I love the holiday season at the end of the year. There is so much joy, surprises, happiness. "Family" becomes such a precious word for all who can come together. We think nothing could be more beautiful than our decorations. Our minds cannot fathom the magnificent splendor in Heaven where some of our family are spending Christmas this year.
I want to tell you about our CHRISTMAS 2002: A thread of sadness wove through the day as we were aware that this would be our last Christmas in Wanda's million dollar mansion. She and Dexter would be married on Dec. 27. The property was for sale, and they would be moving to Tampa, Florida.
Everyone was there--all 19 of us: Me; Ronnie and Ethel Rose; Dortha and Allen Dale; his brother Don and sons Taylor and Dustin; my grandchildren Jessica and friend Oleg, Rachel and friend Mike, Sarah and friend Amir, Jennifer and friend Clint; David; Wanda and Dexter.
For Christmas dinner, Dexter grilled perfectly delicious tenderloins. Wanda fixed baked potatoes and salad. Deserts were rhubarb and pecan pies, cheese and double chocolate cakes; and a platter of scrumptious peanut brittle. The counters held all kinds of snacks for the rest of the day: dips with chips and veges; shrimp salad; cheese balls; chunks of tenderloin steaks.
After Ronnie said the blessing, and while we were dining, we played the Christmas letter game. Everyone around the table took a letter to spell CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS. They expressed thanks to God for things beginning with their letter. Oleg arrived after the game, and I didn't have a letter. So I thanked God for being there since I had heart failure that weekend.
We sat around the twelve-foot gorgeously decorated real fir tree with an angel on top. Wanda read of the birth of Jesus in St. Luke; then from Ephesians, explaining why Jesus came-- to die for sins. Before Jesus came, lambs were sacrificed on the alter for redemption of sins. Isn't it befitting that Jesus' birth was first announced through the star and angels singing to the shepherds and the sheep, that the sacrificial lambs were being replaced by the Son of God, a babe lying in a manger?
As we read the Bible, God told of perfect plans detailing events so amazing they could only come from a Superior Being. Jesus is the greatest gift the world has ever received. He taught us how to live; how to please our Creator; the simple formula to escape the terrors of Hell throughout eternity. "He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (St. John 11:25). "God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation (appeasement) for our sins"
(I John 4:9,10). Remember the reason for the season. Believe in God. His promises are true.
It is our family tradition to watch each person open their gifts, one by one, beginning with the youngest. It takes all day, but is such good entertainment. Usually there are some "fun" gifts which bring much laughter.
On December 19, I bought a new dress to wear to Wanda and Dexter's wedding. I found the prettiest and only dress in the whole shopping center for me at Foley's. It was brown velvet with a coat of gold lace. Perfect! Imagine my surprise when I opened Wanda's gift to me, finding it to be the same identical dress. I was speechless--like she went to my house, got my dress and put it under the tree! She bought this dress at Lord & Taylors!
The biggest gift under the tree was for me. It was the last remaining to be opened, in a box 50" long x 18" wide and 5" high; so heavy two persons scooted it across the floor to me. Everyone was curious, especially me. Grandchildren began tearing off the paper, revealing a label "Exercise Bench." I began objecting loudly. "DAVID! JESSICA! NO! Don't open that box. I cannot do exercises--only my therapy motions the last five years since my heart attack."
They kept ripping out Scotch-taped edges. I called out to Wanda in the kitchen: "WANDA! Make them stop. You'll have to take that back. There's no room for it in my house…and besides, I can't do weight lifting and bench exercises. WANDA!" She came over and began helping the children all the while I kept up the protesting. "I don't want this!"
Soon, all the wrapping was removed and Wanda raised the lid. Inside was filled with beautifully decorated envelopes! I gasped in amazement! Envelopes with pretty designs, some on both front and back. What a wonderful surprise gift! There were about 3,000. Looks like I won't be pasting many pictures on envelopes in 2003. There was much laughter. I should have known: our family is famous for disguising gifts. We even take stuff out of the original box which would describe the contents and put it in a totally different box. It happens all the time. This time, Wanda really "got me good." So much fun!
We recalled a like incident last Christmas. Ethel Rose was excited to open a large beautifully decorated box. She took off the big shiny red bow, carefully separating the taped seams to save most of the gorgeous foil poinsettia wrapping paper. The box indicated a wheel-type exercise contraption you lie on the floor and roll back and forth as your body goes up and down. Ethel Rose and I both need to lose about 40 pounds. There was silence around the room. You could almost hear everyone's thoughts: If she got down on the floor with that, she'd never get up! Her smiley face changed to perplexity. She opened the top to reveal kitchen towels and accessories in a grape motif for her new kitchen. Everyone screamed with laughter.
The day after Christmas, the first thing I did was sort out all those envelopes on the dining room table. I chose l,200 letter sized ones to match up with 12 packages (100 pages each) of decorative letterheads to be used for the monthly letters for my children's writing ministry.
I am reminiscing about "blessings in disguise." Most of them in my life, I've written about. Those envelopes were certainly a blessing in disguise. My family is so scattered now with Wanda in Tampa, Florida and the grandchildren in Navasota, Denton and Austin, Texas. I was wondering if everyone will be together at Christmas this year. Wanda and Dortha were burning up the telephone wires in discussion and decided everyone would go to Tampa for Christmas. This was late September. The excitement was contagious and immediately everyone bought airfare tickets at bargain prices (non-refundable) for leaving Houston on Saturday, Dec. 20th and returning Saturday Dec. 27th. Wonderful! This will be so much fun, especially since we have not had our 4th of July get togethers the past two years. Prior to that, we rented a house in Rockport for a week. Wanda and Dexter's home has a big built-in heated swimming pool. They have a boat and a lake for fishing. Their living far away will be a big blessing in disguise for a family vacation and a memorable Christmas we'll never forget.
Will you rejoice in the birth of Jesus? Or just in the things Christmas will bring?
Don't be satisfied merely to hear about Jesus. Arise and seek Him yourself. Go in search of Him "with haste" until you stand in His presence; and then when you have found Him, tell others about your discovery just as the shepherds did.
The Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus and returned home by another way--being warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod. No one ever travels the same path after coming to Jesus. The Wise Men brought the world's richest gifts. Jesus gave them an abundant life and eternity. He will do the same for you and me right now.
May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love.
> Christmas 2003