Merry Christmas, (and the cat’s in heat.)

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There’s a Rose in Bethlehem
With a beauty quite divine
Perfect in this world of sin
On this silent holy night

There’s a fragrance much like hope
That it sends upon the wind
Reaching out to every soul
From a lowly manger’s crib

Oh, Rose of Bethlehem
How lovely, pure, and sweet
Born to glorify the Father
Born to wear the thorns for me……..

Rose of Bethlehem, Lowell Alexander

It was a cold and foggy morning as we drove my brother’s dog Tyler to the groomers’ and I was thrilled. We don’t get much fog in Arizona and I miss it. I dashed out of the car to snap a couple of pictures as we pulled out. I thought of these song lyrics as I saw this rosebud bravely clinging to life in the cold damp air. All along the drive, they were in various stages of bloom. Kind of like us. When all seems hopeless, faith dares us to dream. We press on when despair threatens to press in and overtake us like the fog that surrounded us that day. But there’s a thing about fog that I love. It only allows us to see what’s right in front of us, and that’s more than enough.

Everything in the background ceases to exist and for a moment, ceases to matter. Kind of like when we keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We know the problems are still there, but they are only ghostly shapes off in the distance. When He comes into focus, fears fade away and all we see is the beauty of His light. He says, “Look into my eyes, my child and tell me if you need to fear any of this…….I am here, and I have promised to never leave you.”

It was a good trip back home. It was productive and I was happy to be able to help out, giving my Mom a temporary break as “chief cook and bottle washer” in the kitchen and also helping my Dad out in the yard. There were the daily after school trips to “In and Out” burger with my niece, (fries and a vanilla shake). On one such trip, a conversation ensued that prompted my Mom to tell Dad that “she could still divorce him at 85.” He laughed.

As I unpacked I noticed a sticker I brought home from there. It was clinging to the sleeve where Lauryn put it, laughing. She loves to put them on everyone else but doesn’t want any on herself. I didn’t have the heart to take it off.

My first night there, my brother had arranged a Birthday surprise for Lauryn. One of the biggest floats at the Festival of Lights parade was to stop in front of the house. At first, she wanted no part of it, characteristic of autism. They want to know the plan in advance, way in advance. We practically stood on our heads to get her to understand it wasn’t a whole parade, just one float.

By the time it came in all its glory, she was on the brink of meltdown mode, but that dispelled as soon as she saw it. It was like Disneyland on a semi; music playing and lights ablaze, I think we all turned into little kids. When she came outside, her eyes lit up and she jumped up and down in excitement, waving and saying, “Thank you, thank you!!!” It was priceless.

There were several trips to Wal-Mart and many more to the local S-Mart where my Mom knows all the checkers, and general discussions about the new Super Wal-Mart, which my Mom and Aunt both stated they will “not set foot in” because they are “just too big.” There was a Christmas concert at the church, which was outstanding. (Thank you Diane for picking us up, you are a blessing to our family.)

One night, driving around looking at lights my Mom and I got swept up in the Zion Reformed parking lot light tour display where they gave us an accompanying CD and handed out homemade cookies and hot chocolate complete with live nativity with a real donkey and the actual meaning of the 12 days of Christmas. As we drove around we noticed someone had placed a lighted wreath in each window of the parsonage. There was a soft glow coming through the stained glass windows and the church bells were tolling. It was impressive.

At the end, we got a lawn sign which said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” If anyone had a doubt about the meaning of Christmas when they started the tour, it was left in a crumpled heap in the parking lot.

I spoiled all the animals too, as always. They ate well, just as mine do. Anytime they want. At some point during the trip we noticed that my namesake, Nori the cat, was acting more boisterous than normal. At one point she jumped on Mima’s back. (Queen Mother cat of the household). At around day 5 she had worked herself into a fever pitch, making everyone else in the household crazy. Turns out she was in heat. Or was. She had an appointment today to fix that problem for good.

As always, it was hard to leave, but also good to come home. Right now, every Christmas light in the house is on. Every tree, every wreath, every swag of garland, and with every flip of the switch, I am reminded of the Hope that entered the world via the manger. Of a God that looked down to see a hurting world and did something about it.

The Rose of Bethlehem still blooms in our hearts and our lives through Jesus, the Light of the world. Through Him, we can face tomorrow with hope.

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