Not to discount the most precious gift of God given during the years of the Christmas Story, I believe that Christmas is relevant today because God never ceases to be a gift giver. As a child I used to save money all year to be able to buy a small gift for as many people as possible. It, of course, didn't go very far outside my immediate family, but making gifts expanded my chances a bit, and I loved to make at least some of my gifts. This year, a neighbor's child was visiting and mentioned that she wanted to make her Mom a gift. She picked up an empty wrapping paper roll that was standing out of our scrap bucket, where we kept a few bits of firestarting materials, beside the fireplace. She said she had a friend once who made a pretty shaker by using something like that and filling it with beads. She asked to use some of my craft materials to make her Mom a gift. "You came to the right place, because I know exactly what you are talking about, and it just so happens I kept something this week that will be much better than that, for your roll." I said.
I see how you can make something out of so many disposable items, and my mother often helped us "recycle" items for Christmas decorating, becasue she came from a family who tried to do as much as possible with as little as possible. They called it thriftiness. But well aware that. with the bulk of disposables in our world. it would be easy to become a hoarder, if I thought I could use everything...I almost threw away a roll that something came rolled on, which was a little longer than a toilet tissue roll, and much stronger than the one my little friend held, and it also had plastic removable endcaps. What came to mind when I resisted the urge to toss it was making an old fashioned Victorian shaker. Filled with beads, or beans, or preferably, jingle bells or candy, they were hung on trees of yesteryear, and persons visiting were allowed to choose one from the tree. If they were only shakers, they might be used as rhythm makers while singing carols, but when filled with hard candy or tiny toys, little sugar cookies or other bitty gifts, they were a means of wrapping gifts to be given out at parties. It was a part of the celebration, that at the end of the evening, people chose one of the shakers and untied it from the tree, or selected one from a basket as a parting gift. I thought once about making several for my tree and allowing my grandsons to select from them each time they visited around the holiday, and open it for a tiny pre-Christmas gift. So more than once I started to throw the roll away, but hesitated hoping to use it. Considering that the boys might not get such a kick out of my idea, I decided not to keep any more rolls, but this one, I just couldn't toss. I decided to put it among the things I kept in my craft room, but in a place where, I promised myself, I would definitely toss it, if I hadn't used it in a reasonable amount of time. I guess because I had this little inner argument with myself about keeping it at all, when this child asked to make a shaker, my heart skipped a beat. " So that's why I couldn't throw it away," I thought.
We gathered, beads, and bells and tissue and paper with butterflies on it and ribbons, that were all among the crafties in my collection, and we made a shaker. We scented it with a nice modern fragrance sample I had, and tucked it into a Christmas bag, and my little friend went home with the very gift her heart had been desiring to give her mother. Her idea, but from stuff the Lord had placed in my care. I actually thought that was my Christmas present from Jesus this year, to be able to be used for some good purpose, until Christmas morning.
-Sometimes the traditional way we do things is not what the Lord would have us do. Holding fast to our ususal traditions may mean we are closing our hearts to Christs guidance..Christ's warning, when his disciples were rebuked for not following tradition, was:
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. Mark 7:6-8
This year I found myself choosing between my traditions and hearing God speaking to my heart.
My husband and I always have exactly the opposite approaches to everything we do. When he began to speak of retiring, the Lord began to deal with my heart about finding a way to not have daily battles about getting even the simplist of things done, by trying to make his early days of retirement about how he would do things, rather than how I would do things. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was one of those "pull in opposite directions" kind of times. As I relinquished one tradition after another to Jimmy's choices, I began to wonder if all other Christmases in the past had been this difficult for him. Had he spent every Christmas trying to figure out where he fit in? As I contemplated this there came a point when Christmas wasn't fun for me any more. But I was determined to make the best of it. By Christmas morning, I was just hoping to get through it. The way Jimmy liked things done, was just not fun. His idea of gifts for my grandsons was money in a box, which he only decided to do five minutes before we were supposed to be leaving to go visit them. What's more, he also decided at that minute that he wanted breakfast cooked before we go. We were definitely going to be late. I felt stretched to the limit of my commitment to be flexible this year. I dropped the money he gave me into tiny boxes which were prewrapped and had bows on the lids, made bacon and eggs while he made his own toast, and even made coffee. I sat down to eat, trying not to glance at the clock whose time was ticking away, and prayed, "Lord, please make a way for me not to break down and cry, and please help me to not build up tensions, anger or dissapointment that will explode on him later. I need your gift of strength to keep this up. Jimmy yielded to not cleaning the kitchen before we left, and I tried to smile as he decided we still needed to take a cooler with drinks. Knowing we needed it, I asked if he would try to help me know more about what his expectaions were sooner, so maybe I could allow more time. " I can't read your mind. "He explained his thought process for why he didn't think there was a need to talk it out , and I marveled once more at how differently he thought than me. And I said, "It helps to know how you are thinking about things, but I could use that viewpoint a little sooner, to be less stressed, because I would never think of it that way." We rushed to the car, and thankfully had no traffic to deal with. At a certain point, it is possible to take one of two directions to go to my daughter's house. When we stopped at the light, he, of course, put on his blinker to turn and go the opposite way of what I would choose. There was a car in front of us and I reasoned he chose to get out from behind that car, in order to make up a little time. But I had driven this a lot since my daughter moved to this house, and I knew that going striaght would be much faster than making the turn. A full 5 minutes faster. I chanced making Jimmy angry, and encouraged him to continue through the light in spite of the car being in front of us, assuring him in the kindest voice I could muster, that it was definitely faster. The car in front of us pulled out so slowly I almost cried, but they picked up speed and eventually went another direction. I had texted my daughter to begin without us, that we were running late, and I was trying to be agreeable and not begin our day with a fuss...so when I looked at my watch, I texted her once more to say we were about half way there. Amazingly, we were only about 5 minutes late.
As we turned at the end of the road, it would take us right in front of my daughter's church, my grandson's day-school. The fog was thick and Jimmy slowed a bit to drive more cautiously. Oh well, I thought, we are already late, no sense stressing over having to slow for fog. It was wise. I glanced toward the church and through the fog I was amazed at what I saw. On the long lawn, that was once a feild, stood 9 Sandhill Cranes. They could often be seen about 60 miles north of us at the wildlife refuge, but I had never seen them in the fields near the house. Fog often causes them to set down short of their destination during migration, and this morning this is where the Lord had set them down. You see, Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite things in all the world. Those 9 Cranes and us having to slow to see them, was my Christmas present from Jesus. Had we driven the otherway, I would not have seen them. My stress dissolved, my joy level went way up, and my resolve to be willing to yield to whatever the day might bring went way up. I suddenly didn't feel alone. I knew Jesus went before me to prepare the way, and I realized I wasn't yielding to my husband so much as I was yielding to Jesus, and he is a rewarder of those who will follow his lead. Jesus knows our heart and Christmas will always be the celebration of joy. It is always his desire that we find the joy in Christmas, and it often isn't where we traditionally plan it.
Lord, I never get used to the amazing gifts you give. You make yourself known in so many ways, and I love the ways you speak to my heart. Thank you Lord for your Chrismas gift to me. I still don't know how I feel about some of the things that happened this Christmas, but I thank you for helping me choose to not live out of my feelings but out of commitment to someone I love. Not sure yet that I made all the right choices, but I ask you to fill the gaps in where I failed. In Jesus Name, AMEN
Purhaps you will take the challenge Christy is offering to learn how God's word gives guidance to health in every area of our lives this year. We have opportunities to make choices that will benefit our overall health every day. Be sure to follow each week this year as Christy offers new tips in how to make some of those choices. Wishing you all a
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!