Friday, April 8, 2016

EAT A HOT DOG and how easily we misunderstand...

Years ago, a friend and I were in the car, iPod plugged into the stereo system, singing and laughing. The playlist shuffled to a song by Van McCoy. He was predominantly a songwriter and producer, but in 1975 he had a hit that went to #1 and won a Grammy.

We were both singing…

Do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do

Then my friend yelled, “EAT A HOT DOG!”
Me: (while laughing and choking) DO THE HUSTLE!
Her: What?
Me: Those are the words – Do the Hustle.
Her: REALLY? I always thought he said, “Eat a hot dog.”

You have been on both sides of that conversation, haven’t you? How many times have you heard someone singing along with Creedence Clearwater Revival…There’s a bathroom on the right.

After Taylor Swift released “Blank Space” she had to release a statement saying she was not singing about Starbucks lovers, but “all my ex-lovers.”

I still sing “Starbucks lovers” – I just like it better.

We laugh about song lyrics, and rightfully so. But a study released in January 2014 indicates the challenge is not only with lyrics.

Conducted through the University of Tuebingen by Claudia Beck, Bernd Kardatzki and Thomas Ethofer, the study determined the influence of alternative lyrics on the listener. The link for the study is at the bottom of this page*, but essentially there were three parts:

1.   Participants heard a bit of a song and rated their familiarity with it
2.   Participants heard the same part of the song but were shown alternative lyrics, then judged if they were familiar with the alternative lyrics
3.   Participants judged how strongly they heard the alternative lyrics as opposed to the true lyrics.

Two statements in the results jumped out at me.

1.   previous knowledge of the alternative lyrics strongly influenced whether or not misperceptions occurred, which is in line with the reports of many of our study participants that induced misperceptions can result in long-lasting effects that occur each time the respective song is heard. 
2.   Interestingly, the occurrence of induced misperceptions was independent of knowledge of the original, but not of the alternative percept, which is in line with observations made in the visual domain for reversible figures demonstrating that we can get stuck in one interpretation until we are informed that there is an alternative interpretation.

Did you hear it? 
Induced misperceptions can result in long-lasting effects that occur every time that song is heard…every time those words are heard…every time that feeling is replicated.

Did you hear it? 
We get stuck in one interpretation.

So it isn’t just about Starbucks lovers, is it?

How many times have you said something and a person who knows and loves you well heard something completely different?

Yeah…lots.

But it isn’t simply the meaning of words. Often, it is what those words touch in us. 

If I grew up feeling nothing I did was good enough, I might hear harsh criticism when none was intended.

If I grew up feeling any sort of rejection from important people, I might be incredibly sensitive to what I view as rejection from others.

The hypothetical scenarios are endless – but the result is the same. Until I know myself well, and understand my emotions, the way I hear your words and the reactions I allow are LARGELY based on MY perceptions and MY expectations.

Same for you.

We get what we expect, what we firmly believe we will get, what we think about most, what we focus on often – whether we want it or not.

That isn’t psychobabble. It is truth. It is Biblical and it is also found in the teachings of every other esteemed master.

If I think about it long enough, if I focus on it hard enough, and believe it, I will get it...whether I want it or not!

If I decide I dislike a person or a situation, and I repeat that dislike to myself, I can be sure evidence will arise frequently. Then I say, “SEE!!!” and the cycle starts again.

Messed up song lyrics are funny. Messed up thinking patterns aren’t.

Read these words again…

We get what we expect, what we firmly believe we will get, what we think about most, what we focus on often – whether we want it or not.

It is my determined purpose to be more aware of what I choose to allow and how that creates my world, and less focused on “what you make me feel.”

Always with a smile on my face. Never in a morose, heavy-handed way.

Joy and well-being are everywhere. I get to decide how much I embrace.

Maybe you will join me.

EAT A HOT DOG!
Do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do

We will talk again soon,
BP

*http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084667#abstract0

Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 








Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bowling bumpers and The Sage Collector


Last week I watched some kids bowling. Little kids. No older than 8.

They were excited to find just the right ball and get started. A couple frames of nothing but gutter balls for the boys, while Dad got two strikes, quelled their enthusiasm.

Then a magical thing happened. 
An employee with a long metal pole reached into each gutter and VOILA – bumpers. No more gutter balls. Lots more fun.

I immediately took out my notebook of blog ideas and wrote: BUMPERS – Wouldn’t that be nice! I need bumpers!

Maybe you understand. Maybe, like me, you have moments when you want to go back to being six and using bumpers.

Bumpers. Bumpers. I knew there was blog there, but instead of words coming out, there was only frustration.

I envisioned a light, fun piece about bumpers making life more enjoyable. I tried HARD to write that blog.

If you are a writer, you know trying HARD rarely leads to good writing. So, I put it aside.

Last night, a post from my friend S.a. Kish appeared on my Facebook timeline. Not unusual – except that the post was 8 days old and no one had commented on it recently. Those parameters don’t fit Facebook’s algorithm. A  post that old with no recent activity should not have appeared in my feed.

Fluke? Coincidence? I don’t believe in either of those.

In a flash, I knew why the post appeared, and why the blog about bumpers had not progressed past thinking about myself.

The truth is I have bumpers: a wonderful family, loving friends, a welcoming church family, a Savior who loves me.

No, the story about people who need bumpers does not have Beth Painter as one of the main characters.

My friend S.a.Kish is the heart and brains of The Sage Collector, an advocacy group for foster parents and children.

Think about this:

Every day over 400,000 children and teenagers are in foster care in the United States.

On average, children remain under state care for two years. 15% live in group homes because a foster family is not available.

In 2014, 22,000 people aged out of the system without having a permanent home or family. 

As The Sage Collector explains, there are many reasons kids become part of the foster care system. The goal, initially, is correction of whatever challenges exist and reunification of the family. That process take time. And, unfortunately, reuniting the family is not always a viable option.

Can you imagine being a kid without a place you called home. Can you imagine going to a new school and then another new school, never knowing how long you will be there. Can you imagine being in that situation and having one ounce of concern about algebra or how verbs are conjugated or which Civil War battle turned the tide for the North.

Can you imagine that? I can't.

Talk about needing bumpers!

This isn’t a blog about “bad” parents. It is about parents who may have challenges so great that they are unable to care for their kids.

This isn’t a blog about “bad” kids. It is about kids who may be in danger because they are, in some way, beyond their parents’ control.

This is a blog about people who truly do need bumpers. They don’t need our criticism or cynicism or judgement.

They need bumpers. 

Not forever, just until they get stronger and learn new skills. Just until there are more days the ball stays on the lane than sinks into the gutter.

The Sage Collector assists foster parents, as well as parents and kids who are in the foster care system. 

Go here to read more about this group. 

Certainly, more foster parents are needed, but there are many other ways to help. Maybe there is a need you can fill. Maybe you can pass the information on to a friend who wants to help. Or keep the group in your prayers.

Bowling wouldn’t be much fun for young kids if there were no bumpers.

Life isn’t fun, and sometimes isn’t bearable, for people who need bumpers and don’t have them.

Think about how you would feel in that situation.

And remember that there but for the grace of God…

We will talk again soon,

BP


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The current of the river and other thoughts...



My last post discussed feeling a blog inside but not immediately having a path for the words to come out.

Today is just the opposite.

I had no intention of writing a blog today. In fact, I have eight Chrome tabs open that are related to one work project or another. And I have several errands to run.

Yet, here I am, with no choice but to write.

My friend, Michelle, understands. Anyone who is a writer does.

It’s Facebook’s fault. The first writing jab came when my sweet young friend, Taylor, shared her struggle to find motivation and purpose yesterday. Then, my dear friend, Trish, shared her decision to give up Facebook for Lent in order to devote more time to spiritual and personal growth.

I have been sharing my vision of how my blog can expand with a few folks. I want to incorporate video snippets, with some audio overtop. 
I need a DJI Phantom 3 Pro drone and a GoPro Hero4 Black. NEED. 
Yes, I like to identify my desires specifically.  I can quickly come up with a dozen ideas for using this equipment, with one of the coolest being a view from above a river, either from a boat or a lookout.

In light of my vision and my friends’ posts, I am thinking today about rivers.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has online maps to help boaters navigate the state rivers, especially with regard to locks. The area between two locks is designated as a pool. The size of each pool is determined by where locks are needed – which is determined by changing water levels.

A two mile pool might be fine for a fisherman, but not much fun for a 28’ recreational boat. Some people never have a need to encounter a lock. But if you on the Allegheny River in Kittanning and you want to get to Pittsburgh by boat, you need to know when the locks are open to you.

Okay, Beth, that’s a great lesson on locks. So what’s the point?

The point is that as much as life is like a puzzle (see my previous blog), it resonates more with me to think about the current that flows through everything, that connects everything, that carries us on our path to whatever degree we allow it. Like a river. 
The point is it would be easier – sometimes – to fly a DJI Phantom 3 Pro over this river we call life to get a better sense of it.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian Church. I remember, as a kid, lying quietly in bed on Sunday mornings, hoping my mom would sleep in and we would miss church. Now, while I don’t advocate everything for which “the Church” stands, I know my life would not be what it is and I would not be who I am without Jesus.

I am grateful for the promise of eternity, of leaving this physical body and returning to the place where my soul will be with all those I love.

I am grateful for what Jesus has taught me about loving people (including myself), about patience, kindness, humility, the blessing of peace, the lightness of joy.

I am also grateful for the, albeit limited, detail we get about how Jesus lived while He was here.

Talk about a dude who was chill!

Jesus was comfortable in His own skin. He shared His message and if people didn’t believe it, He moved on. There was no attempt to convince, and certainly no badgering. He had emotions, but He didn’t dwell on the negative.

One of my favorite stories is when Jesus encounters the woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. (Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 8:40-56) The woman is so convinced of Jesus’ ability to heal her that she crawls through the feet of the large crowd lined up to see Him. When Jesus walks by her, she is only able to touch His garment.

Two amazing things happened. First, the blood stopped instantly and she was healed. Second, Jesus looked around because, while He didn’t feel her touch his garment, He did feel power go out.

Jesus knew He had come from God. He knew there is a current, like a river, that flows from God through everything. Every human, every animal, every plant, every cell, every atom. Jesus knew His power was found in that current, and He knew prayer and meditation was how He could plug in every day.

Jesus radiated peace and power and joy because He stay aligned with God. He knew that all things are possible for God. He knew the current is under God’s watchful eye and would take Him on the right path. He knew that no matter what was happening on a given day – even being tortured and nailed to a cross – everything was always working out.

People focus on many things during Lent. I’m not one to dwell on mourning or punishment or sorrow. My focus this Lenten season will be the following verse:
Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But He accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the JOY that God put before him. (Hebrews 12:2)

JOY.

Because, in spite of today’s reality, the river flows with a current directed by the Creator of the universe. Because, while there will be rocks and rapids and locks, the river will carry me forward. Because, whether I believe it or not, everything is always working out.

Maybe you will join me.

Right now I need to get back to those open tabs. 

We will talk again soon…


BP :) 

PS  Inspiration is an interesting thing. Those two Facebook posts pushed me to write, but as the words spilled out, nothing about those posts appeared. That's how writing goes sometimes.




Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jigsaw puzzles and releasing shame...




I felt a blog inside today but couldn’t find the words. So I started a jigsaw puzzle.

Not as unrelated as it sounds. Often when words are stuck, doing something tactile or physical helps. Walking, exercising, gardening, cleaning…today it was looking for outside edges amid 1000 tiny pieces.

The puzzle is a photograph of a place I know well. It measures 13” X 30”, meaning there are 2.5 pieces per square inch. TINY. Extremely small jigsaw. Operated by the Keebler elves maybe.

While picking through the puzzle pieces, I was also thinking about some uncertain parts of my life. I would like resolution. I would like answers or explanations. I would like them to be how I would like them to be. Now would be nice.

The frame of the puzzle seemed to be coming together, until I realized some pieces were missing. Not gone, just mixed in with the other 900 pieces.

I know some puzzle builders would continue on and add the missing edge pieces later. But that is wrong. The frame needs to be finished before any other pieces are attached. It just does.

No, I’m not always so rigid. Just with puzzles. And cupboards. And the spice rack.
But I digress…

During the (second) search through over 75 dozen pieces (which sounds like a lot more than 900), I thought about how often I have heard people compare life to a puzzle.

You have probably heard that analogy as well. The whole picture can’t be seen until the end, things fit together as they should, you can only do one piece at a time, everything makes sense when you’re done, etc.

BLAH!

All the straight pieces were segregated and the frame was coming along. I was rather impressed with myself. Did I mention the pieces are tiny?

The pride bubble burst when I had a gap along the bottom and two pieces that fit together, but not in the empty space.

Hmmm…

The assembled pieces all seemed to match. I don’t attach pieces until I am certain they go together. But, there was obviously a mistake. So the examination began - looking closely, removing some sections to look at them from the back, double checking the picture I had with the picture on the box.

Did I mention the pieces are small?

Halfway down the right side I found a renegade piece. Part of the mystery was solved.
The other mismatch was, logically, where the gap occurred. 
Once the mismatched pieces were exchanged, the two remaining pieces fit perfectly.

Outside edge done!

I thought again about the life/puzzle analogy. I don’t remember anyone mentioning pieces in the wrong place.

You may understand having a day when emotions are off balance. Lots of reasons and no particular reason.

I had one last week. Maybe you did too?

Regrets often pop into my head on days like that. I can go way back. In a hurry. Oh, I surely can.

How about you?

Someone who cares for me let the shoulda/woulda/coulda go on for a short time, then shared a personal choice from 25 years ago that changed life’s course.

The sharing wasn’t done for the purpose of commiserating. It was a firmly planted, loving reminder that I don’t have a corner on the shame market and thinking I do doesn’t help me or the people I love. 
In fact, shame that is allowed to fester has an unimaginable compound interest rate and it seeps into every aspect of life.

Shame can take one bad choice and turn it into a lifetime of inability to see your strengths, to identify and overcome weaknesses, and to learn from mistakes and move forward.

Shame. We all have it. Every one of us.

Every one of us has put puzzle pieces in the wrong place. Every one of has pushed two mismatched pieces together.

Sometimes we do it unknowingly.
Sometimes we do it even though the voice inside says, “Don’t do it. It doesn’t fit. Just don’t do it.”

It happens. And it’s okay.  
Even if it is impossible to take the pieces apart and put them in the right place, it’s still okay. Unless shame gets a foothold.

Life is like a puzzle. We pick through a lot of pieces, find ones that match, build a corner. Then we move to another corner and build more. Sometimes a portion of the middle comes together easily when we weren’t even sure what we were seeing. Sometimes we leave parts we don’t like, hoping someone else will come along and put them in place. Sometimes a part is so frustrating we have to step away and focus elsewhere.

And through the entire process, we get to choose. Sometimes we like our choices. Sometimes our choices offer opportunity to learn.

And it’s all okay.

You might wonder how I can say that. 
You might not believe mistakes are okay. 
You might think your shame is deserved because your misplaced pieces were too hurtful to overcome.

Hear these words from the prophet Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved] of you (1:5)

Do you hear it?

Long before you were a physical human being, you were a spiritual being known by AND approved of by the Creator of the entire universe.
Nothing you do is a surprise to the One who knew you before you had a physical form.

Does that resonate with you? 
Can you say that out loud and BELIEVE it?

I can. At long last.

In spite of the mismatched pieces, in spite of how long it takes me to put certain parts together, in spite of how many times I sit and stare at the puzzle without putting a single piece in the right place, I am known and approved of and loved by the Creator.

So are you. 

Shame can cover that, but the truth remains.

Good news indeed.

I’m heading back to the puzzle table.

We will talk again soon…


BP J


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Tale of Two Trilogies

They say, “Things happen in threes.”

I don’t put stock in much of what “they” say, since no one can identify who “they” are.

But the “threes” idea is accurate for me right now. Two weeks ago, I called in a refill for my ADD meds. No big deal, right? I’ve been taking them for a year. Except I changed insurance companies. A dozen phone calls, three trips to the doctor, five trips to the pharmacy and I still have no ADD meds.

In the midst of this craziness, my beloved dog had surgery. I am grateful it wasn’t life-threatening. I am grateful for the tremendous care she received. I am grateful that, once she is fully healed, she will run better than she has in years.

For the past week, however, she and I have been navigating the waters of a terrier who is not accustomed to constant oversight, not being able to jump or run, not being allowed to roam freely in the yard or chase birds.

Oh and her mama hasn’t had ADD meds for almost two weeks.

Finally, I am dealing with a difficult and painful personal issue. Crying was not on my agenda this week.

Not the worst tragedies, but not fun. Could be an excuse to be grumpy and impatience and intolerant. 
Have you had days like that?

I am not, by nature, a grumpy person. Nastiness, in my opinion, is almost always unnecessary. No one else needs to be affected by my problems.

Last night I prayed for guidance and strength.

Today’s devotional reading contained one of my favorite Bible verses:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11)

Tori and I stepped outside this morning, neither of us happy about her needing to be on a leash…and we found just a bit of fresh snow. She loves to rub her face in the snow.




Notice the time stamp. 11:11. Beautiful face. Perfect timing.

After lunch, I turned on my Worship playlist. These lyrics were part of the first song:
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

It is now 10:09 PM and none of my of my challenges have changed. But I am grateful for what came in threes today – a good word, an enjoyable moment, an inspiring song. I am grateful that the Creator of the entire universe cares so much for me. I am grateful my eyes were open and my spirit was in a receiving mode.

I could have been grumpy and missed it all.

I am going to put my head down and focus on those things, and count on God providing more tomorrow....for you and me!

Thanks for reading.

BP J


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Alizé and how everything is working out...





Everything is always working out.

Those are words we sometimes do not appreciate, aren’t they?

Romans 8:28 is often one of the Bible verses we learn as a child in Sunday School.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

Understandably, those words are difficult to absorb if we are grieving or ill or in financial distress.  
I have learned – at long last and in spite of much stubborn resistance on my part – the truth of those words.

Everything is always working out.

For those who doubt, Alizé has a great story to tell.

A little back story about Alizé. My cousin Kelly’s son, Christopher, raised Alizé from a puppy. He bred her and in June, 2004, she had pups. On July 1, Christopher took one of the pups to see an interested buyer. On the way home, his truck left the road and hit a tree. He was 19.
Alizé, a pit bull/boxer mix is now 14. She is a grand old lady, and a reminder of how much Chris loves animals…and how much we love him and miss his presence.

On Christmas day, Alizé slipped her collar and took a walk that turned into quite a ride.

But the story really starts in early December when Kelly called to ask if I would help her 80 year old mother drive from Pennsylvania to Pittsboro, NC, where Kelly lives. We would make the drive in mid-January.
Later that day, however, my dog went from limping on her right rear leg to not putting weight on it at all. The diagnosis was a torn ACL, which meant severely limited activity for 6-8 weeks. That was a wrench in the plans.

A few days later, Kelly’s sister, Kristin, was laid off. While that isn’t great news, it solved the problem of my not being able to accompany me aunt on the drive.

Everything is always working out.

But the story gets better…

Alizé has made friends with a neighbor several doors away. The man has a bed on his porch for her and makes her eggs when she comes to visit, which is great since she has developed a disorder which causes a protein deficiency.
This disorder has also caused her to lose weight, and subsequently slip her collar more readily.

No one knows if she stopped at her friend’s house on Christmas, but instead of returning home, she walked to the end of Kelly’s road then turned onto Jones Ferry Road, which is much busier.

As the afternoon wore on, Kelly became worried because Alizé hadn’t returned. She drove up and down Jones Ferry. No sign of Alizé. She and her husband searched the woods behind their home, calling her name loudly. Nothing. They printed off signs with her picture, hung them on utility poles, posted one at the convenience store nearby and everywhere they could imagine Alizé might be. There was a report that someone had seen a similar dog being picked up by a driver on Jones Ferry. Kelly called the local animal shelter to report Alizé missing.

Three days went by with no word. Three days of Alizé being without her meds and the special food she needs to combat the protein deficiency. We all hoped and prayed.

But everything is always working out.

On day four,December 29, Kelly received a phone call. A woman named Maqui had been visiting her brother and his family in a development off Jones Ferry Road, almost directly across from Kelly’s road. Maqui saw Alizé walking along the road and picked her up to prevent her from being hurt. Because Alizé had slipped her collar, Maqui had no idea she was close to home. Maqui’s brother was unable to care for Alizé, and Maqui was unwilling to leave her at a shelter closed for the holiday weekend, so she took Alizé home with her.

Great lady, right? That isn’t the half of it. 

After returning home, Maqui took Alizé to her local vet, had her examined and microchipped, and purchased medication and special food for her. Then she called the Chatham County shelter to see if there had been a report of a dog like Alizé missing. The shelter gave Maqui Kelly’s number.

Imagine Kelly’s relief when she heard Alizé was safe!!

Maqui said they would have to make arrangements to meet because she lives seven hours from Pittsboro.

Imagine Kelly’s amazement when she found out those seven hours took Maqui to Pittsburgh – an hour away from both Kelly’s mom and Kristin! By the evening of the 29th, Alizé was sleeping in Kristin’s house, still wearing the sweater Maqui bought her.

Everything is always working out.

Some people doubt that God has the time or inclination to care about the details of our days and our lives.
Many times situations arise which make it hard to be certain that everything always works out.

But think about this story. Think about how different it could have been.

Anyone could have picked up Alizé. Or no one.

Instead, she was on Jones Ferry Road at the perfect time to be picked up by a wonderful woman willing to ride seven hours with her.  A woman who was also willing to pay for an examination and special food and meds. Are you surprised to know it is the same food Kelly’s vet prescribed??

Maqui didn’t have to do that, and once she had, she sure didn’t have to call the shelter. She could have kept Alizé forever.

The 500 miles Maqui drove with Alizé could have taken them to Hoboken, NJ or St Augustine, FL or Nashville, TN or Louisville, KY. 
Instead, it took them an hour from Kelly’s mom and sister.

And remember - they had already planned to drive to Kelly’s in two weeks.

Everything is always working out.

I recently heard “coincidence” defined as “cooperating incidences.”  That resonated with me since I stopped believing in chance or coincidence or accidents long ago.

“Everything is always working out for me” has become a mantra of mine. Sometimes, it is spoken through gritted teeth, or through brains cells gritted by frustration or doubt. Sometimes, it is spoken through tears.
Sometimes, I want to see HOW it is working out RIGHT NOW. Okay, mostly I always want that.

As we head into a new year, I am determined to live more often as if everything is working out for me. To live it so loudly that other people say, “Gee, everything always works out for Beth!”

If I get off track, Alizé will help me remember.

Maybe she can help you remember too…

Blessings to you.

BP

Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 













Saturday, December 26, 2015

December 26...the end or the beginning?





December 26. Many of us are taking a deep, relaxing breath because some of the craziness is over.

Four days ago, as I was bustling around attempting to cross items off my “must do” list, I heard a fellow shopping bustler say, “Well, in three days it will all be over!”

Over?

Her words made me scrunch my eyes and turn my head a bit in thought. You know what I mean.

Andy Williams has been telling us for weeks that this is the MOST wonderful time of the year. Kids jingle belling and everyone telling you “be of good cheer!” And yet the LIST often consumes us. Buy, wrap, bake, cook, clean…church stuff, family stuff…run run run.

Don’t misunderstand. I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday. I love the decorations and songs and gatherings and presents.
More than all that, I love being reminded so often of the Savior’s birth.

I believe Christmas touches a tender place in each of us. Whether we have a relationship with Jesus or don’t much think about Him, whether we attend church weekly or only on Christmas Eve, Christmas reminds us of the JOY and HOPE of a baby’s birth. Even if we don’t acknowledge that, I believe it is pervasive and seeps into our hearts.

Have you also had a year when December was the most heart-breaking time of the year?
I have. More than once.
My head painted a picture of everyone else celebrating while I struggled and cried my way through the month.
The potential for joy is counterbalanced by the potential for sadness. Emotional physics, so to speak. There is no escaping it if you have reason for sorrow.

December 26. I woke up this morning with a Steven Curtis Chapman song in my head.

One of us is cryin' as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains
And we're left all alone
One of us is dyin' as our love is slowly lowered in the grave
Oh and we're left all alone

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpVxQGcDgng)

This song has encouraged cleansing tears and pulled me through some dark Decembers.

Consider these words:

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness
There comes a great announcement, WE ARE NEVER ALONE
For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take
Has come to earth and given hope it's birth

In the midst of overwhelming lists or overwhelming pain, there is the Baby.
The Baby who is the author of joy and the answer for grief.
The Baby who is the inspiration for decorated trees and parties and presents and the best seasonal music.
The Baby who has relief for your troubles, even if you don’t believe in Him.

And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness
He came to earth to show our worth

December 26. The festivities aren’t over, but I will use some of this day’s hours for work. That is true for most of us. Today or tomorrow or Monday, work and life go back to what they were.
Some folks will have their decorations put away before I complete this blog.
Some have been shopping for bargains since before dawn.
None of that changes the essence of the Season.

It’s the Baby.
The Baby who rejoices with those who are celebrating and holds firmly, speaks softly to those who have hurting hearts.
The Baby who stands ready to help each of us become the person we were created to be.
The Baby who is ever-present, magnificently loving, inexplicably merciful, always extending grace and favor, whether we recognize of acknowledge it.

December 26. Many of us are thankful the rush is over, happy for a relaxing weekend.
Some of us, however, are taking a breath that says, “I made it through the day.”

But for all of us who celebrate Christmas – believer or doubter, rejoicing or grieving – the promise this Baby brings is the gift for the next 364 days.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel
He's come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone
Now that God has made Himself known
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel…

December 26. A beginning, not an end.

So rejoice…REJOICE. Emmanuel has come.

Blessings to you.


BP