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winterbirdtreecc_edited-1Growing up, I was told that my uncle believed cursing was a lack of vocabulary. I heard it so often, a word seed was planted.

A few years later, sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table, one of my aunt’s oldest daughters home from college the guest of honor, talked to us about her adventure. I was in middle school. She was so beautifully grown up – and I didn’t understand half the words she said. I asked her how she knew all those words – and the vocabulary seed was watered.

It is interesting, how little sentences here and little sentences there, leave an impression, light a fire that drives to excel. As a result, I worked hard, read a lot of classical literature to grow my word stock.

One afternoon, at my grandmother’s house along with my mother, Aunt Joyce, and my first-born who was just learning to sit up, a language mishap occurred. I failed, faltered – and, well, I put my wordsmith reputation on the line.

I’d just got up to go around the corner to the kitchen. There was a little hallway with a telephone desk between the family room and kitchen. Going around the corner, my very not-so-funny bone smacked into the desk – and a very lack-of-vocabulary word flew out of my mouth.

Dead silence replaced the chattering in the family room. I think the blood rushed from my head. I felt dizzy, but knew I needed to face this head on – but not before I peaked around the corner.

My mother and Aunt Joyce sat there, looking at my grandmother, waiting for her verdict. My son sat totally content, not understanding the expected set-down, a reputation-ruining set down. After all, to this group of esteemed women with memories like elephants, if you opened one present early on Christmas and re-wrapped it – and they found out, well, then, you were labeled an early-sneaky-present-opener for the rest of your life.

All eyes were on my grandmother, the matriarchal woman who taught me that if you could stand up to her, you could stand up to anyone. She had what I call “the power of the eye” – where with one look, her green eyes could slay you on the spot.

As the silence stretched, my reputation hung in the family room like an outdoor laundry line hung with ones intimate private unmentionables.

“My mother always said there was a time and a place to curse, and, I believe, you just found it,” she finally said.

Graceful redemption! The chattering picked up, the incident left behind. The lack of vocabulary incident was never mentioned again – while my Christmas-present snafu is bantered about all the time.

I’ve told you these little vignettes about vocabulary, to well, talk about vocabulary – particularly the over-used and potentially definition devolving word – love.

Love should never be diminished – the act or the definition.

It’s true – I might “love” your hair-style, your shoes, your photo you took in your blog, your cake – and the ideas expressed in an article you wrote. Sadly, the use of love in this way is evidence of my laziness, the vocabulary slacker in me, the wordsmith on holiday. If I weren’t such a literalist, I would be able to write a funny, tongue-in-cheek post about it, but because I’m a literalist – I can’t even fathom how to do that.

As a result, I wrote an “I love” not-quite-a-poem about all the things I love – stretching those wordsmith muscles in a much needed way.

I love
admire, applaud, respect
Jane Austen, Margaret Wise Brown, Charles Dickens,
Jesse Stuart, Tolkien, Frances Hodgson Burnett,
Robert Browning, Joan Walsh Anglund,
and Sam McBratney

I love
Relish, savor, indulge in
orchard vanilla black tea
white hydrangeas – blue and green, too
yellow spring jonquils
fluffy pillows and goose feather blankets

I love
cultivate, treasure, drink in
quiet time looking out my bedroom window
simply watching the burnt red of Dogwood
tree leaves where birds that stay
through the winter stop by for
berry picking

I love
admire, cotton to, still smitten with
my forever man who told me he loved me
over 33 years ago at the red stop light
in his daddy’s red and white truck
at the corner of Lancaster Road and the Eastern By-Pass

I love
Delight in, luxuriate, breath deeply
vanilla and lavender
cloves and oranges, too
making me smile in the easy and hard
moments of the daily

I love
Cherish, marvel, hold dear, safe guard
newborn smells and how
they fit against your heart,
lean against your shoulder
trusting without questioning
like God wants us
to trust him

I love
revel in, feast on, count the awe
the stories – funny moments, sacred sharings,
bed-time chronicles and wedding proposals
hubba-bubba, you’re a cake, and are you man-enough
kitchen counter lectures
loving to God’s beard and back
the journey of prayers sent out come home,
miracles and moments done right

I love
fight for, don’t give up on, believe in God’s plan
my sons beyond the stink
of Sweaty soccer cleats and socks
the quest for becoming their own man
and the uncomfortableness of holding my belief set
under the microscope of independence to
determine the truth and merit of a daddy and mama’s
faith and reasons
before claiming it for
themselves

I love
Esteem, glorify, honor, worship, adore, marvel
Shaddai, the might one of Jacob,
Jehovah Shamma, just as He was there in the low, dark part of the challenges, in the emotional cyclone that can sometimes be a part of raising boys to men
Jehovah-Raah,  The Lord My Shepherd, encouraging to love better, forgive better, be his child better
Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that Heals physically, emotionally and spiritually – and He breathed His Holy Spirit into this spent soul
Jehovah Jireh, who reminds me that He will provide, not just the outside stuff needed for growing a family, but the inside stuff I need – like the manna He provided for the Israelites – that He gave them more than enough everyday – His storehouse is open for me – already equipped for everything I need
and in this grace-filled love affair where I learn what true, pure, real God-designed love is . . .

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13: 4-8)

(Note: a well-developed vocabulary does not immunize against foot-in-mouth disease – which is a whole different post)

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http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/     Three-Word Wednesday
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
Christine Malkemes<a href="http://www.christinemalkemes.com/its-time-for-the-loft-link-up/
http://jenniferdukeslee.com/     Tell His Story
http://3dlessons4life.com/

winter16234copyright_edited-1When I was about seven years old, a little hand-held mirror of mine broke.  I’d dropped my treasure box, and there it was broken to pieces in the bottom. It was a mishap – an accident. I remember my first thought was a superstitious one – seven years bad luck. I didn’t tell anyone, so I didn’t have anyone tell me that God was bigger than any superstition

Those seven years were hard ones for me. Maybe they are for everyone. Did I believe that superstition? I rolled that thought over in my mind. I didn’t rebuke it. I didn’t toss it out and walk away from it.  I let it follow me and I acknowledged it was there.

When I turned 14, I felt liberated. I felt as though a weight was lifted and I was freed from the curse of the broken mirror.

A cloud lifted, hope like sunshine broke through.

I realize I believed wrongly and let a little cloud that had no business covering my life do just that, like a cloud comes between me and sunshine, a false belief come between me and the plan God designed for me.

Jesus told the centurion, a Roman soldier – someone not an insider, but an outsider – “as you have believed, let it be done” (Matthew 8:13). The centurion came not for his wife or his son or daughter, but came for a servant.

“As you have believed, let it be done”

The Roman soldier believed – and it was done as he believed.

What have you believed for?

I’ve believed for crumbs,
and he gave me a feast

I believed for a good, faithful husband,
and it was done beyond what I understood
the fullness of what to hope

I believed for children,
and it was done beyond my imagination
once I believed for a daughter
and he gave me sons

I believed for a cardinal to nest
near my home,
for God’s saving grace in a hard
challenge,
and it was done

I believed for God to heal an empty place
in my soul,
for protection, comfort, and answers
for God to show me how to love
when there was no feeling for it,
and it was done

I’ve believed for dreams to find their way,
and that he will show me how to
bloom riotously where I am planted
in easy and uncomfortable places
and it was done

I’ve believed that he would show me how
to trust him
for a life time,
how to love
the hand that designed
the world and me,
and he has

There’s a list of things I believe for
that my sons have a heart for God
who seek real relationship in their daily
that grows into an abiding, vibrant, sustaining love
for daughter-in-laws with a heart for
my family
for restoration of broken relationships
for God to show me how to live
the rest of this life joyfully, fully,
gracefully

I believe for snow blankets, hydrangea blossoms,
the crunch of autumn leaves.
I believe for laughter, joy,
forgiveness and comfort
in the fabric of my family,
for making cookies with grandchildren,
time for singing little ones to sleep,
and weaving long tales together
in quiet moments.
I believe
it’s already done
maybe not the way I envisioned or
anticipated, or even hoped

He tells me, as I believe
it will be done

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http://lauraboggess.com/  PlayDates with God
http://www.themodestmomblog.com/The Modest Mom Blog
http://www.solideogloriasisterhood.com/   Soli Deo Gloria Connections
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)

http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
On Tuesday:
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
On Wednesday:
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/     Three-Word Wednesday
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://jenniferdukeslee.com/     Tell His Story
http://3dlessons4life.com/

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God loves us in all our messiness – and in the messiness of our children – regardless of size, state of heart and quality of choices. Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means,’I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 13). Mothering is sometimes mercy’s school, is it not? Breaking our hearts, lancing out the poison of judgementalism – and refilling it with love, hope and faith for not just the easy to love, but the hard to love, readying our hands to reach out and greet in friendship those we beforehand would have been content to keep on the outside of our faith walk.

In saying all that, I thought that maybe someone needs this story today, just like I needed it in 2009.

The Mother of the Prodigal

Masks are for hiding, deceiving, concealing, and protecting. They hide shame, hurt and wrongs – the wrongs we have done and the wrongs done to us.

We never hear her voice or her story; but if we could, I bet the mother in the story of the prodigal son could tell us a lot about masks – and about throwing them down (Luke 15:11-32).

Married to a man, a Godly man, a respected man, a man who provided abundantly, there was no need for a mask. Imagine the marriage blessings.  A man searching to be close to God found himself a wife desiring to please the Father.  Then God blessed them with their first child – a son.  Such blessing!

The ability to bear sons established her position in the community. She was then blessed with a second son – double the blessing – double the rejoicing.  Her confidence grew. She stood firmly on the promises of God that were sung before her sons were born. Each son was designed for heaven, equipped for the challenges they each would face (Psalm 139:13-16).

I bet she cried when the second son was born – cried tears of joy.  Her first son, always pleasing the father, a parenting-made-easy child, was probably very practical, lacking compassion maybe, but so easy to shepherd into manhood. He probably always won at Alquerque or Chatrang (checkers or chess) because he understood cause and effect.

Within her women’s prayer group, the mother was respected for raising such a noble son.  He probably brought great joy to her heart – and laughter unfettered by frustration. Maybe sometimes she judged other mother’s whose sons were not so obedient, who did not always do their father’s bidding or speak respectfully to their mothers. Maybe they were lax.

Fearless defined the second son. He was poor competition at Alquerque or Chatrang because he was not programmed for cause and effect methodology – he thought in the “Now.”  Passionate about his pursuits and compassionate towards others, he probably shared his allowance with his peers who “needed” or the blind man sitting at the well.  He was filled with talent – a risk-taker.  However, his passion lacked cause and effect self-control. His mother started feeling uncomfortable.

His father encouraged him to save his money, but he just felt criticized, beaten down.  His happy-go-lucky face turned sullen. He sassed his mother. She picked up the mask, uncomfortable with it, but peer fear of judgment was even more uncomfortable.

The first born, working hard to make the right choices, resented his brother’s behavior, and that resentment turned to anger.  The joy within the household that thrived just a few short years earlier evaporated.  Tension hung like high humidity.

Rules were not for this second son, or so he thought. Studying was a waste of time. Seeking God – yeah, sure he believed, but he treated God like he treated his father and mother. The older he got, sullenness grew into contempt – he felt restricted and confined. He was blinded to blessings, to love, to wisdom.

Do not blame his parents, citing carelessness or lack of discipline. His father punished him all sorts of ways to get through to him.  He talked to him gently, calmly, reasoning with him about the choices available to him.  Sometimes it is hard to make the smartest “man” in the room admit someone else knows better.

Long ago, his mother dropped to her knees, praying and seeking God’s guidance and God’s mercy. She longed for laborers to be sent across her son’s path to draw him back – to restore the blessing in her son’s life and in his actions. Sometimes she prayed to God, begging Him to show her how to love her second born. God would warm her heart, restore her strength, and give her hope.

These struggles were kept behind the family doors, until one day it spilled outside those doors – cracking the façade – the mask behind which hope struggled.

The women’s prayer group heard him back-talk his mother one day in that sullen tone.  She pasted a smile on her face, turning back to the group of women. The mask cracked.  How would these women react if they knew her struggles, her perceived failures?  A mother’s motto is always, “I can fix it.” However, she was realizing that she could not fix it – only God could fix it.

It was lonely behind that mask. Self-judgment and fear were her constant companions. She feared that if the mask crumbled even the modicum of community support with the women might fall away too. How she needed the support of women and mothers to lift her up when she fell down. But they did not know she was falling down, that she needed help.  The mask blinds the community and the individual.

Then one day, still a teenager, her son boldly told his father he wanted to leave: “Give me my inheritance.”  He was tired of the rules, tired of the expectations his family put on him, tired of controlling himself. He was a man after all – according to Jewish tradition. He was responsible for his soul; and if he was responsible for his soul, then surely he could be responsible for his inheritance. But he was neglecting his soul.

His father gave it to him, and the world welcomed him. His laughter had once brought such joy and his passion for life had brought such amazement to his family. But later everything turned into concern, and he left.  “I’m never coming back,” he said. “I don’t care what you say.”

Broken-hearted, his parents watched him leave.  The entire town knew about it.  The mask crumbled.

If you were part of this mother’s community, what would you have done?  What did she need? Throughout all the years she struggled, she needed women who would lift her up in prayer. How would you have responded?  Do you wear a mask because you fear judgment from other mothers, other peers, other family members?

Dysfunction is so prevalent within the Bible that you must conclude that God does not expect every family to be without challenges. However, challenges can provoke masks and isolation from true help and true mercy.  You cannot recognize the women God has placed in your path to help you unless you remove the mask.

Removing the mask, surprisingly, makes it easier to love, easier to face the challenges, and easier to rejoice when that prodigal turns his life around. Remove the mask and trust that God will surround you with other women who will speak hope, faith, encouragement not only in you but the in the son gone astray.

No mother wants to hear her son condemned by her peers. She wants to hear him lifted up in the hope of prayer. Are you willing to not only take off the mask, but to lift other struggling mothers up? Encourage mothers whose children might have to learn cause and effect the hard way – pray until her son returns home, willing to be the man God created him to be.

After all, Jesus knew the story of the prodigal son. He knew his struggles, his challenges, his failures – and He knew that the path home was paved with faith.

If you have faith that God will take care of your children, have faith enough to take off the mask. Taking off the mask is a step of faith.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” – (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)

A Mother and her Masks: the Story of the Mother of the Prodigal was first published in 2010 Sanctified Together, a monthly e-magazine for women.

 

tea5_edited-2There was a time when I didn’t have 5 sons, Cleo kitty # 6 or Sadie
A time when I wasn’t in charge of morning wake-ups and breakfast,
Clean clothes and matching socks
Or schedules.
. . . . a time when I’d not known a mother-son wedding dance, or received a marriage a proposal from a 4-year-old who couldn’t imagine living without me, or that star-gazing would mean so much still after 33 years

There was a time when the days crawled
like forever from one to the next.
Birthdays and Christmas took an eternity
to come.

. . . . a time I could fit into the WWII pea-coat my 17 year old wears now
and I slipped city bus-ride dimes and school lunch money into the sleeve pocket

There was a time, one winter, when the big snow came
and everything in the daily shut down, except the
small grocer and grandmother sent me along with my best friend
from across the street
to pick up some items to make dinner
better

after checking with the last of the Main Street residents
too old to get out safely
my friend and I, set out on our errand
sliding down the middle of Main Street, USA
on two feet
the icy world packed in a snow globe silence
until broken by
unabashed teenage exuberance singing
outrageously
“love is higher than a mountain”
on the icy street
empty of cars and everyday living
but for us
STOP (If you’ve been here before, you know I have a brevity of words problem. You can stop or read on).
There was a time when I flew without wings in my night-dreams
my soul-dreams just shadows of things
to come
because dreams are only as big as experience and knowledge allows
and nay-sayers are Magpies trying to carry off treasures that don’t
belong to them

. . . a time when I didn’t see how it was all a God-design
tucked full of blessing and love-letters
from the one whose I am
where faith grows wings
for daily living and dreams
amidst sock matching and scheduled
chaos

tea1_edited-1(Won’t you pull up a chair, have a cup of Orchid Vanilla tea, and join along with me at Kate Motaung’s for 5 Minute Friday. The prompt is. . . . Time. Join me at Ann’s, also, for One Thousand Gifts.)

I’m beginning to journal God’s gifts again. It grounds me, encourages me to look for the blessings He leaves me in the daily, to open the love-letters in them he sends. It changes my day, anchors me and keeps me steady and focused on whose I am. Won’t you join me?

1046 – Cardinals on the window sill, reminding me of home, its goodness and how God’s got the day. My husband got a bird-feeder for Christmas. There used to be only one cardinal – now we have a yard full.

1047 – my son’s friends coming in and out of the house. This weekend, after an indoor soccer tournament. They’d named their team the Waffles, so Keith and I made them waffles to celebrate their win.

1048 – studying with another son for a vocabulary test

1048 – the ability to work with another son to make product and get an order out

1049 – taking more responsibility in our family business – and being able to do it. I understand learning new things are “scary,” but I’m getting past the scary part into the skill comfort part.

1050 – the wrapping up of an odd assortment of challenges in a pop-corn challenge kind-of-year

1050 – classical music that infuses my home with a tranquility

1051 – Saturday morning breakfast at our house with my grandgirlies (Thank you for the term, Elizabeth) and their parents.

1052 – Clotted Cream with homemade scones

1053 – D.E. Stevenson books – and time to read them

1054 – colored pencils and a journaling bible.

1055 – a MIL adventure day with my newly married son’s MIL. She is such a beautiful encourager!

1056 – after a long spell of not writing – and just savoring the daily – and the difference of what I am doing today compared to last year – the freedom to just savor, accept the emptiness of writing ideas – and the confidence in knowing that God will give when the time is right – so many learning how to live waiting for God without pressures and expectations I am tempted to put on myself

1056 – Orchid Vanilla tea with a friend in the middle of a busy day

1058 – a one hour surprise visit from an out-of-town friend who is a beautiful part of the family story-telling thread of boys being born, growing, sickness and weddings.

1059 – Take-out barbecue for dinner at the end of a busy, good day.

1060 – Peaceful sleep despite an pop-up challenge

1061 – a phone call from a son, after seeing a car accident and worrying it was me

1062 – hot water in the morning for a cup of tea

1063 – birthday celebrations for my husband, lovely daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and my mother.

1064 – a picture of my 3 of my 5 favorite sons in a joyful moment

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whose I am

windows_edited-1c_edited-1To a beautiful friend,
before you can trust God’s plans, you need to understand who you are to the one to whom you belong. Really understand it. Really believe it. . . because when you believe it, you can trust it. Whose you are is the most important part of who you are.

I am the great-granddaughter of a former football player who married Mayme, a farmer and his wife whose faith reaches down to me today.

. . . . the granddaughter of Mary Edna and Theodore who loved through a lifetime
of challenges and made home safe

. . . . the daughter of a father who walked out and a mother who never gave up
on her dreams for us

I am a green-eyed girl married to a brown-eyed boy
mama, mother, memaw to Christian, Ben, Barrett, Cameron and Caleb
. . . . Ava and Norah’s Muddy
. . . . Sadie and Miss Kitty’s opener of the door and filler of the bowl

I am the the family remembrancer
though I misplace my keys, my glasses and my schedule
. . . . a literalist looking at life through faith lenses
. . . . a writer, knitter, cook and gardener by determination not perfectionism

I am a writing instructor
teaching about speech parts, organization and support,
in stories, definitions, reasons, hoping they see
they are more than what they realize

I am a dreamer who believes
all things are possible when God is invited
through the gate of my heart
. . . . a teller of corny jokes with bad timing
living with the after-effects of foot-in-mouth disease
redeemed from miss-it moments by an amazing grace
. . . . sufferer of disappointments, dilemmas, the capricious nature
of man-made plans
. . . . a faith girl learning to live hands-off and hands-up

I am a drinker of wild apple ginger tea with honey
. . . . a collector of back-yard violets in white pottery creamer and summertime zinnias in mason jars
. . . . a reader of love letters tucked in blessings of red cardinals, snowflakes and spring storm rivulets in tree-root paths

I am trying to live an ordinary everyman dream that just might produce radical results in a world that is not God-normal.

I am loved by the one who led me to the water, who washed me
clean in the ankle deep, waist deep, soul deep waters
I am pursued and pulled in to the inner circle of his home
I am given the seat of a valued daughter at his table
I am protected by his angels
I am his beloved daughter

I can live with who I am – and find joy in it –
because of whose I am . . . .

I am designed by the creator
of all that exists
.. . . .the dearness of violets, wild apple ginger tea, the quirky humor, the literalist, these 5 boys, my brown-eyed sweetheart, that my mama didn’t give up – that’s not by chance. That’s by design
. . . . a design to be more than what I see
in the mirror or what you see in me
. . . .designed to belong to Him
I am not my own because I cannot be complete,
graceful, content without Him.

I belong . . . to him.

I am his.

“I know this because an angel from the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me last night” (Acts 27:23)

 

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The coffee cake, breakfast casserole, the ornaments nestled into the tree, Santa on the door, my grandparents bible turned to Luke 2 – Christmas traditions of remembrance, traditions of hope.

Despite the traditions un-boxed after Thanksgiving each year, real life happens. Good intentions move their way through December less gracefully than I hope or intend.

Slouchy hats knitted, Christmas candy made – and the feast – when you live away from extended family, Holiday-making is a one-mom job leaving the Martha and Mary within me wrestling – as I fill canisters that make life taste a little sweeter, wrap lights around trees to make life sparkle more, play music that evokes the joy and meaning of the season.

The man-made part of Christmas is exhausting.

One of my boys, slightly affronted, amused and exasperated at the same time – when I called him by his brother’s name instead of his own, stood in the entry hall, “Mom, don’t you know which one I am?”

(Don’t all good mothers do this?) I thought, “On some days, I’m the Easter Bunny. Another day, the Tooth Fairy. Today? Santa Clause? If I can’t keep track of who I am, how can I keep track of who you are?”

. . . . and, I think I might possibly have said that out-loud. Then, like any good mom, I felt a dose of guilt because I just might have crushed his 17-year-old belief in Santa – or was that my 15-year-old’s belief. . .

I’m not even quite sure he heard me because he didn’t respond – either through shock, or just because he’s a teenager – and, well, teenagers are notorious for not hearing their mama’s words- unless you really don’t want them to.

While unwrapping gifts Christmas morning and evening, all gifts came with a disclaimer – the enclosed gift just may not be yours – be prepared to swap – only because 1) name tags didn’t stick and 2) the dog chewed up some bows with name tags attached.

Christmas Eve found me searching for a Christmas Service to attend that had 1) the Christmas Story, and 2) Traditional Christmas songs that told the Christmas Story. The boys warily eyed my choices. Historically, some of my choices have been more misses than hits. They haven’t let me forget a mid-night service of Gregorian chants, among other unusual experiences.

When I decided on an 11 p.m. service, though, there was hardly a peep.

My newly married son and his sweet wife were spending the night with us, along with their two boys – Brooks and Junior, 2 golden retrievers. This son kept asking, “11 p.m.? We’re really going at 11 p.m. I’m usually in bed asleep by 7.”

He didn’t have to go, I told him. It was O.K. if he didn’t go – and I said that seriously, without any hint or intent of sorrowful guilt-tripping.

It meant more to me that he wanted than going to make me happy.

I think he really wanted to go; he just didn’t want to admit it. Maybe, just maybe, it was as important to him as it was to me.

Together, most of my boys, my husband and I, greeted Christmas morning at mid-night, steeped in the story of the birth of our Savior – from the Angels singing Gloria to the shepherds in the field, to the manger, to the silent, holy night when the son of God became man all because of a love and faithfulness deeper and truer any of us can grab hold of.

Every Christmas, that’s what I do, what I want my family to do – grab hold of this truth, try to understand it even more throughout the year.

Real life needs this.

The colorful bows, shiny green, red and candy-cane paper, Risk, Pick-up Sticks, Rocket Balloons, a Red Radio Flyer wagon, chess sets, pocket watches, soccer cleats, blue soccer pants, and sugared pecans – cannot drown out the simple quiet message of the meaning of Christmas.

My soul yearns to hear it, pull it in deep and live it better the next 365 days.

Inside the pocket watch we gave a son, Romans 15:13 was engraved.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” 

Real life needs this – every day of every year!

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Dickens_edited-1Either deep within, wedged like a too chubby Santa in a too skinny chimney, or fall out the top – every stocking should find within itself a book.

Nothing says, “I love you” like either a heart-shaped piece of spinach on a sandwich or the gift of a book.

Books, like love, aren’t always received the way we hope – but sometimes, if we don’t give up – one day, we will discover that the gift was picked up, was absorbed – and hit its mark in the way we intended.

I was helping my oldest son pack up his books when he moved his wife and daughter across town to a new place. I found so many of the books I’d given him – Toqueville’s Democracy in America, Jefferson’s Federalists Papers, Payne’s Common Sense – I’d even found my copy of Hugo’s Les Miserable. 

“Did you every read these?”

He told me he’d read them all in college.

Tolkien, Lewis, Spradlin’s Youngest Templar series, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, Stephen Ambrose’s books, a huge tome on Merlin, Aesop’s Fables, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (great for developing logic skills), an 1800 book on ethics for children, Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane – maybe even little black leather journals for their own stories.

A few weeks ago, three of my boys were helping me make an elephantine move. We were moving the upstairs office to a refinished space in the basement. The 20 year old pulled down the framed Lion poster, turned it over and started taking it apart. He saw my astonished look – because, really, a why-are-you-taking-apart-my-picture look?

“Just wait,” he said, with a smug grin on his face. Layer by layer, he pulled the backing apart until he’d found what he wanted: a hostage contract with my signature of agreement from a long ago time when they were much littler. It was a note stating they’d taken hostage Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane, which would I would never see again if I didn’t agree to never, ever, ever read it to them again. If I agreed, the book would be returned unharmed.

Right around that time in October, that same son was carrying around my very old paperback copy of Oliver Twist – and he was 3/4 of the way through it. I saw him sitting on the porch reading it. . . for enjoyment. Later that day, Oliver Twist sat quietly on my kitchen table like . . . like an old friend glad to be out and about.

Sometimes books become a part of another’s story – in unplanned for, unconventional ways.

This Christmas, one of my boys will find an old, red-and-tan backed Zane Grey book. Another is getting Toqueville’s Democracy in America – and I’m still turning over in my head what to get the others. One by one, I will find the perfect book that fits just right in each stocking !

I’m thinking about what to put in my Daughter-in-Laws stockings – maybe Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God – a book that beautifully encourages us to take time out of our day to go on a date with God. He’s just waiting to steal away with us – and in the stealing away with God, there’s always blessing.

Or  Deidra Riggs’ Every Little Thing – those little things that seem unimportant and ordinary might be how we see ourselves or our life in the daily. Deidra encourages us to see that every little thing has greater impact than we realize. What an encouraging mind-set as we review the end of 2015 and step into 2016.

Maybe Michelle DeRusha’s 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, that she included Therese of Lisieux went straight to my heart. I read her auto-biography in the 5th grade. It was through the outpouring of her heart and her relationship with our Savior that taught me the intimacy and realness of prayer. The women she lists are ordinary, everyday women who through their faithfulness in Christ became women of valor – one day at a time.

I met Laura, Deidra, and Michelle at the Jumping Tandem Retreat this year. It was a blessing to finally get to meet face-to-face women I have been blogging with for quite a few years – ordinary, everyday women living their faith one day at a time – becoming those women of valor Michelle talks about.

I haven’t met Mark Batterson’s, but his book The Circle Maker is another I recommend. It’s a book about praying for those we know and don’t know who are struggling – and even lost. It’s a book that doesn’t slam the door on the lost we come across in the daily – or maybe even across the Christmas table. It’s about not giving up on them – and battle for them through prayer.

My granddaughter’s? I think I’m going classical (Wait Till the Moon is Full and Wynken, Blynken and Nod) with something new and delightful- my friend, Amy Sullivan’s book, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World: Book One: Gladys Aylward. Sullivan tells Gladys’ story, and in the telling, encourages all of us – little girls and grown up girls, to be who God designed us to be – not Wonder Girl – just God’s Girl – doing ordinary things through love that leave an extraordinary impact. Congratulations Amy on your dream finding its jacket. I am so happy to have it on my shelf!

A book has so much ability to be more than a book.

What is Santa leaving in your stockings?

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