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In This Issue

-=Issue Cover=-


A Perfect Gift in an Imperfect World
By Gert Slabach

Deck of Cards
("A Soldier's Prayer Book")

Keeping The Tradition Alive
(Ag Commissioner keeps alive the tradition of cutting his own Christmas tree)

The Art of Norman Rockwell
(At the North Carolina Museum of Art)
By Keith McDonald

Convergence Art Guild�s Film Odyssey
(Jan 2011 Films)
By Woodson Hughes



Editor's Page
(Scary Bridges)

Southside Gardener
(Monthly Tips & "To Do List")
By William H. McCaleb

South Winds
(Bats in My Belfry)

Ask Bubba - Advice
The Bubba Clause



Festivals & Events

Nov - Dec - Jan Events

Christmas Parades

Farm & Ag Info

Annual Cotton Economics Meeting
(February 9th)

Farmers Markets Listing (FMs in or near SSVA)

Oh, Christmas Tree
(Tree Sales & Farms)

Press Releases

Joani Layman selected as Master Gardener of the Year


Past Issues

Past Issues are available from June 2008 through the current issue.
Select the desired issue from the drop-down box below.


A Perfect Gift in an Imperfect World

(Things that Keep me Humble . . . and what I learned from them)



 By Gertrude M. Slabach


   I was ten, that Christmas. No one saw me as I closed the door to Mama�s bedroom. Throwing myself onto her bed, I let the pillow absorb my tears. Somehow, it didn�t seem right to be crying. Not on Christmas!

   But you see, I didn�t get the purse I wanted for Christmas. Oh, I got a purse, but not the one I thought I was getting. With each gift I opened, things seemed to go from bad to worse.

   �Nobody even cares that I�m sad,� I sobbed in my pillow. �Nobody probably even knows,� I added, feeling justified in my pity-party. I half-expected that someone would come find me and ask what was wrong. Nobody came, so I sobbed on alone.

   Perhaps I had hinted about the particular purse I wanted. Maybe I�d made a point of staring longingly at it in the store, hoping someone would notice. Surely someone would want to give me my heart�s desire. Someone would be secretly watching me to see what it was that I really wished I could have.

   Someone never noticed. Someone never gave. Someone else expected a perfect Christmas in an imperfect world. That someone else ended up feeling unloved and misplaced.

   Forty-plus years later, I can smile at the soaked pillow, the spilled tears, the lonely heart. I wasn�t unloved. I just felt unloved. I was basing my value and my worth on the gifts that had been chosen for me. I still remember the feelings, but I realize something greater now: love cannot or should not always give what I might think I want.

   It was not that I was neglected. My mother had more than gifts about which to worry. She had a monthly electric bill, a coal furnace to keep fueled, and nutritious meals to prepare on a shoestring budget. She managed to maintain a home even though she�d been widowed a few years earlier with six girls under ten. As a typical child, I was wrapped in my own wants instead of realizing the beauty of home. I wanted dazzle, glitter, and special favors when I needed consistency, discipline, health, and shelter. I wanted what no parent or family can offer: perfect gifts�for an imperfect child�in an imperfect family�in an imperfect world.

   In my melancholy mood, I speculated that perhaps Christmas just wasn�t what it used to be. But then, is it ever what our minds dream it was in the past? Time has a way of diminishing the bad and accentuating the good. In the excitement of unveiled presents, children forget that a few days before, parents were grumpy, worn out from shopping and worrying about unpaid bills.

   Somehow, in the midst of our humanness, we manage to bake the cookies and buy the gifts, stir the stew and sip the cider, sing the carols and make those memories�because it�s Christmas. We manage to do it all because we are creatures of habit, sentiment, and tradition.

   Today I still struggle with wanting to experience the perfect holiday season. I�d like the gifts my heart desires, expecting others to figure them out through osmosis. Yoder's Country Market I want decorations completed in twenty-four hours or less, shopping without interruptions, and certainly the choice gifts to be at my disposal and budget in whatever store I choose to shop.

   Even in the midst of parties and celebrations, we can experience loneliness. Is it because we expect others to meet our needs instead of reaching out to those less fortunate than we? This season, which is meant to bring joy and cheer, often isolates the unloved, unwanted, and alone. This season�no wonder �bah humbug!� was Scrooge�s response to the season!

   It�s an imperfect world. This season, which proclaims joy and happiness, peace and love, should be able to promote and perpetuate those sentiments through our homes and hearts. We expect the season to alleviate our loneliness, right our wrongs, and cover our losses. It doesn�t. It doesn�t because it can�t.

   That�s because we take our eyes off the only perfect gift that was ever given: the God-child, Jesus Christ. A perfect gift in an imperfect world. The only way to experience the perfect Christmas, I�ve discovered, is acceptance of this perfect Gift.

   I have learned that, while perception is real, it is not always accurate. As a child when I felt unwanted and unloved, my feelings were real, but my facts were inaccurate and blurred. Sometimes we just need to grow up!

   I have learned that changing my focus can make all the difference in the world. When I focus on giving to others, I am not thinking of myself (duh) and therefore what I want doesn�t really matter anymore. Looking back, I can recognize that, while my wants were not always fulfilled [nor should they have been], my needs were. Why do we think we should get everything we want, anyhow?!

   I have learned that being together as a family is one of the best gifts we can give each other. As our children are stretching their wings, becoming more independent and finding other places to call home, the times we can all be together are fewer. Coming home and spending time together playing games, interacting, laughing and sharing are more special than when we were all under the same roof year-round. Coming back home is an invaluable treasure: life, laughter, and love are more important than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

   I have learned that it helps to be grateful for what I have rather than to wish for what cannot be mine. This Christmas, I miss my mama and my husband misses his father. We have both become orphans this year, so this is our first Christmas without them. Yet we have memories and we have a wonderful heritage. We also have our children and each other, as well as extended family. And, while I am experiencing sadness, I am also grateful for all that is mine.

   I have learned (again) that, unless I remember the reason we are celebrating, I will be disappointed. We need to forget our wants, and focus on our need: a relationship with our Creator.

   I have learned that no season and no gift can fill the void in an empty heart. There is only one perfect gift for us as imperfect people in an imperfect world: Jesus.






  Born and raised in western Maryland, Gertrude Slabach has claimed Southside Virginia as home for over twenty four years. She is an RN and works part-time at Fuller Roberts Clinic in South Boston, Virginia.

   Gertrude and her husband Dave have six children; four sons and two daughters.

  She is the author of three books: Aren�t We Having Fun Dying?!, Southside Glimmers, and Always Mama�s Girl. The books can be purchased at Windmill Farm Bake Shop, the South Boston-Halifax County Museum, or by contacting her at:

Read more about Gertrude Slabach's Books in print here >>>





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