I can still remember that Christmas in 2001 when, after opening his gifts, my son looked at me and asked “Is that all?”
It had been a tough year financially, and we had done our best to provide him with the best Christmas we could afford. But after weeks of seeing commercial after commercial of this toy and that car, my son fully expected to find everything he wanted under the tree.
So once Christmas morning finally arrived, my son didn’t care much for the brand new coat that would keep him warm, or the books that would teach him how to add and subtract. He wanted the Superman action figure that could hang from the doorway. He wanted the Elmo doll that laughed and giggled. He wanted the transformer truck that could light up and turn flips.
Aren’t we a lot like that, too? God gives us everything we need: breath in our lungs, a warm home, a car to drive, a well-paying job, hands to prepare a big meal for our family and friends. Yet we still long for the "shiny and new” things in life. We can often act like entitled children when it comes to receiving gifts because we’re looking for presents UNDER the tree, instead of seeking the PRESENCE of God in our lives.
Believe me, I still have some work to do. I have moments where I am selfish too! But every time I catch myself saying a selfish word, or exhibiting an "But I WANT!" attitude, I ask God to check my heart. I don’t ever want to expect the presents I receive to define the level of joy I’ll feel that day. Instead, I want my heart to be filled with the goodness of God!
Now, instead of an endless mountain of gifts to open, I want to open my door to find my family on the other side to join us for dinner. And instead of viewing countless credit card bills in January for all the unnecessary gifts I purchased in December, I now view my January calendar, which is filled with lunch dates and face to face time with my friends and family.
I pray that your Christmas season is everything you want it to be. Whether it is a house filled with family and friends, or a quiet day at home in your pajamas, watching the Hallmark channel. But most of all, I hope your Christmas season reminds you of the true gift of the season: God.
Five therapy dogs visited our campus today to help our students to ease the stress that comes with finals’ week!
The dog the the top photo was a “veteran” therapy dog- he had done lots of these events before. He was climbing onto laps and giving kisses and nose bumps.
But the dog on the bottom seemed a little overwhelmed at first by all the people, noise, petting, etc. He stood by his handler while the rest of the dogs were on laps and rolling around on the floor while getting their tummies rubbed.
He eventually warmed up to the room but watching him made me think about how (especially during the holiday season that always comes with large gatherings with lots of people and noise!), we need to be even more kind to each other.
Resist the urge to “show up” to every single event you are invited to.
If your body says to rest instead of going to that gathering, rest.
Give each other space.
And most of all: show each other grace.
The first thing I noticed were the cuts on her knees.
Then I noticed her blackened right eye. It was blood-shot and bruised, and she was holding a ziplock bag filled with ice cubes against her face.
“If I were you, I’d KILL HIM!” her friend said to her.
The woman just sat there silently.
I was there to run a writing workshop, not serve as a counselor, but I couldn't help it. As soon as the woman's friend stepped away, I started a conversation with her.
As we sat and chatted she began to tell me about how she ended up at this shelter.
“I hated my parents,” she said. “They were really strict, you know? They wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING!”
She left home on her 18th birthday and soon realized life on the outside of her home was anything but easy. Within a few weeks she was bouncing from couch to couch. Within a few months she had worn out her welcome at her friend's house, so she accepted a cot at this shelter.
She’s 19 now.
“How do you earn money? How do you survive?” I asked her.
“Dancing,” she said, pointing to the strip club that was directly across from the shelter. The neon light was flashing LIVE GIRLS, even though it was only 1:00 in the afternoon. Her shift was the begin later that day.
After spending most of the day with her, I began to think how one poor choice can lead to so many choices we may not have control over. She went from being someone’s “baby girl” to dancing in a dark club at 3:00 in the afternoon. Stripping was the only way she knew to get by. She told me her faith in God was long gone. “He forgot about me, I guess,” she said. But boy was she wrong!
I didn't want to preach to her, but I couldn’t wait to share Jeremiah 1:5 with her because she needed to know how special she is! She needed to know God formed her in the womb, not because He had to but because He WANTED to! She had a whole life ahead of her, and all she had to do was take the first step toward a change. I didn’t want to come off as one of those pamphlet-distributing Bible thumpers, I just wanted her to know how good God had been to me. Yes, I made (and still make) lots of mistakes, but my connection to God means by His grace alone I can get up every single day knowing I will do my best to serve Him.
When I went back a few weeks later, she wasn’t there. I immediately thought something had happened to her- but her friend told me she had reconnected with her parents and was now back at home. I was overjoyed!
Sometimes we lose sight of who we are and WHOSE we are, and this is when we start the spiral downwards into a life God never meant for us to have. God wants the best for us! He sets the plan in action but it’s up to us to be obedient and follow what He says. If it means we have to tolerate strict parents, a micro-managing boss or a teenager who thinks we know nothing, then so be it. This is the path God chose for us!
If you are struggling with getting back on track with your life, ask God for help! He is always available, all you have to do is ask. You don’t have to spend another moment waiting for things to “turn around”- you can take control right now and make it all right again.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.“
Mama. Wife. Poet. Teacher. Maniac.