Saturday, December 26, 2009

You've Come a Long Way, Babies!

This may be my last blog post of 2009. If there were an award for Blog Celebrities of the Year, Brianna and Claire would be winners, hands down. The first four pictures are reminiscent of their early weeks, when they won our hearts. Effortlessly.

"Stick with me kid, and we'll go far."
Claire's Three Generations pic as a newborn
Brianna's Three Generations pic as a newborn

"Wow. I just don't know what to say about that!"
"This is some way to measure my circumference, Grandpa."

"Listen, if you'll just take care of the details, Grandma and I are busy."
"I knew flowers smelled good, but I didn't know the tasted this good."
(This was a favorite Fisher-Price rattle from three decades ago.)

These pictures are from December.
"Can I wear my little hat when I audition for Santa's elves?"

"Grandma, you gotta show me these yard sales you and Grandpa keep talking about."

"That's it. Pose like you're in a Shakespearean tragedy. Leave it to Grandpa to come up with some corny caption."

When Amanda gave me some hand-painted Christian socks (painted by her) a few years ago, I never thought they'd be so appealing to a baby! Yes, they're clean.
"And these represent the little protons, neutrons, and electrons. Any questions so far?"
"See this little snow village? There's about as much snow it it as there was in all of Moore County last week."

Christmas at (Great) Granny and Grandaddy's brings smiles to all the girls' faces.

Claire and Brianna are better than any toys. And yes, we know how to wind them up!
"Oh look, Brianna. It says Mommy can play, too."

"Look at the baby I got for Christmas. I just can't take her home."

Have you ever seen a prouder Great Grandaddy?
"Just as soon as you're old enough the job of cooking the Christmas turkey is all yours!"

We love you Claire and Brianna. Thank you for making 2009 a banner year.

These precious babies always make me think of a verse from my testimony song, "Because He Lives."

How sweet to hold

a newborn baby,

And feel the pride

and joy (s)he gives;

But greater still

the calm assurance,

This child can face

uncertain days because He lives.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men!

I hope everyone is having a joyous Christmas. I hope the celebration includes some of your family and closest friends if at all possible. And I hope each of us takes time to reflect on the significance of Christ's coming to us on a personal level. The baby Jesus didn't remain in the manger-- he became a man and walked the road to Calvary's cross--his arrival as God's gift will always be an image that touches the hearts of all believers.
Part of our Christmas celebration was attending Grace Church's candlelight service, which was bigger than ever. The large sanctuary was packed to overflowing with worshippers. A 50 member choir of church members and the Teen Challenge Choir, along with Sal DiBianca and Kevin Baker led us in some beautiful carols.

Afterwards we enjoyed a Christmas Eve tour of Christmas lights with Judy's parents. We ranged from Highland Trails in Southern Pines to Whispering Pines and Carthage. There were many unique displays. But the most unexpected sight was four of Santa's reindeer snacking on deer corn on the front lawn of one of those Carthage homes. We knew St. Nick couldn't be far away. We hoped he didn't need batteries or candy canes. For everything in Carthage was sure to be closed.

Today, Christmas day, we will have one more big get-together with our extended family (babies included). But Christmas won't be over for us for several more days! And I'm glad!

The rest of this post will be a pots-pourri of Christmas images from home and church. They're not necessarily related, but all are special to me.

Some of my vintage Christmas piano music.

Our psychedelic Frosty. A still photo doesn't do him justice. Next year I'll have to do a video with his fiber optic eyes, hat, and trimmings aglow.

Another row of favorite Snow Pals. We hope they foreshadow January snows.

This ladder with Santa and elves was a gift to me several years ago. I added a Frosty and used it at school for Christmas math brainteasers. For example, I'd give clues like "Elf 1 is on the fourth step, Santa is three steps below Frosty. Frosty's step = Elf 1 + Elf 2's steps. If there are 14 steps and Santa is on step 11, where are the other characters?" We all loved solving the puzzlers. At least I did. And I could change the positions and clues each time.

Good old Chipper has been my constant companion through the holidays. He accompanied me on singalongs at school, the hospital, and area rest homes. It wouldn't be the same without him.

Beulah Hill Baptist Church was fully adorned for the Christmas season, punctuated by Sunday's Children's program. They say black goes with everything. What's Christmas without a Yamaha grand?

I'm happy to say that these children and youth don't just sing like angels; they have angelic hearts and natures as well. The program's theme was "The names of Jesus." They led us through dozens of scriptural references to the Messiah from Old and New Testaments. Each reference calls to mind certain attributes of our Lord-- a Lamb, a Rock, a Shield, a Shepherd, a Savior, a Deliverer, a King. On and on the list goes. Jesus, God's only Son, is the only Christmas gift that ultimately matters, transforms hearts, remolds men, and makes an eternal difference.

My faithful sidekicks Harold and Greg make Christmas music and everything else more fun. Here they're playing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" for the offertory.
Nah. Not really. But don't underestimate them.

My pastor, Dr. Curtis Barbery. His messages steeped in prayer, study, and wisdom are a constant source of strength and spiritual nourishment. He'll be "retiring" once again before long, but he has helped our church lay a sound foundation for moving forward in service to the Lord.

Niece Emma and friend Lauren add immensely to the worship with their lovely string duet.

Jackson shares a beautiful medley of "Emmanuel" and "Praise the Name of Jesus." He's accompanied by dad and sis.
Maybe the most important name of Jesus is Emmanuel-- God with us. Not just WAS with us. He IS with us. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Monday, Another Christmas Party (with Babies)

Yes, Christmas is only TWO days away now. And based on past experience, most people have a lot more to do than read other people's blogs. January's for catching up, after all. So some of my readers may not see this until 2010 has already been rung in.

But for those of you have all your presents wrapped, all cards mailed, all holiday treats prepared, and are still browsing blogs, allow me to offer up one more Christmas offering to YOU!

Our final "scheduled" pre-Christmas social function was once again hosted at Matt and Jennifer's house. A great place for get-togethers of any kind, and their home was suitably decorated.
Tonight's special guests are long-time friends Jeff and Gail. Actually, they're more like family than friends.

Santa Jeff will bring little Claire anything she wants for Christmas. Even two front teeth, probably.

Santa's helper Gail wishes she could take Claire back to the North Pole with her.
Stephen says Brianna is another of Santa's little helpers. She could help by going to bed as early as Claire. : )

Matt offers Claire a drink. No, it doesn't have anything it it!

Great Grands Jack and Thelma already have everything they want for Christmas. And so do the rest of us! I think you know what I mean.

Claire (L) and Brianna (R) cherish every opportunity to get together. Even if they do have to have chaperones. The president doesn't have this many bodyguards!

"So, Cuz, what'd you ask Santa to bring you?"

"Well, these little musical books will do until the real presents come out."

Where these babies go, happiness follows.

By the time Gail and Jeff's baby gifts are brought out, Claire has gone to dreamland, so Mom Jennifer opens the Dolphin Tub Toy as her proxy. I think that's what it is.

Brianna is thrilled with her pair of Blue Elephants. "Just look," she says. "Ears, trunk, tail-- everything's mouth-sized!" (Just be glad this party wasn't at your house, Bri, or you might be in bed by now)

Amanda knows that Gail tried to find some Red elephants (her Alabama Crimson Tide will play for the national championship soon)!
Just in case we don't get to see you in person, Judy and I would like to wish you all

And Brianna adds,
God bless us, every one!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blogging while waiting for SNOW!

Yeah, I know. I could be waiting for a long time if I'm waiting for snow in the Sandhills of North Carolina. But I'm not gonna blog that long!
I thought I'd update you on what has been a busy December for me. So far it has included the following, among others:
  • Christmas meeting and party of Moore County's NCRSP (North Carolina Retired School Personnel)
  • Christmas singalong at Sandhills Farm Life School

  • Christmas banquet at Grace Church for volunteers (Judy) and spouses (lucky me)
  • Volunteering at Moore Regional Hospital--Christmas piano music

  • Christmas dinner and party at Golden Corral for my Men's Sunday School Class
  • Reading "Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace" to 4th graders

  • Reading "Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace" to Daddy (over a 4 day visit)

  • Spending the rest of my visit with Daddy seeing Buddy and Caryn, going through old keepsakes, and playing a little music for Daddy

  • Christmas worship service at Manor Care Rehab of Pinehurst

  • Christmas singalong with Ray at Manor Care (best attendance yet)

  • Family get-together with Joy

  • Quality time with the grandbabies (I stopped counting)

  • Went with Judy on a Christmas light tour of Village Acres (don't laugh, locals--there was a little bit of everything and it took 45 minutes. We were never more than 2 miles from home.)

  • Watched "It's a Wonderful Life." I never get tired of it and it always inspires me.

There's a lot more to come during the closing days of December. I'll post a few pictures just to jazz up this post a bit.

I had the privilege of providing Christmas music before, during, and after our NCRSP meeting. My pal Chipper has on his Santa suit.

Sandi and Jane, two energetic souls who keep us retirees moving.
Besides our singalong, our get-together included a Christmas card swap and a White Elephant sale which benefits our scholarship fund.

Back on the home front, Claire tries to get everyone to help her on "Feliz Navidad."

Brianna has developed an attachment for my wooden Nutcracker ornament. She says, "Just cooperate and nobody gets hurt."

Judy's Christmas cactus has really thrived on our dining room table. It started blooming around Thanksgiving. We were told we couldn't kill it, and that seems to be the case.

When I retired, I brought home a lot of my extra yard sale ornaments from school. Some of them are among my favorites. And of course, they're eclectic. Anyway, I started decorating this "Charlie Brown" tree that has volunteered beside our driveway. If it keeps going it could be an indoor tree one year. If I don't cut it in 2 or 3 years it'll block our driveway.

Judy and I searched diligently around the countryside and located an appropriate Eastern Red Cedar for our indoor tree. Even though it's nine feet tall, it's sort of a Charlie Brown tree, too. That's our kind of tree.

Well, I'm at the end of this post, and all the snow is still up in the air. But you never know. If any of it ever reaches the ground, I'll post a photo or two in my next blog post. I hope each of my readers is celebrating Christmas each day in a way that brings joy to you, strengthens your family bonds, and honors our Lord, Jesus.