Ever since our family saw the classic movie, “Christmas Vacation”, this line comes up in our jokes and teasing frequently. We watch this movie every year because it is so funny and I love the way the different personalities are portrayed in the characters.
It is Clark Griswold’s father-in-law, Art, who makes the statement above. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me set the stage. Clark’s desire is to have a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” So all of the relatives arrive about a week before Christmas, even some who were not invited, like cousin Eddie! You quickly realize that the father-in-law, Art, is a very negative person and particularly when talking to Clark.
Clark works all day and into the night to completely cover his house with Christmas lights, and many things go wrong. In fact, when he calls the family outside to see the lighting of the house, the lights don't even work. Art responds sarcastically with “Beautiful Clark!” Then the mother-in-law says, “I hope you see what a silly waste of resources this was.” Clark’s daughter comes to her father’s defense with, “He worked really hard Grandma.” To which Art replies, “So do washing machines.”
Clark continues to try and fix the problem, but when his wife finally figures out there was a light switch that had to be turned on in the garage, the house lights up the entire neighborhood! The whole family comes outside to see the lights. Clark walks down the line of relatives, enjoying the wondrous moment, giving a hug to each person. When he gets to his father-in-law, Art, there was no appreciation or encouragement given. He only hears, “the little lights are not twinkling.”
Do you have anyone in your life like this? Negativity can be like a cancer. It can kill feelings of self-worth; it can slowly eat away confidence and joy, it causes pain, and can leave a path of fear, dread, and hopelessness. We all experience negativity in many forms in our lives, but I think it is the hardest to handle when it comes from those within your family. The holidays can result in a fun “good old-fashioned family Christmas” or a collision of toxic chaos with crushed hopes for peace and joy at family gatherings. There are no perfect families; there are no perfect people. There has been an accumulation of sin in this world ever since Adam and Eve decided perfection was not enough and went behind God’s back to look for more. How we deal with the good and bad things that impact our lives affects not only our heart and attitude, but also those around us, and the next generation.
God has given us free will just as he gave to Adam and Eve. We can choose how we act and react to others, but we can’t change others. It is not our responsibility or place to change others. We can love, serve, encourage, and pray for them. God can melt a heart of stone, but that heart still has free will to accept or reject His love and salvation. And we should not give up loving them –hopefully into the arms of Jesus. In Ezekiel 36:26 we read,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
The holidays carry painful memories for some people. If this is your situation, I encourage you choose to not let the negativity overshadow your Christmas this year. Ask God for his guidance and strength and start some new traditions with the special people in your life, or find a place to serve others that day. Choose to make things different and have a simple Christmas of thankfulness for God’s gift to you- Jesus. Enjoy the lights (whether they are twinkling or not) and music of the season, and spend quiet time with the Lord.
I have to admit that dealing with this cancer and the side effects of treatment can be very frustrating and brings a lot of negative feelings. It’s a constant battle on the days I do not feel good. It is a physical battle and a mental battle. I also feel the spiritual battle within me. I have always been a person who is active and likes to work hard and play hard, but now there are days I can barely get off the couch after chemo. The side effects continue to intensify. It takes me much longer to type and correct mistakes because I am typing with numb fingers. Some days it’s too painful to type or write. So many days in the past while walking in beautiful places, I would thank God that I was healthy and could walk and enjoy life. Little did I know what was happening inside me – likely for a couple of years before I had any symptoms.
I question God at times – like, "why didn’t You have something happen that would have revealed the cancer earlier when I would have had a chance for a cure?" There’s the age old question, “Why me Lord?” although I stopped asking this question when Don and I had the conversation about, “Why not me?” – (see Don’s powerful blog on this if you haven’t read it.) And the big question, “Are you going to heal me?” I have no doubt that He can and continue to ask for healing, yet I see that not everyone gets healed. I know I have to trust Him and continue to remain hopeful.
But…. I am choosing to work hard at being thankful. I can choose to give into the negativity that surrounds this cancer and what it has done, and taken away from me, and the impact it has on me every moment. I want to enjoy every moment of the Christmas holiday! Right before Thanksgiving I said to a friend, “I can’t believe I am looking at Christmas lights!” Now some of you have said this, which could have meant, it is too early, Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, or the year has gone so fast, how could it be Christmas again? But when I said, “I can’t believe I’m looking at Christmas lights”, I meant, based off my prognosis, we did not think I would be here for another Christmas! I am so thankful! Thank you all for your prayers that have given me another Christmas!
We also cannot overlook the miracles He is doing through this illness every day! He has done amazing things through these blogs that we never expected. We have met many amazing people. If I had not gotten this cancer, I would not have known about, or gotten involved with the incredible “Gail’s Girls” ministry. We are impacting 25 women in Southern Asia who have now graduated from their one year of intensive training at a transformation center, who are now in their various communities, changing lives, meeting needs in villages, educating others and sharing Jesus, even in the midst of persecution to Christians. What an amazing legacy, for me, and for all of you who have given to support these women. My sister, Julie, who is a songwriter and has her own music ministry told me yesterday that she is writing a song about the lines in heaven. Who will be in your legacy line? I’m so grateful that I can have an impact in this part of the world and many more will be in heaven because of Gail’s Girls and many others affected by this ministry!
These women could be negative and bitter. They have been living in deep negativity in poverty and oppression through the cast system as they are at the bottom. They have been told they are nothing, even lower than the animals, all of their lives. They have all been abused in various ways, but have now found Jesus. They are learning to understand that they are created in the image of the God who made the whole world and they are worth everything to Jesus –He even gave his life for them to restore them, take away their sins and their past and save them! They have completed their training and are hard at work. They need our prayers and monetary support for the next 3 years. For those not aware, this 3-year support totals $6500 for each girl. How many of us could live on $2,166 for an entire year? We have not yet met our goal of $170,000, which we hope to do before the end of the year. If you still want to make a tax-deductible donation to an amazing cause before the end of the year, please consider giving to Gail’s Girls at www.gailsgirls.org.
Our 4 daughters got to meet these girls as they went to Southern Asia a few weeks ago. It was life changing for them all. They got to teach almost 100 women at a 3 day conference and visit some of the transformation centers, and witness how this ministry is changing lives, not only for Christ (as 500 million have never even heard the name of Jesus), but they are working with and educating abandoned children (over 26 million children are abandoned and live in the streets). They are caring for the mentally ill, and those with special needs, who are also abandoned by their families, building public toilets and supplying clean water in communities, etc., all while under the threat of persecution.
Many of us who are blessed to live in a wealthy country can’t relate to their problems. We can find out about almost anything we are interested in on the internet. Most of these people cannot hear about Jesus through the internet because they don’t have computers or television. One of the miracles we witnessed was that while our daughters were teaching the women’s conference, they were in a rented facility and hoped to have wifi there. Don and I were hoping to be able to skype with them on computers they brought, so we could encourage the women and meet some of the girls. There was no wifi when they got there, but they decided to try anyway. We were able to connect with them for about 25 minutes with no break in communication, which was amazing! After those 25 minutes, there was no wifi signal for the rest of their time there. God stepped in! One of our Gail’s Girls was excited to tell me that she already has 5 families meeting with her to study and learn about Jesus and they have only been out working in the communities for a few months! They are also seeing God do healings there. They are praying for me! I am thankful!!!
Please join me this Christmas season in working hard to be thankful and not letting negativity steal your joy and peace that Christ gives. Jesus is the reason for the season! Enjoy the lights (whether twinkling or not); Jesus is the light of the world. Enjoy the music and remember that the Lord is singing over you (Zephaniah 3:17 - The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”) Enjoy time with Jesus!