grandma Daisy’s chocolate pie recipe or Graham Cracker Cream which was basically vanilla pudding in a graham cracker crust) along with ice cream. Grandma also kept a steady supply of ice cream cookies and fig newtons on hand. When dinner was over, grandpa would push back from the table and light a Dutch Masters cigar.

The adults would continue to visit while we kids would go off to find things to do. We often would hit practice golf balls with grandpa’s clubs in the backyard or play croquet. There was a park right across the street, so we also loved playing on the swings and jungle gym if the weather was nice. If we were confined indoors, then the fun was in the unfinished basement exploring through grandpa’s huge desk or all of the junk piled on the shelves. The basement was one giant room and you could kind of make an oval track out of it and chase each other around in circles or have races if you had a mind.

It’s funny the things you remember. Some things change, but it’s nice to know that there is still family, good food, good conversation and good times spent together.

 

Top Five: Thanksgiving

Wendy and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year and the house will be packed with both my family and hers. For Top Five Tuesday, here are the Top Five Things I’m looking forward to on Thursday:

  1. Gathering with loved ones, quieting our hearts for just a minute, holding hands, and thanking God together for the abundant blessings He’s showered on us.
  2. Making the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time (say a prayer…for all of us!).
  3. Having so many family members together around the table (there will be 16 of us! Yikes!).
  4. The pre-feast goodies, the feast, and the dessert.
  5. Afternoon games, conversations, and naps.

 

featured photo by Satya Murthy via Flickr

Catching a Glimpse of the Great Story

English: Books
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What sorrow awaits Nineveh,
    the city of murder and lies!
She is crammed with wealth
    and is never without victims.
Nahum 3:1 (NLT)

We have been at the lake over the long holiday weekend, and I have been thinking big picture thoughts this morning as I write my morning pages. Such is the power of this place. Everyday busyness and the whirr of the daily grind give way to the whisper of water and wind. Perspective broadens from the to-do list on my cluttered desk to the sunrise on the horizon. Thoughts and intentions have room to move and find their being here.

It is sometimes difficult reading the words of the ancient prophets like those in this morning’s chapter. The message from a semitic writer in the middle east from two millenia past seems so distant and remote as read on an iPad in a 21st century modern world. What does it really mean to me?

In the big picture frame of mind this morning I catch a glimpse. Nahum told of the fall of a kingdom which had stood on top of the world. Kingdoms rise and fall. That’s part of the Great Story which gets easily lost in the minutae of my daily grind. But there is a Great Story  being told, and I am in it just as Nahum was in an earlier chapter. If I lose sight of the Great Story then I’ve missed the point entirely, and then it becomes a tragedy.

Sometimes I desperately need the soul elixir offered by the quiet of this place. I need to step back and gain a different, and much larger perspective than the myopic lens of my moment-by-moment, day-to-day realities. Nahum watched kingdoms rise and fall. So have I. We are both part of the Great Story.

Do I know my part?

FYI… I’m taking the rest of the week off to watch the sunrise and listen to the whisper of the wind and water. We’ll take up the chapter-a-day journey next week. In the meantime, don’t forget there’s an index of old posts if you’d like to click on a few. Cheers!

Call to Gratitude: Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 50

“But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.

    If you keep to my path,
    I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”
Psalm 50:23 (NLT)

For those of us in the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday is just a few weeks away. Today’s chapter reminds us multiple times that God is honored by “sacrifices of thanks.” I believe if we were truly honest we would admit to giving little thought to the act of actually giving thanks on Thanksgiving. Despite a nod to sharing one thing we’re thankful for before we dig in to our meal, I tend to believe that our hearts and minds are more typically filled with thoughts of food, football and black friday shopping.

When Abraham Lincoln issued his proclamation making Thanksgiving an official holiday, he was clearly calling U.S. citizens, divided in two by a terrible Civil War, to a day of humble and sincere thanks-giving to God. In the days before a national election, when it seems that our nation is largely divided into two camps of thought and engaged in a war of words, I think it might be beneficial for us all to read Lincoln’s plea for ourselves [note: italics added]:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Chapter-a-Day 1 Thessalonians 1

As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT)

This past weekend was spent in Denver with Wendy’s family. Wendy and I packed up the car for the long trek. Taylor joined us for the journey along with Madison’s boyfriend, Kevin. Madison, who is in Colorado Springs studying, hitched a ride up to Denver on Friday to meet us. It was two solid days of family, food, life, love and laughter.

I couldn’t help but think of the family gathering as I read this verse from today’s chapter. While I enjoyed much conversation during the weekend, I also enjoyed a fair amount of listening and observing:

  • I listened to Wendy’s dad talk about spearheading a Meals From the Heartland project that packaged hundreds of thousands of meals which will be sent to feed the hungry in Africa. He is planning to personally go this next year to help distribute meals in Haiti or in Africa as he plans and administrates another packaging event in their area.
  • In casual conversation Taylor shared about her and Clayton’s experiences serving the homeless in Des Moines along with their church.
  • I watched a video for Child Voice International and heard about an exciting opportunity Taylor and Clayton have to do a twelve-week internship in Uganda. They will each be able to use the passion God has given them to serve those who have been traumatized by the slave trade and terrorism. Taylor will be able to work with Art Therapy as she’s studying it at Grandview. Clayton will use his college education and passion to help with micro-financing efforts in the area.
  • I listened to Taylor talk about Uganda with Wendy’s brother, Lucas, because he’d already been there. He helped build a church in the country and this past year went to Belize. During the summer Lucas served our community working for the National Guard in the flood relief efforts along the Missouri River.
  • I heard Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, talk about her and her father’s work in Tijuana, Mexico building houses for the poor and saw pictures of their team’s efforts.
  • I listened to Madison sharing about her studies at the New Life School of Worship and her own mission this past year in Nepal.
  • I got to ask Madison’s boyfriend about the passion God’s given him for Christian music and an exciting job offer to manage a Christian concert venue in Florida when he finishes school.

The holidays are family time for most all of us, but this year I am knocked out by realization that I am blessed by family of whom I can truly think of their “faithful work, their loving deeds and the enduring hope they have because of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2003: The Nativity
Image by DUCKMARX via Flickr

A few months ago my pastor asked me how many people read my blog. The honest answer was that I didn’t know. I can see how many people are subscribed. I can see how many “hits” my blog gets, but I rarely look. Besides, the question of how many people actually read it can’t really be answered. The posts go out through email, through feed readers, onto Facebook and Twitter. They get forwarded and passed around.

What I do know is that it’s relatively few people in the grand scheme of the blogosphere. I know a small circle of family and friends read regularly. I hear from some of them that they know this person or that person who reads my posts regularly. Apart from the few who comment now and then, I simply don’t know how many people will read this post. 

Besides, I think the question my pastor was really trying to ask was “Why do you do this?” The answer is no less difficult to answer. The truth is that there are multiple reasons. It’s an easy way to keep loved ones up to date on our lives. It’s a way to express things that are on my heart and mind. Knowing that a few people out there will wonder why I haven’t posted my chapter-a-day provides a little accountability. I like to write. I like the creative outlet.

Anyway, whoever might be reading this wherever you happen to be, I want to take a moment to say thanks for tagging along and for taking the time to read a post now and then. This morning, I’m thinking about you and praying that God’s peace might surround your heart and mind in the midst of holiday craziness and family dysfunction. I hope that somehow we can all have at least one moment in our day today in which we catch a glimpse of the “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” that came wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.

Merry Christmas.

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