Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A book review

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Ann Voskamp has written a beautiful family geared version of the daily Jesse Tree Christmas readings. She has taken the scriptures for each day and retold each story in a child-friendly fashion. Each story comes with beautiful illustrations depicting the wonder of the season, and providing a visual to support the literary experience. This version of the advent reading is unique as it follows the story of Christ from the world’s creation through the kings, prophets, and the New Testament events. For those families who have enjoyed using the typical Jesse Tree Christmas readings, but need some support in using it with children, Ann Voskamp has made it easy for you. Each daily reading includes suggested discussion questions and activities to expand the lesson with your family.

I have loved reading Ann Voskamp’s blog for a while now and I appreciate her finding wonder in the simple ways in life. Understandable, I was very excited when I found out there was a book available combining her unique style with my favorite Christmas readings. This year, my husband and I read through it through December and enjoyed how she carefully used each story to point to Jesus. So often, we view Jesus as simply the Christmas story and beyond, when He really is the central point of the whole Bible. All through the Old Testament, He has been working with the Father to complete their plan. I would recommend this book to any family who wants to read and discover the whole story of Jesus during the Christmas season.
I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

Past the brazen altars…

Some thoughts as I worshipped this Sunday:

“Take me past the outer courts, into the Holy Place, past the brazen alters…Lord, I want to see your face.” (Take me in by Petra and Kutless)

Past the brazen alters? Wait, can I just walk past them? I’ve been through the outer courts, on the outside hoping to meet God.  All along, even without knowing, I desired that Holy Place.  To see the place where God dwells, to sense his presence.  And since the brazen altars are on my route, they must be part of my journey there. But what do you offer at an altar?

Clearly, in reading through the Old Testament, you often read of goats, sheep, oxen, doves, etc being continually offered daily. Sometimes these offerings were in the thousands! (King Solomon’s dedication of the temple 1 Kings 8:63)  The outer courts were reserved for Gentiles and women. The men would enter in to present the sacrifices to the priests.  Access to the Lord’s presence was very restricted….until Jesus came and ripped open the curtain to the temple.  Though Jesus paid the final, complete sacrifice, I still keep seeing this word ‘sacrifice’ through my reading.

“Let us offer, through, Jesus a sacrifice of praise….”

“offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”

“a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God…”

What do I offer? I confess….often my life has that noticeable stench like rotten tomatoes surrounded by fruit flies.  Lord, make it smell sweet!  Take the striving, doing, pushing, and replace it with your beauty. Take the pressure, the worry, the trying to be good enough, and replace it with your sweet smelling presence. As I spend time in your fragrant presence, may it rub off on me.

To just be…in you. To be in you…..while canning, freezing greens, making bread, writing lesson plans, collaborating with co-teachers, and doing laundry. To just be, not do. To just be..with people. To smell of you when talking with those you created.

“So, I give my life, a sacrifice of praise. Father, take my heart, every part today.” (Wickham)

A life change…every two pages.

You know those books you read that make you rethink your whole life every two pages?  Those kind that make you feel like nothing you do is even close to what you should be doing? That you’re not even a follower of Jesus?  That if your life didn’t change every time you picked up that book, you would be like the person in the book of James who looked in a mirror, saw the mess she was, and just forgot about it. 

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That’s how I feel when I read anything by K.P. Yohannan or his wife Gisela.  They are part of my favorite organization in the world Gospel for Asia.  I love how they use native missionaries to give gifts of livestock, sewing machines, and a number of other employments to people in villages all across Asia.  They also created schools for children who otherwise would be left to the streets or sent to work. And most importantly….Jesus and the hope of forgiveness from sin is offered to all. 

Reading books from someone who has seen it, been there, experienced another side of life always challenges your core actions, thoughts and living.  I remember how  every couple pages, I turned to my husband and said, “I’m not even saved!” (meaning not following Jesus).

In K.P.’s book, “The Road to Reality”, he literally challenged my reality. “Measured against eternity-nothing of this world makes much difference at all. A hundred years from now, it is unlikely that even one person in the world will remember what we looked like in this world.”  

 

The following is a list of realizations:

If my heart does not grieve over the millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus…

If my day is not filled with prayer whispers to Heaven for my brothers and sisters here and abroad….

If my finances and time do not reflect HIS kingdom instead of my own……

If I harbor any coveting, pride, jealousy, unforgiveness or anger…..

If I can look at another picture of a thirsty child, a broken man, a widow, a loveless woman and have my heart not break for their pain and eternal outcome…….

Then my heart does not reflect the heart of my Savior. 

 

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Reading through Scripture and through K.P’s book it is evident of the power of prayer if we would just admit our inadequacy and rely on HIS sufficiency. People are healed, bread/fish are multiplied, and villages are transformed. “No man is greater than his prayer life” (Leonard Ravenhill)

Now to be honest…..(which if I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any point to reading this) I haven’t fulfilled that list yet.  Yes, I do pray more ( I find that the shower 🙂 is a perfect time to get some regular time in), and yes my heart does weep with those who weep (especially in Iraq, Israel, Asia, and here in my town). And yes, I do think about needs vs. wants, especially keeping in mind how many true needs there are around the world. 

Gisela writes in “Broken for a Purpose”: “The secret of overcoming is through dying-to die to the right of recognition, honor, position, respect and so on.” “If I understand this truth…I will learn to view my trials, disappointments, persecutions and victories as opportunities for the Holy Spirit to build and mold my life. Then, even during the most difficult and painful times in my life that strip me of all that I thought I was, I will be able to say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ trusting Him, knowing He is bringing me at that moment one step closer to look like Him.”  Broken for a purpose….his purpose… to look like Him. 

 

To beat with the same heart beat, to weep for the things God weeps for, to see as He does, and to pray as He wishes. “stamp eternity on both my eyes” “Break my heart again with what breaks your heart”

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This is a life-long process made by a series of small steps….every two pages. 🙂 

 

 

The language of love

You know the story….guy wins over girl through gifts, or love notes, or long walks in the park. Then after they get married and have been married a year….reality sets in. “You never give me gifts anymore. When can we spend time together? Remember, when you used to write me notes? Yah, those were the days…”

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Now, it’s not that either person has stopped loving the other, or that they stopped caring. It’s just that we don’t know how, at least not in a way our loved one will receive it.

This summer I read “The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Now, of course, I started thinking through the people I know and analyzing their language. 🙂 My siblings? Definitely quality time, just like my parents. 🙂 Big surprise, I know. 

So, in case you haven’t heard them, here they are:
1. Quality time: spending intentional time with someone, or even just being together in a project.
2. Physical Touch: hugs, a pat on the back, a high five for a good job, holding hands/
3. Acts of Service: taking out the trash, washing the dishes, helping someone carry something
4. Words of Affirmation: encouragement, verbally affirming their good qualities, appreciative words, notes.
5. Gifts: small gifts to let them know you were thinking of them, flowers generally fit this.

 

When people date, they generally do all of these things to earn their partner’s love and affection. But often, after time, we switch out of overload and back into our natural language.

The trick is to figure out what really blesses the other person and what they receive the most. My mom is a prime example of quality time. (Mom, you know it so don’t deny it). You could give her a gift every week or give her a quick hug when you see her each time (which, by the way, is her secondary language), but after a while you’ll start to hear her complain…..”sometime we should hang out again! Sometime, we’ll have to catch up. How’s this going? Just letting you know I’m thinking of you.” You get the picture. 🙂 That’s why she’s easy to birthday shop for….either a coffee date or thrift store shopping date.

I’m pretty blessed as Jesse’s languages are very similar to mine. Quality Time is his primary, with physical touch and affirming words coming second.

And if you’ve known me for any length of time, you should know mine. Guesses anyone?
Yep, quality time and words of affirmation. No surprise there.

The difficulty comes when our definitions of quality time differ. My choice of quality time (a walk in the neighborhood or a game) is different than his (eating dinner together, or chilling in the living room). Way easier to navigate than some of the examples I read about in the book.

It’s interesting how you don’t realize them until you start to miss them. I didn’t realize how strong words were to me until I heard negative words and upset words. Then it crushed me as what someone says to me is a big deal unless I train myself not to care…..as much.

Now, disclaimer alert! I’m not blind enough to assume that all people fit into neat boxes.  One of my dear friends told me recently she’s not sure which languages are hers.  As unique as people are, they may have a unique type of language that’s all their own.

So, we sometimes use this phrase around our house (and they talked about it in the book too).
“How’s your love tank doing? How can I help to fill it?” Sometimes it’s nothing as it was just a rough day at school, but sometimes it’s something as simple as cleaning the dirty dishes out of the sink.

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Love really is a choice. A choice to learn how to love the other person in their own way.

Love Talk

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One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to read more. While I’m in no shape to compete with all my favorite bloggers who write on how their goal finish multiple books a month, I’ve definitely read more this year than last year. And since one of my current life lessons is to be content with what God is doing in me rather than bemoaning I don’t have someone else’s gifts or spiritual calling, I’ll try simply be thankful for the books I’ve finished. To the record, I’ve finished five books thus far. Woohoo!

I’m one of those people who if I don’t write it down, I don’t remember. So this idea of blogging a book review is kinda selfish, as it serves the purpose of remembering what I read. 🙂 But it also can help others in deciding what books to read, or to simply get the cliff notes of a book and skip the reading part. Ha, ha!

Love Talk by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott is based on the premise that we each speak out of a specific top emotional safety need, and this need is our also our main fear. (I know that last sentence sounded confusing, I’ll try to explain)

1. Gaining control of time: A person whose main value is efficiency with time may always be worried about wasting it, utilizing time appropriately, efficiency, and completing tasks. Their biggest fear is in losing it or wasting it. In reading this, I realized my husband fits this perfectly! Frequent arguments….um, “discussions”….. are on ‘what’s the plan? When will you be ready? What time are we leaving? I need to get this done. How long will we be there?” etc.

2. Winning approval from others: This person wants to make sure everything is ok between people, doesn’t like to cause disruption, and needs to be reassured of worth and friendship.

3. Maintaining loyalty: This person sticks with the system, prefers predictability, and values commitment. They may be afraid of trying something new because they are so committed to the current plan.

4. Achieving Quality Standards: This person values excellence and strives for accomplishing great things. They fear making a wrong decision or not achieving excellence. They don’t care about wasting time or pleasing people or sticking to the plan, they just want to do the best possible job at what they are doing.

While all of us have a little of each need in us, we each lean a little more toward one area. Reading this book helped me understand my husband’s impatience as a value of using time wisely instead of a dislike of certain activities. If no one was like him, then nothing would get done. I am truly thankful for his value of time that pushes him to get the garage organized when I’m gone, to keep track of the rental properties while working a part time job, and to take good care of our family.
Have you guessed which one I am? 🙂 While I have a little of quality standards, and a little of the time, I think I’m part of the approval club. I’m always checking to make sure the hubby and I are “good”, and it takes me a bit to get fired up enough to say something to someone that may rock the boat. All of the needs are valuable ….in balance with each other.

To make this post readable instead writing a book…on a book. 🙂 I’ll try just jot what I learned from the book instead of explaining the rest. Then maybe you’ll still want to read it. 🙂

Do you tackle problems aggressively or passively?
I attack them passively which is carefully, considerately, avoiding conflict or wrong decisions. My hubby attacks them aggressively because he hates to waste time with the problem. His rush can lead to the wrong solutions or making it a bigger mess, while my deliberateness could lead to nothing happening to fix it. Together, they lead to careful quick solutions. (as long as we remember to do it together)

Do you influence with feelings or facts?
I do feelings and my husband does both. Facts are needed to keep the feelings in check. Typically, men analyze and women sympathize. Both are parts of being human.

Do you react with resistance or acceptance to change?
For us it depends on the type of change and the loyalty we have to the current plan.

Do you make a decision cautiously or spontaneously?
This depends on whether the decision is to get ice cream or to buy a house. 🙂

It boils down to understanding what the person is really saying and why they are saying it.

Ephesians talks about how we are one body with many members, with each member doing a different role. It’s hard to understand someone else’s role and giftings. My hubby is still going to get frustrated with me when I dilly-daddle, but together we can learn to be a team and work more efficiently. After all, being a team is what fulfills my emotional need. On that note, I should go get some work done before he gets home so that his need is met.

Until the next book…see ya then!

To do lists

1. Write out to-do list for today.

2. Write blog on to-do list

Do you all live on to-do lists like I do?   How many do you write in a week? Recently, as we were leaving for a trip, I started freaking out and frantically searching through my bags trying to find the trip prep to-do list.  You know those moments, where you feel like your world is going to fall apart because you may forget to do one thing on there?   No matter how much I looked, it was gone.  Mentally I started looking thinking through the list, trying to remember if there was anything left on there.  I left for the trip with a feeling of unsettledness, worried I had forgotten something.

I love to-do lists!  But not because I always need another project, but it puts my mind at ease when I can see it on paper.  Shh, don’t tell people this, but you know that back section of the bulletin where it says to write notes on the sermon? Yah, I usually fill it with my to-do list during the first minutes of worship.  Before you judge me, let me tell you it actually helps me worship.  For some reason, my brain loves having a hundred browser tabs open all the time.  You know the saying, how men think in boxes so they can just shut the box and put it away.  Well, my husband says I have a 100 internet browser tabs open all the time.  And I have to constantly think on them for fear I’l forget them.  Somehow, when I make a to-do list, it puts my mind at ease and I can let it go.  (insert Frozen song) If the paper has all my ideas on it, I don’t have to remember it anymore.  My brain can move on knowing my trusty list has it covered.  🙂

Yes, I know in theory, that life will continue just fine if I don’t get it all done.  That someone will call to remind me if I’m not there to meet them. That I’ll remember it later, or I’ll get an email reminder.  Or perhaps I’ll forget it because it really wasn’t that important to start with.  My motives wrestle within me in writing them. 

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Part of me writes them in the hopes of becoming….everything.   Remember that post about being enough?  I want to be good at maintaining contact with people, have beautiful gardens, read books, be hospitable, organized, put together, etc, etc, etc.  So I make desperate lists in the hopes that it will help be come what I am not. That I will be…enough.  But, the dream doesn’t work.  There’s not magic in writing it down that makes it happen.  I’m still …me.  

The other part of me writes it down out of a knowledge that what I prioritize, I do.  You can tell by the dust on my shelves, but the lack of dishes in my sink, that I view clean dishes as more important than clean shelves.  Or the rows of tiny seedlings, but the lack of home-cooked meals that nothing else matters when gardening season happens. 🙂  Some day I’d like to read the book, Say Good-bye to Survival Mode written by Crystal Paine.  It details her journey towards prioritizing the many things that call for our attention.  When I pick the top 5 things for the day and do them, there is a marvelous sense of accomplishment in crossing them off the list!  It also means, I don’t have to worry about the other items for they aren’t the priority. 

Prioritizing is the key, I think, to finding that balance.  Not based on what the world or I value.  But what does Jesus say?  Waking up each morning and saying: ‘Good morning, Lord, here are all the lists of things I thought maybe we should do. But what would you like to do today? What are your priorities?’.  Then comes the feeling of both accomplishment and peace as together (the Lord and I) do the things on His list. 

 

Lord, help me to value the things you do.  To see priorities as you do, and not to get caught up in trying to be enough.  

 

You know that list that I anxiously searched for before my trip?  Yah, I found it yesterday. There were only two things left on the list to do.  But it turns out life happened just fine without them.  🙂 

From the earthworm’s perspective…

From his perspective, he was accomplishing his goal. He was a real “earth mover”, ground shaker, go getter.  From his perspective, he was changing his world.   Things moved when he came.  Pathways were carved, and new environments created.  Plants around him flourished, and he was created with a special role in God’s creation.    

 

From my perspective?   He was just an earthworm, struggling to pull a plant seed into the dirt.  He was one of many earthworms I’ve come across in my gardening adventures.  And he treasured an annoying little weed that didn’t belong in my garden.  He was so tiny you wouldn’t have seen him unless you were weeding in his turf.  

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It was all about perspective.   Mine was vastly different than his.  The only reason he stood out to me from the many other earthworms that day, was his intense focus on his job.  He desperately wanted that bit of plant to come into the dirt.  He moved it so intently back and forth. When you look close enough, you can see two parts of the worm, perhaps his head and tail working together? 

 

Often from my perspective, someone else’s goal seems meaningless.  They are one of many.  There are many plant parts out there, why does this one matter?  And to someone else, I am probably the same as that earthworm….intently focused on moving my plant seed back and forth.  A plant seed that probably annoys some people. 🙂  

 

But to the Lord? He sees all the earthworms (both the real ones and us too!) :-).  He understands each perspective, each value, and each goal.  He doesn’t ridicule the intense focus on my spot in the garden, rather he encourages new growth and perseverance.  

 

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Lord, help me to value others as you do. To see from their eyes the things they value and treasure.  Thank you for seeing me as part of your creation.  You are the Master Gardener overseeing my little spot in your garden.  Help me to show the same diligence to each task (even if it’s small) as the earthworm showed to that weed.  

Tomato forest

For months, I was eagerly anticipating a visit to family run greenhouse just across the state border. I heard stories of its flower varieties, hot pepper options, and luxurious plants. 

I excitedly watched their opening day updates on Facebook and perused the flower photos. This was it….the place where our garden dreams would be birthed. Excitedly, we drove there to peruse the options.
It looked a little picked over when we got there, but we weren’t daunted. However, upon asking the employee where the vegetables were, we were met clouds of disappointment. “Um, we don’t have much, there’s hardly any back there. This is the lowest we’ve been ever.”
There were no tomatoes, no peppers, only a few picked over vegetables. Turns out, people had bought plants, lost them in the sudden freeze, and then bought them again. This left no plants for those of us who had waited for warm weather to plant. Sadly, we turned around and drove back to town. Anxiously we visited Walmart and Menards, only to find them picked over with little left. Desperately, we drove to Lewis wondering…would we even have a garden?

Ahh, at last! The day was saved when we saw loads of tomato plants and herbs lining the shelves.  Out of desperate relief, my husband bought loads of them. Thinking…”since there’s a run on them we must get as many as we can!”.

It wasn’t until later when we realized just how many we bought. 🙂 I started planting…and planting…and planting… and soon our tomato/pepper garden was just a tomato garden with a couple squeezed in pepper plants. Out of relief for finally finding some plants, he had overbought….reacted out of fear. We had a tomato forest!  I figure we have 46 ish plants squeezed in. 🙂

Isn’t that what we do often? When we are afraid? Afraid of not being noticed, afraid of not having enough to eat, enough money, enough shoes, enough beauty, enough approval? Afraid of not being loved? Just afraid….we are not enough…..

Out of fear, we grab on to whatever we can get, what ever crumbs, brief glimpses, shadows of what we fear we lack. And even if we have enough, we still grab for more out of fear we may run out. 

You see it in large and small ways… in people clutching to relationships though they know it’s unhealthy just because they “lack love”. Men chasing business plans as if chasing a dream of being ‘enough’. Women chasing this “revolutionary” beauty product (when will we run out of new varieties of mascara) or that “ground breaking” new fitness program to make them feel they are “enough”.
Don’t get me wrong, business, makeup and fitness are not wrong objectives, just when they are what you ‘need’ to be ‘enough’.

The same as my tendency to order too much food when I’m super hungry, because I’m afraid I won’t have ‘enough’. Afraid to give away hardly worn clothes, because I may ‘need it some day’.
Holding on tightly to any small note of appreciation because I fear I’m not ‘enough.” This fear of having ‘enough’ or being ‘enough’ can fill everything.

The Lord whispers gently….you are enough in me….I am enough for you. You don’t have to strive, you don’t have to run after that wisp of acceptance.
Come to me, my love for you is genuine, real, long-lasting, authentic….enough. You can rest. You can be.

“…my grace is sufficient for you and my power is made perfect in weakness”. 2 Cor. 12:9

Lord, you are enough. More than enough. Thank you for that reminder…in my tomato forest.

 

 

My forest

He knew….He knew and yet I questioned. I questioned his choice, his wisdom in planning out this place. I coveted …I coveted large spaces with full sun. Not this tree filled corner lot.  Not….my forest. One of my dear friends is blessed to buy the home of her dreams, with a large double lot full of long warm hours in the sun.  Last year, I planted numerous vegetables which provided a meager harvest. Our deck was transformed into a tomato jungle of 5 gallon bucket plants growing everywhere.
Still, with visions in my head of the garden we had in the country growing up, disappointment filled my heart. Why? Why were we given a yard filled with trees?
Why couldn’t you plan for us a yard full of long hours of basking in the warm sun? A yard that would cause any plant to thrive and produce like a Mother Earth newsletter dream garden.

Label it what you want, coveting, dissatisfaction, or discontentment. It’s a lack of trust, of joy, of peace. It’s a lack of …..Jesus.

Growing up in the country grew within me a love for open spaces, large gardens, and quiet places. When we first moved out there, we lived on a gravel country road away from the city. We protested the construction of a tar road feeling like it was a step away from our quiet country life. Moving into the city when I got married was the end of 16 years of quiet living. The Lord knew my aversion to loud places, to traffic jams, to suburban dwelling, to houses cut like cookie cutters, and to small crowded spaces.
So He gave me a nice double lot filled with 13 trees (well, it was 14 until the ice storm took one down last spring), in an old neighborhood. He gave me an oasis, a quiet spot in the middle of the city.
My husband and I enjoy resting in the gazebo in the middle of the privacy fenced in flower garden during a rain storm, listening to the pitter-patter of rain drops and smelling the fresh rain cleansed air.

Yet, I covet. I long for open sun filled garden growing space, yet reject it whenever anyone suggests we cut down one of our precious trees. One day the Lord pointed out my lack of trust in His plan.
My heart was filled with ungratefulness in his doing and wishing he had given us something ‘better’…also known as something I picked out. 🙂
Then I realized that ……..He knew.  He knew that I needed a quiet tree filled yard to replace my country living. He knew that I would meet lovely neighbors who would become friends. He knew that the gazebo would provide a place of refuge, a welcoming spot in which to have long conversations with friends and family.

 

He knew that since I couldn’t have the sun garden I wanted, I would need to use the community garden and have the opportunity to invest in the people around there.
He knew what was best and He had (as He always does) a higher plan for me than I had planned for my self.

For without this ‘spot’ (there’s a funny Youtube video called ‘Neature Walk’ about ‘enjoying your spot’), I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet my elderly neighbor, collect lilies from the people across the street, sip cool drinks with a friend and enjoy long conversations.

He knew….. what was best for me. And it was,,,, my forest.  

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You were the first to say ‘hello’….

One day last summer, while I was kneeling in the dirt planting seeds, an elderly lady stopped her van to see what I was doing. She was a sweet elderly lady, the kind you would want to adopt as your grandma. Now using your best quivery grandma voice, imagine her telling the story of how she and her husband use to plant gardens together for years. She reminisced of years of planting flowers and vegetables in the damp soil. Clearly, this was a treasured past time in their marriage. A tradition now ended due to her husband’s death and her daily struggle with arthritis.
“I think I’ll stop by your garden again so I can watch it,” she tells me with excitement in her voice over finding another kindred spirit. Off and on through the summer, I saw her van drive by. I didn’t know her name, only that she loved to garden and drove a white van.
Through the following year, I randomly visited her house with little gifts of welcome. First, it was green beans from the garden, then pumpkin bread at Christmas in the snow. She often responded with “well, bless you” and seemed delighted. She was still my mysterious elderly neighbor, with not much known except her religion and her love for gardening.
This spring marked the year anniversary of us first becoming “friends”, and just as naturally as the first time, her white van crept up while I was tilling the garden. “What are you planting now? I need to plant mine.” And as delighted school girls, (her being delighted to find help with her flowers, and me being delighted to make a new friend) we exchanged numbers and names. With eager delight, I awaited the opportunity to get to know this mysterious neighbor who stopped at strangers’ gardens.
When I visited her a couple weeks later, she shared most of her life story with me. Pining for someone to talk to made her pour forth a wealth of history when someone finally listened. She told me of her deceased husband, her time as a nurse, stories of her grand kids, and how she used to be able to plant. Mind you, this was all shared in the first two days we met this summer. She is a feisty one, full of determination not to live in a nursing home. “I’m going to fight it, kid, I am!” She often called me kid, or dear, or a version of my name. I didn’t mind, it was like having my grandma live down the street.

I had to laugh when she kept inviting me to borrow this or that, or to come over again. “You and your husband are welcome anytime, don’t worry about dressing up, I’m just like this, this is who I am.” “You and your husband can come and we’ll roast marshmallows, then you don’t have to be lonely up at that big house.” “Do you want to borrow a puzzle? Then you can do it on lonely nights.” It was evident from her frequent use of the word ‘lonely’ that it was a familiar emotion to her. All of her family lived out of town, and I doubt she had many visitors.

With an almost giddiness, we bustled around the yard planting morning glories, moon flowers, lilies, sedum, and more. For four hours, she ambled around the yard and talked non-stop, while I planted her flowers. Our conversation was a hilarious one, for she often didn’t hear what I said and she just kept talking to me unaware when I moved somewhere else to work. But no matter where I moved around the yard, I would keep hearing the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of her cane as she tried to kill the hated dandelions. 🙂

As we walked to the garage, she made a brief comment that made my heart stop and think in it’s tracks. “You are so dear to me.” (me? dear? we hardly know each other) “Why?” “You were the first to knock at my door, just to say ‘hello’.”

The first to say ‘hello’….
In a world where we bustle around to each activity, rushing to get our to-do lists done, do we miss the ‘hello’s’ that mean the world to someone?

I admit, making phone calls, writing letters, and planning visits is one of my biggest struggles/weaknesses. I hate my inability to maintain contact with those I love dear, and desire the Lord to continue to grow me in this.

If not to say ‘hello’, why are we here? For ‘hello’ is the beginning of demonstrating we are Christians by our love. It is the start of the Great Commission, the seed to every relationship, the dawning of a new opportunity, the origin of the deepest talks. Too often I leave missed ‘hello’s and passed opportunities for hope for the sake of something seemingly more important.

Lord, teach me to say ‘hello’ more often. To the widowed lonely neighbor, to the kid riding his bike down the street, to the lady across the street sitting on her porch, to the man tending to his landscape…all in need of a simple ‘hello’.

As we ended our time that day, she for the first time complained of being tired. No wonder, as for four hours she had hobbled around the yard telling me stories, and stamping out this or that weed. But you should have seen her eyes…..her eyes glowed with a new life as she got to participate in her favorite past time once again. “I think I can make it through the winter, as long as I have you to give me new life.” Yes, dear one, and perhaps…Jesus.