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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

WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL

I’m such a softy (in more ways than one). My body, my ever evolving, almost forty year old body has softened. But, my heart, oh heavens, my heart is softened even more toward kind, humble, “give you your flowers” people. Kindness is, without question, my kind of beautiful.

When I was a little girl, people who knew my Mom would see my Sister and stop in their tracks with an “Oh, Glenda, this must be your daughter. She’s the spitting image of you.” I knew they meant she was beautiful because, like my Momma, my Sis is beautiful, too. And, closely behind, I would make my way into the picture and the same person would say, “Now, who are you.” Oh, Jesus, keep me near! My Mom would say, “This is Jill. She’s my youngest. And, while she’s so much like me in ways, she’s the spitting image of her Daddy. And, if you knew him, you’d know how special that is.”

I would think to my little self, “Dang, if I don’t look like my Mom, I must not be as pretty.” Do you love that? Not that I wasn’t pretty, but “as pretty.” God love me. When that sweet Mom of mine wasn’t having to reprimand us for bad behavior (mostly my Sister, Susan, of course… wink, wink… love you, Sis) she was praising the heck out of us. “You look beautiful today,” she would say, or “I’m very proud of you.” We could’ve both been headless monsters, but, we would’ve never known. Because, to our Mom, we were beautiful.

Now, when people who were more acquainted with my Daddy would see me, they would and, to this day still say, “You are Don Lide made all over.” That has always made my heart smile because, while he was not with us in a physical sense, he was still very much with us and it showed up in the curl of my hair and the blue in my eyes. He was special. I knew that. So, I was good.

My Sister always felt like the people who thought she was so beautiful also thought she was a little tart. And, I thought the one’s who thought I was like my Daddy didn’t necessarily think I was a raging beauty, but, I had heart, personality and a whole lotta’ spunk. My Sis and I “LOL” at this all the time. But, you wanna’ know something, it didn’t matter what the outside world said about us, in our little world, our Momma was raising us up with confidence in who we were ultimately from, God.

I recognize how fortunate I have been and continue to be to have parents who praised their kiddos when praise was due. I know that sometimes, it was hard to find beauty in us (especially in our teenage years), but my Mom was never at a loss when it came to praising her two daughters. No, she was unabashed in her mission to raise girls who were confident. It wasn’t about having the hottest hairstyle or on trend clothing, no, it was about who’s image we were made in and who we really were on the inside.

To close, this last Sunday at church, we had the opportunity, as we do each Sunday, to turn to our neighbor and say hello. And, so, Patrick and I did just that. The last two women I greeted were seated right in front of us. I noticed how beautifully dressed and perfect their hair was earlier because, duh, I’m a girl. We check these things out like it’s our job. I reached out with my hand to shake their hands and said, “Hello.” And, after one of the ladies said hello, she held onto my hand, looked straight into my eyes and said, “You are so beautiful.” And, I knew that she was seeing ME. She was seeing my heart, the light in my eyes and the joy and confidence that comes from my Maker.

That Sunday morning, I nearly cried like I do almost every Sunday morning. I’m so moved by the music and the scripture and the hearts of the people there. The moment my husband sees a tear, from periphery, I see his half hearted grin and slight shake of his head. God love him. How he puts up with me, I will never know. Point being, beauty is moving. It is everywhere. And, it should command our attention in such a way that we are both moved and inspired by it.

If I haven’t told y’all lately, every single one of you are beautiful. It might be your Carrie Underwoodesque legs or your sweet smile or your heart. But, know this, you’re beautiful. I know because I am a purveyor of all things beautiful. But, that heart of yours, oh, THAT HEART! It’s a perfect TEN!

I hope you’ll take in more beauty today (especially yours). May you give it wings to fly to the person who most needs to see it, be moved and inspired by it. I say, we start an all out Beauty Campaign. It should consist of this… Walk tall, knowing the truth about who you are and where your confidence comes from. And, “give someone their flowers” by acknowledging something beautiful in them today!

Stay Divine, Beautiful!

JL PARISH

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