I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend whatever you did and wherever you were. Mine was delightful. I had company! My nephew Cole, wife Margy and kids Abby (17) and Evan (12) took the time to drive from Cheyenne for a couple of days. And the weather cooperated magnificently. This is a picture of Cole on T-Day as we took a short walk in Makoshika. I think it was close to 72 degrees. Compare that with the one five years ago when I followed the snow plow into Gillette and never did get to Cheyenne. The weather here is magical — you never know what you are going to get. The only trouble with such great weather is that everyone walks around waiting for the ‘other shoe to fall’, i.e., snow.
Friday we roamed the town going to several of our new antique/gift shops in town. Again a beautiful day. As the years have gone by I am so pleased to note that many of the shops opening up are owned and operated by women. They have a great idea for decorating and purchasing things unique. There is no need to go outside Glendive if you are looking for gift ideas. And that does not preclude a lot of other stores — our hardware stores are continually expanding and like the general store of old really do have a huge variety of items — the usual hardware, but also farming and ranching supplies, items for animals, clothing, toys, decorator items and now food — dry items. Wow!
Anyway, Cole enjoyed being back in town. He lived here for a number of years and so has some fond memories. Margy has lived all her life in Cheyenne. She finds an attraction to a small town and what goes on here. It is always fun to see your world through someone else’s eyes. The kids have both spent some time with me over the years so they know the area as well. They were all here when I was ordained, and then when Dad and Mom died.
The Light Parade was another treat again because the weather was just right for the event. We bundled up, parked a couple of blocks away and then walked and stood and watched. At the Gazebo Park we got some great pictures with the snowman. He wasn’t quite “Olaf-who-likes-warm-hugs”, but we settled. (see photos below)
And I have to brag just a little — never having done much cooking of big meals I was really pleased how good everything was. They arrived about 2 p.m. on the 23rd and the food was just about ready and I thought it tasted good. I have a cranberry relish recipe that is more tart than sweet which I like and in fact I sent a couple jars home with Cole he liked it so well. I even did a turkey breast in the crock pot that came out tasty. I may have to try that again. I think it was about ten pounds.
So my family will arrive home today and be back to the routine as will I. I spent yesterday changing and washing sheets and towels and just catching up on some things that get set aside when you want to spend quality time with people you love and care about.
It seems the holidays are coming faster than usual this year, but I also have a sense that is because I slow down a little more each year and it takes me longer to do the normal amount of preparation. But, I adjust, and find the preparation becomes more of a joy and less of a burden as time goes along.
This year I find the holidays to be more pensive than normal. The bright lights and Christmas carols will all be around, but I think many folks are a little more thoughtful this year and perhaps thinking about the true meaning of the gifts of gratitude and peace. The coming of the Christ Child is a reminder that love and forgiveness were central to Jesus’ message and that is where we need to place our focus this holiday season and for the coming year.
I have to really step back to get a perspective on what this last year has brought to our understanding of relationships and our place in the world. The natural disasters (and I know I will miss a few) are beyond our scope to understand — Hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Carribbean (some say one of the worst hurricane seasons and the forecast is these storms will continue to grow more serious in this time of climate change); the earth quake in Mexico, coming at the same time as the hurricanes barely received any attention from us; now there is a serious earthquake in Iran/Iraq where people have just barely started to rebuild after a long war; in the Middle East Yemen is on the brink of a cholera epidemic that will kill millions as well as suffering from starvation from a Saudi Arabian blockade; South Sudan continues to suffer from famine; cities in India, like New Delhi, are becoming a place where no one can breathe due to exhaust fumes and the air pollution is getting worse; and the refugee situation has slipped from our televisions, but not from reality as people continue to flee hopelessness, dreaming of a better life. In our own country the political situation continues to worsen with hasty legislation, decisions which are made selfishly, and a sense of corruption and decline in ethics and morality we have not seen for a very long time.
Top all this off with each of us knowing family and friends who are ill, approaching surgeries, going through treatments, and many for whom death is drawing near.
All of this can lead to serious depression, or trying to find a way to tune out the world. We look for hope, but it seems there is no place to breathe or to find peace, and then these holidays can become a mockery of all we hope for, all we pray for. I am not expecting people to plan a ‘Currier and Ives Christmas’, because those Christmases never really existed anyway. But when we are ready to despair and say there is no hope in the world, it is time to work together for good. We must get past the materialism of our lives. There are so many places that need our money, our prayers and most of all our hands, our labor to make things better. Like anything it is one step at a time. One positive word, one hand up, one hope we work to make a reality. Life is very, very hard. God never promised us life would be easy, but God did promise we would never be left orphaned, never left alone or forsaken. It is that promise we hold fast in a time when we don’t often understand what is happening around us. It is then we can become the love, the forgiveness, the peace in someone else’s life.
It is not an easy task we take up as human beings on this ball of dirt whirling through the universe. We may not live to see our hopes fulfilled for a peaceful existence for all people on this earth, but when we learn to understand each other, to console each other, and to love one another then ‘the work of Christmas’ has truly begun.
The Work of Christmas
Poem by Howard Thurman
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
From "The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations" by Howard Thurman. © 1985 by Friends United Press. Used by permission of the publisher.
Periodically I go through closets and shelves and drawers to be sure I am continuing my process of downsizing. It seems to be the “thing” to do these days, especially in my age group. One interesting phenomenon is the talk of the “younger” generation and how they seem to be more minimalistic in their living standards. The rise of tiny houses is a characteristic and another is they do not want any of the belongings of their parents. That includes items going back even another generation. Now granted, no one wants a houseful of ‘stuff’. One lady I was with called it “sittin’ around stuff’. But there are certain things I do hold precious. I have a wicker plant stand that was my grandmother’s. From the time I was little I remember that sitting in an east window so grandma’s plants could get some sun. Somehow I ended up with it and since I like growing things (whether they live or not is another matter), the plant stand is both utilitarian and precious.
When my parents moved in to live with me so I could care for them, Mom especially brought a number of things that had belonged to her parents. She has been dead for thirteen years and I am still finding things and trying to decide where they should go. None of my cousins want anything. They are older than I and are trying to give away what they have. One good place has been the South Dakota State Historical Society since many of the items my parents had were from their homes in western South Dakota. I feel good about that.
Now I have been working on my own collection of things. The other day I was eyeing my sewing machine. After having a repair man look it over, he told me it will sew a straight seam, but that is all. I think it is ready to go out the door probably to the Used Furniture Room at our church.
Thinking about my sewing machine got me thinking about sewing in general and handwork and a woman’s role in the home. Mom did some sewing for me, actually several nice dresses I wore in college. (Yes, we wore dresses to class and then changed into pants when we got home.) But she never thought herself to be a real seamstress. She taught me how to knit, but apologized for having nothing more than a basic knowledge. She said her mother did not knit or do handwork and only sewed basic items. Mom’s other three sisters did not do handwork either.
My generation did more of that kind of thing. I did counted cross stitch, a friend does Hardanger, and I also knit a lot, mostly small items as my boredom level is pretty shallow. I also did a lot of embroidery work and still have friends who enjoy doing dish towels. One says it seems to be a hot item with her daughters-in-law to give as gifts. I also did some needlepoint which was fun.
When I see tatting, I think of an elder friend who died recently. While in the nursing home she kept on with her tatting and found herself giving lessons to younger women working at the hospital. She is a legend who lives on in what she taught. I marvel at the work of women generations ago whether it was their quilts or decorative work on clothing it is wonderful. I have a couple of handmade baby dresses that were my mother’s. They are so delicate. The flowers embroidered are dainty and the lacework is just lovely.
Of course quilting is big now and there are women who do lovely pieces that are fabric art. Handwork or sewing seems to wax and wane in popularity. I am always glad to see when people take up the challenge to be creative whether it is rag rugs, repurposing furniture, or wherever their eye lands. Everyone has some kind of a gift and it is important to make use of it. Everyone is enriched in the creation.