Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…Isaiah 25:6
It seems like several of the daily Scripture readings so far this Advent have made mention of mountains. I’ve been tumbling that in my head and when I walked through the living room and heard a commercial with Julie Andrew’s voice singing Climb Every Mountain I knew I’d better sit down and give all this mountain stuff some prayerful thought.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and asked God to make sense of the whole mountain thing for me and to be honest I just couldn’t get settled in. I was restless and had too much on my mind to really focus on prayer so I asked God to show me what it was all about. Still, I couldn’t settle myself for productive prayer because there were just too many tasks on my mind. I asked him to show me and invite me back to stillness when he thought I was ready. I did a few things from my to-do list. No, wait… I have to be honest; I picked the three or four quickest and easiest things on my list so I could feel superficially successful and productive. I even did something that wasn’t on my list then quickly wrote it down just so I could cross it off. Then I decided to get to the task I LEAST wanted to do. I grabbed my book bag and set out to grade papers and update the grading website. As I reached into my bag to pull out the papers that needed attention I laughed out loud again because what I slammed down on the counter was a MOUNTAIN of papers. Now, please don’t call my principal and have me fired for delinquent grading! Feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided maybe I should do the second least favorite job on my list; sort my “speaker shelf” (let’s be honest…shelves) in the office. Again, I was facing a MOUNTAIN of files books and materials. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry I walked out of the office through the living room and paused to see what Dave was watching on TV and no lie, it was a show about MOUNTAIN climbing. It became abundantly clear! I needed to climb my mountains.
Advent is the Church season that calls us to pause and prepare. We need to force ourselves to still our hearts and ponder the magnificence that will be upon us in a few short days. I think that’s where the mountain thing comes in. Each of those tasks I was trying to avoid seemed like a mountain that would require huge time, stillness and discipline. Entering grades and sorting files are not activities that can be done while watching TV or chatting with friends or doing anything fun so I suppose that makes them perfect Advent task; tasks that require stillness and focus. God is so smart isn’t he!
It’s time to wrap up this post because I have to shift from Joyful Words to my own little mountain of stuff. Before I dive in, I’ll make another cup of coffee and ask God to accept my paper mountain climb as a loving offering to him. I’ll ask him to help me use the time to think prayerful thoughts and ponder the beautiful plan he had for our salvation as I patiently and lovingly tackle the mountain set before me! One last thought…what’s your mountain made of? Laundry? Homework? Cleaning? Email replies? Whatever it’s made of, remember Isaiah’s words; On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all his people. Phew!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a mountain, ask God to help you climb it prayerfully and with your mind focused on the miracle of salvation that started with a beautiful baby boy!
Blessings on your day!
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
When I was in the second grade I remember giving my mom the “gift of all time”, or so I thought. We had a mantle above the gas fireplace in our living room and each December that became the perfect spot for the Nativity set. Putting out the little statues was always mom’s job…nobody else got to help, we just watched her unwrap each piece from the newspaper and shoe box that was its home for most of the year. I’m sure they were made out of simple ceramics but she handled them as if they were made of priceless crystal. I remember her always holding Mary a little longer than the others. I told myself that when I got big I would ask her why…but I never really got the chance to ask that question. Now that I’m a mother, I think I understand.
Early that second grade December, my brother Jim got a pair of new shoes because he was growing so fast his toes just wouldn’t fit into his school shoes any more. We went to Kinney’s shoe store and all their shoes came in brown boxes. As we rode home from Topeka looking at the beautiful Christmas lights I remember spying that brown shoe box on Jim’s lap thinking I had the absolute perfect gift idea. You see, that Nativity set my mom loved so much had no stable and I was convinced that I could turn that brown shoe box into a magnificent stable! The next afternoon I set to work. I wasn’t sure how that shoe box would be transformed but I knew my first step was to make the gray inside of the box brown like wood. It was a little trickier than I had imagined. Coloring the inside a shoe box carefully and in all one direction was hard. Now, before I tell the rest of the story I just need to interject one important detail…I’m not very artistic or crafty so the transfer of the image in my head to an actual stable took some VERY wrong turns! Turning the box lid into a roof was a disaster. I used so much glue and tape trying to get it to stay up that that shoe box weighed about five pounds. One failed attempt actually involved trying to attach real tree bark to the roof to try to cover up all my other mistakes . After several afternoons I finally got a finished product that would stand up with the strategic placement of two nice sized rocks in the back corners. I was so proud! I was also amazed that I had done the whole project by myself without anybody knowing a thing. I’m sure my mom was in the kitchen thanking God for my new found love of library books…NOT! The afternoon I finished, Jim and dad were out in the garage so it was the perfect time to present mom with her gift. I’m not gonna lie…it was an awful looking sight but it was a mess I felt so proud of. Mom looked at it and then looked at me and just wrapped me in her arms. I remember sitting down to the table with her to stare at it and she just scooped me up on her lap. The crazy looking thing barely even stood up but I told her I thought with the rocks and maybe some extra tape we would have no problem propping it up. As I sat there on her lap, my brother Jim and my dad walked into the kitchen. Jim had something behind his back and he was smiling so big it made us all excited. Without even recognizing the “stable” on the table he pulled the gift from behind his back. He and dad had built a stable, a real stable out of real wood for mom’s beautiful Nativity statues.
Looking back at that afternoon I wouldn’t have wanted to be my mom for all the money in the world! Before I knew it, both of us were on her lap and she was just hugging both our necks. After a few minutes the boys were off to clean up the garage and I just sat with mom and her two stables. Dad and Jim had been able to create out of simple wood scraps a stable that looked exactly like the one I had seen in my mind. She kissed my forehead and said, “I am so lucky! I went from no stable to two stables all in one afternoon. Now I have a place to lay Baby Jesus.” That’s it…that’s all she said…that’s all I needed to hear. A place for Baby Jesus to rest! I remember thinking that someone as important as the Son of God, even if only duplicated in plaster, needed the best place possible to rest His head. Mom left both stables there on the table and went about her chores. I just sat there looking at them and I realized the power of her simple words. He would want the best…even from me, as an eight year old. I took my stable to my room and put it under my bed, where it stayed for years. Several years later I pulled it out at Christmas time and mom and I had a great laugh at my creation.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Christmas humility lesson. Jim could have easily pointed out how much better his was and mom could have certainly pointed out the flaws in my stable but they both loved me enough to let me figure out how to be humble on my own terms. They both left this earth way earlier than I wanted them to, but I thank God every day for the lessons they taught me…even the ones made out of a cardboard shoe box.
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a few quiet minutes in front of a Nativity scene this week and ask God to reveal one simple thing you can do to make your heart the perfect place for Baby Jesus to rest.
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
I love to cook and my kitchen is my happy place. I’m not much of a recipe follower, I tend to use them as suggestions instead of instructions so I can get pretty creative with substitutions. Occasionally, the result of my creative swap teeters on the edge of disaster! A recent such disaster got me to thinking about the swaps that I should consider in my discipleship. Since Christmas is near and I want to give the Baby King the gift of a better me, I decided I should make a few substitutions in my daily faith life.
*I need to swap the word BUT for the word BECAUSE. All too often I find myself saying things like “It’s ok BUT…” or “I’d like that BUT…” The BUT automatically shifts my focus to what’s wrong or negative. BECAUSE would help me find the positive. “I enjoyed that BECAUSE…” or ‘I’d be happy to do that BECAUSE…”
*I need to swap my words for HIS Word. If I spent more time quietly soaking up His Word instead of flapping my lips or chatting it up on social media, that would be a super power swap for my soul! My words sure aren’t going to make the world better but HIS will!
*I need to swap thinking about doing things with actually doing them! Procrastination can often be disguised as “planning” or “organizing” when in my case, it’s actually just plain ole puttering around and dragging my feet instead of just gettin to the task! I can’t even imagine how many more good discipley things I could do with all those minutes I waste.
*I need to swap reactin for pondering. I can be way too snappy with my actions and reactions. I’m a problem solver and sometimes I just spring into action and try to get all the wrinkles smoothed out whether I’m the best person for the job or not. I need to spend some time prayerfully pondering and giving God a chance to do things his way.
*I need to swap why me for why not me! It’s ok if I work extra sometimes. It’s ok if someone makes more money than me. It’s ok if folks don’t notice all the things I do. It’s ok if someone else gets the attention, reward or surprise. I need to stop thinking about what I think I deserve or have earned and learn to celebrate the joys, successes and good fortune of others. I need to remind myself that all the things I do are for his glory and not mine!
It’s just five little swaps but I have a feeling the final product will be a great improvement! As we wrap up the last few days of Advent and finish getting our hearts ready, I think I’ll focus on swapping out some junk and make some room for him.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of these swaps or think up some of your own and put them in action these last few days of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com