God’s Plans for Your Holidays

Guest Blog

By Laurie Jane Stawicki

The holidays are upon us. But they look different now. The frenzied fun of yesteryear involving grandparents, aunts and relatives around a loaded Christmas tree is now a more sedate occasion. I miss the happy shouts of glee as fun toys are uncovered from under shiny wrapping paper. And I haven’t felt very festive for years.

As my toddlers turned into kids, and then teenagers and young adults, the gift giving scenario changed. Now as my twenty-something son sits at my table sipping hot chocolate, I decide to share a nugget of wisdom.

“Son,” I say, “If you ever have a family, sit down with your wife two months before Christmas and decide on a budget, pray about the budget and what God would have you do for Christmas. It could be different than you expect. Maybe it would be a trip or a visit to family.”

I don’t want my kids to feel they have to spend a lot of money for Christmas.  I add, “Or it may be small gifts for each family member and people that God has placed around you at work or in the neighborhood.”

I go on. “You should be OK to give a four-dollar box of cookies to each person and not be ashamed. If money is the thing we are comparing then that’s not really the Christmas spirit. We should be able to give as we wish, without compulsion or shame, and just enjoy the fellowship and the fun.”

I think about the stress I have felt over the years as I tried to make a nice Christmas for my family, often with little money.

“The pressure of buying and giving should not be what marks the holidays,” I comment, “and it’s totally ungodly to go into debt to buy things people don’t need to impress whom?”

He smiles at me and nods. “If I get married, I’ll let you know,” he says drolly. We both laugh.

I smack his arm and give him “the look.” “I better be invited to the wedding,” I exclaim.

“You will be,” he says, munching on a cracker.

I go in my office and pray. “Lord, what is on your mind for the holidays here this year?” We may have a daughter’s boyfriend for Thanksgiving, but no grandparents or aunts or uncles because of COVID-19.

“I want you to have fun,” is what I hear Him say. Board games come to mind. Maybe charades or a nerf gun war. Yes, that would be fun! We also could play instruments and have a jam session with everyone.

I cheer up a little. It should be OK. Maybe even the hassle of making the food could be divvied up as well. Each person could be responsible for an item. Or we could get carry out!

As I try to bypass the stress of the expectations from each of my children and myself to have a happy holiday, and how I always try to create a Norman Rockwell kind of homey photo op, I decide I need to re-frame the holiday to the kids.

Maybe it would be appropriate to talk about our feelings of sadness over the changes we are experiencing due to COVID-19, and just growing older. And then we could talk about what things we can still enjoy and for what we are grateful.  We can still create good memories within our new boundaries. We are still family and still together even though some of us will be missing.

Thank you, Lord, for the thoughts. I lift up our prayers to you for blessings this holiday season. I also ask you to open my eyes to any in need around me for an encouraging word, a batch of cookies, or a prayer. Please help us as a family to be givers into your treasure trove of heavenly stores.

This week: As you make plans for the holidays, consider stopping to pray about what God would have for your family this year: who you can be a blessing to as well as how to celebrate within your family. Maybe he will surprise you with some fresh ideas! I pray you have a lovely holiday season filled with God’s love. He is the reason for the seasons. He gives us hope for the future. He gives us all we need for the present. And now I think I’ll sit and sip some hot cider while I compose a new family email, and hum the doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

© 2020 Laurie Jane Stawicki

Laurie Jane Stawicki is a Christian mother of five, a poet, singer/songwriter and author. She started writing as a child to hang onto sanity in a troubled household. Her writing mission statement verse is Luke 2:35, when the angel says to Mary, “A sword shall pierce through your own soul also that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Laurie Jane believes that her writings could be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves and she’d like to inspire others to trust more in God. She would like to encourage people to bring their experiences to God’s presence for healing.

Tale of Twin Trees

The lemonade quenches my thirst after a hard day.  A squirrel catches my eye while gracefully jumping across the chasm between neighboring trees in our backyard. I strain to focus on the little acrobat as the Sun radiantly peers down between our dear old trees which struggle to thrive.

Their leafy branches protect me and contain the strong fire of the Sun while a deep gurgling reminds me of the “swamp” sump pump runoff that saps away some of their strength.  The Sun slides down into the honey locust as the yellow fireball steadily moves across the yard. My eyes travel down its trunk as a glint of Light gently caresses its rough bark scorched with dryness from lack of nourishment to its roots.

To the left of my chair, its roots reach up to the surface of the grass, as if pleading for nourishment from the Earth. More than once I have mowed over one of the roots as it reaches out to get something, anything to grow. Its very life threatened by the sandy soil it was growing in and the swamp tearing away life-giving nourishment.

As the Sun moves across the yard, its light holds for a moment where the honey oak’s branches seem to grasp its neighboring ash tree gently with its leafy limbs as if for help…as they seem to be giving strength to each other. The ash has required a lot of love this year, but it refuses to give in and reaches up to the sky with fresh new leaves. I admire its strength and will to focus on surviving. The borer will not claim this one despite years of damaging storms tearing its limbs and insects crawling all over it … all wounds that our arborist said could eventually kill it. Yet, they both hold on. They remain strong fed by the Love that have helped them grow to magnificent height.

Gentle reader, how do we get fed? Do we reach out as these magnificent trees? Each form of life has its own needs, just like each person. All interconnected to the rest of the world and universe, dependent on each other – overcoming, surviving the cracking, hurting, being fed. When we look at each being, do we see Christ’s face?  Do we reach out to assist or turn away? Do we shine the Love indwelling in us?

A simple takeaway: find one thing in this moment you are grateful for in your life and reach out with Joy and Love to someone or something else. Perhaps share a smile or an encouragement to a dear one, a stranger, a struggling friend, or just someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Or, volunteer to help victims of a storm when headlines disappear, while hurt and destruction remain. Listen quietly to the Spirit inside and be there as the One who is always there for you. Love will return to you as surely as the Sun consistently rises and sets each day.

Reach out to quench the thirst with Love.

© Bonnie L. Smith-Davis 2020

Awareness

Tree and sunlight

My child, do you know who I am?
Be filled and listen deeply as I enfold you.
I am the joy of the bird floating gently on the depth of air
I am the song of the bird that sings its song to the heavens
I am the heart of the fish swimming in the sea searching for food
I am the soft breeze gently moving in the atmosphere
I am the radiant candle flame burning eternally

I am in the hope of a child gazing at his mother
I am in the deep trust of hearts entwined
I am in the heart of the mother gazing at her baby
I am in the heart of the parent nearing eternity
I am in the heart of the mother losing her child

I am within the swirls of air tantalizing and filling all that lives
I am within the ever growing dandelions through the rocky soil
I am within the growing of branches and budding leaves on trees
I am within the deep, searing warmth of the sun
I am within the powerfully life flowing waters of the river
I am within the star-filled darkness that encompasses the Earth

I am embedded in blueness of the sky
I am encrusted in the moist, constant warmth of Mother Earth

I am part of the glowing sunrise encompassing the Earth
I am part of the ever flowing thought that provide wisdom
I am part of the laughter, the smiles, the twinkling eyes
I am part of the soft, purring of the sleeping cat
I am part of the gentle yip of the dog that sees its best friend
I am part of the Essences of all that live, move and have being

I am one with the All in All.
I exist only because the One exists.
Now and forever.
Who am I? I am Love.

(C) 2020 Bonnie Louise Davis

Sacred Valley

Written at Snowmass Retreat looking at Mt. Sopris above St. Benedict’s monastery, Colorado

March 2020

Mountain peak with pillow soft, slow walking clouds walking on their backs

Sacred valley of strong faith!

Heart strings entwine pulses with surge of love, throughout the overlying sky.

Snowy bright diamonds of melting snow glistening cells huddling, meshing, flowing together melting away into the warming ground of Colorado highlands

Earth welcoming the moisture feeds the undergrowth

Like the babies welcoming their mother’s warmth.

Black and white magpies bounce, caw and flit from twisted branches and perch on the arches of support beams on our cozy retreat home.

Cold, purposefully walking hikers dot the grounds going from hermitages to monastery to retreat house.

Vehicles that come by give wide birth to the hikers with climbing poles trudging uphill on their journey…-“real” world meets solitary stillness.

Meanwhile inside the retreat, the savory, kitchen fragrances waft down the long hallway to fill the seekers senses. Our extraordinary chef servants of God finish final preparations for supper.

Seekers gather senses and move quietly down the hall, in anticipation of mixtures conceived delicately making just the rights sparks of joy rewarding our work during prayerful hours.

How many eyes have gazed through out on Mt. Sopris…pondering their spiritual journey …memories etching themselves in our hearts…?

Dear Lord Jesus, how your community of faith functions wordlessly united, pulsing together hearts joined in Love.

An empty chair sits in solitude awaiting its evening seeker to give rest to weary, but spiritually nourished by prayer.

Sunset and tomorrow’s inevitable dawning …a new day awaits.

copyright 2020 Bonnie Louise Davis