Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's in your Christmas?

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty G*d, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

For me, Christmas isn't just a holiday but a season. I started playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving got here. My mother always called it the "humming season." We always knew Christmas was coming when mom started humming throughout the day. Christmas brings about many different memories for each of us. As I sit here in Ch*na, I have come to remember many things that I took for granted. Aunt Julia's cut-out cookie is just as good in China as it is at home but when you take a bite of them here, I feel like I am sitting in my parents' living room in front of mom's big tree with the icicle lights on it. My brother and I used to complain about a silly tradition our family has. For the past 42 years of my life, we have stood in front of the tree and each held up an orange. The number of people standing in front of the tree grew as my brother had his son but it was always something we did every Christmas. This will be my first Christmas not in our orange picture. I have taken my own here and will send it home for them to hold in their picture.

My first orange picture in China

We each have different Christmas traditions in our families. Some open presents on Christmas eve. Some open one gift. We have certain foods we eat, songs we love to listen to, people we call and sing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" to on Christmas Day, gifts too big to wrap that you have to hunt them down, and the list goes on and on. Christmas is especially a time for gifts. We spend lots of time shopping for that perfect gift for each person and then more time wrapping it. We want each person to know how special they are to us and how much we love them. What is often not done on Christmas is the sharing of one gift. It is the most important gift of all.

This gift came to us one night over 2000 years ago in a stable. It came in the form of a tiny baby boy named J*sus. I have gotten some amazing gifts in my 42 years but none quite like this gift. All my life I had said that I knew who this Jesus was. I said I knew he was the son of G*d, born of a virgin, died on the cross and rose again. I just never knew HIM. THAT was the gift that was missing in my life and THAT was the gift that I finally got 5 years ago.

I had always called myself a Christian but even though I had taken religion classes for many years, I never really knew him. I knew of Him but I had never had a personal relationship with J*sus Chr*st. It was in the darkest time of my depression after Christmas of 2002 that I found Him. He had come over 2000 years ago but was waiting for me to take His hand so I no longer had to go through anything alone again. I was at a point in my life that I didn't want to take my life but I had no idea how to live it. I was in jeopardy of losing my job and my home. I had creditors calling all the time because I wasn't paying my bills. My debt was greater than my income for I was trying to find happiness in purchasing things and having trinkets. Many days, I couldn't get up and go to work. When I did, I wasn't much use. I spent alot of time crying and even more time sleeping. My psychologist had me on 3 different medications for my depression and my anxiety attacks but it wasn't working. He couldn't hospitalize me unless I had thoughts of suicide. Then I found a counselor that could help me. It was the counselor that Isaiah had spoke of more than 2700 years ago... J*sus Chr*st.

I won't tell you that coming to know J*sus stopped all my problems or fixed all the situations I had gotten myself into. What He did give me was peace...peace in knowing that I could get through anything with Him as my strength. I guess that is why Isaiah called Him the Prince of Peace. I remember the first time He stopped one of my full blown anxiety attacks. I could feel His peace wash over me. It was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. I continue to get that peace whenever I call out to Him for He is with me all the time.

Another name given to J*sus is S*vior. He has saved me from so much. He saved me from my anxiety attacks. He has saved me from needing 3 different meds. (I have been med free for almost 3 years now after taking them for 13 years) He has saved me from my fear of never finding someone to love me for all that I am and all that I'm not. He has also saved me from eternal damnation and given me the security in knowing that I have a place in heaven. This is because I asked Him into my life.

This gift is not just for me but for you too. He came over 2000 years ago because He loves each one of us. John 3:16 tells us For G*d so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever shall believe in Him shall have everlasting life. He came even though He knew that not everyone would believe in Him. He came because He loved you and the only thing He wants back is for you to love Him too...with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

There are so many things that are unsure in our lives right now...the economy, jobs, health, investments, relationship issues. He is here to help you get through these things. You don't have to go it alone. All you have to do is ask Him to help you. He is standing there beside you with his hand stretched out to you...waiting...longing for you to come to Him so He can hold you and help you get through all the challenges you are facing right now.

Because it is Christmas, we need to hear His story...the story of His birth, for without His birth He couldn't have died for you. For those of you who are Chr*stians, I ask you now, is Chr*st a part of your Christmas? Is there anything you are doing for Christmas that tells others He is a part of you? His story is amazing and because of Him I am who I am. He has fearfully and wonderfully made me and He is using every good and quirky thing about me here in Ch*na. He too wants to use you for He has a plan for you. Don't you want to know what it is? Don't you want to see what that gift is like? Go ahead. Open that gift. You won't be disappointed that you did.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

How the cookie crumbles

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

He knows the plans He has for us...funny...I never would have thought that for Christmas 2008 I would be in China making Christmas cookies with Chinese friends. He knew what He was doing though. I have to hand it to Him. He keeps coming up with better and better things to add to my life.

Many of you know that I love to make Christmas cookies. I must, otherwise I wouldn't enter into the adventure of having Special Needs children make cookies for 4 weeks straight! That is what I would do at this time of the year with my OT friend, Jenny, with our high school students. This year, I got to teach some wonderful Chinese ladies how to do the same thing.

Shelby, Christina, Sara, Pam and I

The Chinese don't eat things really sweet but we found a few different ones that they really liked. The most fun was making cut out cookies. I was able to share my Aunt Julia's recipe with them. This is a recipe that has been handed down now in my family for 4 generations!

Sara is now a professional dough roller
Jenny, I found us another recruit for rolling out dough next year! Sara did an awesome job. Sara wants to know when we are going to open a bakery! Hmmm! That's a thought. :) I may have to hit my friend Carol up for some more cookie recipes!
I asked the girls if they had memories of cooking with their moms. They recall making jiao zi. I shared my stories of making cookies with my mother and my grandmother. I always loved Grandma's house. Each holiday had its own cut out cookies that we got to cover with colored sugar and bake. My favorite was the yellow, pink and purple chicks and bunnies she would make for easter. Now the girls will have another recipe to share with their children.

The finished products! Piao liang! Hen Hao!

I think their favorite part was getting to frost the cookies and decorate them. They were getting very creative as the night went on. As the cookies were coming out of the oven, they were quickly claiming which one they wanted to decorate next. My favorite part was sharing my traditions and stories with them. Nothing is better than spending time with friends. I am so glad that He planned for me to be here for the holidays. It is becoming a very special time for me though I am so far from home. May you too be enjoying the plans He has for your life during the holiday season and throughout the year.

A Visitor from Fushun

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him. Psalm 37:40

When I traveled to Fushun this summer, our team became friends with the director of the orphanage. She is an amazing woman who deeply loves all the children she watches over. She desires to help her children and is very much like a mother to each and every one of them. Friends of mine, Bob and Pat Hawley have been friends with her for the past two years. While in Fushun, Bob and Pat saw the needs for a baby who had club feet. They desired to give this child whatever he needed so he would one day be able to walk. They have spent the last 6 months in contact with Fushun encouraging them to allow PHF to take in this child and get him the necessary casting for his feet. Because of the trust they have built, Madame Zhu was willing to bring this child to Shepherd's Field.

Fushun SWI Doctor, myself and Madame Zhu
Whenever we are faced with something, even if it is only club feet, God promises us that He will help us when we trust in Him. Bob and Pat's desires of their heart were fulfilled this week. On Tuesday, December 16th, Madame Zhu arrived at PHF. Not only did they bring this young boy to be taken care of but they also viewed the facilities to see if it would meet the needs for two of their Cerebral Palsy (CP) children. They desire to have these children receive Physical Therapy in hopes that one day they may be able to walk. They have their own therapy department but they were seeking individuals who have been working with CP children. It is so exciting to know that God has given PHF the talents here to be able to help the children. This is also allowing us to help the Chinese. Nothing would be more amazing than to continue to train the native Chinese so they can treat their own children's needs.
A big part of the progress PHF made re: therapy and training of the staff is due to Carrie Mills. She is a Speech-Language Pathologist from Virginia. She has been a faithful servant here at PHF for the past two years. She has helped train a team of 7 women that perform occupational, physical and speech-language therapy. On Wednesday, Carrie returned to the US. Please keep these women in prayer as they have all grown to love and respect Carrie and are now here missing her and feeling alone. Though they have guidance here from other staff, it is not the same. Carrie, too, is waiting on Him to guide her for the next step. She may return here. Only time will tell. Carrie was also able to meet Madame Zhu. Madame Zhu is highly interested in having someone in Fushun to train her team. One never knows what the Lord has planned. I am hoping that Carrie will travel with our team when we return to Fushun again in June. I look forward to seeing the plans that He has in store for all of us who desire to serve Him by caring for the children.