I laughed in the kitchen today as I made buffalo chicken dip, artichoke dip, and a fruity dessert for folks watching the big Penn State game.
I laughed because sometimes I remember the old Virginia me who read lots of poetry and, if she did go to any sporting event, pearls and dresses were involved.
Eight years ago, I didn’t know what tailgate or pregame used as verbs meant. I had never made any traditional Pennsylvania tailgating food. I had never had hot wings or pretzels with spicy mustard or beef sliders.
I didn’t understand anything about football or this whole culture.
But now, I dig it. I whip up the tailgating food and count down to kickoff.
Oh, Pennsylvania! Oh, Penn State! Here I am, ready to cheer on my team.
My daughter requests a treat for a class event tomorrow, and since it’s December 1st, we have no trouble embarking on the first of the Christmas Treats: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons.
The first treat of Christmas! It’s here!
We use this recipe but dip the tops in melted chocolate.
So easy and delicious if you need a large quantity. And so begins the holiday baking!
Sometimes I go back and reread the gospel of Mark because it’s what a woman told me to read first in the Bible when I was in 3rd grade. She explained that it was an easy book for a child to understand. She said I would learn about God in that book.
So I read it. And I learned that God kept His promise and sent Himself to us. I read on. I realized that Jesus was, perhaps most of all, a Healer. And He is kind and thinks about what people need all the time–whether food, rest, quiet. All this and He heals our true sickness: sin. He forgives sins!
He heals everything sick in our souls.
In Mark, Jesus is a storyteller and a wise conversationalist. He’s authoritative but so gentle. He takes people by the hand. He makes sure they are healed all the way, not just in part. He listens to the whole truth of the heart. He puzzles people. He satisfies them. He loves little children so much. He overwhelms people with wonder. He answers questions. He empowers others, especially women. He gives clear directions.
He’s so amazing in this written account of Mark that my heart is bursting.
My youngest asks me this morning if Christmas is as special for grown ups because she’s worried that I’m missing the wonder and gifts and surprises. I tell her that it’s more wonderful for me than she can imagine. A Savior has come. He heals everything. I have the Greatest Gift.
I think about Jesus as Healer from Mark, and Christmas has come to my heart. The gifts and treats and surprises of the season just provide decoration to the beauty already here.
For the past few days, I have loved all the beautiful photos and holiday cheer on social media. I have loved being around excited shoppers at the malls with packages spilling from every arm. I have seen more happy Thanksgiving family photos than I can count. And I was so happy like I was right with that family. For the first time in months, I felt a true togetherness with folks far and wide.
I thank God for the blessings of family and laughter and great food that I’ve seen. I’m so happy for the happiness all around.
Today I consider that where I live, with whom I live, and how I live (with the resources I’ve been given) represent the best environment for my growth.
When we start wishing for more, different, or better, we can know that we are where we are because a Good Shepherd led us here.
And why here? Because it’s right and good for us. Because we’ll meet with God here. We’ll know Him here. There are people here to rescue and serve.
Here are the still waters. Here is the rest for the soul. Here is the best place to know Him deeply.
Sure, we might long for different soil, but perhaps our particular fruit depends precisely upon how God works right here and nowhere else. A different garden might choke our roots, dry us out, disintegrate our blossoms. But here, we trust in God’s unique work in this very environment.
Someone told me that you live a second life after 40. It’s like this:
You don’t think about yourself so much; you’re not obsessing about your weight or your hair or your clothes. You’re comfortable and at ease with yourself. You don’t need much from other folks. Instead you have so much love to give. The whole world has shifted inside of you because you know you are seated with Christ moment by moment. Finally.
You don’t think about any other kind of life you might be living because you’re happy and comfortable, trusting God that the life He gave you to live is exactly as it should be. All seats provide equal viewing of the universe, and all seats are the best ones. Finally, I know.
You don’t think about what you need all the time. You don’t think about how you need to improve or grow or change. You settle into the work of living and blessing people. You know Christ guards your soul with peace, power, hope, and righteousness. Finally, I feel mature.
I wasn’t this way in my 20s or 30s. Every day was a struggle for meaning and happiness and crafting a life instead of enjoying it. It took my soul longer than most to arrive into His peace.
But I did.
God is faithful. And one day, you find you cry more tears of joy than sorrow. Growing older as I walk with God has led me into paths of true love and beauty and peace. For this, I am thankful. For God’s promises fulfilled as we trust Him, I am most thankful.
One can learn so much from flying kites about the Spirit-filled life. You let the wind do all the work. You send up your life, catch the wind’s direction, and fly.
Sure you can run about and fuss, but the one who gently delivers the kite to the wind will stand there in perfect peace.
I’ve been thinking about the difference it makes to stop resisting feelings of stress, anxiety, and any kind of discomfort. I know it’s strange to think of relaxing into that feeling that you’re trying so hard to eliminate, but–at least in my experience–doing so changes the power and influence of the distressing feeling.
It’s like when you fight the inevitable waves on the shore. Instead, you receive each one and the unique and often astonishing gift each delivers to your life. We stop by the beach as we travel to my sister’s house. I walk all morning as each wave crashes.
Jellyfish, sea plants, shells, sea glass, crabs, and one time, a pair of sunglasses arrive at my feet. (The sunglasses washed up as I considered the bright sun and wished I hadn’t forgotten my sunglasses. I stood there in awe, like God knew and sent a gift via the sea.)
I examine each present with wonder and think of the story each creature or object could tell of where it’s been.
A crash of water and a gift: you can’t stop the waves, but you can receive what they bring you. And sometimes, the distressing thing intends to deliver something of God to your feet.
I definitely wrote Guarded by Christ because it contains truths I most needed to learn.
Dwelling from my inner being–where Jesus lives within me–has provided a stability and more continual experience of His guarding presence than ever before. No matter where I am or what’s happening around me, I settle into His peace. I stay in the fortress of His loving, ready, abundant, and comforting care.
I’m home! I’m finally home! God is here with me as my dwelling place.
Sometimes younger folks ask me for advice on how to survive the holiday season with immediate family and relatives when everyone doesn’t always get along. Although I’m no expert, I’ve learned some tips over my forty years that I love to pass on.
1. Accept others as they are—exactly as they are—without expecting anyone to change.
2. Realize what you need from other people and then release them from that duty. Receive what you need from the Lord and other friends.
3. Believe the best about people and assume they are doing their best.
4. Seek to be a blessing to everyone.
5. Remember that you are “seated with Christ” (Ephesians 2:6) when you feel lonely or disconnected at the holiday table.
6. Remember that you aren’t the most important person–or the wisest–and seek to learn from others and make them the center of attention.
7. Allow yourself to be fascinated by the lives of others and ask rich questions that you follow up with, “Tell me more!” and “What was that like for you?”
8. Remember that God sovereignly has you right where you are for a reason this holiday season.
9. Reiterate to your heart that at all times, God’s peace, power, hope, and love are available to you in endless supply.
10. Finally, bring a list of clever riddles, jokes, or holiday trivia to make people laugh. Everyone needs more laughter! Especially if children are present, bring out the jokes and tricks!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!!