Lying in bed, fast asleep, I’m startled awake by a thump on the roof. And then I hear some distant bells. Quickly I leap out of bed and run down the hall to our family room. It’s pitch black. No one is awake. There on the family table, the cookie tray has only crumbs and the milk has been consumed. Santa was clearly here! And then a glance at the tree, a sea of wrapped presents — including a gold Schwinn bike with my name on it. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. I want to wake everyone up, but a glance at the clock says it’s only 5 am. “My parents will kill me if I wake them up,” I’m thinking. So I go back to my bed, anxious, ready to wait it out. And I fall fast asleep again, only to be awakened by my brother, who woke up and experienced the same thing at about 7 am. So we make a lot of noise until our parents happen to wake up. And Christmas arrives.
The wonder of Christmases past will live on in my great memories forever. One of my favorite things has been the privilege of providing that same wonder to my kids. Such joy, such energy, such awe. There is simply nothing better.
As I spoke to my friends and team members this past week, they were excited about seeing their families, their parents, their grandparents, nieces and nephews. The joy of family is such an exciting time, a time to generate memories, and a time to implant special lessons.
When I think back through my childhood, I remember visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s, Christmas with cousins, aunts, and uncles, opening gifts, cuddling on the couch, running up and down the stairs, singing Christmas carols, seeing family friends we don’t see any other time of the year, and meeting people my folks have invited who have nowhere to be.
Don’t Let This Go to Waste
You’ve all heard the saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” uttered by some politician. I say, “Never let a good Christmas go to waste.” Though I never really stopped to think about it, this is what the elders in my family did.
Your Role in Society
Throughout history, in most societies, the role of elders was just as important as the role of parents. Grandparents had time and patience and wisdom, while parents were working, busy, and exhausted. So it became the grandparents’ role to impart wisdom to their grandchildren, to teach them the important principles of the family. In my case it was Biblical instruction, the role of Christ in our family, the role of self-reliance, work ethic, the importance of strong ethics and principles, the importance of love and family, the role of justice, and so much more.
Voices in My Head
I spent lots of time with my grandparents growing up. I can hear the words my grandfather would say to me: “Put your back into it” when he was teaching me to paint rooms in his house, “Use a stronger sweeping motion” when I was sweeping leaves. It was my grandmother Roxie Goad who helped me understand that loving Christ was not about religions, it was about a one-on-one personal relationship with Christ, requiring no person or institution between me and my savior. She helped me see the power of His love, and that he was God, and that when we accept him, his spirit lives within us. It was never about going to church, or empowering others to rule over us. It was all about living with love, loving others more than ourselves, helping others, not judging others.
I’m blessed with a great upbringing, wonderful memories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and in most cases, I have boxes of memories and lessons imparted to me in the precious time they spent with me. That included Christmas.
Impressionable little minds soak up everything. They may be distracted wondering what’s inside that wrapped box someone brought that they can open after dinner, but they hear and take in what the adults are saying and how they are acting. It’s these times they take our cues and learn their lessons from us.
Previously I’ve written about the importance of being deliberate about memories and lessons, and I’m reminded that Christmas, around family, is a great time to impart family history and life lessons. It can be as simple as something spoken briefly in a story.
Knowing Someone I Did Not Know
I don’t know if I ever knew my Grandpa Berry; I don’t remember ever meeting him. I remember his wife, who lived much longer. But the stories over Christmas dinners told me everything I needed to know about the way he treated others, the way he led his family, the character he had, his helping others in need, the big smile he always had on his face, his positive outlook, even though he had to bury his own son at a young age and had family members killed in the Great War.
My dad used to tell so many stories about Grandpa Berry’s Sinclair gas station, how his customers loved him, about his pranks, his promotions, and his impact on my dad’s life. My dad mentioned that he was the first family member he could not wait to see when he got to Heaven because he missed him so much. I teared up writing this this morning, remembering how my own dad was that way to me and my kids, and how much we miss him.
But now the role is mine as the elder in my family. No grandkids yet, still just dad, not granddad. But the stories and lessons need to continue. And one day my kids will tell stories to their kids about their grandfather, and hopefully their father.
Our role today, when we are gathered with family, is to be storytellers, memory makers, family historians, and to make sure we impart important lessons to those around us. No lectures, no “shoulding,” just helping others see the best attributes they can find within themselves.
I’ll make a point to remember my wonderful father-in-law that the kids barely knew, and my own dad, and my grandparents and great-grandparents, telling their stories, what I learned from them.
I hope you’ll consider doing the same. Because there is no better opportunity than the celebration of Christmas.
The First Step Before Gifts
Before we open a single gift, I’ll open the books of Luke and Matthew and ask the kids to read the Christmas story, as my parents and grandparents did with us, making sure that we don’t miss the true gift of Christmas.
Each breath we have is a gift. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could get just one more hour with my parents or grandparents. I’m grateful for the gifts they gave me, and I know that while I’m breathing and able, it’s important to do the same for my family.
It’s my wish that you have a joy-filled Christmas.
PS: Though I make my living by using promotion and marketing skills, I’ve never applied them to my Sunday Coffee message. This started out as a letter to my kids, so that my thoughts on life would someday be heard by them and documented once I’m gone. I told a friend about it, who asked if he could share it with a friend of his. The result has been that this weekly letter has been followed and read by a massive audience. I honestly don’t know how many, but I stopped paying attention when I heard it was going to 100,000 people every Sunday. The reason I did not want to promote it is because I wanted it to be as pure as possible, not looked upon as just some promotion, and I felt that if it was meant to be seen by others, others would forward it, and others would subscribe.
I’ve been told that some of these have been read out loud at family tables and gatherings during holidays, and the result is a few more people subscribing every week. I’m humbled when that happens. All of this happened because someone once told me I should write down my stories.
To every person reading this, please consider writing down your stories, the things you want others to know. It’s special to me, just doing it for myself each week. But if you’re willing, let others get a glimpse of your heart. Maybe share it with a friend or family member from time to time. Not so it grows, or gets lots of followers, but because you’ll be making a difference in their lives.
I can assure you, my kids don’t read this. I’m not sure they even know about it. At 20, they have other things on their minds. I can’t be sure they will ever discover it — I’m not talking about it at home. But my hope is that one day, when I’m long gone, maybe they will Google my name and find a world of thoughts from their dad. It’s not only my gift to them, and to my friends, it’s a gift to myself, because it forces me to think about things and put them in writing. Not every week can be a gem; I’m lucky if I get one gem a year. But there is value in every word, which is why I want to encourage you.
We all need an outlet. For me, it’s writing and painting, occasional woodworking, tinkering in my shop, or learning something new. It keeps life more interesting, makes work less boring, and somehow enriches one’s life. I encourage you to find an outlet for yourself.
Finally, you have a lot to contribute to the world. If you’re still breathing, you are here for a purpose. God isn’t done with you yet. Even if you’re retired and done with your career. God does not grant breath without purpose. Find it, use it. Explore. Your impact is important.
HELP PLEASE!! I have been getting this newsletter every Sunday for many months . Suddenly they stopped coming. This one on Christmas was the last one I have received. Around this same time, my INSIDEART, AMERICAN WATERCOLOR and PASTEL TODAY have all stopped coming also. Why?? I read them all and look forward to receiving the various ones on their days. I save them all to have as references and notes of interest. Because of the timing, I can’t help wonder if my subcriptions stopped coming because I can not afford to buy any of the videos that were on sale, nor can I afford to attend the gatherings, virtual or live. I’m not uninterested, just poor. Can you please help me get reinstated with all of these newsletters? Thank you in advance for any help you can give me in reconnecting in the only way I can with the art world.
I saved this letter to use as a reminder to write a letter to my kids. Growing up we lived far from my Mothers family and never had Christmas with them. Travel in the 1950’s was difficult. My Father had only an uncle living nearby but they never invited us to share their holidays. Now my own live far away and we are not together. Times have changed yet many things remain the same.
Thank you, Eric. I look forward to your Sunday email each week. Today you brought tears to my eyes. This is a bright spot in an otherwise dark world.
Thank you for your message every Sunday. You have given me inspiration on my darkest days. That sounds pretty gloomy, most of my days have been wonderful, filled with love and laughter.
On October 22, 2022, my husband passed away from pancreatic cancer. My comfort in knowing he is with our Heavenly Father, along with my loving family being close to me, are what hold me together. Reading your words about how important the older members of family are, especially at Christmas, gave me a resolve for my life in the future of my family. I will be the glue, the historian, the story teller. Best wishes for the New Year.
This was the best of any of the messages of ‘greeting’ sent out by other – so many other artists. I begin to read & a little & sense very quickly that it is general tripe. To be honest I had not actually read through your Sunday Coffee, yet – sort of figured it might be again in that promotional vstyle BUT ……..from your videos, I have sensed that you are a = shall I say ‘solid’ bloke. So I skimmed the first & then scrolled down, looking at the titles of the segments & then I saw Christ. So I went to the top of that one & began reading through. That is excellent that you are a believer & that you are spreading the true faith in Christ on, the true meaning of Christmas mas of Christ …..(celebration of Christ) althoug it has become a run-by word …….& too much secular garbage . We had a most lovely service at 6pm on Christmas eve – & in the singing of
OHOly Night, we all had candles, they were lit & the lights turned low. Very nice thing to do. Been a tradition in my congregation for s few years. And Sunday morning, Christ mas morning we had a beautiful service. Our Pasto gave a very good sermon …….IF you might wish to
check it out – Pastor Bert Sloftra …..Willoughbycrc.com (I believe – oh computer stuff !) ……..We do live streaming but, sadly you could only get the audio recording – but – I think it was an EXCELLENT sermon. He is a very good Pastor – well actually retired ! His Father was one of the first pastors I met in the Christian Reformed Church ……..
So nice to have you speading the Good News of the Gospel & the joy of a GOOD family. How a family should be – sadly too many have something far different. I almost with you had put that paragraph up top, first ………as possibly lots do not read further down the letter. But – it is really good that you reach a lot of people & many will read it through. Thank you for writing something substantive. Blessing to you & yours …………………A beautiful prayer / song you might like to check out – Youtube or google – Ere Zij God – listen to the Nederland Zingt version ………..& you will also see the tranlastion. Glory & Praise to your God, Peace on earth & in the people – well-being. It is repeated in a powerful tune that builds & builds. (I led it in Dutch at the end of our serviice) We have musicians & mics & all that. It is very moving – ……………………it is a Dutch CRC tradition & I have no Dutch in my heritage whatsoever. But I have made a point to learning the language – still improving (certainly don’t know every word – but can phone & write my brothers & sisters in law in Holland & we can easily converse) ………………. As an artist, I would imagine you enjoy music – check it out . I think you’ll like it.
Life is certainly a gift from God.
Jesus is the Light of the world!
This is such a beautiful and encouraging message. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Thank you so much. This piece is beautiful, and very memorable.
My husband and I always host Christmas eve for our blended family — kids, grand kids and 3 “great grands”. I see now that as the “Elders” of this family, our job is to slow them down at our house long enough to help make memories and help especially the young ones know the real meaning of Christmas.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you;
What a wonderful Christmas message. My experience growing up in rural Wisconsin was close to yours and faith in Christ was important. Now it’s my turn for “Grandmother duties.”
Blessings on your family and work.
Oh yes, isn’t it a blessing to be an artist!
PS I really needed your videos during Covid.
This post couldn’t have been more perfect: focusing on God,Family and friends and the Christmas spirit. Thank you!
Thankyou Eric you emanate my thoughts exactly but you are very good at putting it on paper I hope your children do find your thoughts someday as your wisdom is a gift from God ..God Bless you
I always look forward to your Sunday posts. They are such a blessing to read. I love the way you put your words together. It excites me to know there are other Christian Artists out there. I thank God He made me an artist too, telling me to paint the book of Revelation and when I didn’t think I was good enough He made me better than I ever thought I could be. Thank you, Eric for sharing with all of us. May God bless you mightily and grant the desires of your heart.
Happy Holidays to you and your family and New Year greetings to “Streamline family”
A wonderful commentary on Christmas thoughts! While I haven’t used my paints in awhile, or my studio – such a fun space – I do love all the memories of making the paintings that have sold, the plein air outings, and several large studio paintings that hang in my diningroom – ah! the best trip of my life into the beautiful areas at the tip of South America. Having just finished Tom Chaffin’s book (Odyssey), Charles Darwin has become a hero of mine, even more than before — had that I’d read it before boating around the Beagle Channel, if he had written it by then. Now that I read your latest advice, it’s time to write and perhaps share some of those precious memories!
Thanks so much for your Sunday comments, they mean a great deal to me.
Oh so beautiful …every thought is a pearl…thank you Eric…you have given me and us a truly wonderful gift …Thank you so much, and may you have a very blessed Christmas and New Year…with love for such loving words, Carol
Amen! Thank you for sharing your faith and what Christmas means to you. It is a rare and blessed moment these days when we can share the true meaning of Christmas. Also, thank you for the words of encouragement to write down our stories. God bless you and Happy New Year!
Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom Eric. Not everyone has the education; or the ability to articulate their thoughts And emotions as you do. Nor the drive and ambition to be the”best” they can be. But by sharing your S-M-C post with my friends; I feel a warm glow of enlightenment is being offered! Stay well; safe; & true In these troubled times. “It’s interesting to note that statistics show that church attendance ( All faiths & denominations is falling.) But in MY opinion; it only shows that people are becoming more reluctant to be categorized & divided by diverse beliefs. When in their hearts & minds they believe ln a single creator diety; the like of which is inexplicable to mere mortals!
I love getting your Sunday Coffee messages that are truly from your heart.
Jesus is the reason. God bless you. Thank you for spreading the message of Christmas. It is a blessing and an honor to be able to celebrate it. You deserve the best, Eric.
such encouraging words—thank you
So many good thoughts there. Today is Boxing Day in New Zealand and already it seems/feels that Christmas is over! How does that happen? We spend weeks and weeks building up it, then one day laters it’s all over and just a memory among many. But as you say, the lessons and friendships last forever. Really appreciated your Christmas message…wonder if you saw King Charle’s Christmas message? Worth a watch if you get the chance!
Thank you so much for such a beautiful message. I also was raised in the church and learned thst it is not about a building or a denomination but a relationship with Jesus, our true inspiration. Merry Christmas to you and yours and keep up the good work until He returns!
Eric I am happy for having wonderful Holiday memories. You and your family are blessed.
But you earned it all again for future MEMORIES.
BLESSINGS UPON YOU ALL THE HARD WORK YOU DO FOR FELLOW ARISTS
HEALTH HAPPINESS AND CONTINUED INSPIRATION.
I wish you and your wonderful family a blessed Christmas and New Year! I want to tell you what a wonderful writer you are..you make me feel like I am part of your life! Your weekly letters are the very best that you give of yourself. My admiration for you is immense. I can not afford your workshops but I watch all the freebees, thank you for them. I am going to be 91 in Jan. You give me so much hope for our world. God sure has blessed you. You have had such wisdom imparted to you from your family and friends. I know you work harder than most and certainly you deserve your blessings but you are a very special human being. Thank you for all that you share with us. I look forward to New Years Day’s morning coffee! Much affection and God Bless all everyone! Rosie
Thank you Eric,
Your Sunday thoughts often carry me through long weeks. When I have the opportunity I do pass on to my Grandchildren and other young people in my life. I appreciate your validation.
I do hope your year is filled with love and blessings they same way you fill others.
Beautifully written Eric.
I have no children and will have no grandchildren, yet your words still apply to how I relate to everyone I come into contact with, as if they are my family.
Thank you Eric. I look forward to you weekly message. I too share a weekly writing with friends and family which I began when Covid shut everything down. I needed a purpose. Three weeks later I was back working in our family bike store where the writing became my respite and therapeutic. Merry Christmas.
God Bless you and your family, Eric….you are truly a gem. Merry Christmas
Thank you Eric! I think this is one of your gems😊
I officially met you last year in Santa Fe one night after we painted at a restaurant. You had your family with you and I was with 3 other friends. We talked a little about our mutual faith in Christ. I admire you for sharing openly the true meaning of Christmas with your large audience. May God continue to bless h you this coming year.
A wonderful, thoughtful, joyous way to start Christmas Day. Thank you for opening your heart and life experiences to all of us, as always.
Merry Christmas Eric. I love your coffee breaks
Very nice, thank you and Merry Christmas
Eric! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!! I love the Sunday Coffee segment and look forward to it each week! This one most especially! Thank you so very much for your kind and heartfelt words, especially those reminders of what Christ means in our lives. Your perspective is spot on, your observations and writing bring life into perspective.
Mr. Rhoads, Thank you for an inspiring memory filled story and like thousands of others of our vintage we are moved by both the joy and reverence many of us share with you at Christmas. May God also bless you Mr. Rhoads, Sincerely Ron Lent
Merry Christmas! I hope yours was filled with love and laughter!
Thank you for all you do for all the artists!
Good Christmas morning, Eric! Thanks so much for writing your stories down for all of us! They are a blessing to me and my friends. Please keep up with the words, great encouragements and humor! We need then all in these challenging times. May God richly reward you and your family. I hope your kids will read these too;) Wishing blessings on you all, from a fellow multiple birth gal..but I’m only a twin😉 God bless!!
Thank you for enriching my life Eric….;) Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you and yours. I look forward to your message each week. It transforms me to a new place each week. Thank you.
Merry Christmas ! Thank you so much for these articles. To read this Christmas morning is like a breath of fresh air. Amongst all the stress and busyness of the season we need to remember what the day is really about. God sent His Son to the world – Christ is our Hope.
Thank you, I look forward to your Sunday emails. Wishing you health, blessings into the New Year.
Merry Christmas, Eric and family, all thanks to the Lord for such a time that gathers families. Your writing is and has been a treasure – I have gleaned so many inspiring and useful and actionable ideas to incorporate into my life. I appreciate all of your Sunday Coffees and this one is stellar. I write and keep it to myself and have been thinking about putting them out in the world and you have just been the catalyst for me to share. thank you ever so much for all you do and inspire in the art world. Your selflessness has impacted me immensely seeing Jesus actually reflected into the world in a true, unadulterated way. Many thanks,
I can hardly wait, to read your Sunday Morning Coffee. This one in particular struck home. While its early on Sunday morning, reading your story today. Have me the chance to reflect ony own Christmases, and the gily members that influenced my life.
Thank you and may God bless you!