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Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

Anticipating Christmas

When my kids were young we made a big deal out of Christmas. We put up the tree and made sure there were plenty of gifts to open, even if some of them were underwear and socks! We wanted to make sure that somehow the number of gifts under the tree reflected how much we loved them. We wanted to create memories to last a lifetime.

When I was married to my second husband and we shared the children at  Christmas with his ex-wife, the focus became showing her up. We wanted to have the better gifts. We wanted to have the better time. We wanted them to love us more because we showered them with things. And we missed the boat in such a huge way.

My own daughter is an only child. I always felt she was missing out on having a family to share the surprise of Christmas morning. She had no one to share her toys with or to one-up on her gifts. Yet we did everything we could to bring our family around us so that she felt part of something bigger. And I made sure it was always an event when the family came over—one they would talk about for years!

Today both those efforts have faded away. My step-daughters have families of their own now. They are making their own Christmas memories with their children. My daughter and I still celebrate Christmas together, but no longer with our family. As I look back, I wish I had invested more in the relationships that surrounded us than in the number of gifts under the tree. And I hope that my girls will not follow my example but that they will focus on why we even have a Christmas to celebrate. I hope that they won’t stress out over the gifts they buy so that their children know they are loved.

I hope my girls will shower their children with love, the love that comes down from above and works its way out of them and shows up in the way they treat others, including their extended families. 

This year we are keeping it simple. This year I am looking forward to Christmas Eve service and gathering with my church family to celebrate the birth of a man who would die that I could be forgiven. I am anxiously anticipating singing those songs that move my heart to a place of worship and gratitude. I am looking forward to a change in my behavior that shows others what God has done, and is doing, in my life. I am taking in the greatest love and hoping that I can pass that on to others as I meet them.

That is the gift I am seeking and hope to give to others.

Lord, I ask your forgiveness for the times I forget that you are the real purpose for our Christmas celebration and I pray for my family that they will stop and remember not just their presents but your unfailing love. I pray our Christmas will be more about you this year.

God bless,

Maggie

 

Categories
Boomer Living Living in Singleness

Caught in the Dating Trap

No matter how young or old we are, looking for love can turn us into someone who we are not. We can easily get caught in the trap of acting one way and feeling another way just to snare a potential life partner. And then one day we realize that the person who has fallen for us has no earthly clue who we are, and we begin to wonder when the lid will blow on the lie we have been living. Change is a good and positive thing; however, let’s make sure we are changing for all the right reasons—because we see something in ourselves that needs transformation.

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Boomer Living Living Loving Serving

What I Learned at Camp

Last week our church hosted a sports camp for the children in the area. It has become a beloved tradition for us to provide a free morning camp with Bible instruction and fun Vacation School Bible-like music. This is the first year I have been able to participate as a volunteer. I signed up, not really knowing what to expect and I have left feeling amazed by the gifts freely offered by the team of volunteers and the gifts received by these precious children.

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Boomer Living Living Loving Serving

Living to our Fullest

Today I had the privilege of helping out at a sports camp our church is hosting for the youth in our neighborhood. I was impressed by the number of high school- and college-age volunteers that gave up their time at the pool or sleeping in late to hang out with a bunch of kids and play soccer in the heat. And then there were the men and women who took personal/vacation days to volunteer on the field and around the camp. What really impressed me though was the 50 plus gang that showed up—especially the 60/70 year-old crowd that were running around the field with the kids.

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Living Loving Serving

Caring for One Another

Jesus is the best example I know of someone who cared for the people around him with no concern for himself or how it might look to others. He didn’t wat until it was convenient to help someone, in many cases he actually went out of his way to talk to someone or to help them. He broke protocols to care for people on days when it was illegal. When his disciples said “it is too much,” he said: “come.” Jesus never brought shame on a person for their circumstances—he asked questions and spent time listening to them. He walked with them and told them it would be better with him. He willingly came to the mentally ill (demon possessed), the untouchables (the hemorrhaging woman and lepers), and the ones living in sin (the woman at the well, the tax collector).

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My Faith & Transformation Journey

Less is More

We live in a society that focuses on having the next best gadget, the newest car, the designer outfit, and all that the ‘rich and famous’ have in their lives. We go into debt to prove that we have successfully attained a certain life-style. Our hearts sink a little when a new cell phone comes out and it isn’t time to upgrade our plan yet. We enter beautiful homes and begin plotting how we can model our house after their home. Or, we look at others and think, “I don’t know why she wears that same outfit day in and day out. What a mess!” We have become the people of envy, greed, judgement, and hollow existence.

We have forgotten that it is living a life of giving and caring that matters far more than a life full of things that may disappear in an instance.

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

Sacrificial Giving

This weekend we remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country. The brave men and women who stepped forward with the knowledge that they might sacrifice their very existence for a cause they came to support. Some came forward with excitement and willingness and some were volunteered into a service that would cost them everything. I am humbled and thankful to all the men and women who went into battle to ensure I would have the freedom to say what I want and to worship as I would want and to live without fear of my losing everything. I so very much appreciate their sacrificial giving.

The kind of giving in which we are called to give our lives doesn’t come along too often. Perhaps we hear stories of the firefighter who lost his or her life saving a child in a burning building. Perhaps we hear about the parent who lost their life rescuing their child in an emergency situation. We have heard stories of men pushing women and children into safety in plane and train crashes, giving away the time to save themselves. These stories are rare enough that we are amazed and brought to tears that one would give their life for another in such a dramatic way.

It’s interesting that when I went to look for Bible verses about “giving” that I was referred to “service.” So I dug a little deeper to better understand the meaning of this weekend. Dictonary.com defines service as “an act of a helpful activity; help; aid.” They define giving as “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.”  And sacrifice can be understood to “surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.” When you look at the meaning behind the terms we will throw around this weekend, we begin to see something rare and special. Something that many have accepted as their calling and something others of us are humbled by.

Many of us will never feel the call to military duty while others of us will feel a call to ministry or service to others. As we remember the sacrifice of those who were willing to surrender their lives and their futures for the sake of our freedoms, I challenge you to seek ways to honor them in the service of others. Where can you sacrificially give your time to help another? Who can you reach out to and offer a helping hand with no expectation of compensation or reward? What can you do to change the life of someone else by freely and willingly giving yourself that they may benefit and grow? Please share your ideas in the comment section or on my Facebook post that others might be motivated into action.

I leave you with the Prayer of St. Francis, one who truly understood unconditional sacrificial giving:

The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred,

Let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

Tt is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Thank you to the many who have given the most and to their families for your sacrifice as well. God Bless you.

Maggie

 

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

The Joy of Receiving

I’m a giver. My mother was a giver. I learned it from her and I heard about it in church. Giving is good—it blesses others. Over the years I have found great joy in seeing someone else light up because of a gift they received. I admit I have even had some pride when I have given to someone in need. Giving is good.

On-the-other-hand, I am not so great on the receiving end. Probably pride there too. I hate to admit when I am in need. I hate to ask for help. I am meek about seeking opportunities that I think I am qualified for because then I have to receive the opportunity and my humility side kicks in.

I watched my mother as a giver. She would sneak a little money in someone’s purse on Sunday if she knew they were having a rough patch. She would pick up something extra and give it to a neighbor telling them she got it by mistake and didn’t want to return it. She did without so her children could have things. She was such a quiet giver that there were people whose lives she touched we didn’t know about until she died. I want to be that kind of giver.

She also would never ask for anything. The few times she did, I think she was mostly rejected. She settled a lot and probably suffered for not seeking help. She waited to ask for help for her marriage, her drinking, and even her health. In her pride and her shame she hid the truth about her pain. If she had only been willing to ask and receive the blessing, her life could have been lived with such joy.

I gave away most of my household possessions when I moved last fall. It was so much fun to empty the clutter out of our lives and to see others benefit from the things I didn’t need. I had to ask for help in the process. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t do these things on my own. I was terrified that no one would see how desperately I needed help. Yet, when I asked my friends and my church family they came out of the woodwork to help me. I even had a friend show up at my door in the middle of the night with Advil when she read on Facebook how tired and sore I was.

I discovered an unbelievable joy in their giving. I was so amazed by their love. I was so blessed.

As I rebuild my household, still keeping it pretty basic, my friends continue to bless me. I have new vacuum, new living room furniture, and now a new bed. I am learning to ask when I need something and to allow someone to experience their gift of giving without my feeling shame. As I think on these moments my heart swells with overwhelming warmth and joy.

I also realize that the asking and receiving fear in my life was a stumbling block to healing the wounded areas in my life. I held back from receiving the love of God and the healing grace of Jesus because I didn’t think I deserved it. I held back from admitting that my way of living was destructive because I didn’t want to tell anyone what was really going on. I kept my pain a secret as I smiled and moved forward—except I didn’t really move forward because I was trapped in my past. I thought my sins and mistakes were just too overwhelming to let anyone get too close to me. I put up a wall because I thought once you get to know me you will be out of here.

When I became willing to receive help and forgiveness for myself; my whole world changed. If you are sitting in pain or sitting with needs, don’t let your shame trap you another minute. Start on your knees asking for God’s forgiveness and help. Then get up off the floor and reach out to that one person you think you can trust and tell them the truth. Let the healing begin by letting someone know you are ready to receive their help. Do it today. Your blessings of new life are waiting for you.

This post is dedicated to the wonderful givers at http://www.thehardmanteam.com/

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

A New Year of Giving

Christmas Day is behind us but the spirit doesn’t need to be gone. After days of watching sappy Christmas movies it hit me–2015 needs to be a year of giving. What would your town or your neighborhood be like if you kept giving long after the Christmas decorations came down? What would your life be like if you kept giving to the less fortunate, feeding the poor, and meeting with the lonely? What if you shared the love and joy Christ came to spread all year long? Can you begin to imagine how our world would change if we deliberately gave of ourselves all year and not just for a few weeks in December?

Santa may not be the real thing but who he represents sure is. The origin of Santa is found in the Greek Bishop Nicholas who devoted his life to the Christ-inspired model of giving to the needy as well as poor children. Jesus said we should love one another (John 13:34-35) and one of the ways to love one another is in the way we give to one another. Jesus said when we do these things it is as if we have done it for him (Matthew 25: 35-40). If we can remember to live out our lives inspired by the example of St. Nichols and in obedience to Jesus, we could really make a difference next year.

What changes can you make in your lifestyle that would allow you to be more giving? Do you have gifts or talents you can use to help someone out? Does someone you know need help fixing up their home? Can you bring the paint or plumbing tools to make their house feel more like a home? Could someone you know use a warm meal to help them get through the month? Is there a single parent who would love to have someone come alongside them in genuine friendship–including them in your family outings? Is there a young family that needs a date night? Can you offer them a dinner out and to watch the children? These are simple tangible ways in which you can begin giving to the people close to you.

What other ways can we give of ourselves in our community? I’m interested in hearing ways you are already participating in your community. Is your church doing something that other churches could replicate? Do you have a vision or dream that God gave you that you haven’t put into action yet? Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below and I will put together a list in a post soon.

In the meantime, I pray that in the year ahead you will be inspired by the spirit of Christmas and motivated into action that will transform the lives of others near you as well as change your life to one of Christ-like compassion.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35New Living Translation (NLT)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

Christmas Candles

My cousin posted this picture on Facebook the other day. For some reason it really caught my attention. Usually I see things like this and scroll right past. This one made me stop. I have gone back to it a number of times, trying to figure out why.

There is something simple and beautiful about this picture. Maybe it tugs at my Catholic roots and reminds me of all those burning red candles we used to light. I know it made me stop and think about our parents, especially the sisters through whom we are tied. Or maybe the husbands we lost too early and miss this time of year. It brought up sadness and peace at the same time.

This time of year tends to bring to mind those who are gone. If we are not careful we can find ourselves in a sea of sadness. This picture reminds me that as a believer in Jesus Christ I can be sad for me and feel joy for them. There is an empty spot in my life, but as a Christian I believe in life eternal and know that we will one day be united. I trust that God has welcomed them to a place I can only begin to imagine and that the angels sang when they came home.

If you are missing a loved one this Christmas season and it is bringing you great sadness, I encourage you to talk to someone and share your sorrow. Share what you are thinking with someone who will listen with kindness and encourage you to find joy in the days you shared. Light a candle if it helps. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of time together. And ask that God would fill the empty spot in your life with joy.

One way to fill that hole is in service to others. This is a great time to take the love you remember and pass it on to those in need. Remember that little thing Jesus said about when we take care of others in need, we take care of him. And through your acts of giving, others might see that glimmer of Jesus in you and find peace and comfort in the midst of their bad day. I promise that you too will be blessed and when you think of this picture, you too will find a way to smile.

So thank you, dear cousin, for the tears and the smile. Thank you for the reminder that Christmas is about remembering our loved ones and honoring them in the way we live today.

God speed.

Maggie