What gingerbread, neighborhood kids, and a messy house taught me this Christmas

I answered the door with my hands still dripping soap suds from sink water.   Who would be out on a day like this?  It was damp and gray and only ten days till Christmas.  I had been elbow deep in my things to do list, all while trying to keep my five kids plus a visiting neighbor's son out of trouble on yet another weekend daddy was working.  Two more kids on my doorstep.  Asking if they could play?  I hesitated just the slightest bit.  Wiped my hands on the back of my shirt.  Kids ran through the back door, tears in their eyes, the puppy was nipping them again and more training, more consistency, more time is needed of me from puppies and kids.  It's not that I'm not accustomed to a full and crazy house.  We have neighborhood kids here most days of the week.   But this was only a week and a half till Christmas.  And my house was a wreck, and our clothes needed folding, and my list was probably a mile long.  

I glanced back at the girls.  I hadn't seen them in a couple months.  They live a few blocks or so away, in a part of my neighborhood where drug deals go down, gunshots go off, and there are regular police chases.  I can't tell them I'm too busy, that I have things to do, a house to clean and I finally got my baby down for a nap so I have to work fast.  Instead, I tell them they are welcome to play in the backyard.  And I figure if I can get all my kids outside in the yard, then maybe I can get something done.  Our yard is small and I can supervise from our kitchen windows.

I plunge my hands back into soapy water, and I feel that stirring in my heart that I've come to recognize.  That still small voice, "Show them My Love.  You never know when you will get another chance to."  I give a resigned sigh and I give up.  I give up on my expectations.  On trying to have everything just so.  And I feel the value of these souls in my home.  I step out on the back porch and I know exactly what we'll do.  "Would you all like to make gingerbread cookies with us?  I was just going to make some gingerbread dough."  There's a chorus of yeses and their eyes are all aglow.  And it feels so very right  to be sharing this, today, with all of them.

I prayed for God to use me and my family to bless someone else this Christmas.  And He brought such an opportunity right to my doorstep.  And I almost missed it.  I almost chose the good over the better, the necessary over the real needs.  My ideas of giving can often become too ritual, too neat and tidy and they don't interrupt my heart and can't possibly  leave a mess.  

I stumbled upon a wonderful message once that I will likely never forget.  It was given about a half century ago by a little old British woman and missionary named Gladys Aylward.  (You can listen to it  here.  The first ten minutes are life changing.) Gladys left the comforts of her home and moved to China to be a missionary when she was a young woman and young women weren't allowed to do anything alone in those days.  But she did.  She paid her own way to China and lived there among the people, facing loneliness and rejection, but eventually earning their respect and taking many into her home.  In her message, she shares a verse from her Chinese Bible, using the Chinese dialect and meaning to breathe new life into a verse we have all heard many times.  "If you will bring into my storehouse the completed tithe..."  So the tenth verse in the third chapter of Malachi begins.  And Gladys challenges us right down through the decades that we are the completed tithe.

Me.  You.  Holding nothing back.  Giving ourselves completely to God.

In that cackney accent of hers, still strong and soul stirring, she says these words,  "Your completed tithe and mine is THIS.  THIS is Gladys Aylward, the completed tithe, Master.  All I posses, all I have, my head, my heart, my feet, my hands.  All that is me.  My complete tithe.  And when God asks us to do something, he doesn't ask for one hand, or one foot, or even one day.  He asks for the complete...You."

That kind of giving takes all we have.  We feel it.  It's getting our hands dirty and our hearts involved.  Every day.  Every minute.

His to live through, love through, break through.

Oh Lord, I'm so far from this kind of living.  But here I am, Lord.  Use me as you will.


the advent adventure

Life truly is an adventure.

And it's found in the season of advent.  The beginning of the greatest adventure our world would ever embark on.

You can't have an adventure without an element of risk.  The very definition of the word is "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks."   The stakes are high.  We hold our breath.  We dare to hope.  And we wait.  We wait for that part of the word that assures our safe passage through one adventure to the next.  The advent.  The coming into being.  The glorious part of anything worth risking anything for.

Everyday leading up to that morning we remember Who came for the first time and Who is still coming again.  We remember the One Who Risks His All For Us.  The One who counted the high cost and said we were worth it.  We eagerly unwrap an unknown package...the gift of today...and we count down the days remaining until that miraculous first arrival of the One Who Saves Us. 

Counting the gifts.  Anticipating the coming.

This is Advent.

We never stop the counting.  Never stop the hoping.  Never stop the waiting.

Because Christmas is only the first Advent.

The second is coming...


merry and bright and blogging

It's that time of year again when anything's possible...

So naturally I decided to break my six month blogging fast.  Six months!!  My fingers are itching to click and clatter out all my cobwebs.  It's been too long, friends.  Life got heavy and a bit too cumbersome...have you all had seasons like that?  I had prayers pressing hard on me and more than anything else and most importantly instead of anything else--I needed to seek God.  I wish I could say that's how I spent all the time I could have been blogging...but...there's always instagram :)  There will always be distractions.   Always something to steal the best and replace it with the mediocre.  Always a temporal joy to curb my appetite for the eternal.  But God is not so easily distracted (thankfully!) and He's been focusing those immensely loving and intensely merciful eyes of His on the attitudes of my heart.  

He's stirring things up inside me.  Placing his fingers on what's got to go, and breathing new life into old dreams.

I've struggled with joy.  And I've found it's all wrapped up in hope.  

When I can't see past the mountains I'm facing, when I feel like I'm stuck on a dead end road and the realist in me keeps telling the dreamer to take a back seat--joy pretty much flies out the window.

But hope is a thing that has to be resurrected.  And I have a Savior who knows a thing or two about that. 

He's doing more than I could ever ask or imagine...

He's giving me hope.  He's given me himself.


>>---> I'm loving my new blog design by the beautiful and talented Danielle Burkleo!!  It's just the sort of inspiration I needed to jump right back into blogging.  Love that girl!

>>--->  I can't wait to share our advent calendar and our favorite Christmas traditions this week and the next!


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