Journey To Christmas Past

Pregnancy — Planned or Not?

Is any pregnancy unplanned?  Some pregnancies are unplanned by humans.  But it is God Who creates a Life and He has a Plan for every life He creates.

Mary thought she had a plan for her life.  But God had The Plan, and as promised, it was a Good Plan.

I invite you to join me as we share in the birth announcement delivered to Mary.

Is Christmas Really Real?

Is Christmas really real?  Is it a Christian celebration?  Was Jesus really born on December 25?  Does it matter?

How should we celebrate Christmas?  Sometimes the answer comes from a little child.

i invite you to explore the answers to these questions and more in my video, Is Christmas Really Real?

The Gift

When God gives a Gift or a calling, He never takes it back.  We can try to ignore it, set it aside or look at it , but never unwrap it.

But it is ours.

i invite you to watch the You Tube video that introduces the upcoming advent video series.  It began “once upon a time” when a little girl had a dream.  It continued until in the fullness of time, God brought that dream to life through a remarkable Gift.

Attitude of Gratitude

I was raised by two parents, who had a consistent attitude of gratitude.

By the time they reached the end of their lives in their 90s, it was just first nature to thank and praise God for everything.

When my mother lay near death in the hospital after a car accident, my niece and I prayed at her bedside, begging God to heal her.

Right in the middle of our petitions, we were interrupted by a weak voice, that crescendoed with every word into a beautiful song of praise and Thanksgiving.

My mother thanked God for my father, my brother and me, our spouses, our children, their children, the care team in the hospital and on and on.  She thanked God for the life He had allowed her to live.  She thanked Him for His Provision and Protection.  She thanked Him that He had a Plan and it was a good one.

Her prayers of thanksgiving carried her into a restful sleep and left my niece and I bathed in the oil of gladness.

As a child, when I awoke every morning, I would find my mother kneeling by her bed in prayer.  My father would be kneeling by the chair in the living room.  In thinking about the short prayers I knew, I once asked my father why it took him so long to pray.

He chuckled and said, “Carolyn, it would take more than 24 hours a day to thank God for our many blessings.”

My father’s heart overflowed with a love so great, it seemed the older he got, the more he felt the urge to fully express that love.  He told us not only that he loved us, but he loved us “with all his heart.”  Near the end of his life, he added, “And I really mean that!”

When he expressed thanks to God for even the smallest thing, he would say with great Joy, “Thank The Lord over and over and over again.”  His Cup of Appreciation overflowed.  He clearly received Joy in giving thanks.

My father also developed the interesting habit of thanking people three times.  After he died, one of the nurses at the nursing home said, “The thing I will remember most about your father is how good he made me feel when he thanked me for doing anything for him.”

Another nurse added, “And he always did it three times.”  Together they said, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  And I repeated, “Thank you for taking such good care of my Daddy.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  I am sure Daddy smiled.

And what about things that were disastrous?  How did they handle that?  As I whined and complained about something negative that happened, my mother would say, “Isn’t God’s Timing wonderful?  Aren’t you glad that didn’t happen at the same time as …?”  And she would remember another difficult time.  Somehow I did end up thanking God.

When I complained about something not happening on my time table, my parents would tell me to thank God for delays.  They reminded me the world runs on God’s Time, not my time.  Later, when I processed that by being delayed leaving home, I missed being in a place of danger, I thanked God.

If I complained about eating something I did not like, my parents simply countered with thanksgiving we had food to eat and that we had never gone hungry.

When my father planted a garden with many things he did not eat, I was puzzled.  He simply said, “I thank God for letting me help Him provide for other people.  It’s a Blessing to have something to share with others.”

When I lived far away from my parents and I missed them, I could tell they missed me too.  But they said, “We are so thankful we can write letters and talk on the phone.”

When those we loved died, they grieved.  But through their tears, they said, “Thank God they are at Home with The Lord.  And we are with The Lord too.  Thank God He keeps us connected.”

 My parents lived lives of Thanks Giving and planted the seeds of gratitude within me.  Their lives were a testimony to a great Truth.  Thanksgiving is just a day.  True Thanks Giving is a way of Life that gives Life!

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What Senior Citizens Want You To Know

As I complete another trip around the sun, I find myself reflecting on both the joys and challenges of getting older.  Now that I have been promoted into the more advanced levels of this thing called Life, I have the frequent urge to share what I have learned with my younger traveling companions.

When I was younger, I did not understand all the things I now do about relating to older people.  As a part of my desire to share wisdom (and also in the hope you will treat us right), I now share what we seniors would like you to know.

We don’t appreciate your predictions of doom about our future.  Please no jokes about dentures, incontinence, wheelchairs and forgetting things.  Not funny at any age.

Don’t tell us we look good “for our age.”  Keep the compliment to “you look good.”

If you want to know how old we are, ask.  If we want you to know, we will tell you.  If we don’t want you to know, we won’t tell you.  And we may be bold enough to question why you are asking.

Don’t insult our intelligence by asking questions that try to get at figuring out how old we are.  Example, “How old were you when you moved here?  How many years have you lived here?”  

We have the urge to say things like “I was eight when I got my bunny.  Then I was fifteen when the Smiths moved next door.  I graduated from college with a 4.0.  I got married five years after that …”. And we can keep the filibuster going indefinitely without ever really getting to our age.  The question is whether you can keep up! 

When people want too much information, we give it to them.    But we control the content.  An answer of too much information works every time.

Accept that we may tell you the same story many times.  No eye rolling, sighing and saying, “You already told me that a hundred times already.”  It is not always that we have forgotten we told you.  

We simply enjoy going back in time and having you as a traveling companion.  Come with us one more time.  You may learn something new about the places we’ve been and the things we have done.  

We may want to tell you about people you never had the opportunity to meet.  The best way to keep someone’s memory alive is by remembering them.  And we are happy to “introduce them” to you by talking about them.

Accept that we may tell you about the bad times too.  It’s not that we enjoy going back there.  Sometimes we are still trying to figure out the lessons life taught us.  Sometimes we are still trying to “mine the gold” and it’s tough!  Sometimes we want to share what we learned so you don’t make the same mistakes.

Let us give you advice.  You can take it or leave it, but we enjoy the feeling of passing the baton on to those who may benefit from what we learned.  We like the feeling of investing in a future we may not see.

Give us a minute to access the files in our brain.  It’s not that we have forgotten everything.  It’s simply that we have more things stored in the filing cabinet of our brain and it may take us a minute to pull out the right file.

Be patient with a little rambling.  If we come across something on the way to pulling the right file, we may want to digress a minute and tell you about it.  We are not confused.  You just need to keep up when we switch topics!

Do not make comments about how slow we drive and we will not comment on how fast you drive.  Most of us have lived long enough to witness accidents and we don’t want to be in one of them.  

We already had our days of living dangerously.  We now know how fragile life is and how everything can change in a second.  We value the years we have collected and we are not ready to cash in our chips yet just to try to get to the store ten minutes earlier.  Besides that, we want to go slow enough to enjoy  the scenery.

And yes, we are secure enough to know our car horn works.  We don’t need to test it every few minutes like you do.

Do not “help” us unless we ask or obviously need help.  We value being independent.  We don’t like even the appearance that we can’t take care of ourselves.  If we stumble, see if we can right ourselves before you grab us by the arm.  If we “miss our mouth,” tell us discreetly.  Don’t reach over and wipe as if we were a child.  We will give you the same courtesy.

On the flip side, be patient with our asking for your help.  Sometimes you may think we are being overly dependent or whiney.  But really we may be testing whether you will be there if we do need you.  Reassure us not just with a promise for the future, but by indulging us a little now.

Listen to us tell you about our present day life.  It may not sound as exciting to you as your life, but it is our life and it is important.  We are not just sitting here waiting to die.  We are living.  Going to the store, visiting a neighbor, looking at the flower bed are the adventures of our life.

Understand we, like everyone, need to express grief over our losses.  We are at the stage of life where we know, short of a miracle, we will never get to do some things again.  That makes us sad.   What you see as whining is actually grieving.  Acknowledge the pain is real, let us talk it out and shed a tear or two.

When we get to the place where we have to accept your help, understand we appreciate all you do for us.  But also know the appreciation is mixed with a sadness that we can no longer do it ourselves.  Look for ways we can participate instead of completely sidelining us.

Don’t overemphasize who we used to be.  That makes us sound as if we are not that person now.  We are the same person, but in a different life.  Feel free to ask us about the activities of our past, but acknowledge who we are right now.

Let us express our uniqueness and don’t be embarrassed by how we do it.  Some of us lived with teenagers with purple hair, body piercings and tats, and smiled at their creativity.  Now we may want to be a little wild ourselves.  Whether it’s going to Walmart with curlers in our hair or wearing a little more makeup than you think we need, it’s all good.

Know that we may talk about dying.  It’s not that we are morbid.  But we have a lot of family and friends who have already gone to the other side, and we are anticipating joining them soon.  Don’t deny us the anticipation of reality.  It’s a simple fact.  The young may die.  The old must die.  Help us pack our bags at our own pace.

Don’t tell us to “act our age.”  We’ve never been this age before.  It’s an adventure yet to be explored!

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The Other Side of Death Is LIFE!

September 11 will always prompt memories of the lives that were forever changed on that day.  Most of our memories focus on those whose lives were lost, those who lost family and friends, or perhaps where we were on that day.

Our memories come with emotion.  We may feel grief, anger or fear.  We may avoid thinking about what it was like for those we call victims of that day.  But were they victims?  

In this blog posting, I encourage you to consider what it is like to meet Jesus up close and personal. 

It always intrigued me that Peter, Andrew, James and John, when called by Jesus, at once left their nets and followed Him.  No good byes to the family.  No hanging around to take a shower and pack.  They left their nets at once and followed Him.

Why would they do that?  Was it their own impulsiveness?  Was it the call of adventure that seemed more appealing than the monotonous life they were living?  Or was it Jesus Himself who drew them in?

I believe it was simply Jesus.  He called to them with The Voice they recognized and all they wanted to do was to be with Him wherever He was.

I believe it is the same for all Who hear Jesus’ Call to join Him in the deeper reaches of Eternity.

Jesus said, “My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow Me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from Me.”

John 10:27 (God’s Word)

Read that again! Give it time to sink in.  No matter what the exit plan from earth is, we will not go as victims.  We will not be lost.  We will be safe.  No one can snatch us away from Jesus.

When He calls, the world around us will fade away.  We will hear only His Voice, The Voice of Love, The Love that created us and carried us, The Love That was with us always and ever shall be.

We will be absorbed into His Wonderful Presence.  We will simply want to be with Him wherever He is.

Movies and tv shows often depict angels as escorting us to our heavenly home.  There is some biblical basis for that.  However, I love what Jesus Himself said about our journey home.  He said He was preparing a place for us and when it is time, He Himself will escort us there.  (John 14:3)

What did those who died on September 11, 2001 experience that morning?  We don’t know for sure.  But when I was praying about it, The Lord gave me a song.

I will share the lyrics here.  Feel free to share with others.  The words and music are copyrighted  by me.  If you share separately from this blog, please note it is written by me.

I’m With Jesus!

© 2001 Carolyn Priester Jones 

Lyrics and Music

(Introduction)

I was working on that morning.

My cup of coffee was half gone.

Suddenly, I felt a gentle breeze.

I turned around to see …

And to my surprise, it was Jesus!

He was standing there with me!

 

(Chorus)

Jesus!

Standing there with me!

Jesus!

Plain as He could be!

Jesus!

He told me not to fear!

He said,

“Follow Me.  We’re leavin’ here!”

 

Others might have been calling,

But I heard only Him.

There might have been other noise.

I’m not sure what might have been.

I just knew …

 

(Chorus)

It was Jesus!

And there was no pain!

Me and Jesus!

We walked and talked again!

Jesus!

He showed The Way to me!

And we walked right through that stormy sea!

 

In a world I left behind,

the headlines might have read

That all of us had perished …

that all of us were dead.

But they would have been so wrong

‘cause I’m more alive than then!

I walk the streets of Glory,

and I walk here with my Friend!

 

(Chorus)

I’m with Jesus!

What a Glorious Sight!

I KNOW Jesus!

And everything’s so right.

I HEAR Jesus!

like I never did before!

I’ve had JOY since

we walked through Life’s door!

 

Very truly I tell you,

whoever obeys My Word

will never see death.

John 8:51 (NIV)

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How Much Should I Pay For My Heart?

To listen to the audio blog posting, click here.

When I was 18 months old, I had a fall that resulted in my two front baby teeth being knocked out.  My parents were told my permanent teeth would be fine, but they weren’t.  They came in crooked and deformed.  The roots had been damaged.  They had to be pulled.  I was probably the only child in my elementary school who had dentures.

Additionally, I was very nearsighted.  I started wearing glasses before I started to school.  I was the only child in my class who wore glasses.

My parents were plenteous in Love, but short on money.  I never wanted for anything, but I was aware that my parents had to watch every penny.  I had clean, nicely pressed clothes, but many of them were handed down to me from family or friends.  It was a little embarrassing when an older friend would say in front of others, “Hey, you’re wearing my dress!”

I was shy, sensing I was different from others in my class.  However, that did not stop me from dreaming of a time when I would be the object of admiration, not teasing or whispered jeers.

I thought my time to shine might have come the day the teacher very excitedly told us about a new contest the school was having.  It was a fund raiser the PTA had orchestrated.

Each class would have a king and queen.  Then a king and queen would be selected from the pool of candidates to become king and queen of the whole school.  And the best part was that the king and queen would not be selected based on their looks.

My ugly duckling heart soared.  Each of us was given a big jar.  All we had to do was collect money and fill the jars.  The girl and boy who collected the most money would be the queen and king.

I ran home that day, bursting with excitement.  I told my parents I was going to be the queen of my class and maybe of the whole school!  My mother looked very sad.  My father looked frankly horrified.  They looked at me, then at each other, and back at me again.

Finally my mother spoke.

“Carolyn, where were you planning to get the money?”

I hadn’t exactly figured that part out yet.

“I guess, I’d get some from you, and maybe some from my aunt.  And I can take my jar to church.”

My father then spoke.  “So you are planning to beg for money.”

Even though I was in the second grade, I knew how to make a case.

“It’s not begging, Daddy.  I’m just asking for donations.”

My mother spoke again.

“Carolyn, you do know you are beautiful, don’t you?  You don’t need to be a queen.  Knowing you are beautiful comes from the inside of you, not the outside.”

I began to cry.  My dream was being destroyed.  My parents did not understand.  How could I ever be sure I was pretty if no one but my parents told me so?

The silence that followed was only broken by my sobs.  Finally my father said firmly, “You can put that jar away because you are not going out to beg.  We’ll put a little something in it, but that’s all.”

And then he turned to my mother and said, “Pearl, call the teacher and see what this is all about.”

I feel sure my parents protested the school’s fund raising tactics.  I spent a very gloomy couple of weeks, as my jar remained empty and the other kids showed off their jars that were filling up with coins.

The night before everyone was to turn in their jars, my mother came into my room.  She had her coin purse.  She dumped everything she had into my jar.  Even though she had given all she had to give, the coins in the jar only seemed to emphasize how much was not in the jar.

I think I managed a weak thank you, but she knew my heart was broken.

“Carolyn, there will be many times in your life when people will try to get you to give them something to tell you that you are pretty, smart, or part of their group.

“If you have to pay them to get it, it’s not worth it and it’s not real.  

“Your heart is like this jar.  It deserves to be full, but you must be very careful about who you ask to fill it.

“God is the only One Who can really fill your heart.  When He tells you are beautiful, you can believe Him.  And you won’t have to pay Him to say it.”

I tried to understand, but I could only see that big jar and how little was in it.  If I had had a choice, I would have skipped school the next day.

Everyone came in, showing off their full or nearly full jar.  And then there was mine.  I had one friend, in similar economic state to me.  Her jar was about half full.  Her parents had not approved her begging either, but she came from a large extended family who had contributed to the cause.

She looked at my jar.  Without saying anything negative, she simply reached into her jar and said, “Here.  Let me give you some more.”

I could not explain it then, but looking back now, I can see that my heart began to fill at that moment.  Neither of us became queen that day, but we each felt beautiful in our own way.  She was rich, because she had enough to give and was willing to share it.  I was rich because she counted me worthy to receive from her.

And I was blessed by two parents who refused to let me try to buy love and affirmation.  They taught me it comes from the inside and God keeps filling as long as we share with others.

There have been many times in life when I was offered love and acceptance with a price tag.  Unfortunately sometimes I was weak and I succumbed.  I paid.  I regretted it.  I repented.  I started again.

Empty jars remind me, even now, to guard my heart.  It’s not for sale.  It’s a Precious Gift from God and He will fill it up! 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

You are chosen.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

John 15:16

God chose you.  

You are beautiful.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:10

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Help! I Can’t Pray!

Click here to listen to the audio blog.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed you could not pray?  Most of the time we survey our situation.  We decide what it is going to take to fix things.  Then we place our order with God in the hope He will give us what we want.

But what if things are so bad you can’t even figure out what to ask for?  What if your conscious mind is scrambled due to illness, injury or other circumstances and you can’t even get out what you want to say? Are you done for?

Often it is the realization of our powerlessness that drives us to God, Who is The Source of all Power.  

It is our “not knowing” that causes us to run to The One Who does know all.  

It is when we cannot stand in our own strength that we fall to our knees before God.  

It is when we can’t hold on, even by one fingernail, that we relax our grip and release it all to God.  It is only then we can truly receive.

In those moments we discover the depth of The Truth Jesus taught.

“Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. (Poor in spirit).  The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

Matthew 5:3

We hate to admit we are helpless or powerless in any area of our life.  If we are Christians, it is particularly troubling to have to acknowledge we’re empty.  We don’t have all that spiritual knowledge we thought we did.  

But when we get to the point of realizing we can’t handle everything, what we do next determines what happens next.

Will we continue to struggle to hold on?  Will we polly parrot what we believe and ask God to agree with us?  Will we name it and try to claim it?

There is another option.  We can surrender, not to our circumstances, but to God.  We can stop talking and let The Holy Spirit speak for us.

Like The Advocate He is, The Spirit will speak on our behalf.  The Spirit will take our jumbled thoughts and express them to God, whole and complete.  

The Holy Spirit will express, not just what we think we want, but He will express what we truly need.  And He will line us up with what God wants for us, which will always be so much more than we could think or imagine.

Paul said it well.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but The Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of The Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with The Will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27

When you don’t know how to pray, stop trying, except to say, “Holy Spirit, please speak for me.”

And then be still in The Presence of God.  And praise Him and thank Him.

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Jude 1:24-25

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I Touch The Future. I Pray!

To listen to the audio blog posting, click here.

Do you ever pray for people you have not met yet?  I was very surprised some years ago when a friend told me he was praying for the person his infant daughter might marry one day.

I asked if he already knew that person.  “I thought arranged marriages went out long ago,” I added.  “Besides, she might not want to get married.”

He smiled with a knowing look and said, “That’s true.  But really I pray about all the people she will have relationships with … friends, bosses, coworkers, even relatives that have not been born yet.

“But if there is a husband in her future, that person may be alive right now.  He is having experiences that will contribute to the man he will become.  It is right for me to pray for him.”

It was a new concept for me, but one I quickly endorsed.  Today when I look at my son in law, I realize how long I have known him spiritually and how God kept him in His Care until many years after my first prayer when he and our daughter met.

When we had our house built, we were one of the first in what was then a new subdivision.  I sat on the top floor before there was a roof.  I had a bird’s eye view of our street and of our just beginning to develop neighborhood.  I prayed for all who would come here, either to live or visit in whatever time.

When people come to visit our home for the first time, they often comment that they have the strange feeling they have been here before.  Some comment it feels like “coming home.”

I tell them how long they have been prayed for from this very homing point.  I tell them, “Welcome home.”

I pray for those who will live in this sacred space after my husband and I have gone.  While we hope to live here a long time yet, I know the day will come when others will live here.

When we changed from carpet to solid flooring years ago, I wrote scripture verses all over the sub-flooring before the boards were laid.  When I walk across the floor, I am aware I am literally standing on The Word of God.  I pray for those in the future for whom God is preparing this place.

Prayer has also prepared the way for me many times.  At times I had to have surgeries, where I had to trust my life to people I didn’t know.  I knew, as I drifted into anesthesia, I would be cared for by nameless, unknown people behind masks.  

But they were not unknown to God.  He intimately knew them.  He knew everything about them and had guided every moment that had brought us together at that time.

In the days before surgeries, I prayed, not only for my unknown helpers, but I prayed also for their friends, their families, their co-workers.  As my friend taught me long ago, whatever is happening around them is influencing the people they will be when they connect with me.

And hopefully my prayers for them will influence who I am when I come into their presence.  I will not be afraid because I have already established a connection by acknowledging in my spirit that we are related.  We have the same Father Creator.

Did you know Jesus prayed specifically for you?  Jesus knew the past, present and future you.  He wanted to be sure His Followers understood His Circle of His Love would extend far beyond them.  Jesus wanted His Followers to continue His Prayer and pray for you off in the future.   

Jesus prayed for His Followers of that time and for us, His future Followers.  When Jesus talked to God in The Garden of Gethsemane, He said, 

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

John 17:20-21

When you recognized God in your life, Jesus smiled, and said to The Father, “I prayed for her.  I prayed for him.  I knew they would come.”

And Peter, James, John and the others said, “Yes, amen.  We prayed for them too.”

Take a few moments and think of the great saints of the past who prayed for you, even when they did not know your name or anything about you.  

And then consider who you will pray for now and in a future unknown to you now.  That future is completely known to God, Who created you and will continue to create in the future.

I touch the future.  I pray!

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