I spent a lot of December volunteering in several different ways. I don't share this out of pride, but because as I reflect on the last month, I realize that this Christmas has been more special to me than many that have come before.
If you followed my blog this year, you will know that the word love has been my life word for 2014. I started the year with a resolve to find out what it means to be loved by God and in turn express that love to others through action. While I still feel like I have so much more to learn, I do feel like I have gotten to know God's love for me in a more complete way. I also know that serving others and expressing God's love through action has been more real to me this year than ever before.
I could share a lot of stories of this fact from months gone by, but I really just want to share two that occurred the week before Christmas.
Even though my schedule was already pretty full, I was in search of some real Christmas tradition. Things that reminded me of my youth when Christmas was magical. I've always loved Christmas, and this year I was in search of that thing that would light up my eyes and heart like a Christmas tree. I found that particular thing when a friend told me that his church still does Christmas caroling every year and invited me to participate. I realize for most people, this would not cause a jumping up and down with excitement kind of moment, but I love singing, I love Christmas carols, and I love seeing the joy on people's faces in the moment when you walk up to their house and start singing of the birth of our Savior. I remember doing this a few times as a kid...I don't think it meant as much to me then, but it is something I knew I had to be a part of.
This church does Christmas caroling right! I was impressed with the organization and participation. I was impressed that this is a steep tradition that several church members take part in. I was heartened by the family atmosphere and the understanding of importance this small gesture is to those who have given their lives in service to their church but who can no longer attend as they once did. You see, we weren't just caroling to random houses on random streets...but to church members who are too ill attend church on their own. Church members who were children's leaders or choir members. People who have made the church what it is today. While I was an active participant in the caroling (a-wassailing if you will), since I was a stranger to everyone there, it gave me a backseat role to observe. It was touching, and it reminded me that this is what celebrating Christmas is all about. Spreading the love of God and reminding people that HE loves THEM. I feel honored to have had the opportunity.
Since April my life group spends one night a month having our meeting with several ladies at the Dove's Nest (a recovery program connected to the Charlotte Rescue Mission). Before we started doing this, I had not really heard of the Dove's Nest before, I didn't know what it was, or what it means for the people who live there. These ladies have impacted my life this year. Spending time with them has become one of my favorite Monday's of the month. They are loving, sweet, determined ladies who have great futures ahead of them. This past Monday we got to celebrate Christmas with them. Each month the ladies of my life group have taken turns leading the devotions and activities using their own special God given gifts. A little unsure of myself or what I have to offer, I had yet to lead anything. Then, last month, one of the Dove's Nest ladies in visiting our church realized that I sing and requested that we do that sometime while we are with them. So, stepping out of the little shell I like to retreat to, I decided I would do a song for Christmas and volunteered myself to do just that. But a song is just a song unless there is meaning behind it, and as we planned the rest of the time, I was really feeling there was a special message God had for me to share. The song that came to me was Breath of Heaven, and the message that followed loudly in my head was the power of the Holy Spirit. "Breath of Heaven, hold me together. Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven. I am frightened by the load I bare. In a world as cold as stone, I walk this path alone. Help me be strong." The Holy Spirit IS breath from heaven. He is what helps us through, He is what walks our path with us holding us close and keeping us strong. He is the same Holy Spirit that the Bible says overshadowed Mary during her pregnancy with Jesus. (See part one of this blog for full devotion). Not only was this message fitting to me this week as I walked through some personal struggle, but more so I believe it was a direct word to someone in that group of ladies. I pray she heard it, I pray she understood God was drawing her to himself...whoever she was. Sharing life and love mutually as women...this is what Christmas is all about.
I am continually reminded that I am blessed beyond measure. I have three families that love me; my work family, my church family, and my birth family. All are special to me in so many ways. This Christmas I praise God for the love that he gives here on earth that reflects His love for all His children.