By Bro. John L. Cash
Every once in a while, in the life of every human being, our Creator pulls back the curtains of Heaven and in our lives allows us to see a glimpse of His glory. And in those moments we feel joy. I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill daily happiness, and I’m not referring to everyday fun or common amusement. I’m talking about pure, unadulterated joy—those moments when our hearts can scarcely contain the light God has placed within them: JOY.
Now, you don’t need me to draw you a chart because I’m sure you’ve experienced this. I have no idea when you experienced this or what circumstances brought it about. The Bible teaches that each heart has its own sorrows and joys that nobody else can understand. But at some point, God has allowed you to have joy in some moment of your life. I’d love to sit down with you so you could tell me about that time….
Something I’ve come to realize is that so many of my truly joyful memories are connected with Christmases that I’ve celebrated throughout my life. Maybe Heaven is closer to Earth at Christmastime; it kind of seems that way sometimes.
Sometimes when I see a Kodak picture it makes my heart yearn and ache. I was with my loved ones and it was purest joy. I want to climb inside the photograph. I want to live inside the memory. Surely the kingdom of Heaven is like that.
The Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, wrote that the life that we are living now is the “veil of tears.” We only experience joy from time to time and at odd moments that can’t be replicated. But Heaven will be different. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” That is amazing.
I believe joy is a very important thing. It is through joy that we lead our children to Heaven. When we touch their lives with caring and love and attention, at some point the children are bound to feel joy. And this feeling of joy will make them long for Heaven. And because of this longing and yearning, they will believe on the Saviour, Jesus.
We’ve got serious work to do this Christmas, don’t we?
So spread His love. And share His joy.
And have a very Merry Christmas.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where joyful Christmas plans are in the works.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).
On my wedding anniversary, the man who made vows to love, honor and cherish me all the days of his life called my cell phone.
“Hey, honey,” he said.
“Are you still at the airport?”
“Yeah, and I’m not going to make it home in time for us to go out for dinner tonight,” he said.
“Bad weather in Chicago?” I asked.
“Is something wrong with the plane?”
“No, the plane is taking off right now.”
“Then why aren’t you going to be here?”
“Well, the flight was overbooked. And the flight attendant asked for a volunteer to get off the plane and take a later flight, but no one was volunteering because it’s Friday night and everybody wants to get home.”
“And then she started offering a travel voucher for 100 dollars, then 200, then 300… She got all the way up to 500 dollars.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re not going to be here for our anniversary dinner because you took a travel voucher instead?”
“I did,” he said. “And the flight attendant was so grateful that I volunteered that she bumped it up the travel voucher to 600 dollars.” The uneasy tone in his voice told me he was nervous about selling out to American Airlines on the night of our anniversary.
I paused for a moment, realizing that the steak dinner I’d been looking forward to was about to turn into a frozen pizza with the kids. Then I said something full of the kind of real-life practicality that comes along with 16 years of marriage and mortgages and kids: “They gave you six hundred dollars? SCORE! Where should we go when we use it?”
We spent the next few minutes deciding how to use the travel voucher while I texted the babysitter and asked if she could come watch the kids the following night instead. By the time Tom came home dragging his suitcase behind him, there were stale pizza crusts on the kitchen counter and the kids and I had fallen asleep while watching reruns of Shark Tank.
If this had happened on the night of our first wedding anniversary, I probably would have passively-aggressively told Tom I was “fine” and then spent the next hour alone in a weepy heap on the sofa, tormented by how he could do such an awful thing to me on our anniversary. Then I would have worked up a full steam of righteous anger and expressed it over a week’s worth of icy cold shoulders and stink eye.
I still had a lot to learn in Year One. We both did. But now we have a few years of “for better or worse” under our belts, and life has a way of teaching you which things to get upset over and which ones just don’t rise to the level of “big deal.”
There are lots of great things about marriage but one of the best is the sense of calm you get as the years go by. Your happiness doesn’t hinge on a missed dinner appointment or a disagreement. You have the reassurance that your commitment is more durable than that. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t get frustrated with each other and sometimes even downright mad. It just means we have the sense that, even in those times, it’ll be okay. And that’s a blessing.
We finally decided what to do with that 600-dollar travel voucher. After the holiday chaos ends, we’re using it to take our oldest son to see the sights in Washington, D.C. to celebrate his 13th birthday. See how we turned a missed anniversary dinner into an awesome birthday gift? And while we’re there, we’re definitely getting that steak dinner.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography
Name: Denise Lightbody
Kid’s names and ages:
Lauren 7 & Xander 5
Where are you from and how long have you lived in NWA?
We drove here from California 6 months ago! I lived in California all 45 years of my life! This is a dramatic adjustment for all of us!
What brought you here?
We moved to NWA for my husbands job.
What are your family’s favorite things to do so far in the area?
We love the parks here and all the community events!
Tell us about a typical day for you:
While the kids are at school, I’m generally busy doing something around the house or for the house since we just moved in at the end of August. After I pick up the kids, we head to martial arts, therapy, Girl Scouts, or gymnastics. By the time the activities are over, we bathe, eat, and fall into bed.
What’s something your friends might not know about you?
I was secretly excited to move somewhere with seasons.
What was the last song you sang along to?
Do They Know it’s Christmas? (I’ve been listening to Christmas music since they started playing it.)
What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
I love being able to see the kids faces when they first see the gifts that Santa left for them under the tree; it makes all the stress leading up to it worthwhile.
If you could vacation anywhere in the world this winter where would it be?
Our family would be thrilled to go on a Disney cruise!
What’s the most enjoyable thing about being a mother?
Every day I look forward to the look on their faces when I pick them up from school. They are so happy to see me; I’ve never felt so loved.
What’s something you have always wanted to learn?
I’ve always wanted to learn sign language.
How do you relax at the end of the day?
Relax? What’s that?
One word to sum me up …dedicated (My family is everything to me.)
By Liz Emis, mama of 1 and 1 on the way
With Christmas just around the corner and our family in a tizzy over the announcement of baby number two, shopping for presents for Jack seemed to become a last-minute thing.
Today, let’s discuss some great gifts that are available just about anywhere that stimulate your child’s imagination, but don’t break the bank!
Our house is busy saving money for the pending May 2015 arrival of baby William Jonah. With that in mind, plus Jack having been loaded up with toys for his birthday in late October, I’ve been hunting for fun gifts that don’t cost much.
At 13 months old, Jack is really enjoying our morning reading time. He’s pointing to pictures on the page and tries to mouth the words that match the images. But mostly, he likes one book in particular, his Veggie Tales board book titled “I Thank God for this Day.” Why? Because it has a music button that plays a song!
Veggie Tales is a line of plush dolls, toys, games, DVDs and books that center around a bunch of vegetables who practice good values.
While many of the stories they tell are Biblical, there is a large variety of non-Christian affiliated toys as well. One of Jack’s favorite videos is a play on Star Trek featuring Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber!
But back to the books. Available of Amazon and at Sam’s Club, these books cost about $10 apiece and I promise you, they entertain enough to be well worth it! As you can see in the pictures, Jack discovered we bought him three more of these for Christmas and immediately went for the music button!
They all teach simple lessons like obedience, kindness and generosity. You can’t go wrong instilling those values early. They also are made out of hard enough board to stand up to immense amounts of chewing and drool!
These are great books to ingrain the love of reading in your child, especially if they love sound. Hopefully Jack won’t find these before Christmas Day.
I’m considering leaving the music button unwrapped on each book and seeing whether he even cares to unwrap them!
About Liz: Liz Emis has spent more than 12 years in the communication industry. Beginning on the East Coast as a reporter for outlets like The Boston Globe, Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun, she moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2004 to write for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Three years later, she transitioned to public relations, branding and marketing, working on both the agency and client sides. In 2010, she added product development to her résumé, spending more than three years at Tyson Foods, Inc. in Springdale, Ark. Liz welcomed her first child, Jackson Gaines Emis, to the world in October 2013, and now uses her communication and organization skills as a stay-at-home mother to her eight-month-old son. As a domestic engineer, Liz has added financial analyst, counselor, chef, project manager, teacher, diagnostician, comedian, housecleaner and efficiency expert to her skill set. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is it weird that I don’t feel like it’s “the most wonderful time of the year”? During this time of year, it’s a real struggle for me to feel happy and festive. I usually just feel stressed or a little “down.” I get angry at myself for not being able to snap out of it and enjoy all the holiday parties and activities. I find myself “faking it” for the kids and my husband. Is this common? What could be behind this holiday gloom and doom?
Dear “Down around Christmas time,”
There are many reasons that someone might feel down during the holidays. It could be that the holidays are associated with a painful childhood experience or family issues, a lost loved one whom you typically see around the holidays, spending holidays away from people you love, or a variety of other factors that could contribute. If you feel your “doom and gloom” is persistent and feels excessive, please seek professional help to explore what could be triggering these feelings.
It’s also possible that, during the holidays, your expectations might clash with reality. You want the perfect party, perfect gifts, and the perfect family to get along all the time — happy and celebrating. However, things often don’t go as planned. A good place to start is to look at your expectations and determine if they’re unrealistic or adding to your stress.
Remember that there might be disappointments during the holidays, but there can still be some enjoyment even if all of those expectations aren’t met. Besides, the holidays will be over before you know it. Attempt to create realistic expectations for the holidays such as knowing that the entire family may not be able to get together at one time, or you might not be able to find that perfect gift you’re looking for. Focus on the times and activities you DO enjoy.
- Try to get away over the holidays or change your routine.
- Spend time with friends and family that care about you.
- Create new traditions.
- Volunteer to help others.
- Develop short term, realistic goals you would like to accomplish during this time.
- Engage in relaxing activities – yoga, massages, etc.
I hope some of these strategies help you feel better this holiday season. And if you decide that professional guidance would be helpful right now, don’t hesitate to contact one of the counselors on staff here at Ozark Guidance. We’d love to help.
Abby Stanfill is a licensed professional counselor with Ozark Guidance, a local non-profit mental health center. Since 1970, Ozark Guidance has helped tens of thousands of children, adults, and families in Washington, Benton, Madison, and Carroll Counties live better lives by providing high quality, affordable mental healthcare services.
Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.
Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.