Saturday, December 27, 2008

Presents or Presence?

Is it global warming? To date, here in Michigan, we have had record amounts of snowfall - one wintry mix after another. That's okay with me. I like snow. I love snow...and when its winter, I want there to be SNOW! And while we have had some days of wind chill in the frigid range, most have been pretty good days in the teens. A good winter, with good snow cover to insulate the ground and freezing temperatures to kill off yucky things that like to hibernate in mild winters. I am thankful we have not had to deal with the ice, and pray for friends and fellow farmers in the east who are coping with that situation.

This morning, as I write, the big picture window next to my computer desk is being pelted with rain...heavy, driving rain. I woke up this morning to flashes of lightning and claps of thunder. We are under a flood warning. It is so foggy I can barely see the barn. Every time the the sky is lit up by lightning, the mercury light that floods our yard goes dark and so for several seconds it is eerily dark outside the window. Rain. Thunderstorms actually, at the end of December. I like snow. I do not like rain in December.

Neither do the sheep. I think of my friend Lona and her family, who are scheduled to be shearing today.

We had a beautifully quiet Christmas,full of the joy and love of family. How about you? How did you celebrate? I know for some it can be a time of sadness. I thought a lot about the difference in what it means to have "presents" rather than the "presence" of our Lord at the Christmas celebration. He is always there, of course, but the difference is in whether we recognize it or not I suppose. This year, in a quiet and deeper way, I feel His presence. And I appreciate that so much more.

On the night before Christmas Eve, we were experiencing one of those beautiful snow falls, with fast flakes swirling all around. I was tired and went to bed early, only to wake up around 1 a.m. When I can't fall back to sleep, I always feel like it is such a waste of time to lay tossing and turning in the bed. I usually feel that this is a good time for prayer and I answered that call, getting up and putting on a small pot of French press coffee...yum! It is my habit, whenever I wake up and whatever time of year it is, to step out on the back porch to fill my lungs and clear my head with fresh air. When I did so this night, it was amazing. The snowfall was heavy and the world was silent. Well, silent from man-made noise. No car and truck noises from the nearby highway; no snowmobilers defiling the night with the whine of their irritating machines; no neighbors dogs barking...the noise was the silence of the snow fall and the swoosh of the wind stirring the large pine trees outside our bedroom window. As I stood breathing in this miracle and feeling the snowfall on my face, I heard another sound..."woooo...hoo-hoo, whoooo....hoo-hoo" I stood still and listened to the Great Horned Owl who lives in our woods!

The photo above is taken from this website:
If you click on the link, you can read more about these fascinating creatures. There is also a link called "listen" and if you follow that, you can hear a brief recording of the owl. It is a neat site, and the Tittabawassee River floodplain that it speaks of is quite close to where we live.

That was a beautiful experience, and I stood in the night listening until I got cold and had to come in. I woke Bill up to share with him. We used to love watching for and listening to, the owls that nest here. I wonder, when the snowmobile and off road enthusiasts go screaming down our road and pile through our woods and fields (illegally trespassing, by the way)...if they give a thought to the damage they do just with their intrusion? Everyone has a right to enjoy their personal favorite pastime...but do they really, when it negatively affects people and things around them? Anyway, I am wandering off subject....

The next night, Christmas Eve, and I linger in the barn just a while longer. Don't most stockmen and women? Especially shepherds? Don't we always feel that pull, that connection to something long ago and miraculous...the shepherds on the hill, who shared in the wonder? I feed everyone a little extra - the sheep, the horses, the barn cats, the chickens - and I pause with my ewes on one side of the barn and the old mares behind me in their stalls. My ears are filled with the sounds of contented munching and an occasional snort from Sammi as she buries her nose in the good hay. One of the barn cats purrs at my side and occasionally one of the ewes, usually one of my old favorites, stops in her pursuit of supper to give me a look or sniff my hair. I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience a stable on the eve of our Saviours is humbling.

The Shepherds and the Angels ~ Luke 2:8-20 (NIV version)...
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told..."

Dear Lord, I pray that I continue to seek your presence in my life rather than always looking for presents from you in the coming New Mary, I want to treasure and ponder your gifts in my heart.


Elena said...

Thank you! I started reading your blog when you were in the Cables and Lace Knitalong. I always enjoy the natural life vicariously through your blog (I live in NYC). I was especially blessed by this post--your description of the Christmas Eve barn and all the animals gave me a different perspective on the Christmas story. I've been thinking about it more from Mary's point of view this year since I'm a new mom but I enjoyed the shepherd's view as well. It seems so unbelievable that our Lord was once a tiny baby that needed his mom for everything and then on top of that in the middle of a barn!

Deborah said...

As I sit here wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt, it is fun to read about your white Christmas. You make it sound so pretty. Well, not the part about the trespassing snow mobilers.

Diane said...

I happened on your blog quite
by accident (or not?) I am going
through some worrisome times due
to aging parents and economy issues. Your blog gave me such a
sense of peace. My good friend
keeps sheep on my farm (she is
learning about herding with her
Border Collies) I enjoy watching
them, and often wonder about the
biblical comparisons about us being
sheep and needing our "shepherd"
God Bless you
I'll be back reading for sure.
You have some great meditations.

Margaret at Heritage Yarns said...

Cary, I enjoyed reading your perspective as a shepherd of what it must have been like for the shepherds at Jesus' birth. God bless you and Bill this Christmas and in the New Year.


Joyce said...

I enjoyed your calm meditation. I could almost smell that bracing cold air, and hear the owl hooting. Thank you.

Janet said...

Such a beautiful post, Cary! Full of the peace of knowing our dear Lord and Savior. We too had a quiet family Christmas, with Grandma here and our older daughter's brand new fiance! He is a godly young man, and we love him. And Cary, it snowed so beautifully here on Christmas day - very unusual for Puget Sound in Washington State. We had a very white and beautiful Christmas. May God richly bless you and Dr. Bill and your family.