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Christmas grace

The last months of the year are like arrows pointing toward the finish line.

I get thoughtful as I make lists, and my lists abound. Returning to this year’s goals page in my bullet journal, I see what seemed important in January must not have been, since I didn’t prioritize my time and energy to accomplish them.

As I enter the last 30 days of this year, it feels brief, like my life, moving toward the unknown. What shall I do with the days of December. What shall I do with the days of my one wonderful life?

These are important questions to ponder.

What if I moved toward Christmas keeping Jesus foremost in all I plan and do? It almost seems a novel concept while advertisers try to plant desire for whatever is flashy and bright. Scenes of cheerful families, perfect gifts, decorations to die for, expensive jewelry appeal to my visual senses, and for the moment I want that.

But is that really Christmas?

The Christmas into which Jesus entered was fraught with family conflicts, unanswered questions, and long hard journeys. Sound familiar?

At the same time hope and faith encircle stories, heavenly visitors bring heavenly message, and miracles astonish priests and shepherds alike.

Could Christmas be full of wonder again instead of making us frazzled and frustrated? Could I celebrate the Christ child with simplicity while cherishing what is truly important about the season?

The message of Christmas is love. God’s love was demonstrated to us when He sent His only Son. Jesus came for us and rescued us. He showed us how to live with purpose, valuing people above rules and regulations. He went against the flow, touching the untouchable, reaching for the outcast and remembering the forgotten . While He knew what lay ahead for Him, He lived in the moment with those at table with Him.

This year, this Christmas season, what if I lived it like Jesus, considering Him at every turn?

Let love be my guide. Allow joy to invade. Pay attention to the present and the people. Look for miracles. Expect wonder.

Because Christmas is Jesus.

Sunday grace

It’s about love. That is it. That is all.

Francis Chan said this: “We are here to love. Not much else matters.”

My best intentions are pointless unless they are birthed from love. My sound advice may not be well received unless it is clothed in love. My wise words will be sounding brass and tinkling cymbal unless guided by love.

Why do we think we have the answers for other people’s situations, and why do we feel the need to pour it on them like a dose of needed medicine? How can I possibly understand someone else’s journey when I have not walked it or even listened enough to picture where they are?

Wait. Let me examine the mote in my own eye before I try to remove the speck in yours.

Love is patient when frustrations run high and people don’t do what I want.
Love is kind even in difficult circumstances, when others are unkind to me.
Love is not envious of another’s gifts, beauty, talent, possessions or success.
Love is not boastful but remembers that all things come from God’s hand.
Love is not proud of accomplishments but rather humbly serves from a heart of gratitude.
Love does not dishonor others by words or actions.
Love is not self-seeking but wants what is best for the other person.
Love is not easily angered and is therefore self-controlled.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs; it keeps forgiving and forgiving.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth and justice.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always endures, even when, and especially when, it is hard.
Love does not fail. Love is primary. *

Dear Father in Heaven,
I’m convicted as I write the words about love. I fail often and I falter too much in loving well.

Your kindness leads to repentance. You draw us to Yourself by loving the unlovable.
May my words be kind, always. May I be patient even in my tribulation.

May I offer grace in the abundant way I have been given grace.
May I be quick to forgive and keep no record of offenses.
May Your perfect love touch the deep places of my heart and cast out fear.
May Your mighty power work in me so I can comprehend and acknowledge how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is.
May I come to know this love, though it surpasses knowledge, and be filled with the fullness of God, so that I live according to love’s direction.
I pray this in Jesus’ name, the One who loved us with His life and with His death. *

Amen

* From 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 3

I am a placemaker too

I became acquainted with Christie Purifoy when I read her first book, Roots and Sky. The story of her moving to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, with her husband, three children and one on the way, moved me, and I gave copies of the book to friends.

Anticipating Christie’s second book, I applied to be on the launch team for Placemaker, Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace. I am not disappointed.

Christie Purifoy’s flower garden

The writing is lyrical, sentences and paragraphs creating song and melody. As Christie describes the places she and her family lived, she tells a story of life and loss. And she talks about trees.

Chapter titles are named for them: Citrus Grove, Pine Tree, Saucer Magnolia, Honey Locust. Because making a place you call home is not just about the building where you live. It is about the city, the neighbors, the parks, the church family. It’s about settling in and calling this place home for however long you are there.

I’ve not lived in as many locations and states and Christie. My homes have been within less than a fifty-mile radius from birth to present day. Yet home, with all the meaning I can give it, is significant. Memories evoke the places where they occured. The yard where I celebrated a birthday with childhood friends. My teenage upstairs bedroom with white cape cod curtains. The carport with wood neatly stacked ready to be carried inside for the fireplace. The kitchen where my mother taught me to cook and the one where I orchestrated thousands of meals. The lane where I walked to visit a neighbor. The gardens where I planted herbs, vegetables, and flowers, bending low to pull weeds and cultivate something akin to beauty.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Placemaker:

“Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit.”
“Every place made by God is loved by God, and that includes every place where His people dwell. If we are willing to look through the lens of His love, then we will see that every place has some particular magic.”
“The trees know what we struggle to accept: it is right and good to love my neighbor as myself. My fate, and my neighbor’s fate, are bound up together. No human and no tree are an island.”

Placemaking is making a place, whether that is creating a comfortable home for husband and children, making room for friends at the table, getting to know the neighbors and looking out for one another, or opening one’s heart to love and be loved.

We’ve all been given places to inhabit and to tend. Christie Purifoy tells us her story in her own beautiful way.

View from Maplehurst, Christie’s home in Pennsylvania

[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26b



Seeking for Him

In the stillness of the early morning, I turned on the lights where my ceramic carolers sit on the piano. I made them for my mother one year for Christmas. The small village that nestles behind the carolers were a gift from my son when he was a teenager. The vignette holds memories as I watch the lights twinkle.

I read today’s devotional to Sweet William. God came searching for Adam and Eve, calling “Where are you?” while they hid away, afraid of Him who came to walk in the garden for fellowship.

All the time I was seeking, He was seekIng for me. The song title stirs a melody in my mind. I’ve known His seeking.

In a season of looking for just the right gift, for browsing the internet for a better price, for looking to see if I can add another something to the calendar, Jesus is seeking.

“Where are you?”

Where is  my mind on a frantic day of appointments and meetings? Where is my heart when I’m flooded with thoughts and emotions? Where is the center of my Christmas plans, the focus that points me clearly to what is true?

Where am I today?

I know where I want to be. At His feet, like Mary of Bethany, listening to the words that give life. Soaking in a love that is like no other. Worshipping His majesty. Amazed that grace came looking for me.

Where are you today?

Christmas grace.

 

2013 Christmas (5)

Sunday grace

As the fog clears from my brain early this morning, I remember her. It’s her birthday.

I plug in the coffee pot and turn the numbers on my perpetual calendar to November 4. And I think of that day 18 years ago when she entered this world.

I missed being at the hospital, thinking we had plenty of time to get there. Her three-and-a-half-year old sister was brought to us in the night while mommy, daddy, and the second set of grandparents hurried to labor and delivery.

I carried a pager in those days, and that was the thing that alerted me to the news. I listened to the message of “we have a baby girl,” with a mixture of joy at her arrival and disappointment at missing this important moment.

celeste.jpg

I suppose I made up for that one time not being there by being here in the house next door to hers. For ten years she lived close enough for me to hear her playing in their yard, to see her wave and shout, “Hi Grammy.”

I found two pictures recently of the lane in front of our house, and I wondered why I had taken them with no apparent reason. Then I spied three tiny figures walking toward our house. With a magnifying glass I could see them, my three grandchildren, ages three, four and seven on their way to Grammy and Papaw’s for who knows what kind of adventures. Hot cocoa, dress up, games, books – these were possibilities. She was the one out front, skipping along while her older sister held the youngest by the hand. Sweet remembrance.

They always brought the sunshine when the door opened to them, whether they came by one or by three.

Celeste2

We two are miles apart now. I miss getting to celebrate with this special young woman today. Our connection is the Birthday Box I priority mailed to arrive in time. It contains items I hope will please her, and a sealed zip bag of my special hot cocoa mix, because that is a memory we hold and my Happy Birthday wish across the miles.

She’s a busy girl now, with school, choir, friends and family activities.  She’s beautiful and graceful, funny and creative, loving and her own unique self. I’m happy that she is happy, flourishing, and becoming.

But I miss her. Especially today. On her birthday.

So I pray a blessing to the Father who knows no distance. Whose hand reaches mine and touches hers. The One who holds her life in His strong hand and knows the way He plans for her to go.

I trust and believe that He hears my prayers for her. His heart is tender towards mine and the longing I feel. He sees the tears that gather in my eyes even as I write.

My Father’s heart is tender towards her too, His love far greater than mine can ever be. He has a future for her, and He will guide her to it.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have Breath.”
Psalm 116:1-2, NLT

Sunday grace.

Celeste, tulsa oct 2018 (2)

 

 

The gifts in each of us

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for listening as I share my thoughts.}

I have just discovered Dorena Williamson‘s books. She is “a bridge builder, speaker, writer, and worship leader who knows the power and beauty of racial awareness.”

ThoughtFull: Discovering Unique Girls in Each of Us

Her recent book, ThoughtFull, Discovering the Unique Gifts in Each of Us, is tender and encouraging to both children and adults. The story takes a look at the uniqueness of people and demonstrates how each of us has the option to be kind and thoughtful or mean and hurtful.  It is illustrated by Robert Dunn.

Ahanu is a boy who received the HEART award at school for being helpful and looking out for others. Jason was excited for his friend and congratulated him. However, on the bus ride home from school, Jason overheard some other children making fun of Ahanu, because he has Down syndrome.

Jason’s dad said, “Billions of people live in the world, and each one of us has value . . . The truth is, we’re all gifted by God’s design.”

The book helps children see that different is OK and people are uniquely made by God.  Each one has been given talents and gifts that contribute to us all.

When people are not the same as us in appearance, beliefs, abilities, form or fashion, we form opinions, either good or bad. We accept or we reject. And yet, the uniqueness of humans is the beauty of creation, just as it is in nature.

Francis Chan said, “We are here to love. Not much else matters.” And I say “amen.”

This quote from ThoughtFull speaks to me: “If kids and adults worked at discovering the unique gifts in other people, we could all be thoughtFULL, just like Ahanu.”

See the source image

NOTE:   I received a copy of ThoughtFull, Discovering the Unique Gifts in Each of US, provided by B&H Publishing Group, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

Monday grace

I wake to the alarm, walk to the kitchen to make coffee, open the window and feel some little coolness. The dark liquid begins to flow into the pot and I remember: It’s my birthday.

How can I be this old when I still feel the same age on the inside?

I looked on the world wide web to search the day of the week I was born and this poem came to mind:

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

peggy little girl

While I was a Saturday child, my experiences have encompassed each day of the week. Haven’t we all?

Birthdays make me contemplative. Deep thoughts swirl and twirl and pull up scenes from the past. I remember a few simple parties when I was young, my mother and dad being the focus of my life, an only and beloved child.  I’m reminded how becoming an adult changed birthdays, because there are responsibilities and work to be done even if it is your special day.

The first birthday after my mother died was hard. She made it significant. She remembered, even if everyone else forgot. Birthdays were never quite the same without her thoughtful touch on the day.

There was one birthday not too long ago when Sweet William was recovering from one of many surgeries in a span of three years.  I expected nothing, but he’d arranged with some of the nurses to have surprises for me when I got to the hospital. It was especially meaningful.

There have been times when friends remembered me with cards and gifts, and I was shocked that they knew and took such sweet initiative to make me feel special.

I recall the year I turned sixty, coming home after a day of work, and being surprised by my precious ones who then lived next door. They came to celebrate. The grandchildren made a cardboard birthday cake for me, and I wore it as a hat. It became the symbol I coaxed each of them to wear as they celebrated their birthdays that year. It is a tender memory today as I look at those dearly loved faces.

Sweet William and I pre-celebrated simply on Saturday, and we anticipate dinner with good friends this evening. We will feast on their fellowship as well as the good food. And we will eat cake! Or something sweet and delicious.

I expect calls from those precious ones I long for who are miles away, sweet wishes bathed in love, their voices the gift I crave more than anything.

I have penciled dates on my calendar, plans with more precious people in the coming days. I intend to savor this birthday week as much as I can.

While there are projects I need to do, I sit and think and type away and look at pictures and remember, sipping on the second pot of coffee. The projects will be there tomorrow, of this I’m sure.

The plants have been watered, breakfast cooked and cleared away, bed made. I will do chores as needed while music plays sweetly on the CD player. It is another day in my life, a day to be lived. It is a time to be treasured, a moment to worship, because I will not pass this way again.

Life is a gift, to be lived joyously, to be treasured. Our days are determined by God alone. He will decide when it is enough.

Until then, let me live, strengthened by the grace of Christ Jesus.

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