Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Story - Cookies for Santa

In our family, it has been traditional to "pretend Santa." When I was a child, "Santa came" while we were sleeping, left an uwrapped gift under the tree for us, and filled our stockings with an orange, candy, and a trinket. I don't remember finding out that Santa was not real - it seems like we always knew it, and just enjoyed the fun of it all. As teenagers, my siblings and I began to fill a stocking "from Santa" for our parents, also.

We've continued in the same way with our children. However, for our children with special needs, it's a "whole diff'rent ball game," as they say. Their innocent minds grasp the Santa story and hold on tight. Many clues have not swayed them, and direct statements to Hugger are directly ignored. Whistle will figure it out eventually -- he's asked questions about not having a chimney, whether or not Santa can drive, and about what reindeer eat. The jury's still out on when Hugger will come around. ;-)

So -- this is what transpired on Christmas Eve at our house.

  • Whistle put out a glass of milk and 3 dishes with one cookie each. One for Santa Claus, one for Mrs. Claus, and one for the reindeer, he explained. (He passed over tins of multiple varieties of homemade treats to put out his own favorite: Oreos with red cream filling.) He went to sleep in his bedroom, and Hugger was getting ready to join him.
  • At least once in previous years, "Santa" forgot to eat the cookies, so I drank the milk and put the cookies in the kitchen. Then I went to bed, waiting for Hugger to be asleep as well.
  • A little later, I got up to do the Santa duties, and found that Hugger had moved the 3 empty dishes to the kitchen, replaced them with a paper plate filled with chocolate chip cookies, refilled the milk, and had gone to sleep on the sofa.
  • I tiptoed around the room, moved cookies and drank milk (again), and replaced the 3 dishes from Whistle to their original spot, which was now alongside the crumb-laden plate from Hugger. On Christmas morning, they both knew their cookies were gone, and no questions were asked.

Christmas Tower

Christmas '08

E's handiwork

Granddaughter Ho Ho Ho Crew

America's Next Top Model?

All Christmased Out

Monday, December 22, 2008

Season of Giving

Several years ago, I was the recipient of a Random Act of Kindness. At a grocery store where we sack our own groceries, the customer standing across the counter from me opened a paper grocery sack and deliberately placed it in front of me, ready for my groceries. It made me smile, and gave me a light heart for the rest of the day. What a small thing it was, but what a big difference it made for me! Now, more than ten years later, I still think of it occasionally.

This year, our family decided to make a conscious effort to reach out to others with a giving spirit. When we were together at Thanksgiving, we talked about it, with a plan to come back together at Christmas and share our giving stories. Some were random acts of kindness, others helped when or where they saw a need. In all, we felt blessed in giving, and determined to do more next year. We hope to be teaching our children more about giving, and it was a highlight of our family Christmas get-together this past weekend. One story led to another, and brought up some things we hadn't even thought about as being part of this family project. Here are some of the stories that were told when we gathered last Saturday:
  • While on a weekend trip, one family was talking and praying about what they could do for this giving project. Before they arrived home, they found a way to help. Seeing a woman on the ground, they stopped to help, calling 911 and contacting family members. Another need came up with the lady's family a little later, and because it was their phone that had been used, they were called when a question arose. They returned to the scene, and driving a car for the one in need, helped calm the driver, and reunited the young child involved with his mother.
  • One person received two gift cards as a prize from a blog, and passed them on to another as a way of Paying it Forward.
  • A former foster child filled the Christmas wishes of a child currently in foster care.
  • One saved an elderly man from sending $2000 of his savings to an unknown person in Canada, thinking it was his granddaughter in need. (It was a scam, which he found out after he was encouraged to call his granddaughter. As it turned out, she was not in Canada, but still in her home town.)
  • Young girls bought carousel tokens, and offered them to children in the mall, so they could ride the carousel.
  • One family knew (through their workplace) of a particular family in need, and anonymously gave McDonald's gift cards to each child, and a WalMart card for the parents, to help them provide Christmas gifts or Christmas dinner for their family.
  • One child made a hand-made Christmas gift for a child who wasn't able to be at home for Christmas.
  • One family anonymously gave a gift card to a recently widowed woman and her infant child.

Ben suggested we not wait until the next Christmas season -- but continue making a conscious effort to be givers, and come prepared with our giving stories every time we have a family gathering. I agree, and we'll check with the others about it, too.

I hesitated to write about this project, as most of the giving was done anonymously, but because we were inspired by another to give, we hope these stories will encourage you to look for ways to touch someone's life. Surely you have some time, some creativity, or some funds that could make a difference for someone else. You will be blessed in doing so!

He's In Trouble Now

Whistle was shooting baskets in the hallway, and I heard him say, "Mom, Come here quick! Mom. Mom! Come here quick!" (Then I heard him very quietly say, "I'm in trouble, now!") I couldn't imagine what the problem was - I hadn't heard a crash or anything! When I got to him, he pointed to the thermostat, and the blue and red lights on it. He apparently thought he was responsible for the lights he hadn't noticed before -- maybe his ball hit it?

It wasn't him at all, but just the fact that our heat pump is NOT keeping up with the temperatures outside. He was glad to know it wasn't his fault this time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keep Your Shoes Polished!

When Father was ordained to the ministry, another preacher told him to "Keep your shoes polished." Taken literally, it's a good idea, but it has another meaning as a minister of the gospel, and actually, simply as one of God's children. Keeping your shoes polished also means to be aware that people are noticing your feet -- where you go, and how you walk. We experienced a good example of that this evening.

We were shopping at the local mall department store, buying gifts for children in foster care, compliments of a group who had donated the funds. We had the wish lists of 10 teens in foster homes and residential centers, and at the time we were shopping for the clothing they had requested. We'd gathered up a stack of clothes -- special requests, specific sizes, and left them with the clerk at the counter while we continued shopping. When we returned, we discovered that all our items had disappeared - and the clerk was dismayed (as well as Father and I) to realize that while he was busy with another customer, someone else had taken our things to replace on the shelves as returns. All our effort to that point had been undone so quickly! After a brief moment of frustration, we began to re-gather the items, with the clerk's help. With the exception of two things which were apparently not returned to the places we had found them, and one we just forgot to retrieve, we were again ready to continue shopping. After we were finally finished and were checking out, the clerk asked us what church we attended. Father answered him with our church name and location. I didn't realize why he was asking, and tried to explain that we weren't doing this for the church, but for kids in foster care. He said, "Oh, that wasn't why I was asking -- it was something you said that made me ask." Father figured it out first, and laughed and said something about them losing our things, and we didn't lose our cool. I told the clerk that Father was actually the pastor at the church we attended. He and the clerk went on and visited, and the young man shared that he was a newly licensed minister, and had just preached his first sermon last Sunday. They had quite a long conversation (especially considering that the clerk was supposed to be working, and we had LOTS of shopping to do) about how the Lord leads you to know what to preach, how He prepares the congregation, and other related things. I finally left them to go to the ladies' department, and after choosing a coat for another teen, returned to find them still engrossed in conversation. We finalized that purchase, and knew we must move on. However, not before Father had shared his contact information, and (never passing up an opportunity) suggested the young man consider being a foster parent.

I thought afterward, "What if we had responded differently? Would he have recognized us as church-goin' folk? What if we'd responded in anger, and then it came up later that Father is a preacher?" There have certainly been times we have not acted as we should; what if this had been one of those times? It made me wonder how many times have we missed opportunities to share our testimonies and the truth of the gospel with others. We have a light (THE Light), and should let it shine brightly. In fact, we should remember much more often that others are watching, and we need to "keep our shoes polished!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tired of being sick!

In the last 10 days, we've had sinus infections, strep throat, colds, and now 24 hour stomach flu. I'll be glad when EVERYONE is healthy and well. It's Christmas time, and I'd much rather be decorating, entertaining, and having fun, instead of all the things we've been doing.

As a change of pace - I'll share this wonderful Christmas arrangement with you.