Satisfied? …Even Though?

Each time one of our children was born, I remember feeling, life could get no happier. I IMG_5677felt so complete, so one with God, I thought I there could not possibly be more pleasure in life. I thought I was satisfied.

But was I?

 

Several times after fasting and praying, I thought I’d reached the point to say Yes, Lord, and even YesLordHankiewrote a song (yet to be set to music) which basically says if “all there was to my life” was knowing the truth of God’s love and sacrifice, I’d be satisfied.

But am I?

 

How many times have I run to food or shopping or other things to satisfy a glum mood? How many times have I searched for an escape from saying Yes, Lord…  and how many times have I said the words with unwilling grumpiness, forgetting the many times  God delivered me?

 

scan0003_2I am inspired to see or hear of people who respond to difficulty and tragedy with that “even though” kind of faith like our David did, saying Yes, Lord what do you want to teach me now, and these familiar faces in the Bible:

 

Job –  “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. (Job 13:15) Job could relate our losses because he lost his livelihood the same day all his children died. His health reduced him to a place where no one wanted to be near him lest the disasters touch them too… but Job 1:22 says – Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.

DavidPsa. 17:15 As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake. And Psa. 119:57 Because you have satisfied me, GOD, I promise to do everything you say.

Abraham who did not flinch to do whatever God said…

Gen. 22:1-2 Now it came about …, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”  I can’t even imagine saying Yes, Lord to that one.

Later in Gen. 25 we are told the results of Abraham’s obedience – And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; (even though)

I am beginning to see what brought about the end result of “satisfied” with these and others I have witnessed – it is that even if once they sought for satisfaction in themselves they had come to the place where they recognized the truth of Luke 6:25 (The Message):

And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.

Your self will not satisfy you for long.

OS02012        And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.

There’s suffering to be met,

                             and you’re going to meet it. 

 

What made them – and draws me – to be satisfied is  realizing nothing in myself can bring about eternal satisfaction but knowing He who satisfies. . .

Even though

As Job said – I will Hope – in Him (Jesus Christ) – the same now and forever                (even thoughlauriewoods

 

As David said – YOU God, satisfied me and when I awake (after death) I WILL BE SATISFIED with your likeness

 

As was said about Abraham – he was satisfied with life – the course and passage of a lifetime – (even though)

 

And me? That is what I want too- to be able to say, Lord, I’m satisfied. Not with myself…or anything I have done, but with knowing that even though sometimes life seems unbearably dark and painful, even though I have had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I am comforted when I recognize His presence through it all.

 

Psa. 23:4     Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

 

I want to abide in His promise that

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me; (Psa. 138:7 )

And I want to encourage you all who have, or who now are, or who will experience trouble

even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1Pet. 1:6-7)

And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the LORD (Jer.31)

IMG_0682

 

 

 

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The Final Page

Last things first! I’ve mentioned before that I am a last-things-first person. 1-Peaches on shelf

 

When Ken and I were dating I did a last-things-first: I set some boundaries because my end goal was a long and happy relationship and empowered children. Ken gave me boundaries too, so you don’t need to feel sorry for him. (smile).  We started with the desired end result and worked back to the beginning. It gave us comfort because we knew no matter how emotions took over, that neither of us would purposely set out to hurt the other. The boundaries would help us reach that goal and renew commitments.

Whether cleaning or writing, preserving for winter, or shopping or planning my day – I set out with my last thing first – that is when I get to the end of my work, the day, the shopping or whatever – what is the one thing that is most important. Every day, I plan the evening meal before breakfast (sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning when I quit writing). That way, whatever goes wrong during the day –and you know it will- we will have a relaxing dinner together.

I just shopped for a new piece of exercise equipment and set out my goal. It was easier to say no to this, and 2336no to that because at the start of the hunt, I outlined what the ending would look like. (If I shop without the final page very specifically determined, I am in trouble, buy too much and often end up returning most of it). Knowing the details makes the hunt more fun for me.

 

I am taking some writing and speaking courses and realized I write and speak the same way. I start with the last words, asking what do I want to leave in the reader’s mind. Everything I do builds up to and hopefully underscores and builds anticipation for that final page.  NLights

I believe all of life has spiritual undertones and lessons, so spiritual issues are handled the same way – if the big rocks are in place, the other things will not only seem smaller, they will be easier to resolve. Especially when I am reminded none of it is about me or controlled by me.

If that sounds too pat, I don’t mean it to. It’s just that the ‘big rocks’ – the final page of where I will spend eternity  being determined = truly affects all of my other life decisions 1-tearsremaincoverand reactions. Sometimes, life throws some huge curves like our daughter’s unexpected death, and the sudden tragedy of friends of our extended family losing several of their children in a fire.  And yes, when those things happen we find ourselves saying or thinking things like, “How can I go on?” Or, as Luke and Jodi Veldt did, wonder if anything in the world made sense – even their faith. (When Tears Remain – Discovery Series)

 

It took several months after our loss for me to feel God’s presence again. But trust me, even in that lost stage, all I could articulate were cries of, “Oh, God.” Yet, the Big Rock was there. I knew God was there no matter what I felt. And I knew as Cec Murphy says, “Feelings are just emotions and emotions are not reality.” Reality is found in that book in my girls hands.

laurierescan057But, still tumbling in the tsunami of grief, it felt impossible to find the rock to stand on. Ironically, knowing my daughter had settled her final page, and lived her life with that assurance, brought me first peace.

Scouring her notes to me led back to the scriptures she claimed through her life, then back to the date of my own calling to settle last things,  and back to God who had been there, of course, the entire time.

 

None of us know of course, what life will bring – or when. My heart breaks daily for those I know and those I read or hear about but don’t know personally who suffer tragic events. I pray for them because I cannot bear it but I know the one who can.

 

Do you?

 

love youDSCF0723What is written on your final page?

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When…

 

WHEN you pass through the waters, (I will be with you)angryman

WHEN you pass through the rivers (they will not sweep over you)

WHEN you walk through the fire (you will not be burned) – longer, ongoing,

What is the meaning of waters, rivers, fire in Isaiah 43:2?

The reading I have done show three types of trials and persecution

 

Waters – of a pressing, wearying, continuous grinding trial – generally of persecution for the cause of Christ. These are trials you can pass through because you are not alone. I am a lot like Peter, that when I am “in the water” I most often focus on the water, and fear the water’s potential for harm. But when I remember or am reminded that I am not alone, and I focus on the strength of the one beside me and the potential on the other side. Hope can be found by focusing on the horizon, rather than the circumstance.

 

Rivers – waters with potential of multiple and unstable currents, causing turbulence, a 2054significant number of rapids – especially near obstructions (rocks, etc) which can cause the water to flow back on itself or form a high wall of water. In Psalm 69, David cries out to God: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God…” These verses portend waters of judgment – not for David this time, but for his persecutors. Yet God allows walls of water to approach David, and us, dealing with so many pressing issues at once that we feel as if we were drowning. What good? To provide an experience of trust that God’s control of the waters could provide an ultimate good and display glory to God before others through the journey and the final outcome.

 

I’ve frequently spoken of the feelings of grief on losing a child – it certainly does come in huge waves that portend to drown and I wonder when I read this and saw that despite all of the tears from overwhelming feelings, David was still waiting on the Lord.

 

Fire – refines. It purifies. Good, right? But to get purified, it experiences what Peter (I Peter 4:12-13) refers to as fiery ordeals that come for our testing. Daniel also wrote (3:15-IMG_268817) of three men who literally had a trial by fire and told the king who commanded them into the furnace, “”If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. “But even if He does not…”

 

These are definitely deep tests of faith. Refining involves heating until molten in 1000 degree flame, stirring and skimming impurities away. The high pressure of the heat is necessary to root out the impurities and changing the configuration, purifying it, so all visible light is reflected from it.

 

Have you experienced any of these levels of trial and suffering? Then do not be despondent. Peter also made an astounding statement of instruction and encouragement regarding such experiences: “…to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”

 

So, the more I have to endure, the more I should (or need to) keep on rejoicing?   Whoa.

 

I have to admit this is beyond my understanding. But then, so is God. The times I have felt

Watch God Work!

Watch God Work!

closest to God were when fasting and praying through a trial or for a person or situation with the potential to devastate faith.   And when (sometimes years or decades later of prayer-fasting (weeks at a time or particular day or meal each week) I could look back and see how God was glorified through those actual circumstances, I could rejoice. And not just with an ok, I will rejoice attitude, but as Peter said – at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation –meaning extremely joyful and glad, clapping and shouting in happiness!

 

I am personally aware of many deep waters, rivers and fires among my Christian family, and I pray for you

 

to find the peace in rejoicing that our Lord chose to experience His sufferings on our behalf,

 

to be honored that you have been called to suffer for the cause of Christ and be a testimony to His faithfulness to be with us through the waters, the rivers and the fire, and

 

to accept and find hope that through your refining you can relate to and comfort others in their sufferings

 

I pray these things that you may be prepared for when Christ’s glory is revealed in allIMG_2909 of it, you may (are able) to rejoice with exultation!

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Happy Birthday, Laurie

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They lauriekev (2)speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

 

laurierescan007Most of my young life, I longed to be a mother, even before I knew what it meant. I just loved babies and the amazing evidence of God’s plan for life. I was young when I discovered my paternal grandmother was Native American and a healer, and about 9 when I met people of other ethnicities, cultures and customs. I was so impressed I told my mother I wanted those traits in myself and my children, concluding, “When I grow up I want to have 12 children – each one a different nationality.”   I remember her smile, her glance moving to Dad and back to me, and her saying, “We’ll see.”

 

Well on January 23, 1963 I became a mother for the first time. Tomorrow is the 53rd Slides0276_1anniversary of that wonderful experience. Yep, it was the days before Lamaze and ultrasounds and a physically painful experience (induced labor, 12 hours of hard contractions, that made my sister, tramping the hospital halls, swear to never have children) but was still one of my three great ‘close to God’ experiences.

 

Laurie grew up to have a super sense of humor, enjoy French, flute, math and eventually to be our ‘prairie girl.’ When she married and moved to the country in northern Wisconsin she began cooking and gardening with earnestness. She1-laurieplant made her own teas and cough drops for her children, who were seldom ill. She told me once of an epidemic going through school, with kids absent day after day img713 3
for weeks. The teacher said she had seen many times how Laurie’s kids would not get ill, and it was so ingrained in her that she dreamed one night that the entire school was empty – except for Aimee and Ben.

Open and loving to all people, Laure loved to host and prepare special foods for meals, gatherings, treats for work, and bonfires.  DSC_2036bonfire

 

 

 

 

 

She also became addicted to knitting and made purses,

img714 1puppets, felted birds, bowls, and decorated sewing kits as well as helping Doug create things and remodel the house.She loved her job and she loved to learn, study, and grow. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty.
img717 3She also loved being a Mom and an aunt. chasing David to get the Auntie-kiss he pretended he did not want…then when Michael was a student at Point and got the flu, she brought him soup and meds, and watched out for him, Kristin and others.Encouraging others and helping seemed ingrained.

Her love, acceptance, and giving extended beyond family and anyone who was important to those she cared about was important to her. She expressed her heart in music, and would email me or call me saying, “Mumzie, on the way to work I listened to (Seize the Day, There is a Redeemer, It is Well With My Soul) and it was so encouraging – I’m going to have an amazing day.   She loved jamming with the family.

1-FamilyJam2010
History of our country and our family was important to her, and some of our most special times were at the Native American festivals, and researching and studying together their herbs, their music, and their faith. I will continue that with her spirit at 1-nativecrossmy side.

 

We loved to make each other feel special on our birthdays. I often got calls, poetry, and a surprise package when weather or schedules did not permit our meeting in person. The rest of the family often experienced gifts that took time and a labor of love.

macklaurLike most mom’s I could hardly believe it to hear my daughter called Grandma! She

LaurieDoug-Gparentsadored that role, and would stop anything to sit down and play with the little ones, and teach them to love to cook and knit. She convinced Ken, her don’t like to travel Daddy, to travel across the country to meet her grandson Henry in Montana. IMG_6146

4GenerationsPR

We joked when she was a young mom what a passionate crusader she could be – imagining a poster of her with a breast pump in one hand and the Bible in the other.   Gardening became more of a passion than “just” providing excellent nutritious meals, as she also made salves, teas, and poultices for family and friends who had found no resolution from traditional remedies. She was confident in her passions, but gracious in her application.

I recall once I had an issue for weeks, had gone through several prescriptions without relief and doctors were considering hospitalization and tests to try to solve the issue. She called me and said, “Mom I don’t like feeling like I might be between you and your medical advice, but I would feel bad if I didn’t tell you what I know works for that tea cup medissue.” She sent us to find fennel tea (which I’d not heard of) and it did indeed soothe and resolve the issue within an hour. After that I began saving money and learning from her to look to our ancestors dry herbs, and make comfrey (which she planted in my yard one Mother’s day)and plantain salve, bee sting remedy, teas and to eat the greens I’d previously cut off and tossed.
Laurie lost her sense of smell as a toddler and when we were in Chicago, she said coworkers told her the original Chicago-style Popcorn company was there. I told her I could smell it, so we followed the scent, and went in, but when she read the ingredients she would not even 1-LaurieandIChicago 1-LaurieChicagotaste it.IMG_8999

So we went for a walk to find a healthy treat at MORE.  My toast to you today.

Organ donation was important to Laurie and was an extra reason to consistently say no to unhealthy foods – in case she went home to be with the Lord early she declared “my organs will be healthy.”

Some would say her dedication and gift of life to over 70 recipients was her final gift, but other gifts live on too. Reconciliation and determination of unity – whether it be her immediate family, our extended family, her work family, her BSF family, her neighborhood families, all of whom she touched in the circle of her life, was vital.

We enjoyed “sneaking off” and meeting at libraries that had a room where we could do a 1-ChicagotreatBible study together. We had great discussions and prayer and then – off to shopping and finding a good chocolate dessert – preferably decorated with swirls and professionally presented. Doug said to me that if anyone lived like Jesus, it was Laurie.

I think we made a million precious memories, and these are only a few. Laurie, I could go on and on, as you and Cheri and Kevin well know!

Laurie at IkeaBut for now, Happy Birthday C. G. Almott – the secret pen name you created from the meaning of your names Laurel (crowning glory) Lee (healer). So you would sign your poetry C. G. Almott Crowning Glory (at least most of the time).

You lived up to your name, and blessed family, friends and co-workers. We treasure every evidence of your time with us.

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After Losing a Child – Surviving Celebrations

Joy-betteJoy was missing. I felt terrible to admit I really didn’t want to celebrate Christmas this year, there has been so much loss, and so I didn’t say anything.   Instead of much shopping, and anticipation planning the menu, all was quiet. “Not sure yet, what we will do,” quieted the inquiries.

 

IMG_5463The realization that things will never again be the way they were, and not having the spirit to try to make new traditions was tough and depressing until a couple of things happened.

 

It seems I often react the opposite of most in many situations and this was no different.

 

Friends who lost loved ones told me they had difficulty sleeping for years after their loss. I had no problem sleeping (yes part of it is I do much of my writing all hours of the night) but thoughts and scenes came back to me when I awakened. So, I resisted awaking. I would close lauriedavefaith my eyes and try to fall back to sleep.

It must have worked that one day because I had a dream or vision of our daughter-in-heaven – and a very fed up daughter it was. Laurie put her face close, like she did when she had something important or tender to say.

It began when she was a toddler and she wanted her easily distracted mom to be sure to hear what she had to say. She would put her little hands on either side of my face and either nose-to-nose or forehead-to-forehead, how could a mom not melt – and listen?   She did it when she tucked me in when I slept at her house, calling me Mumzie, and she did it in Chicago on our last trip together – for some tender moments and also for her ‘teachable’ moments like “Mother, one piece of extremely awesome chocolate is enough. You don’t need to eat it until you get sick.”

LaurieMomairportNow in my dream I saw her coming close and expected a Mumzie moment. What she said, firmly and in her no-nonsense tone was, “Mother, GET UP!”

 

I woke with a smile.  Chuckling actually. It  was bittersweet, but it w1-5socks.xmasas just what I needed, and I went directly to the attic and pulled out the Christmas decorations. All five of our stockings (from way back when) went up, as did the little wall and table trees, and, of course, the nativity.

But now what?

 

 

 

1-kristinfrankhomeGranddaughter Kristin and hubby Frank surprised us with an invite to their new home, giving us a fresh setting for the day. She made our present Christmas a comfort. It was good to celebrate Christmas in a new setting. Food was great, conversations were good, and we took a brisk walk to undo a few of the calories from Christmas goodies.

 

We used to take a picture of all the grandkids lined up as they (and the family) grew each year. But now some are far away and unable to join us in person. Most of the great-grandkids consequently were not there either, but we were thankful for FaceTime and 1-grandkidsstairSkype and telephones and texts so we could see and visit with the rest of the family before, during and after our get-together. Kristin did set up a picture by their big tree, and of course pics of the little tykes bring joy.

 

We thought it would be a dark and lonely day, but we were reminded of the coming of Christ — the reason for the season. Fun was watching some  great-grandchildren  tear open small gifts. I felt they represented our future Christmases. 1-kimnmyah 1-tonyberries 1-Braexmas

 

A silly little gift exchange (everyone getting an unknown item in their little package and a choice to exchange gifts with someone else after shaking and squeezing the packages) was fun. It was meaningful too, because…

Included with each silly gift was a photo of a real gift given in remembrance of David and Laurie. Chickens, seeds, blankets, schooling, sports gear and more would brighten the lives of others far away giving the memory of our past Christmases a lasting difference with the hope of improving the future for others.

 

Honestly, I dreaded this season – and this day this year. But on the way home (though I did release more tears) I said well I didn’t just survive Christmas, but a bit like the character Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol, I had the privilege of a fresh view of Christmas past, present and future.  Joy came, after all.

 

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Review – Halo Found Hope – a memoir by Helo Matzelle

Each December I try to read a different Christmas-themed story on every day.  Two days toHelocover go after today in this December, but I’d like to share one of my selections that does not have a Christmas title, but does have a Christmas theme –

Hope!  Hope is what Christmas is about.  Hope is what we all need – not at one time or another but every day.  Helo has, and is living that.

Many of you are well aware (perhaps personally aware) that the major holidays and particularly Christmas can be depressing and hope-less feeling.  Whatever your circumstances or difficulties, I would encourage reading and sharing the story of Helo Matzelle. It has the potential to change your life, and the lives of others through you. Helo allowed her life to be changed and used for God’s glory at the shocking diagnosis, through surgery, and despite on-going changes and challenges of an adapted new-normal.

 

This tender and personal story has a lot to offer. A prayer answer from God in one of the final chapters says it for me: I loved you yesterday, I love you today, I will love you tomorrow. We all have different crosses to bear, some from yesterday we continue to drag along, some from today we struggle over, and we even worry about those that have not yet (but might) appear.

 

I’ve had the experience of a loved one’s diagnosis that make you look at every area of life, and obsess over what will happen next and how will we all bear it. Helo gave us the gift of hospital_bedsharing her personal journey as she would share with a friend.

 

Helo’s story helps me to understand the physical trials of many I can tell are disabled and, as meaningful to me, those who are disabled though not visibly.

 

How many of us have seen some apparently healthy looking person hop in or out of a car at a disabled spot and wondered or assumed unkind things? The prejudice and the unique opportunities Helo had in this regard following her surgery and long and arduous therapy opened my eyes to possibilities, new assumptions, and hopefully new opportunities to bless others.

 

The details of her story are gripping, the scriptures encouraging and the quotes inspiring and thought provoking. A favorite quote “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King.

 

Sometimes, we depend too much on only our own experiences to understand, relate to, wheelchairdreamand help others. It was a blessing to read Helo’s experience, to feel as though I walked along and watched her grow through physical, spiritual, mental and emotional challenges. Sure she got discouraged, angry and emotional, but each time she also found a determination to accept her new normal and make it the best she could with God’s help.  Helo found hope.

 

I hope to find a special someone with whom to share this dynamic and faith-stretching story. But first, I need to go through all of the bookmarks I placed and copy the multiple inspiring and confirming comments and quotes to remember! Helo found hope – and now she is giving it away!

Author Bio:
Helouise “Halo” Matzelle is the engaging author of Halo Found Hope: A Memoir. In January, 2011, at the age of forty-six, as a blessed wife and cherished mother of three, Helo was diagnosed with a rare tumor lying over the main artery in my brain. She remembers sitting quietly with her husband, Rich, on the day of diagnosis. He asked her to pray. Unable to speak, Helo softly whispered, “God, please make something beautiful out of Helopicthis.”

Defying medical odds, miracles unfolded. Eight weeks later, she returned home to twenty weeks of intensive rehabilitation learning how to: walk, talk, eat, think, and function over again. Helo learned where hope is always found and now she’s passing it on.

What started out as a diary, hidden in a drawer, is now titled, Halo Found Hope: A Memoir— recipient of the 2015 Independent Author Network Outstanding Non-fiction Book of the Year award in the Religion / Faith / Inspirational category. Helo’s journey was recently featured in the 2015 Oct/Nov Today’s Christian Living Magazine. Helo has also been blessed to share her testimony on multiple television and radio stations throughout the country.

Given a second chance at life, Helo cherishes every moment and considers life a gift. Helo’s faith in our Maker is her foundation. God blessed her with a natural ability to captivate audiences through speaking and she’s inspired crowds ranging from twenty to three thousand. Her passion is helping those facing various challenges and afflictions discover where hope is always found.

Helo is an encourager for the hopeless, a supporter of the disabled, and an advocate for the National Brain Tumor Society. Helo is a graduate from the University of Washington where she met her best friend and husband, Rich.  Formerly in marketing for Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Helo became a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her daughter, Lauren. Later the Matzelles were blessed with two sons: Jordan and Austin. She resides in Redmond, WA with her amazing family. 

I was given a copy of the book for my honest review. I am a member of the CWA review crew.

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A Basket of Hope

A Basket of Hope is a true family Christmas story that never gets old for me. I post in the hope that other families may get inspired to do similar things.  And Edna, if you are out there, I think of you often, but especially every Christmas. IMG_8850

I’d hidden the car a few blocks away. With finger-over-lips silently motioning, our three kids, ages 4, 6 and 7, climbed out of the station wagon, heading toward a softly-lit small weathered house set back from the highway. I felt like a cat burglar, with family-in-training, skulking along the bushes that separated the street and snow-filled ditch.

 

I paused to belatedly reassure myself that we hadn’t forgotten anything. Yep — the girls and I each had our assigned bags, and our little guy alternately carried and dragged a brightly painted red empty bushel basket.

 

Another car whizzed by and our little tow-headed son was amazingly solemn when I gently placed my flattened hand on his hat –our silent signal to scrunch down out of sight from the headlight glare. The girls also quietly ducked until the white light rode over us, the yard, and then finally slid over the snowbank by the road.

 

laurierescan056It was their idea after all. Laurie’s memorization of Luke 2: 8-14 for the Christmas play and multiple practices of its story of the babe with no place to lay his head had profoundly affected her and her siblings.

Cheri in particular always wanted to help anyone in need, so one Sunday our eyes met in understanding when she’d climbed into the car without her mittens, then shrugged her shoulders in response to her daddy’s inquiry, pointing to a red-mittened little girl plowing across the snow-covered field with her mom to the same weather-beaten house that now stood before us.

 

The idea began then, but I love to read a different Christmas story each night of the entire month of December and the reading of The Gift of the Magi where both husband and wife gave their precious possessions to purchase a gift for the other had cemented it. All three insisted they could give up one or more of their gifts for someone who probably would not get anything otherwise, and thus the plan was born. What parent could refuse such a selfless act?

 

laurierescan001Pajamas, cocoa and gloves for everyone, a doll for the little girl  a truck for her brother, and the makings of a simple Christmas meal were gathered and here we were, whispering and darting from one bush to the other.

Quietly the children circled the trees that flanked the sloping porch, Kevin placing the basket. I added plastic bags of food and raced with him behind the biggest bush at the edge of the yard while the girls quietly topped the basket with the wrapped gifts, knocked hard twice and raced back to join us collectively holding our breath as the door opened.

It was the dad — he stood on crutches, looking around to the left — to the right — then called his wife. She stepped out and also scanned the yard, then bent to pick up the basket. Two little faces appeared stair-stepped in the lighted doorway and excited squeals sounded as eager hands helped to lift and carry the packages in. Then the door closed off their wondering chatter. That was our signal and we ran like the wind, our mitten-clasped hands joining reverently this time for a dash across the field to the waiting, and by now, cold car. There was none of the usual clamoring for front seat, and no murmuring about the car’s chill as we each privately recalled the faces outlined in the doorway’s glow.

 

That Christmas was especially meaningful; but a few months later laurierescan003following an announcement at church that the father’s leg had healed, and he’d gotten a new job out of town, our hearts were unexpectedly touched again.

 

As Cheri and I were about to exit church behind our family, the mom stepped up behind me and slipped a plastic bag into my hand, which I could feel contained a frame. Don’t open it until you get home,” she admonished, “and,” she paused and whispered, “Merry Christmas.” I looked up in shocked dismay, wondering if she’d discovered our secret, but she shyly smiled and touching Cheri’s hair explained, “I’ve been working on this since your little one gave Edna the red mittens last December, so now it still seems kind of Christmassy. Hope you don’t mind, but those mittens were the start of our Christmas hope.”

Touched, I tearfully assured her we’d surely love whatever it was, and after last farewell hugs we rushed to the rest of the waiting family in the car. For once dinner could wait, and the moment we were in the door everyone hovered around the package as I drew out a simple cross-stitched picture of Mary and her contented baby Jesus, their hearts close.

IMG_8813It seemed to remind us that there was the place of Hope — close to the heart of Jesus. That picture still speaks the Christmas message in our home year-round and I wondered too if Cheri was treasuring the memory years later when she told me what she’d named her first little girl — Kristin Hope.

Christmas Blessings as you put hands and feet to your faith and hand out gifts of Hope.

 

 

 

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Last day – Goodreads Giveaway

Gift yourself

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Be the Miracle!

 

 

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Christmas Treasures

We don’t do a lot compared to much of America’s Christmas decorating.  I considered not decorating at all since it is a “different kind of Christmas” as Mark Schultz’s beautiful song puts it, due to the loss of a family member.

Thinking about Dickens’ Christmas Carol story, I realized that opposite of Scrooge, the ‘ghost’ of Christmas past was a treasure of memories for me. And so I share a few of those with you today.

Christmas stockings –IMG_8852

Dad, Mom,

Laurie, Cheri, Kevin

Hung since they were 1-1/2, 5 and 6 – for little gifts and a reminder behind them of the backstory of our family

Oh the childhood wonder of running down those stairs Christmas morning, to read the Gospel of Luke and to remember the backstory of Mary, Joseph and Jesus – the reason for the season.

Traditions grew with the family – and we added stockings until new IMG_8859families began their own Christmas traditions

…then we sent the grandkids stockings and their parents’ childhood homemade ornaments with them

But they always came home, and Doug started the tradition of serving pancakes to us on Christmas morning.

IMG_8857

It was also Doug’s idea that we go back to the stockings… he noticed how the children were tearing open gift after gift, not appreciating what they had in their hands, and forgetting to say thank you to the giver. So we started a new tradition that the gift had to fit in the stockings. The limit was $7.50 and we’d sometimes find the “change” in the stocking with the gift. Simple gifts made or found with love – and just as appreciated ….perhaps more.  But Grandma wondered – what will we do with all the time we used to spend after the reading of the IMG_8837Christmas story opening gifts?  The children said they would play music, sing and make puppet shows. and so they did.  I recall Michael about 4, playing Frank’s guitar standing upright, like an upright Bass, Aimee playing the flute, then  Ben, Kristin m Kim and David doing a puppet show and Faith singing silly songs, and later Aimee spending hours with all the younger kids creating amazing life-size objects that held Christmas gifts.

Nowadays we have a tiny tree-shaped garland that hangs on the wall, with meaningful ornaments. Like this handmade woodsman, from a nursery school child. and the nail, reminding us of  IMG_8815IMG_8819the cost of our ultimate gift.

The angel ornament on the left was made by children from Lydia’s home in Chicago – a reminder that giving is also IMG_8821a central reason for the season. The angel on the right, crocheted by an elderly aunt, a IMG_8814reminder of family gone before and on the Genesis window JOY, made by my sister-in-law Bette (now in Heaven with our David, and our Laurie and Debbie, and Marcus and many other loved ones)… JOY – in memories of Christmases past – JOY in knowing there is  HOPE for our future … generation to generation. IMG_8817

I remember Laurie, Cheri and Kevin reciting a little poem of the meaning of JOY – Jesus – Others – You –  and it is so true – whatever the circumstance, if I look to Christ, I get an eternal perspective, and when I do something for others it brings me joy.  My children all believe and practiced giving joy to others.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3John 4) 

Another precious memory is sharing this  verse  from Isaiah and others with my Daddy and imagining the hills, and the mountains, and all of creation bursting with songs of JOY.

Is. 55:12  “So you’ll go out in joy,

you’ll be led into a whole and complete life.

The mountains and hills will lead the parade,

bursting with song.

All the trees of the forest will join the procession,

exuberant with applause.”

 

 

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Teaching Kids to Give the Gift of YOU

Commercials, commercials everywhere – the ‘average’ child sees 1500 “suggestions” a day! Pre-Christmas season typically appeals 1Pub-RAM Panorama 8-20-14 72_0to develop natural tendencies like greed and jealousy.

 

Here is one way to teach them the tricks so they will recognize them:

Act it out by analyzing them:

Watch a TV commercial or cut out some advertisements and ask

Aimee's Pasties and other stories

Aimee’s Pasties and other stories

the kids:

  • What are they advertising?
  • Did what they show make you want it? If yes, why? (If no, why?)
  • Did the ad tell you when you should get it?
  • Did the ad say you (or the person in the commercial) need this thing
  • Did the ad convince you this item will make you happy? Why do you think that?
  • Did you ever see something advertised and you got it….but bummer, it didn’t taste or look, or work like it did on TV?
  • Did they tell you completely how much the item cost – or were there tiny words you could not read, or someone saying words so fast you could not tell when it was done if there were any extra costs?

Now – let them each choose “a product” from your home to advertise or sell it to the other children – remembering that all the ads when you go shopping are trying to make you think

  1. the product will make you happier than you are now
  2. you need the product right now – before it is gone or the deal is over
  3. make it look better than it really is

 

Then Choose a Project – or Two! img713 3

Make something for someone outside of your home

 

If you are crafty – pictures, cookies, picture frames, stories, Christmas cards, a lap blanket, or a gift of music that you deliver to someone who lives alone or in a nursing home laurie617

 

Or – be a missionary – make a list of jobs and their value from 5 to 25 cents (or more) – and each time a child completes a job they put the money in a jar – the contents of the jar can go toward a gift to a family in a faraway country (blankets, baby chicks, teach a child to read, fresh water, a baby cow for milk) or the jar and the change can be delivered by the family to a stranger or neighbor, or to Salvation Army or a local mission

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog/

 

Make a gift certificate for each other with words or pictures showing that you will do something for them they don’t like to do. (I will make your bed. I will take out the dog. I will match socks.) OR something you know that person would like (I will teach you to knit, I will help you make a snowman, I will read to you) Put them in decorated envelopes and put them on or under the tree.

 

Emphasize that your gift will not be just “advertising” or saying you will do something, but doing it!

 

While they are creating the gifts share or discuss 3kids

  • what the real Christmas gift is (Jesus – God’s son)
  • why we give gifts to each other
  • how we can give gifts of ourselves

This little exercise can help the kids untangle the language of advertisements, learn that gifts do not have to be things, and show them the value of a gift from the heart.

 

And don’t forget a gift for Jesus:

Poem: from In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti, c. 1872

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb,

If I were a wise man

I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give Him,

Give my heart. IMG_5679

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