Have you completed your Christmas shopping? Some gifts are purchased, some are lovingly hand-made and others come straight from the heart.
Of the many gifts given and received over the Christmas season, often those most valuable are the ones that don’t come from a store.
One of the most thoughtful gifts I ever received came from my daughter. She didn’t have a lot of money but wanted to do something special for me.
I had a drawer full of recipes cut from the newspaper, jotted on scrap paper or passed on from friends. My daughter took the opportunity to go through these whenever I wasn’t home and neatly print the favourites onto recipe cards, which she placed in a small file box. This allowed me to find the ones I wanted with ease. Almost twenty years later, I still use and appreciate this gift.
My children, now grown with families of their own, don’t remember a lot of Christmas gifts received while they were young. What they do remember is receiving a new board game every year. We would spend hours as a family playing these games. The time spent together is what their memories are made of.
Over the years I’ve given and received some wonderful gifts. I’d be happy to share more of them but would rather hear about yours. What are some of the best gifts you remember and what make them special.
I’ll do a draw from the comments I receive and one of you will win a gift from me!
A change in weather during our tropical vacation forced us indoors.
The wind lashed the rain against our windows. It didn’t take long for the deluge to fill the tracks and overflow, forming pools on the tile floor. The water was noticed before it spread far enough to do damage. We mopped up and kept an eye on the offending area.
After the storm subsided, no evidence of the excess moisture remained. We were lucky this time.
It would have been easy to put this behind us and forget it ever happened. However, someone will need to take care of the necessary maintenance to the window track. If not, the problem will reoccur. Maybe not this week, or even this month, but the consequences could be worse next time.
Regular maintenance is also necessary for our lives. Storms lie ahead for each of us. We don’t know when, or how hard they may hit. The better I prepare myself in the good times, the less damage there will when the tempests of life strike.
The ability to survive the tough times is gained through my relationship with God. Spending time in prayer and reading the Bible enables me to build a shelter I can trust. God has promised to keep me safe in the trials of life. When I walk closely with Him, I know any storm damage will be lessened.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2 LT)
My husband and I were at the airport waiting for a connecting flight when we saw the sign. It asked about the size of our baggage and the measurements included were to help us know if what we carried was too big.
The double meaning was not lost on us. Are we carrying around baggage the size of a small personal item? Maybe it’s larger, like a carry-on we need to stow overhead. Or, in some cases, it might have to be checked with the oversized pieces.
There was a time when the emotional baggage I carried was too large to be contained in the dimensions specified on this sign. It seems ironic to have carried around something too big to fit in a carry-on bag.
Past hurts, regrets, resentments and more were weighing me down. I was dragging them around, letting the weight of my past impact my day-to-day life. The load was becoming too much to carry and I needed to find a way to permanently check at least part of it.
Forgiveness was the key to lightening my load. Not only did I need to extend this to others, I also had to forgive me. My past mistakes didn’t need to still be carried. I could learn from them and let them go. This didn’t happen overnight, but bit by bit, I was able to permanently check the majority of this baggage.
I’m sure I’ll accumulate more as I travel life’s journey. But, now that I know what to do with this excess weight, I’m travelling a lot lighter.
A light snowfall covered the ground during the night. The next morning we stepped out of the house and into a winter wonderland. Tree branches that had been bare sticks the night before were now covered on one side with a layer of white.
I turned to my eight-year-old granddaughter and said, “Isn’t it beautiful? I think I’ll take a picture.” Her reply took me by surprise. “It looks like an art project,” she said.
She was right. I thought about her words over the next few days and thought of the many projects the Master Artist has shown me. Everything was created by God. He designed the colours and then arranges them in spectacular fashion.
Today I’m going to share some of His art projects I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. All glory goes to the Creator of heaven and earth.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NIV)
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)
I learned a lot from watching grandchildren play checkers. Their game was an accurate depiction of life.
The first thing they did was to trade in the boring flat disks for the fun shapes of chess pieces. Why not choose pieces that make you happy?
There were no rules regarding what direction to travel in. Confidence allowed the pieces to move forward. Fear caused a retreat.
At times the entire focus was on one piece. This meant missed opportunities in other areas.
Does any of this ring true for you? It sure does for me! Played out before my eyes was an example of how behaviours learned in childhood are carried through into adult life.
They often pointed out their own weaknesses to the opposition. These would not have been noticed had attention not been drawn to them. I’ll admit I often do this as well.
The game was evenly matched for a long time. Then, one made a series of bad moves and was soon far behind. Discouragement set in and words like I’m not good at this game were spoken.
What happened next surprised me. The one in the lead sacrificed her certain win in order to make the other feel better. The unexpected winner received congratulations from the loser and the game ended with both players happy.
I looked on in awe and wondered if I would sacrifice a certain win in something in order to help another regain confidence.
These kids instinctively knew it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. This is a good reminder for me in the game of life.
During a walk on a frosty day, an unusual sight was seen. The pond was almost frozen over. Ice started around the shoreline and was reaching towards the centre. There, huddled together in the small area of remaining water, swam a few geese.
“Why hadn’t they flown south yet?” I wondered. It was only a matter of days before the ice would completely cover the pond. They were certainly leaving things until the last moment.
The scene made me think of the number of times I’ve acted like a silly goose. Signs of an impending freeze in my life have been ignored. If I don’t acknowledge what’s happening around me, maybe the trouble won’t materialize. After all, there’s no immediate danger so I may not have to take action.
This type of attitude has not served me well. Often the reason I put off making a decision is that I’m not sure which direction to take. What if I make the wrong choice? I fail to realize that making no decision is still making a decision!
I don’t know what the future holds but I do have a personal relationship with the One who does. God has promised to teach us what to do. I just need to call out to him in prayer and listen carefully for his response.
With this kind of power available to me, not to seek his guidance would make me as silly as those geese.
The Lord says, “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 GWT)
Sometimes we happen to find the perfect gift for a loved one. That was the case with a birthday present for our nine-year-old granddaughter.
Part of her gift was a pillow. This was not your everyday pillow but a special one, with one side in a satin fabric and the other covered with sequins. I knew it would be a hit because what little girl doesn’t like sequins?
It got even better, though as these adornments were purple on one side and silver on the other. The colour changed depending on the direction you ran your hand over the surface. We watched her write and draw as she customized this special gift.
I understood why she liked the pillow because I enjoyed playing with it, too. There was no right or wrong way to make the designs. It could be predominantly purple, mostly silver or a blend of the two colours. I could draw straight lines or make random patterns.
If there was something I didn’t like I could erase it with a simple swipe of the hand. Starting over was not a failure but an opportunity to make something new.
I can create this feeling in other areas of my life. The pattern of my life is unique to me. There is no need to be the same as everyone else. If something isn’t working out for me I can embrace the opportunity to start again.
Somehow, playing with this pillow was freeing. I may just have to get one of my own!
This was the first major snowfall of the season. There had been a few that didn’t leave an accumulation, but this one was different.
I was attending a silent retreat and the blanket of snow seemed to also silence the land.
The sun appeared mid-afternoon, beckoning me to brave the cold and partake of the beautiful surroundings.
The only sound I could hear was the squeak of my boots on the snow. The pristine white surface sparkled with ice crystals looking like millions of pieces of glitter sprinkled before me.
I walked toward the evergreens dressed in their winter gowns.
The snow lay thick on the branches and I saw some weighed down by this heavy burden. Not only was this a photo op, it was also an analogy of life.
Too much of anything can weigh us down. A little guilt here, a touch of regret there and soon we are tired from our heavy load. We bow to the ground, unable to carry the burden. Without relief, we are in danger of breaking.
Jesus has promised to give us rest when we bring our burdens to him. First, we have to silence the noise in our minds. In the stillness will we be able to discern his voice and allow him to lighten our load.
When the sun shines on the tree branches the snow starts to fall away. In the same way, the Son of Man takes our worries, allowing us to stand straight and tall once again.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GWT)
The aquafit instructor was adding a few new exercises for our class. At one point she told us, “Kick one leg up at a time. Pretend you are doing the can-can.”
I found it amusing to think of myself as a can-can girl. I’m a little – OK a lot – too old for that!
Then I remembered a magnet I have on my filing cabinet. It says Successful women come in cans not in can’ts.
Living this way is a choice. I can be committed, gentle, loyal, thoughtful, loving and kind. These are only a few of the positive traits I want to focus on.
The can’ts should be limited to the negative characteristics I sometimes struggle with. I imagine how much better life would be if the bad habits were eliminated. To lead a happy, productive life I can’t be harsh, critical, complaining, and uncaring. This can be a lot easier to follow through on with others than with me.
I can wish and want but until I am committed to change nothing is going to happen. My goal is to get the most out of life, and not merely exist. If I want to make a difference in the lives of others I first have to start with my own.
When my attitude changes so will my life. Who else wants to join me as a can-can gal or guy? Together we can change the world.
My chiropractor schedules regular progress exams with his patients. After a certain number of treatments, an assessment is done. I have completed three progress exams.
One part of checkup is having my photo taken while standing in front of a grid on the wall. This enables us to see if I am off centre. A thermal rolling scan was done as well as a questionnaire regarding my health
The purpose of all of this is to find out how my body is responding to treatment and if any changes are needed to make it more effective.
I think of other areas in life where it would be a good idea to get regular progress reports. I’ve been working on having more patience. How am I really doing with that? It seems to be going well until I’m in a stressful or frustrating situation. Those tests clearly show where I am off center. My calm, cool demeanour is shattered and my voice takes on a sharp edge. I’m not happy with the outcome of this testing but am now aware of changes that need to be made.
God allows us to be tested to teach us endurance. It is a way to train us to persist and not give up. The question I need to ask myself is how to make the necessary changes to improve my spiritual health.
I can start by spending more time in prayer and reading God’s instruction manual, the Bible. My time with Him will reveal the answers to my progress exams.
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.” (James 1:12 NLT)