Friday, November 29, 2013

Keeping Christmas Simple

Hey Friend,

The pots, pans and mountain of dishes had been washed and were drying in the sink.  My fiancĂ© and my daughter's boyfriend were already heavy into football.  The turkey's l- tryptophans had settled in and so my son and the two dogs were peacefully dozing with full stomachs.  I had my feet, finally, propped up and was taking in my satisfied brood.  Ahhh, yes, this was Thanksgiving!

About then, my daughter's question cut into the peaceful calm.  "So, are you going to decorate for Christmas tomorrow?" she queried.  Everyone else remained still and calm, but I felt my heart start to flutter.  I could feel the anxiety begin to creep throughout my body.  I'm certain my blood pressure took a sudden leap. "Uhh...well...I don't know...I guess so," I managed.

I was looking for a lifesaver to hold onto my sanity.  Silence.  And then it came to me, "You know, I'm really busy planning my wedding in January," I said as the words started to flow, "and I have various contractors coming to work on the house in December, and your brother is moving back in, and Christmas is just going to have to be really simple this year."  There I said it.  I had my excuse.  Christmas was going to be really simple this year!

Why did I feel like I needed an excuse to keep Christmas simple?  Maybe, because in boxes in my attic, I have the ability to do christmas...or I have the potential to do CHRISTMAS!!!  Though my heart yearns to keep Christmas simple, the world screams for bigger, better, bolder CHRISTMAS!

In reality, I don't need an excuse to lower my blood pressure and keep Christmas simple, if I take my cues from the Christmas story in the Bible.  In Luke 2:1-20, Luke, the wordiest of the disciples, tells the entire Christmas story in twenty verses.  An event that was foretold for centuries, is relayed simply in one portion of one chapter in the whole Bible.

I encourage you to read this passage as we begin the Advent season, as we begin preparing our hearts for Christ's coming.  Take in the simplicity of the setting.  Mary and Joseph were doing the ordinary things of life.  They were going to register for taxes.  Along the way they found refuge in the only place that was not full that night - a cave-like shelter where the animals were kept.  The only warmth was offered by the animals bodies and their breath.  This tiny babe was wrapped in simple cloths and laid to rest on hay in a feeding trough.
The angels first announced His birth to the simplest of men - the shepherds and they offered "Peace". 

Perhaps my favorite line is found in Luke 2: 19, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Mary's response to birthing this God-child, was simple and sincere...she treasured and she pondered.

This Christmas I want to keep Christmas simple, not because I have a ready made excuse, but because I want to take my cues from scripture and like Mary, I want to take time for reflection and to treasure up all these things and ponder them in my heart.

To do this, I will have to be like the salmon swimming upstream against the CHRISTMAS the world wants me to get sucked into.  I will have to be purposeful in making time to treasure and ponder.  I will have to let the simple be good enough...

After all, simple was good enough for Christ...

What are you purposefully doing, or not doing in order to keep Christmas simple?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

In His love,


ps.  All subscribers in November and December will be entered to win prizes as I prepare to celebrate my one year blogging anniversary.  Leave a thought or idea on keeping Christmas simple in the "Comments" section and I will enter your name as well. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Approaching God

Hey Friend,

In tackling this subject, I logically came up with the Who, the How and the What when approaching God.  I have struggled and prayed about being vulnerable enough to share the "What" when I get to that part of my post.  So I ask you gently, in advance, to hold it carefully in your hands.

When I was little I had a love-hate relationship with the movie "The Wizard of Oz".  I hated the wicked witch and the flying monkeys.  I recall burying my face in my mother's shoulder when it came to that part.  I also wondered about the great and powerful Oz.  If he was the giver of good gifts, why was he so intimidating to approach?

I admit that often I have approached God as if he were Oz...I was afraid of God.  Was my God just a bunch of smoke and mirrors like Oz?  I would hear people speak about the God of the Old Testament - the God of fire, floods and plagues.  I gravitated more toward Jesus.  I liked the pictures of Him in my Sunday school stories with little children sitting on His lap.  He was usually smiling or had a peaceful look on His face.  I could relate to Him.

However, Jesus clearly states in John 14:9, "Whoever has seen me has seen the father."  The more I purposefully and intentionally dug into this truth, the more of God I began to see.  The God of the Old Testament was also the God of the parting of the Red Sea, the Passover and countless times He showed mercy to His people Israel.

I am especially drawn to the verses that speak of God as compassionate and filled with loving-kindness.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."  (Jeremiah 31:3)

"For your loving-kindness is before my eyes: and I have walked in your truth."  (Psalm 26:3)

"Every path He guides us on is fragrant with His loving-kindness."  (Psalm 23:10)

God is quick to lavish his mercy, grace and loving-kindness upon us.  These words are a cool drink of water to my parched soul.

How then, do I approach my loving and kind God? 

I am the queen of namby-pamby prayers.  I tend to sheepishly go before God and then I cover all my bases...uh, well God, if it's your will and if you see fit, then well maybe you will answer my prayer.  Pffftt!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  (Ephesians 3:12)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

"Ask and it will be given to you..." (Matthew 7:7).  Sometimes we simply do not ask.

I can just hear God urging me on, "Come on can do it...come boldly before me and bring your prayers with you!" 

So What do I bring before the throne of grace?  Hold this gently.  Of all my prayers, I believe my most earnest plea would be for my son...that God would soften his hardened heart.  I have always said that my greatest desire, as a mother, would be for my children to have a close and personal relationship with their Lord and Savior and that they would walk in His ways. 

I won't go into all the details of how his impressionable heart was hardened, but I come with confidence before God and pray that He would give my son a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone and that When not If my son returns that he would be greeted by my loving arms and the compassionate arms of the Lord.

As I pray for you every morning and every evening, will you pray this for me?

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3)

Will you wait in expectation with me? What prayers do you need to bring boldly before His throne of grace?

In His love,


ps.  Don't forget about the drawing at the end of December for Ann Voskamp's best selling book and the DaySpring mug and coffee for all those who subscribe to my blog.  Be sure to look for the verification email once you subscribe.  No spam; no lists that are sold...promise!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Others Let You Down

Hey Friend,

My twenty five year old daughter is my maid of honor in my upcoming wedding in January.  She is very creative and has a good eye for details, so early on in the planning process I wanted her to come with me to the venue where we are having the ceremony and the reception in order to get her input and ideas.

I had visions of a wonderful bonding experience between mother and daughter.  I had expectations of her oohing and aahing over how beautiful, cozy and inviting it would be.  I wanted her eager ideas and suggestions on how best to create the perfect setting.

What I got was about the complete opposite.  She harshly critiqued everything.  If there was something wrong to be found, she found it.  There was no laughing and smiling and was, in short, a great disappointment.  She had let me down. 

I stewed on this for about two months until I finally had the courage to confront her with my disappointment.  Stewing...bad idea!  Wounds left untreated always tend to fester.  What I had was a major infection.  When I did finally talk with her, she apologized profusely and then shared what I had she was, twenty five, and dreaming as every girl does of her perfect wedding.  And here I was, her middle-aged mother getting to plan two of my own weddings before she even got to plan one of her own.  She owned up to her problem - it was jealousy with a capital "J"!!  After our talking it out there was forgiveness and reconciliation. I also found out that she had been hard at work arranging a lovely bridal shower for me. I didn't know the whole story.

Another thing wrong with this story were my expectations.  How often do we place unrealistic expectations on others, particularly those we love the most, and then are let down when our expectations are not met?  I remember, as a wife, how I often expected my husband to read my moods or my body language - in essence read my mind - and when he failed to do so, I felt let down. 

I have learned, slowly, over the years that other people are not psychic.  They can't read my mind and therefore, cannot possibly read my expectations. 

I have learned to look for the best in others rather than expect the best.

Great expectations are usually a recipe for disaster.  Besides, the Bible tells us that everyone, even our closest family members, will fail, forsake or let us down at some point. They may do it intentionally or unintentionally, but it WILL happen.  There is only One who will never let us down.

I will never leave you nor forsake you.  (Hebrews 13:5)

There are two stories in the Bible that stand out to me as to how we should handle it when others let us down.  It may not be easy, but God promises blessings if we do it His way.

In 2 Timothy 4:16-17, Paul is speaking at his court hearing, "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  And I was delivered from the lion's mouth."

Notice what Paul says when all of his best friends deserted him..."May it not be held against them."  Notice the blessing that followed when he obeyed God's command to not hold it against them -  the Lord stood at his side and gave him strength and he was delivered from the lion's mouth.

In the book of Genesis, the writer tells the story of Joseph who was basically sold into a life of slavery by his jealous brothers.  Talk about being let down by those you love.  What is Joseph's reaction when he encounters his brothers years later when he is in a position of great power?  In Genesis 45, he forgives his brothers.  Furthermore, in Genesis 50 he goes one step further; he reassures his brothers.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..."  (Genesis 50:19-21).

When others let us down, we need to realize and trust that God is in control and will use every situation, even the really devastating ones, for our good!

One last thought on this topic...realize that when someone lets you down, there is very likely something going on in their life.  The reasons people let other people down are many: jealousy, selfishness, greed, anger, immaturity, hurt and in general, our sinful nature.  I've heard it said that hurt people hurt people. 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  (Matthew 5:43-44).

That's a tough one - pray for those who persecute you.  You don't know what is going on in their life, so God calls us to lay our enemies on the altar before Him. 

Will you pray with me?  Lord, so many times I have let you down.  Please help me to forgive ____________ who has let me down.  I release my hurt and disappointment to you as I lay them before you at your altar. Bless them and keep them.  In Jesus name...Amen.

In His love,


ps.  Don't forget to subscribe to my weekly blog.  Winners will be chosen to receive the best seller by Ann Voskamp "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are" and a DaySpring coffee mug and coffee.  When you subscribe you will receive a "verification email request".  Be sure to click the link in the verification email you receive in order to activate your subscription. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankfulness Is Good Medicine

Hey Friend,

May I bend your ear for a moment?  This has been an extremely stressful week for me.  I've had to deal with some things that no parent should have to deal with.  I am weak, weary and worn.  This was also the week that my daughter threw a surprise wedding shower for me.  It was a delightfully perfect evening.  I felt such an outpouring of love that I will treasure, always, in my heart.

So where do I choose to "hang my hat"?  Focusing on how life and circumstances depleted me, or on how the love of my daughter and friends filled me up?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

When I was young and my mother would try to give me cough medicine (yes, the yucky thick red stuff), I could bob, dodge and weave like a champion prize fighter.  When the medicine hit its mark, then I would cough and choke on it.  Was this really good medicine?

Thankfulness is a lot like good medicine.  Sometimes we may cough and choke on it, but we need to do it anyway.

God calls us to be thankful, not because He needs the thanks, but because He knows it is truly good for us.  God is not a glory seeker.  He is perfectly sufficient without us.  In other words, He doesn't need our thanks, but He knows that we need to give thanks.  It is hard to be miserable while giving thanks.  Thanksgiving and giving praise can override whatever state we happen to be in at the time.  This is just another example of how God's heart is always truly loving toward us!

In everything give thanks.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.  (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Too often we, at least I, focus on what we don't have versus what we do have.
Really, if we received no other gift, but the gift of eternal life with our Father in Heaven, we should be endlessly thankful!  All the other blessings are like the cherry on top.

Sometimes, I think that I can't give thanks until I am in a thankful mood.  Instead, I need to just choose to say, "thank you".  I don't wait for my emotions to change.  In fact, the obedient act of choosing to give thanks, can change how we feel.

Studies show that if you write down five things a day that you are grateful for, you feel 25% happier.

Ann Voskamp, in her book "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are" says, "Stress decreases by half - simply by multiplying our thanks.  Why in the world don't we do this?"

We can thank God with more than mere words...we can thank Him by "paying it forward" and doing a good deed for someone else and then thank God for giving us the ability to do so.  We can thank Him in word, deed, song and even dance.  Confession time...I used to be a dancer and so often I put on praise music and dance around my kitchen as a way of saying thank you to my loving God. (It also gives the neighbors something to talk about).

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:17)

This is why God calls us over and over again to give thanks.  He is loving, kind, compassionate and abundantly good to us.  He knows that when we give thanks it is truly good medicine and we are blessed because of it. He also deserves our thanks!! 

What, during this season of giving thanks, are you thankful for?  Will you share it with God and be blessed?

In His love,


ps. Just a reminder that I will be giving away a copy of Ann's book mentioned above as well as a DaySpring coffee mug with Isaiah 40:31.  If you subscribe to my blog in Nov/Dec I will pick one blessed winner from those who subscribe.  Also I still pray for all readers of my blog, morning and night, and I truly give thanks for you!  You are loved!