Who Knew? Glad I didn’t.

Last year our family celebrated Christmas in Germany. We spent time with our son-in-law’s family who lives there, holding hands around the dinner table as we prayed. We toured Hanover and the Christmas market, rubbing elbows with happy strangers. We gathered in packed cathedrals and sang worship hymns.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”― J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

No masks. No social distancing. No fear or thoughts of catching a deadly disease.

I’m glad I didn’t know a world-wide pandemic would hit us like a tsunami in 2020. I’m glad I could live in the moment. Clueless to the new normal that would change life as we knew it.

I’m glad I rang in the New Year and hugged my folks in Texas without worrying that I’d unknowingly expose them to a disease I may or may not have. I’m thankful I didn’t know I wouldn’t see them again until November.

In early February, my husband and I flew to Georgia to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. If you’d told me that our traveling days were over, our church services would Have to stop meeting in person, we’d rarely (if ever) see our friends, and I’d have to stop cooking/serving the homeless–I wouldn’t have believed you.

When I attended our local theater to watch a play in early March, I didn’t know that live theater would disappear indefinitely. School, sports, and ALL outdoor events like our county fair would be canceled.

Thank goodness I didn’t know in January 2020 that …

My prayer list for sick, dying, depressed, and unemployed people would grow longer.

My 15-year-old kitty would have to be euthanized.

My son-in-law’s parents wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to visit.

One of my family members would need to move in with us.

My mask would become a new accessory, hand sanitizer my new lotion, and toilet paper a thing to be hoarded. The list goes on and on. Right?

But today is December 1, and I’m decorating my house for Christmas with more fanfare than normal. For everything bad that happened, I have a gratitude journal and a blessings jar to remind me of everything good that happened this past year. For one thing, my 89-year-old dad survived a major heart attack. My mom couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him.

I get to choose each day how I see my cup. Half-full or half-empty? But I prefer to see my cup as full and overflowing because my attitude is the ONLY thing I can control. And our attitude affects our emotions and how we respond to this pandemic.

I’m especially thankful that when I don’t know what’s around the corner….God knows. He’s not only waiting on the other side, He’s with me in this moment. He’s shown me the things that I thought were important ain’t so important after all. God’s also stretching my stiff-neck ways to make me more pliable, and toning my flabby faith muscles so I’ll trust Him more.

God has a bigger plan for my life and yours. He’s not concerned about our happiness and entertainment as much as our character and the salvation of our souls. God wants us to love others and show mercy. He wants us to seek Him rather than His gifts.

Who knows. Events in 2021 might make 2020 look good. But for everything I don’t know about tomorrow, I Do Know that God Doesn’t Change.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10)

One day we will see our Savior face to face. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Until then, the Lord is our anchor. Our hope. And all the more reason to celebrate this Christmas with renewed focus on what matters most! Faith in the risen Savior, Family. Friends.

How are you coping with this pandemic especially during the holiday season?

Photos: K. Foster

Are You Grieving This Season?

candle photo

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

 

Did you know?

Mary, did you know…

Wise men were coming to see your baby, Jesus?

Did an angel warn you; give you time to prepare for company? Or did they show up unannounced?

Nativity scenes depict you serene, radiating joy as you cradle your infant son.

canstock18006923

 

 

 

 

 

 

But was God’s peace enough?

Enough to keep you tranquil when your home was bursting at the seams with visiting dignitaries? Camels resting outside your door?

Although you found favor in God’s eyes, and were chosen among all women to bear the Son of God, you were still a woman.

A young mom with raging hormones. A newly wed, living in humble means.

So I’m curious. Was your expression as europhoric as it appears in Renaissance paintings and Christmas cards?

stained-glass-nativity-scene-1526335

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because if I’d given birth, and prestigious strangers showed up at my door (uninvited) I’d probably come unglued.

Oh, I’d smile and invite them inside, but my eyes would only see the clutter on my kitchen counter. The dust on the mantel piece.

I’d scramble to brew a pot of coffee or tea. Bring out my nicest cups—the ones not chipped or stained. I’d forage in my pantry for snacks to share.

Not knowing how long they’d stay, I’d take my husband aside and tell him to order Chinese food or pizza.

If these strangers brought valuable gifts, I’d balk at the price tag before I graciously received them—knowing I had nothing to give in return.

What if they worshipped my son? Would I miss out while I searched for my camera to capture the moment?
Or be still and ponder these things in my heart like you did?

Mary, how did you feel when the shepherds and wise men had come and gone?
Did the thrill of childbirth go away when you and Joseph were left alone; faced with the reality of raising God’s Son?

How did you react when an angel told your husband to flee to Egypt for safety? Did you question God? Wrestle with the decision to move?

Surely your heart sank when you heard every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem had been killed when King Herod’s men searched for the Christ Child.

Did your faith flounder…even for a second?

Or were you so intent on God’s eternal purposes that His supernatural peace kept your mortal soul calm—come what may?

Mary, I like to think you didn’t know what lay ahead.

That you were a woman like me.

Imperfect, but walking by faith and not by sight even though you didn’t comprehend events.

Trusting God’s sovereignty during tumultuous times.

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

20141213_200458

No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

20141213_200458

No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?