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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Child

A Christmas tune plays on the radio and the words draw me back to another time and place. I can almost taste Mom’s sugar cookies, with crushed peppermint candy sprinkled over the top, fresh from the oven. I can still see the blue color-coordinated decorations and lights twinkling on  my aunt’s white tree—I’m sure that’s why blue gives me so much pleasure to this day. And I can recall the joy of trying to guess what might be in a certain package.

For me it happens with “Silent Night” and blue lights and snow. Maybe everyone has a special place they travel back to when the fragrances are just right, when the sounds pull you in, or maybe, all it takes is seeing a child grinning from ear to ear, wishing for Christmas Eve to hurry up and get here, and suddenly, you remember . . .

And for a few moments you get caught away.

Can you see yourself as a child? For those of us with children, it’s easy to remember the times when they were little. But what about you? What makes you reminisce to a time in your youth when life was simple and fun and filled with anticipation over Christmas? When the joy of looking forward to Christmas morning—or Eve—consumed you. Not just about the gifts, although there was that. But, also, to hearing the Christmas story. To reliving the journey of the wisemen and angelic visitation to the shepherds. To the awe of the moment when the lights on the tree were first turned on in the dark. To lying on the floor and staring up at the glowing colors and tree decorations as if you’d never seen them before. Tasting candies you were only allowed to have at Christmastime. Hearing laughter in the house. Family. Presents. Candles. Twinkling stars. Watching. Waiting.

Close your eyes for a moment. Don’t think too hard. Just relax and smell the evergreen scents, hear the soft Christmas melodies playing, the jingling of a bell, packages being shaken and felt. Does a little anticipation race up your spine? When you were a kid, did you lay awake in bed trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, but you couldn’t? Did you think . . . Christmas is tomorrow? It’s coming. Somehow, I’ve got to go to sleep so I can wake up and then it will be . . .


Remember? Oh, let yourself feel. Think of the happiness. The laughter. Did you count down the twelve days before Christmas? Maybe, the twelve days before that? Then, before you knew it, tomorrow—the one perfect day of the year when dreams might come true—was almost here. Did you get so happy you felt like dancing? Or maybe you were wishing for a hula hoop to twirl in, and those thoughts were prancing in your mind. Or a doll. Or a new book. Did you hope for a Tonka truck or a new bow and arrow? Could you imagine yourself in buckskins like Davy Crockett?

In our busy adult world, with jobs and bills and responsibilities and stress and pain, sometimes we forget to love Christmas like we did as a kid. To see and smell and touch the beauty and traditions of celebrating Jesus’s birthday. When you closed your eyes a moment ago, what did you see? Did you remember something special?

I recall how one year, I shook a beautiful red-wrapped present, listening for any sound that might give away the contents. Was that briefest of clatters the sound of a miniature washing machine? Oh, I hoped so! I couldn't wait for morning to come so I could find out if my mom had gotten me the thing I longed for—a toy machine to wash all my doll clothes. Can you imagine a seven-year-old wanting that? Ha! After a lifetime of washing clothes, I wonder, what in the world was I thinking? Why would I want such a gift? But I did.

Another year, when I was older, we got a long wooden toboggan as a family gift. We spent days and days sliding down the hills in Ketchikan, Alaska. One time, a bunch of snow fell in the middle of the night, and one of my brothers woke me up, and the three of us and our cousins bundled up and went outside and played in the snow, building all kinds of sculptures—before it could melt away.

Oh, the treasures and memories we have inside of us. Have you thought of your childhood Christmases lately? What smells take you back to those carefree days? Cinnamon rolls? Fudge? Hot chocolate cooking on the stove?

“Silent Night” brings back warm feelings for me, because my mom and I used to sing that song while we washed dishes. It was the first song where I learned to hold the melody while someone else harmonized. Each time I hear the song, I remember her.

Of course, we can’t live in the past. We have the privilege of making new memories this year, and in the coming year. But, every now and then, it’s a blessing to go back and remember the special times we experienced in our youth. These memories are part of our story in the book of our lives.

We’re supposed to become like a child in faith. That brings to mind the verse . . . “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3) To me, that means being free and joy-filled and full of anticipation in what God can do. A child sees the moment and enjoys it. He’s open and full of belief. His joy hasn’t been diminished by disappointment. Nothing holds a child back from expressing happiness over the smallest things. A child who is belly-laughing isn’t a bit concerned over how he looks or sounds or who might care. In that moment, he’s absolutely free. And it’s beautiful. I love hearing a child’s laughter. It’s contagious and makes me laugh too.

We get caught up in too many “serious” things in this life. I know, there are plenty of serious things to consider. But, let’s take a few minutes and remember what it’s like to see Christmas through the eyes of a child. Let’s remember. Starting with Jesus. Loving those around you. Taking it all in. Truly feeling again.

A child really can lead us. In fact, He already did.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast: In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning by Dana Goodman


In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning
By Dana Goodman

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About the Book:

Author and Counselor, Dana Goodman, shares her painful journey through heart breaking tragedy. After losing her 12-year-old son and 30-year-old husband to cancer, she must put back together the broken pieces of her life and her faith. Drawing hope from Christ, she describes how even the worst of tragedies can be rewritten into love stories so seeds of hope can be imparted to others. Ron Dart, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the University of the Fraser Valley, says this about In the Cleft:
"I read the missive in a single sitting--was charmed and entranced, enthralled and captured by the poignant and evocative insights--- it's a burnished gold of a book---a real beauty---tragedy and hope, in an honest and raw way, jostling wisely and judiciously in your vulnerable soul--take heart---your well told and painful journey will bring healing and restore life to many---thanks for the sacrament and chalice of eternity so generously shared."

author photo graphic 48

Dana Goodman, author and counselor, Dana Goodman, lives in Kamloops British Columbia. She wrote In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning as a tribute to her son after he died of an aggressive brain tumor called Glioblastoma Multiforme. His unquenchable faith gave her the courage to visit grief layers and find healing and life after unbearable heartache. Dana's greatest joy in life is Jesus Christ, even on the topsy-turvy days when he is hidden. She loves simple things like hot coffee, deep talks with girlfriends, journaling and having wonderful adventures with her family.

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Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 Amazon gift card, sponsored by author Dana Goodman! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Storm is Coming!

Winter storms are coming. That's what happens in the Pacific Northwest—and many other places around the world—during winter. Harsh winds. Biting temperatures. A sudden dumping of snow. Sometimes Jason and I dream about moving to Arizona to enjoy wintertime sunshine and warmth. But as long as we live on the backside of Mt. Spokane, I know storms are coming.

Seasons bring different kinds of storms. I can remember a horrific rain and wind storm in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Thanksgiving Day when I was ten years old. The massive deluge sunk boats, knocked out power on the day people planned to spend the day cooking, and caused a lot of property damage. It was a storm to remember.

In life, as in seasons, we go through storms. I've known people who wouldn't admit anything was wrong in their lives. "The tongue has the power of life and death" Proverbs eighteen says, and some would contend by saying the words, they'll make it happen. And, there's truth in that. Others take this idea to an unrealistic degree. Once, I talked with a lady who denied ever having been sick, not even a cold. I disagreed with her, knowing she had to have been sick when she was a kid, but she adamantly held her ground. She wouldn't confess a negative word about her health, almost as if fearful of doing so. I believe in speaking life and love and faith in Jesus over every situation. But, if asked, I won't deny a problem happened.

Just like I know I will face a storm (or two or three) this winter, I know in life I will face storms. For some of us, it's a marriage crisis. Or a health issue. A financial struggle. A lack of a job, house, food. Maybe, there's friendship or family troubles. Or addictions. The rough patches we go through are storms. Sure, sometimes we bring problems on ourselves. Other times it's an onslaught from satan. He is, after all, out to destroy us.

One time I was listening to a radio talk-show host speaking on family and marriage. The guy said he'd never personally had rough times in his marriage. And at that moment, going through some struggles, I felt disappointed . . . and ashamed. Was something wrong with me because I was going through marital issues? Was I less of a follower of Christ because of it? Had that man said, "I haven't experienced that kind of problem in my life, BUT, I've experienced other troubles that make me realize how painful it can be," then I would have felt a bond with his struggles, even if it wasn't the same scenario.

Sometimes, we come across as if we've weathered life without a hitch. Perfect. Lily-white. But I can't go along with that. Yes, I'm alive and doing well today, thanks to God. Thanks to His love changing me. His protection. His peace . . . in the middle of my storms. Thanks to perseverance and learning through struggles. And thanks to a host of family and friends sharing life with me and giving me second chances.

One day, the disciples hopped in a boat—following Jesus—and they found themselves in the storm of their lives. These were fisherman! They made their living by working on the water. They knew the risks of turbulent winds. But this was a whopper of a storm, and they were petrified! Fisherman who'd been raised on the sea, and didn't get seasick, suddenly thought they were going to die. I can imagine their pinched faces as they cried out, fearful the next wave would knock them into the sea. Were they going to drown? They thought so.

But not Jesus. He was sleeping in the rocking, bouncing, water-sloshing-in boat.

When they woke him up, he scolded them—as if questioning why they even woke him up. "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" In that moment, Jesus must have felt a flood of compassion for his traveling companions. Even though he knew the boat wasn't going to sink. God had a plan for his life, and that job wasn't finished yet. He also knew the disciples didn't "get" that yet. So he commanded the wind and waves to stop doing what they were doing. Instantly, all was calm. I can imagine Jesus curling up again and going right back to sleep.

That was a real storm. A time of conflict, fear, thoughts that all was lost and death might be imminent. Yet—I love this—Jesus was calmly sleeping.

We will face storms, yet, we have the assurance Jesus is in our boat. In times of difficulties, we can be like the disciples and scream out in fear. Or be like Jesus: sleeping in peace and trusting God. AND, like Him, we can stand up and command the elements of the storm to stop. Let's tell satan (strongly) to back off. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." And, we can pray. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16) I love the "with confidence" part. Not cowering, or whining, or begging. Approach God confidently! We know He hears us.

Last night, I went to sleep a little discouraged. But I woke up with these thoughts on my mind. We'd all like to avoid storms. I know I would. But each time we come out of one, we're stronger. We've learned perseverance. Our faith is built up. And we have a precious story to tell. A testimony of overcoming. And we will.