The year we had very little money to spend on Christmas turned out to be our best ever! After a recent move to a new country, we’d had to leave behind all of our Christmas decorations, and I wondered how we could decorate the house, especially since we were tight on cash and had extra setting-up costs. Thankfully, one autumn weekend while on a forest hike, my kids got the idea of collecting pine cones and using these to make Christmas decorations. We began right away, and by evening we had a large bagful.
I was born in 1955, only ten years after World War II, when wartime hardships were still fresh in people’s minds. Grandfather used to tell us children of the extreme hunger and exhaustion of those days, and the struggle of staying alive during the long freezing winter months.
Our town was in the heart of Germany’s industrial center, and everything was covered with a seemingly permanent layer of gray-brown dust from the steel mills. In springtime, the grass and green shoots quickly turned brown, and so did the fresh snow in winter, making its white coat look worn after only a day.
I’d just arrived in the port city of Tampico, Mexico, and I was being shown around the townhouse our volunteer work would be based out of. It is located fairly close to the busy downtown, but also not too far from the poorer outlying areas where we conduct most of our projects. What a nice setting, I thought to myself, looking at the beautiful lagoon where folks gather to mingle in the cooling twilight, and also just a short drive from a clean uncrowded beach.
It all started when we gave in to the children’s pleas and bought a cute little rabbit. At first, the little fellow was too small to be left alone in the garden while the children were at school, but neither could he remain in his hutch all day without any exercise.
So the task fell on me to take the rabbit out in the garden daily. It soon got to be our little ritual. Whenever I’d unlock the screen door in the morning, there’d be a “Thump!” from his hutch, as if he was saying, “I’ve been waiting for you!”As soon as I set bunny on the ground, he would do a few little happy jumps, showing how glad he was just to be alive.
A friend and I happened to walk past a cinema just as several movies ended and hundreds of people flooded onto the sidewalk. One man stood out in the crowd—literally—and he was walking straight toward us. He must have been seven feet tall and had the athletic build of a basketball player. As I turned to tell Abi what I was thinking, she ran up to him.
“Francisco, let me shake your hand!” she said excitedly. “No, let me hug you! You are doing such a good job! I think your team will win the championship!”
When I started mapping out my goals eighteen months ago, achieving them seemed daunting. But I claimed the promise, “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful,”1 and with His help, I went forward. My plan was to write and create thousands of pages of good-quality, faith-building books for children.
Some time ago, I found myself facing a situation that was beyond my ability to resolve. Alone in the stillness of the night, I racked my brain for a solution and finally sent up a prayer for direction.
As I lay on my bed, waiting to hear an answer, there was only silence. My patience started to wear thin, and just as I was about to get up for a glass of water, the still small voice spoke: Are you sure you are being totally quiet and still?
During a recent course I took on counseling, my classmates and I were exploring the topic of negative self-talk, and it quickly became obvious this bad habit had served as a damper to success, suffocated great ideas right at the start, and influenced reactions and perceptions about situations in each of our lives.
Negativity, ranging from regret over lost opportunities to bitterness, comparing unfavorably with others, jealousy, to little phrases like, “Oh, how clumsy I am,” “How could I be that dumb?” or “How could anyone like me?” seems all too common. Even my classmates who described themselves as generally positive admitted to regularly entertaining the habit.
A while back I read some tips on how to get along with people:
1) Speak cheerfully.
3) Address people by name.
A tribute to my father
I don’t want to put my father on a pedestal. He wouldn't have wanted that. He was always self-effacing, and I can't remember him ever seeking honor for himself. When someone would praise him, he’d point heavenward, to his Creator, and give God the glory.