Tag Archive | children

The Best of Times…The Worst of Times


Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …”
are the unforgettable words that begin A Tale of Two Citieswritten by Charles Dickens who also famously penned, “A Christmas Carol”.

 “It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …” are also, unfortunately, the words that many of us have used to emotionally and spiritually pen our Christmas stories and memories.

“It was the best of times …” are the 6 words jubilantly chosen to describe a holiday cup that is frothy and running over with cheer, gifts, healthy relationships and a beautifully decorated home.

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“It was the best of times …” seems to be the caption that is used to describe an iconic Rockwellian picture of a snow-decked landscape looking into the window of a red and green home that has an interesting yet functional family at its core.  The kids are throwing wrapping paper everywhere … the parents are still dressed in their robes with deep circles under their eyes yet are able to smile at the pictured noise and confusion … the holiday turkey is browning perfectly in the oven with its aroma wafting through the expectant air … and Gramma is on her way with a sleigh filled with pumpkin pies and figgy pudding!

It certainly IS the best of times!

“It was the worst of times” are often the December lyrics of choice when the bottom has fallen out of one’s shaky attempt at living.

Food stamps may be a daily reality and necessity.

The dysfunction of family relationships is a constant reminder of what is wrong with  life.

This Christmas may be spent in the terror of the ICU rather than by the warmth of a welcoming fireplace with eggnog in one hand and a Christmas cookie in the other.

Perhaps rather than torturous relationships to deal with, there is no family to gather around the sparsely bedecked caricature of Charlie Brown’s famous tree.

Money is scarce … health is questionable …  just one mortgage payment away from losing the family home … there will be no Santa Claus coming down the chimney this year to leave a memorable deposit of materialism under the lonely tree.

For you, Christmas this year, truly may be the worst of times.

However, I happen to believe, that judging the authenticity or joy of Christmas by what we have or do not have is a foolish and impulsive mistake of gargantuan proportions.

Christmas was never meant to be measured by human standards or by a glass that is gleefully half-full or agonizingly half-empty.

What one sees circumstantially is largely unable to coincide with earth’s attempt at fulfillment because of heaven’s promise of delivered joy!

See … it is not in what you do have or do not have that should determine how you are able to describe your Christmas this year or any calendar year!  It is always found … eternally found … in Who He is!

177427485He is joy when your life seems empty.

He is peace when all around you are in conflict.

He is hope when all human wells have run dry.

He is the Healer in a life that is sick, fragile and wasted.

He is Christmas!

He is what makes any day of any year the very best of times.

Don’t be so small in your expectations of a truly memorable Christmas that you boil it down to gifts, a bevy of celebratory people or how much red and green is strewn around your home.

Instead, this Christmas, remember what Christmastime is powerfully all about:

A young woman who has had her world invaded with the promise that with God … all things are possible!

The plans of a young man that were hurriedly changed because the God of the universe interrupted his human desire for happy ever after.

A manure-filled, mouse-scurrying stable that welcomed the Baby Who was born to be the King of all Kings.

Shepherds, with dirt under the fingernails, grime in their brains and sheep drool on their robes who were invited to sing with the angels!

A song so loud and so triumphant that it broke through the coldness and darkness of a world in pain to prounouce, “Let there be joy!”

Although I don’t know the pain of your past or the stark reality of the Christmas that will be remembered as 2013, this is what I do know about you and your life …

You are loved by the God Who sent His Son into the darkness and confusion of the warzone of life this side of eternity.

The angels still invite modern day shepherds to sing … to sing loudly … to sing triumphantly!

Although your desire for “happy ever after” may be marred by the mess you have made of your life … God still has the power to intervene because of Christmas!

And … the message that the angel delivered to an incredulous virgin girl is still heaven’s message to you today … nothing is impossible with God!

And so … whatever circumstances you face today … my prayer is that your life will be remembered as a lasting and genuine Christmas Carol because finally … you understand … you eternally comprehend what the best of times has always been about!

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Just These Three Things

babyChildren … there is nothing like the heart of a little person to rearrange your priorities, refine your theology and restore your hope.

“Through the praises of children and infants

 You have established a strong hold

 against Your enemies.”

Psalm 8:2 – NIV

I love to listen to children talk about God.  I love to hear their praises … to watch their heartfelt enthusiasm … and to know that they understand the love of the Father.

Children know.  They know God in a particular way that most adults do not begin to grasp.  They know that God is love and that He is powerful.

They know that God is a giant-killer … a life-giver … and a mountain-mover.

Children know.

Children are the very best prayer warriors that I know.  They pray in unabashed faith and enthusiastically expect a response from heaven!  If you have lingering doubts about life … ask a child to pray for you!  There is nothing quite like it!

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,

‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever then humbles himself as this child,

he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” –

Matthew 18:3-5

 Is it because they are so fresh from heaven?  Is that why children have an insight into the heart and character of God that is sometimes missing in older, more mature and “wiser” adults?

Do babies remember what heaven smells like?  Do toddlers recall the joy around the throne of God?  Are pre-schoolers able to catch a whiff of the love of the Father while living on earth?

If nothing else, children know that God loves children.  They know.

The innocence of a child is a strong magnet to the presence of God.  Little ones are most at home in the joy of His presence.  Is it any wonder that there was a special place in the heart of Jesus for children?

One day children were brought to Jesus

 in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. 

The disciples shooed them off.

 But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone,

 don’t prevent them from coming to me. 

God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”

 – Matthew 19:13 & 14 – The Message

olivia mcleodolivia mcleod 2olivia mcleod 3olivia mcleod & marmeeOlivia is my adorable, precocious, administrative, creative and anointed little bundle of granddaughterly joy!  She was the first grandchild born into this clan and will ever hold a place of sweet delight in my Marmee’s heart.

Olivia loves to design doll clothes, write books, go to ballet lessons, take care of her little brothers and has an insatiable desire to know more about God.  Although only 5 years old, Olivia is filled with a wisdom that I long for at times!

A few weeks ago it was Kids’ Day at Faith Family Church in Victoria, TX.  All of the school age children were allowed to stay in the big service and Pastor Jim Graff had a message that he had prepared especially for them. 

These are the notes, in Olivia’s own handwriting that she wrote that day:

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

Olivia got it right, didn’t she?  That is all the theology that she needs in her tender and formative years.  Maybe it is all the theology that you and I need as well.

little girl

God is with you!  What a promise!  You serve a God Who will never leave you regardless of how you act, what you’ve done or where you are going.  He is more than a social sidekick or a nagging shadow.  He is not an obnoxious tag-along or the constant reminder of yesterday’s mistakes.  God’s presence and love are inescapable companions as you travel life this side of heaven.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.  When everyone else has deserted you … you have a friend that is closer than a brother.  Ah-h-h-h … you are not alone!  Thanks for the sweet reminder, Olivia.

la main de la mère

You are special!  What a great memo from Olivia’s 5 year old heart!  There is no one like you … you are one of a kind.  You have a destiny that has never been shared by another human being in all of history.  God has uniquely fashioned you for such a time as this.  Comparing yourself with others is a total and complete waste of energy because there is no one like you … and there is no one like them!  So get busy being you!  Be the you that God made you to be … today!  Olivia … there will never be another Olivia Mae McLeod!  You are you … and that is enough … that is more than enough!

You are God’s child.  That’s right … you belong.  You belong to Your Dad.  You are His wanted and dearly loved child.  You are part of the greatest family ever created … the family of the most-high God!  There is never any possible reason to wonder who you are … you are God’s child!  What an honor!  When others reject you or forget you … you are God’s child!  When your family ignores you and your friends avoid you … you are God’s child!  His embrace is big enough and powerful enough to calm your fears and to lead the way. 

Olivia … I hope that you always remember these 3 important sentences.

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

  I hope that when you are 12 and are struggling with self-esteem that you remember.

I hope that when you are 18 and face an unknown future that you remember.

I hope that when you are raising a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that you remember.

I hope that when another little girl … at another moment in history … calls you “Marmee” … that you remember …

God is with you.

You are special.

You are God’s child.

MY FAVORITE THINGS

blog pic favorite thingsDay 17 – Listen to the voices of children … look into their eyes … smile at them … hug them!

There is nothing so miraculous as the voice and insight of a child.
There is something so magical and eternal about the sparkle in the eyes of a child.
When a child breaks into a grin … it’s as if the entire universe is smiling!
And, to hug a child, is to mold the future.
Assertively and proactively look for children to influence and to love.  Children in the neighborhood … children at church … children at the grocery store … children in a restaurant … children in your own family … children in your own home.
You will be richer for your investment in the life of a child.
A day is never wasted when spent in the presence of a little one.
Hold babies.  It is not a waste of time.  It is an investment in the history of tomorrow.  Babies don’t need much in terms of materialism.  All they really come into the world desiring is just for someone to love them and nurture them.
You don’t need to buy children “stuff” or “things” … but they do ache to make a memory or two with you.
Bake cookies together.
Go for a walk and look for frogs.
Spread a blanket out on the grass at night and count the stars.
Go to the library and read 10 books out loud.
Make an ice cream sundae and share it.
Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park.
Hold the babies in your life.  Rock them.  Sing to them.  It is time that you will never, ever regret.

Little Girl Dreams

When I was a little girl I wanted to marry a pastor …. CHECK!

When I was a little girl I wanted to have a lot of babies … CHECK!

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher … CHECK!

When I was a little girl I wanted to write books … CHECK!

Actually … when I was a little girl I wanted to write books that would make a difference.  I wanted to write books that would be in every library in America.  I wanted to write books that would change people’s lives and take them places that they had never before been.  Even when I was a little girl, I wanted to write books that would heal people’s hearts.  I guess it is not time to “CHECK!” that one off my list just yet.

When I was a little girl I wanted to make a difference in the Kingdom of God …. but I didn’t know how that was going to happen.  H-m-m-m … will this one ever deserve an emphatic “CHECK!”?

When I was a little girl, because my father loved the Lord so completely, I wanted to love Him, too.

When I was a little girl, because my father loved the Bible so passionately, I wanted to love the Bible, too.

It was really my father who put the dream in my heart to be a part of God’s strategy at this time in history.  However, being a child of the 1950’s and 1960’s and then a teen of the early 1970’s … there weren’t many women in ministry.

Certainly, there was Kathryn Kuhlman who had a dynamic healing ministry and my parents took me to her meetings.  I experienced the power and the presence of God in life-changing ways in those meetings.  However, I wasn’t sure that I was called to do what Kathryn Kuhlman was called to do.  Although I certainly respected her anointing, I knew that Kathryn’s anointing was unique to her.

My dad would read me biographies and tell me the stories of great women missionaries.  He told me of the martyrdom of Betty Stam, of the calling of Darlene Rose and of the commitment of Elizabeth Elliot. (By the way, I highly recommend that you “Google” these women and read their life stories.)

It was exhilarating to realize that God used women!  God used little girls who grew up to change the world for Christ and His Kingdom.  However, I wasn’t sure that I was called to serve God on foreign soil.  I was certainly willing to do so … but felt that perhaps my calling would be different than the call across the ocean.

And so, as my little girl years melted into the teen years and then as I faced college, I had no idea what to major in at my Christian university!

If I majored in piano … I could be a great pastor’s wife, right?!  Don’t all pastor’s wife’s play piano and teach Sunday School?  Maybe I should minor in Christian Education?!

Were women even allowed to major in Theology?  In Hebrew or in Greek?  Or would that be perceived as too aggressive?  Too feminist?

And then, one day during my freshman year in college, Kathryn Kuhlman came and spoke in chapel.  This Kathryn Kuhlman of my youth prayed for a new generation of men and women to rise up and change the world for Christ.  She prayed, as only Kathryn Kuhlman could pray, with a waving of her white chiffon-draped arm over the entire 3,000 member student body.  I believed that her prayer was for me, and me alone.

A year or two later, Corrie ten Boom spoke at the college chapel service.  She told of her years of imprisonment in a World War II concentration camp and then she taught the Word of God.  She dealt with the sin of unforgiveness. Her teaching was rich with Scriptural references as well as personal illustrations.  She called herself “a tramp for the Lord” and at that moment, I wanted to tramp right along with Corrie!

And so here I stand today.  I have been married to a pastor for over 35 years and have raised 5 marvelous children to young adulthood.  I have taught high school Latin and English to hundreds of students over the years.  And, I have written 3 books that are my attempt at making a difference in women’s lives.

Life is a journey, isn’t it?  From the days of little girl dreams … to big girl realities … to adult check lists;  God is using each conversation, each prayer and each person to craft us into the women (and men!) that we are today.

The important reminder in all of my ponderings today is to keep on dreaming!  Don’t ever stifle the little girl dream that was early birthed in your young heart.

Keep on praying!  Keep believing God for great things in your life!

Keep learning and exposing yourself to people who are changing the world!

And now … if you will excuse me … I have to get back to studying the Word of God and to writing a new book proposal!  I have magnificent things to accomplish for the Lord before this day is over!  How about you?!  What will you spend your day doing?!

Joy for TODAY

Autumn must be the most glorious of months.  I look out my window and see the green grass of summer now scattered with the brilliance of red, yellow and orange leaves.

The placid geese of the summer that I encounter on my daily walk are now showing off.  They are skidding across the pond with a magnificent demonstration of splash and strength as they prepare for the long journey ahead.

A drive through the country-side holds more inspiration and beauty than the finest art gallery in the world.  The hills are ablaze with a riot of color that no human paintbrush could reveal.

If autumn is so miraculous … then why do I dread it so much?  Why does my heart constrict in pain every time I see another leave fall to the ground and hear another goose honk its travel plans over my home?!

It’s because I cringe at the very thought that snowflakes are not too far away.  Winter is NOT my best friend … and the thought of mountains of snow, frigid temperatures and the absence of Mr. Sunshine chills me to the bone.

I have a problem.  I have allowed my distress at the onslaught of winter to rob me of the joy of today.  And tomorrow.  And an entire season of the year!  It’s time for me to grab control of my out-of-control emotions and embrace the joy of today.

For you … it might not be the dread of the coldest of seasons that denies you the joy of the moment but it might be something else.

Perhaps you cringe at the thought of a child preparing for college and so you cry your way through their senior year.  You sob at the last football game and forget the victories won.  You blubber through choir concerts, teachers’ conferences and packing the final sack lunches.

You might be dreading the last few days of the pre-school years and so rather than celebrate all that is ahead, you pour through baby books and wipe your tears with receiving blankets.

Perhaps you shudder when contemplating your looming retirement from a career that was fulfilling and challenging.  Rather than crafting a plan to continue valuable friendships you find yourself withdrawing from the camaraderie of the workplace into a sullen shell.

What is it with us?!  We can just be so horribly human at times!

This is what I have come to realize … God has been to my future and it is good!  He is working every event and circumstance of my life for my highest good and His greatest glory just because I love Him.

There is not a day in life that is worth dreading or withdrawing from.  Every day is a gift … an extraordinary gift.  There is no such thing as an “ordinary” day or even a “bad” day when you are living for a purpose greater than your own.

Whether you are shoveling snow or planting flowers … whether you are changing diapers or waving good-bye … whether you are up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn or can spend a leisurely morning over a cup of coffee and good book … remind yourself that life is a gift.

Every day is a rare and priceless treasure that is meant to be valued not dreaded.  I will not waste one day.  Not one hour.  Not one minute.  I will never again take for granted the joy of a glorious day.

I am determined to live well today.  Passionately and wholeheartedly.  How about you?  Will you put away your dread … your fear … your anxieties … and your regrets? Will you dive into a life that was meant to be experienced with laughter and delight?!

It is the deepest hope and prayer of my heart that you will decide that today is worth celebrating no matter what is behind you or in front of you.  And … while you are deciding … will you excuse me?  I need to go …

There are some geese outside putting on a show that deserves my full attention!