You missed one last gift to open

What follows is something I wrote in the early days of my blog, revised for 2016. Each of us has this unopened gift in our hands. What will you do with it?
IMG_1093There’s a scene I love from one of the cheesy, tissue required, made-for-TV Christmas movies: a girl receives a beautifully wrapped gift. Instead of immediately tearing into it, she says something to this effect:

Don’t you just love a wrapped present? Before you open it, it could be anything, even a million dollars.

Sneaking downstairs with my sister on Christmas mornings, I loved the sight of the twinkling Christmas tree lights and the overflowing pile of wrapped presents underneath. I remember excitedly wondering what the gifts might contain for me and anticipating the surprises ahead with the gifts I was giving to the rest of my family.

My sister and I always wrote out wish lists for Christmas, but we also knew there was no guarantee we’d get what was on our lists. One particular Christmas, my wish list included a perfume I’d fallen in love with. Mom pulled me aside a few weeks before Christmas to tell me that she had looked at it, hoping to give it to me, but that this brand cost a bit more than she & Dad planned to spend. Imagine my surprise when the last, smallest present I opened on Christmas Day was a tiny bottle of that very perfume! That was a gift that contained something bigger than I could imagine.

IMG_1097So why am I discussing Christmas presents a week late? One reason is that this new year is like one last present for each of us to unwrap. On New Year’s Day, you’re holding a beautifully wrapped gift. It could hold anything. The coming year could be the unexpected present you’ve longed for. There is more promise and hope right now than at any other time of year.

Does this year seem to hold difficulty and trial? This may be a year of holding tight to God and his promises in scripture. Does 2016 have big excitement on the horizon? Trust God to use you even amid distractions – good or otherwise.

So now is the time to dream big. As this year unfolds, what could happen? I hope you can take time this weekend to stop and reflect on your hopes and dreams for 2016. What can you put on your wish list for the new year?

Still

The Perfect Gift - an Advent series

I’m joining with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday crowd, even though it’s way past Friday by the time this posts and I definitely took more than 5 minutes in writing.

Years ago I was home from college on Christmas break when I caught a bad cold. That same Christmas I was given a Mannheim Steamroller CD cassette (I hate to date myself, but it was a cassette). While feeling miserable and sleepy, this peaceful arrangement and hopeful lyrics were soothing to me. I listened to this song over and over and over, rewinding the tape and replaying it again and again.

Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…

Listen to it here; the video will begin at this song:

See why that was so peaceful and calming while I was sick?

If you ever go outside while it’s snowing, the world is hushed. All sounds are muffled, and, if you’re still enough, you can hear the snow landing on the ground or your coat in almost a shushing sound.

cat watching snowOne of the blessings of winter is the world slowing in hibernation. Tree branches are bare, flowers dormant, and cold temperatures outside keep us bundled under warm blankets inside. We need this slowing ourselves, from the busyness that sweeps us along with it.

Sleep, sleep, sleep, ’tis the eve of our Savior’s birth…

There are things we miss by racing about with our agendas and checklists. As we approach Advent, take time to be still. Sit in front of a fireplace or in a dark room lit only by the Christmas tree (whenever you may put yours up). Quiet the sounds of the TV and constant chatter – both inside and outside of your head.

The other song I find so calming on this album is Traditions of Christmas, written by Chip Davis to sum up all the warm memories that make Christmases past so heartwarming: cookies baking in the kitchen, a log crackling on the fire, laughter of family and friends nearby, the soft sound of snow falling outside, lingering scents of evergreen and cranberry, and the familiar strains of beloved carols. It’s everything I remember Christmas being as a child.

Dream, dream, dream of the joyous day to come…

If all Advent means is a baby born long ago, then there is no hope, no dream for the future. But it’s more than that. With Advent, we remember the birth in the past and look forward to God returning to earth to claim those who are His.

Are you ready to begin seeking him in earnest as we count the days toward Christmas?

***

I’m linking up with:

152 Insights to My Soul

The Perfect Gift – an Advent series

After an October that should have completely overwhelmed me, I’m amazed to say that this year, the first in three years, I ended the #write31days challenge more excited about writing and blogging than before I began. I can only guess at why, but it definitely seems like God is at work in my heart and, perhaps, my words.

Earlier this week, I talked with my husband about starting another more relaxed series, perhaps looking toward Advent. It’s a little early for me; I typically prefer to keep the Christmas and all its trimmings on hold until after Thanksgiving dinner. I’m realizing, though, that this year will be very different. Due to the continuing upheaval in the state of our house (see Four lessons from a flood and the follow-up, Counting blessings and revealing messes), it seems silly to even think about Christmas decorations – there’s just no room in this mess! Combine that with other circumstances which mean we will most likely not spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with family, and I’m realizing that Christmas needs to happen in my heart this year or it may not seem to happen at all.

And then this gem of a song and You Tube video appears in my inbox. JJ Heller is one of my favorites (and her smile is contagious!). The song was just released today and you can buy it on iTunes. I immediately knew this song would be my theme for this Advent season.

Have we forgotten, we need some sorting out? Clear our minds; we will find what the story is all about…

Do we remember the wonders of His love? Will our voices join with the chorus up above?
Do we remember how on that silent night there was a baby who came to recall us back to life?

Instead of focusing on the gifts to be bought or exchanged, the decorations with which to deck the halls, the tinsel and lights and Hallmark movies, I want to highlight the Savior, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law. Would you join me here every week from now until Christmas for another reminder of the wonders of His love? Together, let’s explore this Perfect Gift, given for you, given for me.

He was the Perfect Gift. He came to bring us peace. Holy Child, our King.

The Perfect Gift - an Advent series

~~~

I’m linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday:

Saying “I love you” without words (the Secret of the Snickers)

My dad was a lover not a fighter.

He was. He was a lover. A big softie. 😀

And he was a huge gift giver.

Pick a year (any year), look at one photo from Christmas in our house and you would understand. You would see a brightly decorated tree with a flood of gifts underneath it and spilling out on all sides. Every year we had to remove bottom rows of branches from our artificial tree because there would not be room for all the gifts if we put all the branches on the tree. Stockings on Christmas morning were often laid on the floor in front of the fireplace because they were overflowing with “stuffers.” It was not unusual to find a stocking overflow bag with someone’s name on it. Serious gift overload.

Yes, Dad loved to give. Dad would write poems, give flowers, wrap up gifts. 

But the Snickers bars were the most interesting thing of all.

candy bar

On any random day Dad would come home with a Snickers bar for Mom. No pomp and circumstance, just ‘Here’s a Snickers I bought you.’ Sometimes they were just left on the dining room table to be found. Mom was always pleased to get them. I remember thinking once or twice, ‘Wow, Mom really loves Snickers, doesn’t she?’ Months might go by, but eventually, there would be another Snickers.

As my sister and I got older there started to appear three Snickers bars instead of one: one bar for each of his girls. What teenager will turn up her nose at chocolate? We thought it was pretty cool but, y’know, whatever.

It wasn’t until a few years after Dad passed away that Mom let me in on the secret. A Snickers bar was their secret sign, a private way of saying ‘I love you’ that wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else except the two of them. Every time he brought home a Snickers, he was telling Mom, in their special way, how much he loved her.

It reminds me how important it is to tell our loved ones that they are just that – loved. Not just on special days like Valentines Day, but on the random days. On a day when the roast burned because the baby was crying. On a day when a dad soothed his sick toddler at 3am. On a day when nothing special happened and nothing terrible occurred. On a day like today and yesterday.

Maybe you need a secret sign between you and the one your heart loves, like a Snickers. Maybe it’s a peanut butter cup or a special IPA. Maybe it’s a back rub or knee squeeze. Obviously, make it something your special someone likes or you might end up in the doghouse.

Don’t forget to tell them. A secret sign does no good, if the person doesn’t realize what you’re trying to say.

Whether it’s with a Snickers or a kiss (the chocolate kind, right?), look for creative ways to say, “I love you.”

What secret ways can you think of to say, “I love you?”

 

Today, I’m linking up with:

Christmas Movie Quotes – The Answers

Did you figure out the Christmas movie quotes? Here are the answers! (more…)

Do You Really Know Your Favorite Christmas Movies?

070305

scantron (Photo credit: COCOEN daily photos – Creative Commons)

Ready for a quiz? Get your No. 2 pencils out!

For a little fun this holiday season, here are some relatively obscure quotes from Christmas movies. Do you know which movies these are from?

No Cheating! 😉

I’ll share the correct answers in a separate post.

A.

Brilliant! You reject your own nose because it represents the glitter of commercialism! (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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