Tag Archive | christmas

It’s So Beautiful…It Makes My Heart Hurt

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Have you ever treasured a memory so deeply in your soul that not only does your mind recall the facts of the moment but your heart also is instantly tied to the memory with intense and poignant feelings?

Such is the memory that I have of a December evening when I was only 6 years old …

I attended kindergarten that morning in the one room schoolhouse that was just around the corner and up the street from the safe haven of my home.  I lived in that century old home with my mom and dad, my older sister, a younger brother who loved to tease, a collie named Lassie and a white cat named Tinkerbell.

It was a snowy, wintery day in Western New York and I had spent the after school hours sledding with my older sister and with the “redheads” from across the street. My toes were nearly frostbitten from the time happily spent in the sub-freezing elements. My mother, after taking off all of my snow-caked outer garments at the door,  handed me a fresh nightgown that had been warmed in the dryer. She then stood me on top of our old-fashioned register where the heat came blazing up from the basement furnace.

My mom put “The King Family Christmas Album” on our record player so that I would have Christmas music to listen to while I was slowly warmed from the tiny register holes.

I revolved around in a little girl circle while the heat found its way to warm my numb toes, raw fingers and red nose. While facing one direction, I saw the piano sitting in the corner of the oversized room; in another direction, I saw the dining room table bedecked for Christmas in true 1960’s fashion; and in the third direction I looked into my parents’ bedroom and at their huge canopy bed.

The fourth view that completed my slow rotation was out the front windows of my home and at the Post Office across the street. I remember that the snow was gently falling down around the little brown building which was truly no more than a glorified shack of governmental importance. The postmaster, Mr. Hawley, had just the day before strung lights around the roof and windows of the US Post Office located directly across the street from my girlhood home.

My slow circle stopped the moment that I looked across the street at the obscure building.

As the King Family sang of city sidewalks, chestnuts roasting and finally about a Baby Boy, I stopped my circling and just stared, transfixed at the beauty of the brown building surrounded by Christmas lights.

I remember placing my hand on my chest because what I was experiencing in that moment was so wonderful and grand that it made my heart hurt.  As I wiped the tears away from my no longer frozen cheeks, my mom walked into the room.

“Why, Carol!” she exclaimed. “Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”

I didn’t even realize until that moment that there were tears on my cheeks. I responded, “Mom … it’s all so beautiful. It makes my heart hurt.”

The joy from my heart was leaking out of my eyes and down my innocent cheeks.  A little brown shingled building … decorated with Christmas lights … made my heart hurt.

And with repeating those words to you today … I can still feel the glorious pain all over again.

Christmas is so beautiful … so filled with wonder and glory … that it makes my heart hurt to this very day.

merry-christmas

When Christmas lights up the ordinariness of my feeble attempt at life, the raw marvel paints a picture of stunning impact. When viewed without the message of the manger, my life is truly just a shack of little significance and certain obscurity.

However, when I dress my life in the majesty of the manger and with the glory of the angel’s song it is then that I become who I was always made to be.  When the human hut of my life is changed by the purpose of the manger and by the star that led the way to His dear presence, I realize why my heart aches for something more than this world offers.

Even now … the joy of Christmas is leaking out of my eyes and my wizened heart hurts with the joy of it all.

Has the joy of Christmas changed you? Have you allowed the miracle of the manger to decorate the humdrum of your life?  My prayer for you this year is that you will take a moment out of the busyness … and away from the craziness… and observe with no distractions what the glory of Christmas is truly all about.

I hope that you will warm yourself with the joy of His presence.  I hope that you will hear the angels’ song and that your heart will constrict in sheer and joyous pain.

I pray that you will have a moment when the joy of Christmas leaks out of your eyes and onto your face.

Your life was always meant to be more than a shack … a hovel … a hut of humanity. Your life was meant to be the showplace of Christmas every day of every year.

Merry Christmas with joy –

Carol

Makes my heart hurt blog pic 1

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What Will You Give This Christmas Season?

The men and women in the story of Christ‘s birth…gave more than they could afford…in order to be involved in the plan of God. What are you giving this year?

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!

MY FAVORITE THINGS

blog pic favorite thingsDay 31 – Read Your Bible!

Of all of the choices that you will make in 2013, there is none so powerful as the choice to read your Bible!
Reading your Bible every day will cleanse you and direct you.  It will enable you and empower you!  Reading your Bible on a daily basis will strengthen you and give you heaven’s joy for earth’s journey.
A daily discipline of being in the Word of God every day will:
Deliver you from depression!
Help you to focus on the eternal!
Improve your prayer life!
Give you the resolve to forgive!
Remind you to worship!
This one choice of spending time in the Word of God every day will turn you into the very best version of yourself!
Reading your Bible is better than:

Losing weight!  Going to Hawaii!  Buying a new home!  Finding a husband!  Having a baby!  Winning the lottery!

Reading your Bible will quickly evolve from a “have-to” … to a “want-to” … to a “must-do”!
So … after you get up every morning of 2013 and pray this prayer, “Lord, I will seek You first and foremost today!  I will never give up my pursuit of all that You are and all that You have for me …”
Your next choice will be to open your Bible! Declare it with me now, “I resolve to read my Bible every day of 2013!”

MY FAVORITE THINGS

blog pic favorite thingsDay 30 – Read a Devotional Every Day.

I love reading the heartfelt thoughts and inspirational insights of men and women of God who have embraced the principles found only in the Bible.
Every day, after I read the Word of God, I spend a few extra minutes in devotional readings.  It is like a clear, cool drink of water on an excruciatingly hot desert day!
Some of my favorite devotional books have been handed down in my family for generations.  I love to see what insight and wisdom my father chose to underline in these precious daily readings.  It is a treasure to trace my great-aunt’s writings in the margins and know that the Holy Spirit spoke to her through these very same written thoughts.

My three favorite devotional books are:

“My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers
“Morning and Evening”  by Charles Spurgeon
“Streams in the Desert”  by Mrs. Charles Cowan
I have also been delighted to devour contemporary devotionals written by some of the great men and women of this generation on YouVersion which is an app on smartphones or can be accessed through the internet.  There are hundreds of daily devotionals found in this venue that are easily read and daily delivered to your “inbox”.
Many days of life are difficult days and we need to do everything possible to strengthen our souls with the resolve and nurture of heaven’s power.  One of the many ways this strength has aimed itself at my fragile life is through the unconquerable wisdom found in devotional readings.  I am a better and stronger woman because men and women of other generations have penned wisdom for me.  What a gift!

MY FAVORITE THINGS

blog pic favorite thingsDay 29 – Memorize a Scripture verse every month!

Memorizing Scripture verses is not just for kids in Sunday School but it is for all of God’s children regardless of age!
The Bible tells us, in Psalm 119: 11, “Your Word have I treasured (hid) in my heart that I may not sin against You.”
When you commit the Word of God to your memory, you are building a high-power defense system in your life.  You will be able to stand against the schemes of the enemy with a resolve and power that is truly from the throne room of the Most High God.
“I delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your Word.” – Psalm 119:17.
Of all of the things that you need to remember in life, do not forget to remember the Word of God!  It is so much more than a discipline … it is truly a delight!  There is no way to describe the joy that you will experience as God’s Word fills your heart and mind as you go through a difficult day.
“Even though princes sit and talk against me, your servant meditates on Your statues.” – Psalm 119:23
No matter who is talking about you or against you, the Word of God will define your life in a way that nothing else can.  It will give you a definite and abiding strength as you navigate difficult relationships and people.  The Word will guard you from the onslaught of vicious and cruel people!
“My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your Word.” – Psalm 119:28.  When you are going through dark days and lonely valleys, it will be the Word of God that gives you a divine strength.  You need to memorize a Bible verse or two before your next storm so that the Word can stabilize you as you travel through the storm!
Memorize one Scripture verse every month.  Where to start, you might ask?  Well … I have just given you 4 incredible verses in this short essay!  Go for it!

MY FAVORITE THINGS

blog pic favorite thingsDay 28 – Treat someone!

One of the greatest delights in my marriage has always been when Craig and I go out to eat and we look around the restaurant and pray for the people in the room.  Often, we will tell our waitress to give us the check of another family who is dining at another table.  We tell her not to tell them who picked up their check, but just to let them know that God is taking care of them!  What fun!
Sometimes when I am in the drive through at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop, I will tell the person in the window that I am paying for the car behind me.  It doesn’t cost much … perhaps less than $2 … but Oh!  The joy of knowing that I have just blessed some unsuspecting person!
Life is so short and sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest difference.  What extraordinary joy to give for no reason at all!
What blessing to be part of God’s gift giving strategy!
If you are weary today … give to someone else!  Buy a cup of coffee!
Tip your waitress with a $10 rather than a $5!  If she deserves a $10 … give her a $20!  There is no end to the pleasure of giving not because someone deserves it but because we serve a God Who knows the joy of 100 fold giving!
How about buying ice cream for all the neighborhood kids when that ice cream truck rings its little bell?
How about inviting that newly widowed woman at church out to Sunday lunch with you and your family?
How about slipping your pastor a gift card to the mall?
How about it?!
And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” – Matthew 10:34
“Give, and it will be given to you.  They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together and running over.  For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” – Luke 6:38