Monthly Archives: December 2009

“I’ll Be Home for….After New Year’s”

By the way, did you know that Walter Kent, one of the writers of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was Jewish? I guess “I’ll Be Home for Hanukkah” just didn’t flow as easily, much like the title of this post doesn’t.

Anyway, I feel like we haven’t spent much time together lately. It’s like somebody pushed the “warp speed” button and I’m stuck in slow motion so I’m desperately trying to keep pace. Eventually I’d like to clean out my list of blogs to read, emails to write and send, pictures to download, and insert everything else I need to do in this space, but that will probably have to wait a little longer. We’re packing up the minivan and we’re headed to Kentucky later today to have Christmas with K’s family.

True confession: I just cleaned out in the van in preparation for our trip. (I don’t know why, but I insist on starting the trip with a completely clean vehicle, even though I know by the time we get back it will be trashed again.) I pulled out one garbage bag full of trash and a plastic storage container and a half full of miscellaneous stuff that belongs inside. Who drives around like that?! I had just cleaned it out two weeks ago!! And the stuff I found under seats and crammed in those little back-of-the-seat pockets?! *Shudder* Let’s just say I made a mental note to not visit my boys’ dorm rooms when they go to college.

So now I have packing to do, lists to write, other lists to check, children to motivate, and on and on. I would like to check in while we’re gone, but K’s mom has no internet access at all. On the one hand, I’ll probably feel a little twitchy the first few days, but on the other hand, it may be nice to go unplugged for awhile. I will have my phone so I’ll check email and Twitter when I’m able and we’ll be visiting other relatives who have internet access, so maybe I’ll talk to you before we get back home. If not, I hope you enjoy your week and I’l look forward to talking to you again in 2010!

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One Year Ago….MGO*

*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are the posts I’m writing as I struggle with my dad’s death.

A year ago last Friday we had just arrived in town to celebrate Christmas with my family.

A year and two days ago my dad was admitted to the hospital.  He had been having some unexplained symptoms for a month or so, but the doctors thought his problem was orthopedic or perhaps a pinched or damaged nerve. When he started throwing up while we were getting ready to go to church we knew that we were dealing with something much more serious. His family doctor agreed and told Dad to meet him at the ER.  The neurologist at the hospital ordered an MRI of Dad’s brain and saw “something.” I think this was the first day that I Googled “brain tumor.”

A year ago yesterday my dad had surgery to remove the “something.” After his surgery, the neurosurgeon sat with my mom, my brother, and me, and I heard the words “glioblastoma multiforme” for the first time. I didn’t Google it that first day. Dr. Nanda had told me more than I wanted to know.

I don’t intend on keeping a morbid account of every anniversary of every step of the journey we’ve traveled this last year. I only mention them because when I stop and remember the chain of events, I can’t believe that only a little over a year ago, my life was so very different.  I think about the me I was before cancer joined our family. I think about my family the way it was when my dad was here with us. So much is changed forever.

Several times I’ve wondered what I would have done differently if I’d known then what I known now. What would I say to the girl who was so excited about spending Christmas with her family? I’m not sure what I could have known that would have helped me navigate through the days that followed. Even had I known, I think I still would have had to “muddle through” last Christmas much like I’m muddling through this one. But we will muddle through.

Last Christmas my kids wrote a letter to Santa on Christmas Eve asking them to please deliver all of their presents to LSU hospital so their Papa could see them open them. And he did. We gathered together in a dreary, germy hospital room and had Christmas. I dug deep and overcame my avoidance of all things nasty and spread sheets on the floor for Santa to leave the loot. We traipsed over to the hospital in our pajamas Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought. Precious friends brought us a Christmas dinner and we served it buffet style on the empty, extra bed in my dad’s room. Was it ideal? No. Was it surreal? Yes. Was it what we wanted? No. But we were together. And you know what? Perspective is everything. This year we’ll be in our comfortable home, but my dad won’t be there.

Call it making the best of a less than ideal situation. Say it’s doing what you can with what you’re given. Attribute it to choosing to be happy when it doesn’t come naturally. But the fact of the matter was that Christmas came whether we were ready for it or not. It’s coming again this year whether we’re ready for it or not. And once again, we’ll all dig deep and count it all joy even when we don’t feel particularly joyful.

You know, that first Christmas didn’t seem ideal from our vantage point. Who wants to have a baby in a barn in the middle of a road trip? But I know that this Christmas, like every Christmas, like every day we live, has been written for us before we were ever born. Some days may seem like chaos or bad planning or just unfair, but I believe that God is intentional about every day he purposes for us to live.

I can’t go back and tell “the me that was” what to do, but I can offer you a word from someone who’s been to dark places this year. As you gather around your Christmas trees this year, look around at the precious faces of the people you love. I know many of you will be missing people you love like we will be, but make the most of the moments you have with the ones who are with you. Say what you need to say and don’t miss out on the opportunities of togetherness that this season affords.

And if your Christmas is “less than ideal”? If  you burn the pie crust or can’t find a Zhu Zhu pet in time…if you don’t get a decent picture of everyone around the tree because someone always has his eyes closed….if the “assembly required” takes all night and you don’t get any sleep on Christmas eve….if you didn’t get every corner of your house decorated perfectly…if you run out of Scotch tape before you run out of presents to wrap…..if you can’t be with the ones you love this year……dig deep and muddle through. Be intentional about what matters and let go of the rest. Search as if for treasure to find the peace and promise of Christmas that can only be found in the One we are celebrating.

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

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PRIMAL by Mark Batterson: A Book Review

“Our generation needs a reformation. Bu a single person won’t lead it. A single event won’t define it. Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living compassionately, creatively, courageously for the cause of Christ. This reformation will not be born of a new discovery, It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient. Something primal.”…..Mark Batterson

A couple of months ago, my blogger friend Stephanie emailed me to tell me about an opportunity to read and review Mark Batterson’s newest book Primal before it was released to the public. Those of you who have been here for awhile know that Mark’s book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is special to me because gave it to my dad to read three days before we found out about his first brain tumor. God used Mark’s words to encourage my dad and he drew great strength from that book in the initial days of his fight against cancer.

Initially I was excited about the opportunity to preview Primal. However, I agreed to read the book before Dad died. By the time I received the book, I quite honestly didn’t really want to hear much about what anyone had to say about anything. The book sat unread on my desk for a few weeks. But I’d made a commitment to review the book, so I finally picked it up a couple of days ago. From the outside, it doesn’t look like a very big book, but it’s very big on the inside. As always, Mark’s conversational writing style makes for an easy read even though the challenges he makes are anything but.

Once again, I am moved by the fact that not only does God see and know the state of my heart, He continues to send me what I need for where I am. I’ve talked often over the past few months about how my Dad’s illness turned my faith upside down and shook out all the extraneous pieces. I’ve told you how I felt like my faith had become a big, empty board and that in a lot of ways I felt like I was starting over as I sifted through what I truly believed. This book is like a primer that took me back to the very basics of what Christianity was meant to be. The subtitle of the book declares it to be “a quest for the lost soul of Christianity” and it truly is. This book struck a chord with me because the past few months have shaken me to my core as a Christian. More than ever, I’ve wanted to know what and who I am at that core.

Mark Batterson takes us back to what Jesus Himself told us was the greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He builds on this theme by breaking that verse into specific pictures of what that kind of love really looks like. Sometimes the most basic tenets of our belief become so familiar to us that they lose their meaning. The Bible verses on which we hang our stated understanding of our faith become words that might as well be written in a foreign language. In Primal, Mark Batterson reminds us to heed words that we know but then details how we actually should be living those verses in our lives.

The beginning of a new year seems to always cause us to look inward and backward in hopes that we will be more than we have been in the past. I would certainly recommend Primal as a first read of the year to help focus on what really matters about what Christians say they believe. I rushed through the book last week in order to finish it on time and I feel cheated. This book is a sit-down, gourmet, multi-course meal to be enjoyed with intimate conversation among close friends, not a choke-it-down-over-the-kitchen-sink-on-your-way-to-pick-up-the-kids-at-school junk food snack. That’s why I’m taking Primal with me on my road trip next week when I’ll have time to read it slowly and completely.

Primal was published by WaterBrook Multnomah and they graciously provided a copy for me to review (but I would have bought it anyway) and they didn’t tell me I had to like it (but I do). They did ask me to tell you that you can purchase  the book by clicking here.

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An Open Letter to Tim Hawkins

Dear Mr. Hawkins,

First, I want you to know that I think you’re one of the funniest guys I don’t know and I don’t know a lot of funny guys. I was excited to hear that you’ll be coming to my church for a comedy concert this weekend. It has always been a dream of mine to hear you sing “Chick-Fil-A” in person. Well, that’s not exactly true, but I am looking forward to it. For some reason, my husband is especially hoping you’ll sing “Things You  Don’t Say to Your Wife“. I’m sure a great time will be had by all when you’re here.

However comma Mr. Hawkins comma all is not sunshine and Christmas puppies between you and me. You see, Sunday night at our church’s Christmas program, my family saw an advertisement about your upcoming show. Specifically, we saw this video:

Do you know Bing Crosby, Mr. Hawkins? I’m guessing you don’t since he’s dead, but I’m sure you’re familiar with his work. He really knew his way around a Christmas song, didn’t he? “Mele Kalikimaka,” “White Christmas,” “Adeste Fidelis” (That’s Latin for “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but I guess you knew that since you speak Latin, being from “a homeschool family” like you are.)–these are songs that I look forward to hearing every Christmas season. They just feel like home. And until yesterday afternoon, Mr. Hawkins, I always looked forward to hearing Bing Crosby sing “Do You Know What I Hear.”

But do you know what happened yesterday afternoon?  Let me tell you. When we piled into the minivan and turned on the radio, Bing’s rendition of “Do You Hear” was playing. Thankfully, we’d missed the “tail as big as a kite” part, but do you know what happened right after Bing crooned, “Let us bring him silver and gold”? As if they had practiced and in perfect unison, my three children called out, “How ’bout a blanket?! How ’bout some soup?! The child’s shivering in the COLD!” My oldest son even threw in the “throw some gold on him; he’ll be fine; Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” line for good measure. At that moment a little Christmas magic died right there in that Honda Odyssey. It was just like when Frosty melted into a puddle after the magician took his hat away. I felt like Rudolph must have felt when he was not invited to participate in the reindeer games. (Are you crying yet?)

So, thank you, Mr. Hawkins, for ruining that Christmas classic for my family forever. From now on, whenever we hear “Do You Hear What I Hear,” we will be thinking of you. I certainly hope you’re proud of yourself. It’s almost enough to make me want to hear that “hippopotamus for Christmas” song instead. I said almost.

With great sadness and an overwhelming sense of loss,

Whimzie, Mother of Three

P.S. Please be sure to do the “Do You Hear” bit when you come this weekend so that song will be ruined for all the other families, too.

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Word of the Day: Mondegreen

I truly love a good mondegreen. Of course until yesterday, I didn’t know the proper terminology for when someone hears song lyrics as something other than what they actually are. For example, my college friend Sara recently told us in the comments that she used to hear “Lead On, O Kinky Turtle” when everyone was actually singing “Lead On, O King Eternal.”  My cousins used to hear “Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you” as “Every time you go away you take a piece of meat with you.”  You’re right, that makes no sense at all. That’s why it’s so funny!

Yesterday on the 22 Words blog, Abraham Piper posted a video of Joe Cocker singing “I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends” complete with captioning for “the clear-headed.” I’ve watched it five times now and every single time I end up snort laughing. Come on, watch it with me again:

And it’s still funny! Now it’s your turn to make me laugh. I want to hear your funniest mondegreen. I know you have at least one. Or maybe your kids have a really great one. If you don’t participate, I will post my own mondegreens from now until Christmas; yes, that’s a threat. Like this one: I am convinced that the Beach Boys are singing “Merry Christmas, Amy,” not “Merry Christmas, Baby” like the song title suggests. Listen closely next time you hear it. They are singing “Amy”!  Okay, your turn. (Too bad I didn’t post this on Monday so we could have Mondegreen Monday.)

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Of Birthdays and Christmas Productions (*MGO)

*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are the posts I’m writing when I need to work through the loss of my daddy. They are not light and fluffy.

Many parents tell their kids they can be anything they want to be, but I’m not convinced that all of them believe it. My dad did.

My dad was a minister of music in a large church.  November and December were two of his busiest months because they were focused on the church Christmas production. For over twenty years, Dad thought of new Christmas program ideas. He could have opted to coast through his last few years until retirement, but every year he would do his best to make that year’s presentation better than the previous year’s.  From singing Christmas trees to a live nativity scene complete with camels to angels flying through the worship center, every Christmas program was special. People from all over the community would come every year to see what new and exciting things our church had planned. Dad knew that many people will come to a church Christmas program who may never come to any other service all year so he wanted to be sure that every year the message of Jesus and how He changes lives was always the central theme.

Some time in the late summer or early fall of 1999, Dad told me that he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for Christmas that year. He shared a few ideas he had and we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about them. To make a point about one of his ideas, I told Dad about a story I had made up on my commute to work. As long as I can remember I’ve had stories in my head. They entertain me when I’m bored.  At the time I was working as a nurse in a hospital that was about a thirty-minute drive from my home. Since I’m a part of the generation who watched MTV when, first, MTV had music videos, and second, the videos actually had a story that had to do with the song, I’m prone to making music videos in my head to songs I hear on the radio. So I told my dad about the latest music video/story that was appearing in my head because I thought elements of it might actually work with some of the ideas he was proposing for the Christmas program.

Now you need to understand that my dad wasn’t chatty, nor was he a gusher. He communicated what he wanted to say without any excess frills or flourishes. Therefore, I wasn’t terribly surprised when he listened to my story and then said nary a word. Did he like it? Hate it? Who knew? Understandably, I was extremely surprised when a few weeks later, during a conversation with our pastor, Dad told him that I would be writing an original Christmas drama for our production that year! Again, who knew? Certainly not me! I had written short skits before but never a full-length drama and especially never one on such a large scale. I started writing because my dad needed me to  and he believed that I could…although I had serious doubts. How did I know he really believed I could do it? Well, he had no Plan B. He staked his very reputation on a play that I hadn’t even written yet.

Writing that Christmas drama was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. I had some of the sweetest, most memorable meetings with God as I wrote a story, ironically enough, about a girl who was grieving the loss of her mom at Christmastime. I have the honor of knowing one of the most creative men who has ever lived–my friend Bobby–and he built one of the most amazing sets that I’ve ever seen, complete with an indoor ice skating rink! Then he even agreed to play the part of one of the main characters! What an amazing experience to hear my words come out of other people’s mouths! It was an incredible opportunity for me and that Christmas will always be one of my favorites. I don’t think that drama would win a Tony, but God did allow that little play to be the vehicle He used to bring people to Him.

Over the next few years, my dad and I did several other productions together. Besides the first one we did, I think my other favorite would have to be the last one we did together the Christmas before I moved to Massachusetts. My dad had already announced that he would be leaving the music ministry the next year so I knew that this could be our last musical production to do together. I had no idea that we’d never have another opportunity because he’d no longer be here, but somehow I knew that this was a special time that would never be repeated. It was a very emotional time for me, not only because I desperately wanted to make my daddy proud, but because I wanted to make sure that I made my heavenly Dad proud, too. In some small way, I wanted my part in making the Christmas production to be my gift to them. Again, the drama itself was just a drama, but God blessed me by allowing me to see people enter into a relationship with Him after seeing the Christmas program.

I’ve been thinking about those Christmas productions a lot the last few weeks. ‘Tis the season for Christmas practices and performances. A week or so ago “Welcome to Our World” was on the radio. That song was a major part of that first Christmas production and I spent some time reminiscing about set designs and practices and staying up late to get scenes just so. Last night I sat in our church’s worship center and watched our choir and music department present an inspiring presentation of Christmas and the blessing of this season. It was a beautiful program, but I couldn’t help but miss my dad. My oldest son sang in the children’s choir and I wished so desperately that his Papa were there to see him. I admired the beautiful set with the backdrop of stars that my dad had always talked about using one of these performances, but we just never did. He would have loved it. And I would have loved to have had the opportunity to do just one more Christmas program with him.

Today’s my dad’s birthday. It’s a tough day that follows a difficult weekend of missing him so much that I sometimes feel I can’t even breathe. But today, even through the tears, I’m celebrating that I had a dad who thought I could do things I didn’t believe I could do. It’s one thing to say you believe in your child; it’s quite another to take a huge risk to prove it. Never in a million years would I have ever done anything like that on my own, and I would have missed out on some of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I miss you, Daddy. I hope they have red velvet cake in heaven.

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Leftover Snoodlings: The “Yay, Lord” Verse

Leftovers are a funny thing. Some dishes, red beans and rice or chili for example, are actually a little better the second day. Others, like salads, just aren’t as good if they aren’t eaten the same day they were prepared. Well, today at Snoodlings I’m serving you leftovers because I have a long To Do List today and a short amount of time in which to complete it. Also, when we were talking about favorite Christmas songs I thought of this post I had written last year. I realized that I’ve made new friends since then who may not know about the “Yay, Lord” verse and I think that in order to fully enjoy Christmas, this information is vital. For those of you who’ve already read it, I hope it’s more like red beans and rice than Caesar salad. Bon appetit!

I love Christmas music. I usually try to wait until at least Halloween to start playing it, but I’ve been known to play a certain song or two in the middle of summer when I get an itch that only hearing it will scratch. I was so excited to discover that several radio stations up here actually begin playing Christmas music at the beginning of October rather than waiting until after Thanksgiving, so I’ve been “getting my Christmas on” in the car this month. I’ve also been getting some strange looks from fellow travelers. Did I mention that I love to SING Christmas music? Loudly and with animated expressions and hand motions when appropriate?  Side note: Isn’t it interesting that nativity scenes may not be allowed in public places, and stores may say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” but every Christmas-playing station I’ve listened to thus far has a number of openly Christian Christmas carols in their playlists?

Speaking of carols, I love it when we start singing Christmas carols in church. My favorite is “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but only if we get to sing my favorite verse.  What’s my favorite verse, you ask? You may not know it, because for some reason, it’s the verse that usually gets chopped.  It’s a crying shame, too, if you ask me, because this is the happiest, most exciting verse in all of hymnaldom (I made that word up). Just listen to how it starts:

YAY, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning!!! (I may have added the exclamation points, but they’re inferred in the song)

Before you nitpickers feel compelled to point out that the verse actually says, “Yea, Lord,” I need to point out that when I was a little girl hearing this verse for the first time, I didn’t hear “yea,” because I didn’t know what “yea” meant. I heard, “yay!” which blew my mind and thrilled my soul, because who knew hymn writers even said “yay!” back in the day? I couldn’t believe my ears! A hymn that you could cheer! And it stays upbeat as it continues to say that Jesus was born this happy morning! You just find me a more upbeat stanza in the hymnal! Go on, I dare you!  So of course, with happy, grateful hearts we follow that with:

Jesus, to thee be all glory given…

He certainly deserves all the glory and more!

Now the next part of the verse requires you to use your imagination just a little. Close your eyes–scratch that. You can’t read with your eyes closed. Just try to imagine with me a huge, heavenly movie or theatre marquee adorned with glittering jewels that defy description. And in enormous, majestic, diamond-encrusted, black letters are these words:

Word of the Father

Now in flesh appearing….

That’s what my mind saw when I first heard that verse. Like some heavenly birth announcement from a very proud Father who couldn’t wait to get the word out that His Son had arrived!  Or an announcement about the ultimate artist and (Morning) Star appearing for a limited engagement in the role of a lifetime! Isn’t that exciting?

Finish out the chorus with me:

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

O come, let us adore Him indeed!

So now, maybe you, too, will find yourselves a little bit annoyed when you sing this at church or hear it on a CD or the radio and you don’t hear the “Yay, Lord” verse. Just do what I do and go ahead and sing it in your head (or out loud if you just can’t keep it in!).

That’s all for now.  Maybe later we can talk about “Christmas Songs That Have Always Bugged Me.”  I immediately think of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Why around the Christmas tree? Isn’t that just asking for broken ornaments? Someone’s bound to trip on the electric light cords. Especially since everyone’s dancing merrily in the NEW old-fashioned way. I mean, if it’s a “new” way of dancing, it’s probably going to be unfamiliar and the chances of bumping into something will be even greater. What does that even mean, “new old-fashioned”? Is that just another way of saying “old school”? These are the things that keep me up at night….

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