CHRISTMAS 2005 IN TAMPA, FLORIDA
After a week of rain and cold 30-degree weather in Houston, Texas, Dortha and Dale, Ronnie and Ethel Rose and I left Houston December 21st to spend the holidays in Tampa, Florida with Wanda, Dexter and David. At midnight, Sarah and Nathan flew in from Dallas.
Monday afternoon, Jessica, Rachel and Mike arrived after spending Christmas day in Houston. Four of my five grandchildren were there. Jennifer stayed in Navasota, Texas.
Wanda and Dexter's home is a haven for rest and recreation. The sliding glass doors along the big den and adjoining pool (billiards) room disappear, opening into the large entirely screened-in area of the patio, swimming pool, and hot tub. The roof overhang from the living room, covers the kitchen area with the grill, sink, ice-maker, refrigerator and table and chairs to seat eight. Lounge chairs give comfort for sunbathing or reading. The view from this area of the back yard and huge pond is gorgeous. Tall cedars and shrubbery provide privacy between the homes. A fine resort would not be more enjoyable! Tiny white lights hung in shrubbery.
As for sleeping arrangements, Wanda and Dexter have the master bedroom (which opens onto the pool area); Ronnie and Ethel Rose sleep in David's room; Dortha and Dale sleep in the guest bedroom; I'm on a blow-up mattress in Wanda's "office". The college kids sleep on blow ups in the pool room around and under the pool table.
Wanda planned a fun surprise for Sarah who knew she'd be sleeping in the pool room. We slipped Sarah's bed out by the swimming pool! After all, there are pool rooms and POOL rooms! Florida is wonderful weather in the daytime (in the 70's)--but a cool 65 at midnight when Sarah and Nathan arrived. When Wanda showed Sarah her bed, Sarah just stood speechless, wondering "what's happening?" She just stared at Wanda and we all couldn't help bursting out in laughter. "Just teasing!" Wanda said. Sarah said, "Well, I was thinking, 'It's COLD out here. I'll need another blanket! Why can't I sleep on a couch somewhere?'"
We all slept late. It was almost noon when we finished breakfast and gathered around the gorgeously decorated Christmas tree. Wanda read the Christmas story from Luke 2 in the Bible. She gave a devotional on "Merry After Christmas". After Christmas, Luke tell us, "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." (verse 20). Wanda said, "So should we be glorifying and praising God for all He's done for us. Begin the new year by glorifying and praising God through witnessing, praying, devotion to His church and allowing Christ to live His life through you."
Several of us shared thoughts and testimonies about Jesus in our lives. I said, "I've heard the story from Luke 2 every year for 80 years, and I still am touched by God loving us so much He sacrificed Jesus to come to earth, and Jesus loved us so much to give up His heavenly home to come to earth, teach us how to live, and then to die for our sins--to take the punishment we so deserve for disobeying God. I attended the musical at First Baptist Church on Dec. 9. I was so deeply touched several times, I felt chills! Their choir and orchestra were terrific and others pantomimed scenes of shepherds; of wise men traveling through the audience, including the balcony where my dear friend Anne Elskes and I sat, on their way to Bethlehem; and of the manger scene. It was like "being there" or looking down on earth from heaven's portals.
"After intermission, a choir and orchestra from New Orleans, Louisiana who experienced 8-feet of water inside their church during hurricane Katrina on August 29, continued the musical. The hurricane took away their homes, furniture, clothing, food, cars, even their church -- everything! But here they were singing praises with all their hearts to God! Making beautiful music to His glory. They recovered their church flag which was on display. Every Sunday at l:00 p.m. they hold church services at First Baptist Church for the refugees."
There was much fun and laughter around the tree when gifts were opened, one by one.
We watched each one open their gifts, beginning with the youngest, David. When he opened his largest gift, it contained a box with another box with another -- must have been 10 boxes before the last smallest package was reached containing a very special watch! It was so funny. Almost everyone gets a FUN gift.
Ronnie got a bar of soap with raised letters spelling, "FACE" on the white top half and "BUTT" on the bottom brown half! All the men received coffee mugs which seemed o.k. until Wanda asked them to pretend they were drinking from them as she took their picture. Then the laughter erupted as the bottoms revealed a pig's snout, making them all look like pigs!!!
I received a box of 16 hilariously funny birthday cards -- I mail out lots of cards every month. They were so funny, I read every one of them to the family. The funniest was:
"Why is it with old people you have to repeat everything twice?.......Why is it with old people you have to repeat everything twice?" Everyone laughed, except Ethel Rose. She asked, "What did you say?" I read it again, "Why is it with old people you have to repeat everything twice?" Talk about knee-slapping laughter, we experienced it! She walked into that one!
Dexter received an animated reindeer stick horse which sang "Jingle Bells". Also, a 26-inch stuffed alligator pillow for lounging out on the patio.
Wanda opened a present for Cristal, her white teacup poodle. It was a little pink coat and four tiny shoes. David began dressing her. She kept snipping at his hand when he was putting on the coat; but didn't mind the shoes. All dressed up, he stood her on the floor. She put on a dance that almost knocked out everyone with laughter -- whooping, yelling, haw-hawing foot stomping laughter! That tiny little pet kicked up her back legs like a bunking bronco! What a show! Sarah grabbed the video. Wanda is sending it to the TV program, "America's Funniest Home Videos." The laughter, recorded along with the video, was played several times!
David had a package of gum with one piece extended. He kept offering it to us; but knowing David, no one would accept it, suspecting it was a trick. He left it on the coffee table. It piqued Rachel's curiosity. She reached for it, and was shocked! A lot of teasing followed.
In all the Christmas stockings, I had put a booklet about Christmas, each different. They were very interesting. I chose a paragraph from each of the 10 booklets for the recipient to read after all the gifts had been opened. Wanda's was a book of Christmas prayers. She read hers last .
Every night, we played games: Tripoli, Uno, Skipbo, and Gin Rummy. After supper, we usually watched a movie on the den's wide screen TV. We saw Cinderella Man, Christmas With The Kranks, Sixth Sense, Fantastic Four and Miss Congenialty. One day, Wanda, Rachel, Jessica, Dortha and Dale went After-Christmas shopping. We went to bed between 3 and 5 A.M. every night and slept past noon. I asked Wanda, "Have you noticed how Tampa is like Alaska--short days and long nights? Every minute was FUN.
Dexter cooked scrumptious beef tenderloin steaks and chicken on the grill. The food was out-of-this-world good; baked potatoes with all the trimmings; baked sweet potatoes; Wanda's famous Beef Stroganoff and Asparagus Chicken Ole; green salads with avocados; fruit salads at breakfast; plenty of snacks and Blue Bell Ice Cream while playing games. On Tuesday night, we all celebrated Wanda and Dexter's third wedding anniversary at a fine restaurant in the older part of Tampa.
Too soon came time to return home. On the plane, we all agreed we didn't stay long enough! It was the most enjoyable Christmas we ever had.
Home again! Ronnie and I worked three long days to get out 500 "Happenings" letters to save 2-cents each on postage before the January 8th increase -- $l0. saved for the Lord's work.
Wanda has organized a tax-exempt charity, the Gift Of Life Fellowship (G.O.L.F.) formed to help keep God's Word in our daily lives, wherever we go, in whatever we do. You can go to the web-site for helpful information for life and golf: www.TheGolfHelp.com. She prepared 500 CD's to mail out by Christmas. The postage scale was just a "hair" over the line for one ounce. She figured by cutting and discarding a 2-1/2" circle in the protective cardboard, she'd save 23-cents each, or $ll5. in postage. She bought two hole-punchers that wouldn't work. Returning them to Home Depot and explaining her problem, a stranger overheard the conversation and said, "I punch holes in cardboard for a living. I can help you!" He did! A Christmas miracle that God sent this man to be there at the exact time as Wanda was explaining her need. God is good. He cares.
"From the fullness of His (Jesus) grace, we have all received one blessing after another" (John l:16 NIV). Whatever the new year brings, I know God will be there to carry us through. God's blessings to you!
> Christmas in Tampa, FL