Our First Christmas Away From Home

Well, with my husband in the hospital recently and still recovering along with tight finances, we were not able to make it home for Christmas.

At first, I wanted to pout and cry – better not or Santa won’t come…or I could be simply being ungrateful for all that God has provided and brought us through this last year.

then, we got a message from our church asking if they could provide food for our Chrsitmas dinner.  We already had provisions from Thanksgiving (hubby was in the hospital at the time so we never used it) so we did not have a need for a meal; instead, we asked them to bless another family that had more of a need.

Yet, I was still upset that we would be spending Christmas alone and without the usual trappings until I remembered my own words to the church.  That there is probably someone out there who would be spending Christmas alone or may not be able to afford a meal themselves so we decided to look for a couple of people that would be alone.

Things became clearer and my pout disappeared as I asked around to see if there was such a person in this small town.  We learned of one such couple and asked them to dinner, they accepted.

An older couple, one of the first people to greet us at this new church, and who prays for my husband’s health, came to our home for dinner.

Of course, I went into nervousness, worried that my food would not be good enough as I experienced with new ways of making sweet potatoes, turkey, and even stuffing.  Even making a homemade apple pie for the first time in like at least 15 -20 years because husband wanted it.

Or would there be enough?

Well, we had more than enough and the food was delicious.  The pie was delicious even with the crumbling crust and too many apples!  The stuffing – made in the new crockpot – was delicious and everyone was too full to eat of the pie!  Though I talked my hubby into eating some today and he did – he agreed!  It was delicious!

Above all, the evening was a blessing as we fellowshipped with this couple. They prayed with us, told stories of their life, as we showered each other with fellowship and blessings.

Then, I learned as I tried to call them to wish them a merry Christmas, that my parents, alone during the holidays, had invited people from their church too…the same way we had.  They were too busy to talk to us!  I say with a smile as I’m glad they had the fellowship.

So, the lesson learned here is that even if you are full of people at the dinner table, or even alone during the holidays, bless someone with a meal and company by inviting them to the table.

After all, Acts 2:42 (NIV) reads:  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

In conclusion, we wondered, if we were still living near family (who we do miss), would we have opened our eyes and seen the needs of others?  Perhaps God moves people out of their comfort zones to open our eyes and see a need.  Perhaps we are finally seeing why God moved us here and perhaps our hearts are being opened even more to the needs of neighbors as we may do this more often and perhaps make it a monthly ministry to break bread with our neighbors.

What are your thoughts?   How did you make someone else’s life brighter for the holidays?  What can you do differently in the upcoming year?

Coming home to a new church

Well, one of the changes we had to make when moved to our new town is finding a new church.

Initially, we thought this process would be tough and we would not find a church that would meet our needs as well be too cliquish in such a small town.

First, we went to one local church and discovered it was crowded as we packed in like sardines; however, only a few people said hi to us – the greeter and the person(s) sitting next to us.  I tried to reach out and say hi first yet even then we felt snubbed so it was just sit back and enjoy the service.  The pastor did come and visit us which was nice yet it was interesting that he taught a message about loving people and his congregation was too cliquish to welcome new people.  Worse, it was barely wheelchair friendly…

The next Sunday we attended a larger church and were immediately greeted by an older woman who made us feel warm and welcome as if we had come home.  As we sat, waiting for the service to begin, other people came up and greeted us.

I felt at especially since it was the same type of church I had grown up in – Assembly of God!

Interestingly, when we lived in our old town, we both decided that the AG was not for us yet we did not have many choices in this new town except Baptist, Catholic, and Lutheran.  Dene grew up Lutheran but I never felt comfortable in one and we were not into Baptist church nor was catholic church for us even though we know some great Catholics and Baptists.

This AG church had its usually speaking in tongues, older women dancing and swaying to the worship, and a young couple who I found myself chatting with as we shook hands during the greeting time.  I even found an Evangel – an AG magazine that I loved to read as a kid.   Definitely at home!

The next week, we attended again with my in-laws and again, we were warmly greeted.  We found ourselves wanting to get involved and that week I had the pleasure of attending a women’s kick off event where a woman shared about being attacked and yet she was still alive and praising God.  Reminded me that even though I had been attacked by two different people as a kid, I am still alive and God continues to use me as I yearn to eventually reach out to other women who have been attacked and/or abused.

Another event was attending the women’s bible study on Girls with Swords about women overcoming being oppressed and standing up by using God’s word to overcome adversity and the attacks the “enemy” will throw at women.  A great study and I highly recommend it.

Finally, we attended a prayer session where two great women prayed over my husband for healing.  We left feeling at peace and ready for the healing.

Tonight, we went back to the bible study and even had dinner of stew and dessert with other believers for just a dollar. a person.  Can’t beat that!

Yes, we did find a new home town and we found a “family” in a church of believers who believe in loving people and Jesus.  I cannot wait to become more involved through more fellowship, worshiping God, and praying together.

So, how do you greet new people or even those who have been coming for some time at church?  Do you snub them or do you warmly greet them?  I used to greet people and found that service to be a great service to those who need to be warmly welcomed to church; after all, how you greet people makes a world of difference so go out and warmly welcome everyone to your church just like Jesus would.

Does Mr. Rogers Live in Our Neighborhood?

Okay, so, just as we were about to doze off last night, a piercing alarm shattered the semi-quietness of our apartment building.  I tried to remain calm but a bit panicky as I realized it was a fire alarm.  Things became a bit chaotic as I dashed to get decent clothes on, round up the cat, and get my wheelchair-bound husband out to the balcony.  Then I stuck my nose out in the hall to see what the rest of the neighbors were doing…only one was leaving the building from our section of the floor and the elevators were closed off.  Fortunately, the alarm turned out to be a false alarm…though I wondered why no one checked on those who were wheelchair or otherwise unable to escape down the stairs?

With this thought, I was reminded of how little we know our neighbors, even after over three months in our building.  Yeah, we say hi and talk to them in the hallways; however, we do not have a whole lot of communication with them.  It took one neighbor coming over last week needing some salt and pepper before we found out that he similar taste of music as my husband, and he is a Christian.  He was impressed that we let him keep the salt and pepper – something we do not use a lot –since he does not know too many people who are kind or enjoy blessing one another.

We have learned that we have an interesting collection of neighbors in our building that includes young families, single parents, disabled people, and even quite a few elderly people.  For instance, there is the neighbor who is shorter than I am (I’m only 4’11”) and she is one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever met.  Furthermore, there is the man who seems to know everything about the building since he has lived here for a long time.  Then there is the neighbor above us – a single mom – who we complain about because her young son keeps us awake some nights.  Though recently, I keep getting reminders from God that we need to pray for neighbors even if we are not happy with their behaviors.

As humans, we were meant to connect with each other and have fellowship with other people.  Unfortunately, we are becoming a society that spends too much time with social media and not a whole lot of face-to-face contact with our neighbors.  I’m just as guilty as anyone reading this blog or a stranger on the street.

That is why we want to start a community style coffee shop so people can re-learn to interact and fellowship with each other without pressure.  Hopefully.  We know – it will be a long shot since people attached to their personal electronic devices.

Therefore, in conclusion, Mr. Rogers does not live in my neighborhood; however, as commanded by Jesus, I will love my neighbors (even the noisy one) and find ways to connect with them.  Even if it is just a simple hi with a smile and asking them how they are doing.

So, who are your neighbors?  How do you think you can connect with other people in your neighborhood?

What is your vision?

Proverbs 29:18 (NIV) “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”  This verse is talking about a vision and how people without a vision, lack wisdom.

Vision – what is a vision? 

According to dictionary.com, a vision is one of several things:

(1) The act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight; (2) The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision; the vision of an entrepreneur; (3)  An experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, often under the influence of a divine or other agency: a heavenly messenger appearing in a vision; (4) Something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience: The vision revealed its message; (5) A vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation: visions of wealth and glory.

Furthermore, my professor at Hope International University described vision as something where a church is going while providing a snapshot of its direction.  At the same time, it challenges and inspires people to accomplish a ministry for God as it touches their emotion (Bigelow 2013, n.p.).

Such a vision occurred with my husband Dene when he was a fourteen years old as described below:

The Dream by Dene Cole

The dream woke me up from a sound sleep, I was so excited from the dream I went and woke my mother up and told her about the dream.

I was walking around a large building, cannot remember the dimensions but it was big.  I could smell brewing coffee and cookies baking.  I walked out of the building and saw four more buildings as if I was in a small village at least that was what my fourteen-year-old brain perceived.  Then I heard a voice telling me that I will give all this to you when the time is right. 

Now that I am fifty years old, I comprehend the dream a little different.  First off, I know the voice was from the Lord Jesus and I am still trying to figure out if the time is right.  Now being married to Ann, I believe the time is at hand for both our dreams and visions to take place.  That dream is leading me to open up a coffee, hopefully within the next year or so.

My husband and I share this vision of opening a coffee shop that will be more than a coffee shop.  We hope to turn it into something that serves the community while meeting the needs of people who are experiencing hurt and talk about Jesus while fellowshipping with each other.

What is your vision?  Were you given a vision that you have forgotten about?  Is there something that is inspiring you to serve in a ministry and keep casting it aside in hopes of getting back to it someday?