Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas of 2010 by Jess

I really love giving gifts. I love the experience of giving someone unguarded laughter in a gift that brings them joy... or watching them become speechless as they discover a gift that they couldn't have dreamed of receiving... or watching them physically leap in delight of a wish that's been granted or seeing tears that creep into their eyeballs because their heart is simply overwhelmed with gratitude.
I was blessed today to be the giver and receiver of such gifts. My mom got giddy when she saw a card that would pay for the movies she loves to go see... a theater is a friend she simply delights in. Gavin jumped off the couch when he got a thing for his xbox that will let him play video games with his cousin who lives in another state. Scott cried when two large bags of gift were dumped in front of him and he was told that none of them were for him to open, but rather to deliver later in the day to the less fortunate kids he'd met delivering turkey's to at Thanksgiving. I cried (okay... I blubbered and it wasn't pretty!) over handwritten notes from my kids that were and always will be simply priceless.
Eliot got an early present a couple of weeks ago when through the wily ways of his mom, he was able to meet his all time favorite musician... he simply could not fathom it was really happening. Being the giver of that gift was one of the best moments of my life. I couldn't help but think that must be how God sees us... knowing us intimately because He thought us each up in the first place! and longing to delight us in ways that we can't even imagine possible! I can just imagine Him saying "oh wow! I just can't wait 'til she sees what I've been working on for her!" I wonder if He ever wants to jump out of His socks with excitement for me like I did that day for Eliot. I hope my heart never stops bursting with gratitude for the kindness that my Father in heaven pours over me every day... in the things I see and in the things I don't.
This day of gift giving was fan-flippin-tastic! We needed nothing but were blessed by much... some in the giving and some in the receiving. Merry Christmas 2010!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chair thoughts

I'm sitting in my living room under my toasting warm blanket while the fireplace breathes it's warmth beside me and the lights of our simple primitive Christmas tree are reflecting on my laptop. It's quiet. As much as I love the silly banter of boys becoming men and the strangely odd exchanges fathers and sons have of connecting (I mean titty twister wars! really!?), when they all go to school and work, the stillness that falls over this place invites me to soak it in. We have this great leather armchair in the corner of our living room with a big ole' foot rest... throw in the heated throw and the fireplace and we are talking a done deal. It stills me... it stills my core. In this moment, I feel content in my spirit... deep down. Whatever list awaits me, whatever things need to get done... they can wait.

It's inevitable. As I sit here, prayers come. Whispers to God for people I love... and people I don't. It's hard watching people struggle, be weary. It's hard to not try to fix it. So I talk with God about them. He already knows how heavy their hearts are and how deep their sorrows burrow...He knows their unspoken and unarticulated reasons for being less than happy. So I will whisper their name with Him, asking on their behalf that He, the life giving author of their very being, would stir in them the longing to lean in towards their Father and ask Him to lift their countenance. To heal them... to bring them back to life...abundant life...wholeness...contentment.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Teaching Moments

I had a few events in my life collide in the past couple weeks that have made me stop and ponder. The kind of events that need to happen on a more frequent basis to constantly remind me.

The week before Thanksgiving, my youngest son, Eliot, and I delivered complete Thanksgiving dinners to a couple families in the Cincinnati suburbs who were in need. The families we visited were struggling to make ends meet, pay bills, take care of kids, and find jobs. One had just taken in a foster baby and were planning on eating cold cuts for Thanksgiving without the assistance.

On the way home from making these deliveries, we saw a young woman pull over on the side of the road. Moments earlier, a tire blew out and she barely escaped a major accident and bodily injury. In her words, she thought she was going to die. She already had her spare tire on her car on another wheel so she was stuck and in need. I offered to drive her somewhere so she could get help from friends or family. She asked if we could take her to her work, where a friend would let her borrow a spare tire until she was able to buy a tire. While talking with her, I learned that she just bought the tire that blew out a couple weeks earlier...for only $20 (probably an old retread for that price). It was all she had and she needed to get back and forth to work. When I got her to her workplace, I asked if she needed any money to help in getting a new tire since she wasn't going to get paid for awhile. She immediately said, "No, I could never ask you for money. You have already helped me a lot". I could see she needed the money but was too respectful to ask. I reached into my pocket, not knowing how much I had on me, and gave her the $30 that was there. She couldn't believe it, started to cry, and reached across the center console in the car to give me a hug. She was speechless. She said that she couldn't understand how a total stranger could stop and help her in such a way. She was deeply touched. I told her that God apparently had His eye on her, and to not forget that.

The whole time (in fact, the whole day), my son is watching this all play out. A great teaching moment!

Last weekend, I went to a AA hockey game here in Cincinnati (The Cyclones) with Eliot and a friend. It was a first for Eliot and me. Eliot is a huge sports fan and was actually more interested in seeing fights on the ice than seeing a Cyclone's win (and he was rewarded). The Cyclones have this sweet deal - if they score in the first period and keep the other team scoreless, everyone in attendance gets a free chili from Wendy's. Well...the Cyclones came through and we were the recipients of free chili (actually a coupon for the free chili).

As with every sporting event in Cincinnati, since the stadiums and arena are located downtown, you are hit head-on with the homeless in the city whenever you leave an event. They are sitting at all the exits with their signs asking for money.

Last weekend was no different. As we left to make our way to the parking garage, there they were. We passed one man asking for money. It was extremely cold this night and I could not imagine living on the street on a night like this, and wondering where my next meal would come from. We all saw him. The three of us knew what he was asking for. And then the my son blows me away.

Eliot, who had his free chili coupon in his hand, asked if he could run back and give the homeless man his free chili. And he did just that. My son just fed the needy. He just helped a man he didn't know, but knew of his circumstances. He loved a stranger. He shared his food with the hungry.

He made me very proud. What a great teaching moment from my son.

And then my friend and pastor, Joe Boyd, teaches on a non-traditional Christmas story ( The fact that Christ came to not only save the lost, but to meet the needs of the poor. I encourage you to watch this. It's powerful. Thanks, Joe, for the teaching moment!

I am reminded again this season of just how much I have. There is nothing I need. I do not go without anything. If there is something I need, I get it. I know I frustrate my family when I tell them to not get anything for me for Christmas, but it's true. There are so many others who have legit needs - food, clothing, help with rent or a car repair, or a medical bill, etc. I encourage us all to give to those with the greatest needs more than those who already have an abundance. And then let's not limit it to this time of year, but work to make it a lifestyle. We can change the world!

"Small things done with great love will change the world" - Mother Theresa