Thursday, December 19, 2013

When A Simple Christmas Wasn't Enough

When I was a little girl in the 1960's, Christmas was simple...at least the ones in my memory were. They may have been hurried and busy for my mom but if they were I don't remember.

Circa 1964
We had a tradition of going to look at lights every Christmas Eve. New pajamas awaited us after supper, usually with feet in them when we were small. After riding around our small town, eyes wide in wonder at blinking, colored lights, we'd come home full of excitement.

The four of us would gather around our tree to open gifts from grandparents. We'd drink my dad's homemade hot cocoa. Simple. The four of us. It was enough.

And then life changed forever the Christmas of 1974 when Mom died.

When I married, our first Christmas together was spent in the log cabin. We weren't even going to put up a tree. On Christmas Eve, neither of us could stand it, so we went into the woods and found a "Charlie Brown" tree. We put a few scraggly ornaments on its bare branches and it was enough.

We were warm, safe and snug in our new home. Even though sadness enveloped me each year, I knew the real meaning of Christmas. Jesus had come to earth...Emmanuel had come.
Aunt Judy sends goody bags of surprises



After waiting nearly nine years to hear the cry of a baby in our home, God blessed us with Andy at Christmas. His birth announcement came within a few hours of the death of my mother twelve years earlier. That changed everything for me. Bailey came two years later. Our family was complete.



Christmas took on new life.

In my desire to make it the "Southern Living" Christmas, I conjured up all these images in my head of what it should look like. I wanted to make up for all my lost Christmases. I think I went looking for Christmas in all the wrong places. Somewhere along the way I bought into the world's image of what the holiday should look like. I heaped all these expectations on myself. I was let down and it had nothing to do with a baby, a manger, shepherds or angels. It had more to do with shopping, decorations, cards and baking. Jesus wasn't enough anymore.

I'd like to be able to say I have it all figured out...how to have the picture perfect Southern Living Christmas. All I know is that I was tired of the emptiness. I wanted the real meaning of the season to return.

Yesteryear-Circa 1995
I crashed and burned...threw in my Martha Stewart towel.

One thing I finally settled in my heart and that is...Jesus IS enough. He will always be enough for me.

This past Sunday and Monday night I was singing with my choir, the words to this song, "God With Us." They resonated so deeply with me..."Wonderful Counselor, never changing, never ending, beautiful, glorious, everlasting, ever living."

He has been all those things to me.

Our lives change from day to day, moment to moment. As I was writing this post, thinking about how my Christmases have changed through the years, yet, the One I sing about, and for, has never changed through eternity past, present or future. He is the same. He is beautiful, and He makes everything beautiful in His time, even a broken life. The beauty He cares about is not found in perfectly adorned homes but a heart that beats for Him.

So...you may come to my home through the Christmas season and I'll throw open my doors and welcome you in. I may or may not have it perfectly decorated or have the most recent Pinterest recipes prepared and festively displayed, but I can promise you, Jesus will be celebrated. He will be the center of our Christmas. I will not let the world take away the most sacred Christian celebration.

It's time we get back to simple...Jesus is enough. After all, Christmas without Christ is mas and that spells nothing.

Have a blessed Christ filled Christmas!

Blessings from My Little Corner,
Cindy


Bailey's graduation last Friday night
Master's Degree in Education


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Unexpected Gift...The Sequel

After I post my blog each week, I usually go back sometime during the day and read it again, for the umpteenth time, for errors. No matter how many times I proof it before I hit publish, I miss something. Most of the time it's minor...but when I got to the end of last week's post I said out loud to myself, and the cat, "Cindy, you missed it. You missed a great message to share."

My heart was sad...

As I read the end of my post, "My gift is priceless, and one I'll remember for years to come, as well as the giver," it hit me...I didn't finish the thought.

I missed it...

If I were finishing the same post this week I might go on with something like this: In human terms, the Bible returned to me was priceless and unexpected, but the greatest gift ever given to mankind was Jesus.

He was the long awaited Messiah for the Hebrew people in biblical days, but He was the unexpected servant king, the upside down Savior of the world. He was not what they were looking for. His birth and entry into the world broke four hundred years of silence from a holy God who had never forgotten His people. His birth ushered in the missing link from the Old testament to the New, prophecy fulfilled.

God was waiting...waiting for time to reveal His plan of redemption. His own son, Jesus, would be the redeemer, the adopted son in the lineage of King David.

The shepherds were tending sheep out in the fields. Do you think they expected to see a heavenly host of angels singing about the birth of their Savior? Probably not.

If the kings of the east had expected this miraculous birth they would have left two years prior to be present for this spectacular event. They had the financial means and the power to make it happen.

Instead...

Jesus was given the lowliest of births as He quietly burst into human form...a baby, meek and mild. Unexpected, even by His birth mother. But oh, how she loved Him. She accepted all that was happening to her with grace and wonder. The Bible says she pondered all these things in her heart. Luke 2:19

As He grew, He found favor with God and man.

He did the unexpected. He healed diseases, turned water into wine, and washed feet.

He spoke to multitudes, not from a palace, but a hillside by the shores of the Galilee.

He wept with those who wept and mourned with those who mourned.

He proclaimed freedom for those in bondage.

When His days on earth were coming to a close, He chose to obey His Father...to be the ultimate sacrifice. He allowed Himself to be stripped, beaten, mocked, and humiliated, then hung on a tree to atone for my sin and your sin. He finally cried, "It is finished." And He died. At thirty three years old, He accomplished what He came to earth to do.

From the manger to the cross, His work was almost complete.

But that's not the end of the story because no one expected Him to come out of the tomb after He was dead. But He did. His Father in heaven raised Him from the dead on the third day. Over five hundred people saw Him alive and it's recorded for us to read today.

And just as I missed it last week when I wrote about my gift, many people in that day missed it too! They didn't believe until Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven after forty days. Even his half brother, James, missed it until after Jesus' ascension.

Some people are still looking for a savior. We look for it in material things, people, money, power, or fame. We can even look for it in ourselves. But the only Savior who was nailed to a cross for me, has come...Emmanuel...God with us!

And so...that's why the Bible my friend returned to me is so important. It's a reminder that God has been with me in the forty years we've been apart, even when I didn't realize it, He was there.

I'm so thankful for parents who were faithful to take me to church and teach me about Jesus. Because of my foundation, I came back after wandering away from my faith. He also reminded me that just as God did not forget His people in the four hundred years between the Old and New testament in the Bible, He did not forget me either. He has given complete healing from childhood wounds this past year, and for that I'm thankful.

Don't miss Him this Christmas...

O come let us adore Him...at Christmas and every day after!

But because of our sins He was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment He suffered, made whole by the blows He received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. 
But the Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserve.
Isaiah 53:5-6 GNT

Christmas Blessings from My Little Corner,
Cindy

Thursday, December 5, 2013

An Early Christmas...The Unexpected Gift

Christmas has come early for me this year. I wasn't expecting it and that's what makes it so special.

Sometimes the best gifts come from the unexpected, the long forgotten. My gift is coming in the mail. I haven't seen it in forty-plus years.

I know there are people who scoff at Facebook, but for me, it has been a bridge to connect with family and childhood friends who live in other states. When I married, I moved away from my hometown, and eventually from our home state of West Virginia to the beautiful state of South Carolina. We've been in South Carolina nearly 29 years. But I digress...

As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across the picture of someone who'd recently joined. I recognized her face immediately. I sent a friend request. She responded with a lovely private message.

The next morning, I awakened to another message from her telling me she had something of mine from when we were about eleven or twelve years old. She wanted to know if I would like to have it back, that she would be happy to send it to me. She said she'd kept it all these years hoping to find me one day.

Wait till I tell you what it is...if you've been reading my blog for any length of time you know I'm a sentimental sap so it couldn't get any better than this.

Are you ready?

She has a Bible that was given to me by my parents. She said I'd loaned it to her when she went to church with me. Now for some, that may not seem like anything special, but for me, there couldn't be a better gift.

I've spent the last several months in counseling, finally learning how to grieve losing a mother to cancer, at the age of fifteen. Many things happened to me that prevented the grieving process. The anniversary of her death is approaching in a few days. To receive this most precious childhood Bible during this season of my life is truly a gift from heaven.

Losing a parent at Christmas is difficult...having a Bible returned at Christmas is a gift I will cherish.

Having a friend that cared enough to keep it all these years is even more amazing...as someone recently said to me...tears are my only response.

How can you bless someone this Christmas with the unexpected? It doesn't have to cost much, or anything at all. It can be a gift of time or talent. The best gifts come from the heart and cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

My gift is priceless, and one I'll remember for many years to come, as well as the giver.

Christmas Blessings,
Cindy

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