Christmas has become so commercialized that we stress for weeks and even months over what gift to buy this one or that one, not to mention all the planning for dinner and places we need to go. Christmas wasn’t always this commercialized, but it still could have been pretty stressful in days gone by. People didn’t necessarily run out and crazily shop all over town, but if money was tight, they tried their best to figure out a way to give a gift of some kind. Even if money was not tight, some people came up with ideas all year long…because some gifts take a little bit of time. Those are the homemade gifts, and usually some of the most awesome gifts a person will ever get. Some people think that a gift that is homemade isn’t as good as a gift that is store bought, but I say they are very wrong.
When my Great Uncle Dennis Dunahee, who always went by Burt, and his son, my cousin Raymon, decided to make Christmas gifts, they did it in grand style. The gifts they made reminded me of the kind of gifts you might see the people on “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” make. Were the Dunahee gifts homemade with love…absolutely!! Were they stunning…absolutely!! It occurs to me that there are a number of carpenters in the Spencer family who are capable of making beautiful furniture. It’s strange the things you never knew about your family. It turns out that one of this family’s best kept secrets is something quite beautiful indeed.
Christmas in times past was not only less focused on time spent in the mall, it was more focused on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not that we don’t think about the real meaning of Christmas in today’s world, because we do, but sometimes it is easier to get distracted, by the rush to get our shopping done, gifts wrapped, and dinner planned. By the time the day arrives, we can easily be too exhausted to give thought to what this day is all about…the birth of our Saviour!! The reason we give gifts is to remind us of the greatest gift ever given, but in all our giving, we need to remember that the greatest gift ever given…Jesus, is far more important on this day that the gifts we give and receive. Today, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and I pray that you take time to be thankful to God for the gift of His precious Son…Jesus!!
Today, I give thanks to God for all of the wonderful family and friends he has blessed me with. What would life be without all of the wonderful people in my life. This day is not about the turkey and stuffing, or the days off from work, but about all the ways God has blessed and enriched my life. The blessings He has bestowed on me are too numerous to list here, but be assured that they are to the level of overflowing. My extended family has grown exponentially this year, and that has been a blessing beyond words. To all my cousins, the new ones we have found, and those who we have known all along…you are a greater blessing than you will ever know…I love you all.
I am especially thankful that all of my family members are healthy again, and those who haven’t been are getting better and better every day. Being in good health is vital to life, and so I give thanks to God for good health for me and all my loved ones.
I thank God that in a time of recession, all of my family members have jobs. We don’t think too much about jobs, until the economy goes bad, and then that is a very important part of our thoughts, but God has protected our jobs, and blessed us all financially.
On this wonderful holiday, it is my hope that all of my friends and family are as blessed as my family and I have been. Praise God for all His goodness, grace, and mercy in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to all!!
God saw that this world was doomed, because the wages of sin is eternal death and separation from Him. Still, because God is love, he made a way in which all those who would follow his plan could live even after they had sinned. The price had to be paid. There simply was no other way. Sin had gotten us into this mess, and a sinless man was the only one who could pay the price to redeem a lost world. But where would this sinless man come from?
God saw a problem, and then He devised a solution. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. The very Son of God had agreed to leave all the glory of Heaven, be born to a human woman, live a sinless life, and then pay for our sins as an innocent sacrifice. He hung on that cross to pay the price we could not pay. Had the devil only known what he was doing, he would not have crucified the Son of God. By the time the devil figured out what he had done, it was too late.
Jesus marched into Hell…victorious and took back the keys to death and Hell, which the devil had been given through Adam’s treasonous act. Jesus paid it all and through His sacrifice, we have been put back in right standing with God again. There is nothing we can’t ask of God now. The curtains have been ripped in two, and we have been given access to the Holy of Holies. We can come boldly before the Throne of God and ask what we will, with the name of Jesus, and he will give it to us. We are his children now.We have been adopted into his family. Our debt has been paid.
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead to show the world that He was victorious…even over death. There is nothing that we need to fear. Death has been defeated. The devil has been defeated. Sin has been defeated. By the grace of God, our lives have been spared. We cannot earn it. We didn’t deserve it. Love gave it to us. God is Love. Jesus is our Savior, and He is risen. Jesus is alive and sitting on the right hand of God! Believe on Him and you will be saved.
My niece, Susan was in town recently with her girls, Jala and Kaytlyn. I find myself amazed every time I see the girls, at how fast they are growing up. Jala is a tall slender girl with lots of energy, and while Kaytlyn is 6 years younger than her big sister, she wants to be all grown up like her big sister, anyway. As the girls played, I watched Kaytlyn try to imitate everything Jala did.
Still, as Kaytlyn grows, I can see that she is coming into her own too. She loves to dance, and whenever she finds herself at a wedding or other party involving music, Kaytlyn gets out there and struts her stuff with the best of them. It doesn’t matter if she has a partner or not, she can dance either way. And, she doesn’t mind teaching some other little girl how to dance too.
Kaytlyn is a girlie girl, and she likes to do things that make her feel pretty. Dancing is always something that makes little girls feel pretty. It’s funny that when kids are little, they dance without inhibition, and later, when they aren’t little, they feel self conscious, so watching these little ones dance is always so much fun. Of course, some of these little kids have pretty good rhythm, and that makes for good little dancers.
Never the less, as the evening wears on, even the most energetic kids, finally get tired, and they have to take a break. Being a dancer can be exhausting and these tiny dancers are usually in bed much earlier than the rest of us. Before it gets very late, Kaytlyn is too tired to dance any more and just wants to find her bed. There will always be another opportunity to dance at home tomorrow. Today is Kaytlyn’s birthday. Happy birthday tiny dancer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 and was shared between the Pilgrims and Indians, was a day complete with new foods to try. The purpose was to spend time together, getting to know each other. I have often wondered if some of those present were ancestors of mine. I have not come across anything in my family’s past that could prove the presence of my family at that first Thanksgiving, but I would not be surprised.
Many of those early traditions are still being carried on today. The big meal, with foods we don’t eat every day. The gathering of friends and family and the celebration of those relationships. We find ourselves reminiscing about the past, and missing the loved ones who are no longer with us, but we also find reasons to be thankful for the things we have and the people who are still in our lives. So often during our day to day lives, we can find ourselves dragged down by the mundane details of daily living, and the stresses of deadlines and daily obligations. We forget the blessings we have.
For that reason, it is important to take the time once in a while to look back on the year and really see all the good things we have. The difference between those mundane details and stresses in life, and blessings is just a matter of perspective. When we look at the memories and abilities that an aging parent has lost, we feel sad, but if we look at what they have left instead, we can see that it is a blessing to still have them in our lives, and that what they have left is a blessing too.
Today, I am thankful for the people in my life. I am thankful for the time I had with those loved ones who are in my past, and soon in my future, like my dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and nieces who have gone home to Heaven. Your lives were a blessing to me and while I miss you right now, I look forward to the time when I will see you again. I am thankful for those loved ones in my present. The people who support me when I am feeling down, and help me in the obligations I have in my life. I am thankful for the loved ones who will come into my life in the future. Your lives will bring me new joy and blessing. I am thankful for friends, past, present, and future who have and will bring kindness and friendship into my life. I am thankful for my job and a boss who goes above and beyond the expected every day to allow me to do the things I need to do. And most of all, I am thankful for my God, who saw that I was lost, and even though I didn’t earn or deserve any kindness, He sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to die for me, to pay for my sins, and through the grace and mercy of my Father, He redeemed my life. He brought me back from the brink of Hell, and gave me the best He has to give…eternity in Heaven with Him.
Our family is no stranger to miracles. Sometimes things happen that change lives in an instant. In the blink of an eye you are faced with a situation that is so serious that you have no time to think, and it is just as well, because you can’t wrap your mind around what you are seeing anyway. You find yourself running on autopilot, because it is the only thing that keeps you going. It is at that moment that your faith in God to take care of your child is the most important thing in your life…and theirs.
When my grand nephew, James was six, his dad brought him home after a visitation, and he and my niece, Toni were talking in her back yard while James played. Boys being who boys are, James decided to jump off the deck and swing on the clothes line wire. Unfortunately, the clothes line pole was not very solidly in the ground. When James hit that wire, the pole came down and hit him squarely across the back of the head, cracking his skull. Blood went everywhere, and Toni and Jim couldn’t believe their eyes. Here was their precious little boy injured and bleeding in front of them, and their minds were struggling to come to grips with what they were seeing. They sprang into action, grabbing a towel for his head and rushed him to the hospital.
James began to ask for his grandma, my sister Cheryl, because he wanted her to reassure him that he was going to be ok. Cheryl was called to the hospital, and when she arrived they all prayed over James, and the doctors took him into surgery. James was in surgery for 4 hours, during which time a Titanium plate was placed inside his skull. That plate will be there for the rest of his life.
So many things could have happened that would have brought this situation to a very different ending…but they didn’t. James came through the surgery with flying colors, and the doctors were amazed. He couldn’t have visitors, for a time, because too much movement and stimulation makes it hard for the brain to heal, and there was much healing that needed to happen.
James did remarkably well in the healing process…miraculously so. No other explanation works. He was back to himself very fast for having had a serious head and brain injury, and there were no ill effects from it. It was a miracle. Today that walking miracle is turning 15. James is a sweet, loving young man who is a joy to his parents. His has grown tall, strong and handsome. I don’t know if he knows what a miracle his life is, but we, his family know. We can never forget what God has done for James. His life was repaired and given back to him by a loving and miraculous God. Happy birthday James!! We love you!!
It was one year ago today that Princess Laila entered our lives, but her time with us was not to be very long. She would leave us to live with Jesus 18 days later. With her passing, would begin a sad journey toward the healing of our broken hearts. Laila was the answer to her parents’ prayers. Jenny and Steve have three wonderful and healthy boys, and they wanted a girl to complete their family. Laila was to be that little princess…and a princess she was, beautiful in every way. She was and is loved by all who knew her, or awaited her arrival.
Laila’s time with us would be cut short due to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which means that the left ventrical of the heart is too small or is non-existent. The heart should have 4 chambers, and Laila’s 4th chamber was too small, and could not effectively pump blood to her body. The doctors tried surgery to repair Laila’s heart, but her little body was just not strong enough, and she went home to be with Jesus on November 22, 2010…and very sad day for all of her family.
It is so hard to believe that a year has come and gone since Princess Laila would change our lives forever with her sweet spirit. Today was to have been a day of celebration…her first birthday…a day to celebrate all those little firsts…first tooth, first word, first steps…but it was not to be. Instead, Princess Laila, we wish you Happy First Birthday in Heaven, where you are being held in the loving arms of Jesus, and where your heart is perfect and whole. I know that you, Grandpa, and Alyssa, along with all your other Heavenly family members are having the greatest first birthday celebration ever. We only wish we could all be there with you today as our baby girl turns one year old…but know that we are with you in spirit, as we know you are with us.
Jenny, Steve, Xander, Zachary, and Issac, I know that your hearts are very sad and lonely today. I know that as God’s Word says, He has sent you the Comforter to hold you is His arms, just as Sweet Princess Laila is being held in Jesus arms today. I know today will be very hard, and I am keeping you in prayer. The day is coming when we will all be together again, and I can’t wait to meet your precious Princess Laila. I love you all very much.
When my oldest daughter was pregnant with her younger son, Joshua David, she had been given a due date of October 15th. That September, Bob and I were going to Denver for a Rockies Baseball game. I told Corrie that she was not to have this baby while I was gone, as I had been at the births of my other three grandchildren, and didn’t want to miss this one. I didn’t exactly expect Josh to come while we were gone, but I did have a sense of unease. Our trip to Denver was going along just fine, when Corrie called to tell us that she was in labor, and that they were trying to stop the labor. If Josh came at that time, he would be 5 weeks early. Some babies do ok that early, while others have problems.
Of course, my first thought was that she was kidding me, since I had told her that she was not to do this, but it quickly became evident that she was serious. I asked how much time we had, since it is a 5 hour drive home from Denver. She said that they were trying to stop the labor, and to wait just a little bit. We waited anxiously for the call to come that would tell us whether or not to race home. The decision was finally made to go home, as the labor would not stop. We headed out about 4:oo am and I was on pins and needles all the way, not to mention praying constantly.
I could not be on the phone with her constantly and that tore me up. It is hard to watch your daughter go through labor and birth, but far worse to have such a premature labor and you are 5 hours away. Every mile was excruciating. We did make it before Josh’s arrival, but not by much. I was so thankful. God saw to it that we got home safe and in time.
Joshua David arrived at 11:57 am on September 9, 1998, he weighed a pretty good 5 pounds 6.5 ounces, but plans were quickly made for him to be flown to Denver. His lungs were immature and he needed help with his breathing. It was decided that Kevin should accompany him on the flight. It was one of the hardest things the kids have ever done. Corrie was a wreck because she wanted to go, and Kevin was a wreck because she couldn’t. We assured them both we would bring her to Denver as soon as she was released.
Josh was placed in the Neo-Natal ICU at Presbyterian St Luke’s Hospital. His weight dropped to 4 pounds 3 ounces. Sometimes, as was the case for the kids, they had an available room on the nursing home side of the hospital where Corrie and Kevin could stay. The nice thing about that was that the kids could go over and see Josh, 24/7, and that is comforting to a parent. Josh was monitored constantly, and given superior care, for which we are eternally grateful to the staff. His weight began coming back up, but as they got close to coming home, he had a couple of Brady’s, which is when the heart skips a beat. It is normal for that to happen, even in healthy adults, but they won’t let the baby go home until it has been more that 24 hours, so they had to stay longer.
Finally the day came when Joshua David got to come home. We were so excited. His lungs had taken 2 weeks to mature, and he was healthy enough to come home. It didn’t take him long to make up for lost time once he got home. He quickly gained weight and grew into a wonderful little boy. We are so very blessed. God had provided a miracle for Joshua!! We love you Josh!! Happy birthday!!
When I first met the man who would become my niece, Jenny’s husband, he was 12 years old, and like most 12 year old boys…at that awkward place between a pesty kid and an obnoxious teenager, and through the years I hadn’t heard that he had changed much. Over the years that I had been around him, he was a mouthy teenager, and very much the smart aleck…but then what teenager isn’t…right. So, when Jenny brought him to church the first time and I found out who she was dating, my first thought was, “Oh Jenny, not Steve!!” All I could think of is that my niece had no idea what he was really like.
What I found out was that Steve was different now. Jenny did marry Steve, and they have been married for almost 9 years, but a successful marriage is not dependent on one or both of its members being nice people. This marriage, however, is not one of those marriages that has lasted in spite of its members, because my sweet niece, Jenny, found herself a gem in Steve. As Steve grew into adulthood, something grew inside him…the capacity to love.
Steve is a giant of a man who could easily hurt anyone he chose to, but Steve is a big teddy bear. I know of very few men with the kind of heart Steve has. He does have such a great capacity to love, and anyone he loves is very blessed. Our family gained a wonderful member when Steve joined it. Rarely do you meet a man who is so able to express how he feels and who is so loving.
Steve and Jenny have been through some things in their marriage. Things no one should have to go through…the loss of a child, followed by the loss of a beloved pet. Yet, with broken hearts, they have held each other close, and loved each other…and survived. They will be ok, because they both have the capacity to love.
Today is Steve’s birthday, and I want to let him know what a blessing he has been to our family. He is a wonderful husband to Jenny, and father to his children, and all the other titles he holds in this family. He has touched all our lives, and we are blessed, because he grew into a different man. Happy birthday Steve!! It’s going to be a great year for you.
I was thinking about something my Aunt Sandy said to me a while back about talking to my mom about the old stories before it is too late…before she forgets them, or before she were to go home to be with the Lord. Then I was listening to some tapes by Jesse Duplantis, while on a long drive to and from Denver for a class these past couple of days. Jesse Duplantis talks about a minister, or evangelist being a gift from God placed in your life to be a blessing…to get God’s word out to you. That got me thinking abut the other gifts in our lives…our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Early in our lives these people nurture us, teach us how to grow up, take care of our physical needs, and our emotional needs. They might babysit us, or later, let us spend the night. They are role models for us, to teach us right from wrong, and social etiquette. We learn our early sense of style from them…at least until we are old enough to want our own style. We get our early religious training from them, whether it is to go to church or not, it usually comes from the adults around us. There are so many characteristics, that can be traced back for our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
They do all these things for us and yet all too often we think of them as outdated, behind the times…especially in technological matters, annoying, interfering, and…well, anything but a gift. And yet, that is exactly what they are, and we get to have them for a very short time…too short. Just ask anyone who has lost their parent or parents, and see how they feel about them now. Do they regret that they didn’t spend enough time with them? Yes, because no matter how much time you spent, it wasn’t enough. If I could spend one more day with my Dad, would I do it? Absolutely, and I would treasure it…you have no idea how much I would treasure it, but I can’t. That gift is no longer here, but sometimes in thinking about the gift I have lost, I forget to see the gifts that are still in front of me. Sometimes, I see them as more of a job than a gift. Most of you know that I am a caregiver for my mom and my mother and father-in-law. Sometimes, I let myself lose site of the purpose of that caregiving…which is to keep the gifts in my life, in my life for a little longer. Do yourself a favor, and see the gifts in your life…cherish them…and as my Aunt Sandy would tell you talk to them about all the stories of their past…your heritage, that only they can tell you, and once they are gone, the stories are gone too. Whatever you do in life…cherish the gifts you have been given.