Saturday, December 21, 2013

Silver and Gold

As a Brownie Girl Scout, I used to sing

Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.

There is a lot of silver and gold this time of year, on the tree, in the house, in the stores... and a whole lot of it exchanging hands.  But it's those silver and gold friendships that shine like a light this time of year.

We just returned from three days in our former hometown, staying with my parents, doing our best to stimulate the economy, as Josh says. We still go to the dentist there, get our cars fixed there, and I always make a hair appointment when I go. And then there's my favorite things to eat there and my favorite shops.  But what I love, and miss, the most, of course, are those wonderful "old" friends.

It's impossible to see everyone we want to, but I love the little gifts from God, of seeing a friend I didn't expect to.  I turned a corner in Marden's and there was a friend!  A ring of the doorbell after dark and there was a friend, bringing the most unique and delicious cookie!  I had a wonderful, two hour conversation with an amazing godly woman when I dropped her daughter off from a playdate with mine.  I popped in to see my Kelly-girl and she gave me a lovely handmade necklace that I've received so many compliments on already.

I confess, driving into our "old" hometown is like salt in a wound.  I'm coming to realize that what we had there (to me we had it "all") will never be matched again.

But then we drove home. And we were coming home an hour before some of our homeschooling friends were showing up for a Christmas party.  A Christmas party that was rather impromptu, but we decided to just do it.  And it was wonderful.  It came together easily because we have new friends that we're getting comfortable with.  They don't care what my house looks like. They understand the imperfections of my children and are patient with the slow work of maturing in them.  We laugh and talk easily, the kids run out to play in the snow, we're honest about our struggles.

And when everyone has gone home, I put my finger on this lightness in my soul, this joy and gratitude that is there.  We have wonderful old silver friends and we are making wonderful new golden friends.  And I think, the refining of silver and gold is slow, it's not without fire, it takes time and trial to make something precious.

I had eight years to build lasting friendships with those people.  I shouldn't be surprised that, in our new hometown, the process of making and building new and precious friendships is slow. But sure.

Every year, for Christmas, I ask for "something special".  Friendships, old and new, are some of the best gifts I've ever received.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Own "It's a Wonderful Life" Story

That wonderful, classic Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life was just the butt of many a sitcom joke to me, until I saw it for the first time when I was 21 years old.  I remember that Christmas so well.  It was the year I was madly in love with this guy at church.  It was the first Christmas that truly held the wonder of Christ's birth for me.  It was beautiful.

I fell in love with It's a Wonderful Life.  And maybe the rest of the world did, too, because people seemed to stop making fun of it.  It's simplicity perhaps became something this harried, hectic season of celebrators needed and desired.

My own It's a Wonderful Life story happened the summer when I was greatly pregnant with our third child.  She was due at the end of August. The summer was blessedly cooler in comparison to others we had.  I had enjoyed this pregnancy so much and was overjoyed that we were having another baby girl.

But the shadow of that summer was our own Mr. Potter.  He was a heating oil dealer in our story.  Because heating oil costs were sky high, we had locked in our rate the year before and prepaid 800 gallons worth of that liquid gold.  That was no small chunk of change.  We also installed  a wood stove that miraculously heated our entire huge house, much to our surprise.  So the only oil we ended up using was for our hot water.

That was a blessing.  It meant we would get much of that prepaid oil money returned to us.  Right?


The owner of the heating oil company refused to return the $2500 to us.  I tried every avenue possible to get our money back.  I personally delivered a request for our money back, with a copy of the law.  I got the Attorney General's office involved. He dodged their calls. I spoke with a lawyer.  This despicable Mr. Potter type man had no intention of returning our money.

Just a few weeks before Petite was born, I fell down our back staircase on our way to morning swim lessons.  Thankfully, I only sprained my ankle, though it hurt like a beast.  Thirty-five extra pounds on a badly sprained ankle just added to my misery of dealing with our stolen money.  It was taking the joy out of an otherwise wonderful pregnancy.

The only answer to this problem was... to let it go.  To give this one to God and choose to enjoy the last few weeks of my pregnancy.  As unjust as the whole situation was, it was the way to peace.

Right after I let go, after I decided to not even take it to small claims court, my mom and my best friend threw me a baby shower.  So  many people showed up to celebrate my baby girl who was about to be born. My brother hid out in the basement but was sure to add his very large measurement to the game of trying to guess my girth (and he won!).  Jessie brought Ghiradelli brownies. Sara got me a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake.  Holly and the girls sent me a giant bag of baby clothes from yard sales (she knows how I love to yard sale!) among many other gifts.  Diapers, adorable outfits, so much cuteness was in those packages... but when I unpacked all those things at my house later that night, it was the love and the laughter and the fact that my friends had just showed up that overwhelmed my heart.

There is so much that can be stolen from us, but the worst thing is when your joy is stolen.  My friends, my family, their presence, brought back my joy, as I realized, like George Bailey did, that no man is a failure if he has friends.  No problem is too great... when you have people who love you and show up for you.

This is one of my "corny" Christmas stories, I suppose, one that perhaps could be the butt of a joke :), but to me, it's a precious page in my history.  One that reminds me, my life has been, and is, wonderful.

And as a side note, that mean old Mr. Potter in our lives.... he got convicted of tax evasion a few years later... and went to jail.  And the Lord has more than made good on that stolen $2500.