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Anticipating Christmas – Patience part 4

Ohio’s beautiful trees took their time bursting into fall color this year. My October 22 birthday often comes during peak leaf season, but some years the trees have been bare by then.  We wondered whether 2017 would ever bless us with Autumn’s brilliance. The last day of October passed and as November arrived, our neighborhood was transformed.

I often hear people say that they like the fall season, but not what follows – the cold of winter. While I’d like to keep the days from getting shorter and colder and the beautiful leaves from falling, I’ve turned the calendar page to November and know that December is quickly approaching. And with it, Christmas.

On November 1, some folks gave themselves permission to listen to Christmas music since Halloween is over . These lovers of the holiday season may have groaned when Christmas trees appeared in stores during August, but now eagerly await an acceptable day to put up their own Christmas trees . If their window shades are down, you can bet they’re secretly watching a favorite Christmas movie well before Thanksgiving. I’m not one of those folks, however, I did practice some Christmas music with fellow flutists this week in preparation for performing at church. And I did begin to make plans with our sons and daughter-in-law for a Christmas gathering in December.

At our mall in 2014. I’m in the middle.

When you hear that there are only 48 days until Christmas, how do you feel? Depending on my state of mind, I might feel amazed that the year is passing so quickly, pleased that I already have several gifts purchased, or a bit anxious about all that will need to be done in preparation for December 25. I’m hoping that the mall holds off on playing Christmas music for a few more weeks.  I’d like to enjoy the beauty of November before seeing Christmas lights come on in our neighborhood. Some areas of Ohio have already seen snowflakes, and I know that it won’t be long until they fall. The sparkly winter season will bring its own delight.

Those who have much excitement about getting to Christmas will need some patience as these weeks pass. For some folks, patience will be needed to get through the holiday season. Perhaps life has changed in a way that makes celebrating difficult. There may be memories of happier family Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas festivities that stand in contrast to today’s circumstances. If you’re one of those people, I hope that you will know the peace and presence of God this year and will find a meaningful way to celebrate.

Having grown up in the Christian faith, my family has observed a season of waiting for Christmas called Advent. This year Advent begins on December 3. Beginning that Sunday, Christian church services will include a focus on the anticipation that ancient Israelites had for the prophesied Messiah. They waited, not knowing how long the wait would be. While we may feel impatient for Christmas to arrive each year, we can count down the days with certainty as to when we will commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised One, who came into the world to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)

A second focus of Advent, meaning “coming”, is the birth of Jesus in individual  hearts and lives.  As we sing Joy to the World, we celebrate the Lord’s coming and plead, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Jesus enters into every life circumstance, whether happy or sad, and every home where He is welcome, whether it is extravagantly decorated or very humble.

The third focus of Advent requires much more patience than waiting for December 25. Christian faith includes belief that Jesus was resurrected after his death by crucifixion and ascended into the clouds after appearing to many people. The Bible contains prophecies, including the words of Jesus himself, that He will return to the earth at an appointed time that no one knows except God the Father (see Matthew 24:36). God’s salvation will be completed.

Patient waiting, accompanied by obedience to the one we have believed will be rewarded.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year

During the days between Christmas and January 2nd, I found myself wanting to hold onto the past year.  The holiday season had been full of music, gift giving, and time with family and friends.  The emotional and spiritual mountaintop of Christmas followed by my husband’s birthday and the opening of 2017 were followed by a bit of a letdown.  Life would get back to normal and I felt a little sad.

As the sun set on January 2nd, I hadn’t  made peace with the passage of time and had not made a single New Year’s Resolution.  That’s when the Lord began reminding me of some  things that happened in 2016.  I  jotted down a list of 5 personal accomplishments that were nowhere on the horizon as January began a year ago.

  1. Last January I decided to play the piano that sits silently in our living room.  Using my bit of training and a book of “Kids Songs” left behind by our kids, I played for a few minutes each day.  In February, I plunked out an imperfect performance of Happy Birthday to Eric.  By spring, I could play songs from The Wizard of Oz. The daily practice dwindled through the year, but on December 31, I successfully played Happy Birthday to Dave.
  2. In March, while God was leading me to offer a women’s Bible study on the book of James, I was surprised by the desire and ability to memorize the entire 5 chapters of James!  I could name a poor memory as one of my weaknesses, so I was thrilled to gradually learn the verses and be able to recite the entire book by summer.
  3. In June, my future daughter-in-law invited me to join her mother and sister as they picked out her wedding gown.  I was so touched by the fact that they included me.  It was a joy to watch her model gowns until one of them brought tears to her eyes and I cried along with the three of them.
  4. During August, I was enjoying summer while anticipating  ministry and volunteer activities resuming in the Fall. I asked God if there was anything new that he wanted me to do, and thoughts of beginning a blog began to stir in my heart.  I listed a dozen possible topics and found on-line instructions on how to set up a blog.  I wondered whether it would be difficult to find time to write each week and whether I would enjoy the process of preparing each post.  So far, it has been a joy to seek guidance from the Lord, to think about the best ways to express my thoughts, and to hear that folks appreciate  Thoughts Collected by Lisa.
  5. On December 11, the idea came to me to invite the neighbors who surround me over for a Christmas lunch. I usually talk myself out of such ideas, but this time I immediately contacted the three ladies and found that we could meet that Friday.  It was the first time the four of us were together to enjoy conversation and a meal.  As they were leaving, someone said, “We should make this a tradition.”

In thinking about these 5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year and wanting to continue to grow this  year, I realize that it is not about me resolving to do more or do better.  It is about continuing to play the piano, to write, and to grow relationships, while being attentive to new opportunities.

I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people.  Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.  After all, 365 days lived well will add up to a Happy New Year.

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