Category Archives: friendship

The Road Home ~ a Christmas Miracle


the road home

We have an annual tradition of opening up our Christmas gifts to one another at the same time … over the phone. She lives in northern Ohio. I live in eastern NC. We’ve been friends for over twenty years, and every time we talk or get together, it’s as if we’ve never been apart. Yesterday was no different.

Her package arrived at my doorstep with the afternoon post. My gift to her arrived in Ohio earlier in the week. I called her after supper, and the unwrapping began. I went first and was immediately struck by the sentimentality of her gift to me.

(How did she get the artist to paint that picture … the one I took three years ago when I was up for a visit and we went out for a ride through Amish country? Amazing work. She must have paid someone to paint this.)

I voiced my joy and my obvious gratitude for such a sentimental treasure. My friend was perplexed.

“Elaine, I know you like Amish things, and I remember us taking that drive out in Amish country, but there are hundreds of paths and roads with that exact scene. I don’t even remember the picture you took; I just happened upon this man’s shop in Navarre, liked his work, and selected a print I thought you would like. There were dozens and dozens of scenes to choose from, but I kept coming back to this one. It just spoke to me, and I knew it was the one to get for you.”

Coincidence? Never. To prove my point, I scoured through the pictures on my computer and found the one that closely resembled the scene in the painting. I sent it to my friend. She began coming around to my point of view. We discussed the similarities, but it wasn’t until I pointed out the curve of the tree in the front left corner of the picture that I knew we had a match.

the road home my copy

What are the odds? Of all the gifts she could have given me this Christmas, she gave me this one. She never made the connection between her gift and the picture I’d taken three years ago. She didn’t need to. God did it for her. God did it for me. Maybe … even God did it for the artist.

After we finished our conversation, I did some research on the painter, Billy Jacobs. He’s a local resident in Navarre, OH, and lives within a couple miles of my friend’s home. His work is stunning. I’m not much into paintings, but his work could easily become my new favorite addiction. While visiting his website, I connected with his facebook page and left him a message about my God-incident. I even posted the original picture I had taken three years ago to his wall. Within an hour, he had responded to my post, confirming what I already suspected and asking me if I remembered the location where that photo was taken. The scene was the inspiration for his artwork, but he’s never been able to find that exact location again in all of his travels throughout Amish country. My friend and I racked our brains, trying to retrace the steps we took back in 2011, and I was able to give Billy a general vicinity of where I think he’ll be able to rediscover … wait for it …

The Road Home.

Yep. That’s the title of his painting. Coincidence? Never.

And so to this Advent season and to my thoughts and my heart that are full tonight of memory, of yearning, of hope, and of expectation for …

the road home.

Isn’t that the Christmas road? Isn’t that the sum-total of the Bethlehem search … the pilgrimage to the manger? A step or two back in time in order to take a step or two forward in faith. To find that which is longed for and that, with the finding, comes fresh inspiration, fresh resolve to keep moving forward in expectation of home.

It’s but a few steps from here. Not as far off as we think. For Billy, his search might lead him down the Jericho Road toward Kidron, OH (the latest, best pinpoint for the location – I’m not kidding …). For me, well, my search will take me a bit further. To the Kidron Valley (the valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem and that separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives) and beyond. This is where Jesus finished his earthly life; this is the place where he exited earthen sod to be at home with his Father forever.

Jesus Christ. The Road Home. My beginning. My now. My next. He is where I’m headed this Christmas. How grateful I am for the Christmas miracle that found its way to my front porch to lead me to the manger so that I might, once again, behold the Savior in all his glory.

Blessings, friends, as you travel the road to Bethlehem this year. May the miracle of Christmas renew your faith, strengthen your resolve, and quicken your search for the road home. And as always, may God grant you his abiding peace for the journey.

Merry Christmas,

PS: If you have some time, visit Billy’s website and tell me your favorite. As for me, I have my eyes set on A Light in the Stable! (Hint, hint – my Billy Olsen – wouldn’t it look great over our mantle next Christmas?) Also, another interesting detail – my friend’s name is Juanita. Billy Jacob’s mother’s name? Yep. Juanita. Isn’t God cool?

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“Oh, Hey Girl!” Happy Monday

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She’s enormously gifted, my friend Melanie Dorsey. She’s a creative in all that she does. Whether lending her heart to words, painting, sewing, cooking, re-purposing furniture and beyond, Melanie pours her all into the project at hand. I don’t think she can help herself. She’s so much like her heavenly Father . . . creatively creating. Indeed, Melanie is helping to solve the problem of pain in this world through her artistic fashioning.

Most recently, Melanie has been working with watercolors. I adore these little portraits of grace she’s been creating. You can see more of them by clicking here. To honor her work, I’m giving away a set of five note cards to one of you (your choice of cards)! Take some time to peruse Melanie’s designs and let me know your favorites in the comments below. I’ll pick a winner with my next post.

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In the meantime, I pray your week off to a very good, God-start. May the day ahead of you be filled with a rich awareness of God’s presence and his love for you. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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worn out to wearable . . .

lisa fabrics 4“There’s something in there, Elaine. I’m not quite sure what ‘it’ is, but there’s something in there.”

So says my artist friend while staring at a pile of scraps in her attic sanctuary. To the casual onlooker, those scraps don’t look like much. Just a pile of colorful leftovers—cast-offs from somebody’s closet and the thrift store down the road. I cannot see what she sees on the front side of her creating. I can only be thankful for her visioning that leads to a finished product that is both beautiful and functional.

A recycled masterpiece!

In wearing her treasures across my body, I carry history into the present. Threads of yesterday are delicately woven into a tapestry that tells a story. My story.

Scraps to salvaged. Parts to whole. Old to new. Worn out to wearable.

Yes, this is my story. And all it took was the visioning of the Artist to see what I couldn’t see. To imagine what I couldn’t imagine. To pause before the scrap heap and to say,

“There’s something in there. I’m not quite sure what ‘it’ is, but there’s something in there.”

A functioning something. A beautiful something. A recycled masterpiece fashioned by the Master, pieced and woven tightly together by threads of sacred love. History into the present . . . a lot of times past that count toward tomorrow.

lisa fabrics 3So here I am – a garment comprised of yesterday’s scraps, sewn up with a lot of grace-splashes. And it works. I work because I am his work. There simply isn’t any other reasonable explanation for how this is all turning out so well – my life.

How grateful I am for the quiet pauses in a day that lend themselves to creativity. To climb the attic stairs and to imagine through to the other side of the scrap heap. To house (even if just a little) the creative pulse of the Creator within me. To have the light coming through the window to crystallize and clarify the blueprint. To remind me when I so often forget that …

“There’s something in there.”

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There is something in there, friends. A holy something. A God something. Whether you’re staring at a scrap pile in the mirror today or whether your work is on the table awaiting a hem line, there’s something in there. The Artist has his eyes on you, and he’s working with the end product in mind.

What you’ve yet to see, he has already seen. What you cannot imagine, he has already imagined. His visioning is holier than yours and his patience enduring. The word on the street is you’re going to be a masterpiece. In the Master’s hands, how could you be anything but? Trust him with and for the finishing details. Give him your scraps and watch him create.

Grace looks beautiful on you, friends. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: If you’d like to learn more about the artist, Lisa Dixon, and how you might secure one of her valuable treasures, please visit her Etsy sight by clicking here . What’s your favorite item? Let me know in a comment, and I’ll enter your name into a drawing to win a secret treasure from her stash. You can also find Lisa on facebook by clicking here.

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the reach and welcome of love …

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My heart is tender toward her tonight – the new girl who showed up at our summer kick-off, Wednesday night fellowships at the pool. She was easy to spot, stuck there at a table of men who out-aged her by at least fifty years. Talk about awkward. When I asked her who she was and how it was that she came to be in our midst, she simply replied, “Mr. Bill invited me.”

I chuckled, while pointing out the retired, elderly minister who fellowships in our midst, and asked her, “That Mr. Bill?”

“No, the preacher man named Mr. Bill.”

“Oh that Bill! He’s my Bill. You can call him Billy.”

And so the conversation began between us. Curious to know how she and my Billy got connected, I learned that this rising, eighth grader was one of the participants in a mentoring encounter our congregation sponsors with local middle-schoolers. A banquet was held in their honor last week, and Preacher Billy invited all the kids to come and be part of our Wednesday night fellowships by the pool.

Bravely she came; bravely she remained despite her odd seating arrangement during the dinner hour. If I had been her, I would have bolted at the first opportunity, texting my mom to quickly come and rescue me from the awkwardness. Instead she waited it out, and my heart broke with the waiting.

Waiting for someone to notice her.
Waiting for someone her age to come around and invite her to join in the fun.
Waiting for the newness to not feel so new to her but, instead, to feel a little bit normal.

I’m not much of a waiter, so after a painful hour of watching this scene play out, I gathered a couple of other women, and together, we coaxed our visitor down to the pool area and implored a few kids to come and offer their greetings. Before long, my new friend was splashing in the pool and, hopefully, feeling better about having taken the preacher man up on his invitation.

Not long after that, her mother arrived to pick her up; I was able to sneak in a quick handshake before their departure, wishing for more time and for a better way of extending the reach and welcome of love to strangers. It’s a haunting ache that has stayed with me all evening. My heart has always been tender toward those who sit on the fringes, the ones overlooked and often ignored. I’m fighting another feeling tonight as well – annoyance.

Why are kids so slow to recognize strangers in their midst? Why not the reach and welcome of love? Why isolate them rather than include them? Are their senses so dulled not to notice the need or are they so self-absorbed that to notice would require too much of them? Where’s the kindness we so boldly proclaim and yet, sometimes, so pitifully live?

I know it sounds harsh; it is harsh. But it’s true . . . across the board, whether teenagers or adults. Why do we bunch up instead of branch out? We are the church – the body of Christ, a group of believers who boldly claim the name of our Lord as our identity . . . Christians. Little Christs. For heaven’s sake . . . really for the sake of heaven . . . when are we going to start acting like him? When are we going to start reaching out instead of always living in?

I’m tired of playing church. That’s not my game. Instead, I want to live Jesus and give Jesus so that no one ever sits on the fringes, feeling unloved, unwelcomed, unnoticed. Perhaps I am tender to this, because like my new friend, I have sat where she sat tonight . . . many times – just wanting to be noticed, to be “in” instead of feeling so very “out.”

Oh could we just live it better, friends? Just look away from the mirror long enough to notice the new faces around us? Just speak some Jesus words of grace and interest into the lives of those who sit within arm’s reach? It doesn’t take much to make a heart smile and to warm up to the idea of friendship. It just takes some willingness on our parts and some training of our hearts to fully understand the kingdom impact of the reach and welcome of love.

Two thousand years ago, my Jesus stood on a hillside, extending the reach and welcome of love through his blood-stained hands. He noticed me then; he notices me still; he notices us all. Why? Because it’s in his heart to make sure that we’re all “in” instead of living as outsiders.

Christ is the way in. A heart shaped by this truth will never forsake the outsider. Instead, a heart shaped by the reach and welcome of Calvary’s love will live accordingly.

Reaching. Welcoming. And loving a new friend all the way home to Jesus.

No longer a stranger on the fringes but, instead, one of the family.

This is my gospel. This is my Jesus. This is the servant I want to be.

So be it. Amen.

Photo Credit: oneinchpunch / 123RF Stock Photo

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on starting the God-conversation

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A few things occur to me this morning while reading Luke’s account of “Jesus sending out the seventy-two” (Luke 10:1-24). In particular, I’m focusing on two sentiments/phrases that Jesus instructed his disciples to use in their evangelism campaigns. What strikes me is their simplicity, while at the same time their capacity for profound, kingdom results. Those phrases …

1 – “Peace to this house.”
2 – “The kingdom of God is near you.”

And here’s my thought as it pertains to my evangelism campaign, maybe even yours. Wherever your feet take you today, whatever group you wander into (either by accident on through intention), whether he or she is a stranger or friend, why not start the God-conversation with a little, “Peace to this house” followed up by a little, “The kingdom of God is near you.” It might flow a little differently than that. Maybe something along the lines of:

1 – “Peace; God is near.” or
2 – “Peace out, peace in. Peace here, peace near. Peace everywhere.” or
3 – “Peace. God. Now.”

Words like that. Words that are reliable. Words that are true. Peace is here, because God is near. And wherever God is, his kingdom follows alongside. How do I know? Because he said so.

Once having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” –Luke 17:10 (emphasis mine)

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you carry the kingdom of God with you wherever you go. Why not speak a little peace and a little kingdom into the hearts of those within arm’s reach today? It certainly would be an interesting way to start the God-conversation. It might even be effective.

Peace out, peace in. Peace here, peace near. Blessed Peace in and for our journeys, everywhere. I’ll meet you on the road!

Image credit: nruboc / 123RF Stock Photo

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