Well, here I sit on the best bed in the house. It’s an antique iron bed with a Tempurpedic mattress and elegant, floral Pottery Barn bedding from throw pillow to sheets. It’s also the bed that our Welsh Pembroke Corgi, Connah, sits on and peers out the window to the city street we live on. He barks and carries on like no other at the sight of passersbys, but we’re mostly unfazed by it because he’s a great back up to our existing alarm system. Nevertheless, as I sat down on this bed to get comfortable, Connah’s dog hair began to levitate. The sun was coming in, the dog hair was going up and I thought, well, he is a dog… he is going to shed… this is just a bed and his command post… nobody ever died from a little (just kidding, a lot) dog hair.” And, right after I gave myself that little “talking to,” I turned to my left to find barf on that elegant duvet I spoke of just a few sentences ago. Lord, deliver me. Now, the duvet is off and in the wash. And, here I sit, on this bed as I write my 50th blog. Dog hair, barf and all, I’m one happy camper.
My Mom never fails to remind me during this time of the year, that, of all the gifts that Santa brought me as a child, I was most interested in the box one of my gifts came in. Not the gift but the box. You know, that box that Santa’s Helper (love you, Mom) probably saved her coins up for, made the long trip in to Dallas from the country for, searched the mall over for, stood in a line a mile long for, paid for, made the long trek back home for and wrapped it so that it would be ready FOR Santa to place perfectly under the tree.” Yea, that box!
As an adult, I search for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. Sometimes it’s a hit, and sometimes it’s a miss. But, I’m forever diligent in my pursuit of picking out the perfect gift that my loves ones will, well, LOVE. Today, I thought, “What do you remember getting under the tree as a kiddo?” Before I could recall a handful of things under the tree that I loved so, my mind wandered to other things that were most memorable to me. My Maw Nalls always made a fruit cake. I never ate it. In fact, it might be the one dessert other than mincemeat pie (which she also made) that I didn’t eat. But, she made it one time each year, and it was celebrated and special. My Mamaw Lide had a gumdrop tree. It was old, broken, held in one place with masking tape and was usually comprised of gumdrops she would refreeze (if even freezing gumdrops was imaginable), but I loved that gumdrop tree. And, I ate the gumdrops off of it like it was my job. My Mom would hand my sister and I cash from the calves sold on our behalf to finance our Christmas shopping as kiddos. Generally, Eckerd (now, CVS) was my first choice for shopping. And, I used every cent to buy something there that would, once again, “wow” my loved ones. Then, there was the note to Santa and cookies that he was sometimes “too full to eat.” There was also the caroling with my Nalls’ cousins on Christmas Eve. Oh, and who could ever forget, the virus that swept though our home like a hurricane, compliments of my loving big sister who I could not celebrate Christmas without. The Christmas songs on the radio, ice cycles in the tree, turkey and dressing with all the fixings, stockings stuffed to perfection and the list goes on.
You see, it wasn’t necessarily the gifts under the tree, it was the collective magic of Christmas. And, it’s different for us all. The things I spoke of aren’t really things that can be bought, rather things that are created from or are felt with the heart.
First thing this morning, Patrick, Connah, Peaches and I received a box filled with Christmas treasures from The Ogle Family in Virginia Beach, VA. We loved everything in the box, how it was gift wrapped, the thoughtfulness of it all, but my favorite gift of all was the gift tags that were written by my youngest goddaughter, Avery. I’ve looked over every inch of both tags. One was attached to Peaches gift (our other fur baby) and the other was attached to a gift for yours truly. It didn’t cost anything per say, but it was worth gold to me. Above all the precious gifts, that one will long be remembered by me.
So, you didn’t get that YETI Cooler? Write that person a note, and tell him how much he means to you. The Apple Watch was out of stock? Make time to spend with the intended recipient of that gift instead. And, your holiday cookies you baked for your neighbor didn’t quite look like something famed pastry chef, Dominique Ansel would create? Take them anyway and create your own comedy hour for your neighbor compliments of your “cookie fail.” These are the things we remember fondly long after the season has come and gone.
As Dr. Seuss would day, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Friends, ’tis the season to make good ones! I wish you all joy this Christmas and in the coming New Year!
As many of you know, my Dad suffered a stroke more than three and a half years ago. At the time of his stroke, they said, “There’s nothing medically we can do for him right now. We’ll have to wait and see what God does.” After those words from the hospital’s top Neurologist, I remember walking into the bathroom and locking the door just so that I could be alone with my thoughts. I remember thinking, “There’s nothing medically they can do for him… We’ll have to wait and see what God does. Is this it? Is he done? Or, is God just beginning? Yes, God is at work here. Trust in him.”
I came out of the bathroom like an NFL athlete comes out of the huddle- ready, assured and completely focused. “God is on this,” I would say to myself over and over again and out loud to my family, too. And, it wasn’t because I thought saying those words had power, I knew The One hearing those words did.
After months and months of being in the hospital and two rehabs, my Dad is back home on the range enjoying life. Every single moment with him is literally a “gift from God.” And, the other gift from God was how He increased our faith as a family (and everyone involved from friends to medical professionals). You cannot watch miracle after miracle unfold and not know who orchestrated them.
Just weeks ago, I went back to my hometown to pay my respects to my childhood bestie’s beloved grandmother who passed. My Mom needed to do the same, so we worked out a plan where we could both go and Jimmy would be well cared for. While he’s home and enjoying life, he does require 24/7 care. So, I drove down to my parents home, and my Mom headed to town while I spent some time with my Dad.
During that time, we ate dinner and dessert (of course), strolled around the house, and soaked up a little evening sun on the back patio with a primo view of the cattle passing by. But, as my Dad watched the cattle, I watched him. Few words were spoken. We sat quietly under a forty plus year old fruitless mulberry tree. The sun was going down, the cows were moving slowly but surely across the pasture, the wind chime was making a beautiful noise and, though hot as can be, a soft breeze would blow through every few minutes, making the Texas heat somewhat bearable.
It was a precious moment, but here’s what made it that way mostly. My Dad looks at the world through a different lens after his stoke. It’s with curiosity and surprise. Everything is old and somewhat new. I found myself watching him watching things- the cattle, the sky, the tree, the chime, the bee buzzing by. And, it was with absolute wonderment- those bright blue eyes wide and a half smile on his face. He was and continues to revel in the life he was given a second chance on.
At times, we’re filled with wonderment, too. But, for most of us, it’s fleeting. Instead of taking the time to really see things and soak them up, we’re focused on the next task that has to be done. And, while taking care of those tasks is necessary for our survival, seeing things through the same lens as my Dad is necessary for living.
We’re given 86,400 seconds in a day. Which means there are potentially that many gifts every twenty-four hours, if not more. But, the choice is really ours… Do we see the need to change the coffee filter, or do we savor that cup of hot coffee? Do we feel pushed out of bed by the rising of the sun, or do we take a moment to soak it in? Or, do we take for granted this very breath we’re breathing? I think I’ll choose to breathe in deeply, ever so aware of the life that very breath gives.