Out With the Old

It’s sad to say goodbye to an old friend.

2013 was a constant companion these past 365 days but at midnight tonight, 2013 slips away and I’ll see it only in my memories and in the blog posts I wrote.

2013 continued the changes that 2012 brought, but it also stretched and grew me in ways I’d not imagined or planned on: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In some ways, I grew stronger.  Muscles rippled as I threw myself into yard work and gardening. Health improved as I ate better (and less). I became a lean, mean, working machine.

In other ways, I grew weaker. I fretted and stressed over things I had no control  over. And, I watched my faith dwindle as I leaned into making things happen myself instead of trusting God for my every need.

As I stand with 2013 at my back and 2014 facing me, I look at who I was this past year…who I am at this present moment…and who I want to be this time next year.

It’s time to let go of the past and let my next step take me into the future, with each step thereafter leading me closer to the me I want to be…should be.

Do I have it all figured out yet?  No.  But, I do know this:

I need to hang on to the things that push me forward toward the fulfillment of my dreams and lean all the harder into them.  And, I need to turn loose of all that sidelines me, distracts me, or drives me in a direction other than that which leads to the fruition of my goals.  I must be single-minded in my pursuit of making my dreams a reality.

Goodbye 2013.  It was fun knowing you.  Thanks for all the good times and for being there in the bad.  I learned much from you and appreciate all you offered. (Ah, if only I’d made the most of what you offered and took advantage of each opportunity.) You’ve taken me as far as you can go and now it’s time for me to bid you farewell. “Thanks for everything, 2013.  I’ll never forget you.”

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A Headless Camel and a Faceless Baby Jesus

With Christmas past and the old year drawing to a close, it was time to take down the Christmas tree and put away the decorations.

The Nativity Scene was the last to leave its place and make its way into the box:

  • the stable,
  • Mary and Joseph,
  • a handful of sheep,
  • shepherds,
  • an angel,
  • a cow,
  • two donkeys,
  • a headless camel,
  • and a faceless baby Jesus.

I remember when the camel lost his head, and how. It happened years ago when Daughter invited him to leave his watch over the stable and play with her.

But, I don’t recall when Jesus lost his face, or…how.

A headless camel doesn’t bother me. He stands in the background…hardly visible.

But a faceless baby Jesus? For some reason that both bothers me and, yet, at the same time comforts me.

To see a faceless Jesus is a bit disconcerting. “Faceless” implies blind, deaf, dumb, disconnected…unknowing and unknown. (Not exactly something we equate with Jesus, you know?)

But, a faceless Jesus is also comforting.

I’m drawn to the faceless Jesus in the manger and linger a moment.

My mind searches memory for the face that belongs to Jesus and rejects each as incomplete…inaccurate.

I’ve lost sight of Jesus’ face.

And, that’s good, I think, for every face my mind conjures is a recollection of drawings and images of what people thought, hoped, dreamed Jesus looked like as a baby…boy…man.

Jesus looked like any newborn human. If you want to see what baby Jesus looked like, look through the nursery window at your local hospital. He was small, wrinkled and not all that cute.

If you want to see what Jesus looks like, prepare yourself.  It’s quite unlike the image of the babe in the manger.

Well, Christmas has been relegated to the garage for another year.  Perhaps next year I’ll glue the head back on the headless camel. Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps next year faceless baby Jesus and the headless camel will take center stage while Mary, Joseph and the rest of the entourage take a year off.

The headless camel can serve as a reminder of blind, mindless religious traditions and the results of yielding to temptation.

Faceless baby Jesus will declare that Jesus is indeed the image of the invisible God – God in flesh…God with us…Emmanuel.

He came because of God’s great love for all and you can’t put a face on that unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes.

Make Your Own Happiness

Sometimes you have to make your own happiness.

Yes, you do.

When was the last time you bemoaned…anything? (an event, a relationship, a happening, a loss, a lack, a disappointment, a frustration, a hurt)

How much time did you spend griping about it? How much effort did you invest in your expressions of discontent?

My guess is that more time, energy and activity was spent bemoaning (whatever it was) than on finding happiness. My own experience attests this to be true.

Now, I’ll agree with you. Sometimes it’s hard to find that little sparkle when the sparks fly.

It’s hard to smile when the gravity of a situation pulls your smile down into a frown.

It seems natural (and, at times, helpful) to invest emotional resources on that which eats at us.

But, when negative things and thoughts consume us, we find it difficult to recognize and accept the positive.

That’s not beneficial to our well-being and it indicates a need for action on our part.

What do you do when you can’t find one tiny glimmer of positive within the darkness of negativity?

Here’s what you do. When sad frowns have you down, turn one upside-down.

Make your own happiness.

Happiness doesn’t just happen you know. It springs from an attitude of gratitude.

Now, look back at the image that played in your head when I asked, “When was the last time you bemoaned…anything?”

Find the sparkle. Look for the tiny glimmer. Turn a frown upside-down.

Make your own happiness.

Jesus and Santa

I guess I’ve had my head in the sand.  I certainly missed all the hubbub about Jesus and Santa.

I had a hard time as a child – Jesus was born on Christmas day – so when did the shepherds visit him? Was it Christmas Eve night? Or Christmas night?

Who, exactly, was I supposed to worship? Santa or Jesus?  And, could I worship both equally for just the Christmas season?  My head told me that I loved Jesus more – that was the right answer, I knew. But, my heart betrayed me – it loved Santa more.

I didn’t get excited over Christmas plays or Jesus’ birth.  I was a kid.  I didn’t even know for certain why I needed a Savior.  My parents kept a pretty tight reign on me and I wasn’t sure I would know a sin if it slipped up on me.

But, I did know that Santa rewarded good little girls and boys, and the adults I knew said I was a good girl. So, bring it on Santa!

Usually, by Christmas Eve I was in such a Christmas overload that I was actually physically ill and stressed to the max.  What would Santa leave me?

I knew Santa was white (well, actually he was pink) – he was from Northern Europe and all of the pictures of him showed him to be far whiter than I and the songs talked about his pink cheeks and red nose.

Jesus was white, too, at least I thought so. Every picture I’d ever seen of him showed him to be white.   Imagine my shock when I realized Jesus was NOT a white man.

By “picture” I mean drawing.  There are no pictures of Santa just as there are no pictures of Jesus.  There are just drawings and paintings made by people who have seen neither in the flesh.

And, our beliefs about either are based, in large part, by what we’ve learned from others.

Santa didn’t make it to my house this year.  I guess I wasn’t a very good girl.

But, Jesus did.

I’m so glad Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world, red and yellow black and white, all are precious in his sight – no matter their age and independent of their behavior.

Yes, I’m so glad Jesus loves me.

Unbelievable Bike Stunts

It’s a good thing the internet didn’t exist when I was a kid.

If this YouTube video had been available to me, I probably would not be here to write this.

For a child who spent as many hours on the back of a bike as possible, the stunts on this video would have proved too tempting to pass up.

If you grew up chasing the wind on the back of a bike, click the link above, settle in for a 6 quick minutes and be mesmerized.

Oh, and, be sure to take in the 2 minute Outtakes video. Ouch!

Two Year Anniversary

When I signed into Suzansays, I was surprised to find that WordPress had sent a little note congratulating me for celebrating my 2 year anniversary.

Two years ago today (Christmas day 2013)…I suppose it has been two years since Suzansays was created.  It’s been almost a year since I began this daily blogging run….

So, yes…I suppose it was 2 years ago on Christmas evening that I stretched myself a bit and went public with my thoughts.

Scary thing, this going public with my thoughts – for me and probably for my readers too! 😉

To my readers: thank you for the gift of your presence and patience. Thank you for believing in me…for being oh so kind in your comments.

The weeks and days leading up to Christmas have been frustrating and angst filled.  However, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were blessings far beyond what I’d hoped or dreamed.  God wove a thing of beauty and I am in awe of God’s goodness and grace.

My hope is to write a bit, in the coming days, of things learned and experienced and of the ways I’ve grown…and perhaps grown up.

When this posts, Christmas will be past and we will be moving quickly toward the year’s end. I wish to bask in the glow of this Christmas now past but life moves me forward into what’s next.

Perhaps, through writing I will be able to capture (for myself and for you) the wonder of this Christmas.

Stay tuned!

Peace on Earth

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:7 NLT)

She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn. There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:“Glory to God in the highest heaven,and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”  When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger.When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:7-20 GNT)

Jesus – the PEACE CHILD

Celebrate the REASON

Today we remember your birthday – happy birthday, Jesus!

The Most Precious Gift

What is the most expensive gift you’ve ever received? ever given?

What made it so expensive?

What’s the most precious gift you’ve ever given? ever received?

What made it so precious?

I asked myself, “Why are you spending so much time and energy on and stressing over finding the right gift to give someone who doesn’t even want to spend time with you or include you in their life?”

Good question.

And one I didn’t have a quick, ready answer for.

Was it because I wanted them to like me?

No.  I had no hope of that.

Was it because I wanted them to notice me?

No. Not that either.

Then, why was gifting this person so important to me? And, why was I stressing over what the gift would be?

It’s because I want this person to know of my love for them, of my openness to them, of my desire for relationship with them.

It’s not because I desire anything from the individual.  No, I don’t even care whether my gift is accepted.  I doubt it would be, at least not in the manner in which I intend it.

So why give anything at all?

Because I am driven to show my love and giving is the only way I know to do so.

So I’ve looked for the perfect gift that will express my love and reveal who I really am to this person.

My gift is just that – a gift.

Of course, there is the hope that the gift will be accepted…and if it is, perhaps a relationship that will enrich and empower the other individual will eventually result..

But, if not…it’s still a gift, specially chosen with a great deal of thought and outpouring of love.

We were all given a gift a long time ago – a gift that would express God’s great love for us and reveal who God is to us.  Freely given, thoughtfully offered, lovingly gifted – God gave us Jesus.

Why?  To express God’s great love for us and to reveal who He is.

Why?  Because God desires a relationship with us.

God became flesh (God became one of us) and lived among us.

A Year With NO Christmas

A year with NO Christmas.

Imagine that.

What if Christmas…the celebration of it…was outlawed?

What if…those who decorated…or celebrated were arrested?

What would it be like to live in such a place?

What would it be like to see no red and green decorations, hear no Christmas carols, see no Santas, hear no “happy holidays?”

What would it be like for December 25 to be just like any other day of the year?

You know, don’t you, that the whole year moves toward that date with eager anticipation.  From January 1 we look forward to December 25.  And, actually, on December 26 we begin thinking about the next year’s Christmas.

What if Christmas didn’t exist from this point forward?

What would life be like? How would your life change?

It would, you know.

Look around you – what would you NOT be doing, seeing, hearing, smelling now if all things related to the celebration of Christmas were outlawed?

(For some reading this, the thought might bring a smile. Why? Look back at the last few weeks and ahead at the next couple of days and see how your stress level is.)

If Christmas was forbidden, would it be forgotten?

What would you miss most about Christmas? (Think before you answer. You might be surprised.)

Now, here’s a thought. Whatever your answer was, why not live into it every day of the year in some way?  Why save it for Christmas?

Outlaw Christmas? Perhaps you think that absurd.

How about this scenario: financial difficulties, illness, emergencies, disasters, death.  Things unforeseen and unwelcome can prohibit your traditional celebrations.

Imagine – a year with no Christmas. (It’s a fact for many this year.)

Christmas must be more than activity (buying, giving, receiving, cooking, eating, going, celebrating).  Christmas must be who we are.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Christmas isn’t coming this year. Forget Santa and presents, cooking and cleaning, decorating and singing.  Forget all of everything you DO for Christmas.

Think, for just a moment, about what Christmas is.  Is it the most extravagant and exciting holiday of the year that stretches from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day? Or, is it something…less?

Something less?  Yes.

If you suddenly found yourself unable to celebrate Christmas as you are accustomed, and as you desire, would you…could you find that small spark within from which all the celebrating grows?

If there were no more Christmas, would the Reason for the season be less blurred?

Last Saturday Before Christmas

Last Saturday, Hubby and I headed out to the mall for several hours of mall walking.  The weather was cold and rainy.  The mall was dry, cool, not too crowded, and not so noisy that we couldn’t converse as we walked. (And, snagging that parking place right at the door…now that was sweet!)

I commented to Hubby that the crowd was less than I thought it might be and was surprised by our ability to move freely and at whatever pace we set for ourselves as we maneuvered up, down and around the mall.

Hubby reminded me with a chuckle that we had chosen that particular Saturday to mall walk for a reason – and that reason wasn’t just the weather.

  • The mall was decorated for the season (though not as grandly  swhat we had become accustomed to in “Small Town, GA” where there was far less cultural diversity than we see here).
  • Holiday sights, smells, excitement were everywhere.
  • Shoppers were present and pleasant, not frantic.
  • The “See Santa” line wasn’t so long, or so wide, that it slowed our pace.
  • We could enjoy each other…hold hands…relax….

Last Saturday morning, Hubby and I enjoyed our mall walking date – and we got out without spending a penny. Now that’s my kind of date!  🙂

If Hubby were to ask me to mall walk with him this weekend my answer would be “NO WAY!”

Walking the mall would not be an option.  The crowd would be thick and crazed. Walking side by side, hand in hand would be impossible. And, conversing without shouting…not possible.

People watching, on the other hand…now that would be fun.  And, it would provide fodder for many Suzansays pieces…but the traffic and the headache of just getting to the mall….

What a difference a week makes!

To you who braved the crowds and shopped yesterday – my hat’s off to you as I sit here sipping my coffee.  I’d love to hear your story – I’m sure each and every one of you has one to share. Shopping the final Saturday before Christmas is an adventure all its own.

And, life should have a badge for all who were brave enough (or foolish enough) to attempt it.