Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our 2011 Christmas Card & Letter

This Christmas Day, I will look around our front room at the eight other individuals sitting near the decorated tree.  They will each be seated in various places waiting for a package to be passed to them or excitedly asking that the gift they bought or made for so-and-so be quickly given.  As I look, I will be grateful, once again, for the precious people God has given me the miraculous opportunity to call “family.”
Michael will be seated and hoping for a variety of things from his wish-list.  He will most likely say a few words in German, as he has been teaching himself the language throughout this year.  He dreams of one day going to Germany and telling the people there of Christ’s love.  Throughout the day, Mike will undoubtedly mention something about his first bow hunting season this year or one of his  AirSoft games.  When he stands, he is taller than me. If there is snow, he may go out in the fresh air and use his cross-country skis or sled on a hill made by the snow his dad plowed.  Siblings may join him, but if not, he’s content to enjoy the outdoors alone.

Cassia will be making sure that the gifts she has made for her family members make it into the right hands.  Her smile will light up her face as she watches each person open her creations.  She will probably make a special trip out to the pasture to wish a Merry Christmas to our old horse, Joy, and to her three young goats.  Of course, this is after she has already bestowed at least one gift on her parakeet, Twitter - who, at 6 or 7 months old is beginning to gain a bit of a vocabulary.   Cassia will also check on the chicks she incubated, hatched, and cared for this past fall.  Truly our animal-lover.

Anna will be hoping for the latest Duggar DVD or a cover for her Kindle.  These two items accurately describe her love for children and passion for reading.  She will have already given gifts to the 3 children she has become close with hrough being their mother’s “helper” and she will probably have held at least one small baby in church Christmas morning...which will make her day complete.  While Anna may be content reading a new book for much of the day, the others may have a tough time keeping up with her energy if and when they all head outside to play.
Katrina will be quietly watching all of the activity and trying not to stress if something doesn’t go exactly as planned.  Though she may be thrilled with her gifts, only a smile will flash across her face along with a simple, “thank you.”  Her restrained joy comes from her daddy.  Anything that will keep her hands busy will make her very happy. She will look for opportunities to play games with family members or spend some time on the piano playing Christmas songs. 

Seth...he will be happy if I just go over and give him a hug!  One of our most contented children, he hasn’t asked for much this Christmas.  He will spend his day eating all the goodies, heading outside for some activity, and being content to spend the day with his family.  Whatever Seth does this day, he will throw himself completely into it with his whole being, just as he did when playing soccer this past summer & practicing with his bow and arrow this past fall.  He will have fun, and smile most of the time.

Gloria will smile and laugh all day long.  She will ooh and ahh over anything pretty.  She will beg for someone to read to her and probably show off her new-found reading skills, as well.  Gloria will probably look over everyone’s gifts while the sounds of “don’t touch!” will be echoed over and over!  At the end of the day, she will kiss her daddy and I, put her arms around our necks, smile, and say something like, “I love you.  Merry Christmas.  Thank you!”

Zane will be thrilled that the long-awaited favorite day of the year has finally arrived!  He will look around with wonder at the commotion.  He will talk excitedly and tear into any package that makes it into his hands.  Somewhere along the line, he will find mommy’s lap, sit in it, put his fingers in his mouth, and snuggle - his favorite past-time. He will stand up for himself, follow his older siblings, and eat as many sweets as he can until he’s banned from the table!  

Eric.  He’ll sit back and quietly watch as the mayhem unfolds.  He’ll take pictures and free treasures from stubborn tape and wires.  He’ll cut up vegetables, cheese, and pepperoni & make sure his faithful dog, Hunter, gets a few of those snacks.  He’ll make the punch and serve it.  He’ll get out the chess board for a game or two with the kids.  He may even break out the ATV and the wagon for a Christmas Day ride around the property.  In general, Eric will be the quiet motor that keeps our day humming without it breaking down in a heap.  
What will I do this Christmas Day?  I will enjoy my family.  The family that I so often forget to enjoy, but to whom I often dictate orders, clothe, feed, put to bed, school, etc., etc.  This day, I will watch for the gleam in their eyes.  I will laugh with them.  I will sit in amazement at how quickly time is passing and try to make it slow down...just for a few hours.  After the long day has ended, I will sit with my dear husband...the one with whom I walk through this life...and just enjoy the quiet and the simple beauty of the lights.  We will sigh and smile at the chaos of the day.  We will be a tad sad that another Christmas has passed.  We will be thankful to the Lord for our family.

In the midst of the church-going, the friends, the wrapping paper, the food, the loud voices we will remember the greatest gift....the gift of eternal life in heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ.  We pray that each of you will give thanks for that gift, if you have already accepted it from the hand of God.  If not, He’s holding it out to you...and we ask that you will take it, unwrap it, accept it into your hearts and rejoice.  This is the Good News of Christmas. This is the Peace on Earth that we often speak of - the love and forgiveness of God. This is the must-have gift of all time.  To you.  From God.

Merry Christmas, our dear friends & family.  We love you and pray for you God’s abundant love & blessings.
With love,
Eric, Vicki, Michael, Cassia, Anna, Katrina, Seth, Gloria, & Zane 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Pain

As I think of several of my family and friends, I am aware of how much hurt there is this Christmas season.  Is it because of the pain we experienced last Christmas that makes me more aware of the pain others are experiencing this year or is there really that much more hurt?

Hearts broken.  Families gathered around a loved one who is taking his last breaths.  Families gathering around a grave of one who has just passed.  Beloved foster children being torn away from those who have loved them for over a year.  Loved ones overseas who will miss yet another Christmas with their family.

And the list goes on and on.

We often say, "It isn't right.  This should be a happy time.  It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, yet so many are hurting."

But, I got to thinking back to that day when Christ was born - the day we celebrate at Christmas.  Oh, what a joyful time it is when a newborn babe enters the world.  How much more joyful it was when that babe was the promised Messiah.  Our world was given a wonderful gift...the One who would bring eternal life.  Angel sang.  Shepherds worshipped.  Wise men gave gifts.  But, was it all joy?  Mary had to lay her precious newborn in a feeding trough filled with scratchy, dusty hay.  Was there not a tinge of regret?  One of the Wise Men brought myrrh - a spice used to anoint the bodies of the deceased.  Was this not a sorrowful foreshadowing of what was to come?  God sent His Son to earth - good tidings of great joy!  He sent Him to die - what grief, what sorrow, what pain.

So, should Christmas always be nothing but joy & happiness?  While we grieve with our loved ones who grieve, maybe in some small way it IS right.  This pain surrounding an otherwise happy season allows us to sense a bit of the feeling of that night in the manger in Bethlehem where a baby lay...a baby who was born to die.

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Honor His Memory...His Legacy...His Family

I wanted to write something prolific, something memorable, something that would honor the memory of Kenneth Parfitt on this day.  The one year anniversary of his death.  I'm not certain I will succeed.

On December 14, 2010, Ken was on his way to work when he stopped to help another motorist who had run off the icy road.  When sure that the person was ok, Ken headed back to his car.  Just as he was getting ready to get in his vehicle and drive off to another day at the office, he was hit by another passing automobile.  Ken never again opened his eyes.  The last thing he did was something he did on a daily basis...he helped someone.  He cared for a stranger.  He was an example to his son who was with him that morning.

I have wracked my brain this week for just the right words for this anniversary.  Do we re-tell the story of that day?  For that, no one has put it into words more clearly, more tenderly than the man who stopped to help Ken that morning.  Do I list the various ways Ken and his family have been honored this past year?  That doesn't seem fitting.  Do I put into writing how I continue to grieve and pray for his family?  Impossible.

All I can think to do is ask a question.  While Ken has left a hole in his family that no one will ever be able to fill, should there still be a void in this world now that he has left it?  The tracts in Ken's pocket that morning fell on the muddy floor of the ambulance.  Have we picked them up and handed them out to the strangers we pass?  There were people who knew to call Ken when they needed help.  Do they now know that one of us is willing to help in their time of need?  A family is moving...are we willing to drop what we are doing to help them?  Ken is no longer able to do that.  A missionary has a project that is at a stand-still due to insufficient funds.  Are we writing the check Ken would have written?  A child of God has left the fold and is checking out the pleasures of this world.  Do we write their name daily in our prayer journal?  Do we have a prayer journal?  Ken did.  Who is praying for those people now?  The Bible studies that Ken led at Harris...do they still exist or are disciples struggling?

Ken is gone.  If we do not pick up where Ken left off, a missionary could be left discouraged and broken.  A single mom may get deeper in debt having to replace her old, broken-down dryer.  A wayward teenager may never know he is loved.  A soul may go to hell.

365 days ago, Ken Parfitt went to heaven.  His race on earth was done. We miss him...his smile, his sense of humor, his brilliance.  We grieve for his family.  But, have we picked up his baton or have we left it lying on the ground in our grief?  Have we filled in the gap that he left or have we left it wide open as we uselessly stand by and weep for what is lost?

Ken Parfitt made a difference in this world, but this world ought not be a different  place without him.     If we want to honor his memory, we must carry on and follow his example.  We must not allow the void to remain.

Miss Ken.  Grieve for his family...while you go and serve and give and love the stranger by the side of the road.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

We decorated our house this past Saturday.  It's not fancy.  Nothing that will win any awards.  In fact, our children did the majority of the decorating.  We are so traditional that they all know where everything goes...same place every year.  The only thing that changes is what color lights will go on the tree.

This year, our 14 year old tried his hand at putting up some lights around our living room windows and a couple of other places.  So far, we've not done outside lights - I'm sure one of the boys will one day have the desire to attempt those.  But, we like our lights inside where we can enjoy them!

Our decor will not be found in Better Homes & Gardens, Country Living, or any other home-decorating magazine.  Elegance is most definitely not our theme.  If I had to name it, it would be "Casually Live-able" or "Simply Sentimental"  No one will ooh & ahh over our decorations.  Many of them have special meaning to us, though - whether an ornament commemorating a special time in our lives or a decoration given to us by a dear friend.  These mean more to me than the most beautiful Martha Stewart arrangement.

I'm all for gorgeously decorated houses...if that's what makes a particular family happy.  My family seems to be happiest with the simple decorations.  It's enough for them to have a bit of twinkle and nostalgia.  It's enough for me to see their smiles.

No matter how each of us decorates our homes for Christmas, may all of our homes be filled with the shining smiles of our children and the sweet music of their laughter.

 The ornament that takes center stage each year.  If you look closely, you can see a very young couple celebrating their first Christmas 17 years ago.
 Baby's 1st Christmas - this ornament is 14 years old.  One of the first things the proud daddy bought his son!
 This angel has been hanging on all of the Christmas trees in my life. Once held in my little hands,  this year it was hung by one of my little one's hands.
 Each year, my children receive new ornaments from their "Aunt" Becky & each year they get better!
 This little bear came directly from Germany (another "Aunt" Becky special) about 10 years ago.  If you check the back of it's head, there's a big hole where then-1 yr old Anna took a bite thinking it was candy!
 While we have a chimney, it is stone and impossible to hang the stockings on it.  So, we hang them on our panelled walls with care!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hey, You!

Yeah, YOU!  The one with the husband.

What do you have to complain about?

There are women out there who wish they had a husband such as yours.  A man who loves them.  A man who will listen to them.  A man who works hard to provide.  A man who comes home every night.

Maybe instead of finding fault with your husband, you should find the many things to be thankful for.  There ARE good qualities in him.  There were when you dated him.  There had to be something for which it was worth saying, "I do!"

Maybe instead of throwing yourself a pity-party because he hasn't taken you out in a few weeks, you could pray for the woman who buried her husband.  Pray for the woman whose husband broke his vows and divorced her.  Pray for the  young lady whose heart has been broken by her betrothed and is wondering if she'll ever live happily ever after.

Maybe you need to stop finding fault with the man in the bed next to you and start pointing the finger at yourself.  What could HE be complaining about and isn't?  Show that kind of grace to him.  Improve yourself and he just may improve.

In this day and age, it seems to be acceptable for a wife to find fault with every little thing her husband does, but if he criticizes he is harsh and cruel.  Boo-hoo!

Listening to you complain about how immature, selfish, and/or ungodly your husband is, makes you sound even more so.  Sort of like nails on a chalkboard.  I'm not impressed and I'm not sure very many are.  If anything, your complaining makes people feel worse for your poor husband than they do for you.

Are there legitimate concerns wives have?  Absolutely.  Are there ways to express those concerns without the husband desiring to flee to the roof-top?  Yes.  But, before you open your mouth....open your heart.  Open you heart in prayer to the Lord.  Open your heart in love to your husband - through your actions.  Open your heart to self-examination and pull the mote out of your eye before you humbly approach your husband.

And, remember:  the more complaints you have, the less you will be heard.

You, with the husband.  You want to keep him?  Stop complaining.  Start giving thanks and start loving.