Thirsty Thursday: Finding Christmas Spirit

I have been struggling to get into the Spirit of Christmas this year. I’ve cried more than I’d like to admit. I’ve been grumpy and irritable, but I’ve been trying to shake it. I know I’m grieving over the loss of my son, and now I’m grieving over the recent loss of a dear friend’s father.

I have tried everything I could imagine to regain the joy that Christmas brings. I decorated the house. Though truth be told, I only had the heart to put up a few decorations. The tree is up and my Grandmother’s Nativity is up. I have been listening solely to the Christmas music station while in the car. I point out all the Christmas lights to the Littles as we drive past them. I made myself watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I even agreed to attend a Christmas Cookie Swap, which I would not have done if a good friend had not invited me. Cookie swaps are the epitome of hard work for little to no pay off. You bake a bazillion batches of your favorite cookie and receive cookies you pawn off on others. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I am not going to get in the Spirit of Christmas this year. I decided that I was ok with that.

Then it happened.

I was shopping for a Christmas Party to be held at our church when I saw them. In a sea of Santa, reindeer, elves, and snowmen, I saw my Jesus. A lovely illustrated Nativity on a gift bag proclaiming, “The Prince of Peace is Born Today” (This was at the Dollar Tree, mind you, not a “Christian” store). And in an instant, I became joyful. I became hopeful. It reminded me that God will reveal Himself to us.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

No matter what trials and tribulations you face this Christmas season, know that you can find Him when you truly seek Him. He will give you His joy, His peace, and His love.

Photo on 2014-12-18 at 15.02

Thirsty Thursday: Operation Christmas Child

Have you heard of Operation Christmas Child? The first time I did, Hunny and I were dating. Even though the organization had been around for fourteen years, I had never heard of it and I didn’t quite understand it.

Operation Christmas Child started in 1993 to help the children who were facing the effects of the war in Bosnia. It started as a way to show the Love of Christ through a simple gift box. Now over 113 million children have received shoebox gifts and countless lives have been changed.

National Collection week is a month away. It’s never too early to pray for the shoeboxes, volunteers, and families.

Casting the Nativity: Gabriel

Yesterday I cast Elizabeth and Zechariah as Barbara Streisand and Dick van Dyke. I’m really excited about my pick for Gabriel, I can’t wait to share!

Cary Grant as Gabriel

Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him he was having a child (Luke 1:12-13, 18-19). In the sixth month of his wife, Elizabeth’s, pregnancy, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would be with child. Not just any child, God’s own Son (Luke 1:26-38). Gabriel also appeared to Daniel and interpreted a vision (Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:20-23).

Cary Grant is a legend. He played an angel in The Bishop’s Wife, a movie set around the Christmas holiday that I want to see! I can envision Grant telling the frightened people to not be afraid and setting him at ease in that debonair way he had.

Tomorrow, I’ll be casting the Shepherds.

Casting the Nativity: Mary and Joseph

I love Christmas and I love doing Christmas themed posts! Last year, I was unable to finish my 12 Days of Christmas series (bad, blogger, bad!). In my defense, I did have to tend to a three month old and an out of work husband.

This year I am envisioning who would play the roles in the Nativity. Since this is my vision, I am choosing whoever I want! Dead and living, known and unknowns, and I hope you enjoy it!

Mary – Hailee Steinfeld

Mary is a tough cookie. She was hanging around her house one day and an angel tells her that she’s going to carry the Messiah. At first, she’s scared, but then she’s excited and she’s ready to do what she has to do (Luke 1:26-38). Even if it means having to visit her cousin Elizabeth and be away from her family and friends (Luke 1:39-40). She even gives birth in a barn with only Joseph’s help, who probably wasn’t versed in things such as what one does with placenta or an umbilical cord (Luke 2:7). Unlike me. I was a little paranoid that Hunny would not get home in time to take me to the hospital, so I read up on and was prepared to give birth in the bathtub alone. I know that makes me sound crazy, but that’s what hormones can do to a person.

The role Hailee played in True Grit is what made me lean toward her for Mary. She was fearless and confidant. The character knew what she had to do and she did it. Hailee played that out beautifully.

Joseph – Harrison Ford

No, not this one!

This one.

Joseph was a carpenter with a kind heart. Here he is preparing for a wedding with a standard feast to go along with it, and he finds out his bride to be is pregnant. With someone else’s baby! Instead of having Mary stoned for getting pregnant, which was the punishment for such a thing in those times, he decides to divorce her quietly. An angel tells him that the baby Mary’s carrying is God’s Son and that he should still marry her. He trusts that what the angel says is true and he marries pregnant Mary (Matthew 1:18-25).

Harrison Ford is a carpenter, too. The younger version of Ford I chose is much older than Steinfeld, which may be closer to the age difference between the real couple. Hunny told me that they think Joseph died before Jesus started his ministry at the age of 30 because Joseph is never mentioned in the Bible again. He is mentioned when they leave Jesus at the temple. Jesus was about twelve at the time.

My Mary and Joseph were in Ender’s Game together

Tomorrow’s casting call is for Elizabeth and Zechariah.

12 Days of Christmas (Five Heartwarming Movie Moments)

You’re going to get blitzed by posts, and I want to apologize for that.  A stomach flu ravaged our household and we’re slowly but surely getting back together.  Being sick is never convenient, but I think it’s most inconvenient at the holidays.

I’m glad that  I didn’t limit myself to just Christmas movies for this list.  I think Christmas is a great time to reflect on happiness and warmed hearts.  Sometimes Christmas itself causes the heart ache.  So it’s nice to look outside the tinseled norm to find happy moments.

5) When Horton shares his cookies with Kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who!

After she has tried to destroy his character, destroy his precious flower, and kill him; Horton forgives Kangaroo.  He not only forgives her, but shares cookies with her!  Ok, cookies aren’t that big of a deal.  Fine.  Horton lets her protect his friends with her umbrella.   He allows her to become part of the solution instead of rejecting her or condemning her to isolation.  Inviting her into his life is touching and a teachable moment for us all.

4) When Buddy sees Jovie light up the Christmas tree in Elf.

How adorable is Will Ferrell in Elf?  It almost makes you forget all the horrifically terrible movies he has made over the years.  Almost.  God forbid my father should ever meet Will Ferrell.  He is going to ask Will for his money back for several movies my mother dragged him to see.  And knowing my father, he will get his money back.  He’s very charming.

3) When Phil wakes up in the morning and sees that Rita is still there in Groundhog Day.

Something every writer should aspire to do in a story is show a character’s arc.  For non-writers, that means seeing a character’s growth.  They may become better, worse, or indifferent, but we have to see something change or what’s the point?  Seeing Phil start the film as a self centered jerk, who everyone hates, become a caring individual that an entire town loves because of his actions during the course of a single day reminds me why I write in the first place.  Imparting encouragement and hope to a person through something I’ve written is a lofty goal of mine.  I hope to accomplish it one day.

2) When Nickie realizes Terry was the crippled lady who bought his painting in An Affair to Remember.

Seriously, if you can watch that scene and not cry, you are made of stone.  Stone, I say!  Nickie is extremely harsh to Terry because he believes that she stood him up and rejected his marriage proposal.  What he doesn’t know is that she was on her way to meet him when she was struck by a car.  It’s a gentle reminder that we don’t know everything that is going on in a person’s life.  Even people who we know really well, we don’t know what’s going on in their minds, which is why we should be a little extra forgiving and understanding.  As the French proverb says, “To know all is to forgive all.” (On a side note, I want almost every dress she wears in this movie!  Stunning!)

1) When the kids trim Charlie Brown’s scraggly Christmas tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“It just needs a little love.”  Who doesn’t need just a little love.  I think our world would be so much brighter if we gave each other a little love.  Especially if we gave the “scraggly” people love.  You know who I’m talking about.  Your mean spirited neighbors.  Your teacher who picks on you deliberately.  The person who excludes you purposefully on facebook.  They need love and kindness.  Probably more than we can realize.

12 Days of Christmas (Four Years of Marriage)

the cake

 

favor

 

the rings

Four years doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you think of all the obstacles and drama Hunny and I have overcome to get to this moment, it’s a triumph.  It is not a triumph we can claim as our own.  Before we met, Hunny and I knew God and started a relationship with Him through believing His Son.  When we got married, we built our marriage on Him.  The Bible says that a house that is built on the rock can handle the storms of life, but a house that is built on sand won’t be able to stand up to the storms (Matthew 7:24-26). It also says that rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45), so whether we like it or not, storms will come and go in our lives.  But the great part about that is we don’t have to worry about them.  We can withstand them and come out stronger for them through the strength given us by Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

Our love must be something special because of the four years we’ve been married, three couples have gotten married in December.  Of those couples, at least one person was invited or knew about our wedding.  Some of those people used ornaments for their wedding favors like we did.  Hunny and I started a trend.  A love trend.

12 Days of Christmas (Three Christmas Trees)

I’m going old school on you in this post.  About 169 years.  These three trees represent Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Past

That was our Christmas tree last year.  The Charlie Brown tree is a great representation of Christmases past.  I’ve endured some tough Christmases.  Three years ago on Christmas Eve, I thought I was dying.  I had a temperature of 103 and I seriously believed God was taking me home to be with Him.  I was in immense pain.  My family came to our little apartment to celebrate Christmas.  The fever kept climbing even with taking pain relievers, so Hunny and my dad had to carry me down the stairs and into the car.  Then help me walk into the ER and help me into a wheelchair.  They tested me for everything.  It turned out I had a kidney infection and I spent Christmas Eve in the hospital.

When I was about eight years old, my dad almost died.  On Christmas Eve.  I don’t remember much of that year.  He was immobilized during that year.  One time, I went in to check on him.  The curtains were drawn and the lights were off.  It was the darkest room I ever walked into.  I looked over at my dad, who was in the bed motionless.  He looked dead.  I ran out of that room as fast as I could.  We had to move in with my Grandmother because my mom couldn’t afford to pay the utilities and feed us and take care of dad…  I can’t think about that anymore, so I’m skipping ahead.

Christmas Present

Christmas Present

Christmas present: My dad is alive and he’s a proud Grandpa or “Gampa” as his granddaughter calls him.  He adores Peapod, and the feeling is mutual.

This is part of the window display beside our apartment.  It’s beautiful.  It is almost unbelievable that this will be the last Christmas I spend as a resident of Statesvegas.  Every year, I think we are going to move and nothing changes.  This coming year we are moving, but it’s almost unbelievable to me because of all the times I prayed and believed that we would move and it didn’t happen.  I told Hunny that we should try to do as much as we can in Statesvegas this year because it will never be this convenient to do things here again.

Christmas Future?

Christmas Future

Christmas Future is always exciting because it can be anything.  Christmas Future could also be nothing.  We don’t know how many Christmases we have to celebrate.  I chose to be happy and joyful this Christmas because Christmas Present is the Christmas I have.

12 Days of Christmas (Two Christmas Angels)

Peapod and Cupcake are my Christmas angels.  Peapod is three months old and he’s smiling now.  He brings so much joy to my life.  Almost three years ago, Cupcake was born.  She’s adorable and a firecracker and she isn’t easy to deal with, which forces me to be a better person.  They make going through this most difficult Christmas season a little easier.  I am so thankful that God put them in my life.

This means even more now that 26 people will not be with their families this Christmas.  One person lost his entire family.  There is an untold number of people whose lives have been changed  because one person didn’t get the help he needed.  It is incredibly easy to look at ourselves and see the hard times around us and dwell on them.  We can’t dwell on them.  Our Christmas angels need us.

You are a Christmas angel to someone and you don’t even know it.  There is a person in your life who thinks of you, talks to you, or texts you when they need a smile.  There is a person who is sad and lonely and they need us to be strong for them.  We have to give up our selfish tendencies and put on a smile.

Don’t forget to give your Christmas angel a hug. Give them a hug right now.  I know I will.

christmas angels

12 Days of Christmas (One Kind Remark)

Dark days have engulfed me this holiday season.  Hunny lost his job in October.  His company defamed him and maligned his character so badly that he is unable to get unemployment benefits. It’s only by the grace of God that he has been able to find odd jobs so that we have money to eat.  Not to mention, our car is broken.

Even though I’m going through a tough time, I keep smiling.  I know there are people who have it worse than I do and that everyone needs to see a smiling face.  Just yesterday, I gave a friendly smile to an older man.  I thought nothing of it until I saw him again and smiled again.  He walks right up to me, “You light up the room.”  I was totally stunned.  He went on to say, “I’m sure you make someone very happy.”  All I could say was thank you.  That kind remark was a beautiful gift.  It was a pinpoint of light during this difficult time.

Don’t forget to say something nice to someone.  If you’re uncomfortable complimenting a stranger, say something nice to someone you love.  It may mean more to them than you could ever know.

There’s no greater gift than kindness

Thirsty Thursday: The Second Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Christmas in July)

Last year, I sent out Christmas cards in July.  This year I sent those nice picture cards that every family sends during Christmas.  The scan of the card came out awful and I didn’t want to share it.

This Christmas in July (CIJ) finds us in difficult times personally and as Americans.  Hunny and I are waiting on God to give us our new place.  Praying over our health and our family’s health.  Praying over what feels like every aspect of our lives, which you should do in good times and in tough times.  It just feels more urgent and labored.

On my CIJ card, I put the verse Matthew 1:23

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

God with us.  God is with us.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you in My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

When thinking about the shooting that happened in Colorado, it reminds me that God is with us no matter where we are or what is going on around us.  He is with us wherever we go.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.  Psalm 23:4a

In the midst of the tragedy, there are miracles and stories of bravery and courage to embolden even the weakest of person.  Among those who died, four protected their girlfriends from the shooting.  Girlfriends.  Not wives.  One couple had only been dating for three weeks.  It makes me think of this verse that most people use to describe what Jesus did for us on the cross:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  John 15:13

One story came out about a young woman whose life was spared by a brain “defect” she didn’t know she had and wouldn’t have known unless she had a CAT scan done (Read about that here).  That reminds me of this:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  Psalm 139:13-14

God sent Jesus so that we could have “God with us.”  So that we would never be truly alone (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that comfort would always be within reach (Isaiah 49:13Psalm 119:50).  God with us means peace on earth and goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14).  Happy Christmas in July.