This Christmas is different from past Christmases. For one thing, we have exercise equipment everywhere and it's not uncommon to find David or one of his friends lifting weights or even hanging from a door frame as they do chin-ups, which can be unnerving, by the way, to walk out into our short hallway and see a pair of blue-jeaned legs swinging in mid air... I remember the days (long gone now) when I was the one jogging, riding bicycles, etc and David was upset because he had to stay with his dad because his little legs couldn't keep up with me. Now I huff and puff as I walk around the block, trying to keep up with him!
As I get ready to celebrate my 57th Christmas, I find myself choosing which body part I want to favor as I go out shopping. Now, for example, if I don't want my knees to hurt, I wear the flat K-Mart version of Uggs (that cost about 16.00.. ) when I shop. If I don't want my feet to hurt, on the other hand, I wear my New Balance (which cost considerably more than 16 bucks..). In the evenings, instead of hitting the malls, I wrap up in an open blanket with sleeves and a pocket (who would have ever thought??) and then wrap a microwaveable terry cloth something or other around my neck. Pure bliss!!!
When I hit my forties, I was going through a time of transition and it wasn't that easy for me. I struggled with Christmas especially because my mom was gone and also because I could look in the mirror and see her staring back at me... which was kind of scary! I remember that this whole aging issue really came home to me one Christmas Eve as I was walking through the house in a housecoat and slippers, trying to make sure the cornbread would be dry enough for the stuffing the next day, checking on the fruit jello pudding to see if it was gelling... while everyone else was at a party. That was sooooo my mom! What was happening here? It was like I had somehow inadvertently stepped into the Twilight zone of Christmases past! Agghhh! I didn't want to be the menopausal, corn-bread stuffing maker in our family! It really hit me that I still wanted to be young and fairly carefree - especially on holidays.
Now I'm in transition again but I don't feel unhappy with my age or the things I have to do, can't do, etc. Oddly enough, I'm pretty contented and accepting of the fact that sixty is just around the corner. The only thing I can think of to explain the difference is that Paul had it right when he wrote in II Cor. 4:16 - 18 "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Maybe it would be nice to be young, lithe, and physically strong again. But even though that's not going to happen, I understand that I have an inner strength that can grow and keep on growing even as my physical body wears out.
However, just as David has had to build up his physical muscles over the years, going from weak to strong, I have had to develop some spiritual "muscle" over the years and I still have to work to maintain that. Although everyone is probably tired of hearing it, Scripture memory has been and is a huge part of my "spiritual building program".
As I said in my previous blog, Christmas Eve of '83 was when I really had a strong desire to memorize a whole chapter in the Bible. Before that time, I was memorizing Scriptures but I was pretty "weak" at it. Sometimes I might take 2 or 3 weeks to do one verse, baby steps so to speak. If I thought a verse was too long, honestly, I'd look for a short one:) (Jesus wept... For we walk by faith not by sight... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me... Just ask me - I probably know them all!) And then there would be long stretches where I did little Bible study of any type at all.
Going back a year in time to 1982, I remember that we had an unusually stormy November and December and that my fear of storms helped keep my spiritual nose to the grindstone:) The night before Thanksgiving we actually had tornado alerts out and I was really scared.. . so frightened that I messed up while trying to make my first Boston Cream Cake. (I was listening to the weather reports, spassed out and totally forgot to put the oil in... I have to say... it was a pretty solid cake...) Also that Thanksgiving Eve, I talked to a friend on the phone, heard him say good-night to his father, and then learned the next day that his dad had died suddenly in the night from a heart attack. At the time, I wondered if the tornado alerts and the sudden changes in barometric pressure could have affected his heart - have no clue, it was just a thought that stayed with me over the next few weeks as our weather continued to fluctuate between highs and lows.
Since I was fearful, I did what I could to manage my stress and I remember praying frequently that the weather would get cold and stay that way just so that we wouldn't have any more storms. However,this is Arkansas... and on Christmas Eve we once again had all kinds of weather alerts going out over the television and radio. In fact, that night an F4 tornado traveled from Arkansas to Missouri killing 3 people. It seemed surreal that both holidays would be marred by severe weather.
I also remember standing in a large warehouse-like grocery store Christmas Eve afternoon, knowing full well that the weather could turn really nasty. While I waited on mom to finish her shopping, I pulled out my memory cards. I had been working on Romans 4:20-21 for weeks but couldn't seem to get it down. It was too long, too convoluted and I had decided to give up on it.
But what else was there to do besides worry about the weather while I waited? So I dragged out the cards, leaned against the wall and doggedly started with the first words, "Yet with respect to the promise of God..." Ever so often I would stop and complain to God that I had Teflon brain again and was getting nowhere. I may have even given Him some pointers on how to edit that passage to make it more practical... ha!
Now almost thirty years later, those verses have become my "life verses" - ones that I've lived by and relied on time and time again - more than any other Scripture passages that I've learned. When I'm stressed, they are the first verses that come to mind. And three different times over the last decades, I've gone to bed stressed only to wake up with those verses somehow incorporated into my dreams.. not kidding.
What if I had given up on Christmas Eve back in 1982? What if I had not been so stressed that in desperation, I forced myself to keep going over and over those verses? What if I had not prayed and asked God to help me with those two impossible-to-memorize verses?
What if I 'd never read the first biography of Dawson Trotman? Or my brother had never become involved in Navigators and then introduced me to their memory program?
I guess I'm saying, if I had just given up in Dec. of 1982, would I have been even thinking about trying to do James 1 on Christmas Eve in 1983?
Spiritual strength like physical strength grows as we develop it. And it's neat to be able to look back at past Christmases and see not only physical and emotional mile markers but also spiritual ones as well.