Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can't Buy Christmas

Photo Credit:  wallyir from
Christmas is something we just can’t buy,
Although at times, it seems we try.
We rush around with shoppers galore,
Buying more gifts than ever before.
We fret about cards and wrapping and such,
Causing our stress to be a bit much.
We push and shove for sales and deals,
Sometimes forgetting how anyone feels.
We hurry.  We worry.  Lose sight of the reason,
The heart and soul of this holiday season.
Because the mightiest, glorious gift of them all,
Came surprisingly helpless and ever so small.
Could our Lord Jesus Christ be so humble enough,
To be born in a stable – modest and rough?
Could His mother, so tired, dusty, and worn,
Find comfort in where her Son would be born?
A manger, a trough where animals fed,
Would this be the place to lay His sweet head?
What were her thoughts – this makeshift room?
Did she want to clean up with a mop and a broom?
Or did trusting it all would be okay,
Suppress her fears about that day?
This plain wooden trough, so lowly and trite,
Yet, so very grand – it was just right.
God transforms with a simple touch,
Our lives, a manger, and things that we clutch.
A manger’s a symbol of nothing less,
Than the glory of God.  Our lives He will bless.
We mustn’t lose sight of the reason we give,
Lest we forget He’s the reason we live.
Let’s hold Him close – the baby boy,
With swaddling blankets of love, hope, and joy.
Let’s soften His manger – forgive and be kind.
Let’s pray for all mothers – they surely won’t mind.
Let’s warm the Lord’s room, all covered in dust,
By spreading His peace.  It’s surely a must.
No money could buy this gift of love,
The birthday of Jesus is sent from above.
Without Him on Christmas, it all seems for naught.
We can’t buy Christmas.  It just can’t be bought.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Sunshines!  No Sips for a couple of weeks.  2014, here we come!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Facing the Manger

One of my friends had a very thought-provoking facebook post the other day.  Gina said, “My kids always arrange the nativity with all the people and animals crowded together, backs to us, huddled in close to baby Jesus.  I, of course, always feel the need to spread everyone out nice and even...facing us on display.  What a lesson I have learned from my littles tonight!  I've got it all wrong.  May I please be more like my children...crowded and huddled close to baby Jesus!”

After reading her inspirational post, I was so curious as to how my own four-year-old would “arrange” our nativity.  So, without any cues, I asked her to set it out under our Christmas tree.  Whaddya know?!  She set it out the exact same way as Gina’s children!  Joseph and Mary were standing close to baby Jesus – Mary at His head and Joseph at His feet.  The angels stood at the left and right of the stable, looking toward our Lord.  The kings, shepherds, and animals were all within inches of our Savior, just soaking in His every move.  How about THAT?!

Children are incredible, aren’t they?  They hear more than they let on and they are wise beyond their years.  Most importantly, they know what love is and exactly where to find it.  Facing the manger.  That’s where.

I found a few great quotes about children that I want to share:
  • Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them. - Lady Bird Johnson
  • While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. - Angela Schwindt
  • Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you. - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  • If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others. - Dr. Haim Ginott
  • Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called, ”All the things that could go wrong.” - Marianne Williamson
  • Heaven must be really small, because I can see it in my Mom’s eyes. – Author Unknown
  • What a child doesn’t receive, she can seldom later give. –  P.D. James
  • If we wish to be in our children’s memories tomorrow, we have to spend some time in their life today.  To connect with them, we need to disconnect from distractions. – Author Unknown

Not long after I read Gina’s post, I ran across another friend’s words of wisdom.  Rebecca has six beautiful children and this is what she said:

“I always get asked, ’How do you do it?’  WELL, here goes…I'm always tired, but I keep going EVERY day.  My house is never clean or uncluttered.  I don't want to spend the money on a maid when I am ‘physically’ capable of doing it myself.  My mind is always running in about a hundred different directions, even when I lay down at night.  I over think everything and am rarely on time anywhere.  I feel like my bedroom looks like a Laundromat exploded.  I rarely spend money on myself because I feel like my kids need it more.” 

“But, at the end of the day, with my sleeping baby in my arms, there is no greater feeling.  YES, we are outnumbered, but in WHAT?  We are outnumbered by the little people who love us back each day and THAT is how I do it.  I am really grateful for all these things because a dirty, cluttered house means I have a house.  And, clothes everywhere means we have stuff to wear.”

I loved reading this honest reflection from a mom with a large family.  One of Bill Keane’s quotes comes to mind regarding my friend, Rebecca:  "How do you divide your love among your children?" And the mother replied, "I don't divide my love - I multiply it."

Ah…children.  A child can teach so much, especially the Christ Child lying in the hay.  If we could just remember that our peace will come while facing the manger, with all of life’s distractions at our back.

Speaking of peace…I was looking for some among my own three children last weekend.  To avoid an overdose of cabin fever, I took them bowling.  We played two rounds – one with bumpers and one without.  What an interesting difference in those two games. 

The first game (without bumpers) was extremely frustrating for them.  As hard as they tried to focus and aim that ball right down the middle, their ball was inevitably sucked into the gutter more times than not.  Frame after frame this happened and they were flustered.  They wanted me to bowl the first game, so we couldn’t use the bumpers.  For the second game, they were like, Momma who?  The bumpers went up and joy followed.  They were successful. They were smiling.  They were enjoying what the game had to offer.

Hmmm…crazy enough, the bumpers reminded me of what Jesus can offer.  When we look love in the eyes as we are facing the manger, we can’t help but smile.  We will be better able to enjoy what this life has to offer if we have Him to keep us out of life’s gutters.  Like the bumpers, Jesus is there to keep us in line and headed in the right direction.  Who knew a simple game of bowling could offer so much insight?!

It’s obvious to me that many good people out there know about facing the manger.  My friend, Jennifer, was fairly certain that she had lost her credit card while filling up with gas in Houston.  She was extremely upset and couldn’t sleep.  Being the Christmas season and all, she had a lot of pending charges for gifts she had ordered.  The potential was there for a ridiculous amount of holiday hassle to get it all squared away.  She was so mad at herself because she had never lost a credit card before.

Once I heard about her predicament, I immediately prayed that whoever found that card would find it in their heart to turn it in.  With so many people desperately needing money during the holidays, I can imagine how tempting it could be for someone to just keep it.  I also asked Saint Anthony (patron saint of finding lost articles) for help.  “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around.  Something is lost and must be found.”  I felt confident and hopeful that her card would be found.

After a long night of waiting and wondering, Jennifer was proud to report the next morning, “Thank you, Lord!  Some angel turned in my credit card at the store.”  That’s right.  Angels ARE among us and they can even be found in a stranger’s kind gesture.  We can also catch a glimpse of baby Jesus’ love through our children.  It seems that we can conquer most anything that is thrown our way, as long as we’re facing the manger. 

And, while facing the manger, “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave keeps playing in my mind.  The lyrics that really stand out for me are:  “So what could I bring to honor your Majesty?  What song could I sing that would move the heart of royalty?  When all that I have is this life that You’ve given me.  So, Lord, let me live for You, my song with humility.”  Crank up the volume…I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

In closing, I want to thank you, dear sweet children, for the reminder that love is found in a lowly manger.  A child shall indeed lead us…

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Never Know

Photo Credit:  Darren Hester from
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.  (Albert Einstein)

We all value different things and many of the things we value aren’t things at all.  So, as we embark on this month of shopping frenzies, let us pause to remember what we value most and what we are actually preparing for.  Our priest, Father Bentil, struck a chord with the congregation on Sunday as he encouraged us to focus on “how” we will await the birth of Christ during this Advent.

Father Bentil said that he actually ventured out on Thanksgiving evening as well as Black Friday.  He commented that the hustling and bustling crowds brought him great joy.  What?!  I can honestly say that that isn’t the first thing that crowds might bring me.  Frustration?  Maybe.  Joy?  Not so much.

He said he was full of joy because while he waited in the long lines, he prayed.  He prayed for the customer in front of him.  He prayed for the customer…uh, custo-MERZ…behind him.  He prayed for the cashiers who had been standing on their feet for hours.  He prayed.  We’ll never know who needed those prayers the most.

Personally, I loved the reminder.  During this time of year, while we shop for those we love and help to provide for those in need, we shouldn’t forget to pray.  It’s so easy to forget.  There are endless celebrations, activities, pageants, and parties to attend and hours of shopping, cooking, and baking to be done.  However, I’m certain that if we remember to pray, this season can be one of joy, peace, and hope.

I’ve heard that anxiety happens when we think we need to figure everything out.  The great news is that we don’t.  We cause ourselves much unnecessary fuss and fret when we think we need to be in control at all times.  God has mentioned numerous times in the Bible to trust Him.  Numerous.  Like at least 150 times or so.  Why, oh why then, do I need a daily reminder?!

I do know that God does a wonderful job at sharing amazing stories of inspiration through people.  One of Jim Stovall’s tales is a great one to share about the love of a mother: 

“There were two warring tribes in the Andes - one that lived in the lowlands and the other high in the mountains.  The mountain people invaded the lowlanders one day and as part of their plundering, they kidnapped a baby of one of the lowlander families.  They took the infant with them back to the mountains.”

“The lowlanders didn't know how to climb the mountain.  They didn't know any of the trails that the mountain people used.  They didn't know where to find the mountain people or how to track them in the steep terrain.”

“Even so, they sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the mountain and bring the baby home.  The men tried first one method of climbing and then another. They tried one trail and then another.  After several days of effort, however, they had only climbed a couple of hundred feet.  Feeling hopeless and helpless, the lowlander men decided the cause was lost, and they prepared to return to their village below.”

“As they were packing their gear for the descent, they saw the baby's mother walking toward them.  They realized that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn't figured out how to climb.  And then they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back.  How could that be?”

“One man greeted her and said, ‘We couldn't climb this mountain.  How did you do this when we, the strongest and most able men in the village, couldn't do it?’”

“She shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘It wasn't your baby.’”

Yes.  What love can do!  We should never underestimate its power.  As a side note of equally incredible inspiration, the writer, Jim Stovall, has the challenge of total blindness.  In addition to being a world renowned speaker and author, he is an International Humanitarian of the Year, a national Olympic weightlifting champion, the founder and president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a National Entrepreneur of the Year, just to name a few.

I have found that inspiration can come from anyone and anything.  And, inspiration to do things differently can come when we least expect it.  We just never know.  A couple of instances for our family most recently involved a fall off a bar stool and a microwave oven breakdown.

After our youngest daughter took a bad fall off a kitchen bar stool this summer, our family decided it was time to use our family table.  Before her fall, we used our kitchen table as a catch-all spot for random things.  For meals, the kids would typically sit at the bar and we would serve them while we ate standing at the kitchen island.  Terrible.  We felt like waiters.  It just worked at the time. 

But since that scary day in June, we have thoroughly enjoyed family meal time at our kitchen table because I refuse to let them sit on bar stools.  Most nights, the kids set the table.  I put the food on the table and we all SIT.  All of us.  We pass the food around while we talk about our day.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!  This never would have happened if it weren’t for the summer trip to the ER.  Bittersweet.  We never know what will prompt us to make a change…for the better.

On another note, over a month ago our microwave oven broke.  Good riddance some say.  OH NOOOO say others.  The point is that we opted not to replace it right away.  At first, I can’t tell you how many times I popped that door open out of habit to reheat something real quick.  As time has gone by, it’s funny that I don’t even miss it.  What has it taught our family?  Patience.  I’m serious.  We have to wait just a bit longer and waiting is okay.

We also never know what one second can mean.  One itty bitty tiny second.  However, one second can make the impossible possible and I witnessed it firsthand while catching the tail-end of the Auburn vs. Alabama game this past weekend.  One second.  Don’t ever underestimate its value.

Finally, we never know when God will work that miracle and answer that prayer.  After 11 million minutes of waiting (aka 21 years), a beautiful couple I know welcomed their sweet baby girl into this world.  Congratulations to Joe and Karen and their miracle, Makayla!  Did I mention that doctors told them there was a less than one percent chance they’d ever conceive?  God doesn’t listen to statistics.  Don’t ever underestimate God’s love.

Another thing not to underestimate is OUR ability to make a difference in someone’s life.  We never know who might need our word of encouragement, our prayer, or our love…especially during this Christmas season.  We just never know.  Let’s sprinkle in these things during our December days.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!