Dear family and friends,
It is hard to believe that Christmas is just a short two weeks away! This time of celebrating the birth of Jesus and spending time with family and friends (who are near and far) is incredibly special and precious. The more that I "fight" for my health, the more I see what a gift each day is and what a blessing true friends and loved ones are.
It is impossible for me not to get choked up with tears when I think of how so many of you have faithfully walked this incredibly long journey with my family. Some of you have chosen to "get involved" knowing that this will be a long road ahead and others have you have consistently modeled Christ's love back before we even had a correct diagnosis and we were traveling from doctor to doctor across the United States looking for answers. Both groups of you = those that have recently joined and those that have been here for years are incredibly precious and your prayers have been a lifeline through so many difficult days. While there is still a very very long road of healing in front of me we are incredibly grateful that after so many years of my health deteriorating that it is not only "holding steady" but we are beginning to see some small improvements that we are rejoicing over! Thank you so much for all of your prayers, all of your cards and gifts, all of your financial support, and all of the emotional support that you have blessed me with over the years and especially this past year. I am truly honored to call you friends.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a lady (who I believe) was trying to be "helpful". She informed me that my blog would be more "popular" if I would share some Christmas recipes, decorating tips, Christmas activities, etc. And then a few days ago I announced (via instagram) that I was going to be "closing my shop" for several weeks starting on December 10th. I was surprised to receive another email (from a different person) saying that if I "really wanted to be successful" I would keep my shop open till the last possible minute. Both of these emails (and several others I have received like them recently) have caught me by surprise and I have tried to respond by explaining that my "goal" in everything is not to be popular but to be faithful in the work that the Lord has called me and put before me. I long to be a woman who is known for simply one thing: that I loved the Lord well.
And this year, as I have read and re-read the Christmas story, I have been especially drawn to the part about the Shepherds:
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all of the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager. When they had seen him; they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about the child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
This story has touched my heart this year as I am not able to "do everything" that I would like to in regards to Christmas time. I am not able to decorate or create a "pinterest worthy" household. I marvel at those that are baking dozens upon dozens of cookies for co-workers. I shake my head in amazement at all of the gift exchanges that I hear about that are taking place- in person and over the internet. I love hearing about so many people caroling. I find it amazing how beautifully wrapped packages are. I love the ideas for Christmas that are displayed all over social media. There are hundreds of things that are happening and I simply marvel at them all.
But sickness has taught me a great lesson... and that is, for many people, this past year has been filled with incredible losses and pain. Unfortunately, the holiday season takes no exception and can sometimes "compound" the pain that we experience here on earth. Sometimes the painful times that we are going through seem to speak louder than the quiet words of truth from scripture. Sometimes the pain that we experience can make us question what we really have to celebrate. Sometimes, the pain of the day can make it difficult to "get into the holiday mood".
And for those of you who maybe don't have a "pinterest worthy Christmas" for a variety of reasons, I hope, like me, you will find simple joy and peace in the Christmas story. In the precious story that shows that it wasn't so glamourous or "beautiful" at the beginning. It started with a long trip and when Mary and Joseph arrived at the destination their weren't crowds of people clamoring to help them or greet them. It started in a manager (in a barn with lots of animals *smiles*) not a palace. It started with angels appearing to lowly shepherds not to the most popular or to the wealthiest in town. It started with God's mercy and love telling the shepherds "do not be afraid". The Christmas story was told by a lowly group of shepherds, sometimes nicknamed "the forgotten people". They had the beautiful and intricate role of "spreading the word" regarding a baby whose life changed everything.
Sweet friends, maybe you find yourself in a situation that you didn't imagine this Christmas or maybe you are dealing with a grief so tender that you you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Either way friends, may you know the tender care of our Lord as He says, "do not be afraid" and the true hope and joy of this season and throughout this coming year.
"Angels we have heard on high
- Sweetly singing o’er the plains,And the mountains in replyEchoing their joyous strains.
- Refrain:Gloria, in excelsis Deo!Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
- Shepherds, why this jubilee?Why your joyous strains prolong?What the gladsome tidings beWhich inspire your heav’nly song?
- Come to Bethlehem and seeChrist Whose birth the angels sing;Come, adore on bended knee,Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
- See Him in a manger laid,Whom the choirs of angels praise;Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,While our hearts in love we raise."
Merry Christmas friends,