Are you ready for Christmas?

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The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Is anywhere safe?

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I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?”  I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings.  I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?” Continue reading “Is anywhere safe?”

When it’s okay to break a secret

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Can you keep a secret?” she asked. “Sure!” was my quick reply, thinking I was going to hear something light-hearted.

My friend then confided that she had been doing something inappropriate for several weeks. It wasn’t illegal, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but I knew it was wrong . . . and so did she.

I immediately offered an alternative so she could stop what she was doing, but she adamantly declined.

We parted ways, and I felt the weight of an ethical dilemma sink like a boulder in the pit of my stomach.

If I broke her secret, I would betray her confidence and risk losing our fledgling friendship. Yet if I stayed silent, I would be part of a cover-up.

I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading “When it’s okay to break a secret”

Recovering from sudden disaster

Not every storm has a name, like Harvey, Irma, or Maria.

Mine arrived without radar predictions or an evacuation warning.

An urgent voice on the other end of the phone said, “your house is on fire—you’d better get over here, NOW!”

Ash Gateway fire June 2006 police 290A few minutes later I found myself standing across the street from my home, watching helplessly as voracious flames consumed the roof.

The firefighters valiantly fought the blaze, preventing it from completely destroying the structure.  But what remained was damaged severely by heat, smoke and water.Ash Gateway fire June 2006 police 338

For the first time in my life, I was confronted with sudden disaster, devastation, and displacement.

There’s been a lot of that going around lately.  Perhaps like me, you’ve felt heart-sick over the string of calamities the past few weeks . . . hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes.

How do we recover when a major storm sweeps through our lives?

Continue reading “Recovering from sudden disaster”

When you wish you could do more

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When I heard that my church’s service would be devoted to a mission’s trip report, I initially dreaded it.  I knew the team would show photos of the home they built for a needy family in Mexico and share how their own lives had been transformed in the process.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the cause . . . or celebrate the great things that God had done through them.

It was because I couldn’t go with them.

My physical limitations keep me from taking on short-term (let alone long-term) mission assignments.  Hearing others share about their amazing experiences (whether in person or via social media) can sometimes make me feel “less than,” left out, and longing to do more.

There are so many things I would do, if only I could . . . GOOD things, that would help meet the overwhelming spiritual and physical needs in the world. Yet, more often than not, I have to say “no” to opportunities to serve.

“No,” to pounding nails in Mexico. “No,” to traveling to an Operation Christmas Child warehouse. “No,” to overnight shifts at the local homeless shelter.

Then I discovered something I could say “Yes” to! Continue reading “When you wish you could do more”