When a person thinks about all the friends who have come and gone in their life, they, at some point, reach a place where they can say with relative certainty…this one is my oldest friend. This person is probably not someone with whom they have never had an argument, because when a friendship has passed the test of time, there were likely a few rough spots along the way. Most of us might think our oldest friend is a classmate, maybe from grade school, if we still know any of those, or possibly from high school, because it is possible that we still know many of those people, but I have to think that sometimes we might need to think outside the friendship box a little bit. I have thought back to all my friends over the years, and while I am still friends with a lot of people from high school and even as far back, as grade school, there is someone that I can truly say has always been my friend…from the day I was born. I’m sure that you are getting the idea…yes, it is my older sister, Cheryl.
When I needed someone to confide in…to talk things over with, she was there. We shared all the schoolgirl secrets, like what cute guy we liked and even what teachers we hated. Like all friends, there were the little tiffs, and while they might have seemed huge then, looking back now I know that they were just a blip on the lifelong screen of a friendship that would last forever, and become a cherished relationship in my life. I don’t know if all siblings become friends too, but we definitely did. Cheryl and I were the older of our parents’ 5 daughters, and there were three years between my younger sister, Caryl and me, so the three younger sisters, always seemed so much younger. In fact, we always called them the three little girls. There always seemed to be a natural separation between us, but not a distance…just differences in our ages making for the natural separation. I know I might not be Cheryl’s oldest friend, because she is two years older than I, but then again, I have been her friend longer than most people I can think of, so who knows, I might just be hers too.
When it comes to friends, I can’t think of any with whom I can say that I have so much in common, nor one who I can count on for any need. Cheryl and I have been through so many things together, and she has been a rock through it all. She never likes to promote herself, so I’ll just have to do it for her. Cheryl, you have been there to protect me from enemies, bullies, and monsters…real or imagined. You’ve been there for me to confide in, and you were never judgmental. You backed me when I needed it, and stood by me when I need that, you lifted me up when I was feeling down, and you made me smile with your sweet spirit. You have and always will be my oldest and dearest friend, as well as my dear sister. Life is good. Today is Cheryl’s birthday!! Happy birthday my dear, Cheryl!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!
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!!
I have been reading through some of my dad’s letters home to his family from World War II, and I find myself thinking about the secrets that had to be kept. During wartime, locations and mission cannot be spoken of, because it might, or more likely would, compromise the mission and the men involved. I’m sure it was hard for the men, when they couldn’t tell their families where they were, other than the country they were in. Still, they knew that what they were doing was bigger than they were, and they were a part of something greater than their own needs…and there were spies everywhere. Letters and calls could be intercepted, and if they were, missions could fail, and lives would be lost.
Mixed in with the necessity of secrecy, was the need to let family know you were ok. Remember, that most of these men were very young, and many had never been away from home before. Now on that first trip away from home, there are people trying to kill them. My dad had lived away from home before going into the Army Air Forces, but he was very loving and loyal toward his family. It was very important to him that they not worry about him. Dad was also an honorable man. He was a patriot. He would never do anything that would dishonor or put in danger his country, or the men he served with. I can imagine that these men all found themselves in a tough place at that time in the world’s history, but they did what they had to do, because they were a part of something greater than their own feelings, or those of their families.
My dad was the top turret gunner and the flight engineer on a B17 Bomber, stationed at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. It was a base in the middle of the English countryside, surrounded by civilian towns and farms. These people knew all too well how important the United States military presence was to their safety, and indeed their very lives. If one of those men had revealed information about their upcoming missions, the entire area could have been attacked and destroyed. So important was their mission over there, and so grateful were the people of that area, that memorials were erected to remember…forever, the sacrifice made by the brave men of the 385th Heavy Bombardment Group, U.S. Army Air Forces. The memorials were placed so that generation, and future generations would remember the sacrifices made to save their lives by men who were a part of something greater than their own lives…to protect the lives of people they didn’t even know. That is what my dad was a part of when he was barely more than a teenager.
Those years changed who my dad was, just like they changed the lives of all the men who lived through that turbulent time in the history of the world. Those were hard times for everyone, and yet my dad and the other young men he served with, played their very important part with dignity and honor, placing the lives of innocent civilians ahead of their own lives, because they were a part of something greater.