Saturday, December 24, 2011

All Is Calm

I didn't think I would be writing again but here I am :) It's Christmas Eve and it just doesn't seem like Christmas this year. It's been difficult the past couple weeks-I avoid Facebook as much as possible so I don't cry seeing all the pictures of everyone with their families, preparing together, talking about what they will do together, etc. Usually I am not so depressed -the first Christmas without Marla was rough but thankfully we spent a couple days with Doug and Rose-hanging out in our sweats and watching movies together. It was a blast!!!
This is the first Christmas we will actually be all alone. Not that I don't love being with my husband, but I am the type that loves being with people during the holidays. Normally we invite people, but this year everyone is gone. Our adopted kids (Bethany and Lorenzo) are back in the states, people are busy with their own families and here we are. I know, I probably sound pathetic....but I can't help it. I am so sad!! Everyone says how Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus and I agree-but everyone loves being around their families too-it just makes Christmas more Christmasy.....ok I will try to get over it! My Marla will wake up in her apartment all alone....ok Margie..STOP!!!!! Poor girl has a bad ear infection and may not make it to the family get together tonight. Praying she feels well enough on Christmas to hang out with Sandy and family. At least we will get to skype and she can open her presents while we watch. Same thing with our grandchildren. We get to skype and they will open their presents from us. Praise the Lord for Skype!!!! It's such a blessing to us and many that we know.

The good thing is that I baked and baked. Every year I make baked goods for friends and my neighbor that lives downstairs. This year I decided to just bake for a bunch of my neighbors. I baked different cookies (gingersnaps, chocolate peppermint with white choc and crushed peppermint on top, Mexican wedding cookies, and sugar cookies). I also made a pretty tile for each of them to display in their homes. I used the scripture Numbers 6:24-26.
I made my way to each of their homes-they were shocked!!!
My downstairs neighbor is always thrilled when I bring them baked goods and they bring over some yummy goodness Napoli style for us.
Afterwards, I came home, tidied up the kitchen and started thinking about their responses. The Lord gave me a little bible study with each of them. I thought I would share it on here :)
One neighbor just kept telling me 'thank you' over and over again. The other-an older lady whose husband passed away a year ago didn't even look out the window-she thought I was a solicitor and said-no thanks. Then, I told her who I was and she came to the gate. She was in shock I tell you! She couldn't understand why I would make cookies for her. She got a little teary-eyed and asked how could she accept them when she has nothing to offer me.
Another neighbor wanted me to stay for coffee. Another one apologized to me for never stopping to talk to me. Her and her husband invited me in, wanted to chat for a bit and then made me promise I will come over often and practice my Italian with them.
When I was cleaning, I thought that these different responses are just perfect in how people respond to the Lord.
Some are just so thankful, don't have much more to say but Thank You so much!
Others feel they don't deserve Him or His love because they have nothing to offer Him. They aren't used to anything for free or without strings attached.
Others are sorry they didn't meet Him sooner-desiring a relationship now that they know Him a little better.
This was a great gift from the Lord. How often we say that when we step out and want to bless others, we ourselves become so blessed. A plate of cookies-it can do wonders. Honestly, I have lived here 3 years now and never felt as close to my neighbors as I did today. I told Jim that none of them will ever just walk by without a little chat from now on. It's like the walls came down. People think of Italians as very open and friendly. It's true in the South but in the North they can be much more reserved. People on my street are not outside much-they work and then close up the windows when they arrive home.
Now, we are excited and want to plan a Mexican dinner and invite the neighbors. Little by little-this is what everyone has been telling me since moving here. Noone usually responds to you for years. They want to trust you first. Well, I think God just opened the way. Let's just hope they enjoy the cookies :)
It's often in the little things that God blesses us and let's us know how much He loves and cares for us. If we weren't here, we wouldn't have been able to experience this joy today. I think this will become a new tradition in the neighborhood-the American girl bakes...oh you should have heard the one lady. She was so cute...Oh, Brava Margie-you made these, oh brava!! How can you not smile!!
I leave you with this beautiful song. There's something about listening to this song in so many languages over the years. Makes you realize that God indeed loved the whole world so much that He gave all of us Jesus, our perfect gift. Every tongue, every nation-we will praise Him!!!
Have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time with your families. Pray for those who for whatever reason aren't able to be with their families this year. Pray for those whose loved ones are celebrating in Heaven for the first time and they are left here to mourn their loss. Pray for those in bunkers and fox holes on foreign soil.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

This was the theme for the Baja, Hungary Ladie's Christmas Tea last week. It was a joy to be there with everyone again and see their faces, give lots of hugs and see the wonderful things the Lord is doing in the lives of the people there. I miss them so very much. I often say that if I could bring them all here to Italy with me, I would do it in a heartbeat!!!
The Lord had begun to stir my heart about this theme about a month after I knew I was going to be speaking at the Tea. He confirmed it through a message by Nancy Sylvester when we were in Austria this past summer for the Missions Conf. And, in case I didn't get the hint, He was faithful to reconfirm it. I was looking at some photos on FB from Vista and saw it was their theme a few years back!! Love it! I thought I would share a bit of it with you on the blog :)
I was so intrigued by Mary's life-her simplicity and her obedience. She faced fear of the unknown and probably had many questions about what was to be. Yet, she chose to obey God and to trust Him. She didn't need the story laid out before her and know every detail before she said yes-'behold the maidservant of the Lord, let it be according to Your Word'. Wow, what a response! It caused me to think about how I respond to things when God calls me to do something. Most times, I want to analyze like most of us women do. We tend to want to think it over, weigh the pros and cons, are there benefits, and wondering what the cost might be.
After meditating on these verses in Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat) you can really see Mary's heart. How much she loved the Lord, how well she knew her God. It showed me that that is what it comes down to in our lives, at least in my life. How well do I know Him, and how much do I really trust Him. Do I trust Him so much that I can abandon everything to Him, to believe without waivering that He will be faithful, that He will indeed work out every detail of the plan as I leave it to Him to do so. She praised the Lord in these verses from her heart, not just with her lips. Her worship wasn't based on how she felt at the time, or her circumstances. It was true worship from deep within her soul.

Another thing that really stuck with me in studying her life was what didn't happen. Here was Mary, soon to be married to Joseph. One might think that from this point on they would live spectacular lives and become wealthy. After all, they would be the earthly parents of the Messiah. Mary and Joseph didn't become wealthy materialistically. Joseph didn't have the biggest carpentry business in town or business cards made up with a fish on them and try to gain from the call on their life. Nothing was about them. They didn't seek to profit nor did they expect that God would suddenly make their lives easier. There weren't some rich guys in the synagogue running over to build them a house or offer them all kinds of neat things because Jesus was living with them.
It made me think about life as a Christian. Life as a servant of God. How many times we can (or at least I can) think that because we are being obedient to God's call our life will benefit. We can think that if we do what we ought, then God will be well pleased with us and He will make life a bit easier, He will suddenly change our financial status, our social status, and other things. I tend to fall in this rut at times. Thinking ok Lord, I am doing this and I know You are in it, I know You called me to this, and so everything is going to work out so well. I realized over the past months that this type of thinking can easily lead to bitterness. Bitterness towards the Lord because we had expected something more than He had promised. Bitterness because you said yes and you are struggling in your life and someone else said no and seems to be living the life of Reilly (who's Reilly anyway???) We need to protect our hearts and minds from thinking that God owes us something just because we obeyed the call. When these thoughts come to mind, I need to run to my Bible and read the accounts of those who said 'yes' and see how easy and pain free their lives were (not) while on this earth.
Mary's obedience cost her much! She would watch her Son be beaten and hung on a cross to die. She would endure listening to the loud, scruffy voices of the soldiers hurling insults at the Son she once held in her arms. She would hear a crowd of voices yelling out to crucify the little boy she watched grow into a Man.
I read this quote from Charles Spurgeon:
"Oh how we ought to rejoice in Him, whatever our union with Him may cost us. Mary did not know what that wondrous visitation would cost her-and it was to cost her much, as Simeon said to her-"Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also," But even though the sword must go through her soul, it mattered not to her, for unto her a Child was to be born, unto her a Son was to be given, who was to be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
For me, I want the things the Lord showed me in studying for this, to stay with me and not just be forgotten in a month or two. I want to remember that I don't need to know how everything is going to work out, I don't have to be afraid. I can abandon my self to Him, to trust Him, to believe that yes, my God has everything under control. And then, not to just accept what He has for me-but to praise Him! I realized how easy it is to get to that point of acceptance but fail to get to the point of praise.
We do have reason to exalt His Name, to rejoice in our Savior! No matter what the circumstances of our lives are, no matter what or where He calls us to, we can magnify His Name!