Tag Archives: Christmas

10 Ways Time Together Can Bring Healing

10 Ways Time Together Can Bring HealingI actually wrote this right after Christmas 2018, but I recently revisited because in New England we have a delightful weeklong break in mid-February. You see, if I’m not intentional about the disruptions of everyone being home on break, our time off together can be an epic fail. Know what I mean?

Whether it’s a vacation you have planned, a school break, too many snow days in a row, or a holiday, time together does not have to be chaotic and tense. For our family, we actually needed it to go so far as to be restorative and healing. It was a huge prayer on my heart. If this is you, read on. Our holiday break a few months ago brought peace and refreshing in only ways God could have orchestrated.


I’m back—I think—for now. My Advent season went off the rails. In short: We are still troubleshooting causation of a significant health decline in one of my children, and we have seen more specialists than I have money for copays—but that’s a story for another day. We may be talking about parasites. Still waiting on that result. Why parasites? Because we spent two years on a tiny island in the South Pacific Third World a decade ago. And my child is not absorbing proteins—which pretty much screws up health on several counts.

We had a good Christmas. I hope you did, too. We are trying some new supplements while we wait out answers, and there was stability and peace. Even so, I simultaneously slapped the back end of 2018 goodbye with a firm “Harrumph!” (Thank you, Urban Dictionary!) while fearing that the New Year would drop us back where we fell around Thanksgiving: fearful, despairing, shaken.

So, as the high schooler and middle schooler went back to school, I found  the quiet to reflect on what worked for us this holiday break. I do this in the hopes that next year, or any year where we need healing, we remember what to do, with any necessary adjustments.

I was going to give this column the title: The Healing Power of Family, but I could not bring myself to do it. It’s not that I don’t find time with my kids and husband to be healing, because I absolutely do. But I also remember times when Read the rest of this entry »


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Love Knocked: It’s Time to Answer

I opened the door to find her standing there in thepouring-down rain, hand outstretched toward me with a Peppermint Mocha and Salted Caramel Square just waiting to delight me inside a paper bag. I greeted her with bedhead, three-days-worn pajamas, and a defeated face. Not sure when I had last showered. She doesn’t even drink coffee from my café of choice, but she had the barista handcraft a beverage just for me. She didn’t come in. She took her soaked self back to the van, having delivered friendship in a cup. And it was the real deal in every way:Love Knocked



good coffee.

Before that knock came, I got an email:

“You home right now?”

Me: “Yes, upstairs resting.”

Nothing mattered to me right then. I had tried to drag myself out all day to get a coffee just to be somewhere and exist outside my own grief, but I couldn’t. I listlessly made three breakfasts, packed three lunches, sent three kids out the door to three different buses, and went back to bed. All I knew was that Dad was dying several states away, and that phone call was coming in any minute. I was in some kind of nightmarish limbo—stuck and free-falling.

Then, that knock!

I wanted to but could not in any way will myself to answer it. I simply couldn’t leave my bed. I didn’t know it was raining. I wasn’t even sure who it was. But the knuckles rapped a bit stronger and then my phone burped. Read the rest of this entry »


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A Book Review of “Ishtar’s Odyssey”

A Book Review of Ishtar's OdysseyI rarely review books, but when I was asked by Kregel Publications to review Ishtar’s Odyssey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide, I didn’t even have to think about it. My family and I have been enjoying his Advent books for years. They have become part of our tradition around the table each Advent season during which we find ourselves eager to begin the next chapter every day.

Considering we have read Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage, and Tabitha’s Travels, I can honestly say that Isthar’s Odyssey is my absolute favorite!

What I love about these books is that they are historical fiction through interwoven tales of families and characters who meet up throughout their individual stories, ending at the point of Jesus’s birth. You can read the books in any order, and while each one offers its own unique tale, after reading all of them, you will see a rich tapestry unfold. The collection does a great job communicating how so many different groups of people must have regarded the birth of a baby Messiah with a bright star leading them with such awe, confusion, and yet tremendous hope.

What is refreshing is that these stories contain the true grit of life, Read the rest of this entry »


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Christmas and the Post Office: One Local Legend Brings Holiday Cheer

Christmas and the Post Office-One Local Legend Brings Holiday CheerMany people associate the post office at Christmastime with incredible stress. Long lines. Grumpy, impatient people. Holding heavy packages and always forgetting some necessary label or custom form.

Will this make it for Christmas?

Did I pack it right?

Does that guy really have to talk about his entire family when there are 12 other customers behind him?

Why can’t they open another line?

Did the whole world come out today to mail everything in their houses?

(I think we can all safely say we’ve thought something like that at one point or another.)

But not in my local post office. In my small, local post office, people come from several towns over just for the main manager’s 365-days-a-year cheer.

He is never grumpy. Never unkind. He often runs that place by himself and sings, blesses, offers counsel, is patient, loves on everyone, and knows each person by name.

He has been known to sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” while smacking down the priority mail tape.

No matter how much we Type A customers perseverate on if we used the right tape and box, he has a patient word.

He stops what he is doing to pick up mail that fell out of someone’s P.O. Box so she doesn’t have to come back.

If an elderly customer is worried about a parcel that is arriving today, he offers a reassuring word and tells him to come back because he’ll leave the door open as long as he can before closing time.

When tensions seem to rise in the line, he cracks a joke, remembers something sweet about someone in line, or starts crooning a song playing in the background.

He’s like a hit of therapy, offering a smile and encouragement, his trademark line: “It’s all about you, Darlin'” to each and every customer.

Today, he was a one-man-band, and everyone in that place, whether or not his/her heart was tuned to the grumpy station upon walking in, was in good spirits, helping each other wrap and pack, passing parcel stickers assembly-line-style, and openly declaring how this is the best post office on the planet. (It truly is! I’ve lived in several states and in two other countries. He’s the best!)

I’ve never seen anything like this so close to the holiday mail crunch with so many stressed-out people choosing to follow his lead of love and kindness.

One man came in, and it was his first experience in our post office. He was discouraged by something and in need of cheer. I watched over 20 people show gentle-heartedness and compassion—if not directly to him, then to each other. He walked out of there with a smile on his face, as if he had just received his blessing.

And I truly believe with all my heart that:

Jesus came for this.

This is Christmas.

How can I tie Jesus to one cheerful postal attendant? Isn’t that taking things too far?

Well, Jesus came to bend down to wash feet. He offered a kind word to the orphan, the widow, the lame, the short dude in the tree, the woman about to be stoned, and the sick of body, heart, and/or mind. Nobody walked away the same after meeting Him. I’ve personally never been the same. I can’t be talking to Jesus or singing to Him and be anything but inspired, lifted up, and changed for the better.

Matthew 20:28, Jesus speaking, ESV
“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 13:3-5, 12-15, Apostle John narrating, ESV
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

And I see this postal worker not just going through the motions with the daily grind or even giving it his very best. He goes way beyond slapping the stamps on and asking if there is anything “fragile, liquid, or hazardous.” He checks the pulse of every person coming through the line and doesn’t let them walk away with malaise. He checks in. He cares. He’s like a personal care nurse in U.S.P.S. standard-issue clothing.

How many of us approach our jobs this way?

Or do we count down the minutes until our people interactions are over?

Do we just check off the to-do list without enthusiasm?

How many of us consider how we can change lives, impact hearts, bring hope in the middle of whatever it is we are doing?

When we stop to acknowledge the faces we see, whether we are hanging off a garbage truck slinging trash in frigid temperatures, checking people in at a frenzied pediatrician’s office, packing groceries, wiping baby bottoms, etc., do we truly realize how much we can affect a life for good? How we can bring “better” to someone’s day?

And isn’t that incredibly worth it?

Isn’t that reflecting the Father’s heart who sent a baby Savior for His children at Christmas?

It blessed me so much to see one woman give back. As he was ringing up my package, she handed him some eggnog and a packaged treat. Everyone in that line had a story to tell about our local legend who kept an entire tiny office with a crowded line patient, conversing, content.

He passed on something that then became wildly contagious: joy and hope.

How can we do more of this in our spheres of influence, with our coworkers, clients, children, fellow grocery shoppers, bosses, spouses, strangers, or even with those we are waiting in a post office line?

This Christmas, this is what I’m thinking about, thanks to one dedicated, kindhearted man doing his job with joy in a hectic season when many hearts are hurting and nerves are raw.

What inspires you this Christmas?

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The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

Do you ever need tangible reassurance when anxiety and self-doubt whack you around?

I’ve had the kind of week where I realized nothing was in my control. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but I still find myself thinking I’m at the helm. It turns out I’m really not.

Nothing earth-shattering was wrong. It was more like low-level frustrations piling up. I chased down a new specialist for one of my children, playing phone tag for days. I could not get a professional I was working with to fulfill an expectation. My traveling husband was gone when I needed to be in three places at once and could have used his help. Christmas wrapping and packaging exploded all over my bedroom. And some of the goals I set for myself post-publishing to market my book were not working out. One of my kids is learning the responsibility of texting and emailing apps for the first time, and her emails went out 70 times to a friend because of a glitch. Yeah, that was just awesome.

Not being able to control other people’s end of an interaction (or computer glitches, LOL) can feel like personal failure some days. But the truth is: It’s not. Some days we wait for a reply, a response, someone to do something we asked them to or paid them for, a problem to come right that we’re working on. It may feel like we’re spinning our wheels on so many things in life. I felt like I could not propel myself forward in any way this past week. Everything I attempted fell flat on its face or blinked at me like a “No Walking” signal that allows traffic to keep moving from all directions but never seems to let me cross. The world seems so slow in those moments, as if the clock is ticking only intermittently, and it can feel like everyone is looking at us waiting for our next move.

When life moved that slowly for me this week and I could not accomplish anything, the temptation was to spin into endless cycles of self-doubt and catastrophic thinking. Know what I mean? Read the rest of this entry »


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