Relationships

Never Alone

Blog_Christmas_SadHow can we celebrate a season built around relationships and family when we feel alone? We could be surrounded by people, but still feel like a barren tree in the middle of an empty forest. The snow is falling all around, and the tree is frozen from the deepest root to the highest branch. But no one seems to notice.

Just as that tree lost all its leaves in the midst of autumn, we might feel we’ve lost everything and won’t make it through the winter season of bitter coldness and death. The Bible speaks of a woman who had lost everything in life. Her name was Anna. She was widowed only seven years into her marriage, and there is no mention of her having had children. She stayed in the temple, fasting and praying. And waiting.

Maybe she watched the people who came to the temple—seeing families with children, and wondering why she suffered such loss in her own life. In her day, society looked down upon widows and often presumed that some sin led to their desolate condition. But God saw Anna’s heart, and chose her to be among the first to embrace the child who would one day die to bring salvation to the world.

What was she thinking when she saw the baby? The Bible doesn’t say except that she “gave thanks to God and spoke of the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” To redeem is to take something that is bad and turn it into something that is good. It’s when God takes the ashes of our lives and turns them into something beautiful; when God uses the death of autumn and the silence of winter to bring about the life of spring. Anna knew that God was going to take her difficult circumstances and turn them into something good. And He did.

Just like He did for all those who had gone before her—those who were part of the lineage of the Savior. Among them were widows who, like herself, had lost everything: Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. Each story in the history of our Savior involves loss, but also reveals how God is able to take the trials of our lives and turn them into testimonies. And each story reminds us that even when we’ve lost everything, we’re never alone.

In the midst of war and battle, drought and famine, slavery and loss, our Savior came. Our Savior is also called “Immanuel.” It means “God is with us.” And He is.

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More than our Presents

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More than our presents, our kids need our presence. They want, and need, us. IN their lives. It’s the greatest gift we can give, to them…and to ourselves.

 

Photo Credit: A Christmas Gift Free Stock Photo – Public Domain Pictures

What our Kids Really Need

Postcard   new  year   clock‘Tis the season when kids make their lists and we check them twice, determined to please the ones we love with that perfect gift. But before we gear up for another trip to the shopping mall, let’s take the time to stop. Breathe. Put those lists down. And consider.

What is it our kids truly need?

Written between the lines of holiday wants lies something deeper. Something more costly than anything our imaginations can conjure up. Something that can’t be bought at the mall.

My friend once lamented that she got a second job so she could get her kids all they needed, only to find they needed something more. Her hours of labor provided for material things while robbing her family of precious time together. She was slowly losing her kids to technology, and eventually to gangs, drugs, and more. Looking back, her greatest regret was missing out on her kids’ lives for the sake of getting them more stuff.

As we think of the kids in our lives, most everyone would agree one of our greatest endeavors is to make them happy. It’s at this juncture that we stand to lose the very thing we venture to gain. If in pursuit of making our kids happy we rob them of our presence in their lives, we’ve missed our greatest opportunity. What they need is relationship—not with a screen, a gadget, or a piece of plastic, but with the people most important in their lives.

If stacking up gifts under the tree means racking up credit card debt that will consign us to overtime labor in the coming year, it’s not worth it. Deep down, our kids don’t want to be home alone with things while we slave away at the office just to pay it all off. More than our presents, they need our presence. They want, and need, us. IN their lives. It’s the greatest gift we can give, to them…and to ourselves.

Beware the Mind Invaders

Blog_UFOI’ve done stupid things, and I’ve done stupider things. And though I tell my kids stupid is a bad word, it’s just not possible to describe my most recent near-catastrophe without saying it was one of the stupider things I’ve done.

It all started with fear. Some rogue message appeared on my computer warning that if I didn’t click the link my computer would be infected with a deadly virus. I didn’t click the link. Yay, me. Smart choice. But throughout the day, I kept worrying that maybe my computer WAS getting sick and would shut down and lose all my treasured info. Hardly catastrophic on the scale of world catastrophes, but for a writer it would be quite devastating to lose a dearly beloved laptop.

Long story short, I looked for a reputable virus removal software, clicked the link to download, and that’s where it all went bad. Before I knew it, I was on the line with some outsourced customer service agent of some not-so-reputable company trying to take over my computer. As they small-talked me about the crazy weather and other random topics, they were subtly attempting to sneak info from my computer while implanting viruses.

Good thing my husband was smart enough to shut it all down and clean it all up before it was too late.

The same thing can happen with our minds. Fear sets in, leading us to seek defense. Somehow, in the process, we download bad info that attempts to take over our minds.

Take bitterness, for example. Someone hurts us. We fear they’ll hurt us again. Our defenses go up. Yet as we seek to protect ourselves, something insidious seeps into our thought life. While we initially sought to control our circumstances, we find we are the ones being controlled. Before we know it, bitterness rules our thoughts, words, and actions, if not paralyzing us completely.

The danger of allowing bad data to enter our thoughts applies in every arena, from self-hatred to racism to rage to depression. It begins with fear, moves to self-protection, then whammo! We’re the victims of a mind invasion.

When I realized what was happening to my laptop, it had to be shut down, rebooted, examined, and cleaned up. We had to put up a firewall, protecting my data from malware. We need the same defense when it comes to our thought life. And how much more valuable are our minds.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”
(Margaret Thatcher)

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Luggage, Packed, Travel, Trip – Free Image on Pixabay …

Created for Community

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Fireworks, People, Crowd, July 4Th – Free Image on …

13 Reasons to Live: Longing for More

It was sunny, a pleasant day for a picnic. We were surrounded by people and laughter and food. The kids were enjoying themselves on the playground. And I wanted to cry.

Our friends had invited us to this African community get-together, where ethnic music soared joyfully from the loudspeaker, competing only with the friendly conversations at the surrounding tables. The warmth of the weather was matched only by the warmth of the relationships. There were still crowds gathered beneath the pavilion when we finally left, after the sun had disappeared behind the trees.

It’s been a few weeks since that day, and I still haven’t quite pinpointed what it was that triggered me to near tears in the midst of it all. In some ways, it was the beauty of the day stirring up a longing in me. You know, that empty ache in the soul that can’t quite be explained.

What struck me most, beyond the abundant variety of delicious entrees, the relentlessly happy music and the overwhelming number of people in attendance, was the strong sense of community, and the joy in the midst. The people were open, welcoming, loving, embracing. Everyone seemed to enjoy one another’s company.

In the midst of the busyness of modern culture, we’ve lost this appreciation of community.

I think much of the depression we face today is due to this lack. We bury ourselves in work and technology and things, all in unconscious effort to avoid what we most desperately need. In our pursuit of the world’s definition of success, we fail in what’s more important: relationships. If you find yourself longing for more, maybe part of what you’re longing for is meaningful connection with others.

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens. From what I know of those who gathered at the picnic that day, they’ve celebrated together, but they’ve also suffered together. And that suffering builds strength in relationships. And overcoming together breeds genuine joy.

God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary. You’re here in this generation for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and to fill your life with his purposes. Ask him to lead you to strong, healthy, life-transforming community.

And when you find it, you’ll find you have reason to live.