Merry Christmas from All of Us at Priceless!

The Greatest Gift of all is Jesus

Where ever you find yourself this Christmas, and in whatever bleak or joyful, lonely or busy situation, may you know and rejoice in the Greatest Gift of All – Jesus!

Your Father God gave you His own Son – Jesus.

In Jesus, He gave you a Redeemer to reclaim for you all you have lost and all the things the enemy of your soul has stolen from you.

He gave you a Spotless Lamb, a perfect sacrifice for your sin and failure – the sinless Son of God.

He gave you Hope in the form of a man.

He gave you Unconditional Love that says “I love you.  I accept you. I choose you as mine, no matter what you have done.”

He gave you a Wonderful Counselor for your darkest moments and deepest depression and despair.

He gave you a Prince of Peace to come and work in your confusion and chaos.

He gave you a Friend that sticks closer than a brother for when you feel alone and abandoned.

He gave you a Mighty Warrior to rescue you from the evil one and the prison of sin and self.

He gave you the gift of a loving family, even if your earthly family has let you down. He Himself is your Everlasting Father, Jesus is your brother, and the entire body of Christ is your extended family!

He gave you Immanuel, God with Us, who humbly came to earth as a man, to know our pain and be one of us.

He gave you the gift of that Babe in the manger, but that babe wrapped up so much more than we comprehend!

Celebrate these gifts you Do have this Christmas. These eternal gifts in Christ!

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Stink, Stank, Stunk

He stunk like sweat, cold, wet dog, and tree bark.

His white hoodie was a dingy shade of brown, his ears a shade of alarming red indicative that perhaps he had needed some ear coverings before he had headed to the yard some 3 hours before. I made a mental note and filed it under #MomFail… Sensory Kid needs ear muffs.

autumn-212733_1280He had piled the back of my minivan with numerous giant trash bags full of leaves. Had it not been 36 degrees out I might’ve rolled the windows down for a bit of fresh air and olfactory relief from the stinky teenage boy and his delivery. As we meandered down the road to my Mama’s house I strategically breathed through my mouth and made an attempt at conversation.

“So Bud you’ve worked really hard. I’m sure Grandmother sure will appreciate all these leaves for her compost garden.”

“I hope so and I hope she pays me for getting her so many.”

He has a way with words that keeps frills to a minimum, finds mindless chatter obsolete, and states what he sees as the facts; he leaves little room for argument. He is what some would consider blunt. I’ve come to realize over time that he simply states what is, and his monotone way of doing so can be misinterpreted as rudeness and even disrespect.

I nodded and responded with the truth, “Well Grandmother is a woman of her word and if she said she would pay you, then she will.”

He simply said, “Good.”

When we arrived at Mama’s she wasn’t home. She had run an errand. So he began to unload his bags near her back gate, adjacent to the area where over the summer he spent a day digging holes. She still compliments and comments on his hole digging skills. She wanted to plant some shrubs or bushes or something but the rock hard red clay proved a difficult foe. She had tried all manner of methodologies to penetrate the earth, but she admitted her senior strength lacked the ability and employed her strong, young, grandson to do the job.

He likes to work, if he know exactly what to do and how he is to do it, and he prefers to work alone. Despite the sweltering temperatures over the summer he confided in me that he liked digging all those holes, and when he took a break Grandmother had Lemonade and Fudge Rounds for him for a snack. Two of his favorites, a combo I find repulsive, lemons and chocolate, just the thought makes my tummy churn a bit more than usual.

About the time he had unloaded the last bag and relieved my already tired ol’ minivan from its added load, my Mama arrived home. He was elated to see her so we took a candlelights-candles-christmas-730584.jpgmoment to visit with her. Scattered about were the beginnings of what would become her house decorated for Christmas. (I love it when she decorates. She was farmhouse style before it was a thing. She can put together a styrofoam elf, a sprig of holly, and a Santa ornament she has had since 1984 and turn it into a vignette worthy of Southern Living.) She keeps her Christmas decor stored in her attic. Her tree is at least 9 feet tall, I mean, maybe not really, but it sure seems that way.

As we visited a moment he came too close to her, she made a face, covered her nose with her shirt, and I laughed.

“Shoo, he’s stinky.” I laughed again at the obvious statement.

“I know. I had ride over here with him, but he insisted on making your delivery tonight.”
She laughed, and I commented on it beginning to look a lot like Christmas. About that time she said, “Hey Shel, can you help me get some things down from my attic?”

“Sure.”

He was happy to help although from the never-changing tone of his voice the undiscerning ear would not have known that. We have learned to read him, to know what Autism tried to make unknown. We have learned what joy looks like, and sadness. To the untrained eye well, they look the same. We know how frustration manifests and satisfaction appears. Those of us close to him do not always get it right but for the most part we do. Time and training have taught us that.

christmas-tree-1792267_1280.jpgAs he helped his Grandmother with her tree he did so relatively quietly. He spoke to Grace, Mama’s older Doxie, who has a knack for naps and snoring. She had come to investigate the commotion and soon settled on a rug next to her Master. She seemed unconcerned as her oddly smelling Master’s grandson hauled faux greenery to and fro.

When we got back in the car to head home I said, “Straight to the shower while I get supper ready.” In the dark I couldn’t tell if he’d nodded but I knew he had heard and understood. As we drove on I heard him talking to himself; he was holding a wadded up bill in his hand. I was unsure of the monetary sum but was sure of one thing, come Sunday morning a part of it would leave his hand and be placed in an offering receptacle.

Many times I will look to my left and wadded up in a tight fist I can make out the color of money. He holds it tight because he literally holds everything tight, not because he is stingy. I’ve often wondered if the money counter person gets exasperated as he or she has to unwad the crumpled bills he regularly puts into the offering.

“Halfway there, but this should be enough to buy presents for Charlotte and Maggie.”

I almost wrecked the minivan I was navigating into my neighborhood. What?!

He had worked like crazy, stunk like stink, was filthy from head to toe just so he could bow-box-christmas-1474961buy his sisters presents?! I clarified.

“What Bud?”

There was a pause.

“This is for me to buy Maggie and Charlotte’s presents. I already have some,” (hole digging money I presumed) “but I needed a bit more.”

My heart felt like it might burst. I understood fully the verse in the King’s word that says in 3 John 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
His sisters are adopted, they do not share his genetic makeup, one of his sisters drives him mad some days and one he has known as long as he has known any of us. When we brought him home from the hospital she pointed at him from across the room and declared he was a dog. She was 14 months old and I reckon from her perspective he was sort of dog-like. Noisy, oddly smelling, he slept a lot in a cage, or crib, depending on one’s perspective.

If you’d‘ve asked me I’d’ve figured he was saving up for some random Lego dude or a particular book, or those awful candies in a toxic barrel he likes. I could not have been more wrong.

As I meandered home and he talked of his surprise Christmas plans, I was reminded once more what Christmas is about. What Christ Himself represents. How He was about Compassion rather than consumption. Giving rather than getting. And Need rather than Greed.

May the very essence of Christ and Christmas fill our hearts and homes this year.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

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Rediscovering Christmas Joy

I’ll go ahead and say it. I don’t like Christmas.

Okay, to clarify, I love the reason for Christmas. I just don’t like the trappings of the season. For me, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t feel merry or jolly or any of those emotions well-meaning songs tell me define this time of year. I mostly feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Christmas brings to the surface some deep insecurities, ball-blur-bokeh-712318and reveals some personality quirks I’d rather keep to myself. For example, I’m not a huge fan of organized fun. I don’t love a big gathering. I love people. I love rich conversation, but I don’t love forced conversation or coerced fun. I am horrible; I mean seriously bad, at decorating. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t know what looks good where. I appreciate a beautifully decorated home, but to think of decorating my home for Christmas absolutely paralyzes me. I’m also not so great at the gift giving. I don’t love to shop. I want gifts to have meaning, to carry weight, not to end up stuck in the back of someone’s closet. Thus, trying to find just the right present makes for some serious anxiety. I realize I am in the minority with most of my wonderful friends and family who light up at the sound of a Christmas carol or the sight of Christmas lights. All I can think of when I think of Christmas is “can’t we just skip this year.” Horrible, right? I know. I know.

So now you understand my conundrum, how does a Grinch-like girl find her way to joy during all these Christmas festivities? Thankfully the God who gives the best gifts, and who has an impeccable sense of humor, gave me a son whom we nicknamed ball-blur-bokeh-306864.jpg“Mr. Christmas Cheer.” He LOVES all things Christmas. Every year, around the end of October, we begin having weekly discussions about putting up the tree, playing Christmas music, putting the wreaths on the doors and windows. In years past, my answer was always “after Thanksgiving.” But this year, he was extra persistent. After the 256th time he asked about putting up some form of decoration I asked him why he wanted to decorate so badly, “Because it’s fun, mom. I love Christmas. It’s time to celebrate Jesus!”

At that moment, with those simple words, I began asking God to help me see through his eyes. It’s time to CELEBRATE JESUS! That’s where I’ve gone wrong. That’s where I’ve lost my joy. I mean who is more worthy of celebrating than the King of Kings?! So this year, I’m determined to make my way back to the joy of my salvation. To ask God to remind me of the tenderness and vulnerability and miraculousness of the God who came as a baby. The One who made the universe willingly came, knowing He would be dependent on those He created to take care of Him, to feed Him, clothe Him, keep Him safe. The reality that He lived this human life so He could be the acceptable sacrifice, that He came to give up His life so that we might live, now that is worth a celebration!

 

 

Though my preferences haven’t changed. I still prefer a small gathering. I’m still decorating-challenged and overwhelmed by gift-giving. But Jesus, the One who makes all things new, is slowly growing my heart. He’s reminding me that the beauty of Christmas is keeping my focus on Jesus and how I can show the love of Jesus to others. While that seems like a basic truth, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of expectations of the “perfect” Christmas. This year, though, I’m putting that ol’ Grinch away, and letting the JOY of the gospel define my holiday season. Who knows, you might even catch me humming a carol or two. This year, may Christ be magnified and may your JOY be full! Merry CHRISTmas!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15-17

How Lovely Are Your Branches

I struggle a bit in the commitment area. I like change and I like it when things stay the same. I recognize the absurdity of this, as one can not have it both ways, but this doesn’t change my preference in any way.

Many years ago, nearly twenty to be nearly exact, I chose a profession for nearly all of the wrong reasons. Over the course of almost 18 years I’ve spent many a day and many a night within a particular set of walls. I’ve been snowed in, put on high alerts, been bored beyond words, shed more tears than I count, held many a hand, mourned over many a broken heart, and have witnessed more than my share of miracles. To say that I’ve learned more lessons within those particular walls than I can count would be a serious understatement.

christmas-trees-1823938_1280Year after year one thing always stays the same, but changes annually. It is secretly one of my favorite things about that place. The Trees. The Christmas Trees.

Those artificial Tannenbaum dot the premises like little gems on a desert floor. Those who know them know that they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, each one as unique and different as the ones who decorated it. They are a sight to behold, those Tannenbaum that are a lifter of the spirit and of the head.

“The Google” defined Tannenbaum this way: A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

The very description itself encompassed exactly what I was thinking, and I was amused that the Google agreed with me.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness.pngHow very appropriate that the tree symbolizes faithfulness, for it is the consistent faithfulness and regularity as well as the ever-changing baubles that adorn such consistency that ministers to me most.

Over the passage of time my overactive imagination has given rise to the stories that those trees may hold, the hands who’ve lovingly selected their baubles, and I’ve often wondered if those individuals know how very important their handiwork is. I can testify honestly that they’ve made hard days easier, sad days happier, the mundane exciting. I also must confess I’m a little sad when they leave, but for the time being, for today, I am so very grateful for the beautiful reminders that bring a little sunshine and happiness to this world – this and every Christmas Season.

The Giving Christmas

As I look back over the years, I have many wonderful memories of Christmas seasons that I have experienced. There have been Christmases as a child and then a teenager. When I was married, Christmas changed from just my family to include my husband’s family. Then came children and grandchildren. Each new Christmas experience has brought its on special times.

Christmas as a child was full of wonder and joy. There were gifts from Santa and gifts under the tree from my parents. I remember receiving skates and a scooter. There was always a doll from Santa. Even when I was too old for a doll, there was still a baby doll for me at Christmas.

I can remember trying to save my allowance so that I would have a little bit of money to buy gifts for my parents and my brothers. The gifts were never large but they were all I hobby-leisure-model-cars-33074.jpgcould get on a small allowance. The gifts would be a handkerchief for my mother and stationary for my Daddy. I would get little metal cars for my brothers. I was proud of my gifts and so happy to give them to each of my family members.

When I was in college, I had a part-time job at a bank. I remember saving back money from my paychecks so that I could buy “real” presents for Christmas. There was a clock that I thought was so beautiful at a store where my parents shopped for special gifts. The clock was encased in a glass dome. I thought it was the most beautiful clock I had ever loricron-anniversary-clock-95592-281x433.jpgseen. I purchased this clock for my parents for this very special Christmas. It was the first time that I really had the opportunity to buy them special gift. My parents loved the clock and kept it in a special place on the mantel even after it stopped working. They thought it was a beautiful decorative piece and kept it because it was a special gift from me.

When we were cleaning my parents’ home and getting it ready to sell after they had both gone to be with the Lord, I picked up the clock and began looking at it. I know it doesn’t work but it is a reminder of when I learned how wonderful it is to give to others. I will always remember that first Christmas that I had the opportunity to give and not just receive. I will keep this clock as a reminder of the love I felt for my parents that Christmas Day that became my first Giving Christmas.  I will always remember the joy that it gave me to give them a gift that for me was of great value. I know that it is not the cost of a gift that makes it special but the joy that it brings. This is a lesson that I experienced that Christmas season more than 45 years ago, but I remember it each year as I plan my gifts.

Acts 20:35b NIV tells us “It is more blessed to give than to receive. ”

As we think of Christmas, we cannot help but remember the most precious gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

My gift to my parents pales in comparison to the gift that God gave to us of eternal life with him forever. What an amazing God we have. My prayer this Christmas is to enjoy the spirit of giving throughout this season and to never forget the most wonderful gift I have ever received.

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‘Tis the Season

We sat at the table, she had coffee, I had sweet tea. We were near giddy just to be with each other. Years ago when life was different, when our kids were little and we went to the same places every day, when circumstances forced us into each other’s lives, and it was not uncommon to see each other multiple times a day such a giddiness would have been absent, such an anticipated and leisurely meal likely would have been too. Back then, we would daily talk and there were times that it had been literal hours that we had seen the each other last. But as it happens with life, things change and children grow. People move. Jobs are different. “Seasons” – that tends to be how I hear it referred to, and for a season we were inseparable. This season of life though is much different.

The online dictionary defines a season in this way – season : a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature : a suitable or natural time or occasion: an indefinite period of time : while. The King’s Word says to everything there is a season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

the-original-italianI reckon calling different times of life a “season” seems to make perfect sense. Seasons change and life changed, so we went from seeing each other every single day to seeing each other on special occasions and when we happen to be at the same place at the same time. When that happens I have been known to squeal with excitement. As we sat there soaking in our time and happenings in our families’ lives, drinking our caffeinated beverage of choice, amidst an endless supply of buffalo check and country store decor surrounding us, “Season’s Greetings” made its way into my mind (defined by the same above source as: an expression of goodwill at Christmas or the New Year) I wondered where the expression had found its origins.

Our conversation meandered, we have always had difficulty staying on task. We filled in gaps of time with parallel world events, our conversations woven around the One Whom we both love and whom this Season, the Christmas Season, is about.

As we talked I pictured in my imagination a woven tapestry, our words making a picture and the thread holding it all together is Christ, the one that binds us to the support frame of the loom, Jesus. Pull that central thread out, and the tapestry would all unravel, the loom and colorful threads that make up our lives would come crashing to the ground and be nothing more than a mound of tangled up mess. I do tend to have an overactive imagination and a wandering mind. However, the reality is, we would both tell you, that Jesus alone holds us together. As we filled in those gaps, we laughed until we cried, we cried until we laughed, she and I caught up as best we could. She has always been a lover of jewelry and she was adorned that day as per her usual. On her right arm I noted the pearl colored baubles and jewel encrusted bracelet, the simple silver bangle that my 40-year-old eyes could not decipher what the small writing said. I examined and must have had a quizzical look because she said, “Oh, this one, this was a gift from a family. It says ‘Make a difference.”

I nodded. I knew what she meant, and she went on to point to other things, to show me pictures of and tell me about the gifts she had received. In light of the Season, I thought it fitting.

Her career revolves around loss. It wasn’t her first career. She was, she is an accountant, CPA I think is what it’s called. She’s a numbers person. I am not. That career was like a springboard that catapulted her into her now second, late-in-life, go back to college career. A calling is a better description.

It boggles the mind of many, myself included, whenever she begins to talk about it I just say,

“I couldn’t do it.”

Her answer always the same, “Yes you could.”

“No Ma’am. I could not” My reply also always the same.
We have had this conversation on multiple occasions.

As the tapestry grew and our conversation continued, we talked about the gifts, how each one tells a story and ministers to her. How she looks at them and doesn’t see an object but sees people who gave them. The Givers have sealed a place for themselves in her heart. She doesn’t say it but I can read it in her eyes. She rubbed her index finger over the imprinted words “Make a Difference.” Her eyes were shiny with tears and on the verge of running down her cheeks, she looked at me and said as if speaking to the Giver rather than me. More rhetorical than not.

“You lost what you love and went through a very hard time and I get the gift. I struggle with that.”

For a moment there was a pause in our conversation. She used the scratchy paper napkin that had been rolled around her silverware, to dab her eyes.

cross pexels-photo-635699“That’s Jesus.”

The words were out of my mouth before I knew it. I even questioned if I had said them out-loud. I saw her nodding and dabbing her eyes and realized I had actually said them out-loud. A second time, stronger and confident of my declaration.

“That is Jesus.”

He was born the humblest of births, lived a life of simplicity, loved on and cared for the ones unworthy, the ones the world did not even recognize as people and yet He willingly gave His life as a ransom. He gave it up so that we can receive the gift of salvation. The gift of Hope. The gift of Peace. The gift of God with Us.

I reminded her again that she was for many, the face of Jesus. That she was a glimpse of who He is and that He had placed her where she was for just a time as this. Our conversation meandered on and by the time the lunch crowd had come in, we determined our breakfast meeting had to adjourn.

The tapestry of our lives filled in a bit more, holding firmly to that thread of Christ. We hugged and promised it wouldn’t be so long until we saw each other again. My cheeks sore from laughter, my eyes stinging from tears, I was filled up and happy as we parted, better than I was when we had met.

I giggled as I recalled our conversation, challenged as I pondered on parts of it.

This Season, this Christmas Season, this Season of life, this Season, I will choose to acknowledge and worship the Giver. The One who gave His very life in exchange for mine and I’m likely to find myself in the very same frame of mind as my friend, humbled and moved to tears, that another would suffer loss and joyfully give me a gift.

Season’s Greetings Indeed!

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the Season!

Grief at the Holidays

I feel like the worst daughter ever! I cry when I remember.

I was not present for my mother’s last Christmas day here on earth. There. I said it. Judge me harshly. Go ahead. I have judged myself over and over in despair and nothing can change it or bring it back.

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It’s been 2 years now.

After a very hard year and a half of walking through increasingly horrible Parkinson’s dementia with Mom, my husband and kids encouraged me to take a trip to Texas to visit his sister’s family that would have us away from home on Christmas day. With work schedules what they were, that was the only time we could visit them.

At first I resisted vehemently. No! How could I leave my mother?! She needs me. I kept thinking, What if this is her last Christmas?

But after a trip to the neurologist and a change in meds Mom started getting back to her normal self. Hope returned. She seemed to be getting better for a few weeks. During this lucid phase, I mentioned talk of a trip to her and she said, “Yes. Go. We can celebrate before you leave.” And when I talked to my brother and family about it, they readily agreed to have her with them that day. So I made the choice. Somewhat reluctantly I began to prepare for the big trip to Dallas.img_2524

The Saturday before Christmas we got together with Mom for our Christmas celebration. Dinner, presents, laughs. It was nice. She was doing well. She was pretty much herself that night. Spirits were good. The trip was on. The next day my dear husband, the kids and I pulled out early for the 10 hour trip. It was great weather and I felt relieved to be free from the constraints of the past several months. A change of scenery would do me good.

It had been a grueling time of almost weekly medical appointments, sometimes several times a week. Mom’s decline had been coming more rapidly. I had been making from one to several trips a day to be with her, to coax her to eat and try to make her take her medicine. Many times I ended up spending the night or several nights in her apartment at her assisted living to try to console her. My year had been consumed by little things like forgetfulness, incontinence, and struggles for her to maintain balance and feed herself; big things like the falling which resulted in several late night calls, and trips to the emergency room; and really huge, tragic things like a stay in the geriatric psychiatric ward of the hospital, her fearful hallucinations of fire and flood and murder and abduction, her paranoia that the people who cared for her were out to get her, and the constant delusions that nothing I said, no rational argument, could convince her not to fret over. Tears and the Lord were my two constant companions.

But now I was leaving all that behind for a bit. As each mile rolled by on our trip, my spirit lightened. I called Mom several times and she sounded normal, not confused at all. Thank you, Lord! We had a restful, joyful, family centered few days of Christmas celebrations with my sister-in-law’s family. My brother called on Christmas day and I got to talk to Mom who was still doing great. We made it home with no catastrophes and all my worries were put to rest! I felt rejuvenated.

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Sadly, Mom’s short Christmas turn around didn’t last much past the new year and the old symptoms grew worse again. Medicine changes seemed to help for shorter and shorter periods as her condition progressed. Her decline was on a downhill slope picking up speed, and a week after we enjoyed her last Mother’s Day together, she passed away.

I never thought grief would so consume me. I had a strong relationship with the Lord. I believed that life and death were in His hands. I was very practical. But all that was before my mother died. The one person who had always known me was no longer there. Suddenly I was an orphan. My own mortality was staring me in the face. It was a very hard year. Summer and fall came and went. Then the holidays hit! I felt blind-sided. All I could do was cry. Every conversation with my girls ended in tears. I couldn’t make myself get out of the house or do anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight, and I hurt all over. Was this grief?! I never realized!

That was only last year.

What a difference a year makes! This year hope has returned to this sad heart. So may I encourage your grieving heart? Looking back here are some things that helped, although at the time I didn’t want to do them and didn’t think they would help.

Read a book on the stages of grief or you may think you’re going crazy! Somewhere in the aftermath of Mom’s death I acquired a little book called Good Grief. I refused to read it for the longest. When I finally broke down and read it months later I was shocked how accurate it was. I was thinking I was going crazy and dying. Seriously. When I read in that little book that physical pain is one of the things a person experienced in grief, I was shocked and relieved. There were many other things that helped me realize what I was going through was normal.

eea0a691-e91d-41e5-a630-44814fad0bfdKeep practicing the spiritual habits you have established in your life as much as possible. Go to church. Read your Bible. Pray, even when you feel you can’t put coherent thoughts into words. God seemed far away some days, but I’ve since realized that He wasn’t. He was just hidden from my view by a thick gray veil of grief. I did miss church more during that first year after Mom’s death, but loving family members pushed me to go if I missed more than 1 week at a time and I relented and went, because I knew it was just because they cared.

Carry on holiday traditions that you did with that family member in the past. You’ll cry and it will hurt, but it will be bittersweet. It will be healing to your heart. I made Mom’s specialties for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that year. I could hardly eat them, but they were there. And with them it seemed like a little part of her was in our celebrations. Cooking was her thing.VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Talk about your lost loved one. That hurts too, but it helps. We sat around and told “remember when” stories. We drug out the Memory Jar I had given Mom 15 years earlier that was full of little cards with old memories written on them, and we read and cried and laughed and felt comfort in reliving the joys of Mom’s life.

img_1335Look for joy (even in the little things). I was so grateful for a dear old highschool friend who sent me a Christmas card specially written to acknowledge this first Christmas without Mom! What a huge thing that was. What joy (through tears of course) it brought. But there were many tiny things that brought joy that I chose not to let slip past. Listening to Christmas carols and watching the twinkling lights of my tree. Playing a board game with the family. Allowing myself to laugh at things that would have amused my mom. Seeing my grandson’s eyes lighting up at the sight of the Christmas tree.

Put up a tree for Christmas! It was a burden. I just wanted to skip it that year. It only got half the ornaments it normally does. But it brought light and joy and peace to dark nights. I was glad I did.

img_2608Hug the people dearest to you, snuggle and share tender moments just because you still have them. The gift that the death of a loved one brings with it is a heightened awareness of making the most of the time you have with others who are still living. Don’t squander those times even if some relationships are difficult or awkward. You will never regret reaching out and expressing yourself. Trying to, even in a tough relationship, keeps the regrets of “if only” and “why didn’t I” away.

I hope you have a blessed Christmas and experience the hope of Christ in the midst of your grief. Here’s a sweet song that an old friend posted on social media recently. It is comforting for those of us who are spending Christmas without someone dear to us.

Enjoy the music! Different Kind of Christmas 

Keeping the Plates Spinning at Christmas

As I rounded the corner into the church parking lot on two wheels, I was feeling anything but full of the Christmas spirit. It was December 4th, and already I could sense the holiday season driving me. It had been a wild week. Husband out-of-town for 5 days on a project. Taking care of the grandkids each afternoon – one running a fever and feeling especially grumpy from the medication. Doing the Christmas parade alone with the 2 grandsons when that one was sick – what was I thinking?! Keeping a blog running during an intensely busy time. Carrying on consistently with my book writing project. Christmas shopping barely started. Last 2 months of preparations for a women’s conference – ordering, finalizing, securing the right people and equipment. Plus the daily necessary stuff to keep the house running.

And this particular Sunday… Up and getting ready. Oversleeping grandkids. The unexpected message of the passing of a dear friend’s mother. Scheduled to teach LifeGroup that day so we had to go in 2 cars. Only time for two sips of coffee. Downpour of rain as I drive up to church. Books to get to a friend. Teach class. Worship – the one calm focused hour and a half of the day. Dash home to leftovers for lunch –  and whining because “I didn’t want that.” Last load of laundry to send the grands home with a bag full of clean clothes. Last minute edit on a document for a planning meeting. Out the door. Christmas open house at one of my dearest friend’s home. Trying to get the grandbabes to their parents. Planning meeting for the women’s conference at the same time Papa had deacon’s meeting. A message from our leader who needed something printed out for the meeting. Back home. Open the email – no file attached. Texts. New e-mail. Print 4 copies and staple. Back in the car to head to church and the “Low Fuel” light is on. When I finally wheeled into my parking space I was exhausted. My Fitbit said I already had 6,000 steps and it was only mid-afternoon.

Ok – enough of my whining…

This is just My story of the holidays this year. What’s yours? Are you feeling like the man at the circus with 14 plates spinning on various parts of his body? Feeling like you just can’t keep it all spinning and remain sane?

Well sweet friends, this is just the corner our enemy loves to back us into. We are in a season of great joy, yet we feel dry and tired. We are in a season of great giving, but it begins to feel like a chore instead of a joy to give. We are in the best season to share the perfect love of the Father with a desperate world, however, that enemy of our souls has a battle plan to keep us so busy that we have no time, energy, or even thought to spread the good news while hearts are open to hear it.

I’m ready to put on my warrior’s clothes and fight that nasty enemy! How about you? As I sit here in the calm after the storm at 11:47 p.m. – the rush over, the house quiet, the kitty purring at my feet, perspective comes. So as I type I am formulating my own battle plan.

  1. I choose not to do anything during the holidays just because some social structure says I ought too. I don’t have to bake Christmas cookies. I don’t have to spend a penny. I don’t have to send Christmas cards. I don’t have to have a perfect house, 71uz2b99eqsl-_sl1500_ready for a visitor at the drop of a hat at the expense of my family. I don’t have to do Elf on th Shelf just because I did it last year. I don’t have to go to every party I’m invited to. I don’t have to get a Hatchimal just because media is proclaiming it as THE hot toy of the year. And neither do you! What are you feeling you HAVE to do due to outside pressure? Let me free you – you don’t have to do anything. You really don’t. Those external pressures bring stress and frustration. Choose wisely and be intentional in what you want to do. Do whatever you choose because it fulfills your goals for your life and your aspirations to be a Godly woman – NOT because you’ve bought into a message that you should do it. Who gives someone else the power to tell you that you should do anything? And what are their credentials? The “wise” media? The competitive young mother you know? The well-meaning family member? “They”? Who are these “they” anyway that are always the ones telling us what to do? “You know, they say you should….”
  2. I choose Christ to be in my Christmas. I choose not to just tip my hat to Him and have token “Happy Birthday Jesus” cakes and ceramic manger scenes and rush on by those tokens ignoring the real Christ. Instead I choose to see the people rushing by
    me and to verbally testify of Him in little and big ways every moment He presents me with an opportunity. I choose to soak in His Word and to absorb the Biblical accounts of all things surrounding the birth of Christ, to study and learn, and seek to find new truths through them that I’ve never seen before. To become re-enamored with the Lover of My Soul. I choose to count my personal, intimate, passionate relationship with Christ as more important than any substitute the enemy dangles before me. What about you?
  3. I choose to start my mornings with worship of the Savior we are celebrating. Every morning. At least 10 minutes just singing praise, praying, and thanking Him. I choose to get my focus on Him first thing in the morning above all else because He is my love. AND I choose to end my day worshipping Him too. Meditating on His word in the precious quiet of twinkling lights and evergreen scent and praying, singing, celebrating, allowing my soul time to feel, time to long for Him above all the glittery things around me. How about you?
  4. I choose to carry on traditions that foster these things: joy in Him, growth in my relationship with Him, sharing Christ’s good news with those around me, strengthening bonds with family and friends, or magnifying and glorifying the Christ. Things like reading the Christmas story by candlelight with my kids on Christmas Eve and donating coats at my church for the homeless and Christmas caroling with songs that sing the story of the Christ-child and packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. What traditions do you choose and why?
  5. I choose to live out the Golden Rule during these holidays: Do to others what you would have them do to you. I choose to be genuinely aware of needs around me, to slow down and take time to notice strangers and offer the love, help, and prayer our hungry world is starving for. I choose to treat my family well and not like they are a bother because I am busy. In short, I choose to give to those around me what I wish I was receiving (and I may), but even if I receive nothing.

So this Christmas are you ready to drop the plates? To give up? When we quit spinning the things that don’t matter we usher in peace, real joy, authentic love, time to relate to those we love, time to share Jesus, and time to meet needs we see. What better gifts can we give ourselves and those in our homes? What better gifts can we bring Christ than our full attention, wholehearted devotion, and empty schedules that He gets to fill in as He sees fit? So girls, grab a fresh calendar. Start off with what really matters and see what Christ does to reshape your Christmas chaos!

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