A friend posed the question if all the frills of Christmas including the gifts, decorations, trees, and food, were taken away, would we still be celebrating?
I love giving and receiving gifts and all the glitter of the season, but I also love the SPIRIT of Christmas that prevails during the month of December. No matter what words someone greets me with, I know in my heart MY celebration is about Jesus’s birth, yes, even if we don’t know the exact day he was born. It doesn’t matter. Christians are celebrating Jesus’s birth!
The gift of remembering with a small, heartfelt, written letter or card and caring enough to give of your time is more than some ever receive and is the gift that keeps giving for a very long time. I still have the handmade cards and letters my kids made for me when they were little and they make me smile to this day.
A smile or kind word to someone who is downtrodden could be the best gift ever for you both. What about letting someone else have the pleasure of making the dinner and serving you? How about giving people the benefit of the doubt and offering some mercy? That’s a BIG gift, right there. So many people need forgiveness and compassion, and sometimes they don’t even realize it.
It’s these little things that make a person feel loved and esteemed. The older you get, the more you realize this because you are winding down on accumulation and seeking the significant parts of life. Fancy trips, new cars and houses, and giant RVs are nice but in the grand scheme of life, they are meaningless.
What would the world be like if the spirit of Christmas spilled over into the rest of the year? I like to think it would be a much better place where people could see beyond themselves to touch the heart of another person, whether they like them or not, or it’s convenient or not…even blood relatives.
Today we finally closed on our new house! I’ve waited until this day to write about the last three months progress because I wanted the deal to be sealed with no chance of unforeseen problems. It was a long, sometimes very intense time of seasonal change in my husband’s and my life.
We had been playing around with the idea of moving from Colorado for a while. Both Marty and I lived in Colorado for over thirty years and while it’s a beautiful state to live in, it has changed enough over the years that it was time for us to make a change to a somewhat warmer climate that is in a central location to our extended families. I was the hold out because of the kids but our children are grown and have their own lives and it was a sellers market in Denver. When you are young you go where there is opportunity for work and you tend to want to get away, create your own traditions, and break away from the norm, but when we reached a certain age we wanted life to be simpler, quieter, and less complicated if not predictable. It was a tall order but God had a plan.
Just after July 4th weekend, prompted by something that had happened in the news, I made a comment to my friend, Pam, that we were wanting to move but had no idea where. Marty wanted someplace warmer but I can’t tolerate a lot of heat and humidity so there were some limitations. She had grown up in the Oklahoma panhandle and said the Tulsa area was a favorite of hers. She specifically suggested Broken Arrow as it was a small but not too small suburb of Tulsa. So we scheduled a few days in mid-July to visit and get a feel for the area, attitudes, and real estate.
On the drive there I prayed that if this was part of God’s plan, to make it clear and if it wasn’t what He wanted, to slam doors shut. First, this was during the Covid-19 pandemic and the state of Kansas was experiencing an upsurge in Covid cases. With my husband being high risk, we found Sonic to be a Godsend while traveling as we could order and eat without leaving the car. We arrived in Tulsa Wednesday night after a 10 hour drive! Oh, the joy of the long road trips we used to enjoy when younger! They may have been a little overrated but the sense of adventure made it fun. We loved all the lush greenery and trees after having left a brown, crispy, arid, high altitude landscape. It was warm and humid but we had AC!
After a rest, we did an internet search for a realtor to help us look at houses. Marty showed me a few pictures with brief reviews and told me to pick one. I chose Penny Capron who had great reviews, was a seasoned realtor, and had a beautiful head of white hair. You know what the Bible says about white hair, don’t you?
The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.
We called Penny and it was set for her to meet us the next day to look at houses. Before we left in the morning I received a phone call from the Meal Ministry Coordinator at church in Aurora who said she felt led to call me and share a scripture she had just read that she understood in a different way than before.
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, Ecclesiastes 3:2
She said a different translation used the word “harvest” instead of “uproot” which was a more positive sounding result of planting. She had no idea we were in Oklahoma with plans of moving. I was stunned and thankful for the encouragement that God placed on her heart to share with me. It was my first confirmation that we were on the right path.
That first day out we were disappointed that most of the houses we looked at were not what we were looking for. They were either too small or needed lots of repairs. We didn’t want a fixer upper. This was going to be our retirement home in a few years and we didn’t want to be saddled with major repairs and renovations. We decided to increase the price we were willing to pay in order to get what we wanted.
There was one house that looked promising from the outside but the renter was at work and her teenage daughter told us she wasn’t allowed to let anyone in without her mom there. We understood and Penny had her call her mom but no deal. We had to settle for being allowed to look into the house from the open front door. I believe if Penny had had the means she would have hoisted a ladder so we could have taken a peek at the upstairs, too. She was that determined to find us a house!
Unfortunately, Penny had a trip planned and was flying out the next day. She encouraged us to keep looking on our own and gave instructions on what to do to make sure the sellers agent knew we had our own agent. On Friday, we found one more house that looked beautiful on the outside. We called the sellers agent and told him our story and he agreed to show us the house which had only been on the market for a day and was scheduled for an open house that Sunday. It was perfect.
We were told that houses were flying off the market in Tulsa and we could see that on Zillow and Redfin, the online real estate listing pages, so we needed to move quickly. Penny worked with us over the weekend, on her vacation, to get the ball rolling to put in a bid. We offered what they were asking because we thought it was worth their asking price. They accepted our bid and we were on our way to buying what we thought was the house of our retirement dreams.
Now, back up a little. While this whole process is going on Marty hasn’t said anything to his employer about moving to Oklahoma but he’s pretty sure he might be able to work for the same company remotely. He’s pretty sure. I still had a job to go to in mid August when school started again but the start date wasn’t set in stone because of the Covid-19 restrictions going with the flow of infections at any given time. At any rate, when we moved I wouldn’t have a job waiting for me. If Marty couldn’t work remotely the whole deal would fall through because no bank is going to finance a mortgage to people who don’t have jobs. Can you say “GULP”?
The day after we put in a bid and it was accepted, Marty talked to his employer and got the go ahead to work remotely. It was a big relief to know he had a job to take with him to Oklahoma. I wasted no time in sending in my resignation to my employer the very same day. We had a lot of work to do and very little time to get our house ready to put on the market. We had twenty-two years worth of life to sort through and either sell, store, keep, donate, or have hauled away. We did a lot of each but ended up having four truckloads of stuff hauled away. Less than two weeks later we put the house on the market. Our realtor to sell, Tracy Alford, is the daughter of a woman I know from church and she very quickly and professionally helped us with getting our house ready, pricing it, and making it look its best for showing. It wasn’t easy but her help made it go very smoothly and seamlessly. Tracy also prayed for us. There is nothing quite like buying a house when you don’t have your current house sold yet. I don’t recommend it.
Our house sold in five days. Now we were cooking!
The closing date for our house was set for September 24th and for the Oklahoma house on September 25th. Since we were picking up the U-HAUL truck on the 22nd, Marty arranged for us to sign the closing papers on our house a day early on the 23rd so we could finish loading the truck and clean the house before we left on Thursday the 24th. The time crunch was wearing on us especially when during this whole time period, Marty continued to work full-time and was on call 24/7 the week before our move. There were times when our heads felt like they might explode from the stress. Marty said he had been holding his head while sleeping in the fetal position but we were on the downhill side of a new adventure in a new house in a new place.
I looked at pictures of that house every day and planned where furniture was going to go and where to hang pictures. I even took virtual walks around the neighborhood and looked up phone numbers and addresses nearby for all the stores we would need for groceries, prescriptions, pet food, as well as doctors, dentist, and veterinarian. We were all ready to make ourselves at home in Broken Arrow, OK until…
Two weeks before our closing, our mortgage banker called and told us we needed to immediately have an onsite appraisal of the Oklahoma home. We were told by this same person when we first applied for the mortgage that a Rapid Value Appraisal was all we would need because we were making a nice sized down payment on the house. We had banked there for thirty years but knowing that this particular bank had been in the news often in the last few years for some very costly mistakes and unethical practices resulting in lawsuits, we started getting a very bad feeling. Not only could our loan process be delayed but the loan itself could be in jeopardy and we were so close to closing on both houses.
The appraisal was scheduled for that Friday but the appraiser canceled at the last minute and rescheduled for the next Tuesday. On Wednesday, nine days before we were supposed to close on our dream house, we got the results: the appraisal was $30,000.00 less than the asking price because of recent sale prices in the neighborhood. We couldn’t put down thirty grand more of our own money and the seller refused to lower their price. We offered to go halvsies with the loss and give them fifteen grand more than the appraisal, but they refused. So we walked away knowing we would lose our good faith money and prepared to be homeless when we moved to Oklahoma.
Our Penny was livid. She is relentless, and found out that our banker in the process of talking with the sellers realtor, who incidentally works for the same agency as Penny, divulged some privileged information about our finances which was probably instrumental in the seller refusing to lower their price. As it turned out, they finally did want to renegotiate by taking us up on our offer to split the thirty grand but by that time it was too late as the whole deal had soured. Then the seller went to the title company to collect our good faith money and the title company couldn’t find the check! We had confirmation they had received it so they told us to cancel the check since it hadn’t been cashed. Would God do something like that?
In the meantime, Penny was on the lookout for another house for us and two days later sent us a listing for a brand new house in Bixby, another small but growing suburb further south of Tulsa. It wasn’t quite finished yet but the builder reluctantly agreed to let us live there rent free for three weeks until closing. If we didn’t like the house we would pay a set amount for rental while we looked for another one. Either way, we would put down a hefty $5000 deposit which was nonrefundable unless we bought the house and then it would be deducted from the mortgage. Penny sent us more pictures and videos that she took with her phone and it looked pretty good so we took the offer. Her husband is a builder also and they work together as a team. He knew the builder of this house and said he does good work so we trusted their judgment and sent the $5000 deposit check for a house sight unseen; money that we would possibly lose if we didn’t like this house. Trust and faith were majorly at work here. God paved the way for this move and we know He works all things for good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
On Thursday afternoon, we tied up loose ends, picked up our check for the sale of the house, and left Denver for Oklahoma. We were exhausted mentally and physically so decided to take our time and arrived in Tulsa on Saturday. We got to see the new house on Sunday and moved in on Monday.
God is so good. We absolutely love this house even more than the other one. It’s like city living in the country with most everything we could need only five miles away. The house backs up to a belt of woods and the subdivision is only about twenty-five percent finished so we are all newcomers. It’s an awesome house for Marty who will be working from home and needs some solitude.
When we decided to buy the house, Penny recommended a lender who got the ball rolling on financing and streamlined the process into a closing that happened in three weeks instead of the typical 4 to 6 weeks. She also contacted us to let us know her employer, McGraw Realtors, had decided to pay the amount of our good faith money for the first house to both the seller and us, splitting it evenly, even though the check remained missing in action. For those who have never seen it, this is what good business ethics look like.
We marvel at the fact that all of this occurred in less than three months time. I don’t think we ever felt like giving up. At times we wondered if we were doing the right thing or if we were out of our ever loving minds, but we were steadfastly assured that God started it all and would finish it according to His will. We knew He was watching and had everything under control, so we pressed on and here we are; with strengthened faith, loving our house, and loving the people and the area. We found a church within two weeks and went to a home fellowship group and God willing, I’ll be going to the women’s retreat in November in the hills of the Ozarks. Penny and Hal gave us a beautiful concrete bench as a housewarming gift and we plan to have them over for dinner soon. I met someone yesterday who recently moved here from Aurora, Colorado, too. It truly is such a small world. It makes you wonder how we can seem so far apart but that’s another story for another time.
Pressing on until God provides another assignment!
Way back in the 1960’s grocery stores commonly had promotions to get you to buy your groceries at their establishment. They gave away “Green Stamps” for each dollar you spent and these were usually pasted into stamp books which after saving up enough could be redeemed at designated stores that had catalogs from which you could choose whatever merchandise you wanted. This was a great way to get the kids to help. Give them a sponge to wet the stamps and press into the books and let the fun begin.
Grocery stores also gave away or sold at a small cost, cookware or dish sets with a certain dollar amount of purchased groceries. This was how my mother obtained her set of china. I don’t remember how long it took but with each weekly purchase she would bring home a piece of china to add to her set. The pattern was “Blue Garland” by Haviland and it had dainty blue flowers with silver trim.
Mom collected her china until she had eight full place settings which included dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls, cups and saucers, serving pieces, and a coffee pot with sugar and creamer. I don’t know if she quit collecting them because she had all she wanted or if they finally stopped offering them and moved on to some other promotion, but she had her set and carefully packed them away for safe keeping.
Mind you, we were not fancy people. We lived in a trailer on my grandparent’s farm and family dinners were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We used paper plates and cups because the crowd was so big and who wants to spend the afternoon doing all those dishes? Those holiday dinners were filled with laughter and fun and delicious food that would have tasted good served on anything! I miss those large family dinners with the paper plates and TV trays.
Over the years, the china was loaned out to friends for their own special occasions but I don’t ever remember it being used by our family, and after a while I forgot about it until years later when my parents downsized and the set was offered to me. I was happy to receive it. It was very special but not so special I wasn’t ever going to put it to use! I enjoy using the dishes at least once a year and not only does it remind me of Mom, but it reminds me that it’s nice to bring out the best for the best!
This kind of special treatment doesn’t signify love as much as it shows honor. The kind of honor that says “I love you and I want you to know I want the best for you. Thank you!” Isn’t that how it is in our relationship with God? We trust Him and thank Him, and want to give Him the best and do our best in honor and love. Sometimes we make sacrifices for those we love, not like burnt offerings, but the kind that of sacrifice that involves a giving of ourselves and our time. Like lovingly washing and drying those special china pieces by hand, and storing them away for the next opportunity of honor.
We can choose how we live by making choices that set the ball rolling to achieve our goals…or not. That “or not” is also a choice.
We can choose our emotions and how we will react to the things that happen in life; the words said that sting and hurt, the seeming unfairness of the way life has a habit of going its own way…God’s way instead of our way, the actions of others who will not acquiesce to our plans, and the injustice of those who get away with far more than they should without consequence.
We can choose our mate and when to let them into our heart forever.
We can choose our words, or whether to say anything in any given situation.
We can choose how we treat people. We can treat them with respect, forgiveness, compassion and decency, like Jesus, or we can treat them with disdain, distrust, abuse and hatred, like the world would have us. God gives us the choice.
When we first believe, God changes us from the inside out but if we do not make the choice to act upon those changes, we will stagnate right where we are and wonder why nothing is happening. We pray for years for God to change our hearts so we can see people as He does and love them as He does, not realizing that He already has, but we haven’t made the choice to put that change into action!
Making a choice is as simple as a prayer seeking God’s will and the willingness to put ourselves out there to be His hands, feet, and heart in service to our fellow man with a reverence for God that honors His Will over our rights. Even then, it takes time.
I’m so thankful for God’s patience.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
For the last two weeks I’ve been waking up around 3:30 AM and having to get out of bed to go to the restroom. I try not to because I know I’ll not go back to sleep, especially since the alarm is set for 4:05 anyway. So I’d lie in bed stewing.
Every day I complained about having to get up a half hour before an already outrageously early wake up call. I don’t have to be at work until 6:00 but I don’t like rushing around in the morning, and I like spending time with the Lord and doing devotional time in the morning because after work I’m too tired to focus properly, and it is a much needed down time. Sometimes I fall asleep.
But lately for various reasons, it seems like I can’t get enough done in the time before work to feel like I’ve properly honored God; the dog is having stomach issues and needs a longer walk, I need to finish something I started the previous evening, I need to prepare something for work, take out something to thaw, or I’m searching for something I need to take with me. It’s been a mad dash to get out on time.
A few days ago as I was lying in bed waiting for the alarm to buzz and feeling aggravated once again at the inhumanity of it all, the Holy Spirit pressed a thought upon my mind.
“Why don’t you use this extra time to pray?”
I can pray before my feet even hit the floor! It was a simple but sweet message from the Lord.
Have you ever seen a person who had so much pain in their heart that they were grasping for whatever help they could find and they said some things they shouldn’t have? They just wanted the pain to stop.
More than likely, the people who love them understood and tried to help them. They knew how that kind of pain can dull a person’s ability to make rational and appropriate choices and words. They knew this wasn’t a reflection of a hard heart; this was a reflection of a hurting heart.
Later, when the pain lessened from the passage of time or the situation that caused it was resolved, it should have been better but it wasn’t, because not everyone loved the person in pain and not everyone understood. Some people judged and held resentment, spread gossip, and blamed the very person who was hurting in the first place.
What is the answer is in this situation?
Is it to be distrustful even of those who seem to care? Should we lock ourselves in a closet when we are distraught so we won’t say anything that is inappropriate or others can’t handle? What happens when the after-effects of this weakness seem to linger far longer than the unfortunate event that caused them, even after the necessary amends have been made, and the person now sees things from a higher perspective, but is unable to move forward as if being held back by invisible hands of condemnation?
Sometimes it’s not invisible. It shows: on their faces, in their eyes, disapproving looks, intentional disregard and rejection.
It shouldn’t be so.
The answer is…
Not everyone has the ability to empathize, comfort, and overlook an offense. It’s okay because that’s between them and God. But it’s a sad day when unbelievers love people better than believers do. That’s a hard-core reality to accept at times. Not all the time Just sometimes.
The answer is…
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Stewardship: the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.
I looked this word up because I want to be a good steward of the resources and gifts that God entrusts and blesses to me. The more He gives, the more responsibility we have to use and take care for His good intentions. What an honor!
In 1999, we inherited my Mother-In-Law’s 1992 Toyota Corolla. I drove that car around town for another 15 years and it had about 120,000 miles on it when we finally sold it and bought a two year old Kia Soul. I took care of the Toyota with regular maintenance and it probably will last for thousands more miles for its new owner even though it was twenty-two years old!
So why did I want a new car? Simply, I was tired of driving around an old car. I was ready for something a little more up to date and hopefully, just as dependable. Vanity!
I baby my Soul. I keep her clean and tidy. She gets regular maintenance and has upgraded tires to prevent flats. I hand wax her once a year and I paint any little scratches and dings with paint made especially for that purpose. For Christmas, I asked for fleece seat covers that only cover the bottom of the seat since that is the area that shows the most wear and dirt. And I indulgently spent a little extra to get personalized license plates. My car wasn’t new but she was new to me and I wanted her to look nice as long as possible. She’s almost seven years old now and only has 39,000 miles. Needless to say, the dealership would love to have her back to sell a third time!
The point is when we take care of the things and people God gives to us, we often get immeasurable benefits and blessings as a result of our effort. Misuse or abuse often brings heartache and confusion. I’ve been there. In those times when I was so eager to please and make what I thought would be an impression on God, I misused his gifts, my earnings, to try and bless someone else when that money should have gone to provide for the needs of my own family. It didn’t dawn on me until much later that only when I started taking care of my own family would my territory increase to bless others. There is no honor in going into great debt just to look good. That is how pride works and it’s sinful.
I’m a firm believer in good stewardship of all God gives us, and that includes people, money, things, animals, and the good old earth on which we live. May I live responsibly.
I love keeping track of the ways God takes care of me. It’s a joy to know He hears my pleas and then seeing how He creatively answers.
Today was one of those days.
I’m a kitchen manager in an elementary school. Our walk-in freezer has a ceiling light that the ballast needed to be replaced. The work order had been put in several weeks prior but we were waiting for a part. Anyway, it was pretty dark in there with just one bulb on the door end of the freezer. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Today was pizza day and it was discovered that apparently I mislabeled a case of cheese pizza as pepperoni during a delivery so on a subsequent order I under-ordered pepperoni thinking I already had a case, when in actuality, it was cheese. It was too late to try to find the pizza at another school. I actually prayed that God would intervene and make the kids hungry for cheese pizza instead of pepperoni.
Halfway through serving, with two grades left to go, one of the gals in the kitchen accidentally dropped a precious pepperoni pizza on the floor! Oh my goodness! It was getting very worrisome but all we could do was laugh at the circumstances and keep on going.
Indeed, we didn’t have to worry as God was in control. At the end of serving, we had nine pieces of cheese pizza left and zero pepperoni BUT not one child that wanted pepperoni pizza was denied. We had the exact amount that we needed even after dropping a whole pizza. It truly was amazing. GOD IS SO GOOD!
My husband is an avid biker. He has all the gear, a nice bike, and can ride for tens of miles at a time…fast. For years he has tried to get me to ride a bike but I did not want to do it out in public!
I am a couch potato.
“What if I fall? Right in the middle of an intersection surrounded by traffic”? Last time I rode a bike, I keeled over in the grassy area by the sidewalk while going up a long hill as traffic passed by. I’m sure glad I wasn’t in dire need of assistance because no one was stopping!
“If I break a bone I will be out of a job for several weeks”.
“My bike is too clunky and heavy”.
“You go too fast and I will never keep up so what is the point?” were my responses too many times.
The real excuse was I just don’t like to exercise and I don’t like the feeling of my heart pounding out of my chest, face, and fingers when I exert myself.
The real reason was fear.
I wasn’t actually looking, I mean, that definitely wasn’t a priority, but this summer I happened upon a bike for sale on the local Facebook marketplace. I knew enough about bikes to know it was a good brand and a little research online found the exact same bike for $350, new. It was selling for $25. Too good to be true? I went to look at it and although it had obviously been in an accident as it had numerous scratches, the tires were almost new. It also had some rust on the handlebars. I took pictures and sent them to my husband to look over and he thought it looked like it needed very little work to get it in good shape so I bought it. I couldn’t believe that I was excited!
I found a neat little trick to get rid of the rust using vinegar and aluminum foil.
The vinegar prepares the rust for easy removal and the wet aluminum foil is balled up and used to rub the rust off with very little effort. It took about 10 minutes and looked great as I finished the job with a little bit of car wax for protection.
Marty had to replace a brake cable and do a tune up, and after I bought a good helmet and a pair of cargo shorts to hold my phone so I could use an app to map and track my miles, I was ready to go.
It’s funny how motivated and prepared you are when the time is right and you actually want to do something. Sometimes everything just seems to fall together to make the wheels turn.
I’ve been riding two or three times a week now, by myself, for two months and can honestly say I enjoy it. Not only do I get some good cardio but it is easy to see my progress, not like walking or running on the treadmill where I never go anywhere.
When you ride a bike you notice things you might not when you are in a car or walking because any little thing on the road or around you can potentially become a hazard; sticks, rocks, cut grass, leaves, animals, holes in the road, cracks in the pavement, and distracted drivers all could cause an accident if I am not paying attention to my surroundings, and because of this hyper-vigilance, I get to see the world from a different perspective.
Flowers, trees, other riders and walkers, fresh air, smoky air, children playing, homeless on the street corner, dogs running and barking, Prairie Dogs along the trail, snakes on the sidewalk, neighborhoods I’ve never been in before, birds singing, and sunshine on my shoulders. And the wind. Sometimes it’s for me and sometimes it’s working against me, but it’s all good for a better workout and an enjoyable experience that takes my mind off my fear of getting hurt because I’m proactively preventing it.
There’s something cathartic about a physical purge through strenuous activity. It cleanses the mind and body and even the spirit when I use that time to commune with the Lord while I’m riding. I listen to Christian music from my phone and can praise God the whole time. I pray. I love it.
Recently I read that exercise can help to prevent Alzheimers which my Mother suffered and died from last November. God certainly does work in mysterious ways. I love Him.
May I always listen.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.