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Christmas

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

Something To Celebrate

The week between Christmas and New Years is generally one of getting the house back in order, rest from all the holiday festivities and, of course, making those well intentioned resolutions for 2016. I tickle myself because, generally, I’m making my resolutions (the same ones for the last ten years) and doing so in my favorite pair of sweatpants because everything else I own is a wee bit snug. What can I say, my sister’s iced sugar cookies are hard to turn down. So, it’s not difficult for one to believe that my first resolution generally has something to do with diet (as in, changing it), exercise (as in, doing it) and losing weight (what happens when diet and exercises marry).

Last year, after there was order in my home and I’d caught up on rest, I started reflecting, first, on my business. I’d taken a full year to prepare and launch JL PARISH followed by almost two months of actually being “in” business. So, the list of things I needed to change, better or learn was long. But, I stopped and reminded myself that all businesses are works in progress. Every day is different. And, experience is the ultimate teacher. For those reasons, after the list of goals and changes and so on were made, I turned my attention to creating a list of things that did work- the dialogue that our Sparrow Project started about domestic violence, the beautiful JL PARISH treasures that we made by hand right here in Dallas, Texas, the hearts filled with love upon receiving one of our treasures and the list went on. That sort of positive reflection turned gratitude list made my “goals, changes and so on” way more palatable.

So, for the first time last year, instead of focusing on all my well intentioned resolutions for myself, I, instead, focused on the things that worked- I was more forthright with my fond feelings for family and friends, I said “thank you” a lot, I found forgiveness in myself for not getting it all right and on and on.

You see, our reflections should be less about what we didn’t get done and more about what we did get done. It can be anything from earning a degree to taking a well needed nap. Spending more time with family or planting a tree. Forgiving others and ourselves. These are the things that add to our lives, enriching the day to day joy of our lives. And, isn’t life worth living JOYOUSLY!

As we move into the New Year, I hope you’re reflection time will be more about what you did and less about what needs to be done or changed or etc. You’ve accomplished a lot in the last 365 days, and that’s something to celebrate!

Happy New Year, Friends!

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

‘Tis The Season

Well, here I sit on the best bed in the house. It’s an antique iron bed with a Tempurpedic mattress and elegant, floral Pottery Barn bedding from throw pillow to sheets. It’s also the bed that our Welsh Pembroke Corgi, Connah, sits on and peers out the window to the city street we live on. He barks and carries on like no other at the sight of passersbys, but we’re mostly unfazed by it because he’s a great back up to our existing alarm system. Nevertheless, as I sat down on this bed to get comfortable, Connah’s dog hair began to levitate. The sun was coming in, the dog hair was going up and I thought, well, he is a dog… he is going to shed… this is just a bed and his command post… nobody ever died from a little (just kidding, a lot) dog hair.” And, right after I gave myself that little “talking to,” I turned to my left to find barf on that elegant duvet I spoke of just a few sentences ago. Lord, deliver me. Now, the duvet is off and in the wash. And, here I sit, on this bed as I write my 50th blog. Dog hair, barf and all, I’m one happy camper.

My Mom never fails to remind me during this time of the year, that, of all the gifts that Santa brought me as a child, I was most interested in the box one of my gifts came in. Not the gift but the box. You know, that box that Santa’s Helper (love you, Mom) probably saved her coins up for, made the long trip in to Dallas from the country for, searched the mall over for, stood in a line a mile long for, paid for, made the long trek back home for and wrapped it so that it would be ready FOR Santa to place perfectly under the tree.” Yea, that box!

As an adult, I search for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. Sometimes it’s a hit, and sometimes it’s a miss. But, I’m forever diligent in my pursuit of picking out the perfect gift that my loves ones will, well, LOVE. Today, I thought, “What do you remember getting under the tree as a kiddo?” Before I could recall a handful of things under the tree that I loved so, my mind wandered to other things that were most memorable to me. My Maw Nalls always made a fruit cake. I never ate it. In fact, it might be the one dessert other than mincemeat pie (which she also made) that I didn’t eat. But, she made it one time each year, and it was celebrated and special. My Mamaw Lide had a gumdrop tree. It was old, broken, held in one place with masking tape and was usually comprised of gumdrops she would refreeze (if even freezing gumdrops was imaginable), but I loved that gumdrop tree. And, I ate the gumdrops off of it like it was my job. My Mom would hand my sister and I cash from the calves sold on our behalf to finance our Christmas shopping as kiddos. Generally, Eckerd (now, CVS) was my first choice for shopping. And, I used every cent to buy something there that would, once again, “wow” my loved ones. Then, there was the note to Santa and cookies that he was sometimes “too full to eat.” There was also the caroling with my Nalls’ cousins on Christmas Eve. Oh, and who could ever forget, the virus that swept though our home like a hurricane, compliments of my loving big sister who I could not celebrate Christmas without. The Christmas songs on the radio, ice cycles in the tree, turkey and dressing with all the fixings, stockings stuffed to perfection and the list goes on.

You see, it wasn’t necessarily the gifts under the tree, it was the collective magic of Christmas. And, it’s different for us all. The things I spoke of aren’t really things that can be bought, rather things that are created from or are felt with the heart.

First thing this morning, Patrick, Connah, Peaches and I received a box filled with Christmas treasures from The Ogle Family in Virginia Beach, VA. We loved everything in the box, how it was gift wrapped, the thoughtfulness of it all, but my favorite gift of all was the gift tags that were written by my youngest goddaughter, Avery. I’ve looked over every inch of both tags. One was attached to Peaches gift (our other fur baby) and the other was attached to a gift for yours truly. It didn’t cost anything per say, but it was worth gold to me. Above all the precious gifts, that one will long be remembered by me.

So, you didn’t get that YETI Cooler? Write that person a note, and tell him how much he means to you. The Apple Watch was out of stock? Make time to spend with the intended recipient of that gift instead. And, your holiday cookies you baked for your neighbor didn’t quite look like something famed pastry chef, Dominique Ansel would create? Take them anyway and create your own comedy hour for your neighbor compliments of your “cookie fail.” These are the things we remember fondly long after the season has come and gone.

As Dr. Seuss would day, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Friends, ’tis the season to make good ones! I wish you all joy this Christmas and in the coming New Year!

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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