Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Memory Lane

Tis the season, as they say. And it is a season indeed. For our family, in Fort Portal, we know Christmas is upon us when town gets more crowded (many folks from the capital city travel to be with family in the village), the sunshine grows longer and hotter every day, and huge baskets of fresh mangoes are for sale everywhere you turn. We can also measure the approach of December 25 by the quiet of our nearby school closed for the holidays now and the unbelievable number of weddings with their wedding parties driving in slow caravans through town horns honking in double beat repeats from church to reception venue. 
Our home, decorated for Christmas for several weeks now, is buzzing with the wrapping of gifts, the baking of treats for neighbors and the quiet of long slow mornings while the teens sleep in and enjoy a break from school. 
I am spending mornings pre-holiday with my coffee and writing allowing the memories of Christmases past to ease me into my days reminding me of so many good things and gently kneading hope. 

And so I give you today: A Cash Family Treasury of Christmas:)

I believe that I have well-documented my complete inability to actually mail Christmas cards. Of all the pictures and plans for holiday updates that have transpired over our years in Uganda, I have successfully completed and mailed less than half. The post office is hard, people. 

Whatcha gonna do?

But from all those efforts we have so very many adorable pictures taken in the fall of every year, so here are a few 'October-best-of-intention' pictures for your viewing pleasure. For such a time as this and all that...
On vacation in October, we were trying to get a pic of all four sitting on this bench. Silas liked scooting off the bench in a bit of a fall. I’d set him back up on the bench with clear instructions but before I could get behind the camera again, he’d scoot and fall with a mischievous grin. Isaac wouldn’t look at the camera. He was too busy pestering Alex.  Kinley and Alex had long since learned that to sit, smile and look at the camera moved you through the picture taking agony the fastest and on with your play. So Jeff told Isaac to make his funny face, we let Silas scoot and fall, scoot and fall and we told the older two to keep staring at the camera. This is what we got. It ranks as one of my all time favorites. Perfection.

Coats, ties and new dresses for Christmas in front of our poinsettia tree that blooms year round!

A perfect Christmas card photo for Africa MKs! 
To be artistically coupled with:
The year Grammy and Granddaddy visited in October! 

And then there were the photos snapped closer to Christmas:

Bribing with chocolate for the win!

Red for Christmas!




Good times. 

And also.

Can you believe how little the Cashlings ever were? Be still my heart.

Christmas 2006: This was one of the first years that Kinley accepted the responsibility of hanging the most precious breakable ornaments. She took it very seriously and she was well supported. (Please notice Isaac's hands-on-hips pose...) I can still hear the boys directing her efforts. Silas is not even pictured because we waited until he was down for a nap before we brought out the fragile ornaments. Christmas decorating in those days took so very long, working around naps and snack times and answering one thousand questions. 
Fast forward a decade to Christmas 2016: Alex and Silas put up the tree and lights alone while I rested after Thanksgiving dinner. The next day the kids brought out all the decorations, put them on the tree and then, to complete a Boy Scout Photography Merit badge requirement, the boys and their dad took this amazing picture of their work. 

All I did to make this happen was keep the Chipmunk Christmas music playing and simmer the cider. 
 These two moments feel like mere days apart. 
The time, it does fly. I had no idea how often this truth would surprise me and leave me breathless. I remain so deeply grateful for the gift of sharing this 'time-flying' history with such incredible people. God is faithful and so good. 

And a few more memories from Christmas Past:

This loveliness is our tree for our very first Christmas in Fort Portal (1996). We cut the tree at a farm in Kampala, tarped it, strapped it on our pick-up and drove it 6 long hours over terrible road to Fort Portal. This is what we had when we unwrapped it at home. It was deader than dead, but we decorated it anyway and called it good. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Our trees got far better through the years.
(They are also more fake, but please don't tell our Oregon family.  We are forever sorry for this Holiday Heresy but the gorgeous forests of the Northwest are too far away!) 

All hands on deck for decorating!

Each and every year! 

Serious business!


Ho, ho, ho! 

Waiting for Dad to switch on the generator and the Christmas lights before we see what treasures awaited under the tree. This was probably 6AM on Christmas morning. We told the kids the birds had to be singing before we all got out of bed;)


Cookie decorating! A Cash family must!

Our collection of Christmas books--still enjoyed today.

Cute hats, adorable kids and falling tacos! 

A rare gem. Actual blood related family (Robin and Amy Crocker) with us in Fort Portal in front of our Christmas tree. Technically this was Thanksgiving, but we haven't had family with us on Christmas in Fort Portal so I'm counting this! We also managed an Easter gathering with these amazing folks in the year to follow. Both meant so much to us. 

Rudolph and the bearded one! 

We've enjoyed some festive seasons in America too!

Christmas Tree Hunting with the Cash Family

Decorating Nana and Papa's tree

Christmas Eve in Odessa! (stockings by Grammy Cash!)

And, one time we made a gingerbread house. 
Exactly one time total. And only with the youngest two. 
The oldest Cashlings never made a gingerbread house with their mom. And they remain happy, contented mostly well-adjusted human beings. True story.
Dear Mamas of littles: give yourself the gift of grace this holiday season. No one person was designed to do it all. 
(For my Odessa tribe: Please note the stack of Taco Villa hot sauce in the lower right corner of this photo. The hot sauce is now all I can think about.)

Not exactly Christmas but it looks like winter so I'm including it;) 

This was the boys’ first snow. 
(Actually, we have several pics with our kids at different early ages holding snow and we always say the same thing: “That was your FIRST SNOW!” 
But we have approximately 27 different ‘first snow’ moments. 
The family archives do not always enhance accurate memory. So, their ‘first snow’? 
Could be. No one really knows for sure.)  
We were on furlough, this was the end of June, we were headed to Crater Lake in Oregon and we had to stop at Fred Meyer on the way to buy jackets off the 75% discount rack. I think we had to buy tennis shoes too because we only had sandals for our equatorial feet. This was a beautiful day, very cold, but so fun. We ended up wet from making snow angels and the kids couldn’t feel their little fingers. But we found some hot chocolate, turned up the heat in the car (in June?!) and marveled at the beauty along the road as we drove.

Snow angels indeed!

And I'll leave you with this:

  One time, in our earliest years in Uganda, when there were no decorated trees or lights anywhere, and we had no Cashlings, Jeff and I drove south from Fort Portal to simply get away. We headed to the game park where we could drive unhindered for hours in great sprawls of land with only our thoughts and feelings to sort and unmuddle as company.  Back then animals were difficult to find in a game park most unfortunately purged of wildlife in the wars of the eighties. We could drive for hours and only see kob, impala or bushbuck. Elephants were a treat, but usually only seen at a great distance and a cat…that was very, very rare. That one year, with pies jostling on the back seat of our truck, windows down but sticky hot anyway, I put in the Amy Grant Christmas cassette tape we loved hoping to at least crack a window to something resembling the Christmas spirit. Somewhere just past the equator sign, when the terrain edges from the mountainous towers of the Rwenzoris to the flattened racing empty space of the game reserve, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” crooned and I began to sob. Now, every time I hear that song I feel that exact feeling and see that exact image. There are joys and delights on this missionary journey but some stretches are flat and vacant and leave me looking for something I never quite find.   

Especially on all the special days.

Instead, we learned from wiser souls that when it comes to holidays away from extended family we must be intentional about making our memories sweet ones.
And we must learn the art of improvisation. 

Mistletoe from local bark cloth? Indeed.

A Christmas picture every year to mark our growth. Yes! 

Memories that are just the right ones for now. Praise the Lord! 

I have found that it is truly in the most unexpected moments, when my hands are busy working at the current task I have been given, that I am overcome with the sweetest surprises. And hasn't it always been thus?

Hard working, smelly shepherds and angelic choirs.
Newly weds delivering their firstborn where animals stay. 
Star-gazing, foreign wise men with elaborate gifts for a newborn sleeping in a feed trough.
A baby named Deliverer. 

Angry kings would not thwart it.
The religious elite would not logically reason it away.
Lonely seasons in Africa away from family would both fulfill and save:
"out of Egypt I called my son...."
Matt 2:13-21, Hosea 11:1

We are never alone. 
Never abandoned.
Never out of sight.
Never the only one.

"...I have come that they might have life and have it to the full."John 10:10

May God bless you with that fullness today, in the midst of whatever season surrounds you.
You are enough.
You are loved. 
He came to deliver YOU. 

In that, in Him, is every Merry Christmas. 
A hope. 
A longing.
An ever fulfilling JOY!

"...My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." 
Luke 1:46-47

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." 
Luke 2:14