Saturday, December 20, 2008
I was listening to the news last night as the reporter talked about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Super Saturday, the busiest shopping days of the year. Suddenly I just wished all that could be stripped away, leaving only the Christ child in a manger.
I came across a story about three years ago that changed the way my husband and I do our Christmas giving, and I'd like to share it. It's simply called "The Envelope."
"It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
"It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas ó oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute, the gifts given in desperation.
"Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties... I searched for something special just for Mike.
"Our son Kevin was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear.
"It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. We ended up walloping them. As each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
"Mike shook his head sadly. 'I wish just one of them could have won,' he said. 'They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.' That's when the idea for his present came.
"That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed an envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas. Each Christmas, I followed the tradition ó one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year giving a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas.
"The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the envelope never lost its allure.
"The story doesn't end there. We lost Mike due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was so wrapped up in grief that I barely got the tree up. But on Christmas Eve I placed an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more.
"Each of our children had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelopes.
"Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us."
* * * * * * * * * *
I was moved by this story and started following its example in my gift giving for Dwight, and the next year he started doing the same for me. We can't afford to outfit a sports team, but we contribute in each other's honor to a mission that is dear to our hearts. Last year he gave to a juvenile prison ministry that I have volunteered with; I wonder what it will be this year.
The only thing I miss about Black Friday is hearing the Salvation Army bell ringers, and they're getting harder to find each year. "The Envelope" has truly made our Christmases memorable.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I rarely have time to blog (and don't even like to), but I thought I would share a journal of thanks that I've kept during the month of November:
- I'm thankful for my godly mom and dad. I wish they were still with me, but am thankful that their faith lives on in me and my children.
- Iím thankful for a daughter who is willing to go where God leads her, even if it is halfway around the world. And Iím thankful for the Internet that allows us to stay close.
- I'm so very thankful that I live in a country where the people can cast a vote to elect our representatives in government. It's a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and we don't want to see it perish from the earth.
- I'm so thankful for the Bible and how freely I can read it in America today. I'm thankful for the strength and wisdom and peace I find within its pages. I'm thankful for the way God speaks to me through the words in the Bible.
- Iím thankful for Spark and all those committed to helping me get healthy and stay that way. I appreciate the cyber friends it has brought me, who support, challenge and encourage me daily.
- I'm thankful for crispy fall leaves rolling across the lawn outside my office window on a cloudy November day, and for the freshness of the air after it rains.
- I'm thankful for my pastors who have led their flocks with faithfulness and given me the privilege of sitting under their teachings, beginning at Mount Carmel Christian Church, then First Christian of Jonesboro, and finally McDonough Christian Church.
- I'm thankful for the Internet that allows me to connect with many people and locations with such ease. It also allows me to do research without a trip to the library.
- I'm thankful for a warm house and fire in the woodstove when it's starting to turn cold outside.
- I'm so very thankful for all the wonderful Christian authors who write powerful, challenging and entertaining stories that honor God. They've given me countless hours of pleasure over the years.
- I'm thankful for my son and daughter. They bring me so much delight, and I'm grateful that God gave them to me for a time. It is impossible to imagine what my life would have been like without them.
- I'm thankful for McDonough Christian Church, for far too many reasons to list them all. Solid biblical teaching. Many ministries where members can get plugged in. Their dedication to reaching out to those in need, both locally and around the world. Their commitment to prayer.
- This morning, I'm thankful for a hot cup of coffee to drink at my desk while I go through my e-mail.
- I'm thankful for the loveable antics of kittens and cats.
- On this Veteran's Day, I'm thankful for all the military men and women, past and present, who have given so much to keep America and its citizens safe and secure.
- I'm grateful for the men and women who serve in elected offices at city, state, and national levels. Sometimes the things they do make me angry or frustrated, but I still believe that most of them ran for office because they wanted to do good.
- And I'm thankful that I live in a country where an outgoing president, often maligned and ridiculed, does everything in his power to assure a smooth transition of office to the new president-elect. Peaceful, orderly transfer of power. I'm thankful that's my country.
- I'm grateful for the wonderful devotional by L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert. The Lord has used this wonderful little book to bring me through some very rough seas and violent storms.
- I'm grateful for my microwave. How did I ever get by without this wonderful kitchen device? Two minutes, and my cup of water is hot and ready for hot chocolate. One minute and yesterdayís leftovers are ready to be today's lunch.
- I'm so very thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. To know that I don't have to carry the weight of my own sin, but can accept God's bountiful mercy and grace.
- I'm thankful I don't have to fear the future, no matter how dark it may appear, no matter the falling stock market and devalued dollar and predictions of a grim tomorrow. I will hold to Christ, my anchor.
- I'm grateful to God for leading me by His Spirit. May I cling to Him every hour of the day, every day of my life.
- I'm grateful for all of the wonderful praise and worship music that's available for me to listen to and sing along with. Nothing changes me like praising God.
- I'm thankful for the first tulips and daffodils of spring.
- I'm thankful for the Yankee Candle scents that make my home smell so good.
- I'm grateful for the Bible studies of Beth Moore, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Jennifer Kennedy Dean. I have been so blessed by their study and teaching.
- I'm thankful for a husband who builds a fire in our woodstove before I get up in the mornings, and for a son who takes out the trash without being asked.
And the list goes on . . .
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Thanksgiving holidays were wonderful, but I completely quit exercising. Maintained same weight, though!
Yesterday I just had to force myself to exercise - and then felt so much better! So now I'm back on track in that area, as well as healthy foods. Today I made THREE healthy recipes by JoAnna Lund: two turkey casseroles and a dessert.
Now I'm participating in New Year's challenges on two different teams. With all the eating temptations in December, I guess this will show how disciplined I am. And the results will be worth it!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Iíve always benefited from reading the daily e-mails and articles, and this one on surviving Thanksgiving is no exception. Here are some things it points out:
1) The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.
2) Most of these calories come from the all-day snacking in front of the TV while watching parades and sporting events.
3) The average personís weight gain is just over one pound. Sounds harmless, but . . .
4) The extra weight is stubborn Ė still present a year later in most cases.
5) That ďfood comaĒ you experience after Thanksgiving dinner is actually the result of your body working overtime to digest all that food!
I donít want to think Iím average Ė the 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat average, that is Ė but who knows? So what are some things I can do?
1) Prepare side dishes that are low in fat, along with sugar-free desserts (Iíve found that my family loves them!)
2) Eat smaller servings
3) Donít snack!! Or at least eat fruit for snacks.
4) Work in some kind of exercise during the day
5) Drink my normal amount of water
If I can manage to do these things, Iíll still have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. After all, Thanksgiving is all about the many blessings I have from God. Blessings like . . .
- Abundant grace through Jesus Christ
- A wonderful family who surrounds me with love
- A future son-in-law who is a committed Christian and who truly loves my daughter
- More daily provisions than I could ever need or want
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Yesterday at church, we honored veterans who were in our service, and also those currently in the military and their families. A beautiful season of prayer was followed by the playing of Taps. It was a very moving service.
It made me think of our many freedoms, and how grateful I am for them. I don't have to pass through a check point in order to go to church . . . or meet underground for fear of being arrested . . . or come home only to find it burned to the ground.
So I, too, honor all our veterans who love this country and have served to protect our freedom. Thank you!
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