Posted on Leave a comment

Expectations at Christmas Time

What are your expectations at Christmas time? A better question may be, “What were Mary’s expectations at the time of Christ’s birth?”

Considering what happened all those years ago can help us gain perspective. We are told many times through scripture and from the pulpit of Mary’s situation, but for Mothers in particular – this deserves another look.

Why? Because we mother’s, even humankind as a whole, have a commonality to behold. We all worry about what other people think. Read (1 Samuel 16:7).

We want our families to look perfect and act perfect, when we know that is not realistic. None of us are perfect (Romans 3:23).

We fuss over the house, the food, the sleeping arrangements, when Mary had none of these options. We mourn over those children who do not share the faith anymore, but then we read not all of Jesus’ brothers believed (John 7:5). And we can assume quite reliably that the siblings did not always get a long.

We want all of our family together at Christmas time, and especially shining radiantly in the pew beside us, but the shortcomings we focus on make us feel out of place, perhaps even condemned?

Mary felt condemned. Not many understood the miraculous birth of Christ. And as he grew older, the rumours of who Jesus’ real Father was, still rumbled.

Mary’s focus had to be on what she believed in, not what was happening all around her, and certainly not on what people were saying.

As a mother of diverse children who are all on a journey to test their faith and make it their own, or not – my focus this Christmas is on my relationship with Jesus, and the purposes He has for me to live out. Both my husband and I taught our children about Jesus while they were growing up underneath our roof. Now we teach our children through how we choose to live our lives, even after they’ve moved out.

It seems terrible to compare Mary’s suffering or even Christ’s suffering, to ours, but that is part of the why Christ came – to identify with us in every way (Heb. 4:15). As parents and children, there will be sufferings, and temptations of all kinds.

When you observe Jesus’ birth this Christmas ask Him to help you focus on Him, and not all of your (our, their) imperfections. When I see my brothers and sisters at church I am not thinking of their wayward children, or comparing my children to their godly offspring. I am not remembering how they fell yesterday, or how I fell last week. I am looking in their eyes as one child of God to another with faith and hope for our future because of what Jesus Christ’s birth came to accomplish.

Finally, if we can focus on what faith means “faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), we can TRUST instead of worrying. Mary chose to trust in God no matter what. She could have worried her whole life about her calling as a mother, her children’s paths, and appointments, about what her family looked like to everyone who lived around them, about how her children bonded, or didn’t bond, but instead she trusted God.

Even as I close I recognize a slight deviation from that trust, the temptation to add words to please everyone’s ear. Perhaps this sounds too fluffy, or maybe there’s not enough focus on character and consequence? How quickly we can get caught up in what is going on around us, and what we think people might be saying, and how we might adjust our lives to please someone else.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Color of Love

The morning sky seemed like a water stained, black and white photograph. The recent memories of a client’s struggle muddied my thoughts even further. With furrowed brow I cautiously dodged patches of ice. “Such a slippery slope life can be” I thought.

Dainty white whispers of snowflakes fell on my forehead. I knew what they were trying to do. “I know, I know – no two of you are alike” I whispered back at them. If anything could cause me to look heavenward and consider my Creator, they could.

Once inside the windowless office I opened doors, turned artificial lights on our plastic Christmas tree and, put the brown coffee on to brew. I wandered over to the reception desk and spied a pile of bulging black garbage bags. There was a faded note marked ‘donations’ taped to one of them.

I fumbled with one knot. I pulled and pushed and caught a glimpse of something unexpected. Something new, brand new. I grabbed a pair of scissors to get to the treasure inside. The rhythm of my heart began to race. My eyes teared and the breath in my throat gasped.

Gently I lifted a perfectly hand knit child’s sweater out of the bag. My lungs lifted and sighed in relief. “The color of love!” My fingers gently untied the pom pom strings, and moved the zipper up and down. I twirled the sweater in the air from back to front, and felt a strange sensation come over me.  

The love someone had poured into every stitch was now flooding into my veins, warming my limbs, blushing my face, and painting my lips in a smile. I found the faded note and turned it over to find a lady’s name and address. How could I possibly thank her enough? My heart took in every thread of her kindness and compassion.

She had no idea how the gift she’d made for someone’s little boy or girl had been a gift for me as well. I paused and the colors of love filled the room around me. The muddy struggles, the slippery slope, the plastic tree, and the browns and blacks of a challenging world were now magically changing to blue and yellow, pink and green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Nativity, Yesterday and Tomorrow….

Last Christmas we bought our grand-daughter a Nativity Scene, I think it was the PlaySkool brand. For both of them we purchased a storybook about the Nativity, with incredible life like  illustrations, Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft

This Christmas we cannot be with our grand-children and their parents, so I wanted to make the children something special in honour of our baby King, and to teach them about our very sacred family tradition. My husband bought me a Precious Moments Nativity Set some thirty years ago. Precious Moments are Sam Butcher’s creation. I pulled them back out of the box and crafted a story. Now that this little video has been made perhaps we’ll need to come up with another way to share the Nativity next year?

I did suggest to my family, (the ones that are here) that we go down to Hildebrand Motors and tell the story using their Nativity Scene, by moving the almost life size figures around, and video taping it. They thought that was a tad weird. It would have been great fun.

Anyway, thank you to Sam, Garage Band, and Facebook, oh yes and iMovie

A home made Christmas present for my two little grand-children….

Merry Christmas Willow and Thorin

Love Grammie and Papa

Posted on Leave a comment

My Christmas Surprise

We were expecting a rather quiet, but blessed Christmas season, with our youngest daughter who teaches at a Bible School, flying in from Australia. It would be her first Christmas at home in three years.

We learned months prior to December we would be blessed for four days the week before Christmas, by our daughter’s bestie, whom we endearingly refer to as ‘number four’. She was flying in from Toronto, where she studies dance. Accompanying her would be her fiance, whom we had met the year before at Christmas time. He was flying in from Florida.

free google images

Monday night I left work in the dark and walked home along the snowless sidewalk, excited to see who would be gathered around the fire at home. The air was crisp, but unusually warm for the week before Christmas.

I rounded the final block and a car came out of no where, and drove up beside me and stopped. The window went down and I heard a voice say “can we help you with your bags?” I bent down to see a familiar face smiling at me. It was our son’s girlfriend. I looked behind the wheel and there he was – our son. But how I wondered? They were in Europe skating. We had just Face-timed them the day before.

Still in shock, I hopped in the back seat. Seconds later their rental car was parked in our driveway. They had flown all the way from Utrecht (Netherlands) to surprise us. Although they were given five days off, much of that would be travel time. I was overjoyed at their adventurous spirits and their huge sacrifice to be with us for a few short days. Due to the nature of our son’s work, it was his first Christmas at home in seven years.

Although our eldest daughter and son-n-law and two precious grand-children would not be able to join us, I cherished our time together in October and November.

As if things couldn’t get better, I looked out the window Monday night and saw the snow begin to fall. Every bed in our house was full and so was my heart. 

The fullness would continue with a spur of the moment family dinner planned for the next evening, Mom and Grandma, and other dear friends travelling up the next day.

I knew in a few short days our circumstances would be quite different. Our full house would not remain full, but the memories made, our conversations and warm embraces would be more than enough to keep a smile on my face all year long.

-Cindy

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Once Upon a Christmas Past…

Once upon a Christmas Past…

Struggling with pneumonia, I laboured to pull out the piano bench quietly. Once seated my right foot found the middle peddle, and pushed it down to the left to lock it in place. This way I could play and not disturb anyone’s sleep. It was the middle of the night. Only the street light’s glow on a fresh fallen blanket of snow lit the keys before me.

google free images

Christmas was coming, and I had been too sick to do any shopping or baking. Little did I know that a song would be my gift to those I loved.

“Seasons come and seasons go, and every year the sight of snow, threatens to paralyze my soul. Christmas finds me questioning your gifts of joy and suffering and memories send me off in search of hope.”

My parent’s marriage had its ups and downs. When they divorced Christmas was never the same. I know now that Christmas does not hinge on humanity’s imperfect state.

As I wrote at the piano, their pain and mine, of never being a whole family again, flowed out of my heart and onto the page. Mysteriously, for every sorrow a remedy followed. Each melodic, aching admission turned into a revelation of hope.

“I am weaker than most; you came to a manger. I am broken to the bone; you were pierced for a stranger. The past has left its mark, but Christmas heals the heart with memories of a child who offers hope.”

The next day I printed the song onto fancy paper and fashioned small pillows with pockets, from scraps in my sewing closet. Each pocket was sized to hold a copy of the song.

When Christmas day arrived, our family drove almost two hours north to my sister’s place for dinner. Unfortunately I was still very short of breath, so I attended the festivities in my pajamas. Like Linus from ‘Charlie Brown’, I toted a blanket behind me. Although my ‘song pillow’ gift to everyone was small, I trusted they too would be lifted by the musical revelation of hope God had inspired.

Cindy Palin