Posts Tagged joy

A Christmas story by Chip (age 49 1/2)

Christmas red gift box with gold ribbon and bow - top view vector illustration. Glitter glow on red background.

Glitter… the gift which keeps on giving.

Thus far, my 2016 Christmas season has been both joyful & triumphant. Joyful because I have yet to hear any version of ‘Last Christmas’ in any retail venue, and triumphant because I was able to find exactly what I wanted to give my sweet wife as a gift.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy Christmas music. You know, real Christmas music… the kind which features Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, or Ella Fitzgerald. Problem is, it is almost impossible during this time of year not to be exposed to what other people think is Christmas music. And don’t even get me started on the multiple, painfully awful, covers of the Christmas song. Shopping centers are the worst for song selection with the exception of Hobby Lobby. I like Hobby Lobby. Generally speaking, they have cool stuff for people like me who still enjoy the large box of crayons which features the sharpener in the back. (Regularly priced at Hobby Lobby for $5.99 but if you use their weekly 40% off coupon you can snag them for $3.60 plus tax. What?!) It’s no secret, I have always loved Crayola crayons… especially the 64 count box. I have a very discriminating palate which appreciates the finer qualities of Crayola brand over those knock-off types. You know, the kind which substitute brick dust and hog fat for wax. Trust me, over the years of my childhood I have tasted several brands and find Crayola to be most enjoyable.

Now, Hobby Lobby has an interesting type of music featured in their stores which is designed to enhance the shopping experience. I think it is intended to get you to impulsively drop cash on a purchase but in a way which makes you think the Holy Spirit was leading you to that item. As you shop you suddenly find yourself humming to a catchy tune which you almost recognize as ‘Quiet, Lord, my froward heart‘ but you’ve never heard it played on synthesized keyboard. ‘Yup… that’s it.’ you say to yourself, smiling, as the irony of the moment is lost in the shuffle. For my non-Christian friends, this music is kind of the religious counter to hearing your favorite 80s rock ballad played on an obscure instrument over a cracked speaker. Kinda like hearing ‘Jump‘ played in Walmart on an accordion.

Music aside, Hobby Lobby is the ‘go to’ place for holiday decorative stuff for my wife and I enjoy it except for the ‘Borg‘ of Christmas. Yes, I am speaking of that bane of my existence and device of Satan against which I shall always stand and fight… glitter. It simply isn’t possible to go near a Hobby Lobby without being covered in glitter. As I type this, I can say with confidence, if I were to look in the mirror right now I would find at least one speck of glitter on me. This, in spite of the fact I have showered, shampooed & shaved many times since my last trip to the glitter fest. We have a decontamination chamber for glitter as you enter into our house which features special vacuum devices, multiple shower heads, decompression and an ultraviolet light inspection before you’re allowed to be robed in the paper jumpsuit for the mandatory 48 hr period which follows a trip to HL… aaaaaand, I still found glitter while eating a banana for breakfast this AM. Glitter and fruit is not natural.

Which brings me to the ‘triumphant’ portion of this saga. Since I was able to find exactly what I was looking for as a gift for my sweet wife, I envisioned the box sizes needed, and the theme I would employ as I wrapped her packages. Three boxes would be required and I already had two but needed to purchase one of those really cool craft paper colored boxes at the Lobby. Found it! Now, on to the theme. Rita’s tree is kind of a country elegant… Christmas country chic… with flowers and fancy stuff expertly placed. So, her packages had to have some bling-like qualities, but in an understated manner, in keeping with her tree theme. Like finding a diamond in a chicken coop… the finished product looks great but you never envisioned your wife hanging it from a tree in your house.

Anyway, I began my pursuit of the perfect wrapping paper. It needed to be a craft paper color/texture but feature a quality of uniqueness so as to catch her eye. Fortunately, although the Christmas paper selection did not fit the bill, I was able to find just what I needed in the birthday section. My selection featured an elegant Victorian styled print in black as a contrast to the craft paper upon which it was printed. Now, off to the flower section. As a substitute for the bow I wanted a crafty looking flower to match her tree. A burlap rose, paired with slightly lighter colored burlap flowers with little black dots… one set for each package… were placed in my basket as I began my pursuit for ribbon. With all items soon acquired, I rushed home to wrap before she arrived. Not to brag… but I can wrap a gift. My OCD kicks in and every pattern must perfectly align on the gift before it is neatly folded at the edges and taped… no slouch job here. As a foundation for the finish, I chose a wide silver ribbon, upon which a narrower black ribbon with rhinestone looking dots would be placed. When I opened the silver spool it happened. A glitter bomb exploded all over our dining room. The nice, silver ribbon was, in fact, glitter ribbon and I was standing in the epicenter of a glitterpocalypse. Having just come home from the funeral home, my black slacks looked like something Elvis, or Liberace, would wear and my good, black ostrich boots were likewise covered in the festive fungus. Too late to back out now! Christmas gift wrapping is not for the weak… so, I pressed onward.

Fashioning the ribbon in a cross like pattern over each package, I now proceeded to the task of putting the flowers together for the bow and fastening them to the ribbon on each package. At Hobby Lobby they sell a florist tape which is what I decided would work best for the task. As it happens, it comes in various colors and I chose silver because it would blend into the ribbon better. Upon opening the tape I realized it is also covered in glitter. Of course it is! Nevermind, I must complete the goal for the perfect package. By the way, apart from using industrial strength construction adhesive, there is no way to fasten burlap flowers onto glitter ribbon. In retrospect, I could have used duct tape but, to be honest, I panicked in the fray of glitter which encompassed my person, and it never even occurred to me as an option until I finished. To make it even fancier, I went with the old standby… curling ribbon. Not one color, mind you, but two… black and silver. Sure, I could have just purchased a couple of the pre-curled ribbon sets for each package in both colors but, truly, how hard is it to curl ribbon? Listen to me. I confidently speak to all you who can curl ribbon and make it look so easy anyone can do it when I say I hate your guts and livers. Everyone who can’t curl ribbon hates you but because we have to tolerate people now, and we need you to do our packages, and we have the gummy residue of glittery floral tape on our fingers we will allow you to stay but we aren’t taking any of your condescending ‘I can look the other way and talk to my friend while I curl ribbon all day long’ attitude so don’t push it. OK? Just curl the ribbon and slide it over to me without making eye contact and no one gets hurt.

So, here I am, finally, with three packages wrapped for my wife now placed neatly under the tree. In my mind they looked better than they turned out, which is more coop than diamond. Just before she arrived she called me to let me know she was on the road. When she called I was in the delusional condition of kidding myself into thinking glitter can be cleaned up. Sweeping, using a Swiffer broom, dust mop and steam mop only serve to relocate glitter, and make it wet. Our dining table is oak and has a lovely grain in the wood surface within which now reside bajillions of glitter. You can’t get rid of the stuff. I scrubbed, used Clorox wipes, wet dishcloths, and even Endust to no avail. At least the table looks festive. ‘Look honey, I decorated for Christmas!’

When she came home she was all sweet and excited about the packages and even asked if she could open them. That was the moment in the conversation where an awkward death threat which was supposed to just be in my head, somehow, slipped out of my mouth. I smiled, and distracted her with the glitter, and everything was OK but, trust me, it took me HOURS to wrap those things and they are NEVER getting opened now. NO! My wife is caught in that difficult place of being notoriously honest, yet sensitive to people in the truth. She is the type who lovingly offers you a breath mint, and urges you to try it because they taste really good and she doesn’t want to come right out and tell you your breath is the death. So, upon seeing the packages she was enthusiastic and told me how pretty they were. In her mind she had to have been saying ‘Bless his heart’ in that Southern kind of ‘he ate too many crayons as a child’ sort of kind way.

Christmas memories of my childhood flood in as I approach the 2nd Christmas as a ‘Big Papa’ to my precious granddaughter. As for Christmas gifts, I remember a few from my childhood but I mostly remember the family gatherings. Mom’s chili, my Aunt’s fudge and my Grandi’s home made chocolate pudding while it cooled on the window sill… and her molasses cookies. I know, most of my memories involve food but they are also deeply tied to a lot of laughter, hugs and love which I cherish today. Nana & I have pink packages under the tree for our little princess but I don’t intend to allow the stuff, like glitter, to be the thing which sticks to her. My hope is we are able to show her the kind of security and love which can only be found in a loving family. Lipstick kisses from Nana and tickles from Big Papa, or playing princess tea time is what I will be doing over the days I have with my kids. All of which is tempered with the understanding of how very blessed I am to know The Messiah, and to experience the daily joy of celebrating the purpose of His arrival here and the hope which can only be found in Him. That is what I wish for you, and for my baby girl, this Christmas season… glitter and all.

Merry Christmas!

Small gift boxes wrapped in tan paper with a black victorian print. Each packages has a bow made of silver, glitter ribbon and features a bouquet of burlap flowers with a burlap rose in the center. The packages are neatly placed under a Christmas tree with lights twinkling.

Glitter Bomb wrapped gifts.

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Relief is on the way

Recent images from the Haitian earthquake have stirred memories of the needs I saw first hand while serving on a short term mission trip in Haiti. In 1989, the Church I was serving (Fairview Christian Church, Foster KY) partnered with the Rappahannok Church of Christ (Virginia) to provide assistance to a missionary we jointly supported. Leontes (Leon) D’Orleans is a native Haitian and graduate of Cinncinati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian university) who has an impressive and infectious love for the Lord.

In preparation for the trip, each of us had to have a series of shots, followed by taking medication to prevent Malaria. I did very well with the shots, but the Malaria medication made me sicker than a dog as we were leaving for the airport… I had to make a couple ‘stops’ on the way, if you catch what I mean. Our team in Cincinnati boarded the plane, which lost an engine about 5 minutes into our flight, causing a nightmarish delay & potentially killing our effort to go. Fortunately, we split up & were able to catch individual flights, ultimately joining again for the single flight into Haiti. All this while I was running through airports with my new friend Bill Fudge trying to keep my physical composure so as not to repeat any of the fun activity I experienced on the car ride to the airport. We made the flight, and our delayed arrival into Haiti was without further issue.

Upon landing, 2 things immediately struck me. First, the smell. It was overwhelming, and a smell I shall never forget. Following the devastating flood of 1997 throughout our region of Kentucky, I relived a little of that memory while assisting in the cleanup of our camp & property of some townsfolk living in Falmouth, KY. I remember reading about the Biblical location of the Valley of Hinnom, a place where open fires of human waste, garbage & the bodies of the impoverished deceased were a daily event outside Jerusalem… “surely, this was similar to what Jesus was talking about” was the thought rushing through my mind, via my nostrils. The second impression was of the ‘guards’ posted by the Haitian government at the airport. They were dressed in rag-tag ‘uniforms’ and possessed weapons which dated from the pre WWII era.

Leon met us at the airport… his huge smile was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen all day. We were travel worn, but excited to hug Leon & begin our work. Our lodging was generous… far above the Haitian standard of living… and we were offered a meal of fried chicken that night. I could not eat, partially due to illness and partially due to the poverty all around me… it was staggering.

Cite Soliel is translated to mean “City of the Sun”. I have seen the light of their sun, and it outshines that of many in the American Church, which has become shaded by stained glass and the trappings of material possessions and inward focused programs.

We were there to offer assistance in constructing a building for the Church that Leon served as minister, and provide them with encouragement, instruction & resources in developing a Christian School & proper leadership within the Church. The Church was in Cite Soliel, a slum of Port Au Prince and only a short distance from the capitol city. The next day, we loaded up in ‘Tap Taps’ (Haitian taxis) and headed to the work site… The smell, the heat & the stupid malaria medication once again put me in a humble position of prayer upon stepping off of the Tap Tap. I spent the next morning lying prone in my room, trying to regain from the dehydration & illness which held me so tightly.

The remainder of my time in Haiti was so life changing. I thought I knew what poverty looked like, but I was face to face, hand in hand with the ‘least of these’ whom Jesus spoke of. I listened with shock as Leon described a husband and father eating only 1 meal every other day in order to provide enough for his children to eat a single meal every day. Child mortality was shocking and the life expectancy of the Haitian people rivaled nothing I had ever seen or heard before. Yet, I celebrated & worshiped with my fellow Christians from Haiti & was so struck by their joy & generosity. The Church is alive & well in Haiti!

Amid the poverty & oppression, the death and hopelessness of this life, the Christians of Haiti shine with a light of Jesus that goes beyond the temporal sufferings of this world.

Leon has endured many sufferings in his commitment to Jesus. Possessing a keen mind & very sharp intellect, Leon has been offered a number of ministry opportunities here in the US, yet he maintained his single minded vision of serving the Lord in his own country. Leon’s wife, Jackie, was kidnapped & held for ransom some years ago… he has suffered illness & poverty, lack of resources, exploitation by the government & threats from those opposed to the Church, yet, the Church of around 100 has grown now to well over 1000. Leon has helped the Church establish a Christian school, and has founded a network of support for hundreds of orphans to receive food, clothing, shelter, education & love in a Christian environment.

Cite Soliel is translated to mean “City of the Sun”. I have seen the light of their sun, and it outshines that of many in the American Church, which has become shaded by stained glass and the trappings of material possessions and inward focused programs. Amid the poverty & oppression, the death and hopelessness of this life, the Christians of Haiti shine with a light of Jesus that goes beyond the temporal sufferings of this world. So much so, that they continue to sacrifice in order to send young men to the US to attend Bible College and receive training to serve as evangelists & missionaries.

My point in all of this? Haiti needed assistance before the earthquake, and they certainly need it now. Our congregation is currently planning a special offering on Superbowl Sunday and we will send that donation, earmarked for use as Haitian earthquake relief, through I.D.E.S. (International Disaster Emergency Service) because 100% of the funds go to the effort. Many other groups eat up large amounts with their overhead, and we have a long standing relationship of trust with I.D.E.S. which confirms their responsible handling of such matters. Please pray for the Haitian people, and those presently providing relief to them. Your role in providing relief cannot be underestimated, and I’d encourage your prayerful consideration in our efforts on their behalf.

For a little additional reading, you may want to check out the following article:
Busted: 5 Myths of Disaster Relief

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