Thursday, December 18, 2003

Making Memories

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” ~ Luke 2:9-11

Christmas has become so many things. It’s really easy to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we lose sight of what it’s really all about –the birth of Jesus.

I hate to admit this, but there have been times when I’ve felt like Scrooge on Christmas Day. When the big day finally arrived, I would be so burned out that my Christmas spirit would be on “e”. It’s supposed to be a happy time of year, but by the time I’d mailed 200 Christmas cards, put up the tree and decorated the house, and shopped and wrapped presents for everyone in the family, I would be drained emotionally and physically (and sometimes financially)!

Then when I’d find the toys I’d purchased for the boys in pieces under their beds two weeks later, that only compounded my frustration. All that effort, only to find that the toys were either lost or they’d lost interest in the toys.
But God gave us a gift that will last for eternity.

“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

My ideal Christmas would minimize the gift-giving aspect and place more emphasis on being together and making memories. I love spending time with my family. I’m especially looking forward to being home for the holidays this year, after being in Carson City for the past six weeks. To me, the greatest gift any of my children could give me is their presence – not their presents.

The nice thing about making memories is that memories last a lifetime. Memories don’t cost anything. They don’t wear out, or break, or go out of style. And best of all, memories don’t have to be returned!

I also enjoy receiving cards because words spoken from the heart touch my heart. One year the boys wanted to know what to buy me for my birthday, so I asked each of them to make me a card. I came across those handmade cards recently and I’d like to share them with you. Kirk was too young to write one, but here’s what the other three boys had to say:

Jared: Dear Mom, I wanted to tell you, on your birthday, how much I appreciate all you do for us, like cleaning our clothes and washing the floor. I know sometimes we often take these luxuries for granted. But you need to know that it is very much appreciated. So, thank you, Mother. I love you!! Love, Jared

Josh: Dear Mom, Uh?!?! That’s too formal, I mean, you’re my mom. Let’s try again. Hi Mom, Well, happy birthday, Mom. I trust you’re having a wonderful B-day. Since I couldn’t afford a good B-day present, you suggested I write this “love letter,” so here we go. Mom, I love you so much. I know I always say so, but I do, and I always appreciate everything you do for us although I don’t say so. Without you our home would be missing something and would “crumble” & just have no organization. I just can’t stop saying how much I love you. I love you with all my heart & soul. ---Without you my life wouldn’t be complete. Love, Joshua Jim Umbehr

Keener’s card was the most elaborate. He drew a picture of a big heart with two people inside with their arms around each other. One was labeled “Mom” and the other was labeled “Me.” Then he drew some flowers and wrote “Happy Birthday.” Inside he wrote: Dear Mom, I love you, you were there I came home from school and told you people were making fun of me. You were always there to listen. You make us dinner and put a roof over our head, you do our laundry. You do our grocery shopping, you buy our school supplies and our shoes. You gave us our 40 acres. I love you, Keen

Now there’s a gift that’s truly priceless!

I still cherish the memories of Christmas celebrations from when I was growing up. My sister Connie would dress up as Santa Claus every year and all the younger kids would stand in awe when we heard the ringing bells and saw Santa walking across the front lawn, carrying a sack of goodies and ho-ho-ho-ing! We all took turns sitting on Santa’s lap, telling “him” what we wanted for Christmas – never realizing it was really our sister.

I also have fond memories of singing Christmas carols and putting on skits each year on Christmas Eve. It was a full-fledged Van Kirk family variety show. Some of the more popular skits were repeated annually, but there were usually one or two originals performed each year. I remember the laughs my brother Bill and I got from the audience when we dressed up in our long underwear and sang, “Walking in our winter underwear” to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” When it came to the part in the song where it says, “Later on, we’ll conspire, as we sit by the fire…,” we changed it to, “Later on, we’ll perspire, as we sit by the fire…,” and wiped the imaginary sweat off our brows.

One of our favorite songs to perform was “Sisters” from White Christmas. All six of us girls would line up with our arms around each other swaying and singing: “Sisters, sisters…never were there such devoted sisters… All kinds of weather, we stick together, the same in the rain or sun…Uh, huh. Six different faces, but in tight places, we think and we act as one…Those who’ve, seen us, know that not a thing can come between us…..”

Recently a friend of mine shared a poignant story from Gerald Bath about a missionary teaching in Africa. Before Christmas he had been telling his native students how Christians, as an expression of their joy, gave one another presents on Christ's birthday.

On Christmas morning, one of the natives brought the missionary a seashell of immense beauty. When asked where he had discovered such an extraordinary shell, the native said he had walked many miles to a certain bay, the only spot where such shells could be found.

“I think it was wonderful of you to travel so far to get this beautiful gift for me," the teacher exclaimed. His eyes brightening, the native answered, "Long walk part of gift."

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.

The Umbehr Family
Christmas 2002

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