Our Oldest Daughter’s First Christmas

26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:26-34 (NLT)

In 1979 we transferred back to the states from Japan. Our first born was three months old when we flew home from Tokyo. We stayed in Oil City, PA with family for a month before heading to Downeast Maine for our next duty station.

It was an expensive move for us, and although the Navy paid for much of it, there were still many things that we had to buy to get settled back into the states. This made for a few months of lean times. As we approached December I started to pray for $50 so we could give our daughter her first Christmas. I also prayed for some cute little shoes for her for church and a winter coat for her. She had a snowsuit, which would have worked, but, there was a part of me that wanted a special coat for her.

About the second week of December I received a card for me from my Dad. He never sent me a card, except on my birthday and inside the card was $50. I was thrilled! I knew it was an answer to my prayer.

Unbeknownst to me, Dale also had been praying for $50 for car repairs. Needless to say, we had a discussion on the best use of the $50. We each were holding our ground. A couple of nights after I received my card, our small group leaders stopped by. They had found some cute shoes and immediately thought of our daughter, and a good friend of theirs used to send along hand me downs to our baby. In the hand me downs was a beautiful coat and matching bonnet. All wool and lined. It was perfect!

Since they were our small group leaders, Dale asked about the money from my Dad, and where it should go. Our friend looked at him and said, “Since it’s from her Dad, it’s the answer to her prayer.” Dale accepted the answer and inside I was doing a happy dance.

The following day Dale received a card in the mail, addressed to him and from his Dad. Inside the card was $50. The answer to his prayer.

We learned a valuable lesson that year. First of all, God hears our prayers. Secondly, He knows the desire of our hearts. Third, He provides in many ways.

I often think of those little mary jane shoes and that beautiful coat and bonnet. Our Christmas was perfect for our little one’s first Christmas and for us as new parents.

During each Christmas since that time, I think back to that time in Maine. We didn’t have a whole lot, but, we had each other. Christmas, after all, is not about the gifts given, or the amount of gifts received. Christmas comes even when there are no presents under a tree. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. He gives gifts that are not visible or felt at times, but, they exist anyhow.

17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 (NLT)

Resident Aliens

“We are strangers, we are aliens, we are not of this world” Petra

In early June of 1976 we boarded a plane at San Francisco International airport. We were heading to Japan. I had never taken an international trip before and had no idea what was in store for me. I was scared and apprehensive of what the next three years held for me. I was also excited for a new adventure with my husband of of 17 months. Together we found our seats, and buckled up for our trip.

Several hours later I looked out to see brilliant blue waters below me. We were descending to land. I looked over to Dale (my husband) and asked if we were there already. He smiled and said, “No dear, we are in Honolulu” . I had no idea that the flight would be so long. We had a 45 minute layover there and I said I wanted to breathe Hawaiian air. At that time we could get off the plane and go outside, no security checks, no TSA, just a terminal with doors to go through. We walked outside and smelled the fresh Hawaiian air. Something I thought I would never do. We came back inside and bought an ice cream bar from a vending machine. Vending machines were the only thing that was available, no restaurants like we have now. We got back to our seats ready for the next leg of our journey. That has been my only Hawaiian adventure.

The plane itself was filled mostly with military folks going to a new duty station. We were all young, early twenties and some ‘older folks’ who were in their thirties. There was a party atmosphere on the plane as one of the wineries in California had provided wine for the second leg of the trip. As we drew near to Japan airspace the crowd in the plane was in full tilt party mode. We had all had wine, we had a buffet, we were becoming friends.

It was a rainy evening when we touched down at Haneda airport in Tokyo. We taxied to a stop and the plane grew silent. We had landed and reality hit us all. We had filled out the forms for what we were bringing into the country, and we were ready to head to customs. At the door of the plane, I hesitated, afraid of the next step. Dale gave me a gentle nudge and I started down the stairs. We stood on the tarmac and looked at the signs. Both were in Kanji with English translation below. The first sign said ‘residents’ the second ‘aliens’. Everyone hesitated. Here we were aliens. We did not belong to this country. This was not our home. I will never forget that feeling. I knew I would be there for three years. The bottom line was I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my sisters. I needed to see them. I needed reassurance and hugs. Instead, my husband held out his hand and guided me into the terminal. The first step, done.

Obviously, we made it through customs and met our sponsor from the base who greeted us and got us to our final destination, Yokosuka. Our sponsor became a dear friend who got us settled and ready for what would become one of the greatest adventure of my life.

It was in Japan that I would become a born-again Christian. It was there that I began to realize that we are all aliens on this earth. Our true home for those of us who trust our Lord with our lives, is in Heaven. We are just passing through. We are resident aliens.

II Corinthians 5:1-5 says, “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (the Message)