Holiday Greetings … and a Christmas Story Audio

I love this season, with all the celebrations that lend meaning to our lives!

So here’s a quick note to wish you a most blessed holiday season:

  • A Hannukah full of new light that continues to illuminate your world …
  • A Christmas overflowing with the gifts only the Savior can give …
  • A new year blessed with all the things that make your heart sing …

And if you haven’t listened to one of my favorite Christmas stories from Abundant Gifts yet, I invite you to do so now.

One Story Turned around Her Marriage…

Andrea Kendrick, of Wheaton,IL, wrote to me this week about what Abundant Gifts has meant to her, and how one of the stories in particular turned around her marriage.

“When I received Abundant Gifts in 1999, I began using it as a daily devotional. I quickly discovered that I was not able to use it in that way. After each story was revealed, I wanted more and more. I began craving these stories of God’s grace, and quickly finished the whole book. These were my stories too! The details were different, but I related to each one, and learned invaluable lessons and truths.

“There was one in particular, however, that changed my whole life for the better. I will never forget it. Monday-week 6-inner gifts, “A Marriage Builder.”

“It begins with the wisdom of Oswald Chambers, saying that God never tires of bringing us back to the lessons that we need to learn, and continues with Diane sharing her own lesson learned. Diane gave me the gift of sharing her marital struggles, in an honest and brave way. I felt like I was reading about myself, and the way that I treated my own husband. Just as Oswald Chambers pointed out, God was bringing me back to the point of my personal struggle through Diane’s story. I fell to my knees, and asked God for the strength to affirm my wonderful husband instead of tearing him down. I had been married for 14 years at that point, and I was able to clearly see the damage that I had done.

“I can happily now say that the following eight years of my marriage have been so much better, in so many ways, thanks to the gift I was given when I first read Diane’s wonderful book. I have been able to use the book as a daily devotional and be inspired over and over again by these real life stories. I don’t think that I will ever be able to thank Diane enough for writing this book. It opened my eyes, and changed my heart, which in turn, saved my marriage. Now that’s truly an abundant gift!”

If you would like to hear more stories about God at work–or perhaps, share your own–please sign up for the upcoming live, 60-minute Virtual Book Tour on Tuesday, June 26. If you have a question, I hope I answer it on the live call. If you don’t, just say “none” so you can get to the page with the call-in information.

You will also be sent a link, via email, to download a resource for keeping your own gifts journal, when you sign up.

I can’t wait to share the stories I have. You will be inspired!

Hope to “see” you on the live call on Tuesday! (But if not, there will be a replay page, so sign up anyway.)

Mother’s Day, God’s Way

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
–Willa Cather

I didn’t expect a gift from God for Mother’s Day this year. But on my usual early morning walk, I came upon a crabapple tree in full, fragrant bloom and a cottontail rabbit peacefully grazing beneath it. As the bunny went about its business as God intended, I was transfixed. I remembered how, as a child, seeing a creature in the wild brought a sense of wonder. Cherishing this memory with others of long ago, I went home and changed for church. Entering the sanctuary, a friend pinned a gorgeous corsage on my dress. “I had an extra,” she said. Extra? I never knew why, and it didn’t matter. I had already received two special gifts that day!

At home after lunch, David went outside to play and Christine napped. Gene and I made the most of our two quiet hours. I practiced the piano, then picked up the newspaper and saw an article that seemed written for me. Continue reading “Mother’s Day, God’s Way”

The Easter Basket

The following comes from a friend, Ann Fackler, who with her husband, Mark, often visits Nairobi, Kenya, for various aspects of mission work. I wanted to pass on her story for your Easter reflection.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes. I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

Some days here are just plain difficult because of what you either see or hear. A good friend from Bible study called this week with financial needs for her daughter heading to the States for university study. A mature single friend humbly approached me for help with school fees for her epileptic son who took three medications every day. Her salary as a “casual” made it impossible. Another missionary friend shared concerns about “being at the breaking point.”

Passages of Scripture about God’s eventual justice in this inequitable world of ours hold a special place in my heart living here. I hang on them reassuring myself that one day ” he will stand upon the earth.” Those who now live in squalor and hunger will one day walk the streets of gold with stomachs that don’t ache. My heart ” yearns within me” for that day–for them.

This afternoon our “hawker friends” (street vendors) of ten years asked Mark and me both to come to the market as they had something special to give us. “Be sure to bring your camera,” Chege pleaded. As we walked down the busy street in front of Daystar University, we passed the mama sitting next to the sidewalk with her two small children–dirty, torn clothes and the familiar extended hand with the cup. I never look at their faces–it’s too hard. I just walk by pushing the emotions in my heart down deep. Half way to Hurlingham we run into “the old man” Mark has often seen over the years. Stopping to talk he tells us, “Truly I am hungry today.” He’s always hungry. We have “important business” to do in Hurlingham, “but we’ll be back.” Mark echoes. We both knew he would be waiting no matter how long it took us. When you’re hungry, you will wait a long time.

As we reached the plaza, our friends came from various corners of the mall with their bags of assorted fruits, leather belts, suit coats, and car accessories. Standing under the overhang out of the sun, Mark and I waited for “something to happen.” Finally, the spokesman moved into the crowd with these words: “We just wanted to give you two a little something for Easter since you’ve been so nice to us over the years.” From behind his back, Chege extended toward Mark and me a large wicker basket full of assorted fruits wrapped crudely with Saran. Stunned, we accepted and thanked them for the gift then posed for pictures of course. All I could think of was what a loving gesture this was. Each contributed several of their fruit items for the day in order to make this large basket.

On our way back, there wasn’t a single person (in car or passing us on the sidewalk) who didn’t look at our basket, but we’re used to being stared at–but maybe not this much. Obviously not many people have huge fruit baskets here. At the petrol station sat the old man waiting. “I think we ought to share some fruit with him,” I said. Mark already had this in mind. Breaking into the plastic wrap, Mark hauled out several pieces of fruit and set them in the man’s hands. On we walked until we approached the woman with her two children. By now we had the same idea. This time I looked into her eyes seeing a very tired and weary person. A smile appeared as we passed out a banana to each child and an orange to her.

Rounding the corner of our flat, I heard Duncan watering the flowers in our garden. “Let’s give him some fruit too,” I said reaching into the basket. Handing him several passion fruits, I said, “Happy Easter Duncan. It’s the day of Hope.” Smiling, he accepted the gift. As I looked back over my shoulder as I entered our apartment, Duncan had not wasted any time getting into his fruit, but was enjoying the sweetness immediately.

I was thankful I had worn my sunglasses for this trip as it hid the emotion I was feeling. Now back home and cutting off the Saran, the tears started to flow. “Those who have nothing–giving to those who have everything,” I said to Mark. “Something is wrong with this picture.” Putting his arms around me he said, “You can’t always be the one giving. You have to learn how to receive too.”

I knew he was right. The hawkers truly enjoyed blessing us with their gift of love and we needed to let them do it–like so many others who do the same. Unlike any others, I knew this was one Easter basket I would never forget.

Thanks, Ann Fackler, and may God bless you, your ministry, and all the people mentioned in your story.

The Amazing God Story that Can’t Be Written

The story I have to share with you today is not the story I thought God would write in my life.

You haven’t heard from me in a while, mainly because I’ve been super busy launching a book (MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths) and a business (helping people get their books written and published).

Concerning the latter, I thought it would be very useful to go to the annual Christian Booksellers convention this week in Denver to renew my publishing contacts. Gene goes because he works for a publisher. I would have been able to stay with him, no extra charge. Time away from the children, together!)As an author, my publisher could get me in. The kids had friends they could stay with for a week. My only expenses would be for transportation. Surely God would provide that.

I prayed about it. I tried to earn extra. I even asked a couple of people to help me out. The money did not seem to be forthcoming, and I felt strongly that this was not something to put on the credit card, even if it was a business expense.

The day before Gene left for the convention, a friend called. After she told me about how God provided for her at the 11th hour, I mentioned my situation.

She said, “My husband has a voucher he got when he was bumped a year ago, and I think it expires this week. Let’s see if I can find it, and if it’s transferrable.”

She did find something. We each called the airline company, described the vouther in details, and were reassured that it was usable and transferrable.

I checked flights to Denver, thinking this was God’s amazing way of providing for me to go to the convention after all.

No flights to Denver available under that voucher.

I hung up, very disappointed. Then it hit me: I have a free ticket to go anywhere! Where did I want to go?

Portland, I decided. As in Portland, Oregon. I have two sets of dear friends out there I’d love to visit.

Called the friends. They’d love to have me! Portland is so beautiful now! We’d have so much fun!

But then I checked the airline again. No flights to Portland on that voucher. No flights to Seattle, either. At least, not through Nov. 8, when she stopped checking.

But there were flights to Miami. I have a cousin in Florida I’d love to see. Called her. Debbie said it would be a fine time to visit. We’d have so much fun…. “We’ll do whatever you want to do,” she said.

The Amazing God Story I thought I’d be writing was how God knew I needed a vacation even more than I needed to be at the convention.

But it was not to be….

When my friend, who had the plane ticket, went to the airport to transfer it over to me–a trip he did not relish taking–the airline told him it was not a valid travel voucher. Despite us having called the airline at least 7 times, describing every inch of the paper and being told it was indeed a voucher and transferrable, US Air told Bill it was not valid.

Case closed.

No vacation for Diane.

Did something wonderful come up for me this week anyway? Not yet. I stayed home, got a lot done. Today I’m taking a retreat of sorts. I will try to get something done that I’ve been trying to find time for for months. (Something that will benefit my Abundant Gifts readers.)

But here’s what God did, that I can recognize. The morning my friend called about the plane ticket, right before she called in fact, I talked to a neighbor. The neighbor was having a garage sale, and I stopped by on my walk.

We got to chatting, and she told me that in April, she lost her future son-in-law. He dropped dead of a heart attack one day. Her daughter, who is 49, was devastated. She’d finally found the love of her life, and was all set for a wonderful future. Jane and her fiance had bought a house. They were to be married this summer.

Within a week of that tragedy, my neighbor, Genevieve, also lost her 33-year-old mentally handicapped son, who lived with her. She lost a son and son-in-law, her daughter Jane lost a fiance and beloved brother. All within a week.

Genevieve told me that she and Jane have a strong faith in God, and that is what is getting them through. Her faith lingered with me. I returned later that afternoon and gave her a copy of Abundant Gifts.

Genevieve’s story framed my own disppointment with a new perspective. What was my diappointment in a missed vacation compared to the crushing disappointment of losing one’s love and a future that seemed a dream come true? Of losing the son one has cared for and lived with for more than 30 years?

In a strange way, God used their story to help me. Even though I felt very disappointed in not being able to take the vacation I thought I’d take, I felt an underlying peace and sense that God is in control.

He has provided miraculously for me in the past. This time he chose not to. I may never know why, or he may reveal it. Either way, I know he’s with me.

Life is full of disappointment. But it tends to evaporate when the presence of God is trusted.

“Mom, You Just Discovered the Meaning to Life!”

(But Will It Lead to Riches?)

by Diane Eble

It was bedtime one Monday night, and my 10-year-old daughter, Christine, and I were chatting as we often do while she gets ready for bed.

As she brushed her long brown hair, she suddenly said, “Mom, what is the meaning of life? I mean, like, why are we even here?”

Dumfounded, I just stared at her for a second.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t asking those kinds of questions until at least age 12—and I thought I was precocious….

Fortunately, my pastor had just happened to mention the answer to the first question to the Westminster Confession in his sermon the day before. (Gift!) Also fortunately, I had been listening—and I remembered now.

“The purpose of life,” I said, “is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

She looked at me, big blue eyes round in amazement. Then she shouted joyfully, “Mom, that’s it! Yes! That is the answer! Of course. What else could it be?”

We talked about that some. I emphasized the “enjoy him forever,” since this is something it seems to me so many Christians miss. Living a life of faith is not about going through the motions of dry duty. It’s about life, true life, abundant life, life because we’re connected to the very Source of True Life.

“Mom,” Christine said excitedly, “you’re going to make us rich. You know the answer everyone is looking for!”

(Note here our failure as Christian parents. She obviously did not know the Westminster Confession, had no clue that I was not the initiator of this profound answer. )

I gently told her this was not my own brilliant idea, but that it comes from the Bible and early church leaders who distilled the biblical truths into some very good questions and answers, and that this was one of the most basic because, as she said, this is the question everyone wants answered.

I also told her this answer has been around for a couple of thousand years, and that in a way, sharing this answer with other people, in life and word, is what every Christian is asked to do. It’s what my own books all boil down to.

“You mean, then, it won’t make us rich?” she asked in disappointment.

“That’s doubtful,” I said.

It’s actually not a bad question. If we Christians supposedly have The Answer that everyone is dying to know, why aren’t people paying us to learn it?

More pointedly, why aren’t Christians acting as if this is the Answer to Life?

To me, it’s an astounding idea that the Creator of this vast and amazing universe, from the farthest flung planet to the mysterious force that holds all cells together (a quark, perhaps?)—this Creator God says (if you believe the Bible, as I do) that he actually desires a personal relationship with each and every individual, and that he made a way for that to happen.

A way that cost him the most precious thing he had—the life of his only Son, who somehow, in some unfathomable energy of Relationship, is fully God but became fully human, too, and died a human death and rose a divine conqueror—all so that these human beings, made in his very own image, could know him in their daily life, and then join him in some unimaginable paradise that we all unconsciously pine for every day of our lives … and live there forever.

See, that truth just floors me. To experience it daily, as I do whenever I open my heart (and I’m aware of it even when I don’t, there’s no escaping it)—that is something I never quite get over.

Not too long ago I attended a retreat at my church on “The Kingdom of God and the Poor.” One of the most powerful things done there was a reading of all the scriptures that included a reference to “the kingdom of God.”

One thing that struck me: how many times it was mentioned that one must become like a little child to enter, or receive, the kingdom of God.

I’ll leave you to ponder what all that means, as I will do. But … might not Christine’s response to my words about the meaning of life be a good example of what Jesus meant?

She didn’t debate it, doubt it, dissect it. She recognized the truth instantly and received it joyfully.

Jesus himself once prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

Interesting also that a few verses down, Jesus also made his famous invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy ad my burden is light.”

A child does not carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Neither, Jesus says, must I.

In that there is much needed rest.

(Scriptures above come from Matthew 11: 25-26, 28-30, New International Version)

Copyright (c) 2006 by Diane Eble. All rights reserved.