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Fresh Starts -- Second Chances

December 2015

This Christmas message is not for you if . . .

 . . . this year, the holiday is shiny and bright and you're looking forward with anticipation to celebrating with family and friends.

This message is for you if, this year, your smile feels a little forced, Christmas carols make you long for the joys of past years, and lights on the tree sometimes blur as you listen to friends talk about preparing room for family.

We've been blessed with many, many wonderful Christmases--too noisy and messy for Norman Rockwell, but brimming with love and laughter.

So what do we do when Christmas arrives with a dark cloud instead of sparkling snow? When the walls echo with the giggles of Christmases past, but the house is empty? How do we celebrate in the wake of the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, or distance--geographical or relational--from family? 

Of course, we know we need to focus on the birth of Christ and think of others before ourselves. But I've found something--a little practice that I know will sound simplistic--that's helping me fight for joy this year. I'm finding it in captured moments. While the big picture doesn't look like I wish it did, there are those precious minutes, those snapshots of wonder and laughter, even here, beneath this cloud. There is the glitter on my dining room floor from a crafting grandson. And the pile of pillows and blankets in the living room from a sleepover by the tree. There is Marshmallow, the blow-up bear my oldest granddaughter gave me ten Christmases ago. There are the fifteen stocking hanging by the fireplace. How I long for Christmases past, when everyone was here to open them. But the stockings remind me to pray for each one. Important moments.

I think of a friend who is spending her first Christmas without her husband. The picture is not what she wants it to be. But there are moments--baking cookies with her grandchildren, watching them sing in a Christmas program. Sometimes it's as small as holding an ornament and remembering the person who gifted you with it. 

For me, at this moment, it's the smell of 7-layer-bars. No, I'm not baking them for a houseful. But my husband loves them. And that will be enough right now. And maybe, by the end of tomorrow night, I'll have a list of wonder moments far longer than I could have imagined--and the big picture will appear much brighter than I once thought. 

Even if this holiday is not all that you long for, I pray that this Christmas will be blessed with a long list of wonder moments. 

When I Grow Up . . . in Christ

Grandchild 1: You're not a grown-up, you're a grandma!
Grandchild 2: Yeah, you're past grown-up!

Wow . . . After I stopped laughing, it got me thinking. 

Remember back to pretending you were a grown up? When putting on Mommy or Daddy's shoes or "helping" with housework made you feel "big." And then we move on to the words: "When I grow up . . ." 

When did that stop for you? When you hit 18? 21? When did we stop dreaming of what we'd become when we matured? Shouldn't we still be asking those questions, dreaming those dreams? 

When I grow more loving, I'll _________. When I grow more patient (or bold or selfless or giving or forgiving) I'll __________.

Can I challenge you to dream with me about filling some bigger shoes? 

When I grow more surrendered to Christ, I want to walk where he would walk, love where he would love. 

When we're young, growth just happens. Most of us had caring people feeding, teaching, nurturing us. At this stage it takes some intentionality to keep growing. Maybe something to incorporate into those resolutions that make change seem so possible at the beginning of each new year.

And anyway, what's the fun in stopping at "adult"? Now that you've learned, as I have, that there are growth stages "past grown-up," what are you going to be when you grow ____________?

Thank you to my three youngest adorables--Zoey, Leif, and Laiken--for the pictures. And to Keira and Caden for the conversation that inspired this post.

Finding Hope . . . in an Empty Dishwasher

For those days when you wake to a messy life . . . I'm sharing thoughts on where to start on Putting on the New. Love to hear your thoughts. 

Night and Day Brothers . . . and Sisters

Lecture alert: I needed one this week, so I thought I'd share the humbling. It's not a new message, just one I need to hear on a regular basis.

It started with an idle thought. A critical one--the kind we're supposed to take captive. The essence of the thought was: "If they'd only do it MY way . . ."

Raise your hand if you've ever entertained one of those. 

It got me wondering how God sees his kids. . . I look down on you because you go to a church with only organ music. You criticize me because of the rock tunes at mine. She goes to a mega church. I belong to a home church. He reads his Bible before bed. I read mine in the morning. They like NIV. We like ESV. I'm post-trib. He's mid-. She says she's a Christian, but she still smokes. He claims to be a Jesus follower but he watches PG movies.

Whole families of believers have been shattered over more trivial matters than these. We criticize, argue, sever ties.

Our Father must be thrilled.

Years ago, I wrote a (never published) book inspired by my two oldest sons. I called it Night and Day Brothers. It was about two boys who were polar opposites. One wore a tie to gym class. The other collected rocks and rusty bottle caps.

While our boys did have very different likes and dislikes when they were young, little did I know how prophetic that story would be. 

Today, my oldest son has three kids, five dogs and raises goats and ducks and chickens. He hates football. He sometimes wears a kilt. If he had a choice between a 5-star hotel and a day puttering in his shop with his kids, the shop would win hands down.

My second son is a chiropractor. He has three kids, no pets, and enjoys golfing, gourmet food, and taking his kids to the pool. He loves football. He wears dress shirts. If told he had to spend a day in his brother's shop, he'd probably say, "Just shoot me."
How did this happen? How did they get to be so different? They were raised in the same house with the same rules. They shared a bedroom. When I could get away with it, I even dressed them alike. We gave them the same amount of love. And yet, here they are, as different as night and day.

I wouldn't have wanted cookie-cutter kids. Remember Purple Panda on Mister Roger's Neighborhood? The monotone-talking guy whose favorite food was tapioca, who teleported from Planet Purple where everyone looked and talked the same? I think we'd all agree we'd hate a tapioca world of monotony. Yet why do we so often think "If they'd only do it MY way. . ."? I'm not preaching "tolerance" of sin here, but acceptance of the things that add texture, flavor, and color to our lives.
Gary Chapman wrote a song that Amy Grant made popular back in the seventies. Every time I hear Father's Eyes I'm convicted. Lord, I Iong to stop focusing on differences. Help me see what you see, look for good, and search for common ground. Help me love your kids.

Because, after all, we are family.

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