One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “what was the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Salvation? My children? Health? …. the list is long. But when pressed this year to come up with something tangible that was actually wrapped in paper, I had to say it was a Hallmark Store book titled, The Night Before Christmas.What’s so special about a story we’ve all heard since birth?

This one records voices.

My friend recorded my kids’ voices reading the famous tale in another room while I was prepping a meal, wrapped the book and gave it to me the same day. My twins were around 10 yrs. old and my youngest around 8 yrs. old at the time.

I was so touched and gushed about what a thoughtful gift it was. I meant it but could not have known how PRECIOUS that book would become in the subsequent years.

My daughters voices matured and of course my son’s voice has changed dramatically. Every year that I pull the book out and open each page, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes to picture those little voices running through the house at Christmas…over a decade has gone by since that gift was given to me.

If you regularly follow my blog, you’ll recall my posts about the wedding I attended in Scotland this past summer. The bride’s mama was my precious friend of 20 years who lost her cancer battle three years ago. Her departure at the too-young age of 49 makes me clutch that voice-recorded Christmas book even tighter to my chest, knowing that she gave me that gift that was so much more of a gift that I realized at the time.

The first few years, I think the book was nicely placed on top of some other decorations in a regular Christmas box, packed away until the next year. A couple years ago, I began wrapping that book so carefully…storing it as if it were gold. It is gold to me.

As I contemplate gifts for others in years to come, I’ll search out books that also record voices. It is a treasure for parents and if the book remains in tact as time passes, grown-up kids will certainly get a kick out of letting their children hear them when they were young.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

One of the statements I kept on my Mama Duck About Me page for a long time was that I’m a non-fiction reader. Every now and then, I pick up a fiction novel but in the past, it was usually to preview a story before my kids read it.

After church service one morning about six months ago, my friend handed me the book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Before I realized what I was taking from her hands she said, “You have to read it.”

I immediately handed it back to her, laughing that if I want fiction, I’ll watch TV. I had no time to read with my new job, etc. etc. I politely held it in front of her.

She insisted I would love it and would not accept it back.

I sighed, brought it home and placed it on my living room side table where it sat for two months.

One evening, I eyed it next to me, wondering if I could bear reading “fiction” about C. S. Lewis’ beloved wife. I knew their love story and like many, I’m a big fan of Lewis’ writings.

I read the first chapter sitting on the couch next to my family who were immersed in some mindless TV program. They started laughing at their show. I grunted, wishing them quiet as I turned to chapter two.

By chapter three, I marked my page, closed the book and carried it into my bedroom where I read until I fell asleep.

I finished the book in record time, and stuck multiple post-its on countless pages, as if I were indeed reading a non-fiction book.

I ordered my own copy off Amazon, marked the same pages with my post-its and began reading it again with a highlighter and pen close by.Outside of the Bible and countless re-reads of books I read to my kids every night while they were growing up, I rarely read anything a second time.

Likely, I was particularly taken with not just Joy Davidman’s compelling life story but what I believe is outstanding writing by Callahan. I read limited fiction so I’m far from an experienced literary critic, but Callahan’s writing captivated me.

The writing was extraordinarily descriptive but not flowery. She didn’t waste time with irrelevant details that many fiction authors do. Callahan ensures you feel Joy Davidman’s bad marriage to Bill Gresham. The reader is burdened by Davidman’s ever-present need for more money…the lack of funds hovering in her mind every day. Callahan conveys Joy’s desperate desire to write but remains confined by the exclusive female duties at the time of cleaning, cooking and child rearing that left little time to pursue her craft.

Of course the book is centered around Davidman’s love story with Clive Staples Lewis which begins with the famous exchanged letters between them across an ocean…the common thread initially being their desire to know the God they deemed non-existent much of their adult lives.

I’ve read the great works of Jane Austin and a host of other outstanding fiction authors. I appreciate the classic fiction writers – it’s more the contemporary fiction writings that disinterest me. Or so I thought. In my limited experience with present-day fiction, I found Becoming Mrs. Lewis to be a worthwhile read. Her spiritual struggles, the endless waiting for Lewis to finally commit to love her completely, the physical limitations as her disease progressed…each of Davidman’s internal conflicts were well-explained by Callahan.

In summary, as I read through the acknowledgements at the end, Callahan thanks Douglas Gresham, Joy’s son, who contributed greatly to Callahan’s research for the book. Being the stepson of C.S. Lewis, Gresham is also the person who brought the Narnia book series to the movies.

Reading Callahan’s thanks to Douglas Gresham, I paused, realizing that much of this “fiction” was no doubt grounded in very real truths about Davidman’s life.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fashion


I’ve always wanted to participate in a word-of-the-day or photo challenge on WordPress. While I think of an idea or even pull up a photo, a busy schedule usually sets me on another path and the challenge is over before I can post!

Today, I’m joining in for Cee Cee’s photo challenge: Fashion. My eldest daughter is a fashion guru and took these photos of my youngest a month ago. It was a particular feat, as my baby does NOT like her picture taken, barely stands holiday and vacation photos, and really protests any form of “posing”. Let’s just say her older sister basically coerced her into this for her own social media needs in her fashion world!

 

Vacation!

True friends are few and hard to find. My precious one of 20 years lost her cancer battle and went to be with Jesus three years ago. Her daughter has grown to be my bonus 4th child.

There was deep, profound loss and heartbreak that we all endured but God has restored us in many ways. Last year, my friend’s daughter fell in love with a fun-loving young man. Her “destination wedding” is in Europe. I have never been there before, but we sent our oldest daughter (22yrs. old now) for a 10-day school trip when she was 17. Both of my daughters are in the wedding and we’ll stay for a week after to visit two countries. It’s been such joy preparing alongside the bride, but I’ve certainly shed some tears thinking about my friend.

On a lighter note, the girls gowns are carefully packed, ready for an international flight and I’ll be back online in a couple of weeks!

Happy August to all!See the source image

Grateful for the Few Remaining Drive-Ins!

It’s remained an annual tradition with my family of five. With 22 yr. old twins and a 20 yr. old (along with 10 others we invited this summer), we again drove over an hour to our favorite drive-in for a night of family fun. It’s something that we all look forward to and it never gets old.

Over the years, we have brought the kids friends, our friends, and whoever happened to be around our house during the summers.  Coolers packed, popcorn popped and boxes of candy fill our vehicles!

It’s quite a drive, but the views on the way are beautiful farm lands.

Back in the 1950’s, there were around 4,000 drive-ins around the country. Today, only 330 remain open.

Although you can see I took a photo of the lot full of car stand speakers, the majority of drive-ins now use FM radio to broadcast sound. We use the radio but still enjoy hearing the speakers too!

We were early enough this year that I could photograph the screen and parking lot while still empty, but the place fills up quickly. The crowded lots give me hope that this cool summer activity will remain around for a few more years.

Interested in drive-in fun facts and history? Check out this site that I used for the few facts presented in this post: https://www.driveinmovie.com/history-of-drive-ins