Merry Christmas 2017

December, 2017

Dear friends and family,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This past year has certainly been an eventful one. Like any year it has had its high and low moments, but we are confident that in all of these things God is at work. I am reminded of the words of Hebrew 13: 5 which says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I can say honestly that I had expected to be part of a growing church as a staff member by this stage of life but apparently that was not part of God’s design for us. Instead, I am being repurposed. At this writing, I am about a third of the way through a master’s degree that will allow me to become a licensed professional counselor. I am on target to graduate from Liberty University in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, I am counseling and performing assessments one day a week for The Summit Church in Kernersville as well as maintaining my position at Aflac and working ten hours a week at the Rankin Baptist church in Greensboro as their music director. The work feels rather scattered, but I am grateful for it.

Al and Darleen

Darleen, my rock, and faithful sweetheart continues to work as a customer service representative for Texwipe in Kernersville. As most of you know, her sacrifice and willingness to work full time are what have made my return to school possible. In the midst of her busy work life, she finds time to make hats for everyone and his brother’s cousin. In addition, she also finds crafty ways to bless our grandchildren and various other friends who make requests for quality homemade gifts. Darleen has continued her work as a lay counselor at The Summit Church. She has, in the opinion of the counseling pastor, become one of the most effective counselors in the lay counseling program. Needless to say, I am very proud of her and her accomplishments.

JON

Jonathan continues to make his way through the educational landscape of college. He is doing well as a Computer science major at UNCG in Greensboro. Like me, his graduation will take place in the spring of 2019. Needless to say, we are already planning a huge celebration. He currently works at the Union Cross Park for the Forsythe County Parks and Recreation Department. However, his desire is to find interim work in a company that will allow him to gain experience as an IT professional.

Candace

Candace is living near Ben and Amanda in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is working for Target as a beauty consultant. The position was created especially for her. She is told that the sales in that department have increased a great deal since she took over. That isn’t surprising since she is knowledgeable regarding beauty products and adept at sales. This weekend she took a step towards autonomy by moving to her own apartment.

 

Daniel and Sonya live in Northern Ireland with two of our beautiful granddaughters. Dan is close to completing his internship as a baker. Please pray that God will open the opportunity for him to be full time at the bakery where he works. Pray also that God would provide opportunities for ministry for he and Sonya. In the meantime, God has blessed Sonya with work in the medical community. Arianna is four and Maya is 1 ½.  They both keep their parents on their toes.  From time to time we are blessed to be able to send packages to them through Darleen’s boss who goes to Ireland twice a year.  That has been such a blessing.

Noah and Caleb

Ben and Amanda are preparing to add grandchild number ten to the growing ranks of the Bacon Nation. Aaron is due to be born sometime between now and January 8th. Noah has begun Kindergarten and loves it. Caleb began preschool this year as well. Both boys are flourishing in their new educational environments. Ben is continuing his work as a behavioral analyst for a school that serves high functioning autistic children. As of this fall, he is also being loaned out by his school to other schools who have autistic children and are in need of training. The ever-industrious Amanda has started a company of her own called “Fairytale Journeys.” She is, in effect, a travel agent for Disney. So, if you are planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom, be sure to drop her a line.

Mackie family

Carolyn and Cameron are busy working and raising two children of their own. Carolyn works as a customer service representative for Dedon, a high-end furniture company. Recently she has been promoted and is periodically traveling for the company. Cameron, the ever steady, continues to work in the seed company that was started by his stepfather. The company has sold, but Cam still supervises and is in charge of ordering and all sorts of other things. Hayden has grown so much that he is no longer the little boy that we once knew. He is in the 5th grade and doing well in school. Chloe, our little spark plug continues to entertain us with her toddler sense of humor and antics. There is never a dull moment with her around. Grammy and I enjoy the weekly visits from Hayden and the occasional opportunities to watch them both overnight.

Russell family

Mark and Christie are doing well in the frozen tundra of Vermont. They moved into a house of their own this last year. Mark has been busy fixing and learning the fine art of being a homeowner. He is now firmly entrenched at Cabot creamery as the guy who makes the yogurt. So, support the family and buy a little Cabot Cheese. Mark has also gone back to school to finish his bachelors degree. Christie is going 100 miles an hour as usual. I think she may be like her mother in this way. She works in the office for Union Baptist Church. I am told that she is an integral part of the office staff. She also still homeschools her children which is a full-time job all on its own.  Evelyn is in 2nd grade, Miles in Kindergarten and Elyanah keeps mom busy on the side.

We hope your festivities this Christmas are memorable and sweet and your New Year is filled with much more good than bad in 2018.  We wish we could spend the holidays with each one of you!

God Bless,

Allen, Darleen and Jonathan

Bacon

 

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Not Yet, Not Fully, Not Finally

I’m struggling again tonight because life seems to have left the happy behind so there’s very little happy anymore.  I remember when I was young thinking how “old” old people were who constantly looked back to happier days.  I didn’t understand.  I do now.

I loved my child rearing days.  I was good at it…very good.  I raised respectful sweet natured children who were the envy of those who didn’t know us in restaurants (more than once someone came by to tell the children how well behaved they were) and of those who did know us well.  The children were hard workers and knew how to relate to adults as well as other children.  I always chalked that up to home schooling, but maybe it was that we expected obedience and respect and made sure it reigned in our home.

Now it is hard to be around children.  They are disrespectful and out of control.  When I see a child genuinely happy and being good…I am drawn to them … because it is a rare sighting.  I don’t blame the children.  I blame the parents…too busy schedules so they don’t have the strength to discipline well…bought into the lie that getting things for their kiddos makes them better and have a better childhood…too involved in having more so that their first priority isn’t raising good members of society and most of all not following God on how to raise their children and making sure they are being taught the Word daily.

I read the Word to my children every morning before we started school.  Did they always follow it?  No.  I have sinner children just like everyone else, but I have to believe it made an impact on their lives because I believe God when He says His word never comes back void.

I’m sad tonight because there is little to no relationship with most of my family on either side.  I thought when I raised six children that I was raising my family that I would have relationship with; but that hasn’t been the case.  When my children struggle or hurt they don’t come to me.  I have a hard time understanding this because I didn’t have a mom or dad to go to…they were gone by the time I was 19.  I have tried to be there for them…maybe I was too easy on them…especially as they got older and made bone-headed mistakes.  One of them told me I should have been more involved during the bone-headed time; but how do you gauge that when they have made it clear they are adults and don’t need you anymore?

So….I’m disappointed in these years.  It seems like all my fun is over.  There doesn’t seem to be a point in life or purpose.  I thought I would be a big part of my grandchildren’s lives, but I’m not.  Most of them don’t really want me around.  I don’t have Jesus to share with them because either I am too far away or they don’t want to go.  What’s the point in life if you can’t share Jesus?

To add insult to injury I see other families way involved with each other.  They call and cry and love and share.

I have often hung onto the scripture that if you give up your life for Jesus your family will be His family…that hasn’t been the case either.  Oh, I now it isn’t over yet.  My pastor preached about Not Yet, Not Fully, Not Finally.  In other words…it’s not over until the fat lady sings…and she ain’t singing. It made a lot of sense.  I just need to take it to heart and gain some hope from it.

 

 

Sometimes

Sometimes a Mama can’t be there for her son or daughter.  It’s a big day…something important…and your heart is there…but your body has someplace else it has to be.  I’m finding as I grow older this is more and more the case of my Momhood.  I live near three of my six children and two of my nine grandchildren and still I can’t be there for those who are right in the same town I live.  I hate that.  Sometimes I think I was born to be a mom.  To me it came naturally.  I grew up loving my dolls, dressing up my Thomasina cats in doll clothes and strolling them around in my carriage.  I taught all my dolls and stuffed animals on the couch lined up like little students.  I adored Momhood.

Nancy Reagan died this week.  What a wonderful woman.  She said, “My life really began when I married my husband.”

I thought a lot about that today.  In many ways that was true.  I often speak to my husband of almost 35 years of “my other life” before him, or when we were first married, or when the children were little.  They all seem like such distinct lives.

My oldest daughter, Christine, talked this week of watching her children when they weren’t looking and thinking how beautiful they are.  I remember so clearly of doing the same thingmany times…it was like time stood still during those moments.  They were in deep concentration coloring or thinking with their head in their hands and their tongues hanging out of their mouths.  And I’d smile and think how perfect they were.

I have beautiful children.  They are sweet, and cordial and courteous.  They love God and each other.  They are my glory that I pass on to my Savior for His glory.  If it were not for Him and His grace and His coaching and His parenting and His love and His mercy and His forgiveness and His strength and Him – period- we would have nothing.

He is the reason I can be okay with not being there for my daughters or my sons when they need me or want me.  I heard something the other day about how “My mother taught me everything except how to live without her.”  In a lot of ways that is true and will always be true.  I lost my own mother at 19.  I can’t imagine and my heart aches for what she went through that couple of months when she knew she was dying and her little girl, her youngest, was just barely nineteen and not ready for her to go.  What pain.  She was brusque.  She was harsh.  Now I understand.  She was heartbroken.  She was helpless.  She was dying inside way before she died outside.  I didn’t understand then.  I just knew I needed my Mama and she wasn’t there.  But she did “teach me how to live without her” in that she gave me my best friend.  She could die knowing that my Father, and His Son and His Spirit would guide me and love and me be there for me every step of the way in this life for all those times she couldn’t be with me…graduation from college, wedding day, every birth, every day I needed to call her and she wasn’t there to call, every birthday….I’ve had an ongoing conversation with the Father and Jesus over the years … I don’t know if they have given my messages, but it’s made me feel better to know that Mama knows that I know … now….that she wanted to be there for me.

So, children, know your Mama wants to be there.  Your birthdays I can’t come to, Easters, Christmases, Thanksgivings, births, graduations, certifications, every special day and every hard day.  Look at your own little ones and when you stop and wonder at their beauty and perfection…remember that is how I look at you.  You are perfect.  You are loved.  You are successful.  You are doing a wonderful job at life.  I pray for you.  Tears stream down my cheeks in the middle of the night for you.  My heart breaks for you…over and over and over. You are Dad’s and my legacy and we are so very proud of you.

The Mother-In-Law

mother_with_child_by_evels_selena-d3am2we

All my life I’ve heard horror stories of mothers-in-law.  Controlling…butting in…you know the jokes…the comments.  I prayed I would be a good mother-in-law all those years ago into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I’m seeing another side of this phenomenon on this side…the downward slope of the hill of life.

I see a woman who’s unsure of herself and where she stands anymore.  I see someone who has literally poured her life into that son or daughter only to watch someone misuse or not provide or control or expect too much of him or her.  She remembers the hours of loving devotion she has lavished on her little one (who will always be little to her), the long nights up cuddling a fevered brow, rocking an inconsolable soul, holding up a frail little body while they lost their cookies for the umpteenth time into the commode.  She remembers the tickles under the covers every morning, the squeals of laughter, the tears of disappointment she wiped away.  She remembers the hard teen years of helping them navigate life and just make it through…the hours of wondering where he or she was, the worried early morning hours spent wide-eyed praying for their wisdom and purity, their decisions and preservation of their soul.

I don’t think anyone truly understands the mother’s heart…maybe not even other mothers since we are all so different.  That moment when you give your child away is wrenching…it’s other-worldly, cataclysmic, life defining.  It’s usually the father who “gives away” a daughter, but I venture to say it’s really the mother who couldn’t do it…sitting there alone in that pew…wondering if life will be good to her child, wondering if this person standing before them with the son or daughter is actually who they say they are …or if they are someone totally different.  Are you sure who this person is you are opening up yourself and your child to?  Are they truly good willed?  Can you know as you are sitting there in that pew watching the ceremony…the vows to love no matter what, to honor no matter what, to be there in sickness and in health, in the good and the bad?  I don’t think you can.  I look at all mother’s differently now.  I know it’s not vogue to be called a “mother” and yet I think it is the highest calling to create and nurture a life in this life.  And maybe part of that is the “giving away”…the emptiness…the not having a place anymore.  Those sweet little child kisses on your cheek, the strong lithe arms hugging the life out of you when you are young, the high pitched promises to marry you and buy a farm and always live with you, the adoring love in shining eyes, the shared laughter unencumbered by years of uncertainty in where you fit in…those are what she is holding on to.  The mother-in-law.  She’s remembering.  She’s wanting time.  She’s needing reassurance that she matters.  She’s wanting recognition for her part in preparing the child for someone else.  Try to understand she’s now navigating new waters and it may take awhile….or forever…to find her place.

O Christmas Tree

Christmas 2015For some inexplicable reason I love my Christmas tree.  Every year we traipse out somewhat close to my birthday (December 9th) to find the perfect one.  We walk around dozens of trees coming back time after time to one or two that “might fit” wondering if it will look horrible once we get it inside….worrying all to no avail since every year it is “just right” and beautiful.

Some years I find myself twirling the lights around by myself or putting finishing touches by myself.  Other years I have more help that I can deal with graciously.  The standing back taking it all in squinting session is always fun …making sure there are no holes in the lighting and everything looks just right.  Each ornament has to hang just right…not lying on a branch so it can’t dangle amidst the glittering balsam.  Each year we buy or make one ornament for each of the children (and one for us as a couple).  Sometimes the ornament speaks back to the year before. An ornament in memory of a beloved pet, one made in Sunday School for mom with a child’s scratchy printing or funny picture of when they were younger, years and years of fun and sweet ornaments to put on the tree year after year.  Then one year several ornaments were missing…one child left and started their own tree with their ornaments.  Each year or so more and more ornaments were missing…it seemed like we still always had enough ornaments.  What memories each one holds.  Stockings each year with an ornament hanging out the top…little fingers hanging it awkwardly on our beautiful tree each Christmas morning.  Every year…every tree…listening as it were to the real story of Christmas.  Mom reading tear jerker stories of families celebrating Christmas, Dad reading Christmas morning before opening gifts from Luke 2 and thanking Jesus for coming and the Father for sending His Son for us.

As I take the tree down this year, well into the new year 2015, I am thinking back to the dozens of trees we have had…each one different and holey in its own way…imperfect yet perfect for us.  Never the same.  Hours of putting up, taking down, decorating, re-fixing…rehanging ornaments, placing presents just right under the tree each year, listening to squeals of laughter, wiping tears on soft little cheeks, sleeping under boughs once each year in order to enjoy the lights all night long and the love and companionship of loved ones and family….these are all reasons I love my Christmas tree.  O Christmas Tree.  I can’t wait for next December just to pick that next one.

I often wonder if Allen goes before I do how I’ll do it.  I never have wanted to have a fake one…an artificial one…there’s enough fake and artificial in the world.  Even when my allergies to pine acted up…I was more willing to get my sudafed out and enjoy.  Bringing a little bit of the forest inside for a month seems so silly…but it speaks to my soul.  It reminds me of other trees.  The one which made the cradle for a baby boy from Heaven, the one that became the cross where He died 33 years later…and many trees inbetween in my life.  One REAL tree growing up where it was potted and in the spring we planted it in the front yard…now 30+ feet tall in a small town in New York.  I love trees.  I had a Grandma and Grandpa tree in CT because I never had a Grandma and Grandpa.  A walk in the woods…in December….in my living room…for a month.

O Christmas tree…you are a bright spot in this life.  You give beauty in years when there is little or none.  You give hope when there is no hope.  You remind me of the real reason for Christmas when there is no reason to celebrate.  I love my Christmas Tree…see you again soon…in a different wood…with a different aroma…with different branches…and different wood…but the same joy and the same emotions…

So if Allen goes before me I will still get a real tree…for me…for the years of memories…for the tree.

Death of Dreams or Desire to Dream

I heard a man once years ago tell about how death of our dreams was an inevitable time of life.  I remember thinking at the time about all the dreams that had died…that was close to 30 years ago and I have watched so many more dreams die since then.

You would think as life was just starting I would have had so many more dreams that were being made.  I guess I did have some. I loved having six children.  I loved fulfilling my dream of educating them apart from this world’s philosophy (as much as humanly possible).  I loved marrying a man who would be true to me and to our children, working hard even when everything we touched seemed to turn to ashes.  I found some wonderful times in those early years….but I also had to let go of some of my dreams like…

*having my mom around when I had children to encourage me and teach me and love on them

*having my dad as a constant source of protection and security

* having family close so we could take our children and give them a sense of family

* having good health so I could carry out my duties as wife, mother and pastor’s wife with energy, vitality and joy

*Having a thriving ministry where we were loved and made deep connecting friendships

Today?  What did I want so long ago that hasn’t come to pass?  I thought things would be easier by now.  I thought I’d be neck deep in ministry.  I thought we’d have at least a little bit of this world’s goods so we could visit family. I thought I would have opportunities… that have gone to others.  I thought I could be near my own children and their children to encourage and love on them.  I thought my children would enjoy being with me so much that they would seek every opportunity to be with us…this is actually funny…I’m not a very likable person.  I’m not the life of the crowd.  I’m not a doting sweet person who everyone wants to be around because they make you feel like a million bucks.  Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone like that.  But I grew up on The Osmond Family Christmas specials and Bob Hope’s Christmas Special.  When I was growing up, I was a part of a large family and I was the last child of the Grandma and Grampa that everyone wanted to spend Christmas with.  I missed that for my children and thought, “Oh well, when they grow up and we bring everyone home for Christmas, it will be like that.”   It hasn’t worked out that way.  Either the in laws take up all their time or they can’t afford to come…so Christmas and holidays have become very lonely where I remember all the good times when the children were small and gifts plentiful because God provided…not big expensive gifts…but gifts that meant something and we spent hours playing the games or putting together Legos or watching videos and snacking all day long with everyone around us.

I guess in my own way I have lost the desire to dream. What’s the point? This life has nothing to offer that I think it can deliver. We aren’t the Italian family that blows up and just continues to love anyway and goes to Grammy’s house every Sunday because if we didn’t she’d blow her top. I don’t blow my top…I just quietly sit with my hubby wishing the kids would come…and the grandkids….

I think what really spurred this on is we went to visit a family with a lot of teens…all their friends were there to picnic, swim, play carpet ball…and I miss that. I miss those days so much. 😦

So my advice? lol Don’t ask me. I don’t know what it is to have a lot of fulfilled dreams…just ones that died somewhere along the way. But … if you are that young couple with children…enjoy them. You may be that family down the road that gets together all the time…or you may end up like us…alone on the holidays wondering how to make them special…without the babies you rocked and hugged and loved and woke up with all those years…when you were too tired to dream any further.

I don’t want to end this so scarily real and sad. At least I know someday in Heaven we will have all of them with us. They will want to celebrate there…birthdays together like we used to, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving. We’ll have an eternity there.

So when someone says to me, “Maybe they will come back someday.” And my heart says “No…that will never happen” because it is too tired to dream…I will remember that my hope and dreams may only be in the afterlife…but that’s just a few short years away and I can dream of then.