By Ellen Andersen

I love this time of year. The Christmas season. I think about caroling, getting together with family and friends, Christmas parties, shopping for gifts, special church services where we celebrate Christ having come to live with and ultimately save us from our sins. But I’ve been thinking about other things this year too.

Instead of just thinking about Christmas decorations with Christmas lights, a tree and ornaments and presents underneath just waiting to be unwrapped to surprise their img_1834recipients.  Instead of a manger scene with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by cows, sheep, shepherds and wise men, just waiting for the big moment for Jesus to come into the world I’ve been thinking about what it was really like back then in all likelihood.

Jesus was born in a manger, yes, I know that. Most of us do. But it hadn’t occurred to me that this means he was born in a barn. A BARN, of all places. The cows weren’t lying down and sheep sitting still just outside the stable like they do in our typical manger scenes. They were roaming around, making all the messes and noises that cows and sheep do. Mooo, Baaa, Mooo, Baaa, Mooo, Baaa. Rolling in the mud and shaking it off. Then there were the donkeys that Joseph and Mary rode to get there adding to the choir.

It wasn’t a pretty little place set up just for Mary and Joseph to be surrounded by doctors and nurses to take care of the baby when he was born. A room with sterilized tools, trained doctors who would wash a baby before placing him in clean cloths and then in his mother’s arms. No, it was a barn with hay, straw, dirt and mud. Not exactly the kind of place I’d expect a savior to come into the world. Who thinks like that?

So who thinks like that? GOD does.

Isaiah was right when he spoke of the Lord who said, “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8)

And Christmas is just the beginning. He has much more in store for our lives. With the way He thinks it’s unpredictable, to say the least.  A little scary since I don’t have any control, and I REALLY like to be in control, or at least think I am . But I trust God since He loves me. And He always does what He says even though we don’t know how He’ll do it or when.

How about you?  What have you witnessed or gone through that God used in a way you never expected?  Share it here.



Children and Small Acts of Kindness


By Jennifer Hallmarkkindness (1)

Children can be some of the greatest givers of love and kindness. It never ceases to amaze me how little ones can pick out someone hurting and encourage them with a simple word, smile, or act.

I remember when my son was little, maybe 5 or 6 years old. We had gone to a local fast food restaurant to eat lunch. The cashier was an older lady, maybe 50. To me, she looked tired. My son walked up to the counter and gave her his biggest smile. He said, “You’re beautiful. Will you marry me?”

She instantly brightened up and smiled back at him, telling me what a sweet little boy I had. I’m sure the good feeling from that moment lasted a long time, especially every time she shared the story.


Here’s another special act of kindness by a sweet child.

David and Crystal are very proud of their son, Ky. Here’s why in Crystal’s words…

My son made me so incredibly proud and happy today. There was a little girl at Spring Park and her and Ky had been talking about the children’s roller coaster before we left. She had never ridden it before, so Ky pulled on his armband enough to slide it off of his arm and she slid it on hers. Of course, I then peeled mine off without ripping it and put it on her grandmother so they could ride it together.

No, it doesn’t seem like much, but all Ky kept saying was, “I just wanted her to be happy. She has never rode that roller coaster and she will have fun.” She was having a blast on that roller coaster when we left, huge smile and arms up in the air.

Ky’s sweet, caring heart made me cry. I love him more than he’ll ever now! I pray he is always as caring as he is now.

It Made Us Smile When We Couldn’t Otherwise

By Ellen Andersen

I’d been in the hospital for 4-5 weeks, after having had surgery. I couldn’t do anything for myself and had to have somebody at my bedside 24/7 due to the severity of my pain. I needed more attention than the staff could provide with everyone else’s needs there. So Mom and Dad came in shifts.  After a time, my extended family realized  they needed to help my folks, so Aunt Mina came out from California for a few weeks to give them some relief.

She sat at my side, talking when I needed conversation and just providing her presence when I needed to rest. She, Mom, and Dad worked with the doctors and therapists to help me learn to move my arms, hands, fingers legs and feet again, helping me perform the exercises they assigned.

Aunt Mina recognized our emotional needs as well. When a friend brought her grandchildren and they came in with homemade cards where they’d traced their hands and feet for me to make me smile. It sparked Aunt Mina’s creativity.

A week or so later I got an envelope in the mail. It was from my cousin Gwen, but it wasn’t a letter or card.  Instead it had two hands and two feet cut out witGwen's hands and feet cardh the words “feet to stand on. Hands to support you.  Love, Cousin Gwen”



Two days later, I got another letter—from friends Bill and Merle Jeanne. Bill's hands card

Like the one from Gwen, it had cut-outs of their hands and feet. It was accompanied by Scripture to encourage Merle Jeanne's hands card 2me in my recovery.




Pretty soon, I was getting lots of letters like this. One was a yellow 12” ruler with the words “Uncle Jim’s Foot” down the center. Uncle Jim's foot card  Another was a paper with tire tracks labeled Uncle Mike’s feet.  He’s a truck driver.

“What is this?” I asked my mom.

“I don’t know, but you sure are getting a lot of them.”

“Really? You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t” she answered.

Several months later, after I got home, we learned that Aunt Mina had looked through Mom’s e-mail address book on the sly and had sent out an e-mail to several of their friends suggesting they all trace their hands and/or feet and send it to me at the hospital to make my folks and me smile and laugh. It worked.

Twelve years later I still have those cards to remind me how much people cared and reached out to me when I most needed it.  It was a small act of kindness that  I still treasure over a decade later.  You never know how much you may impact someone in what you do or say.