Friday, December 25, 2015

"Orange You Glad It's Christmas" Gina Waite

I must admit, I AM A SPOILED GIRL! I’ve almost ALWAYS had everything I needed and just about, darn near, everything I wanted too. It’s disgusting and fantastic all at the same time! I’ve never known what it’s like to have ONE change of clothes, or have to wear shoes too small for my feet (ONLY out of sheer VANITY have I experienced having my toes pinched.) With the exception of occasionally (okay the better part of my 42 years) being on a diet…I’ve been blessed with tasting a cornucopia of colors, flavors and fantastic foods.

For the most part, and I realize it could change any time, I’ve lived during a time of economic prosperity. For example, I’ve ALWAYS been able to buy fruit and eat it whenever my little heart desired. An orange, a basic staple at my house and yet, to Grandpa Waite during the year 1933, it would be the greatest treat a person could have! Here, let me allow Grandpa Waite tell his side of the story:
“Now I lay me down to sleep” were the words I usually started my evening prayers. This particular night was Christmas Eve and I was so looking forward to celebrating Jesus’s birthday the following day by receiving some gifts in remembrance of the greatest gift of all - Jesus’s atoning sacrifice.
Before going to bed, my Mom, Dad and two older brothers, would light the candles on the beautifully decorated Christmas tree that our family had gone into the nearby mountains and cut it down. We would string popcorn onto a thread to make long white strands of garland to encircle around the outer edge of the Christmas tree. We always had a bucket of water at the base of the tree in case the lighted candles would cause a fire.
We carefully hung our well-worn, clean long stockings in the hopes that Santa would remember to fill them with goodies. Early in the morning a thoughtful father made a fire in the pot-belly stove that provided warmth for the entire our three room log home built by early pioneers. One living room, one bedroom and a small kitchen where a cook stove provided the heat.
Upon waking up, my brothers and I were delighted that Santa Clause had not forgotten us. Each boy had a toy with other gifts of clothing that our dear mother had sewed. Though grateful for the little green truck that I had received, I couldn't help but wonder why Santa gave my friend next door a “big” red truck and my truck was so little?
To our delight our stockings were filled with hard candy and nuts and at the toe end of the stocking a large beautiful orange. Oh, what a delicacy…A REAL ORANGE. Very carefully the orange was peeled and each piece slowly consumed tasting every ounce of vitamin C it contained...but wishing I could have one more.
To my great surprise, almost a month later, the boy sitting next to me at lunch had a great big orange to enjoy as his treat after lunch. Needless to say my salivary glands, now on heightened alert, let me know I couldn’t leave without having a piece.

I got bold and decided to go around about way of asking if I could have a piece by saying, “I like oranges.”

His reply…“ I do too, it's SO delicious!”

My boldness continued by saying, “Wow it would be great if I could have a piece.”

I watched as my friend replied, “I can understand why…it’s very good!”

I did not have the audacity to say, “Look Bud, you give me a piece of that orange or I’ll give you a knuckle sandwich!”

Instead I said, “May I have the peelings?”

Looking at me as though I was rather stupid, he agreed to give me the peelings. I decided he didn’t deserve a “thank you.” As I sat there craving that beautiful orange from EVERY cell in my body, I decided when no one was looking, I would carefully slip each torn piece of the orange peeling into my mouth until they were gone…and that’s exactly what I did.”

When Grandpa Waite first related this story to my children at Christmas dinner several years ago, both of my kids sat speechless…completely unable to say anything. Their own Grandpa…reduced to asking someone else for their orange peeling to satisfy the need for vitamin C and a craving that no other food would suffice…my children felt humbled, and aware of the blessings they had been so accustomed to. After pondering for several minutes, my son pushed himself away from the table and went directly to the pantry. Upon returning, he walked directly to his Grandpa and held out in his hand a most perfect orange and said, “Grandpa, I wish I could have been there all those years ago as I would have loved to give this to you! Thank you for your story…I will ALWAYS think of you when I see an orange.” As I watched my children exchange words of love and understanding with their Grandpa, realizing a principle they could have ONLY learned from him…I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Orange you glad it’s Christmas!”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!
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Monday, December 14, 2015

"I Believe" Jim Terry

Well it’s HERE! The CHRISTMAS SEASON! And it is still one, if not THE favorite, time of year for me.   I think part of my excitement for this time of year comes from all of the classic—at least in my mind they are classic—Christmas movies that HAVE TO BE part of my evenings during the month of December.  Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, The Christmas Carol and The Grinch who Stole Christmas, to name just a few, are always a must see for me. And just so you know, I only watch these movies to “enhance” my Christmas spirit not because I don’t have any. I’m kind of like, and very similar to, Buddy the Elf in the movie Elf when he hears that Santa is coming and he screams to the top of his lungs “Santa…Santa is coming!” But of all of the Christmas movies I watch each year, there is one that I really relate to and sticks out in my mind. Have you seen or heard of The Polar Express?  If you have not, basically it’s a story of a doubting young boy who needs to confirm what he already knows in his heart...that Christmas is real if you just believe.

As a young boy there was never a time that I didn’t believe in Santa and the Christmas season. It wasn’t until about the age of six that I started doubting and became like the young boy in The Polar Express…a doubting Thomas.  I was at school one day and some of my friends had been discussing that “Santa wasn’t real” and “how could one man deliver toys to all the kids of the world in one night?”  I still remember, to this day, how that made me feel. I was upset…I was mad…I was confused…and well…I was also now disappointed. How could something that my parents taught me not be real?  This is when my quest, in determining if Santa was or was not real, began.

I started with asking questions to my siblings. I figured if they had been taught the same things that I had been taught, that they would be honest and tell me if something wasn’t true.  And as a young child you, of course, look up to and confide in the older siblings…so I approached my older sisters Angie and Lora with this question, “Is Santa real?”  I can’t remember their exact responses but it still didn’t console me, so I continued my pursuit in finding out the truth…I asked other classmates at school if he was real.  I consulted the almighty encyclopedias—hey we didn’t have internet back then.  I even wrote a letter to Santa asking him if he was real.  All of which still did not console me and provide me solace or the comfort I needed.  It wasn’t until early Christmas morning of that same year that I finally received my answer.

Remember how LONG Christmas Eve night felt like when we were young?  It seemed to last forever didn’t it?  The anticipation of Santa coming, wondering if you had been naughty or nice and the gifts you would receive made minutes and hours turn into, what felt like, months and years.  Well, this particular Christmas, I obviously had drank way too much of something before I went to bed.  I can’t recall what time it was, but I really—REALLY—had to get up and go to the bathroom.  Some may ask, “well why didn’t you just get up and go?”  The reason why I was hesitant to go to the bathroom is because we were always told to stay in our rooms.  And if we ever saw Santa, and he saw us, then he would not leave us the toys he brought for us regardless if you were naughty or nice…A very clever idea, I might add, from parents who ended up having eight kids. 

So as I sat there in the dark trying to “hold it” for what felt like hours, I finally opened my door, ran down the hallway and made it to the bathroom safely without any “accidents.”  I then reopened the door to the bathroom, glanced to the right and then to the left making sure the coast was clear and noticed that the lights were on in the family room. Had Santa come?  I had to find out.

Creeping carefully and quietly down the hallway past the spiral staircase, I was finally able to get a glimpse of the downstairs family room.  The warm hue of the multi-colored lights from the Christmas tree filled the room. The stockings that were hung “by the chimney with care” were filled and noticeably there were more gifts, distinct and picture-perfect, that were placed carefully underneath the Christmas tree. The lingering smell of Christmas in the air from my Mother’s cinnamon potpourri and the faint, indistinct warm glow and quiet crackle from the fireplace created, what one may perceive as, “the perfect Christmas setting.” But where was Santa?

It was at the conclusion of my observations that I heard someone or something coming down the spiral staircase.  I was so terrified, that if I saw Santa or if Santa saw me, that I wouldn’t get anything. So as quickly as I could, I did the best tuck and roll maneuver you may have ever witnessed any action hero accomplish in any given Hollywood movie and landed perfectly hidden underneath the spiral staircase.  Also to make doubly sure I didn’t see Santa, I not only closed my eyes but I quickly covered my eyes with my hands as if I was playing hide and seek.  It’s one of those moments when time slows down and you find that your heart is pumping so hard, you feel as though it is going to jump right out of your chest…“Thump, thump, thump” is what I heard from my heart and from the steps of the person(s) who was descending down the stairs. 

Also to better understand my situation at that time, I want to point out one more topic from The Polar Express. The young boy who doesn’t believe in Santa not only meets Santa in the movie but also is given a magical bell that rings or jingles when shaken ONLY if you truly believe in the season.  The character in the movie tries once to hear the toll of the bell by shaking it, but hears nothing.  He tries twice…but it isn’t until the third time he tries and once again says, “I believe” that he finally hears the ring of the bell. 

As I crouched there in silence underneath the staircase confused, afraid and as a non-believer at that time, all the while covering my eyes, I couldn’t help but to let my curiosity get the best of me…I just had to know.  So as I slowly parted my pointer finger from my middle finger far enough to get a quick peek of what I hoped to be true in my heart and slowly opened my eyes, this is what I saw. I saw a man bearing gifts and dressed in red with a Santa hat on.  Now I’m not sure, but I think I may have gasped when I saw him and this in turn allowed Santa to turn around in my direction in the warm dim light "to see what was the matter."  As he stood there scouring his surroundings, he finally saw me. A small young boy hunkered down underneath the staircase, that was scared to death.  He then looked at me with his kind and loving eyes and then let out a gentle “Ho Ho Ho.” 

"Wow," I said in a soft subtle voice. "He is real!"

It was then, at that same moment, that Santa was able to witness a young boy—now a believer—scamper and RUN as quickly as he could back to his room, lock his door and hide under his covers for the rest of the night. And if there would have been a tape recorder near my bed that night, all that would have been heard over and over again from the quiet whisperings of a small boy is..."I Believe!"  

Over the years, I have reminisced, thought and contemplated about that moment in my life several times now.  How did it make me feel? What did I learn?  Well since it is the Christmas Season, I felt it was appropriate to liken this experience as an amazing parallel to what Christ has also given to me in my life.  He gives me challenges in life to make me a better person; sickness, job loss, and death just to name a few. But at the same time he has also given me many gifts, in spite of my faults, to help me get through my life virtually unscathed: family, charity, love, kindness and salvation.  A Father's love or Christ's love, to still give his child something in spite of doing something wrong on a cold Christmas Eve night, or throughout our lives, is a very valuable lesson to be learned. 

So whether you need to believe in Santa, in Christmas, in Christ or whatever you might choose during this holiday season or in life, there is a quote to remember which comes straight from the last two lines of the aforementioned movie..."And though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me. As it does for all, who TRULY BELIEVE!”



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