I know you are done with Christmas, but I want you to hear the story of the snow globe wiseman and a mother who is grateful every New Year.
Not Three, But One
Of course, traditionally wisemen come in sets of three. But when my son was 19 he gave me a stocking stuffer of one bearded Mideasterner trekking in a snowy globe. This gift was unwrapped after we had worshipped together at a candlelight service singing Silent Night, Holy Night.
I remember looking at my soldier holding his candle and realizing that this could be our last Christmas together. I was thinking about a Georgia graduation days before and
the Ranger commander’s voice ringing out his declaration: “Family and friends, I am here to tell you that your Ranger will see combat! I guarantee it! But I am also here to tell you that he is among the best fighters in the world!”
Our son was deployed to Iraq that New Year’s Eve fourteen years ago. My little wiseman snow globe became a symbol of that time and our soldier.
Prayer and Peace
Looking back, I marvel that there was so much peace about this deployment. Later, I would hear combat stories and shiver in wonder. But during this time, I had an army of family and friends praying for him. A couple of times I imagined two soldiers walking up the sidewalk and ringing our doorbell with bad news. But generally there was much peace, and our son came home.
Today, he saves lives in a hospital ER. This Christmas I showed him the snow globe and asked if he remembered it. He did not.
Recently he asked me what I say to atheists who ask why I believe in God. He said, “You know what I tell them, Mom? I say, ‘I am just not that lucky.’”
To this God I am eternally grateful for a mother’s prayer answered. And the little wiseman snow globe is my yearly reminder.
The countdown for T-day has begun, and I’m wearing a purple bracelet to remind me of the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Actually, it is a visual to recalculate whining tendencies. The bracelet declares, “Gripes Be Gone!”
Speaker and writer Linda Dillow gave two dozen women and me the bracelets at a recent teatime event. Linda is a Bible teacher, who mines scripture for spiritual nuggets. During this talk she asked if we knew what four horrible offenses God held against the Israelites when his miracles freed them from Egyptian slavery. The Apostle Paul lists the wrongs in First Corinthians 10: sexual immorality, idolatry, testing (rather than trusting), and grumbling. Linda asked, Isn’t it interesting that grumbling makes this list? Who knew the offense was and is THAT bad?
Dillow Insight on Griping
Here’s another observation Linda drew our attention to in First Corinthians 10:6 (ESV): “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” In other words, we have this example to teach us not to do likewise. Then, Linda challenged us to reexamine our attitudes in those moments that are uncomfortable or difficult. Attitudes of thankfulness fortify the command, “Gripes Be Gone!” She recommended daily journaling to record all the ways we receive God’s care. Give thanks!
So I’m wearing my little purple bracelet and watching out for gripes. When I catch myself, the band is moved from one wrist to the other. (One audience member declared she was not removing her bracelet but simply stretching the band and giving herself a whack.)
Please, No Bleating!
I looked up one definition of gripe:
1. “to express a complaint or grumble about something, especially something trivial.
“they gripe about the busywork”
synonyms: complain, grumble, grouse, protest, whine, bleat….”
How about you? Would you like to take the bracelet challenge and discover how well you can keep the gripes and bleats away this Thanksgiving?
Here’s one more “gripe” observation for Thanksgiving that might be appropriate. The second definition of gripe is:
2. “to affect with gastric or intestinal pain. ‘It gripes my belly like a green apple.'”
Therefore, watch out for getting too stuffed like a turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!
A Humorous Aside:
For those interested, here is what the Israelites complain about in the wilderness, shortly after their freedom from Egyptian bondage:
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it (Numbers 11:4-9).
My birthday milestone was an excuse for a family reunion. I pictured three generations enjoying a Florida beach and gathering seashells. Can you hear the screech of protest tires? Here’s how we ended up in Las Vegas.
Florida to Las Vegas Is a Long Tale Trail
One family member: “Florida is too far. We can’t take off that much time.”
Me: “I understand. So, how about somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, close to home?”
And then from another loved one: “Remember the altitude sickness and migraine headaches I had the last time we visited Colorado?”
Yes, I remembered.
What to do? Our memory-making destination needed to be reachable for all, at sea level, and affordable.
“How about Las Vegas?” I was thinking cheap airfare, food, and lodging; sunshine; and low altitude. Just give me a pool!
At first, came the sound of silence again.
Then, one by one, adults offered unanimous approval.
Last month, our family of nine gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday three months ahead of schedule. We found a family resort with no casinos. Lovely Tahiti Village even offered a lazy river for tubing, sandy beach, and pool.
God’s Bear Hug
My birthday cup was full, I thought, and then I was bear hugged by God right in The Venetian! Let me tell you there is no greater experience than a God hug, and I wish I could transfer one to you, but that’s not how it works. He’ll deal with you as is fitting on his timetable. But here is my hug experience:
Part of The Venentian is a mall called The Grand Canal Shoppes. The stores look like Venice nestled along a canal complete with gondola rides under a faux, but tasteful, blue sky. It is probably the closest I will come to the real thing, and the granddaughters and I wanted to do it.
The family split into two groups.
Potty Break. No! Two Potty Breaks!
My group included favorite daughter-in-law and the three- and six-year-old granddaughters. Just as we were getting into the roped off line the six-year-old winced and whispered: “I have to go to the bathroom.”
The two of us hoofed it and returned to our group. Then, the three-year-old was holding her crotch plaintively.
Not sympathetically, I said, “You’ll have to hold it.”
Her little face melted me, and I pleaded, “Can you hold it?”
“She can’t,” said Mom.
We got out of line. The gatekeeper was understanding.
By the time we were back with empty bladders we were assigned gondolier Francesca, from Naples, Italy.
Her accent gilded the glide down faux Venice. Francesca was so sweet to the children, even singing an Italian nursery song. Translation, she said: “Papa, I have to go pee pee.”
As our gondola entered a circle of water in a holding area, I noticed the Japanese woman at the railing snapping photos of us. The sunset’s window light did create a soft glow, I thought.
And then, suddenly I was spiritually bear hugged. I felt total love, total peace. All was well. And all is well. I was in a thin space between heaven and earth. Time seemed irrelevant. Love embraced everything. I was teary-eyed from this surprising birthday touch from God. No words can capture the experience, but it was very good and too quickly over.
“Happy Birthday, Grandma!” declared the six-year-old.
In that circle of water, Francesca sang Happy Birthday in Italian to the German American “Nona.” She then rowed us to the dock, and we hugged when I got off the boat.