The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

Every year, our family puts up our Christmas Tree.  We get out the boxes of decorations–they are in red tubs with green lids, and each ornament is nestled in its original boxes—I am bragging about this area of my organization, as it is the only area I can brag about. 🙂  We make hot cocoa, have some cookies, and decorate our tree.

I love decorating the tree.  We usually buy an ornament to commemorate a vacation we took, or a special trip we took and so decorating the tree is a walk down memory lane.  We talk about the trip or remember the people who gave us the baby ornament, or any ornament we put up on our tree. 

After Sean died, this usually wonderful tradition of decorating the tree became a tradition that led to grief.  Every ornament became a memory with his memory attached.  “Remember, we got this ornament when we took the trip to Florida and we went to Disney World?”   Then I would remember how Sean wanted to go to Florida to Disney World so badly.  There were T.V. shows on the Travel Channel highlighting the Disney Parks, and he would watch them over and over again.

“Mom, can we go to the Disney Parks?”  “Well, Sean, you can pray about anything, so you can pray that we go to the Disney Parks.”   In my mind, I didn’t know how this would ever happen, it seemed unlikely to say the least, but when Julia, my daughter told me all she wanted In the whole world was a baby sister, (she was 5 at the time), I told her the same thing—”well Julia, you can pray about anything, so pray for God to give you a baby sister.”  I was thinking we could look into adoption.  Instead I found myself pregnant at the age of 45, giving birth to a baby girl at the age of 46. 

Sure enough, shortly after my son started praying to go to the Disney Parks, my sister-in-law called my husband and she wanted to plan a family trip with our families and their parents to go to the Disney Parks.  (Their parents had a time share that we used the points from to book timeshares in Orlando, and my sister-in-law knew the websites to get the best deals on the Disney tickets—and so we found ourselves down in Florida—in the Disney Parks!!)  We had a blast!!  Sean had a blast!!

 Looking at the ornaments–led to all those memories, which led to grief, but it also led to remembering the answered prayers as well. This helped us stand in the reality that God exists, and He loves us, He listens to us, He cares for us.    

It was very difficult to continue with this tradition of decorating the tree.  We celebrated our first Christmas without Sean a mere 3 months after we lost him.  We were still in a state of shock.  My husband and I thought we needed to continue with our traditions, that the children needed these things to bring the past into our present and our future.  Even though it felt like everything had changed, some things remained the same.   God’s love remained the same.  We have found that each year, there is more of a blessing in the remembering, than grief.  It has helped to bring Sean into our present and will help bring him into our future.

 Just writing this story, I am remembering Julia praying for a baby sister, and God answered!!  God does not always answer these types of prayers—as my nieces who were only daughters will attest—but He did for Julia.  Perhaps because He knew that Julia and all of us would need this baby in the days to come, (our baby was 6 years old when her brother died.) She would bring us God’s comfort and love in her hugs and kisses and declarations that, “Sean is in heaven, and we are going to heaven too, we will see him again.”

Christmas is celebrating that God left heaven and came down to earth in the form of a baby.  “Immanuel” means “God is with us.”   In John 1: 1,14, we find this concept of : The Word is God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  

In Romans 8:31, it says, “If God is for us, who is against us?”  In other words–it doesn’t matter who is against us, because God is so big and great, we are covered by Him.

Romans 8: 38, 39 also says– nothing can separate us from His love.

I am here to bear witness to these truths.  God is With Us.  God is For Us.  Nothing—not death nor life, nor any created thing can separate us from His love.   Not losing a child, or the grief that this loss brings, or any other problem in the entire world can separate us from His love.

If you are having trouble believing this, I want you to think about how much you love your children, and you are a mere human being. If you and I can love with such passion as imperfect human beings, imagine how a perfect, infinite being who considers us His children—loves us.  It is not so hard to imagine when we think of it in those terms—is it?

However, God’s thoughts are greater than my thoughts, and His ways are greater than my ways.  Sometimes, (ok—many times), I question God and what He is doing in my life.  I questioned Him many times for taking my son.  I have come to the realization that God is not upset with my questions, but sometimes His only answer is to wait on Him, and trust Him, even if I don’t know the answers, I can trust Him, I can trust His love, I can trust that He is for my family, He is for me.

You can trust that God is for you, He is for your family.  You can trust in His love.  He is “Immanuel”—God is with us—He is with us in our joy, in our grief and in our lives!!  So Be encouraged!!

The Christmas Gift

When I was a little girl, my mom handed me the big Sears catalog, and told me to circle the doll I wanted Santa to bring me for Christmas.  So, I took time looking through all the pages, and circled the doll I wanted.  Lo and behold, that exact doll was given to me on Christmas day.  It was amazing!!   I still have that doll—she is pretty old, and has lost all her hair, and one of her eyes is a bit lazy—but she has been dressed and rocked by myself, my daughters and now my granddaughters.

When my boys were much younger, they wanted the latest gaming system for video games.  They did not even dream they would receive it—so when they opened that system for Christmas—there was leaping and yelling and screams of delight.  It was delightful to behold their excitement!!

My girls had gifts that they were especially excited about—gifts that were difficult for their parents to find—gifts that we searched for—for months—like the Baby Alive doll that for some reason was the hot doll that season—and the only thing for which our little girl asked.

Gifts—they can represent so much—the knowledge that the giver of the gift thinks the receiver is loved, belongs, is valuable.

At Christmas time we celebrate God’s gift to us:  Jesus.  Jesus, the Immanuel—God is with us—came to earth, to give us the gift of a relationship with God, which according to John 17:3 is eternal life.

Jesus—the visual image of the invisible God—demonstrates God’s love to us;  demonstrates God’s sacrificial love to us—for Jesus laid down His life for us—to give us life—life eternally and life abundantly.

“For by grace, you have been saved by grace, and it is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God…..”  Ephesians 2:8

….the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Eternal life is this….Knowing God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.  Jn 17:3

This is what it is all about—Jesus came to give us a relationship with God.   It is a GIFT—that means we just need to accept the gift.  That’s it—we just need to accept the gift.

When I was a little girl, I opened my present of the doll, and received it joyfully.

My sons received the gift of the gaming system—with great jubilation. 

Our daughters received their gifts with the assurance that their parents loved them.

God has given us the gift of a relationship with Him.   Each person has been given this gift—“for God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever receives Him, will have everlasting life.” John 3:16   Each person, is apart of this world—therefore, God has given the gift of His Son to each person.

“And the witness is this, God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son, has the life….”  1 John 5:11-12

If you have received the gift of Jesus, you have also received the gift of eternal life.

How can you receive this gift?   This gift is received by faith—faith is trusting God.  Prayer is a way to express one’s faith.  Here is a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I need you.  Thank you for coming to this earth.  Thank you for dying for my sins and giving me a relationship with You.  Please come into my life, be my Savior and my Lord.  Amen.

If you expressed your faith and asked Jesus to come into your life—Jesus did come in!!  He never lies.  You don’t need to keep asking Him in, as He tells us in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or desert us. You received eternal life—a relationship with God that has no end.

Rejoice—this gift never grows old—never breaks down—and bestows upon you all the privileges of being a child of the Living and Holy God!!   If you want to learn more about growing in this relationship with God, you can click on this link.    Merry Christmas Everyone—this is what it is all about—That God loved us so much that He sent His Son!!  This is worth celebrating!!!!

So Be Encouraged!!

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree

Our family cut down our Christmas tree this year!!   We have not done this in ages!!  But this year, we made the drive out to a Christmas Tree farm and spent an hour wandering through the trees—looking for the perfect tree!!  Until finally, finally we found it!!  Then my husband, hero that he is, got down on the ground, and cut the tree!!   This was a sparkling moment for us during this Christmas season.

These are the moments I am choosing to focus on during dark days.   This choice was made after wallowing in dark thoughts, for a few weeks.

This is what was meant by, “ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

The passage in Phil 4, starts by stating—“Stand firm in the Lord….Phil 4:1    Then it goes on to tell us to “Rejoice in the Lord.”  Why?  Because …The Lord is near!   Phil 4: 3

Then it tells us to “Be anxious for nothing, but to take everything to God in prayer—and the result will be—PEACE!!”   Phil. 4:4

And then—Finally—it tells us to dwell on the good, the true, the lovely—hence me stating one of the things I am dwelling on in the beginning of this blog—cutting down the Christmas Tree!!

As I stated a few weeks ago—I and my family—are going through a time of shaking—and when that happens—it can feel like one is walking in quicksand—and there is no solid ground.

I have found it difficult to focus my mind on the Lord and His truth and His promises.  I have felt like I am drowning. 

In this time, my most frequent prayer has been, “Help!!”  

Why am I relating all of this to you—because maybe you are in a dark place as well.  Maybe you feel as if you are going through a shaking time.

So—-I am remembering.

I am remembering all the times in my past, that God has brought me through those dark times.

I am reading God’s Word and God’s promises. (For instance, this passage in Philippians 4.)

I am rejoicing—because the Lord is near.

I am taking every anxious thought to God in prayer, with an attitude of thankfulness.

I am focusing on the truth, the honorable, the right, the lovely and anything that is worthy of praise.

I am asking other brothers and sisters to come along beside me and pray with me.  That means—if you are reading this blog—I ask you to pray for some unspoken needs that we have as a family.  Thank you all for praying for us.  Please feel the freedom to comment on this blog and ask for prayers for yourself and your family as well.  I will pray for you!!

I hope you have your own sparkling moments to dwell upon during this Christmas season.

One of the things that I think of often—is that I am loved with an everlasting love.  My family is loved with an everlasting love.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  Your family is loved with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

May we be encouraged!!

The Good Parents

Love and Forgiveness—they go hand in hand.   In fact, it is difficult if not impossible to have one without the other.  Let me explain—as a parent—I have forgiven my children over and over again—and they have most assuredly forgiven me.   Why?  Because we love each other.   In fact, while I find it difficult to forgive almost everyone else in my life, it is not that difficult to forgive my children.

Why is that?   Dare I say that is because God has given me a great, great love for them—so that I will care for them, sacrifice for them, and put their needs above my own.  I think if the situation called for it—I would die for them.   I think most parents would say the same thing. 

Why?  Because this is how God has designed us.  He has given us this parent-child relationship so that we can understand the greatness of His love for us and the greatness of His forgiveness towards us.

Well—what if one is not a parent?  I was not a parent for the first 31 years of my life.  Yet, I had parents.  I saw the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings.  I saw the many, many acts of love—and I saw all the ways love could be expressed—words of encouragement, acts of service, gifts, touch, and quality time spent with each other.

I’d like to give you an example of each of these things my parents did for me and my siblings.  My mom would praise and encourage me often.  She would notice things that I did and praise my efforts—even if it was as simple as cleaning out the sink. 

My Dad showed his love in acts of service.  He would scour pans, vacuum around the house, set up tents when we were camping with great care, chop up wood for our wood burning furnace—and do a myriad of other tasks all to take care of us, and make life easier for us.

My mom was in charge of gifts and gift giving.  While my Dad’s salary provided for all our needs, my mom’s salary went to the luxuries of life—gifts, vacations, etc.  My mom would shop for Christmas with great care, and then both of my parents would wrap the gifts together.  Together they made Christmas time one of the most magical times of the year.

Both of my parents would hug us.  However, after my dad had his stroke—hugs and touch were one of the few ways he had to communicate his love, as he lost his ability to speak—and so that was how he would show us he loved us.  My Dad lived for 5 years without speech, until God took him home.  (Tears come to my eyes at the thought of this.)

Quality time was spent with my parents every day.  We ate supper together as a family, every night.  We often laughed together, and told stories of our day around that old farmhouse table that my Dad had lovingly restored.   Our family took a vacation every year together.  We went camping and swimming and canoeing.  We took a big trip to California and went to Disney Land and Knot’s Berry Farm.  We went to New Orleans.  We went to Virginia Beach.  We had fun together, and we still tell stories of the times we spent with each other—(and let’s be honest—the fights we also had during these times.)

 When I was a teenager, and wanted to be on the track team, my Dad ran with me to help train me and get me in shape.  He spent quality time with me, and he would tell me his stories and tell me what a great runner I was and was going to be.  (Which was total love on my Dad’s part—as I was not that good. 🙂   My Dad however was a great runner. )

I know that you could tell me your stories of how your parents showed you, they loved you.  Maybe you can’t—maybe your parents were not good.    Even if that is the case—we have a Father who is very, very good.  This Father’s love is perfect for you and for me.  He demonstrated that love by sending His Son to live and die for you and me.  Take it from someone who has lost a son—you don’t give a son or a daughter up—unless there is no other way to rescue others that you deeply love.

 For instance, my cousin had leukemia, and her brother had an operation to donate his bone marrow to help his sister.  This was an act born from love and desperation—to take a risk with one child, for the sake of another child.  We have seen this risk taken when people donate a kidney or another organ they have two of—to save someone they love.

 There was no other way to rescue us from Satan and from sin, but to send Jesus.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”    That is why scripture tells us that Jesus is the only way to God—because there was no other way to free us, but through the sacrifice of Jesus’ death.

Our God is a good, good Father—That’s who He is.   He loves us, absolutely, completely, sacrificially.

So let us be encouraged!!

I will never desert you…..

A song by Matthew West has been striking some chords in my life—There are some phrases that hit home for me, one of them being: You’re the God who stays. You’re the God who walks in my direction when the whole world walks away. .Wow!! That is powerful!! Can you ‘see’ this God?

When I was a teenager, my first love broke up with me to date another girl.   I wondered if I could ever trust someone with my heart again.   A year later, I was reading this verse from Hebrews 13:5, which said:….”I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.”   In Greek it is written in the triple negative, so what it actually says is:” I will never, never, never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.”    I realized then that God– was the God who stays.  I also realized that no one else could promise me that they would never leave—because even if they stayed til death did us part, death would part us.  With God—that is not the case.

Another verse in this song that jumped out to me is:

I used to hide Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way, but I’m learning You don’t work that way.

Somehow You don’t see me like I do,

 Somehow You’re still here.

You’re the God who stays!

I used to think that I had to “do” things to earn God’s love.  What an amazing thing to discover the depth and riches of God’s love, a love from which nothing can separate me and nothing can separate you.

Sometimes, this is ridiculously hard to believe.  The video shows a young mom dealing with a drug addiction.  When we are struggling with addictions and brokenness—there is such a feeling of shame—of unworthiness—and that is when it is really difficult to hear and see the truth of God’s love. Yet ironically, it is in accepting that love and strength from God that those addictions can be overcome, and healing can take place in the brokenness. 

I think the lie is that no one else struggles with hard things, when in reality, most of us struggle with hard things.  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man….”  In other words, we are all tempted, and we are all tempted by many of the same things…but the rest of the verse states…”but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the means of escape.”  1 Corinthians 10:13   God is faithful.  God is faithful.   He is the God who stays.  He is the One who runs in our direction when the whole world walks away. 

I hope this song ministers to you, as it has to me, and that you will be Encouraged!!