Random Blog Clay Feet: 2009-12
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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Love

As usual I am a bit slow in posting personal events in my life on this blog. Sometimes I fail to even mention them many times. But of course pictures always give me a little more incentive to try to share some of the special times in our lives.

As might be expected, the Christmas holidays would be a time to have a higher chance of making some memories than other times. Many years those memories are often quite mixed, at least for me. When there are large groups getting together there is almost always the tension of widely varying personalities, old grudges, unresolved disputes and potential flare-ups hiding just beneath the surface. Most people are very aware of this potential and it has even become a good source for many holiday jokes now.

I am certainly not the traditional Christmas type of person as anyone in my family could assure you. For many years I have resented the whole onslaught of expectations and commercialism revolving around gift-giving. Many years ago I made it plain each year that I did not want to receive gifts because I don't want to be guilted into spending a lot of money buying 'guess' gifts for people I am clueless about. I am terrible at guessing what people want and often at this time of year I am very strapped for money anyway. Given all the variables and seeing the hard feelings that happen involving people and the gifts they do or do not receive, I have decided that staying out of the whole process completely is preferable to trying to find some compromise.

However, that does not mean that I don't value some things extremely highly. But the things that people could easily give me and that would cost them little to nothing in many cases are the kinds of things that do not fit into the typical mold of people's expectations. They are not things measured by the price tag attached to (or removed from) them but are measured by the long-term affect that they can have on the heart.

Someone has stated the the only real gift any of us can every actually give, the only actual, authentic gift that we even possess that is of real worth is our undivided attention to someone. When I heard that statement the first time it resonated so deeply inside of me that I knew it was profoundly true. But in the reality of how most people interact at Christmastime that is one of the rarest gifts ever given to anyone. But I cannot avoid the fact that this kind of gift – someone taking the time to just spend quality time with me, open up their heart and soul to me and allow me to open up to them – that is a gift I could never buy with any amount of money and they do not need to spend money on giving such a gift as that me, except of course unless it involves some travel.

Given all that context and background from my perspective, I literally felt honored and blessed to actually get some of that very gift this Christmas. Two of our daughters drove down separately to spend the weekend with us and we had only the four of us together. There were no tensions, no hidden agendas, no expectations for reciprocal gift exchanges – just time spent together hanging out, talking, eating (our family cannot do holidays without engaging in some very specific holiday cooking extravaganzas due to the British blood in their veins) and generally enjoying each others company.

We had all agreed ahead of time that we would not do the gift exchange thing so I felt reasonably comfortable in not buying anything for anyone. I know that labels me in many minds as a heretic, but so be it. My family finally accepts me this way without trying to lay a guilt trip on me, even subtly as often happened for many years some time ago. This has greatly eased tensions now I have to say. But our girls did bring along a bunch of stocking gifts for all of us for which they did not expect any return.

After we went through the small items of food etc. and it was obvious that my wife had received gifts that were not paralleled for me, they asked me if I felt bad they hadn't bought me anything. Again I assured them as clearly as I could that I have no trace of desire for that kind of gifts at Christmas. However, I do cherish and appreciate very much their presence and willingness to accept me, love me and just be here with us as the most valuable and important thing they could give.

We had some very earnest, heart to heart talks over this weekend more real and open than I can remember having with one of our girls. These talks were more transparent and had less resistance than any that I can remember having with her in the past. A few days after they returned home I was speaking with this daughter on the phone and shared with her that I believe this may have been the best Christmas I can ever remember enjoying in my life. That is a pretty radical claim to make, but from this vantage point I still feel that is true. That is not to say it could not improve a great deal. There is always much more room for more transparency, more heart synchronization, more love, more connecting. But what we experienced this year was so much more in the direction I have longed for all of my life that I don't think I can really express it in words effectively.

So to my two girls who I love dearly, one biological and one a gift from heaven when she was much older, I want to express my deepest gratitude for just giving me a few days of your love and your presence with me and your mother. You really cannot sense how much it has meant to me and how long these memories are going to stay in my heart as incentive for more such encounters. I pray for you and put you both, along with our son and our other estranged daughter, into the hands of God. I also pray that I can grow to be a much better father for you that I have failed to be in the past. I am taking lessons from the best Father but it is taking me a long time to learn how to do this. But He is also my children's Father and He knows just how to love them and guide them and protect them and draw them to His heart far more effectively than I have ever dreamed of being able to do.

Father, keep them firmly in Your hands and show them the real truth about Your love, Your faithfulness, Your fairness and how crazy You are about them. Let them see Your face and know for themselves that You really do care about every detail of their life and that You can fix every problem, heal every pain and unravel every problem if they will let You. Bless them Father and ravish them with Your love as only You know how to do.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sounds of Christmas

I know I am rather delinquent in keeping this blog updated. My quartet actually participated in a three-way quartet concert a number of weeks ago and I intended to post something about it but never took the time. It was quite an interesting experience for us but turned out much better than I expected given that the other two quartets had many more years experience that ours. Each quartet gave their own section of the concert and then all twelve men joined together in the last song as a grand finale. Everyone seemed to enjoy it all immensely. I thought that I had some pictures of that event but when I went back to look I could not find any.

Today our Barbershopper Chorus put on our annual Christmas concert in two different churches which is always a very stimulating experience for all. I noted to the men just before our first concert that it was exactly two years ago in that very church that I had first heard this chorus perform in a Christmas concert and afterwards asked how I might join them. I have been singing with them ever since and now encourage others to consider joining us in the fun.

Of course we all dressed up in our “monkey suits” as some call them to look dashing for Christmas. The shoes are miserable for everyone and especially for me since I have very flat feet. My feet go numb sometimes wearing them but they are certainly very shiny to look at. This year they had me sing in one of the quartet numbers which included both of our directors. Evidently I was the wildcard in this venture as the other three have sung this song many times before. The first time we actually all practiced it together was about a half hour before our first concert. But it worked out very well and I enjoyed the song very much. It was a melancholy type of song which fits my general personality some of the time. I believe that it was arranged by our director who is an excellent musician and a very fine Christian as well.

Standing for that long of a time and keeping myself intensely focused caused my upper back to become so tense that after each concert I could hardly stand up straight. And by the end of the last song of the evening my voice was starting to seriously give out. I don't believe I could have made it through one more song. But it was a very good experience and I only wished more of my friends would have come to listen.

The next two weeks our chorus is going to do some caroling in a couple towns around here. Then we are taking off a couple weeks to start up practicing again after the new year. This has been a good outlet for me to be involved in music and also to make friends with people in areas where I usually would not ever get to know.

Anyway, that's what is going on in my neck of the woods right now. The weather is supposed to turn very cold this week and we might even get a little snow. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as some people might say.