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Christmas 2007 in Review

Christmas Ham, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.
A departure from tradition found us with no turkey and dressing at our Christmas dinner, but we suffered little, for this delectable ham held its own as a tasty entree. I cooked the dinner on Christmas eve while Steve and Dearrah were still with us. Rebecca joined us as did our dear friends, the Patrick Garrett family.

As a Christmas gift, Mike and Mel had given me the fine Shun knife you see Jerry using here to slice the ham. It is a wonderful knife–the finest I have ever owned–and when I first used it I was astonished at the difference between it and the one I had formerly called my best knife.
I must have got carried away when I fashioned the yeast rolls, because they turned out big as turnips. Yummy, though…hot and yeasty. Slathered with butter, they approached perfection.
Everyone was at the table, ready to eat, except for Rebecca and Steve, when I heard a commotion in the kitchen and went there to find this sight. I had already caught Steve snagging and eating a roll a few minutes earlier.
It was a wonderful day, the weather was warm as I have mentioned before, and before bedtime, everyone had gone. Rebecca and Nathaniel had planned to spend the night, but when she went down the hill to pick him up, the wind  was howling so that she was afraid to drive back up the mountain in the dark, for we always have rock slides during such weather and it can be quite dangerous.
So, after a wonderful Christmas Eve of eating and visiting, Jerry and I tucked outselves into bed. Roaring winds blew, the full moon shined through our high bedroom window, and I lay awake a bit thinking of my blessings, of my gifts, and of my richness.
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The Secret of Santa

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Susan Dahl had spent four months homeless in Colorado and just been on a harrowing 10-hour bus trip through sleet and snow. Hungry and broke, all she wanted to do was get back to family in Minnesota.

That’s when a tall man in a red coat and red hat sat next to her at the downtown bus station, talked to her quietly and then slipped her $100 on that recent December afternoon.

For years, Larry Stewart had been a secret Santa, for it was only last year that he revealed his identity.  His appearance has always been quite different from that of an ordinary Santa. This is his picture…but earlier this year at the age of 58, he died from cancer. Through the years in his secret way, he had given away over one million dollars. Anonymously he walked the streets, rode buses, saw people in need and handed out $100.00 dollar bills.

more hereand here.

Now other people have taken up the joyful task, and are walking our world handing out joy.

“There was this fella named Larry Stewart,” one of the new Santa’s tells a man in the bus station. “He was an old friend of mine. He was called Secret Santa, and every year he would find a few people who might need a little money and he would ask that you pass on the kindness.”

People respond differently to the gesture. Some cry. Some scream. A rare few even say “No thanks.”

Others take the money and offer their own gifts, like Robert Young, who was homeless and had only 20 cents in his pocket. When Secret Santa gave him $200, Young, 50, took out an old notebook and ripped out a song he had written.

“It’s yours now,” he told Secret Santa, who thanked Young, and carefully tucked the pages into his pocket.

The new Secret Santa has also started a Web site, and is trying to recruit other Secret Santas across the country. “Larry’s dream was for a Secret Santa in every city,” Kansas City’s Santa said.

There are now a couple apprentices, with more candidates turning up all the time. But, he says, you don’t have to be willing to hand out money to be a Secret Santa.

“Anyone can be a Secret Santa,” he says. “You don’t have to give away $100. You can give away kindness. Help someone.”

What say we join this club? Maybe it will be money you hand around, maybe it will be a plate of cookies, or a simple gift, or a chunk of time to sit beside a hospital bed. Secret Santas…the spirit of Christmas.

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Sage Sings in Church

Those who read here often know how fond I am of my family, and I suppose if I’m not careful I speak too much of us and of our accomplishments. Lots of preachers in our family, lots of church activities, but I’m ready to show you now one of our failures: We’re abysmal at creating videos. Although I’m not a YouTube or any other video- viewing- expert, I’m judging this one as surely one of the worst ever produced.

Why then am I posting it on my striving-always-for-excellence site is the obvious question. Because the video was taken at Hilltop Tabernacle in Chula Vista and is of my great-granddaughter, Sage Buxton. She is four years old and the video records her first time to sing a solo in church.

I couldn’t understand a word she was saying until I saw that the name of the song is Wasn’t That a Mighty Day When Jesus Christ was Born. After that piece of understanding I can now pick out a few words. It’s a terrible video. It’s a gorgeous video. When you see it, you will agree with me that Sage has a beautiful voice, and a precise sense of timing. You will agree that Sage is beautiful. You will agree that her smile is captivating. You will agree that I made the right decision to post this video on my blog. You will agree that our family needs to stick with writing, preaching, teaching, cooking supper and doing laundry–not producing movies. 🙂

I’m sorry, but it seems the only way to see this video is to follow this link. I told you we don’t know what we’re doing…or maybe we do…not at all sure.

Sage Buxton singing on YouTube

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Presents Don’t Get Any Better Than This

“Shirley.”

“Yes?” I answered a few minutes ago.

“Did you read about the young man who just found his mother he had never known?”

“No, where is the story?”

The story is here and is one of the most beautiful and touching you will ever read.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steve Flaig worked as a delivery truck driver at one of the Lowe’s stores in the area. He was 22 years old, and had known from the time he was small that he was adopted. At the age of 18 with the full support of his adoptive parents he began to search for his biological mother.

There must have been some early Christmas spirit flitting around for last October after doing research through the agency that arranged his adoption, he learned his mother’s maiden name.

He typed “Tallady” into a search engine and came up with an address on West River Drive less than a mile from the Lowe’s store.

He mentioned it to his boss, and she said, “You mean Chris Tallady, who works here?” He was stunned.

For two months, Steve kept the information, secretly looking at his mother as she worked, and contemplating how to share this news with her. He was cautious, not knowing if she would be open to such a revelation. Finally last week, he went to the adoption agency and told them of the situation. As Steve sat there, one of the social workers called his mother and told her she had information about her son.

“The first thing that crossed my mind is something was wrong with him,” she said. Was he sick? Did he need a blood transfusion?”

“And then she said, ‘Christine, he works with you,'” Tallady recalled. “It was a shock. I started crying. I figured he would call me sometime, but not like this.”

She sobbed a lot that day, tears of joy. Flaig called her later that day, and last Friday the two, who until then had occasionally said “hi” as coworkers do, met at the Cheers Good Time Saloon near the store. They hugged, sat and talked for 2 1/2 hours.

From the Grand Rapids Press 

On Tuesday at work, they hugged again. Yes, there really is a spirit of Christmas. Yes, wonderful and touching moments such as these do graze our senses from time to time. Yes, there is love in the world, and healing for long-ago hurts, and joy and connection and sweetness and light. Chimes yet play, sparkling lights glisten, and, I promise, angels still sing.

Christmas presents don’t get any better than this.

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The Picture Room

The room is upstairs and is a modest but nice one–has a sliding glass door that opens to a small balcony above our back yard, with a view through towering connifers to distant mountain ridges. No doubt the room was designed to be a bedroom, but when Jerry and I moved into our home in Crestline, we didn’t need all those five bedrooms (except when our whole clan is there, and then we need more) so we set aside that particular room to be the Picture Room. It’s neat to display our albums, plus the hundreds of sorta-kinda-at-one-time-orderly-boxes of loose pictures that the children and grandchildren from time to time paw through. In that room are pictures of my mom and dad when they were young and handsome and Jerry’s beautiful mom and dad and his grandparents and my grandparents and our babies and school pictures and funny-looking hairdos and the studio pictures Jerry and I exchanged in Tulsa before we were married. Hundreds of slides are slotted in black carousels and stacked yea-high and vacation journals are wedged side by side in the large shelves, and in that room also, we keep souvenirs that we have accumulated from our travels…and from our lives. Our marriage certificate is there, as are Jerry’s ordination papers and his teaching credentials and college year books and special notes we treasure.

The Picture Room. If I were home now, instead of being here in Lake Havasu in my motor home, I would take my camera and go up the stairs and click off a couple of shots to show you. Once when I was in an antique shop, I sighted a large weathered board with the word SOUVENIRS scribed on its greyed and rough surface. I must have it, and now it hangs over a blue sofa in our picture room. A perfect piece, it appears to have once stood outside a waterfront shop somewhere (when I go home for Christmas I will snap its lovely aged face and show you.)

The Picture Room…when we were away from our home and heard of threatening fires–has happened to us twice now in recent years–my immediate thoughts were of the picture room. For of all the treasured possessions in my home, these are the most valued of all. They are priceless and irreplaceable.

Now comes this wonderfully informative article that speaks to “cutting-edge” picture technology. I know you will want to read it–has neat ideas.

From the Best Ways to Create Digital Family-Photo Albums

by Jennifer Openshaw

Digital key chains. Start small! For as little as $20, you can get a digital key chain to display a series of 1.5-inch images. Give one with a stack of padded envelopes and a promise to update it monthly for a favorite family member. Digital photo frames. A novelty last year, digital photo frames are now mainstream. You can get big ones, up to 15 inches, and a growing feature set, including editing tools, wireless uploads and even the ability to email your latest images to someone else’s frame. My favorites, for picture quality and features, include lines from Kodak and Philips. Standard frames are generally $100 to $200, while the wireless models hit the mid-$200s. They’re much cheaper than a year ago, and if you’re inclined to put it off another year, they’ll get cheaper yet. GPS mapping tool. It’s easy to know and show when you took a particular photo, but how about where? For that big cross-country trip, wouldn’t it be nice to look at a map and connect photos to the place they were taken? Wouldn’t it be nice to organize photos by location instead of just date and time? The Sony GPSCS1KA does just that. The key chain GPS receiver records your locations over a period of time. Then, using supplied software and date/time stamps on your pictures, it connects each picture to a set of GPS coordinates. The software places map pins on a Google map corresponding to each picture. Mouse over the map pins and you’ll see your picture from that location. Online sharing sites. Photo sharing sites have been around for a while. The latest and greatest in this space is Flickr, operated by Yahoo, as the new way in sharing sites. In their own words, they are the “WD-40 that makes it easy to get photos from one person to another in whatever way they want.” I’ll let you check out the details, but it’s pretty cool.

Read all of this great article here.

The face of pictures rooms is changing, and while such progress is inevitable and certainly desirable, there is just something about pulling down albums from the shelf, sitting flat on the floor, back pushed against the couch and staring into the faces of long-ago kin. There’s something connective about the musty whiff of aged images, whose slightly familiar eyes stare back–solemn and unblinking.

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Wrapping Up Christmas

A Christmas Bow, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

There have been times when, dead on my feet, at the striking of the midnight hour on Christmas eve I stood wrapping gifts, digging out bows from plastic bags, scribbling on tiny gift tags, hoping my supply of tape would not fail me, and trying, for a few more hours, to maintain some semblance of the Christmas Spirit. My ideal for late Christmas nights does not include such stress, and I certainly don’t want the wrapping of gifts for my loved ones to be merely a taxing chore through which I must plow before I can get on to the next scheduled round of holiday reveling and merrymaking. I’m of the mind that the trappings of Christmas should in no way swallow up authentic joy and the genuine celebration of the birth of Jesus.

On Thursday last, I shopped for the final gifts, and in the evening, I wrapped them. Although I admit that wrapping a large number of gifts is a tiring task, at the same time that simple chore fed me a glittering dose of pleasure. A little room that we call the game room opens off the balcony overlooking our living room and there, besides boxes of games, checker boards, and the like is a piece of cabinetry where I store wrapping paper, bows, and gift boxes. A square antique table, whose weathered surface we don’t worry about has been the scene of many a rowdy family game, and I use that table on which to place the gifts for wrapping.

Throughout the year it’s neat to have a spot where the wrapping materials are easily accesible and I often leave out this basket of ribbons. I must admit it doesn’t always look this neat in the little room , and if I were more honest, I would have taken pictures when I was up to my neck in paper and ribbon scraps, and the cupboard drawers were sprawled open and the floor was littered with plastic bags and the waste basket was overflowing…or when the grandkids don’t put back the games, and puzzle pieces are scattered all over and Chinese checker marbles are rolling around underfoot. Some day I might snap a few pictures when Chloe and the boys take over the room to wrap presents for their parents or to devise very special decorations for whatever season is in vogue.

 

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Taken in (See more photos here)

But I digress. A hot fire roared in our fireplace on Thursday’s holiday evening as I wrapped the presents and thought of my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and how blessed I am to have so many of them. Christmas carols played over our stereo unit and Jerry sat in his easy chair before the fire. Finally I was finished. I sorted the gifts by families, and set some at the top of the stairs. These we would bring back to Lake Havasu for our family here. The rest of them I placed on the piano that sets a mere few feet from the game room. I left the angels among the gifts, and after a while I lighted candles and looked…and thought…and cried a little…for my family, for Jesus, for candles and love, and for the spirit of Christmas.

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Unforgettable Birthday Present

It was a little girl’s birthday and her father was in Iraq. At least that’s what she thought. Click here to see a short video of the present he prepared. During a school assembly with everyone watching, she opened the gift box and her dad stepped out. Isn’t that the neatest thing.

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Eggs of Striking Chiseled Design

Over at piclicious mini photoblog I found these images, and they immediately snagged my interest, for you will see they are eggs that have been intricately chiseled with striking designs. These are amazing pieces of art, and I am sorry that I was not able to determine either the name of the artist or of the photographer. I would appreciate knowing that information so that I can credit these talented people.

Displayed in a collector’s cabinet in my Crestline home, is my own modest collection of decorated eggs. The first picture you see here, whose image I believe I have posted before, was a gift to Jerry and me for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was painted by a dear friend, the late Carolyn Meyers. It is a treasured possession, not only because of its beauty, and because it was a gift for a special occasion, but because it reminds me of Carolyn, who died as a fairly young woman.


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When I observe the results of such thought and technique, I gaze again into the remarkable mystery of the mind of man.

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Rod-Straight Parenting

Can you hear me clapping over here? https://i1.wp.com/www.krane.net/walt/art/hatsCelebration.jpgIs that confetti flying through your screen and can you see my party hat?

A modern-day father has shown his backbone! Yes!

The Softpedia story was revealed on EBay when, after discovering his son smoking pot in the backyard, a father decides, as punishment, to sell the Christmas present he had bought for the son. Calin Clabel reveals some of the dad’s statements:

“So I was so relieved in that I had finally got the Holy Grail of Xmas presents pretty much just in the nick of time. I couldn’t wait to spread the jubilation to my son. Then, yesterday, I came home from work early and what do I find? My innocent little boy smoking pot in the backyard with 2 of his delinquent friends.”

“I thought I could still justify getting him this present. Maybe it would make him stay home more and ‘rock out’ on this fake guitar thing. He pretty much spends all his free time at his friend’s house playing it anyways (while high on marijuana, I would imagine”

“After I caught him getting high on my patio I did the typical yelling, screaming, kicking out the friends, etc… but I had not decided on a suitable way to punish him. As of the time of me writing this, he does not know I got him Guitar Hero 3. I will show him the auction once it is posted and we can watch it finish together. Sort of a “‘Father-Son bonding experience'”

Unfortunately, this dad’s actions flies in the face of the norm for 21st century culture here in the United States. What do you think? Is that action too harsh? After all, it is Christmas. Could he have chosen a better way to discipline his son? Will this make his son bitter and more likely to rebel further?

I told you my thoughts in my opening lines. What are yours? Be brave now.

Image of painting from Walter Kane at Google images

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Trust Fund Set for Alexis Goggins

Breaking news says that because of one of the the bullets taken in her brave body, Alexis indeed will lose an eye, and as early as tomorrow she willl have surgery to have a prosthetic eye implanted. Although she is slipping in and out of consciousness, her condition remains stable, and indications are that she will survive this tragic event.

Messages of concern, accolades and offers of help have poured in from around the world. According to the Detroit News, a trust fund–a hero’s trust fund– has been set up by her school through Comerica Bank.

Checks should be made out to the Alexis Goggins Hero Fund and sent to Campbell Elementary School in care of the Alexis Goggins Hero Fund, 2301 E Alexandrine St, Detroit, MI 48207.

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My devotional blog is here.