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It Doesn’t Have To Be Big

Last Monday morning early, my husband was off to work, and I was at home with River, getting him ready for his swim lesson. That hour before swim is a hectic one because I’m getting River ready, getting his bag ready and getting 8,000 dishes in or out of the dishwasher before we set sail for the Landry Center. But, this particular Monday morning, right as the door closed behind my husband, River says, “Mommy, I’m not feeling good. I feel sick in my mouth.” I think, “Oh, great, are we in the throws of step throat, again?” Then, he scurries over to me and says, “Mommy, hold me.” And, before he could tell me he was sick again, he vomited down the right side of my face, hair and body. If this has ever happened to you, you know the drill. First, you stand there freaked completely out. Second, you mentally devise a plan of how to remove the articles of clothing that were effected. Third, you check to see if your child is, in fact, ok.

So, I freaked out, threw my vomit drenched pony tail over my shoulder, pulled both mine and River’s shirts off, and grabbed that sick little cutie to make sure he was ok. Then, I hurdled the vomit on the floor en route to my iPhone so that I could text Riv’s beloved swim coach, Cameron, and tell him we couldn’t make it and why. But, as I picked my phone up, I noticed that someone was at the door on my doorbell/camera/thing-a-ma-jiggy app. Like a ninja (that had been vomited on), I eased toward the door to see if it was someone who needed something. But, it just looked like two young guys who were contracted to do work in the neighborhood and got the wrong address.

So, I go back to caring for my sick child and cleaning up the vomit (let’s see how many times I can say that in one BLOB) when, this time, I actually hear the doorbell ring. I think, “They’re either at the wrong house, or my husband has hired them to do something and didn’t communicate it to me.” So, I grab River, mainly to cover myself, and hide my body behind the wall. Then, I open the door partly and stretch my neck around enough to gently holler, “Guys, can I help you?” They begin walking toward the door and I shriek, “STOP! I’m topless!” With a terrified and somewhat curious look on their faces, they stepped back. And, through the crack of the door I say, “I mean, I’m not topless. I do have on a sports bra. I’m also holding my child to cover me.” They, gently replied, “Ma’am, we’re just here to clean your windows.” I said, “Ok, carry on.” And, as I closed the door, I got so darn tickled. So, I cracked the door open and hollered once again, “Hey, Guys.” They said, “Yes.” I said, “There’s nothing quite like being greeted by a topless mom first thing in the morning, is there?” I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their smiles in their voices as they replied, “No, ma’am.”

Then, up the stairs, River and I go to shower, put clean clothes on and relax. And, as I sat beside my son, all snuggled up on the “heavy” bed (that’s what he calls the bed in the master), a surprising smile stretched across my face. I was both exhausted and elated. Exhausted, of course, after a marathon of mishaps and elated that I- have a son (even when he’s vomiting on my hair), a house with windows that need washing, a husband with the foresight to get things done that would never cross my mind and the kindness and grace that two complete strangers showed me in a moment of chaos. It’s pretty amazing when you start that little mental gratitude list. Because, what looked like a few things becomes a few thousand.

In this season, there’s so much pomp and circumstance. We can’t just put a pair of warm mittens under the tree. No, they have to be Gucci and wrapped to perfection. By the way, if this was anyone’s gift idea for me, please do not return it. I’ll make do, I promise. It can’t just be a simple salad that we bring to the family dinner. No, it better be congealed to perfection, in the rightful Christmas wreath jello mold form with maraschino cherries for the holly. And, your Christmas card can’t be a candid shot from your summer vacay developed at your local CVS. Heck no! Your whole family needs to be photographed in the Swiss Alps, wearing coordinating tartan plaid, smiling like you’ve all just won the lottery, foil stamped and bathed in potpourri before being mailed to two hundred family members and friends. I mean, it has to be BIG, or it’s meaningless. Isn’t that sort of what the world tells us?

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be BIG for it to be a blessing. Let that sink in. We don’t remember the Gucci gloves. We remember the loving intention of the person gifting us. We don’t remember the Christmas wreath congeal salad. We remember the community that comes with gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones. And, we don’t remember what the card looked like. We remember the love we feel toward the person who sent the card and their significance in our lives. What I’m saying here is, it doesn’t have to sparkle to be gold.

This season is about our Savior. And, you know the story. He wasn’t the son of a mother and father of means, born in a private hospital suite and swaddled in bamboo. He was the son of two ordinary people chosen to carry out an extraordinary mission, born in a manger which was used to hold food for livestock. There was no meal train or sip and see. But, there were three wise men who traveled from afar to bestow special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh upon this little baby and, then, his ministry unfolded for all the world to see. And, this unsuspecting child became God’s greatest gift to humanity.

I hope that in this Savior Season and, really, every single day, you’ll make seeing what’s big in the small things a top priority. In doing so, the gift of gratitude is promised to multiply like mosquitoes in the Texas heat. And, if you’re like me, a real rascal at times, I hope you’ll remember that God’s gift to humanity in our Savior isn’t exclusive to the righteous. It’s available to ALL. No age, no color, no gender, no political affiliation, no sexual preference, no debt unpaid, no sentence served- nothing, and, I do mean absolutely nothing can take God’s gift of grace through Christ Jesus away from you. If you believe that Christ is the Son of God, then you receive Him as your Savior. You are saved. Can I get just one AMEN!

Ephesians 2:8 NLT “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And, you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

This Christmas

Before the month of December rolled in, we’d already had Black Friday (that now starts on Tuesday), followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I don’t know about y’all, but, by the time Giving Tuesday came around, I was in a full blown panic. And, to top it off, Giving Tuesday marked the first day of December and the realization that I had twenty-four days to get one million things done before Christmas Day.

For me and countless other retailers, it’s our busiest season. In fact, a great number of businesses make the bulk of their sales in the fourth quarter of the year. It’s a make it or break it time for many small businesses like lil’ ole’ JL PARISH. Then, you add in all those extra things that come with the Christmas Season and, honey-bunny, it’s enough to send Santa straight down to Dallas, Texas with a chill pill for, well, ME!

I thought back upon my Christmas experience as a child. It was the most magical time of the year. I waited and waited and waited for this time to come. Cutting down and decorating the Christmas Tree, delicious homemade candy from the heart, fun holiday inspired programs at school like Wills Point’s White Gift Service, riding through the neighborhood and looking at Christmas lights, our hometown parade, photo with Santa, early morning “Christmas Eve Gift” calls, beautifully wrapped gifts, sweet time with family, Ramelle Sewell’s gingerbread cookies, the arrival of Santa and, most importantly, reflecting upon the actual reason for the season, the birth of Christ. I mean, what’s not to love about this time of the year!

My reflection turned to excitement turned to gratitude turned to a great realization… There’s a little more wonderment associated with Christmas when you’re a child because it’s mostly being done for you. Someone was cutting down that tree (my Dad) and decorating that tree (my Mom) and buying those gifts and wrapping those gifts (my Mom and Dad) and getting you ready for that parade (my Mom) and making that candy (my Mom) and the list goes on and on. Christmas, in a sense, is work. It’s stress and strain IF we allow it to be. But, the great news is that we actually have a choice.

So, on that day, I chose not to stress out. At Christmas, really, all the things that I noted are elective. They’re not necessities. You can pick and choose what you want to partake in. But, the one thing, the most important to remember is this… Beyond all the gifts and parties and decorations and Santa, we must remember and celebrate and be in gratitude for- Christ. He wasn’t like little “Saint West,” you know, Kim and Kanye’s new baby. There was no first class hospital or black car service for the mother to be driven to her destination in order to deliver the King of Kings. There was no paparazzi or “push present” for Mary. There was no glitz or glamour, just a sweet little baby, in a manger, that we would one day call King of Kings. Now, if that doesn’t reset your Christmas Clock, I don’t know what will.

In the rush and push of this season, take a moment to reflect and be grateful of all things Christmas, most importantly, this seasons namesake, Christ. You know, Justin Timberlake brought “sexy back.” So, surely we can bring “wonderment back” to Christmas this year.

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

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