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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giving is Receiving

So we've just been through another Christmas. I hope yours was as full of love, family and smiles as mine was. This was the first year of my life that Christmas (the presents and all that) was not celebrated on Christmas morning. Because my KC kids were here on the day before, our Christmas was celebrated the morning of the 24th. I was a little worried about it, wondering if this would leave me feeling sort of empty and anti-climatic on Christmas morning, but it definitely did not. This was one of the absolute best Christmases ever. Why you ask? Did I get something really great that I've wanted for a long time? No. I loved the gifts I received, mostly the things I asked my family for, but that wasn't what made it special. What made it special was getting to spend time the weekend before with my family in Cherryvale and then with my family in Hutchinson. So wonderful to see parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews that I don't get to see much of the rest of the year. (Missed Matt, though!) Then having all four of my kids here on the 24th was more awesome than you could imagine. It doesn't sound like much but given what the circumstances might be in the future when Ty and Rachel start their new adventures, it was my Christmas wish come true. Then, as if that wasn't enough, the way their eyes shone when they unwrapped gifts with their name on them. Is there anything better than giving something to someone else that makes them gasp in delight and then give you an amazed yet happy grin? I think not. I learned the lesson long ago about how much better it feels to give than receive, but something about this year made it better than ever before.
So then, that evening in the Christmas Eve service, Todd talked about the same thing. How we love giving our kids things even better than they love receiving them. He told a story about two ladies in a hospital room. One had many gifts but chose to keep them for herself. The other had only one gift but chose to give it to the one with many. Wow! I suppose we all think we would have made a different choice than the first lady, but would we really? What if it involved something besides flowers and plants? What if it involved giving your only begotten Son to save mankind from their own sin?
I know that went from small scale to enormous rather quickly. Let's go back to small for a minute. Do you know what Todd's story made me think of? Books. You don't get it yet, but I'm about to bare my selfish soul to you. Most people that know me know I love books and love to read. The only thing better than reading books is writing books. Writing is harder though, and requires more concentration so when i need to unwind, relax or take it easy I always opt for reading. I asked for several ..... okay maybe it was quite a lot..... of books for Christmas. My sweet husband, ever indulgent and aiming to please, bought me every single book I asked for. It amounted to two large stacks - I haven't counted them but maybe twenty or so and that doesn't even count what's on my Kindle. Are you shocked? My son was. He cannot fathom how he has the same genes as his mother. He thought it would take him years to read all that and can't believe I have made it through an average of a book a day since Christmas. It's really not such a feat, though. The sure sign of a good book is the reader's inability to put it down, even if it means staying up too late, running out of clean underwear or depriving your family of meals. (No - I don't really get by with that but sometimes wish I could.)
I have nothing but eager anticipation for this pile of new reading material, however when I came home that night, it was something else that caught my eye. Not long ago I had removed the books I own, all of them read at least once, from my bookshelves and bedside table and any other places I had crammed them in, and moved them to the hallway, meaning to box them up and put them somewhere they could be out of the way. Unfortunately the box part hasn't happened as yet and they remain in the upstairs hallway, three stacks of books so tall one might think they should have fallen over by now creating a dangerous sort of avalanche in our hallway. Truth is, they have fallen and been re-stacked, a sight most would view as quite precarious. Make it simple - it's a LOT of books I need to pack up and put away. Why? Because I love those books. They're mine! They gave me so much enjoyment. I want to keep them forever. I might want to read them again someday.... Oops. Wrong answer!
So why would I pack them up? If I like them so much, why not share? Yes, I think I might be ready to pass on my cherished possessions. She who has too many is about to lessen her treasure stores. I am ready to receive the blessing of giving! Free books! For any of you that are interested!!
I know I have some avid reader friends and some friends - well- not so much as far as reading goes. I won't hold it against you if I don't hear from you (db). Most of these books are Christian romance or Christian historical - some both categories, some not, a few other genres thrown in there. Some series, some stand alone, a lot of Lauraine Snelling, Karen Kingsbury and Beverly Lewis. Some no-name authors and some no-names that have since become better-known names. Any takers? First come, first serve, take your pick, as many or as few as you like. The only thing I ask is that after you've read them you pass them on to someone else or donate them to a library, nursing home, hospital, whatever. Books were meant to be read and enjoyed - not stuffed in a cardboard box.
Just let me know. Leave a comment here, message me on facebook, call me, email me ksucindy@excite.com or stop by. You can look through my collection (I'm adding to it daily as I finish my new Christmas books). If you want me to pick something out for you, I will even bring it to you! I'm ready to ease my grip and let them go in hopes they will bring someone else a smile.
Oh - to those reader friends of mine, ask me about the Heart Series if you haven't read them yet. I might be persuaded to part with some of those too.
Thanks, Todd. Giving feels so much better than hoarding! Anyway, my family would be so pleased to get that mess out the hallway!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Comfort and Joy

I have to admit right up front that I stole this idea from someone else's blog. Well, maybe "stole" is a little strong. Let's just say I borrowed the title, but then I guess that blogger did the same thing. "Comfort and Joy" are part of the lyrics in the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," just in case you didn't know that.
I was thinking about those lyrics and the irony of all the stress we experience at Christmas. It's not bad stress necessarily (although good stress sounds kind of like an oxymoron,) but it does seem like we try to cram too much into the Christmas season. I always want every gift to be perfect, the food to be great and the house to be clean. Two out of three isn't bad, I guess. And then there's the money thing. I suppose we all spend too much at Christmas. It's a bad habit that I don't have much inclination to break.
So, how do we find comfort and joy in the midst of all this stress and spending? I wondered just how many things I could think of that are happy, enjoyable and cost little or nothing. I was truly amazed at all the ideas that my fingers typed out in a relatively short time. Here are a few of them:
1. Quiet snowfalls that blanket the outdoors in glittery whiteness
2. A vigorous tail-wagging and happy-to-see-you "grin" from my dog Angel when I come home from a day at work
3. Jake, my son's cat, jumping into my lap and thereby typing foreign words onto my computer screen
4. My husband sending me a daily greeting on MSN of "Good morning Story Girl!"
5. The aroma of bread baking in the oven wafting through the house on a rainy day
6. All four of my kids home at the same time
7. Checking the mailbox and finding an unexpected note from a friend
8. Making biscuits and gravy - comfort food at its best
9. Chris Tomlin CD playing low in the background while I write
10. Sleeping in my own bed again after a weekend away
11. Wrapping up in a fuzzy blanket on a cold evening
12. Listening to K-State football or basketball on the radio
13. Glowing Christmas lights in a dark room
14. The look on Randon's face when he is proud of something he has made and presents it as a gift to someone special
15. Mexican food for supper
16. Finding a great Free Book for my Kindle
17. First step into a warm house on a cold day
18. Nolan's contagious laughter
19. The early morning aroma of fresh brewed coffee
20. Rachel's smile when she looks at Ty
21. Cold Diet Pepsi
22. Listening to Ty tell a funny story and thinking how much he looks like his Grandpa
23. A scented candle burning
24. Someone enjoying reading something I've written
25. My teddy bears
Ok - that's 25 things off the cuff. You can do it, too! Start naming your "Comforts and Joys" and then go enjoy them. It will put the "Merry" back into your Christmas!