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Archive for the ‘gifts’ Category

100_0718.jpgI usually write a devotional piece to post in My Devotional, but in honor of Christmas I thought I would share a Christmas story with you.  The story is a true story about my mother, my sisters and me during one Christmas that we will never forget, I call the story The Special Gift of Christmas.

South Hampton, Long Island was absolutely charming during Christmas. Karen could not wait to arrive at her mother’s house for the holidays. The drive was a long drive from Princeton, New Jersey and it had started to snow.

The house on Lee Avenue in South Hampton was over two hundred years old. As you entered the back door you walked into a breezeway which led to a charming kitchen and a rather large room which was used as the dining room. A black wrought iron chandelier lit the room with a golden light. The living room was filled with built-in bookcases lined with fabulous old books. A beautiful fireplace graced the room only adding to its’ charm.

Doris was leasing the house during the winter months. She had lived in this part of Long Island for five years now.  In previous years she had successfully sold real estate. The market was experiencing a depression, leaving Doris no alternative but to create another income. She designed her own house cleaning and house sitting business. It was a brilliant idea, because most residents in this affluent community owned several homes and only arrived on weekends. Consequently she could clean numerous houses each week.

Karen, her oldest daughter lived in Princeton, and worked in Manhattan. Lynne was nineteen and still lived at home. Susan was twenty six, and lived in Vermont. The holidays always brought the family back together.

During the month of December Doris and Lynne helped make gift baskets for the poor at the local church. Sister Bernadette was heading up the project and when they had finished making enough baskets, they delivered them.

One of their deliveries was to a young woman living in a motel. Maria and her husband had four small children. Maria’s husband, Alan was ill in the hospital. Doris introduced herself and Lynne to the woman. Doris asked the mother what the children’s names were. Maria spoke softly, “Samantha is nine months old, Peter is seven and my oldest. Billy is four and Dan is just turning three.” When she finished speaking she glanced down at her feet, clearly self-conscious of her circumstances. Doris tried to make the young woman more comfortable because hard times were no stranger, and she knew all about trying to hold onto your pride. “How is your husband, Sister Bernadette said that he was in the hospital.” Maria looked sad and replied “Yes, he has been there for several weeks now, we don’t think that he’ll be home for Christmas.” A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away as she turned toward her son, Billy. “Billy, you can go out and play now, Peter is home.” Billy had to wait until Peter came home from school to play. He had no coat of his own, and shared one with his brother Peter. 

Her heart was clearly burdened as she got back into the car with Lynne and Sister Bernadette. She asked if there was something more that they could do for the family. Sister Bernadette thought they might be able to get some funding from another organization in town. By the end of the week, they had received a check in the amount of sixty dollars. She knew that the amount of money she had would never afford her to buy each child a coat and shoes.

As she sat at the counter of the local coffee shop, she started to chat with the owner. She told him about Maria’s family and how she wished that she could do more. The store was small and other people sitting nearby could overhear the conversation. One by one, each person came over and handed Doris some money for the family. Even the owner of the coffee shop contributed to the collection.

When she arrived at her first customer’s house, she told her story with such joy. The woman of the house disappeared upstairs, while Doris busied herself in the kitchen. She returned with money in an envelope for Doris to give to the family. Customer after customer gave to Maria and her family. By the end of the week she had collected a total of seven hundred and twenty dollars.

The Christmas shopping spree was done with excitement as coats, hats, gloves and some toys were purchased for each child. Kaye a good friend, offered to take the children shopping so she could buy each one a pair of new shoes. Afterwards they had stopped by to see Maria to make arrangements for Christmas Eve. Doris said, “I have a surprise for you how would your family like a Christmas tree?”

The next day Lynne and Doris purchased some Christmas ornaments and a tree stand. They went to a nearby Christmas tree farm to pick out a tree. The starting price was forty dollars and they only had thirty dollars left in the envelope. Doris knew that she had already experienced so many giving hearts she decided to approach the owner. She explained to him her predicament and he cordially responded “Lady, go pick out whatever tree you would like.” Doris didn’t want to take advantage of his generosity. “I would feel more comfortable if you would select one for us,” she said. He walked over and glanced at his lot of trees. He picked out one of the most beautiful tree he could find and put it in the trunk of their car.

Lynne helped put the tree in the stand and placed the ornaments and lights next to the tree. Although Billy, Dan and Peter were all jumping up and down, the baby remained asleep in her cot. Even Maria could hardly contain her own child-like joy.”Oh Lynne and Doris how can I every repay you?” Lynne replied “You already have, just seeing you all so happy is thanks enough.” They left the family to decorate their tree, tomorrow was Christmas Eve. 

When Karen drove up the driveway, there were numerous other cars belonging to friends and family. The snow was still falling and her arms were full of gifts as she walked into the house. Her mother and sister had clearly outdone themselves the table was filled with all kinds of goodies to eat.

Susan had just arrived from Vermont and was admiring the Christmas tree decorated in an abundance of ornaments and lights. After all the guests had gone home they all helped to clean up. Annie, an old friend of Lynne’s was also spending the night. Karen noticed that her mother didn’t look well, as she said, “Mom, are you running a fever, you look flushed.” Her mother said “Yes, I think I am coming down with a bug of some kind.” Karen thought a moment and said, “It’s no wonder Mom, with all the hard work you do and the Christmas preparation for us and Maria. What if Lynne and I deliver the gifts with Susan and Annie?” Doris was quiet in her thoughts and then said “Okay, I think you’re right.” She knew how sick she felt, as she walked into her bedroom and closed the door.

Doris rather enjoyed the thought of them sharing in the thrill of giving to the less fortunate. She climbed into bed and turned out the light and thought about how proud she was of her daughters and she knew that they would do a good job.

They all piled into the car each carrying some presents for Maria and her family. Once the car was packed, they giggled at how they looked like they were riding in Santa’s sleigh. The snow had accumulated and the driveway to the motel was almost invisible.

As Karen drove up the hill leading to the motel she saw a manger and nativity scene in the distance. A bright light shone on the brown wooden frame protecting Mary and the baby Jesus from the snow. However, as she got closer to the sign, she realized that her eyes had played a trick on her. What was thought to be a nativity was actually just the motel sign.

Lynne knocked three times, as planned. Maria had told them the children would surely be asleep by 9 o’clock. She stood looking at all the gifts stacked on the covered porch. Maria peeked out the door. “Merry Christmas” Lynne said. “Merry Christmas to you Lynne and your mother” Maria replied. The joyful task of placing the children’s presents under the tree would surely be the special gift for Maria.

They all got back into the car and were warmed by the event on this frosty Christmas Eve. Karen drove back past the motel sign and was reminded of what she thought she had seen earlier. As she drove down the long driveway she told the girls the story. All of a sudden, Annie’s eyes grew as big as saucers. She squealed, “I saw it too, the nativity scene, I saw it as we drove up the driveway!”

“And she gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. Luke 2:7

Karen walked into her mother’s bedroom. The room was aglow with pink light reflected from a nearby lamp. She gently covered her mother with another blanket. She whispered, “Mommy we delivered the packages, and by the way thank you for giving me the best Christmas I have ever had.”

Early Christmas morning Susan put the coffee on, and Lynne stacked each person’s gifts near their seat. As Karen made a fire, she thought that the living room looked just like a Christmas card. There were lots of hand-made gifts created with love waiting to be opened. They were wrapped with the finest detail and they hated to disturb how lovely they had looked under the tree. Doris was feeling a little better because of the excitement of Christmas morning. Just as they were all about to start unwrapping their gifts, the telephone rang. Susan answered the telephone it was Peter calling to say Merry Christmas.

Susan handed the telephone to her mother. The voice on the other end said “Doris”  Doris answered “Yes, Peter, Merry Christmas.” On the other end Doris could hear the excitement in Peter’s voice. Then he said, “Doris, I know that you told me that you are Santa’s helper, but I just wanted you to know that I will never forget you.” As she hung up the telephone her eyes were filled with tears of joy. The room was silent as they each embraced the moment. 

The treasure wasn’t found in any of the beautifully wrapped presents underneath the tree that year. It was found through experiencing the special gift of Christmas. 

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least

of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:46 

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Letters are an amazing gift. Little treasures to be read over and over again. Precious papers treasured and saved in special boxes found all over the world, written in all languages from all age groups delivered sometimes at just the right time. How powerful words are, they can feed our soul, uplift our spirit and encourage our hearts. Nothing thrills me more than going to the mailbox and receiving a letter from a friend or family member.

In the Bible there are many letters written to us to encourage us and to help us every day. I found a wonderful resource called Open Your Bible to the New Testament Letters written by Sherwood Eliot Wirt in 1962. The introduction was written by Billy Graham. One chapter at a time the letters inside are revealed and discussed with links to the corresponding Bible chapter and verse found in Bible Gateway’s web site. I love to find new resources that help us to understand the Bible and to give us clarity about God’s wisdom which guides us and fills our hearts with hope.

I recently received the most wonderful and uplifting prayer bookmark in the mail from the Joyce Meyer Ministry. The letter to us is taken from the Song of Solomon and it is meant to remind us that the Lord writes to us declaring His love in this wonderful chapter of the Bible. This letter reminded me how much God loves me and He loves you. What a beautiful letter this is, and how grateful I am to have received it. I have shared this letter with as many people as I could. We all need to be reminded of how very much our Lord loves us, we are his Beloved. If I think of all the letters I would love to receive in my mailbox today none compares to the letter I would love to read from God.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his”
Song of Solomon 2:16

Dearest Beautiful Beloved,You are mine, I chose you, I’ve given everything to have a relationship with you. You are my passion and desire. Believe me when I tell you that my love is better than life. In my eyes, you are beautiful in every way. You have ravished my heart. Come to me and know love. Dwell with me, abide in me.

Let me be your all and come alive to the rich pleasure found in the sacred romance I created you to have with me.

Eternally yours,
The lover of your soul
God gave everything to have a relationship with us, He even gave us His son, Jesus Christ. He sent His son here to die for our sins, the greatest sacrifice of all. He wants so much to dwell with us, to have a place in our hearts so that He can keep us safe in an uncertain world.

What a beautiful letter from Joyce Meyer Ministries. I carry it with me tucked safely in my Bible. The Word of God is full of letters to encourage us, uplift our spirit, to give us instruction in all things. Just words, no promises of God which comfort us and gives us the strength we need in our circumstances. The Word of God is powerful and I cherish the scripture that gives me joy regardless of my circumstances and helps me to live with courage and faith one day at a time.

In the Bible 2 Corinthians chapter 1, there is a beautiful letter written to us:

Grace and peace to you
“From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Dearly Beloved) The God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

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I sat down to write something for my daily blog and started writing a whiney kind of piece that made me feel anxious even as I wrote it. As I went to copy something, I stumbled upon this piece I had written a while back. As I read it my spirit quieted down and I knew that this was what the Lord wanted me to post instead:

There is a place deep within my soul where the gift of creation lives, dreams kissed by images too enchanting to leave behind. When I awake from a deep slumber, the images of the night greet me and lead me to the canvas or pen and ink, I find that when I let go of my surroundings and the characters in my play, I find His presence waiting for me like an old best friend.

Spending time with Gods’ voice, I can retreat into the deepest part of my spirit. When I wander deeper still the muse of my heart gives birth to beautiful images, He is there and He always leads me to the window of my soul. That window is the entrance to heaven, where all beauty is born.

To be an artist is a gift, an ambassador to recording the images of Gods’ creation. When I am surrounded by the stillness and surrender to His will, I can capture the beauty I see, and create its’ memory. I wish I knew the path to Gods’ grace, so I could find my way whenever I pleased, so that I could create in the presence of His glory at my will. But being inspired is a gift painted by Gods’ Grace and given to us only when it is His will.

Deep within my suffering at times, He paints His beauty within my soul. as if He reminds me, you’re almost there, remember heaven awaits, your hope lies in your salvation. He whispers “I am with you always in your pain, using it to paint your life’s canvas and to write the poetry of your life.” I see myself sitting high on a mountain top, as Jesus stands by my side. I am seated at an easel as He points to something beautiful and instructs me to look beyond my circumstances and paint what I see.

Whether I paint what I see or place words on a page to recapture the beauty of the moment, He is with me, showing me the way, dancing with me as I try to find meaning in this life. There is a place deep within my soul where the gift of creation lives…but only my Savior can lead the way.

When I was finished copying the writing into my post, I looked for the perfect photographs to compliment the writing. I realized I had just photographed the lake earlier in the morning, and I had posted the perfect photo yesterday on flickr. The photo was of a window graphic which opened up revealing this magnificent view of Martha’s Vineyard.

Then I then found scripture that spoke to my heart:

“Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.” Corinthians 9:11

I was pleased with the post and knew that I had been able to create it so quickly and effortlessly that God must have someone in mind to speak to with this writing. I found a perfect piece of music to compliment the post by Josh Groban called The Prayer. Satisfied that my daily blog was written I decided to spend some time reading my own devotionals. I opened up one of my favorite devotionals called Choosing Life, One Day at a Time written by the lovely Dodie Osteen. I opened up to this page:

Love The Prisoner
“…I was sick and in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:35-36

“It has always touched me deeply to receive letters from those who are in prison. One particular letter said, “We watch you on Sundays and any other time we can. It has made such a difference in my life. I thank God for leaders like you who take time for people who are locked away. It makes me feel special and wanted when your program comes on the air. You tell us that you know us, and welcome those of us who are watching from prison.”

We love to minister to those who are in prison. We are glad that our program can go inside even prison walls to take the message of love to these precious friends of Jesus. How thrilling it is when prisoners who have watched our program are released and visit us at Lakewood Church, an Oasis of Love.

What a disappointment it would be to keep the truth of Jesus’ love to ourselves and not be willing to share Him with everyone we possibly could. Share Jesus with someone today. Many people you will meet today are in one sort of “prison” or another. They may only have the opportunity to meet Jesus through you. Don’t let that WINDOW of opportunity pass you by.

“Father help me share Jesus with someone today. Everybody needs You, God, but sometimes they don’t know it. Help me to love others with Your love and be Your hands extended.

The phrase “window of opportunity” jumped off the page. The photo I had chosen for this piece is of a window. I knew then that somewhere out there on the Internet was someone who needed this message today. I then wrote this devotional and posted it here. You need to know how much God loves you and that He had me write this today especially for you. That’s just the way He is, it is said that if God only thought that one person needed salvation, Jesus would still have gone to the cross. The greatest love I have ever known is the Love of Jesus Christ. I hope He fills your soul with the peace that passes all understanding and that something written here touches your heart. You are so loved, and God’s grace is sufficient.

I usually have the song, One Day At A Time playing on this post, the song link is on the sidebar. I felt that I should play something different today, and when I found this song I knew that it was perfect…just like the words, If You Were The Only One.

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