Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2009 Christmas Memories

Henke Family Christmas Memories - 2009

The 2009 Henke family Christmas gathering in Hallettsville, Texas was obviously only one of the countless gatherings of families who celebrated the great Feast of Christmas. And no doubt, people everywhere are just as proud of their family as we are of ours. Our family members are as varied and different as night and day. However, when Christmas comes, most everyone makes a special effort to come to “Henke Hill” as we like to call it and celebrate Christmas and the Gift of Jesus, as well as the gift of family.

It all began with Henry & Elizabeth Henke who spent most of their married lives on “Henke Hill.” Even though they have gone to their eternal reward years ago, the fruits of their love and labors live on. Their family of eight children has grown to include 19 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren, plus all the in-laws for a total of 81 family members.

They began to arrive about mid-morning on Christmas Day. The quiet, serene country setting at Barbara & Robert’s home (which is a part of “Henke Hill”) soon turned into a lively bustle of activities as one by one family members began to arrive.

They all came – the young and not so young – ranging in age from the eldest of the eight children (in his 70’s) to the youngest new additions to the family (who are a mere few weeks old). They came bringing food, gifts and games as well as a few pet dogs! We also welcomed several guests who were “family members for the day!”

They came from near (just over the hill!) and far (some traveled several hundred miles!). As they arrived, all exchanged “Merry Christmas” hugs, which means a lot of hugs! These greetings seem to set the stage for the day as a special time of celebrating that “Christmas feeling” that is hard to put into words.

They came with food in abundance for the dinner, refreshments of all sorts as well as snacks for all day munching. The variety of menu items was unbelievable as well as delicious and scrumptious! Shortly after mid-day, most had arrived to enjoy a meal together.

Before the dinner, everyone gathered in prayer to give thanks for God’s many blessings, and especially the Gift of Jesus. The younger family members, with their enthusiastic voices, led the singing of “Happy Birthday, Jesus, as all gathered around a cake lit with one large single candle.

The camaraderie and merriment continued throughout the day. While many chose to stay close to the warmth of the fireplace or wood heaters on the inside, several couldn’t resist the challenge of a game of washers, a toss of the football, or other outdoor games.

The challenge of table games, especially dominoes and cards, and a Chinese gift exchange resulted in much friendly competition as well as fun and laughter among the adults. The children were wound up as they tore open their Christmas wrapped packages. With prior arrangement of the parents, they took part in a “book gift exchange” and it certainly is great to see kids excited about new books … especially the younger ones who seem to never tire of getting new books to have read to them. The lively voices of children who ran and played inside as well as outside could be heard everywhere, with many braving the cold winter day that it was at least for a spell. Many of the youngsters could be seen enjoying their newly received hi-tech games or other traditional kid games.

To preserve memories of a day, nothing seems to beat a photo session or two, even if it is sometimes a challenge to gather everyone for this purpose. The photos that accompany these reflections are a result of more than a few moans and groans on the part of a few reluctant bodies. However, the results are worth it!

It’s hard to sum up the special feelings connected with Christmas celebrations, especially those of a family as large as ours. Everyone just seems to have a little more love and joy. I read a couple of quotes recently that sum up some of my thoughts:

“Would that it lasted all year! For on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, all the world is a better place, and men and women are more loveable. Love itself seeps into every heart, and miracles happen!” Peter Marshall

“Christmas is the one day of the year that carries real hope and promise for all mankind.” Edgar Guest

I couldn’t agree more – “Would that it lasted all year!” I don’t even claim to know the authors of these quotes, but they give us food for thought. And I find myself wondering just how can we make it last longer? Mother Teresa gives us a suggestion in one of her famous quotes:

“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother [or sister] and offer them your hand.” Mother Teresa

Oh, if we could only do that! The joy and love that is shared at Christmas is not easily described by words! Some emotions don’t need words to describe them or feel them – and the Christmas sentiment is one of them!

Yes, the 2009 Henke Christmas celebration was a grand one! Henry & Elizabeth would have been proud of this gathering of their offspring. And I know they are looking down from above and smiling with approval as there were few things that brought more joy to their hearts as when their family came together for family celebrations.

These gatherings always make me more appreciative of the gift of “family.” It really makes me wonder how those who have no family manage and it makes me even prouder of my family roots. Our family is no more perfect than any other family. However, I think we each realize that when the road of the journey of life is not as smooth as we’d like, we know we can call on one another to extend a helping hand or words of encouragement, wherever and whenever that may be.

It is my hope and prayer that whatever family one belongs to, whether it is large or small, we each do our part to make the spirit of Christmas live in each individual family, as well as those we meet, throughout the year.

May God bless one and all as we give thanks for the blessings of 2009 and begin this New Year of 2010!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Dancing Family

The Barta family might become a "dancing family" if we can do this more often! On Sunday, September 27, we made the short drive to Schulenburg for a Sunday afternoon that was filled with happy music and good times!

One of my Birthday wishes (even though more than two weeks had passed since my Birthday!) was to find a dance that featured a band that played polkas and waltzes and our whole family would go dancing ... kids as well as the adults! It had been a couple of years since we last tried that, and the kids did ask more than once, "When are we going dancing again?!"

My Birthday wish materialized in the form of a drive to Schulenburg's Sengelmann Hall. This was our first trip there and I am sure we will be returning! It seems that the building where it is located has a very unique history and someone has only recently renovated it and put it to good use! The first floor is a restaurant (which we didn't try but have been told is quite good), while the second floor has a very nice dance floor surrounded with adequate seating and tables for around 200 people. The bar was serving several brands of golden brew on tap ... from a dark ale to several light versions.

Central Texas Sounds was the featured band and they had no problem pleasing the crowd of dancers as well as other families that gathered for a Sunday afternoon of happy times! Everyone danced, from little Cody to Granny and Grandpa! Grandpa took turns dancing with our granddaughters as well as our daughters. And I tried my best to teach our grandsons, Ryan, Matthew and even little Cody a few steps, but I've concluded that Clarence is a better dance instructor than I am. Our sons-in-law gave me the privilege of making a few circles around the dance hall with them also. All twelve of us in our family got in on the dancing at one time or another and to say we had a good time is putting it mildly. From polkas and waltzes to a touch of western music occasionally and even a jitterbug number... we danced away the afternoon.

Happy music, cold refreshments, and surrounded by family ... it doesn't get any better than that!! I couldn't help but think, "Now that's the way God meant for Sundays to be spent ... going to church and then spending the time enjoying one's family ... and when you add happy music and dancing to that combination, it can't help but create special memories!!"
Thank you God for the many blessings you have given our fmaily!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fishing at the Malinovsky's

The Big Ones That Didn't Get Away!

Fishing has always been fun, especially when one can hook onto a few big ones! The weather was hot and humid, but it must have been just right for fishing as the fish were biting at the Malinovsky tank on Sun., Sept. 20, 2009. Peggy caught the first big one which was more than adequate for "keeping" - as it was estimated to be about a 6 pound catfish. Not long after that Emily's line starting bending and she landed another big blue cat. In a matter of minutes, Peggy landed another nice-sized one. Just when it seemed the fish had gotten "fed up" and things started quieting down, my line disappeared from another spot clear across the tank. Was I ever excited!! I had to work the line for several minutes (with a bit of coaching from Clarence of course as well as the grandkids!!) I was so afraid it would "get away!" My arm started tiring after fighting with it for so long, but it was well worth the effort when I finally landed the big one! We didn't weigh it, but the guys thought it was 8 to 10#. The kids were so excited that Granny caught such a big fish! It was fun... and a cold one after all that work sure tasted good! Thanks to Michael for doing the cleaning duties. Anybody for fried fish!!?? I can't wait to try some!!
Hmmm! I hate to say it too loud, but isn't it interesting that the "ladies" were the only ones that caught the big fish that day!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Quiet Evening in a Country Setting

A late evening drive to Peggy & Michael's country home under construction on Friday, September 18, 2009, ended up being one of those unexpected enjoyable family times. As we arrived at their farm we spotted our son-in-law Michael and our grandkids, Emily, Ryan, Matthew & Cody on their fishing pier with their camouflaged t-shirts or vests. But no, they weren't fishing as we first thought, but rather dove hunting. Michael handled the shotgun while the kids watched from all directions from the fishing pier near their tank looking skyward trying to spot a dove or two flying over for their Dad to take aim at. "There comes one, Dad!" was heard several times as their voices resounded with excitement. When his aim was successful they were quick to retrieve the game and proudly added it to their collection. After bringing down a few they wanted to know if their Dad was going to make dove stew! Don't know if the stew ever materialized but watching our grandkids enjoy this special time hunting with their Dad was a special treat!
Our daughter Peggy joined us on the pier just in time to watch the sun set and enjoy a cold one with us. The grandkids were quick to want to "show and tell" the fruits of their hunt with their mother! Little Cody graciously handed Mom one of the lifeless birds, but she persuaded him she should bring it to his Dad.
Conversation flowed freely and as I enjoyed the beautiful country setting and the peaceful evening, I couldn't help but be grateful that my dream of living in a country was being lived out by our children and grandchildren. The serenity of this special time of day was all the more awesome when we as grandparents could witness two wonderful parents spending precious time with their children. Sometimes I think parents (in general) try too hard to buy "things" for their children , when one of the most precious gifts they can give them is the gift of spending time with them. And when it's done in God's great outdoors ... it seems all the more special! An evening like this truly makes one appreciate once again some of our most precious gifts we take so for granted - the gift of family and the wonders of God's creation!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This is a test! My first real blog message! I accidentally got into this tonight, and I'm still on a roll and enjoying learning something new! Will see how this goes and maybe write something meaningful at a later time!