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Accepting the message

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'If the fortune is wrong, don't eat the cookie.' I've been mulling that over all week.

Jaymie Stuart
Wolfe

Our daughter Juliana loves -- and I mean loves -- quotes. She collects meaningful words about all kinds of themes, and often posts them online or writes them on binders, school notebooks, and scraps of paper. It's not unusual to find one around. And frequently, they give me just the message of hope, perseverance, courage, and support I need.

It's not surprising that someone who loves words that inspire also saves the fortunes she gets in fortune cookies. (Although I think that family practice began with one of Juliana's older sisters.) I'm not sure how many of these have been stashed in a drawer, an under-the-bed storage box, or purse over the years. But since my mom likes to bring a bag of fortune cookies home from the grocery store to go along with an Asian style stir-fry dinner, it isn't hard to build a nice collection of fortunes pretty quickly.

Last week, when we passed the cookies around at the dinner table, Juliana wasn't too pleased with what she found inside. Without skipping a beat, she broke it in pieces, set it aside and cracked open another cookie -- and another -- until she got a fortune that sat well with her. It was silly and fun in all the ways family life should be.

But in the midst of the laughter and the mounting pile of broken cookie fragments, Juliana said something that was more interesting and thought provoking than anything we've ever found in a dubiously "Chinese" cookie. She said, "If the fortune is wrong, don't eat the cookie." Of course, a protocol of what to do with unwanted or inaccurate fortunes developed on the spot. And another bit of Wolfe family sub-culture was born.

"If the fortune is wrong, don't eat the cookie." I've been mulling that over all week. Yes, there have been plenty of times I haven't "eaten" what I didn't like, and reached back into life for another, more "acceptable" cookie. But I've also accepted my share of "wrong" fortunes; things that led me away or astray, things that are poor substitutes for or imitations of what God meant them to be. I've stashed more than a few of them along the way.

And now another Christmas fast approaches and the door to another year begins to open. No doubt that some of us will savor what the past 12 months have meant to us, and others will be glad to relegate 2014 to the past. I think I will look at all the little messages I chose to discard along with the fragments of cookies I chose not to eat. But I'll also take a long hard look at the messages I willingly received, tasted, and even treasured.

The great mystery of a living and personal faith in Jesus Christ lies in what is accepted and rejected. That is often more complicated than it looks. God accepts me, but I often reject the notion that he does. God asks me to accept him, but when I think I have, I discover yet another level of my being that has not. God rejects my sinfulness. But I often rationalize and justify my sin because I keep looking for a way to accept it. God accepts the sins I give to him in humility, but I refuse to do so because underneath it I have rejected the idea that God is love.

The message we really need will not be found in a fortune cookie. It is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We do not have to travel like the Magi to find it, for Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The first chapter of John's Gospel tells us how God sees things. "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." But John also tells us that "he was in the world... yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him...he gave power to become children of God...." Lord, help me to accept you, to reject all that is not of you, and give me the grace to know the difference.

JAYMIE STUART WOLFE IS A WIFE AND MOTHER OF EIGHT CHILDREN, AND A DISCIPLE OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES. SHE IS AN INSPIRATIONAL AUTHOR, SPEAKER, MUSICIAN AND SERVES AS AN ASSOCIATE CHILDREN'S EDITOR AT PAULINE BOOKS AND MEDIA.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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