I am extroverted by nature and love spending time with lots of people. I am energized by the crowd. Sometimes; however, when I spend a lot of time with people and have lots of different conversations, I have a hard time winding down and falling asleep. Last week at MOPS we brought our entire remote staff in to engage in our annual strategic planning. I was thrilled because the majority of my staff is remote and we spend most days connecting via Facetime, phone and Zoom so having time in person was wonderful.
I found myself restless at the end of the week. I was processing plans, replaying meaningful conversations and honestly had a lot planned for the weekend as I was hosting a large party at my house. I decided to stop tossing and turning and make my way downstairs so I didn’t wake my husband.
I walked around the Christmas tree and began reminiscing. My tree is a story tree. It is a bit of a hodge podge so to speak but so many ornaments hold sentimental value to me. A green felt ornament with my oldest son, Justin, centered in the middle with his first grade smile. An ornament with Spencer’s old football number, Taylor’s picture secured in a hot glue gunned popsicle stick triangle. Then there is Lexi’s picture,surrounded by gold painted noodles her beautiful smile and the “ I cut my own bangs with play scissors” look that she sported as a preschooler one year. Our first year married Christmas ornament which is now 33 years old. The beautiful ornaments my sister has given me over the years and the ones we have collected on our travels. Then one in particular caught my eye – It says, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Santa is kneeling in prayer at the manger. It is sweet. I then glanced over to my nativity scene and the lights from the tree reflected so beautifully on the manger scene.
It is the season, the birth of the Christ child. The celebrations of it all. Looking at the baby Jesus in the manger made me grateful that He is not just the reason for the Christmas season but He is the Reason. The meaning to our earthly lives. This Christmas let’s not leave baby Jesus in the manger. As fellow Christians let’s love all people well and share the hope that is only found in Him. Those thoughts allowed me to settle back into bed and I slept so peacefully.
I realize Christmas can be so hard for many. I know we have had our years when the thoughts of Fa La La seemed impossible. This year many we know are struggling with health issues and the sadness that comes with the loss of those we love. Even more reason to stop and share God’s love. Let’s be mindful of the Reason this holiday season and beyond.
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
Isaiah 9:6 NIV 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.
It is Thanksgiving week in the United States and nothing screams tradition to me more than the Thanksgiving holiday. We have traditions in our family and I bet you have them in yours. Where did they come from? Are they worth passing on? Those are the questions I have been asking myself at the beginning of this holiday season.
“It’s that time again!” Having something to look forward to that is just around the corner is a wonderful part of our human experience. I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my side of the family and I am really looking forward to it. We eat a very traditional meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the like. We are a family that is ok with trying new things too and many of the recipes we have explored in recent years have now become part of the tradition. Our favorite being a brussels sprout casserole and a cranberry salad. I might add that only my sister in law, Tanja, is allowed to make them. She just has the magic touch. * see sherricrandall.com for recipes*
Food and the holidays can trigger nostalgia and anticipation. I realize for many it can also trigger unpleasant memories and can be a difficult time of the year. The great thing about traditions is you get to decide what you want to move forward with. I am challenging myself to think about why I have continued with something and have I made it worthwhile for my kids to continue one day when they have their own families. Good things to ponder.
Traditions help us with a healthier and happier outlook on life. They bond us with our family and friends. I believe we have an innate drive to build them which in turn helps with our finding fulfillment and belonging. It is the anticipation and the joy.
Traditions may change and evolve over the years and some just need to stay the same. I hope I got you thinking about yours. From my home to yours – I wish you a season to be thankful for!
I would love to hear about your favorite Thanksgiving traditions.
It is a Monday morning, not even 10 am, and I am finding myself in need of a pep talk.
I woke up early today to go for a walk before work. Ear buds in place and music turned up I began my walk on the trail. Preoccupied with my thoughts of my youngest son starting his senior year of college and my daughter starting her senior year of high school. My heart burdened by the senseless shootings that took place this past weekend in my country. I began to pray and walk. I thought I heard a voice and as the cyclist was approaching my side, I quickly moved over to accommodate him. Much to my surprise, he hopped off his bike and began screaming at me to MOVE OVER. He berated me and cussed at me before jumping back on his bike an pedaled away as he was nodding his head in disgust that I would be walking closer to his side of the trail than mine.
I then decide on my way to work to stop at the grocery store and pick up some items for my lunch. There is road construction so I inadvertently turn and drive against the arrow pointing us to park. My mistake as well as the car in front of me and the three others behind me. We all encounter the wrath of a very frustrated driver who honks her horn, rolls down her window and proceeds to scream at all of us for being idiots.
I decide a large coffee is in order at this point and stand in line to order when the young mom in front of me who is juggling 2 little kids spills her iced coffee macchiato all over my sandals and feet. I then have a choice don’t I? I chose to laugh and to tell her it was no big deal as we both worked together to clean up the mess. This prompted the man behind us to pay for both of our drinks and thank me for not treating her like I was treated in the parking lot. He was part of the wrong way driving escapade too. We all had a good laugh and wished each other a great day.
Choices… Sometimes we are aggravated by what others do and sometimes we are the one who is aggravating. Today I am determined to choose grace and gratitude. All the minor issues I described for you are nothing compared to others in the world who would love the freedom to walk without fear in their neighborhoods, to have a working automobile and to have the funds to purchase coffee. I spend my days working for a global ministry so I am well aware of the fact that these are minor in the macro of our world. Even with that lens I found myself sad and a bit annoyed.
My encouragement to you and to me today is this – choose the joy and choose the grace. It is always worth it even when it is hard and who knows, maybe sometimes you might even be treated to a cup of coffee.
I love to feel sunshine on my face and living in Colorado I get to experience that a lot as we like to boast that we have 300 days of sunshine a year. Blue skies create a sunny disposition so they say. As our summer days feel longer and the sun shines until late in the night, I settle into my summer rhythm of walks after work, watering the garden, watching baseball and talks with my husband sitting on the back porch staring at the magnificent sunsets chatting about life and many nights eating a popsicle. There is something about summertime that brings out my ten year old self. The rhythm of life seems to change with the arrival of fresh cut grass and ice cold lemonade.
A few summer ago, I participated in a Bible study that focused on the Psalms. Right away Psalm 1: 3 caught my attention –
“ That person is like a tree, planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” NIV
That particular summer arrived after an intense time of ministry and quite frankly a time where I felt unlike the tree above, my leaves were withered. I was worn out, my joy was gone. This passage caught my attention because it promises that this tree gives its fruit in season, while its leaves do not wither. My expectations of myself, and the expectations I often see those around me putting on themselves, are that we are to be productive and fruitful all the time. Our rhythm to include rest has disappeared.
No wonder we feel tired.
We were created for rhythms. All of God’s created world was created with rhythms. God created night and day. God created and then God rested. The leaves fall in autumn and return with buds of promise in the spring – rhythm.
Modern life gives few reminders, but we humans used to go to sleep and get up with the sun. Life followed the rhythms of the agricultural seasons. There was a time to plant and a time to harvest. With the arrival of the summer fruits in the produce aisle and farmers market, I am reminded that fruit grows in seasons, not constantly or instantaneously.
Life today can be a constant barrage of noise and information that is accessible at our fingertips. We can be plugged in all the time, and we are expected to be fruitful year-round. The arrival of summer reminds me we can change that rhythm.
My challenge to myself and to you is to find our rhythm of summer. Find ways to slow down. Extra time with our families, extra time outside and maybe a little extra ice cream too. Rhythm is a simple concept, let’s find ours and let’s not over complicate it…
I sat in the parking lot of the post office on a cold winter morning. I could see the long line from where I sat in my car and I was feeling grumpy about the anticipated wait. I had a heavy heart. Grey skies loomed overhead replacing the normal bright blue skies of Colorado. The whole day felt grey and heavy.
I was awakened that morning to alarming texts from friends who were sending out prayer requests for one of our friends who is battling cancer. The outlook felt grim. Then I received an email from another friend telling me of a friend’s child who was complaining of a stomach ache which turned into surgery which turned into another cancer diagnosis. These are wonderful families and I just felt plain sad on their behalf.
I walked to the front door of the post office and while opening the door dropped several of my envelopes. A young man stepped over the fallen mail without offering to help. My grumpy meter was rising by the second – that was until I got inline.
In front of me was an elderly man and in front of him was a young mom with her little baby. The elderly gentleman began playing peek a boo with the child and before you know it, the baby was laughing hysterically. You know what I mean, those baby laughs that are so full of joy they make everyone around them begin to smile and laugh too. We all were laughing until our sides hurt. We even clapped for the baby when she and her mom were leaving, and of course, on cue, she blows us all baby kisses goodbye. My spirits were lifted by the laughter of this sweet child and the response from all those around me.
The lady behind me started crying. She apologized for the tears and told me her husband had passed away earlier this year and she felt guilty for feeling joy and uncontrollable laughter. I gave her a hug and told her I was so sorry for her loss. I also probably over spoke and told her I thought it was ok to have joy. Her husband wouldn’t want her to be sad forever. She hugged me again. I left the post office feeling lighter and as I walked outside, the sun began shining through the clouds. I stopped and prayed for my friends who were deep in hardship. I prayed they would feel joy, that they would be able to laugh even when things were hard.
I think sometimes we are afraid to laugh while we are experiencing sorrow because someone might think our pain has passed or that our sorrow isn’t deep. Laughter seems off limits or inappropriate to shine where there is the darkness of grief and sorrow. My Christian faith tells me that because I place my hope in Christ, I can grieve differently from those who have no hope. There are times when grief will have a tight grip on us for sure, life can be brutally hard at times. Laughter gives us permission to say – grief may have a hold of me but all of the life has not been choked out of me. I think laughter lessens the sting that sadness can bring. It is a gift to feel joy.
Let’s all be people who give each other permission to laugh, to experience joy even when our world circumstances say otherwise. Let’s receive our joy from the Lord and encourage one another in this journey called life.
Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some do – like the one we read about in Matthew 17. “Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led
them up a high mountain”. And there they had a “mountaintop” experience – we know it as the transfiguration. A beautiful moment that Jesus shared with his disciples. You know, the kind of experience that doesn’t happen too often, the kind that changes us forever and results in lasting transformation. Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some happen in convention centers in the southern state of Kentucky. Some happen each year at MOMcon.
Those of us who attended MOMcon had various mountain top experiences. I am always moved to tears when worshipping with thousands of other women. When leaders are introduced to one another in what I believe are God appointments, showing them their abilities to work together through the MOPS ministry to further God’s kingdom. When I see moms crying and sharing with me their recommitment to the Lord, their deep desire to reach others for Christ.
I experienced many of those moments with many of you and I am thankful. This year, being a part of the baptism service was an incredible moment – a true mountain top experience. I had the honor of working with Pastor Ed Ollie that morning. I stood at the bottom of the steps and held the hand of each of the 42 moms as they entered the water. An ordinary hot tub on the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Louisville was transformed into holy water as each mom proclaimed her commitment to following Jesus in front of her peers and other MOPS family. Tears of joy, I have never been hugged so tightly. During one such baptism, as the mom was coming out of the water, I looked over to see her friends crying and above them was the steeple from the church across the street and it was illuminated by the street light. The cross shone brightly that morning. I felt God’s love and will forever remember that as a holy moment, a mountain top experience.
Back to the real world with laundry and real life issues and some minor complaints. How do we take those experiences at MOMcon and hold them tight so that we remember why we do what we do? It really is about perspective and the transforming love of Jesus Christ.
I am reminded of a hike I did this past summer and reaching the top of the mountain. It struck me how nothing really grows at the top – the trees and foliage are gone and are replaced by large rocks and gravel. The view however of the valley was breathtaking. The air was clean and crisp. It gave me an appreciation of what my everyday life looked like as I viewed it from afar. The beautiful trees and city. That is what I take from my mountain top moments at MOMcon. The view of our daily lives, the moments of clarity. Still doesn’t make re- entry easy but it makes it more special when we take those moments and bring them back with us excited and recommitted to serving faithfully together.
That is my prayer for each of us as we lead moms around the world. Think of the call of God leading you and me. Our mountaintop experiences of experiencing God in an intense way also calls us to return to the very real issues and problems of our MOPS groups, our cites and state, nation and world. And we are called back to proclaim that Jesus has called us to work together – as people of faith – to improve the lives of all moms – bringing healing and hope and abundant life into their realities.
May God lead us off the high mountain and into even the deepest and darkest valleys to
share God’s love in transforming ways.
Much love – Sherri