Monday, December 20, 2010

Moving, Meaningful, and Magnificent

Like many other Christians, Christmas is the most moving, meaningful, and magnificent time of the year for me.

First, just saying "Merry Christmas" these days provides an open door to tell people we meet in stores and on the streets that we want to keep Christ in Christmas. Depending upon the situation, when I receive a smile in return and an openness to talk via the person’s body language, I can discuss why keeping Christ in Christmas is so meaningful to me. Plus, all the awesome Christmas programs in churches provide so many opportunities to bring friends in to hear the gospel. Even school Christmas programs provide opportunities to talk about our Savior. After we applaud their cute program about Santa and giving gifts, we can bring the Perfect Gift God gave to each of us into the conversation with teachers and students. We parents are not prohibited from talking about Jesus on school grounds. In my neighborhood a home sits on a hill right next to an elementary school. Each year the lovely people in that home drape a huge banner across their fence for all the students to see—Jesus is the Reason For The Season. All the cars passing by on that very busy street enjoy the sign as well.

I sing in a two hundred person Sanctuary choir and it is my pleasure each year to spend many extra hours rehearsing songs that worship our Lord. Then on performance night I offer my sacrifice of praise to my Lord. And I love to sing Christmas songs and carols from Elvis and Dolly Parton to The Messiah. Music flows in our home during the Christmas season. It does my heart good to see the boxes to collect toys for kids in need in every grocery store, drug store, and almost any place where people gather. And don’t you love the smiling Salvation Army bell ringers. One I saw last night was singing carols in front of Walgreens. And, of course, in our home Christmas is a warm family time. My whole family, small though it is, twelve people ranging in age from six to seventy-three gather for good food and gifts. Before the bountiful dinner, my dear husband always reads the Christmas story about the greatest gift ever given.

I love the story of Mary, so young probably only about fifteen, telling the man she loves that she is pregnant. And young Joseph, probably not more than twenty himself, loving her so much and believing the angel that yes, his betrothed though with child, is still a virgin. How both may have been shunned by their families, but Joseph stepped up like a man and took his beloved Mary for his wife. How they walked to Bethlehem together. Despite tradition, I’m sure young Joseph couldn’t afford a donkey. How Joseph lay down his tunic for his bride-to-be and there on the dirty floor of a manure-stinking barn delivered God’s own son. Can you think of a more lowly birth for the King of heaven and earth? What a picture to show that He came not to be served but to serve. Only the Creator God could imagine such a birth.

Christmas is our time to rejoice, worship, and give. Let us make the most of the time until The One born so lowly comes again—only this time as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in all His splendor and glory.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Husband Blooms

Bloom where you are planted is a cliché.

Anyone who hears the phrase gets a specific mental picture. I think of shining in your environment by being a beautiful blossom. The idea of an individual as a brilliant flower draws others to what is inside you as a person.

Others may think of standing out in your neighborhood, or doing an exemplary job in the workplace. As a believer, it’s the light of Christ that unfolds when talents are used in the body of believers.

I’ve seen that bloom unfold recently in the life of my husband. In September, Bill had a heart treatment called cardioversion, to shock the atrial fibrillation of his heart into an even rhythm. One electrical jolt set him into rhythm, but his pulse was only in the thirties. After several hours of the low heart beat, a surgeon came in and talked to us about pacemaker implantation. That took place October 25th. After we got home the next day, Dear Hubby said, “I feel like I’ve been kicked by a donkey.”

We went to the emergency room in the wee hours of November 7th because Bill had a multitude of symptoms. After seven heart tests with no conclusive results, we came home late the next afternoon.

Forty-eight hours at home, and Bill still didn’t feel well. The next day, the 11th, we were back in the surgeon’s office because of blood clots, and Bill was admitted into the hospital. The following week, he received injections in his stomach twice a day. I counted 26 jabs.

We couldn’t take a deep breath yet. Due to a high INR on December 1st, his anticoagulant dose was adjusted. Sunday the 5th, he woke up with swelling. We had the roughest 30 hours in the hospital yet.

Talk about blooming where you are planted, Bill was in full-blown blossom. During his hospitalizations, visits to the doctors, and to the infusion center for the shots, he did the Lord proud. Every chance he got, he smiled. He uplifted those treating him with optimism, and encouragement when they couldn’t get needles in. He gave all the credit to God whenever comments about his attitude were made.

I can’t help but think that prayers of the Saints had a hand in this scenario. We know we’ve been wrapped in a blanket of prayer. I felt as though I walked on a pillow of peace during what others may have called really dark days.

Prayer empowers believers to bloom where they are planted.

Bill could have these clots for as long as six months. That’s one month down, and five to go. As long as he keeps his focus on the One Who grants eternal life, I can’t help but think my dearest husband will continue to bloom, anywhere and everywhere.

Only God knows why we go through various trials. The purpose could very well be for someone whose life Bill’s experience has touched. And I am so thankful to be married to this beautiful blossom.

LoRee Peery

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Christmas Card

Yesterday I went to my mailbox and found a huge stack of mail. This happens nearly every day, and most of the stack is junk mail. My mother, who passed away last December, still receives catalogues, address stickers, solicitations from various animal charities, knitting and crocheting books, and so much more! She loved her stacks of mail. She looked at each and every piece as if it were from a cherished friend or family member. The mail helped her to feel attached to the outside world.

As I sifted through the stack of envelopes and flyers, advertisements and such, mostly addressed to my mother, I spied an envelope addressed to me with a familiar return address. I smiled as I looked at the handwriting. Inside was a lovely Christmas card from a friend I haven't heard from in several years. Memories surfaced of times spent together at a favorite theme park in Tennessee. Memories of sharing a hotel room, shopping, and laughing until our sides hurt. I could see her smile and hear her voice reaching out across the miles separating us.

This year I had thought about not sending out cards because of the expense and how few I actually receive in return. I've changed my mind.

The Christmas card I received touched my heart and I realize that perhaps the cards I send might do the same. If I can create a warm memory by reaching out to others through the gift of a Christmas card, I've also created a memory for myself. For each card I address, I visualize the person who'll open it and remember them with a happy heart.

~Carol Ann Erhardt~
"This is my command: Love each other." John 15:17

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goals and pacing

“In your heart you plan your life. But the Lord decides where your steps will take you.” ~ Proverbs 16:9 (New International Reader's Version)

Have you ever set out with a goal, a good and worthy goal, only to become frustrated to the point of giving up? I know I’ve been there—done that. Here’s a example I recently shared on Carol Ann's blog…

I had a plan. I was going to jog around the neighborhood (1.5 miles) before I hit my 40th birthday. So every morning, out the door I’d go. Bless my sweet husband, he’d come with me as a source of encouragement. However, no matter how hard I tried, it never took long for me to become winded to the point where I needed to walk. I was so disgusted after weeks and weeks of little to no improvement, I decided to quit. My husband, seeing my broken spirit said, “Do you trust me?”

I wondered where this was going but I replied, “Yes, I do.”

“Good. Then tomorrow, let me set the pace.”

The next day, practically dragging my heels, I followed him out the door. But you know what, a remarkable thing happened. I jogged around one loop without stopping! After the appropriate round of high-fives and smiles I stood amazed. I didn’t need to stop and I didn’t feel ready to pass out—granted it wasn’t the whole neighborhood yet, but I went as far as my husband asked simply by matching his steady stride.

You know what the trick was? Pacing.

Okay, so fast forward a month—I’m almost all the way through the neighborhood at this point (just a little side street left to tackle), the boys are back to school, and it’s time to dig back into my writing. I set my writing goals. I’m going to write 2,000 words a day and finish a novel every three months. I have BIG plans of going GREAT places. Guess what? It didn’t take me long to fizzle out. Instead of enjoying writing, embracing the gift of time the Lord had given me to set aside for writing this year, it felt like a burden, a chore! Then it hit me like a 2x4. My pacing was off! Granted some folks may write like a marathon runner, and have great success, but that won’t work for me. I want to love every moment of writing…explore the journey with eager anticipation…follow God and His stride for my day.

I’d like to throw out this challenge, if you’re feeling tired or burned out, check your pacing. Great things can happen if you slow down to enjoy life’s journey. I have proof— I was able to jog completely around the neighborhood before my birthday. If I can do that, I know you can face your own personal mountain! Remember the key is taking steps, even baby steps some days, with your focus on Christ.


Author of Teacher’s Plans, By the Book, Sweet Rest, Smuggler of the Heart, Daniella, The Hamster Wheel, and Finders Keepers

(Photo from Google Images)