December 1, 2004
Encouragement for Today
"Three Lacy Hankies"
Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)
As I watch the Christmas tree twinkle a myriad of colors, I recall past Christmas seasons. For most years, the holidays reflect a life of comfort and hope. Yet, each year I remember the Christmas of the "Three Lacy Hankies." I flash back thirty-five years.
I remember how the bitter cold outdoors matched the bitterness in my young heart. At fifteen, I was all alone. I recall the hot tears that streamed down my face, as I yearned for a Christmas with my family. Memories of early childhood Christmases began to parade into my teenage thoughts.
My parents had always fashioned magical Christmas moments for me, their only child. I was spoiled with toys, treats and love, so naturally the Christmas season became my favorite time of the year. I longed for another Christmas to add to those memories.
However, this holiday held a bleakness that defied my memories. My adolescent heart screamed questions...
"Why did God let my mother die?"
"Does anyone care?"
"Why is my dad a drunk?"
The scene of trying to admit my dad to the hospital replayed before me. He had drunk himself into oblivion, and then collapsed on the floor. I called a friend for help. She came over, loaded him into the car, and drove straight to the detoxification ward of the hospital. He would spend Christmas there and I would spend it by myself.
The shrill ringing phone startled me. "Hello, Susanne? We were wondering if you would like to spend Christmas with us." It was the pastor's wife.
"Well, I guess so." I replied, thinking to myself, "It would be better than spending it alone and eating cold cereal."
"Wonderful! We'll be over in about three hours to pick you up."
Resting the phone against my tear-stained cheek, I wept once again. "They just feel sorry for me, a pathetic orphan. It's the 'Christian thing' to do. Just like a Christmas movie," I thought. Blowing my nose into another tissue, I prepared to spend Christmas in an unfamiliar home.
Even though I appreciated the gesture, I felt out of place. All of their traditions seemed strange. This was not my kind of Christmas. As they opened gifts, I felt tears well up again. Handing me a small package, they smiled with God's love in their eyes. When I opened the gift and peeked inside, I spied three neatly folded white lacy hankies. This warm-hearted family knew my New Year would not be easy. They could not give me the gift of a happy family. Knowing that more tears would certainly flow, they pointed me to God who could ease my pain. Lying on top of the hankies was a small card written in calligraphy, which quoted Isaiah 25:8.
"...The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; ... The LORD has spoken."
Reaching for a white hanky, I began to cry.
Today, I feel tears of gratitude for the Christ-like behavior of that family. Their thoughtfulness didn't make my life better, but it demonstrated the love of Jesus to a heartbroken teenager. Their concern provided a springboard for my accepting Christ as my personal Savior.
Each year at Christmas, I look for hurting people; maybe a woman who yearns for friendship; perhaps a teenager who longs for a turkey dinner; or a child who dreams of opening a wrapped present. There is always someone who needs Christ's love extended.
Do you know someone who needs a Christmas filled with three white hankies?
My prayer for today:
Father, help me to look beyond the hectic schedule of my own holiday season. Give me the heart and courage to reach out in love to someone who desperately needs love, comfort, and companionship this Christmas season.
Take a moment and thoughtfully look through your address book as you address Christmas cards. Jot down the names of a few people who could use an invitation to dinner; a note of encouragement, or just of phone call of compassionate conversation. Then make an effort to contact each individual before the New Year.
Am I self-absorbed with my own hectic holiday planning?
Do I practice busyness, godliness, or both?
Do I display the love of Jesus Christ to others at this blessed Christmas season?
Who has reached out to me during difficult times? Have I thanked them?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:12-13 (NIV)
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11 (NIV)
But now, up on your feet-I have a job for you. I've handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what's happened today, and to what I am going to show you. Acts 26:16 (The Message)
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 (NIV)
The Sweetest Story Ever Told, by Lysa Terkeurst
Coming Out of the Dark, by Mary Southerland
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed, by Lysa Terkeurst
Originally published Wednesday, 01 December 2004.