Tree Skirt Provision

It was our first Christmas married.  Our first house was small and didn’t have much room for a Christmas tree, but I found one that would fit in our living room without taking up too much space.  It was small, so it didn’t cost much.  We got it home, put it in water (it was the first and only live tree of our marriage!) and started decorating.

We strung lights, hung ornaments and re-lived memories of Christmases past.  Lots of ornaments had stories.  Lots of ornaments had sentiment.  It was the perfect first Christmas tree for us…almost.

We finished decorating and I stepped back to take it all in.  But something was missing.  It didn’t take long for me to tell Chad that we had to get a tree skirt.  In all of the decorations that we brought together in our marriage, neither of us had a tree skirt.  And I NEEDED a tree skirt.  I still don’t know why that was so important to me.

But all of the expenses that come with a new marriage plus the expenses that come with Christmas made that tree skirt fall low on the priority list.  I wasn’t pouty about it AT ALL {insert sarcastic tone here}.

I knew exactly what I wanted.  I knew every detail of what my tree skirt would look like.  And the more I searched the more that tree skirt seemed out of reach.  Apparently my perfect tree skirt was going to be pricey.  And pricey wasn’t in our budget.

Christmas day grew closer and so did my wanting for a tree skirt.  It wasn’t a need that was going to make a difference in our Christmas at all.  There was still family.  There were still wrapped presents.  The sweetness of a newborn who would change the world was no less significant because I didn’t have a tree skirt.  But in my heart I so wanted one.  The perfect one.

Just a few days before Christmas, I wandered into a local store to pick up some last-minute something.  As I looked for the shortest line to check out, I found it to be in the Christmas section.  So I headed to that register to check out.  As I walked that way, I thought I may as well look at what tree skirts they had left since everything was pretty well picked over.  I decided before I even hit the aisle that if I could just find a tree skirt that wasn’t ugly and that was cheap, I’d buy it.  Just to get me through this one Christmas.  I let go of having my perfect tree skirt for that year.  There’s always the next Christmas, right?

I turned down the aisle with tree skirts and saw it.  The perfect tree skirt.  The one that was in my head and that my budget could in no way afford.  And it took every ounce of everything in me not to cry.  WHY would God let me wander to that aisle only to find my perfect, completely-out-of-my-budget tree skirt? WHY, of all the stores I could have gone to, did it have to be that one? WHY did the shortest line have to be in the Christmas section?

I was sad, but I had to get an up close look at this tree skirt.  I had to touch it.  As I picked it up, I noticed the price of the tree skirt.  It was by no means the “cheap” skirt I was looking for, but it wasn’t nearly the price I had found online.  My thought was to come back after Christmas when Christmas stuff goes on clearance.  Surely it would still be there.

As I started to put the tree skirt back on the shelf, a store employee asked if I needed help finding something.  I laughingly responded that I was making my post-Christmas clearance shopping list. And then it happened.  She turned and pointed at a partially covered sign that said all Christmas decor was 50% off.  50% OFF!

I worked my hardest to keep my composure as picked my perfect tree skirt back up and all but happy-danced to the register.  I completed my purchase and got out to the car and could not even contain my excitement.  I got my perfect tree skirt!

IMG_4617As I got home and told Chad my tree skirt story (after securing that baby around my tree!), God spoke into my spirit.  He reminded me that once again He is good and gracious and generous.  He reminded me that not only will he meet my needs, he will grant the desires of my heart.

This is our 8th Christmas with my perfect tree skirt around our tree.  And every year I remember how God met me where I was, lead me to my perfect tree skirt, and made the provision for me to buy it.  Every year it reminds me that there’s no need he won’t meet and He’ll even go above and beyond the needs to meet those heart’s desires.  In every situation and circumstance He will be faithful to provide provision.  Even tree skirt provision.

Ferguson

Last night, like the rest of the nation, we watched as a decision was handed down in Ferguson, MO.  Today, as the dust settles, I still go back to where I ended last night: My heart hurts for the Brown family.  My heart hurts for Ferguson.

I’ve wrestled with writing today.  Not because I didn’t know what to say, but because words can be so damaging if not spoken well.  Words can be so empty if nothing changes.

As the verdict came down last night, my kids sat with us and listened.  Addi was more interested in getting back to Dancing with the Stars (she’s 6, what can I say).  Payne just listened.  He didn’t really say much.  But he will have questions.  He always does.  He’s a processor.  He hears things and mulls them over for hours or days before he talks or asks questions.  Part is because he takes everything to heart.  If he sees hurt in others, he feels it himself.

We took in the verdict and did all we knew to do.  We prayed.  We prayed for the Brown family.  We prayed for Officer Wilson.  We prayed for those members of the Grand Jury.  We prayed for Ferguson.  But my heart still hurt.

So what I’ve wanted so badly to work out in my mind and my heart today is what to say to my kids about Ferguson and what that means for us.

  1. Above all else, LOVE.  Love others.  ALL others.  Every single person on this planet is made in the image of a God who cherishes them.  If God sees a person worthy of love and grace and mercy, then so should we.  And God sees EVERY person worthy.  To not love everyone is to not fully love God. Period.
  2. The unrest in Ferguson didn’t happen overnight.  That kind of emotion never does.  It comes from years of conflicts, big & small, that erupt when something so tragic happens.  This community desperately needs healing.  And healing only happens when brave people are willing to set differences aside and listen to each other.  Always be willing to be a brave person and listen.  You won’t always agree and that’s ok.  But listen.  And love.  And never judge.  It’s not your job.
  3. Violence is never the answer.  Never.  No one will ever hear your voice or even want to hear it if you respond to things with violence or destruction.  You will see injustice in your life.  More than I’d like you to, kids.  But you have incredible role models throughout history that teach you how stand against injustice.  Start with Jesus.  That’s where all who have become pillars in civil rights started.
  4. Every life lost is tragic.  Every single one.  Every single life lost leaves behind family and friends who grieve.  Trying to lessen the value of a life based on any surrounding circumstances is wrong.  A family is grieving the loss of a son.  Their grief is compounded by the circumstances.  To see their grief as less than any other’s is wrong.  There is a God in heaven who sees their grief and is grieved with them.  The things that grieve the Father should grieve us because we are His children.
  5. Change starts with me, with us.  So we don’t tell the jokes with racial undertones, but not laughing is not enough.  Change begins by me taking responsibility for me.  It’s not enough for me to not participate in the behavior that causes racial divides.  I have to speak up when I hear it and see it first hand.  Will I change it all by myself? No.  But If I do it and you do it….if our family of 4 does it…maybe others will, too.  And together, with individual efforts, we can make a difference in our world.
  6. We are the church.  It’s not a building.  It’s us.  The local church of Ferguson, MO has a tremendous opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurt, broken and grieving community.  But you know what? We have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus right here, right now, too.  Because in this little Hill Country town people are hurting.  Make no mistake, if Jesus was walking on earth today, he’d be in the middle of Ferguson right now.  That’s what Jesus did.  He went into the places where the hurting were, he didn’t wait for them to come to Him.  He would be loving these people, ALL of them, with a big, grace-filled love and with the heart of a peace-maker.  Jesus would grieve and cry with the Brown family.  And he would sit with Officer Wilson and grieve and cry in a different way.  Because no one won in this. No one.

Friends, I will say this.  My heart hurts for this broken world.  My heart is grieved for the Brown family and the loss of their son.  I have children.  To think of one of them being taken from me is more than my heart can bear.  I was raised in a police officer’s home.  I’ve seen first hand the good & the bad in law enforcement.  There are more good than bad.  My heart hurts for a man who will live the rest of his life with the burden of taking another man’s life.  He will never be the same after this.

My heart hurts for Ferguson.  My heart has hope in knowing that Jesus came to this hurting and broken world to offer us a way to peace.  My soul has a new resolve to make a difference where I am.  To be the hands a feet of Jesus to the hurting in my part of this world.

Jesus, help me to look like you in how I love, in how I talk, in how I live.  Help me to be a peace-maker in hard places.  Help me to be one of the brave to stand against injustice and in doing that, give those who are hurting and wronged a glimpse of you.  

Delight in…

“Find your delight in the Lord.  Then he will give you everything your heart really wants.” Psalm 37:4

I have the Bible app on my phone.  There’s a daily verse of the day that shows up each time you launch the app.  It’s not something I look at daily.  Usually if I’ve launched the app, it’s because I’m looking for something very specific.  But every once in a while that verse of the day catches my attention.  Today was one of those days.  Except today, to try to settle the unrest in my spirit from the last few days, I launched the app to see if maybe…just maybe that verse of the day could speak to that unrest.

“Find your delight in the Lord.”  That was it.  That’s what I was missing.  It might sound odd to say, but I think I just wasn’t finding delight period these last few days.  I was finding myself stressed out and overwhelmed by everything and nothing at all.  I was stressing over the thing 3 months away and completely overlooking the provision for today.  In all of the stressing, worrying, and forgetting to find Him, I was completely missing the answer to it all in the provision of today.

And I was completely missing what it is my heart really wants.  I can get so caught up in making my plans that I forget His plan is the only one that matters.  I think of the way I want something to happen and forget that it’s not in the details that my heart finds contentment, it’s in the knowing that needs are met & people are loved.  I want the perfect Christmas, but forget that it has nothing to do with the gifts.  I want the perfect birthday party for the kids, but forget that it’s not about the amount of money spent.  I want the picture perfect life and forget that this beautiful mess of life is full of perfection because it’s imperfect.

I forget to take delight in Him then wonder why I can’t find delight anywhere.  I stress out about tomorrow and forget that He’s already fully provided for today.  And isn’t that where I’m supposed to be looking? At today? He has fully provided all that I need for today.  And he has every day of my life.  So why do I worry about the tomorrows?

Today, take delight in Him.  Turn your eyes away from the circumstance and turn them to Him.  Delight in knowing that you got through today.  It may not have been pretty, but you got through it.  And tomorrow you’ll have provision for whatever it is you need when it gets here.  Delight in today.  Delight in knowing He’s got every one of your days and cares more about them than you do.

Find your delight in the Lord then trust Him that He is true to His word and will give you what your heart really wants.

{Un}Thankful

I am a holidays girl.  The span of time from about November 1 until about the end of the first week of January is my favorite.  I love the cool weather, I love the fall & winter fashion, I love fireplaces and s’mores and pumpkins and Christmas trees and sparklers.  I love changing up the decor around the house.  I love the twinkly lights.

And I like them all one at a time.  One day at a time.  One season at a time.  One holiday at a time.

One.holiday.at.a.time.

How is it that all of these holidays have come to run together? I’ve never been one to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  I know I’m in a shrinking minority.  But something struck me today.  As a kid, I always remember lots of emphasis on Thanksgiving.  It was a stand alone holiday that brought family & friends together to celebrate.  Now it’s become so commercialized that folks plan the day around hitting the biggest sales instead of planned around their greatest gifts.

There’s something lost in us when Thanksgiving isn’t given it’s due.  We live in an entitled society where more often people are concerned with climbing that ladder and acquiring more stuff and forget to be thankful.  What if we all stopped? What if we all just spent Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends? What if we stopped looking at what we don’t have and started focusing on what we do have? What if we stopped, really stopped, and took the time to be thankful?

Today, for now, just stop.  Stop looking past Thanksgiving and look at Thanksgiving.  Look around at all that you have to be thankful for.  Stop worrying about that perfect gift that might be on sale on Thanksgiving afternoon and focus on the greatest gifts that you already have.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

A different kind of post

So, since I created this space for me to share my heart, it’s been just that. A place where I share my heart, a place where God speaks to me and hopefully through me. It’s a place that allows me to record things that hopefully my kids can look back on someday and feel encouraged when the world seems to be working against them. It’s a place that allows me to look back and remember just how good, how faithful, how beautiful God is in my life and my family.

And it will stay that way.

So, having said all of that, today, just for today I want to share something that God is using to not only improve my family’s healthy, but also our income. Because our physical health is just as important as our spiritual health. Because we all have SO much to live for and we should live our best life!

A little over a year ago, our family was introduced to Juice Plus+.  We became cautiously optimistic customers.  But I wouldn’t commit to being a distributor.  I needed proof, I needed results before I would sell.  And boy did we get them.  The short version of the story is this: Addi has been on 3-5 medicines for allergies & asthma-like illnesses since she was 2.  She’s 6 now for those who don’t know.  After a year on the product, and with our pediatrician giving the medical confirmations we needed, she is completely medicine free.  No respiratory issues.  No daily medicines.  Healed, happy & healthy.

That became my “why”.

I’ve been hesitant to write here about Juice Plus+ because I treasure this place.  I value this place.  And appreciate the relationship that we all have and I never want to violate any of that.  But the truth of the matter is, our physical health is SO important.  And Juice Plus+ is a proven product from a company built on a Christian foundation that is inspiring healthy living and changing lives around the world.

If you’d like to know more, email me at mrsbethbates@gmail.com.  I’d love to share with you about all of the products (there’s the fruit & veggie capsules, the best shakes EVER and the amazing vertical, hydroponic Tower Garden) or the business opportunity.

Thanks for letting me veer a little outside of my normal posts here.  I value this place & what we all share here and this won’t be a regular thing.  I appreciate all of you.

Beth