Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Simple Woman's Daybook~February 8, 2015

Our lives pass swiftly by! I want to do something to remember
the everyday moments and my thoughts about them.  
That is what this Daybook is all about.
Focusing on the little things that become my life.
One entry at a time.

Just for today~Sunday, February 8, 2015
Outside my window...The sun is up but covered up with the gray clouds.  It's early yet and the forecast is it is to be raining throughout the day.    The groundhog definitely saw his shadow here, so more winter with some rain for us. This is a huge gift.  It has been a mild winter most of the time but we've had some super cold days too, but very little rain.  The things I like least about winter are the short days and viruses. Spring will be coming soon, right?

Jim has had that respiratory thing going on for the past 8+ weeks.  Our friend had it from July to December.  It comes and goes but never quite goes away and the coughing is horrendous.  Of course the minute it goes away, he jumps back on his horse full speed ahead, and then he wears himself out and it comes back. So crazy. I have been fearing I'd get it this whole month as I had two big projects that needed to be done.  I completed them on Friday so now I am free to plan my trip to Utah.  

However, I have been having vertigo for over a week now but I am seeing a lot of improvement finally.  This is always my big fear when I get colds.  They always go into my ears and cause such dizziness. Vertigo is so hard because you feel so helpless.  Also it is so exhausting because you have to use all your energy just to move between point A and B.  The weird part is I never did not get the cold. Thank goodness. I'm good with that.

I am thankful for...prayer.  It is such a mighty force in our lives.  I am praying now to be recovered by the 11th when I am planning to go on a great little trip with my friend, Carol.  This is the dangling carrot that has kept me going all year.  Rootstech in SLC.  So we pray and wait and hope and believe and move forward as if.  But in the back of our mind is always, "Thy will be done."  He knows better than we do what is best for us.

From the learning room...There are 168 hours in a week.  It is astonishing to comprehend how some people can get so much accomplished.  These really high powered movers and shakers really amaze me.  Sometimes I think we work very hard, probably as hard as those people..the over achievers.  They must just work supper fast and much smarter is all I can think.

I am reading...mostly online articles and blogs about genealogy.  Since I have been teaching a lot this past month that has been right there on my mind more than usual.

From the kitchen...Ugh...this one always throws me for a loop.  I wish we had a cook.  There is nothing new I can say about this.  Not my favorite thing to do anymore.  Period.

Some spiritual thoughts I have been having...Well, I have been thinking about love since Valentine's Day is just around the corner. On the spiritual side of that is God's unconditional love for us,  It is something that seems hard to comprehend sometimes.  No matter what we do or how many mistakes we make He is there for us, loving us in spite of ourselves.  I was thinking about how much better the world would be if we could do that more.  If we could just love more and unconditionally when people we love and care for do things that hurt and disappoint us.  

We should be able to rise above a lot of that and not take things so personally. We should take ourselves and our feelings out of the equation, so that we can more readily focus on our gift of love to another...not the other way around.  The 'if you do this or that, then I'll love you'  isn't quite how we are loved.  God doesn't love us that way.  We should work harder at not loving that way either.   Boy, is is hard to do.  But He first loved us so we could learn His way.  I am guessing it takes a life time but I think being more aware is a step forward.

Someone I am praying for this week... Hazie as her little body struggles to heal from the last surgery.  The biggest problems is the way the bars fit inside put pressure on certain spots that are having trouble healing on the outside.  Her skin is very delicate.  All of our family and friends as we all face the everyday trials.  Ben as he struggles with his side effects of his bone marrow transplant to fight his leukemia.  He turned 12 a few days ago.  The bravest little guy.  He has been battling this now for months.  I pray for his parents, grandparents and siblings, family and friends.  This has been very hard to watch and very exhausting, yet they stay strong, faithful and full of hope.

I am hearing...rain falling on the roof and the fireplace.  I need to turn on some music I suppose but the quiet is especially nice in the early morning.  It is Sunday morning so maybe I'll listen to The Spoken Word in a little bit.  But for now..raindrops!  Going out in it seems a little daunting. Right now it is pouring. Even the music would not cover this up.

Quote of the week from Pinterest..."Happy Valentine's Day!

One of my pleasures...going to Utah to see the family.  I have missed them over the past six months.  It seems like feast or famine with our traveling.  The girls will have changed and grown more. Bittersweet.  Hazel has had three surgeries since I saw her.  They have a new dog, Leo, to keep their Lucy company.  They are cute together. I am eager to see them all.

Pet Peeves...the fact that it seems to take as much work to get ready to go on a trip for a week as it does for a month. But it is all good really.  I am so excited about the Rootstech conference and being with Carol for five whole days.  I'll miss Jim Bob but he'll be fine and busy while I am gone.   He is going to Utah next month and we are saving our time away together for our trip to England and Wales.

Past Remembrance...thinking about all the great things I learned last year and the fun I had at Rootstech.  Have been looking forward to the biggest genealogy conference in the world for a year now.  I am so thankful to be almost over the vertigo.  Carol and I reserved our room at the hotel nearly a year ago now.  Gotta plan way ahead with that many people flooding into SLC.  The weather looks like it will be mostly sunny and cold.  Yay!  No snow in the forecast!

If I could change one thing it would be...more happiness for all.  Less war and strife, better leadership in all the countries of the world.  Less corruption and graft.  You know me, just a better Pollyanna world would be super.

An enjoyable movie/ TV show we have watched lately...5th season of Downton Abbey.  We have loved it.  Watched the Christmas episode last night. We never can wait to see what happens so bought the DVD when it came out. Fabulous.  We have been pretty happy that there is yet another season to look forward to next year.

I am curious about...Wales and how we will navigate around there driving on the other side of the road.  Ugh,  Not my favorite.  I am also curious about when I can get started on getting that all together with some concrete plans. 

Plans for the rest of the at 11:00, Monday getting last minute things done, Tuesday working, Wednesday leaving for SLC, rest of the week with Carol, Jen and family and the conference. Home Sunday.  It will be quick so will be consciously savoring the experience and learning a lot.

One of my favorite things...answers to prayers.

One thing that made me so happy this past week...Getting some photos from my cousin Jim of his grandfather and my grandmother and 30 others that we know or know of at a picnic back in the 30s.  It was so special to see his Grampa and my Grandma standing next to each other in the large group.  Our fathers who are cousins are also in the photo!  That made our cyber relationship feel very real.  It was exciting.  I enjoy working with my newfound cousins who also have an interest in family history.  

The most surprising thing this past week...A really long and sweet letter was received from our granddaughter, Aynslee.  She is so homesick while living in England this year but the wonderful side of that is there are lots of letters home.

Here is a photo I'm sharing this week....

At Stonehenge
Aynslee with her Daddy, our son Chris!

Take Care Of You For Me!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Simple Woman's Daybook~January 16, 2015

Our lives pass swiftly by! I want to do something to remember
the everyday moments and my thoughts about them.  
That is what this Daybook is all about.
Focusing on the little things that become my life.
One entry at a time.

Just for today~Friday, January 16, 2015
Outside my window...It is pitch black out and 6:06 am.  It is cold in the house still and I need to get my socks on.  Burr.  I cannot believe it has been over 2 months since I did a daybook entry.  That is probably the longest time gone by between two entries since I started doing these years ago.  What I learn from that is that a whole lot happens in a couple of months that is forgotten without writing it down.  

Here a few highlights.  Hazel had her back surgery and there were complications so she went back into surgery just a few days before Christmas.  She just went back to school for a half day and is regaining her strength but is still working on healing. 

The holidays were wonderful as always and a whirlwind of activities. Thanksgiving dinner was spend with our cousins. We had great times at annual parties and seeing our Sacramento cousins as well.  

Christmas decorating that was something I really enjoyed.  I went all out as I usually do when I'm asked to participate in a Christmas Home Tour.  I do something festive in all our rooms. I love doing it and getting back into my design work a little.  As I do it I think about how much people enjoy that evening on the multiple house tour with friends and how I want to enhance their memories by doing the best I can.  It absolutely poured that night but somehow it added to the whole thing in a good way.  I find it gets harder and takes longer than it use to but it's still important for me to do.  But even though I am getting older, the experience brings renewal to me and I will do it as long as I can.  Of course Jim helped me so much.  It really has become a joint project.

We took a fantastic get-away trip to southern California to Long Beach the week before Christmas.  We stayed on The Queen Mary for a few nights and had a great time.  It was all decked out with dozens of big trees.  It was just spectacular and so festive. What a treat  to stroll along the promenade deck and see each one.   We went to the Big Chill.  It was a gigantic ice igloo with ice sculptures that were unbelievable.  There was a life size nativity scene carved from blocks of ice.  Very impressive!  It was an event right next to the ship so we didn't get in our car at all the whole time we were there.  There was an outdoor skating rink and live music, food venders, etc. 

 Sometimes we just work too much and we are going to do more of this kind of thing because it is wonderful and just pours new energy into these two aging souls.  It was lovely and great to be on an ocean liner that stays in port. No seasickness.  We were celebrating our 50th Christmas as a couple.   They upgraded us to a fabulous state room that was like an apartment.  Loved looking out the portholes to the water.

Christmas was so nice.  I felt the spirit of it quite keenly this year and I think that few days away helped.  One has to consciously eliminate some of the rush and stress.  I felt relaxed as I took time to study and ponder the gifts of the Savior in our lives.  We did not want to it end.  Proof of this...the last Christmas item was tucked away just yesterday.  We completely reorganized everything as we put it away for an easier time next year. 

We also had a beautiful little boy born to our sweet nephew the day after Christmas.    His name is Caden Nicholas and he is a handsome little man. He is the first boy of this generation on my side to carry on our family name.

I am thankful for...the knowledge that Christmas does not have to be hidden away by New Year's Day.  Who made that idea fly?  Some of our same age friends discovered the same lovely thought this year.  They are finishing their way, by taking down their tree today.  It is such a lot of effort to get ready for Christmas, there is no crime in taking time to enjoy it after the hustle and bustle.

From the learning room...writing is very therapeutic for me.  I need to do it.  I am now back on it.  I actually did a lot of writing over the holidays but most of it was on our Christmas blog. 

I am reading...on the Internet mostly trying to get ready for two teaching assignments coming up.  

From the kitchen...eating simply and moderately now after the craziness of the past weeks.  I have been blessed to be steadily losing weight since September so trying to keep that going.  One pound a week has been just right and no gain during December. Trying to stay healthy with wholesome foods and way less sugar and refined carbs.  Coupling that with Weight Watchers has been great.

Some spiritual thoughts I have been having...Feeling the LOVE...

Someone I am praying for this week...Hazel and all the kids' families struggling with various seasonal illnesses that are mostly respiratory. Robert is at the doctor as I write this checking for mono and pneumonia. Chris and his family have had lots of UK viruses wreaking havoc on their family.  Missy's father has been gravely ill but is seeing some improvements finally.  Jennifer injured her knee. Even Jim has been battling a respiratory thing on and off for most of the winter.  Not serious just persistent.  I have been blessed so far..knock on wood.

I am hearing...Kate Davis one of my favorite new music discoveries.  This young woman is amazingly talented.  She plays the standing bass, sings beautifully and composes some great songs with clever lyrics.  Her genre is primarily smooth jazz but she does other things as well.  You can find her on Youtube and of course in the iTunes store.  "All About That Bass" is a fun one on Youtube and "Movie" is another one I really like.  She has a little bit of an Adele quality to her voice on some songs like "We Are Growing Old."

One of my pleasures...Having a day all to myself to catch up.  I'm having it today and I am thrilled to get more organized for presentations on genealogy topics coming up.  

Pet clothes that fade.  Like pants.  Annoying.  And speaking of pants why are they all of a sudden so dang long?  I have never had to shorten a pair of pants in my life at 5'8" until this past couple of years.

Past Remembrance...I am thinking about Rootstech 2014 (genealogy conference) and how much I enjoyed it.  Now I am on the brink of going again in February and I am truly excited to be going with my good friend, Carol.  We are going to have a super time.

If I could change one thing it would be...that there could be more happiness and less suffering in this world.  If people would accept the gospel of Jesus Christ this would make all the difference.  Why? Because then people would be kinder, more forgiving and would make an effort to choose what is good and right and healthy.  People would love others and live by faith, not fear.  There would be a lot more of thoughtfulness and less selfishness. People would live by the Golden Rule.  There would be less fighting, more peace.

An enjoyable movie/ TV show we have watched lately...5th season of White Collar.  Loved it.

I am curious about...lots of things that distract me from my work.  Hehe, that's life right?  Do we not all have a little ADD?  So many wonderful things in this life to be curious about.  So little time.

Plans for the rest of the week...In the next few hours I will be updating my PowerPoint for a 90 minute class on Tuesday night.  Date night tonight, WW meeting in the morning, taking a class tomorrow.  Then a baptism, birthday party and dinner.  Sunday church, Monday more prep for Tuesday, that is about as far as I have taken it so far.  I think I'll still be working though as I have an all day seminar I'm teaching on the 30th.  And then poof it will be February.  Valentine's day and a trip to Utah. Warp speed life, isn't it?

One of my favorite, my family and good friends.  You mean so much to me I cannot imagine my life without any of you. You are the reason I love getting up each day.  And you are the people who have taught me how to love. Thanks for the happiness and more importantly the joy you bring, the examples you are, and the smile that you put on my face every single day. 

One thing that made me so happy this past week...we found and bought a crystal chandelier for our dining room.  It is a vintage one and so perfect for our space in the cottage.  I have been looking for a couple of years for the right one.  I took Jim to see it because I loved it and right away he said "That is's perfect!"   I cannot wait to show it to you!  It makes me twice as excited that he loves it too.  It looks like we will be nesting all of our lives.  Home just keeps getting better and more comfortable all the time.

The most surprising thing this past week...a thousand dollar car expense for a smog clearance.  Ugh...not a good surprise.

Just a little souvenir from our faux cruise
 on The Queen for our Christmas Tree. 

This is a section of Long Beach that is called Naples.  Oddly it is more like Venice than Naples but that is OK.  Venice doesn't really look like this either.  It is a neighborhood where your backyard is the dock where you keep your boat.  It is quite beautiful and one of the prettiest places we been in Southern California.

Ah, now I feel I can get to work.  Thanks for coming by!

Take Care Of You For Me!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One Word in 2015

Happy New Year, Dear Friends!  I have loved the Christmas break and all of the holidays this year in spite of the fact that I am feeling a huge relief that they are over.  Before Thanksgiving I had lost 17 pounds.  I managed by the undeniable Grace of God to stay the same, during a 5 day vacation, several parties and eating out more than I did all year prior to Thanksgiving in 2014.  Oh and goodies brought to our door nearly everyday during December were a challenge.  After handling that poorly, I have decided on a new approach for next year.  Simply put, divide these gifts into reasonable portions and freeze.  Snack bags are "in" at our house.

So I'm doing the One Word Challenge this year again instead of New Year's Resolutions for the third time.  I really like it.  It is uplifting and consciousness-raising to have one uplifting and hopeful thing to focus on every day of the new year.  The first year I used the word "Believe" to motivate me.  This past year my word was "Remember."  Oh, that was a good one.  I add the word to my blog side bar and the New Year's thoughts about it via a link to remind myself when I need extra motivation.  It works.  My word for 2015 is "Seek."

This word kept coming to my mind when I was thinking about what I want to do differently this year.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 13 Articles of Faith.  Google that to see what all of them are if you are curious.  The one I will be focusing on this year is #13 which reads.

"13.  We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
I love and believe all of this but this year I want to focus particularly on the last sentence. "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

I love that and I want my life to be filled with things that are virtuous and lovely.  I am a white hat kind of a person.  I don't like or enjoy the dark side of life.  It brings me down and makes me feel unmotivated and defeated.  Seeking the good in life is important to my health.  Mental, Spiritual and Physical, Emotional and Social.  If I am seeking the light of goodness I am far less likely to be sad, critical or unkind.  Goodness is a reason to feel motivated to move forward.

I don't want to stagnate or backslide or to be lazy.  So I have to seek the light to progress.  There is no joy for me in seeking the sinister, the dark, the things that promote unhappiness and dissonance in my life.  So I need to be seeking the opposite.  All the time.  Of course it takes intentional living and choices.

I want to seek to understand other people and their actions that sometimes confuse and upset me. "Seek first to understand then be understood," as Stephen Covey said.  If a person is motivated by good intentions but makes mistakes..I want to seek to be more tolerant and forgiving of that.  Seeking to understand another helps bring peace and a focus outward, not inward.

When we lose ourselves we find ourselves through loving what sometimes seems impossible.  With Christ it is doable.  On our own, not always so much.  So Seeking the blessings of the atonement to be forgiven for our own weakness is important and we should always seek it.  But this year I want to seek healing from the atonement more.  Belief in His Gifts allows us to change.  I am seeking change in my areas of weakness.  I will be seeking the things that come through studying, pondering and praying for the things we need and the things that others need in their struggles.  As I have sought that in the past I have become more aware all the time of the constant need of our prayers for others. More love and concern for others just naturally bring goodness and light into our lives.

I am seeking to be more adventuresome in certain areas, like getting out of my comfort zone and seeking to learn new ways of doing things that produce better results.  Especially with regard to health and reducing, if not eliminating chronic pain, etc.

I am seeking to find more ancestors though continual learning of the things I need to know.  Then I can share them and be a more effective teacher also.  I want to pursue many other areas of interest as well, by seeking new learning in all of them.  Learning is so importnat to me, it always has been but now more than ever before in my life.  I am seeking better time management skills and better sleeping patterns to eliminate fatigue during peak hours.  I have been working on this more and it is helping.  I'll seek to be like a fine tuned machine that functions at its best by very purposeful and intentional living.  This is a skill that can be learned.  It takes balance and discipline and desire and I am seeking all of those.

I truly do want to live that last line of the 13th Article of Faith everyday this year.  To do it I am also seeking grace.  Grace for my failures and weaknesses, with a focus on progress (which is uplifting) not perfection as the world views it (which can be oppressive.) I'm seeking to press forward in faith, believing the I can do it and remembering all of my blessings.  The kindness of wonderful people all around me and the love I receive daily for God, good family and fabulous friends is very motivating. And I am seeking to remember the words of the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball who said that the only real limits a person has are the limits he places upon himself.  With God all things are possible.

So I will be doing a lot of Seeking and Searching in 2015!  Are you going to choose a word to guide you this year?  I hope you try it, it's fun  I am seeking fun too!   Seeking the best with my better half!

Muir Woods for Seeking Peace!

Seeking the best for this tall, dark and handsome Italiano!

 If you want to know more about this idea read this article.

May this year bring you all that your heart desires.  For me that means being a SEEKER.  You?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chloe Pleads Her Case With Santa

Chloe had to write a persuasive letter to Santa for school. It's adorable:

Dear Santa,
I think I should receive a puppy, legos, candy, board games, snow pants, snow gloves, a new robe, and a sled. I’ve been good all year with helping my mom and dad cook, played with my siblings, I’ve been turning in my homework, all of my homework is turned in and I never missed turning mine in. I’ve helped with the laundry, usually you can tell if the laundry’s clean if everything in the basket is the same color. I’ve also been very, very kind when someone’s new at school. I be nice and help her or him around school, and if her or him scatters their colored pencils I’d help them pick all of the colored pencils up off of the ground. And Santa, I’ve done a lot of stuff and that’s not all. When my mom is busy like sewing I will either read or draw a picture so I will not waste her time or bother her. I’ve also helped my dad a lot too! I’ve helped my dad put my little sister to bed like help her brush her teeth, read a story to her like “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears”, or “Toot and Puddle”. I would also lay by her or tuck her in or even both! So I have done a lot of stuff and Santa here is something! So I really, really, really, really, really, think I’ve been working hard so I think I should get a lot lot LOT of presents! : ) And with all of those presents just put all of them under the tree and if some don’t fit then put them in my bedroom. 



Very Persuasive, Chloe!
 Good luck, you little rascal!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Season In Italy 2009-2010~Precepe Vivente

Precepe Vivente ~ A Christmas Past

 I enjoy remembering Christmases Past.  One of the things that makes Christmas such a great time for most of us is the cultural traditions that unify us as believers in Christ.  Although some of the traditions vary from home to home, there is a common thread that runs through out.  I like that.  Our traditions are the times in our lives that are marked by special days.  Life would be pretty monotonous without these special times with family and friends.  We have spent two Christmases out of the country.  Once in Scotland and once in Italy.  Both of them were precious highlights, never to be forgotten in our lives.   Here is an edited and updated post from my Italian Blog that I am reposting here to give you the flavor of Christmas in Italy 2009-2010.  It was a joyful, enriching and inspiring time.  This experience really stands out vividly.

The hills and valleys of Italy are filled with The Nativity. It is such a beautiful sight and it has made me realize that here in America, with all of our 'political correctness,' we are doing our citizens a terrible disservice. Not to be able to display the symbols of Christ at Christmas would never fly in Italy. For this alone, I love their country.

People need visual reminders and not a soul in Italy can miss the Christ in Christmas. No matter what their religious beliefs, the degree of activity in their church or the lives they are living~at Christmas time they are reminded over and over again what their compass should be. 

We need this here in America. I like the term 'political correctness' because that is exactly what it is. Political! It isn't ethical, or spiritual correctness and it has nothing to do with what is right or true or good for us, most of the time. In denying the public displaying of the Nativity, we as Americans are shooting ourselves in the foot.  Big time!

That being said and climbing down off my soapbox, I want to share the experience we had on the day after Christmas. In Italy they savor Christmas. They start early and end late with their celebrations. (Whoops, back on the box for a minute.) Often times I have noticed the day after Christmas, all evidence of the money we have $pent during the holidays is removed visually from the malls and market places. Poof, it is gone, and that way it is hoped we will continue to $pend, $pend, $pend some more.  And someone is working Christmas night to make it happened by opening time the next morning. It is all about the retail over here. Not so in Italy. The world should take a lesson.

So we planned to go to a tiny mountain town called Maranola, near Gaeta to see the Living Nativity the day after Christmas. While Christmas had already vanished in the US, this was their opening day. We arrived early so we could stroll around Gaeta a bit.

The harbor walkway of Gaeta

One of the ships Robert had been to sea on while living here.
When JIm and I stayed here for a few days, a window in our hotel room
pened to a full view straight on of the back of the ship.
(Bow, stern, port? I never do remember these!)

The kids arranged a tour for us through the military services to go to see the Presepe and we all bundled up, drove to Gaeta, jumped on a bus and off we went. We didn't have much of an idea of what to expect~except rain. Rain, rain, continual rain. We had pretty much acclimated to that, but had no idea what it would mean to have it raining on this particular night. Can I just say flat out, I didn't like it one bit? At least not when it was happening.

This is a (blue hour, it is actually dark out here) 
view from the head of the line, 
it goes down a few flight of stairs
 to the bottom of the hill.

When we arrived at the ancient little town we saw a big line of umbrellas trailing up to the entrance to the little village. They only allowed so many people up into the village at one time. Crowding under the mass of umbrellas, we waited and wondered what was ahead. Huddling under umbrellas that are overlapping and touching each other is a curious thing. I think you actually get wetter from the run off of the umbrellas around you. Arrrgh! Can we say... grumpy?

Then the music started playing and that soothed me somewhat, even though we were already getting drenched and pretty cold. A man was playing some bagpipes for all to enjoy. It was nice. We looked up and saw little children looking out of their upstairs windows at this phenomenal line of people snaking through their village.  Moving as a crowd we made our way through the tiny streets. In spite of the physical challenges of old, uneven, wet and slippery stairs and walkways, it was wonderful to see the little vignettes they had created to represent the life of the people of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth.  It seemed we climbed halfway to heaven peering into these little transformed shops, tasting little goodies they had made and listening to them chatter with arms flying everywhere, and singing and playing music.  Everyone in the village participated and it was really an amazing sight. The ruggedness of the venue made it seem so authentic.  It felt like we were truly in Bethlehem!

I had to laugh at the clothes hanging out to dry!
We were drenched to the bone! Seriously my hair
looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.
(No photos, thank you very much!)

The thought of staying in those wet clothes 
for a bus ride and then a 90 minute trip
 to Teverola was not very appealing.
So we tried to push those thoughts
 away and enjoy the evening.  

"It is what it is,"
 went through my mind several times.

We came across a little chapel
near the top of the mountain.

Jim was in his glory with this adventure 
 and even more so when he met some
bonified, Italian boys scouts!

We climbed some more and came across
another ancient place of worship.
Check out the carving behind
Jim on the walls and the 3-D
fresco wall/sculpture below.

Wet kidlets!
The boys look so little here!

At last...drumroll...

What we came for, at the very top of the mountain.
They had even brought a huge ox up here. 
 I don't remember ever seeing a real ox before.
Do you?

Precepe Vivente~The Living Nativity
with the youngest baby of the village
as the baby Jesus
and his parents as Mary and Joseph.

Once down we had our dinner while
waiting for our tour bus to pick us up.
If you haven't tried a picnic on a mountain,
at night, soaked to the gills,
in December, in should!
It is a relief to say, "Been there, done that,"
and then to move on!

Looking back from a nice, warm, dry perspective,
it was a great experience.  This love for Italy is forever!
They really know how to live life, 
enjoy everything and  honor their traditions.
We were so sad to even think about leaving.

La Dolce Vita...
Even when we were wet and cold and shivering.
This memory will bond us as a family for years to come.
We had four generation participating 
with Jim's mom there too.

Traditions, Bonding, Family
are all major components of  a 
Christ-Centered Christmas.

Hope you enjoyed this armchair visit to Italia!
Buon Natale!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Continuing Celebration of Christmas

Even before our written languages, man has been keeping a record of life.  We see this in cave art and in ancient traditions passed down from generation to generation.  Archaeologists continually uncover ancient artifacts that tell stories of the ancients that created them.  As Christians we know that historically, genealogies have been important through our study of the scriptures.  Exactly why is it so important to know who begat who back in those days?  Or even now for that matter? 

This is something I have been pondering for a long time and I have learned some things that are significant to our family in researching and discovering who we truly are.  If we pay attention to the history of who we come from, we learn valuable life lessons and get a grander perspective of life and spiritual matters. We understand who we are in deeper ways and it fortifies our gratitude as we learn of the lives of our forbearers.

If we think of our lives as just our own existence and the family members we actually know while they are alive our view is quite myopic.  It is a bit like living in one place all our lives and never seeing what goes on outside of that little triangle of home, school and work in that tiny community. Traveling outside of our tiny village and seeing life in a bigger wayspatially is very broadening and educational.  In the same way, looking beyond our living generations is too.  Both time and space are great teachers when it comes to a more comprehensive perspective of who we really are.

Our family has a heritage of being Christians that spans a period of nearly 500 years that I know of so far.  Not just our American ancestors but our Italians, our Swedes and our English and our Welsh born family members as well.  It includes our pioneers, our soldiers, our statesmen and our farmers. There are also our teachers, doctors and nurses and adventurers and our parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  This Christian Heritage is as much a part of who we are as a family as our DNA. 

If we knew more of our ancestors and their descendants we would know that every major war has affected our family personally.  We have ancestors and family members that fought, were maimed or killed in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WW I and II and every conflict since.  We have lots of family that crossed that terrifying sea in the hopes and faith of a better life in America. Imagine for a moment the courage that took and the hardships endured which lead to blessings in our own lives.  That type of bravery can only be developed through faith in God and the hope of a good outcome.

As we come to know them we recognize that they had serious trials and they overcame them often with sheer grit and fervent prayers.  Their faith in God sustained them and brought them peace along the way.  Faith eased their fears as they moved forward in their struggles.  Because they chose faith in God they benefited from it.  God does not insist we believe, He invites us to develop a desire to come unto Christ and find rest in him.

Imagine how the Mayflower passengers felt when their companion ship, the Speedwell, sprung some leaks just out of the harbor and had to turn back! Had they not had that enduring faith in their God they would have truly been alone on the voyage at that point. Our ancestor was the only passenger to have made this voyage before, and his faith was important to them when times and waters got rough.

Many of our ancestors accepted that invitation to have faith in Christ.  Many found Him in their own time and in their own way.  We have found evidence of members of many sects in our family, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Mormons.

The compelling component in all of these religions 
is Jesus Christ born in that humble stable in Bethlehem of Judea.  

Their testimonies are reminders to us in times of trials and they have reassured us of who we are. People who have chosen faith.  Christians.  The sense of gratitude our ancestors had over the smallest things is humbling and a constant reminder of the Giver of every good thing. 

So it is uplifting and edifying to know we are a family that over centuries has chosen to believe.  Of course not everyone, as we all have our agency to choose, but many have had faith in Christ.  An understanding of that brings hope into our lives everyday.  We are a part of something bigger than a little nuclear family.  Our faith is something that is steadfast and not caught up in every wind of current affairs or doctrine, pop culture or politics sculpted by the media.  Holding fast to the iron rod of God's word has blessed us richly.

The earliest known baptism in our family was into The Church of England indicating faith in Jesus Christ.  It occurred in England on 30 April 1581 at Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England.  Stephen Hopkins was the infant son of John Hopkins and Elizabeth Williams.  I would suppose this indicates also that his parents were believers since it was an infant baptism.  That same Stephen Hopkins, one day found his way to the Mayflower.

Stephen Hopkins was a strong and faithful Christian.  He relied on his faith in God through a frightening shipwreck on his first journey to America, he suffered persecution for his thoughts of breaking from the rule of the Crown on that first trip to America while being marooned for months in Barbados.  On his return to America on the Mayflower, he was instrumental in resolving Native American conflicts, and turning them into an enduring friendship with the Wampagnog people on the shores of America.  He endured extreme poverty, deprivation and near starvation and the loss of his little son, Oceanus, the only child born on the Mayflower voyage, when he was but seven years of age.  Life was painfully hard in the early years of the colonization.  Through his faith Stephen prevailed.

That one thing is more significant to me than any notoriety regarding being on the Mayflower.  The greatest thing about all of that is that much is known and written about these early pilgrims.  That is the gem in finding them in our family tree. 

The significant thing here is that Christ and Christmas were important to our ancestors for many many generations.  And that it is central to our lives still today.  The message of faith and hope in Christ and the agency to chose for ourselves, is one of God's greatest gifts to us.  No one is forced, only invited.

Another of our ancestor's with a beautiful faith was, Lillie Briggs,  my paternal great-grandmother.

Lillie Briggs and Martin Allen Godfrey her husband.

Lillie came across the plains in a cover wagon with her parents, siblings and two other families when she was 13 years old; our own Julia's age.   They stopped each Sabbath Day to honor it, on their journey to North Dakota and to study and talk about the Gospel and to give thanks.  Sometimes they would pull up to a church building and listen to the sermons though the open windows from their wagons.  She wrote to her children shortly before she died and she bore testimony to them that she had prayed for them daily since she had come to know Christ and that they should do the same. 

Lillie left her testimony in this Bible 
she gave to her son Martin Willie Godfrey.

My Maternal Great Grandmother, Mary Davies, left her testimony in a little Welsh Bible that I have: She wrote on the covers the following in 1866:

The Translation of the little poem that is written
 on both the front and back covers of this Bible
is transcribed below. 
There is one missing page so I'm filling in contextually.

Mary Davies is my name
Troedywrair, Cilycum is my nation.
Penrhuviar is my dwelling place.
 Jesus Christ is my Salvation.
When I'm gone and in my grave
And all my bones be wroten (rotten)
In this Bible you'll find my name
So I'll not be quite forgotten.

**Place names spellings yet to be verified.

Here in St. Matthew, Mary learned of the mission of Jesus Christ in this tiny Welsh Bible.  It is such a blessing to have this one thing that testifies of who she really was. 

Obituary after obituary of our ancestors state what upstanding Christian people they were.  I know they were flowery back then when it came to obituaries, but they didn't have to say anything about a person's religion.  The description of their character was enough.  No matter how humble their lives were, they served others and lived good lives based on Christian principles. 

This Cape Cod church is a place we visited on our trip east this year.  This is the first church on the Cape and my ninth Great-Grandfather, Thomas Newcomb, was the minister here in Truro, Massachusetts.  He baptized six of his children in 1717 here in the original building built on this exact footprint.  The replica built in the early 1800s now stands on this place. Many ancestors are buried just to the viewer's right.  The spirit was very strong here for us when we visited.

Our Swedish ancestors were baptized and confirmed a member of their Lutheran churches on all of our lines and kept that faith long after they came to America.  Because of them my brothers and I were raised as Lutherans by our parents. 

Jim's Italian family brought their Catholic heritage from the old country to the new.  Some of them remained Catholic while others deferred to other sects like the Episcopalian faith and The Church of Christ.

 Some of our ancestors from England cared enough about their Christian faith and worshipping according to the dictates of their own hearts, to leave England and come to America where they could worship as they chose. 

The important thing to us is that they chose faith in Christ and it was central to them.  That gives us comfort to know they were blessed because of their faith as we have been.  It is wonderful to know Christianity has long been a life-changing tradition in our family.

So this season we celebrate Christmas with different cultural traditions than our forefathers did, but with the same intent.  We celebrate the Savior's birth in that stable in Bethlehem, but more importantly His life, teachings and example and above all, His Atonement for all of us.  If there cannot be peace on earth just yet, we can still find it in our faith in Christ.

After working with lots of people on their family history these past four years I would venture a guess your story is not that different than ours in many respects.  Your heritage, no matter what it may be, is a big part of who you have become.  May you find joy in who you are because of who they were.  Merry Christmas!