Do You See What I See?

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The tree is adorned with lights and garland. From its branches hang memories of Christmas Past.  The presents, carefully chosen and beautifully wrapped sit under the tree awaiting their reveal.  The smell of love poured into homemade meals and handmade cookies lingers in the air and soaks into our hearts.  

It’s home.

Christmas.

Imagine if you had been there that night. That glorious night. Imagine if you had been in that small town and heard that Christ the Savior was born in a manger in a field in the middle of nowhere but somehow, close to you.  Imagine being there in that seemingly random place when everything changed.  

A child was born.

Man was saved.

The joy.

The gratitude.

Nothing would ever be the same. Imagine that ordinary night turning into the extraordinary.  Imagine that small town that was but a place where people passed through, suddenly becoming an intentional destination. Imagine that simple manger becoming the birthplace of our Savior.

It is the ultimate story, the ultimate miracle, the ultimate gift.

Christmas.

Christmas still comes every year; but this world tried to change it.

There is still joy … but it is often found under the tree instead of in the manger.

There is still peace … but it is often found when the shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, and the ‘to do’ list is complete.

There is still love … but it is often measured by what is inside the box instead of what is inside one’s heart.

I was thinking about that miracle that happened on that night long ago. I was thinking about how today’s world would receive that miracle. Would they believe Mary?  Think Joseph was a fool? Would they think the Star over Bethlehem was a special effect or scientific phenomenon? Would the news report it as a story about uneducated field workers and a runaway couple?

We have become cynical.  We have become closed off and unbelieving of miracles and things we can’t explain. Science has become our barometer of what is and what can be. But whether people choose to see them or believe them, miracles happen every day.  

Every. Single. Day.

Do you choose to believe it?  

Do you choose to see it?  

They may not be miracles like the birth of our Savior. But miracles happen all the time. They may not mean something to the whole world but small miracles can mean the world to just one person.

Does the miracle lose value if not for the masses?

A few months ago, I had an unscheduled scan to see if my cancer had progressed.  My tumor markers were rising, my pain was increasing, my fatigue was getting the best of me.  All signs pointed to tumor progression.  I prayed that I would not receive devastating news, but the facts, the science, was adding up.

After a stressful waiting period, my doctor called and told me my scans were clear.  He had no other explanation as to what was going on with my pain, why my tumor markers had risen, and why I wasn’t feeling well. He expected that my results were not going to be good.  He admitted that he had been preparing to tell me the bad news. He was pleasantly surprised and undeniably confused that the outcome was what it was.  It made no sense.

To him.

To me, it made perfect sense.  

God had been with me during this walk with cancer and He continued to be.  It didn’t matter the statistics, the symptoms, even my doctor’s medical opinion.  God had the final word and God provided me with clear scans, a sense of relief, and the gift of more life.

The blessings that come with faith.  

Christmas.

A few months ago, I lost a check.  It wasn’t a large amount of money but enough that I wanted to find it. I searched my purse, the trash, my car.  I called the company and asked if they could reissue it.  When they said it wasn’t a problem but that there would be a fee, something inside me told me to wait and be patient.  I trusted that feeling and told the woman that I would look for it again and call back if I couldn’t find it. I forgot about it in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Recently, my heart was hurting dealing with people, some I loved and respected. I brushed it off but it hurt my feelings. People said and did some things that were hurtful. Sometimes, people didn’t know how to deal with me being sick and often distanced themselves when I needed them most. It was hard but I brushed it off. Fast forward a few weeks and I was at an appointment for routine blood work. The phlebotomist was having a bad day and took out her frustration on me. My veins didn’t work so well after chemo and it was difficult to find one. Several failed attempts along with her overwhelming schedule that day were too much for her and her patience had worn thin. She wasn’t very nice.  I walked out holding back tears.

Why were all these people treating me so poorly? I began to question myself.  A trip to the grocery store, where I found inconsiderate people from the parking lot to the register, didn’t help matters. I couldn’t wait to get home, away from the outside world. I pulled into my driveway and grabbed the mail.  Inside was an envelope from a local business with my name and address handwritten on the front. Curious, I opened it and pulled out its contents.  

It was my check I had lost back in October.  

Someone found it, turned it in, and an employee took the time to drop it in the mail.

Faith in humanity restored.

Christmas.

I picked up my son from school and he was complaining of a sore throat. He asked if we could stop at a convenience store, just minutes from our home, to get a bottle of water.  I was in a rush and didn’t want to stop but something stirred in my heart. It would only take a couple minutes and if it gave him some relief, there was no harm in stopping. I had been reflecting in my devotional time and focusing on trying not to rush. I pulled into the parking lot. We went inside and got his water. The line was long and slow. I swallowed my impatience and felt God reaffirming my decision not to rush. I took a few deep breaths, paid for the water, and we left the store. As we pulled out of the lot and into the road, I heard sirens. Three police cars sped past in the other lane.  An unsettled feeling overwhelmed me as another police car and an ambulance passed. We didn’t even make it to the next light, when we saw there had been an accident. There were damaged cars, an injured person on the ground and more people in the vehicles. It had happened just a few moments before. As we drove past the wreckage, it hit me. What if we hadn’t stopped to get that drink?  What if I ignored that feeling that reminded me not to rush? What if God was protecting us and I hadn’t listened?  

But I had.  

God worked in all kinds of ways. Sometimes our path was blocked for a reason.

He saved us that day.

Christmas.

Our church promotes a weekend marriage retreat every year and last month, we were able to attend for the first time. The weekend was much more than we both expected. Our marriage was fine but having the opportunity to attend this conference most definitely brought us closer. It was nice to get away from the daily stress and routine and focus on each other. At the end of the weekend, we were able to renew our vows. Marrying my husband all over again made me remember how very much I loved him and how much those vows meant to me. After getting lost in a stormy sea of work and kids and my stupid cancer on top of the trials of daily life, we had been slowly drifting apart. This weekend pulled us back together and let us sail on calmer waters. I felt like I got my husband back.

Two become one again.

Christmas.

Test results.

A check in the mail.

A convenience store run.

A weekend away.

To some, those things would be considered…

Routine.

Random.

Mundane.

Ordinary.

To me, those things were so much more.  

They were…

Hope.

Life.

Faith.

Love…

Christmas.

I am not a shepherd herding sheep on a remarkable night … but a simple woman living in a small town on this ordinary day.

There were no stars shining a light above my everyday miracles … but there was a love illuminating from within.

People didn’t rush to spread the story of my miracles … but the goodness of my miracles caught fire in my heart.

Christmas was all around us.  Every day.  

But we seemed to miss the gifts that came without wrapping, the gifts that existed in plain sight, the gifts that were delivered with no shipping label or return address…

Those were the gifts that mattered.

Christmas wasn’t meant to be just one day on the calendar.

Christmas wasn’t meant to be wrapped up in paper and tied with a bow.

Christmas wasn’t meant to be contained in boxes and bags and tins.

The miracle of Christmas spills out from the ends of the evergreens and into the slightest of cracks in the hardest of hearts.  The miracle of Christmas shines beyond the strands of lights and brightens the dark times we face from time to time.

When we open our hearts enough to believe what our eyes can’t see, we unwrap the love that Our Savior wants us to receive.

The miracle of Christmas is ours when we become His.

When we notice the everyday miracles, we see the ordinary is not mundane, but extraordinary; and the random is no coincidence, but a carefully orchestrated plan.

Miracles happen.

How wonderful it is to be here to witness it; to be here in the middle of nowhere on an ordinary day, to see those small miracles unfold before our eyes.

Just like on that night so very long ago.

There may be no manger.

There may be no star.

You could be the shepherd and spread the good news….

if you choose to see it…

if you choose to believe it…

Imagine if you had been there that night.

That glorious night.

What would you have seen?

For unto us a child is born. His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

 

 

 

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

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