Holiday hearts full of love

By: By Becky Spell Vann - Contributing columnist

Are you in awe of God as Christmas brings hearts home to celebrate His Son and eternal Love Story?

God’s Gift gives good news to embrace while enjoying a close connection with Christ. Honoring God’s Word helps His children live out loud in love here while preparing for Heaven. When God’s Word and Son’s ways are woven into our hearts, gifts of rising higher and living happier give joy, hope, faith, self-control, gentleness, goodness, kindness, love, and forbearance forever and ever. (Galatians 5: 22-23)

I humbly write this holiday story in awe of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – with gratitude for gifts of sending His Son – our Savior – the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, binding wounds, healing hearts, and being my Best Friend. I hope He is your Best Friend, too. If not, seek Him in this sacred season (as did the Wise Men) and enjoy getting to know Him intimately. Being in awe of and blessed by God’s presence in all we are and do is Great-t-t! When He lives within our hearts, every day is a present to open and enjoy with peace and joy beyond all understanding. When others (especially family members and friends) see His love in our ways, Word in our hearts, and joy in our lives, Jesus becomes real and relevant to them ‘for such a time as this’! A time when His Word is being fulfilled, the world strays from His ways, and unopened gifts are piled high in Heaven’s hallway! Being in awe, heeding His call, getting up and going forth in faith when we fall, and giving our best in all seasons ensures enjoying His gifts. Realizing every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before keeps us in awe of the Great I Am.

King David was in awe of God. He sang, celebrated victories, suffered defeat, wrote love stories, sinned, hid in caves, back slid, sang love songs, played his harp, rejoiced, lamented, grieved, but always repented and returned to His first love! A man after God’s heart, David wrote in Psalm 119:161. ‘…my heart stands in AWE of Your words.’ Even when David disappointed God and detoured from His ways, the giant slayer and faithful friend of Jonathan kept the Word alive in his heart! God loved and looked after him through victories and defeat. God loves us too …even when we stray, get lost in sin, and struggle to see His guiding light.

Like David, we can rest assured that God’s love remains even when we roam, restoration is real when we repent, and His gifts keep coming when we keep Christ the center of our lives. Then, we can celebrate Christmas and the joy of giving every day of the year.

A painful memory of a past Christmas pops up in my mind as I prepare to close this Christmas story. The three year old memory could have calloused my heart and confused my mind toward Christ. Instead, He has healed and helped me see His ways are higher (even when we do not understand why things happen as they do) and hear His whispers (that confirm Christ will protect, bless, and enlarge our territories) through circumstances when Satan seeks to steal our joy and destroy our lives. Do you also have painful memories that keep you locked up in the past? Have you lost contact with the Lord and loved ones, leaving them out of your celebrations and looking for love, peace, and joy in all the wrong places

The good news is God sent His Son into the world to be a light among us, to teach right living through parables, to share unconditional love, to die on the cross, rise from the grave, descend to Hades, take the keys from Satan, walk and talk with two men on the Emmaus Road, comfort the disciples, ascend into Heaven (while promising to send a Comforter to live in hearts and give guidance) and sit by the right side of His Father in Heaven. Jesus saves and helps us hurdle painful places, so we can keep running our races well and enjoying gifts He sends.

The day after Christmas – 2014, I cleaned and completed details for the Food Bank to give gifts of food at Tim’s Gift on Tuesday, December 30th while my husband played golf. Feeling led to join James, I opted to stay home due to flu like symptoms. James and I both felt terrible but thought we would be okay after a Christmas Eve doctor visit and negative testing for flu.

James settled in his recliner while I made chicken soup, my mother’s cure for anything. We ate soup and sandwiches in our sun room, with no idea this would be our last meal together! We talked about Christmas and plans to celebrate our second wedding anniversary, which was only ten days away. James rested on the daybed; I headed to our big chair to study my Sunday School lesson. The title was “Being in awe of God”? While studying, I heard James move to his recliner, our bed, and back to his recliner without relief. Before closing my quarterly, a thought rose up that remains engraved in my mind, “What will I share with our class that makes me in awe of God?” While pondering, my heart stirred with unrest as I headed to the den to help my husband. His condition caused fear to rise inside.

Hours later, the ER doctor said James had pneumonia, sent us to a room on third floor, and told us he would be home in a day or two. It was two in the morning; I sent our children emails telling them James was in the hospital. James did not want us to call them earlier; we thought he would be okay and wanted them to be with their families the day after Christmas. When rescue angels drove us to Rex Hospital, with Tina following close behind, we had no idea James would be called Home to Heaven within hours, but he was!

My world was suddenly turned upside down in the middle of the most wonderful time of the year! Is this really happening…I thought? And it was! What still seems like a bad dream became reality on Tuesday after Christmas when our family gathered to celebrate James’ life with blessed assurance he was celebrating at Home in Heaven. When Clint cranked James’ pick- up truck and we pulled away from James’ gravesite, song lyrics were sent from the Holy Spirit Jesus promised would come to comfort and give guidance …’it’s better to have loved a little than never have to loved at all.’ I wept softly and silently sang …’it’s better to have loved a little than never to have loved again’!

Going home without James would be hard; going home without Tim had been hard. Darkness covered my world when a wondrous sight – a nativity scene in a barn near the highway that took us home – brought HOPE to my hurting heart. Knowing God calls loved ones prepared to meet Him Home to celebrate for eternity brought peace. Pressing my wet face against the cold glass, I peered into the night sky and sensed angels singing Joy to the World the Lord has come…let Heaven and earth rejoice! I knew they were there rejoicing…and I was in AWE of God!

Many people in our city and county have recently felt the sting of death when loved ones were called Home to Heaven. Whether they passed away after long illnesses or in the twinkling of an eye… without warning or time to say good-by…may we – a close-knit community of believers – continue praying for the families, sharing words of comfort, and giving gifts (time, cards, remembrances) as His sweet Spirit leads. While celebrating Christmas with family and friends here, knowing loved ones were ready to meet Jesus and celebrate for eternity in Heaven gives peace beyond understanding. For sending His Son and giving gifts of hope, faith, and love…we stand united as Christian brothers and sisters in AWE of God above!

Merry Christmas to each of you from my family and me; your gift of reading His good news, love stories, blesses me and hopefully, encourages you to be closer to your family and Thee!

By Becky Spell Vann

Contributing columnist

Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.

Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.