Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012, Start Your Engine

I'm going to beat the New Year's clock by a few days. Here are my... hopes for 2012:

Exercise in some way five days a week. I’d love for this to be at the gym with sweat involved. (When was the last time I exerted so much energy, sweat was involved? I don’t even know if my sweat glands work…) Realistically speaking, this will probably be a balancing act between gym visits, my bedroom treadmill or just parking far away from the door to the store and hoofing it.
Cook less. Less? Really? Yes. I’m a great cook. Ask anybody. But, my time (and waist) has focused on food for way too many years. Oh, I’ll still rustle up something healthy most nights, but I’m convicted to spend less hours at the counter and more with life. I want to eat whatever and have time to spend on people, outdoors, hobbies and most of all God.
Cut em some slack. Don’t we all wish for that? Age does have a few benefits and one that I’m so glad to acquire is grace. When I was younger, I judged people with lightening speed. “How in the world could she do that?” “What was he thinking? Is he just stupid?” Ouch. Maybe it’s because God has had to teach me this humility lesson several times by showing me my own failures that I’m more able to look beyond and see the person. Oh, I’m still tempted to think those judgemental things and sometimes people really are mind-boggling, but it’s a part of life. And life moves too quickly to pass up the chance to extend grace. Instead, I want to hear myself say, “They’re a work in progress just like I am.”
Make dates with God. I often lead Bible studies, so spending time with my Bible isn’t always a struggle. But, honestly, there are times when I’m after the answer to the question and don’t catch the bigger meaning for my heart. Ashamed to say it, but it’s more like a task on my list on those days, instead of a treat. So, I will take each session with a slower pace, and prayerfully ask Him to change my approach.
Shhhh. I need more stillness. Even though I don’t have kids at home any longer, it’s still way too noisy in my house. The washer beeps to change the load, my iPhone blings an instant message, the dog whines to go out - again, and of course, the television blares babble in the background. So, if it means turning off all electronics, bundling up and taking a walk alone or even driving to a lovely but lonely corner of the county and parking the quiet car, I’m going to add stillness to my soul. The writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery voiced this so well: "The great of the earth are those who leave silence and solitude around themselves, their work and their life, and let it ripen of its own accord."
Make room for fun. I have super fun adult kids who make me laugh. My friends are assorted sizes, ages and temperaments. I love the arts, good music, photography, hiking, a trip to the mountains or a sunset walk on a beach. And I would treasure a chance to travel to places I’ve never been. Good books feed my mind and sometimes my soul. Games challenge me and planting flowers brings me smiles. And writing… that’s the expression I’ve known since childhood. All of these things are fun in my world. In 2012, there will be 527,040 minutes. Most likely, I’ll spend 2908 of those asleep. That leaves me 524,132 to have fun. And instead of doing math problems like these, I’m heading out the door!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Early Christmas Morning

Two children sleeping soundly under mounds of covers. The kitchen clock ticks away while my mug of coffee steams beside the couch. I've listened to scripture on this day of Christ's birth and wondered at how God could send Jesus to be away from his side for 33 years. My heart aches for my kids when they're gone for a few days. I revel when they're here. Inside, my heart is singing.

Christmas morning. How I thoroughly enjoyed it when my kids were little. I would often beat them out of bed and ready the breakfast table. Santa would leave their stockings bulging by their plates. I'd quietly turn on the tree, light the candles and above all else, start the coffee! Then, I would hear soft padding of slippers coming down the hall and the joy would begin.

My children are grown now, unmarried and here for Christmas. Both of them sang at our Christmas Eve services being light to thousands in the sanctuary. As I watched them on stage, I uttered a mother's prayer over and over. One that I'm sure is common for most of us when we see our kids serving the King. Nothing fancy or eloquent, but straight from my heart - "Thank You, Jesus. Thank You."

The candles are lit, the stockings wait at the table and I'm on my second mug. In a few minutes, I'll have to wake them up. The joy will begin. But for just a few seconds, if I close my eyes, I can still hear slippered feet padding down the hall.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hanging On?

It was one of those moments this morning. I looked out my window at the tall sycamore. The brilliant December sun lit it up like a Christmas display and as I uttered a prayer of thanks, I noticed one leaf on a branch dangling in the breeze. There are a few stragglers left hanging, but I focused on this one at the end of it's branch. That's when I had a flash of "Oh, this is like that."

The last leaf to let go. Ever been there? Hanging on to something afraid to let go? Your knuckles aching but your fear driving you to keep that grip. Because, who knows what awaits if you surrender and release? Maybe all around you have moved on and you're the last. They might even be shouting from below, "Come on, let go. It's great here and we're all waiting for you." So, what's holding you back? Are you happy there dangling by yourself but determined?

Eventually, some winter wind or the burden of snow will take the leaf down. Sometimes, the cruel winds and burdens of life knock us down. Most of us can give examples of those times. But, are there times when God's waiting for you to let go so that he can move you to something better? Are you postponing a life changing experience?

Can you hear someone shouting to you? "Come on, let go. I'm waiting for you."

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

- Proverbs 3:5-6

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Born on Christmas Day

"Oh, your birthday is Christmas Day? Well, I'm sure you celebrate it on another day, right?"

Haven't you heard someone say this to a child? Maybe you've thought it. It seems unfair that on their birthday - a day that's traditionally made special just for them - they share it with packages wrapped in reindeer and tin soldiers. I mean, who wants that? Where's the icing rich cake and pals centered around you at the arcade room? Who can do a birthday sleep over on Christmas Eve? I bet some kids would go so far as to say a Christmas birthday stinks.

Yesterday, while listening to some of my favorite Christmas music, I sang along and then stopped after the line "Christ was born on Christmas Day." Wait. Rewind that. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Christmas Day was born when Christ was. Not great grammar, I agree, but truth. There was no Christmas when Jesus was born. No packages. No Eve service. No established day called Christmas Day. So, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Jesus wasn't born on Christmas Day.

We all know the story of the barn birth. I doubt there was snow or mistletoe or anything close to fruitcake. Some of our traditions come from what surrounded that night. Gifts from the magi, joyous music from the angels, lights to symbolize The Light of the World. But on that night, very few knew that their awaited Savior was tucked away in his mother's arms sleeping soundly. It was just another night for the majority of the world.

December 25th wasn't set as the official day to celebrate Christ's birth until sometime after 400A.D. That means for 433 years after that amazing night, there was no Christmas. Oh, believers remembered him. They may not have mailed cards or been in bathrobe plays at church, but they did more. They spread the gospel, grew the church and lived their lives awaiting his return. They didn't need a calendar to tell them when to celebrate.

Maybe I don't either...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas Duck Box

"You just wrapped your own present."
     I was always duped. As were my brothers. A box would slide across the floor and we'd begin wrapping not even knowing the contents. My mom always bought so many Christmas presents, we'd spend several evenings in our large family room wrapping. Paper, ribbon, tape and scissors slid from one corner to the next as we each did our part to help. Ready made bows weren't around then, so we made our own winding circles of ribbon, cutting, tying and pulling loops this way and that. Mom's were pretty. Ours, comical. The fireplace would crackle while Andy Williams crooned on the console TV.
     When I was a teenager, I did a little better in the wrapping department. I remember one year, for my dad's birthday, I decided to wrap the box top so it could be reused. This, of course, was long before recycling was considered. I don't know why, but the paper I chose was a blue windowpane print with ducks on it. Probably what we had on hand.
     "How clever!" Mom said. "We can use this again." And we did. Every Christmas.
     Sometime after 1985, the Duck Box resurfaced. Of course, Mom put Christmas paper over it and sent it to my house. Not to be outsmarted, I returned it the following Christmas. That began the "Duck Box" tradition. You never knew when it would appear since it was a standard size - like a dress shirt box. Some years, it held unexciting things like under ware, but other years, it contained the big present. The one you never expected and loved the best.
     As the years progressed, the Duck Box took on personality. We couldn't be happy with plain old ducks. Mom got out markers and added festive Santa hats and holly. The next year, I put on sunglass stickers. Mom decided they needed polish on their web toes. One even laid a golden egg. And we didn't stop with the cover. Inside was tissue paper - with Christmas mail stickers, return address labels from our different houses, the original yellowed wrinkled tissue and a few styrofoam packing peanuts thrown in for good measure. At some point, on the back of the box, we began marking the years with our initials. Somehow, we always remembered who had The Duck Box. I loved it.
     The Duck Box is gone now. It made it's last trip over 3 years ago. It was my turn to send it to Mom. If I could have wrapped up a cure for cancer, it would have been the best gift ever hidden inside that tissue. Somehow, I knew I'd never see it again, so I carefully clicked pictures. I guess I knew that there would come a time when I'd tell a story about a silly old box full of love. Yep - I just wrapped my own present, Mom. Thanks for the memories.