--- Isaiah 40:31
“What are your favorite Christmas memories?” I asked my readers last week with the promise that I would post the best one. The stories that were submitted were so special that I wasn’t able to choose just one. So, here for your enjoyment are the favorite recollections of several readers.
From Deb Traverso of Falling Waters, West Virginia:
“I think I’ll sit this one out because my favorite Christmas tradition annoys my son. On a day in December when he least expects it, I crank up the stereo speakers and wake him to the joyful (and VERY loud) tunes of the Muppets singing the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” He always forgives me by at least 11 a.m., when he realizes I can make him lunch. It’s great fun.”
From Jana Sloan Hall of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
“Some of my fondest childhood Christmas memories are centered on the dime store nativity set in our living room. It had a light in the top for the star. Many evenings as my mother was preparing dinner and darkness filled the room my mother, brother, and I would gather around the nativity set and softly sing Christmas carols. It became a holy time. For us, God’s Incarnation was there in our living room. We were filled with awe and wonder. My brother treasures that little nativity set and puts it out each year in his home. I treasure my memories.”
From Twyla Boyer Hajdukiewicz of Long Island, New York:
“One of my favorite Christmas memories won’t bring any awards, but perhaps smiles and understanding. I was single, living in the Pittsburgh area, working full-time, singing in the church choir, and (as a single person) invited with some insistence to FOUR homes for Christmas dinner – two in the North Hills, one in the South Hills, and one in the Mon Valley. It would have taken about 8 hours of driving to go to all of them and though I loved each friend dearly, I wasn’t looking forward to rushing about and spending most of Christmas Day in my car. Well, it seemed God knew I needed rest because I started to come down with bronchitis, beginning Christmas Eve morning. It sounds terrible, but I was actually gleeful about it. I knew that with enough cough drops and Chloraseptic I could make it through Christmas Eve services and that I would have a very good reason to just stay home, which was what I really, really wanted to do. I called each friend and explained that I’d be unable to make it, went to the video store and rented five movies I’d been wanting to see, stopped at Boston Market and the grocery to buy enough Christmas dinner stuff to last a few days, made it to church and through the singing, then went home and spent all day on Christmas being a slug on the couch, watching wonderful movies (some rented, some on tv), sleeping whenever I felt like it, eating roasted chicken, stuffing, potatoes, spiced apples and pie whenever I wanted. It was totally peaceful, totally relaxing, and I enjoyed every second of my respite from the craziness of how the world does Christmas. I got to see my friends later, on different days over the course of a couple of weeks, allowing me to thoroughly enjoy my time with each one in a totally unhurried manner. It’s definitely not the stuff of Normal Rockwell, but it sure was nice for a year to be able to take Christmas off from everything.”
Thank you, Deb, Jana and Twyla for being my guests today on SOAR WITH EAGLES and for sharing your Christmas memories!
I wish all of my readers a wonderful Christmas. As we celebrate with our families and friends, let us remember the priceless eternal gift from our Heavenly Father – the birth of our Savior. Without the birth of Jesus Christ, not one of us would have the hope, the promise of spending eternity in heaven with God, our Father. While on earth, Jesus taught each one of us how to live according to God’s Will, and in doing so, our lives are rich no matter what our circumstances may be.
And so, this Christmas season, whether you face prosperity or hardship, know that God loves YOU so deeply and unconditionally that He has given you a gift that will never break, fade or tarnish. If you don’t know this blessed Jesus, I invite you to seek Him. He is right here, waiting for you. All you have to do is call His name and He will show you how to know Him.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Do you have a favorite Christmas memory? One you remember when you sit back with a cup of eggnog and think of past Yuletides? (I’ll bet you have more than one!)
My husband and I both love to recall a certain Christmas when we lived in Philadelphia. Our two sweeties were very little, and were filled with anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Being so young, they were also more than a little fearful that Santa, a stranger they only saw at the department store once a year, was coming inside their very own home.
After the Christmas Eve church service, Daddy Tim drove our little family home and directed me to take the wee ones upstairs and get them ready for bed. He would stay downstairs and get milk and cookies ready for Santa’s snack when the jolly elf arrived during the middle of the night. Sounded like a plan.
In various states of undress, our sweet ones had a total freakout and meltdown at the sound of jingle bells ringing in our kitchen. A leather strap lined with large sleigh bells hung on the door to our basement. Everytime we opened the basement door, they jingled. But this sound was no delicate, brief jingle. Nooo. It was loud and endless, as though Santa was already inside the house and his mission was to see how loud and long he could jingle those blessed jingle bells.
Amidst shrieks of fear and tears and outright screams of horror, someone (with a silly grin on his face, I’m certain) stood in the kitchen shaking the living bejebbers out of those bells and thinking he was oh, so clever. Unable to calm her babies, Mommy was getting more and more miffed.
“Daddy,” I called out sternly from the top of the stairs, “do you hear your children?” The jingling stopped.
“You need to come upstairs now and tell these children exactly who was ringing those sleigh bells if you expect anyone in this house to get sleep tonight!”
In seconds, a child stuffed inside my husband’s body appeared and tried his best to calm his children as the child within him giggled out the true explanation for the shaking of the sleigh bells.
“I’ll hide those bells next year,” I told the man-boy five hours later when the children had finally fallen asleep.
How would you like to share your favorite Christmas memory with us at SOAR WITH EAGLES? That’s right! Write a brief description using 500 words or less of your favorite Christmas in the ”Comments” section for this article. I’ll decide the winners and contact them to write their stories in more detail. Then you’ll see your special memory published here for all to enjoy. Don’t keep it to yourself! After all, this is the season for sharing. Oh, and make sure you tell me how to contact you.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
What is your heart’s desire? Everyone has one. It’s something you would love to have, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Come find out how God fulfilled Grandma Alice’s heart’s desire one special Christmas.
For my mother’s family, Christmas during the Great Depression was non-existent. By the time my mother was six years old, she and her siblings had never received a Christmas gift nor had a Christmas tree stood in their house. It wasn’t that Mother’s parents didn’t believe in celebrating Christmas. Rather, a severe lack of finances prohibited it.
As Alice went about her chores in the days following Thanksgiving, the celebration of Christmas weighed on her. She knew all too well that there was no money to buy a Christmas tree at the lot in town, so she didn’t bother to speak with her husband about that. No sense making Ed feel worse than he already did that he couldn’t purchase a tree let alone gifts for his wife and children. But there was someone whom Alice could speak with and she earnestly confided in Him.
All she wanted was to buy a Christmas tree for her children to enjoy and maybe a small gift for her husband and her children. It was alright if there was no money for a gift for herself. It was her family that she wanted to bless in a small way.
For days, Alice prayed for a miracle – for extra money to come to her and Ed. But now it was the week before Christmas and her prayers were unanswered. She knew that God hears and answers all prayers, sometimes saying “yes,” other times ”no” and at times “wait.” She wiped a tear and resigned herself that the answer to her request was a no, and she asked God to give her the grace to accept His Will.
As she worked in her kitchen, a thought came to her. Their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Martin, had a grove of pine trees on her farm. Fresh pine trees! And some of those pine trees would make perfect Christmas trees. Alice spoke to the Lord about those pines and her heart’s desire.
The next morning, she hurried into the kitchen and after mixing some yeast dough, she set it aside to rise. By the time breakfast was over and the kitchen cleaned, Alice worked her magic with the risen dough. Before her marriage, she had been a cook at a local hotel and was known far and wide for her excellent culinary skills.
When the cinnamon rolls were cool, Alice covered them with a cloth and put them in her market basket along with several dozen sugar cookies shaped like stars and a hatchet. Alice quickly glanced out the window. It was beginning to snow. She filled the cookstove with wood so the kitchen would be warm for her little ones, then gave the children some books to look at with the admonition to stay inside and away from the stove while she was gone. Ed was working inside the barn and wouldn’t be able to see her leave.
Pulling her worn coat around her, Alice hurried down the lane to the dirt road. Lowering her head against the biting wind, she realized that she’d forgotten her gloves but she was too far in the journey to go back.
Mrs. Martin opened her door and invited a snow-covered Alice to step inside, happy for the company. Alice handed the cinnamon buns and cookies to Mrs. Martin and asked if they could serve as payment for a small pine in the grove. Her four little ones had never had a Christmas tree, she explained.
Mrs. Martin looked at Alice in amazement. A recent widow, she, too, was suffering the effects of the Depression and was out of flour and sugar. The rolls and cookies were an answer to her prayer for some baked goods for Christmas.
It wasn’t easy chopping down a fresh pine with a hatchet, especially with the snow making the ground slippery, but God gave Alice a determined spirit. By the time she arrived back in their lane, the heavy snow was deepening and weighing down the pine. Alice’s fingers were numb and her stockings were in shreds as she prayed for strength to finish her task. It came in the form of her husband who rushed to her and took over pulling the heavy tree as four little faces, pressed against the kitchen window, watched.
After Ed shook the snow from the tree and carried it into the kitchen, he and the children filled the air with squeals of excitement.
That afternoon, Alice and the children sat at the table and made paper ornaments and strings of popcorn. Ed joined in, too, once the chores were finished. As Ed lifted the children to the top of the tree so they could hang the last of the decorations, Alice realized that even though life was difficult, God could be counted on to provide for them. And even a little extra like a heart’s desire.
What heart’s desire have you had that the Lord provided? Share it with us!
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Oh, Lord, my times are in your hands.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Good stories serve a purpose. While the objective of some stories is met immediately, the lesson of other stories can be years in the making. Such is the case with this story about my grandmother, Alice. Come with me as we visit my grandparents’ farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania.
A nip in the September air caused Alice to reflect that her four children had grown out of their winter coats, leggings and boots at the end of the previous winter. If the truth be known, the children outgrew the coats just as they fell apart from years of use by previous owners. Alice opened a canning jar that she kept hidden in a kitchen cupboard and counted the bills and coins it contained. There wasn’t enough to purchase winter clothing for one child let alone four.
With the Great Depression in full force, Alice and her husband Ed were having a difficult time making ends meet. As she so often did when adversity confronted her, Alice lowered her head in silent prayer. If there was anything good coming from such troublesome times, it was that Alice was learning to depend on the Lord to meet her family’s needs.
That afternoon as she hung laundry on the clothesline in the backyard, Alice turned her head and looked across the cornfield to the woods where several hickory trees grew at its edge. Their golden leaves made them easy to spot. She felt a strong urge to walk over to them and when she saw that the trees and ground were covered with an abundance of hickory nuts, an idea came to her. After filling her apron to overflowing with the nuts, she hurried home.
Each day, Alice and the children returned to the hickory trees and gathered the nuts. At night, they sat at the kitchen table by the light of an oil lamp and picked the nuts out of their shells. After weighing the nuts on a scale, each pound was poured into a small paper bag. It occurred to Alice that had she not followed the strong urging to walk over to the trees, she would never have thought of harvesting the nuts.
That Saturday, Ed loaded his wife, the bags of hickory nuts and a small wagon into the car and they drove into town. Ed drove to a residential area and after he unloaded the wagon, he and Alice filled it with the bags of nuts. Ed left as he had errands to do in town and Alice had a mission.
She pulled the wagon behind her as she went door to door seeking customers. It was now November and not only did she know that women were starting their Thanksgiving and Christmas baking, she also knew that hickory nuts were scarce due to the Depression, as were many things. In no time at all, Alice sold all of the bags for 25 cents each and even had several orders for more nuts.
For days, Alice and the children repeated the chores of gathering the hickory nuts, shelling, weighing and bagging them, and every Saturday, Alice walked through town and sold the nuts. When nature provided no more nuts, Alice counted her earnings. The harvest not only provided enough money to buy new coats, leggings and boots for all four of her children but much-needed winter coats and boots for Ed and her as well.
Because Alice faithfully turned to the Lord in the midst of her troubles, God always provided a way for Alice. He didn’t necessarily answer her prayers exactly the way she hoped or thought He would, but He answered in ways that were better than she could have imagined.
For as long as I can remember, my own mother relied on her faith and childhood memories to get her through the difficulties that visit a person’s life. And she loved to share these precious recollections with my siblings and me. Over 80 years later, when my own family and I found ourselves in the midst of severe misfortune, it was my mother’s stories about her parents’ faith and persevering spirit during hardships that provided examples for my husband and me.
When Christmas came and my husband and I had no money to buy presents for our own children or food for our usual feast, I thought of Grandma Alice and Grandpa Ed and I knew what I needed to do. I gathered our children close to me and explained that we already had the best presents – our love for each other and our faith that God would see us through our troubles. And just as He had done for my grandparents and parents, God faithfully provided for us.
What gifts are you giving your family? Are they tangible presents that are here today and gone tomorrow? Or will you pass on your faith which will last for generations?
“I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, because You saw my suffering; You knew my troubles.” Psalm 31:7.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Tell me the truth: were you thankful on Thanksgiving Day? Be honest! Did you make an effort to be deeply and sincerely thankful?
This year, I know I was deeply thankful. For the first time in three years, my family had a home of our own. Both of our children and our daughter’s boyfriend were able to be with my husband and me. And so were our neighbors, David and Jamie.
Thankfulness swirled through our house during the days leading up to Thanksgiving Thursday. So after our feast, when I asked David how he came to live in America, my family and I realized that we, like most Americans, have virtually no idea how truly thankful we should be.
David’s parents were from China originally. Christians, they fled to Saigon in southern Vietnam after the Communists took over China. There they settled and made a living and had David. In South Vietnam, David and his parents were free to come and go as they pleased, they were free to practice their Christian faith and they were free to work hard and prosper. They had a good life.
Then war broke out. The Tet Offensive rained military terror on Saigon. David remembers staying inside and keeping low to the ground as bullets whizzed through the walls and roof of his family’s home. After the Saigon offensive ended, he remembers that things got better with the presence of American soldiers. When the Americans rode through his neighborhood in trucks, the soldiers threw candy on the ground for the children. David and the other children loved when the American troops appeared because they were so friendly and kind.
In 1975, the war ended with the North Vietnamese Army as the victor. David remembers many people in Saigon trying to leave the country before the last of the Americans left.
“Why?” I asked him, wanting to hear the answer from someone who had actually been there and lived through this.
David explained that because the North Vietnamese were Communists, the people in South Vietnam knew that all of their freedoms were coming to a complete and abrupt end once power was firmly in the victor’s hand. They knew the new rulers would be ruthless in establishing their power.
Vietnamese who had worked closely with the Americans were quickly executed by the new rulers. David saw their brutalized bodies. They were tied to poles in towns and villages and along the roads for everyone to see the fate of traitors. After all, fear is a powerful weapon.
Others who had been friendly with the Americans received a knock on their doors in the middle of the night, Nazi-style. They were loaded into trucks, their abductions so quick and unsuspected that their money, jewelry, clothing were left behind.
Rather than being executed, these people were “relocated” to remote areas of Vietnam where they were forced to start their lives completely over. They were dropped off in the middle of nowhere with no housing, no tools, no nothing. In a desolate area, they were no threat to the new government.
What happened to their houses? Confiscated and given to people who were sympathetic to the Communists. A reward, a pay-off one might say.
Trucks filled with dead bodies drove through towns and villages. People who saw this were sickened and afraid but completely helpless. Anyone caught trying to leave Vietnam was arrested and put into Communist jail cells that gave new meaning to the word “barbaric.”
David is very bright and wanted to attend a university, but only those whose families were part of the Communist government were allowed to attend. The Communists obliterated the middle class. Suddenly, there were only two classes: the rulers and the others.
David explained that in communism, everyone is equal except for the ruling class. Everyone has the same income and possessions except for those in power and they have more. A lot more.
I think of our national news and I know I need to get on my knees and pray. What do you think?
Please pray daily for our country.
“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are brought down. The Lord loves those who are right and good.” Psalm 146:8.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More