dual personalities

Tag: Christmas

“Lord, what times are these?”*

Well, 2021 may have been a terrible year in the political/economic/cultural sense (although we are not supposed to say that), but for me, several things of note took place:

  1. I retired from my flyover university.
  2. We celebrated the 200th anniversary of the state of Missouri and the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail.
  3. I finally (after 65 years) left the moribund Episcopal Church and found a new church home.

Numbers 1 and 3 represented Big Steps, opening new chapters, etc. All three involved celebrating. Yippee kayaks!

Now we embark on a new year. I am not optimistic in the political/economic/cultural sense, but I know there will be rejoicing and, indeed, much joy to be chosen.

So as you reflect on the new year and start setting goals, consider this. And keep in mind that “We are not able to become our best selves on our own. Our best life comes in complete dependence on the God who made us. Yet we still try. Self-reflection is helpful and plans for personal improvement can be beneficial, but this can also lead to more striving, specifically when we resolve in our own strength.”

For me, I am resolved to devote more time to my Bible reading, to resist sin and cultivate righteousness, to continue to put my house in order, to simplify.

And I plan to celebrate on a regular basis.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish–His purpose is the process itself.

–Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

And P.S. We did have a super fun Christmas and a super fun visit from daughter #2 and Katiebelle. Here are a few postcards from our holly jolly holiday (we really didn’t take a lot of pictures!)

Katie loved moving the furniture

Happy New Year, friends! Keep a-goin!

*Polycarp (AD 69 – 155)

“Let every heart prepare him room”

Christmas draws nigh and if we aren’t ready now, we’ll never be. Relax. Everything will be fine.

Today would have been our  Aunt Susanne’s 97th birthday. She was our mother’s older sister and the Grand Dame of the family. 

She was very different from our mother…

…as you can see in this picture taken in about 1930 (with their older cousin Marjorie). But they loved each other very much. When she was dying, it was Susanne who “understood” her best. After all, they had the most history together. 

Of the three sisters, I think I am the most like Susanne, who also was a timid child. She played no varsity sports and she was not an intellectual like our mother. But she liked poetry and was a devoted church lady who endeavored to cultivate the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). She also liked a glass of spirits at the end of the day. When she died, her house was in order. As her son wrote me a few years after her death in 2000:

My mother saved everything (well, almost everything), and when the time came to settle her estate and move her belongings, I thought, “Maybe it’s important to save the things she thought were important to save.” So, I packed almost every item I came across.

Our attic and my workshop are stacked full of identical boxes that are just the right size for moving–not too big, not too small. Each one is labeled with its contents.

Periodically, I open one and try to make a decision to keep, or pass on, the items inside.

He is still working on it, all these years later…So tonight I will toast these devoted sisters and also our dear Aunt Donna, the remaining Cameron girl, who is 88.

Xmas card circa 1936

In other news, I finally watched the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, the one with Reginald Owen. Some people actually think this is the best version. I can’t imagine why. It was not good, especially when compared with the close-to-perfect 1951 Alistair Sim version. I could go into detail explaining why it is not good, but suffice it to say, do not waste your time watching it. Indeed, the Muppet version is much better.

To recap, besides the three versions of A Christmas Carol I have viewed this month, I have watched White Christmas (1951), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Santa Clause (1994). And I confess that I jumped the gun and watched 3 Godfathers (1946). I just couldn’t wait until Epiphany–mea culpa.

Can you blame me? I am holding off on a few Christmas favorites at the request of daughter #1 who will arrive home later today.

Speaking of movies, this was an interesting article about movies that were filmed in our flyover hometown. I found Harold Ramis’s back-pedaling about the scene he filmed in East St. Louis to be hilarious.

Merry Christmas!

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;

let me hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore, my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose, place me with ox, ass, camel, goat, to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face, and in him account myself delivered from sin;

let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart, embrace him with undying faith, exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

From The Valley of Vision

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation

The last weekend before Christmas has passed and I am ready for the big day. I got the tree up and decorated with the help of the boy who came over twice–once after work to put the tree up and once before work to do the lights. I then put up the decorations by myself. Voila–not the best shaped tree ever, but who cares? It’s pretty. I also put up my stained glass collection.

The boy and his little family were in Kansas City this weekend and daughter #1 stayed in JC, so the OM and I went to church unaccompanied–twice. We went in the morning and again at 6:00 pm, because the farewell party for our senior pastor followed the evening service. After 15 years he is moving on to a bigger church in McLean, Virginia and they are lucky to get him–such a good preacher! It is typical that this is happening when I have just found a great new church (and denomination), but I trust that we will get a new senior pastor that is equally gifted.

In a funny way I am thankful that the Covid shutdowns happened, because it forced me to go online to find somewhere to worship and in turn that got me looking seriously at alternatives to the Episcopal Church. I mean, finding a church in Charlottesville, VA did me no good once we were back in church. I had been listening to Tim Keller sermons on YouTube for a long time, but my learning curve really went into hyperdrive when I discovered R.C. Sproul on Ligonier.org. Since Ligonier emphasizes the importance of the local church, once things reopened I felt a strong pull to find a Reformed church in St. Louis. I did more research, and remembering the PCA church I passed on my way to chemotherapy all through 2019,

I tried Covenant on Easter Sunday. I felt instantly at home although I knew not a soul there. In our newcomer class I met a man who had the exact same experience with his online search–starting with R.C. Sproul videos. He was coming from the Roman Catholic Church and we bonded over our shared positive searches. Tim Keller! R.C. Sproul! Alistair Begg! Clearly we are not alone in our endeavors.

This is the upside of the internet– teaching resources like Ligonier’s can now be easily accessed all over the world. You can go to YouTube and watch endless hours of excellent teaching for free. (I love the Q&A sessions where you can hear a variety of these learned men answering questions.) Indeed, Ligonier has over 2,500,000 YouTube channel plays per month! I encourage you to check it out!

There is usually a silver lining in every negative situation, if you look for it, right?

Be of good cheer.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Eat, drink and be merry–in keeping with the situation

Thursday again and another weekend approaches. Two weeks until Christmas and the wee twins turn five on Saturday!

(Social distancing with Santa in 2021–good grief!)

We do not have a particularly busy holiday schedule. Gone are the days of multiple Christmas parties to attend and work festivities and school events. And that’s okay with me.

TCM showed They Were Expendable (1945) on December 7 and I watched it even though I had seen it on Memorial Day. It is such a great movie and one of the very best war movies, in part because it is not about winning and glory, but about losing and going on, about learning to be part of a team and making sacrifices for the team. (For the record, there are brave women in this movie, but they are not the ones getting their ankles blown off.)

There is a lot of talk these days about “toxic masculinity” and frequently John Wayne’s name is bandied about as an example of that, probably by morons who have never seen one of his movies. This is a real trigger for me, and this movie exemplifies exactly what is not toxic about masculinity and Robert Montgomery and John Wayne are perfect as the heroes of the film.

Author William L. White based his novel “They Were Expendable” on the experience of Squadron 3 in the Philippines, who, among other things, evacuated Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his family and staff by night from the island of Corregidor, where U.S. forces were trapped by the Japanese army, to Mindanao, the southernmost of the Philippine Islands, on March 11, 1942. John Wayne played the part of Capt. John Kelly (Rusty Ryan in the movie). Robert Montgomery played the part of Lt. John D. Bulkeley (John Brickley in the movie), who won a Medal of Honor for his service as commander of the squadron. By the way, William L. White was the son of the famous William Allen White, long-time Editor/Publisher of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, whom he succeeded from 1944-1973.

I also watched Damn Yankees (1958) which is available on Prime now. I had not seen it in forever (if indeed ever.) I was curious to see the Bob Fosse choreography and his muse Gwen Verdon, who did not make many movies. As musicals go, it is pretty thin, but I enjoyed “You Gotta Have Heart,” which transported me back to my senior year in high school when I had to sing it in Class Day. I was in key about half the time.

This is an interesting perspective. “For what it’s worth (and, to be clear, I’m not saying you have to do as I do), Christmas is effectively a secular festival for me. It has nothing to do with the church and isn’t demanded of Christian people in the Bible. But it is fun and I like it. What is more, I am always glad to have an opportunity to think more about Jesus.”

John Piper is so right, as usual. “I risk a generalization to warn you: people who are exercised and preoccupied with such things, as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood, are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal.”

And I have been wondering about this for a long time, haven’t you?

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

–Numbers 6: 24-26

Count it all joy*

Our little family group had a joyful Christmas with lots of baby holding…

…good food…

…and drink…

…presents…

and more baby holding…

and lots of sitting around talking which is the best of all.

We are recovering today and feeling sad and weepy because our precious angel and her darling Mommy and Daddy are driving home to far away Maryland. But you’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet. We are grateful they were able to visit and we look forward to our next get-together.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

*James 1:2

Joyful as a choir

Here’s hoping you all have a holly jolly Christmas…

Fashions by Lauren

..and that things don’t get too out of control.

But try to take a moment to remember why we celebrate…

Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

Wendell Berry

And I thought this was funny:

When you see a guy with a stick in his eye

Daughter # 1 and I were singing to wee Katie and were not able to remember the “real” lyrics to Guys and Dolls (see above) so we looked them up.

We had fun, but she was not impressed:

We also found the Fireside Book of American Folk Songs–a classic published in 1957–

and we sang all our faves, but again:

“Who are they, Mommy?”

I guess our singing stinks, but we had fun anyway. Katie forgave us. Singing is not something I have done much of lately (no church) so I am out of practice, but it is fun and I recommend it. It lightens the spirits.

I will also note that last night we watched the 1951 Alastair Sim version of Scrooge. It was great. The Barbara Allen scene always makes me cry.

…as does the whole second half of the movie. (“Barbara Allen” is in the Fireside book, by the way, and we sang it in the afternoon.) Watch it or, better yet, read the Dickens book which the movie faithfully follows:

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

–Charles Dickens

At the very least, send a check to the Salvation Army.

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart”*

Hugo van der Goes Mary and Joseph on the Way to Bethlehem (1475)

Two weeks until Christmas! Of course, there will be no parties this year, no church…but our little family pod will persevere.

In fact, we will rejoice!

Indeed, daughter #2, DN and sweet Katie are coming home! (Please keep them in your prayers as they drive here today.)

Speaking of prayer, this article about not-my-favorite Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) makes some good points.

Here’s what I wrote about it a few year’s back. They would never make a movie about the power of prayer these days. It is worth watching for that reason.

This old article also makes some good points about the old movie. “Life doesn’t always turn out the way we envisioned, does it? Our hopes and dreams may never come to pass.” But be grateful for what you have. It’s probably pretty great.

Anyway, I think I will skip this version slated for viewing this Sunday night. Yeah, no.

Be patient. Enjoy the day. Smell the pine in your nostrils.

And don’t forget that PBS is airing A Charlie Brown Christmas Sunday night!

*Psalm 27:14

Cheers!

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So we’ve been pretty preoccupied these last few days. We’ll be back soon when we have a minute to reconnoiter.

Daughter #2 and her DH are heading back east today. Uncle Nate was a big hit.

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Things will slow down a bit now. Everybody needs a rest.

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Hope you enjoyed your Christmas long weekend!

“For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath, Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.”*

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We’re in the home stretch now!

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I had the house pretty well cleaned up this weekend. Then the wee babes came over on Sunday night. The wee laddie likes to eat and blow raspberries at the same time, expressing whatever food is in his mouth all over the place! It is a neat trick and c’est la vie. The Christmas creche is fair game as well.

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Although everything he sees goes into his mouth, he is so active he seems to burn off any and all calories. Case in point: the wee laddie climbed all the way up our stairs to the second floor.

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Talk about Mt. Crumpit! I wish I had the core strength of our 16 lb. dynamo.

Little Lottiebelle takes a more measured approach to things. She is unimpressed by her brother’s antics and accomplishments.

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Stairs? No way, José!

And I hear the wee babes went to see a certain jolly old elf…

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They’re not afraid…

Well, this week I will wind things up at work and finish my to-do list and await the arrival of daughter #2 and Nate and daughter #1 on Friday. Woohoo!

P.S. I know you are impressed with my ability to screenshot Snapchat videos, right? I impress myself sometimes.

*Dr. Seuss