Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Gift of Chicken Soup that Gave me Christmas.




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  The potatoes were sliced in small enough pieces for her to eat.  Croup, that's what we were thinking it was: the heavy metalic cough and gasping for breath.  Lillie was sleeping peacefully now as I prepared the chicken noodle soup for supper, hoping it would help ease her symptoms.



  I turned and glanced out the window to see that the barn lights were still on.  My Farmer and Violet were feeding the cows, and I wanted the soup to be ready when they came in from the cold.

The phone rang.  I hesitated as I heard the automated caller ID announce the name.  It was a name I recognized, but never heard announced on our phone.  I stopped to wipe my hands and then lifted it to my ear.

  It was the elderly gentleman who lived up the road a bit from us.  He was a soft-spoken man, busy.  His property boasted a variety of nut trees and kiwi vines as well as 100 or more perfectly kept blueberry bushes,
evenly spaced down the field from his house which was hidden behind a wall of evergreen trees.
 
When we'd purchased our blueberry bushes through him several years back, I'd gone up that private, hedged driveway to a yard blooming in colorful, well-maintained flowers.  We met his wife that day, a smiling woman who was obviously adored, who delighted in her pretty paradise.  Clearly, a happy home.




I knew him mostly because every fall, he and his friend arrive at our farm in his truck, the back stacked with five-gallon buckets.  His father owned our property long ago and planted the many black walnut trees that line our land.


He knows the different types in the tree lines of the walnut trees.  His twirling metal cage on the end of a rod tumbles around the back fields, catching up countless walnuts.  Violet loves to go out and help when he arrives.
 
  I can see her through the windows, her happy chatter rambling to a quiet soul who has no option but to listen as they bend and plunk their collections into the buckets.
 
  He takes them in to a buying station to sell for a bit of extra spending money, and some of them to keep for himself and his other "Nut Grower" friends.  "This year," I am told by the breathless girl with whisps of hair loosely flying around her red cheeks, "his friend is gathering the nuts to help his niece go on a missions trip."  They stay for an hour or so, and then return for more on another day.


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On the other end of the phone, I hear the quiet man.  He asks me if we had heard.  His wife had died last week. Suddenly.  Without warning.  It was a rare sickness.  My voice melted in sympathy as I told him how sorry I was.  That we had heard and were praying for him.  And then the phone call ended.
Turning to the package of noodles to be added to the soup, I felt a twinge of guilt.  My sister had come down from four hours away to visit last week.  On an evening after a visit with her at my mother's house, we'd heard the news.  I was busy.  We had Christmas shopping plans for the next few days.



My life was full of packed van rides with little girls and boys asking for something to drink, pass the cookies, stopping to rush into the bathroom.
 


 And laughter.



 

 I don't get to see my sisters as often as I'd like, so when we are together, we try to pack in as much laughter as is possible.  After all, Christmas only comes once a year.
And I'd forgotten.

No cards had left the household. No time was to be spent on unnecessary phone calls.  Eating was done at on the go: out at a restaurant, or on bumpy seats in the van.

And now I stood over my boiling soup, thinking of my sick child,

when my thoughts had been shattered by the realization that a man was alone...

in a house full of memories at Christmas time.


I glanced again to the barn, and then searched out a little blue card with a bouquet of flowers on the front.  Scratching out a simple message, I sealed it in the envelope and then rummaged through my cupboards looking for a decent sized plastic container I wouldn't mind never seeing again.


My husband and Violet spent a few minutes that evening, entering a home and listening to the heart of a man with stories.  Violet came home to tell me that he has five children, thirteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and that he had teddy bears in his living room.  His wife had collected them.  "There were 43 teddy bears, Mom, I counted them."

And then I realized that when Christmas came in a manger, the lights of heaven opened, a choir came down,
 
and a little group of shepherds were given a rare spectacle of angelic jubilation.  God must have seen their need that night, to come to them: simple working men in the vast community of mankind, out in the fields looking up to the heavens.  He saw their hearts, answered their need with his promise of a fulfilled hope.  I realized that Christmas came when people were too busy: inns that were too full; a stable had to be made into a nursery; a manger became a crib;
 
a far-from-home couple were not only exhausted from a long, dusty journey and the stress of not having a place to lay their heads for the evening, but compounded by the birth of her first child,
God's son
the King of Kings.


I looked down into my bowl of soup 
and saw Christmas.

 

a farmer who still has his work clothes on, a little girl amazed by a room full of teddy bears. 

 

It's not just my sick children,
my happy visits,
the presents still waiting to be wrapped.

  It's about mankind around us, 
who have needs:
many to come to know the Savior born on Christmas
and others to feel that love that He gives;
mankind made up of individual people
who in quiet despair make a phone call to a neighbor so that a heart can be heard.

I promised myself that night that I will look for Christmas a little harder in the last few days preceding it.
  I will embrace "the season of giving" instead of racing to conquer
all of the demanding, inconsequential details.

I will let my eyes meet those around me and really listen.
  I will really pray for those who are alone at Christmas,
that they won't be alone.
  I will stop and let my kids put some money
into the little red kettle of the next bell-ringer we meet
instead of telling them "No," for the tenth time. 
And when he smiles and tells them,
"Thank you,"
I'll stop and look into his eyes and say,
"No, sir.
Thank you.
And you have a Merry Christmas."


Luke 2:8
"And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
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 Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord."

19 comments:

  1. Tonya you are by far one of the sweetest people I know! So kind and giving. Thanks for reminding us to "see" those around us and not just get caught up in our own world!

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  2. Oh Tonya...you have an incredible gift - of insight, understanding, and articulation. I have been struggling a bit finding my "spirit" this year - you are like a clarifying lens that pulled everything back into beautifully clear focus.....Thank YOU. Wishing you a blessing and joy-filled weekend and week ahead....Smiles & Christmas Hugs ~ Robin

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  3. You made me tear up on this one! Have a blessed Christmas!

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  4. What a beautiful and heart warming post. Thank you for the reminder to see those around us with the eyes of Jesus- so many lost and hurting- exactly why he came-

    bee blessed
    mary

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  5. Tonya,
    I am beyond honored that you shared this story with us at Blueskies. Thank you so very much. I'm looking forward to visiting again and again.
    Maybe one day you will have another story to share with us about your neighbor. Blessings to him.
    xo
    lynn

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  6. Hey Tonya, a lovely, heart warming and thought provoking post.......

    Claire :}

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  7. It's so inspirational ! Love your snowflake lampshade

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  8. This is an absolutely beautiful post! I love that you treasure your relationship with your sister and your photography is absolutely beautiful! I'm glad you stopped by and said hi so I can now know about your fun blog! I'm your newest follower!

    XO,
    Your Bloggy Friend
    Aimee from ItsOverflowing.com

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  9. What a great place to live,,,love your beautiful tree...so welcoming...Love the rural area...so cool...I am a new follower of yours...come for a visit...

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  10. With tears in my eyes, I must say this is the most meaningful thing I have heard this season. It is a reminder to us all. Thank you.

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  11. Thank you for all your kind comments!

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  12. Found you at Table Top Tuesday. What a beautiful post. It brought a tear to my eye. Lovely story. I'm reading this to my family on Christmas Day. Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm now a follower.

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  13. Im SO glad I found you because your words soothed my aching heart for what has been a heartbreaking year for me,Youve been a true blessing.Thank you for helping us all to remember the TRUE meaning of what this season is all about.
    Im your newest follower please wont you come visit me,Id be so honored.Deidre~http://simplysimplisticated4.blogspot.com

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  14. I wonder who needs me this Christmas...I am looking now. Thank you for reminding me!! Merry CHRISTmas to you!

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  15. Thanks for the uplifting post. So touching.

    I've been trying to do the same the past few days. And it feels good.

    =)

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  16. What a touching story and one we should all take to heart.

    Visiting from SNS.

    Happy New Year!

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  17. I loved this story. I too, lost my mom last winter, and this year will be my dad's first Christmas without her. My 82 year old father lives on a 10 acre piece of property. He tries to stay busy in the daylight, putzing around doing odd jobs on his land. But it's the long winter days and evenings that worry me. I am sooooo thankful for his wonderful neighbors who have done as you have. They've dropped in for coffee, delivered garden goods and home cooked meals. He recaps with delight their brief visit in his lonely day. I know you will keep reaching out to your old neighbor, too. Many months may pass, and he may look busy as he passes his day, but he will welcome your "gifts" for many years to come!

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