The Last Santa Dance

In Memory of Pop

In Memory of Pop

We are mourning the passing of Dad, a husband to one wife, fondly called Pop and Grandpa. People knew him as Bit Harris. His given name at his birth is not important right now. People bought a car from Bit, not the name on his birth certificate. That’s what he did for a living…he was a self-employed car dealer that people could trust.

He laughed a lot with his sons and spoiled the grandkids. The yard and shrubs were always groomed with perfection and he kept the backyard swimming pool sparkling for weekend family fun, birthday parties, and ready as a vacation haven for out-of-town relatives.

He rarely slept apart from his wife expect for the last week of his life. There were a few weeks apart during short stays in a nursing home for physical therapy, but I’m not counting those weeks. That last week occurred when he moved into the bed provided by Hospice. Even then he asked his sweet wife if there was room for two in that bed.

What they had going for them was long-suffering and a commitment to each other for better and for worse. What I find most significant is the most gracious and merciful woman who was his wife for close to 69 years and the mother to their six rowdy boys. The one that managed their household and kept their lives steady all the while working full-time for thirty years or more to help support the family. She is a saint! She is a role model for me.

Their marriage was not perfect by a long shot. All of us that are married will admit that marriage requires hard work and a lot of forgiveness and grace. The kind of grace that is desperately needed and should have been asked for years earlier. You can’t ask for something when you don’t know what you don’t know. Bit didn’t know what he needed.

Somewhere along the way, God arranged a meeting between Bit and a Pastor named Jack. There were a lot of pastors along the way that may have tried to have influence in Bit’s life, but Jack was different. Jack was a friend that accepted Bit “warts and all” with plenty of messes and dysfunctional stuff that every family has…and many are afraid to admit for fear that they would be rejected. Soon after meeting with Jack on a regular basis, Bit learned what he didn’t know…God’s love and grace for him.

I once wrote a post about a rhythm of cluttered memories in their home. All of the clutter of things kept for years, each holding a special story and memory. Like the small white wooden stool that my husband’s grandfather used to sit on while fishing in a pond with his grandson, my husband.

It’s the small things that become the big things in memories.  Such as every year one of the boys or grandkids would give Pop another dancing Santa or some other animated Christmas toy that everyone found ridiculously silly  and belly laughed with each flip of the switch to make it light up or dance or make a rude noise or say words that only boys could appreciate. Last week, one of the sons bought a new Santa toy, expecting Pop to laugh one more time. Batteries were never put in so it was never turned on and never danced, but it was left in a memorable place.

In Memory of Pop

In Memory of Pop

It’s also the big things of God using small happenings in the heart of Bit that will leave an etched memory, too.  I began to notice a God size change in the life of Pop (that’s what I liked to call him) when he would drive with his wife more than an hour every Sunday morning to hear Jack preach and to be with new friends in this church community. He started reading the bible every day, too. I noticed his consistency and daily routine to have a personal devotion first thing in the morning before breakfast was served and there was no more coffee in the pot.

For that precious saint of a wife and caregiver for years, the first night alone could possibly be the hardest following the death of her spouse, after living together for nearly 69 years. But I suspect it will be living alone through the months and maybe years that will bring back the small things, those memories, once forgotten and buried by time, to the surface to be relived and clasped tightly to.

God is in all of that. She has been a giver for so many years and humbly kept going by the grace of God. He will forever keep pouring more grace into her life.

I think this quote by Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience) is a wonderful closure for this story. We are experiencing abundant joy and wonderful peace this Christmas season.

“He did not abandon you in the ultimate storm of your soul. He will not abandon you in the immediate storm of your now.” -Ann Voskamp

Hope in the Season of Advent

Advent 2

I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121

How I love the season of Advent! I love preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family. The delicious smell of sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven and everyone wanting to be the first to sample a cookie or unroll a cinnamon bun dripping with gooey sweet icing.

I love to light candles around our advent wreath, celebrating the promises of God, and to see the glow of tea lights shimmering through colored glass. One of my favorite activities of Christmas past was decorating ginger bread houses with my children. I remember their giggles and delight with decorating a gingerbread house and displaying it as a center piece on the dining room table, nibbled on everyday so that by the end of Christmas, the only thing remaining were pieces of broken gingerbread. I remember one year when a few of us volunteering in children’s ministry at our church decided to plan a Gingerbread House party for the kids attending a mid-week program. I don’t know what we were thinking! We were amazed and delightfully overwhelmed by the number of kids that came…maybe 80 or more! The gingerbread houses turned quickly into gingerbread huts constructed with four graham crackers, with each cracker glued to a side of a small milk carton, with that wonderful white sticky miracle icing that would chip a tooth if you took a bite of it once it dried and hardened. It was a crazy wonderful messy event with every child proudly carrying their creation home on a small plastic plate…each hut covered in colorful skittles, cinnamon drops, sprinkles, licorice twists and sugared gumdrops, soon to become a center piece on their kitchen table.

Ah, the sweet memories of Christmas past! We are creating new memories this year, even through topsy-turvy unexpected life changing events. There is some unrest, unknowns and a lot of “what ifs” trying to rob our first love of focusing on God’s promise that we have been rescued from fear and doubt and so much more than that!

How we delight in the promises of God, asking for his help to focus our hearts on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. God made a promise to rescue us and he keeps it perfectly…confirmed the promise by his oath. God’s unchangeable character is guaranteed by his promise and his oath. It is impossible for God to lie. We pray for his help to find refuge and a strong encouragement to hold fast to this hope. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6)

There is great hope in the season of advent! God wants you to have the full assurance of hope—no weak and flimsy hope, but a strong, full, confident hope—lest you become “sluggish” or “dull” and begin to think that the Christian hope is not as real as the hopes offered by the world.

And God intrudes in our story. He is making all things new. He has made all things new. Even though our tummies aren’t filled with sugar cookies, we are filled with the forever sweetness of God’s grace that pours over us regardless of the condition of our heart. On the outside, we may resemble a lopsided and pasted together gingerbread hut but we are securely held tight on a strong foundation built on God’s promises.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!” And he would. One day, God himself would come. (The Jesus Storybook Bible)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) 

Our help comes from the Lord! This is our hope in the season of advent! Merry Christmas!

A grand and messy Advent Eve

Gosh, I was excited for Saturday to arrive! I had been anticipating the arrival of Advent for weeks and weeks! I couldn’t wait to place our Advent wreath on the dining room table and light our first candle. I couldn’t wait  to pick out a tree with my husband. We had set aside Saturday, Advent Eve, to do this. And it was going to be a great day preparing for Advent. Even pulling boxes and boxes of decorations out of basement storage and hauling them upstairs was going to be fun.   We went to sleep Friday night with happy hearts…

We woke up Saturday morning with the grumbles…well, that’s not completely accurate…I (not we) woke up with the worse case of grumbles.

I knew what was waiting for me in the basement. Those boxes and boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff.  You see, I’ve been collecting Christmas decorations to deck the walls and halls and bathrooms and children’s rooms and family room and kitchen and…there are a lot of boxes.

How many little Christmas trees with tiny lights does one family need? I counted 12.  (It is a nice number…Jesus had 12 disciples. I happen to have 12 trees.)

And the grumbling and irritation increased with preparing for the glorious start of Advent.

There packed neatly on the basement shelves, was a large box of gold ornaments. Gold ornaments of all sizes, shapes and design. There was a box of red ornaments…and ditto what I said about the gold ornaments. And a box of  blue and purple and silver and white. Plus beads and ribbon to drape gracefully around the tree. A variety of tree skirts, too. Unfortunately, I also have plastic holly bushes, plastic holly vine, twigs with fake sugar glued on to give a sparkle to those plastic holly bushes, fake poinsettia and I can’t overlook the gold angels…wire sculptured angels and some ceramic angels with their wings opened over the overstuffed snowmen, which were guarded by wooden toy soldiers. I have a few metal reindeer, too.

(sigh)

And the grumbles just grew worse as I became buried under the debris of Christmases past. I seriously needed to get my heart in gear about Advent!

To wrap up this story in a neat little package, we did rummage through all of the stuff collected from years past and picked out the ornaments to use this year.

The grumbles began to go away as the lights were placed on the tree and the magic of Christmas was there. Right there in the beauty of that eight foot tree with the lovely beautiful glass ornaments and sparkling glass ice cycles hanging gracefully from branches mingled with the sweet smell of a fresh Douglas Fir.

“What a beautiful tree! I just love the beginning of Advent!”, I said happily to my sweet husband.  The grumbles had begun to disappear as I gazed at this creation. I was also quite proud of myself for deciding to unload, I mean “give away”  all of that extra Christmas stuff, plus I decided to be content with just one tree. I told God that all of  that stuff was going away and I would be content with just a little bit of stuff, such as those gorgeous beautiful glass ornaments hanging on one Christmas tree.

“Yes, now my heart is ready for Advent.” So I thought.

I was no longer mumbly grumbly.  And after a long day of “preparing my heart” for Advent (all of the above)…I was exhausted. Evening had come, a warm fire was glowing and our family room illuminated only by the glow of the fire and our beautiful tree gleaming with hundreds of white lights reflecting off of shiny glass ornaments. My husband had fallen asleep on the couch and I was enjoying the peace of gazing at our Christmas tree and thinking how sweet it is to welcome the first day of Advent. Our tree is beautiful!

And then it happened…

CRASH!  The tree fell over!

I SCREAMED!

Don was jolted out of a peaceful sleep and bolted off the couch.

Yep, it was a mess with those beautiful glass things shattered on the floor, fragments of glass imbedded in the couch (the tree nearly fell on Don) broken glass and broken branches and lights hanging off and water saturating the carpet…

Don and I stood there looking at the mess and staring wide-eyed and speechless at each other. (sigh)

I spoke out loud to God and said, “I get it, God. I get it! It’s all yours! Advent is all about JESUS. This tree is not what it’s all about. Those beautiful glass ornaments do not reflect your glory.” And I began to laugh.

The messiness of Advent Eve brought my heart to a true place of worship and repentance.  Advent is celebrating God keeping his promise to send a savior, Christ the Lord. God is a covenant keeper.

“Our God in heaven, thank you that you did not remain there. You could have justly condemned us for our guilt, our devotion to idols, our constant self-seeking, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing lives. But you did not. You came.” ~Tim Keller (from 843 Acres, The Devotional Blog of The Park Forum: Advent: The Feet That Bring Good News.

By the way, a friend told me about some families that were unable to have a decorated Christmas tree…they do now!

Advent Eve Story