Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Terrible Audition

My Terrible Audition                                               

Have you ever auditioned for anything?

I haven’t many times, but I’ll never forget my very first. I did terrible! And it was so humiliating!

I was in the seventh grade and we had to audition for the choir in the upcoming Christmas program at school. I was a nervous wreck and when I stood next to the piano to sing a line or two, I could hardly get a sound to come out of my mouth. My vocal cords went on strike and the noise that managed to eke through would have made my own mother cringe. 

It was no surprise that when the choir list came out, my name was not on it.

Shortly thereafter we were told that those of us who were not in the choir would be characters in the pageant. I thought, “Well that’s simple enough. I’ve been an angel before in church programs.” 

So finally the time for the cast to gather together to receive our parts and begin rehearsing. I was told that I would be playing the part of Isaiah. 

The voice in my brain said, “Isaiah? Humm—I don’t remember ever seeing that old guy hovering around the manger before.”

I was given my lines and instructed to memorize them. We ran through the various parts and scenes three or four times over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I took my paper with my part home and began the task of memorization. I was determined not to mess this thing up like I had the singing audition.

As we rehearsed it was confirmed to me that hovering at the manger was not Isaiah’s role regarding the birth of Jesus. He was a prophet of God who had accurately predicted many aspects of the coming Messiah about 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth. As I repeated my lines over and over, the amazing truths about that Baby who occupied the manger grew grander than I had realized before.

Raised in church, at the age of nine I knew I was a sinner and that Jesus’ death on the cross had somehow paid the price of the penalty for my sins. I was grateful for that and always felt it appropriate to celebrate the coming of our Savior as a baby. 

But as I memorized the portion of Isaiah’s prophesy, it occurred to me, then at the age of twelve, that Jesus was more than the only One who could save me and set me on a path to Heaven when I die.

So well I remember the night of the pageant in that darkened mufti-purpose room of McHarg School. Before an overflow crowd of family, friends and faculty, and dressed in a 700 BC consume, I slowly began to walk down the center aisle. When the spotlight hit me, I wanted to panic, but I knew I had an important message to proclaim to the world. 

So in a loud voice and with as much authority as I could muster, I declared, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).

From that might forward, Isaiah’s prophesy impacted my spirit and it continues to be one of my favorite Passages. I’m so glad that my audition performance was unacceptable. I fully believe it was by God’s design all along.

Have you ever botched an audition or maybe an interview that ultimately worked out for your good? I love how God uses our frailties to guide us on the path He has ordained.

Side note: McHarg School was and still is a public school. Obviously, the words of Isaiah would no longer be allowed to be a part of a holiday celebration. 

©Connie Wohlford 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Our Wonder-Filled Plans for Christmas

Our Wonder-Filled Plans for Christmas

It happens every year. And I know that I’m not the only one who does it.  On November 1st Thanksgiving plans are well underway. We don’t want to miss a beat in having Thanksgiving dinner as perfect as can be. I love Thanksgiving− taking time to be grateful to God for His many blessings, family gathering together, turkey dinner with the trimmings, college football on TV, and on and on. 
BUT, you know and I know that there’s a buzzing bee humming wildly inside our heads, planning and anticipating, thinking and budgeting, for the best Christmas ever. After all, it’s just around the corner! 

Our minds are bursting with wonder-filled plans:  Things like family gatherings where we all get along; we’re all on the same page; and no one−not even one− acts unseemly. And most importantly, we all focus on Jesus and the wonder of His coming. We gaze at the nativity figurines and imagine what it would be like to be in that scene ourselves. We picture ourselves kneeling beside the Christ Child, worshiping alongside the shepherds and wise men−maybe even holding a little lamb on our laps. We see our children and grandchildren joining us there−in the wonder of it all. 
When God looks into our brains, it must look something like Pinterest or the merger of Southern Living Christmas and Focus on the Family
Our minds are bursting with wonder-filled plans:  Our culinary creations will top all we’ve ever done in Christmas past. It will seem as though we’ve cloned Martha Stewart’s creativity and yes, her pocketbook−and even her staff.  [How much of that do you really think she does herself anyway?]  
Our homes will be filled with aromas of homemade Snicker Doodles, apple & pumpkin pies, fresh baked cinnamon buns, mulled cider & fresh brewed coffee.  Our table and counter tops will be heavy laden with trays of bright colored, perfectly decorated Christmas cookies, mini loaves, cakes, and bundled candies−all freshly made by our skilled and loving hands.  

Our minds are bursting with wonder-filled plans:  Our homes will be brilliantly decorated with holiday lights and homemade d├ęcor that even Martha would envy.  All the lights, yes every single one, will actually work and burn brightly in just the right spot, casting just the right shadows, in just the right places.  It will all be just right. The fragrant fresh greenery, colorfully styled with perfectly harmonized ribbons and bows, intermixes the air with the cinnamons and spice. Umm, we smile, close our eyes, deeply inhale and hold for a moment just to soak it all in.  

Our minds are bursting with wonder-filled plans:  The family will all be together at the community parade and tree lighting ceremony, after which we’ll enjoy hot chocolate while we chat and laugh together. Off to church we’ll go on Christmas Sunday* and joyfully sing all our favorite Christmas carols. 
Each heart will be thrilled again by the Christmas play. We’ll worship the new born King and joyfully say, “Merry Christmas,” to each of our church friends. [*Christmas Sunday is defined as the Sunday just before Christmas day. I had to explain that term to some of my grandchildren.] 

Our minds are bursting with wonder-filled plans: We’ll give and receive delightfully simple and meaningful gifts this year. We won’t spend more than we can afford. And best of all, everyone will appreciate−really appreciate−the gifts we give. As they carefully open each one, their eyes will sparkle with anticipation. 

Then they’ll look into our faces and gleefully say, “Oh thank you so much!  I just love it! It is just right!”  Then we’ll receive that big hug of gratitude and smile as we sweetly say, “You’re welcome, Honey.  I love you so much.” 

So- our wonder-filled plans are brilliant, indeed. Our imaginings can flit and float to impeccable holiday thrills. But—really now, let’s do be real. When our families consist of human beings, we’ll deal with human frailties. We, ourselves, are not the picture of perfection, you know.
Let’s begin our plans with a prayer to the One we celebrate and ask for His leading as we set our sights on Christmas. After all—it’s His birthday. 
AND let’s do what Proverbs 16:3 wisely tells us: Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Please leave a comment and share ways you manage to maintain focus and composure during your Christmas planning and follow-through.   

Merry Christmas!  

"Our Wonder-Filled Plans for Christmas" has been published in the December 2015 issue of the free on-line magazine, "Refresh." To read more delightful and inspirational Christmas related articles please see the December issue -> http://lighthousebiblestudies.com/refresh-bible-study-magazine .

©Connie Wohlford 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Best Christmas Prep Day Ever

The Best Christmas Prep Day Ever   
We do lots of things to get ready for Christmas.

From what I observe many folks have a specific Christmas Preparation Routine. We could call it CPR. Well that’s probably not a good idea since that acronym is already taken. 

One task I like to get done as soon as possible after Thanksgiving is put up our Christmas tree. We get a real tree. We’re actually one of the few households I know of that does not have an artificial one. 

Mind you, my husband would like to go the fake tree route but I really love having a real evergreen all decked out in our living room. I must admit that I appreciate him putting up with my folly in the matter and he is willing to mount the tree once I get it home. Once secured in the tree stand, it’s my baby.

This year—just a few days ago—I invited our locally-residing grandchildren to go with me to get our conifer. I had no specific specie in mind and I had no specific grandchild/ren in mind either.

The high schoolers all had swim practice. At age twelve, Hampton is not yet eligible for the high school swim team, so was the only one available to go.
In recent years, I’ve purchased trees from the Lion’s Club, a tree farm or a grocery store parking lot. 

Our tree needs to be on the skinny side because our living room is not large, but we want it to be as tall as possible because we have a vaulted ceiling. So—tall and skinny, and fits within our budget, is actually hard to fine. I five foot tall tree would just not be fitting in our log home.

Well, this year was different. Some friends offered to let us get a tree from their wooded property. 

When I told Hampton we’d be cutting our own tree out in the woods I don’t know which of us was more thrilled. 

I have fond memories of tree hunting as a child as well as with our two sons in years gone by. How delighted I was to get to take one of my grandchildren on a Christmas tree acquisition excursion! 

Having artificial trees in their own homes, our grandchildren have always been enamored by our real Christmas tree. In fact just a few days earlier, Hampton asked me when we would get our tree and would it be a real one. He added that he liked our having a real tree. (If the day ever comes when we surrender to having an artificial tree, we’ll have eight disappointed grandchildren and one disappointed granny.)

So Hampton and I headed for the woods—gloves, saw and rope loaded into the car. I could tell he was excited as we wound our way through the country and finally up a dirt road through the woods to my friend’s house. 

We donned our jackets and gloves, and he clutched the saw with much anticipation, and we started trekking up the wooded mountain side. On the inside, I was praising God for giving me the opportunity to have this unique experience with my grandson and I asked Him to let Hampton always remember our adventure. 

I also prayed that we would find our prize quickly because with the overcast sky, daylight would soon escape us. 

We sized up several trees as we moved upward to check out more possibilities. My friend and her two little boys marched through the forest with us. Their little eyes watched every move of the bigger boy, Hampton. They were obviously enjoying the outing too.

Each tree we considered seemed to have some major flaw. The forest is not like a tree farm, full of rows and rows of well groomed, near-perfect specimens.
Soon Hampton said (again), “What about that one?” pointing down the hill about forty feet away. 

I answered, “I believe that will work. It’s tall enough and not terribly big in diameter. It’s a little sparsely limbed and a bit one-sided but I think we can make it work. Let’s get it.” 

Down over the small embankment Hampton went, trusty saw in hand. He was fired up to finally cut down our Christmas tree.  

Within a few minutes we all yelled, “Timber!”

It was evident that this young feller needed a hand in getting the felled tree turned around, up the hill and onto the path. So over the bank I inched, hoping to do no further damage to the knee for which I’d been undergoing physical therapy for the past several weeks. 

With no small  effort, we got the tree up the embankment, then down the mountain and situated in the back of my Subaru. Hampton was a little taken aback when he realized we would not be able to close the rear door for the tree extended out a couple feet beyond the opening. Our find was about 11 feet tall.

We said our thank yous and good byes to our friends and headed for home with the base of the trunk resting on the console between the young lumberjack and me. 

For Hampton this was a new, fun, memorable experience. For me it was indeed fun and memorable. Greater still, it was a precious relationship building occasion with a beloved child. 

Driving home my sidekick excitedly asked when we could decorate the tree and did I have any eggnog.

I said hopefully Do-Daddy (my husband) could set the tree in its stand and have it ready to decorate by tomorrow. Though a little disappointed not to do it now, be both had something special to look forward to the next day. 

As we drove along I glanced at Hampton several times with his gloved hand resting on the tree trunk between us. He was charged with making sure it didn’t begin to slide out the back door while traveling. (I knew, of course, that with the securing rope and bungee cords our prize was in no danger.)

My heart swelled thinking of the memory we had just constructed—this precious grandchild and me. I realized that this was one of the best Christmas prep days I’d ever experienced and asked God to plant this memory deep into Hampton’s mind and heart. Those of you with grandchildren know exactly what I’m saying.

I also prayed that for many future Christmases after I’m no longer around to trek through the woods, Hampton will smile and recall our adventure and determine in his heart to make lasting memories with his own children and grandchildren. 

Once our tree was mounted the next day, my husband remarked, “That’s the ugliest tree we’ve ever had.” 

With wide-eyed surprise, Hampton jerked his head toward me.

I grinned at him and said, “I think it’s the most beautiful one we’ve ever had.” With that, a smile of relief relaxed his face.

From my perspective it really was—and is. At the time of this writing this gangly pine is sitting in our living room, shining with love. My dear husband just doesn’t see what I see. 
Hampton & Granny 2016

With Christmas music playing in the background, Hampton and I drank egg nog and adorned our tree with lights and ornaments. A bonus for me was the sweet privilege of describing the origin of many a decoration as we hung each on the flimsy limbs. Some of the items were made by his daddy and his uncle when they were young boys. Some I had made many years ago and others were special gifts. Many were from loved ones who have already gone to Heaven and no longer join us around our Christmas dinner table. I pointed out my favorites and we talked about the nativity, as he examined each tiny baby Jesus. 

For Hampton and me, this Christmas season has gotten off to a wonderful start. I knew it would be fun to take him into the woods to cut a tree, but as God does so well, we came away with much more than just a tree.

I hope you will take time to enjoy meaningful occasions with your loved-ones this Christmas season. I’m already looking for more opportunities myself. After all I have seven other grandchildren!

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

©Connie Wohlford 2016