You may see a group of cabins and a firepit, but I see people too. . . . friends gathered around that fire singing songs and sharing some of the deepest parts of their lives. The sound of that door springing open unleashes thoughts of 80’s hair bands blasting through a jambox and floods my heart with joy and the emotions I experienced in those cabins. I can smell the wind as it carries laughter through the trees, and in spite of my attempts to describe it, you will never be able to hear that laughter. And how could I blame you? You weren’t there.
I love being in certain places. There are places that conjure deep emotions for me and some that make me feel light and free. Each of these places is filled with memories.
As much as I try, I have found that I can’t really ever go back to those places though. I mean. . . yes. . . I can be in the same space and I can enjoy being there and remembering, but it’ll never quite be the way I remembered it. What I remember is not just the place, it’s the people who were with me and the circumstances around my life that shaped the way I experienced that place. Even if the place has by some miracle stayed the same, the people and circumstances around my life have changed and so I experience it differently.
David Wilcox says, “The measure of that place is the pleasure on your face.”
It’s not the place that makes it special – it’s the people and it’s God. What makes certain places stand out and become memorable to us is God’s hand stirring our hearts and guiding our thoughts/emotions as we interact with others in the space that we’re in. (By the way, even if you’re alone in the space, God is still with you.)
Food. Sometimes, it’s just that. Food. Nothing special. Just our regular old lunch. On the other hand, food can be so much more. There are some meals we return to every time there’s something to celebrate. These dishes hold hands with memories. The people with whom we share our meals, also share our lives.
It’s not just a burger. It’s a reminder of a backyard cookout and the laughter of children playing on the lawn. It’s not just a cookie. It’s one of the ways my aunt expressed her Christmas love for us. The smell of a Chai Tea Latte makes me think of our friend Shana who introduced my bride to what she called “Christmas in a Cup.” If I make a cake today, the taste of batter on my fingers transports me to a 1973 counter top in Del City, Oklahoma where my brother and I licked mixer blades. Food is not just food. It is so much more.
An old man once said, “I don’t remember every meal my wife made for me, but each one of them kept me alive and provided the fuel I needed to live.” Our time with God is the same. We may not have a memorable experience with Him every day, but His Word keeps us alive and fuels our days.
Prayer: LORD, as we enjoy our meals, sustain and fuel us for life. When we eat, remind us that You (Jesus) are our true provider and that your Word fuels us spiritually. Every once in a while allow us to experience a meal that is more than food – one that reminds us of your incredible love – the love that would send Jesus to die in our place in order to rescue us from ourselves. Give us opportunities to return to this meal every time we need to be reminded of your sacrifice and grant us favor that it will sustain not only our bodies, but our heart and soul as well. AMEN.
Mt 4:4 – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
PS – This post was adapted from an article I wrote for a cookbook that our community group gave away in February 2013.
Over the years, the valley had grown wider. All the storms (big and small) compounded and made it tough to traverse so . . . we built a bridge.
I had a great Spring Break! Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, and I spent the week in Livingston with our good friends (we consider them family) the Godbolds. We also got to spend time with the Bowles, Leitschuhs, and Dale Googer’s. It was incredible! We spent the week as bridge builders.
We built a bridge over a little creek on the property, but there were also other bridges built. Since the time we moved away from Tomball, we have felt separated from our friends, but bridges were built. I watched my children meet new friends and learn new things – bridges were built.
Bridges were built with discussions around the fire. They were built as we reminisced. They were built as we shared stories and laughed. More bridges were built as we sang old songs and even as we reflected in the silence.
Livingston – this place – the people it represents – the memories – all of it reminds me of who I am and challenges me to remember who I want to become. This is a bridge. Livingston is a bridge between my past and my future. I’m grateful for this bridge – for this place – for my friends – for my God.
I never finished this, but it was an idea for a poem or song or something to give to my children. It expresses the things I plan to share with my kids when I take them to visit Meridian State Park someday. I’ll tell them the story of how I came to know Jesus. I’m so excited about that day! These words capture some of the emotions I feel as I think about telling them.
Anyway, maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I wanted to go ahead and post something so I wouldn’t lose it.
Come let me show you this place, this place full of grace.
Come let me show you the spring where we sat and listened to the quiet
And the outcropping where we waterbombed the bus.
Let’s go walk the carpet of bluebonnets
and run past the bees on the trail of Mesquite
As a child I ran these trails and stepped on a snake
These vines scratched my legs but helped heal me too.
We played frisbee golf and waterballoon volleyball
Chased Bulldog to soak him
James Garner taught us the Scriptures under the tree.
Ross Senter spoke around the campfire.
Let me show you the grace in this place.
Come watch the horizon swallow the sun
Breathe in the lights. See the milky way run
From up on the ledge and above the lake
Lets watch the sky. and see the stars come awake.
Come hear distant voices from the lake down below
Let’s sit and sing and wait – take it slow
If we’re lucky we’ll see a star fall from space
Here in this place – this place full of grace
And this is where I sat and sang and cried
Around the campfire On the night I gave my life to Christ.
This place is so dear. It’s a place I want you to know
Whether this place or that place, I want you to have your own place full of grace.
I lived in Enid, Oklahoma when I was in elementary school. It was the 70s and I wore plaid pants. (My mom dressed me.) I walked a few blocks each day to Hayes Elementary School and played in “the ditch.” If there was a movie like “The Sandlot” about my childhood, it’d be called, “The Ditch” ’cause some of my greatest memories from those days (K-6th grade) are from of the things we did there. Here’s a list of those memories:
Rock fights – There was a section of the ditch that was full of rocks. W used to build “forts” with them and then throw rocks at each other. I never said we were smart. (My brother got stitches in his lip once as a result.)
Sledding – When the ditch filled with snow, it was perfect for sledding.
Bobsled rides – In the place where the drain pipes (from under the streets) entered the ditch there were concrete sections which would fill with snow. We carved paths through these sections to make our own bobsled runs.
Wind & Frostbite- Sledding in the ditch is the first place I ever got the wind knocked out of me. I hit a bump with my sled and lost it. I also remember falling through the ice at the bottom once. It was only a foot deep, but my whole body was frozen. (OK – not really, but I can still remember the “heat” of the cold water in the bathtub when I got home.)
Cardboard Rides – When the grass grew tall enough in the summer, cardboard worked as well as a sled.
TG&Y – Mom wouldn’t let us walk most places, but when were got old enough, she allowed us to walk the trail by the ditch to go to TG&Y (like a dollar store today) to get Star Wars Cards and candy. I actually still have a full set of Star Wars cards. (I need to put ’em on ebay to see what I can get.) The trip to TG&Y was a huge adventure to us – sort of like the journey in the movie “Stand By Me.”
Crawdads – In the summer, we caught crawdads in the little creek at the bottom of the ditch.
Tunnels – From the ditch, we entered and crawled through the drain tunnels which ran under the streets of our neighborhood. It was our way of facing our fears – like exploring the caves in “The Goonies.”
Some other memories that weren’t in the ditch:
We had rubberband gun fights in the cul-de-sac where we lived. We jumped the back fence to go play with Jeff & John Schlarb. Zhan Stephens also lived behind us and he had a pool in his backyard. I remember how great our neighborhood was for getting candy on Halloween. I had a fishing birthday party at Meadowlake Park and took golf lessons in the summer. My dad helped coach little league football and t-ball. We also played basketball at the YMCA and went swimming there in the summer. I always bought “Hot Fries” in the vending machine at the Y. (Strange what we remember huh?)
Inspired by my friend Heather Zempel who posted a similar list, I decided to create my own list of things everyone should experience sometime in their lives during the Christmas season. I have already experienced some of these, but some are things I hope to experience.
50 Things to do during Christmas:
1. Watch “A Christmas Story” 5 times in a row on TBS.
2. Sit in Santa’s lap for a picture. It still counts if you cry your way through it.
3. Adopt a child (or 2 or 3) from the “Angel Tree” at church and buy gifts for him/her.
4. Cut down your own Christmas tree.
5. Decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments that have memories attached to them. Never waste your time making the tree look pretty or having matching ornaments.
6. Let your kids eat the strands of popcorn/fruit loops that you decorated the tree with.
7. Cut and decorate Christmas cookies with colored icing, sprinkles, red hots, etc. (Or just eat the ones your Aunt makes.)
8. Build a fire in the fireplace (yes, even if it’s 80 degrees outside) and read the Christmas story as a family.
9. Let the kids unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, but make sure they get that same gift every year so there’s still no surprise.
10. Be intentional about spending some time reflecting on Emmanuel (God with Us) – Jesus.
11. Participate in a live nativity.
12. Spend at least 100 hours placing exactly 6 colored stars on tree cookies made of green tasteless dough which you will sell to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm to make $$ for Christmas gifts. (This was for you, Laurie.)
13. Go Christmas caroling.
14. Be surprised when someone kisses you under the mistletoe.
15. Attend a candlelight service with your family.
16. Incur some kind of injury Christmas afternoon as you play with your new toy. (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”)
17. Give a memory to someone. Experience something together.
18. Unwrap “the ball” with your family. (It’s a tape ball with small gifts wrapped inside. The ball gets passed around a circle and you get to keep what you unwrap. You keep unwrapping until the next person rolls a 6 with a pair of dice.)
19. Leave cookies out for Santa.
20. Eat cookies left for Santa.
21. Dress up as Santa Claus so that a child believes at least one more year.
22. Instead of buying gifts, give $$ to your favorite charity.
23. Go to the trouble (in spite of the traffic) to take the kids to see some spectacular Christmas lights.
24. Go on a hayride.
25. Sustain an injury and get frustrated as you ignore the instructions and attempt to assemble the things Santa left your kids.
26. Take family pictures.
27. Re-gift. Or use gift cards to buy gifts for others.
28. Watch the eyes of someone you love as they open a special gift.
29. Play football in the yard with the whole family Christmas afternoon.
30. Put pumpkin pie on your shoe, pretend you came in from outside, and then when someone notices the “poop,” wipe it off with your finger and eat it. (My brother’s idea – and it was hilarious! My grandma is the one who noticed.)
31. Use an advent calendar where you get to do something (Ex: eat a chocolate, hang an ornament, etc.) each day leading up to Christmas.
32. Display a nativity scene in your house and teach your children about the characters. (Last night, my 2-yr-old son Kasen, took “baby Jesus” to bed with him.)
33. See Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” Christmas production (or at least listen to the recording each year.)
34. Arrange for your children to play “Jesus” in some sort of local Christmas production. Bonus if you are Mary and Joseph.
35. Wake up way too early as your kids anticipation gets the best of them.
36. Secretly open a gift, seal it back up, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.
37. Watch the “Nativity Story” movie.
38. Use baby powder to leave footprints from the fireplace to the place where Santa left the gifts. (But make sure you make the footprints go back too – my parents missed that last part.)
39. Count the number of Jesus figurines you can find at grandma’s house.
40. Ask your grandma/grandpa about how they remember spending Christmas as kids.
41. Eat monkey bread.
42. Enjoy a “White Christmas” and do some sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snowman.
43. Take the family skiing in Colorado over the Christmas break.
44. Take the family to an old barn and read the Christmas story there among the animals and smells.
45. Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream – it’s only made during the holidays.
46. Search the sky for Santa’s sleigh.
47. Get stranded due to icy/closed roads in some random west Texas town on the way to a ski trip. End up having to sleep with the animals ’cause there is “no room at the inn.” (It was Quanah, TX and the people of First Baptist Church were very gracious with their gym. They even let traveling pets sleep there.)
48. Drive all over the country trying to see all your relatives and in-laws on Christmas Day.
49. Snack on Chex Mix and Peppermint Bark.
50. Celebrate Emmanuel!!! (Jesus = Emmanuel = “God with Us”)
Things not to do:
1. Get so busy trying to do the things on this list that you forget #50.
These are just some pics of some t-shirts I’ve either used or designed over the years for different youth trips and programs. It’s amazing how many memories are conjured up when I look at them.
These are only a few. I can think of some more but I guess I’ve lost the shirts over the years. Let me know if you’ve got any of the missing ones. I’d love to collect pics of them all and post ’em here.
I was going through some old stuff the other day and found a vhs (remember those things?) with a video we made for a Senior banquet in 1995. I enjoyed laughing at it all and thought some of you would too so I converted it to dvd and wmv.
I’m almost embarrassed to put these up ’cause the quality is so poor, but you gotta remember, I’m old. These were all made with 2 vcrs – long before computer editing hit the consumer market. It’s also pretty poor ’cause the tape is so old. Anyway, if you watch them in order here, you can see the whole thing.
Write your comments at the bottom – I’m thinkin’ this could get interesting.