Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family: Gold, Frankensense, and Myrrh

Written in Memory of my dad, James Edward Brown - April 9, 1934-December 24, 2014
This week, many of us will eat, laugh, and exchange gifts with family, and I'm willing to bet most of you have a family like mine who are like-minded and agree with each other 100% of the time. Whose family is like this? Anybody? I didn't think so.   

As a child, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were not only about the manger and Santa Claus, they were about family, and anxiously waiting for the annual tradition of Christmas Eve with my dad's family, the Brown's, and then my mom's family, the Kings.

Growing up, my sister and I had four Brown cousins who were more like siblings.  At Grandmother and Granddaddy Brown's house, or Aunt Glenda's or Aunt Gladys' homes, or our own house, we played loudly, ate whatever we wanted (including the traditional Jane Parker fruit cake), and waited for what seemed like hours for the big secret to be revealed. WHO drew our names? And, what gift did they choose for us? Grandmother Brown knitted and crocheted; what did she make for us this year? The night progressed with wrapping paper flying, screams of "THANK YOU I LOVE IT," show and tell of presents beginning with the youngest, and more playing, running and laughing. Heaven forbid if we did or said anything bad. "You better say 'Sorry Santa.'" "Ok, Sorry Santa," because what if he saw or heard on Christmas Eve? We couldn't possibly risk that.  The night ended outside searching the sky for lights from Santa's sleigh.

Later on Christmas Eve or sometimes on Christmas Day, we made our way to my Grandmother King and Daddy Luke's beautiful home for more family fun with two more cousins we couldn't wait to see.  It was slightly less chaotic, but still fun.  My grandmother King was a wonderful cook and a gracious hostess who made each of us feel so special.  Daddy Luke served egg nog in crystal glasses, and both of them had wonderful stories to share and gifts to give.

As a child, my family was perfect, and no one could take their place.  Show and tell, "sorry Santa," and looking for sleigh lights faded with the decades, but we still read Luke 2:1-15 on Christmas Eve with the Brown family and eat whatever we want, expect now it's King fruit cake instead of Jane Parker.  On Christmas Day, I eat, laugh and play "dirty Santa" with my wonderful Glymph family.  And my King cousins and uncle and aunt visit during the holidays for more eating, laughing, and story-telling.   

"When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."  Matthew 2:10-11

The Magi traveled months, maybe years, in search of a king bearing gifts worthy of deity.  Of great value then and now, gold was a symbol of kingship on earth: the birthday of a King. Family was not just of great value to me when, as a child, I thought we were perfect. Even now that we don't see each other as often, it's of great value, providing me with history and traditions, both old and new.  My grandparents' strengths and weaknesses live with each family member while we continue life.

Not only was the perfume, Frankincense, a symbol of deity, it was also symbolic of God's willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. I can't think of more greater or difficult sacrifices than the ones we make for our family. Knowing each other the longest, we're familiar and see and deal with each others' flaws.

Decades ago, I watched Rudolph and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Today, I enjoy Christmas movies about real families with real problems who find ways to cope and continue traditions.  As hard as Clark Griswold tries, cousin Eddie, Aunt Bethany, and Uncle Lewis test him until he's ready to send them home. As dedicated a son, father, and husband as George Bailey is, the honorable life of his brother Harry and his absentminded Uncle Billy are straws that almost break his back.  Can you imagine being Emily Hobbs? Your workaholic husband reveals he has a love child who's an ELF?  Or Scott Calvin whose son doesn't even want to spend Christmas Eve with him. Then, there's poor Ralphie who wishes his Aunt Clara knew he was a boy.

Sometimes when families are together, there's a nice aroma of fellowship and fun, but every family has a cousin Eddie, Aunt Clara, Uncle Billy ( I left my purse at a restaurant tonight and also misplaced a gift card), or Walter Hobbs and Scott Calvin.

Hope & Glenda 1996
Myrrh, an embalming oil and symbol of death, also symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction; thus, Jesus would grow to suffer greatly.  All relationships have potential for bitterness, and every family member we love will eventually suffer.  We rarely know when family members will have their last Christmas with us, and each year after feels different.  I miss my Daddy Luke's egg nog, my grandmother King's stories, my Aunt Glenda's Russian tea mix, my Grandmother Brown's crocheted gifts, and my mother-in-law's (Reba Glymph) useful and unique gifts stored neatly in a large white gift bag. These traditions made the holiday special in the past, yet the celebrations are still very special because I celebrate the birth of a Savior with family.

I enjoy and laugh with the same cousins who waited anxiously for Santa.  No matter how absentminded or impatient I am, I have aunts, uncles, a sister, and two parents who love me.* Even though they make fun of me, I have a great time with my children.  I have the best husband and because of him, an incredible Glymph family with sisters and brothers in-law and nieces and nephews and Papa.  We have years of old traditions to continue and new traditions to make.

Merry Christmas,


* A big spirit was missing this Christmas.
My parents have had a difficult two years, so I had a feeling this would be my dad's last Christmas Eve.  His last Christmas Eve was last year, 2013. My dad died of a heart attack early in the morning December 24, 2014.  One of the reasons I looked forward to Christmas Eve was my dad's love of family and tradition. He was a big man with a bigger spirit who LOVED not only celebrating his Savior at Christmas but also his family.

We didn't have our Brown family Christmas Eve, but I imagined him walking through my front door with gifts to exchange and food.  He had made sure my sister bought boiled shrimp for his oldest grandson, Luke.  In the past, he gave each female Brown a box of chocolate covered cherries (I usually ate my box in one day).  When we had babies, Dad was the one who held them the most often.  He loved Christmas trees and all the decorations. I knew he would like my tree and the wreath I made. I pictured him seeing it. I imagined him telling stories, smiling the biggest smile because his family was together. 

Since he was the family patriarch, a role he took very seriously, he would pray before our meal. He would delight over the desserts. He would laugh the loudest.  I looked in the living room and pictured him sitting on the sofa while I cleaned up; he would tell me everything that happened and everything that was said as if I had just walked in and missed the entire party. He would wish things were like they used to be. He would be worried if he thought someone had a problem.  He would miss having little ones running around. He would leave tired but happy.

Christmas Day, he would come over for breakfast. I couldn't wait to show him the Disney photo album Santa brought David.  He would want to look at it over and over and comment on each picture.  He's in many pictures grinning from ear to ear like a big ole kid.  When I filled my plate with breakfast casserole (made by a special friend) and muffins, I imagined filling his plate, too.  We usually had pastries and bacon, and sometimes I made pancakes.  "Dad, we have bacon and coffee cake and pancakes." "I'll have some of all of it." I use my Christmas dishes, and he always liked that.  In a Christmas mug, he took his coffee with sugar.  I imagined him at the table with me eating and talking about Christmas.  

Then, we would exchange gifts.  Mom would open what Dad told me to buy her.  This year, he was going to give me money, but he saw me in a new skirt and sweater two Sundays ago and said, "I love that skirt.  That's what I want to give you for Christmas.  Wrap that up for me."  That makes me smile thinking about it.  I couldn't find another skirt like it, so I bought a different sweater to wear with it and couldn't wait to wear it to church and say, "thanks for the new outfit."  My kids would take their annual Christmas picture with Mom and Dad on the sofa.

He would look forward to the King Christmas and seeing more nieces and nephews, hearing about their lives, eating more goodies, and laughing the loudest.  We did have our King Christmas on Sunday afternoon. On Friday (family visitation) and Saturday (his funeral),his family and friends said goodbye and honored him. Christmas without him along with being around the people he loved so much made me realize and mourn his tremendous spirit. No one loved Christmas, friends, his church, or family more than my dad.  He would have hugged the longest, smiled the biggest, laughed the loudest, and been the proudest of all this Christmas.

Because of the Savior he loved, there will always be a reason to celebrate Christmas. But a Christmas spirit as tremendous as my dad's will always be missed.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There Is Hope

In 1974, an event touched my heart and stayed with me, leading to a major decision 23 years later that I absolutely do not regret.  It wasn't Watergate or the disbanding of the Beatles.  It was a television event, and I fell in love with a name, Hope. 

I'm going to show my age.  I grew up with 3 television stations and no DVDs or videos. I grew up in a world where teenagers watched soap operas, so a few hours before Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, I watched Days of Our Lives.  Here's a little Days, that's what we called the show, history.

Addie Horton discovered that she was pregnant but also ill with Leukemia. Instead of harming the baby with treatments, she let the cancer take its course.  Addie and Doug named their first and only child Hope. Soon afterwards, as Addie was walking one day with her daughter, a car spun out towards them, and Addie (realizing she wouldn't live long) pushed Hope's stroller to safety and let the car hit her instead, killing her instantly.

This was the perfect, emotionally touching event for a Days loving adolescent girl, and I remember thinking, "what a beautiful name, so positive," and because I often dreamed of prince charming, a house, and perfect children, Hope was placed in the back of my head for a future baby name that was 5th in line behind Whitney, Janie, Anastasia, and Shelly.

Each time I read a verse with the word hope, especially Hebrews 11:1   "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see," I feel in love with the name again.  I was a daydreamer with many hopes.

My Grandmother King ,a gracious, sociable lady who enjoyed time with friends and family, was ill and suffered with an immune deficiency for many years.  Seeing her ill so often, I once said to her,  "I know you're tired of always being sick."  She replied, "Honey, where there is life, there is Hope." I remembered those words when I was pregnant and heard, "That's an old name, isn't it?" and "There are so many popular names to choose from, what about....." But, I didn't waver. On December 18, 1995, one week before Christmas, baby Susannah Hope was born.

Hope wasn't the most popular name for a baby then nor is it now, but I look at her with a mother's heart and believe she genuinely lives up to her name.  Even though she's a big fan of Grumpy Cat, Hope can light up a room, and she offers so much to her world: patience, kindness, laughter, and compassion. I cannot imagine a world without my Hope. 

"And his name will be the hope of all the world." Matthew 12:21

What a beautiful reason for God to come to earth.  I cannot imagine life without the hope of all the world, Jesus.  

....what we hope for.  I hope for so much: material and selfish things, of course.  I hope for good health for myself, my family, and my friends.  I hope for the best life even though I often don't know what that looks like, which is where faith enters the picture even though I remain a daydreamer.  I also hope for peace and salvation for family, friends, and people I meet.

I hope the world will see Christ as salvation and hope, but I also realize there are serious reasons for many to feel hopeless: poor health, poverty, relationship problems, depression, loss, and uncertainties. But, there is hope.

In Taylor Caldwell's short story, "My Christmas Miracle," packages from a stranger arrive unexpectedly on Christmas Eve to a single mother with a hungry daughter and no job.  And she writes, "and a sweet peace flooded me like a benediction. I had some hope again."  Even in the darkest times, there is hope.

It's the perfect season to offer hope to all the world.  We do this through Salvation Army Bell Ringers, Angel Trees with names of strangers, gifts to co-workers and neighbors in need, encouragement to friends with life-changing uncertainties, visits to families who feel forgotten.  With every dollar given, present unwrapped, meal cooked, hospital corridor walked, or encouragement offered, we give a promise.  There is hope. 

Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.” I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15: 12-13

Happy 19th Birthday to my Hope, and may each of you experience the hope of all the world,


Anderson Area Charity in Need: New Foundations Children and Youth Services in Anderson, South Carolina. http://newfoundationschildren.com/

A story of hope and good Christmas read, written by a dear friend and author, Laura Hodges Poole: "A Christmas Chance." https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23487371-a-christmas-chance

A recent sermon on hope, December 7, 2014, from Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. : http://www.shandon.org/sermons/

Two short stories about the hope we can bring to others during this season:

"My Christmas Miracle" by Taylor Caldwell

"A Gift of the Heart" by Norman Vincent Peale


During my "research," on Wikipedia, I found an interesting fact about the actress who played Addie Horton on Days of Our Lives. Patricia Barry played Addie from April 19, 1971 to June 28, 1974. Barry reprised her role as Addie for one episode on December 18, 1974.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Locke Design, mantle
ribbon is at least a decade old
Hidden under the recliner where Grandpa naps is a box.  We wake him up, wish him "Happy Thanksgiving" one more time, and before his car reaches the road, we pack up the fall table cloths, open the box, dust off the candles and begin.  Maybe we add greenery, lights, or villages. Maybe we use carolers, ribbon, or poinsettias.  The room brightens with treasures of gold and red, heavy and light, bold and eye-catching. The house warms with greenery and pinecones, natural and simple. We prepare.

We pull boxes from the attic and replace the broken bulbs. We trim a themed tree or maybe one of buttons, crayons, and construction paper ornaments made by kids or cherished collectables given as gifts, a story for each ornament.  Maybe our grandmother gave us a special ornament, or maybe it came from a favorite city. We use clear lights or colored lights.  On the top, we use an angel, star, or a big bright bow. Whether it's a tree in every room or one central tree for the entire family to enjoy, they're up and ready before the fried turkey becomes soup or tetrazzini.  We prepare.  

Photo courtesy of Patsy Hendrix
Rain or sunshine, we move outside and throw pumpkins away. Burning calories from the pecan pie and hazelnut coffee creamer, we drag reindeer and wreaths from the garage, climb ladders and roofs, then take pictures and share on social media, which is honestly one of the highlights of December for me. The stockings are hung, and for the next few weeks, we shop, wish, sing, bake, wrap, and party with the energy that only comes for four short weeks. We laugh loudly at Elf and tear up as Linus recites Luke chapter 2 and George Bailey is rescued. We prepare.

For four weeks (or longer for the pre-Thanksgiving eager elves), we prepare.... for family? We hope it fits. ....for friends? We hope they like it. ....for guests? We hope it's delicious. .... for Santa? We hope the kids are happy. Let's face it.  The Christmas season is busy but fun and alive. It's when tradition and memory meet novel and unique.  Our preparations proudly announce an event, Christmas: the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Locke Design
Centuries before we prepared our homes for this event, a child was born as a forerunner to God's son,

"filled with the Holy Spirit, even before birth... He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly." Luke 1:15&17

"Even before birth."Before he breathed earth's air, before Elizabeth kissed his baby face, John had a passion for Jesus.  In her historical fiction novel, How Far to Bethlehem, Norah Loft adds interesting detail to Luke's account of Mary's visit to Elizabeth.  

Beautiful ornament
given to David Locke
by a dear friend
They were about to embrace and then Elizabeth took a step backward and turned pale and sweat sprang out, like beads on her brow and upper lip.
"You!" she said. "You, Mary! You are to be the mother of the Lord to whom my son is to be the forerunner.  You, blessed above all women."
Mary said, "You did not know?"
"Until this moment, no. But the child did.  It leapt as I spoke your name. So late and never a movement, I was worried. But he leapt, recognizing you and the child you are to bear."

photo courtesy of
Patsy Hendrix
Do I leap when I recognize the Child? As I hang stockings and light candles, do I leap? Not to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," but does my heart skip a beat for Christ?  When I wrap boxes, because I love wrapping paper, and embellish with beautiful bows, I step back and say, "done! wow! I can't wait for someone to see this gift!" But, does the thought of Jesus cause me to step back and think, "WOW! I can't wait for someone to see Him?" Will my guests meet Him at my table?

I don't like heights, so I turn pale as I climb the ladder and hang wreaths.  I run up and down stairs to place fresh greenery on windows. I hurriedly untangle lights for the front porch. I sweat as I prepare.  How hard do I work and prepare for a world lost in the wilderness?  To the world, do I announce that Christ comes to live in hearts? 

As I arrange Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, I'm preparing my house for an event; however, am I prepared to introduce a savior?  My house announces, "we (along with 90% of Americans) celebrate Christmas." However, neither my home, stockings, wreaths, nor nativity scenes can tell of a personal savior who heals my dark heart, comforts me when I'm weary, and makes my crooked roads straight. 

Ornament at Locke Design
As I prepare for Christmas with decorations, cards, and cookies, when I hear your name, Jesus, please let me prepare for more than an event.  Prepare my heart to tell the coming of the Lord.   



Locke Design Omnimedia

Thanks to two very special people:
Patsy Hendrix, who shared photos from her home on a very short notice.
David Locke of Locke Designs, who graciously allowed me to photograph his amazing office and shared his love of beautiful ornaments.  Along with the ones my kids made in school, the old, unique ornaments are my favorites, and David had so many that spoke to me. 
Locke Design Omnimedia   www.lockedesign.com





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Laughing, Loving and Learning at the Table: A Recipe for Hospitality

Hugging, softening, measuring, mixing, talking, baking, laughing, eating, sharing, then hugging again. On a Tuesday in November, a group of lively cousins in rural Clinton, South Carolina (home to most of the King women), make a space for butter, sugar, flour, eggs, flavoring, nuts, fruit, and a little bit of Jack Daniels to become a family fruitcake and share an unforgettable day at the table.
After their parents had passed away, King first cousins (Sheila, Linda, Maria, Beth, Sylvia, and Martha)  who are more like sisters wanted another reason to get together and laugh, so they picked a holiday tradition using their aunt Ann's fruitcake recipe. They met at Linda's in Clinton for hours of softening butter  and mixing batter by hand while laughing and retelling family memories.  The King cousins have a system and successfully bake dozens of fruitcakes to keep and to share.

A few years ago when our mom, Sheila, couldn't drive, Susi, my sister, drove her to Clinton for the baking, and they welcome anyone with a sense of humor. One group of loud and zany, an inherited King trait, women apparently wasn't enough, so they decided to share the fruitcake tradition with their daughters.  Nothing stands in our way. We request a day off from work and join the organized chaos.

We spent a few years watching, mixing, and learning, not only about baking fruitcakes but also about the King first cousins' younger days in Clinton. While learning that aunt Ann and Mamma King wouldn't approve of an electric mixer, Susi, Susan, Harriett, Hope, and I also learn about King holidays, family "disagreements," and other stories our grandparents didn't bother sharing (for good reason).  
The King first cousins slowly transitioned from workers to supervisors, interrupting a story about one of Mamma King's eleven children to remind us to mix the soda in water or flavoring first.  A few minutes later, an explanation of how someone might possibly be related by marriage is on hold for a toothpick check of the first recipe. We hear about the King traits they see in their grandchildren while Maria checks the time for the 1st recipe.  Maybe because Susan lost an earring in the mixture one year, I don't know, but they supervised a few more years until we gained their confidence.   


In 2013, the first cousins abandoned their supervisor positions and went straight to sitting and story -telling.  Give Maria credit, though.  She buys and separates the fruit.  Now at Harriett's house, the daughters, along with a wife of a first cousin, make the coffee, add the eggs, mix the fruit with the flour, write down when recipes 1,2, 3,..etc. enter the oven, take the cakes out, and wrap them in wax paper and foil without one minute of supervision.  We have conversations about work, family, movies, and books while the King first cousins discuss who they dated 50 years ago, what another cousin is doing now, or who is the oldest, which actually required paper, pencil and MATH.  I'm not kidding.

It's a King "women only" day of loud laughter. We make an exception for Steven, Linda's son, to bring the chicken salad from Whiteford's family restaurant and take a group picture. And of course, Al, Maria's husband, is required to show up for my annual motorcycle ride. But, that's it.  We need to return to our  "you won't believe this" and "have you heard about?" chatter and obviously decide who is the craziest King.  That's a tough one.     

We look forward to and are grateful for fruitcake day every year.  However, it's actually not about the fruitcakes.  If it was, the festivities would end after lunch. Time is not important. We don't hurry.  Perfection nor productivity matter.  It's all good.  As delicious as the lunch (chicken salad sandwiches and Harriett's chicken potato soup) always is, and as fun and thoughtful as the first Christmas gifts of the year are, we gather for a bigger reason.


We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John 1:8

In her book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes, Shauna Niequest describes our fruitcake day perfectly, The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”  “So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand.”
At a recent an Allume conference (www.allume.com), I was lucky enough to hear Shauna speak further about hospitality.  "It's giving people a place to be when they'd rather be alone, creating sacred space to allow for His presence, and creating an experience where people leave feeling better about themselves."

Our table is a counter where we mix and talk, a stove where we bake and laugh, and a room where we eat, listen, share, and learn.  We learn of family, especially each other. We might jokingly boss each other around, but we feel safe and leave nourished.  More than an old recipe, our  November fruitcake day is about feeling better about ourselves and being loved by women with the same great grandparents, the same history, and the same zaniness.

Martha, Jenna & Katy
working on a Thanksgiving table decoration
The hospitality of our grandparents continues in our hearts, and we'll share it with a new group of King cousins and their daughters, starting with Jenna, who suggested to her mom, "get me out of school next year for fruitcake day."

May your Thanksgiving table be a place to be heard. May you learn and love,