In this season when our family celebrates the birth of Jesus and the gift that He is to mankind, I'm reminded of how very blessed I am. From the material blessings of home, clothing, and food (including all sorts of comforts) to the spiritual and emotional blessings of a loving husband, healthy children, faithful family, and sweet friends - I admit I am wealthy beyond measure!
On a heart-breaking note, today I attended the funeral of the husband of a sweet friend of mine. He was my age. His death came without warning. Suddenly my friend finds herself as a single mother of three young children. My heart aches for her and her family.
It is awful!
We think we have life all figured out. We think we are the ones in control. We aren't! We go about our days as if we have forever left to live. We don't! Tomorrow it could be me. Tomorrow it could be you. It's time to start living life like every second matters.
While many times we do not have the answers to life's difficult circumstances, in times like this I am thankful that I do have Jesus - who's birth my family celebrates this season. Even in the midst of our pain and suffering, he holds us close. He is near. He loves us.
He is our gift to open every day - not just on Christmas.
Speaking of gifts, our family is going to do things differently next year.
When Jesus was born he was visited by wise men who brought him gifts. Three are mentioned: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Recently I learned from a new friend that her family has adopted a similar tradition for their children at Christmas time. Each child receives only three gifts: one that they want, one that they need, and one that their parents want to give them. What a great way to curb the temptation to overdo Christmas (making it all about us)!
Even with just three gifts, I imagine it will be difficult for my children and our family to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
But it will help.
In light of the tragedy that my friend is facing, I am reminded that each day is a gift. How I conduct myself each day will very likely be the most valuable gift I will ever give to others - and to God. I am called to wake up each day with a renewed commitment to love deeply and to serve willingly. With JOY I am to care for those God has put in my life - my children, my husband, my friends, my family, my neighbors - even my clients. Every day I am given a new opportunity to spread love, encouragement, joy, comfort and hope to those who's path I cross.
What a pity to waste the time he's given us on selfish ambitions, laziness, procrastination, anger, bitterness, or the like.
Some days I fall short. I complain. I am selfish. I am lazy.
But, I try.
I am very much a work in progress.
During my leave of absence I have been taking a good look at my priorities. What needs to improve? What do I need to change? Where should I focus my energy? These past couple months I've been focusing on those closest to me - my husband and my children.
It's been good. So good!
I have a long way to go. They need more of me - the me God wants me to give to them.
Speaking of my children, Stephen and Alden are two of the best gifts my husband and I have ever received. What a JOY they are to both of us!
At our home we celebrate Christmas a few days before the 25th. With both my family and my husband's family living out of town we are never in our own home for the holidays. Instead of dragging all the gifts with us, we allow our children to open them early. They (of course) love it!
Today I got the best gift ever...two cooperative children for an impromptu Christmas tree photo session. I'll be sure to post more pictures in the New Year.
From our home to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Tammy, Steve, Stephen Jr., and Alden