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

 

Advertisements

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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