A Child is Born

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this [will be] the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
(Luke 2: 7 – 11 NKJV)

Merry Christmas!

Big Things Come in Small Packages

Do you ever struggle with desiring something bigger, thinking it must be better?

As a little girl, I learned one Christmas that special things don’t always come in big packages. Like the Christ child, they can arrive in what may at first look small and plain.

Relatives gathered to celebrate Christmas at my aunt and uncle’s large Wisconsin farmhouse. Later in the day, while the adults sat back and enjoyed their coffee, thirteen children were called together to play “Bingo." We were shown a display of prizes wrapped in boxes of various sizes. Sensitive to feelings, my aunt made sure there were enough for each child to win one.

Younger than most of my cousins, and quiet by nature, I was still just as excited as the rest about the prospect of being able to choose from the pile of colorful packages.

But as we played, one child after another won the game before I managed to get my circular pieces in the required straight line. Packages were eliminated from the pile, and as the supply dwindled, my heart began to sink as the larger boxes disappeared.

It seemed to take forever, but I finally shouted, “Bingo!”

It was my turn to pick from the remaining few packages. I tried to guess what could be hidden inside each one. I made my decision and reached for a large gift, wrapped in bright red paper. There had to be something wonderful inside.

“Big things come in small packages,” my aunt whispered in my ear. She pointed to a gift, barely noticeable, wrapped in plain white tissue paper.

I trusted her and picked the smaller gift. I carefully unfolded the delicate tissue and discovered the silver ring hidden inside. The setting held a round, cut piece of glass that reflected all the colors of the rainbow. The ring had to be inexpensive, but to me it was the most beautiful thing I’d every seen. In my eyes and heart, I held a treasure in the palm of my hand.

In our pursuit for what we think may be better, it’s so easy to overlook anything that might appear insignificant. But, what are we missing? What are the blessings, or everyday gifts, that we take for granted?

I don’t ever want to lose appreciation for a cool breeze blowing through the window on a hot afternoon, a comfortable bed after a tiring day, or a beautiful sunrise reminding me of God’s presence.

Wonderful, exciting, beautiful . . . and even life-changing things can be found in small packages. After all . . . didn’t the greatest gift bestowed upon us come in the gift of a small baby by the name of Jesus? And He gave the biggest gift of all. He gave us the gift of eternal life.

This Christmas, may you find great blessings in the small things.


Remember the Lonely and Grieving at Christmas

Christmas should be filled with merriment and cheer. Fun moments shared with family and friends. But for many people, holidays are filled with reminders of what they’ve lost, or perhaps never even experienced during the season.

Several times in my own life, the Christmas season was emotionally difficult. But I was blessed with amazing friends who surrounded me with their love and support. What a difference that made in my world!

The first scenario was the Christmas following my divorce, when I needed to share the kids and wasn’t able to have them with me the entire time. As a single person, it can be easy to feel alone during the holidays. My immediate family lives thousands of miles away. During those years of redefining my life, my friends did whatever they could to remind me that I was a part of their family. I was invited to parties and other events, included in holiday dinners, and I never sat alone during church services.

After I remarried, the Christmas following the death of my 19 year-old stepdaughter in a car accident held moments of grief. Her absence was profoundly felt by the entire family, but for my husband, the pain resided without relief in his heart. My mother sent a note with home town news and mentioned something that touched our hearts. On Christmas Eve, the sidewalk leading up to the front doors of the church was bordered with lit candles in memory of loved ones. My parents had placed one there for Angie. Such a small thing, but I cannot tell you how much that meant to us.

This past week the Seattle area grieved the death of four police officers, assassinated in a coffee shop by a man who walked in, pointed a gun, and shot. Spouses and nine children are left behind. Thousands of police officers from across the United States and Canada attended the memorial service. It’s been a terrible blow for the area, but also a wake-up call as to what officers and their families live with every day. These families will be without their loved one this Christmas. And it will leave a huge hole in their heart. They need our support. They need our prayers.

You may realize that someone will be alone this holiday season. You may know an individual or family who’s lost a special person in their lives. You might be aware that somebody is struggling financially due to illness or a job loss.

These are a few things you can do to not only brighten their lives, but possibly provide a lifeline:

* Send them a Christmas card or call, just to let them know you’re thinking about them and haven’t forgotten what they’re going through.

* Having a party? Invite them. Even if they don’t attend, most will appreciate the gesture.

* Include them in a family dinner.

* Invite them to attend church – especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If the person already attends, sit together.

* If you’re financially able to provide a few gifts for a family who is struggling, there are many avenues to donate food, clothing, and toys.

* Even if you don't personally know the individual or family, you can always remember them in prayer.

This Christmas, let’s not only give gifts that are wrapped in paper and bows. Let’s give of ourselves.

Have a great week!

A Simpler Life

I think God may be trying to get my attention. On Tuesday, after not thinking about it for years, the melody and words to a song popped into my head. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free . . .”

Less than 24 hours later, I attended an advent service at my church. The theme for the season? “Simplicity.” And one of the songs we sang that evening? You got it. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free . . .”

“Okay, Lord. I get it. But how???”

It’s not that I don’t want a simpler life. It’s just that—well, you know—I have things to do, places to go, people to meet!

My daughter, Ana, sent me photos of Giethoorn, a village with no roads in the Dutch province of Overijssel. All transportation is done via boats, with the exception of a cycling path.

The photos depict a beautiful and serene place, where very likely, people live a simpler life. There are no crazy drivers in cars cutting people off on the highway. No stoplights every block to add to the frustration.

Why is it that Americans have become so obsessed with working harder, faster, and longer? Why are we so driven to succeed and prove ourselves worthy? And worthy of what? And why is it that other countries have learned the art of taking life at a slower pace?

When I get a little harried, I’m going to look at these photos, take in the peaceful beauty, and ask for God’s direction in living with more simplicity.

How about you? Do you yearn for a simpler life?


A Village with No Roads

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