Friday

Christmas memories bring comfort and joy

Last year, right after Christmas, I picked up a book, marked down in price, titled “Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays,” by Elaine St. James. As far as I know it is not a religious book, but it is something that everyone should read because, as church people know, the hustle and bustle the holidays bring is no different for us than anyone who does not attend church regularly.

One of the first suggestions St. James asked her readers to do was to reflect on what they used to enjoy about the holiday. I thought this was a good exercise so I took time to think about it.
The interesting thing was that all of my enjoyable reflections centered around family and friends.
There were the nights before Christmas when my cousin and I huddled under the covers listening for Santa and his reindeer to land on the roof. My cousin claimed to have heard this once. I never did. However, I did hear a lot of rustling and stifled laughter coming from the living room as our parents got everything ready for the big morning.

There were the long ago Christmas Eves spent with family, when we ate in a restaurant, went to church for the annual pageant and then, at midnight, after unwrapping some gifts, sang carols while another cousin accompanied us on the piano.

There was that first Christmas away from family when as a newlywed couple, my first husband and I had the best time ever opening gifts that had been a struggle to buy. Of course, my parents vowed never to spend another Christmas apart from us and that was good, but that first year sure was special.

There were three Christmas mornings on which three separate children experienced the joy of unwrapping gifts for the first time. While the little one didn’t know what was going on, we grownups and the older children sure had a good time laughing together.

And then there were the last four Christmases spending time getting to know a new family and learning to come together.

Reflecting on these simple, enjoyable times make the holiday truly wonderful. It’s not the presents; it’s not all the hustle and bustle. It’s about enjoying the season together. And, if you think about it, that’s all Mary and Joseph had on the very first Christmas – each other, and the brand new package literally sent from heaven. It probably was not easy for them, but they were together, warm and cozy in that stable, listening to the shepherds speak about singing angels. I’m sure that is a memory that lived in their minds for years to come.

This Christmas season, before the rush of the big week begins, take some time to think about what you enjoy about the holiday and thank God for it. Gratefulness will bring you great comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday

"If I had a tiara ..."

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a short trip to Trinidad and stayed overnight in a bed and breakfast. While in the otherwise very nicely restored Victorian, I felt strange. It just felt like there was something in that room that didn't want me there. I promise that I am mentally sound; I really felt this.

In the church we are taught that there is a "great cloud of witnesses" watching us. These are the saints who have gone on before us. We are also taught that there is another dimension to this, an evil one that also watches. This seemed to be what I was feeling.

"Go away," I said while sitting in the room alone. "I am a child of God."

And guess what? I didn't feel that strange feeling any more and our time there was very enjoyable.

The next day I was wandering around a gift store and found a notebook that said "I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world." I chuckled at this because I remembered all the times in college when I thought that my contributions to society would actually save the world. And then I thought of the wealth given to the kings and queens in this world and how they might be able to solve some problems. The statement seemed to hit me on many levels so I bought the book.

After a while I started thinking about the incident in the hotel room and the saying on the notebook. It's true, you know. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ is royalty. We are co-heirs with Christ to the riches of God. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory," Romans 8: 17 (NIV).

I may not have a tiara or a cape but I am connected to the greatest king that ever was and ever will be. Perhaps in some small way I can "save" the world. Maybe,in some way God will use me to change the corner of the world in which I live. All I need to do is use my talents in the best way possible and trust him for the results. I may not know what effect my actions may have, but that's okay.

What am I thankful for?

This week our newspaper is asking for readers’ stories about what makes them thankful. So, I thought with Thanksgiving coming I’d start the ball rolling, so to speak, and write about what I am thankful for in David Letterman style, no less.

So here it is. The top 10 things for which I am thankful ... drum roll please ...

10. My dog: I know, it’s weird, but that furry little dog brings me a lot of joy, even if he does tear up the furniture when hunting for mice.
9. A warm house: Winter is coming. I thank God for the blessing of living in a sturdy, warm house.

8. My job: Many in this nation do not have jobs right now. I am grateful to have one that I enjoy. Remember those who may need our help this holiday season.

7. Road trips: Mike and I had a great mini-vacation last weekend. We drove around appreciating Colorado’s beautiful scenery. This truly is God’s country!

6. America: This country may have its problems, but it is the best nation on earth in which to live. We have an astounding history and our Constitution is like no other country’s founding document. Thank God for the wisdom our Founding Fathers had when they thought through the concept of our nation.

5. My church, pastor and his family: I cannot think of all the times that my church has been there for me when I am in trouble. On Sunday it felt good to worship freely and without fear.

4. My coworkers: Everyone in this office is friendly and works hard. We do a lot during the week and I think at the end of the day we can rest knowing that the day’s work was a job well done.

3. Family: I love my boys. We’ve been through some rough times, but things are working out well. I am also thankful for Mike’s side of the family and my parents. God has indeed blessed me.

2. Husband: My husband is very good to me. We have a strong friendship and a deep affection for one another. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day.

And the number one thing for which I am thankful (drum roll):

1. Abundant life: Life as a Christian may not always be easy, but it is worth every minute. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

Stop sometime this week and think about 10 reasons to be grateful. The reasons are there, sometimes you just have to stop and think. I knew an old preacher once that used to say “Count your blessings. Weigh them ton by ton.”

That’s true, you know.