One Size Fits All

Gift giving, the hallmark of the Christmas season and the challenge that sends us from mall to mall in search of that elusive perfect gift for each person on our list.  If only that perfect gift existed, we might hope to happen upon it.  The gift that would say we care, that would bring them joy, that would fill their need and our desire to meet that need in their life.  That’s a lot to ask of a gift, don’t you think?  Still we make the attempt year after year; searching, agonizing, driving ourselves crazy as we seek again for the ultimate gift. The gift to end all gifts.  (until next year, that is)  Then we need to do it all over again.  (either we get another chance to do better than last year OR we have to find a way to top what we did last year when we thought we had succeeded in finding the perfect gift)  Either way, we are once again faced with finding a gift that fits for each of our loved ones.

Faced with this annual, impossible task I am easy prey for the ‘one size fits all’ label, assuring me that it will fit.  For the moment I choose to ignore the implausibility of this statement, although I can clearly see with my own eyes that we come in all shapes and sizes, leaving no possibility that this promise could be true.  Still, when desperate I will believe what’s convenient in the moment.  Maybe I can find that gift that appeals to all ages, all personalities, all people need it and like it, the ‘one size fits all’ of electronics, or music, or books, or food, or decoration etc.  But we were created as distinct, unique individuals – so my search for the perfect, ‘one size fits all’ gift is doomed to failure.  I can’t even find the perfect gift for the individuals on my list when I take their uniqueness into account and match each gift to them alone.

What are we celebrating anyway with all this gift giving?  Oh yes, God’s gift to us, His Son, Jesus.  Truly the perfect gift, once, for all time, for all people past, present and future. Our Heavenly Father knows how different and special each of us are because He created us this way.  He knows every hair on our head and He knows what we need, even if we don’t.  He knew we would need a Savior, each and every one of us.  So when the time was right, He sent Jesus to us in the form of a baby.  It’s Jesus’ birth we are remembering and celebrating now.  We have cause to rejoice in this birth because this baby in the manger would grow up to be the Christ on the cross,  paying the price of our sin so that we could be reconciled to our Creator, God.

A man called Simeon understood this.  When he encountered the infant Jesus at the temple, Simeon took Jesus in his arms saying, “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people”  (Luke 2:29-31)   Simeon recognized the baby Jesus as God’s gift to mankind, the promised salvation had arrived and Simeon felt he could now die in peace, having seen with his own eyes the fulfillment of God’s promise to man.  The baby in the manger and the Christ on the cross are one in the same.  Simeon didn’t need to wait and see Jesus grow up, the gift was given, the price was paid.  Heaven was rejoicing and we can too.

God knows what we need and He desires out of His great mercy towards us to meet that need.  He knows that each of us needs forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, restoration, acceptance, comfort, peace, hope, love and the secure promise of eternal life with Him.  All that and more is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.  The gift has been given, it is ours for the receiving.  We have but to accept the gift.  Not only is this gift from God meant for every single person,  Jesus is just what each of us needs.  He ‘fits’ everyone because we all share the same desire for mercy, reconciliation, purpose, peace, hope, joy, acceptance, love, eternal life that only He can give in unlimited measure to each person who asks Him.  Jesus is the perfect gift,  our Heavenly Father’s perfect ‘one size fits all’ gift to me and to you and to as many as will believe on His name.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6)  Yes, the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is the resurrected Christ risen with healing in His wings.

The gift is given!   So unwrap it hurting world!  Repent, receive, rejoice and remember that you have been redeemed!  And in your remembering, realize that in celebrating Christ’s birth you are also celebrating His death and resurrection.  When I celebrate Jesus’ birth, I am celebrating the gift of my salvation. God has given us His Son and in so doing He has given us all things necessary.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means , ‘God with us’ “.  (Matthew 1:23)

Yes, God is with us, He gave us the perfect gift of His Son and He abides with us still.  Receive Him,  oh weary world, unwrap your gift and give thanks to your God.

Merry Christmas to one and to all,

sincerely,                            Grace Day







Living with Loss

I always love the first snowfall of the season.  The ones that follow, not so much; but there’s something magical and miraculous about the first snow that catches me unawares every time and leaves me mesmerized, unable to take my eyes from the falling snow and come away from the window.  Maybe its because during snow’s absence I have forgotten any harshness or inconvenience she might have brought with her in winters past, but I have also forgotten the quiet serenity of her arrival, clothing all things autumn’s end left barren, in her soft, shimmering brilliance.  She enters and she exits, leaving the familiar landscape totally transformed before my very eyes.  This always takes me by surprise.   Every year, I experience snow’s entrance as if for the very first time.

Today is that day for me.  Fortunately, my classroom has large windows filling an entire wall, so I can keep one eye on the falling snow, the other on my students.  I doubt they even notice my divided loyalty this day.  The noisy chaos of the classroom is a sharp contrast to the quiet, peacefulness of the steadily falling snow filling the air and covering everything in sight.  Today, snow covers me with her calming comfort as well, while I watch her at work,  thus lessening the impact on me of the students’ less than peaceful behaviors.

But today is a difficult day for a different reason.  Today is the fifth anniversary of my mom’s death.  Did snow know?  Did she show up today just for me?  to soften the sharpness of a painful memory?  to keep me company in my grief?  Whatever the reason, I welcome her appearance today.  Especially because Time hasn’t lived up to her hype.  Isn’t one of her promises that she heals all wounds?  Well, I beg to differ.

This is a commonly held belief about Time and her powers. “give it time”, we tell each other or “Time heals all”.  Maybe Time is not as powerful as we think she is?  Just maybe, time is powerless over the bonds of love and relationship that bind us to our loved ones.  You see, each person we love occupies their very own space in our heart. When they are no longer here with us to occupy their space, there is a void, an empty space.  And we cannot fill that space with another person.  God made each of us unique, just as no two snowflakes are alike, so no two individuals are completely alike.  We were all created in God’s image, but He calls us each by name and knows us for the one of a kind person that He, Himself made us to be.

Now, we can create new spaces in our hearts, if we are willing, to welcome new people into our lives.  But we can’t expect them to fill one of the empty spaces we carry around with us.  That would place an impossible burden on them, because one person cannot take the place of another to us.  Each person deserves their very own space in our heart.  We should be willing to grant them that.  In the meantime, the longer we live, the more our hearts must be resembling swiss cheese, with all the empty spaces we accumulate as we go through life.  Because loss of our loved ones is an inevitable part of life on this earth.

However, “we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do, who have no hope.”  (1 Thess. 4:13)  Yes, we grieve the loss of a loved one, but there is hope in our grief.  And therein lies the difference that makes all the difference to us as we learn to live with our losses.   It is the difference that hope makes in our lives.  ” . . . In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, ”  (1 Peter 1:3-4)

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 27:13)    How do we walk wounded in this world with hearts full of holes?  There is a paradox I think, with my ’empty spaces in the heart’ theory.  You see, I don’t really believe they are empty spaces at all, that’s why someone else can’t fill them.  They are already occupied.  Just not physically occupied anymore.  And we are physical beings. But we are also spiritual beings.  One connection is gone but the other remains.  So, our lost loved ones’ spaces are both empty and filled at the same time.  An inescapable paradox of life.  Time can’t sever what hope holds close.  And our loved ones aren’t lost,  Jesus knows exactly where they are, that’s part of our hope in the midst of our grief.

My memories of Mom fill her space and keep me company, even as I wish more memories could be made with her.  I will have to be grateful and content with what I do have to look back on for comfort.  Time cannot take my memories, (illness sometimes robs some of memory) but Time by herself will not empty her space in my heart.  She does not have that power. Holidays are hard for those living with loss, but Hope is the Message of Christmas.  Jesus was born after four hundred years of silence,  hope for mankind had arrived.  He came to heal our broken hearts and give us hope.  The hope of eternal life.

Let us take comfort as we live with our losses.  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18)

sincerely,                                Grace Day








Irony — A tale all too true

I was tired but triumphant when I pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot. I had persisted and prevailed in my quest and I was feeling pretty proud at that moment. You see,  what had started out as a routine errand after work, had without warning morphed into something more time consuming and frustrating than I had at first anticipated.  I was trying to find the elusive location of the REI store that I thought was inside a particular mall, but discovered that it was not there at all.  Of course I discovered this important fact only after miraculously finding a parking space, (remember its Christmas shopping  season) entering the mall and greatly exceeding my ten thousand steps for the day.  (do steps roll over to the next day like phone minutes used to roll over to the next month?  something to think about)

But I digress.  Anyway, weary of walking in circles,  I stopped at an information kiosk where it was confirmed the store I sought was not in the mall but at another location.  She showed me on a map where it was located, not that far from where we were.  I thanked her and made my way back through the mall and out to my car.  I was confident I had understood her directions and what I had seen on the map.  Piece of cake I told myself.  I just needed to find this strip mall nearby.  How hard could it be?

When I crossed Allisonville Rd. I knew I had gone too far and would have to turn around and head back the other way.  Late afternoon traffic was heavy as expected and left turn lanes are always backed up.  Nevertheless, headed back the way I had just come, I kept my eye out for the strip mall, but there was a problem.  Everything on both sides of the street was a strip mall, one giant, never ending strip mall as far as the eye could see and beyond.  The stores and parking lots all blended together in a maze of what must be paradise for the shopping enthusiast while being nothing short of torture for me.  But I was determined.  I turned in and out of several segments of the “strip” looking for my store.  When I noticed I was right back at the mall where it all started, I knew I had to turn around yet again.

This time I would concentrate on the other side of the street,  a sea of stores as far as the eye could see, mirroring the opposite side which I had just checked out.  It was slow going but I was determined not to miss it this time, as I assumed I had done on my first pass down this road.  The store HAD to be here somewhere,  I had seen it on the map. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot just to get out of the traffic for a moment, regroup and make a new plan. (I really just wanted to head home, call it quits, and deal with this another day)  It was then a spotted a white truck sitting alone at an angle, further out in the lot.  Mall security,  I thought, they will be able to help me!  As I pulled alongside the truck with my window already down, I saw the letters AT&T on its side. Too late, I was already there.  So I proceeded with my question.

This kind stranger did indeed come to my aid.  Consulting his tablet, he found the location of the store and proceeded to explain to me how to get there from where we were.  (the store was in yet another strip mall, not visible from our current location.) Armed with this new knowledge, I ventured out yet again into the challenging late afternoon traffic, populated with crazed shoppers bent on fulfilling their ‘to do’ lists, just as I was.

My ERRAND had now become a MISSION and I did not want to give up without success. I would not go home empty handed.  That would be to fail.  After all, my purpose was to obtain gift cards for my children from this, their requested store.  And we all know, don’t we dear reader, that when it comes to our kids, there is no mountain too high, no stone we would ever leave unturned.  So I continued down this different road, in a direction I hadn’t gone previously.  I needed to go over the interstate, through a couple more traffic lights and turn down another road.  This road then allowed me to turn onto yet another road which then had strip malls opening up on both sides, stretching as far as the eye could see.  Now what?  I ventured in one direction with no success, then decided to try the opposite side.  And there it was!  REI in all its glory! The summit was in sight!  Success within my grasp!  I could taste victory!

What happened next is of course, anticlimactic.  I entered, I purchased, I exited. Feeling the thrill of victory, I headed towards home with just one more errand to do. This was to obtain a gift card from Whole Foods.  I had originally planned to start my shopping at Whole Foods because it was close to work and would be the easier of the errands.  But I chose instead to start with the one furthest away and work my way back toward home, as I knew I would get progressively tireder and hungrier and should save the easiest for last.

So we have now arrived at the beginning of this post, with me in the Whole Foods parking lot.  It smelled so good as I entered the store and I was hungry, but determined not to shop, just get the needed gift card and go.  I went straight to the register, where the gift cards were displayed.  My eye fell first on a large sized REI gift card, there in the display.  In stunned silence my brain tried to assimilate what I was seeing.  How could this be?  Had the past two hours been unnecessary?  (apparently so, because if I had started here as I had originally planned, I would have been finished with one stop.  the only thought I could console myself with at that moment was that the gift cards I had purchased at the actual store were ‘cuter’ than the generic one here)  There were only eight cards in the display, four of them Whole Foods cards.  I couldn’t tell you what the other three were, I saw only the REI card.  This is the irony I was referring to.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Both seemed appropriate at the moment. Driving home, I came to the conclusion that I had no regrets.  We spare no expense for our children.  The regret would be if we didn’t.  I thought of how my Heavenly Father has spared no expense for me,  for each and everyone of us actually.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”  (Romans 8:32)

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  (James 1:17)

Well, this is turning into a Christmas post, but how could it not?  Jesus is God’s gift to our broken and hurting world. Given at just the right time, God spared no expense in sending His Son to live among us, then die in our place, paying the penalty for our sins that we would never be able to pay.  What an extravagant gift, this gift of forgiveness and eternal life with our Creator. That’s what Christmas is;  God so loved — that He gave.  God so loved the world (us) that He gave His only Son (Jesus), so that whoever believes in Him, will not die but have life everlasting.

That’s why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we’re remembering and celebrating God’s gift to us of His Son.  The Chinese character for Christmas means literally, ‘birthday of the Most High God’.  And that’s what Christmas is.  Merry Christmas everyone.

sincerely,                         Grace Day




The Blind Side of Betrayal

I probably should have written this post on betrayal before the post on forgiveness but there will always be a need for the latter because the former will always be something we have to deal with at some point in each of our lives.  Betrayal seems to be inevitable unless we live in total isolation, connected to no one and caring about no one.  But what kind of a life would that be, anyway?

Betrayal is the cost of the trusting life, the price of doing business, as they say.  The alternative is to trust no one, form no friendships and always be on your guard. Because without trust there can be no betrayal, there is nothing to be betrayed.  William Blake said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” Why is this so?  I think it’s because we expect harm not help from our enemies.  When we experience harm at their hands, we are not surprised, we are not blindsided. Often we are even prepared for it, we expected no less from them. There is nothing to forgive, as they never promised us anything in the first place. There is no relationship/friendship lost because it was not there to begin with.  You can’t lose something you never had.  And, we saw the betrayal coming.

Not so with those we count on to have our best interests at heart, to have our backs. When they betray us we don’t see it coming.  “I would rather my enemy’s sword pierce my heart than my friend’s dagger stab me in the back.”,  is a quote that says it all.  The back-stabbing betrayal is the one we don’t see coming, we are blindsided by it and we are defenseless against it.  We are left wounded and in pain, to deal with the loss that accompanies all betrayals; the loss of trust, the loss of the one believed to have been a friend, now found to be a foe.

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.” (Mineko Iwasaki)  And so we join the ranks of the “walking wounded”, ranks that are already quite full to be sure.  How do we bear our betrayals?  How do we protect ourselves against that which we cannot predict?

We do have a role model.  Jesus was betrayed big time.  But with a BIG difference.  He wasn’t blindsided by the betrayals that came His way.  Being fully God as well as fully man, He knew who would betray Him and when.  He saw it coming and it didn’t change how He lived His life.  He loved, He formed friendships, He gave Himself fully to His family, His friends, His followers, His disciples; He held back nothing of Himself. He fed the hungry, healed the sick and taught in the synagogues and on the hillsides.  He made no effort to protect Himself from the betrayals He encountered along the way nor from the ultimate betrayal He knew awaited Him from one of the twelve people closest to Him.  Betrayal from one who had shared in His ministry and professed loyalty and love to Him and His cause.  Others didn’t see it coming, but Jesus did.  He saw it coming and He stayed the course.

Jesus was never blindsided by betrayal at the hands of those He trusted. But I am, I am always blindsided, every time.  I never see it coming.   I am left devastated and dazed, wondering why it happened, trying to pick up the pieces that are left and fit them back together again.  But the world has changed and the pieces don’t fit together anymore in this new reality.  What to do? How to live now?

Jesus showed us the way.  From the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”   He told Peter that he would deny Him three times before sunrise, something Peter couldn’t imagine himself doing, and yet Peter did exactly as Jesus said he would.  In Romans 12:18-21 we are given the antidote for the betrayals that we will inevitably suffer.  Here it is, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’  says the Lord.  On the contrary:  ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

So these words then give us the remedy or rather the response we can give when betrayal blindsides us.  This is not protection from betrayal but rather a plan of action for us the betrayed, once it has occurred.  Other choices, such as protection through isolation or revenge have less than satisfactory results, shall we say.

But we have this assurance, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”(Exodus 14:14)  Being still in the face of betrayal is hard for us to do.  But if we do, we are told that God will fight on our behalf.  What could be better?  Jesus knows our pain.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.”  Jesus will show us how to bear our betrayals without abandoning trust altogether and without resorting to revenge.  Just as the final victory was His when He rose from His grave, conquering death,  He enables us to live as more than conquerors every day that we follow His example rather than our own wisdom. (which isn’t all that wise)

So take heart dear readers, seek peace and pursue it in this season of peace and goodwill to all.  May your betrayals be few and far between.  And no matter how many times you are the betrayed, may you never be the betrayer.  Though betrayal has only a blind side, may your eyes always remain open to the good in those around you,  even when you have to look a little harder and a little longer before you see it.  It will be worth your extra time and effort.  Each person is always worth that and so much more.

sincerely,             Grace Day






Transaction Declined

These are two words you never want to hear anywhere, at anytime of the year, but maybe never more so than when Christmas shopping.  You can picture the scene, can’t you, dear reader?  Long lines, tired check out staff trying valiantly to keep the lines moving and customers happy.  People watching their watches (does anyone wear a watch anymore or should I have said phones?).   Customers long on to-do lists and short on patience in this season of peace and goodwill toward all.

So you can imagine my shock and dismay when, after carefully selecting some gifts for family and friends and waiting patiently for my opportunity to check out and move on to the next thing on my own to-do list, my credit card was declined not once but three times.  I was baffled as I’d just used it a few hours earlier with no problem and didn’t have much on it anyway, well below my credit limit.

Actually there was a warning that all was not going to go well, that technology was once again out to get me, but I only recognized it as such in hindsight.  (isn’t that always the way?)  The first thing the clerk asked me was my phone number, which brought up a guy living in L.A.  Wrong gender, wrong city, wrong state.  So living across the country from me is a guy with my phone number?   How is this possible?  This is not a comforting thought.  Perhaps I should give him a call?  But I digress. . .

So we were not off to a good start, technology and I.  Let the games begin.  Now after investing my time and effort in carefully selecting these various gifts for specific individuals, being pleased with my purchases and satisfied I’d found special and unique gifts AND waiting in line, I was not about to let technology win!  So,  I ran the card again with the same unanticipated result;  TRANSACTION DECLINED.  Now what?  I did not have any cash, (I never do), nor any other cards with me.

Was I hearing sounds of impatience behind me?  Was I now “that” person in the checkout line that the other customers would later talk about as they explained to whomever why they had taken so long at the store?   Maybe they should thank me for giving them a valid explanation for their delay.  But what to do next?  I was not going to leave my gifts behind.  I was committed.

My next move was to get customer service for my credit card on the phone, which I did, succeeding in getting a live person on the other end of the line in a relatively short time. And who says miracles are no more?   But something else was happening before my very eyes as I tried to explain my situation to the kind voice on the other end of the line. There were three check out stations and everyone’s card was being declined!  I kid you not.  I felt such relief and joy, it wasn’t just me.  I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the problem.  Technology was attacking everyone, not just me.  I wasn’t “that” customer anymore, I was every customer.

While this made me feel better, it didn’t solve my problem.  Since the problem was with the store’s system, my credit card company couldn’t help me.  At this point the only cards being used successfully  were the store’s own credit cards.  Some customers paid cash and some used their store card but I didn’t have either option.  At this point I was the only one left at the register. That’s when I decided to apply for a store card. How hard could it be?  And how long could it take?  I was committed by this time to whatever it took to leave the store WITH my purchases.

By this time they had shut the system down in order to reboot it. Another customer, unaware of what drama had just taken place, approached check out and completed a successful transaction on the “newly booted” system, giving hope to myself and other customers. The clerk suggested I try again and miraculously mine went through as I had come to assume it always would.  I saw those welcome words on the key pad, “transaction approved”.  But what a wake up call.  I was reminded of what I already knew, that I cannot count on technology.   She is fickle.  My transactions can be declined at anytime, anywhere, without any notice or warning.  I ended up winning this round, but what about the next one?  I don’t want to live in fear of the”declined transaction”, just when I need gas, groceries or am paying the bill after eating out somewhere.  Maybe I can find a support group or form one of my own?

Then it occurred to me how grateful I am that my most important, vital transactions are never declined, ever.  Because my most important transactions/requests are with my Creator God, my Heavenly Father. “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him.  for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Ro. 10:12-13)

This assurance is made clear to me in Luke 23:42-43 when one of the criminals hanging on a cross next to Jesus says, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’  Jesus answered him, ‘ I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.'”  Transaction approved.

I John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  again, transaction approved.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  transaction approved  (James 1:5)

Jesus said, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  transaction approved  (John 15:7)

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God-”  transaction approved  (John 1:12)

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”  transaction approved  (Psalm 34:4)

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him , graciously give us all things?”   all transactions approved  (Ro. 8:32)

So there it is, with my Heavenly Father I need not wonder if I will end up with a “declined transaction”.   Psalm 84:11 tells me, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

I can count on my Heavenly Father.  He never slumbers nor sleeps, so His servers are never down. He can always be reached to approve a transaction. He is faithful even when I am unfaithful.  My requests for salvation, forgiveness, wisdom, mercy, eternal life with Him will not come back, “transaction declined”.   He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


sincerely,                     Grace Day