Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas To and Fro

Christmas is not for the faint of heart—the getting there and back, anyway. I’ve seen them on the news: the hassled, bleary-eyed travelers playing hurry-and-wait at the airports and bus stations. We Wyoming wayfarers rarely make the national broadcasts, but we have our share of travel stresses too. For those who are lucky enough to live in warmer, dryer, less windy climes, I’ve taken the liberty of tinkering with some song lyrics to encourage empathy or, at least, drum up a little sympathy.

Christmas To and Fro, Wyoming Style
(To the tune of Over the River and Through the Woods) 

Past the mountains and through the canyon
To Grampie’s house we go
The 4-wheel drive hauls the gifts for hundreds of miles
Of ice and slush and snow-oh! 

Over the prairie and through the desert
Down the highway we go
Our knuckles turn white as we hold the steering wheel tight
While 60 miles-per-hour gusts blow-oh! 

Past the mountains and through the canyon
Back to the ranch we go
Thanks to turkey, cookies, pie, and homemade rolls
There’s more traction on the snow-oh!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Messiah

We see them all over in December: the iconic renderings of the Nativity on Christmas cards, on lawns, and in Nativity sets. Beneath the Star of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, sheep, and donkeys are shown gathered around a manger that holds the baby Jesus. Most depict a stable of some kind, although some scholars believe that the manger may have been in a cave which was used to house animals.

Cave or stable, barn or corral—whichever it was, I’m particularly touched by the fact that the Messiah was born in such a place. As one who’s cleaned more than her share of horse stalls, goat pens, and calving barns, I feel qualified to point out a few details about the Nativity that many folks may not have considered: sheep produce poo, donkeys emit doo, and even clean hay or straw itches like crazy!

Why didn’t the Messiah make His grand entrance in a Super 8, Mariott, or better yet, Bethlehem University Medical Center? That's a mystery to me. Nevertheless, I’m grateful and happy to have a Savior who’s not afraid to get His hands dirty, who’s willing and able to roll up His sleeves, get in the middle of the inglorious mess that is me, and help me—and anyone else who asks!

But I feel for Mary, I really do.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
                                                         Luke 2:8

Sunday, December 18, 2011


     If you think football is big in Texas, you should see Christmas!

     I don’t know that firsthand, but I’m a grandchild of Mimi and Papa, aka Nettie and Graham Powell, who emigrated from Texas in 1941. Mimi and Papa brought their pecans and Big Texas Christmases (hereafter referred to as BTCs) with them to their new homeland.

     To the untrained eye, BTCs appear excessive. We BTCians overdecorate, overbake, overspend, and overgift. After all, there can never be too many ornaments, too many varieties of candy and cookies, and too many presents under the tree.

     When it comes to gifts, the emphasis of the BTC is quantity. One can keep quality in mind, as long as it’s really on sale, but the goal of the true BTC is a colorfully-wrapped mountain of boxes and bags piled in front of each family member on Christmas morning. Hence, inexpensive “stockin’” gifts are welcome, particularly if they’re funny.

     When my sister and I were kids, Mimi and Mom, the only first-generation Texan-American, secretly stitched, shopped, and squirreled away bargains for the BTC. A few weeks before the big day, Papa would sneak some bills into we grandkids’ pockets and whisper, “That’s for Christmas!” We understood that it was not to be spent on anything but presents for the family. As if all the gifts weren’t enough, Papa made sure that Santa left every Powell descendant (fortunately we’re a very small family) a greenback for the day-after-Christmas sales! Dad, a BTCian by marriage and heart if not by birth, gradually assumed Papa’s role as Chief Financier of the BTC.

     An unwritten but set-in-stone commandment of the BTC: Only one gift is to be opened at a time, by only one person at a time. Only after the treasure has been exclaimed over and gratitude expressed is it the next guy’s turn. No gift goes without appreciation because the gifter bought or made it out of love for the giftee. Naturally, this process takes hours, but coffee and restroom breaks are permissible.

     Mimi and Papa now celebrate Christmas in heaven, the place that invented extravagant and joyful gifting, but their heritage continues here in Wyoming. I’d give you more details, but I’ve got to go—I’ve got lots of presents to wrap!

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”
                            1 Corinthians 13:13 MSG

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Not-So Silent Night

Most of the Moos in Mooville are mad. It’s weaning time out in the corral, and a fence separates the milk-craving calves from their swollen-uddered Black Angus mamas. Loud and heart-rending bellows can be heard even in the house.

Ranchers play the role of benevolent dictators. (Judging from the padding on the ribs of our livestock, Hubby and I are a bit too benevolent.) Our decisions are based on the welfare of the land and animals, and the cattle are usually in full agreement, such as when we decide that it’s time to rotate pastures or start feeding hay. But when it comes to weaning, we’re all a bit miserable.

The distress is unavoidable. The pregnant mama cows don’t need to be supporting those big calves along with their unborn ones; besides, the calves have been fully ruminating for months and get plenty of protein from alfalfa. We humans know that, but it still pains us to watch (and listen to) the unhappiness down at the barn. We also realize that, in a matter of months, the cows will be proudly and happily nursing some darling new calves. But, alas, we can’t ease the discomfort or quiet the protests. Care and prayers are ours to give, but peace is not ours to impart, primarily because we can’t speak Black Anglish.

Oh, for a host of heavenly winged bovines to moo lullabies tonight: Peace on earth, goodwill towards cattle. Everything is going to be alright! Now, calm down and have a silent night, holy night!

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness…
Then showing us the way…down the path of peace.”
                      LUKE 1:78-79

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

License to Elf

     Elfing season is upon us. Armed with debit cards and coupons, spatulas and Grandma’s recipes, extension cords and ornaments, we hunt and wrap, stir and bake, light and decorate. All bargains, sprinkles, and boughs (real or otherwise) are fair game. We won’t stop until the presents are in the bag, the sugar cookies are on the platter, and the wreaths are mounted on the walls. Then, after indulging in a peppermint mocha, we’ll head out the door to track down some more wrapping paper, fudge ingredients, and replacement bulbs.

     “Christmas is out of hand!” the Grinches grump. “It’s too much work. We spend too much money. We eat too much.”

     Ah, but we elves won’t stop because we have a license to elf. It’s in the Bible, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
Oh, they’re so glad in Your presence! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us!”