Jesus, You made some of us early bloomers.
And some of us blossom very late in the season.
But OMG, thank You for loving us all!
Jesus, You made some of us early bloomers.
And some of us blossom very late in the season.
But OMG, thank You for loving us all!
Years ago, I attended a Christian writer’s conference at a California camp located in redwood country. Before Palm Sunday services, worshipers made an early morning pilgrimage to a cross atop a mountain.
I skipped it. The drippy morning didn’t inspire my jet-lagged body to rise.
Later, though, I set aside the hour I’d been told would suffice for pilgrimage. I spiraled up the mountain road, marveling at enormous redwoods and giant ferns. Homes perched on mountainsides. No sleepwalker, this Hoosier observed, should attempt slumber here without wearing a parachute.
Higher elevations made my head throb, but I inhaled evergreen fragrances and a spring tang that still eluded Indiana’s leafless forests.
As GPSes were not yet common, I carried a map. When the road reversed, then reversed again, I searched the map in vain. What to do? I walked and walked, huffing and puffing like my asthmatic coffee maker back home. Finally, I admitted I was lost. The only directions I felt sure of? Up and down.
Perhaps I’d trusted a pantheistic mapmaker who believed all roads led to the same destination.
Supper aromas emanated from houses I passed. My stomach, unstuffed for the first time in days (“starving writer” doesn’t apply to writers’ conferences) demanded I return the way I came. But I’d climbed an hour and a half to view the cross.
No turning back.
I spotted a fellow writer jogging, hoping he descended from my destination. Smiling, he ran toward me.
I considered tripping him. But my mission drove me to civility.
“Did you find the cross?” I gasped.
“That way.” He pointed, still jogging. And smiling.
Eventually, I spotted the cross.
It seemed to dwarf the cerulean sky. Its thick, wooden beams looked like they could hold a Man in their deadly grasp. Jesus carried something like that through streets of jeering people and up a hill called the Place of the Skull to atone for the sins of humankind.
I carried a water bottle.
I rested on a bench, thanking Him for His sacrifice. For my salvation. I savored alternating lush and dry vistas in Scotts Valley and beyond to Mount Umunhum and Loma Prieta. Then, unlike Jesus, I left the cross.
But because of Him, I, despite energy drain and grouchy stomach, went back full.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you attempted a pilgrimage? How did that go?
Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”
Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”
Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.
My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.
Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.
Besides, everyone’s broke.
We’re all on diets.
Many people really hate January.
My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.
Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.
I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)
Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.
My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.
January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.
If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”
Then do it again.
Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.
John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?
Have you created a bucket list? I’ve considered it.
Instead, I recorded what I’ve done and would rather not repeat:
Other remembrances make me shiver. I never again want to:
Nor will I:
Finally, I won’t challenge anyone to a doughnut-eating contest. Ronnie, a street kid who attended my Bible club, claimed he could outeat anyone. I devoured twice as many. Humbled, Ronnie went home, sick. Humbled, I realized the Bible didn’t recommend this form of evangelism. I called Ronnie’s mother to apologize.
Silence. Then laughter. “Glad you called his bluff.”
Still, I couldn’t look a doughnut or bathroom scales in the face. God, either, but soon I realized He’d forgiven me and had taught Ronnie and me to engage brains before mouths.
God isn’t limited by clueless mistakes. Amazingly, the kid still attended Bible Club. Decades later, I pray doughnut disaster memories have faded. That Ronnie clearly recalls Jesus loves him.
In reviewing my once-but-never-again list, I realize God’s protected me big-time. I never fell off my shoes. I haven’t been abducted, joined the Ku Klux Klan, or worn French Tinkerbell clothes.
I now can look doughnuts in the face.
Scales? Still working on that.
And God’s bucket list for me.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s on your once-but-never-again list?
Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.
We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.
We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.
Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.
His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.
Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children once enjoyed.
The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.
I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.
Peace on earth reigned.
Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.
We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.
Where was Baby Jesus?
Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.
“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.
Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.
Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?
“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.
But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.
I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.
“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.
I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
This maxim originated in 1949 with Air Force Captain Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who ran a bungled aerospace experiment. Perhaps his holiday gathering didn’t resemble a Hallmark movie’s, either.
Few do. Anyone celebrating Christmas wrestles with Murphy’s Law.
Murphy’s Law also wreaks havoc with holiday feasts. Along with meeting fat-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and pescatarian (fish only) requirements as well as free-range partridges that have roosted in pear trees, hosts face numerous other challenges.
Then, there is the weather.
Murphy’s Law loves to tinker with generational differences.
With Murphy’s Law on the loose, grinches could present an excellent case to ban holiday get-togethers.
But grinches don’t understand that Family Law trumps Murphy’s. It declares love is worth risks. Worth gravy, Santa and Cheerios® car clashes. Worth learning to pronounce “pescatarian.”
After Christmas 2020, who would have it any other way?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How does Murphy’s Law affect your Christmas?
O Lord, this Thanksgiving, we give special thanks that our family knows You through Jesus. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)—OMG, even if that togetherness is expressed through breakneck air hockey, euchre, Ping-Pong, and tossing sponge burritos at our relatives.
This post first appeared on October 10, 2018.
Pulling a camper is like being followed by a shadow that’s gained 2,000 pounds.
Sure, I’ve spelled my husband en route to nearby campgrounds. When straight roads send him to Lullaby Land, I save our lives by driving short stretches on state highways.
But brave roaring, dragon-like semis on interstates? Motorcycles whipping in and out of lanes at Star Wars speeds? Han Solo, I’m not.
Especially as the rearview mirror is rendered useless.
My husband installed extended mirrors. However, they warn that reflected objects are closer than they appear.
That’s nice. Even humble, and I admire humility. But sorry, nice mirrors, when changing lanes, I want accuracy. And if up-close-and-personal encounters with construction barrels throw you off, I really don’t need views up my nostrils.
Especially when parking. We often need to stop for gas, food, and/or restrooms. Those paltry reasons pale, however, as we focus on more profound questions: Will we find a place to park the camper? Afterward, can we get out?
Once, as I contorted truck and camper in my 100th effort to leave a convenience store, Hubby lost all hope. “Will we spend the rest of our lives behind Kwickie Mart?”
Not exactly the retirement we’d envisioned.
I tried to console him: “Living on Little Debbie® cakes and beef jerky wouldn’t be so bad.”
My attempts scared traffic to a dead stop. A hundred yards away.
Thus, we finally left Kwickie Mart.
Hauling a camper never bores us. Once, while I was driving down South, purple-cloud giants charged us. They spit lightning and smothered us with avalanches of rain that drowned car taillights ahead. If I had risked pulling over, my flashers would have disappeared, blown out like candles.
Did I slow down? Not much. Storm or no storm, drivers who never drive less than 85 mph — on roads, shoulders and in parking lots — can be found everywhere. Even in easygoing Mississippi.
My prayer life shot up several notches.
Hubby’s, already flourishing, set new records.
Jesus took the wheel.
Afterward, when He had guided us to sunshine, Hubby tried to talk Jesus into taking all my shifts.
He smiled and said, no, we needed to grow in faith. Together.
Though Hubby still had theological doubts about Kwickie Mart experiences, and I struggled with mirror-nostril crises, we indeed have learned to depend on Jesus and each other. With His help, we and our 2,000-pound shadow return home, safe and sound.
We will hit the interstate again soon.
It’s only fair I give other drivers advance warning: Look out, I’ll be pulling a camper!
Prepare to grow in faith.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever pulled a camper? Driven an RV?
O Lord, why a fussy, tropical plant named after a politician should figure prominently in commemorating Your Advent seems a mystery. But You designed lovely, gaudy poinsettias. You also loved a party … and disliked nitpickers. So, OMG, I will celebrate You any and every way I can!