Monday, December 31, 2012

2013

It's just a few hours before the end of another year and the start of yet one more. I'm not here to pause and reflect because there's a lot I'd rather forget from this past year of ups and downs.

I'm recognizing a theme in everyone's new years posts: New beginnings. Fresh starts. Do-overs. It seems at the start of a new year we're all hopeful it will bring the hope of bigger, better, brighter. For some it's health. For others it's wealth. It's love, hope, healing, happiness or any number of things that cause us to have belief in the start of something new representing a turning point in life. Some may resolve to start out with commitments and promises in an attempt to better themselves.

There was no single turning point for me January 1, 2012. But as I recall the events, people, and happenings of the year that Is drawing to a close, there's a lot that's happened in the past that is now woven into the new year that is to come. It's not a new start, exactly. It becomes a part of my history. A part of me, my past, my story. What's happened, good and bad, has become wound into the fabric of my life. Some years look a lot more matted up than others. And sometimes the knots from behind don't appear to make any kind of resemblance of sense. But on the flip side is what is to be a masterpiece that makes up me.

So I can't quite say goodbye because there are threads that will forever be a part of my life. But I do look forward to the turning point that is 2013 and the assurance I have that God has promised me a hope and a future for my good and not for my harm. I reflect on the past and the lessons that have come and the growing pains that have ensued. I get excited about the future and what's to come. I can't know what to expect but with each new day I'm given the assurance of new mercies available to me, no matter what may come.

I pray 2013 will bring you continued hope of the things to come as you reflect on what has already been.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Way It Was

There were 50 years between us. I sat scrolling through my iPad browsing pins and she sat amazed at the technology of the screen responding to my touch. I was showing her recipes she might like for her New Year's Eve gathering. We found one that seemed simple enough, yet appetizing for guests. I was explaining my love for the app called Pinterest and how it has helped me in the kitchen. And then I got schooled.

There were no packages of crescent rolls, she explained. There wasn't a bag of already shredded cheese or frozen bags of microwavable vegetables to steam. There wasn't even a microwave. I heard tales of when bread was started early in the morning and took all day to rise and bake. The vegetables were cleaned and cooked only after they were hand picked from the garden. Chicken certainly didn't come in a can. No, this was another case of being responsible for first catching the chicken then ... Well, you get the picture.

Back then they worked hard for everything. But they didn't know any different because it was just "the way it was." The winters were hard and cold with feet of snow and the warmth only meant it was time for harvest. Farmland in New England meant big families who were all expected to play their part in helping on the land and in the home. The way it was made her who she is. And at 83 years of age the stories she tells are the lessons that have shaped her. And I wonder...

I wonder what I'd do without recipes from Pinterest?
I wonder what I'd do without packages of crescent rolls?
I wonder what I'd do without meals made simple for my hectic busy life?
I wonder what I'd do if I couldn't google every question I have about life, health, sickness, recipes, remedies...and so much more.

I teased my own mother for revealing to me her secret of googling answers when I ask her advice or questions. The way it now is is all I know, but it's a far cry from how it was. And the value in what I'm learning is there's always something to learn. No matter how hard or how simple life is.

I'm basking in the stories and realizing my own present experiences will one day be just faint memories of the way it was.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Especially For You

A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
I'm caught in Your grace

It's a chorus ringing through my ears. It's a reminder I've needed today. Hope. It's a gift I have to remember to receive.

"No matter what is happening in your life now, your story has an amazingly happy ending. Though the way ahead may look dark to you, there is brilliant, everlasting Light at the end of your earth-journey. My finished work on the cross secured this heavenly hope for you, and it is absolutely assured. Moreover, knowing that your story finishes well can fill your present journey with Joy. The more you put your hope in Me, the more My Love-Light shines upon you - brightening your day." ~ Jesus Calling

Oh yes, that is what I desire! His Love-Light shining upon me to brighten my day.

"Are you sure, Lord? A thousand times I've failed..."

"My mercy remains."

"But what if I stumble again?"

"You are caught in My unending grace."

Joy. It's deep down in my soul...sometimes so deep, I have to wait for the bucket to come back up from the well so I can quench my parched soul. I'm dipping in deep today. Pulling up a storehouse full of it takes patience - a fruit that's usually spoiled by the time I get around to harvesting it.

There is heavenly hope. Even if what is happening in front of the present situation seems dark and bleak, there is Light at the end - the Light of the world giving my dark soul the hope of eternal life.

As a result of the fall, our hearts became deceitful and desperately sick. We are influenced by the nature of the fallen world rather than by God. But He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn us, but to save us. It's not the end of the world - it's not even the end of your life! It is just the beginning of your eternal life with Christ and your heavenly Father once you accept this gift.

The initial gift secures your eternal life. But thereafter come the gifts that perservere through your earthly existence. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy.

"Lord, even for me? I am the worst of sinners..."

"Especially for you."

The greatest gift the world would ever know. It doesn't just brighten your day, it saves your life!


Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tragic Christmas

I couldn't peel my eyes from the rearview mirror as I watched E walk into school this morning. It helped that he was followed in by a deputy from the Sheriff's department... but I couldn't shake the thought that parents just like me had dropped off their children on Friday never knowing it would be the last time they'd see them.

I sat in church yesterday with tears streaming as the Pastor offered words of solace and a prayer for the grieving families. A senseless act. An unexplainable tragedy.

It hits close to home, knowing I have presents already wrapped waiting to be ripped open on Christmas day. New clothes yet to wear. New toys waiting to be played with. Wish lists fulfilled that have yet to be discovered. Just days before Christmas, it seems even harder to comprehend.

There's a part of the Christmas story that isn't shared a lot yet it's fitting for such a time as this.

"When Herod had realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." Matthew 2:16

It was tragic. A bloody, brutal massacre. A horrific scene that rocked a people beyond what anyone could have fathomed. Grief-stricken, angry, and confused parents wondering why their child had to be the one sacrificed. Who knows how many lives lost. Children with their entire lives ahead of them. Innocent victims - their only "crime" being a young boy at the wrong time when a selfish man let his cold heart make a decision that altered families.

I know I've read it before, recognizing even more miracles in the life of Jesus. An angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph and warning him to escape to safety (vs. 13). Prophecies fulfilled and a Savior who had not yet fulfilled His purpose on earth (vs. 14, 19-23). But amidst all the good tidings of great joy and the praises to Emmanuel, I missed the tragedy that other families were experiencing at the loss of their little ones.

When Mary pondered all these things in her heart, I'm sure she was tender-hearted enough to rejoice over her son's birth and his safe-keeping, yet mourn with the other mothers who were grieving the loss of their little ones. I imagine she too was hugging her son even tighter. I'm sure she was smothering his face with kisses of gratitude. I'm sure, like me, she was holding onto every second with him and not letting him out of her sight.

It's a weird feeling to be mixed with joy and grief at the same time. Wanting to celebrate the life you've been given, yet mourning with those who have lost.

Verse 18 shares what many hearts are feeling, I'm sure:
"A voice is heard in Ramah (Newton), weeping and great mourning, Rachel (mothers) weeping for her (their) children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more." (parenthesis mine)

It was yet another prophecy fulfilled straight from Jeremiah and when you flip back to that passage the Lord responds to her weeping:

"Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the Lord. "They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future," declares the Lord. "Your children will return to their own land." Jeremiah 31:16-17

There are children celebrating Christmas at the feet of Jesus. Much too young, I believe, yet their faith has become sight. The birth of the Savior is no longer just a tale of old but now a bible story come to life before their very eyes. It still seems insignificant to the mounting emotions their families are trying to cope with. But there is hope for the future.

In the face of adversity and grief, there is the hope of a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. His birth was only the beginning because He died to save you and me that we might have eternal life with Him. We may not understand "why" or "how" or "how do you ever move on" from something like this. At least not in the fallen state of our human flesh. But we do have the assurance of eternal life when we believe and receive His gift of salvation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Elf on a Shelf


I've been asked to keep a running post of Jokey's antics for our Elf on a Shelf game. My original post has had more hits than most of my other blogs combined. I am sure this is the result of google searches, but regardless, this will be the post that now keeps up with Jokey. I've posted a few other blogs about our Elf and how he fits into our Christmas Celebration.
Here and Here.
 
If you know me you know I am not going to just be a copy cat. I have to put my own Carrie-spin on it, along with the fact that I changed the rules of the game to fit more appropriately with our own celebration of Christmas and Christ's birth.
 
This is the letter Jokey came with:

Dear Elijah,
First off, I have to tell you how special you are. I know how much you are loved by your family. God created you in Sarah’s tummy but He perfectly placed you in family when you were adopted. There are so many people who love you and prayed for you and you need to know that you are an answer to prayer.
Just like your family adopted you, I’m giving you a very special assignment to adopt “Jokey” the Elf. He’ll be staying with you until Christmas Day. He is a dear friend of mine, but he tends to be a bit naughty. He gets into mischief and does all kinds of things to play jokes on people. So watch out because you never know where you’ll find him or what mess he will have made each morning when you wake up.
Elves are not the same as humans. Jokey will stay still all day but comes alive at night. You can talk to him, play with him, and he can be a part of your imagination. But he will be quiet all day and then play at night once everyone is sleeping. That’s usually when he gets into trouble, so you’ll have to keep an eye on him!
Sometimes you make bad choices and sometimes you disobey. But Jesus loves you all the time and so does your family. To help you remember we are given love even when we don’t deserve it, I want to ask you to help me while Jokey stays with you. I have a very important responsibility for you to help teach him to make good choices. But the most important job is to help him understand the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus’ Birthday.
Jokey is really enjoying staying with you so make sure you take care of him and teach him how to make good choices! I’ll be back on Christmas to pick up Jokey and take him back to the North Pole to be with me until next Christmas…and I’ll be bringing you a SPECIAL Christmas present! Until then…be a good boy!

Love,

SANTA

 
Hanging upside from the ceiling with a note
 
Milk & Cookies with friends
 
He's holding Baby Jesus in the Nativity and wants to know more about the Christmas story

A craft/learning project teaching Elijah how to spell his name with marshmallows and Cheez-its

Jokey packed his lunch with Reindeer Food (Chex Mix), Gingerbread House decorations (gummies), Cookies (for Santa, of course) and Elf Food (mini sandwiches)

Jokey had E's clothes on for school

He added snoflakes to a craft project Elijah had already completed

A roll of toilet paper from Elijah's room all the way downstairs


End Of The World

The End of the World
I'm not sure what planet I've been living on, but it wasn't until today I heard the news the world will end on December 21, 2012. Oh really? I thought. Why's that?

A simple google search of "End of the world" filled in the blank for me and added 2012. Oh, this isn't good. Now Google even knows...

Sure enough. Link after link. "End of the World in 2012" "2012 Phenomenon" "End of the World: Official Website".

I realized this was no joke (or maybe it was) but the numerous websites were there to confirm the theory.

Thankfully, Google isn't my bible and theories aren't my truth.

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Mark 13:12


Well, that's certainly reassuring, right?! Heaven itself doesn't know. The truth is (biblical, that is) "that day" isn't talking about the end of the world, but rather about Christ's return. In some of the posts I skimmed, these two seemed to be equated together. Interesting...

...Especially when you consider this pagan world doesn't always claim Christ as Lord. We're celebrating Christmas alright, that is if we're still around on December 25th, but we're not necessarily celebrating the birth of a Savior. (I just can't bring myself to believe these well-knowing people would have bought any Christmas presents if they truly believe know the world is coming to an end just 4 days before giving gifts, but that's beside the point.)

But, just like the angels in the age-old Christmas story, I come to bring you good news of great joy...

For God so loved the world, he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

In case you're wondering, there was one link to a "Party like there's no tomorrow" invitation. I myself won't be attending...but it did get me thinking even further...

Am I living like it's the end of the world? Am I making decisions today as if I won't be given the promise of tomorrow? Am I doing anything today - in the present - to invest in eternity?

Today is monumental simply because it's 12-12-12. Not in  my lifetime will I ever see that date. But I'll never see this day again either. I pray I make it count!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good morning

"Good morning!" One of my coworkers greeted me as I walked in the door. I wasn't even able to muster up a grin.

"Or not so good..."she added.

I felt bad. I couldn't hide that, in fact, it had not been a good morning. But as I turned the corner to my office, I realized I had a choice to make.

It's not always easy. Doggoneit, I know it's hard. Some days are easier than others. And some days are so darn tough you can't even fake it. I get it. I've been there, too, and I'm not exempt from returning there without a moment's notice. 

It is so easy for me to be consumed by the moment and wrapped up in my emotions that I can't even think straight, let alone realize there are others struggling and worse off than my own situation. And all over again I'm reminded I have a choice to make.

There are some who are too sick to get out of bed and enjoy Christmas. There are some too broke to have to be faced with buying gifts. There are some too alone to enjoy a party. There are some too broken-hearted to find joy in the season. There are some so deep and so dark in the pit of despair that no amount of Christmas lights could brighten their world.

Joy? Gone. Peace? Missing. Hope? Certainly not. Noel? More like no way. Glad tidings? Ha. Much like my greeting this morning.

Do you have reason to celebrate? Maybe, maybe not. But I cannot discount the fact that you, me, and all of us have a reason to have hope. It's not the same as celebrating. Just because you don't feel like putting up the tree, or can't afford to buy presents, or are too sick to care...doesn't mean you can't have hope. Hope is what gives you something to look forward to no matter how bad things are right in front of you.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

He came to give us life. And not just a troublesome, worrisome, empty, lonely, desperate life. No. He came for us to have abundant life - life to the fullest. The fallen world and its sin-sick offerings are what take away the joy and destroy life. But none of us are beyond the reach of a Sovereign, loving, all knowing God and the perfect plan He made for us to have abundant life. Does it change our current situation? Not always, and certainly not always immediately. Does it replace our sadness with joy? Sometimes, other times not. Does it fill the void, stand in the gap of the loneliness, pull us from the pit, pay our bills, make us well? You know the answer as well as I do...


Things don't always make sense...and when that happens it can only be the result of that which seeks to steal your joy and rob you of any of the blessings God has planned for your life. And so you, too, have a choice. Fake it all you want, but that's not doing anyone any good. It's okay to be honest about how you feel and what you're facing. It's acceptable to admit the state you're in and the help you may need. Whatever you're facing or dealing with, I pray it won't take away your hope. The hope we've been given that yes, in this life we will have troubles, but we also have hope in the assurance that He came and overcame the world. (John 16:33)

And that is enough for me to say,it is a good morning!
 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Feel

I was frustrated. Angry, even. I was upset and downright grouchy. The fuse on my temper was lit and I could feel the explosion inching its way ever closer with each new frustration. The thing is, I'm an adult. And I know how to calm myself down, step away from the situation and regain my composure, manage emotions so they don't cause regrettable reactions. But any ounce of maturity had seemingly escaped. I was saying things I didn't mean. Losing my cool. Reacting without thinking. And all of it was compounding to add layer upon layer of growing frustration. 

The only thing I did right was call it day. I had reached the point of no return and there was nothing more to be done than lay my head in my pillow and cry. The wise words of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell offered solace, "Go home in your pillow and cry. There is no shame or sin in that. But one day wake up and realize there is life to be lived, and go and live it to the fullest."

Yes sir. That's exactly what I had to do. Cry it out. Work it out. Feel every single emotion that had been welling up and compounding within me. It was evident these emotions were not going to allow me to just push past them. No, it was certain I would have to feel my way through this.

Insecurity. It's straight from the devil, I'm sure of it! It can be the devastation of anything good, causing every fear and doubt to make their way into my faith, destroying any resemblance of my identity in Christ. 
Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

Weakness. It's deceiving, to say the least. But it drains me of all strength and removes my desire to press on. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7 

Failure. It brings feelings of defeat and ushers in the perfect environment for insecurity to have its way. 
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:57

Loneliness. It settles in to make its home with me and causes me to feel completely abandoned and alone. 
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

The emotions were there, real and present, and they were having their way with my mind and my heart. But there is nothing I face - or FEEL - that I cannot claim victory over through the Word of God and His promises to me. 

And so I laid on my tear-soaked pillow ready to call it a day. I had wrestled with a host of emotions and I was ready to lay them to rest too. Tomorrow would be a new day. Tomorrow would bring new challenges, new feelings, and new opportunities. 

"Tomorrow will be fresh with no mistakes." Anne of Green Gables

I'm so glad tomorrow is here. There is life to be lived today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Child's Christmas

There's a certain wonder about experiencing the Christmas season through the eyes of a 4 year old. Everything has truly come to life for him and it's brought new life to the story for me as well. Of course it's so much more than a story. 

I shared our Elf on a Shelf story last week. I caught some flack for entertaining this silly game and I understand why some people have an issue with this "magic" elf. You can read all about my perspective on magic vs. miracle. The thing is, as with any holiday or event, our human-ness can paganize anything sacred. (Yes, I do realize I just made up a whole bunch of words, but if you know me, then you know this is a common occurrence. Just imaginate with me...) You can read below how I put my own spin on the Elf.


A wide-eyed little boy is enjoying ALL things Christmas. He moves his candy cane each day to count  the days of Christmas (this is also teaching him about the calendar). He searches for his elf Jokey every morning (teaching responsibility as he cleans up his messes). Does he believe in Santa? Yes. And he's good friends with him at the mall. (At least in his mind.) He believes he's asking Santa for one very specific present and he also understands he'll get other presents from family. And then there's Jokey. He is allowed to play with him, unlike the rules of the book. (Keep reading.) He believes Jokey comes to life at night, but he also loves to incorporate him into his imaginative play during the day. And all of that is okay by me. 

He's also the first to tell you "Christmas is Jesus' Birthday." The items in my curio cabinet are an eclectic mix of collections that date back to my teenage years - strictly off limits for a 4 year old to play with. But that didn't stop him. As I began to pull out the pieces of the Nativity, I realized the sheep was missing. (You can read about another Lost Sheep here.) I asked if he knew where it was and he lead me straight to his playroom. Sure enough - there was my missing sheep, only now he was missing an ear. :( When I asked him what happened, he responded, "Maybe it happened in the fire." Considering I had just purchased this set last year, I knew this very mischievous little boy had used my own excuse on me. I had to laugh. 

When I caught him with a chair pulled up to the mantle where I placed the Nativity out of reach, he quickly turned to explain. "Mom, I'm giving Baby Jesus his birthday cake." He had taken part of the miniature tea set (also from the off-limits-do-not-touch cabinet) and placed it near baby Jesus. And then I had to smile. 

I felt he may have taken things a little too far when I explained how Jesus provides for our needs after a recent shopping trip. He was completely serious when he responded, "Mom, baby Jesus can't provide for us. He can't even have a job!" We might need to skip ahead to Easter...

Christmas through a child's eyes is bringing this de-sensitized, overly-paganized, somewhat callous adult to a new appreciation for the reason we celebrate. 

In case you're wondering, here's Jokey's accompanying letter and some of his mischief!

Christmas Parade
Dear Elijah,
First off, I have to tell you how special you are. I know how much you are loved by your family. God created you in Sarah’s tummy but He perfectly placed you in family when you were adopted. There are so many people who love you and prayed for you and you need to know that you are an answer to prayer.

Just like your family adopted you, I’m giving you a very special assignment to adopt “Jokey” the Elf. He’ll be staying with you until Christmas Day. He is a dear friend of mine, but he tends to be a bit naughty. He gets into mischief and does all kinds of things to play jokes on people. So watch out because you never know where you’ll find him or what mess he will have made each morning when you wake up.

Elves are not the same as humans. Jokey will stay still all day but comes alive at night. You can talk to him, play with him, and he can be a part of your imagination. But he will be quiet all day and then play at night once everyone is sleeping. That’s usually when he gets into trouble, so you’ll have to keep an eye on him!

Sometimes you make bad choices and sometimes you disobey. But Jesus loves you all the time and so does your family. To help you remember we are given love even when we don’t deserve it, I want to ask you to help me while Jokey stays with you. I have a very important responsibility for you to help teach him to make good choices. But the most important job is to help him understand the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus’ Birthday.

Jokey is really enjoying staying with you so make sure you take care of him and teach him how to make good choices! I’ll be back on Christmas to pick up Jokey and take him back to the North Pole to be with me until next Christmas…and I’ll be bringing you a SPECIAL Christmas present! Until then…be a good boy!

Love,

SANTA
  


Jokey put on E's clothes for school!

Elijah's Name Project for school - Jokey added some glitter snowflakes.

That silly elf made a toilet paper trail all the way down the stairs. 

He got all twisted in the toilet paper. E had to clean it up.

Jokey invited some friends for milk and cookies - but he didn't clean up after himself!

Sometimes Jokey just likes to "hang out" - or in this case, upside down from the ceiling. He left E a note.