Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Present

The following is my Umbehr family Christmas poem for 2005.  I thought it was easier to hit the highlights of our year, rather than write a newsletter and go into detail on each event. This was an eventful year, without a doubt, with many ups and downs – which is the excuse I’m using for failing to include one of the major milestones of 2005 – Erin’s graduation from nursing school (summa cum laude)! I felt terrible about it after I realized it, although Erin never said a word.   In an attempt to make up for my oversight, I’ve included a picture taken on the day Erin graduated.   We’re so proud of you, Erin!

Merry Christmas One and All!

Some of you hear from us
Quite frequently
If my Reflections column
You do receive

But for those of you
Who feel out of the loop
This poem will provide
The Umbehr family scoop

March brought much sadness
Heartache and tears
With news that we lost
My sister Patricia, so dear

In spite of our sorrow
Life continued indeed            
And on May 14th
Keen earned his degree

The celebration was short-lived
Then the real work began
As he studied and prepared
For the bar exam

On the 1st of September
We learned the good news
He could now practice law
And charge fees for his views!

But the summer had other
Surprises in store
When Hurricane Katrina
Hit the Gulf Coast shore

Jared, Erin & boys
Lost all their possessions
Except their cars and their lives
Which was a major concession!

Josh & Lisa keep busy        
With both still in school
Lisa graduates in May
In time to sit by the pool

But that won’t last long
For the parents-to-be
That’s right – they’re expecting!
Then baby will make three!

And if that wasn’t enough,
For the proud grandparents to swallow
Jared & Erin soon announced
That their new baby would follow!

Keen II is still working
And refereeing at night
Plus he takes on-line classes
He’s so ambitious and bright

He won the 5K race
In Alma this year
And began dating Emily
In love they appear

Kirk made a big move
To a larger school nearby
Expanding his horizons
Under God’s and our watchful eye

He’s earning good grades
And joined a paintball club
But he was most excited when,
He made the basketball cut!

Now it’s time to wrap up
This warm Christmas greeting
May God bless you and keep you
Until our next meeting!          

Keen, Eileen, Jared, Erin, Asher, Gabe, Josh, Lisa, Keen II and Kirk

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Past

This week I’d like to share a poem about a Van Kirk Christmas past, which was written in 1997 by my sister-in-law, Connie, when she and my brother Bill and their four kids were living in Louisiana.

Connie titled her Christmas newsletter, “The Van Kirk Times.” I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

I’d also like to wish all of you - my friends, family and “unknown readers” – many blessings of health, happiness, and prosperity this Christmas season and in the coming year. ~ Eileen


Our New Year started out with a bang, because on New Year’s Eve in Louisiana, fireworks everywhere rang.

A January outing to an amusement park is another story, where Kyle climbed high on Captain Hooks’ ship and cried out, “I FEEL THE GLORY”!

A special visit came from my Mom & Dad, with sightseeing & Mardi Gras parades, what a time we had!

For beads, toys & trinkets we’d say, “Throw me something, Mister!” It’s the biggest free show on earth for every brother & sister.

Joey had at first, a struggle to read, But almost overnight, he’s now in the lead!

My sister and family did visit for just one full day. A zoo trip in a forecast of rain was changed to sunshine, because we did pray!

Early March Spring planting was fun in a sleeveless shirt, just wish because of red clay, we didn’t have to buy all this dirt!

Luke played his trumpet and made honor band. He played as one of the best in the district, so let’s give him a hand.

On a river we did go with our local pastor, who loved to drive the boat faster and faster.

Except when the cruise ships came by, we submarined their waves and not a one of us was dry.

In April all 3 boys played baseball, playing through June, we were in for the long haul.

Luke started a business, mowing grass, and good for him the price was first class.

To the bank he did take half of his dough, he wonders now, where did the rest of it go?

What’s this bill I owe to the school cafe'? Why it’s Joey, who secretly decided to eat breakfast there everyday!

Bill received a promotion to level S-2, with all his hard work, 3M knew he was due.

High humidity & 90’s started early in May. And the first day of comfortable weather was still 5 months away.

Blueberry picking in June was quite a treat, the bushes were like trees, with large berries, abundant and sweet.

We had to soon travel far for a reunion with the VK clan, so we bought ourselves a ’95 Ford Windstar van.

For a Singapore school reunion came Bill’s sisters Eileen & Mary, fun and a whirlwind weekend of seeing classmates, some a bit too friendly – it was scary!

Just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, the baseball season went 6 more weeks with All-Stars - Good Grief!

A nice trip to Astro World in Houston with Renee, oh what could be the matter? It was hotter than blazes, the thermometers must have shattered.

Seeing Bill’s family in N.C. ocean shore made many memories to save, we all enjoyed seeing who could catch the biggest wave.

On this very trip the shocking news came, Bill’s key account is sold! Will his territory remain the same?

In August discussion of more territory, maybe a move? No move was the answer, so I focused on getting back in the groove.

The last weeks of summer reaped far more than I could bear! A 5-year-old girl cut short Callies’ hair!

Nerf gun ink pen ammo made carpet stains and all the bedroom wall-ball marks drove me insane.

Since I was due for a break, I went to a pampering party one day, to my surprise, a job offer came my way.

Come teach Spin Cycling at our health club (another dream come true), I took the job along with Aerobic Instructor Certification to pursue.

It was a busy Fall, with Luke and Joe in football. They both played center, hooray! Kyle in gymnastics, Callie in ballet.

The boys and I deep in our studies, some more news flashed. A transfer to Kansas City, our future here was slashed.

October brought Bill’s Dad to see us, He was quite a sport in all the scheduled ruckus.

At Thanksgiving we drove to see him, and the cup of hospitality he filled to the brim.

Mishaps of Joey’s sprained finger and Kyle’s black eye, I passed my Aerobic Exam, after studying so hard, I could die.

Kyle happened to lose four teeth in one week, he proclaimed, “Mom, I am on a losing streak”!

My friend, Renee, came to have a blast, and it felt like fun days we had had in the past.

We had such a blast you see, because Bill, he was baby-sitting for me.
To New Orleans we will soon say good-bye, it’s good news, yet makes me cry.

Bill will have a territory of five Midwest states, we will move the first quarter of 1998.

This holiday season we’ll drive to Minnesota to see y’all. COME TO OUR OPEN HOUSE FOR ONE AND ALL!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” ~ Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)
Bill, Connie & kids at Van Kirk family reunion in Nags Head,1997

The Van Kirk Family in 2005 ~ Luke, Callie, Connie, Bill, Joey and Kyle

Friday, December 02, 2005

True Gifts

“And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift.”
                         ~ Romans 5:15 (NLT)

     With all the discussion about whether it’s appropriate to wish people a Merry Christmas or whether we should simply use the generic greeting, “Happy Holidays” – I’d just like to say one thing: Christmas is what Christmas is, just as Hanukkah is what Hanukkah is – and no one should have to apologize for that. Whether a particular holiday is set aside to honor a past president, veterans of war, Martin Luther King, or any other entity or religion, changing the name doesn’t change the original meaning.  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who came to Earth to save us from our sins.  How (or whether) individuals choose to participate in the celebration is up to them.
     The following poem was written by my friend, Pat Barrett:
Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?
By Patricia Kohls Barrett

It’s that time of year again
Decorations are up in the store
Advertisements try to entice us
To buy two, three, or four

We check last year’s decorations
To see if we need some more
We hang fragrant green wreaths
To welcome who come to the door

People hurry, scurry and rush
As they count the calendar days
Running around like little mice
Scampering through the maze

Is this why we celebrate Christmas
To get caught up in flurry and hype?
Do we appreciate the true meaning
Or negatively complain and gripe?

If we stop and listen to the music
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
Listen to the words and message
The reason to celebrate we’ll hear

The baby born in a manger
Wasn’t just a homeless infant
God Himself became human
For our sakes from heaven was sent

He left his glory in heaven
Because of great love for all sinners
He came to die on the cross
All who believe can be winners

Attention and contemplation
Of such incredible, wonderful love
Gives reason for praise and adoration
Of our wonderful God up above

It’s the real reason to celebrate
Gives us peace and a big smile
Rejoice, be happy and praise Him
The motive was there all the while.

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” ~Psalm 9:1

Pat’s poem not only captures the true meaning of Christmas, it also addresses the hectic pace that is typically associated with the various holiday preparations.

Every year I struggle with becoming overwhelmed by the stress that comes from having too much to do in too little time. So this year I broke a record by mailing my Christmas cards out a few days after Thanksgiving. I am also endeavoring to de-emphasize the material aspect of Christmas, by keeping the amount of money I spend on gifts within a reasonable limit.

Some of you may recall reading the following poem I wrote several years ago about the gift of time.  In my opinion, it is and always will be the greatest gift you can offer your loved ones – not only at Christmas, but all year through.

The Greatest Gift
By Eileen Umbehr

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t diamonds or gold
The greatest gift of all
Never rusts or gets old

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t being wined or dined
The greatest gift of all
Is the easiest to find

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t the latest craze
The greatest gift of all
Lasts more than three days

The greatest gift of all
Can’t be purchased in a store
It comes straight from the heart
And lasts forevermore

Yes, the greatest gift of all
Doesn’t cost a dime
For the greatest gift of all
Is the gift of time.  

“. . . [T]he only true gift is a portion of thyself.”
                   ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

     Someone emailed me the following list of eight gifts that don’t cost a cent:

      But you must REALLY listen.
      No interrupting, no daydreaming,
      no planning your response. Just listening.

       Be generous with hugs, kisses, pats on the back,
       and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate
       the love you have for family and friends.

      Clip cartoons.
      Share articles and funny stories.
      Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

        It can be a simple, “Thanks for the help" note,
        or a full sonnet.  A brief, handwritten note may
        be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.

       A simple and sincere,
       "You look great in red," "You did a super job,"
       or "That was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day.

       Every day go out of your way to do something kind.

       There are times when we want nothing better
       than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those times
       and give the gift of solitude to others.

       The easiest way to feel good is to extend
       a kind word to someone, really it is not that
       hard to say, “Hello,” or “Thank You.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  
~ Leo Buscaglia

Author Unknown

To a Friend: Loyalty
To an Enemy: Forgiveness
To your Boss: Service
To your Child: Patience and a Good Example
To your Father: Honor
To your Mother: Gratitude and Devotion
To your Spouse: Love and Faithfulness
To Yourself: Respect
To All Men and Women: Charity
To God: Your Life

In closing, I’d like to share a poem which was written by another gifted poet and friend of mine, Gale Rogers.  Gale said that he was trying to show and tell about some of the gifts he received growing up. “Sad or melancholy as the poem might seem,” he wrote, “I wanted to make the reader think what Christmas is all about, by comparing the impending traditional gifts one looks forward to and the real gift that is the true meaning of Christmas . . . .”

By Gale Rogers

I remember Christmas past with memories that forever will last.

I remember fresh green fir trees lit with lights and multicolored glass balls.  Mistletoe, strings of cranberries and popcorn hanging on gala decorated walls.

I remember stockings filled to the brim with oranges, apples and sticky ribbon candy. Pencils, small wooden toys, nuts handkerchiefs and other things so handy.

I remember going caroling, while holding hands with a very special girl. Followed, by hot chocolate back at the church and peppermint canes of red and white swirl.

I remember being a shepherd, in the church play about the Birth. My first Midnight Mass with a friend, and the gifts of incense and myrrh.

I remember the American flyer, maroon and white. How it did gleam beside the tree brand new, with a horn and a big chrome headlight.

I remember Lincoln logs, spinning tops, and tinker toys. Footballs, bats, new overalls a pair of mittens and other gifts for boys.

I remember Shirley Temple dolls, with hair hanging in curls. China playhouse dishes, ribbons, bows, fancy skirts, story book dolls and other presents for girls.

I remember the gathering and the warmth, shared by family and friends. Exchanging cards with those far away, singing "White Christmas" and other old trends.

I remember a Christmas when family, was scattered from Texas to Nome.  How sad it was that year, knowing we could not be home.

I remember my children's first Christmas, and their impending glee. How happy I was to be able to give them their very own memory.

But most of all I stop, to remember just why. Nothing will ever compare to the gift given long ago, when a single star shone in Eastern sky.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”    ~ John 3:16 (KJV)