The Heart of Christmas

This year, the heart of Christmas tiptoed in unexpectedly. Does that ever happen to you? You’re hurrying through your day, checking things off your list, and something soft and gentle happens. And you remember.

Three weeks ago, my mother called and made an announcement.

“I’m not putting up a tree this year. I hung my red wreath on the front door and tied a bow on the mailbox. And I’m perfectly content.”

She’s said this before and changed her mind.

“Oh, come on. I’ll help you. We can decorate it together. It’ll be fun.”

“That’s real sweet, but no thanks. I remember when my mother stopped putting up a tree. There comes a time when you–”

She kept talking, and I couldn’t decide how I feltMy thoughts scrambled back and forth from the past to the present.

Bittersweet. 

I remembered Mother’s beautiful Christmas tree. Gold decorations and angels. So many angels.

But I could hear it in her voice.

She wasn’t changing her mind. So I probably needed to let it go, too.

A few days later, I ran to Home Depot for a string of lights. A certain tree caught my attention. Tiny. Pre-decorated. A simple tree.

Definitely not my mother’s style but it was portable. Light-weight.

I brought it home with me.

It looked even smaller in my kitchen. 

I’d bought my mother a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

No glitter. No sparkle. No gold.

What was I thinking? How could she possibly like it? 

It’s so…plain. 

No turning back now.

I called her. “Hi. I’m bringing you a little something.”

Please don’t ask what it is. 

When she saw me coming in her back door, she took a deep breath to say something.

Then she paused.

“I know it’s small, but it’s not heavy. You can lift it. We’ll put it on the front porch if you want to. We can hang some of your gold–”

“Oh, Julie.” She touched one of the pine cones. “I absolutely love it. Let’s put it in the den by my chair.”

“Wish you could’ve seen your expression when you came in with it,” she said. “You looked like you were five years old bringing me your hand-print from kindergarten.”

Fifty years flies by in an instant. 

She called me this morning. “My tree grows sweeter every day. I can’t imagine Christmas without it.”

I’m so glad I decided to get it. 

When you’re not sure what to do, you can’t go wrong with kindness. Click to tweet.

Kindness is at the heart of Christmas. Pastor Kevin Myers. Click to tweet.

Is God whispering someone’s name to you?

Has an unexpected act of kindness ever melted your heart?

Love,

Julie

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tinsel Moment

Last weekend, my husband came home with something I hadn’t seen or even thought about it since I was a little girl. I didn’t know they still made it.

Tinsel!

“Thought it might be fun,” he said.

“I can’t believe you found it.”

What if tinsel could take me back in time?

Childhood Christmases flashed through my mind. Not all of them were merry, but there was always that magical moment when we finally finished decorating the tree. I’d tiptoe into the den all by myself, and squint through the darkness letting everything blur except for the lights and the tinsel. By then, the nativity scene had been placed under the glow of the Christmas tree.

Could we recreate that kind of moment?

After Rick and I added the lights and ornaments, we draped the fragile silver threads, one at a time.

When we finished I surveyed the tree.

Pretty, but something was missing–maybe from my heart.

After dark, I squinted like when I was a little girl.

Just to see…

And then it happened.

Everything blurred except for the lights and the tinsel…

And the meaning of Christmas, which shone like the Star of David.

I moved in close and buried my face in the aroma.

The name “Jesus” hung front and center near the nativity scene ornament. 

This is it. This is what I felt as a child.

It wasn’t the tinsel!

It was Jesus!

When we focus on the miracle of His birth, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

*** If you need prayer this Christmas, I’d love to pray.

*** P.S. Since Christmas comes on a Wednesday this year, I’m going to take a blog-rest next week. I’ll be back Wednesday, January 1, 2014 to announce my word for the year. Can’t wait to hear yours!! xoxo

Love,

Julie

 

Just a Strand of Broken Christmas Lights

Every Christmas, we decorate the banisters of my little loft office with multi-colored lights. I like to think it makes me more creative. 🙂 Saturday, I plugged in the lights we always use. Only half of them worked. “Let’s just toss these and buy new ones.”

“I’ll fix them,” my husband said.

“We don’t have enough replacement bulbs.”

“I only need one.”

“How’s one bulb going to fix all these broken lights?”

Rick stretched out in the floor and removed the last working bulb. A blue one. Middle of the strand.

“This one works,” he said, “so when I find the broken bulb, they’ll all work.”

“Are you sure?”

He moved so quickly, I couldn’t figure out his magic trick.

“Isn’t that a lot of trouble?”

He didn’t answer me.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to run to Home Depot?”

He kept working.

I didn’t see any way his plan could possibly work.

One single bulb fix a strand of broken Christmas lights.

All of a sudden–ta-dah— they lit up. Every single one.

After he wrapped lights around the banisters, I sat downstairs in the den looking at my new office.

My transformed world.

 Maybe there’s a Christmas message buried in the strand of broken lights.

Lights I wanted to throw away.

Useless lights.

No-hope-lights.

What is it, Lord?

My Son was the One and only Light Who could save a broken world.

I sat there, still and quiet, thanking Him in my heart.

This is what Christmas is all about.

“…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 18:12 NIV 

Have you had a sparkly Christmas moment lately? Tell me about it.

Love,

Julie

 

 

Three Marriage Secrets…after 34 Years

I knew it was odd to put the old rug from the den on the front porch, but I did it anyway. When I was a little girl, I loved making the neighborhood tree house feel cozy, so for our 34th anniversary porch party, part of me wanted to recreate the wonder of childhood. I snapped these pictures before our party.

 

Anniversary morning.

“Did you notice the rug?”

“Um-hmm. Looks nice.”

“You think it’ll rain on it?”

“Not unless we get a bad storm.”

We were quiet for a few minutes. I thought about our oldest child’s hand print from kindergarten. She’s 31.

 …the tiny antique tub my grandmother passed down to me. It’s hanging beside the tree in the kitchen. I bathed our babies in it.

“Remember the night you surprised us and brought home Santa and Mrs. Clause?” I said. “How long ago was that?”

“Probably 25 years or so.”

I studied Santa and the Mrs–their kind faces and soft white curls. “You know, you’re even cuter now than when we married.”

“Nah. Your eyes are just getting older,” he said.

“Really. You are.” The glow of the Christmas lights illuminated our grown-up tree house. “What’s the secret to our marriage?”

“It’s give and take. Lots of give.” He grinned at me.

“You mean, living with a wife who drags an old rug outside?”

“Yeah, something like that. The rug’s all right. You gotta keep laughing. Having fun matters.”

I thought of one more marriage secret. “And hang on to God and each other. No matter what.”

 

He nodded. Sipped his coffee. “Um-hmm. That’s good.”

And today is good. Very good. A new morning, an old rug, and two young hearts still crazy in love.

P.S. This morning, it was 36 degrees at our party! 🙂

 What marriage secrets have you discovered?

Love,

Julie

 

 

Living Christmas in the Now

Saturday night, as my husband Rick and I walked through Target for a box of ornaments, we passed the toy section. “Hang on,” he said. “Let me look for a minute.” As he studied the tiny cars, I had a feeling he was reminiscing. Our children are grown. “Remember when Jamie and Katie were little and you gave them your Matchbox collection?”

He nodded.

“Remember all the Christmas Eves you’ve spent putting toys together?”

“Um-hmm.”

“Here’s Thomas the Train,” I said. “Remember how Thomas loved this stuff?”

At home that night, I dug through boxes of pictures feeling older. Pondering the past.

Jamie and Katie, Christmas 1988.

 Baby Thomas’s first Christmas, 1991.

Now it was just the two of us. Middle-aged people.

I found Rick hanging lights on the tree and showed him the long-ago photos. He smiled and kept working.

Tying gold strings on each new ornament I thought about how fast life goes.

How much I’d missed by hurrying

“I’ll help you,” he said, after he finished the lights.

Decorating together, both of us wearing reading glasses, no little children around, I told my fingers to move very s-l-o-w-l-y.

I let my eyes linger on each ornament and really see the glimmering colors.

And then the most remarkable thing happened.

The sweetest prayers rose in my heart.

A prayer of Thanksgiving. Prayers for our children. My husband. Our whole family.

I prayed for my blog readers–some by name–for the precious requests you’ve shared.

Surrendering to the beauty of the moment, it seemed God’s Glory descended into our den.

Contentment came.

I welcomed it.

Living Christmas (and life) in the now, there’s no need to look backward or forward.

Love,

Julie