My First Christmas Without Presents

thJ5VQ8FZ0I was that kid who got so excited about presents that I spent night after night camped out by our Christmas tree each year. Captivated by the mounds of tantalizing packages, I repeatedly rattled, squeezed and even sniffed the gifts, trying to guess what treasures lay within. The wait seemed almost unbearable as I counted the days until Christmas.

While my passion for presents has mellowed somewhat as an adult, the “Christmas countdown” has continued to tick loudly in my head each year, reminding me of all the things I need to do before the big day. In recent years my list has included writing and sending a Christmas letter, decorating my house, buying presents for family, friends and co-workers, and hosting a Christmas brunch and gift exchange for my brother, his girlfriend, and my dad.

But this year there are no decorations at my house, other than a couple of spindly thWGJ9R4T4poinsettias that are quickly shedding their leaves. I didn’t write my annual letter, search for gifts on Amazon.com, or plan a scrumptious Christmas brunch.

My 2015 holiday season has been radically different – more accurately, my entire world is still reeling from a seismic shift. You see, my precious father went to heaven two days before Thanksgiving. Instead of cooking a turkey, I spent the holiday writing my dad’s obituary. In the days following, I devoted hours to writing a tribute to my dad, planning a memorial service, and putting together a slide show commemorating his life.   This year sympathy cards have far outnumbered the holiday cards I have received, and remnants of funeral flowers adorn my home instead of a pre-lit tree. Continue reading “My First Christmas Without Presents”

Curling Irons and Grace

thMSC4O6C5It had been a bad hair week.  My curling iron was on the fritz and I had suffered the indignity of flat hair for several days.  Mission number one?  To buy a new hair appliance at the local drugstore.

I drove in early Saturday morning, sure to miss the crowds.  As I expected, the store was virtually empty.  I barely noticed the woman and her daughter who entered just behind me.  Making a beeline to the hair care aisle, I no sooner had began to survey the very sparse selection of curling irons when I realized the pair were on the same mission.

They sidled in from the left, and I kindly moved to my right.  But my attitude quickly changed as they began reaching for the very last curling iron in the size I wanted.  “I WAS HERE FIRST!!!”  I internally screamed.  “That curling iron should be MINE,” I seethed silently.  Thankfully, they put “my” curling iron back on its hook and moved down the aisle.  I snatched it quickly before someone else could. Continue reading “Curling Irons and Grace”

Let Your Heart be Loved

th8W3L5V25I’ve recently been intrigued by a new reality show, “The Sisterhood,” that chronicles the journey of several young women on a quest to determine whether they are called to be nuns. In one of the episodes, a wise, older sister shared something she heard directly from Mother Teresa herself. She said that the key to finding God’s will is simple: spend 10 minutes every day letting Jesus love your heart.

I was struck by the profoundness of this suggestion. In my rush through life (which was compounded during the holiday season) I can’t remember the last time I came quietly before Jesus to simply receive his affection for me. Oh, I have included quick readings of Christian devotional books or passages of Scripture virtually daily, but these have been squeezed in while eating breakfast and glancing sideways at my watch to make sure I’m not late for work.   I’ve also spent regular time in prayer, but these moments have typically focused on talking to God about the practical needs in my life or the lives of those whom I care about. I’ve attended worship services most Sundays, but my spiritual receptors have frequently felt numb. Continue reading “Let Your Heart be Loved”

The Ultimate Cure for Perfectionism

I’m my own worst critic. Part of the problem is that I’m there to witness every one of my mistakes! Sometimes I attempt something and fail to perform as well as I think I could have. Other times I berate myself because I think I should have done something but didn’t even try. Either way, I am well-acquainted with that voice in my head that loves to remind me that I’ve fallen short.

th[10]That pesky internal companion has pressured me to perform “perfectly” since I was very young. As a child, I was driven to get straight A’s. My parents never overtly demanded honor roll achievement. Yet looking back, I recognize that they were perfectionists in their own right, whether it was striving for flawless Christian behavior, plowing the straightest corn rows, or keeping an immaculate house. I definitely inherited the perfectionist gene. Continue reading “The Ultimate Cure for Perfectionism”

Heart Friends

One of the fun things about blogging is that it generates comments from friends. (Let’s face it, when you are a new blogger, most of your readers are existing friends!)   The majority of comments I’ve received have been through Facebook and email—not “official” comments seen on my blog page.   I have savored every word, not just because it’s nice to get feedback on my writing, but because each comment represents a connection with someone special. I know there is validity in what they are saying, because we share familiarity beyond the pages of my blog. This is particularly true for those who fall into an elite category I call “heart friends.”

best-of-friends-poster-c10048568[1] (2)Heart friends are the rarest and most precious of comrades. Their friendships transcend distance and life-changes. They are the buddies you can go for years without seeing, and then step right back into a deep connection as if you had never been apart. I was blessed with my very first heart friend, Sandy, in fourth grade. Our friendship has spanned the decades from prancing around like horses at recess, to scouring the mall to find the perfect Gunne Sax prom dresses, to swapping stories about being middle-aged!

I have been extremely blessed to discover additional heart friends along several stops in my life’s journey.   All have brought their unique personalities and life experiences to the table. However, I’ve also noticed that there are common characteristics in all of my heart friendships:

  1. We embrace similar core values and beliefs.
  2. We trust each other implicitly.
  3. We talk easily and share deeply.
  4. We laugh with (and sometimes at) each other.
  5. We keep confidential things confidential.
  6. We can “be ourselves” when we’re together, imperfections and all.
  7. We can count on each other for help, day or night.
  8. We pray for one another.
  9. We enjoy just “hanging out” together.
  10. We are each other’s cheerleaders and encouragers.
  11. We aren’t afraid to lovingly speak the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.
  12. We hold one another accountable.
  13. We extend grace and forgiveness to one another.
  14. We challenge each other to grow.
  15. We feel each other’s pain and celebrate each other’s successes.

Heart friends aren’t born overnight. When I think of how I met and cultivated my dearest friendships, it was always through shared experiences. The relationships gradually unfolded in the midst of attending school, participating in musical groups, being involved in church activities, or working together. Over time the connections transformed from acquaintances, to casual friends, to “forever friends.”

I believe everyone yearns for a heart friend. We were designed for emotional intimacy—to know and to be known. All of us need a “go-to” person whom we can count on, no matter what. Our hearts long for someone who thoroughly knows us and yet completely loves us.

Yet there can be times in our lives when the landscape feels void of intimate friends.  I have experienced those desert times when I know many “nice” people, but a heart friend just hasn’t emerged.  If you can relate, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and look for ways to connect with people who share common interests and values.  Most of all, I pray that you will seek a deeper relationship with the greatest heart friend of all, Jesus.   He is intimately acquainted with all your ways (Psalm 139:3) and loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Best of all, he’s available right this moment and promises to never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

God is indeed the best friend of all, yet he also designed us to need earthly companions. My pal Sandy sent me a little plaque years ago with a quote that captures the magical moment when a heart-friendship is ignited:

“What made us friends in the long ago when first we met? Well, I think you know; The best in me and the best in you hailed each other because they knew that always and always since life began our being friends was part of God’s plan.” – George Webster Douglas

To my long-time friends reading this, I treasure you. To my newer friends (and readers), I’m looking forward to knowing you better.   As I close this post, I’m humming a little song I learned in Girl Scouts years ago, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

thETNU70SX

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“A friend loves at all times . . .” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

“. . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NIV)

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

– Joseph M. Scriven, 1855

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged— Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.