Monday, December 28, 2009
And A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!
It was just lovely to see your Christmas photos on the blog, Ange of the North. It brought back fond memories of our Christmas up there in the Big White North! I must say, that I think the ‘romance’ of Christmas does lend itself to the climate of the Northern Hemisphere….the fact that it is cold outside (sometimes with snow!), the warmth inside, the fact that you can legitimately have a fire burning, the earlier evenings, the candles and lights, real Christmas trees (or very good alternatives!), the hot roast dinners…the real deal! So nice!
Whilst Down Under, provision has to be made for long summer days and hot weather - our Santas sweat under their obligatory regalia (explains why most of them tend to be found in sedentary positions on huge chairs, in airconditioned malls!); roast dinners can only be had if there is an outside BBQ or good airconditioning inside; fires are prohibited; water (ice cubes, pools, beaches, chilled drinking stuff etc) is a necessity; “Trees of Lies” abound; and chocolate must be kept cool. A large percentage of people flock to the beaches or parks for picnics. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, the Christmas season highlights for me the huge differences between the two Hemispheres! I’ve often wondered why we persist with having snow-laden landscape Christmas cards, when nothing could be further from the truth Down Under! Having said that, cards with surfing Santas or Santa having a BBQ on the beach, just don’t seem right!
I love Christmas – the reason, the season, and all that it brings.
This year, being in a country without immediate family at hand, we were grateful for people who have thoughtfully included us in their Christmas celebrations. I love the inclusivity of the season, though more than ever, we felt keenly for friends who have to face Christmas without a loved one, for friends who are estranged from families, or for people for whom this is a difficult and lonely time of the year. Without wanting to minimise their pain, it did make us especially grateful for being in a position to enjoy the festivities this year.
I loved the (hitherto unheard of) experience of my husband going shopping on the Eve of Christmas Eve (ie. the day before CE) till midnight! This was history in the making!!! What’s more, he enjoyed getting the bargains so much, he even braved the mall TWICE to pick up something we’d missed. I wonder how long this shopping phenomena will continue…
I loved the fact that we spent Christmas Eve as a family, doing special things to prepare for Christmas Day. It brought a lump to my throat, to see my boys generously adding up their savings to spend on purchasing ducks and goats and seeds and fish farms and dunnies (latrines for the non-Southerners) at the World Vision booth. I loved going out for morning tea together as a family amidst the buzz of the shoppers, and I loved choosing our “Jesus Candle” for the year. [Our family has a tradition of having a “Jesus Candle” every Christmas to remind us about “Jesus- the Light of the World” This began in the Great White North in actual fact. It was lil L’s first visit to see Santa. As he sat on Santa’s knee, Santa asked him the usual “What would you like me to bring you for Christmas?” question. Wee L looked at him quite surprised (we’d omitted to tell him that Santas were the deliverers of presents!). Santa looked even more surprised and somewhat shocked when after much pressing of the same question, lil L came up with the same answer – “I don’t want anything!”. “Wouldn’t you like some new toys or books or a lollipop?”, asked Santa incredulously. After several repetitions of “No….” from lil L, Santa persisted, “Well, is there ANYTHING at all that you think you might like???!” Lil L thought even harder, and then replied hesitantly, “A pink candle…” So that Christmas, lil L got a pink candle in his Christmas stocking….and at Christmas dinner, he wanted to have his ‘Jesus Candle’ on the table. And thereon in, began our Jesus Candle tradition.]
I loved our family being able to visit each of our neighbours and bringing them chocolate truffles. I loved the little message E made for each of them.
I loved going to the Christmas Eve service with our friends, and sweltering in the heat, and singing carols with gusto, and enjoying the lights and the atmosphere, and hearing that familiar story of the first Christmas all over again.
I loved sharing Christmas dinner (#1) afterwards with good friends – a wonderful precursor to Christmas Day!
I loved the excitement as the boys headed for bed, knowing that they would be awake only a few hours later to scrabble through their stockings to see what goodies lay therein.
I loved seeing my husband fill the kids’ stockings though he hasn’t quite perfected the ‘look’ yet – no white bushy beard or red suit and only a little paunch! And definitely NO CHIMNEYS in this part of the world to shimmy down!
I loved seeing my husband check under the tree to see if there was a parcel with his name on it! Big kid! Quote: “It’s not much point having presents under the tree if you can’t poke ‘em!”
I even loved the continuous run of 1-2am nights/mornings - though each year, I think it would be nice to be more organised and be earlier to bed.
And I love Christmas Day itself…..
I loved the Christmas service first thing in the morning, and the reminder to focus on the greatest gift of all – the gift of a baby, the Son of the God of the Universe. A gift given to us to bring love and joy and peace and hope of a better life today and beyond.
I love Skype and phones and email and texts and newsy mail, and the ability we have to connect with family & friends who cannot be with us, or who are separated from us in distance but not in spirit.
I loved being able to have Christmas Dinner #2 at lunchtime, with good friends. I loved eating. (Hard to believe I know! :) ) I loved seeing the kids enjoying themselves in the pool. I loved chatting and relaxing with our ‘surrogate family’. I loved hearing the fun & laughter as Balderdash was played.
I loved the opportunity to go to Christmas Dinner #3 at dinnertime with relatives, and sitting outside in the balmy summer’s night. More good food! Ohhhhh! Ham, turkey, lamb, Bombe Alaska to die for!
And I LOVED sleeping in the next morning till a disgraceful hour and relishing the memory of another wonderful Christmas!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I was up till midnight on Christmas Eve.
In the afternoon, we trekked out to Tim and Lea's house for Christmas dinner. Just before the sun went down, Cory and I went with Tim down to the beach for some photos. Tim brought his skookum (Canadian work for awesome) flash setup, complete with white umbrellas, to make the most of the light. It was cold, crisp, and wonderfully salty. I love to live on the coast!
Tim, the freshly-minted inspector, as of a couple of weeks ago!
It was wonderful to be together. Lea had worked her usual decorating magic, but it was the togetherness that made it a lovely evening. Dad is in his second week of chemotherapy, the lowest time of the three-week process, but he's doing very well. We were all very appreciative of family.
And to finish up our wonderful Christmas Day, we all snuggled on the sofa and watched District 9. Gotta love it!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
When I started to write this post, it was a beautiful summery evening and the boys were having a night time swim to celebrate the end of concerts for the year! It was a lovely evening for a swim. The stars were bright, the lights were twinkling, the air was balmy, and the water was warm. It is always lovely to watch my boys having so much fun in the water. And the parents enjoyed that ‘final concert for the year’ kinda feeling…. All happy! I decided to head on inside though, when Kevin started photographing geckos on our wall. Cute as the boys insist they are, they’re not for me!
The last concert at Burpengary on the Sunshine Coast was a nice way to finish off the concert season. E played a solo violin piece and also a duet with orchestral backing in the first half. He then joined the orchestra for 2 pieces in the 2nd half. Lil L played a classical guitar piece with double bass and violin accompaniment in the 2nd half. Very cool indeed. Both boys got very enthusiastic responses from the audience, and gained a lot of kudos from the experience.
During the intermission, an older man came up to E and me, and asked if he could give E a ‘Christmas gift’….I was a bit hesitant, cos I wasn’t really sure what he was getting at! And E assured the gentleman that he didn’t need a gift, but the guy was very insistent. He said he used to play the violin when he was younger and that he’d since given up the violin because he was now 73 yrs old. He said that he was so thrilled with E’s playing that he really wanted to give E something, and that E should spend it on something nice for himself! What a wonderful gesture! E was so encouraged by the gift-giver’s generosity! I wonder if the gentleman realised how much his kind act impacted on this child, and what far-reaching effects it may have in the days to come. All credit to E, who tried to pass on the gift to his violin teacher, since proceeds from the concert sales were going to an orphanage in Africa. (E’s teacher would not accept it, but told E also to spend it on himself!). I think E is adamant that he’s going to give the whole lot to charity. The expression of encouragement was sufficient for him. I love the way generosity has a habit of multiplying!
I went to bed thinking about the many priceless people in the world who encourage children in so many different ways, to do the best with what they’ve got. Some provide opportunities, others create moments, and still others journey alongside. Then there are those who appreciate. They are just as important since we all need people who will appreciate us for what we are.
Speaking of inspirational people…..today, I had the honour of attending the funeral of a friend who was suddenly promoted into Heaven. What a wonderful celebration of her life.
An amazing woman who leaves behind a close knit family, the likes of which is rarely found these days. Though she had every reason to be grumpy at the nasty curve balls, life has thrown at her, Linda is in fact remembered for the fact that she never complained but lived life to the utmost, squeezing every ounce of goodness out of it and encouraging all around her to do the same.
She understood the preciousness of life, many times not knowing if she would see another hour or another day, and in fact ‘died’ many times over the course of her short life. Medically, she was a walking miracle. But she embraced life with her ready sense of humour and sheer determination, despite the intense pain and struggle.
She believed that life was given to her to fulfil her God-given role – a role nobody else could fulfil – she was, firstly and foremostly, a Wife and a Mother for her husband and children, and it was a role she pursued with the unswerving dedication and loads of fun. Her beautiful children are now living testimony of this selfless devotion.
She will always be remembered for her love of all who came across her path, and the way she made everyone feel like they were incredibly special. Linda always put others’ needs before herself, with many people never suspecting that her needs were so much greater than theirs would ever be.
She touched the lives of many, inspiring many, and leaving unforgettable memories.
Linda was not afraid of dying because she knew the reality of God in her life. She also knew that one day, life with God in Heaven, would be incomparable bliss – a freedom from pain, struggle, and tears. The day before Linda passed away, she attended a friend’s funeral. Afterwards, she commented “Christian funerals should be a celebration and the Gospel should be preached”….today’s thanksgiving service for her life was exactly that!
What a truly awesome legacy!