For as long as I can remember, I’ve made use of Advent calendars, historically fancy calendars made from paper, with windows you open daily to view a new verse or picture, leading up to the birth of Jesus. I’ve given those calendars to my niece and nephews, used them with students, etc. If they had glitter on them, all the more festive!

In recent years, I’ve used 3-D wooden calendars whose compartments with doors or drawers hold daily gifts. My first Christmas with my husband, I bought him an LL Bean tree-shaped calendar. The drawers are too small to hold more than a piece of candy and a little gift tag. Thus, that is exactly what I place in them. Each tag tells him where to look for the day’s gift. Some are on or under the tree, some hanging in a doorway (mistletoe!) or on the wall (plaque) and others on a table, stovetop or pillow- or at his office, or the home of a relative. Each gift is selected with care, and not just in December. When we visited Letchworth Park at the peak of fall foliage, for example, I bought him a leaf ornament with the location and year printed on it. Spreading out the acquisition of gifts allows me to put thought into each one and capture memories from throughout the year. It’s also easier on the purse if you acquire gifts over time. I try to bestow gifts which bring pleasure to the various senses… home-baked goods and specialty candies for taste (Bye’s caramel corn with cashews went into a tin nutcracker container this year!); CDs of special Christmas music for hearing; seasonal candles for sight and smell; mistletoe and coupons for adventures for the sense of touch/kinesthetics; personal messages on cards, decorative items, etc. for sight. I try to make or choose gifts which show that I know and love my husband and that I care about what HE likes. I want to let him experience the fact that I value him, that he’s important to me. I also want him to experience the elements of surprise and pleasure as he discovers, opens and enjoys daily gifts during Advent. I try to do some of these things, howbeit not daily, all year long.

God treats me/us in this way. He knows me even more intimately than I know myself. He loves me. He cares about what I like, want and need. He values me. I am important to Him. He loves surprising me and bringing me pleasure! Each of these is true of you as well.

Ever since I surrendered my heart and life to God, I’ve experienced and enjoyed growing intimacy with Him. I have learned that He is a good, GOOD Father, who loves me (and you!) VERY MUCH. I experience His love expressed in various ways…from the words on the pages of His Word to Him surprising me with things that bless my heart! He knows each of us so intimately that He brings us exactly what will communicate His deep knowledge of, and loving care for, you and me.

He does this in both personal and professional areas of my life. In recent months, my colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us! We have seen parents choose to keep their babies rather than abort them and experienced the joyous privilege of seeing those precious babies in ultrasound images. We’ve seen His astounding provision of all our financial needs at Care Net Center of Greater Orleans. We have watched God answer prayers literally before we’ve voiced them, with the answers showing up right after we’ve prayed…obviously set in motion before we prayed with His heart and mind. We have seen so many individuals, churches and organizations bring us beautiful baby clothes, diapers, furniture and more, to help meet the needs of clients we serve. We’ve received not only necessities, but also stylish jackets for moms, boxes of food for those who need them and wonderful books and toys for babies/children. The Gideons have provided us generously with Bibles. We’ve been pleased to see people receive those, receive Jesus into their hearts and lives, and even take Bibles to give to others! It is glorious to watch God meet others’ needs, to experience people’s generosity and to be a part of it.

When I first started working at Care Net, there was a sticker on my bulletin board which reads “I am PRO Abundant Life”! (I am, and I was thrilled to see it expressed that way!) My colleagues and I, marveling aloud together, expressed and affirmed that “Everyone wins!” when you’re walking with God and serving Him. We wondered aloud why anyone would choose not to be in relationship with Him.

Christmas is a great time to take stock of where we are in our relationships with God, and to do what it takes to be as close with Him as possible. Someone once spoke this truth: “You’re as close with God as you want to be.” Thankfully, He wants to be very intimate with you and me!

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