Christmas Lights

 

I can’t stop thinking about what happened to me on Christmas Eve. I’ve been praying about whether or not to share it, but I feel that if I don’t it would be like trying to hide my light under a bushel. So this is a prayerfully thought out version of the Gift I received straight from the Manger on Christmas Eve.

I have been struggling a lot this year with the Winter Blues that is caused by the lack of sunlight.  I haven’t been officially diagnosed, I just know I am not myself. And my poor husband knows it too. It’s been so dreary this season already and it’s just barely Winter. I feel like I’ve been trapped in darkness. I’ve been crying for no reason. Crying for made up reasons. And crying for reasons that happened years ago. I feel like I’m just going through the motions to survive until Spring.

Trying to get into the Christmas spirit when you feel like that is next to impossible. And I felt guilty for feeling awful which then makes me feel even worse. Sigh! I had no reason to feel so bad. I have a comfortable home, a job that I love, and a sweet husband and well-behaved children. I have my health, good friends, and family close by. There was no reason, other than the lack of light, for me to feel so blue all the time.  So, I installed full-spectrum lighting in the main rooms of my house just to try and feel better.

I had spent Christmas Eve morning crying over the fact that I haven’t had Christmas with my brothers in about 17 years. I cried because the pie crust broke. I cried because I missed a song I wanted to hear on Pandora and I lost the CD. I cried because I needed two boxes of Jell-O for a recipe and I had only one. Then I cried because the Jell-O didn’t set. I cried because I was crying for crying out loud! No wonder my sweet husband was more than willing to run to the store for more Jell-O!

I ached. Way down in my soul, I ached. There are no words to describe the way it felt. I equate it somewhat to oppression because nothing I was doing on my own was relieving the burning weight on my heart. And it felt like I was looking at my life through a murky glass filled with my own messed-up history. Pretty much, I was trying to make myself feel better on my own.

That is always a dumb idea.

I attended Christmas Eve service with my family at the church I was married in 15 years ago. It’s a beautiful church anyway, but at Christmas with all the poinsettias and candles! Oh! Just Gorgeous! And such a sweet little place close to home.

I  was waiting for the service to begin and listening to a girl sing a lovely song.  I honestly couldn’t hear her very well so I was only partially paying attention. I was thinking of all the things that needed to be done once I got home in order for Christmas morning to happen.

She continued to sing, “What shall I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.”

Did anyone else feel that? I looked around because didn’t anyone else actually feel someone touch their heart? Mine had literally fluttered.

I took a deep breath and I watched the acolyte continue to light the candles.

“I am the only light you need.”

Shh! Did anyone else hear that? I sat still in the pew.

“I came into this dark world over 2ooo years ago as a light to provide Hope and Joy. Sweet child, you have been searching for the wrong kind of light.”

When I realized He was speaking to me, in an instant my oppression turned to joy! The burning weight in my heart was lifted. I felt like the murky water I was doing life in had been replaced with fresh abundant living water that springs eternal.

I felt full of light.

I realize this is a rare and precious gift. And I am struggling with coming up with words to describe it.  The best I can come up with are:

Emmanuel, Light of the World, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor

The sun continues to hide behind the clouds. And the journey along this Winter path is still pretty long.  But my unmanageable sadness has been plucked from me and replaced with eternal light. The light I should have been seeking all along.

 

John 12:46
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

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Different By Design

Today I just want to keep things simple because I think we’ve lost our ability to do that and be comfortable. So, today I just want to share with you some lyrics that have been dancing with me for several weeks.  I don’t think they even need much of an introduction because when you read them, you will be able to relate. You will know exactly the issue. Whatever it is.

Because we all have one. You may be passionate about gun-control or the lack of it. You may be teaching your children about bullying and how to overcome it. Civil rights might keep you up at night. Or perhaps abortion rights or wrongs is what moves you. You may disagree with happenings in the Middle East or right in your own home town.

The point is, this world is awful enough. And we were created for community. I believe we’re losing sight of that and the end result will be tragic. If we were all created in His image, if we all are meant for a purpose then why do we have such a hard time embracing each other’s unique design?

 

City On A Hill ~ Casting Crowns

Did you hear of the city on the hill?
Said one old man to the other.
It once shined bright, and it would be shining still,
But they all started turning on each other.You see the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak

But one by one, they ran away
With their made up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade
In the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill

Each one thought that they knew better
But they were different by design
Instead of standing strong together
They let their differences divide

And one by one, they ran away
With their made up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade
In the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill

And the world is searching still

But it was the rhythm of the dancers
That gave the poets life
It was the spirit of the poets
That gave the soldiers strength to fight
It was fire of the young ones
It was the wisdom of the old
It was the story of the poor man
That needed to be told

It is the rhythm of the dancers
That gives the poets life
It is the spirit of the poets
That gives the soldiers strength to fight
It is fire of the young ones
It is the wisdom of the old
It is the story of the poor man
That’s needing to be told

But one by one will we run away
With our made up minds to leave it all behind
As the light begins to fade in the City on the Hill

One by one will we run away
With our made up minds to leave it all behind
As the light begins to fade in the City on the Hill
The city on the hill

(Come home)
And the Father’s calling still
(Come home)
To the city on the hill
(Come home)

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Grace At The Table

Table settings on wooden  background.Ever have one of those moments where you just know you were in the right place at the right time, but you weren’t exactly sure why?

The other night my husband and I were out on a very rare date night. We had no plans of where to go, we were just so happy to be free! You know the feeling.

So, we’re driving down the road discussing our dining options and finally land on a popular Italian place that we normally reserve for such special occasions like freedom from our children or birthdays.  The place is normally packed and we were starving, but we decided that the Alfredo sauce was worth waiting for.

We drove into the parking lot and to our surprise there was one parking spot right by the door. We slid in and made a comment about how that never happens and were pretty proud of ourselves for pulling it off. This date had the potential to be epic!

Once inside the restaurant I looked around and it felt a little empty. I checked my watch. Yep, dinner time. I thought back through the week. Yep, Friday night. Hmm…did we miss some health department failing score report or something? I honestly didn’t care. I was hungry and on a date. Besides, did I mention the Alfredo sauce?

We were seated immediately and our very friendly server greeted us with a smile and a Southern drawl. She helped us decide on some of the new dishes they offered and we settled in to enjoy our meal. We were really having a nice time together and oblivious to our divine appointment.

The couple sitting across from us didn’t seem as pleased with their experience as we were with ours. They sent their salad back. Twice. And asked to see a manager about it. Then, when their entrée’s arrived I could hear the woman complain to her husband about something and she made him get up to track down the server. When he finally returned and their server made things acceptable we overheard the woman firmly instruct her husband to give their server “not ONE penny!”

And that’s when my husband showed up for the appointment we both didn’t know he had with a God who delights in surprises.

“I want to pay for their meal.” He said to me quietly from across the table.

Honestly I was a little shocked. I thought he was joking. “Why?” I asked him with a little disbelief.

“Because they don’t deserve it.”

And that is all he had to say. I got it. I nodded my approval and we quietly discussed how to pull it off anonymously.

Or, at least we thought it would be anonymously. When the server brought the couple back the bill we had paid for she announced that we had covered it. My husband and I both felt like crawling under our own table. That was not at all the reason we paid for the meal. Because what we didn’t want to happen, happened.

They started gushing and making a scene and asking us why we would do such a thing. We tried to quiet them with a simple response that we just wanted to bless them and my poor husband was biting his tongue so hard I thought it might fall off about the real reason he felt lead to do it:

They didn’t deserve it. They were rude. They were hateful. They were entitled. They were stingy. They were ungrateful.

The woman kept giving us reasons as to why we didn’t have to pay for them. They had the money to pay for it. They owned a business. There was no reason for us to cover their bill. She was right. There was no reason for us to bless them. We could have been justified in calling them out on their behavior. We could have demanded that they apologize to their server, and caused a scene.

But, Grace.

When God gives us what we don’t deserve. It’s free and abundant. You don’t have to own your own business to receive it. You don’t have to have the money to pay for it. You don’t have to do anything! You just have to accept it and say, “Thank You.”

The woman asked for our information so that they could find a way to repay us. Of course we refused. I just simply asked her to pay it forward. She seemed so struck by the concept that she repeated it. “Pay it forward.” She paused and then said, “We’ll pay for someone else’s meal sometime.”

I hope they do. I hope our appointment time wasn’t wasted. I hope the tiniest little bit of grace God allowed us to share would grow into something beautifully uncontainable.  I hope it manifests into a behavior change for that couple and that it would open their eyes to God’s love. I hope that it would spark a revolution and an attitude of thankfulness across generations.  I hope it spreads kindness like wildfire across this great nation and around the world.

It seems so far-fetched that our one little gift could do that. But I’d be willing to guess that God hopes the same things about the grace He gives us…

Grace Letterpress“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8

 

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