As 2010 came to an end, our family, gathered together in our mountain chalet in the Colorado Rockies, experienced our first significant snowfall of the season. That welcome gift of life-sustaining moisture reminded us of how dependent we are on God’s gift of life.

But celebrating Christmas and Christmastide with family also brought home the message that, other than God, family is all we have to sustain us on this troubled planet. Which, in turn, inspired me to write this week’s blog, thoughts that doubtless came to millions of other parents and grandparents, who waited, as we did, for all the children to come home.

Can there possibly be three more poignant words in the English language than these?

For weeks, the house has been getting ready:

Food is purchased and hauled in, load after load of it, until the refrigerator/freezer, the pantry, and even the overflow freezer downstairs, all are filled to the bulging point.

Christmas decorations are brought down from the rafters of the garage, as are the outside Christmas lights (defying logic, all snarled together as usual), and the half-century-old creche (purchased in Latin America).

Guest bedrooms are spruced up, the bedding fresh from a recent washing. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotions for dry skin, hair dryers, towels (in the bathrooms), all are positioned for use.

The overworked vacuum cleaner grows tired and irritable.

Goodies such as English toffee, breads, pies, cookies, and cakes are made.

Load after load of firewood is brought in and stacked on the lower deck.

New board games for the family are purchased in city malls.

Presents and stocking-stuffers begin to stack up in the quilt-room. Much better-hidden are the trading-game gifts, for secrecy in the annual trading game is an absolute must.

Airplane arrival schedules are posted in the kitchen by the telephone; each vacation day’s proposed activities discussed by phone and e-mail with the children (long-since grown, but our children still).

Cots and foam mattresses are brought in from the garage.

Tired-looking kitchen stools are hauled away by the garbage man, and new ones purchased as replacements.

Both SUVs are cleaned inside and out.

Nor are Charlie the chattering squirrel,. Foxy Lady and her numerous progeny, or the ever-hungry birds forgotten.

* * *

Like the explosive finale of a fireworks, spectacular, the pace of preparation during nthe final 48 hours builds to a crescendo: the towering Norfolk Pine is bedecked with multicolored lights; outside, the Christmas lights are positioned under the eaves, on the outside stairway banister, and in a nine-foot lodgepole pine halfway down the driveway. More of the Dickens Village is lit. Candles and decorations add to the festive mood. The creche is set up in its usual place of honor. Seven bright red stockings hang from the fireplace mantel; just below, a roaring fire in the fireplace is but a scratch of a match away. Flight arrival times are checked and re-checked. Presents, now wrapped in bright Christmas paper, are stacked under the Christmas tree.

* * *

It lacks but one thing—and that one thing comes at last, to the tune of automobile lights in the driveway, slamming car doors, impatient grandkids racing up the steps; then the door is swung open, wafting down the stairs the fragrance of candles, burning pine and aspen, home-cooking, and German stollen slowly rising in the oven–then glad cries, hugs, kisses, and tears.

As for the house, with a giant sigh it plumps its feathers. All its chicks are home at last—and Christmas has come once again.

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

   There is something magical in that countdown in New York’s Time Square on New Year’s Eve — when close to a million people, farther away than the eye can see, in a crescendo of multitudinous voices, yell out, “Ten!” — “Nine!” — “Eight!” — “Seven!” — “Six!” — “Five!” — “Four!” — “Three!” — “Two!” — “ONE!” — “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

    And in that instant, two thousand nine dies and two thousand ten is born.
    Suddenly, the past seems almost irrelevant and the future looms out of the mists: the yellow brick road to OZ.  Surely good times lie ahead.
    But sadly, all too few of us pay much attention to the one time-frame we can do anything about — TODAY.
    In many years of counseling and teaching I’ve encountered again and again men and women stubbornly refusing to relax the death-grip their clutched hands have on their yesterdays or their tomorrows — neither of which they can do a blessed thing about.  For our yesterdays are already written in stone — not God Himself can erase a word of it; and our tomorrows are but figments of our imagination — indeed, they may never come at all.
    It is said that we learn more from our mentors than from all our formal schooling put together.  One such person, in my life, was the late Helen Mallicoat of Wickenburg, Arizona; a woman who, over time, became one of my most cherished friends.  Of her most famous poem, what is usually labeled “The I Am Poem,” she told me once, “I’ve never copyrighted it because I consider it to be a gift from God . . . .  It came to me in the middle of the night – as clearly and distinctly as though God had dictated it. . . .  It has developed a life of its own and circled the globe more times than I can count.  Hallmark alone has distributed it by the millions.  I never know where it’ll go next.”
    I have used it for years to motivate my students and counselees.  It is safe to say that few poems in history have changed — if not revolutionized — lives more than this simple little poem.  It will change yours too.  I guarantee it.  IF . . . you repeat it over and over all day until you have it memorized, post it on your wall, and repeat it over and over for 30 days.  Then it will be yours forever — and your life will never be the same.  Here it is:
I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I Am.”  He paused.
I waited.  He continued,
“When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard.  I am not there.
My name is not I Was.
When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard.  I am not there.
My name is not I Will Be.
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard.  I am here.
My name is I Am.”
                        — Helen Mallicoat