Faithful Living

"It was nine Christmas Eves ago that a marvelous teacher entered my life. At the time I fashioned myself to be his teacher. I was, after all, his mother. As I held my nine-pound newborn in swaddling clothes, I could not help but consider Mary, mother to Jesus, and the thoughts that must have run through her mind as she looked down upon the infant Christ. While I examined my Christmas Eve surprise I rejoiced as well. I could not believe the amazing timing of his birth. I could not believe how blessed I was to have two healthy daughters and a stout baby boy to love. In that modest hospital room I made great plans to guide and teach him. Little could I have known that this bundle would, in countless and spontaneous ways, be God's instrument to mold and teach me. My latest lesson came this week, smack dab in the middle of a frenzied shopping trip. It all began with an announcement: I was a holiday shopper on a mission and in great need of an elf. Thankfully, shopping with mom is still relatively cool to this now third grade boy. After donning his favorite Santa hat and matching red vest, he enthusiastically headed into town to give me a hand. As I drove I did my best to set the tone for our trip: We were behind on our holiday shopping and needed to catch up. Therefore, we were to work fast. We were to stick to our list, stay on task, and get the job done. My son was to jog down aisles and fetch the items we needed. And while I ploughed through lists, steam rolled past other holiday shoppers, and worked myself into a frenzy, my helper smiled and twirled, leaped and dreamed, slam-dunked those listed items and crossed them off the list with more finesse than my weary spirit could muster. At first I felt my annoyance growing. I wish he'd just stand by the cart and stay focused, I thought to myself. But I was then forced to contend with shame, which I have learned over the years is not such a bad thing and is usually a sign God is near. Therefore, I forced myself to approach my elf with a new spirit. I put a stop to my own madness. I put down the list and stuffed my additional holiday to dos back into my purse. I closed my date book, and watched as my elf picked up the coolest lawn ornament he had ever seen. Although I could not hear a physical voice, there was authority behind the message I began hearing. It's a matter of patience, a voice began to urge me from somewhere deep inside. Stop and watch him, each and every time he asks you to turn and change your focus. There is a lesson in this trip. Moments later my holiday lesson took shape in the form of a giant Styrofoam candy cane, placed in a location easily accessible to my elf. Spotting it and finding such an item completely irresistible, he heaved it out of the box and left the hurry and scurry of my holiday world behind. Suddenly nothing else mattered more to me as well and I stopped my own frantic shopping to watch as he aimed the candy cane at nearby shoppers and shot invisible candy canes in their direction. He used his giant candy cane as a crutch. He placed it across aisles and hurdled over it with a style any Olympic hurdler could appreciate. He raised that enormous fake confection above his head in barbell fashion and announced, I'm king of the world! And through my little elf the King of the World spoke to me. He spoke of slowing down to enjoy my children rather than bark out orders and frenzy my way through the holiday. He spoke of taking my focus away from the calendar and reclaiming the tone of the holiday; choosing the joy of discovery and giving and playing above monotonous moments in long postal lines and late night Christmas card addressing that leaves me weary by 2 p.m. the next afternoon. We made our purchases and hauled that candy cane all the way home. We also left the madness behind and will get the cards and out-of-state gifts sent when we can do it with grace and peace. Who could have guessed such a valuable lesson would have come from an elf?---------------Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and former editor of Christian books published by Gospel Light Publications. She can be reached at "

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