Natalicio is another word for birthday in Spanish. I happen to be counting another one of those in my calendar. I woke up this morning thinking about my daily routine, even complaining about things here and there and then I stopped myself.
New Years Eve is not the only day to make inventory of your life, every time another year of life is added is good to see where you are, especially in comparison to where you’ve been. I started by thinking where was I for my last birthday. I remembered having a family dinner and a small gathering at home. I am grateful for the efforts but I was not in a good place.
This last year has been filled with hard lessons and great challenges, but has also been filled with the Mercy and Grace of Jesus Christ. I look at myself in the mirror and I’m definitely not the same person I was. I have grown a lot and thank God it has not been in my dress size. I have made new friends, have taken new risks and I can look at the future with purpose.
I also reviewed that God has allowed me to live this far, not saying that I’m old, but any enterprise more than 20 years is a long journey. I looked at my life with gratitude. I have a God that has provided for me every single day. I have never gone to bed without eating, unless I wanted to and I obviously don’t chose to. I’ve had a roof over my head all my life. I’ve always had clothes to wear, and all of you should be grateful for that too. My bills have always been paid, a delay here and there, but that’s my stewardship challenge, not lack of provision. I can’t even count the many times God has saved my life from trouble. I stopped my pity party and looked at life in a different light. I made a decision. Today was the day to move forward; to start looking at life for its blessings.
I felt filled with joy and left my house to live the first day of my life, it was truly my birthday; my day of birth. To complete my joy, friends and family overwhelmed me with demonstrations of love. I was already happy to be alive and have the Lord, everything else was icing in the cake, and I had tons of it, all fat free as it was all involved in love.
Even if it’s not your birthday today, take an opportunity to look at the blessings in your life. Be mindful, your job may not be perfect, but at least you have one. Your check may not be enough to allow you to travel, but your bills are paid. You may not have the latest fashion but you’re not naked. You may not be able to eat at a fancy restaurant, but you don’t go to bed hungry. Be grateful for all you have and all the blessings God has poured into your life and experience your own birthday.
As a Christian I want to celebrate things that are related to Christ and I’ve been on the search for the truth regarding our most common holidays. Easter is around the corner and all I’ve seen is colored eggs and rabbits. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but my sixth grade teacher taught me in biology that rabbits had bunnies and hens laid eggs, so that combination alone makes no sense to me.
On the other hand, from my years in church and annual “Good Friday” movies, I never saw rabbits, bunnies, hens or eggs related to the cross of Jesus Christ. Where did this come from? I’ve asked around and nobody seems to have an answer. After much searching, my good friend Google finally led me to my answer, several articles and web pages about the traditions of Easter.
In reality we are supposed to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the thing that distinguishes Christians from other religions and sects, it’s the fact that our Lord is alive, and not only alive, but conquered death on our behalf. Somehow in the early days of Christianity, the celebration of the Resurrection coincided with a Pagan holiday dedicated to the goddess of offspring and springtime named Eastre. The story says that earlier Christians wanted to celebrate their festivities, but it would have been dangerous and Christianity was sometimes seem as criminal, therefore they decided to modify their celebration for their own safety and to attract non believers.
Why eggs and bunnies?
Both have been perceived as symbols of new life and fertility. This is also associated with the blooming of flowers in the spring time. There was an abundance of eggs during this time as eggs were not part of their diets during the Lenten season. The eggs were boiled for preservation purposes.
This tradition was created as another way to celebrate. Early Christians would exchange colored eggs, kind of like Christmas and the gifts exchange. Eggs were boiled in flowers to obtain their color, that’s why when people paint eggs in modern society, they tend to use pastels.
Now, here’s the thing; at least in the United States of America it is no longer particularly dangerous to practice our Christian beliefs and to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, so I’m thinking, ‘Let’s drop the bunnies and eggs.”. I know that all big business will take offense to this particular mindset because of what holidays mean to the economy, but it’s the truth. Some people may think, “But it’s for the children”. How about if we teach the children that we have a bigger gift than the chocolate eggs and the Eater baskets? We have eternal life!
We want the future generations to live in the truth and the light. I think its time to live in that truth by knowing what our traditions really mean. Now trust me, I’m not against chocolate. I give you permission to eat all the peeps and chocolate eggs you want, but let’s make sure we are clear in our hearts about what our true celebration is this coming Sunday; the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Traditions are those beliefs and/or customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. One of the best examples is our celebration of Christmas. We celebrate Christmas on December 25th, as the day that Jesus was born, but historically it has been agreed that he was born closer to the month of April. You can hear people say that you can’t celebrate Christmas without a tree or decorations; the truth is those are merely distractions, there were no trees or decorations at the manger when Jesus was born.
Traditions have colored the way we do things and have distracted us from the real meaning. In terms of holidays, I boycotted traditional Christmas last year and don’t get me started on Easter. All my readers have five minutes to explain to me the relationship between eggs, bunnies and the resurrection… Go ahead, I can wait!
There are people who have chosen careers because it’s a tradition in their family for everyone to be a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, or a policeman. Some people go to a certain college because that’s where their family members went, not because it has the best program for their interests.
God made us unique. He took his time to form each and every one of us, and every one of us has a different purpose in the body of Christ. Following traditions, in my humble opinion, are not either good or bad, unless of course the tradition harms the person or others; but it’s not necessary in the implementation of God’s plan for us. We need to ask ourselves what opportunities we have wasted because that’s not what we usually do, the way we usually do it, or the way the people around us did it?
How about when our blessing comes in a different package than what we are used to or expecting, and because we’re not familiar with it we pass it right by? Can you believe that the greatest lesson of marital love I learned from a homeless man? I was part of a ministry that was feeding the homeless. This man came to our line and grabbed his portion of food; something in him caught my attention. All the others sat in front of where we were and ate, he ran with his food to hide. Another person from the ministry and I followed him at a distance, his wife was under some boxes sleeping, probably after heavy drug use. She was very weak, he told her that he had brought her something and lifts her head up with his arms and started feeding her his food. We told them that we had enough for him to eat too. He thanked us but told us that he had come to the line just to make sure that she would get something to eat. When I think about how a husband should love his wife, I think of them. It was not wrapped up in the prettiest package, but it blessed me. How many lessons or blessings have we missed because of our pre-conceived notions and traditions?
Evidence of Real Love
I was able to witness and experience one of the most beautiful days in the life of my dear friends Richard and Carrie Rice. They have been married for three and half years and have a great testimony to share on how God has not only developed their relationship, but how they have grown in their faith and in their obedience to God.
When they originally got married they felt that it was God’s time to do it and without bells and whistles, they got united in the commitment of marriage. God has been growing and using them as they have been obedient to his will. Carrie, even though happy with her groom, felt that she had missed on having a celebration of that special day.
This year, she submitted a letter to the local Christian radio station “The Fish”. They were running a Valentine’s contest where they would choose 50 couples and do a wedding for them to renew their vows. This radio station does this contest every year and Carrie had submitted a letter of participation each time. This year she won. She was very excited. God had provided the wedding of her dreams. This wedding was not only going to provide her with a ceremony, but a wedding cake, flowers, catered lunch, pictures, video and gifts. This time more than the commitment to each other, they were celebrating their covenant with God and with each other.
The event was cancelled in February due to inclement weather and the activity was performed today. Carrie and Richard had thought of the traditional wedding attires when they originally won, but then they realized that it’s not a white ball wedding dress and a tuxedo that makes them tick. It’s not a tiara, a veil and a tie that made them fall in love. So they decided that they wanted to get married in their tennis shoes and “skinny jeans” like Richard said.
They were the only couple in jeans, so they did get various looks from the other participants. Even there were comments in the bathroom about how “diverse” the chosen attires had been, not knowing that Carrie was in the stall. She came out and laughed about it and said, “Yes that would be me!” Beyond their looks they were very well noticed amongst the crowd. They received compliments for showing passion in the way they kissed and looked at each other during the ceremony. To them it was not about looking pretty, it was about their true love for each other.
During the ceremony, Carrie surprised Richard with his wedding ring. His ring had broken some time ago. She had it fixed to give it to him today. He was blown out of the water, but was also a little disappointed that he didn’t have a gift for her. Brandon Heath was singing and Richard felt in his heart a prayer. He prayed that God would bless his wife with the grand prize, so that this day would be even more special than it already had been for her. At the end of the event, the hostess presented the grand prize, a $2,000 diamond necklace. “And the winner of our grand prize is” as the hostess and Richard said at the same time “Carrie Rice”. At the table there was confusion for a second, none of us could believe that Carrie had been the winner. There were screams and praises from Richard’s mouth. Hours after the event had ended we were all still in awe on how God had answer his prayer, blessed his wife and made this day perfect. They were able to share their story with some of the people present, including Brandon Heath, who was very impressed.
Of course winning the prize it’s awesome, and the answered prayer it’s a testimony of God’s love, but what is greater for me is the evidence of true love without the masks of society and how he wants us to be real. He wants us to be us, and as we obey and become real with ourselves, our connection with our Creator will definitely be closer.
I had a dream last night that I’m trying to decipher. I know some dreams are just that; dreams. But I really think this one was trying to speak to my heart.
Before I moved to this state, I had built my house “from scratch” (bear with the baking reference, I don’t know the first thing about construction, but talk to me about cakes and we are in business) I had the property, in a way, and I sat with the contractor and designed what was my dream house within my budget and space. Within a few months that house was built. I was able to choose every window, every tile, every appliance, and every color.
In my dream I was back at that house, but it looked very different from the real house that I lived in. It looked like I had just moved in, had a lot of boxes spreaded out and a few pieces of furniture. I was happy in there because it was a canvas of many things I could do with the house. Looking out the window, I saw a neighbor, who is actually someone who was my neighbor at the real house, who told me she wanted to buy the house. I told her that I needed to consult with my mother ( just like in the real house, my house was built inside her property, so even though the house was mine, the land wasn’t ) My mother was hesitant to the idea, but we agreed to at least let her see the inside of the house.
As we walked through the house with her, I found perks that I had not seen before. I saw an old piano that just needed some painting, a collection of very cute elephants in gold, the house that in the real life had only two bedrooms keep growing on the inside, and all the sudden had four bedrooms and five bathrooms. The real house had only one. It had this huge kitchen. As I kept walking through the house showing my neighbor the selling points, I started discovering that I may not want to get rid of this house, that there was a lot in it that I had not seen that was of value in there and that I could do so much in that house; yes, with some money, patience and tender loving care.
In these last few days I had toyed with the idea of selling my current house, but I don’t think that this is what this dream was about at all. I think this dream is speaking to me and the things that are going in my life at this moment. God is showing me how he’s cleaning my house, my spiritual house, and how many hidden gifts are there that I have not seen, not because their hidden, but because I have not taken the opportunity to look. That I should tour my house and see how many valuable things are there. That I’m in the right spot of being a brand new canvas, where HE can build a new life for me, a beautiful one. I thought I only had two rooms, he showed me all the other ones. To me that spoke about how much more love he can accommodate in me if I allow him. It speaks to how many more people can be accommodated in my heart to shelter. Just like in the dream, to get that house in shape is going to take money, patience and tender loving care; who better than God to provide it all if I just let him do his job and allow myself to shut up.
At the end of the dream I had a little boy filled with dirt. I grabbed him by the hand and entered him into the shower to be cleansed. To me that’s a promise, that I will be holding in my heart.
God keeps reminding me to be still and know that he is God. I think at this point I know that he has a lot of things that he’s going to do with me, in this new canvas of my life. He has cleared my past and made me new. I need to learn how to crawl before I start running and I tend to forget that even when every time I run I end up hitting my head against the wall. Yes, I can be slow.
So I guess my thought about that dream is that I need to sit down, shut up and enjoy the journey of where God is trying to take me. He has promised to have a great future for me and I trust that, therefore no matter how hard things can look now, there’s nowhere to go from here but up.
This year my husband and I decided to celebrate Christmas a little bit different. We decided to not bring out any decorations, to not buy a tree or any presents. Yes, the reality is that finances had something to do with that decision, but honestly there was more behind that train of thought. As I grow in my walk with Christ, I have become disappointed with the world view of Christmas, so I guess this was my way to rebel against it. Money or not I could still have decorated; I have in my house enough decorations to light up the neighborhood. It was just not in my heart to do it this year, and since I don’t have children that would miss it, my four-legged child might actually appreciate not being poked by the tree’s needles in her attempt to steal the water from the bottom, and my husband was in agreement so I was able to get away with it.
The other day at the grocery store, the cashier asked me if it was ok for her to wish me a Merry Christmas. Since I’m already on my soapbox about it, I told her that she absolutely could and proceeded to tell her that nothing more was appropriate to be wished during this time, why? , Because without Christ there is no Christmas. Happy Holidays doesn’t do it for me. Happy Holidays? What holiday is that? I could very well say Happy Holidays in the middle of July where we are celebrating Independence Day. Is not just a holiday, its Christmas and I understand that we live in a world where not everyone believes in Christ, but respect for believes comes both ways and I should not be restrained from my celebration. I’m not forcing others to share my beliefs, but if you ask me what I’m celebrating… I’m celebrating Christmas!
I also think that commercialization of Christmas has changed the meaning of it all. Yes, it’s nice to take the season to exchange expressions of affection through presents, but even if you look at the story behind Santa Claus, this is not what he had in mind. The legend behind Santa Claus or St. Nicholas is about a monk who gave all he had inherited to the poor and sick He gave from what he had to the poor and the needy. He really didn’t borrow money from credit cards to please his family and friends. He gave to children in need, not spoiled them with a list of what new gadgets some marketing company wanted to sell from us. In fact, he did what Jesus said was needed to entered into heaven in Matthew 19:21(NIV) “ Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This doesn’t mean that I will never buy gifts for Christmas ever again or that there is anything wrong with that. I think the motives and the mentality behind what we’re doing as a society leaves a lot to desire, especially for us believers of Christ.
It has also made me think about how we live, in the race for obtaining better and more. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords had absolutely nothing when he came to this earth and left in his glory without any material possessions. As a follower of Christ, it makes me think that if this is who I’m trying to look up to, there’s something wrong in my picture. I’m not advocating for riding to work on a camel or a donkey. I’m also not saying that the television and the cell phones are the root of all evil. But when I look at my house, where there are more television sets than humans living in it, actually even if I count the dog, there are more TV’s than habitants, I ask myself, do you need a whatever thousands of dollar plasma television to be able to see the details on a rose just because is Christmas season? If you want to see the details on a rose, go to your local supermarket, I promise you the experience doesn’t get more real than that and it’s free unless you decide to buy the rose. Some sports fans may say that the experience of the game is incredible and makes them feel like they are in the stadium. It might be true. If you can afford the plasma without having to charge it or pay it in installments, more power to you. The reality is the results of the game will be the same…gasp… even if you’re not watching it! At least make sure that your forty something inches one year old TV goes to a family that doesn’t have one, or just has a fifteen inches television set where the whole family gathers to see the news.
What is wrong with your cell phone? I mean, if you’re clumsy like we are, I totally understand buying several phones during the year. I have dumped a cell phone in a cup of coffee and my husband has washed and dried several, if that’s the case and you can afford the new one, beautiful, enjoy! You just bought the one you’re carrying last month, and just because the company came with the same phone with another name and has one more feature you are ready to spend five hundred dollars on it. Have you ever walked through downtown? It doesn’t matter the city, it’s all the same. Do you know how many people could be fed with five hundred dollars? Don’t go that far. Do you know that your neighbor who lost his job during the economy could save his house or his car with five hundred dollars?
You may say, you don’t have children, you don’t understand. That may also be true, but I think this year my children would go without presents as well. As a parent I would like for them to understand the real purpose of Christmas. This is a spiritual celebration. It’s not just the end of the year; it’s the celebration of the entrance of Jesus. It was God’s entrance into the world in the form of a man to save you and me. Yes it is a joyous time, it’s definitely a time of celebration and of family celebration, but how can you waste when your brother is hurting, how can you celebrate God when you’re entering in debt and not being a good steward of the resources he trusted to you? One of my favorite scriptures during the Christmas season is the nativity scene in the book of Luke, because of the details in it. “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 1But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:4-19 NIV)
He was born in a manger, now for those who don’t even like camping; do you imagine giving birth in the middle of animals and hay? I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for being born in this day and age. I’m really fond of my bed and pillows. At the same time, it’s humbling to think that as we think only about our commodities and our self indulgences, my Lord, who came to give me eternal life is trying to teach me with his life the total opposite. If I was a parent, I wanted my children to understand the same. So there goes my boycott on Christmas this year, at least the worldly view of it. I will be spending the day with family and friends. I encourage you to do the same, but during your celebration take a minute to remember what the day is about. Remember that baby in the manger that came to give you freedom, hope, joy, strength, deliverance, provision and eternal life.
May God fill you with blessings.