I had a few big brother issues growing up. Typical things big brothers do. I will never forget the time he made little 4 year old Charisse get on the back of his bike with him. I begged not to ride along, but to no avail. Somehow within minutes, my small foot got caught in the spokes and I started crying hysterically. My brother stopped the bike in the middle of the street, laid it down with my ankle still tangled inside, and left me there. I couldn’t move, so I just cried. I’m not sure if a neighbor heard me or if someone just happened to finally look out their window and see me, but after what seemed like ages my dad came running out. When I got back in the house, my brother was in his room, oblivious to any wrong doing, playing with his GI Joes like nothing ever happened. I still have the scar on my ankle almost 50 years later.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have that little scar if my brother had gone to my dad immediately. Maybe he didn’t think about it. He was just a kid. Maybe I squirmed and wriggled too much in my hysteria, wishing and hoping my brother had told my daddy. I do remember that I felt very alone and scared in that moment.
There will be times in our loved ones lives where they feel very scared and alone. Times they will be in the middle of a situation that brings tears and maybe even hysteria. Times they desperately need to know that someone is going to their Father for them. Whether it’s our children or grandchildren, our parents or loved ones, our families or friends. Everyone needs prayer. Here’s the thing. We know we should be praying for them, but do we cry out for help until help comes, or do we just get so busy with our own lives that it never occurs to us throughout our day to bring our loved ones to Jesus? Do we offer up a quick daily prayer out of routine or do we run to our Father continuously on their behalf? How much do we really love them in comparison to the love we have for ourselves? We tend to be a selfish people. Sometimes even childish. It’s human nature. We “don’t have time” to spend with God, which in turn means we don’t have time to pray for others, and yet~ we find the time for the things we want to do. Without even realizing it we justify “our time” by telling ourselves we work so hard and we’re so busy that we deserve a little “me” time. All along our loved ones are crying in the middle of a mess and inwardly begging for help, but we are oblivious to the needs around us. We are selfish in stealing away moments we could be bringing others to the throne of God and asking for the love, help, guidance, peace and protection only He can give.
Maybe today you are looking into the precious, innocent face of a newborn~ free of scars that come with time. The moment that child was conceived was the moment they needed prayer. Prayer for their “now” and prayer for their future. A scary world lies ahead of them. Maybe you are looking into the face of a parent, a spouse or a sibling and the scars you see are deep and lasting. They desperately need prayer to ease the pain they are feeling. I’m so thankful for the moments in my own life that I was inwardly hurting, thinking that no one noticed, but someone looked out the window of their heart and saw me there and called on my Heavenly Father to help me.
Take some time today to put your own “GI Joes” down and talk to your Daddy. Realize the importance and run to your Father on your loved ones behalf. You might just be the one that can help prevent any scars or ease the pain of some that are already there. Time spent talking to the Savior won’t just change them, it will change you. The amount of love we have for others can be measured in the amount of time we bring them before the throne of our Almighty Maker. How much do you love?
I Thessalonians 5:17
When you live in Michigan (and apparently most of the east coast) in January, you can wake up one day to a rainy, muddy 54 degrees, and the next to a bitter, ice covered 15~ with wind chills in the single digits. Conditions like this can often get us down. Wasn’t it just a month ago that the whole world was softened by the glow of twinkling lights and beautiful music? Everything seemed magical~full of life and promise. Even the weather didn’t bother us. We were “dreaming of a white Christmas”. (Well, Bing and I were anyway 😉) Happiness was contagious. There was a song in the air and a joy in our hearts.
Circumstances can so often dictate our moods and when my son stopped by after Christmas, my circumstances were definitely dictating mine. He was excited because he and his wife had chosen their “word” for 2018 and he wanted to tell me about it. I looked around at the disarray my home was in as I was taking down my festive decorations and in my mind I could see it just a month before. I wished I could hit the rewind button because Christmas to me is like the best Gift in the world just waiting to be opened. He asked me if I had chosen my word for 2018 and in that moment I knew what I wanted it to be.
Every January for the last few years we have each chosen a “word” that will be our theme for that year. The idea of choosing a theme word is sort of like a New Year’s resolution, but different. It’s one word that you want to embody your entire focus for the coming year. A gentle reminder, a promise, a goal. This year I went a little outside the box. I wanted a word that celebrated my Savior in every capacity on a daily basis. I wanted a theme that screamed Jesus and joy. Giving and sharing. Tenderness, peace, goodwill. Family and love. Lots of love. As I heard the excitement in my son’s voice and remembered the excitement the whole world seemed to have just a short month ago, I chose the word “Christmas” because everything that Christmas means is wrapped up in Christ. Christmas IS Christ. I want to celebrate Christ with you every single day this year. And so, from now until next January I’m going to strive to bring one aspect of Christmas to the forefront of our thoughts and minds each month. A gentle reminder of why we love Christmas so much and a celebration of that reminder. There’s just something about the Christmas season that changes hearts. It brings warmth and cheerfulness. We are more giving and more forgiving. But by the time cold and dreary January comes around, that Christmas feeling is long gone. With something as simple as the weather the love in our hearts is easily lost and forgotten, but it doesn’t have to be. Our Savior was still born for us, we need not forget that just because Christmas is past. So, what has changed? Perhaps it’s our hearts. Wouldn’t it be awesome to wake up every day and no matter what the weather was like outside, no matter what our circumstances were, our first thoughts would be~ “I LOVE this time of year!!”? Do you remember that feeling? Love is where it all starts because Love is where it all began. In a manger all those years ago. Let’s start with love. I know it’s a little crazy, but let’s live Christmas more than once a year!
“Once a year, December’s here and our hearts open up. Once a year we give with cheer to those who don’t have enough. Wouldn’t it be something if we all learned to love like it's Christmas more than once a year."
One of my favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is “It’s a Wonderful Life” and this year, as I was scrolling through Pinterest I came across a very interesting article that really grabbed my attention. The title of the article was~“The George Bailey Effect: How To Be More Grateful”. As many of you probably know, my family was hit extremely hard with the stomach flu. It started two weeks before Christmas and every other day someone else came down with it. We had to cancel many of our Christmas plans, plans that have become treasured family traditions we look forward to all year. As Christmas Day approached, I found myself sad that everything got canceled and my kids and grandkids were all so sick. In a nutshell, the idea of the article was to take a lesson from George Bailey and try to imagine what your life might be like without your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your home etc. It definitely works and makes you more grateful for all God has blessed you with. It also helps you realize how much you take for granted. Unfortunately, because we are human, that “George Bailey feeling” feels right in the moment~but when the reality of life hits you hard again~you forget about all those George Bailey vibes and you’re right back to square one. You might find yourself thinking~ I DO have so much to be thankful for, but I’m still sad. Why can’t I have joy? What’s wrong with me?
The answer does not come from George Bailey or Clarence or a movie about how wonderful your life truly is. The answer, the only answer is Christ. Our happiness is often highly invested in our happenings which can turn from good to bad in the blink of an eye, but joy- true joy is only found in Christ. He is our Hope, our Gift of Love, our Salvation, our Eternal Life, our home in heaven, our Wonderful, our Pure, inexplicable Joy. It could never hurt to use the George Bailey Effect and to remember all we have to be thankful for, but let’s also remember that even when the unexpected hits you (i.e. you’re entire family is throwing up) and Christmas Day or any day isn’t what you expected~ it wasn’t what Mary and Joseph expected either~and yet it was the Miracle of Miracles that changed the entire world.
At some point in our lives we will all go through unexpected heartache, much harder than a flu bug. We might even feel as if our happiness is lost forever but out of the unexpected, a filthy cattle stall, your Miracle of Joy was born. You may be headed into this new year with a heavy, hurting heart, due to that unexpected. Whatever you are facing today- look to that manger and to His cross, realizing what a gift God has given you. His Son. What awe that brings to my heart, a peace that can’t be explained but a peace and joy that others understand who have also received His miracle into their own heart and life. Only Jesus can turn our sadness into dancing and fill our hearts with gladness. Some days will always be harder than others but even on those days, He will hold you close and whisper to your soul that all is well. And it truly can be a wonderful life. Your wonderful life.
I sat in the dark with only the Christmas lights twinkling. It seemed as if everyone in the world was asleep except me. It was so dark outside. No more beautiful Christmas lights or the warm glow they cast down my street. Just darkness. I reflected on how quickly time seems to be passing and how quickly the Christmas season came and went. Now it was another new year. I would be taking down my decorations tomorrow. It’s always a bit of a sad time. Putting it all away. Almost as if I’m packing up all the sweet, special memories of happiness and love and family. All the cheerful Christmas music, the glow that’s on our trees and in our hearts. The treasured ornaments that were gifts of the past and of the present. My mom’s Christmas plates and the decorations that once belonged to her and now hold such a special place in my heart. It would soon all be in boxes and put away for another year. I turned off the last of the lights and as I sat in the darkness my eyes were drawn to the beautiful stars outside. Just a moment ago, with all my twinkling lights on, the stars weren’t as noticeable, but now they sparkled with immense beauty. A beauty that touched me, because it reminded me of my Savior. I believe in that moment God brought the last verse of the hymn we had sung just the Sunday before to my heart and mind~ “In all our homes so cold and dark, please send your warmth sublime, the warmth that comes from Jesus love this blessed Christmas time”. It truly can be Christmas in our hearts every day, if Jesus dwells there. We don’t need the tree, the lights, the music, the gifts. We only need one gift and that gift is Jesus. Every day can feel like Christmas because every aspect of the joy of Christmas points back to Christ. Every part we hold so dear is a picture of Him and all He has done for us. A celebration we can share with everyone, no matter what time of year it is. A warmth that comes from Jesus love, even after the beautiful lights and decorations are taken down. A warmth that will brighten our dark homes and hearts. Tomorrow as the last box is put away, my heart will still sing. As Charles Dickens said~ “I will honor Christmas and try to keep it all the year”. Christmas isn’t over. I will celebrate it every day of this new year because..... Christmas is Christ.