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Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Oh, my, what a gift from God.

Actually, it's a gift in two-parts. It began when I told an aide about my mother's jingle bell necklace, with a white bell decorated to look like a reindeer. She wore it every day during Christmas. I lost track of it since, and I miss it.

A couple of days later, the aide returned--with a jingle bell necklace. I have worn it every day, with many happy thoughts of Mom. The warmth is increased when I realize the aide really listened to me, and gave me something from her heart to mine.

A thoughtful, wonderful gift.

What happened last night gave me chills.

My roommate gave my grandchildren stuffed animals. I asked my granddaughter, Jordan, what she would name her bear.

Now, her mother says Jordan said "Kaylie," the name of her best friend at school.

What I heard was "Katie." And my heart stopped.

My daughter, Jolene, named all of her dolls "Katie."

In case you don't know. . . or have forgotten. . .Jordan was conceived when Jolene died. Aunt and niece share a special connection.

Hearing the name "Katie" from Jordan's lips felt like Jolene had come down from heaven to wish me a blessed Christmas.

Thank you, God, for the gift of family, on earth and above.

Monday, December 23, 2013


They [the scholars from the East] could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! (Matthew 2:10, MSG)

The first two chapters of Matthew give us a glimpse behind the Christmas story. The first Christmas. Or maybe the second--Jesus was probably about two years old.

And of course Jesus wasn't born on December 25th.

But, the Christmas story happened in real time and space. And people chose to believe or not, each in their own way, even back then.

We looked at Joseph a bit in chapter 1. The angel appeared to him a dream, and gave him very specific instructions. He obeyed. No questioning the dreams. No complaints. He speaks through his actions, not his words. Although he was asked to believe the impossible, at least the message was clear.

Then we have Herod. God sent the message to him via three foreigners. The message was confirmed in Micah's prophecy. An unlikely source--but he gave it enough credit to assassinate them when they returned to Jerusalem. Herod could have joined them in worship of the Messiah. So could the priests.Instead of rejoicing in the birth of Israel's Messiah--the hope the priests at least claimed--Herod feared it, and sought to kill the Messiah. Instead of obedience, he wanted the death of the threat.

Finally we have the wise men. The Message calls them "a band of scholars." The traditional number three is assumed because of three gifts, but the exact number is unknown.

They had no direct revelation, but they were students of God through nature, especially the stars. Somehow they also knew about Israel's king, and his importance.

With nothing more than an interpretation of the sky--no verbal instructions at all--they invested a lot of money and four years of their time (going and coming) into worshipping Israel's Messiah.

What do we choose to do with the Christ of Christmas today?

My son told me that he was going to ask friends, "Why do you give gifts at Christmas?"

In one of those proud-moments-to-be-a-mother, he went on. "I remember that you taught us that we give gifts because God gave us the greatest gift of all, His Son."

He went on to mention those who said they did it to show love for their families and friends, or because of the gift of the wise men. Or even just because of the tradition and the commercialism that urges us to buy, buy, buy.

Today we have the three ways of receiving God's message.

We have His message in the Bible, and we can choose to obey.

We have His unwritten message in the songs of Christmas, in the traditions in which I see the gospel about the Great Gift, the Light of the World, the eternal life represented by an evergreen.

If we are Christians, we hear His message in our hearts, since He lives within us.

Why do you give gifts at Christmas?

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

Disappointment. . .failure. . .humiliation. All three of those emotions visit me, during the ups and downs of Christmas and on into the crushing deadness of January, "cold within and without." (One of my favorite opening lines, from Bolt by Dick Francis)

Disappointed . . .because no matter how much I tell myself that I can't expect anything for Christmas, because my remaining family, Jaran's family, celebrates Hanukkah instead, my heart wants more. Disappointed when the few things within my control go wrong.

Failed. . .when my plans fall through, for buying and giving presents, for sending cards, for going to church or having my daily quiet time or any of a dozen projects.

Humiliated? When my family comes and I'm in bed, undressed. When I wait too long or can't get away and soil myself. . .

All of those are true but none of my reasons comes close to what Joseph must have felt when he learned his betrothed was pregnant. With someone else's child.

In the kind of quiet and strong goodness Joseph exhibits over and over, he doesn't go public with his pain. He doesn't seek to judge Mary. He does decide to end the betrothal. And when God tells him to marry her, in spite of the pregnancy, he doesn't hesitate. In spite of all the public humiliation which would come their way. In spite of the gossip which was bound to peg him as the baby's father.

Joseph. Chagrined I understand. Noble I strive for.

I wrote this several days ago. When I read it again today, I realized how close it hit me to the mark. I feel as though I have fought a battle. Feeling very "chagrined." God can and will heal my heart and restore my spirits.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


The nursing center where I live has changed hands. Which means a change in procedures, several of which I just don't like.

I understand (even if I'm not crazy about) having a roommate. State pays for double rooms. Period. Residence is so low at the moment that we can stay in half the building and so they moved us all around. I have a roommate. She has even more things than I do, so things are tight, and she's a chatterbox. :) We'll adjust (I hope).

They are making all the aides wear one color, the nurses another, and so forth. I feel badly for them. And I'll miss the whimsical scrubs, from Eeyore to rainbows to hopeful sayings.

Now they've assigned us seating in the dining room. In a world where I have very little control, getting told where to sit when I eat goes one step too far.

In spite of all of that, I am happy.

I turned in my latest book (Saving Felicity, coming next August) on Thursday. Oh, it feels so good!

A publisher has asked for a full manuscript from me. So the one that was turned down by the one publisher may find a home. (Now to find time to edit it. . .)

I told an aide about a jingle bell necklace my mother always wore, decorated to look like Rudolph. Bless her heart, she brought me a jingle bell necklace, said she looked for a red nose without luck, and also brought a box of chocolates!

I brought out my foot tall gold wire Christmas tree to put on my nightstand.

I got to see my grandbabies open their presents.

And I'm reading a charming Christmas story, A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman.

Even sharing my table with the same people is a blessing. I try to involve everyone in the conversation (even the rarely verbal Wanda). And today I mentioned how I knew two of the women were huggers, and maybe we should share a hug at lunchtime. They were more than eager for a hug. Their faces lit up like Christmas (how's that for a cliche? LOL) And I felt like I made a difference in their lives today.

And a very brief Christmas thought.

The angel told Joseph to name Mary's son Jesus, "for he shall save his people from their sin." When Mary gave birth, Joseph named him--what else? I never questioned it before--Jesus. But this year I was struck. By naming the baby Jesus, Joseph expressed his faith in his Savior. And that is beautiful.