“Let’s have a Christmas party on Christmas Eve,” Yoko Takahashi suggested to her husband one December morning. “I’m sure the children would enjoy it.” Koichi didn’t answer. He just said he would be home late and left for work.
December was usually the most stressful month at his company, and it was especially so this year with the sluggish economy. He wondered if he would be laid off someday, like so many others. Just two days earlier, he had attended a farewell party for one of his colleagues.
Last Christmas a doctor invited my family to perform a show for about a dozen of his elderly patients.
As it turned out, only five were well enough to attend. It was the smallest audience we had ever performed for, but the beautiful smiles on those wrinkled faces made it worth the time and effort. Afterwards, we visited a few more frail seniors in their homes. One woman with a walker greeted us outside and led us into her dark little house, where I sat with her on her bed and we sang Christmas carols together in the local dialect.
Three years ago, I began writing Christmas cards to Jesus—or rather, birthday cards.
I got the idea after reading an article about giving birthday gifts to Jesus, either directly or indirectly. Examples included the gift of praise for His love and unfailing care, the gift of faith, and gifts to others of service, kindness, forgiveness, and a listening ear.
It’s Christmas Eve. A month ago the sun disappeared below the horizon and will not be seen again until mid-January.
Norway at this time of year is not as dreary as you might think, though. The snow-covered landscape glistens from the light of the moon and stars, and the sun’s reflected rays dance across the night sky. The colors can take your breath away.
As far back as I can remember, I didn’t like cloudy days, especially in wintertime. They seemed endless and without hope, chilling both body and soul.
Still, they are a part of life, so I decided to learn to like them—and now I do. My secret? Actually I have several.
Sometimes I take advantage of those days to bake a cake, cookies, or some other treat to enjoy with my coffee. The entire house smells of freshly brewed coffee and homemade goodies, and that creates a warm, satisfied feeling.
Scientists have recently made a fascinating discovery about an unseen and little understood parasite, the negabugger—so called because of the negative effect it has on its human host’s mental and emotional well-being.
It is too small to be seen by the naked eye, yet the symptoms of infection are plainly evident. It lives by attaching itself to the soft membrane of the inner ear. Its tiny buzzing wings vibrate at a frequency undetectable by humans, but which interferes with brain waves and leaves the victim feeling confused and depressed.
The aurora borealis, also called the northern lights, is one of the most magical sights of the night sky. When I lived in Iceland, I saw it many times. One memory stands out.
It was February 2009, and I was about to leave Iceland to join another volunteer project in Ireland. I had spent most of the day trying to make arrangements to send my belongings ahead, and it hadn’t gone well. Each phone call to find out customs procedures had ended in frustration.
As I strolled along the river, swans and other birds added to the beauty of a sunny Sunday afternoon that was wasted on me. The past few years had been a nightmare. Alcoholism was taking its toll. Guilt, negativity, and discouragement hung over me like dark clouds. I was separated from my wife and had lost my job. I had also lost the respect of all my friends and coworkers. I felt like a worthless failure.
I realized recently that I had been giving myself a “grouch allowance” when certain things happened.
They were mostly trivial things like having to clean up a mess when I was tired or my husband being late—things that I could have easily gotten through if I hadn’t predetermined that I had the right to get grouchy in those circumstances.
Some people have long-term illnesses that don’t go away instantly when prayed for. I’m someone whom God has not seen fit to heal right away.
There are medications to relieve the worst symptoms of the immune system disorders and other chronic conditions I suffer from, but no actual cure. The miracle for me is having God’s help and comfort in my ongoing condition. He’s giving me a happy, fruitful life, even though I’m still quite sick.