Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas from my family

I thought I might tell you about the gifts my family chose for me.  Deep down, when we choose items for others, there's a lot of 'us' in them, too.

The gift from El, our youngest, will be the first one consumed.  She got me a book:  a specific book I requested.  She is very literal.  And she has recently developed an interest in reading.  Her 2 older sisters consume books at an alarming rate.  And not just once, but over and over for their favorites.  They have been that way since they learned to read.  El read something at school last year and wanted to read it again on her own time.  Then she read the other 2 books in the series.  I asked for the 2nd book in a different series and she jumped right on that suggestion.  It was something she understood.

The ....hmmm .... I hate to use the word 'geekiest' gift, but I'm having trouble finding another word to convey the essence of a jigsaw puzzle depicting a painting in the style of Van Gogh used in the TV series 'Doctor Who.'  I have always loved jigsaw puzzles and the Doctor.  A few years ago when we learned that the series from my college days had been revived, we started watching.  True to their heritage, at least 2 of my 3 girls have embraced the Doctor with open arms.

The gift from my beloved Mr. H reflects quite a bit about him, too.  He presented me with a set of fabulous knives:  German Henckels with Japanese -styled blades.  He's a guy and guys like tools.  Just the other day, I was complaining because my one and onlyHenckels knife had been missing long enough for me to conclude that it wasn't coming back.  This set has 11 knives and a pair of kitchen scissors that are as sharp as the knives.  Ooooo......

Then there is the gift from my eldest:  a mug and cozy.  But not just any cozy.  It was knit by her own hands, hands that I taught how to knit.  And not just a plain pattern, but a basketweave pattern that I did NOT teach her.  She researched and experimented and learned it on her own. She knew what it would mean to me. And she was exactly right.  It makes me smile and warms my heart.  And it lets me know that she is an 'accomplished' lady (to borrow a line from her favorite book.)

All these gifts are special because they are from people I love.  And each one represents specific qualities about those loved ones.

I am indeed a very blessed woman.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift of the Shepherd

The Gift of the Shepherd

The old shepherd made his way through the night to his quiet place.  The stars above him burned brightly to light his way.  Even though the dawn  was many hours away, he had a special “thank you” to say.  This night, in his little house just  outside of town, his prayers had been answered:  he had a son!  Now he had to tell his God how thankful he was.

As the shepherd was  praying, thanking God for his family, a bright light appeared before him.  It was brilliant, like the sun, but so sudden he knew that it was not the sunrise.  A gentle voice spoke from the light:  “Do not be afraid.  Your faith has been rewarded.  Your son Joel will prepare a special gift for the Lamb of God.”
The shepherd was so surprised that he could not speak.  The angel disappeared before he could ask about this Lamb of God.  He ran back to the house to tell his wife of this wonderful promise.

The next day he returned to his quiet place, wondering of the angel and promise had been a dream.  As he turned to leave, he felt  something under his foot.  It was a curious-looking seed, about the size of a small stone.  As he picked it up, his doubts  about the night before  disappeared.  He took his knife from his belt and dug a hole where he was standing.  As he planted the seed, he asked God to help  him and his son understand this puzzling promise.

As Joel grew, the old shepherd watched for signs of a special talent.  A gift  for the Lamb of God would certainly have to come from a talented craftsman.  How would they recognize the Lamb of God?  Would it look different from  the other lambs?  Would it be at the temple?  So many questions.  And yet  the shepherd found no answers in his son.  Joel was a good boy who loved to go with his father out into the fields.  The sheep trusted him and  followed him just as they followed his father.

“Will the Lamb of God need a shepherd?” wondered the old man.

As the boy grew, so did the tree that had sprung from the seed planted in the quiet  place.  It grew tall  with spreading limbs that gave shade in the hot summers.  Joel knew that this tree was connected with the night of his birth.  He had heard the  story of the appearance of the angel to his father and the promise of the gift for  the Lamb of God.  Sometimes, out in the fields under the starry sky, he would wonder what it meant.  But his first duty was always tending his sheep.

As the  years went by, Joel grew into a man.  His father was too old to stay out in the fields with the sheep, so Joel took over the duty alone.  He returned home every week to pick up supplies and to see his father, who had lived alone since the death of Joel’s mother.  One of these trips home followed a fearful wind storm the night before.  The old shepherd and the small house were unhurt, but the tree growing in the quiet place had been blown over by the winds.  Joel and his father decided to use the wood from the tree to build a shelter for the sheep.  Maybe God’s Lamb would  need a home.

Joel was not trained as a carpenter, but  he did know what sheep needed.  The shelter was strong and the sheep felt safe inside.  When the shelter was  finished, there was  a small stack of wood left  over.  Joel did not want to waste any part of the tree.  From the last pieces of the tree, he built a manger for the sheep to eat from.  It was not very big, but Joelwas pleased with the work.  On one end of the manger, Joel carved a sign as a reminder  of  the  promise.

Many more years passed.  The little town grew  until the house that was now Joel’s was crowded close to others.  Joel’s flock of sheep had gotten bigger and bigger.  He had to hire other men to help him care for them.  The shelter he had built was not  big enough to hold his sheep.  He gave the shelter to his neighbor, who had built an inn next door.   He and his men lived in the fields with the sheep.  Joel had not forgotten  the promise of the gift for the Lamb of God, but he had other sheep to care for until he found this mysterious Lamb.

One night as Joel and the other shepherds  were  settling down for the night,  a sudden bright light appeared around them.  The other shepherds were  terrified, but Joel felt an odd excitement, as  if he knew what was to come.  Out of the brilliance a gentle voice spoke to them:  “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today is the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he  is Christ the Lord.  This  will  be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly the shepherds were surrounded by angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The sound of the angels filled Joel’s heart as well as  his ears.  He had been waiting for this moment since the day he  was born.  He knew that he must go into  Bethlehem to see what the angel of the Lord had told them about.

As  the band of shepherds came to the edge of town, Joel recognized the old shelter  he had  built from the fallen tree.  He knew in his heart that this  was  the place that  the angel had spoken of.  He thought of  the sign the angel had described: a baby in a manger.

A manger . . .  his manger?  Could it be?

Joel and the others approached the entrance to the shelter and looked in at a young family.  The infant was wrapped in  cloths, lying in a manger, just as the angel said.  And there on the end of manger was the sign that Joel had carved so many years ago.  Could this tiny baby be the Lamb of God of the promise?  This night the angel had called him “Savior.”  Joel was reminded of the Passover and how the lamb had saved his people so many generations  ago in Egypt.

Instantly Joel knew that the promise made to his father by the angel had been honored.  The Lamb of God had needed a shepherd and a shelter.  Joel had made the manger that cradled the infant Savior.

Unaware of the shepherds at the entrance, the new mother was speaking to her husband.  As well as being exhausted, she seemed to be puzzled.

“Joseph,” she sighed, “I just didn’t think it would be like this.  What are we doing in this place?  What is He doing in a stable?  He should have the throne of David, like the angel said.  Not this sheep pen.”

“Mary,” her husband replied, gently touching the baby’s face, “remember that David was a shepherd before he was a king.”

“But no one even knows that He is  here!” she cried.

“We know,” smiled Joseph.

“And we know,” said Joel, coming forward with the other shepherds.  He told them of the words of the angel and tried to explain the song of glory and peace and goodwill.  Then he told them a story of another angel’s visit many years before.  As they looked at the sign on the manger, the infant, God’s precious Lamb, stirred in His sleep.

When the young mother looked  at her son, Joel saw her smile and nod.  She thanked the shepherds for coming to welcome the Lamb of God.  In her heart she thanked them for bringing her the news of the angels and their wondrous song.

Joel saw the joy on her still-tired face.  He was reminded of more of the angel’s words.  The good news of great joy was for all the people.  But the angel had brought the news to only a few shepherds.  How were all the people to hear the good news?  He called the other shepherds to him.  Soon they left to spread  the word about all they had seen and heard that night.

And that is still the way that people hear the news about the Savior today:  People who have heard the Good News spread the word to those who haven’t.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

End of an Era

Do you remember this guy?  I never met the Maytag repairman in person because our Maytag drier never had any problems.  We purchased it about 21 years ago, when our eldest was a toddler.  (She turned 23 last month.)  We were replacing the stacking, apartment-sized washer and drier that we'd had for several years.  Our family had outgrown them and needed a larger capacity.  We chose Maytag.

That washer/drier set saw us through a 2 year house rental in Ocean Springs, 4 years in a mobile home park  in Gautier, then the move to George County which was 5 more years in the mobile home and then 10 in the house we built.  About 2 years ago we had to replace the washer.  Then one day last week, we noticed that the drier wasn't heating.  It still tumbled and timer worked:  it just wouldn't heat, so the clothes didn't dry.

We went to Lowe's yesterday to look at replacements.  When we informed the salesman that we were replacing a 20 year old machine, he told us he wished he could promise that a new one would last just as long, but it probably wouldn't.

I'm hoping our drier history holds out, because I didn't purchase the extended warranty.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We try to be frugal at the H household.  Some might even call us cheap.  But I hope we're never stingy.

I think it's associated with the genes from Mr. H's side of the family.  His sister is one of those people who can almost always find something on sale, and if it's not on sale (or better yet:  clearance!) has the willpower to simply walk away.  My eldest daughter is very much like her aunt.  She can find a deal on every shopping trip.  (side note:  we are going on our first outing as wedding dress shoppers tomorrow.  We'll see how well the genes prevail.)

This applies to utility expenses as well.  Living in south Mississippi, you know your highest electric bills will be in the summer.  When the temperature is in the upper 90s and the humidity is right there with it, the A/C just has to be on.  Last summer, it seemed that the warm weather was slow to start.  I think we made it until May before the A/C was turned on.  Some years there are days in late February that test the resolve of those who refuse to give in before April.  I can take the heat, but my family would rather not sweat.

Then there's that transition from summer to winter (there really is no fall in Mississippi.)  There will be several times in November that the A/C will be on for part of the day and you'll be wrapped in a blanket that evening.  We try not to turn the heat on until absolutely necessary.  Socks, sweatshirts, couch-potato blankets . . . do whatever it takes to keep warm.  Usually we have the fireplace to help out, but until the chimney sweep comes on Wednesday, I'm hesitant to light a fire.  We've lived in this house since the winter of 2001-02 and never had the chimney cleaned.  A few weeks ago, I started a fire and it tended to smoke and smell (yes, I DID remember to open the damper!) so I called to see if someone could come take care of it.  Who knew that it would take 3 weeks before someone could come!  And that was the 2nd place I called.  The first said they couldn't have anyone in our area until the off-season!  Wow!  If I need a new profession,  I'll look into that one.  Seems like they need a bigger labor force.

Sunday, 12/4 8:58 p.m.
This particular post has rambled on for several days now.  I started writing it Thursday.  It's time to wrap it up.  The eldest did find a dress she likes.  Yes, it is on sale, but her sisters must see it first so we have an appointment Thursday afternoon for all the H womenfolk to make the final decision.  There will be no pictures of it posted because a certain young gentleman might see it before he's supposed to.

And with that I'll say good-night because it's been a really long day.