Choosing Between Two Good Things

My dad, who is 74, loves to snow ski. And it’s been so fun for him in the past couple of years to ski with his grandchildren. So off we went to Colorado, the week before Christmas. 

I enjoy skiing, too. And right now I’m in almost the best shape of my life. I would have been able to hit the slopes with ease. Instead, I holed up in the condo for our entire 6 day stay. 

I tried to explain it to my children, but they didn’t quite get it. And I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have understood at their age, either. You see, I as we readied to go, I became painfully aware that I had to choose between a good thing and a better thing. 

It would have been fun to ski with my dad, my husband, my kids, but I knew that would mean heading home exhausted from early mornings and all day activity. (When we ski with my husband, we arrive at the lifts when they open each morning.) And looking ahead to 2012 told me that the year would not slow down from the new pace at which our lives seem to be running. Add in the fact that once we arrived back home, all the joyous chaos of Christmas and the New Year would be up on us. So I chose better over good. I chose long run endurance over short term enjoyment. I still had fun with the family in the evenings, but my days were filled with restful activities--reading, working a puzzle, going to lunch with my mom. 

I hope I get to ski with my family again one day, but it wasn’t meant for this trip. I knew it deep inside. And thankfully I heeded that still, small voice. I know I’ve been a better wife and mother this holiday season because of it. 


My Favorite Moment of Christmas

We didn’t grow up going to church on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t that we didn’t attend church. We very much did. But Christmas Eve is my daddy’s birthday, and my mother did all she could to keep that day reserved for him instead of baby Jesus. Which was fine. He needed a celebration of his life just like all the rest of us got on our days throughout the year. 

But when each of us (four siblings) had our own families, we had the freedom to choose our own traditions with our children. And we all chose the Christmas Eve service at church. It’s come to be one of my favorite moments of the season. The carols. The festive atmosphere. But mostly, it’s the lighting of the candles I look forward to. 

When I look across the congregation, a small flame erect in each hand, I get a lump in my throat. Two things always come to mind. The first is that starlit night when Jesus was born, when a girl laid her new baby in a manger, when angel’s appeared to the shepherds, when maybe the star the magi followed shone a little bit brighter. But those flickering flames also give me pause to remember both the collective and the individual aspects of the Christian life. The candles shining in the dark auditorium remind me that together we shine His great light into the world, and yet they show the importance of each of us maintaining our own flame of faith. Guarding it. Nurturing it. Without those small, individual lights working together, the darkness creeps in. We so often forget that. We see our little flames as insignificant. We think no one will miss it if it sputters and dies. But that is not true. And I see that lived out in the candlelight of Christmas Eve. Individual, yet one. The body of Christ. 

What was your favorite moment of celebration this Christmas? 


A Merry Christmas Sunday Psalm

Image courtesy of www.vintageholidaycrafts.com

Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
How awesome is the Lord Most High;
the great King over all the earth!
    --Psalm 47:1-2

May the wonder and joy of Jesus be yours this Christmas season--and all year long. 

Merry Christmas, from our house to yours. 


Fortifying Friday at Seriously Write

Come over and read my little gift of encouragement to writers on Fortifying Friday at Seriously Write.


Now I See

One of the downfalls of being severely near-sighted (and I do mean severely), is that on occasion (read: more often than I care to admit) I get my contacts switched. The right one goes in the left eye and the left one goes in the right eye. Which for most people wouldn’t be a huge deal, except that even in my severe near-sightedness, one eye is much worse than the other!

You’d think I’d notice such a thing right away. Not so. It takes a while. This last time it took around two weeks for me to notice. Not that I didn’t notice my trouble seeing my computer screen. Or the eye strain. Or the difficulty seeing the television or a book. But I attributed my unclear vision to other things. Like tiredness. And dryness. So I added more drops to my eyes and continued on. 

One morning, though, I realized how bad it was. I couldn’t read my Bible. Couldn’t see the words at all. At first, I again cited those other things. Then I thought with horror that maybe my age was kicking in and I needed reading glasses. All through the morning, I struggled, until finally— finally— I thought I ought to switch my contacts and make sure that wasn’t it. 

And guess what? That was it! My world came back into focus in an instant! As I went on with my day, I wondered how many times that kind of thing happens with my spiritual eyes. They get off kilter just a bit. I notice, kind of, but don’t run right away to the most obvious cause, which in the spiritual sense is sin. I attribute it to other things, even to God’s absence from me instead of mine from Him. But in His mercy, the Lord allows my spiritual eyes to dim to such a place that I’m desperate to see, even if it means seeing myself as I really am in that moment. 

I’m so thankful that the Lord has made a way for me to see with my physical eyes, even though they are flawed. But I’m even more thankful that He makes a way for me to see clearly with my spiritual eyes. And it all started with a baby in a manager. 


A Sunday Psalm

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
    --Psalm 4:7-8


Considering Mary

I’m not really a baby person. I’ve said that here before. I struggled in those early years of being a mother. So I find it quite interesting that one of the things that touches me so deeply during the Christmas season is thinking about Mary as she approached and entered motherhood. 

Maybe it’s my penchant for fictionalizing history, for wondering what really went on in the heads of those who experienced the world-altering events we only read of. Whatever the case, I find that more than any other songs at this time of year, these three bring me to tears every time. 

What strikes you as so poignant about the ideas conveyed in one or more of these songs? 


My First Radio Interview!

Sorry I didn't get the info out to you before it happened, but last Thursday I was interviewed by Nicole O'Dell on Teen Talk Radio. You can find the podcast here, the show that aired on 12-8-11. My part starts about 18 minutes in.



A Sunday Psalm

May Your deeds be shown to Your servants,
Your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us--
yes, establish the work of our hands.
     --Psalm 90:16-17


The Work of a Writer

I’ve been fighting with the first draft of a new manuscript. And I think it’s winning. 

Yes, I wrote all through November, but finishing in December has been hard— partly because in December I just want to play, and partly because it seems pointless to write an ending for a story that I know will change significantly when I begin the read-through with an eye toward revisions. And the revisions will be major. 

So I’ve decided that after today, I'll end where I am. To set it aside, finish my Christmas shopping, enjoy my family, read some books and watch some movies. After Christmas is over, I’ll pick it up again and see where we are. But you know what? In spite of the struggle these past few weeks, the thought of digging in and making it better excites me. And I guess that is what it really means to do the work of a writer. 


Twelve Days of Christmas

I still have to watch this video a few times every Christmas season. Enjoy!


A Post to Help Poverty

NOTE FROM ANNE: This post was written by Jessica Dotta at www.inspireafire.com. As I dug around a bit, finding out more about this ministry. I was impressed. Why? Because this ministry saw others doing good things but needing funds to do more, so it focuses on raising and funneling funds to those who are already doing the work or who are starting work where there is a void. I love that!

We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love.” -- Madeleine L'Engle

When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.

He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.

My brother already felt shell-shocked from the travesties he'd witnessed in Uganda.

The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He'd barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.

"We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened," he was told.

Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn't take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.

When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.

The oldest, a girl, answered. "The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here."

The two other children nodded in agreement. "Me, too."

He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. "Do you have a Mommy?" The little girl asked my brother.

"Yes," he answered.

"And a Daddy?"

Again, his answer was yes.

"Oh," she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.

Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn't want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn't?

In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she's endured, at the end of the day, she's still just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.

I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?

As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. Yours.

So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?

I didn't like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I'm pretty poor.

Like it or not I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.
I wasn't comfortable with the knowledge then, and I'm not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.

That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children's book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.

An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.

When Joshua told me he's going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.

For seven years he's helped non-profits raise money that serves the "least of these." He's seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He's not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at www.mediachange.org. His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I'm number #3.

This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.

What if the task of helping others isn't as overwhelming as we make it?


A Sunday Psalm

Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display Your power among the peoples.
With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
     --Psalm 77:13-15


Wings of a Dream -- Large Print Edition

Did you know that Wings of a Dream releases in a large print edition today? If you have someone on your Christmas list that needs large print books, consider this one! It is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Of course you can always give Wings of a Dream as a regular print paperback and or an ebook to your favorite reader as well. ;)