Mon., Dec. 17, 2018
Luke 2:3-4 – Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.
This past weekend, Hubby Rick and I made our annual journey to Augusta, WI for the Deaton family Christmas. On Saturday, my siblings and our significant others, my nieces, nephews and their children all descended upon my sister Debbie’s house for our annual Christmas celebration.
For our family, this is our annual journey to the little town where I grew up. Augusta is small; about 2,000 people. It’s where I graduated from high school, where our family attended church and grocery shopped. There was even a time when I held the title Miss Augusta.
When it came time for my parents to move off of the farm where they raised their family, they moved into a house on Main Street … in Augusta. While I have not lived in the Augusta area for decades, this is still the area where I grew up. Where I remember going to the Red Dot café with my Dad. Where I still know every word of the high school cheer song when it is played.
Instead of Bethlehem, our family journeys to Augusta each Christmas. Together, we read the Christmas story, eat a large meal and take the annual Deaton Christmas photo. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to and no one wants to miss.
Knowing we’re covering multiple generations, we’ve tried to make it fun for all ages. There’s a craft for the kids. Favorite Christmas cookies. Usually, a card game. This year, we included our dear family friends, Donald, Celeste and Ruthie, who were neighbors when we lived on the farm and have been a special part of our family.
Several years ago, we started the Deaton Family Gift Exchange, which has truly become the highlight of the day. Rather than purchasing gifts, I wrap up a whole bunch of family “treasures.” We have a white elephant gift exchange. Some of the gifts have significance. Some are just plain silly. Others are not highly sought out by anyone. With each gift, I write a little story, explaining the significance of this item.
I knew this year’s gift exchange would not top last year’s Deaton Family Gift Exchange. After multiple requests, the beloved Winnebago camper was the highlight of last year’s exchange. It’s the camper I received for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. Every Deaton child, neighborhood children and young kid who walked into my Mom’s house probably played with the Winnebago. Nephew Ben proudly ended up with the Winnebago last year. It keeps a special spot in his living room.
As I wrap and prepare the gifts, I’m never quite sure what items will be most sought after. Or what item no one will want. Again, this year, I was completely surprised.
My great-niece Snow was the second person to unwrap a present. Naturally, she picked the biggest box, as any 5-year-old would. Inside? This bucket. Immediately, we ALL knew the history of this bucket.
Probably an old lard bucket, its sat underneath my Mom’s kitchen sink for decades. Literally, decades. This was her potatoes and onions bucket. She also put peelings and other scraps into the bucket. When it was time to feed the sheep, the bucket was taken with and emptied.
This bucket as a lot of usage miles on it. Hubby Rick could not believe that I had driven this beat-up bucket to our house, only to wrap it up, so it could make the journey back to Augusta one more time.
Snow tried diligently to pawn the bucket off each time a new gift was unwrapped. She wasn’t very successful. Later, Rick “traded” Snow for the bucket, specifically, so he could leave the bucket under Debbie’s tree, a gift for her to discover later.
At last year’s Deaton Family Christmas, my Mom was there. It was really the last day she was fairly alert. The next day, she began a steady decline in which just a few weeks later, she passed away.
How fitting that Mom’s bucket became the gift everyone had a story about and the one we talked about all afternoon.
When Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, they had no idea how this one trip would change their lives. When my parents traveled from central Iowa to northern Wisconsin on a very cold day in February 1961, could they anticipate how this one trip would change our family forever? I hardly think so.
Life is full of journeys. Some of these journeys are exciting. Some are difficult. Some take bends and corners we’d rather live without. Every family has a journey. Every family has history. Every family has things that draw out memories and stories, just like this bucket.
Our Deaton family isn’t perfect. We have lots of things that we’d like to change. At times, we disappoint each other and forget to give each other enough grace.
Yet, we’re still family. We are the ones who will continue the journey my parents began years ago. I love that we take time on Christmas to remember parts of this journey, share it with each other and keep the spirit of my parents and our grandparents as part of our Christmas celebration.
Our village isn’t Bethlehem. It’s Augusta. It’s part of our story, our journey.
What’s your journey?
For journeys of family yesterday, today and tomorrow, I am grateful.
Merry Christmas from the Deaton’s.
Holy God – it’s nearly impossible to understand how one journey to Bethlehem changed so much. It’s difficult to imagine the emotions and feelings Mary and Joseph felt as they were on this journey. As we journey in life, may we always see you as part of our journey. May we keep our eye on you, the one who knows best how we should steer our journey. Amen.
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