PR31 was determined to work some Christmas magic… as you learned she is prone to do in yesterday’s post (click here if you didn’t get to read it yet & you’ll understand). Today, she attempted making a Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël. Yeah, she blows me away all the time.

Well, things were going pretty well until she got to the filling for the classic European Christmastime cake. It just wasn’t setting up like it was supposed to. She set it aside, and moved on to the other parts of the dessert, determined that she would figure it out. I’m getting over some allergy-sinus stuff, and I opted for a nap while she “figured.”

When I woke up from the nap, she informed me that way on over into the process, she came across more steps that had to be completed for the filling to set up properly. It had simply had to be set aside in its current condition, and then further steps would transform it into what it was ultimately supposed to be.

We’re not so different from that Yule Log filling, you know. There are times in life when we just can’t seem to figure out why our lives are not turning out to be what we know they are supposed to be. Perhaps the Lord has put a dream in your heart, and it hasn’t come about yet. Maybe you feel called to do something significant in this world, but the right door hasn’t opened yet. It could even be that a relationship hasn’t developed like you thought it would.

My suggestion? Keep reading the recipe. God may have more steps that He needs to accomplish with you before you turn into what you envisioned from the picture on the website. You can trust that it will turn out right if you leave it in His hands. Philippians 1:6 tells us that, “…God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished.”

His work. You may have been set aside while He works on some other elements of the situation, but it’s His work, and He will come back to you and finish what He started. You can count on it. And when He does, it’s going to be oh, so good!

We had only been married several years when PR31 decided that she was going to try, without telling me, to get me the best possible Christmas gift she thought I would be able to dream of. One day, it hit her. She knew something I would love because I had owned it at one time.

Flashback Scene… It was the spring of 1995. Angela and I had just gotten engaged, and I suddenly realized that as we graduated college and got married, I would need money. So, I did what any sane college student would do… I started selling anything I owned that wasn’t nailed down or wouldn’t be needed in married life. This included a significant portion of my massive collection of 1980’s Christian rock cassettes. It was hard to part with some of them. In particular, I had every Petra tape made to that point, and I sold them as a set to my friend, Chris. I don’t recall how much he gave me. I just know it was hard to let them walk away.

Back to the story… Angela remembered how much stuff I sold so that we could start our life together. And she remembered those Petra tapes. Somehow, she got me talking about it one day, and I relived for her selling them to Chris. That’s all she needed.

She secretly hunted down an email address for Chris… this was before social media existed… unless you count chat rooms. She got in contact with Chris and asked if there was any chance he still had those tapes. He laughed, and told her, “You won’t believe this. I’ve moved three times since then, but I’ve never unpacked the box they’re in, and I know exactly where they’re at.”

Jackpot! She told Chris that she would pay any reasonable price he asked plus shipping cost, but he laughed and said that she could have them because he had never really wanted them in the first place. He just wanted to help me out. She gave Chris our address, and he sent the tapes.

Since we were going to be with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we opened our gifts a day or two before we left. We sat in the living room of the double-wide parsonage and gave our gifts to each other till there was just one gift left under the tree. PR31 launched into a speech that sounded more like a disclaimer… “I wanted to get you something special, and I think you’ll love this, but it may not be anything big. If it’s not, no big deal.”

I had no clue what I was about to open. I didn’t know how to prepare myself. Slowly, and more carefully than normal, I removed the tape and wrapping paper. I opened the small cardboard box, and pulled away the paper packed around the gift. Then my jaw dropped, and tears filled my eyes just like they are right now as I type this story.

I couldn’t believe it. These were not just replacements of the very tapes I had loved over the years. They were my Petra tapes! And not just some of them. All of them!

I fumbled around through the tears with some, “How did you…” and “I can’t believe this!” As PR31 told me all she had done to get the tapes, I realized what an act of love this was. She thought of my likes. She thought of something I sacrificed. She went to all that effort. And then God worked a miracle to let Chris have the tapes, know where they were, and be willing to part with them. It was one of the times in life when I felt the most loved.

Those tapes may have been the best Christmas present I ever got… outside of God giving the gift of His own Son, Jesus, that first Christmas. If they’re not, they’d sure be hard to beat. But it wasn’t about the dollar value… it was about the love invested through care, time and effort.

What if we all tried to live out that kind of love this Christmas? Not just with the gifts we give each other. I mean, what if we really considered what mattered to others? What if we went out of our way to do something special… something we knew would mean a lot to someone else?

Better yet, what if we tried to live out that kind of love all year long, and not just at Christmas? Maybe we can’t do something that special for every person we meet every day of the year. But maybe we could once a week… or at least one time each month. And how much more love would be people sense in their lives if they “opened a box” like I did one day, and realized how much we really care about them? Well, I can tell you. In fact, I just did.

In Monday’s post (click here if you missed it), I mentioned that part of our enjoying the snow miracle was making snowmen. The snow was perfect for packing together and rolling around into ball shapes to set on top of each other. As a windy day previously had dropped a bazillion more leaves on our property, our snowmen were a terrific blend of fall and winter, but to us they were beautiful and amazing.

Later on snow day, I had to get out to run some errands, and by the time I made my return trip to the house, almost all the snow everywhere had melted. The sun had begun to shine brightly, and there was no more snow in the trees. There was barely any to be found on the ground.

Yet, there stood our two snowmen.

We went on about our day, and they stood guard overnight. I took the picture above the next day. It struck me that all the other snow had long since melted away, yet the snowmen remained. That’s because the snow they had been made from all stuck together.

There’s value in sticking together. Like our snowmen, though difficult times may leave you not looking like much, you will still be there in the end when all those who decided to go it alone are no longer anywhere to be found.

King Solomon said that, “Two are better than one… and there are even better.” He understood what made our snowmen survive… together matters.

So, today… especially during this Christmas season, stick together. Whether it is with your military band of brothers… your fellow nursing home patients… your co-workers… your PTA or neighborhood watch… or your church… stick together. Overlook offenses. Put up with idiosyncrasies. Laugh at humorless jokes. And love a lot. Stick together. You’ll be better off than all those alone folks.

And by all means, stick together as a family. Stay married. Stay engaged in your kids’ lives. Help an aging parent with some task that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Work together on a project. Laugh a lot. And love a lot. Stick together.

I wish I had waited another day or two to take the picture… because those snowmen were still there… together… worse for the wear, but still there. When all we had were memories and pictures of all the other “alone” snow, there stood… or laid… our “together” snowmen. And I smiled even more as I realized how good together really is.

Most days, I get to blog in the morning. Not today. It has been one full day. But I’m grateful today for a wife with a crazy-hard work ethic… for sons who believe in their goals and work hard to achieve them… for friends who think of us and not only pray for us, but bless in different tangible ways… for opportunities to make a difference in this world… for health and strength enough to do what I need to do… and for God giving the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus, that first Christmas.

I am blessed. May my life reflect that.

Last week’s snow here in the Deep South was more than just a fun day off from school for our son Alex. It was an answer to his prayer based on his faith.

Alex had told me at the beginning of the week that it was going to snow. He started off telling me that it was going to snow Monday or Tuesday. Then he began to tell us specific times that he believed it was going to snow. He was so sure it was going to snow that he would go to the window at those times and look outside for snow.

One morning in the middle of the week, he came in the living room where I was doing my devotions, and he expressed that he couldn’t understand why it had not snowed yet. He said something along the lines of, “I put it in my prayer journal, so I know it’s going to happen. I thought it would have snowed already.” I tried to figure out how to discuss the deep theological ramifications of God’s sovereignty with him, but opted to say that sometimes God says, “Not yet,” because He knows what is best for us and has a better plan. Then, before he could get too dejected… I didn’t want him to lose that powerful faith… I added that I would pray along with him and believe for it to snow before the end of the year.

Now, you have to understand, we’ve lived in this area for a little over thirteen years, and it has only snowed four or five times total. Two of those were in the same week. And only once before had it snowed in December. The conditions just aren’t right for it usually.

Alex was not to be deterred, though. One day he said something about it snowing, and with my best stab at having his intense level of faith, I told him we should check the weather to see if it had changed in our favor. His reply caught me off-guard as he reminded me that I had told him meteorologists are not in control of the weather… they’re just making educated guesses based on trends from the past. I had told him God was in control of the weather. So he told me not to tell him what the weather report said because that doesn’t stop God from being able to make it snow. Well, I couldn’t argue with that. He was right.

Thursday night, I did check the weather and saw a chance for possible flurries at 3am Friday. I told Alex, and once again we all prayed for snow that night as we put the boys to bed.

Friday morning, Angela and Alex came into the bedroom and woke me up. I knew it had to be big if they were up before me and felt it important enough to rouse me from my slumber. Then it hit me… Snow! I hopped up and looked out the window. Sure enough, it had snowed that morning and there was a small accumulation across our property.

We all quickly dressed, and headed out to throw snowballs, make snowmen, and of course make the obligatory snow angels. We laughed, we played, we took pictures and shot video. And that day, we thanked God for answering prayers based on the faith of a nine year-old who just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Alex was absolutely convinced that God would come through for him with snow. He prayed for it. He believed it was going to happen. He ignored the circumstances. He put his trust in the One with all power. And God responded to that faith.

So, for others, that snow was fun. But for us, that snow was faith becoming reality! If you enjoyed the snow last week, you can thank Alex. He believed when others didn’t.

I want to be like Alex when I grow up. I want to be that giant of faith. I want to trust God unswervingly. And if you’ve got something you need God to do for you, let me encourage you today to apply a little Alex-type faith to it!

Today, I sold an older table saw that almost covered the cost of the new one I needed. Today, a refund check for an unknown overpayment on insurance came in the mail. Today, items we wanted to buy family members for Christmas we’re on clearance when PR31 went to shop. Today, people ordered crafts we sell on the side. Today, someone provided an opportunity for me to work in my vocation.

God always comes through. Always.

Scripture doesn’t say HOW God will supply all our needs. It just says that He will. It doesn’t WHEN He will supply our need. It just says that He will.

There is no formula… no metric… no systematic routine God has to abide by, but there is a principle He has chosen to operate within. Put Him first. Honor Him, His Kingdom, His will. Trust Him with what you’ve got, and He will come through for you. He will always supply what is needed for His children. This is not about putting a buck in the offering plate on Sunday, but rather putting your life in His hands each day, and believing that He will take care of what you need.

I only use today as an example. Our lives are replete with examples like today… but different… in which God supplied all of our needs. He didn’t do this because we are any more special to Him than anyone else. He did it for us, and He will do it for you, too.

Whether your need is healing, provision, favor with a boss, a restored relationship with a family member, or any other of a host of needs, my God will supply all of your needs generously! Seek Him and His will first, and all these things will be added to your life.

Today I had the privilege of helping someone- in such a small way- accomplish a goal. Technically, I enjoyed myself enough that I feel like I probably received as much or more than I gave. And in the process, we encountered several people on whom I was determined to practice an ongoing quest… to be kind enough to someone that I can literally see the transformation of their day in the few moments I am with them.

I start with a smile. Far too few of us smile enough. I’m guilty of that, and so I work at it. Then I begin by asking how they are doing or how their day is going. Their story is important, and they need someone to tell. Once we have dealt with the business at hand, I try to be sure to thank them for helping me. They think they’re just doing their job, but their job helped me, and so I try to express adequate appreciation. It is so fun to see if I can be genuine and kind enough to boost someone else emotionally and mentally in their day.

The first person we encountered did not respond to my efforts kindly. She was brusk, beyond business-like, almost rude. I could have been tempted to give up on the quest today, but I decided she wasn’t the only person in the world whose day needed to be brightened. So, I smiled, and spoke kindly, and shared appreciation.

Guess what happened… That’s right, people’s eyes brightened… smiles spread across their face… and by the time our few moments were done, they looked like their load was lighter.

In some ways, it has become a challenge for me. But it’s really a joy. I know I appreciate it when someone treats me like that. And it seems like I read somewhere that my Role Model said we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Worked for Him. Works for me. It’ll work for you.

And if on some occasion, someone doesn’t reciprocate, don’t give up. Stay on the quest!

Probably somewhere around fifteen years or so ago, PR31’s nieces were spending the night at Nana & Pappaw’s house at Thanksgiving or Christmas along with us. We had no kids yet, and so we had volunteered to hang with the girls while their parents got “a night off.” That night, we stayed up late talking and playing games. Then we got the munchies. Like chips and salsa munchies. But we had wiped out the stash Nana and Pappaw had rather quickly. So, on the spur of the moment, we loaded them up into our vehicle and drove two minutes down the road to Walmart at midnight to get chips and salsa. Junk food obtained, we drove the two minutes back to the house, and the fun continued.

They have never forgotten that night. In fact, for the next year or two after that, it had to be re-enacted in some form or fashion.

Fast forward to last night. We had taken our own two boys to Nana and Pappaw’s for Thanksgiving, and gotten home a little later than expected. Black Friday sales had already started… don’t get me started, though I enable those stores because they woo me into their craziness… and we had not been able to find one particular $2 item the boys had been looking for.

Two memories flashed in my head as we began to settle in for the night…

First, the memory of taking our nieces to Walmart at midnight for chips and salsa. And second, a speaker at a retreat for youth leaders saying that we should invest as much energy, effort, creativity and time into what we do to make our own personal kids’ lives special as we do trying to make things special for those we minister to at church.

In that moment, I decided to live what one of my favorite signs PR31 makes says… “The best thing about memories is making them.” I told the boys to put their shoes and coats and hats back on because we were going to Walmart at 10:30PM to look for that $2 item. They couldn’t believe it. They got so excited when they realized I was serious. You should have seen their smiles.

I bet they’ll never forget that small gesture. Sure we were tired. No, we didn’t really want to get everything back together to go back out. But it was probably only an hour. And we will never get that hour to spend with them doing something random… and fun… and crazy… and spontaneous again. But we will have that memory to look back on and laugh about. I know because of the chips and salsa run years ago.

We don’t make memories for ourselves, you see… we help make them for others. And in the process, we get them for ourselves as well.

Don’t let these holidays slide by without making some great memories for someone else… Get out there and make them!