Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just Another New Year's Eve

I wrote the following poem/prayer 25 years ago at age 19. With wishes for your 2007 to be blessed, I share it with you:

My Father,

As I approach another year
I want to take time to reflect on the one now leaving.
I want to remember that You woke me up several times
(When my alarm clock failed to),
The kindness You prompted me to do that cemented a new friendship,
The aggravation that came my way and how You reminded me that You
were still God and could handle small things too.
The smile a stranger gave me on one of those “typical” Mondays,
The patience that caused me to hold my tongue,
The bothered conscience that prevented a mistake
And the guilty one that helped me learn from another.
The events that You allowed me in on.
The joy that comes from a mountaintop experience
And the love that pulls me through the valleys.

I want to remember that You let me run my life –my way
And then wiped my tears after I fell flat on my face.
But most of all, let me remember
How much You love me.
That You’ve planned my life out
And care about the details.
Remind me I do have a purpose
That I am where I am for a reason
And that You will always be beside me –
Until I move.

On this New Year’s Eve as others sing the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”
And wrap their arms around their loved ones,
Let me sing a song of praise
To the One who has wrapped His arms around me.

Alisa Dean (Beatty) ~ 12/31/81

P. S. My hubby has linked to a good New Year's sermon.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Year In Review, Part 2

There's so many more blessings to recognize from this year. I was able to spend some time with a long-time and dear friend, attended one of the festivities of my childhood church's 100th Anniversary Celebration (and saw the man I called "Bro B", my pastor of 28 years).

I cheered as my brother-in-law won a gold medal for the 2nd year in a row in cycling (made team owner "Papa John" pretty happy too!)

And there was so much more!

A very special opportunity/blessing for Bobby came in October: One aspect of my hubby’s “philosophy of ministry” is that the relationship between pastor and congregation is that of a marriage – you’re in covenant with one another and so you stick it out with each other and go through both the good and the bad together. One of the many good things for him in this marriage is the continuity of generations. He looked forward to baptizing members’ children and later marrying them off. This year, he had the opportunity to do just that - marry off a young man we have watched grow up.

On an absolutely gorgeous day in Autumn, Bobby performed the wedding of David and Alishia Pugh. The Pugh family are dear, dear friends of ours. To be able to watch David grow from a rambunctious kid to a great young man has been a blessing. His new bride Alishia is a wonderful young lady.

I was bah-humbugy this Christmas but my sweet hubby helped me get in the swing of thing with a whirlwind trip to see Christmas lights in Tennessee.

2007 is filling up already. Another Senior Trip (tough life, but somebody’s got to do it!), another trip out West (this time to the Great Tetons and Yellowstone Park) and two more weddings!

When I think about how often I fail the Lord, it's so humbling to consider all His blessings.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20)

A Year In Review, Part 1

It’s that time of year again – time for taking stock of one year and planning for the next. I’m sharing my attempts at this process with you! This year was full of wonderful blessings and opportunities.

Bobby was again asked to be a chaperone on the TCA Senior Trip (and I got to tag along) which meant we had a free trip to Charleston and Hilton Head!

Another great blessing was an elder’s willingness to give up a Saturday to come and cut down a tree for us!

The most memorable thing for me this year happened in June! We went with my mom on a dream vacation out West: flew into Las Vegas, over to Zion National Part(Utah), north rim of the Grand Canyon (AZ) and Bryce Canyon (Utah) ,

then made a loop through Colorado, which is just one big postcard – So beautiful! From Marroon Bells to the Continental Divide. . .

Up to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Alpine Station and Bear Lake

We loved Estes Park and discovered a surprisingly entertaining Ghost Town Museum in Colorado Springs:

Then it was the nerve-testing trek up Pike's Peak! But the view was worth it:

Our Colorado adventure continued with a drive along the Million Dollar Highway (which scared me to death!) and a walk across the Royal Gorge Bride (which scared Mom and Bobby!)

Next was The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, our nation's newest national park:

From there we made a side trip to New Mexico where I had a reunion with a couple I had stayed with 20 years ago during my summer missionary days. I loved seeing Aunt Frannie and Virgil again (almost 20 years to the day I had first met them). Seeing the green gate leading to their home was a very special moment for me.

The trip ended with a stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon before flying back out of Vegas.

As a child in the 60s/70s, I remember watching the Wonderful World of Disney and hearing Rex Allen narrate tours of the National Parks. It was simply wonderful to see some of them in person!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

And the Beatty's Top Christmas Movie Is

White Christmas!

Start with a classic Christmas song, throw in Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, mix well. Add heaping spoonfuls of delicious Irving Berlin songs and you have a Yuletide treat for the ages.

We love everything about this movie! Bobby and I both are a bit of WWII buffs, enamored with the Greatest Generation’s era, so a sentimental story about a good-guy WWII general and his ever-loyal men is right up our alley. And, as an added bonus, you also get a romantic comedy and wonderful dance sequences!

I have always said Gene Kelly was my favorite dancer, but each year when I watch Danny Kaye dancing to The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing I feel the need to rethink my position. He seems to be doing the number effortlessly – just out having some fun. Keep in mind the long takes and admiration for Kaye’s dancing ability is doubled!

[Aside: The film is shot like a play with long scenes film through one camera – notice how few cutaways there are!)

Tap dancing!!! I love tap dancing (which is why I think the Choreography number is such a hoot). Mandy, there’s a minister handy. . . I just want to get up and dance with them! And then there's the black dress. Oh my goodness! I love that dress.

My favorite song, however, is Count Your Blessings:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep,
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small,
I think of when I had none at all,
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

That’s just such a good reminder when I start to get down – I have so much for which to be grateful.

The movie draws to a close with a reprise of a song performed at the beginning of the film, only this time it’s twice the heart-tugging moment. When retired Major General Thomas Waverly sees his old command appearing before his eyes (in a display of love and continuing loyalty), he tears up – I flat out cry! Even after all these years, knowing all the songs (and most of the dialogue!), I still cry when the “old man” is serenaded:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go
As long as he wants to go opposite to the foe
We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay
As long he stays away from the battle’s fray
Because we love him, we love him
Especially when he keeps us on the ball
And we’ll tell the kiddies we answer duties' call
With the grandest son of a soldier of them all.
Of course, the finale is the ensemble singing White Christmas as the long-needed snow falls on the inn grounds on Christmas Eve.

Interested in some White Christmas trivia? Go here.

Christmas Traditions, Part II

As I mentioned in a previous post, my hubby and I have as one of our Christmas traditions the watching of certain movies. Here's favorite #2: It's A Wonderful Life.

What can you say about a classic? I've watched it every Christmas for years, and yet each year it seems fresh to me. Its themes remain so current and relevant. We all have had dreams deferred, dreams dashed and dreams reimagined. C'mon, be honest - haven't you at least once in your life said, "It'd be better if I'd never been born" or words to that effect? Truth be told, we've all been on that bridge with George Bailey, facing a problem that seems insurmountable and seeing only the black water below - hopeless.

I've been there. And I, too, was rescued by the Lord who brought hope to me via my own "Clarence," good friends who wouldn't leave me no matter how hard I tried to push them away.

I have always adored Jimmy Stewart and George Bailey is one of my favorite characters, but it is Donna Reed who is the unsung hero of the movie. Mary is George's rock. She is steadfastly faithful. She's in his corner, handing him their honeymoon money to save the company. Turning a delapidated house into a makeshift night in the tropics and mostly remind George to look at the bright side. When despair overtakes George and his response is ugly, it is Mary who prays for him. Mary images the Spirit here - working a good work in George, or at least trying to. And it is to Mary that George's thoughts race when he gets his wish of being erased.

It's A Wonderful Life reminds us that we aren't measured by our bank account, the title on our business card or our zip code. Its unspoken question is, how have we lived?

It's A Wonderful Life reminds us that the day-to-day things we do in our lives could have long-term consequences that we could never imagine.

It's A Wonderful Life acknowledges the Divine Providence that governs our lives and the One who cares for us.

And lastly, It's A Wonderful Life gives us one more reason to smile every time we hear a bell ring!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why Can't Everyday Be Like Christmas

Yesterday I was pulling out of the parking lot of Flag Fork Herb Farm where I had enjoyed a lovely lunch with my boss and fellow transcriptionists, when I checked my cell phone and saw I had missed a call from my hubby. I called Bobby and he said cryptically, “How fast can you be home and get ready to go?” Huh? Seems my hubby had decided we were going to take a road trip to Gatlinburg!

For years we have talked about just buzzing down to the Smokies for an overnight trip to see the lights of Winterfest in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This year, we were going to do it.

I rushed home and by 2:40 p.m. we were on the road. Even with encountering two accidents on I-75, we made the turn into Pigeon Forge at 6:20 p.m. There was still a hint of the setting sun over in the west, but not enough to damper the light displays that were beginning to come into view.

Every business, every hotel, every restaurant seemed to be in on the festivities! There were falling snowflakes on each side of the main thoroughfare. Then, what in the world? What’s with the parrots on top of phones. Wait. There’s Five Golden Rings!! We had just missed the Four Calling Birds! Yep, we were a little slow on the uptake, so we had to turn around and catch the partridge, turtle doves and French hens before proceeding.

Pigeon Forge had huge light displays up in the hills and down every side road. Behind the Old Mill Restaurant was “Patriot’s Park” with light displays of a Iwo Jima, the Liberty Bell, and many other iconic U.S.A. scenes.

Dixie Stampede was awash in Yuletide cheer – the cowboy show was now a Christmas extravaganza complete with camels!

Two huge candles flanked either side of the “Gatlinburg Welcomes You” light display as we entered that city. Here, every other light pole was transformed into ice-covered trees. The lighted snowflake arches over the streets were so ornate, I thought at first they were tiaras!

We spent part of our evening sitting in The Village people watching. The night before the first day of winter found us sitting comfortably outside in longsleeved shirts and sweaters, no coat required!

It was a whirlwinded trip. We left early the next day and were home within minutes of exactly 24 hours from our departure. BUT... what a nice Christmas present! For a few hours, I was a little girl again walking in a fanciful, almost fairytale setting and recapturing a childlike wonder for this, the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas Traditions, Part I

My hubby and I have a few Christmas traditions, one of which is watching certain movies every year. I'll talk about our favorite in a later post, but #3 in our top trio is The Family Man starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni (with scene-stealing Jeremy Piven and the always wonderful Don Cheadle).

I wanna say this is a modern retelling of It's a Wonderful Life, but that doesn't quite get it. One reviewer suggested a redone Scroooged, but that's not quite it either. This sweet, funny and wistful movie is both of those and more.

In it, Cage's character, Jack Campbell, is a powerful mover and shaker with fabulous wealth who, after saying he has everything he needs, gets a "glimpse" of just how wealthy he really could have been. The Wall Street mogul wakes up Christmas morning to find himself living in his worst nightmare: middle class suburbia set in Hell (otherwise known as New Jersey). He has to "figure things out" if he wants to get back to his real life.

Sure, it's predictable, but the scenes with "Jack" and his daughter "Annie" are heart-tugging delights and, as the emotional anchor in the film, Tea Leoni is just wonderful!

While not a Christian movie (has one scene of thinly veiled nudity and at least a couple instances of profanity including an F-bomb and one G-d), it does, however, have real Christian overtones. Without spoiling the film, notice the background when Cage's and Cheadle's characters talk. And pay attention to snow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rudolph, Santa & Me

For as long as I can remember, I have watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer each December. I know all the words to all the songs and sing along. The words are so hopeful and happy:

There's always tomorrow for dreams to come true, believe in your dreams come what may. There's always tomorrow and so much to do and so little time in a day. We all pretend the rainbow has an end and you'll be there my friend one day. . .

Or another favorite:

Have a holly, jolly Christmas! It's the best time of the year. I don't know if there'll be snow, but have a cup of cheer. . .

Growing up, it seemed Mom, Karen and I always put up the Christmas tree on the night Rudolph aired. It wasn't planned, it just seemed to work out that way. Back then, Mom put icicles on the tree and I can still hear her saying, "Girls, one at a time - don't glob them on!" I'm a little sad that most of today's kids don't know what Christmas tree icicles are.

Not only do I have a DVD copy of Rudolph, I also own another Christmas claymation classic, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town narrated by Fred Astaire with voices by Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn. This little gem is surprising in that it blatantly references the true meaning of Christmas. I know all the songs in this production as well. The lyrics to my favorite song have a strikingly evangelical tone.

Let me set the stage: The Winter Warlock's icy heart has melted due to the kindness showed him by Kris Kringle. He says he feels his heart changing from bad to good, but is fearful it won't last because "I really am a mean and despicable creature at heart." Kris reassures his new friend in song:

Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking cross the floor.
Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking out the door.
If you want to change your direction, if your time of life is at hand.
Well don't be the rule be the exception, a good way to start is to stand

The Winter Warlock then sings:

If I want to change the reflection I see in the mirror each morn,
you mean it's just my election to vote for a chance to be reborn?

I look forward to watching these two shows every year!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Before 9/11, There Was December 7

A group of Pearl Harbor survivors will gather for what is being billed as the "Final Farewell" today. The men, most in their 80s and 90s, will again pay tribute to their fellows brothers in arms who fell in the attack 65 years ago. Here's a story on the gathering.

My sister recently emailed me original photos of Pearl Harbor during and after the attack including the photo above.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Shades of Grey's

Okay, so I don’t want this to turn into a Grey’s Anatomy blog, but I cried through most of the last episode.

It was all about family – the ones we’re born into and the ones we create. It was about friendship and love and forgiveness and self-doubt and pride and all those real issues that make me keep watching it even when I know the lifestyles are wrong.

There was Dr. Bailey, hurt and vindictive, wanting justice and snarling at the mercy being shown to two sinners, as it were. Nothing new under the sun. Jonah was doing this way back when. Dr. Bailey being reminded by the Chief of mercy shown to her and the Chief’s words being very reminiscent of Jesus’ “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

There was Meredith, tending to her half-sister and caring for the woman and her mother, even as she resents them taking her place in her father’s life. Resisting the kindness they extend with cold professionalism, while feeling a tug in their direction nevertheless.

There was George. Trying to care for his family while resenting being in this position, angry at his professional idol for falling off the pedestal, angry at his friend’s duplicity, angry at his family for their ignorance, angry at Callie, just angry at the world. I’ve been there.

Christina and Burke. Professional and personal relationships intertwined and collided. Loving someone when they’ve hurt you.

All this and more - anger, love, betrayal, truth, right and wrong, loyalty, respect, fairness, justice, mercy – all being played out in a wonderfully crafted script.

Even non-Christians can’t escape the Gospel and Truth. They write it in their songs, plays, movies and television shows. I am amazed at the clear glimpse we get into the human heart from this show and how real the characters are to me. I see friends, family and myself in them.