Saturday, December 23, just two days before Christmas. The perfect time to be blessed with another amazing “God Moment” and reminder of the true reason for the season.
Background: If you have been following my blog you know that a couple months ago I found myself needing a part-time job for a bit. (In addition to the one I work full time.) When this need arose? Instead of complaining, I looked forward to the opportunity as I started looking for the Lord and the lesson. You see? I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe we meet people for a reason. I believe that when we seek God? We find him. It’s easy to identify Him when he’s supplied a blessing. But what about when the storm hits? Or at least what we perceive to be a storm? … What I’ve found? Storms can sometimes be blessings in disguise.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
As a little girl I can recall going to my Grandma’s for Christmas and presents would be stacked as tall as my brother and I. My parents would comment on the drive home how Grandma always spent too much on us. All the presents wouldn’t fit in the car with us which would often require two trips home. My Grandma didn’t have the money to spoil us like that. And yet? She did. She’d save, charge and insured we were spoiled and received every item we had circled in the Sears Christmas Catalog. At my parents house? My mom and dad always made Christmas special. Mom would sit and read us the Christmas Story from the bible on Christmas Eve. We would go to bed and she and dad would wrap and put presents under the tree until early hours of the morning so we could always wake up to that “awe” of the lights on the tree and all the presents underneath it. So? On a year when I have vowed not to “charge” anything, and when money is tight? If I’m being totally transparent? I had been feeling bad. I felt like a failure, that I couldn’t do for my friends, family and even strangers like I have in the past. On the years that there was plenty? I charged, I bought, I spoiled. Guilty. This year? I ended up following the wise advice my father has given me my entire life. “If you can’t pay cash for it? You don’t need to buy it.” What that meant? Only a couple small gifts for each member of my family. The devils lies started in my head, in my voice, “You’re a failure”. “They will be disappointed.” “You’ve let everyone down.” But thankfully? I go to a church where the Pastors teach us about the lies of the enemy and how to defeat them. Where I know, that I know, that I know it’s not about the “presents” – it’s about the “presence”. And I have to say that this morning as I sat in the church pew singing Christmas songs the tears started to roll as I felt so overwhelmingly blessed by what Christmas is REALLY all about. Those happy tears were a culmination of what the Lord has so sweetly revealed to me the past few days. And if you care to indulge me? I want to share with you the journey to that revelation. I feel someone out there may need to be reminded (just like I did) what Christmas is really all about. It’s not about the “presents” it’s about being in His “presence” to be a light in a dark world.
Thursday, December 21st: It was church night. I didn’t want to go to be honest. I was tired and still so much to do, but I knew I needed to be there. Sure enough? There was a reason. I sat in front of a lady who I was blessed to be able to hold as she cried. (I always pray that God will allow my hug to heal like Peter’s shadow. So I hugged for a good long bit until I knew she felt God’s love.) I was able to share my story and hear her say “So I’m not crazy? Other people have felt this way?” (This is why we have to be transparent my friends. We have to take off the masks that we live these perfect little Christian lives where we never struggle, always have it together, and be real to dispel the lies the devil whispers “You are the ONLY one dealing with this. Everyone else has it together. What’s wrong with you?!?” which if left unchecked, will lead to depression, anxiety doubt and fear.) I encouraged her to stay in the word. She said “I don’t feel like I even know how to read the bible.” Hmm… that stuck with me. On the drive home? I got a download. The Princess Warrior page I manage? Start an on-line bible study! She’s definitely not the only one who feels this way. Out of a moment of compassion? The Lord dropped in my heart my next step to help others find this freedom, peace and joy I have found. He’s surely good like that.
Friday, December 22nd: My second job at the mall? Has been SUCH a blessing! I have had some pretty awesome “God Moments” the last few weeks where I know without a doubt that a customer was brought in on my shift for a reason. Those “divine appointments” if you will. Why? Because I ask for them. Once you experience God’s presence and know that He’s used you? There’s no greater feeling.
The season was rapidly approaching. I had to wait to get paid on Saturday to even finish up what little Christmas I had already bought. I had every natural reason to be depressed, sad, listen to those voices in my head… but my spirit said something different. It was welling up with joy, peace and love. We were just 3 days away from Christmas on Friday afternoon as I headed to the mall to start my shift. I put on the song “Light of the World” and listened on the drive to the mall and I prayed “God, help me be a light in what’s sure to be a crazy night at the mall full of frantic shoppers.” Sure enough, the line of vehicles to even get into the mall were long. People were honking and yelling at one another to “Get out of the way!!” I made my way to the store determined to greet everyone with a smile and say “Merry Christmas”. As I was finishing up a sale the customer said to me “Thank you for saying Merry Christmas.” (Of course I’d say “Merry Christmas” – that’s what it is. Just because some get offended because they don’t believe like I do? Doesn’t make the birth of Jesus disappear, or the holiday any less real. If you don’t want to celebrate Christ’s birth? Than don’t. But don’t you dare tell me I can’t.) A bit later that night a Momma, Grandma, baby boy in stroller and a cute little girl came in. The little girl had a scar on her cheek and one on her chin where she had obviously been hurt at one point. Grandma was friendly. Mom? She was guarded. I sensed a recent hurt. As they were looking at the items in the store, the little girl made her way to the counter. I asked her name? “Stella” she said. I told her that was the prettiest name in the world and that her mom did good when she picked that name. She smiled so big. She then read something on one of the signs at the register. I asked how old she was? To which she replied “7”. I told her she was obviously very smart to be reading like that, and asked her if she liked school? She was honest as she said “Nope! I don’t like school at all! But I do like recess.” We both chuckled. As mom got done purchasing her items I reached behind me and got a little gnome off the counter. I gave it to Stella and told her to have a “Merry Christmas” and never forget how special she was. And I think it may have even touched her guarded momma. (I grew up with a large birthmark on my shoulder. I remember being stared at and teased. I prayed that if that ever happened to her due to the scars on her face? That she remembered someone once told her she was smart and beautiful, and that the Lord reveal that to her).
A little later? A young man in his teens came in with his little brother. They were shopping for their mom. He handed me all the cash he had and was short $2.00. He asked if I could put that on his card? I said “No, but I have $2.00 and I’ll put it in the drawer for you.” He looked at me odd, and then a huge smile came across his face…”Are you sure ma’am?” “Yes sweetheart. Merry Christmas.” He smiled so big as he thanked me so sweetly and humbly. I tell you my friends, I was on such a high when I left that night. My body was aching and tired after working two jobs that day. But my spirit? It was jumping and racing. On the drive home the Lord revealed to me the same thing He did last year… “The Christmas Spirit” – it’s what we believers feel every time we know the Holy Spirit is moving and using us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s “Christ’s spirit” – He whispered to my heart, “I sent my son out of an act of Love. Love is mentioned in the bible over and over and over again. Love one another as I have loved you. Die to your flesh (the me, me, me) and instead? pick up your cross to be a light in the world.” Christmas? The reason everything feels so special and magical? Is because at least one time during the year people are doing what I’ve called them to do. Reaching out to the poor, feeding the hungry, thinking of that lonely neighbor who has no family… it’s that one time of year that love, like I designed it, abounds and for a few days, it changes the atmosphere.” I could only imagine what it would be like if people would just hang on to that all year long! To truly understand what they are feeling and why.
Saturday, December 23rd: I woke up and grabbed a cup of coffee, read my bible and said a prayer. I could’ve started cleaning the house or finish wrapping the few gifts I had purchased. But instead? God laid it on my heart to sit at the computer and reach out to those He placed on my heart, one at a time, with a personal Christmas message. I started writing old friends and new friends. And then? I got a response back from an old friend. I hadn’t seen her in years, but I saw her about a year ago under very sad circumstances. Hadn’t seen her since, but God laid her on my heart Saturday morning. During our conversation she said “I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit feels like? But I need to tell you something. When you hugged me during that dark time? I felt something. Something I’ve never experienced before.” She went on to explain it and asked if I thought it was the Holy Spirit? (What she didn’t know? Is I often pray … “God, let my hug heal like Peter’s shadow. In situations where words fail? Let my hug be anointed and break the chains that keep people from living free. Chains of grief, anxiety and fear.“) Her telling me she felt that when I hugged her? Was the best Christmas gift I could’ve received. A reminder that God does hear our prayers, and gives us the desire of our hearts when they are in alignment with His word.
After my Friday night at the mall, and hearing that God had revealed his love through my hug as I had prayed for? I was ready for another day at the mall! Ready to spread some more Christmas cheer! But more than that? Driving in eager anticipation for the adventure. (You see? I believe that every single day can hold a “God moment” and be an adventure if you are focused on loving others instead of focusing on yourself. Every time I start feeling blue? It doesn’t take long for me to realize it’s because I got sucked into the “poor me” trap. Poor me. I’m lonely and don’t have anyone to go see Christmas lights with. Poor me. I can’t afford Christmas this year. Poor me. Poor me. blah, blah, blah… )
A young man came into the store and bought a plate that had a quote from the bible about “Faith” on it. He wore the sweetest smile as he said “I don’t care what it costs, it’s for my grandma and she’s so amazing. She deserves it.” I looked at the plate, looked at the young man and said “Your Grandma loves the Lord doesn’t she?” He said “Yes she does!” (Instantly my sons came to mind and how much they loved my mom. And it was a gentle reminder to stay on this path I’m on. Because one day? I want Cade to say “My Grandma? She’s amazing. She told me stories and prayed with me and loved me.” He may not remember what I bought him for Christmas, but those are the moments he will remember that will hopefully help guide him as he grows into the young man God designed him to be.)
A couple hours into my shift? I get the text from my Aunt.. “I will go to church with you tomorrow night for the candle light service. Pick me up.” Whaaaaaat?!? I’ve been praying for this for over a year. I’ve been asking her to go with me and she always tells me no. This time? It was a yes! YES!!! (She’s had a tough last couple of years and I just want for her to find that peace that I have.)
And then he walked in… I was drawn to him for some reason as I watched him walk around the store and then leave. He was a young man, likely in his late 20’s or early 30’s. An hour later? He returned. This time after looking for a bit he came up to the counter and asked me if I could help him? He was looking for something for his finance’. He told me her style, that she minored in interior design, and he didn’t want to mess this up. He also said he wanted a piece with a story if we had one. No wonder I liked this guy! I love furniture or art pieces that have a “story” to be told. We walked around the store and I showed him 3 or 4 items that I thought would be good. I told him I didn’t have a story, but could make one up if he wanted me too? He laughed. Said he needed to take some pictures of the pieces I showed him, send them to his sister, and he’d be back. He came back about an hour before the store closed and announced “I want that piece.” I called the owner to confirm the price and he told me that it came from an old barn in Kentucky. An old farmer had used that piece at one time. So we had a bit of history on it. But the story for his fiancé? Ended up not being in the history of the piece, but the moment in the purchase. As I was on the phone with the owner, I heard him say “Hi” to a lady who was across the store. They obviously knew one another and it had been a bit since they had seen each other. I heard them talking about knowing one another from a church they had both once attended. About how he had just lost a dear friend and thankfully? Someone had lead him through the sinners prayer before he died. How it was a comfort to know that his friend went to heaven when he passed. How he wondered what people do who don’t have that hope? The woman? She said it had been a rough 2017. She had lost her mom, and her dad had a stroke. (My heart went out to her. The year my mom died, my dad had a massive heart attack as well. It was a tough season.) When he came up to the counter to pay, I told him how it had done my heart good to hear him talking about the Lord. He said “What church do you go to?” And the conversation ensued from there for a good bit about the way Jesus has moved in our lives. And then? He suggested what God was already laying on my heart as well. “Would you care if we prayed for her (The lady who had a rough year) and her father?” So the 3 of us held hands at the register and prayed. That she find strength, wisdom and peace, and for her father’s healing. When we were done he said “Thank you for being bold in your walk.” I closed the doors to the store as he walked out with a heart that was full of love, peace and joy. The kind the world can’t give, and it can’t take away. I found the broom and I started to sweep. (As I swept the image of those saying “Thank you for saying Merry Christmas” and “Thank you for being so bold” came to mind almost as immediately as the thought “When did praying become an act of boldness??” What have we done? And then I thought of the looks my friends and I get in a restaurant when we hold hands and pray over our meal. How if someone prays in public it becomes viral on social media. Why? Because it’s become as rare as a falling star, so people stop to look. We stood by and allowed prayer to be taken out of school so many children don’t even know what it is. We have put Jesus on the back shelf only to come out when we are desperate. How sad…. Under the guise of “Political correctness” we’ve lost our power. I’m living proof that there is power in prayer.)
Sunday, December 24th: Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday. How perfect! I walked in a bit late after the music had started and sat in the back section. What a powerful, amazing service. Pastor Lawrence asked “How would you feel if someone threw a birthday party for you and then never acknowledged you? How do you think Jesus feels when there are office Christmas parties full of booze and hooking up and not one mention of Jesus? If you want to give Jesus a present this year? Be the light in the darkness.” He went on to elaborate how the best present we could bring to the King is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To love others, do unto others, lift others up and be a light. Hmmm…. maybe I have been celebrating “Christmas” more than I realized. And? It didn’t cost me anything other than time and kindness. Yes I heard. Lesson learned.
Not having any “extra” money this year? I wasn’t consumed with shopping. I wasn’t sitting in church service thinking of what I needed to go buy or do when it was over. Instead? I was able to be “present” in what was going on around me. At the altar call the little girl and boy sitting behind me headed up front. I got out of my seat to join them and insure they got to an altar worker for prayer. I bent down to speak to them and the little girl said “Oh I’m saved. It’s my brother who’s getting saved today.” When they came back to their seats I asked how old they were? Olivia was 11 and Matthew 8. I said “Well Olivia, there is a light about you. You are special. God’s going to use you mightily if you keep seeking Him. You made my heart smile when you said you were already saved.” Her little brother Matthew looked at me and said “She only got saved last week.” haha. He then proudly showed me the New Testament bible the altar worker gave him. As he was handing it to me he said “The lady up front said there is a chapter in here called Matthew and I should start by reading that. Can you help me find Matthew?” Of course I can! I told him Matthew was a special name, it was my son’s name. And? It was the FIRST chapter in his new bible. He smiled so big as we opened the bible and he saw “MATTHEW” at the top of the page. I then turned around as we stood to sing “Light of the World” (I can’t hear that song without getting all the feels.) And then I look up and see the cutest little girl, with the thickest glasses and awkward smile, run up to one of my best friends and give her a big hug. This friend has been speaking life into this little girl and telling her how special she is. (My friend was abused as a little girl and she’s made beauty for ashes. Young girls who have been abused or neglected are drawn to her. She loves and speaks life over them). Seeing this? Made my eyes start to leak as I just thanked God for allowing me to struggle a bit financially this season causing me to look around and be reminded of what Christmas is really all about!
And then? He gave that gift to me promised the day before. I picked my aunt up and we went to church together. I hugged her as we cried after the message and the singing. I felt the love of “family” and I just prayed “Do it again Lord. Let my hug heal one more time..”
If I hadn’t had skin cancer, I wouldn’t have needed the surgeries that caused me to wipe out my savings. If I hadn’t wiped out my savings, I wouldn’t have had to get that second job. If I hadn’t got that second job? I wouldn’t have heard people say “I thought you owned this store? It just seems like you do.” Which dropped confirmation in my spirit that I AM to start my own business. That one day I will be funding random acts of kindness on Christmas to the hungry and hurting. As soon as the holidays are over? I’m starting the business plan and soliciting investors. If I hadn’t allowed myself to be humbled a bit? I wouldn’t have learned what I have from working at the mall that I’m sure will help me as I prepare to open my own business. And if I hadn’t been in the store? I wouldn’t have had the people put in my path that were supposed to be. The ones that helped remind me the real “Reason for the Season”.
God is faithful my friends, and If you are seeking Him in every part of your journey? You’ll find Him. And He will use you to be a light in the darkness. My wish for you and your family is that 2018 brings many blessings on your journey.