Friday, 30 December 2011

“These are a few of my favourite things…”

I have just had one of the best Christmases ever!

Maybe I tried harder to make it successful? But after my crumbly November I don’t think I put any more effort into planning than usual.

The weather helped, it was certainly more favourable for travelling than last year – last year we had snow and fog.

What truly made Christmas special was it contained my three most important elements – Family, Friends and Faith, all in perfect measure.

We spent a whole week with my parents, normally unheard of at this time of year.  We had plenty of time to relax and unwind.  I enjoyed eating but not having to cook.  Most mornings my dad brought me a cup of tea and even toast in bed – bliss!  The boys got to spend time with their grandparents and their great grandmother.

My brother and his three year old son joined us for Christmas day.  The excitement of a little one running around is infectious.

I also saw and spoke to extended family, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“Your auntie said you seemed bubbly.” Was a report I got back.  It’s good to let them see I’m doing well.  They are of the generation that don’t read blogs.  Although one cousin I saw said she does and another confessed he hadn’t … so far …

As well as seeing family during our time away I managed to catch up with friends; an old school friend popped by to drop in a Christmas card, I visited another friend and her family, we try to meet up as much as we can.  We have both enjoyed watching our families grow over the years.  Her oldest daughter is now the same age we were when we fist met!  The youngest daughter is particularly affectionate, always giving me a hug and begging me to stay longer and visit them more – or even buy the house down the road from them that’s for sale! 

We made a special journey to see a friend who had recently had a baby.  A glowing new mother, a proud father and their tiny first born child, joy and hope at Christmas, a tangible reminder of our Saviour’s birth and the reason to celebrate.

On Christmas Eve I went with my parents to the midnight service in the church I went to as a child.  Familiar faces greeted me and we rejoiced together at the coming of the new born King.  I thought of friends back home doing the same.  It seemed like all of Christmas was wrapped up perfectly and presented with beautiful bow.

Andrew was not forgotten in everything.  All of us, friends and family alike, remembered him fondly.  Both boys have so many characteristics of their dad that we often made comments about the way they smiled or the things they said.

I shed a few tears on Christmas day – it was Dr Who that set me off - “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” hmmmm, lovely story but tinged with sadness. Youngest son snuggled closer on the sofa beside me and I held him just that tiny bit tighter.

Today we get to do Christmas all over again – well in a fashion.  We are going to celebrate Christmas with Andrew’s side of the family.  With Andrew’s work shifts it’s never been odd for us to have two Christmases!  There are more presents under the tree, more laughter and memories to be shared.

So I’d better get a move on then because I have a dining table to clear of clutter if we are going to sit down and eat this evening…

Happy Christmas – all over again!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Home is where the Heart is

“So you’ve come home for Christmas,” said my aunt as a matter of fact.

The fact that I have not lived with my parents or even lived in that area of the country for half my life completely immaterial.

But she is of course completely right.  This was the only place I wanted to be for Christmas, surrounded by my loving family - therefore it must be home!

However yesterday while driving back again, after a whole week away, I got excited by the sight of another familiar landscape.  I smiled, thinking “It’s so good to be back home!”

It is true what they say home really is where the heart is.

Some words of the Christmas carols stood out this year in a way they never have before.  They speak not only of Jesus’s birth but also of his heavenly home where he is leading us.  His home on earth was only temporary.

I thought a lot of Andrew as I sang those words and pictured him in his heavenly home with Jesus and all those who have gone before.  It’s comforting to imagine Andrew being safe, at home, waiting for me to join him – one day - hopefully way into the future from my perspective!  

My heart and my home forever joined.

On Christmas Day I posted the words of the first verse of Away in a Manger.  These are the words of the final verse…

Be near me Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Those words make a good prayer anytime of the year.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Emmanuel = God with us

"Mary gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger" Luke 2 v 7

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky look down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Bits and Pieces

Not much time to write with all the Christmas festivities going on but after writing about our version of the nativity I thought I'd share a few more ways to tell the wonderful story os Jesus's birth...

First the rapping vicar, a Bible reading with a difference.

Bethlemhemian Rhapsody the Christmas story told by puppets to the tune of Bohemiem Rhapsody. 

And fianlly the social network ChristmasWhat would have happened if Mary and Joseph had Facebook!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's only fair

This morning was almost like a rehearsal for Christmas Day in our house.  It is youngest son’s birthday and last night he had the traditional birthday sleep-over. 

At 4.30 this morning there were 3 boys awake and bouncing on the beds.  My darling second child had already unwrapped his cards and presents from his friends.

“It’s only half past four!”  I sternly admonished them.

They pleaded innocence to the early hour.

“Back to bed and back to sleep!”

I switched off the light leaving the loft in silence and went back to find my own duvet in hope of getting a bit more sleep myself.

Seven o’clock is a far more respectable hour but I managed to convince them the Lego needed tidying downstairs before we even contemplated opening more presents and making more mess!  Thus giving myself a few extra minutes in bed before reluctantly getting up and dressed.

We had a birthday breakfast this year to capitalise on the fact his birthday falls in the school holiday.  Next year it doesn’t.  It also gave us a chance to catch up with our close friends before we scatter to celebrate Christmas with our families.

Now when his big brother was fifteen, only eleven days ago, I wrote a post all about how wonderful he was.  In the spirit of fairness I suppose I had better write a glowing report about youngest son too!

What can I say? 

He is lively, determined, argumentative, extremely bright, creative, persuasive, practical, sometimes helpful, often challenging and amazingly loving.  He is great at solving problems but asks the most awkward of questions.

Some of his characteristics have come straight from his dad and at other times I can see so much of me in him it’s frightening.

He knows EVERYTHING there is to know about Star Wars and Lego.  Merlin and Dr Who would also be excellent specialist subjects for him if he went on Junior Mastermind – I really need to find out how to apply.

As a baby we called him Limpet as he was very clingy.  He still is my most demonstrative and tactile child giving lots of kisses and cuddles – but only to his mother.  It is those kisses and cuddles that have frequently sustained me and I treasure our closeness.  Even yesterday as we shopped for today’s breakfast goodies he held my hand.  Having someone to physically hold when you have lost a husband is a precious gift.

So now my youngest is twelve, a big boy at secondary school.  I am pleased with the way he has settled in to this new stage of his life.  Andrew always worried so much about him but he is growing up and facing many different experiences admirably. 

I am proud of him beyond words and truly blessed to have both of these very special young men in my life.

There was no time to make him a cake this year but here is a picture of the Wise Man T-shirt I made him for the nativity.  He was Isaac Newton and with some help from his friends he wrote their part of the script Talented beyond belief - did I mention how he takes after his mother!!!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Challenge of This Year’s Nativity

It all started fairly innocently at a friend’s house.  A group of us sat round the table having just eaten, children merrily playing in another room.

We were discussing the up and coming Nativity play which I was going to organise.

“I bet you can’t add in a skateboard, a ventriloquist’s dummy and three parsnips.”  Challenged one friend.

Then another friend, who is French, decided with typical French flair that I should also add in the line “Vive la France!”

Now both of these “friends” are newcomers to our little group and I don’t know if they quite expected where this would lead.  But I took this on as my personal mission.

After many sleepless nights – only joking – I came up with a plan and a script which not only included all the required elements from above but a few extra props, jokes and lines to make all the children happy…

We started with Mary on her laptop updating her Facebook status to “in a relationship with Joseph the Carpenter”.

Then Angel Gabrielle appears (there are never any boys that want to be Angel Gabriel) to tell Mary the good news.  Mary sends Joseph a message via Facebook or phone or email.

Joseph is too busy in his workshop making a SKATEBOARD but eventually the message gets through and he skates over to Mary’s side.

Obviously a SKATEBOARD is not big enough to carry the happy/bemused/holy couple so Joseph goes back to the workshop to make something bigger.

They are pulled around the church in a trolley (not a supermarket one – no one had a pound coin to borrow one – that’s a new joke I’ve just thought of, file that away for another year!).  The music to accompany their journey is Fleetwood Mac – The Chain, not the singing bit but the instrumental at the end used in the Grand Prix. 

Oldest son, who rarely accompanies us to church these days, was coerced into pulling the trolley round with the diminutive Mary and Joseph inside but he refused to wear the donkey ears suggested by youngest son!

When they get to Bethlehem they find an innkeeper who has no room but a garden shed round the back which they gladly accept.  In the corner of the shed is the manger where the SKATEBOARD is deposited.

Now out on this cold, dark night are some shepherds – well make that one shepherd and his puppet Nehemiah – it was the nearest we could get to a VENTRILOQUIST’S DUMMY.  They are discussing supper – PARSNIP soup AGAIN as that is the only vegetable available. 
The angels arrive to share the good news and the shepherd and angels walk round the church to the sound of The Proclaimers singing “I Will Walk 500 Miles”.  When they reach the garden shed they give Mary a gift of a PARSNIP.

“Just put in over there in the manger with the SKATEBOARD.” Suggests Mary.

Now I had very little responsibility over the Wise Men scene as youngest son and his friends wrote it…

Our three wise men were, Albert Einstein in a white lab coat, Isaac Newton in a T-shirt saying “Down with Gravity” and Stephen Fry in a shirt, tie and tweed jacket!

Their gifts were a little unconventional too, a Lego Star Wars Death Star, a chocolate cake and almost sticking to the original story they discussed taking Frankincense, they knew it was something that smelled nice so they opted for a bottle of shampoo called VIVE LA FRANCE. 

Along with a star, a camel and all the angels who wanted to go round again, they processed, ran and danced round church to “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys.  We have a new vicar and I’d been told they are his favourite band and it seemed fitting for these men from the east.

Once more the gifts were left in the manger to one side.

And that was the first Christmas.

Only we have one little girl who couldn’t decide who she wanted to be this year so at the end she came on carrying a baby doll.

“You’ve missed someone out.”  She quietly told me.

Apart from her, I assured her that I had added everything I needed for the perfect Nativity and more besides.

“But you missed out Jesus.”

So we took out the Death Star, the cake and the shampoo.  We removed the parsnip and the skateboard.  The manger was placed centre stage and the angels busied themselves making a bed for the baby Jesus.

We all get so busy planning the best Christmas ever, getting the right gifts bought and wrapped, all the food, seventeen vegetables to accompany the Christmas turkey, a tree, tinsel co-ordinated baubles and lights.  Sometimes we forget what it is all about and how it all started with a baby, so tiny and helpless, yet he was God’s own son.

Without Christ there is no Christmas – I hope you get some time to remember that at this busy time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Why I’m Wild about Harry – my Strictly Claim to Fame!

It’s the Strictly Come Dancing final tonight and I have known all along who I want to win – Harry Judd from McFly.

Not only is he the best dancer by far (as well as the best looking male contestant) but I have my own little Harry claim to fame…

My dad used to be the gardener for Harry’s mum and dad!

One summer evening he had to pop over and see them about their gardening requirements while they were on holiday.  Which plants to water - that sort of thing.  He asked oldest grandson did he want to come too.

"No." He shrugged, not at all bothered.

“I’ll come” I said excitedly, acting more like a teenager than my teenage son.

I hopped in the car and we set off.

Harry’s mum, made cups of tea for us all while my dad wandered round the garden with Harry's dad.

His mum had to go and answer the phone or something and for a few minutes I was left alone sat at the garden picnic table.  I stroked the wooden seat, thinking of the famous bottoms that might have sat on it!  It was rumoured ALL of McFly had recently visited for a meal.  And goodness knows who might have drunk out of the very cup I was holding!

We had a lovely chat when she returned about our kids mostly. What struck me, talking parent to parent, was how they had let Harry pursue his musical interests in favour of his academic studies.  I hope I have that faith in my boys to give them the chance to reach for their dreams.

I never met Harry that day and unfortunately still haven’t realised that dream.

But my dad has met him and Harry’s brother served dad a pint in the local pub!

Yesterday morning my mum rang me.

“Guess who I’ve just been on the phone to?”

The Judd’s have moved now but she found their new phone number and wanted to pass on her best wishes to Harry for the final.  Apparently she had quite a chat with C........ (she's on first name terms but I only add famous names on my blog!!!).

She sounded giddy as a school girl – like mother like daughter; I bet she would have stroked that picnic bench too!

Anyway need to go and top my mobile up for those all-important voting phone calls tonight. 

Go team Hali!