Laudable Linkage

This is my first chance in a couple of weeks to share noteworthy reads discovered around the web in that time. Enjoy!

A Case For Christian Magnanimity.

The Hero of the Story Is Always God.

Why Doesn’t Our Faith Move Mountains?

The Providence of God in History.

5 Christian Cliches That Need to Die.

When Does Old Age Arrive? I’m facing a milestone birthday next year, and I found this very encouraging.

Mothers in the Church.

Learning to Let Go. “Even though a parent’s spiritual influence is so important, I was never meant to fill the place that only God can in my daughter’s life. He is a better teacher, protector, and guide than I can ever be.”

Which Expired Foods Are Okay to Eat.

And a few concerning the holiday season:

Evangelism, the Holidays, and My Atheist Grandpa.

5 Ways to Make the Holidays More Peaceful.

Navigating Family Tensions at the Holidays.

The Problem With Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs.

No wonder our pets get confused sometimes. 🙂

dog-under-tree

And finally, this brought a smile that I am sure my fellow Southerners will understand:

honey

Happy Saturday!

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Laudable Linkage

Here is my periodic round-up of notable reads discovered the last week or so:

Ignore the Pundits and Keep Praying.

Divine Appointments. Neat account!

An Introduction to the Family Advent Art and Reading Guide. “I wanted us to think about Jesus and the nativity, but I had not provided a sense of his pending arrival. Meanwhile, everywhere we went, my kids were told Santa was on his way. Fortunately, I had a couple thousand years of church tradition to back me up, if only I knew how to draw on it. It was time to learn about Advent.”

9 Things You Should Be Doing to Support Your Pastor’s Wife.

12 Steps to Avoid Disappointment This Holiday Season.

28 Reasons Not To Hate Winter, HT to Lisa Notes. I come pretty close to hating it, especially in January, so this is a help.

Have a great weekend! I am behind visiting with blog friends – hope to catch up some time this weekend.

Christmas Grief

I first wrote this three years ago, but I’ve reposted it before and am doing so again this year, because it seems like almost every year I run into someone having a hard time over the holidays, and maybe this will help. I’ve edited it a bit so the time frames are current.
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Grave at Christmas

December could be a rather gloomy month for my family. My mother passed away Dec. 10 eight years ago, my father Dec. 12 fifteen years ago, and my grandmother Christmas Eve a few years prior to that, leading my brother to exclaim once that he just wanted to cancel the whole month. In more recent years the husband of a good college friend passed away in December 21 on our anniversary, and our family dog died the same day.

The death of a loved any any time of year can shadow the whole Christmas season as we miss our normal interactions with that loved one, and several years later, though maybe the pangs aren’t quite as sharp, they’re still there, and it’s not abnormal to be caught off guard by a memory or a longing leading to a good crying jag.

When someone is grieving over the holidays, they may not want to participate in some of the “normal” happy pastimes. It’s not that they don’t ever laugh or enjoy gatherings. But as Sherry said yesterday, “I am enjoying the traditional holiday celebrations, and at the same time they move me to tears, sad tears for things that have been lost this year. I am singing the music, and yet I’m tired of the froth of jingling bells and pa-rumpumpum.” I remember almost wishing that we still observed periods of mourning with wearing black or some sign of “Grief in progress” — not to rain on anyone else’s good time, but just to let people know there was woundedness under the surface, and just as physical wounds need tenderness while healing, so do emotional ones. Normally I love baby and bridal showers and make it a point to attend, but for several months after my mom’s death I did not want to go to them. I rejoiced with those who rejoiced…but just did not want to rejoice in quite that way. I first heard the news of my mom’s death during our adult Sunday School Christmas party, and the next year I just did not want to attend – the grief was still too close to the surface and would probably erupt in that setting where I first heard the news. Even just three years ago when our ladies’ Christmas party was on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I was concerned that at some point during the evening I would have to find the restroom and lock myself in to release some tears (though thankfully that did not happen).

Other events can cast a pall over Christmas: illness, job loss, a family estrangement, etc. One Christmas we were all sick as dogs, and my father-in-law had just had a major health crisis and wanted us to come up from SC to ID to visit. There was just no way we could drag ourselves onto a plane until antibiotics had kicked in a few days later, but we did go, and if I remember correctly, that was the last time any of us except my husband saw him alive, so in retrospect we were glad we went, though it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases. A good friend grieved over “ruining” her family’s Christmas by being in the hospital with a severe kidney infection. Lizzie wrote about visiting her husband in prison for Christmas. Quilly commented yesterday about being homeless one Christmas. Yet both Lizzie and Quilly mentioned reasons for rejoicing in the midst of those circumstances.

If you’re grieving this Christmas, don’t feel guilty if you’re not quite into the “froth” this year.  One quote I shared on a Week In Words post earlier had to do with giving yourself time to heal. On the other hand, there may be times to go through with the holiday festivities for family’s sake — and, truly, those times can help keep you from the doldrums. Sherry shared how making a list of reasons to celebrate Christmas helped. Look for the good things to rejoice in. Don’t let the grief turn you into a Scrooge who hates Christmas: your loved one who is gone probably wouldn’t want that to happen. I think they’d probably prefer that you  enjoy the best parts of the season while still remembering them in it. E-mom left a valuable comment yesterday that we can treasure up the memories of good Christmases to tide us over the not so good ones, and then look forward to better things ahead. And as I said yesterday, remember that the first Christmas was not all about the froth, either, but was messy, lonely, and painful, yet out of it was born the Savior of the world and the hope of mankind. Rejoice in that hope and promise. Draw near to Him who has borne our griefs and carries our sorrows until grief and sorrow are done away forever.

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To celebrate or not to celebrate…

Valentine’s Scrooges. 🙂 That was the only term I could come up with for those whose comments I have seen here and there who hate and despise Valentine’s Day. And I had to add the little smiley so it wouldn’t sound like I was ranting. 🙂

I don’t mind Valentine’s indifference… didn’t grow up celebrating it much, hadn’t thought about it, not a big deal…that’s understandable. But why would anyone hate it, and not just hate it in their own hearts, but feel compelled to rain on everyone else’s parade by forcibly and publicly saying so?

“It’s too commercial.” Well, sure, but like Christmas, you can be as commercial or uncommercial as you want in your own personal celebration. But don’t look down on store-bought cards or restaurant rather than home-made goodies. Not everyone has the time or confidence or bent to “make” things.

“I don’t need a man-made holiday to show my wife I love her.” Well, good for you. I’m sure she appreciates that. ( 🙂 = not ranting!)

“We should show love every day.” True. We should also give thanks every day, but it’s helpful to have a day focused on it at Thanksgiving. We should remember and be glad for the Resurrection at least every Sunday, but it’s wonderful to especially commemorate it at Easter. We should be thankful for our friends and loved ones every day, but it’s nice to especially let them know on their birthdays or anniversaries. Those special, focused celebrations can remind us of what we should be thinking and feeling every day and spur us on. And that’s how I look at Valentine’s Day. I love my dear ones all the time, but it’s fun on this special day to celebrate love even more.

By “celebrate,” I don’t necessarily mean go all out. We’ve always exchanged cards. Some years ago I got some heart-shaped cupcake pans, and Valentine cupcakes became a tradition. Most years that’s all we have done, with maybe some candy for the kids. My husband has frequently brought me candy and flowers on Valentine’s Day. One year I did a Valentine scavenger hunt for the kids, with little clues on half-hearts — they had to find the other half to get their treat. They loved that and wanted to do it again the next year, but it was too hard to keep coming up with clues. Another year I was inspired to make a garland out of heart doilies, but I don’t know what happened to it. I have a heart-shaped wreath by the front door. Nothing major or expensive — just little tokens of the day. We don’t go out to eat on that day — can’t stand the crowdedness. I think I have usually tried to make a special meal that day, but it is only in the last few years I’ve tried to make a Valentine-themed meal like Crescent Heart-Topped Lasagna Casserole or Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves shaped like hearts (though the boys did tease that the red sauce on the heart meat loaves looked like blood 🙄 🙂 ). And I’m inclined to play some of my favorite sappy love songs while working in the kitchen that day. We’ve always celebrated it as a family rather than leaving the kids with sitters while we go off for a romantic time (nothing wrong with doing that sometimes — we do on anniversaries).

I do understand Valentine’s Day being harder if you’re single with no prospects in sight. I do remember those days. But still, harsh and bitter comments regarding Valentine’s Day aren’t exactly endearing, you know? Some good articles about from singles about singleness on Valentine’s Day are Sweet Sadness and St. ValentineValentine’s Day Single? No Problem, Seriously, Reaching Out on Valentine’s Day, and a couple on singleness but not related to Valentine’s Day: I don’t wait any more and Renegotiating My Seat in God’s House.

An equally disturbing attitude regarding Valentine’s Day was this comment I saw somewhere: “He better get me flowers, or else!” That’s not particularly loveable, either. Valentine’s is about showing love, not sitting back with arms folded, foot tapping, seeing if he is going to “measure up.” I heard an excellent talk some years ago by Gregg Harris: I don’t remember what the overall talk was about, but what stuck with me was the encouragement not to use anniversaries and special occasions as a “test,” but rather to help him to remember (rather than getting mad at him for forgetting) and discussing whether and how you’d both like to commemorate. A Different Approach to Valentine’s Day explores that further.

All in all, in the grand scheme of life and eternity, it doesn’t matter if you celebrate a particular day or not. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it” (Romans 14:5-6a). But as for me and my house, we enjoy celebrating holidays. Well, maybe not Groundhogs Day, President’s Day, etc. 🙂 But Valentine’s Day is one of my favorites.

And so I wish all of my bloggy friends a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

gfbirdsvalentine002

A Perfect Christmas

This is a repost from a couple of years ago. I came across it in my archives a day or two ago and it was a good reminder to me.


(Photo courtesy of the stock.xchng.)

Most of us have a vision in our minds of the perfect Christmas: family gathered around, a clean and sparkling house, a beautifully adorned Christmas tree with piles of lovingly chosen presents underneath, a feast for the eyes and the table, scents of roasting turkey or ham, pumpkin pies, apple cider, everyone marvelously getting along like the end of a made-for-TV movie.

But what if that’s not reality this year?

What if one member is in prison? Or overseas or across the country? Or in heaven?

What if a lost job or a major medical expense has led to a depleted bank account and bare cupboards?

Is Christmas then ruined?

Let’s go back to that first Christmas.

Mary and Joseph were alone and away from home and family in a strange city. They did not have a beautifully decorated house: they did not even have a hotel room. The only place someone had available for them was a stable. The only scents of the season were those of animals in a barn. Mary, as a young, first-time mother, did not have the blessing of a modern hospital and sanitary conditions, a skilled nursing staff and childbirth training. Giving birth was painful and messy. Joseph would have been out of his element helping a woman deliver a baby, and perhaps he was dismayed or frustrated that he could not provide better for her in general, especially in her moment of need. And after the blessed relief of a healthy child safely born, there was little acknowledgment of who this Child was besides the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and, later on, the wise men. Soon they would face the danger of a king bent on killing the Child in their care and the loss of reputation Mary would endure her whole life as many thought her Child was illegitimate, and soon the ominous promise that a sword would pierce through Mary’s own soul.

What did they have then, that lonely, uncomfortable, smelly night? They had the Child of promise. A Child whom they were told to name Jesus, which means “Jehovah saves,” whose very name is a promise, who would reconcile them to God by taking care of their greatest need, who would “save His people from their sins.” They had the realization that, as the angel told Mary when first delivering the news that she would bear a child though she was a virgin, this Child was the long-awaited and longed-for Messiah, the King, the Son of the Highest. What cause for joy and wonder! They had no idea how it would all work out. But they had the promise, and because of the promise, they had hope.

It’s certainly not wrong to enjoy a decorated tree, presents, wonderful food, and family gathered. But we can celebrate Christmas even all of those elements are missing or less than ideal…because we can celebrate in our own hearts and with those around us that same promise, that same hope. If that’s all we have this Christmas…that’s more than enough.