Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thorns On theTree - Joy to the World

"Why are you putting it on the tree? It makes me sad," Zay said, his small face covered with a shadow of concern.

He peered up into the deep, green branches of our Christmas tree. Among the soft white lights and gem-hue baubles I'd placed a crown of thorns. Twisted. Sharp.

"It's about Jesus," Samuel said, before I could whisper a word. "What he did for us. What he came for."
A day earlier, my mom had taken the boys on a nature hike near my parents' home. They'd discovered a bramble - thick, gnarled cords of thorns. Mom cut a vine and carried it home. Dad twisted it round and secured the ends.

A crown.

Of thorns.

It traveled to our house, between booster seats and boys, in a basket.

But Zay was unsure about hanging it on the tree. It didn't seem to fit with cranberry garland and glittery snowmen and men in caps round and merry.

The harsh, spiky thorns didn't mix with holiday cheer.

I pulled Isaiah to my lap. We talked about the Babe. The manger. The angels and the shepherds and the stable and the star. But we talked about the rest, too.

Our fall.

Our sins.

His sacrifice.

His grace.

And Zay curled deep, head against my chest. Samuel folded in, too.

"You see, Zay," Sam said. "It is sad. But mostly it's happy. We'd be lost. Without him. He did it for us."


Well said, sweet Samuel.

The Babe, the manger, the thorns, the cross,

Our salvation. Redemption. Hope.

And joy.

Joy to the world...the Lord has come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

His Beauty on Her Face

My friend and I stood in the gymnasium. It was cool and dim, and we waited, through the gentle hum, for the lights to blink and bring forth light. Our children ran around us, a strong, whooping, muscle-pumping band of activity.

And I was captivated by my friend's face.

She was radiant, even in the near-dark. Her face shone lovely, warm and bright. Peace seemed to spill from her, and it pulled me in.

My friend's relationship with the Lord is growing deeper, wider. His love is stretching into new places and her heart is cracking wide to receive Him.

And I want to be close to Him.

And I want to be just like her.

Loving. Listening. Growing.  Changing. Becoming deeply, truly beautiful, from the inside pushing out.

I want His love, His peace, His grace to fill me. In deep places. In still places. Where it's quiet and needing and hidden. But I want the overflow, too, that it changes me on the outside, so that I'm shining with His love, even in the dark.

Lord, fill me, change me, move me, until I'm light with love for You...

Those who look at Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5


Thanks to all who shared special Christmas traditions and memories. Your comments, e-mails, and Facebook messages were precious.

Audrey James, Samuel pulled your name from his winter cap for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love.

Kelly Davidson, your name was drawn for The Spirit of Christmas.

Audrey and Kelly, if you'll e-mail your addresses, we'll get the books in the mail this week.

And again, Merry, Merry Christmas to all of our dear friends. We're sending warmest wishes for a deep and blessed, Spirit-filled Christmas.

With love,


Friday, December 16, 2011

Just When ( Non-Lovely Turned Lovely)

Just when...

I'm at the end of my patience, and my rope, and the kids are December-tired, surly, and the house doesn't feel like Christmas at all

Just when...

peace is shattered with a sharp word and a broken Lego (it was an accident, I'm sure)

Just when...

I'm wondering about all this effort and if the heart is the wellspring why does the hard and ugly keep a steady flow...

Just when...

I want someone else's job today and I'm slinking to my bedroom for turkey-on-wheat alone because if I sit at the table with the children my very last string will snap and it won't be good or uplifting for anyone...

I peek past the corner and see three boys at the table, heads tipped in prayer, bowing past peanut butter and jelly and lifting soft, murmured words to the Lord Most High.

And I stand in the hall and I'm moved to tears because the Lord is here and He's so close and He hears the heartbeat and frayed prayer of one mama in one small house in one small corner of the very big world. Anything good here is Him. He meets our sin and flows over it and around it and through it.

And He lifts me out, us out, into His mercy and grace.

And it's really Christmas after all.

Oh Lord, I love you so. Thank you...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Receiving - And a Chistmas Giveaway

The little boys and I tucked a seventh chair under our dining room table. Wrapped a bed in soft, winter flannel. Twisted sparking, white lights in Logan's bedroom window.
My oldest son will be home for Christmas.

It's impossible to prepare for him, to rejoice in togetherness, without being touched, in the deepest, most tender place, by God's gentle care and love. Two years ago, I was stretched taut with the uncertainty of upcoming change. Two years ago, I couldn't imagine opening my closed fist, and my heart, to release my son, even knowing that it was necessary and right and good.

But God came close. Spoke through His Word. Brought daily encouragement, promise, love. He provided for me. For my son.

And somewhere in the growth, the stretch, the pull of new trust, blessings came. Many. Fresh and new. And this joy, the homecoming joy, the welcoming a boy-grown joy, is one one of the blessings.

But I had to let go to receive it.

Thank you, God, for teaching me to receive.

A memory from Christmas past, Guideposts, last December: 
Link to "The Ornament" at


As a small, heartfelt thank you for your friendship and time, I'd like to give away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love, and a copy of Cec Murphey and Marley Gibson's The Spirit of Christmas. God allowed me to have stories in both books.

Just please leave a comment, or send an e-mail... a line or two about something Christmas. Anything Christmas. A blessing. A Memory. Tradition. Then in our high-tech way, we'll write names on slips of paper and Zay will pull two from a hat ~ one for each book.

I'm grateful for you and to you.

Sending warm and wonderful wishes for a very Merry Christmas...(will post winners next Monday).

With Love,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Game - A Gentle Pull

The game was small enough to fit in Gabe's fist. But he shadowed me as I loaded the washer, stirred the soup, swept crumbs from morning toast. And my heart beat hard. And my stress grew big. I have so many things to do. I don't have time for a game.

"Do you want to play, Mom? It's called the Christmas Game. I made it myself."

Gabe's green eyes shined hopeful. Behind blond bangs that were way too long. A trip to the barber. One more thing to do.

"I'll play, Gabe, a bit later in the day."

"Can I help, Mom? So we can play soon?"

Persistence. Usually a good thing in my son. But today, with my do-do list stretched over two lined pages and stress piled high, it felt like one more pressure.

"Tell you what.. Let me finish in the kitchen. Then before phonics, we'll play."

A wide-open, tooth-gone-missing smile settled on my son's face.

A few minutes later, we sat at the dining room table. He tottered on his chair. I glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner.

"It goes like this," he said. "You get half. I get half. You pick one from me. I pick one from you.Then you make matches. But if you get the angel, you win."

Oh. A little like Old Maid. In reverse. With an angel.

Gabe produced tiny circles cut from white paper. Each circle had been colored. Two green. Two red. Two blue. And one sweet angel with lopsided wings. He mixed them up. Doled them out.

We played.

And the game went fast.

"You won," I said. "Rematch."

Gabe beamed.

We played. Again. And again.

After awhile, Gabe pressed the circles into a stack. "We'd better get to phonics," he said.

He was right.

But I'd cherished those moments, my son, and a little game that pulled me away from the things that don't matter and toward things that do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pouring Grace - A Memory From Christmas Past

Years ago, when my six-foot-something-son Grant was small and round, he rooted through the walk-in attic and found his Christmas gift. Our home didn't have many hiding places and the attic was a package haven. Gifts were buried deep in that attic, pushed in far corners, hidden under an old quilt.

And the attic was off-limits at Christmastime. Four-year-old Grant knew it. But he’d been lured by the promise of presents, and December was still young.

He couldn’t resist.
Grant burst into the kitchen one morning in wild fury, sock feet skimming ceramic tile. “Mom,” he called. “Look what I have.The play set! The one I wanted. Right here!” He'd found a Winnie the Pooh play set, with two-inch-tall animals and a kind, smiling Christopher Robin. There was a blue felt tent for camping, and a campfire with orange plastic flames.

He held the package above his head and jumped. Once. Twice. Smiled big as all-get-out. “I’m so, so happy!”
But I wasn’t.

Grant had disobeyed. There was no reason for him to be in the attic.
Except to look for presents.
I wiped my hands on a towel and sat, pretzel-legged, on the kitchen floor. “Come here, please, Grant.” I patted the floor next to me. Grant plunked down beside me and held the package with small, tight hands. “Why were you in the attic?”
No answer. Just shiny, full-of-joy eyes.

“You were disobedient, Grant, to go into the attic. The present was a surprise. I’ll have to take it back.”
Grant's lower lip perched out full. His eyes watered over.

I hugged him and told him I loved him, but he’d lost the blessing of that gift. Partly because Lonny and I expect our boys to obey and partly because my heart swelled for my son and I wanted Christmas morning to be full of breathless delight.
Now, looking back, remembering that day, I wish I had done things differently.

I wish I had poured sweet, rich grace.
I wish I had talked with my son about the importance of obedience. I wish I had considered that the temptation, for a small boy, was maybe too great. Then I wish I had pulled him to my lap and ripped that box open. I wish we had sat on that kitchen floor, sunlight spilling fresh and full in stripes of gold, and I wish we had played. I wish his laughter had wrapped around us and soaked through us and I wish I had let his sweet, little boy joy become mine.

And I wonder why, today, God has allowed that memory to seep into my soul. I don’t think it’s to fill my heart with sadness or regret. I think that maybe, now that my son is fifteen and we’re rushing headlong into teen turbulence, there will be other times.
Times to teach.

But also times, if I can, to hold my son close and pour sweet, rich grace.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mama's Jeans

My mother was in the hospital. I sat alongside her bed, heart pained to see her so still. She’s a mover and a shaker. Runs circles around me. I’m cut more from my father’s cloth. Quiet and reserved.

God crafted Mama with spunk.
“How are you doing, Mom?” I asked. “Do you need some water?”

She nodded and breathed hard. Pneumonia had hit her fast.
I gave her a sip and rested my hand on her sweet forehead. She was feverish.

I wasn’t surprised.
“Are you too warm?” I asked. “Do you want me to pull the blanket back?”

Mom nodded. I tugged the nubby white blanket, leaving Mama covered only by the thin, white sheet.
Through the sheet, I could see her jeans.

I laughed.
“Mom, are you wearing your jeans? Under your hospital gown?”

Mama smiled. “I won’t be here long. I want to be ready to go,” she whispered.

I sat in robin’s- egg- blue chair and shook my head.

My mother. I love her determination. Her energy. Her tireless get-up-and-go. She’s strong willed to the hilt. For a small woman, she packs a lot of punch. I wondered how she, weak as a pup, managed to keep her get-away clothes when the nurses prepared her for admission.
I hope that my boys have Mama’s spunk, in strong, wise measure. I hope that they will be determined, strong willed for things pleasing to the Lord, and full of drive for what they’ll need to accomplish.

Guess you can’t keep a good woman down, I thought as I reached out and squeezed Mama’s hand.
May the same be true for my men.

I think it will be.
It’s in their genes.