Monday, December 30, 2013

RUL- Rewrite Ur Life

It is the end of another year, and almost time to start a new one.  Like most people, I think back on the events of the past 365 days and smile at the good memories or cry at the sad ones.  Of course, I can't stop right there; so I take it a step further.  I wonder at what the year might have been like if I could have rewritten it.  What about going even further back?  What if God would have allowed me to script my entire life story from beginning to end?  What would my year 2013 have looked like?  

I'm sure you're telling me by now that I have completely lost all my wits and senses.  Duh, anyone knows that you can't rewrite your life, but just play along with me for right now.  Say that God really did allow you to write a plot, but instead of some fictional character experiencing it, you were able to live it.  

I would definitely begin by making a list.  A big, long list, full of good and happy and wonderful things.  Then I would put that list into an outline of my life.  The outline would be as follows:  I.  Birth and Childhood,  II.  Teen hood,  III.  Young Adult Life,  IV.  Middle Age Life, and  V.  Senior Years.  I would then put my list of lovely things in their proper places under each roman numeral.  My entire life would be filled with money, love, fame, friends, health, and education.   

I would be born into royalty somewhere with all the finest of material possessions surrounding me during my childhood.  My teen hood would be spent with lots of friends, an expensive car, and constant parties.  Young adulthood would see me off at the very best university receiving a degree, traveling the entire world to see all the places that regular people only dream of visiting, and of course, about this time Prince Charming would show up and sweep me off my feet.  The middle-aged years would find me contentedly raising a small family and writing, painting, and singing at my leisure in an adorable forty-room chalet with its own house-sized library, sculptured gardens, indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and personal staff.  Senior years would have me as an elegant grandmother doting upon her beautiful grandchildren, throwing lavish parties that were the pride of the city, growing gracefully older with the love of my life growing older beside me, and then peacefully drifting away to Heaven in my sleep after all else had been accomplished.  

Are you wondering about the sad and horrible things yet?  Really?  Do you think I would actually put death, sickness, pain, and suffering in my own story?  Think again- this is my choice, and my choice will not include anything unhappy.

The story is not just this simple though, I was caught up short when I realized that if I would have been born into royalty I would have never met my family.  Imagine all the hugs, security, conversations, and laughs that would have never happened if I hadn't met my father, mother, and brother.  With countless money and everything that I could ever want, I would have never experienced that special joy that comes from receiving a long-awaited American Girl doll that was promised for Christmas if I got perfect A's the first half of the school year.  That doll was a treasure, and I felt like I owned the world.  The more I think about things, the more I realize how different everything would be if I was in charge of the story.  Even though I think I know the perfect plot; sadly enough, there is a lot of happiness that I would have missed out on.  I would have never experienced being a counselor and choir director at girls' camp because I would have been too busy traveling the world.  I would have never met so many of my friends at a little Bible school located in the backwoods of Pennsylvania if I had been attending Cambridge University.  

Even some of the bad moments are ones that if I had the choice to cut out of my story, I don't know if I would really want to.  No, I would not want to relive those times; but I would not necessarily want to eliminate them from my history.  For about six years of my life, I literally lived on the road.  Most of my life was spent in the back of a truck instead of in a house.  My father had started hauling sheds, and his runs were long-distance.  He did not want to be away from his family; so we all made an unanimous decision to go with him.  My brother and I left school and were homeschooled with the A Beka Academy d.v.d.'s.  I won't lie; those times were very hard.  There was a lot of stress and a lot of tears.  I remember creeping through bad weather watching cars and trucks piling up around us, praying that a permit would come through so that we could stay on schedule, hoping that DOT would eventually let us go after spending hours inspecting the truck and looking for problems, and trying to help push a shed into an impossible space.  I would watch Dad fight to stay awake so that he could get through a certain area before their over-size load time restrictions came into effect.  Mom would spend many hours over the finances trying to make things reach, and then about that time there would need to be an expensive repair made to the truck. 

No, I wouldn't want to relive those times; but yet I want to keep those memories because along with the hard times there were a lot of bonding and happy times.  I had the unique opportunity to travel through all of the states except Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, and North Dakota.  I received a far-better education than I would have had by staying in school.  I spent hours talking with Dad and growing into a new admiration of my father.  Mom always made sure we went sightseeing or did something special after we got our load delivered; so because of her love for us children, I got to visit Mexico, see the Grand Canyon, ride to the top of the Louisiana Arch, hold parrots in Parrot Jungle, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Focus on the Family and eat at the Adventures of Odyssey ice cream parlor, go to Quebec's Zoo, admire Wyoming buffalo, tour a deserted ghost town, eat fry bread at a Native American Reservation, and walk upon the Mayflower.  

But there are those times that do not have any good memories attached, those times that would truly not be missed from my past.  Yes, if I could, I would skip those things.  But those deaths or times of betrayal by friends have formed me into who I am today.  I have cousins that grew up with a mentally and physically-handicapped sister.  It wasn't easy for them; people made mean remarks, but those cousins are the most amazing people I know.  They allowed the hard things in their life to shape their character into something beautiful.  

No, we really can't rewrite our lives; and I'm pretty sure that if we could, it wouldn't turn out as great as we think it would.  God has surrounded our lives with the people, family, and events near us for a purpose.  We wouldn't be us if it wasn't for the way our story has been scripted.  In the movie, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, Lucy wishes that she could be just like her older sister, Susan.  When she gets the chance to make her wish come true, she takes it.  However, she eventually realizes that if she was Susan, there would have never been a Lucy.  All the specialness and uniqueness that she brought into this world would no longer be there. 
People have wondered for generations why a loving God allows bad things to happen.  People have also tried to answer that same question for generations.  It's easy to say that sin's entrance into the world brought everything bad or that God allows everything for a purpose; but when those life-shattering things happen there seems to be no consolation.  Yes, we can't rewrite our life.  You have no way of cutting out the history that remembers your father walking out the door to never come back, the friend that was killed in the car crash that was your fault, or the neighbor that took advantage of your young innocence.  God doesn't delight in those things that haunt us yet, but He does want us to use those moments to create a better us.  If we give in to bitterness about all the bad that has happened to us, our future will only be dark and gloomy; but if we use those painful things to better us and help others, our future will be peaceful and joyful.  No, we can't escape the pain that even awaits us in the future; but we can ask God to walk beside us and fill our hearts with the peace and joy that can bring us through the darkness triumphant.  

Some things that happen are because we made the wrong choices.  Sometimes we need to face the consequences.  David suffered the rest of his life because of his sin with Bathsheba.  So although we can't rewrite our life, we can have some choice in writing our future.  We make the wisest decisions that we can, and then let the rest in God's Hands.  He seems to be the best at planning the future anyways.  I think when we finally have the chance to see the whole extent of our lives and how it has even affected other lives, it is going to leave us speechless; because not even our greatest writings will come close to what the Author of all human life has penned for our past, present, and future!           

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Time-Warped Christmas

A Note From MarJ:
Dear Readers, please be patient with me this Christmas season as I do some imagining.  No, I am not trying to rewrite the best story that ever happened.  No one can do that, for Jesus came to earth at the perfect time and at the perfect place; but I often wonder what it would have been like if Jesus would have been born in 2013.  That's what I am writing- just a parable of Jesus being born two-thousand years later.  This is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, for this is a story that all of us can place ourselves in and stop and think about who we really are and what we truly believe.  Do we as women live so close to God and His principles that God would have chosen us to be Mary?  Would we as men have been able to step up to the commitment that God required of Joseph?  Would we as humans awaiting a Messiah have believed and had enough faith to trust that 'God's ways are not our ways'?  Enjoy this Christmas story, and I pray that each of you may have a blessed Christmas full of love, peace, and the joy of Jesus!

Hi, you don't know me.  I'm just one of those mysterious messengers that God appoints to fulfill special purposes in peoples' lives.  I was on a special mission this time.  I was to ready the way and tell the "Good Tidings of Great Joy".  It was going to be the greatest thing yet, for The Messiah was finally coming down to earth.

I was on the street corner watching as Maria came walking out of school.  She did not notice me fall in step behind her because she was busy cramming books into her backpack, tying her scarf tighter around her neck, and sending her boyfriend a quick text message.  We walked down the street for a couple minutes until we reached the cafe where she worked part-time after school.  I waited a little outside before entering and selecting a little table off to the side.  I pulled out a laptop so I would fit in with the rest of the internet networkers around me.  After making sure I appeared like a college student from the next-door university, I walked up to the counter and gave my order to Maria who by now was in her apron and busy waiting on customers.  "A tall caramel macchiato, please," I said as I handed over a five-dollar bill, "and would it be a problem if you could bring it to my table over in the corner."  I pointed to my little station.
She smiled, "Not a problem, Sir." 

That's why she had been chosen.  The One Who had sent me knew all about Maria.  He knew how caring she was, but He also knew how strong she was.  She would have to be for this calling.  She was the one left out of many a party and friendship because her standards were so high.  She loved God with her whole heart, mind, and soul.  Even her relationship with Joe, her boyfriend, was pure and above criticism.  No, she wasn't any angel (no pun intended), but she sincerely tried to follow God.
"Here's your drink." 

I jolted back from my thoughts as Maria set the steaming cup next to me.  "Thank you," I said as I gave her a tip.  "Would you mind sitting down for a minute?  There's Someone I know that you know that would like to pass a message on to you."  I could see the bewilderment in her face as she looked at me and then back at the register.

"I don't know.  I'm supposed to be at the counter."

"It will only be a minute.  Jenny is covering right now, and business is slowing down."

"Okay then," she replied, "who did you say that we both know?  Is someone hurt or something?"

I laughed, "Oh no, nothing like that.  But what I have to say may shock you; however don't fear.  You have been chosen!"

"Chosen?" she questioned, "like for a trip or prize or something?"

"No, chosen to be the mother of The Messiah, God's Son, the One Who has been prophesied to come to earth and save mankind."

Her mouth was hanging open.  I wasn't quite sure what her reaction would be.  "This is a joke, haha, very funny.  Are you filming this for 'America's Biggest Pranks' or something?"

I looked deeply into her eyes, "Maria, this is no joke.  I know God has placed in your heart a calling and in your mind discernment.  Even now you are starting to realize that you are the chosen mother."

She seemed to grow calmer and more at peace.  Slowly reality was starting to get through.  "But, how can I have this baby?  I have a boyfriend, but our relationship has been good-truly," she leaned forward as if making sure I realized that this was impossible.

I once again smiled, "No, Joe isn't the father.  God can do the impossible; He can do miracles."

She shook her head as she stood up, "I gotta go and get back to work.  This is just too much for one evening."  I listened to her muttering to herself the whole way back to the counter about "such craziness" and "I'll soon wake up out of this".

I heard the notification beep from my phone.  I had been busy running other errands over the last few weeks since telling Maria the news.  Now it was time to observe for a while and see if Maria would stand the test.  I took a taxi to the park and proceeded to play frisbee with a dog named "Rex" close to where Maria and her friend, Lilah were doing homework.  There was wifi access here so it was a popular place for high school and college students to hang out.

"Man, girl, I've been worried about you.  You've been skipping the morning classes, and that's not like you.  What's wrong?" Lilah asked. 

Maria looked down, "Um, I've just not been feeling very great.  I get really sick when I wake up."

I had forgotten to tell Maria that while being the Savior's mother was an honor, it didn't make pregnancy any easier.

Lilah exclaimed, "Girl, you're pregnant!  I'd know the signs anywhere.  It happened to my two sisters, but I didn't think it would happen to you.  You better hope your parents don't find out- them being preachers and all that.  What's your momma think about you being sick like this?"

Maria shook her head, "She says it's a stomach virus which is what it has to be...." Maria stopped unsure if she should continue to tell everything she knew.  "Listen, Lilah, I don't know what's going on.  Some for guy said that I was going to have a baby- The Messiah; but definitely Joe is not the father.  If I'm pregnant it's because of some kind of heavenly conception."

"Well, I'm taking you to the doctor tomorrow cuz you can't keep missing class, and a flu would have went away by now.  You can bet that I'm not gonna buy your lousy excuse though if the test comes out positive."

I was casually picking up trash as Lilah and Maria walked out of Dr. Closupt, M.D.'s office.  I didn't know that anyone could look so exuberant and despaired at the same time.  "They'll never believe me.  You don't even believe me.  What's Joe going to say?" Maria plopped down on the curb and buried her head in her hands. 

Lilah put her arm around her friend, "Listen, I know you don't want to admit that you weren't perfect; but at least come up with something better than you being pregnant with God's Son.  I mean, who's gonna believe that?  Let's view your options- as far as I see, you have two.  Either you make Joe step up to responsibility and make him marry you right now or you have an abortion.  It's simple that last way.  You're eighteen so you don't need to worry about a guardian's signature, you can go ahead and graduate, and noone but me and the doctors will even know."

Maria looked shocked, "Abortion?  To kill a little life?  I don't have the right to do that."

"Lots of girls do it.  It's no biggie.  It's just a blob of tissue."

"It's a blob of tissue with a brain and a little heart already," she smiled as she placed her hand over the life within her.

"I'm just trying to help.  It's what I'd do.  I'll take to the clinic if you want to go, but you should do it soon if you decide to go ahead with an abortion."

Maria's bedroom window was open to let in some of the early spring air.  I could picture her pacing the floor as she poured her heart out to God.  "Oh God, why me?  I can't go through with this.  My reputation, my family, Joe- I'll lose them all.  What kind of example will I be?  No one will believe the truth, but I can't kill this life.  I will bear him and be his mother."  All went quiet as if Maria was listening to God's still small voice within her heart.  Then she clapped her hands in excitement.  "You have chosen me.  No longer will I view this as a burden, but as a blessing.  Blessed am I.  I am able to do something that no other woman has ever done."  She took a deep breath, "But now to tell.  Lord, give me strength and courage."

I heard her open and then close her door behind her as she walked down the hall calling for her parents to meet her in the kitchen.  I quickly moved to the side of the house and knelt beside the door so I could press my ear against the in-out cat door flap.

"What's this all about, Maria?" her mother asked. 

The sounds of a chair scraping against the tiles meant that her father had sat down.  "Is there something wrong that you called us to a meeting in the middle of the day?  If not, I should get back to preparing the sermon for tomorrow."

Maria's voice sounded shaky as she started talking, "Yes, there is something important I need to tell you both."  She paused and then began to ramble faster, "You see, I've been chosen.  It really is an honor.  There was this guy who told me, and then Lilah took me to the doctor, and I'm just so scared and happy at the same time.  I hope you'll understand because I'm going to have a baby.  But this isn't any baby, this is God's Son, The Messiah." 

There was complete silence.  The cat door pushed against my face as a furry feline tried to make her escape from the heavy air.  I moved aside to let her through but quickly got back hoping I hadn't missed anything.  I hadn't.  Two minutes passed, by now there were sounds of crying.

Maria's mother sniffed between her tears, "How could you?  We tried to teach and raise you properly.  How could you disappoint us like this?"  I wanted to rush in and comfort Maria, but I had been told that at times like this it was up to her.  She had been being prepared for this, and I now needed to sit back and hope that she endured.

"This is ludicrous!  You are the example to the rest of the young women at church.  What about your Sunday School Class?  No, we cannot have this.  You're going to marry that slumbag, Joe, this evening.  I'll perform the ceremony.  You get him over here right now.  No man does this and then walks away from the responsibility.  If you get married now, people might not assume the worst when they find out that you're pregnant," Maria's father decided.

"But, Dad, I've been trying to tell you.  Joe isn't the father.  This baby is a miracle, it's God's Son.  The Scriptures say that a Messiah will come."

"You expect your mother and I to believe that?  I know the Scriptures; I've studied the prophecies.  You, yourself, have watched movies and listened to sermons on  how He will come.  He will be a King and set the world at peace.  He will save the faithful that are imprisoned and persecuted and begin a new country."

"What if God has a different plan?  What if we thought we had it all figured out, but we have been thinking humanly confined to the extent of our own wisdom?" Maria replied bravely.

"Well, I can't see that His plan would be to send a baby and for my daughter to be His mother.  If you won't marry Joe then you'll just have to go stay in Florida with your cousin, Ellie.  Your mother and I will find some truthful excuse to tell the church for your absence.  You'll have the baby, find parents to adopt it, come back here, and no one will ever know."

I sadly got up and walked away.  Why was it so hard for these humans to understand?  What made them think that God had to fulfill prophecy according to their understanding?  He would come to earth according to His way because His way was always perfect. 

I picked a table partially hidden by decorative shrubbery.  I slowly ate my cheeseburger waiting for Joe and Maria to arrive.  Her trial was only beginning.  I pulled on my sunglasses as they walked through the door.  They were seated at a table within hearing distance of me.  Joe quickly decided on his entree choice, but Maria looked like she was going to be sick.  Their drinks arrived.  Maria stirred her straw nervously around in her soda, "Joe, I need to tell you something.  Please believe me."

He gently smiled, "Sure, anything."

She seemed to try to think of the best words to use for explaining the situation.  "Joe, I love you, and I need you to trust me.  I'm pregnant; I'm going to be the mother of God's Son.  The Messiah is coming!  A messenger from God told me, and it is true."

Joe paused for a second before exploding, "You're what?!"

Maria looked around at the other tables who were now watching them.  "Shh," she hushed, "I said that I am going to have a baby."

Joe leaned back on his chair as if she had been punched.  He drummed his fingers on the table then ran them through his hair.  He leaned forward and gulped some soda.  "I don't know if you're trying to play some kind of April Fool's Day trick on me, but it's not funny.  You say you're pregnant; I know I'm not the father; so it must be someone else.  You've been cheating on me, Maria.  I'm glad for this baby- I really am.  Otherwise, I would have married you once I got out of college, never knowing that you were unfaithful.  Is it Todd or Mark?  Wait...don't tell me; I don't want to know," he shakily got to his feet and left some cash on the table to pay for the uneaten food.  "I really thought you were the one I would spend my life with.  I really loved you.  I was faithful to you, but I guess you didn't feel the same way."  He looked at her one more time before leaving.  Maria just sat there and cried, oblivious to the fact that she was still in the restaurant.  The deepest of sadnesses can make you feel completely alone even when surrounded by a crowd. 

I finished my fries, passed by Maria, and briefly lay my hand on her shoulder while breathing a prayer of peace for her soul before leaving her alone.

Maria stepped out of the airport into the sunny state of Florida.  I was wearing a bright floral shirt and straw hat.  A camera hung around my neck for added effect.  I scanned a paper map while also watching for Ellie to arrive.  Maria's face lit up as she saw her cousin running towards her.  She dropped her suitcases and also ran.  They met in a huge embrace and were both crying.  Girls, I could never figure them out.  They cried when they were happy, and they cried when they were sad..

Ellie stepped back and looked at Maria, "It's so good to see you.  Your parents told me all about it, but I knew even before that," she winked.

"What?" Maria asked, "how could you?"

"Well, you know my husband and I haven't been able to have children.  We prayed and prayed and had finally given up hope when some angel, I guess that's who he was, appeared at our house and told me that I would have a son, John.  He said that this son would be special because he would be a news reporter and announce the coming of the Messiah.  But that's not all, he said that you were going to be the mother of The Messiah.  Well, I though I was going crazy, but soon afterwards I found out that I was pregnant.  Then your parents called; I tried to tell them that this is really The Messiah, but they didn't listen.  I mean, common sense says that God's Son should be sitting on a throne in England or something, not being a little baby being formed inside of a high-school girl."  Ellie stopped and groaned slightly.

"What's wrong?" Maria worriedly asked.

Ellie laughed, "Oh, this child.  Ever since I met you, He's been jumping around.  It's as if he knows he's near his Lord.""

I smiled.  Yes, he knew.  Even I knew from where I stood.  Anyone that had an open heart and mind would know that Maria's child was Royalty.

It was now time for me to move to Step Two.  Joe's part in the story wasn't complete yet.  Maria had been at Ellie's place for a few months now, and she would be having the baby in a few weeks.  I pulled my jacket tighter against the biting November cold.  I was back in Pennsylvania and about to walk into the office where Joe worked.  He was bent over a construction design that he was drawing and didn't even notice me enter.  I cleared my throat.

He dropped his pencil and hastily looked up, "I'm sorry I didn't see you.  May I help you?  Justin, the boss, is away right now, but I can probably answer most of your questions."  Joe had been called to play in this world-changing event because he was responsible and hard-working.  This guy was going to be the perfect step-father for The Messiah.

"Well, Joe, (I always liked to watch the look of confusion when I called someone that didn't know me by their name) I've actually been sent to help you.  I know you feel betrayed by Maria.  The last eight months you have poured yourself into college and work hoping to forget, but you haven't.  She really is a good girl- that's why she was chosen.  She has been faithful in all areas of her life, and yes, she has been faithful to you.  She really is going to be the mother of God's Son.  It has been prophesied for years, and now is the time for fulfillment.  Maria is going to need someone to support her, to supply for her and the baby, and someone to raise and train this special child."

Joe was silent.  The clock echoed through the office as time passed.  Finally he spoke, "But how do I know that this is true?"

Dear Joe, so thoughtful and responsible, he wasn't one to jump into anything without careful consideration.  I looked deeply into his eyes, "Because of faith and trust.  You trust Maria and know that she is virtuous, and you have faith that God can make His plans come true in any way He pleases."

"But if I marry her, everyone will think that I am the father.  I have lived my life purely.  At times, I have fallen, but by the strength of God I have fought for a good reputation that pleases Him and others."

I knew this.  I had seen his clean internet history, his asking forgiveness when he did fall, his avoidance of certain parties and places, and his faithfulness.  By marrying Maria now, it seemed to ruin everything from his viewpoint.  "Joe, when you follow God, there will always be someone who is against you or who will judge your life.  But if they were truly in tune with the Heavenly Father, they would see the truth and know you for who you really are.  You have been chosen because of good personal choices, but now you are going to have to trust God completely.  Give Him your pride and reputation.  If you make this choice, you will go to your grave with people still thinking the worst of you, but one day everyone will know the truth.  For now, all that matters is that God knows."  I handed him an address, "Maria is staying with her cousin.  She was told by her parents to have the child and give it up for adoption, but she has decided to keep him.  She is going to need some help."

Joe seemed to suddenly understand everything.  "Thanks for telling me.  I should have believed Maria and been with her so she didn't have to face this alone, but she won't have to anymore."  He grabbed his keys and headed for the door. 

"Don't forget to name the baby, Jesus," I called after him as I turned off the lights and locked the door.

I didn't want to miss the reunion, and was an eager spectator as Joe pulled his rusty pickup truck outside of Ellie's house and walked to the door.  Maria answered the knock and looked shocked at the sight of Joe at the door.  He fumbled with his keys, "Maria, I apologize for not believing you.  I'm here to help you with Jesus."

Maria's tongue loosened enough to squeak out, "Jesus?"

Joe smiled, "Yes, I was told that we name The Messiah, Jesus."  He then knelt before her on one knee, "Will you marry me?"

She gasped, "But Joe, I can't do that to you.  People will think that you are the father."

"Maria, you and I both know that God's will is best no matter what may have to be suffered.  I love you, and I will stand by your side for the rest of our lives."

Maria blushed that pretty woman-in-love color.  "Yes, Joe, I will marry you and love you for the rest of my life."

The wedding was small.  Ellie, her husband, and the new-born baby, John, were witnesses to the humble marriage between two people who were following God no matter what the cost.

Joe was busy loading the suitcases into the bed of the pickup.  "I wish we didn't have to travel right now since you're almost due, but I don't have any other option.  We have to go to Wyoming and finish up the will and tax stuff from Dad's death last week, "he apologized.  "I still think you should stay here."

Maria shook her head, "You're my husband.  Like Ruth said, 'I will go where you go'.  You especially need my support as we go through the funeral and grieving."

They were designed for each other- each one held the other up with strength that they did not have by themselves.  They would travel for days in that old pickup whose heat didn't work and suspension was shot.  I knew where they were going to stop, and had arrived early to prepare a few things for their arrival.  The pickup rolled to a stop at the small fuel station.  The moon and stars watched from above.  All earth was holding her breath in anticipation. 

Joe rushed inside the tiny convenience store.  "Where's the closest hospital?" he urgently asked the man behind the counter, "my wife's going to have a baby." 

The man didn't act interested, "Thirty miles north up the highway."

Joe rubbed his blood-shot eyes and pleaded, "Isn't there anything close?  Even a motel?  She can't have the child in the truck."

The man shook his head, "Nope, the motels are all booked from here till twenty miles further in all directions.  There's a pro-game going on up at the capital.  Rooms have been booked for months in advance."

The man returned to watching a late-night show on the little TV tucked under the counter.  Joe walked outside and looked around frantically for help.

I had donned some greasy overalls and a baseball cap and approached Joe, "Overheard your problem.  This isn't much help, but the garage over here could be used.  The mechanics are gone, and it's warmer in there than in your truck." 

Joe quickly went to Maria's door, "Honey, we can't get to a hospital in time, and the motels are full.  Are you okay with spending the night in the garage here?"

Maria smiled weakly, "Yes, Joe.  Any place will work."  She then picked up Joe's hand in hers as if she had read his thoughts, "Joe, you're not a loser of a husband and father.  You are doing your very best, and I love you for that."

I helped Joe carry Maria inside.  I gathered the rags that I had cleaned before hand and then left to get one of the neighbor women to help with the delivery.  Maria was strong, and this was God's Son.  I knew everything would be all right. 

I had one more task for the night.  The new-born King would need a welcoming party.  None of Maria or Joe's family would agree to come when I had called them.  Joe's mobile facebook status update and tweet about The Messiah being born had only elicited mean comments so no friends would show up for the King's entrance.  I pulled out my phone and reread over what had been written.

Joe:  Maria is about to have The Messiah!  This isn't a hospital or anything special, but at least God supplied a garage to keep us warm in=)  I'll post pics when Jesus is born.

Randy:  Get a life, man.  We all know you're the father.

Sam:  Don't you ever watch the movies about how The Messiah will come?  Find a psychologist.

Lilah:  A garage?  Seriously?????  What kind of father are you?  Take care of Maria.  P.S.  Aren't kings usually born in a castle?   

I pushed open the diner door, and a bell announced my arrival.  "What can I get you, hon?" a waitress asked as she placed a cup of coffee on the counter where I was supposed to take a seat.

"This is fine, thanks.  But I would like some food made to go.  There's a lady and her husband over at the garage.  She's having a baby, and they'll need some food later on."  There were some truckers sitting around talking, but they stopped when I told about Maria and Joe turning the garage into a maternity ward.

"Poor thing!" the waitress exclaimed. 

"Don't be sad about this.  This is a miracle.  This baby is very very special.  He is our Messiah, our Savior," I excitedly declared.

"You've been sniffing too much truck fumes, buddy," she laughed as she walked back into the kitchen.

"You're saying that this baby is The Messiah?  The One we've been waiting for?" a trucker in a Peterbilt hat asked as he sat on a stool next to me."

"Yes, I have come to tell you about Him.  He is the hope of our future.  'Glory to God in the highest!'"

"Sounds crazy, but sometimes God moves in mysterious ways," another man remarked.

A bearded driver stood to his feet, "Well, I don't know about you guys, but my load is just gonna have to wait.  If there's a King around, I'm gonna go see Him."

I smiled as a group of about eight truckers headed across the road.  I grabbed the to-go food that the waitress had brought out and hurried to catch up.  I entered the garage and saw them kneeling around the baby.  I knelt too, there was no other option when one saw this child.  He looked like any other baby, but a Presence that was greater than the greatest power, strength, and wisdom surrounded Him.

A trucker wiped his eyes, "He's so beautiful.  Truly this is our Messiah."

I murmured in agreement, "Yes, Jesus, The Messiah and Savior for all of mankind, has been born.  The first Christmas has arrived."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Icky, Gooey, Yucky: GROSS and InTeReStInG Body Facts

This is for those home-school mothers looking for new health material, fans that can't get enough of Shrek (a movie which I admit I find disgusting), and brothers who at some point of time have harassed their sisters with loud smells and noises.

From Your Head Down To Your Feet-----

The Brain:
The brain weighs three pounds!  It is the only part of the body that can feel no pain.  Believe it or not, your brain is doing more when you're asleep than when you're awake.  Approximate storage capacity ranges between 3-1,000 terabytes (The National Archives of Britain is seventy terabytes, and that includes nine-hundred years of history).  Time to put that unused brain space to use!

You shed between 40-150 strands a day.  Lifespan of a hair is about 3-7 years.  Out of the world's population---only about 1% are redheads, and only about 2% are blondes.  Your head of hair could support twelve tons!  Facial hair is the fastest growing of the hair family. 
Basically fire is the only thing that can destroy hair- most chemicals and acids won't even do the trick.  Those that deal with dandruff are ones that tend to grow their new skin cells faster than normal- which results in more dead skin having to go somewhere.

There are mites (they actually look like worms) that live in your eyelash follicles.  They can lay up to two-dozen eggs which will hatch and then take up residence.  They live fat and happy off of your oil and dead skin cells.
The eyes will not change size....however the nose and ears will get bigger and bigger the older you get.
Grown men can cry!  Tears are warriors against bad bacteria.

The Nose:
This guy can remember up to 50,000 different scents and smells!
The indentation under your nose and above the upper lip is called the philtrum, even though there is no known purpose for its being on each human's face.

That wax that you clean out once in awhile is actually a great thing- not annoying like we seem to think.  It is sebum, dead skin cells, and gland secretions designed to protect the internal chambers and drum.  You may have wet or dry wax which depends solely on genetics.  God designed a self-cleaning system; for whenever you move your jaw it churns the wax which eventually dries and flakes away on its own!

Have a little pity on the people like me that deal with this issue.  Contrary to old wives' beliefs, it is not usually caused by what you eat.  You can even clean your face with specially formatted cleanser twice a day and still get those annoying pimples.  In simple words, what happens is that skin and oil get trapped in the pores and this is mostly because of hormones or genetics.

Talking about Skin---
Did you know that most dust is dead skin?  You grow new skin every two-four weeks even though you can't see it.  Every minute you are polluting the atmosphere with 30,000-40,000 of your dead skin cells that are leaving so new ones can take their place. 
There are also about 100 trillion bacteria on and in you which are mostly good and benefiting you in some way!  So don't whip out the sanitizer and try to get rid of these guys.

After a lifetime of producing this stuff, you could probably fill two swimming pools (forget calling in the fire department to fill the pool each summer).
Every person has their own unique tongue print.  Thank goodness they don't ink the baby's tongues in the hospitals and decided to stick with fingerprints!

This poor stuff has been so wrongly represented.  Even though you are bothered with enough each day to fill a half-gallon bucket, it is lubricating your passages to prevent dryness and chapping and keep out the truly bad guys- harmful bacteria and viruses.

Yuck---when you say that you are sweating buckets you aren't exaggerating.  Actually, in a year, you have poured 278 gallons through your pores.

The Stomach:
You often take this for granted, but there's some pretty powerful stuff going on down there.  Talk about chemical warfare!  Your stomach acids could dissolve a razor blade.  Mucus coats your stomach so that the acids don't eat it, but you still have to grow a new lining every three or four days. 
You are usually full at about three liters confinement of swallowed products, and will burst at five liters.
Your small intestine (also a major part of the digestive/excretion process) is twenty foot long.  Thank God, He twisted and bundled it up and didn't make us twenty-foot high to contain it.
I know, it's disgusting to talk about gas; but hey, this is called a gross blog!  Gas is caused by air being swallowed or bacteria tearing apart your food.  We're all human and unfortunately are each subject to passing gas approximately 14-23 times a day.
Vomiting is when the brain says that nothing is going down and will only be going up.  This is often caused by overeating or a virus.
If you ever wanted to try drag-racing, just sneeze.  Those very sudden outbursts can reach 100 m.p.h.; while coughs are about a 60 m.p.h. driver.
Women burn fat slower than men (that's just depressing for us females; no wonder I have to work out every day).
The belly button is often not discussed except by piercing artists and Veggie Tales, but it actually is home to 1,400 species of bacteria which are mostly fighting for the good of the body.

Body Odor:
Isn't this just a lovely thought?  Body odor comes from bacteria having a feast on your skin's sweat.
Body Heat:
You're definitely warm-blooded when every thirty minutes the amount of body heat left off could boil a half-gallon of water.

Out of your entire body, these walking appendages contain a quarter of all the bones. 
No wonder no one ever wants to smell their shoes- feet hold 250,000 sweat glands which make a pint of sweat a day.

As much as I wish I was wise enough to know all this information on my own, I received most of these fascinating facts from health and medical websites!
Isn't amazing how God designed our bodies and how even the gooey, yucky, and icky body stuff serve an essential purpose?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Loading.....95% complete

Does life ever feel like it has a loading bar?  You wait and wait and wait for something to happen or take place in which you are chosen for the role that is your calling, your destiny, your purpose for being placed on this earth; but life just remains normal and slow and boring.  You right click and left click and move the mouse around in hopes of speeding up the process, but nothing seems to happen. 

This is the biggest issue I deal with in my life.  I'm one that likes things to happen NOW!  I'm the first one to start doing the dishes so that cleanup is complete, the first one finished eating at the restaurant and tapping my foot in impatience at the slow eaters, the first one to plan a party so that there is something fun going on at all times.  By now, I had planned to be in the remote jungles of a cannibalistic island saving hundreds of lives, or working in a children's hospital making the last moments of dying kids' lives special, perhaps rescuing girls from Asian brothels, and maybe dying a heroic death in a leper colony where I sacrificed my life for others.  But here I am...working for the family business, cleaning house, washing clothes, and doing dishes.  Seriously?!  This can't be what God intended for me; I'm supposed to be a warrior woman for Jesus and a daughter of the King going into all the ends of the earth on assignments from Heaven.

When I pour out my heart in frustration to my parents, my father always reminds me that the waiting time is meant for everyone.  The waiting time is always the longest. 

Moses was a runaway hiding in the wilderness tending sheep for forty years before his "big moment" came.  David spent most of his life running from death at the hands of a maniac king and then later his own son.  Joseph was stuck in prison probably feeling pretty alone and forgotten before he became the right-hand man of Pharaoh.  Did you ever think about how little we actually know of Daniel, Esther, and Ruth's lives?  That's because most of it was spent in normality, full of little every day moments and occurrences. 

Am I saying that each one of us will have a huge occurrence in our life when suddenly Heaven breaks open and illuminates us as the key to the moment?  No, most of us will never be Billy Graham whose sermons have been heard all over the world or Gladys Alward who led almost a hundred children across mountains fighting starvation and hiding from soldiers.  We may reach the end of our lives and wonder what our "big" moment actually was and what our purpose was supposed to be. 

That's because God views things differently than we do.  I think He smiles just as much when He sees a mother in prayer for her children as He does when He sees a missionary in Africa living in tribal conditions. 

It's all about using each day as your "big" moment, seeing each boring task as a way to glorify the King, and finding purpose in the fact that we are simply called to love God, love others, and let our light shine- which can be done anywhere at anytime.  Maybe God is calling you one day to do something "exceptional" in human terms, but the way you are using your waiting time now is key on how you do when the curtain opens and the spotlight falls on you.  David used his fleeing time to grow closer to God and build him into the "man after God's own heart", Moses used his wilderness time as a character building experience to prepare him for what he would face in the wilderness with thousands of people, and Joseph used his waiting time to establish his faith and convictions.  Without David's relationship with God, his kingdom would not have been renowned and revered.  He may have never had the privilege to be the great------great------great---(and however many more greats)-----grandfather of Jesus.  Without Moses' preparation he may have fell apart and withered under the pressure, and the Israelites would have never reached the Promised Land.  Without Joseph's morals, he would have given in to Potiphar's wife and the story would have turned out a lot differently.  Sometimes it would be good for us to see how things would be if people would have not used their waiting time to its fullest potential.

Perhaps it is as simple as smiling at the cashier and wishing her a merry Christmas, letting another person go first in line, spending more time in prayer, saying no to the tempting pop-up that magically appears on the screen, or taking the time to listen to what your children are going through right now. 

One of my absolute favorite characters from the Lord of the Rings is Eowyn.  She is strong and determined, the daughter of a king, ready to give her very life to protect the kingdom and the ones she loves.  Her heart despairs when she is told that she dare not ride with the men into battle.  Aragorn asks her, "What do you fear, lady?"  She replies, "A cage.  To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."  Often we feel like that (at least I speak for myself that I do).  I'm so ready to wield my sword and fight against the darkness and evil of this world.  To think of living each day just sitting in the castle as I watch others go into battle, is almost unbearable.  To Eowyn it was unbearable, and she disguised herself to sneak along and defend her land.  After nearly dying, she realized that she was to focused on the "big" moment, on fame and recognition and said, "I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying.  I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren."  And in this new change, she is found more beautiful than before. 

We are called as Christians to put on the whole armor of God and be warriors for the spiritual Kingdom, but we are also called to love, cherish, heal, and listen.  No, we won't always be out on the battlefield; but neither do we have to sit aimlessly in the castle.  There are wounds to bandage, hopeless soldiers to encourage, children to feed, and scared citizens to comfort.  Those are the waiting things...and those sometimes are the most beautiful!               

Monday, December 2, 2013

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

As most of you know, I love giving gifts that are creative and can be put together in a personal theme that the receiver will use and enjoy.  So here are some diy gift ideas that I have collected along the way.  Maybe you can have some fun with them too this giving season!  Everything can be changed/switched/and added to in your own unique style with your own budget amount.  Awesome baskets, tins, and containers can be found at Goodwill (make sure you sanitize them properly before using them).  Other items can be found cheaply at places like Dollar Tree and Walmart, but no one will ever know how inexpensive the gift actually was because it will look like quite professional!

I'll start with the hardest first---

For Men- Dads, Brothers, Grandpas, Boyfriends, Husbands (why is it always so hard to find stuff for them?)

Golf Basket: Can put in a tin or basket with a golf print-off wrapped around it.  Include water, golf balls, birdie pack, greenskeeper pack, cheese, crackers, chips...  Can use golf print-offs to stick on the food items.

Hunting Basket:  Can put in a camouflage container with label print-off.  Include camo hat, camo bandanna, trail mix, pretzels, cheese, crackers, knife, binoculars, duck/turkey/etc calls...

Fishing Basket:  Put in a hand-held net or fishing basket.  Include lures, bait, bobbers, line, Swedish fish, goldfish, gummy worms, fish mug....

Tool Basket:  Put in tool belt.  Include screwdrivers, tape measure, hammer, duct tape, glues, chips, sodas....

Sports:  Can be wrapped in team hoodie or hat.  Include other team apparel, key chains, air fresheners, and mugs/cups.  Can add in stadium foods as well- such as sodas, chips, candy bars, popcorn...

Survival Kit (great for teen guys):  Put in backpack.  Include knife, survival hand book, rope, matches, waterproof containers, first-aid kit, canned foods...

Car Care:  Put in bucket.  Include sponges, microfiber cloths, polish, wash, chrome shine, tire cleaner, air fresheners, glass cleaner, shop towels...

Hershey Picture Frame:  Get picture frame, center Hershey Bar on paper that says "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass".

Soda Box:  Use a six-pack of soda and wrap paper ties, shirts, moustaches, etc.. around the bottles.

For Women- Mothers, Sisters, Grandmothers, Girlfriends, Wives

Gardening Basket:  Put in cute basket, watering can, or gardening bag.  Include seeds, trowels, scissors, gloves, gardening handbook, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, Snapple teas...

Herb Basket:  Put in basket with real or fake moss.  Put stones in bottom.  Include herbs in clay pots.  Labels can be made with wood and painted with chalkboard paint.  Decorate with flowers, burlap, mini watering cans...

Pampering:  Put in basket or bag.  Include real lavender plant, soaps, lavender candle, bath fizzes, Bath and Body relaxation oils and lotions, orange/rose/lavender satchels...

For Husbands/Wives and Girlfriends/Boyfriends

Gift Card Basket:  Put them in anything cute and clever.  Include $5 gift cards from your significant other's favorite restaurants and stores. 

Date Night Basket:  Put in jar.  Include popsicle sticks with ideas for date nights such as going to your favorite seafood restaurant, a stop for ice cream, movie marathon (get some popcorn and make an in-home theatre), coffee and a walk at the park, progressive dinner (start with a drink at Starbucks, get an appetizer at Applebees, an entree at Olive Garden, and dessert at Friendlys), have a picnic and watch the sunset, volunteer somewhere together, camp out in the backyard (campfire, smores, tent, hot dogs), have a no technology night- just each other, go apple picking in the fall/ sledding in the winter, head to the ice rink, build an igloo, visit a music festival, take a workshop together (painting, learning an instrument, trying a different language, book discussion group, writing lecture), go to a fitness center and enjoy some volleyball/tennis/swimming, etc.., go window shopping, go to an ethnic cooking class, and just be randomly awesome with your ideas.  Most of these things don't cost much money, but set aside cash so you can pay for the date nights.

For Grandparents

Coffee Basket:  Put in basket with chalkboard labels and newspaper as tissue paper.  Include coffee mug, coffee traveling mug, Starbucks gift card, chocolate-covered coffee beans, roast coffee, Starbucks frappes in bottles...

Tea Basket:  Put in unique tin.  Include tea cup and teapot, shortbread cookies, tea bags, bottled teas, sugar and cream.  Add cute teapot-shaped labels and gift tag.

Little Things:  Put in basket for Grandma or tin for Grandpa.  Have the kids come up with things they like about the recipient.  Then attach the quotes to items that go along with it.  Example- Jamie says "I like Grandma's chocolate chip cookies" (wrap that quote around a chocolate chip cookie mix).  Andrew writes "I like when Grandpa takes me fishing" (wrap that around a lure).  Add in pictures that the children drew for them.  Bet that gift will be priceless to the grandparents!

Random People like Neighbors and Cousins

Cookbook:  Find a really neat cookbook and wrap it in dishcloths.  Tuck in a wooden spoon or utensil that would go along with the cookbook type.

Box of Sunshine:  Get a shoebox and cover it in yellow wrapping paper.  Include yellow items such as drinks, candies, soaps, chapsticks, gum, mugs, socks...

For Children

Animal Crackers with Dip:  Put a bunch of different kinds of animals crackers (plain, frosted, iced) in a fun jar.  For the jar take cheap plastic animals that you can pick up anywhere, glue to top of jar lid, and paint animal and jar lid together.  Then stick in a small container of melted chocolate, peanut butter spread, and icing with confetti dip along with the animal crackers. 

Gingerbread Play-Dough:  Put in decorated jar.  Include play-dough tools tied to the outside.  Recipe for play-dough is gotten from
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp orange extract {optional}
  1. In a medium saucepan whisk together dry ingredients. Next mix in the water, oil, and orange extract and stir until a thick batter is formed. Cook the mixture over low/medium heat until a thick dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of dough.

Animal Farm:  Get wooden box and line with filler.  Add sugar cookies cut out in shapes of animals and then frosted in different colors.  Write animal farm on the wooden box with a permanent marker or spray with chalkboard paint.

Fun Tote:  Put in tote bag.  Fill with book, stuffed animals and other things that go along with book theme.  For example- Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit- include stuffed rabbit, chocolate bunny, bunny blanket...
Bubble Gum Basket:  Put in fun bag or backpack.  Include different kinds of gum and then add in notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.. that match the color.


For Married Couples

Perfect Pairs:  Put in bucket.  Include candle and matches, chips and dip, salt and pepper, spoon and fork, pair of gloves, pair of socks, knife and cutting board, pen and paper.  Include labels that can be stuck to each of the items and the front of the bucket.

For Pet Enthusiasts

Pet Kit:  Put in pet dish.  Include collar, leash, shampoo, brush, treats, toys, and a pet quote plaque.

Food Gifts

Breakfast Basket:  Put in basket or tin.  Include coffee, pancake mix, waffles, maple syrup, oranges, muffin mix... 

Southern Basket:  Put in skillet.  Include cornbread mix, beans, peanuts, barbecue sauces, sweet tea, southern cookbook, and southern-style dishcloth...

Cupcake Gift:  Put in cupcake carrier.  Include cupcake liners, sprinkles, cupcake mixes, cupcake-print dishcloth, cupcake dessert book, cupcake pan, other cupcake tools....

Apple Basket:  Put in apple-shaped basket or tin.  Include fresh apples, apple butter, apple cider, dried fruit, apple tea, apple pie, and different kinds of candied apples.

Another Apple Gift:  Put in cardboard box.  Decorate with paper flowers or apples.  Include apples and individual dips and candies such as melted chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate chips, coconut, m&m's...

Smore Basket:  Put in wintry basket.  Include different kinds of marshmallows, different kinds of chocolate bars, and graham crackers.  Can also include smore roasting sticks.

Ice Cream Round-Up:  Put in flat basket or metal tin.  Include sugar and waffle cones, sprinkles, chocolate chips, cookie dough, peanut butter cups, m&m's, caramel, hot fudge, chocolate, and strawberry syrups, ice cream scoop, and a tag that says "Just Add Ice Cream".

BBQ Grill-Off:  Put in metal container.  Include BBQ chips, BBQ sauces, hot pad gloves for grilling, grilling tools, cookbook...

Gingerbread Family Kit:  Put in small basket or plastic container.  Include gingerbread cookies, licorice, m&m's, decorating icing, jelly candies, cinnamon candies...  Attach cute tags. 

Italian Basket:  Put in basket.  Include grapes, spaghetti sauce, noodles, Italian cookbook, grape dishcloths, feta and mozzarella cheeses, olive oil...

Lemonade Sweets:  Put in yellow or pink basket or container.  Include bottled lemonade, lemonade candies, straws, glasses, lemon squeezer, lemons, and Country Time lemonade mix.

Hot Chocolate:  Put in wintry basket.  Include two mugs, mini marshmallows, hot chocolate mix, chocolate/peanut butter/caramel dipped spoons, candy canes, biscotti...

For Mailman
Tag reads "Thanks for driving Miles
                            Miles to bring us mail" typed on label and wrapped around a bag of M&M's.

For Cookie Exchanges and Gifts

Thanks for joining me.  Hopefully you can have fun giving this Christmas!