Category Archives: Uncategorized

Looking Forward . . . .

Do you make resolutions? Why do people make resolutions? It just seems that they make them to break them.

As a new year moves on in our life, we have things we would like to change. Maybe in our personal life, weight loss, find a significant other, improve our relationship with someone, or it can be a career resolution, to find a new job, or work to get that much desired promotion. Maybe it’s our spiritual life, to read scripture more regularly, to help the unfortunate, to connect more with others of our faith, or to go to church more regularly.

I don’t like making promises I cannot keep. I like looking at my past year, seeing what worked great, and what needs some adjustment, then making goals to hopefully take my life to the next level.

00 floridaThis past year of 2017 has been full of surprises for me. I started the year with our annual trek to Florida. My husband has had a time-share in Panama City Beach, Florida, since the 1980’s. The first time he took me there, I was so excited about going to Florida, I packed all my summer clothes and was ready to go. I had been to Florida a few times, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, and Orlando. What I didn’t know is that Panama City Beach is in the panhandle of Florida, and it can get cold there in the winter. Now I am prepared for the quiet week of slightly chilly / slightly warm weather the third week of January in Panama City Beach. What my sweet husband has done to make that trip a bit easier, is to add some weeks and take me farther south into the warmer parts of Florida. Last year, Panama City Beach was unusually warm, and we spent two full weeks there, and I was in heaven! This year we will spend one week there, the second week near Fort Lauderdale, and the third week in Orlando.00 handbook

I had the opportunity to dip my toes back into the Human Resources field by doing some consulting. I wrote some employee handbooks, and traveled to Wisconsin to conduct diversity training. Writing handbooks is not just a simple task of copying an old handbook and adding the name. It entails a discussion with the principles on philosophy. We discuss benefits, and the purpose of them, how they are given, when they are given, and who pays for them and how. We talk about work rules, and how flexible the employer wants to be, and what to do if they are violated. I love this part of handbook development because it is eye opening for the management to realize, it’s just not a list of stuff they give or a list of rules they want. There needs to be reasoning behind it, and consistency and integrity.

As this past year moved on, we entertained many at our home. I think the highlight of entertaining this year was the Eclipse Party at our home last August. Many of my high school classmates along with some of our relatives attended this party. We celebrated birthdays, and in September, we celebrated my son’s marriage by hosting a wedding reception at our home. We also traveled to Indiana for a family wedding, and spent a week in Branson with my sister.00 eclipse

In early November we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 99th birthday. She is doing quite well, living in an assisted living home nearby us in Columbia, MO. She really enjoyed her day, and loved being the center of attention and the star for the day. Her celebration always makes me miss my mom, who would have turned 99 two weeks after her. Happy 99th birthday, Alberta!

00 mapWe left the day after Thanksgiving for a three week trip that took us down to San Antonio for three days of sightseeing. Then we made our way through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona (where we visited with a high school friend who lives in Surprise—what a fun name for a city! “The city was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler, who named it Surprise as she 00 snowman‘would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much’.”) We drove on to Los Angeles and spent a couple days with a friend and former HR colleague. Of course, because I love connecting people, we did dinner with her and my 2nd cousin since they live just a mile apart. We always have such a lovely time when we all get together. Then we moved north of LA to Encino, where my youngest grandchild lives. We celebrated an early Christmas, and had so much fun getting to know Luke, and he getting to know us. We left LA the day the wild fires broke out, not because of the fires, it was the planned day to leave. We made our way back to the Phoenix, Arizona area where we spent a lot of time visiting with many of my 12 first cousins who live in the area. While we were there, we put a contract in on a house to be built so that next year we could become snowbirds!

We rounded out the year with Christmas and New Years celebrations with our families, in an easy-going relaxed manner—my kind of celebrating!

01 y2kNow the new year is here. It is 2018. It is hard to believe we are 18 years into the new century! Do you remember 18 years ago, when we were going into 2000? How many of you worked at companies, where the IT personnel stayed overnight at work on New Years to make sure the computer system did not go down because of going into a new century, now having to use a 4-digit year, rather than two? Remember thinking that utilities would shut down, and banks would stop functioning? I worked at a credit union at the time, and everything rolled around just as it should. There was no shutdown in any infrastructure.

I have a big and busy year planned for 2018. In a few weeks we are going to go on our annual Florida trip, probably for the last time. Once we begin to be snowbirds in Arizona, there will be no need to warm up in Florida. Of course, I will miss the ocean, but if I recall, a five hour trip to Los Angeles to see my grandson will also give me access to an ocean.

Soon we will be going to Arizona to select our flooring, cabinets, and all other finishes for the new home. We will have to go back again in the summer to close on the house, and to begin to furnish it. When the year ends, we will be going there to spend the rest of the winter until late spring.

germanyAnother trip planned with be to Europe in May. Our main destination is Seligenstadt, Germany for the wedding reception for my son and his wife (the one we hosted last September). She is from Germany, and the wedding celebration with her family and friends will be this coming May. We are going to go to England for a week before we arrive in Germany. We will be there for almost two weeks, and will at some point, take the train to Paris to spend a couple days. I am sure this will be a trip of a lifetime. I have a passport, but have never used it—time to bush off the dust, and put it in my pocket!

I look forward to doing some HR consulting. Just dipping my toes in every so often keeps me informed of my chosen career, keeps me in touch with former colleagues, and allows me to still have a positive impact on the working world.

Most of all, my desire to stay connected to people will continue in 2018. The majority of my high school class turns 70 in this year, and we are planning a 70th Birthday Bash in the fall. Our high school class is pretty amazing. We love seeing each other, and connecting. We love sharing our lives today, rather than our memories of yesterday. We have become close to former classmates who we may not have even known back in our school days. I love this class of people—they do have class!

I plan to continue my knowledge of Christ, and grow more in my faith. I look forward to finding a “winter” church, and possibly join a “winter” small group. I love that my small group in Fulton likes meeting during the summer, so we will not lose their connection once we have become snowbirds. The only thing that will change in 2019 for this group, is finding a new home for the small group to meet.

I am grateful to God for all he has blessed me with this year, and I look forward to see what adventures and trials I may be facing in the coming year. Everything should be a learning opportunity. I wish for peace, joy, and contentment for all my family, friends, and those who read this blog. I am so grateful for you following my weekly writing. I hope I am inspiring you to become more thoughtful, loving, active, or whatever you wish to grow in your life.

Happy New Year!00 peace and joy quote

What Keeps You Going?

Have you ever thought about what you are best at doing? I have used many personality profiles, and other tests to see where my talents lie. I thought it was for my career, but I realized these are also my best skills in life even as a retiree.

Ten years ago I took a test after reading Marcus Buckingham books on the Strengths Movement. Marcus Buckingham is an author and business consultant. He worked for the Gallup organization. He says that we must work to our strengths and manage our weaknesses. We will never be able to be great in the areas of our weaknesses, but we can be great working to our strengths.

Today I happened to run across these results. I look back on my life, when I felt I was doing what I should be doing—looking at the career I chose, and even the things I do as a retiree, and I see these five strengths actually in everything I do. I am grateful, that I had the privilege to read and also hear Marcus Buckingham in person, as he helped me not to feel bad about the things I could not do well, because each and every one of us has things we do well. Those are the things that help us truly love our work everyday, and also how we live our lives daily responding in our homes, with our families, our neighbors, and friends.

Here are my top 5 strengths that resulted from this test:

00 activeActivator – I like making things happen. It stated that I am “eager to set directions, make decisions, and take charge of projects, processes, procedures or initiatives.” None of this was a surprise to me. I think it fits with my career in human resources. I think it fits that I will take a project and set everyone on a forward goal. I am energized by possibilities and generating enthusiasm.

Strategic – I found this one very interesting, because one 00 Strattime at work I got in trouble for having this strength! (I will explain later). It stated: “You spend time considering numerous courses of action before choosing one. You invent original and innovative techniques for dealing with expected and unexpected challenges. . .you can suggest a number of alternative solutions.”  In one of my early human resources jobs, I sat in a meeting about a communication we were sending out to all employees. I saw a flaw in the memo, and suggested it may cause some confusion with the employees that may have some negative consequences. After making this suggestion, my boss stated in front of all the people in this meeting that I was not to question the wording of the memo. I was put in my place. The following week after the memo came out to all employees, we had a huge line of folks coming to see us very unhappy with the what the memo said to the reality of what really happened. I always look at a situation and think of all the ways it can go sideways before setting out my solution. My strategic thinking Version 2was not a welcome factor there, and it could have solved a major issue. It was one of my strengths, but not always a welcome one.

Ideation – I think this is my favorite, and the one I really like. It says about me, “Driven by your talents, you bring new thoughts to most discussions and meetings. . .you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual. What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.”  I love coming up with new ideas. I am a project person. It could be making a quilt, decorating a room, planning a party. Whatever it may be at the time, I am in my element when I can come upon with new ideas and use my creativity.

00 connectedConnectedness – This one kind of blew me away. I love introducing people to each other. I think of people who have something in common, and I want to connect them. I do believe that if you ask enough questions, you will find something in common with almost every person you meet. The results stated: “Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. . .You gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another. . .Instinctively, you now and then rely on your ability to help certain people find reasons to link up with one another. The value you place on humankind guides your decision-making. . .Perhaps you realize human beings are linked to one another regardless of their age, language, education, socio-economic status, nationality, race, religion, or culture. . .The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.”

00 maximizeMaximizer – Yeah, I am uncomfortable doing things that are not in my wheel house. I am thrilled to continue to improve what I know I can do. I am happy to be who I am without trying to be someone else, or what someone else may expect of me. My results stated: “Because of your strengths, you might be exceptionally aware of the things you do and do not do well. Venturing into unfamiliar territory might create unwanted stress in your life. Instinctively, you may handle yourself well in specific types of social situations. Occasionally you set aside your work or studies to enjoy of the company of friends, newcomers, or strangers. . .You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive.”

00 flowersYou may not have taken an official “strengths” test, but if you look back on your life, I am sure you can figure out what type of things you love to do. What are those things underneath those things you love to do? Those are your strengths. Keep doing those things. Keep making them better. You will realize that you use these strengths in every area of your life. You don’t live your life only on the job, or only at home. Your strengths are used in every aspect of your life. Embrace what you do well. They are gifts you have been given. None of us are alike—wouldn’t that be boring? We are a bouquet of mixed flowers—different colors, shapes, scents, heights. It’s what makes us beautiful to each other. You have gifts you can share with others that only you can do. You are special. You are unique.00 Unique

The Magic of Christmas!

In less than a week, Christmas will be here. I love Christmas, but lately it has become a difficult holiday to celebrate. My children are scattered all over the United States. Some are married and have their spouse’s family to consider for the holidays. It just becomes ever so difficult to get together.

I think about Christmas when I was a kid. Maybe my parents and grandparents had some of these challenges, but as a child, Christmas was magical. We first had to get birthdays out of way. My mom and dad had their birthdays in November, with my sister and I having our birthdays in December with mine being the last before Christmas hit. My other sister, had her birthday in early January, actually on the day of Epiphany, so we covered all the end of the year holidays along with our birthdays, and then waiting for what seemed are very long time until our birthdays and Christmas would come rolling around again.

Today I put up the tree around Thanksgiving. That is not what happened at my house as LDM02105a child. Dad was not a fan of any kind of work or fanfare around the holiday, but Mom understood our need for the magic that the holidays brought. We had Christmas LP’s playing on the stereo. There was the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, which was probably our favorite, but we also had the Boston Pops, and many other albums of mostly instrumental and religious Christmas music. We would stack the records on the spindle, and push maxresdefaultthe little lever that told our stereo to lift the arm, feel the size of the record (45’s were small, and 33’s big), and then one record would drop down, and the needle would start on the edge of the record as it spun until the needle came all the way to the middle, producing festive Christmas music with every groove the needle encountered. When it hit the middle, it lifted and moved out, and once again moved to find the size of the record. If there were no longer records on the stack on the spindle, the arm would move all the way in, detect there were no further records, and move back to its original position, and the stereo would turn itself off. It was high technology for its time.

00 carolingOur church used to go Christmas caroling. We often did caroling for the St. Louis Christmas Carol Association. We would sign up with them, and they would assign us a local neighborhood to carol. One person wore the provided little red cape and carried a red money tube, so that those we caroled to could make a donation. The money from caroling went to local children’s charities across the St. Louis area. We would go out one evening before Christmas, sing our hearts out (and we were not great singers), and people would stand in their doorways and listen to us sing. They would go find some change or a dollar or two to put in the canister. When our caroling was over, we took our freezing selves to one of the homes of someone from church for hot chocolate and refreshments. I loved the caroling night. It made me feel so festive.

Our little church also had an annual Sunday School Christmas program. My mother would get books of Christmas poems, for all ages, and she assigned each child a poem about the Christmas story. Of course the little ones might just have a couples lines, and as we got older, the more lines we had to recite. Some of us sang Christmas carols. One year, I along with two other little girls from Sunday School sang “We Three Kings.” I cannot imagine we sounded very good, but we sang our hearts out, and our parents sat in the pew smiling proudly at us. We always received a box of candy for our performances.

00 Cinderella watchMy dad was not into the hubbub of Christmas decorating. We could beg until we were blue in the face, but he never put Christmas lights on the outside of our house. My mom would drive us three girls around, to look at all the pretty lights on other people’s houses. She helped us be in the Christmas spirit. My dad also wanted nothing to do with Christmas trees, so about mid-December, my mom would take us girls to a Christmas tree lot to select our tree. When I was small, my dad begrudgingly strung the lights—those big colored bulbs along with the bubble lights. I loved the bubble lights. They were magical. When we got older, one of my sisters became IMG2780adept at hanging lights, much to my dad’s delight. We would carefully hang the glass bulbs on the tree. Once the bulbs and lights were on the tree, it was time for the tinsel. Small thin strands of silver glistened in the lights. Originally, tinsel was made of silver, but tarnished with the heat of lights, so then in the 1950s & 60s, tinsel was manufactured from lead. Yeah, in the early 70s, they realized that was unsafe, and now tinsel, if you can even find it, is plastic with a shiny silver surface. I thought these trees were absolutely beautiful, even though the branches were sparse. We had to water the tree daily to keep the needles from drying out. Also, the lights could only be turned on if we were there—we did not want a fire hazard.

One of our big things was to go into downtown St. Louis to the Famous-Barr department store. This store was their flagship store and it was a block big and eleven stories high. The store windows were decorated with animated figures, and one large window was a village and trains. We would walk around the outside of the store along with hundreds of others marveling at the animated Christmas scenes. Inside the store was decorated, and Christmas music was playing throughout the store. We would take the escalators (some were even wooden) to the floor where they had made a “Winter Wonderland.” We walked through the many Christmas displays which ended with our visit to none other, but Santa Claus.

 

As the years moved on, my Christmas trees began to take on a life of their own. My early married years, I had a real tree, with its spindly branches, and would decorate it with 00 old treecandy, popcorn, cranberries, and pretzels. I didn’t have a lot of money but I would look for crafty creative ways to decorate. I moved to artificial trees, and experimented with types of decorations, but in the end, my tree is filled with memories. I have some of my mom’s Hallmark Keepsake ornaments from the early 70’s. I like unique and funky, and that’s how my tree is—it reflects who I am over the years.

There are just heart-warming feelings when I think about my childhood Christmases. I think of aunts, uncles, and cousins having dinner with us. I think about lying in bed unable to sleep on Christmas Eve, so excited with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I think 00 treeof the time I woke up in the early dawn, and quietly crept into the living room to see all the gifts under the tree, and my new child-size china cabinet and doll basinet that were too large to wrap, and quietly going back to my room happy and excited, but ready to sleep a little longer. We didn’t bake Christmas cookies—that was not a tradition from my European family. I am sure we had pies, and other baked goodies. I think of the times I would go through the toy section of mail order catalogs, and dream of the dolls with all the clothes and accessories any little girl would be thrilled to own. I would write Santa letters of all the things I wanted, practically copying from the catalog, and one year, I asked Santa for a baby brother. That’s one Christmas gift he never delivered—I remained the youngest child!

00 dinnerI am not sure if there is magic in Christmas today, like there was back then. The magic for me is to see my children and their children, and to know they are well. My magic is to entertain friends and family with a nice meal, and Christmas carols playing in the background. My magic is to be forever thankful that we live in a country we can celebrate Christ’s birth, and to worship him freely, and for others who wish to worship differently. My magic is to read Christmas cards from friends and family, and know they thought of me, even if it’s for only long enough to sign the card and address the envelope. My magic is the gratefulness that I have been given another year, and that my health is good.

I hope my reminiscing of my past Christmases has brought back fond memories of your own.  I hope you have peace, joy, and contentment this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  May you know the peace he provides.

Merry Christmas!

 

Isaiah

It’s Complicated!

My extended family is complicated. My father had seven siblings. He was the oldest. All those siblings (including my dad) went on to have a total of 36 children. I have 33 first cousins in my dad’s family. My mom had three siblings—she was child #2. She along with her siblings, had a total of 17 children. I have a total of 14 cousins in my mom’s family. First complication: I do not have a total of 47 first cousins. I have only (haha! I said ONLY) 40 first cousins. That is because 7 of these cousins are my double cousins, so I can only count them once. What are double cousins, you say? My mom and her sister married brothers—their children are what are called double cousins because we are doubly related!

I think it is special to have so many cousins. I have many fond memories of visiting and playing with cousins in my youth. All my family on both sides originated in the St. Louis area after immigrating to the United States. The emigration out of St. Louis started in the 50’s as families saw new opportunities out west in Phoenix, Arizona. One aunt moved to Ohio after marrying someone from there. As the years went by many of my cousins moved throughout the country as they became educated and found opportunities in new places.

000 constructionAnother interesting thing about my family is that the majority of my uncles were entrepreneurs. They started their own businesses, mostly related to the construction industry, They were building contractors, land developers, HVAC and sheet metal contractors, the patent holders for the machine that manufactures continuous seamless gutters, and the list goes on.

In the 1980s I worked for a company that made some organizational changes, such as moving a whole department back to the city of their headquarters. I was in that department. One day, the Human Resources Manager asked that all 10 of us from that department meet in the conference room and then proceeded to terminate our employment. I was an administrative assistant at the time.

000 LayoffsAs I reflect on this layoff today, this company treated us very well. They gave us a generous severance package considering none of us had work there over 18 months, they paid our health insurance for the next three months, and they sent everyone, down to the administrative assistant, to outplacement where a professional group helped us write resumes, taught us how to network and seek a new position. They even typed and mailed our cover letters and resumes to other businesses for us—this was before the day everyone had a computer at their fingertips.

I met with one of the career counselors. I had just started my masters program, and didn’t have an impressive resume. The counselor suggested I contact my family members and ask if there were any job openings at their companies where they were employed. Family complication #2: none of my relatives were ”employed.” They all owned their small businesses. They were not looking for administrative assistants, nor were they open to tuition reimbursement for my continuing education.

000 danger signComplication #3: On one side of my family there was a huge rift. You know, they say don’t discuss politics or religion in polite company. Well, our family split over religion. Some of the family members left the religion they were in, and decided to become part of a very different set of beliefs. Words were not kind between some of the siblings, and a rift was formed. One half of the family did not spend time with or get to know the other side of the family. We grew up knowing we had cousins, but not knowing them. Sometimes we met at a family funeral.

000 Family FuedAs we got older, we realized we are living with the hurts of our parents’ past, not our hurts. Some of the cousins started connecting, maybe at a funeral, maybe on Facebook. We got to know each other. We liked each other. Although our parents may have had different religions, they behaved similarly, and our shared stories were similar. We found out that we really like these cousins. We don’t have to agree on religion. Interestingly enough, both sides of the family, although having very different beliefs, are both very strong religious folks.

A couple years ago I tried to pull together a family reunion. I gave the families only a few months notice. It was at my home, and we have plenty of room for a lot of people to picnic, swim, paddle boat around a small lake, and just sit around the various decks and patios to visit and reacquaint with each other. Not many came, but those who did had a marvelous time. We told stories about our childhood, our memories of our shared grandparents, and compared notes to find our parents were very similar in many ways. All our parents were hard workers, and loved their children dearly. We all grew up to be hard working respectful adults. We all missed having the connections to share our lives together.

This past week I was on vacation in a city where I have many cousins. Some I knew well in my childhood because they lived near me and our parents were close. Some were cousinssmall children when I was in high school and college, and now they are my contemporaries. Some were from the family that was on the other side of the rift. We all got together. We loved and enjoyed each other’s company. We promised not to go long periods without being in contact, and hopefully, meeting up again. I got to attend a party that one family of cousins had. Their children were cousins who all grew up together. Now their grandchildren were getting to know their 2nd cousins. There were 63 family members at this party. The children ran around this large yard without a care in the world. Their parents, all first cousins, and their spouses, sat around the tables visiting and reminiscing about their adventures together as children, and sharing their lives today.

I wish our family had done this instead of what happened. That is history. Why do we study history? So we don’t repeat the negative parts. I loved watching this family of siblings, 1st cousins, and 2nd cousins spending a whole day together loving on each other.

None of my children’s first cousins live anywhere near them. That is such a shame. We live in a mobile society. It makes me sad to think they have missed out on these type of gatherings. It is never too late to reconnect. I am in my late 60’s. I have lost two cousins and one sibling to death. It is never too late to reunite, to get to know, and to love each other. I am so grateful that in the last four years of travel with my husband, that when we go through a community where my relatives may live, we try to meet up with them. I have done this in Arizona, Utah, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. I may have not know all my family very well, but I am getting to know them now. I am beginning to understand that we all have challenges in our lives, and we can share and care for each other. I am also beginning to understand that my family tree is a huge, beautiful tree, filled with amazing people. I can’t live with regrets for things in the past, but I can chose to make our days more meaningful together.

Why do families do this? Why do parents and children become estranged? Why do siblings become estranged? We all have expectations of others that many times do not match our beliefs. Unless these folks are harmful to each other, why do we just write them off? I will say there are times one must break away, especially if there is destructive behavior that could physically harm a family member, but I’m not talking about that. Think about the people we work with, the people in our neighborhood, the people in our churches. Sometimes we treat them better than we treat our own families.

How is that rift repaired? I believe the future generations need to reach out to each other. How do we make friends? We find the things we have in common. We don’t dwell on the things that we don’t have in common. We find a common ground and we build on that. As I mentioned in a previous blog on the diversity training I did a few weeks ago, everyone is unique. We don’t fit in anyone’s box. Not everyone is going to be best buddies, but we can appreciate and love each person for who they are.

Do you have family members you wish you knew better? Reach out to them. Friend them on Facebook. Ask them to meet you for lunch. Have a big party and invite them. Send them a note. Don’t talk about the things that divide, but the things that connect. Families have a history. Find out about that history. It is really interesting to hear the different perspectives of the family history. We all have our own perspective of the same event. Be open minded and love one another. We won’t be here forever. It’s time to reach out in love.  000 ephesians

 

Oh, Come All Ye Faithful

How it happened, I don’t remember. I love the fact that every Christmas I have several nativities to put out around my home. I always wanted a nativity scene, but for years didn’t have one. In the mid 90’s I was working at Famous-Barr. How many of you remember that department store? It was owned by May Company, and they owned several department stores, including Famous-Barr, Hecht’s, Filene’s, Lord & Taylor, Robinsons-May, and a few more I cannot remember. At the end of the Christmas season, all the Christmas stock goes on sale for at least half price. In the china department, they had the Holy Family manufactured by Coalport by Wedgwood. It retailed at the time for $90. It was at least 1/2 price, and with my 20% discount, I purchased these three beautiful pieces. It was the start of my nativity. The following Christmas, for some reason, Famous-Barr did not carry the rest of the set.

00 auntieI had always admired my Aunt Mary’s nativity, which was a Lenox painted set. It reminded me of the set I had, except the Wedgwood set was about half the size in height as the Lenox set. Time marched on, and I changed jobs, became more successful, and was having a house built. The following fall, my Aunt Mary called me and said to be expecting a package delivered to my home. She said she found the complete nativity set, and she bought it for me. I told her I couldn’t accept such an extravagant gift. She said that it was a house warming gift, and she wanted me to enjoy it. Every year I take each piece out of its box, and lovingly set it up thinking about my aunt. I remember one year I was setting it up, and I stopped and called her and said I was coming to visit. Aunt Mary passed away four years ago, but every year as I set up this set, I think of all the wonderful times I spent with her. She took me under wing after my mom died. We had many dinners together and watched a lot of movies together. I have told my children that when I die, I don’t care what they do with my stuff—except for that Nativity set—please make sure that someone receives it who will appreciate its beauty and the fact that a very dear aunt filled my Christmas each year with joy!

Somehow, I started collecting nativity sets. I like seeing how different people and different cultures envisioned the nativity. What is interesting is that Jesus was probably born in a cave, and it was primitive. Mary and Joseph traveled for miles while she was quite pregnant so they could pay their taxes. There was no deodorant in those days. I am 00 kidssure the real Joseph and Mary were not in the beautiful dress and robes you see in photos and nativities scenes. Jesus had a lowly birth, but his birth, his death, and his resurrection changed the world forever. No one in history has ever had such a huge effect on our world as did Jesus. Even those who do not believe in him as their Savior cannot deny him historically or that his life on earth had such a huge impact on this world.

00 camelMy next nativity set was one I found walking through a mall. It was made of resin, and it depicted children. It reminded my how a Sunday School Christmas program might look, with the children playing the parts of the Holy Family, the wise men, and shepherds. it struck my fancy, and nativity # 2 was added to my soon to be expanding collection. My favorite character in the set is the camel, which is two little boys under a camel costume.

00 fisher priceOf course, one cannot forget the Fisher Price Little People Nativity. I always put this on my coffee table at easy reach for the grandkids. They could touch it and play with it, and it will not break. Last year I sent one like it to my grandson in Los Angeles since he hasn’t had an opportunity to see mine. My teenage grandkids still comment when they see it on the table. They love that it is still there, and it reminds them of the many Christmas celebrations when they were just tots.

00 mayanTwo years ago my husband and I went on a cruise of the western Caribbean. We were in Cozumel, Mexico, and took the side trip to see the Mayan ruins. Their gift shop had many Mayan designed items, but what struck me was their nativities. They were colorful and fun. I love seeing how other cultures depict the birth of Christ. None of us 00 scissorswill have it right, but as long as it is a reminder of the miracle of his birth, I am good with it. I purchased the set, and looked forward to setting it up the following Christmas.

My kids and friends have given me other nativity sets. Probably the most unusual one I received was from my daughter-in-law. It is a one piece set from Peru. You open the doors, and there is the manger scene, and there are people dancing with scissors! Yes, scissor dancing is some sort of tradition in Peru, not a religious tradition, but one that was combined with the nativity to make it unusual and unique!

I would love an African nativity, but I want it authentic and not bought off of eBay. I just may have to travel there sometime, or find someone who knows where I can get one. I wonder also if there is an Asian version of the nativity. I have never seen one of those, but it would also be interesting.

00 peru lightedThere is no magic in the nativity scene. There is a miracle in the birth of Christ, though. He was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and his birth, his death, and his resurrection, are all foretold by the prophets of old. The people thought the prophecies were about an earthly king, one with riches and power, but Jesus, is a spiritual king. He had no riches, he had no bed to lay his head, he lived a life of love and service. He was tough, and he stood up to the religious leaders of the time, who were more interested in “looking religious” than having a life of love and grace. His death and resurrection seals the deal for us, to know we can be in a relationship with the God of the Universe, and we can know true peace that passes all understanding.

00 woodEaster is actually the most significant holiday for Christians. Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is what seals the deal. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Yes, what he came to earth to do—to come as a man, to take our sin upon himself, and to die for those sins, he finished the work he came to do. His resurrection was the completion, the proof, that he was not just any man who died. He was the Savior, and death could not hold him.

I love my nativity scenes, and all of the Christmas celebrations. I love that Advent looks at the promise and the waiting for the Savior. It all is the prelude to the biggest of all events that we celebrate at Easter. I love looking around my house, seeing the tree decorated with memories of my family, and looking at the nativities and the celebration of the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas! Rejoice!Isaiah

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