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gift

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

‘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

WHAT GIVES YOU LIFE?

The stomach flu really has a way of putting things into perspective. You’re forced to rest, but you’re restless. You need to eat, but, in this rare instance, you’re not hungry. A normal part of your daily routine suddenly feels like you’re climbing Mt. Everest. And, you need to talk to someone or something because you feel so isolated, but you just don’t have any words and listening hurts your ears and ankles, and well, everything. You stand in solidarity with the toilet and trashcan, ever so grateful they exist.

Today, I’m wearily humming, “What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours.” And, though I feel one million times better, my energy level is still not quite up to par. Nevertheless, every single thing in my home is being disinfected by my trusty diffuser that methodically dispenses Thieves, a natural disinfectant, into each room leaving everything free of my stomach flu funk. Friends, listen closely, if you’re going to bring the funk, don’t bring the stomach flu funk. Pinky swear right now that you will never ever do that.

My Mamaw Lide used to say to me, “Be grateful for the days when everything goes as it normally would. Because, some day, it won’t be that way.” I know it’s been a few weeks since I touched on this, but normal is good. Normal is sacred. Normal keeps us grounded. When we’re healthy and able to do the things we would “normally do,” it’s a gift- rarer and more precious than we realize.

Last week, the Wild & Woolies and I discussed the things in our lives that are “life giving.” You know, the things we do for ourselves that are good for us deep, deep in our souls. And, interestingly enough, the majority of those “life giving” things discussed were all normal, everyday things like being outside, serving, spin class, reading a good book, fellowship, spending time with family, cooking, enjoying the company of friends, playing with our animals and so on. Nobody said, “travel all the continents or run an ultra marathon or attend New York Fashion Week. No, they shared simple, attainable, normal pleasures in life.

Today, one of those normal pleasures was the piece of toast I ate as it popped out of the toaster, hot and crisped to perfection. It made me think of my Mamaw again. When I was a little girl, I would stay overnight with her. Although there were many rooms I could have slept in at her home, I chose to sleep with her in her feather bed. It was so soft and cozy, and I always felt so safe and loved next to her. Though she would wake up ahead of me to enjoy her coffee and toast, when I did open my eyes, she wrapped me tightly in a blanket and put me on the couch to watch the cartoons I loved so much. And, before I knew it, she served me perfectly toasted, buttered and jellied toast and juice (jelly and juice from her wild plum and grape vines, of course), because this little princesses “life giving” stuff was unfolding, and my precious Mamaw wouldn’t allow anything to interrupt that. You see, part of what gave her life was giving it to others. Isn’t that a precious legacy. I could never fill her boots but maybe a ballet flat (someday, hopefully).

Today would have been my Mamaw’s 103rd birthday. She lived until she was almost 99 years of age independently. She was a marvel of a human being, lived a life fully surrendered to Christ, put her family first, served, took in people who had no place to go or nobody to turn to, loved her in-laws like they were her blood, offered kindness everywhere she went and was the first female in the state of Texas to be named “Best Beef Producer” (twice, by the way). Friends, here in Texas, we take our beef seriously. This award was like Viola Davis’s Emmy. A female winning such an award was a major breakthrough.  Mamaw was very much a trailblazer. I remember her saying once, “I just don’t understand all this women’s lib talk.” I said, “Mamaw, you’re at the forefront of that. No woman does what you do in the cattle industry.” She replied with conviction, “Well, I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I was just trying to keep it all together and survive.” See what I’m saying, she as a human and the time I spent with her and the memories I have with her continue to give me life to this very day.

Lastly, when she had something to impart, it was thoughtful and simple. Today, friends, “Be grateful for for the days when everything goes as it normally would. Because, someday it won’t be that way.” The normal, simple pleasures in life are what give us life. Look at things from that perspective and see how full your cup really is.

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

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