Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Trade

My best friend’s husband died, but she did not place her wedding ring in a draw.  She designed a new ring, an everyday kind of ring, and incorporated the diamonds from her wedding ring.  I cheered her on for her ingenuity to keep his memory close at all times.

A gal in my critique group wrote about the best Christmas present she ever received.  She inherited her late mother-in-law’s mink coat.  She loved her dearly, but when she put on the coat, she felt like she stepped out of the 1950’s.  She hated the thought of it placed in a box and stacked on a closet shelf.  Her husband took it to a furrier and surprised her at Christmas with a brand new mink stole.  I choked up when I read her words of love for her mother-in-law and the beautiful mink cape she wore for a classy event in frigid Flagstaff during the holidays.

The Spiritual Trade off
I don’t have a mink coat or extra diamonds to create something new.  I do have some things, however, that I want to trade.

There is a Christian song I like to sing when I think of trading my stuff with Jesus.  As in any relationship, there is an exchange.  With Jesus, I give Him what I have but He gives me back much more.

The song goes like this:  “I’m trading my sorrows.  I'm trading my shame.  I'm trading my sickness.  I'm trading my pain; I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord.  Yes, Lord!  Yes, yes Lord!”

The widow had to give the jeweler her wedding ring to receive the new everyday ring.  The husband had to give the mink coat to the furrier to receive the new mink cape.  

I have to give God my pain, but He gives me His joy.  It’s an excellent trade-off and one that makes me smile!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Changing it a Bit

I learned years ago in Marriage Encounter that I need to find creative ways to keep love alive.  Avoid the boring status quo and experiment with new ways of doing things.  The principle of changing it a bit can be applied to any relationship, really.  Healthy friendship is a gift but doesn’t just fall in my lap.   I have to work at that too and think of ways to enjoy life together with those special friends.

I’ve changed some things around the house recently to spice up things.  When I took down Christmas decorations, I placed my plants in different rooms and rearranged the bookcase to give the living room a different look.

I drank my coffee black.  Ugh, that did not work!

I knew months ago the “read through Bible” plan I especially like and have used off and on through the years would not suffice this year and found a new way to pray and study in the morning.  How refreshing to wake up to a new way of saying hello to God! 

My pastor mentioned that he enjoys talk radio as he drives around town during the week.  However, when he travels that half hour to our sister church in another town, the Holy Spirit beckons him to shut off everything and pray in the quiet drive.  I totally get that!

I like change as long as it’s not too crazy.  I like it, too, that some things never change like God’s Word.  Funny how God’s Word never changes yet it changes me.

Have you changed anything around a bit lately?  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Card for You

Merry Christmas, friends!  I cherish every one of you.  Your friendship means so much to me and I know I am a blessed woman to be connected with so many wonderful men and women who inspire me throughout the year.  I look forward to the coming year with you   I wish for you that God will bless you, your family, your relationships, your work, and your gift of writing and lead you powerfully in the New Year.  

This Scripture turned up in my reading this morning and I claim it for us in 2017.  As we draw close to Jesus today and in the coming year, may we see Him in one another!

He who believes in me, as the scripture has said,
‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ 

John 7:38

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Sign of Hope

Some Christmas presents cannot be wrapped neatly and placed under the tree.  My husband gave a gift like that to our youngest daughter this year.

I noticed Carrie and her dad huddled in a corner in serious discussion last Christmas.  Later he told me about her request for a special present that would need to be hand crafted.   He agreed to work on it throughout the year and bring it to her in San Diego for this year’s Christmas holiday.

Carrie asked him to make her a sign with the word “hope” in big letters.  He purchased one-half inch exterior plywood, three feet by seven feet and painted it with flat black paint.  He printed the word “hope” in white letters finished with reflective spray.

An Old Idea Made New
Christmastime built a memory that affected our lives over two decades ago when we moved here.  One of our neighbors created a one-word sign, hope, and attached it to their roof.  As our family drove to our home through the switchbacks, the word hope lay suspended in the sky which created a dramatic effect especially after dark.

Year after year, the neighbor displayed the hope sign on his roof.  We didn’t realize how hope imprinted in our minds.  We talked little about it.

Carrie remembered those days and discussed her feelings with her dad.  She longed to duplicate it.  It turned out to be a fun project.

We went to San Diego for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and brought the finished sign.  Hours after we arrived, we mounted the hope sign from the gate in their backyard which faces a canyon!   A busy street runs through the canyon and drivers can’t miss the sign of hope suspended in white letters lit up with an outdoor light for nighttime.

The sentiment she scripted on her Facebook page warmed my heart:

Today we celebrate my dad’s 69th birthday!  After his health scare last year and a long road of recovery, its extra sweet to have him visiting with us during this time of Thanksgiving.  He made me this Christmas present, the best I’ve ever received:  a sign with giant reflective letters with a spotlight.  We hung it on my back gate overlooking a well traveled road.  If only one person feels this loving hope this Christmas season, it will make me so happy.  Thanks, Dad!  We love you!

Long before Jesus came to earth as a baby, Father God gave a sign of His coming.  Spoken through his servant, Isaiah.  He prophesied:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, a young woman shall conceive
And bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isa 7:14

I notice in The Christmas Story in Luke how excited the shepherds became when the baby Jesus arrived. 

And the shepherds returned,
Glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
As it had been told them.
Luke 2:20

I’m with Carrie; I feel joyful when others find hope.  Jesus is the light of the world.  He came to bring us hope.  Now that’s exciting!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Spindly Tree

Have you ever entered the Christmas season feeling less than happy?  I had a bad attitude last Christmas, but I learned an important lesson from it.

I knew the answer before I asked but I asked my husband anyway.

“What do you think about buying a real tree this year?”

He, once again, pointed out there is only one place for a Christmas tree in our living room.  True, it looks the best right across from the wood burning stove where roaring fires would dry out a live tree by Christmas Day.  Still I liked to dream about a full pine or balsam tree in our home with smells of Christmas everywhere.

We unpacked our five-foot tree and fluffed the branches of the fifteen year old slender pine and placed it on its stand.  We stacked the boxes off to the side until morning when we would play Christmas music and decorate.

Before I fell asleep, I prayed a quick prayer.  I asked God to give me a better attitude.  I didn’t want my spirit to sag because of a dated tree.  I remembered the Scripture in 1 Timothy 6:6:

“True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”

Morning arrived and I received an email from my girlfriend in Chicago who wrote about a get-a-way weekend with her husband.  She included photos of the quaint Victorian Inn they visited nestled in the country snow. 

One photo in particular jumped out at me.  It showcased a cozy corner in the reception room of the hotel lobby all decked out for Christmas.  I liked the fireplace opposite a sage love-seat.  They sat on that overstuffed couch and sipped Peppermint Schnapps as they soaked up the ambiance.

Then I noticed the spindly Christmas tree on the side of the fireplace.  The tree, anemic in size, shouted old world country charm with its display of old-fashioned ornaments and garland made of pearls and beads.

I cried out:  “This tree is adorable!  I love it!”

I felt happy looking at that tree and noticed it seemed skimpier than ours.  I enlarged the photo; now I had a plan.  All of a sudden, I liked my old tree again.

I shopped in thrift stores and found stylish pearls and beads to string throughout the tree to create the romantic chic look.   Our transformed tree stood proud with its face lift and beamed a look of elegance in our humble living room.

My excitement for the holidays grew.  I unpacked every box of decorations, cooked meals ahead and baked sugar cookies and biscotti, too.  I hung up every Christmas card in the entry way.

Our family arrived on Christmas Day and I couldn’t wait to show the grandchildren our tree, especially little Amy.   Her nervous mom warned me that she loves beads and pearls but she never touched my tree!

The manger turned out to be another story.  An animal lover, she reached up into my arms to be lifted high to see the manger scene on the top shelf of the bookcase.  I let her pick up the fluffy sheep and hold it in her hands.  I set her on the floor to play with the sheep and grabbed the stable and placed it in front of her with figurines of Joseph, Mary, the baby, the wise men and various animals to complete the scene.  I sat next to her on the rug and shared the story of the baby, Jesus, who came to earth in human form.  Whether she comprehended it or not, she listened and nodded as I explained that God sent His son to the world so we could be saved from sin.  Her eyes grew large when I told her no hotel rooms were left and the baby stayed in a humble stable and slept in a manger of chiseled stone with the smell of animals nearby.  We shivered together as I mentioned how cold the night air felt with winds whipping around the stable.

My little granddaughter may never remember the memory we created re-enacting the Christmas Story that evening in the center of my living room.  Perhaps the experience we shared highlighted a lesson for me alone.  I tapped into the richness of the true meaning of Christmas.  Suddenly, what became relevant could not be contained in the worth of a tree.  I gazed at our spindly tree and no longer wished for a ten-foot spruce.  I rejoiced in my riches as I pondered my cozy home, my loving family and a Savior who gave up a place in Heaven to come down to earth to save my soul. 

My old Christmas tree has become shabby with age.  Some ornaments lack luster and some look threadbare.  But the Christmas Story of redemption when a baby boy, God’s Son, took on human flesh and came to earth to redeem mankind never grows old!