The old coffee can received a new life in a kindergarten class back in 2005. First, it was painted white. Then a snowman face was painted on and a red felt cap added.
Our young granddaughter chose to present this wonderful gift to my husband and I. The cap had an opening in the back that was perfect for little hands to reach in, so we decided to turn the snowman into a special treat tin for our grandchildren.
They were not allowed to look inside the tin to make their choice. Instead, they would get what their hand chose. Sometimes the hands were in the tin for a long time as they attempted to feel every treat inside! This was the basis for many fond memories.
As our grandchildren grew, in size and number, the hat became unglued several times. Eventually, the snowman tin was retired and tucked out of sight in our pantry. I think we missed the game of guessing the treat more than the younger children did.
Not long before Christmas I brought out our special snowman and looked at the piece of masking tape on the bottom of the tin that still showed our granddaughter’s name.
The time had come to bring this gift back to life. My husband reattached the hat and we shopped for some special treats.
Our granddaughter has just moved out of her parent’s home and into her own apartment. When we presented her with the treat tin as a housewarming gift I could almost see the memories dancing across her mind. Her, “Oh, my gosh!” and big smile let us know the gesture was appreciated.
My hope is this tin will be a visual reminder of the sweet surprises life has in store for her and for her grandparents, who will always be there when she needs us.
Over the years I’ve heard the saying, “Giving is receiving.” This is something I’ve experienced as I’m sure many of you have.
The fact our giving doesn’t have to be extravagant to have an impact is an added bonus. Sometimes all we need to do is show up. Our time is valuable and giving it freely to someone shows a commitment to that person they may not have experienced elsewhere.
Acts of service show we understand the needs of another and are willing to help fill those needs. In order to recognize them, we need to pay attention.
My husband is a master at this. He quietly takes care of things around the house to give me time to spend writing. By giving me the gift of his time he is also valuing mine. There is no way to put a price on this kind of gift.
His example makes me strive to cheerfully give my time and attention to others. By doing so, I am giving one of the most thoughtful gifts possible. No lineups to purchase are required. No fancy wrapping is needed. The ripple effect is far-reaching and can enable me to experience a little of Christmas in any month of the year. This may be the most perfect gift idea ever!
“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” Mother Theresa
My favourite Christmas concerts are the ones put on by children. They have several things in common with the first Christmas – music, drama, God, and the element of surprise! You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I think the mistakes in the program provide some of the most memorable moments.
The Christmas I was six years old, I was given a major role in the school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me memorize the poem. By the day of the concert I had it word perfect. That is, until I stepped up on the stage in front of an audience!
Part way through, I forgot my next line. I paused and then started again, unaware that I was repeating a previous line. Suddenly my three-year-old brother yelled out from the audience, “You already said that part!” My mother was embarrassed at his outburst, I was embarrassed by my mistake and my little brother stole the show!
Now I can look back and realize that mistakes actually help teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They allow us to see that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God’s love was telling us more than 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Jesus. He’s still telling us that today.
His love is there when we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He’s there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts. When we make a mistake, he picks us up and encourages us to try again. He delights in our enthusiasm and rejoices with us in our accomplishments. His unconditional love always meets us exactly where we are.
Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, I want to be like a little child, basking in the love of my Heavenly Father.
Some precious gens are well known and others are more like hidden treasures. One of my favourites, the opal, is often overlooked.
An opal is made out of desert dust, sand and silica and its beauty comes not from its perfection, but because of defects. It is a stone with a broken heart. An opal is full of minute fissures, or cracks, that allow air inside. This air then refracts the light, creating swirls of colour.
An opal will lose its luster if it is kept in a cold, dark place, but that luster is restored when it is held in a warm hand or when the light shines on it.
By comparing the opal to myself I see that when I am warmed by God’s love I reflect His colour and brilliance. When I am broken inside myself, through my defects, I can give back the lovely hues of His light to others. Only then can the lamp can burn brightly within me and not flicker or go out.
Still, there are times when I lose the luster in my life and wonder how to restore it. What can I do when I need to bring back the shine?
I can pause early in the day to seek God’s guidance. Counting my blessings also helps me see that I am held in His loving hands.
This attitude of gratitude rids my life of the film of frustration, the rust of resentment and the varnish of vanity.
Without God’s touch our lives, there is no sparkle. When we allow Him to work within us, His warmth and light restores our luster. In His hands, we become precious gems that beautify His kingdom.
Today’s guest post is by Marcia Lee Laycock
The day couldn’t have been more lovely, the sun sparkling on the lake, the beach slowly filling with families. A little red-haired girl caught my attention. She stood still on the shore, her small head bent over something in her hand. She started forward, stopped and peered at her hand, took a few more steps and stopped again. As she approached, I could see a moth cupped in her palm. She tilted her hand each time it moved, stopped when it crawled dangerously close to the edge and moved slowly forward when it was secure. Eventually the little girl reached her parent, holding her hand out for her mother to admire the precious treasure.
My delight in watching that little girl deepened as I realized God had just given me a picture of Himself. His care for each one of us is no less complete than the careful protection she provided for that small moth. Isaiah 46:4(b) says “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” God holds us in His hand and takes great care to keep us there. In John 17:12, as Jesus prays to His Father on our behalf, He says “I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost …”
Like that child who was so pleased with her treasure, Jesus delights in presenting us to His Father. In John 17, He asked his Father to protect us, to set us apart from the evil in the world and draw us into a complete relationship with Himself. He says “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
How incredible to think God loves us as much as he does His own Son!
Marcia Lee Laycock writes from Alberta Canada where she lives with her pastor/husband. She is the author of two contemporary novels, four fantasy novels, and four devotional books. Visit her online at www.marcialeelaycock.com
There was a lot of flexibility in the schedule for our upcoming trip. We only had a few places that were high on the priority list. One of these was HopeStreamRadio. I produce a short weekly program for this online radio station and wanted to visit their studio.
When I let it be known I’d be in the area, this desire turned into something that far exceeded any of my expectations. Not only was a tour of the station offered, I was also given an opportunity to record any programs I’d written during my travels plus record an interview with the president of HopeStreamRadio which would become part of the programming.
Ron, the head honcho, and I have met twice. Both times were at writers’ conferences. Now, this generous man, who hardly knew me, offered to let us park our camper van on his property for a few days. This meant my husband and I had a home base in one of the areas we wanted to explore.
I was being offered so much more than I had even imagined. But wait, there’s still more. A barbeque dinner was arranged so we could meet the HSR office staff. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and love freely given.
These unexpected blessings brought to mind the extravagant love God demonstrates. Usually, my expectations are far too small. My limited thinking is a mere fraction of what He has in store for me.
I haven’t earned his favour, nor do I deserve what is freely given to me. My hands and heart need to remain fully open because I don’t want to miss any of the gifts God has prepared for me. From past experience, I know they will be beyond my wildest imaginings.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. (Ephesians 1:3 GWT)
A friend told me a story about an outing with her family. At the end of a busy day, she was walking back to the vehicles with her son and young granddaughter. It was a clear night and the sky was filled with twinkling stars.
The little girl looked up in awe and then stretched her arms up high to touch them. They weren’t as close as she thought so she reached even higher. When she couldn’t come close to grasping one, she looked at her daddy and said, “Can’t reach.” The loving father picked up his little girl and placed her on his shoulders so she could be closer.
The image of a child being lifted by her daddy to reach for the stars was a powerful one for me. I can think of many times in my life when I have reached for the stars and fallen short. It was unrealistic to think I could achieve something so unattainable.
There came a time when I knew I couldn’t reach high enough and gave up trying. My dreams became more down to earth. They were no longer big dreams but now I had a chance of reaching them.
Then came the day I was asked to reach for something far beyond my limited abilities. Tearfully I replied, “I can’t – it’s too big and too far.” My heavenly father smiled and lifted me on his shoulders. He lovingly held my arms up and told me that together we could reach anything.
Entrust your efforts to the Lord and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3 GWT)
Have you ever had the sight or aroma of something familiar cause memories to flood over you?
I had passed by these lilac trees many times in the preceding weeks but this day I stopped to fully appreciate their beauty.
You see, the home I was raised in had several lilac trees in the backyard. I can picture them along one side fence, planted in alternating colours of purple and white. When in full bloom we would cut some to bring indoors and I remember their sweet fragrance filling the room.
Happy memories from my childhood washed over me as I gazed at the showy blossoms. Parents who loved me and older siblings who doted on me flashed through my mind. I was blessed to grow up in a place and time where it was safe to spend hours outdoors, running and playing with my friends.
Respect, good manners and helping others were not options; they were part of the fabric of life. Right and wrong were clearly defined and a strong conscience ensured I knew which one to follow.
The love I experienced and the lessons learned by example prepared me for life. I sometimes forget that not everyone had the advantages of a secure childhood. This was a gift I sought to pass on to my children and they, in turn, are passing on to the next generation.
The sight of lilacs brought back the sweet fragrance of youth and the legacy of family. Before I moved on, I said a prayer of gratitude for a life filled with joyful memories.
Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it. (Proverbs 22:6 GWT)
Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year. How did you celebrate it? It is about so much more than flowers, meals out or extravagant gifts. As a mother, these were not my focus.
Instead, I spent time remembering and appreciating my mom. She went to be with Jesus nineteen years ago and I still miss her. I am aware not everyone had a mother who loved them unconditionally and was their biggest supporter. I am grateful for mine and thank the Lord on a regular basis for my upbringing.
I also celebrated the privilege of being a mother. Among other things, my children have taught me patience and how fierce and protective love can be. They are an incredible gift and have helped mould me into the woman I am today. Again, I thank the Lord daily for my family.
Being a grandmother is another reason to rejoice. The only way I can describe the relationship with my grandchildren is to say it is a whole new level of love. I willingly accept the challenge to support each of their unique personalities in the way they need. My grandchildren are the treasures who make my life rich.
Mothers play an important role but so do many other nurturing women who are not called mom. I see many women loving and supporting children who are not their own. They also deserve to be celebrated on an ongoing basis.
To all the mothers, step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers and loving friends, may God bless you richly for the role you play in building up the next generation. Who you are and what you do makes a difference.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25 NIV)
The heating system in the seminar room began to have problems. As a result the room was too cool to be comfortable. Trainees put jackets on to stay warm. The helpers needed to keep their professional demeanor so this was not an option.
The majority of the helpers stayed in the hotel so only had access to the clothing they brought with them. I was one of the few fortunate to live close enough to travel home each night and planned to wear a warmer sweater for the following day.
The next morning I also brought a blanket shawl with me and offered it to a friend. After she had a chance to warm up, I asked that it be passed on to someone else. The shawl gave much needed warmth to many as it was passed around that day. In fact, it warmed me just to see how others were enjoying it.
Later, my friend referred to this as a blanket of love that I freely shared with all who needed it. Her lovely words reminded me how easy it is to wrap those around us in love.
When I not only see your discomfort, but do what little I can to show you I care, I am wrapping you in love. It may be a physical blanket, such as this was. It may also be a smile, an encouraging word, a hug, or a home-made brownie. Love comes in many forms. We all need the opportunity to give and receive it.
Let’s encourage each other with our stories as together we share a blanket of love with the world. Let me know what you do and you just may receive a surprise gift of love from me!