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I grew up attending a Catholic elementary school in my hometown. Christmas was I believe the most solemn and yet memorable time in my school. I remember saying prayers during advent and singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel almost every day. One thing always stood out to me however and that was the majestic beauty of my church during the Christmas season. The altar was beautifully decorated with crocheted linens and poinsettias were strategically placed at the altar.

The manger scene was lifelike to me as a child and the baby Jesus laying in the manger always gave me a sense of peace. To this day walking in a Catholic church transports me back to those days when I had childlike wonder during the Christmas season. As I sat at services the other week and listened to the Pastor's words during Communion of, "do this in remembrance of Me, " I was once again transported back to those days when I would sit at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church listening to those same words. 

What do we do in remembrance of Him? His body broken on the cross so we could have the promise of eternal life. Yesterday I went to visit an old friend in the assisted living facility she has lived in for the past two years. I thought of how we are all broken and when we sit with those who are broken, or have been broken by the things of this word or by illness, etc. we are most near the broken heart of Christ. Communion with others, connection with others comes when we are willing to give from our own brokenness. When we can offer another broken person hope and love we are sharing the love of Christ. 

So often we wall want to escape the brokenness...the brokenness in our own lives and the brokenness of others. We don't want people to share their authentic selves because then we might have to accept the weight of their pain as well as our own. When we drink from the cup of Jesus' blood we are accepting His life in us. And we surrender our lives to Him. What if I had understood that as the shy, insecure girl of 10? Instead I often put up walls to guard my heart and at times have been more interested in self-preservation than helping someone else bear their pain. 

Often I still want to self-preserve and put walls up around my heart but because I have finally come to understand my brokenness can only be healed through first of all union with the One who knit me together I am willing to become vulnerable and to allow others brokenness to enter my heart. My brokenness finds rest and peace in Him. Do I have this down in a neat little formula, no...but, every day I surrender my life and my agenda to Him I heal a bit more. 

Ann Voscamp writes: "when we forget to give thanks - we forget who God is. When we forget to break and give - it is our souls that get broken. When we forget to live in communion with others - we end up living a life of emptiness." When we remember what He has done for us...the remembering it is what heals our brokenness. 

We all have stories to share. So often, on Facebook we feel insignificant when we read of others accomplishments or see someone we know commenting another person's pictures, but they ignore ours..but when we understand our purpose here is not to impress others but to make a difference in the life of someone else we understand it is ok because of the One who loves us all.  We all want to be understood, to be loved ...what if we were that person for someone else...because we remember what Christ has done for us.What if we weren't afraid to recognize the accomplishments of others without being concerned when others choose to not recognize ours? 

As I sat with my friend yesterday and shared life I was blessed and I pray she was as well. The best way to tell someone you care about them, you love them is to offer them time. Time for them to share their stories, to be listened to and to sometimes even enter their pain. I think of another friend who pours her life out unselfishly say after day. On her 70th birthday she did not want gifts, but chose to be the Gift bearer through 70 random acts of kindness. She gave out water at bus stops, paid for laundry at a laundromat and spread cheer throughout her city. 

This Christmas I want to remember to be the Gift bearer and to leave noticeable marks of His love in unexpected ways. I believe it is in loving others more than ourselves, more than the material gifts of this world that we can change and live the surrendered life Christ calls each of us to live.



This morning as I was sitting having some quiet time I started thinking of my maternal grandparents. I remember as a child just loving to be twith them. Neither one of them drove, they spoke little English so I communicated with them in my broken Portuguese, but always they made me feel special and loved by their actions. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, loved to garden and loved to crochet. Her faith in God was evident by the way she lived her life.
One day when I was about 12 I remember asking my sweet Vavo what she and my grandfather wanted for Christmas. She invited me to sit down beside her on the couch and shared from her heart. My grandparents both immigrated to the United States from Portugal. My grandfather had been married before and his first wife had died during a flu epidemic and left him with 3 boys to raise...he was already living in the US when that happened. My grandmother came to the US from Portugal at the age of 20 and married my grandfather taking on the responsibility of helping to raise a 10 year-old, a 7 year-old and an 18 month old. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult this must have been. They then had my mother a few years later.
She explained how difficult those early years were...but how she was blessed to have had those moments. Often now she told me those children she had raised didn't come to see her and my grandfather, they rarely called and they seemed to have forgotten the sacrifices she and my grandfather had made so they could have a better life. She didn't want applause, but wanted respect and wanted to feel loved.
Material things really didn't matter to either of them. They had a nice house, food in the cupboards, could still get around, but missed the moments with their now grown children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.
Family relationships had become strained at times and this hurt them both because all they really wanted was peace and harmony in their family.
Two of my now adult children have asked Bob and I what we want for Christmas and to be perfectly honest what we want in this season of our lives can't be bought in a store. Like my grandparents we have a nice home, we have food in the cupboards, a car in the driveway and are not in need of anything that money can buy.
As parents we want to see and hear from our adult children more often...we want the busyness of all our lives not to become an excuse for sharing life. We want to see our grandchildren more often and to make those visits memorable...we want them to know they are the sweet legacy we will leave behind one day. We would like occasional phone calls and texts from our children and grandchildren saying, "just thinking of you and wanted to check in." We want moments in time. We want them to listen to our stories of days gone by, we want to feel loved, respected, and appreciated. We above all else want them to know they are loved and have always been, that our most special memories are of all of them and the moments in time we have shared.
So even in this day of technology and all the glitter and the is true that the most meaningful gifts will never be found under a tree. The greatest gift for any of us came to this earth in a manger and died on a cross so we could live the lives He has called each of us to. Material things will fade away...only love endures forever.