Thursday, December 24, 2015

It Wouldn't Be Christmas...

 Fill in the blank:  It wouldn't be Christmas without ______________.

What comes to your mind when you read that?  Presents?  Family?  Singing Christmas carols?  Lights?  Holiday baking?  Decorating the tree?  Snow?

I was asked this question as an ice-breaker a few weeks ago at a Ladies Christmas party for church.  I had trouble coming up with an answer at the time.  I just couldn't think of one answer that symbolized and summed up Christmas in my head.

I went for the obvious answer.  It wouldn't be Christmas without Jesus.  We had just listened to a lovely devotional by Diana Otto about wading through all the traffic, all the shopping and other commercialism, and finding ways to honor the Savior during this busy season.  So my answer got a laugh, but was also completely literal.  Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without Jesus; it is His birthday that we celebrate, after all.

I followed up my funny and very obvious answer with this one.  It wouldn't be Christmas without family.  I love the celebrations that we have with our families.  Getting together with the extended family is always a good time.  I feel as much at home with the Tellmans as I do with the Taylors.  But I especially enjoy the time that just the four of us spend together on Christmas morning.    We are blessed to hang out, relaxing and making memories.

Christmas is about Jesus and family, but it still didn't really answer the question for me.  I enjoy those all year long, not just December 25.  Last night, my answer came to me.  So I am taking this opportunity for a "do over."

It wouldn't be Christmas without this...

It wouldn't be Christmas without candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  I suppose a candlelight service would be meaningful anywhere, but it holds a special place in my heart at our home church.  This is the moment where everything stops.  Where time stands still for just a bit.

Like many of you,  I feel like I have filled every possible minute in the last couple of weeks getting ready.  Shopping, wrapping, baking, making teacher gifts, more shopping.  Now I will say that Todd did quite a bit of the shopping this year, and the kids are old enough to help with the baking and the wrapping.  So that helps tremendously, but it was still busy.  Very busy.  Yesterday was no exception.  We spent the morning delivering presents and other goodies around town.  In the afternoon, I was in the kitchen making the food that I am taking to my parents' house today.  

I had a goal to make sure everything was done before church.  After all the preparation to get everything ready, I was ready to just stop.  Just stop and bask in the Light of the World.  From the traditional carols we sing together to the annual children's story to the special songs by various people, the entire service just fills me with joy.

All of these culminate in the lighting of the candles and singing Silent Night.  I love when the auditorium lights go out, and it is just Mr. Ken on stage with one candle lit.  How quickly it goes from one small flame to a whole glowing auditorium.  As the light spreads from one person to the next, I am reminded of the old camp song:

"It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
That's how it is with God's love
Once you've experienced it.
You've got to Pass It On."

We can't keep God's love to ourselves, we have got to pass it on.  With all the hustle and bustle competed, this moment with candles glowing is a symbol to me of what Christmas really is all about.  It is not about me or my kids or how many things I got checked off my lists.  It is about Jesus.  It is about spreading the warmth and love and light that only He can bring.

It wouldn't be Christmas without the Light Of the World.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Farewell to the Queen

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a very special lady.  This is my attempt at a tribute.  I pray I honor her with my words.

Jacqueline June Josephine Tellman Newmann was born on April 5, 1929 to Frank and Cyrilla Tellman in Kansas City, Missouri.   She was the oldest of eleven children.  She married Roy Newmann on  May 30, 1953, and they were married for more than fifty years before Roy passed away.  They had six children and fourteen grandchildren.  She died in her home in Crestwood, Missouri on December 9, 2015.

From the moment I met her, Aunt Jackie always made me feel welcome and loved.  She never once made me feel like I was anything less than 100% Tellman.  I know she cared for me as much as all of the bloodline nieces and nephews.  I didn't see her often, but she always made me feel special.   She talked to me, asking me questions and really listening to my answers.  She sent me birthday cards, always with a handwritten note about how much she enjoyed "our little family."  I always hugged her when I left a family function...and I didn't know until yesterday that she didn't really like hugs.

I found out yesterday that she had been a teacher.  I can't believe I didn't know that before.  I would have loved to "talk school" with her and hear her stories firsthand.  As it was, several of her former students were at the visitation and funeral.  They all remembered her so fondly.  More than one said she was the best teacher they ever had.  One gentleman spoke about how mischievous he was, and she would always say, "Why did you do that?  I know you are a good boy, but now I have to punish you."  What a powerful way to get someone to think about his actions, show that she cared for him and believed in him, and hold him accountable all at the same time.  I loved hearing about the library that she had in her classroom and how they got to take turns being the librarian.  It was also fun to hear that she was only eighteen when she started teaching in a one-room school house, and that she had 38 students in all grade levels.  (Can you imagine? Wow!)  That is quite a legacy to leave to have students from sixty some years ago attend your funeral.

Aunt Jackie's son-in-law, Gary Vien, shared some remarks of rememberance at the funeral.  He spoke of a conversation he had with her sometime earlier.  I loved this line from Aunt Jackie: "At my age, I have no regrets...I have made mistakes, but I have done my best to resolve them, and I have no regrets....How about you?  Do you have regrets?"

So how about it?  Do you have regrets?  The best way I can think of to keep Aunt Jackie alive is to live our lives without regrets.  Resolve your mistakes to the best of your ability.  Make everyone feel special.  Really listen.  Be friendly.  Write a personal note to your own handwriting.

Aunt Jackie personally embodied so much of what I love about the Tellman family.  She will be missed by so many.  Farewell, dear lady.  We will see you again someday.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Faith Adventures (book review)

*This post is part of a linked-up list of book reviews powered by inlinkz. Learn more and join us,CLICK HERE. *

Recently I was asked to be part of the advance launch team for a new e-book by Jennifer Lane.  She took her posts from what she did on #write31days and turned it into a book.  Her book was released on Amazon on December 1, and you can find it by clicking here:  

  Faith Adventures

As the title implies, this story follows her and her family through many different aspects of their lives over recent years.  I really enjoyed reading her story.  Recognizing God's working in my life is the heart of my own blog so it was fun for me to read how He has worked in another's life.  The same God that created me to be who I am and has a purpose for my life has created Jennifer and has a purpose for her life.  Her role in God's Kingdom looks much different than my role, but I still found myself relating to her triumphs and struggles as I read.

The way she detailed her triumphs and struggles is one of the things I loved about this book.  She is very real.  She has dealt with difficult issues in her life, and she is very authentic about how she handled them, for good or bad.  Although I am sure some of those areas were difficult to write about, I identified with her most when she was talking about how she couldn't handle everything on her own.

One of my favorite sections of the book talked about God leading her to participate in a bicycle-food delivering ministry to kids in inner-city Amarillo.

“God has rarely asked me to do something that I’m good at.  He almost always gives me opportunities to serve Him from a place of weakness.  Taking on the bike ministry and leading a route is the best example of ministry from the point of weakness in my life.”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” -- 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

I love that line....God has rarely asked me to do something that I'm good at.  When we rely on Him to do something that we cannot do on our own, His power shines through.  What we cannot accomplish by our own sheer grit and determination, God easily steps in and says, "I've got it from here.  Trust me."

As I read this book, I found myself thinking that there is something for everyone in this book.  Here are some of the areas that she discussed:

  • Mission trips to far-off places
  • Missionary work at home
  • Serving those around you
  • Home school 
  • Depression and social anxiety
  • Serving where you don't feel qualified
  • Fundraising
  • Adoption
  • Grieving loved ones
  • Suicide

All through her real-life stories, she speaks on how God has showed up for her in great big ways time and time again.  She seamlessly weaves Scripture into her writing as she reflects on lessons she has learned from "an Unseen God."  She was able to switch from her personal stories to Bible verses and back again without it ever seeming forced.

I found Jennifer's book to be easy to read, and hard to put down.  I invite you to read it too; I think you will enjoy seeing the ways God has worked in her  Faith AdventuresMaybe it will help you see His role in your own adventures!

*NOTE: I was asked to be an advance reader for this book as it was being published. I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.