Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Present

 Annual Tradition.  We believe in the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of the Messiah.  However, we also have many traditions when it comes to the celebration of the Messiah's birth.  Among these is the giving of presents. (Duh, we live in America!)

This year we got the children some things that are fun such as books, games, clothes, jewelry, etc.  We also asked them individually what they wish to have for Christmas.  If they ask for something reasonable and affordable, we give it to them. My kids are very grateful for the things that they already have.  Although they seemed reluctant to say what they desired, we were able to extract some hints to some extent.

Miriam wanted a Kindle.   She wanted to be able to bring some reading materials to school in a compact form.   She is the one who is not shy to tell me what she wants.  In many ways Miriam is a pioneer.  She chooses things that her siblings have not chosen before. 

Brahms had asked earlier this year to have a new bike.  He plans to ride to and from school during some days of the week.  He is a sensible young man.  In previous years he has often considered clothing as the least interesting presents to receive.  This year, however, he got five t-shirts from different relatives.  He liked them all because they represent his current interests- Portal 2; Minecraft; Pies, Dr. Who; and Banjo.

Shannon gingerly asked for a texting plan.  Well, we thought that it is the right time not only for her but the whole family to get a texting plan.  This will surely facilitate communication with her.  Some relatives and friends have given her what each college student so desires - money.  As a general rule, Shannon does not ask for anything.  She attributes this to an early childhood experience which she told me not that long ago.  She recalls that when she was a little girl she asked me to buy her something from the store and I responded with a statement that got stuck in her head, "You don't need it."  Then it was followed by an incident when Brahms asked to buy something expensive from a gift shop.  Shannon heard me say to her brother, "That costs a lot of money."   She kept what she heard in her heart.  I did not mean to be stingy but she's such a smart girl that she got the idea even at a very young age that wise thoughts should come first before fulfilling our desires.

Tim asked for an espresso-maker to replace the old broken one.  He used his frequent flyer mileage to purchase the item he wanted.  He considers the espresso maker as a present from me for reason that he earned those mileage when I took over his roles in the home and family while he is on his business trips.  Whatever. He loves coffee so I'm sure this will be a useful addition in the kitchen. I also got him a new pair of travel shoes - the kind that you can take off and on easily and for easeier passage through airport security.  This will replace the old pair which  has now acquired a new patina from excessive wear and tear.

I can't remember whether I told anybody what I wanted for Christmas but I managed to get some decent presents - thanks to my very thoughtful husband.  I got some jewelry (earrings and a necklace), and some accesories for my camera.  My favorite present, however, is a beautiful silk scarf which Tim purchased during one of his trips.  As a matter of fact I have already worn it three times since I got it.  

Gift-giving and gift-receiving are fun.  There is joy in seeing the reactions of people as they open the presents we give.  Likewise there is also the joy that comes from the unexpected generosity of others towards us.  The sad thing is that the gift-giving tradition has reduced the meaning of Christmas into objects that bring temporal joys and peace.  

Eternal Peace Treaty.  Christmas is all about eternity - eternal love, eternal peace, and eternal life. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whosoever believe in Him shall bot perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)  Sin has placed mankind in a position of being at war with God.  Man was without hope of being reconciled with God.  By default mankind was headed to only one direction - eternal destruction.  By default we are the subject of God's wrath.  However, because of love, God provided us a way out.  Love for the hopeless sinners (us) is what motivated God to invent Christmas.  In His wrath against sinfulness, His love and mercy surfaced so that we could enjoy His grace forever.  God himself provided the terms of peace to bring us closer to Him. 

If Christmas is God's peace treaty with mankind, you and I better understand its terms and sign it with the way we live.  Only then will we receive the Christmas present that God intended for us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Help Comes From the Lord

I saw the smiles of victory all over their faces.  Not that long ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Everyone in the family seemed to have entered a dark tunnel about her situation; we didn't know what we would see at the other end.  Last May, George attended Shannon's graduation without her.  Several chemotherapy and radiation treatments later, here she is with us for a pre-Christmas-get-together.  She lost a few pounds but she has recovered well from all the invasive treatments.  As for the rest of us, we finally reached the end of the tunnel with a refreshing flood of light and hope. 

Sometimes God brings us into a situation where there is nothing left for us but the realization of our helplessness.  Then he brings us out of that place to show us that He has always been there for us.  We praise God for healing Barbara and keeping the rest of us healthy during all of last year.   God is good, all the time! 

This year they purchased/gave several animals through Heifer International in the name of the grandchildren.  I am continually amazed at how well they show the young ones -year after year- ways to be generous to those with lesser things.  My kids are still enjoying being able to lend money to different people all over the world through the Kiva gift certificate that they got from them last year.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trial Editing

Aira and Arabella - FCC at FLC

I just realized that images can be changed dramatically with a little editing.  The problem is that I hate reading manuals - I thought it's a waste of time.  But since I know nothing about digital editing, I have to invest some time in understanding the process.   We've had Photoshop Elements for a long time but the only editing I did has been "cropping".  Currently I am trying to understand the effects of changing color saturation and lighting on various images.  

Here are some pictures I edited using the most basic tools.  These pictures were taken on a Sunday afternoon (November 20, 2011)  while I was with Aira and Arabella - both are kids at the Filipino church we attend in Folsom. 

Sunset in Folsom
No matter how great a camera is, it will still fall short in capturing the true image of the subject for a number of reasons.  That's why editing is necessary.  :)