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Joy is not elusive

12/12/2020 - Author: Natasha Phillips

This time of year holds some of my favorite memories…as it does for so many people. Memories of cutting down a cedar tree on December 13th, my brothers birthday, from across the road…actually cutting down two or three because the first never passed mom’s approval. With cutting down the tree always came a game of hide and seek among the trees with my siblings and dad. There was ALWAYS caroling at our house which meant lots and lots of cookie baking to bring to all our neighbors when we sang and the elderly folks in the community that my parents made sure weren’t forgotten. When I was younger I loved those visits…because one could never just “drop off” cookies and sing a song and leave and those we were visiting always had goodies for us kids. As I got older and entered my teenage years I tolerated the caroling and visiting but dreaded it all…the old people were boring and I thought caroling was for children and crazy people. I wish I could go back and change my thought, change my attitude and soak up those visits as most of the people we used to share this time of year with, have passed. I loved the way anyone was always welcome at the house I grew up in…even more so at Christmas time. I loved the way the house looked, and of course I loved Christmas morning. We didn’t grow up in a house with Santa Claus or an elf or anything like that. We didn’t grow up in a house with much money. I never knew how poor I actually grew up, financially that is, until I was in college. In our house at Christmas time there was an abundance of gifts. You see, us kids always had gifts for each other. When we were younger that meant all the gifts were homemade, as we grew into our teen years homemade gifts fell by the wayside as we could afford to buy little trinkets for the siblings that were dear to our hearts. Gifts were never extravagant in the house I grew up in, but we all knew how much love went into each little thing. Being the oldest I got rocks from the little kids collections they had made from the stream across the road, I received wooden creations from board that had been assembled to look like a house and painted and always cards and drawings. Christmas morning we had to wait until my parents would get up. Mind you…364 days of the year we were being told to be up, dressed, hair done and downstairs by 6:00am. But on Christmas morning my parents wanted to “sleep in” until 8:00!!! Oh the horror. All us kids would be piled into the living room trying to keep the baby away from the tree and the current toddlers out of the presents, all while staying quiet so mom and papa could “sleep”. Haha, now that I am an adult and a parent I very much doubt they were sleeping. When they finally would get up, mom would prepare breakfast with her famous bear claws…a treat reserved for Christmas time or her “fat balls”…a Dutch donut. When the indulgent breakfast eating was finished, we would once again pile into the front room to read the nativity story from Luke 2 and put the nativity up. The figurines would be passed among us kids with admiration for whoever received baby Jesus as that was the real prize. Papa would commence to reading and we would place our beautiful figurines when it was time in the story. It would end with a prayer by my dad, which took about 5 minutes as he loved torturing us…and then, finally present opening commenced. The nativity tradition is still a constant in the house, now instead of us receiving multiple figurines, we are lucky to get one with all the grandkids that are around or in-laws…no one would change a thing though! A number of years ago, as a white elephant gift, I got our nativity set. It was given in humor…but little did they know I didn’t have one or that it would be one of my most loved Christmas decorations. This Christmas I have really been struggling. Struggling with feeling the weight of sadness around me, struggling with missing people, struggling with the social climate in the world…things just feel heavy. I haven’t really wanted to decorate or do holiday stuff…until last week when I put up my nativity set. So many emotions of my childhood washed over me, so many cherished memories. I’ve been thinking of this season we are in, this very long season of 2020…and then I started thinking of the Jewish people of so long ago. Of the season they had been in waiting for the messiah…it was hundreds of years they had been waiting. They had been promised by many prophets of someone coming to rescue them and no one showed up. The decades that went by. The sorrows they encountered. The loss of their lands, jobs, families and so on. I thought back over my life and seasons of my life, periods of waiting, darkness, emptiness and heaviness. Then I thought of Mary, young Mary and how she must have felt holding the messiah…her Son. What joy that must have been!!! Then I thought of my life, I didn’t have to wait for the messiah, I have Him living inside me…I should have joy all the time! Christmas holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons, but one of the reasons is that it gives me a chance to remember the joy…to have the reminder set on my piano for all to see, for me to see and for me to remember that I am not in a waiting period for the messiah, He is mine now, He is dwelling inside me…He is walking with me through this season and I DO have JOY!

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Reading memories

12/11/2020 - Author: Natasha Phillips

When I was a child my mom read what seemed like an endless amount of books to us. My imagination, dreamers spirit, and love for discovery took root in those stories. Real life heroes or places that seemed magical. Trips on the Oregon trail, the mayflower, a Viking ship, in the jungles of Africa and so much more filled not only my mind but play time with my siblings. One of the things though I couldn’t ever understand was how emotional my mom would get over certain stories. She would have to work to control a tremble in her voice as she read the words and occasionally even had tears that flowed down her cheeks as she read. Now, reading aloud to my children, I am overcome with many of the same emotions. I, of course knew where this book was headed and what became of Nate Saint along with 4 other godly men in the Ecuadorian jungle…I read the last chapter over and over to myself, practicing not being emotional. Today I read that chapter aloud to my boys and oh how my tears flowed. I couldn’t stop them as I read of how on that beach, on the curaray river, 5 men laid down their lives in what had been an attempt to reach a tribe that had never heard of the love and forgiveness of Christ. Through their deaths not being avenged, the door was opened for the greatest gift of forgiveness to be shared with the Waorani people. How grateful I am that I have the gift and privilege of growing up in a time where the knowledge of Christ’s love and forgiveness of me is so easily accessible and how in awe I am of those willing to lay down their life to spread the good news. As Frank Drown read from the Bible, the night they gathered at the missionary headquarters…singing hymns and praying… after telling the 5 new widows and their 9 children combined, “Be ye faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life.”

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