by Pam Morton
I think Santa's “Naughty and Nice” list was a brilliant idea. Although not sure the criteria for either list, I do believe it reduces the problems I face trying to create my Christmas lists—card lists, party lists, program lists, list lists!
We also have lists for the gift-giving season, but this beautiful season includes "Black Friday," and "Cyber Monday." My peaceful bliss turns to panic and stress as I think about all the people I'd like to remember and the few dollars I have to do it with....
One year I psyched myself up to participate in a Black Friday sale. My visiting sisters thought strategizing the night before would be effective. An ARMY General could not have been more organized as we plotted the "first wave," "second wave," and "final wave" of shopping using each store’s particular deepest discount sale times—5am-7am, 50% off at a hobby store; 7am-11am, a major department store‘s big deals; some offering all-day discounts; other’s "night owl” sales from 10pm-midnight. Yessireeeeeebob! We were ready.
The next morning, my husband muttered something that sounded like, "utter insanity," as I quietly crawled out of bed. In the kitchen, my sisters and I donned our jackets, grabbed sale papers, notebooks, purses, and game plan. To my shock upon arrival at the first store, I realized that 500 other people had the same brilliant idea we did. Immediately, I went into attack mode. I began barking orders: "Peggy, you have electronics!" "Paula, you've got toys!" "I'll cover apparel." "Synchronize watches? Mark. Go! Go! Go! Go!" We opened the van door and scrambled to our assigned areas like a skilled SWAT team.
People were everywhere. Merchandise was flying. Carts rolled and salespeople tried to keep order. I scanned my area looking for the specific items on the list. Nope. Nothing! I circled three or four times and realized that everything was gone within thirty seconds. I met my sisters at the rallying point. All three of us had nothing in our hands. NOTHING! Our battle plan did NOT include failure.
We decided to move on to the next store. "Regroup, people!" We piled out and went to our zones. Peggy excitedly returned with her goods. Paula struck gold as well. I hadn't found my items yet, so they went ahead to the pay line. I circled repeatedly becoming more bummed with each passing moment. I had a 50% coupon and I was determined to use it! Finally, I found something and made my way to the front.
When we arrived back at the van, my sisters began pulling items from their bags. They had done very well and had saved lots of money. Once they finished, they asked me what I had gotten. I hesitantly pulled out my purchase. Total, complete silence! Then they laughed—hard! I had used my 50% off coupon at 5:30 am on the day after Thanksgiving, braving the mobs, and check out lines. I now held in my hand a very pretty, but very small bar of soap.
Shopping continued the rest of the day, but all following comments and ensuing laughs were in regard to my "big" purchase.
Now I had lost an entire day and still had a giant list to complete. As I surveyed my shopping fiasco, our Christmas clock began playing "O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!" The actual lyrics should be, "Oh, December the Crazy Month, how busy can we be?"
Where is the stillness of Bethlehem in all this?
I've decided to start a new tradition this year. Each morning during the month of December, I pour myself a Diet Coke, pull a blanket over my lap, and open my Bible. Then I present Jesus with a gift. One day I give the gift of patience. I wait patiently as His Word speaks to me and I choose to demonstrate patience to those who cross my path. On another day, I give the gift of interruption. I allow Him to interrupt my schedule with people who need a kind word, a hug, or a hot meal. Each gift purposed and practiced.
At first, I thought this a bit too simplistic. After all, isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing every day? Yes, it is. But realistically speaking, I know myself too well. I get caught up in my many "to-dos" and forget the Lord values most my "to-be's."
He demonstrated this when He left the splendor of Heaven to BE with us, Immanuel—The true meaning of Christmas. So if I'm to share the genuine message of this special time, maybe I should be like Jesus and be still. Be available. Be near. And just to be sure, I'll set the bar of soap out as a gentle reminder.
Pam Morton, her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern life and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land.
An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Arab neighbors while providing insight into Middle Eastern customs and everyday life with her friends in the West. www.pamelajmorton.com
by Delores Carr
Late in October, my daughter e-mailed me and said, “Remember you mentioned a while back that your father’s side of the family never gets together since your grandmother passed away? How would you like to do a family reunion the Saturday after Thanksgiving at your house? I will help you.”
So, invitations went out; and simple cook-ahead food like meatballs, homemade soup, and slaw was planned. Family members were asked to contribute finger foods or a dessert. My cousin, who lives about two hours away, contacted all his kids and grandkids, and then let me know he was bringing thirteen. Some I had never met. My uncle, his father and my late father’s brother, planned to come with him. I was so excited!
Altogether, thirty-one people—five generations from ages 91 to 2 months--gathered in our home that evening. Our home is not large, but it was fun being all together in a tight space. We had a great time catching up and becoming acquainted with younger ones and new in-laws. It was a blessing. My uncle, my cousins, and I reminisced of Christmases long past when the family gathered on the Sunday before Christmas in my great-grandmother’s three-room log cabin on her farm in the Ozark hills.
It is too bad that we do not keep family closer when we could but just don’t. I encourage you to make the effort to make and keep the connections. While you are thinking in this vein, consider those who may not have any family or whose family live far away. Who of them can you include in activities or Christmas dinner? Perhaps they would enjoy going to your local Christmas parade with you and then to your home for hot chocolate. Or, maybe a neighbor would love to accompany you to your church’s Christmas services or music programs. It may be a great opportunity for them to hear the story of God’s redemption plan for the first time and find that redemption for themselves.
We are encouraged in Romans 12:13: Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Hospitality is also encouraged in 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, and 1 Peter 4:9. I think you will find yourself blessed.
Delores and her husband, David, have a long and rich history of ministry. From youth pastor to senior pastor, from church planter to teaching in AG Bible colleges, they have covered this nation from coast to coast. Delores has been director and teacher in pre-school programs, filled the pulpit from time-to-time, and a speaker to women's groups. She loves music and writing, and hopes to one day write a book about her family history in the Ozarks.
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