iBelieve

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Archive for the category “Christmas”

Late Night Visitor – Please RSVP


It came in the mail the other day.  The 4″ x 6″ white envelope had no return address, but my name was handwritten in beautiful calligraphy.

I sliced open the envelope to find it was an invitation.  The beautiful calligraphy continued on the inside and I was being invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner and a Christmas party.  An RSVP was requested, but there was no contact name, email, or phone number.  As I read futher, I noticed the time and location were not listed either.  Confused, I flipped the card over thinking the details would be on the back, but alas, they were not.  I scrambled to pick up the envelope and look at the back to see if there was a return address written there, but there was nothing.

“What a cruel joke” I mumbled to myself while tossing the invitation in the air and slumped in the oversized couch in my living room.

I hugged the pillow made out of my mother’s clothing.  My mind raced trying to think of who would send an invitation without any details.  Then it dawned on me.  It doesn’t matter where I go this upcoming holiday season, grief is going to be there.  I have never been one to say, “If so-and-so is going to be there, I am not going.”  But this time, I am allowing myself to make an exception.

Grief is excited for the holidays.  It’s his big debut.  He is going to make an appearance in so many hearts this year.  He will be in every store, mall, and restaurant.  He will be singing Christmas karaoke at the top of his lungs.  He is a bit much; too much actually.

For the record, I am RSVPing MAYBE.  It is okay to not do anything on the holidays if my heart is not up to it.  Grief is as unique as a snowflake and does not come with instructions or an end date.  MAYBE is my best answer…for now.

Psalm 31:7 (NIV)

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.

 

 

I Want To Go Back


In this Christmas season, my house is not decorated like a picture out of Good Housekeeping magazine, nor is my table festively decorated.  Read more…

All I Ever Wanted


Two months before Christmas, it arrived. The section I drooled over filled the last forty pages including the back cover. I assumed every household received one. Many of the pages were dog-eared as a reminder of what to put in the letter to Santa. How many of you remember the JCPenney special edition Christmas catalog from the mid 1970s? Read more…

Empty Change


I never dreamed I would write what you are about to read. The Christmas season is hard for me. Read more…

Silence is the Retreat


My drive from Michigan to Ohio was absolutely beautiful.  Michigan had experienced an ice-storm and every branch of the crystalized trees glittered for miles, superior to any display of Christmas lights I have ever seen, as the sunshine brought them to life.  My simple little camera would not have captured the beauty that was before me; therefore, the photo album is etched in my memory. 

To silence oneself for a few days is not as hard as imagined; I accomplished this during the last weekend in March in a most serene setting in Ohio at a silent directed retreat.  About 25 others attended this quiet-time to contemplate and discern God in our lives.  We were blessed with trained Spiritual Directors to guide us in this journey.   

The first evening, we were able to speak with others while sharing a meal.  I was one of three participants from Michigan, and I met some awesome Ohioans.  We may have talked for 45 minutes or so, but much was shared within those precious minutes.  After the meal, we met in a room together to share what was on our hearts this weekend.  When it was my turn to speak, I explained that about a month ago, I had a very vivid dream of someone telling me to “minister to the church”.  My personal task then was to spend time with God to see just what that meant.

We were assigned one of four Spiritual Directors and we broke into smaller groups to meet with them for further instruction about the weekend and to set up our personal meeting times.  After this short meeting, we were excused to begin our journey into silence.

Back in my room, I had a hard time settling in.  Earlier that morning, my mother was rushed to emergency and diagnosed with a treatable form of congestive heart failure.  It was on my mother’s urging that I go ahead and make my journey to Ohio as I had planned for months.  I silently kept in contact with my siblings by receiving updates about my mother’s condition via text messaging. 

One awesome cook made all of our meals.  Eating in silence was an experience I had never encountered.  We acknowledged each other with smiles, but then focused on our food before us and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us through all the windows in the dining area.  We took turns cleaning up the kitchen after each meal.  I signed up for clean up duty after breakfast on Saturday morning.  I broke the silence in the dining area when I accidently dropped a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled floor.

Spring was not in the air; however, God gave us sunshine every day.  I bundled up and took a walk along the paths in the woods and I walked around the pond and next to a stream.  I spotted beautiful birds that I never see in Michigan, I heard the jack-hammer pounding of the Woodpeckers high up in the trees, and two sets of geese were making their homes near the pond.  It was so beautiful.

Sitting in silence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to my heart was quite an amazing experience.  Spending time in prayer, God’s word, in His creation, and simply resting in Him, made me realize that He is not quiet at all. 

During our closing session, we went around the room, as we had at the beginning, and shared what the Holy Spirit spoke to us in our silent journey.  This is what I said:

On Thursday, I announced that I wanted to know what my dream meant to “minister to the church”.  I found out that answer this weekend.

To minister means to care for others.  The church are people everywhere.

The Holy Spirit allowed me to search deep inside of me to remind myself that I love to help people.  I have sewing skills, listening skills, writing skills and support skills that I can creatively use to serve God’s people.  Although I have ideas on how to utilize my passions and skills, it will be the Holy Spirit that will lead me.  I will spend more time in prayer and in God’s word as they will strengthen me.

Philippians 4:13 is my take-away verse:

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

I did not want to leave the serenity of the weekend.  My Spiritual Director explained that this is an experience.  I can take this experience with me, lean on it, remember it and be thankful for it.  I can create new experiences to spend quality, quiet-time with the Holy Spirit.  When she said this to me, it didn’t make sense.  Only after being immersed into the world once again, do I understand.  It is important for all of us to sneak away, quiet ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts as it is true nourishment for the soul.  Now I understand why Jesus took time alone to pray to his Father.  He was being strengthened for His journey to the cross.

A special Thank You to Sister Virginia, my Spiritual Director.  May God continue to use you for His good works.   

Gift-Giving 101


I went Christmas shopping Friday night. I did not listen to the ads on television or radio and I was not compelled by a coupon; I went on my own free-will and a list.

My list contained the name of my great-nephew. “Maybe I could get him something cool to wear” I thought. Nothing seemed to appeal to me as I passed by the shirts, jeans, underwear, socks…until I found myself in the pajama section. My mind’s eye raced me back to my youth on Christmas Eve…finding a new pair of pajamas under the tree. In my family, pajamas were the number one gift to receive. I loved new footy-pajamas as they kept me snuggly warm. The real treat was being able to twirl around in a nightgown and matching robe that my mother stayed up late at night sewing for me. There is just something about a new pair of pajamas. Snapping back into reality, I remember that my sister usually buys her grandson (my great-nephew) pajamas for Christmas. She has similar memories of receiving a new pair of pajamas for Christmas and feels strongly to continue the family tradition.

As I stood there, my mind’s eye raced me back to my painful memory; the last 18 years. Oh, how I wish I could buy pajamas, or stay up late at night sewing pajamas, for my own children. My eyes welled up as I joined reality and walked out of that particular store.

Gift-giving has special meaning for me because of my childlessness. It allows me to let others know I am thinking about them and cherish our relationship.

Can you imagine God’s list that first Christmas? He did not listen to ads on a television or the radio and he was not compelled by a coupon. He was compelled by eliminating death in the world and replacing it with eternal life. God is the ultimate gift-giver. We all can have great Christmas memories by accepting God’s only son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior, who was born man and died freely for our sins. We will be able to thank Him in person for this gift since He is preparing a place for us in eternity.

John 3:16 (NIV, ©2010)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Post Navigation