Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grateful for Everyday Gifts

We moved into a new home (to us) two years ago and I just remembered a neat Christmas activity I planned for our family that I plan to resurrect this year.  We were facing a slimmer Christmas due to moving and remodeling costs and I was feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.  God quickly reminded me of the MANY new blessings that had come my way in the past couple months - new appliances, furniture, faucets, fixtures...yeah, I really had nothing to feel deprived over.  I wanted to wake us all up to the fact that even though we may not be shredding rolls of paper off mountains of gifts, we had gifts all over our home that were daily blessings to each of us.

I purchased a bag of those sticky bows and divided them up into 5 plastic bags.  On Christmas Eve, I gave each family member a bag and unleashed them on the house to stick bows on the "gifts" that we use everyday but may simply treat as necessities.  After 20 minutes or so, everyone reconvened in the living room with stories to tell about why they chose the items they did.  Our home was covered with bows from top to bottom - they were stuck on kitchen cabinets by my daughter who was thankful for dishes to eat on, on our comfy couch by a son who loves to cozy up on it to read, on our TV by a grateful sports-loving boy and on our garage door by a husband who has never owned a home with a dry place to park his car on these rainy Seattle nights.  My biggest bow was proudly stuck on the lid of my washer and dryer that I thank God for daily when I think of that old washtub method used by my predecessors.

What a great reminder of how God generously and lavishly blesses us with both needs and luxuries every day that we easily overlook.  I'm heading out for a big bag of sticky bows tonight!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Wanna Be More Like Mary Bailey

Proverbs 31:10  An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.

We just finished our annual tradition of watching It's A Wonderful Life and I am reminded again at what an inspiration Mary Bailey is to me.  She is such a beautiful woman inside and out - a wonderful combination of grace and strength.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her!

Here is a quick list of the qualities I see in Mary that make her a wife worth emulating:

1.  She has a genuine, beautiful smile and she is not afraid to flash it!  At George, at her children, at the people of Bedford Falls, in joyous times and in struggle.  Her countenance is cheerful and pleasant.  She is truly lovely because her smile radiates from within.

2.  She is so dang creative and resourceful!  She is a dreamer and makes beauty out of the ordinary.  From the sweet sketch of George lassoing the moon to the home she creates out of the old dumpy mansion, Mary shows us what creative ideas and good old-fashioned elbow grease can accomplish.

3.  She makes the best of hard situations.  When faced with the thought of losing George, when the Building and Loan is going to close, when her honeymoon is cancelled - Mary finds a way to be a good helper to George at great personal cost.

4.  She tells her children to pray for her husband.  What a brilliant woman.  When her husband is down and out, harsh with the family because he feels like a failure - Mary doesn't berate him but calls the family to pray.

5.  Then, she calls for help.  In the proper order, she first asks for God's help and then she asks for the help of friends and family.  Mary goes out looking for George in his state of despair and mobilizes the whole town to give back to George the love and support he has given over the years (albeit begrudgingly at times!)  Mary helps her husband when he can't help himself.

6.  She suggests celebrating all the events of the evening with wine!  What a fun lady!

George Bailey is INDEED the richest man in town, living a Wonderful Life.  In large part, due to the love and support of an excellent wife.  Not a perfect woman but certainly an inspiring example.  May I be a little more like Mary Bailey each year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fulfilled in Christ

This is without a doubt my favorite time of year. I love everything about it: glowing lights, fragrant trees, cheerful carols and cherished memories. One special Christmas memory and a song lyric add a depth of worship and gratitude that I will treasure in my heart forever.

Thirteen years ago, when I gave birth to my firstborn son - the staggering reality of what exactly Jesus offered to us in the gift of Himself became most tangible. As I held my newborn baby boy in the Christmas candlelight, tears flowed as I tried to comprehend that my Great and Glorious God took on this frail, infantile form for me. Never before had I truly understood the magnitude and humility of His incarnation. As if occupying a small, utterly dependent body of flesh wasn't enough, He ordained that His first place of rest be in a dirty feed trough. Why there? God could have chosen anywhere to rest His tiny head...and then the song playing on the stereo pierced my heart with a moment of clarity: That dirty manger is my heart too...

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Jesus can.

God chose to have His Son enter the world in a stable and be laid in a filthy slop trough so we could know that our sinful hearts are not too lowly of a place for Him to occupy. He understands so much that He was willing to be lain in that rough and smelly receptacle so we could begin to understand His love for us. Understand that He desires to indwell our dirty hearts and make them pure and clean.

As His chosen children, we are given the gift of Jesus - we are now IN HIM.

Galatians 2:20 it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Celebrate! Party! Worship and Adore Him during this Christmas season. We have been brought near and the trough of our soul has been cleansed and filled with the most precious of gifts - the Righteousness of that Baby boy born in Bethlehem.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Corrupt: 1. Tainted 2. To lose purity or goodness.

I know a whole lot about corrupt love.

It was awoken in me as a 3 year old girl who had a God-given desire to be held and loved and protected. Sweet little Jenny had no understanding of the scars that were seared upon her soul in those early years of life. Such heavy burdens for a little heart to bear. I did hear of the loving God-man Jesus and wanted so badly to believe He could be for real - let alone love a dirty little girl like me. Sadly, the only definition of love and feelings of being special I knew had been stained throught the sin of another.

As a confused teen, the act of familiar "love" was coerced from me by selfish boys. The burning burden of shame that I carried eventually numbed my heart to the pain of my secrets. I lived out life in a detached and thoughtless fog of poor decisions and compromising positions. I knew I was grieving God but I felt trapped and at this point, I believed that love was destined to be dirty and wrong.

By my 20's, I was a hurting young woman who clothed my pain in a cloak of flirtacious, assertive moves toward men. I would "name and claim" a man and was rarely rebuffed. I erroneously believed that I was now in control of when and with whom I offered love. I would NOT let a man hurt me again. I felt powerful and powerless all at once. I met my would-be husband during this time and hoped that marrying a godly Christian man would purge the filth I felt associated with love. Could this finally be what I'd been looking for?

On August 14, 1993, Phil and I pledged our love before God and man. We really did love each other but the love we offered early on was tainted too. We were looking for the other to make us feel complete and loved unconditionally. We heaped onto each other expectations of selfless love while selfishly hoping for something more. Over time, God confronted both of us with the real and healing love of the Cross. We were both professing Christians with a Christian marriage but God had so much more for us to know about the height and depth and width of His love - we had barely scratched the surface. It was finally time to share with Phil the gut wrenching and heart breaking stories that had corrupted my understanding of Love and the Gospel. Jesus began redeeming love in my heart and my marriage.

The love that I had received and given was love based on selfish desires and lies, fleeting emotion and could be "fallen out of" as quickly as it had been pledged. True biblical love is unlike worldly love in every way. It is selfless, considering the object of its affections over itself. It is grounded in Truth, based on action and carried out despite how it feels. It is steadfast in every season and withstands every storm.

The Love that Jesus offers to His children is Incorruptible - not able to be defiled. It is pure, good and lovely. He doesn't just offer us love to ease our pain - He offers us Himself. A perfect, sinless life offered up to replace our imperfect, sin-filled lives. He is the source of Love Incorruptible. He is the reason for Love Incorruptible. He IS Love Incorruptible. We will receive His grace as we look to Him and love like Him - with love incorruptible.