Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 2

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved
writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson,
Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as
each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during
this most wonderful time of the year.

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A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

"You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving." Amish

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by
Christmas EveŠI'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-
to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think:
Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the last
few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me.
The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas
would be simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share
the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the
best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family
members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify
people. We are just a complicated bunch.
Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get
distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much
more to learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered
life. But it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create
margin in their life. Not just empty space‹ but space that is available to nourish

family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours
or mine, but what they do fill it with is Š so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of
the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room
corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place
settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of
Christ's birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has
been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has
come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will
gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon
will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an
abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an
Amish Christmas.

And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a
young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish
couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An
unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol
hold most dear disappears and thenŠ Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story
to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that
I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew
inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and
little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the
end of January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something
has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his
Alzheimer's facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-
crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it
will mean that my energy won't get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda.
Only by God's agenda‹ the essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve
service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.


Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting,
The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish,

including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly
traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order
German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne
is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called
Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in

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