Saturday, December 31, 2011

Watch Night

I love the words, Watch Night. Praying in the New Year. But as I was reading in my book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, Watch Night is when the slaves waited for the Emancipation to be legal on January 1,1863. The African American churches continue to celebrate freedom in their churches on New Year's Eve.
Today, I think of those in slavery. Human trafficking makes the back stories, not headlines. Even in America, we have more than you would think.
People are in bondage to many things, even if they move freely in their community. Can you think of slavery issues? Addictions, abuse, poverty and mental and physical illness are a few. And the name that encompasses them all is Sin. Yes, I believe that we are all born sinners, so I guess in this victim age, we are victims of our birth. We are all slaves to the bad in this world. I do not mean personal sin creates our illness, but in some cases it does. We live in a fallen world with no respecter of persons.
Jesus is our Emancipator. Many cannot believe as they are slaves to their own ideas. They will not accept the Truth of the Gospel. We tend to look only at this world and won't lift our eyes to the hills- from whence comes our help- The Maker of Heaven and Earth.
As we hope for the best in this New Year, I offer a challenge. Many claims about what it will bring- abundance, wealth, great favor- are circulating. Let us pray for those who are slaves. I do feel for the girls and women involuntarily kept in rooms with pimps and johns. I also think of the people out there every day, enslaved to their own desires, misconceptions and circumstances. Let us pray for all. And let us do more for them this year, than last. Reach out to one more person. Open our eyes to the hurting, the lost, the wanderers,who are just going to one funeral after another, losing hope with each day.
This Watch Night, resolve to give them Jesus.

Friday, December 30, 2011

End of Year Jitters

Sitting here at the computer, feeling like my dream is unattainable. I'm glad I try to ignore feelings. This morning, I could have conquered the world.
My body is tired. I believe it fought a virus that my great niece Gracie gave to Mary Ellen, but since Tuesday, I didn't throw up. Holiday week and one nurse already out with that "stomach flu" I couldn't give in to my gut. Tums, Tums, Tums and finding food to settle that pain, didn't work. Just grabbed my gut, rubbed my head and traveled on. No chunks at all,though, made me very happy.
I read all these articles on improving my writing. I read, but feel it is never enough. Been reading much on C.S. Lewis. Why haven't I read more of his books? I've read the Space Trilogy, Screwtape Letters, well, John Cleese did, and I scan through Mere Christianity. Listened to all the Chronicles of Narnia from Focus on the Family, and of course, thrilled at the movies, especially the first one.
I want to find my picture for the year and blog on that for Mary DeMuth's page. I feel my goals should have been set already and etched somewhere. Have I asked for time off for the St. David's Writer Conference, yet? Do I even know when it is? I forget to check that out. I did sign up for a teleconference Thursday evening with Jerry Jenkins and skimmed through the free download from his book this morning.
No wonder I sometimes resent my job. I have this dream to be an author and goals to make it happen. Then, the job gets busy and physically I'm down, need sleep, but can't relax in the mornings. Tomorrow, I'm on call, then two days off.
Ah, feelings, now I feel so much better. I need to write. Trust and a little bit of pixie dust? Will I fly this year? Keep my nose to the ground and work hard is the best I can do. Seat time writing will bring those goals closer. End of year jitters and excitement. Anything can happen, but then any time, anything can happen. So deep breath, knowing to do my best at everything. Love at all times and reach out to those in need.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Up on the Hill

"Up on the Hill" and yes "Hill" is capitalized, is a phrase I think my mother-in-law is growing tired. My father-in-law grew up on Bryan Hill in central Pennsylvania. Now he is in dementia, yearning in a way to be where his childhood was. His sister, Twila, still lives on the homestead, so he wants to revisit it every day.
We made the trip on Tuesday this week. I have been up on the Hill many times in the past thirty two years, in all weather. My favorite is fall, of course. The first time I went with David to visit his grandparents was a dreary fall day that dissolved into snow. Grandpa at the time sat in his chair staring at me. At the end of the visit, he said, "I'd like to kiss that girl." I didn't get to know him very well, as he also had that dementia that runs in the family and died in 1981.
Soon, it was the two ladies on the Hill, Grandma and Aunt Twila. David and I always made the visit up on the Hill. Susie Skillman Lyon, truly was a refined mountain woman, always gracious in her elder years. At her funeral, so many of the nieces and nephews and others visited that Ray, my brother-in-law declared she had a ministry to the down and out. They knew they would have a praying ear.
The church on Moore Hill played(still does in Aunt Twila's life) a central part in their lives. It had originally been on Church Hill, where all the ancestors are buried now, looking over the slope to the new church, which is a white old school house. One of Susie's proudest moments was when she could play the pump organ, as they had installed an engine to power it. Instead of Little Brown Church in the Dell they changed the chorus to Little White Church on the Hill. The Sunday after Labor Day is Homecoming when members that had moved away, come home for a day with a picnic in the pavilion.
I gazed out the window on our trip up the other day, looking on the high way so very far down. I remember when the road was paved, the biggest news in decades. There is the house on the bend that I wonder how many cars have run into it or at least how often headlights disturbed the peace inside. Hunting camps scattered over the area, old abandoned trailers left to rot. In the dreary rain with no leaves on the trees this is the least favorite time to look at the sights.
This day, a well is being dug in the front yard because the spring that never dried, did so this past summer. A buck's head with a rack always stares at us in the living room. Dad asks, "Did Dad get that in Hick's Run?" to the point I'm sure the buck was killed in Hick's Run.
I observe the living room, trying to imagine the family raised here. Dad was the youngest boy, Clark and Leon, the older brothers, Aunt Twila, the youngest and only girl. She remained on the farm. I think of the baby with a heart defect, that would stop breathing. Years ago, Dad spoke of him. When he stopped breathing, Susie would dunk him in cold water to shock him back to life. The baby didn't live longer than seven months, I think. The saddest part of Dad's dementia, now, is it is hard to carry on a conversation. He has to stick to the script.
Aunt Twila talked about a creek that Paul, David's older brother, played in. My husband sitting on his bent over legs, like a little boy, insisted, "I played in it, too."
I wish I had that time machine to go back for an instant to see a small boy, not in black and white, but flesh, splashing in the creek that isn't there any more, either.
After David helps his aunt move wood in the small basement, we load up the car and drive away. David chooses the other side of the mountain to go back into town. The old school, where Dad walked uphill both ways is gone. We go past relatives' homes, that remained on the Hill. David talked of riding his bike down this twisting road, after someone drove their bikes up to Grandma's.
The day is too cloudy and wet to stop at Look Out Point, but many times we rested and took in the town there. Before we know it we're crossing the Broad Street bridge, but it is a new one, not the humming bridge of years ago. No loitering on the bridge now. The first day of trout will not see fishermen on this new one.
On this day, I really wish the Hill was in my deep recesses of memory. The fact, they didn't have electricity until the 1950's. Who lived where, riding down that Hill with the wind in my hair as a free kid.
This is in my children's DNA, their ancestral history. They'll remember four wheeling, sledding parties, feeding the horses, and the rest deep down in their souls. I hope they take away from this family deep faith. Also from my mother-in-law's family that lived on the other side of town.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Visiting

The week between Christmas and New Year's brought the Christmas visiting season. The relatives came to our house for Christmas Day to see Grandma. An open house all day for anyone to pop in, too. One year the chex mix was the hit as everyone had tired of sweets.
Visiting let you see the toys and gifts that the other cousins got. They were displayed under the tree and shown off. Coffee for the adults and pop for the kids, cookies and other deserts brought out so that rolling out of the homes was expected.
One year, I ventured out on Christmas Day with my new bike to my neighbor's house, the Powell's. That was highly unusual to actually visit on Christmas Day. The day had been one of those green Christmas and we were older.
I mostly remember driving around in the gray, everything seemed dull outside, but inside, oh, the fun of seeing the others' toys. One year, even Uncle Dale had a fun "toy," a cigarette roller. I rolled a cigarette or two that day.
As sisters grew older, they came home with children. One of my gifts from my oldest sister was picking out a movie to see over the Christmas break. Such a hard choice since this is when all the Oscar movies opened.
A cousin, Paula, insisted on treating us to lunch, more affordable than dinner, at the old Masion Buhl. We were amazed to see the price of coffee double for the evening meal. We dressed in our best clothes and enjoyed the "girl" talk in the rich, dark setting. It seemed a rite of passage to me, and the older nieces, too.

This week, anyone could show up. Life held that wonder of who could walk through the door. Did anyone work that week? It sure seemed that no one did.
1978, Mom had the open house for all the family on both sides, the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's. Again, everyone dressed up and we all visited with a lots of food, probably the punch bowl set on the dining room table.
My dad's niece then took over for this party when the years and illness slowed down my parents. Christmas time, a time to be together and eat.
Come, visit!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Morn

Christmas morning was a bonanza of toys and gifts when I was growing up. Mom shopped all year long and I know one of my favorite dolls, Baby First Step, was found by my sisters at Triby's Hardware very close to Christmas because it was so hard to find.
Mom and Dad put the turkey in the oven early Christmas morning. I believe 530 or 6 am. My mom, not a morning person, still did this for a long time.
I believe I was 6, the year I woke I thought in the middle of the night. I crept downstairs to see the explosion of toys. This year, Dan and his friend Billy, stayed up putting together the Jane West set, with everything plastic, down to the skillet with eggs and bacon for the fire. She looked like the mold of her brother, Johnny West, only with molded blond pageboy haircut. A palomino horse and German Shepherd dog accompanied her with her brown pliable outfits for riding, and the saddle to put on. It was wonderful. I got a Barbie, books and learning books, a watch. The watch read quarter to 7, but I hadn't learned to tell time yet, so I didn't know the time. Since Santa didn't wrap my gifts, every thing was in working order, the watch set and wound.
Excitement couldn't be held in, I ran back upstairs to the back bedroom to blurt out all that Santa had left. I think, now, how my parents must have just gone to bed, so tired, probably just fell asleep. They joined me in my joy, acting as surprised as I was. I love them still for encouraging me in every way.
In fifth grade, I started suspecting that Santa didn't really set up these toys. My niece Debbie who spent most Christmases with us, along with her parents from New Jersey, didn't have unwrapped presents or the ones she did have left unwrapped, I saw my mother buy. I also pretended to not see the doll I got that year in the bottom of the hutch, because I so wanted to believe Santa came down our chimney. But the Velvet box is still etched on my memory behind that locked door.
Sixth grade saw the last of my dolls and my slipping belief in Santa or the beginning of the grown up belief in the jolly old elf. I got Baby Thumbelina, a soft body doll, that squirmed with a pull of a string from her body. She was small, and not as loved as my former dolls, like Baby First Step and Cheerful Tearful, but more than poor Dancerina, who was practically useless.
Christmas morning continued though to hold surprises through my teen years. A hooded red robe that lasted for many years, kept me warm in our drafty old textile mill apartment in Connecticut. A big box of Estee Lauder makeup brought a sixteen year old glamor. The fire and dinner preparing filled the home with coziness.
I often rode along with Dad to pick up Grandma for Christmas Day, her and Bitsy, her terrier. The vacant streets, the gray day but joy of a special holiday gathered around. Grandma was jolly. Bitsy had a red bow on her collar.
Relatives filtered in late morning for the big feast Mom and Dad had made. The leaves in the dining room table, the best china, and pop, usually ginger ale, in gold color glasses that were for holidays. Everything was special for this day.
Happy Christmas morning! God rest you merry!

Thankful for parents who taught me the lavish love of God through the years.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Expectancy

Oh, Christmas Eve day is here. The night of miracles and magic hedges on the horizon.
At six, the stores close ushering in the sacred mood. The rushing at the mall, plazas and grocer hushes. Now can God break through?
I was ten years old for my first Christmas Eve church service. Before eleven o'clock, we walked over to the church in the dark quiet. More carols were sung than usual. Before the last one, we exited the sanctuary silently, circling the circumference of the drive with candles lit. The last carol of the service was Silent Night.Then in our continued silence after singing, the bell rang in Christmas Day. I was thrilled. "Merry Christmas" on the Day greetings to everyone. Such joy. Hugs and cheer, the Day is here.
I also was overjoyed to be able to open one present. I still believe in Santa, so it was from my parents. Santa would come later with his unwrapped presents. My surprise, a black plastic horse with white markings. Friends of my sister's also sat up for awhile, creating a different Christmas.
What happens on that Eve and through the early morning seclusion? A transformation to wonder. The idea that a dream will come true. Our desires will be fulfilled. A miracle can happen. Sometimes they do, other times, our loved one is still sick. The car with a bow didn't show in the driveway. The kids tire of their toys quickly or they are disappointed with much emotion.
Each year, though, we anticipate the one Day of the year when anything can happen. Keep that belief of miracles. The greatest miracle happened on the first Christmas, as the Light of the World stepped down into darkness. Don't miss the Light.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Caroling

Living in a small town with sidewalks made the festive activity of Christmas caroling easy. In my church choir, we strolled through the streets, singing at houses in freshly falling snow. Yes, the Charles Dickens stereotype, but much warmer clothing, I'm sure.
Hot chocolate afterwards at the church with Christmas cookies completed the evening. As a ten year old, I sat on a step of a neighbor's home drinking the sweet hot drink, but I believe that was after a sledding party. I think the same year my little plastic toboggan slammed into a dog house at the bottom of the Haywood/Chestnut Streets hill, with the wind being knocked out of me. I loved the coziness after being outside with a cup in my hands, listening to the mulling conversations. Maybe even singing some more.
Years later, the choir continued the tradition of caroling around W. Middlesex. My mom paralyzed in bed and sick couldn't come to the front door, so the choir stomped through the snow singing outside the bay window in the room with my mom's bed. She could hear them through the old glass windows. I was already married and away when this happened.
Mom loved that window. My dad place a bird feeder right on the outside. At night, Dad closed the indoor shutters. In the morning, the birds knocked on the window pane. Mom would say,"Open those shutters, the birds are anxious to see us." This became known and Mom received many sun catchers with birds to hang in this three window bay.
I tried to recapture this caroling experience with my children and the class of sixth grade girls I taught. We found many empty houses on the Saturday before Christmas in my new neighborhood. And one year, we had had clear crisp snowy weather all December, except the night of my party, the deluge of warm rain made its way, melting all that snow. We sang carols in my living room with that warm cup of cocoa, homemade.
My girls as Girl Scouts sang carols in nursing homes. The residents appreciated that, but it saddened my oldest daughter greatly. I tried to teach her it is not about us, but spreading joy to others. This year, the girls' group at church, which Katie is a sponsor, gladly participated singing to the residents at Clepper's, a skilled nursing facility.
It's not too late this year. Anyone with a willing voice up for a stroll through the rain?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

White Christmas

I'm not sure of the year, but it is during the second World War in Macon or Marietta, Georgia. Uncovering little details as I remember her stories, I wish Mom were still alive.
The young Lewis couple were in the deep South with the land lady who spit tobacco in a spittoon while she talked to them in the evening. A small Christmas tree propped on suitcases for the appearance of a bigger size decorated their corner. Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on the radio filling the room with music and their hearts with homesickness. No snow in Georgia.
The sergeant catches a few extra pieces of silverware from the mess hall, so they can have some at home. Jean ecstatically told her boss at Westinghouse, that after two years her husband was returning stateside, and she was quitting to join him.
He urged her, "No, don't quit, just visit him for two weeks."
"No, my husband will be in Georgia and I'm going to him to stay," she emphatically proclaimed.
Jerry got her a blue velvet suit for Christmas. Her blond hair and blue eyes complemented the outfit. He thought he had the prettiest girl in the world. She knew she had the handsomest man.

When I hear Bing on the radio like this morning, I imagine this young couple again, especially in the rainy warm weather we're having today. Were love stories better in the 1940's? Or am I just lucky to have parents that love each other forever?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Lights

I drove by a house today with an almost gone roof on its porch. Yet, Christmas lights were hung on the door and windows. At night, they beautify the home. This evening, I drove my daughter out to Tara, a country inn, and basked in all the outdoor lights while her choral group performed.
Christmas lights in and out brighten up a home, no matter what it looks like otherwise. Sure we enjoy the tastefully decorated homes that look like post cards. I, though, am amazed at the transformation from dull to that warm glow even little LED's add to a scene.
A star in my window shines warmly to the neighborhood as well as bathing my living room. Steven, the Siamese cat, looks magical in the red glow of my poinsettia lights on my banister as he eyes me going down the stairs. A little light changes the mood of the room.
I love to lay under the Christmas tree lit up with all the other lights out. Growing up we had the fireplace as well to add to luminescence of the living room. In Christmas lights, it seems anything could happen. Expectancy and magic fills me.
That is the power of Christmas. The belief that miracles can happen. The lights symbolize that. With God all things are possible, like His birth in a manger. The Light of the World wrapped in human form.
It is no mistake Hanukkah is also this time of the year. A miracle holiday, the Festival of Lights, points to the Messiah. Let your lights shine as they transform your home to the glory showing the Light of the holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Wreath and Clothes

In middle childhood, seemed my church brought back some old traditions, like Christmas Eve service and the lighting of the Advent Wreath. Families took turns with the carrying out of this part of worship.
One Sunday, a family didn't show up or the church forgot to slide a family in that slot. We were unprepared, but with my father being an elder and responsible, stepped up to the plate. His partner, my mother, was home in bed as she didn't feel well. I eagerly agreed to be on the team with my dad.
The problem this year as a seventh grader, the skirt I had on to be in front of the whole congregation, was a short gray felt with flowers sewn on. I wore a white satin blouse as the style of the year- very in. It wasn't my best outfit or even a Christmas outfit. I'm sure we did a great job pinch hitting on short notice. My dad read the devotional and I lit the candle.
The problem came when we got home and told Mom about our church experience. She ran back to bed with the monster headache because her daughter wore that outfit on the dais. Dad and I felt bad, but knew we couldn't have said no for the worship service.
So, next time we criticize clothes in church, remember, maybe the mother is sick or isn't, now, even in the picture. The styles have changed as has the family. But let's accept the children's offering of worship.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


A heavy snow blanketed the town of West Middlesex the Saturday before Christmas in 1972. Mom had to get up for the Deacon's breakfast they held(and I'm sure they still do) every year to pack baskets for the shut-ins. Not being a morning person, she, more than usual, had to fight to get out of bed. A headache and weakness needed to be conquered that morning.
Dad had his typical headache since his whiplash and thought nothing of it. He shoveled the walk so Mom could walk over to the church. Mom left just as he was finishing. He opened the door, smelling the natural gas stench or odor. Immediately, he ran up the stairs to wake me up.
"Mollie, hurry get up, something is wrong with the furnace. Get dressed, we have to get out of the house," he quickly told me.
I threw on some clothes, ran a brush through my long blond hair and exited the house with my dad, who just got off the phone with the gas company. The sun bright on the snow, but nerves kept me from enjoying the beautiful day.
We ate at the Isaly's counter. I can't even remember what we ate, I was so shook up. I had never ate there before like that or since. I'm sure I listened as he told Margaret about the fiasco. I sat still.
Dad must have called the gas company back, because we started up the hill back home.
We ambled on the other side of the Main Street, quiet. I threw up in front of Sam Clarke's old home, all that Isaly's breakfast on the fresh snow, my hair hanging down. Seeing my turquoise knit pants and black boots had missed the chunks.
An owl had fallen into the flue, and blocked the vent. It became petrified, but the furnace hadn't been needed until this cold night. Mom came home to all this drama, understanding why she felt better after fresh air and breakfast. The talk was if we had had a smaller house, we probably all would have died. So glad for that deacon's breakfast that morning, and our big house.

Christmas TV

One year after the all afternoon Sunday School program, we came home to watch a delightful new special A Charlie Brown Christmas, on our black and white television. So many of what we call classics now, sparkled with newness when I was a child. Some had copyright laws and we didn't see them as children, like It's a Wonderful Life.
Beginning in December the parade started of all the cartoon specials, the celebrity specials and any other Christmas TV you could imagine. And they had to be watched then or you missed it till the next year.
What was also special was all the TV series had their own Christmas show. They dealt with a Christmas miracle or change every time. A church service with a Christmas message threw a dart into a character's heart. They may never have gone to church any other day of the year, but most TV families showed up on Christmas, with the children in the program, only done on Christmas Eve.
Now, The Twilight Zone broke that mode of church service, and had drunken Santas or something bizarre, but they all ended with good will toward men and the like.
I think during the 50's and 60's, the United States TV land lulled us into thinking we were all Christians and safe with our faith. Because at least on Christmas, everyone proclaimed the birth of Jesus and how that holiday changed the world.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sunday School Programs

Oh, my! When I was a little girl, our Sunday School Christmas programs rocked. They were an all day affair, it seemed. A-L had to bring sandwiches, which my mother made Isaly's ham salad and cheese spread from Margaret's recipe. M-Z brought cookies. The bulletin announced it for weeks.
The kids did their program of songs and the manger scene. We would have a magician. The kids ran around the whole Fellowship Hall and educational wing. Did want those cookies, but not the sandwiches so much. We played silly games while waiting between segments of the program.
We got blue boxes with Christmas pictures of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus, filled with hard candy and sometimes some cream filled chocolate candies. The boxes were so pretty, and the candy, too, but not my favorite. I don't believe they tasted too great for me. Dad usually finished them off.
When the sandwiches were almost gone, Santa arrived to hear the kids' requests

for presents. As we got just a little bit older, we knew it was some man dressed as Santa, but could never figure out who. One year after Santa had listened to everyone and I mean everyone, he went to the bathroom. We stood for hours(well, maybe not hours)by the door, peering under the crack and trying to figure out if it really was Santa. Where was his sleigh, anyways? On the roof? Whoever was Santa that year waited us out, until we were whisked away by the preacher and our parents.
We always thought Rev. Hatch could be Santa because he was very jolly. But I guess he would be missed the most and the most obvious.
These programs promoted a family feeling. Any adult was free to scold a kid, if he got out of hand. We ate at the long tables. Many showed up at these events, probably two to three hundred. A mingling crowd of well wishers singing Christmas carols.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finals and Decorating

Katie is in the midst of finals this week. Changed a bit since I was in nursing school. She took one on line. I know it has really changed since my sisters were in college.
The finals were done and time to pick up Diane from the Youngstown Airport. Her flight from Sterling, Kansas came in there. Gerri Lee home from Grove City College. Actually, I'm getting the years mixed up, but a lot of excitement with sisters coming home.
We spent all day cleaning and then decorating, listening to that great Christmas music on the white and gray record player throughout the big house. I probably played and stayed out of the way more than anything.
Diane cut out snowflakes from red tissue paper, taping one on each glass window in the dark stained wood and glass door between our living room and middle room. I always tried to replicate that breezy, fluttery snowflake in various areas. Our third married Christmas in Connecticut at the Falls Mills apartments with the textile mill high ceilings, I insisted on the biggest tree we could get and put that on top of an Escort. Nostalgia has no judgment. The church we attended had the Christmas tree sale. We had the huge tree, but few ornaments, so I cut out fluffy large snowflakes and scattered them all over the tree. I thought it looked gorgeous.
I also used snowflakes the next year on the telemetry floor where I worked with red hearts hanging in between the snowflakes, of course. What else for a heart monitoring unit?
Even as a child, I was amazed at how a family could transform the home into Christmas magic in quick time. Diane made Christmas cookies, too. Cut out sugar cookies. I wonder what her girls think of that?
Now a days, this would definitely be too late to decorate around the third week of December, with most people all fancy before Thanksgiving and carols playing in the malls. But those days long ago, we celebrated more between Christmas and New Years, when the kids were out of school, college students home on break and some mills even closed during that time. Now, Christmas break goes faster than summer and some are ready to pack up the tree December 26, and the latest by January 1. I don't mind Christmas coming earlier, but let's keep it a little longer.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Audition, Audition!

Mary Ellen auditioned for the high school musical this morning. Mrs. Morris listens to the talent, then choses the musical. I'm sure costs are involved, the sets, the rights to the musical, in this decision. Our life has been revolving around the musical auditions for a long time.
I think back to auditioning for district choir, the practicing with Mr. DiSanti, the ride to Westminster College, the exposure to the music rooms there. It seemed that was in December.
I campaigned for Miss Hope of Lawrence County in November of my junior year of nursing school. I thought I did well, but was no comparison to Petey and her Pandora's box speech. She lit up the room with her expressions. David heard all the winner would have to do over the year and silently wished I wouldn't get it. A lot of parades, speaking on Cancer awareness and other activities to be this ambassador for the American Cancer Society. No, Petey was the best candidate.
Right as Christmas break started my freshman year of nursing school, I interviewed for student delegate for the Presbyterian General Assembly. I was weak from just getting out of the hospital, being dehydrated from a stomach virus. I think now, there is no way I would have been kept in the hospital for 2 to 3 days for just throwing up one night. I couldn't keep anything down and since I could walk to the ER across the drive way, the ever vigilant nursing student dorm mates insisted I go and escorted me twice.
The interviewers did not see any energy or maybe I was drifting from my safe harbor of Christianity at that time, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I'm not sure now even where the General Assembly was that next year in the summer, but I missed it.
In my senior year, I did get to be the senior director for the Miracle Worker. This proved to a be an awesome experience. I truly think our students at the time performed wonderfully, especially Dawna Rabold Crammer. During the elementary performance, she walked out to the water fountains, staying in character as Helen. The children gasped that she really was blind! Later we went to Edinboro's performance, as this was Mr. Munnel's ala mater. Maybe we were a little cocky, but again we all felt ours was better.
I just say to all the auditioners, "Break a leg!"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Music

A few days ago Katie borrowed a Julie Andrews CD from the library. Her clear crisp voice and the songs that were from the album we had many years ago reminded me of the Christmas music we heard. I Saw Three Ships come sailing in on Christmas morning, on Christmas morning.
We had a gray and white record player that you could load up to five 33 1/2, long playing records. You could also play singles, 45's, on it with special insert for the wider hole. I didn't do the 45's much until I was in sixth grade.
For Christmas, Julie Andrews sang, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians from a church in a snowy place up north entertained, and several albums from Firestone filled our house with this music as we decorated, rested and relaxed. The Guy Lombardo tweaked my imagination as I listened to the crowd murmuring between songs, a big Christmas gathering, probably recorded in hot August. My favorite was Here Comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane.
As I got older, I liked my music. I had John Denver's Christmas album. My roommate in nursing school played Bing Crosby's White Christmas album. I liked the Hawaiian Christmas song. Again, liking that warm Christmas. I think ever since Denise from South Africa lived with us and said they went to the beach on Christmas Day, I have loved the idea of a tropical Christmas. Maybe why I liked the red pepper lights in the desert as well.
So many of our Christmas songs are really glorifying snow. Do we really have to have snow at Christmas? Well, it is better than rain and dreary.
Christmas concerts growing up were fun, as well as in younger years learning Christmas songs in school, like Up on the Rooftop andJolly Old Saint Nicholas. My favorite year in sixth grade under Mrs. Joy Tobin(with a name like Joy, she had to be enthusiastic), we sang Lo' How a Rose 'ere Blooming and our great finale, either Joy to the World or Let There Be Peace On Earth thrilled us as the Vietnam War was over, at least some peace treaty was being signed by Kissinger. Up on that auditorium stage looking over the audience, my spirit soared in the moment.
Now we enjoy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and general snow songs, sleighing songs at the concerts. I had the choral and string concerts this week.
Then there were the cantatas we labored so many months for in church or the Sunday School Christmas programs. Eugene Peterson wrote many of them. The last one I was in, Mary, Did You Know? had many great songs to find pleasure and meaning in singing. My favorite line about Mary knowing she is looking into the face of God, the Great I Am, crescendo surging. Hard to keep my feet on the ground with that one.
What would Christmas be without the music? The words to the carols telling the whole story from birth to redemption to the new Heaven and Earth. Joy to The World.
Or enjoy Burl Ives singing about the mistletoe, "Kiss her once for me" We have all types, but listen now, for it will all be gone December 26...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Habor

I think of a couple engaged for 6 months. A thin blond beauty, a skinny red head, she, just 18 by one day and he, 20. The red head has been working at Sharon Steel. He already has served 3 years in the Army in Panama. He lied about his age before his senior year in high school because he couldn't afford a suit. It was the Great Depression.He's been home about a year.
They met at Idora Park in Youngstown, OH, the summer before. The girl wouldn't accept a diamond on her graduation, but said yes a week later. Her dad tells her she is "crazier than that dog over there" His mom sees them "necking" in his living room, "I see what you're doing Gerald."
He replied,"I don't care, Mother."
Pearl Harbor, an unbelievable event happens, and their plans are changed. December 10, he signs up for the Army Air Corp for the duration of the war. I'm not really sure what their plans were before Pearl Harbor, probably get married in the spring.
So, I guess in a way, that didn't change.
He got a 24 hour pass from Roosevelt Field(I may be wrong-I could scream for not remembering all the names), came to Sharon, PA on May 17, 1942 and married the girl in a Methodist parsonage. They had a dinner in a restaurant in Mercer, PA where his sister lived. She was there, with the dog Mike. Billy Boal and France

s(not sure if they were married, yet) stood up for them.
She joined him two weeks later in New York City for their honeymoon. She rode a train with cars from the Civil War or so she thought since they were old and rickety. She covered with newspaper to save herself from the soot. But her face was black. He didn't care.
It's a story of patriotism and love that I grew up hearing. I wish now I could ask a few more questions. I never tired of hearing their love story.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mom's Birthday

December 6, 1923 Mary Jean Evans was born to William Lewis "Lew" and Hazel Evans. I wrote before that Grandma labored all day on Dec. 5 while preparing Lew's birthday dinner. Mom was the second child born to my grandparents.
Mom reports she was a sickly child. Very thin and didn't walk for awhile. She didn't believe Grandma thought she would live.
But Mom did live. She was 85 when she died. One of her childhood birthdays was recorded in the Sharon Herald. Grandma made her a checkerboard cake without the special pan.
Mom did feel a little cheated having a birthday so close to Christmas. She received many combination gifts and I must admit I was guilty of that when I was younger. She also had to share her birthday at times, first with her father, then with her youngest granddaughter. I don't think she resented the combined family parties we had for her and Mary Ellen.
I thought today, Woodland, her nursing home, had a spaghetti dinner fund raiser, always seemed to be on her birthday. My brother, his wife and daughter and the girls and I went, enjoying the entertainment as well. I wonder if they still have that fund raiser.
Her last birthday(85,) she didn't join the festivities, preferring to stay in her room.
We also had pizza and cake many years. When she still lived in her apartment, we crammed into it with an extra friend of Mary Ellen's. After I took the girls, Mary Ellen, Katie, Sarah, and Cassie to Kraynak's for Santa Land and pictures with Santa. I bought them all a photo.
The year I was large with child we went to a restaurant in Transfer. We relished being together. Afterwards, I took chocolate chip cookies to our new neighbors. Ambling up the hill with my oversize belly. The next night, I was in labor.
I can't remember many of her birthdays when I was little. One year, she bought shrimp cocktails in special glass bowls. Grandpa like shrimp cocktail, so I know it was for him, whether for his birthday or Christmas is hazy. But Mom always thought of her family first.
I miss my mom, but I know she has been having the best birthdays ever these last six years. Her last years on earth, she slowed down much and I'm sure she missed my dad. I know I miss them both and so does my family, but I am so thankful for all the memories.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Due Season

The first Sunday in December 1979 a beautiful snow had fallen through the night. We woke to this glory of sun, white and blue. I entered my Sunday school class in the Fellowship Hall banked with a row of windows allowing the wonder of the scene in.
The teacher, aglow, said, "It feels like Jesus could come today." He was a charismatic, new Christian and like many new in the faith, desired so much for Jesus to call us home in the rapture. I always believed in the rapture before the tribulation. Sorry, don't mean to lose those who are not familiar with the pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib theories of the end times.
I wanted Jesus to come, too. Yet, I was eighteen and life's expanse lay ahead of me. I had a hard time to truly hope it was that day that the sky opened and we flew to Jesus. It was almost a "Leave Me Alone" moment. The longing in his voice proved too intense for me that day.
I looked at the clear sky, almost perfect and understood the details to fuel that desire. The world was pretty bad, then, too. We lived under threat of nuclear attack. Americans were held hostage in Iran. Nobody liked Israel. Free "love" seemed rampant. The adults didn't like rock and roll, especially Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Ozzy Osbourne. I wasn't too sure about Black Sabbath, either. Alice and Ace Frehly from Kiss became Christians and rockers are mostly main stream, now.
I didn't even have a boyfriend,that day. I wanted to be married, have children, live a life. I wasn't sure I wanted to give that up. As C.S. Lewis explains it, I was happy making mud pies, not understanding the rapture meant being at the sea shore. Not as bad as the children in his illustration, who had no idea what the sea shore was, but I had forgotten. I wanted this life on earth. Soon after, I told God I would come back later.
I believe that is a natural response for an eighteen year old girl. To say one choses heaven over this life, could put a person in the mental ward.
Obviously, I came back to Jesus. It was December 10, 1988, as a Gideon spoke on Bible reading and how that Book changes lives. I knew what he said was true and I wanted my unborn baby to have a devoted Christian mother. In those eleven years, I remained a church goer, never actually turning my back on God completely. I followed the rules, but I had lost that first love. I didn't keep Jesus in my day to day life. I changed that December. I had to start growing again. God doesn't have grandchildren. I couldn't get in on my dad's testimony. John 14:6 blazed in my mind that day- Jesus said it, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to the Father, but through me." No playing around anymore with the idea that all religions get you to heaven or being a good person will open that door. I always knew the Truth, but I had let debris cover the person of Jesus.
After thirty two years, a better grasp of end times and the rapture shape my longing. I feel more a foreigner every day. I also know there is much work to be done before we can be whisked away. In the Christian growing pains, I learned to live my faith in the open. And lately, to be more loving.
The Lord pricks my heart for some of the most unlikely people I remembered tonight as I watched a Broadway documentary. Boy George, who remembers him? I thought and still think he has a great voice. And of course, feeling he is tragic is not politically correct, yet I prayed for him.Another singer, is Elton John. I love his singing and piano playing. I pray for him. Ellen, the first time she was on the cover of Newsweek, her air of innocence and I know she is not innocent, none of us are, touched me. I have been praying for her for a long time. I prayed that her role as Dory in Finding Nemo would spurn Christians to pray for her.
I do believe that no one is beyond Christ's love and redemption, but many hardened hearts have blocked the way for themselves. We, as Christians, cannot give up. As Pastor Ken quotes often from the Bible, "Do not weary in well doing for in due season, you will reap a harvest."
I'm anticipating that due season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Leave Me Alone

I thought of young mothers today, needing one day to sleep in. When my oldest was a baby, I worked afternoon turn in CCU, then med/surg to rehab. A lot of walking and stress. Most mornings I got up at eight to care for my baby and the household. We young mothers liked this because we gave our best to our family and home first, then slugged it out at the hospital.
Every other weekend I was off. On only the Saturday I asked for a day to just sleep in. Stretch in the bed. Get up when I wanted. I loved caring for my daughter. It is the best thing in the world, I ever do, loving my family, my daughters. But we all need a rest occasionally. I think how we can all say, "Just leave me alone."
I considered, what if our husbands did leave us alone? What if we got our wish? What if they were taken away from us? Oh guilt crouching at my door.
Then Felix, Festus, and Agrippa from Acts came to mind. Paul presented the Gospel story to all three on his way to Rome, during his legal trials. This is near the end of the book of recorded Acts, chapters 23-26. All three basically told Paul to leave them alone. Paul wished for them all to be like him, except for "these chains" (Acts 26:29.) It is never recorded if these men ever accepted Jesus as their savior.
In times of trial, I have felt very close to Jesus and I thought that thought, "except for these chains," I wish everyone could experience this joy of relationship with Jesus. Trials sometimes are what bring us to Jesus. Knocking us off our horse like Paul straight on our backs, so we can only look up. Don't follow the example of the three foolish men.
Because even though God wants none to perish(2 Peter 3:9,) He will leave you alone without a more convenient time like Felix said. He wanted Paul to bribe him, but the first time he heard the Gospel, he was frightened. He was not as tender to the message after the first time of hearing it. Don't roll over in your spiritual bed, telling God,"Leave me alone."
He just might.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wonder of Childhood

Baltimore Emma and I started this conversation on Sunday in the upstairs front bedroom of my in-laws' home. Children can see things few adults can. The world of magic, the "other" world. I have been thinking of many examples of this. Jesus said, "You must be like a little child..."
It is very easy to believe when one's a child. And I do think they are closer to the Truth than the adults hurrying and weighed down with cares of this world. The first snow fills a child with wonder, but as an adult, we think of the dangers and discomfort.
Christmas excitement overflows in a child's mind and body. How do they ever fall asleep on Christmas Eve? I can still hear the reindeer hooves on the house top from when I was six. If my brother and his friend Billy wanted me to go to bed, that was the wrong thing to say for me to sleep on Christmas Eve. I think I did go upstairs, but sleep eluded me.
J.M. Barrie had the idea that twelve was when childhood ended, but he lived his childhood other world called Neverland, sharing it with us. Children even then, grew up much too fast.
I know there is world close by that is not what we see. It is often in the Bible. In 2 Kings 6:16 and 17, Elisha prayed that his servant's eyes would be opened to see the heavenly hosts. We may entertain angels unawares.
I pray that we keep that childhood wonder and that like Elisha's servant, our eyes may be opened to the glory of God.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What NaNoWriMo Taught Me

No, I didn't finish the challenge this past month. I found out I can write with distractions. I can write thousands of words in a day. I couldn't catch up when I got too far behind with this deadline, unless I had called off, but I'm not giving up. I wrote over 27,000 words for the story, as well as had a killer weekend for my on-call week, a holiday with much travel and almost single handedly run a family. I'm patting myself on the back, I did well.
The story is not done or placed on the shelf. Even though a period piece didn't give me the flow necessary for NaNoWriMo, I'd been planning this story for a few years. I'm excited that I have written as much as I have so far. More research will be needed. I'm truly looking forward to revising and living with the Titus family- Abe and Irene, Christina and returning Eva and her daughter, Emma.
Speaking of Emma, my twelve year old great niece that I only see once a year and I'm not even sure I saw her last year, came into the room at my in-laws when I was writing, thought my story sounded interesting. I'm not sure, but I don't think this girl is given to dishing out flattery.At twelve years of age, not many are given to duplicity. I only wrote a few words because I connected with Baltimore Emma. Family is always more important than anything we do for ourselves.
November was a stretching month for me. I put my goals out there. I let people know I was writing. Did I meet my goal this month? No. Did I fail? No. Was I embarrassed of my writing? No. I have grown since I first started seriously writing. I'm glad I don't feel I have to get up at four in the morning to write. I'm also contented that I keep a notebook with me and write any time and anything I feel moved to jot.
January, I will seriously look into magazine writing. Since you must prepare ahead six months, calenders will be out to guide me as well as publishers guides. I'm not giving up. I really love the blog, as well. I love writing.
Soon I'll write the family Christmas letter that I haven't tackled in years. I think I have a thank you note to write and start a correspondence with Emma. We discussed some interesting themes and I want to explore them more with her.
So, look for this blog to explode as I whip off many of the ideas I have had, and will have. I still have to get out of sixth grade!