Christmas is ALMOST here – my most favorite time of the year. I love, love, love every moment of it. I look forward to each Christmas with an expectancy. You can find me usually before Thanksgiving addressing cards. Yes, I still send cards. I love receiving cards. The day after Thanksgiving I mail cards, and start decorating and shopping. I try my best to make it special for my family, work really hard to keep Jesus’ birth at the forefront of our celebration.
This year that joy was taken from me. We started an unexpected and unwanted remodeling project (due to foundation shifting) that was supposed to be finished in nine days—long before Thanksgiving. Today it is December 13, and we still have days the remodelers don’t show even though they are scheduled. I want to be angry and sometimes I am for a bit, but trying to remain Christ-like through this ordeal. I am trying to understand why. None of it makes sense—why do people make promises and don’t keep them? During a remodeling project things happen—pipes break, a refrigerator might not fit, the faucets leak behind the washer, treasures are broken, furniture scratched, walls are ruined, and the list just keeps growing.
In the book Greater, Pastor Furtick tells us about Elisha and how “He looked at every obstacle as an opportunity that God is greater than the confines of any situation.” It has been one obstacle after another during this remodel, but each one I count as a blessing. Walls scratched get new paint, broken pipes are new and won’t break and flood during a cold winter, broken things mean less clutter, days the remodelers don’t show give me time to unpack and get ready to re-pack for carpet. God is greater than this remodel—once it’s finished it will be beautiful and clean, and it will glorify Him.
If remodeling weren’t enough, Mom was in the hospital for a week with sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and a UTI they can’t kill, and is now back at the nursing home very ill on very strong IV antibiotics, and we don’t know if she will pull through. “God is greater than the confines of any situation” and any illness!
I have been asking God why, why at my favorite time of the year, is all of this happening? After all, aren’t I closer to God than I have ever been? I have been in Bible studies all year, taking baby steps and growing through I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer, Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, and now Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, and I even participated in the study on the book of John so I could stay in the Word during the summer. I felt Him calling me to do more than just be “good enough” so I responded to that call to lead a group during this study and get out of my comfort zone, my mediocrity, and throw down that plow of fear because, like Elisha, I am not able, but available. So I took that very tiny baby step of faith to lead a group.
So WHAT’S UP GOD????? I am studying the book Greater with thousands of ladies on Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Studies. Pastor Furtick talks about God “uprooting us from the tyranny of the familiar, shattering the monotonous life and taking us on an adventure.” Is this an adventure? Are You uprooting me from the familiar? My whole life has changed in one year. Did I mention I retired last December? I read in the book where it says, “whatever He calls you to do is the greatest thing you can be doing at that moment”. WOW! As my friend Donna Bostick says, “BAM, BAM, BAM.”
I have sat in tears at times—tears driving from the laundromat because my washer is in the den, tears because I feel such a responsibility for Mom, tears because these remodelers are still in my life and I need to be with mom, tears because 43 years of traditions are null and void this year, tears because I want to decorate, I want to shop, and I want my house to look nice for the family that will be here Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and tears because I am so tired. The greatest thing I can do at this moment, I believe, is to love on my mama and love on women all over the world in Jesus’ name. He knew. He knew that Mom would be so ill. He knew, He knew remodelers never finish on time and unexpected things would happen and He knew, He knew that I needed to be in this study because the house would be in utter chaos, and I could run to people who love me. He knew I needed prayer and encouragement to deal with all this—prayer from all our team leaders and showers of love, blessings, and words of encouragement. He knew I would have strength for little else than what I am doing this moment. How could I be shopping, decorating, and doing all those other things this year? I couldn’t. He knows that through all of this “stuff” that next year Christmas will be more special than it has ever been. He knew I wanted to write so He has sent me to these studies where I learned about blogs, and found some time (FINALLY) away from home this weekend in His presence for a few hours. So all I can do at this moment is take baby steps (Bible study, take care of Mom, and hopefully finish this very first blog), and in between times I get a few things unpacked (so I can start packing up the other rooms for new carpet, which may or may not happen before Christmas). In the in-between times I spend hours in this study and praying.
Uprooted? I think so. Uprooted from a filthy house, uprooted from the mediocrity of not reading my Bible like I should, uprooted to minister to women, and uprooted to get rid of old tile, carpet, and kitchen countertops that were long overdue replacing. Yes, I was uprooted and praise God for that. I read in Greater that “His greatest ambition in leading you into greater things isn’t that you would know what to do. It’s that you would know who He is”. WOW! What a nugget in that phrase—“to know who He is”.
So what has God shown me this Christmas, in this chaotic time? I could sit here listening to the enemy and whine and complain and say, “poor me,” but instead I have chosen to DIG DITCHES as Pastor Furtick calls it. One way to dig ditches is to change my words, my expressions, my thoughts, and my actions, using words of affirmation and faith, rather than words of hopelessness as I look over the mess—the disaster that is currently there will one day be beautiful if I keep my focus on Him. God has shown me that I can be Greater, not great and He is showing me daily who He is. I am digging ditches by choosing to have blessed thoughts rather than sad thoughts when I see no tree, no lights, no stockings, and a Mom who is suffering. Digging ditches and cleaning out clutter to donate that other families can use. Digging those ditches and praising God when I walk in my kitchen and see that one candle that reminds me “who He is”—“He is the Light of this world and He is Christmas.” That one candle, a few plates, and a couple of things I picked up last week at a drug store are the only decorations I can find right now. I look at those and am reminded that “He is my PEACE and He is my JOY” (my favorite word). I know that every great thing and every small thing in my life are blessings from Him and are the result of His most amazing grace and love. NOEL is written on one of those treasures I bought. Do you know what it means? I am ashamed to say I didn’t so I looked it up – it means CHRISTmas! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
So what am I enjoying this Christmas, when I can’t decorate each and every room, nor time to shop for my loved ones? I’m enjoying the simple things, the blessings only He can give. The blessing of using what little “widow’s oil” I have to glorify Him through leading a wonderful group of women, who will in turn bless others and show His love. I am truly experiencing what the joy of Christmas is all about this year and that’s to know who He is and pray for others to know Him too. It’s about Him, about His love, His blessings, His peace, and His joy! It’s about the simple things that God has blessed us with—not the presents under the tree but HIS PRESENCE, the gift of Him. It’s not about trees, decorations, or stress—it’s about the things that build memories of who He is. It’s about the blessings, the things that God has given to bless our lives in “BIG” ways, but we miss them as we hurry through the season that is really the most special time of the year—it’s NOEL, it’s Christmas, it’s joyous, it’s the season during which we were sent the Greatest Gift on Earth.
Here are a few of the simple things that God has given me that I am relishing and enjoying this year:
• My Family (my husband holding my hand or giving me hugs, my son and daughter and their spouses calling or emailing to see how things are going and stopping by to help pack, move furniture, and even go sit with me and Mom)
• Visiting and loving on Mom, and the wonderful blessing that she still recognizes me as her daughter and knows my name.
• A Bible study group where I can use my “widow’s oil” to love on, pray for, and touch women all over the world. That little “oil” can grow and grow to be much as lives are touched and they touch other lives
• Christmas cards arriving from family and friends with beautiful uplifting notes and messages and the joy in hanging them up on my kitchen mini-blinds and awaiting the long tradition our family has had of choosing one card each time we sit down to eat and we re-read that card and lift that family in prayer.
• A simple manger scene printed from my computer hanging on my refrigerator
• A simple candle and displays in my kitchen reminding me what Christmas is about: “to know who He is”—the candle reflecting to me that “He is the Light of the world” and my few decorations that remind me “He is my peace and my joy,” and the wonder of those few things reminding me to remember “In Christ alone”.
• Lessons I am teaching my grown children, that I can have joy in His presence no matter the circumstances. Because of Him I can face today and I can face tomorrow—because He LIVES!
• A couple of Christmas plates hanging in the kitchen giving a bit of beauty in an ugly mess
• Christmas coffee cups to savor coffee each morning with my Bible study leaders and group or hot chocolate in the evening with my husband
• A new stove after five weeks of not having one with soup on the burner, and new pipes with a working washer and dryer
• New tile floors to hear the pitter patter of small feet of future grandchildren I am praying for
• The thought of a clean, remodeled home where I can entertain friends and family and use God’s house to glorify Him
• That just like the widow’s oil—little is much and as the Greater book says “He is personally watching over the intricacies of my life”
JOY, JOY, JOY to you this Christmas!