An Unexpected Gift

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This place so far from home, the one we live in close to the hospital some may call isolation but we call it holy ground.

It’s a new normal.  A place stripped of most of our possessions but here in the quiet we have found God to be more than enough.

His presence is often experienced the most in our deep nights of the soul.

We are experiencing Him in new and profound ways.

That’s a gift.

Cancer.  My husband’s cancer has caused us to go deeper with God, to experience His peace that passes all understanding more frequently.  Especially in times of fear when we feel lost and alone and cry out to Him.  It may not happen immediately but He always lets us know that He hasn’t abandoned us.

We will never be the same.  You can’t go through something like this and ever come out on the other side of it the same as you entered into it.

Often God’s mercies are wrapped in unexpected ways.

Look at Jesus.  Away in a manger no crib for a bed…

Who would have thought God would wrap His most precious gift of love, grace and mercy in swaddling cloths?

Who would have thought God Himself would come to earth in such a lowly, humble way?

Truth is His most precious gifts often come wrapped that way.  In ways that we would never expect.  His gifts are perfect and right on time.

We prayed for 4 months that a bone marrow donor would be found for my husband.

Many have prayed.  Perhaps you prayed too.

The news came that a donor could not be found through the registry.

More chemo.  More waiting.  More praying. More hoping.

Then the miracle came.

Our oldest son, Scott, tested as over half a match.

Not perfect but good enough.

It’s good enough for a haploidentical bone marrow transplant.

These types of transplants have been done successfully at the University Research Hospital where the transplant will be done.  All transplants come with benefits and risks.  It’s not easy by any means but we trust God with the outcome.

On January 6 my husband will enter the hospital.  His immune system will be suppressed through more chemotherapy and radiation.

On Januray 13, Scott’s bone marrow will be harvested and given to Bob through an IV.

My husband, Bob, will receive the gift of life through the son that he gave life to.  The son we gave birth to is giving his father a second chance at life.

Who would have thought that the answer; the gift would come through our son?

We celebrate the most precious gift ever given in Jesus this month, the one who has given us life eternal.

And we receive with grateful hearts His precious gift of mercy wrapped in the most unexpected way through our son, Scott and we thank our son for his most special offering.  Certainly it’s the best gift that he’s ever given his dad for Christmas.

We are going to have a Merry Christmas knowing that our God knows what He is doing and although a perfect donor match could not be found He is going to give Bob a perfect transplant.

Merry Christmas!

Nancy ❤

( The photo was taken of an angel adorning our beautiful European Cyprus Tree.  Both the tree and ornaments were sent to us by some dear friends)

No Lists, Just Love

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He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town…

Most of us have heard those familiar words many times.  The nice get a gift and the naughty, well…they don’t get anything or, if they’re lucky, they get a lump of coal.

As my husband and I were traveling down the expressway last week, my eyes caught a sign outside of a church facing the cars that were driving by.

 SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“What?!?  Did I read that right?  Santa isn’t the only one making a list!  That’s the message the church is communicating to those passing by,” I told my husband.

On our next drive down that same expressway yesterday, I stayed alert watching for the sign.  I read it carefully thinking that maybe I was mistaken the first time but I wasn’t.  There in bold letters fastened to the large sign of the church were the words:

SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“If you want a gift, you better be good, because Santa is making a list and checking it twice and he’s gonna find out who is naughty and nice,” many parents sing the song and retell the story year after year.

It’s all in fun and I don’t think there’s one kid, that I know of anyway, that has been harmed or traumatized by the story of Santa.

But the message on the church sign?  I’m not so sure about that one.

Is that the message that they want the world to accept?  The message that God is making a list of all our wrongs and that we better be good or He won’t love us?  Is their message saying that we have to perform, do good works, clean up our act, obey the rules, or else?

I know there are thousands of good churches that communicate truth with love and I attend one.  I’m not implying that I know exactly the motive behind the sign but the perception comes across as God is making a list so if you’re naughty you better watch out!

We can shut ourselves up inside brick structures to make us feel safe.  We can hide behind programs, methods, procedures to puff ourselves up and think we’re secure because we’re us inside and not them outside.

We can point out the wrongs in others, forgetting who we are (or who we once were) and erect barricades of false security, we can have rules that make us harsh judges or we can have LOVE.

There in the manger on that quiet night long ago LOVE was born.  When we were the naughtiest LOVE came for us.  Jesus was born to die that we may live.  He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

He knew our list of wrongs, all too well, and left His throne of glory and came down to rescue us.

We receive the gift; the greatest gift when we deserve it the least–we don’t have to be good enough to receive it.  All we have to do is accept it.

That’s the beauty of the gift.  God wipes our list clean in one swift stroke and writes across it PAID IN FULL.  Then slowly but surely we’re transformed in a way that rules could never accomplish. 

When we have LOVE, know LOVE, and extend LOVE our pointing fingers will come down.  Then the greatest gift of Christmas, who wrapped himself in love and is LOVE, can keep on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014

The Light That Keeps on Giving

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Twinkling lights are sure to catch our eye at this time of year.  We’re attracted by their shimmer through our neighborhoods and homes.

I especially enjoy waking up in the morning before dawn and clicking on my Christmas tree lights.  Sitting in the dark with just the glow from the tree is the best part of my day.

Light.  We’re drawn to light.

Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world.  Yet Isaiah 53:2 tells us that, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.

The light of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn’t enter this world with majestic brilliance.  There wasn’t any pomp and circumstance, fanfare, no castle, no royal clothes, no trumpets sounding or a parade to usher in His arrival. 

He wasn’t draped in purple but in simple swaddling cloths.  He didn’t have a cradle just an animal’s trough as a bed.

Surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals and with the love of His parents–a carpenter and young peasant girl–He came quietly, modestly into our world.

Not too long ago, King George of England was born.  The airways, the internet, the media exploded with the announcement.

The only spectacular light that shone the night Jesus was born was around the Shepherds.  An angel brought the Shepherds the birth announcement surrounded with the glory of God.

Then the sky resounded with shouts of praise from a multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2: 14

The shepherds–who were considered the lowly of the low–they were the ones standing in the company of angels and surrounded with God’s glowing presence.

Did you ever notice that God does things completely the opposite of the way we would expect?

Consider King David whom Jesus descended from–he was just a young shepherd boy tending the sheep when Samuel arrived at his father Jesse’s house to anoint the next king.  Samuel thought for sure it would be David’s older brother, Eliab but the Lord told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  All of David’s older, stronger brothers weren’t picked by God.  David the youngest, smallest less obvious son was anointed by Samuel to become the next king.  (You can read the story in 1 Samuel 16). 

Our world often focuses outwardly on appearances, the bigger, the better, the beautiful, the powerful, we love the wow factor and success is often measured by the opinions of people.

Jesus’ wow factor came from His words of authority, His light came from turning the attitudes and thoughts of His culture upside down and inside out.

Jesus grew up and lived a total counter cultural lifestyle.  The King of Heaven’s light burned bright in the way He treated people.  He valued women, reached out to the poor, welcomed the downtrodden, was merciful, associated with those that earthly kings despised, He comforted, healed, loved and protected.  When the religious walked around with a holier-than-thou swagger pointing out the sin in others, Jesus embraced the sinner and encouraged them to follow Him and He reprimanded the accusers.

Jesus was born to become Israel’s Savior (and ultimately the whole world’s) but the people of Israel thought He’d be a militant savior.  God himself, clothed in skin, didn’t come to save Israel from a political leader and to set them free from Roman bondage.  The people were looking for an earthly king, someone to rescue them from their circumstances.  When they didn’t get what they wanted, many walked away–they turned their back on Jesus.  Their souls became blinded by expectations and they couldn’t see past their perceived ideas.  They couldn’t see that He was their Spiritual Light to lead them back to God and give them eternal life.

Those who did believe, spread the light and it kept burning throughout the world until it reached us and now we, who believe, become light carriers and the Light of Christmas keeps on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014

Grace~It’s All About Grace

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The words slid off my tongue like butter from a knife.

Smooth, slick words rolled out of my mouth and into my listener’s ears.

If only I had caught my words that morning and took them captive while they were still a thought.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Restless, agitated, mulling over my words, trying to convince myself that I spoke ‘truth in love’ was how I spent the next few days.  My soul felt like a clogged channel and I was looking for ways to unclog it.  The truth is–I couldn’t do that myself.

Around the same time, I was meeting with a group of women studying a book titled, “Seeking Him–experiencing the joy of personal revival” and what an eye-opening, wow inducing, all-encompassing truth encounter that was!

I rested one morning in the chapter on having a clear conscience and dealing with offenses toward others.  Emmanuel ~ God’s astonishing grace with me, was pointing out, teaching, empowering and challenging me to live out the gospel.

I may have failed to live it out just days before but I could begin again.  It’s what we do after we make a mess that really matters.

Acknowledging the messiness before God was liberating.  His grace ushered in peace, but my peace, wasn’t enough.  I had to bring peace into the relationship with the woman, that I had offended.  I needed to apologize.

With an invitation to a party in hand (that I knew she would be attending too) I planned my move.

I was hoping my words would slide off my tongue like butter (this time too) but I envisioned them more like peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth as I tried to force out an apology.  I wanted her to understand the motive behind the words; defend myself and I kept rehearsing how I’d say it.

But none of that mattered on the day we met.  I said a prayer while walking into the event and courage and power flowed through my once clogged soul and I simply said, “I want to apologize for what I said, it was uncalled for, will you forgive me?”   She smiled, “Wow I appreciate that.  Yes I forgive you.”

We sat at the same table, enjoying the party together, with the air cleared of everything but GRACE.

Grace.  It’s all about grace.

God wrapped Himself in grace on that first Christmas, over 2000 years ago, and the gift of grace keeps on giving.

It’s grace that meets us in the middle of relationships and helps us speak the simple words “Will you forgive me?” And it’s grace that allows the response, “Yes I forgive you.”

It’s not enough for me to accept His gift of grace, I need to extend it.  Freely I have received so I can freely give.  There isn’t another way to live the life of faith except through grace.

When we first believed it was by grace; living our faith daily is grace upon grace, upon grace, upon grace…it’s all about grace.

Is there someone who needs the gift of grace from you this Christmas?

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014