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Holiday Ups and Downs

Holidays can be many things to different people, depending on their circumstances  and environments and a host of other factors.

For example, Christmas is filled with excitement for little kids. (I once was one, so I know!) It can also be exciting for older adults, especially if they have the opportunity to spend the time with out-of-state family members. (I experience that excitement every odd-yeared Christmas as we and our four daughters and their husbands and children gather for several days.) On the other hand, it can be a tiring time for those who must travel long distances and for those who are responsible for the planning, cooking, boarding, and cleaning up afterward. It can also be an especially trying time for those who have recently lost a loved one. (I experience that in triplicate every year now, having lost my mother the week before Christmas in 1980, my father in February several years later, and, most recently, my mother-in-law last January after having spent that Christmas with her. It’s especially hard on someone who has lost a spouse at or near the holiday season, such as my father and father-in-law.

But life must go on. And this year was the year for our far-flung family to gather for the holidays. We did. so at the homes of our daughters in North Carolina. It was an enjoyable time, especially the time we were able to spend with our seven grandchildren. (We now know just how gracious and merciful the Lord is in giving little kids to young adults! If only we had each morning half the dynamic energy that those kids exhibit at bedtime after a full day of hard playing!)

But one daughter and her husband were sick. It just so happened that we were boarding at their house. So at the end of five days with them, when we returned home, my wife and I were exhibiting symptoms of the “krud” too. We were scheduled to spend a day unpacking, doing laundry, and then repacking for a post-Christmas trip to Florida to visit my wife’s father and sister. We debated the wisdom (or foolishness) of cancelling our trip lest we pass the “bug” along to one or both of them. We decided that, not knowing when we’d ever see them again, we’d better go. So, as sick and tired as we were, we drove the ideally eleven-hour trip and arrived in a mere twelve-and-a-half hours plus because of the most horrendous traffic we’ve had in more than 30 years of making the trip. We arrived exhausted and sicker than ever.

My wife quickly bounced back. (And they call women the “weaker sex”?) I’ve always been a late bloomer, so I kept the sickness longer and had to miss not only the Sunday services in the church where my father-in-law formerly pastored but also the New Year’s Eve game and fellowship night. We both arrived back home yesterday, exhausted and still hacking and coughing (at least I was), but not before we had shared the malady with our loved ones there in sunny Florida. (It doesn’t make sense to me. Who could get a cold in warm, sunny, healthful Florida?! Now that I think about it, however, when we stopped at the Florida Welcome Center, just past the Georgia-Florida line, they had run out of the orange and grapefruit juice elixirs they traditionally offer every guest. It must have been an evil omen. We didn’t get our citrus boost, and maybe that’s why we didn’t get better and, even worse, passed our illness to others. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and giving and getting regifted!)

But while there, sick or well, we enjoyed spending time with the  family. We visited my mother-in-law’s grave site at the Veterans Cemetery in Sarasota, reminisced of happier times spent with her, and thought of how much better off she is now with the Lord. And we ate lunch at Der Dutchman in Sarasota, reminding us of our days living near and often visiting the Amish and Mennonite areas in Pennsylvania. Boy! Can they ever cook!

The holidays have always had their ups and downs, their high points and their low points, their blessings and their sorrows. But they are all memorable for us because we know that “ALL things work together FOR GOOD to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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