16 December 2008

Today

Today I saw three people I've known my whole life (or practically my whole life) cry. It's not that I didn't think they had cried or could cry or even would cry, but it was a slightly strange thing for me to see. They have always been rock solid and to see them in such a state of vulnerability was a little hard for me. These people are my grandmother, my uncle, and my aunt. Now I don't cry for reasons of sadness in large groups of people as a matter of personal policy, but that being said, I did tear up a bit. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, my grandfather passed away last Thursday and I am in Seattle for his funeral.) It was very tender to see my grandfather's casket draped with an American flag and to see how many people loved him and would come to pay their respects to a great man. He was a Korean war veteran and an extremely great man. I may be biased because he was my grandfather, but the people who came are not and that was a testament to me of how much he was loved and how many people's lives he was able to touch. We had a chance to say our last goodbyes before everyone came so I was able to have my own special time with him to say what I needed to. The service was beautiful. So many things were said that I had not known and that really made me feel loved. He was a special person. Most of all, the eulogies given by my father and my uncle were beautiful. My uncle did the most touching thing I have ever seen him do and it really brought tears to my eyes. As a Vietnam veteran he was a fellow 'brother in arms' and as a final respect he saluted my grandfather's casket as he finished his eulogy. It was so tender. After the service, we all went to the graveside which was very nice (freezing, but nice). They gave a 21 gun salute and presented the colors to my grandmother. It was so wonderful how much care they took with the flag. They folded it beautifully and then to make the points as crisp as possible they held it in a way that was almost like hugging it. It really made it quite personal. I loved my grandpa a lot and I will miss him greatly. I am just glad to know he's in a better place with his twin brother and most of his family. As two older ladies said this afternoon, "Well, now those two yahoos are together again!" It's true and that's great. No pain or sadness for them and that makes me happy. I love you grandpa and I'll miss you.

11 December 2008

The Christmas Story

I'm pretty sure most everyone who reads my blog knows the first Christmas story. The one where Mary is going to have Jesus and where she and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem to pay a tax and there she has the son of God in a stable. Well if you didn't know it before, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Well, while I was at school, I took some really cool classes (I like saying that like it was so long ago!) one of which was a marriage prep class. Before anyone jokes about it, it was a really great class! More of a relationship class, parts of which were just more centered on the relationship between a husband and wife. But I digress. One of the books we had to buy for the class is called Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts. It's a really cool book (even if you aren't planning on getting married anytime soon and there is a wonderful passage in it. It's actually in the part about getting used to living with each other and to adjust to things you can't control in a positive way, but I like to read it around Christmas time because it puts a new twist on what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph that Christmas and I would like to share it with you. (Sorry it's a little long, but it's good!)

"Can you imagine for a moment how the Christmas story might have been written if Mary and Joseph had not had the capacity to adjust to things beyond their control? To begin with, Joseph had to adjust to the fact that Mary, his fiancee, was pregnant. According to Old Testament law, he could have had her stoned or sent her into some large distant city like Rome, Carthage, or Ephesus. Before he could break with her, however, God sent an angel to tell Joseph that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to a Son whose name would be Jesus. So instead of sending Mary away, Joseph married her.

"While the first year of marriage is always difficult, Mary and Joseph faced a unique set of challenges. Nine months of pregnancy require enormous adjustments from a couple, regardless of how long they've been married-and this was no run-of-the-mill pregnancy. On top of dealing with the implications of the impending birth, Mary and Joseph were trying to establish their home, run a business, and learn how to live with each other seven days a week. Further, they were forced to close down their business and travel to Bethlehem as the first step of a Roman plan to raise taxes. Just what they needed!

"Early one morning Mary and Joseph left their honeymoon abode behind them as they went out of the gate of Nazareth en route to Bethlehem. She was riding on the back of a little burro. (No easy ride. Some women can hardly ride in a Buick while they are waiting for the birth of a child, let alone on the back of a donkey!) Joseph had a short tether wrapped around his arm and anchored securely in his big fist to keep the little burro from dislodging Mary, who was more than eight months pregnant. At night they did not stop in a rooming house or a motel as people might today. They stopped along the road, cooked with makeshift arrangements, slept on the hard ground, and made the best of a difficult situation.

"Finally, when they arrived within sight of the city of Bethlehem, Mary stopped. She could not go another step. We can imagine her looking up at her husband and saying something like, "Joe, I cannot take another step. I am going to sit down here under this olive tree, and I want you to go into the city of Bethlehem and get us a room in the Bethlehem Hilton. I would like one in the front if possible so I can watch the crowds go up and down, and I will get room service and wait out the time for the baby to come."

"Mary was a long way from home, worn out, tired, emotionally drained, and at the end of her rope. Furthermore, she must have wondered what she would do if her labor pains began and Joseph was not near. After all, her baby was almost due. Her anxiety level must have risen as she waited, watched, and eagerly scanned the highway for the familiar figure of Joseph. The teeming crowds moving along the highway paid her no attention.

"Finally Joseph returned, his characteristic smile gone, his shoulders drooping. She listened as he told her his story: "Mary, I went to the hotel, but there was no room. It's filled with convention people. In fact, I went up and down the main street to every hotel and there are no rooms. Finally, I persuaded an old man to let us stay in the barn with his animals. He's charging an exorbitant price, Mary, but he promised me he would clean out the manure and cover the floor with fresh straw. And most of all, Mary, he said we could be alone, he would not make us share the stall with any other couple."

"Their hearts heavy, Mary and Joseph made their way to the stable, thankful at least for a shelter from the cold wind.

"That night the Son of God was born.

"Can you imagine how the Christmas story might have been written if Mary and Joseph had not had the capacity to adjust to things beyond their control?"

No matter what else this season means to us, let's all remember to try and be a little bit kinder and a little more adaptable this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to you all!

 
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