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Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

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Christmas Card Post Script

The cost of a stamp keeps rising, it takes a lot of time, and technology offers other ways of sending greetings. Nevertheless, we continue to send Christmas cards to many people. I do not, however, hand address each envelope since my husband figured out how to make a list, check it twice, and print the addresses from the computer. One reason the tradition lives on is my love of finding boxes of cards during the After-Christmas sale season.  In the last days of 2016, I was in a drug store hoping to find our 2017 Christmas Card in the post-season mess. We needed several boxes and the selection was limited, but I was determined. Therefore, I settled for a nice, sentimental design, brought the cards home, and stashed them away in a closet.

Thanksgiving passed and I pulled the boxes out for post office preparation. They were strange. I had a hard time opening the card and had to make a crease in each one prior to signing our names. In addition, while the sentiment was nice, there was no mention of Christ, no nativity image and no scripture verse. Instead, the card displayed a whimsical row of townhouses and the words, May you have love in your home and peace in your heart…Let Christmas be a joyous time right from the very start! We do want our loved ones to have love, peace, and joy, but I felt that the words were a bit trite. After considering the time it would take to add a meaningful verse to each, I signed, sealed, and mailed them as is.

I’m not apologizing. And some of our friends and family did receive Christian Christmas cards because we ran out of this year’s design. I’m simply taking this opportunity to add a P.S. regarding “love in your home” today and hoping to add a P.P.S. regarding “peace in your heart” tomorrow.

Love In Your Home

  • The Source: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  1 John 4:7-11
  • The Description: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Merry Christmas!

With love,

Dave and Lisa

 

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Breaking a Bad Habit

I realized quite suddenly that I have a bad habit! It is one that involves my tongue and affects my mind and my mood. It also has the potential to negatively affect other people. Those are good reasons to break it.

My Revelation

I have a habit of including unnecessary negative details when giving a report about an event.  I can make a positive change to my life and others’ lives by breaking that habit.

How It Happened

  1. I was at a training meeting where important information was being presented. I needed to hear and remember what was being said.
  2. A distraction occurred that made it very difficult to do so.
  3. I decided to move away from the distraction and closer to the speaker.
  4. Someone else addressed the people involved and the room became quiet.
  5. I learned what I needed to know.
  6. Toward the end of the meeting, this surprising thought entered my mind, “You don’t need to tell your husband about the bad behavior of others when you get home.” I knew instantly that the words came from the one who knows what I am going to say even before I say it. (Psalm 139:4) When the Lord speaks, I listen! As I agreed with Him, I felt a strange sense of excitement and peace.
  7. When I got home and Dave asked how the meeting went, I said “fine” and told him a few things I had learned.

I confess that my usual response to, “How did it go?” would have been different. I might have said,”Fine.” and then added, “But, you won’t believe what happened…”  Then I would have given negative details that, in the end, did not even affect the outcome. He would, no doubt, have agreed with me that others had been rude, and his opinion of someone else would have been tainted by my report. In this case, it was over and I needed to let it go without repeating it.

A Positive Change

I’m still excited about the difference that will occur in my life as I make an intentional effort to not repeat negative details that are in the past. They cannot be changed and they don’t need to live on. Unless there is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed, which was not the case this time, I can avoid telling the juicy details that, truthfully, reveal an attitude of superiority in my heart. I can love the other by covering over their offense and not come away feeling offended. By eliminating negative reports, I will feel more positive, more joyful, more peaceful.

What’s the Big Deal?

By deciding not to include unnecessary negative details, I will

  1. Feel better about myself.
  2. Spare other people some negativity.
  3. Be obedient to Jesus.

As I conclude this post, this thought comes. Assuming that I have sometimes done or said something that irritated someone else,  how do I feel about the possibility that they later gave a negative report to someone about my behavior? If I am to treat others as I want to be treated, then I must give up grumbling, gossiping, and tale telling. It may sound like I’m being hard on myself. Not so! I am grateful for the revelation and excited about taking tighter control of my tongue.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

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Impossible love?

When I began writing this blog nearly a year ago, I anticipated struggles. Surely there would be weeks when I would have either no topic or no time to write. It has been a happy surprise to come this close to the first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa having successfully kept up with weekly writing. Suddenly, however, I’m facing the deadline for post #49 with a list of potential titles, an invitation to write for someone else’s blog on a particular topic, and no time to devote to collecting my thoughts, let alone put them into beautiful prose.

So in the wee hours of the morning when its too dark and too quiet to begin preparing for our weekend guests or continue organizing next week’s garage sale, I offer to you words that were written long ago by the apostle Paul in a letter to his friends about a topic we all find relevant every single day – love.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It is not rude,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil,

but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

always trusts,

always hopes,

always perseveres.

Love never fails.

From the New Testament of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

These words are music to my ears as one who receives this kind of love from Jesus and conviction to my heart as one who is called to love others this way. Is it impossible? On my own, yes, “but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

 

 

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