A Heart of Love

I love receiving gifts whether for Christmas, birthday or just the occasional “no reason” gift. Gifts, even those that come without a card, anonymously from a Secret Santa, always carry a message, loud and clear which is: “ I love you!”

Christmas gifts

As a child, I always received a Christmas present from a great aunt, my grandmother’s sister, who lived in New York. She was a bit strange, her house always smelled musty and so did her clothes. We went to New York at Christmas to visit my grandparents and always drove to Brooklyn to see Aunt Laura. Not something I ever enjoyed.

The cookies she served with hot tea tasted like they had been recycled from our Christmas visit the year before. No matter how much cream and sugar I dumped into my tea masked the stale taste of these cookies. I loved cookies and ordinarily would never refuse one, except at Aunt Laura’s!

She insisted we open our gifts in front of her. What do you say if you are six and you open a neatly wrapped Christmas present only to find an antique lace collar? During the unwrapping my mother was constantly giving me “the look” that said “don’t you dare throw a fit or say something ugly!” The worst part of this gift exchange was that after Christmas I had to write Aunt Laura a thank you note! You can imagine the struggle my mother had with me to accomplish that. If Aunt Laura was alive today, I would be able to write a true thank you, realizing that even though her gift was totally inappropriate, it came with her love.

Our Father, the Giver of all gifts is the best gift giver. He knows us, and he understands not just what we need, but what we enjoy. I pray this Christmas you will receive all the gifts your Father has for you, coming from His heart of love.

How's Your Sleep?

Did you know that March 16th is World Sleep Day? I don't think it has been designated as an official U.S. holiday, but perhaps it should be. The statistics continue to show that we are a nation (and world) of seriously sleep deprived people.

Sleeping panda

Two thirds of the people in the U.S. don't get enough sleep. 87% of high school students are suffering from lack of sleep. Unfortunately all the research on the benefits of sleep have not been enough to bring radical change to the statistics. Not only are we sleep deprived, but also quite uneducated about sleep. For too long it has been viewed as something primarily for babies and old people. Most of us think we "get enough" sleep, not having any guidelines about what "enough" really means.

Below is a quick Sleep Assessment Questionnaire. As you go through the questions, count up how many True statements you have, and let me know your current number in the comments section! Look out for my next blog, with tips for better sleep...

Maas Robins Alertness Questionaire

These twenty statements help differentiate between well-rested and sleep-deprived individuals. Ready? Answer TRUE or FALSE.

  1. I often need an alarm clock in order to wake up at the appropriate time.

  2. It's often a struggle for me to get out of bed in the morning.

  3. Weekday mornings I often hit the snooze bar several times.

  4. I often feel tired and stressed out during the week.

  5. I often feel moody and irritable, and little things upset me.

  6. I often have trouble concentrating and remembering.

  7. I often feel slow with critical thinking, problem solving, and being creative.

  8. I need caffeine to get going in the morning or make it through the afternoon.

  9. I often wake up craving junk food, sugars, and carbohydrates.

  10. I often fall asleep watching TV.

  11. I often fall asleep in boring meetings or lectures or in warm rooms.

  12. I often fall asleep after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol.

  13. I often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner.

  14. I often fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed.

  15. I often feel drowsy while driving.

  16. I often sleep extra hours on the weekends.

  17. I often need a nap to get through the day.

  18. I have dark circles around my eyes.

  19. I fall asleep easily when watching a movie.

  20. I rely on energy drinks or over-the-counter medications to keep me awake.

Results: If you answered "True" to four or more of these statements, CONSIDER YOURSELF SERIOUSLY SLEEP-DEPRIVED!

Developed by Dr. James B. Maas and Rebecca S. Robbins of Cornell University

Love, Dad ❤

I love Christmas! So much so I leave my tree and inside decorations up all year long. It may sound a bit eccentric but trust me; it saves a lot of work. Plus, I come home to Christmas after every trip.  The only thing lacking is the load of presents under the tree, always a big part of Christmas. I admit, I love the gifts part of Christmas too.

Yes, I was one of those children who drove her parents crazy by discovering the hiding place of the gifts. Knowing in advance did not rob me of the excitement of tearing off the paper to get to the present inside. My mother soon gave up on the fancy wrapping. Why bother? Mother didn't believe in wasting anything so the tag on the gift was always part of one of last year's Christmas cards.

Mother was not only the one who wrapped, but also the one who shopped, based on the long Christmas list I provided from my catalogue shopping. It was always a battle to see who got the first look at the Christmas catalogues. By the time I had gone through them with my red marker it was difficult to see anything on a page because I had circled just about everything.


My father left the bulk of the Christmas preparations to my mother. His Christmas contribution was a small white envelope hidden somewhere in the tree. Not wrapped in fancy paper with a bow, but wrapped in love. Yes, you guessed correctly—there was money in the envelope! He always wrote something on the card and signed it— "Love, Dad." I can still see his handwritten words on the small while note card holding the check.

He is in Heaven celebrating with my mother so there is no white envelope hidden in the tree. But there is this reminder from James that "Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights." (James 1:17) So the truth is that every single gift I open has the words "Love, Dad." written on the card. Each one is a gift from my Heavenly Father.

As you open your presents this Christmas, I pray you will experience the extravagant love of your Father, the Giver of every good gift.

Peace and Joy, Part 1: The Fountain of Joy

Do you need more peace and joy? My answer to that question is a resounding "Yes." I believe I have discovered a key to experiencing more peace and joy. Often the answer to a problem is right under my nose, which is why I may miss it.


Sometimes it is shocking to look back at attitudes I have had in the past on a subject, in this case peace and joy. I remember my constant irritation with a grade-school classmate who skipped onto the bus every morning, overflowing with exuberance, wearing an enormous smile. How could she be so joyful at 7:00 am? What was wrong with her? To me, she was weird. No one else on the bus was like her.   

Searching for the Fountain of Joy  

Now I am on a mission to figure out how to be that fountain of joy, not just at 7:00 am but 24/7. There are books, tapes, seminars, and webinars available to help me live in constant peace and joy. To date, it doesn't appear these products have produced long-lasting positive results. Looking at the history of the early Church, as recorded in the New Testament, I see they demonstrated a level of joy in the midst of difficult times that is worth investigating. What was their secret?

It may be that part of their secret was their focus on just one thing—the Kingdom. Jesus told them to seek first the Kingdom and everything else would be taken care of. (Matthew 6:35) Their steadfast obedience to this command kept them from distractions. 

Another aspect of the power of their focus was they understood the Kingdom was not in the future or somewhere "out there" but was actually within. The enemy tries to put our attention on the external circumstances because he knows the Kingdom is already within us. If he can convince us to focus on the outside, it will hinder us partnering with the power of the Kingdom on the inside. It is a game changer when I realize I already have what I need and want. Selah!