All photos: collection of P. Booher
Monthly Archives: December 2021
In the line of Sunday’s post, here, I am thinking about gifts you can give. These gifts don’t require money, don’t need wrapped, and can be given to anyone, anytime of the year. They do have a cost—gifts always do—these gifts require you to put your self on the back burner. What are these versatile, but costly, gifts?
- Patience. It’s especially needed this time of the year. It’s in short supply, and therefore is more needed and more valuable. It costs a person to be patient, rather than grumbling, being obnoxious, complaining about how slow the cashier is, and practically pushing people aside to get to the head of the line.
- Flexibility. Ok, you are doing last-minute shopping, you meant to get that special gift earlier, but circumstances beyond your control stepped in, and the special gift isn’t available online or in any store. What to do? Take a deep breath, and be flexible. Think of that in the broadest terms possible. Don’t think of it as a specific gift, look at it like this: what need or want did that gift fill? Can you get something else that will work? Flexibility is a gift you can give yourself as you give to others. To be flexible means I’m not demanding something be exactly the way I want it. If I can be flexible, I don’t get stressed out about a situation.
- Compassion. I am not talking about sending money to charities here, but rather being aware of a individual’s need and stepping in to do whatever you can to help. Maybe it is giving that person money, or a gift card for food, or buying a whole turkey dinner, taking it to the person, and helping them prepare it. Maybe it is sitting down with the person and taking time to listen with your whole heart—not planning what you want to say, not judging what he or she says—but just listening. Many people in various circumstances need the gift of compassion expressed as listening.
- Willingness to withhold judgment. This is hard for me. I tend to think I know everything about a person’s situation based on what it looks like on the surface. LOL! People are complex; life is complex; there’s a lot going on below, so it’s always best not to judge.
- A break. Yes, give yourself and others a break. Remember that whether or not you get everything done when you want it done, how you want it done, whether your family members get along or not—your value as a person does not depend on any of those things. Your value as a person does not depend on what other people say or think about you. Your value as a person depends solely on the fact that God loves you. In His eyes, you (and everybody else) have tremendous value. His view is the only one that ultimately matters. Think along His view, and you’ll have less stress, more joy, and be able to give the other “gifts” on the list easier.
Happy New Year!
Scripture references: I Corinthians 13: 4,5, Romans 3: 23,24, John 3:16, Romans 5: 6-9, Philippians 4: 6-8
A gift idea occurred to me today, and in this season when a lot of attention is put on giving gifts, I thought I’d share it. This gift can be given anytime of the year, and fits all sizes. It doesn’t cost money. It costs something that can be harder to give—honesty.
This morning I was in the restroom at church, combing my hair at a sink when a woman who serves in a leadership position came up to the adjoining sink. She asked how I was. At first I was going to say, “I’m good” and be done with it. Instead I told her that I was good—I was there—so I was doing good. I explained I kept thinking this morning, “Oh, I don’t want to get up. I just want to stay under the covers.”
Much to my surprise, the woman admitted she hadn’t wanted to go to church either. She woke up with a migraine, and still had it. But like me, she was good, because she was there.
I doubt we would’ve had that little conversation if I had not been willing to say I wasn’t ready to tackle the world. When I spoke up, we could admit our struggles. We said to each other, “Well, I’m glad you’re here.”
Someone—maybe a person you know, maybe someone you don’t—may need to hear you say, “I’m not at my best today.” That person may look on the outside the picture of perfection; the inner truth may be very different. Your willingness to be honest can give the person grace to admit she (or he) is struggling too.
I’m not saying you have to dump all your troubles on the person, not at all. You just let the person know, “It’s okay not to be okay.”
In a world which puts such a high value on appearances, empathy can mean more than you or I know, particularly at a time when so many hearts are heavy and hurting.
Note: In case you are wondering why I threw off the covers and went to church, this quote from singer Kirk Franklin’s book The Blueprint came to mind: “There was the car wreck, and the bullet, and the doctor’s diagnosis, and the pink slip at work—these were all things that God spared me from in the past week. Things I wasn’t even aware of. And church is my time to go and be in His presence and thank Him. Even when there are sick, stupid people there who are just as broken as me, church service is my time to be reminded of how good He’s been to me all through the week. Yes, there may have been some bad things that happened, but there were a lot of things that didn’t happen, a lot more bad things that could have happened. So for that I’m going to show my appreciation.” Unknown
I think this is well worth sharing.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; On those in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”
Dear Reader, may you experience and walk in the light and love of Jesus this Christmas season and in the new year to come. Sincerely, BethAlisan
My blogging friend GW at His Eye is on the Sparrow, a blog I highly recommend, introduced me to the work of singer/ songwriter Simon Khorolskiy. For this advent season, I share with you Khorolskiy’s rendition of one of my favorite Christmas carols. Merry Christmas!
© 2019-2021, Lessons from a Lab, Beth Alisan. All RightsReserved.
Some months ago I was thinking of an event in the life of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. The Lord told him to go to the potter’s house, and He would give him a message. Jeremiah watched the potter work the clay. As he watched, the Lord spoke. He told Jeremiah that as the potter molded the clay in whatever shape he wished, the Lord could do the same with Israel.
As I thought of the clay being molded by the potter’s hand, the Lord spoke to me and said, “It won’t look like what you think it will.” I said, “Okay”.
I look back on the past few months, and have to agree, it doesn’t look like what I thought it would! Somehow I thought it would be smooth as ice cream, and there wouldn’t be any rough spots! LOL!!! There were plenty of rough spots, dark spots, and potholes. But—God was in it. How do I know? I know because I acted differently than I would have on my own. When my mother uncharacteristically screamed and yelled at me, and said things, God gave me the grace not to take it personally. (Please take note: it’s been my specialty since childhood to take things personally.) God gave me the grace to answer the same question three times or more in a row without getting impatient; He gave me the grace to speak with a kindness and gentleness I didn’t have before. He gave me assertiveness when I needed it. He walked me through that difficult, unsettling time, and I can say, I believe He is molding and shaping me, by everyday experiences and circumstances.
Through other ordinary experiences, He provided respite and refreshment from my cares, as I wrote about here.
As I was writing a letter to a friend this evening, I had an AHA! moment. It was this: if God is molding me, He is in the experience; He is right there with me, and He will not let me go. He is Immanuel, God with us.
Here are the verses from Jeremiah: The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT)
From Matthew: “…She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
I am fascinated by the interplay of light and dark, sunshine and shadows in nature. Sometimes, I grab my camera and head out the door to capture some of it.
All photos: Author’s collection.
This fall I had an early attack of the “gloomies”—a blue mood that makes a person lose incentive for doing anything. Back in October my area got four or five days in a row of cloudy, gloomy weather. I wondered if the sun lost our location coordinates! In addition to that, we put up thick plastic storm windows earlier this year. The gray weather, combined with my inability to see outside, brought on the dreaded “gloomies”.
This year I found a welcome difference in my perspective—the realization that the gloomies can be fought. The gloomies are here, but it’s not the end of the world. My mood will change. It is a battle, and yes, I have to push myself, but I don’t have to lay down and take it. I have weapons; I just have to take them up and use them.
The most powerful weapon is to praise God, especially when I don’t feel like it. Praising God takes my focus off my blue mood and switches it to God. I’ve found that praising God clears my head and calms my heart.
While I’m doing that, I can also:
- Go outside. Yep, right out into the gloom. It’s challenging the hold the gloom has on my mood. I pick up twigs, or feed the birds, or just look at the patterns of the bark on the trees. Nature has so much variety and detail to see. Nature reflects its Creator in some aspects, and I can gain insights, if I get myself out there and look.
- Write something–a letter, a blog post, a reflection on a book I read, or revise a piece I already wrote.
- Listen to music.
- Color or draw.
- Get rid of clutter. As I clean up the material clutter, the mental/emotional clutter goes too.
- A new weapon this year, courtesy of fellow blogger/photographer Gary Fultz, is cooking new recipes.
- Add more light inside. I dug through some Christmas decorations and found two sets of candelabras—plastic “candles” that you put four-or-seven-watt bulbs in. After the bulbs warm up, they twinkle. It makes the room more cheerful-looking. Nowadays, the LED candelabras are popular, but this is what we have, and it fills the purpose.
- Decorate the plastic storm windows. Within two days of putting up the plastic, I missed being able to look outside. It was a feeling akin to homesickness; I couldn’t believe it bothered me so much. So I taped pictures of flowers I had colored onto some of the inner storm windows. That way, when I open the curtains or drapes, I see something beautiful, not the opaque plastic. Childish? Perhaps, but it lifts my spirits.
- Change interior decorations. My mother and I both worked at stores which sold candles, artificial flowers, and ornamental items. Over the years we amassed quite a variety. Soon after the gloomies hit, I decided to change one little corner near the computer. I rummaged around the candles until I found a beautiful mint green candle. I paired it with a miniature artificial plant and put them on the stand in the corner. All this may sound like much ado about nothing, but I’ve read that the brain gets used to the furniture and decoration arrangements, and gets in a “rut”. Changing the way a room looks gives the brain a bit of a jolt, and gives a lift to the spirits.
“If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end.”
Daniel Webster, 1823