The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Christmas SweaterIt was a Christmas morning in the early 80’s.  Together as a family, we were sitting around the tree as my mom opened a gift from my dad that he had wrapped himself.   She pulled away the tissue paper and pulled out a sweater.  It was the most beautiful sweater I had ever seen!

This sweater was unlike any sweater before it.  This sweater was a Christmas sweater.  Covered with red dots and Christmas wreaths, it gathered at the waist and had the puffiest sleeves available at that time.   Around the neckline was a red and white checkered bandana with a cream colored lace border that tied in a bow at the front.  All I could think was, ‘Someday, I hope that I will wear that beautiful sweater!’

A few years later, my mom was going through her clothes, cleaning out her closet, and I saw the beautiful Christmas sweater in the give-away pile. My mom and I had both worn the sweater several times and she was now ready to pass it on.  I didn’t want to let it go, so I took sweater from the pile and stored it in my closet.  As the years passed, folks were not wearing beautiful Christmas sweaters anymore, so eventually it was pushed out of the way, out of sight, to the back of my closet.

Fast forward 30 years later.  My teenage daughter’s school was having a Christmas party and they were all told to wear ugly Christmas sweaters.   I had never heard of an ugly Christmas sweater so when she asked me if I had one, I told her I did not.  I told her she was welcome to look in my closet, maybe we could piece together a few red and green items, but she would certainly see that nothing in my closet was ugly!  She started looking through my sweaters and stopped when she saw tucked away in the far back corner, the sweater my dad had given my mom all those years ago.  She held it out, smiled and said, ‘This one is perfect!’

Shocked, I tried my best to maintain my cool mom smile and said, ‘You can wear it if you want, but you won’t win.  That sweater is too pretty to win!’

‘Mom,’ she replied, ‘I am pretty sure I am going to win. This sweater is ugly!’

I have a feeling I am not alone.  How many of us have had a Christmas sweater in our closet that we thought was beautiful then, only to find out that it is considered ugly now?  When did this change take place?  Was there a specific day?  Was it announced?  Posted?  Or did it just slowly change over time? Who got to decide?  Who made that call?

We don’t have to look very far to see that the world’s opinion changes all of the time.  In our never ending search to be beautiful, to feel loved and accepted, we can be so easily swayed by the opinions of others.  We turn on our phones and see the latest fashion trends, hair styles, filtered photos of smiling faces displaying only what they want us to see and we find ourselves lacking.  What was good enough yesterday is no longer good enough today, what was beautiful yesterday is no longer beautiful today and if we are not careful we can start to view ourselves that way, too.

In an effort to live up to the world’s opinion, we start running!  We run to this store to get the latest Christmas sweater and we run to that store to get the latest shoes to match.  We run to the hair salon to get a new cut and we run to the nail salon to get that pretty new holiday manicure we saw on a friend. We run and run and run trying to do in order to be.  But running takes our energy, it saps our strength.  We find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, trying to meet the standard.  And what happens tomorrow, when the standard changes…again?   We get out of bed, and start running…again.

The world’s opinion is constantly changing, but as Christians we are to hold ourselves to a different standard.  Opinions around us change, but God’s Truth does not. Rather than aligning our thoughts to the world’s ever changing opinion, we are to align our thoughts with His unchanging thoughts toward us.  As a loving Father, He didn’t leave us guessing as to what His thoughts are! He wrote them down on paper, in a Book that we can read and read again in order to hide these Truths in our hearts.  The words He wrote then have never changed and never will.

Because His Word never changes, we don’t have to run!   God’s Truth doesn’t lead to running around trying to meet the opinions of others. God’s Truth leads to rest.  What He said about you before He created you is the same thing that He says about you today.  It is what He will continue to say about you on your journey and it will be true in eternity when you stand before Him, face to face in Heaven.    Knowing this, we can stop running and rest in the never changing Truth of God.  Here are a few of the Truths we can hold onto today:

God’s Word says you are created in His image.  (Genesis 1:26-27)  That right there says it all.

God’s Word says you are precious and honored and lovely in His sight. (Isaiah 43:4)  When the world says you are not, remember that you ARE!

God’s Word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made…and what He makes is marvelous!  (Psalm 139:14)  You were fashioned by the very hand of God, the same One Who created the beauty around you, created the beauty in you!

Knowing, believing and living according to His Truth rather than the world’s opinion keeps us anchored to a constant.  No matter how opinions shift around us, we will be certain of who we are, children of the King, created for a far greater purpose, to bring Him glory.

The world’s changing opinion never negates the truth of God’s Word.

My daughter came home at the end of that day with a huge smile on her face and a prize in her hand.  She was right about my sweater.  She had won the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest at her school.  Upon hearing this news, friends have borrowed my sweater for their parties, and yes, they too have won their contests wearing my sweater, but my opinion has not changed!  I am holding on to that sweater, because who knows, in another 30 years, the world’s ever changing opinion might just come back to mine!

I am grateful this Christmas that God sent His Son, the Truth, into this ever changing world.   Jesus never changes and neither do His thoughts toward us.  What an indescribable gift we have been given!

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

She Serves

She went to the river that Sabbath morning.  It was the place where she connected, the place where she prayed, it was the place where she worshiped.  Those who worshiped at the river were usually women, but this morning by the river, she noticed some men.

You see, while Lydia was making her way to the river, God was orchestrating the steps of the apostle Paul to do the same.  Their paths would cross in this place of worship and her life from here on out would never be the same.

God’s Word tells us that Lydia was a God worshiper.  Continue reading “She Serves”

Be that Tree!

The mangrove tree makes its home on the shoreline of numerous countries in southeast Asia, particularly those closest to the equator.   No one on a mission to landscape a home or beautify a city would request a gardener highlight this particular tree as part of his plan. An obscure tree that is not particularly attractive, the mangrove tree is not known for its beauty, the mangrove tree is known for its roots.

The mangrove tree is not planted by the water on the shore, the mangrove tree is actually planted in the water by the shore.  Between each tree, seen resting on top of the water’s surface is a tangled mess of what appears to be sticks and debris, twisted and entwined to the place where it’s difficult to decipher exactly where the mess begins or where it ends.  This unattractive compilation of sticks and debris looks messy, neglected and unpurposed, but when you look a little deeper, you see the truth.  Continue reading “Be that Tree!”

Share Your Struggle

Share Your Struggle PICI am usually pretty good at packing a suitcase.  This summer, however, it was a whole different story!  For our 25thwedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Rhode Island to tour the old mansions and enjoy the tastes of the waterfront.  We travel for food and we are not ashamed to say it!  We arrived at our hotel, threw down our suitcases and headed out to explore the town. It wasn’t until we stopped back at our hotel that I realized I had done the unthinkable!

When I unzipped my suitcase and opened it up, what I saw took me by surprise!  Inside of my suitcase, there were NO clothes!   There were no clothes in my suitcase!  I clearly remembered getting my clothes together, I just never had that moment when I put them in the bag!  I was on my 25thwedding anniversary trip and I had forgotten to pack my clothes!

I stood silently staring into my empty bag, hoping that I was just seeing things, unsure of how to break this news to my husband.   Continue reading “Share Your Struggle”

Created to be Filled

created to be filledThere’s a picture frame in my office on a shelf.  I bought it a few months ago, and I am almost embarrassed to say, it’s never been filled.   I had a plan when I purchased it.   There was an empty space on the shelf that needed to be filled.  So I ran to my favorite discount store, found a great frame that matched the office, brought it back and filled the space…

…but that filling created a new space, a new empty space.  The frame was empty, and now it needed to be filled.

The Bible begins in Genesis with a chapter full of empty spaces.  Continue reading “Created to be Filled”

I Cling to You

Many years ago when my daughter was in preschool, I attended a mom’s group with some girlfriends at a similar place in life.  Our children would play together and participate in various activities while we studied The Word and prayed for one another.  It was one of those rich circles of friendship God knit together as we encouraged each other to follow Him.

Many of the women in the group thought that my girlfriend, Lori, and I looked a lot alike.   We are both fair, have similar hairstyles.  We have similar personalities and we get excited about the same things.  The women in the group were not the only ones who thought Lori and I resembled one another.  It quickly became apparent that her three year old son, Andrew, did too.

When Andrew needed some comfort or a reassurance, like all three year olds, he would run to his mom, grab ahold of her leg and cling to her.  His eyes would turn upward, looking for her reassuring smile that said he was loved and that everything was going to be alright.

Without fail, at every mom’s event, Andrew would confuse me with his mom.  We could see it coming from across the room, but there was no easy way to stop it.  Andrew would see what looked to be his mom from a distance.   He would run to ME, throw his arms around MY leg, and CLING to ME!  Continue reading “I Cling to You”

She is Strong

Mom she is strongI heard the news that I was going to be a mom in a rather unconventional way.  My husband and I were waiting to board a flight when we decided to call home to check the answering machine one last time.  There was a new message waiting for us and when it hit my ears, it grabbed my heart. The adoption agency we were using to start our family had left a very short message.  It simply said, ‘Please call us back.  We have identified a baby girl for you.’  The call I had waited years to receive had finally come!  It was the moment that changed my life forever.

Because of the path I walked on my journey to motherhood, I love to read about women in the Bible who walked a similar path…Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Samson’s mom.  Notice something different about Samson’s mom.  We are not given her name.

Samson’s nameless mom received the news that she was going to be a mom in a very unconventional way!  She was met by the Angel of the Lord with a message that after years of wanting a child, she would have a son.  She would be the mother of the next deliverer, a strong man who would begin the path to freedom for his people from the Philistines. It was a dark time in Israel’s history.  The Bible says the days were evil and everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes… Continue reading “She is Strong”