Monday, December 12, 2011

Nativity Seen

For a year I have saved these two photos knowing that I would need them. They are not remarkable in and of themselves but leave it to a grandchild to teach me an Advent lesson. Meg, who was six at the time, took one look at the nativity scene and remarked, "It wouldn't have been like this, Grammy."

"It would have been like this," Meg instructed as she rearranged the figurines.
 "Everyone would have snuggled up close to Jesus because they came to see him."
She was right.

Those who came to see Him, God Incarnate, yet human, lying in a cattle trough, pressing in to see for themselves the source of the tidings of great joy.
There is a great urgency in the moment.
Many years ago one of our little friends called the mother of Jesus the "Urgent Mary."
For the bible depicts quite a sense of urgency in the events surrounding the nativity. Any mother who has been on the verge of delivering a child is quick to comprehend the urgency of the moment.
But the prophecy, too, must be fulfilled that Joseph and Mary need arrive in the city of David, Bethlehem, for the birth of Jesus.
Don't you suppose Joseph's level of urgency increased as the search for shelter continued?
Then all these people and animals pressing in on them. They've got to see Jesus.
Luke 2:16 says that the shepherds "made haste" to Bethlehem to this thing that had come to pass that the Lord had made known to them.
Awful as this is, I have to show you what I saw while out shopping.
Not quite the caption I would have chosen even on a sentimentalized, sanitized version of the story. But the point was driven home again. Seeing Jesus is a matter of urgency.

Two of my favorites in the nativity are often overlooked and yet theirs is another clear picture of the sense of urgency surround the coming of Christ.
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel...Lord, you are letting your servant depart in peace according to your Word: For my eyes have seen your Salvation.
How long had Simeon waited?
His urgency was such that he could not die until he had seen Israel's Consolation.
In that same scene we find Anna who served God with fasting and prayer night and day.
 It is immeasurable sense of urgency that calls one to night and day prayer and fasting.  
She spoke of Him to all those who had looked for Redemption in Israel.
Her prayer?
Come, Lord Jesus. Come. (Rev. 22:20)
There is urgency in coming to see Jesus.
Today is the day of Salvation. (2Cor.6:2)
Come. With urgency.
Nativity Seen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grandparenting: Noelf On the Shelf

There's no Elf On the Shelf in my kitchen but there is no shortage of Christmas fun on the cupboard. When the grandchildren started adding up, Spike (the original Mr. Christmas Decorations) and I started this Christmas Cupboard tradition. The shelves are loaded with everything from little sacks of coal for those special little children when they display what we call "leadership potential" to singing snowmen, nutcrackers and angels. Once the Christmas celebrating is over each of the seven grandchildren can choose one thing from the cupboard to take home for their own Christmas cupboard. Then hopefully they'll have a good headstart on their own stash of Christmas cheer.
Each year I need to replenish a bit. Would you like to see what's on the shelves?
This doesn't have to be a huge expense. Most things have been in the decorations box or in the cabinets and drawers all along.
I found the plates at the Dollar Tree. The bear is something my mom and dad had sent to us when my girls were little and my sister gave the girls several wooden figurines including the two little pig-tailed cuties.
The little cuff bracelet belonged to my mother. It was her souvenir from the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. Behind it are two of her childhood ornaments.
Do you see the gumball machine on a stand? Dollhouse.

That's a lady bug with wiggly legs in a pretend jewelry box that I found in one of my mysterious kitchen drawers yesterday.
 I predict that will be a gonner before the first of the year.
And that's my grandmother's thimble.

There are a few items that have to stay put for the time being.
This fisherman tree ornament for example. He looks just like Grandmuver's late husband Sonny whom my children affectionately called "Sonny the Bunny."
There never was a more aristocratic Southern gentleman than Sonny the Bunny.
Some day someone can take him home. But not yet.
Santa is standing on the doll chair that was mine about 800 years ago.
It used to be pink but is much happier dressed in Christmas red.
And there's my uncle's kazoo.

This year's best addition is the Ole Miss black bear. I made him 25 years ago and the poor fellow has been living in a cabinet in the upstairs bathroom for years.
He doesn't have a mouth, but then the black bears are pretty much speechless right about now.
There's old doll house furniture, small village scenes (from Dollar Tree),
and my grandfather's wooden Stanley ruler. Oops, can't take that yet either. :(
Photos of the grandchildren hang in little ornaments that I found at Hobby Lobby.
I had to buy an extra this year.
And do you see Notre Dame in front of the poor black bear with the sack of coal?
Dollar Tree had a whole series of world landmarks but, mais oui, only Notre Dame for these children.
Most mysterious to me is that whirly-gig thing on the bottom right.
My crib toy.

Let's see. What else is in here.
A wooden Pinnochio that I bought in Italy, Santa salt and pepper shakers, a tin of maple syrup, china dolls from my sister and the fun house plaque that my son-in-law's mother made for us.
She also made the fabulous alphabet block music box in the photo above.
The old egg beater was my grandmother's and the little book shelf is a doll house find at Hobby Lobby. With all of our book lovers I'm thinking it will be moving on shortly, too.

The selection process is hilarious. The children start processing, plotting and planning what they will choose as soon as they get here.
We need to come up with a scheme for who gets to go first.
Once it's gone, it's gone, darlin'. We've had a few agonizing moments and some hilarious ones where making up one's mind is as difficult as memorizing the shorter catechism.
Jack just heard about that family in Arkansas that's going to have its 20th child. Shocking.
And Jack's assessment of the news?
 "It's a good thing they don't come to Grammy's house because that would wipe out the Christmas shelf."
One last couple of items. My great grandfather's manicure set in the black leather case.
And another bear or two and a painted wooden Russian toy of chickens pecking for food.
Can't imagine why someone hasn't chosen pecking chickens yet.

That's all for now. Moving on to the motorized ferris wheel and the smoking steam engine that sings Christmas carols. And I haven't even gotten close to decorating the tree which is another story. Mr. Christmas always gets a twelve-foot tree.
We have ten-foot ceilings.
It's fun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Felt Needs: Nativity Scene

Back in July work began in earnest on a wool felt nativity scene.  Perhaps you read my post about constructing the camel, donkey, and cow. They were a challenge. Fun, but a challenge. I know when to ask for help so I enlisted my eager and able assistants.

Four year old Benjamin helped me paint urns and bowls for the Wise Men to carry their treasures as well as wooden figurines that would be used to construct the baby Jesus. We painted five little pegs. It didn't take long for Mr. Sharp Little Tack to look at me unapologetically and remark,
"Grammy, we painted five but there's only ONE Jesus."
I love that boy.

I think Charlotte likes the little felt people the most and she was eager to get to work.
Baby Jesus needed swaddling clothes. Good job, Charlotte.
Several days before arriving in Winston-Salem Jack and I began emailing about the construction of the manger. "Jack, do you think we can make one out of sticks and glue them together?"
The future engineer grandson rather instantaneously developed the plans for construction and we enjoyed sweet success following Jack's plan.
Once again, "You never know when you'll need a good stick."
Mary's apron is adorned with a little crocheted piece from Grandmuvver. I think her mama or grandmama made it. I'll have to check. Anyway, it's old. And sweet.
Joseph's stole looks like a coat of many colors. Good thing his name is Joseph. We can use him for another bible story. His hair is a ton of french knots on a piece of felt that I then glued to his head. Meg studied Joseph's hair for some time, touching it, turning him over, around and back again.
"How do you know this is what Joseph's hair looked like?"
The hair part is fine, it's the freckles that gave me pause.
The wise men are going to have to wait until next year. After all, it did take them a while to get to the stable. And Jack and I have plans for the stable, too. We just have to find another good stick.
What was that? Someone said, "You're not going to let the children play with those dolls, are you?"
Of course I am.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wannabes: It's Not Just Trick or Treat

My little friend, AP, has her mind all set. It's Spiderwoman for sure and next time I need a superhero I'm calling her. Everyone should have a friend like AP who is obviously full of spunk and life, hilarious, and the go-to girl if you need to be rescued. Our Charlie boy thought for a while that he wanted to be Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Corinthians." His mama tried to convince him that it was Caribbean, but he insisted it's Corinthians.
A few years ago I noticed  what  I thought was another wannabe trend. But this had to do with architecture in my little town of Madison, Mississippi. We have a mayor who is a stickler for building codes and allowing only asthetically pleasing commercial buildings. Our first service station has Corinthian columns (there we go again with those Corinthians) and so does the Wal-Mart. Mayor Mary fought with Wal-Mart for years before they gave in to the brick and columns.
Then this started going up and I thought the design looked rather familiar.

I had just returned home from a trip to France and thought hmmm,

it's not as elegant as the Louvre, but it sure is a Louvre wannabe.
Who wouldn't wannabe?

Just a mile or two down the road is our tres Frenchie cell phone tower. You may think I have my cities confused and that this is a Washington Monument wannabe. Mais non. I know better than that.

It's an Obelisk of Luxor from the Place de la Concorde. Not much has changed. Both obelisks were rolled into place. Can you guess which tower is less than ten years old and which tower is more than 3200 years old? You gotta hand it to the French. They know how to hang on to antiques.

If you drive one mile south of the Luxor Look Alike, lo, and behold at the Renaissance (the "shopping spender" as Meg calls it) another structure began to take shape. I knew it when I saw it the first time.

Sure enough. It's Paris all over again. Why not just go to the shopping spender instead of going to all that trouble buying plane tickets, practicing saying "s'il vous plait," etc?

Why, I can even pretend to be in Paris while I'm at the Madison CVS.

Though for whatever reason there is no observation deck at the CVS.
"Convenience Value Service" and no observation deck? I guess I'm a demanding customer.
Observation deck please, monsieur.

And just what, pray tell, would there be to see from the CVS observation deck?
The new 54,000 square foot Kroger.
 It's gigantic. It's ornate.
The first time I saw it I thought, "Wow! It looks like a train station."

Sure enough. A lot like this train station, the Gare du Nord, in Paris mais oui.

And I haven't even gotten to our Pont Neuf. Our new bridge. Quel domage. It looks nothing like the New Bridge in Paris that's 600+ years old. Or the Office  Depot with the huge urns on the roof. Let's see, what other Frenchie stuff could we use? We're getting a new salon.
Maybe we can all start to look like this.....
...before we shop at the new Home Goods.

Madison, Mississippi. The Paris Wannabe.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Leroy and Edna

The days are long, but the years are short. That's what we tell the mamas of babies and young children at our MOMs bible study at church. The mothers of little ones such as her.

How sweet are those so fresh from God.
I think I read that in a greeting card one time.
 It's true.
Kiss your little boy's feet while you can.

The days that can now seem endless in their minutes and hours will eventually have flown by in increments of months and years. Yes, one day those young moms will wonder how it could be that just yesterday Junior was zooming down the  driveway on his Razor scooter and now today he needs a razor of a different sort. It just happens. Who wants to hear that though when they've not slept in six months? I know. I didn't want to hear it either.

Spike and I were chatting about this over our long weekend away. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary and my final birthday of this particular decade. Seems as though we just got married. But then it seems as though we've been married forever. I look at my sons in law and think, "Yikes! Spike was their age when he married me, the "older woman." Meg still wonders how Spike can be younger than I am when he's so much taller. He delights in reminding her that I'm the oldest person in the family. It used to make me crazy when I'd try to show my parents a photo or an article or something and one of them would say, "Let me take it over to the light." Now I say that all the time. And you've just gotta love the girls at the cleaners. One morning when I came in the younger of the two said, "Mrs. Win'ham, I hope I'm still skinny when I'm as old as you." Now, I know she was being sweet, but I just had to chuckle at the backdoor compliment.
 I look at my hands that are beginning to resemble those of my grandmother.
Yes ma'am, time marches on.

Look at these hands.

Look at this hand.

And these.

The upper most hand belongs to a precious mama who is showing her daughter how she makes dumplins. The next are her daddy's hands peeling dozens of tomatoes for sauce. (They belong to the parents of Rhoda at Thank you, Rhoda.) They are hands that have been joined in the labors of the years. Together.

Here's another pair of beautiful hands holding a well-worn copy of the New
Testament and Psalms.

Those hands belong to this man. Leroy Stanley.

Mr. Stanley was 85 years old when I first read about him in the Winston-Salem Journal a few years ago. He and his beloved wife Edna were about to celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary. "When you get married," stated Mr. Stanley, "you hear the words but you don't pay attention because you're excited and nervous. You don't realize what they mean until you get older."

"We've been blessed. We truly have," said Mr. Stanley. As the years passed and their surroundings in Winston-Salem changed, one thing remained constant. Mr. Stanley's love for his wife Edna. He remarked that it never occurred to him that he would do anything else but love his bride whom he met in 1948 while working at a hotel newsstand. Most mornings Leroy can be found sitting on his carport reading his bible. And then about 11 a.m. he goes inside to help Edna get ready for their daily date either to the grocery store or to lunch. Edna, it seems, likes to get out. Leroy likes to get her out simply, "Because it makes her happy." Especially since she suffered a stroke ten years before the writing of this article. So, Leroy heads back inside to help dress her, fix Edna's hair and put on her make-up for her. And then he takes her to lunch.
Like this:

Leroy gave up driving years ago but that doesn't keep him from getting Edna to the Thruway Shopping Center where the grocery and Chick-Fil-A are located. For years they have been a fixture rolling along Knollwood Street nearly every day, rain or shine, cold, warm or hot. Everyone knows them. Leroy says that Edna's a real social butterfly. When people stop to talk to her, Edna reaches out those beautiful hands and communicates mostly with her sparkling eyes and radiant smile.  Then Leroy loops the plastic grocery sacks on Edna's carriage and off they go. Yes, neighbors and friends of their Ardmore community often stop to help Leroy and Edna up the incline of their driveway and get the grocery sacks into the house. As the Journal stated, "They know a classic love story when they see one. I tell the kids here, 'That's real love. If you don't have that kind of love, don't bother. In sickness and in health. For better or worse. To love, honor and cherish."
After 61 years there's Leroy Stanley with his bride.
"Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth."
Proverbs 5:18

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meg Meets Michelangelo

It must have been around 1960 when my grandparents took me and my sister, Mary, on a trip from our home in Wisconsin to Florida. That was probably the first time I ever saw a palm tree, the Gulf of Mexico, and a replica of Michelangelo's David. We had gone to the Ringling Museum of Art at the Ringling estate in Sarasota. That day is one of those memories securely locked in my mental filing cabinet for several reasons.

The sheer size and beauty of the estate and the home called Ca' d'Zan, the House of John.  How about 36,000 square feet?

I can remember standing in this very room. The pipes of the organ were hidden behind tapestries which I thought was a fantastic idea. My grandfather and my mother gave me their love for pipe organs. One of the best gifts ever.

On the grounds of the estate is an art museum housing dozens of old masters. This is my first memory of standing in front of a massive oil painting. It just really made an impression on my little mind. Even if your children are not able to understand all that they see, the sheer beauty and size of masterpieces will not be lost on them forever. Take them!

Then out in the garden is the replica of this great sculpture by Michelangelo.
We  just thought Goliath must have been a giant. Take a look at his adversary.
Seventeen feet tall. Now that's impressive.

Ok. So Meg was spending the day with me this week, something her Aunt E used to call "family bondage."   During the course of our conversation on an entirely different subject I tapped my finger on this photo in a catalog.
 Michelangelo's Pieta.

Next to the above photo was this one.
 The Dying Slave

Which was above this.
The Florentine Pieta

As is her custom, Meg had a question/comment. "Why don't any of these people have clothes on?"
"Because," I replied, "one thing sculptors like Michelangelo wanted to do was  make a statue that showed how beautifully God had made the human body. You can even see the muscles on Jesus' belly. He was beautifully made and beautifully sculpted. Look at this sculpture, Meg. That is Nicodemus holding Jesus. Do you remember the story of Nicodemus?"

With her little index finger tapping her lip she thought and thought and dug deep into her memory. I could see the wheels spinning. "Yes! I know that story! Nicodemus is the rat who lives under a rose bush in "The Secret of Nimh."

She and I have some art museums ahead of us. And Bible stories. And organ concerts. Stay tuned for developments.