Before I lose my audience by showing one more nativity, I’ll move on and show you something else that reminds me of good friends. Yes, this is the Christmas tree we bought for our first Christmas in Hanna City, IL (just outside of Peoria). In December (or maybe late November) 2004, we had been there about 11 months.
BUYING THE TREE
The Borland sisters (sounds like a singing group doesn’t it?) and their mom took me with them to a Christmas fair in a high school. I knew our place didn’t really have enough space to put up our big tree. I wanted something little. At the fair I found a tree that was decorated with lights attached and even some snow. (Most of that is now worn off.) This tree has been a dream to set up. I’ve added a few decorations to the ones on the tree. The lights still work. It was especially great for those Christmases when we traveled out of town. We had enough decorations to feel Christmasy but not a lot to clean up and put away!
THE BORLAND FAMILY
But back to the Borlands. We have many memories of their family because they were the family we spent major holidays with. There was hords of food. (This family started with 7 children!) They all grew up, married and had children. One daughter died of cancer in her 20’s but not before having a daughter. One son was killed in a plane crash a number of years later leaving 3 children and his widow. All the rest are alive with children and grandchildren coming out the wazoo!
For the major holidays, we would eat the main meal, clean up, play board games and laugh and chat and have a delightful day. Later in the day, we would start grazing the leftovers for our evening snack and gradually amble on home. It was always a delightful day of true fellowship. If we came across a stray person, we knew it would be fine to take them along. They would fit right in and be comfortable.
That is what I call hospitality. Everyone feels comfortable. Like they are home and welcome! With all the people of all ages, a person was free to hang out with any age they wanted. Baby lovers could usually find one to love and cuddle. There were usually some teens and college kids in the group as well as all ages of adults. In the games, we often had a wide range of ages.
I often played games like Apples to Apples and would learn all kinds of things in the kids’ worlds that I wasn’t up to date on. It was so funny to see the clashes in slang between the 50ish year olds and the teen-agers! It could be the same word, but a very different meaning from “our day” and now.
In the middle of it all was Esther, the mother of the clan. She was quite advanced in Alzhiemer’s (or some form of dementia) by the time I met her. But her very hospitable spirit and desire to make us feel comfortable prevailed. She usually felt she should be doing the cooking but her daughters told her to sit and they would take care of it. Over all, they did a great job of loving her despite her forgetfulness and continuous slide into the sad shadows of Alzheimer’s. They put off nursing home care as long as they could, but not long after we moved away in 2008, Esther needed the care she could receive in the nursing home. It was taking too large a toll on her husband’s health.
(2013) She remains there still and her husband Kenny ministers lovingly to her there as well as many of the other patients.
KENNY BORLAND-LOVING HUSBAND AND DAD
Even here, her husband Kenny has made a ministry of going there daily, getting to know other patients and their families, and generally caring for Esther’s spirit to encourage her. This is a godly, loving family that we were fortunate to enjoy during Ron’s short pastorate in Hanna City. (We went there for a year. We stayed for four!) This tree continues to remind me of them and the many other friends we made in that little town.
Merry Christmas to our friends in Hanna City!