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christmas eve

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

NEW MERCIES THIS CHRISTMAS

When I think about one of the great gifts living on this earth brings, watching a sunrise or sunset is at the tip-top. It’s grand and beautiful and powerful and faithful. A cloud may cover a portion of it but only for a while. And, even so, it is still there- faithfully.

Several years back, after starting a diet (for the 95th time) and falling prey to the donuts that some “angel/devil” brought to an early morning meeting, my beloved friend and sister in Christ, Kelly Hornsby, shared a verse that I was partly familiar with. “Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” I needed that verse at that time, my head held low and my running shorts tighter from my well intended “good eating day” gone very much awry. I’d heard “Great is His faithfulness.” But, never had I heard the remainder of that verse. It shook my spirit up in the most powerful way. God is always faithful in the midst of our faithlessness. And, His compassion, forgiveness and favor for us, all of us, is new every single day.

Those donuts are really a great analogy for things that get into our spiritual way and trip up who and how we really want to be. We can be moving along ever so smoothly and kindly until someone cuts us off on the freeway or smacks their gum or that one temptation we’re always contending with rears its head in the sneakiest of ways, and, as my Sister would say “BAM (well, really, with her Texas accent it’s more like, “BAAAAAYM)” the devil’s got us in a headlock. We failed. We let ourselves down. We hurt someone. We committed some unforgivable act. Yet, we are forgiven. Why? Because, my friends, His mercies are new every darn day. And, because of that, we can lift our heads and start again. We can forgive ourselves because we are forgiven. No matter how jacked up our lives get, God’s still got us. And, if we choose to follow Him, we’ll never be separated from that.

My favorite verse from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” reads “just like suns and moons, with the certainty of tides, just like hope springing high, still I rise.” Out of the nighttime sky, the sun rises in complete and total splendor. Yesterday is history. Today, it faithfully brings a new and somewhat familiar gift- an opportunity to rise, ascend and be at one with our Creator because we know that just like suns and moons, He rises in His children through His continual grace and mercy toward us. While it is new and very much the same, GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS. That, my friends, is the sparkliest, most divinely packaged gift of them all. And, we don’t just experience it once a year, under a tree. It’s ours 3-6-5!

At this time of the year, we celebrate the Light of the World who, in fact, entered this world in a time of spiritual darkness. He wasn’t born in some fancy-shmancy palace like an earthly prince might be. Instead, He was born in a trough used to feed livestock. He came into the world humbly and ascended into the heavens just as scripture predicted. Not even death could hold Him. His scripture endures because He remains the light of the world. In all things that are good, we see Him. And, though we are not “all good,” we are His and His compassion, favor, forgiveness and, in one word, mercy, endures in His beloved (that’s you and me) forever.

At times, I find it difficult to show mercy toward someone who has hurt me or someone I love. And, while I know, it’s hard for me, I know that, no matter how deep the offense committed or hurt caused, it’s no task at all for our Savior. He loves us in spite of our humanity, and He is quick to show His mercy. In this season, I hope that, like me, you all will strive to remember this. God is faithful, just like the sun, to all of us, not just a select group of us. His mercies are not just for the small, “smacking gum” kind of offenses, but the big ones, too. This year, I pray that, in receiving that gift, we will also grant ourselves the gift of “new mercies” toward someone that, in our minds, may not deserve it, but would humbly and gratefully receive it. May we all walk and live in his BIG, bright light.

Merry Christmas, my friends! If you do one thing this season, for the love of Jesus, SHINE BRIGHT!

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

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