DIGITAL PHOTO PAINTING BY SANDI STATON
Image source: Free Public Domain
Other source: My own photo images
It was December 25, 1963; the weirdest, most disturbing Christmas day ever. Rather than jolly St. Nick coming down the chimney, the Grinch came down instead. There were no stockings for him to steal or presents or even a tree. Yet, he stole something from me that Christmas morning. He stole the magic, the awe, and wonder, the anticipation of a rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed child that couldn’t wait for Christmas to get here. He even turned the weather upside down raising the temperature from below freezing to seventy degrees . . . very strange weather for Delaware in December.
Mom went on strike that year. She stopped doing all the mom things like cooking and cleaning and laundry. She crawled into a make-shift bedroom in the attic and lived there for weeks, only coming down to empty the slop jar and re-stock her food and water supply.
I was seventeen, old enough to fend for myself. But, like the rest of the family, I depended on mom to always be there. To always cook our favorite meals. To always keep us in line. To always be a mom.
It wasn’t the first time the Grinch snuck into our house and stole from the family. He never seemed to get his fill of tormenting us with mom’s mental illness. Her brokenness. Her inability to handle the stress of my dad’s lack of communication, and getting a real job, and bill collectors pounding on the door, and my youngest brother getting into trouble with every blink of an eye.
She tried to be strong in spite of her illness. But, she was just a mere child herself when her mother placed her in an orphanage and the orphanage placed her in a foster home where she was severely abused. All she ever wanted was a real family to love and accept her. By the time she finally got that family, her heart was too scarred and fearful to trust and believe that anyone could ever love her. Sadly for all of us, she lived and died a victim of the dire circumstances of her abusive past.
Many Christmas’s have come and gone since that warm, Christmas day when my mother shoved a cardboard box in my hands and said, “Here! I got you and your brothers a pair of ice skates.”
Christmas is like snowflakes; there are no two alike. But, somewhere along the way, we get the notion that every Christmas should be merry and bright and that all our expectations be fulfilled. Instead of feeling peace and joy, we feel guilt and shame for spending too much money or not enough, or that we let people down because we can’t meet their expectations, or that Christmas is completely ruined if families can’t all get together on Christmas day. And worst of all, we get so wrapped up in everything we think Christmas should be that we forget the reason we even celebrate.
Every year I have to remind myself that Christmas isn’t about me and my flimsy efforts to make it perfect for everyone. It’s not about presents under the tree and stockings hung by the chimney with care. It’s not about Santa Baby hurrying down the chimney with a bag full of trinkets. It’s about celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, God’s only Son who came down from Heaven to save the world from sin. It’s about His peace for the anxious, His hope for the hopeless; His healing for the wounded. It’s about families sticking together through thick and thin.
So, here it is, December 25, 2020. Our house is finally back in order after a long, harrowing DIY renovation, but we were too exhausted to decorate. We did, however, sprinkle a few decorations here and there adding a dab of Christmas cheer.
Because our family keeps growing we try to divide Christmas with one another fairly. Our immediate family planned to get together the day after Christmas. Then, COVID-19 changed all that when infecting several family members, so, we postponed getting together until that following Saturday.
And guess what? It couldn’t have been more perfect had we celebrated it on Christmas day. The food was just as good, the kids were just as happy, and the adults were just as exhausted by the time it was all over. And what made this Christmas even more special was having another addition to the family; two-month-old, Micahia Louis Staton, great-grandbaby number seven, and first redhead in four generations.
Yes, things change from year to year. People change. Circumstances change. But one thing that never changes is the endless gift of God’s love and mercy in every second of every passing year. Therein lies the magic of Christmas!
Between finishing our renovations and getting everything back in order for the holidays, I turned my iPhone pictures into digital art.
Feeling angry, discouraged, and hopeless concerning what’s happening in our nation today, a friend asked, “Why doesn’t God stop it? He has the power. He can do anything.”
I don’t know. How can I or anyone else possibly know the mind of God? Why He allows children to suffer. Why He allows women to be raped. Why He allows a loving, hard-working family-man to get killed by a drunken driver. Why all the drive-by shootings, why human trafficking. Why? Why? Why?
The only thing I know is, we live in a fallen world. Because of Adam and Eve’s blatant disobedience in the garden, we are living under the curse of sin laced with pain and suffering and death. Didn’t God warn Adam what would happen if he ate the forbidden fruit? Did Adam think God was kidding? Did he think He would change His mind? Did he think He would forget?
I can’t answer for God. Who am I anyway but a sinner saved by grace living in a fallen world? Who am I but a Christian filled with my own doubts and confusion and a bottomless pit of why’s? I don’t have a special connection with God other than through the Holy Spirit the same as other Christians have. And He alone tells me what God wants me to know. And He tells me to trust and believe. Have faith. Let go of the reigns and let Him lead me through these harrowing times. It’s not for me to question. It’s not for me to know all the answers. It’s for me to keep trusting and believing all the way to eternity.
Yes, it’s tough! Yes, it’s frustrating! Yes, it makes me want to scream my head off and jerk every mask off people’s faces for blindly following the demands of fools stripping away our constitutional rights as American citizens. I want God to stop the mayhem dead in its tracks!
And He will.
Maybe not today or tomorrow or a trillion tomorrow’s, but He will. Until then, I will be strong. I will trust. I will follow Him to the grave. Maybe then I’ll have all the answers. Maybe then, it won’t even matter. Maybe then I’ll just be happy in my eternal, indestructible home in heaven where no sin is allowed. EVER!
Genesis 2: 16-17
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Out of four grandkids and seven great-grandkids, there are only two girls; Grand-child, Brittany, and great-grandchild, Abigail. But that’s nothing compared to my grandmother who had ten boys before she finally had a girl; my aunt and lastly, my mother. And on my dad’s side of the family tree, I was the first girl in seventy-five years. So, yes, the female population is pretty scarce in our family, so we don’t mind spoiling the ones we are blessed with.
My post today features photos of Abigail that I transformed into digital art.
On Friday, October 30th everything started as usual. I got up for my morning relief but my pee was weird; it kept coming out in little gushes every time I stood up. I had a feeling something was off but I just continued the morning as usual. I drove Gideon to school, dropped off Abi and Phin, but something told me to get some advice. So I called a girlfriend who’s studied to be a doula and told her what was up. As I suspected she said my water was leaking and I needed to make plans.
Well, my plans were to ignore it because I had been booked to do makeup for a huge wedding party the next day and I couldn’t put this bride out like that. After another hour and another pad soaked through, I realized it really was time and this little guy was making his way 3 weeks early.
I called my bride, found her back-up makeup artist, and then called Brandon and said, “well I think you need to pack the hospital bag and come meet me, but first I need to vote.” I had to hit up 2 different voting locations because apparently I wasn’t registered in my county anymore. Crazy story y’all. This election couldn’t have been more difficult.
I finally got registered and the lovely folks at the poll place let me skip the line when they realized I was in labor. Then, Brandon and I were off to Labor and Delivery.
Up until this moment, I had extreme anxiety about delivery. I’ve had two natural births before but there was something about the uncertainty of being at a new hospital with a new doctor. We arrived at L&D and were met by the most amazing staff of nurses and midwives. They confirmed yes indeed I didn’t pee on the floor but my water was broken and I was 4cm dilated.
I knew we were in for a long day because I refused to be rushed with drugs to evacuate this sweet guy. I was given the rundown of all the things we would do worst-case scenario but was told to try getting labor started on its own.
Up to this point, I hadn’t had a single contraction. So I began walking, bouncing, and pumping and soon the contractions came. We were finally moved to our birthing suite around 3:00 pm where I continued pumping, bouncing, and walking. Around 5:00 pm, I felt a wave hit and I knew it was time to prepare mentally for the push. I labored with Brandon alone for a few hours; even ordered dinner hoping it would arrive before Micaiah.
At 7:00 pm, I told Brandon I needed the tub started because I was transitioning. The nurses asked, “Are you sure?” That’s a serious word to which I replied, “yes! Yes, I’m sure!
We did the tub thing with waves of contractions hitting my back but these ladies knew what they were doing and were beyond supportive giving me counter pressure and encouraging me the entire time. I did indeed scream for drugs to which they replied, “Nicci you can do this! You’ve done this before. You were made for this”.
Then came the vomit! Brandon decided to eat his General Tso’s before it got too cold and our sweet baby boy arrived and the aroma from his Tso’s filled the room making both me and our pregnant midwife nauseous! After throwing up 3 times in the bathtub I yelled, “Get me out of here!”.
We tried a few more positions; squatting, sitting on the toilet, and then laying sideways on the bed with assistance.
Y’all that was the winner. After 20 minutes and 4 pushes that sweet boy was here. And I didn’t scream like the exorcism this time. Apparently, that doesn’t help.
Sweet Micaiah was born Oct. 30, 2020, at 10:03 pm weighing 6 lbs 3oz and 19” long. But the miracle is he was born with an extremely long umbilical cord that had a True Knot ( two knots ) and was completely white! True Knots only happen in 2% of pregnancies and normally if not caught leads to stillbirth due to the baby not receiving oxygen and nutrients. My sweet Micaiah would not have survived if he hadn’t come early. But praise the Lord my body knew and our sweet miracle baby is here!
Two little words.
So hard to prove.
Before COVID-19, shopping and eating out used to be a fun thing. We didn’t have to rush around before the stores closed, or wonder how many empty shelves we would find once we got there. We weren’t afraid to cough or sneeze in public or even rub shoulders with our fellow humans.
The once upon a time buzzing restaurant was a ghost town of empty tables spaced twenty miles apart and rows of empty, sad-looking booths. Even the music lacked its normal vim and vigor.
It was Friday, the day we set aside each week to spend with my husband’s uncle and aunt. We look forward to our time together and laughing at the darnedest things, like the jacked-up prices on the menu, the cold bowl of soup the waitress served, and coffee with a meaner kick than a raging bull. But the dirty plate the waitress put on the table? Not so funny.
The last time we ate there we had the privilege of drinking from real glasses and eating with real tableware, so I wasn’t expecting plastic cups, knives, and forks. Feeling slightly irritated, considering the cost of an arm and a leg to eat there, I was tempted to ask where the ants and checkered table cloth were.
I cleaned toilets for a living, on my hands and knees, agonizing over every speck of dirt and grime in every nook and cranny, cleaning and scrubbing around the commodes and baseboards till every stinking germ was gone. Everyday. Five days a week. For fourteen long, agonizing years. I was the Queen of clean. When germs saw me coming, they dropped dead on the spot!
So, you can imagine my disgust when toilets in every stall hadn’t been flushed, one of which was totally clogged with who knows what. Toilet lids were splattered with pee, toilet bowls and baseboards were filthy black, and there was hardly any toilet paper anywhere. I’ve been in cleaner outhouses! But wait! There was a cleaning spray bottle hanging on the handicap door and a dirty cleaning rag laying on the nasty floor.
Feeling like I’d just waded through an underground sewer, I washed and dried my hands, hurried out the door, and headed straight toward the young masked man propped lazily against the desk. Not wanting to butt him too violently into the here and now, I pulled in my horns, and politely asked, “Did someone forget to clean the ladies room?”
With everyone so up in arms about COVID-19 and wearing masks for protection, you’d think restaurants would be more diligent about keeping their restrooms clean! It seems that, when the mask goes on, common sense gets smothered to death; like eating out for instance. No one can eat with a mask over their mouth, so what happens to the germs then? Are they frozen because you wore a mask to the table? Are they in suspended animation? Or do they just curl up and take a little nap somewhere?
In my little pea brain, this mask thing is as ludicrous as taking a bath in a cesspool. And the more I read and understand, the more I realize there is a whole lot more to this pandemic than meets the eye. It’s a political ploy to induce panic and fear in the American people and I refuse to play the game. I refuse to cave in to a government that no longer operates for the good of the American people. A government that has turned its back on God. A government that murders innocent lives, cheats, lies and steals for its own personal gain, and wallows in the lap of luxury at the expense of the American people. A government that protects criminals and punishes victims. A government that sits back and allows cities and homes and businesses to be vandalized and burned to the ground.
In all my 74 years, I never ever thought our nation could be brought down as low as it is today. I never imagined this mighty tower of freedom and justice disintegrating right before my eyes. I love my country and it rips my heart out seeing it ravaged by a greedy, power-hungry democracy gone mad. My only comfort is knowing that God is still in control and that one day, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is God!
I love old, rusty abandoned trucks overgrown with weeds and wildflowers.
I love weathered, broken fences, rusty, galvanized buckets, cast iron pots and pans, and vintage bowls.
I love dirt roads, streams in the woods, bullfrogs and tadpoles.
I love fireflies, and salamanders and a swing hanging from a tree limb.
I love classical music.
I love joking and cutting up.
I love plain and simple people.
I love honesty and truth.
I love talking and listening.
I love sitting outside in the dark.
I love hearing it rain.
I love mountains and hills and valleys.
I love God, the Great Creator of all the things that I love.
Family is everything to me. But, the family I grew up in was just a tad screwed up. Okay, a lot.
My dad was a man of fewer than a few words. He rarely got involved in my life and preferred to be left alone. Completely. Don’t talk, don’t cause a ruckus, just sit and be quiet . . . in another room, or better yet, in another house.
My mom was stuck in the twilight zone of her abusive childhood and jerked me in there with her. She yelled a lot, picked her fingers till they bled, and consumed me with her fears and anxieties and worries and sorrow and pain. I was not the perpetrator of her abuse, yet I felt responsible and powerless to fix it. So I sacrificed my stubborn will on the altar of compliance to calm the raging beast within her. But, the inner, strong-willed child refused to die. Thus began a never-ending battle of the wills, a constant fight against her power and control over every corner of my life.
Two of my brothers escaped the madness through substance abuse, the youngest of which spent the majority of his life either in prison or homeless and living on the streets. He traded his wife and kids for the thrills and chills of crime. When his kids grew up, they walked down the same wayward path.
My older brother, whom I never met, suffered severe brain damage caused by encephalitis and was institutionalized when he was three. And my oldest brother drifted here and there, searching for his special place in this world. He was the oldest son of my mother’s first marriage. When my mom married my dad, he didn’t want a snotty-nosed five-year-old so they left him crying under his grandmother’s bed and moved to another state nine-hundred miles away. Till the day he died, he was searching for love in all the wrong places.
My sister ran away from home when she was fifteen, got pregnant, then got married at the ripe old age of sixteen. When her husband died at the age of forty-one, she found solace in the bottle. After finally admitting she had a serious problem, she went to rehab, joined AA, and turned her life around. Sadly, she died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-seven.
Me? I didn’t do drugs or alcohol. I was picky about who I dated and was squeaky clean when I got married. I was nineteen. Still wet behind the ears. Naive as a kitten. I believed in God. Went to church, and tried to live a good, clean Christian life in spite of my short-lived, abusive marriage. In spite of being a single mom at the age of twenty-one and barely making ends meet. In spite of sickness and hospital stays. Even in spite of my X-husband’s constant slurs and put-downs and his lack of parenting skills and child support.
I was sugar and spice, and everything nice, a pillar of strength and unshakable faith . . . as happy as a circus clown. That’s what I pretended to be on the outside because that’s what everyone wanted me to be and heaven forbid I be anything less. And no one cared what I really felt anyway, so it was easier to live a lie than to let people see the ugly, naked truth.
And the ugly, naked truth is, on the inside, I was an erupting volcano of hurt and anger and boiling rage. A prisoner, bound in chains and living among the tombs of fear and hopelessness, striking out against God and the world and my parents and my siblings and everyone who should have been there for me but never were. On the inside, I was a river of knowledge of how I was supposed to live but as dry as a desert about how to do it.
Then one day, I snapped and I fell to my knees before God. That’s when I saw Him clearly for the first time; when I felt His love and mercy and forgiveness as He washed my sinful heart clean. He changed my wayward direction and put me on the heavenly path leading to my eternal home in heaven where I will be completely free at last.
When you allow God into your life, He blesses and restores it. He makes it better than you can ever imagine. Although my immediate family relationships never improved, and all but one sibling is dead, God has blessed me through my second marriage and his family. And He continues blessing me through my son and his beautiful, growing family. We have each other’s backs. We love and encourage one another. We allow each other the freedom to be our crazy selves without judgment and ridicule. We don’t bicker and fight. We laugh and have fun. We talk and we listen. We are the family I always wanted growing up. The family I needed to help me grow strong and healthy and to be what God created me to be.
Family is important to God, too. That’s why Satan works so hard to rip it to shreds, beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden. Weaken the family and we weaken the world. Stir up anger and resentment in the family and we stir up anger and resentment in the world. Someone has to stop the insanity, the deadly sinful disease from spreading from generation to generation. Someone has to stand up and say, “Enough!”
The majority of the world has never had a healthy family life. But we can all create one by loving our kids and doing everything within our power to make them feel loved and protected and safe from a world gone mad. We can teach them to spread their wings and fly. We can encourage their dreams rather than crushing them in our hands. We can teach them about God the right way rather than the twisted way we once perceived Him.
I loved my family. As messed up as it was, it wasn’t all bad. My parents were good people, they just didn’t know how to be good parents. They didn’t know how to teach their brood to fly so they broke their wings instead. Hopefully, though, as we get older we can forgive and move on with our lives. None of us are perfect parents. We just have to keep moving past our own junk and be the best parents and grandparents and great-grandparents we can be.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Using Paint Shop Pro 2019, I turn ordinary photos into works of art. I also create picture tubes, bookmarks, Facebook Covers, cards, tags, and more. I don't sell my art, therefore, all my creations are free for your own personal use.
Random thoughts, life lessons, hopes and dreams
Corpus Christi, Texas
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He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3
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