Friday, December 23, 2016

Can I Make Room at My Inn?

The inn was crowded. Everywhere I turned, I collided with someone or something clamoring for attention. It was noisy. Chaotic. Celebratory even.

I pushed past the crowd to get outside. I needed air. The guests could wait. After all, it was my inn. I could do what I wanted.


A baby's muffled cry came from the barn. I'd forgotten about that young couple. I felt bad turning them away, but really, where could I put them? Did I mention the inn was full?


A light coming from the sky--something I'd never seen before-- beckoned me, Come.


So I did. I followed the light to the barn where I found the most precious and beautiful baby lying in the straw. His mother didn't seem to mind that all she had were some rags to wrap him in. His father didn't appear angry that I'd turned them away. 


Instead, they welcomed me. I joined the throng of onlookers--dirty shepherds, the likes of which I'd never allow in my B&B, stood next to respected wise men (the kind I regularly welcomed). Each one seemed to be as awed as I was. Who was this baby, and how could he have this affect on us?


As if reading my mind, his mother turned to us and said, "His name is Jesus. Emmanuel."


God with us.


I glanced back at the inn and thought of all that I still had to do. Then this God With Us child gave a tiny sigh. It was barely audible, but it echoed through the noise in my head and fought for a place in my heart. 


I decided to stay. Surely, I could find room at the inn of my heart for this child.



As you move into Christmas, trying to get all those last minute details perfect, I'd like to challenge you to ask yourself what I asked myself this week:

Is there room at the inn of my heart for Christ? If not, what have I made so important that I've pushed Him out into the cold?

There's still time. It's never too late to prepare a room for Him. Never too late to receive him. Never. 

If we don't praise Him, even the rocks will cry out! (Luke 19:40 paraphrased)

Joy to the world! the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her king!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
And heaven and nature sing...


Enjoy this classic Joy to the World by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Blessed Christmas,
Mary



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Longing for Home

I don’t know about you, but I love to come home. I enjoy traveling, going out with friends, and running errands, but I always love coming home. 

I might be gone for a week or an hour, but as soon as I walk in the door, I feel relief. I’m where I belong. I love coming home, and I love being home.
           
Home is familiar. Comfortable. Safe.

But as much as I love my home, I long for my other one. 


Oh, I’m comfortable here. It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve made it. And it is safe because I’ve made it to be. 

But sometimes, I feel an ache for a place I think I remember but I’ve never been to. 

A place I’ve only been told about but still feels like mine. A place where, when I look to the sky, I can practically envision. It feels more like home than the one I’ve decorated and furnished.
            
I wonder what it felt like to be God in the form of a baby. To leave the home that was familiar, comfortable, and safe and to suddenly awaken in a different world, unable to tell anyone who you are or why you’re there. To be fully God, yet fully dependent on the people you created.


In a world of unrest, did He feel safe? In a turbulent time, when His parents took Him and fled for their lives, did He wish He had four walls and three squares? Did He long for one home while He was living in the other?


I wonder how much He understood, being a baby and all. Yes, He was fully God, but He was also fully baby, having to rely on His parents to keep Him safe.

Remember when Mary and Joseph lost their son? He was twelve. Old enough to be responsible for getting himself to the bus on time to leave Jerusalem. When his parents realized he missed the caravan back to Nazareth, they had to backtrack—a day’s journey.

They found Him in the temple. His mother made an attempt at instilling Jewish guilt by asking Him how He could treat them this way. He replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” He was Homesick.


And what about all those times during His ministry when He went off to pray by Himself? Did He long for Home then? Did He sit on a mountaintop, or in a rowboat on the middle of a still lake and look up to the sky, His other home? Unlike me, He knew exactly what that other Home looked like. All the more reason to be Homesick.


When He died, the thief on the cross next to Him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Don’t forget me when you get Home.

To which our Savior—that grown up baby who left His Heavenly Home to live in an earthly one—replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

Paradise.

That’s where our Home truly is. 

Sometimes we visit a place we call paradise on earth. Maybe it’s someplace tropical—one of those resorts with the grass huts built on crystal clear turquoise water. 

It seems like paradise, but the mosquitoes are the size of dragonflies and we’re worried we might get Typhoid Fever, or we had a bad meal that didn’t agree with us (I’m speculating, as this is only a fantasy of mine. The mosquitoes and bad meals make my missing out more bearable). As wonderful as the vacation was, we can’t wait to get home.

As much as I love the home I have here, the one that is comfortable, familiar, and safe, the one that is waiting for me is all of that and more. It’s paradise!  

I long for paradise. That’s why I sometimes feel homesick for the place I’ve never been to but feel like I was. 

But maybe I have. That’s why I believe that when I finally go to my other Home, my first one, the one that houses God’s workshop where he fashioned me—that I’ll have a grass hut in water the color and depth of nothing I’ve ever seen on earth.

Ah, paradise! That’s Home.

Blessed Christmas. 


May the peace that comes from Your Heavenly Home be evident in your earthly one.
Mare

I think this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written--it's not so much about "Home" but more of a contemplative song that captures what Mary may have thought throughout her life. Enjoy as you contemplate Jesus and Home today. If it doesn't appear, click here to open the acoustic version. 



or here to open the orchestrated version complete with clips from the movie, Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to cry, watch the one with the movie clips. 



(I like them both, and couldn't make up my mind, so I included both.)

*This article first appeared in Ruby for Women (Christmas issue, 2016). To read the full issue, click here.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

My Return to Tacky and Back

I decided to re-post this favorite from last December (2015) because it really says who I am. Funny thing is this year (2016), I decided not to have a tree at all. And Hubbles was fine with that. 

Instead, I found an old wooden ladder and re-purposed it. This year we have a "ladder-tree." I guess I just keep reinventing myself. I kind of like that quality.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

(Original post date 12/14/15)
I've had a fake tree for years. Can't be bothered with the fuss of a real tree. I always forget to water it. And even during the years that I've diligently nurtured a real tree, it was dead by mid-December. So, fake it is.

This year I wanted a real one. I don't know why; I suppose I simply got tired of putting the tree together and looking at all the space in between the branches.


For years, I dreamed of a tree with silver balls and red and silver bows. Instead, my trees--both fake and real--were decorated with handmade macaroni frames housing an awkward Polaroid Instamatic picture of one of my children, anywhere from Nursery School to fifth grade. Various other hand crafted ornaments, some missing pieces came out each year. When the kids moved out, I still brought the same ornaments to the tree. I think I felt obligated. You know...tradition and all that.




Last year I decided to make my dream come true. Sparkling white lights danced around the glittery silver balls. Red and silver ribbon trailed down from the top where a big bow rested instead of an angel. The tree cried "Christmas The holiday season is here!" 

Actually, that's not true. Not at all. Oh, my fake tree cried. It wept. In fact, it screamed. 

It screamed, "Macy's!"


Yes, my tree was pretty. But sterile. I really didn't like it. Not at all.

What I thought I wanted wasn't at all what I expected.

I thought I'd find joy and satisfaction in something that I saw in stores, in magazines, and in movies. 

If I make my tree look like that, I can BE that. 

But that wasn't who I was.

What I really wanted was what I had--what I deemed tacky last year in search of something more fitting, more glamorous, more...me.

But it wasn't at all tacky. It was familiar. Meaningful. Personal. Do we put up and decorate a Christmas tree to impress others or to enjoy with our family?

Fast forward to the present. We got the real tree. Put it in the stand. I even bought colored lights, deviating from my strict policy of white lights only.

I dragged all the decorations up from the basement, and there in one box were all the silver balls, white lights and fancy silver and red ribbons/bows. I reached in to take hold of the ribbon, and my hand stopped. 

What was I doing? I hated this last year.


I found myself waxing nostalgic. I looked at my little boy with the missing front teeth in the glittery foam frame.


That little boy is now a man (with very nice teeth, I might add). 

I took out the heart-shaped hand made wood frame with an impromptu picture of my little girl with a disheveled look taken at playgroup. 


That disheveled little girl is now a woman who would never go out of the house with hair like that! 

I chuckled.

Silver balls can't compare to that.

Suddenly, I was excited to use the "old" decorations--but only because I now wanted to, not because I felt any sort of obligation. I picked through the years of ornaments and chose the ones I wanted to decorate with. Some reminded me of the folks who gave them to me. Some were pretty. Some--pretty goofy. My eclectic tree was real in more ways than one.

It was me.

I had returned to what mattered most. What was important. Who I really am. I'm not a polished silver ball and red bow kind of tree/woman. I'm an eclectic mish-mosh with no particular theme kind of tree/woman. A little homey, a little tacky, a little crafty with a silver ball thrown in here and there...but mostly, a lot of love, loyalty, and devotion.

So often we aspire to be someone who looks good on someone else, or have something that looks good in the store. We take it home, we put it on, we show it off...yet, it doesn't fit right, doesn't look right, and doesn't feel right. 

Like a fake tree with sterile ornaments.

We realize that it wasn't at all what we expected. And maybe we really didn't want it all that much. 

The things that we once held so dear often become the very things we long to escape, only to beckon us back with a stronger bond.

Is there something you've tried to change or escape from, only to discover that when you got what you wanted, it wasn't at all what you expected it to be? It's never to late to return to that which beckons you home again. 

Return to who you are this Christmas.


Because there's no place like home.


Blessings Along the Path,
Mare 


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