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Now What?

The baby was born. “The angels had gone away from them into heaven…and the shepherds went back…” (The 3 wise mean were yet to come.) Now what? Life would never be the same…but what would it be like? The baby needed to be cared for by a very young and, inexperienced (maybe she had taken care of younger siblings) girl. People were milling about the town due to the census – it was still crowded – they had to register themselves! They needed to find better accommodations – the stable was good during the emergency last night but it was no long-term solution.

Last night was magical but life’s realities closed in on them quickly.

Has real life crashed in on you this morning? The bills arrived in the mail today. The house is a wreck. The refrigerator is beyond messy. The kids are back to quarreling. You and your spouse have fought… You are disappointed with what you received or didn’t receive… Or maybe the house is just as quiet and lonely today as it was yesterday. Nothing changed.

How did Mary and Joseph do it? obviously, an angel told them what was to happen but we aren’t told if he gave specific instructions or for how long it would be… There was uncertainty – a lot of it. But I think it might help if an angel told me something. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t had an angel show up recently! That is not the issue. The issue for them was settled months before when they believed the first angel’s words. They decided to trust God. Period.

And that is where we must place ourselves today… deciding to trust God for the now and the unknown. He says He will never leave us or forsake us – He walks into our unknowns with us. He promises to provide for us out of His own storehouse – maybe not as we envisioned or planned but He will do it faithfully. He promises us His peace when all else is in chaos – draw closer to Him by trusting, depending on Him. And when things don’t go as planned or you are left with many more questions, choose to praise Him anyway. Praise Him in the circumstance.How? Praise Him for who He is and what He has already done for you.

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Christmas Miracle in China

Christmas at my house, when I was growing up always seemed magical.

My grandmother had set the example for my mother who then made it that way for me and I, in turn did for my children. And they now do for my grandchildren. Traditions held and hold a lot of weight in my home.

My grandmother worked diligently to give her family a wonder-filled Christmas even though they were far from home serving as missionaries in China. At that time China was infested with war-lords, bandits and paganism. It did not foster a “Merry Christmas”. There were no stores or shopping malls. No Musak playing “Jingle Bell Rock” or Salvation Army bell ringers. However, that did not hinder her! She knew local folks who were good at crafting the things her imagination could invent.

One year my mother wanted baby doll eyeglasses. My mother’s heart was set on getting the baby doll eyeglasses from Santa. My grandmother was dismayed – that was something she could not have made in China (in those days!) My mother began to pray for those eyeglasses – so did my grandmother. She did not want my mother to be disappointed but this seemed like an impossible request. As Christmas drew nearer, my grandmother began to worry. My mother had her heart set on those baby doll eyeglasses.

Now in the scheme of things considering the work they were doing in China as medical missionaries, the needs they encountered on a daily basis, the crises that erupted weekly….this was not a “big” deal. You could say it was a “materialistic want” of a little girl on the backside of China. But my mother and grandmother did not see it that way. They continued to pray.

My grandparents believed that nothing was too small – or too big to bring before the Lord. They simply told God their need and trusted him to handle it His way. That’s the way they handled kidnappings, financial needs, health issues – everything. They prayed. Those missionary prayer meetings were powerful! As a child I can remember every Wednesday morning at my grandparents’ home the now-retired, missionaries would gather for prayer – on their knees – for what seemed like a long time to a young girl.

Back to my story, months earlier, my grandfather had sent a letter to the States requesting supplies for the hospital. A few days before Christmas a “drum” arrived from the States. Now a drum was just that – a very large barrel made out of metal – much like an oil drum. It was a convenient, cheap and safe way to ship things to China by boat that could take weeks, if not months. It was always a big occasion when one arrived. They never knew what it might contain but eagerly anticipated the much needed supplies.

As they opened the drum, they saw the necessities that had been requested. But on top, wrapped very carefully was a pair of baby doll eyeglasses!

God cares for us in the sweetest of ways and the smallest of details.

Have a wonder-filled Christmas!

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Christmas Reality

I recently made a comment to a dear lady who has been such an example to me in my life – she has known me since I was born and I admire her immensely. She is one of the most gracious, giving women I know. The comment I made was that she and my Mother “made Christmas seem so effortless” and magical when I was growing up. I think we can all relate on some level to her first reply to me:

Your comment “You and Mother made Christmas look so effortless.” needs a response! I laugh, but Christmas has brought more stress into my life than I want to admit. An effortless Christmas is an illusion caused by the absence of reality!

For weeks each year we are forced to do more of everything – plus more – and all the while keep in mind the reason for the season with a pure heart. We’re not only taking care of big families (and they get bigger the older we get!) who sometimes want more expensive gifts than we can afford or, maybe they don’t tell us what they want or, we don’t know how to ask so gifting is pure puzzlement. We feel like a failure when it isn’t the right size, color or style. And when we see the gift in their July garage sale we face our failure again.

But back to Christmas… there are the neighbors – we want to remember them with some little something and what about the “shut-ins”? Beyond that, there are the “have-nots” as well as “those that have” and won’t be happy unless we come to their dinner party or go to some special December gathering with them.

All the while ministry continues which means presence and sometimes much more!

Furthermore, the once-a-year, 22-pound turkey with sausage stuffing brings consternation as we pull out the innards for giblet gravy wondering what time of the night we have to get out of bed to stuff the beast and put it in the oven.

Then, there is the stress of what to wear. What to wear is a question of mine right now and, I want to decline the invitations just to get rid of the stress. I dislike shopping for myself – always have disliked it. I’ve got several fancy gatherings coming up and I haven’t a thing appropriately Christmasy to wear!

It is easy to be squeezed “in” this world and not be “of” it – especially at Christmas! I am so grateful for I John 1:9… true confessions of one needing more sanctification!

I smile as I think of your remark and remember a Christmas or two in Montreat and your Mother was running with her tongue out, but she indeed could do it with grace. She called my husband and me up on the mountain and asked us to go shopping for her. I think it was Christmas Eve – could have been a day or so before. She confessed that she did not have Christmas together for you children and she needed help. She had no desire to shop – didn’t have time so she asked us to go to Sears and purchase electric blankets, gowns or pajamas and flashlights and a hammer. I can’t remember what else was on the list! I don’t think your Dad was even in the country.

Love you dearly but the effortless impression was no doubt pretense on my part! Christmas and taking care of the world is difficult – and one thing for sure God didn’t intend for us to do, but the world squeezes us to think we have to and far too, often I’ve allowed it.

Her second reply reveals her sweet spirit:

“I laugh for I had to go back and re-read what I had written and realize that only a part of the story has been told. Decorating is fun. Creativity stimulates. Praise exhilarates. Laughter reinforces well-being and happy eyes, smiles and especially a hug from those we love is good payment. We Mothers work for that payment. It seems that making memories is part of a mother’s mission.

I realize that a lot of the burden has always come from my own personal need for significance, security and love. Those needs go with us until the last breath and … we know that God is the dependable giver of those gifts!

The secret is to make time to focus on the REAL REASON!

All is well.

You can see that her struggle for authenticity is what speaks to me. She has been an example for me and I am blessed to have her in my life. She will see this blog on Facebook and I want her to know how much she means to me – I love her dearly – more than she knows.

The insight into my Mother’s efforts makes me sad in some ways. She tried so hard and gave so much…so little energy, so little money but always wanting to give what she had and meet our childish expectations. Her mother did that for her in China as she grew up…

I am afraid I have followed their example in this matter…wearing myself out to keep traditions that may or may not mean anything. By the time Christmas arrives I am exhausted and wonder why I try to do it all. I am a slave to tradition.

Please don’t respond with lectures…

I well know, like at Bethlehem, God speaks into the noise and busyness to touch our hearts with His kindness, mercy and love. The message of the angels is still SO real – even in the 21st Century.