I was visiting with a dear friend at the YMCA early this year when the topic of rest came up. She was telling me how the winter season just makes her want to slow down. She wants to hibernate and be cozy with books. Aside from making me sleepy due to the cloudy skies and stir-crazy because of the cold days, winter does not have that effect on me at all. She contended that maybe this season is for us to really rest because when else do we rest. Spring, summer, and fall are such busy seasons. Winter is just about the only time we get to press pause.
It made me start to consider the idea of rest and what it means to me. Do I ever get any true rest?? I have tried to purposely rest and found my mind spinning many times. I have experimented this year by getting prepared for a Sunday rest. I decided to double cooking in the crock-pot, so I only have to cook one meal (I really enjoyed it BTW).
And I also decided something a bit crazy. Despite having started my blog and having a lofty 2018 goal of posting once per week, I decided to can the goal and wait until I am hearing from the Lord to write. I canned all 2018 goals for more general topics of interest. Instead of spending time creatively coming up with blog topics, I’m just waiting to have ideas delivered to me. Fortunately, I got some rest from the Lord when I handed my blog project over to him.
The true rest is in God. A rest from the world is nearly impossible, especially with kids involved. If the works of the world don’t fall to me they will fall to someone else inevitably. No one magically came to do the dishes on Sundays when I double cook!
I happened upon this bible verse in my study time recently. And I wasn’t specifically studying rest. Don’t you love when that happens?
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
God is speaking to Israel and he is telling them where their faults lie, what they have been doing, and what he is prepared to do for them.
Other versions use “returning” instead of “repentance” and the Amplified version modifies trust with the word “confident”. Confident trust.
How many times am I just spinning on my own, trying to do my good deeds, and please God? How many times am I truly repentant and resting in his mercy, unable to offer much? Which one am I more comfortable with?
Recently, I have truly meditated on this verse. I have chewed on it and pondered it daily. When I have things to repent of I can condemn myself and then busy myself with tasks to “make up” for my sins. But instead recently I have chosen to repent and rest. And I’ll be honest, it has been quite awkward.
You see, God is the one who saves. We are the ones who repent. It is not our job to work our way to heaven. We are fortunately on the receiving end of the biggest and best gift ever given. And our job is to simply return to him and rest with it in our hands.
Being quiet is difficult when the world around us is loud. And trusting is difficult when the world around us says “Solve the problem!!!” There are many squeaky wheels out there begging for a fix.
The solution to a lot of our problems is repentance. The solution to a lot of our problems is rest. The solution to a lot of our problems is quietness and trust.
Keep messing up in life? Repent and confidently trust Him.
Feel overwhelmed and burdened, busy and burnout? Rest and be quiet in him.
I could keep going on and on couldn’t I? I feel like this is the back of a shampoo bottle.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
Repent, rest, quietly confidently trust.
Jesus echos the verse in Isaiah when he speaks to his disciples in Matthew 11:28-30 , “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
Let’s keep coming back to him when we are weary and burdened, when we deeply need rest. But even more, let’s come to him daily, minute by minute. Even when we think we’ve got it all handled. Let’s come to him and learn from him. Let’s be lead by his easy and light yoke.
It’s nice to be back in the blogosphere again. I took off a few weeks after Christmastime to regroup and re-prioritize life. I got back on track regarding food after eating baklava for breakfast a few days in a row and overeating in general during break. It was a treat and oh so yummy. But there were a few more inches on my waist than I would have liked there to be, not to mention I was feeling sluggish. Spiritually speaking, I was needing to really seek out the Lord’s will and so I made a time of fasting, study, and prayer. As I expected, I renewed my mind and received some revelation. Plus I’m down some pounds and feeling more energetic.
I tackled a lot of to-dos when we got back. I got all of our check-ups planned out for this year- 2 dental visits and a check up for 7 people means you have MANY appointments. Then, we mused about where we might like to go on vacation for this year. So, we settled on the Ark Encounter, Creation Museum, and Horse Park in Kentucky for spring break. Lord willing, I will make a trip to Washington D.C. with Autie in April to check out the sights and see to Joyce Meyer teach a conference. In June, I’ll be making a hiking trip with my mom, aunt, and the Dawn to Hike Inn near Amicalola falls in the summer. Then, I figured out what topics I was going to pursue in my continuing education hours for nursing this year. I also dropped a part time business that I was not loving anymore. It’s so nice to get things straightened up. Last year, I was in no state to do such things. We were in a crisis mode that lasted for months and months. I’m so thankful that the Lord provided a way for us.
We ended up being sick a few weeks during Christmas and then the week following New Years. That is never any fun. It stinks to feel isolated when you are quarantining yourself from others and it’s below 20 degrees outside. The first week that we were back to school we ended up having something to do every evening of the week and miraculously everything got cancelled so that I could have a full blown sinus infection (the kind where your head feels like it is going to pop off). Then the next week with a fairly normal schedule and some breathing room there were snow days and a course of anti-biotics for myself.
So this week, all is well (for the moment) and I am thankful. The gutters are going back on after the December snow. Various parts of my house are clean. And it’s laundry day. I caught myself getting stressed out around lunch time when I was managing the barking dog, the gutter men, dentist appointment, laundry, feeding people, and then getting school done. Then I remembered for a minute what I told someone just yesterday. Give yourself some Grace.
I had an opportunity to visit with a lady last night who is going through a similar crisis season that I have had to deal with in the past. We have been connected just since Christmas and I am so thankful that I am now able to comfort another Mom with the comfort with which I was comforted. When she was telling me last night that her homelife had taken 10 steps back and things weren’t getting done like she expected, I reminded her that she is in a special season right now (something I’ve had to hear from others in the past). Yes, it’s crisis from day to day and there are still things that need to get done. The key is in prioritizing and giving yourself Grace. Keeping your eyes on the Lord when difficult seasons come will make or break you. Giving yourself grace will make or break you. I’ve been both made and broken at times.
The word crisis originates from the Greek word krisis meaning a testing or judgement. We enter into crisis periods in our own lives where we have a chance to use faith and trust as Jesus teaches or go for our own “man made” solutions (I’ll try harder, I’ll brainstorm, I’ll google it).
I think that Moms in general have difficulty with this topic. Being a home-manager and teacher-at-home right now, it feels like I work for myself. I keep my hours and my expectations and am constantly revisiting my goals. When I fail, I am my worst critic.
Many people know the bible verse Romans 3:23, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (WEB). But have you ever paid attention to the rest of the sentence?? We can quote bits and pieces of scripture here and there but really applying the message in context is where we find the meaning. Here it is in context:
“But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God’s forbearance; to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26 WEB
**Now we are looking at Romans 3:23 and the sentence it belongs in. Plus a sentence before and a sentence after.
So, all have sinned yes. But pay attention, this is the good part: All are “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” You are justified freely by God’s grace. You are made right by God’s grace. You are righteous by Faith in Jesus Christ.
You aren’t righteous by your to-do list. Not your done list either. None of the lists make you righteous. You are made right by Faith and FREELY by Grace.
If God is going to give you so much grace while you were in the muck and mire can you give yourself some Grace this year? Can you not beat yourself up about goals that you haven’t met yet? Laundry and dishes piled up because you are sick? Messed up schedules because of weather? Things are going to come at you, it’s inevitable. Somethings this year might be devastating others might be plain annoying. It’s what you do in the times of trail that will matter most. Did you yell, scream, pout? Did you use your self-control, keep your faith, and pray?
“Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.” Romans 5: 1-9
God doesn’t send the yucky stuff our way. Suffering is a part of living in a fallen world. Yet, He provides for us a way to live through Him and to rejoice. He provides a way for our suffering to be made into perseverance, then character, and lastly hope. Hope won’t disappoint!
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. “ Isaiah 30:18 NRSV
Say it with me!!!
“This year I will open myself up to His grace. I will be ready for Him to rise up to the occasion no matter what situation comes to me. I will remember that I hope in Him and that I stand justified in His eyes because of Jesus.”
Well, today sure was a day. So many near misses, mishaps, and an overwhelming amount of things to be thankful for.
Rewind to last night, we were able to hit the hay around 11 P.M., which is a great record Santa-ing time in our house. Baby girl had a fever yesterday and her nose is running like a faucet today.
J and I woke up at 6 o’clock and we were able to watch the documentary The Star of Bethlehem before the kids came down at 7:30. Before we started our stocking adventure, I put a quick crescent roll breakfast casserole in the oven- my usual standby is cereal. But we were out. The oven I pre-heated for the casserole in had a large spill of a cookie cake that an unnamed child burned last night (Jesus’ birthday cookie cake). So, smoke was billowing out of it and we had to open the doors of the house and turn the fan on to get the smoke out.
So, I baked the casserole in the other oven and set a timer. We started the stocking opening time and I didn’t hear the timer go off. Until, I started to smell it. I had overcooked the casserole and then noticed that I had forgotten the cheese. So, I put cheese over the top of it and left it in the oven for a minute-it was more than a minute-leaving the cheese overdone too.
All of these things, I took with a chuckle. I passed the hot cocoa out (who needs breakfast right) and chopped up some apples to offer to the littles who were eating their stocking candy already.
Then it came time for presents. It was so much fun to see the humorous Dollar Tree gifts that the littles had picked out for everyone. Some were quite fitting, others not so much. Our oldest daughter received a much desired Ipod Touch. It was a gift that I have had ready for her for some time, but she had not been able to receive it with grace yet. And the time had finally come. I’m thankful that she was able to receive it this year. It is a dinosaur of a device and she won’t even be able to download apps on it, just her music, because the operating system is so old. Even so, she was thankful.
It was then I realized that my bedroom was very chilly, the fire in the living room was keeping us very toasty. I made a visit to the thermostat and it showed that the the furnace was not keeping up. Hmm…
So, J made a trip to the attic and outside to do an investigation and came back with a part in his hand. “Here’s the culprit”, he says. Thank goodness we have bundles of firewood, two fireplaces and a gas heater. We will be warm in some of the rooms today, just not in the whole house.
Then someone got a black eye after being pushed into a play table by another someone. I started to be frustrated and hangry. Discipline and icepacks were dished out and we were on to our traditional sushi Christmas dinner. It’s 4 o’clock now and I am so thankful for Grace, fans, multiple ovens, firewood, fireplaces, engineers, and icepacks.
I wonder to myself what hiccups went on at the stable scene on Christmas day. Mary, a young hardly-woman was giving birth for the first time in a stable more than likely away from family. Was there a female in the town who helped tend to her or did she and Joseph manage alone? Did she ruin her clothes with blood and birth fluid? Did the stable smell make her nauseous during labor? Where did she find the cloths to swaddle Jesus in? Was it too cold? Was there wood for a fire? What did she think when the Shepherds showed up to the scene? Was everything just perfect that day or did she handle all of the mishaps with Grace? Or did she, like me, handle some with Grace and a chuckle but others with frustration just like me?
We’ll never know exactly what she was like because so little of her words are recorded, however, we do know her song. It is declaration of devotion to her Lord before Jesus was born. It’s a song that acknowledges her praise to God’s glory and providence.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
We know it couldn’t have been all peachy for Mary that Christmas day. She suffered in birth and she suffered in her first-born’s death. She was present at his crucifixion, the time that he fulfilled the purpose. She knew before his birth that he would save us from our sins. She saw him maimed and disfigured from beatings and strung up on the tree like a criminal. She saw him take his first breath of fresh air in that stable and she saw him breathe his last on the cross.
Praise be to God, that she also was a witness to his resurrection. She was able to see his glorified body and witness the comforter, the Holy Spirit, come to reside within. She saw the miracles, the conversions. And in the end, she entered into an eternal rest with her son and her Savior. Romans 8 lays out the plan that she was a part in. Read it in light of her obedience.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[j] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are you into Christmas presents or Christmas presence?? It’s a little bit of both over here at the Enoch Homestead.
I love to watch the children tear into presents on Christmas day. But I’ve realized, especially with the little ones, that it doesn’t matter what the monetary value of a present is when they open it up. The cost of the present does not change the smile of surprise on their face. And unfortunately, whether you have purchased it at Target, Walmart, or the Dollar Tree, the toy will almost inevitably end up broken, lost, or forgotten at the bottom of a toy box.
Knowing these things does not change my desire to give my children good gifts but it increases the wisdom with which I use while shopping for the holidays.
And of course this year, I’m longing for a greater simplicity and needing a smaller Christmas cost than usual. I’ve been singing “I’m dreaming of a Dollar Tree Christmas” for a while now. What’s awesome is, I’ve managed to spend wisely and make it fun. I usually pick up little things here and there starting in August. However, we are not finished with the present list, but we are planning to make a trip to Dollar Tree in the next few days. Each kid will have the task of finding the best Dollar Tree present for each other. The secrecy and conniving of each kid as they do their best to sneak around the store unnoticed and then make it home to the wrapping paper before anyone sees them is going to be awesome. My kids just love the Dollar Tree. And I just love hanging out watching them in action.
It’s also funny how each year I’ve purposefully downsized Christmas. Our first year with children was incredible. We stayed up till almost midnight assembling toys. They extended beyond the Christmas tree at least 4-6 feet. I woke up grumpy. Of course the children were amazed and overwhelmed. There were too many toys to even play with. The next was less and then less and then less. But it doesn’t change the excitement on their faces when they have 3 instead of 10-20 toys to play with Christmas morning.
And of course, the more simple that I make Christmas the more generous that I see my family being. We were overtaken with Amazon boxes from Santa Les (my brother) and Nana Claus came on her red sleigh (RAV 4) this week with bags of goodies. I stepped back from trying to make everyone of my children’s wishes come true this Christmas. But what is amazing, is that my stepping back, created space for others to give good gifts to them-willingly and genuinely.
Then I question: Do we even need the Dollar Tree extravaganza? Well, yes and no. No, we don’t need any more things. But yes, they need to think about someone else’s wishes for a little while and enjoy the spirit of giving and the thrill of surprise. They need to pour their little energy into crudely wrapping a gift in a box or fluffing the tissue paper in a bag. They need to have their little hands guided to spell their brother or sister’s name. They need to wait in expectation as someone opens their gift and have a sense of satisfaction when it is well received. It is for these reasons that we will have presents.
What about Christmas Presence? Definitely.
I love visiting family over the holidays. I like the sleepy nothing-to-do mornings and the chilly walks outside. I love how my mom has come to visit for 5 whole days. We barely have an itinerary and we have enjoyed our long talks over coffee, tea, or eggnog.
I absolutely love Christmas events. More so now than ever. With little eyes that sparkle with amazement when we see something new and exciting. We went to a Christmas orchestral concert this past weekend. It was beautiful. The littles made it through about 30 minutes before we handed them over to the childcare and enjoyed the rest of the concert in silence. But in those 30 minutes, they marveled at all the music and melody that was coming from each of those instruments and the large choir. Especially because we had been listening to an instrumental Christmas music CD in the car and the tunes were familiar. It was so fun to share that event with them.
There is a little town north of us, which has a small driving Christmas light tour. We drove through it 4 times and they were still begging for more. Each time we drove through there was something new to see. We drove through a live nativity that even had a camel in it. The kids “ooo’d and aahhh’d” too.
I also love Christmas cookies. There was one year where we had cookies for dinner. I enjoy making little batches here and there and especially on Christmas eve. And of course, the live action Nativity Story. It’s a beautiful movie and a Christmas Eve tradition of ours.
What’s great is when there is a balance of Christmas activities. We planned a few choice concerts and events here and there but for the most part are just chilling this week. It’s so easy to turn the time before Christmas into a frantic, rushed time where there are so many lists and so little eye contact. I can turn cookies into obligatory bake-a-thons. I can turn a Dollar Tree extravaganza into a grab-and-go get-a-thon. Or I can chill out a little bit and wander into the holiday season. We can site-see and marvel and smile. For these reasons we will have lots of together time and activities. If they drain me, I will avoid them. If they are a good fit and energize and uplift we will enjoy ourselves together..
So presents or presence? There is a good mix of both if we are to have a balanced celebration. To remember the “reason for the season” we need to remember. The Bible shows us that Jesus’ birth had a mixture of presents and presence too.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-10 NASB
The Bible recalls the Shepherds visiting the infant Jesus in Bethlehem after being told by angels concerning him. The Bible does not mention that they gave him any gifts but that they came to visit and acknowledge his entrance into the world. Then they spread the news about him. Being shepherds, they probably didn’t have much to give him anyways. They lived in the fields. They gave him the gift of presence.
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12 NASB
The wise men or Magi gave gifts. They had carried these precious things with them from far away just for the new family of 3. Their gifts had meaning and were important to the family. They would see them through their years in Egypt, living in a foreign land without family or reputation.
So, you can see. That the Christmas story has much to do with presents and presence. In the end, we see the presence of God in Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place among us.” John 1:14 NASB
Praise God today that he is the giver of great gifts (James 1:17).
Praise Him because He sent his Son, in the flesh, to share in humanity with us. He was be willing to make himself small and BE with us. Then in selfless sacrifice, He offered himself as payment for the sins that separate us from God.
Praise God that he will be Emmanuel ,with us, and ever-present, for where we are there he is (Matthew 18:20).
In general, I love the holidays. It’s not decorating, or event planning, or gift giving that I love so much, but spending quality time as a family is what I love the most. After Thanksgiving, I have the hardest time doing anything but fun. So, it is a trying time to fit school in, in between the parties and exciting events that are planned. Come December 1st, after Thanksgiving has been given its proper time of celebration, I am ready to be in the Christmas spirit. Our Christmas tree is Charlie Brown-esque. It’s packed with elementary craft decorations that do not coordinate-but I love it. And it reminds me of the variety of my children. The lights are basic but they are warm and inviting. It’s doing things together that makes it so much fun. We’ve already taken the kids to a lights show, a Christmas performance, and a live nativity. What is great is that I am having a good time too this year, not just the kids.
Christmas is a time of spiritual renewal and excitement for me. I’m often on the verge of tears considering Jesus’ birth and it makes me so emotional. I am enjoying an Advent devotional by Ann Voskamp right now. I happened upon it in a stack of free books at the church where my homeschool group meets.
This is a quote from her devotional by Stuart Briscoe:
“The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world”
The Holy Spirit is cultivating a stillness and peace in my heart and mind even though there has been plenty of turmoil and change in my life recently. For this reason, I’ve neglected to post for about 2 weeks. Since then, I’ve been contemplating Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. A good friend directed me to this book at one of our recent spontaneous prayer and bible study sessions at the YMCA.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
I am pondering how to maintain joy in my life, and enjoy my toil at the same time.
This time of year especially I’m yearning to simplify things. Maybe I just want to simplify the little bit that I actually have control of. Christmas inevitably brings loads of items into the house. So, I’ve got the kids doing a “one toy a day” giveaway until Christmas. Do some quick math and almost 100 items will be exiting my house. Joy!!!
I’m also in a season of adjustment. My youngest boy was diagnosed allergic to dust mites, dogs, and cats 2 weeks ago. So it’s changing the way he interacts with the outside dog (that he loves), I’m trying to get rid of his allergic rash from the dog and see if I can keep it at bay. I’ve also been learning about dust mites. I’ve figured out where they are and what to do with them. I now have to find and extinguish. So now I have new loads of laundry each week to do not to mention dusting. I’m on load 8 as of 4:30pm.
I’m in a new season with my book publishing excitement; I am down the the hard part of marketing now. Which to me is the most uncomfortable salesy part and the least exciting. It was a blessing to have a large amount of people read the book in the first few days. Now it is time to put the book into the hands of people who will be helped by it. So, I will begin this in the new year and until then I will be doing a lot of relaxing. It is encouraging to see people still reading my devotional daily via Kindle Unlimited and I can keep track of their views. The book has opened new avenues for me to minister to others, but also for me to form new friendships and partnerships.
Seasonally, we are approaching winter. It was a wonderful early December surprise when we had about 6 inches of snow at our house this past weekend. The snow was really beautiful. It was deep and the wind was quiet. It was perfect to play in. The littles played for hours outside. I prepared for a power outage and thankfully there was none. But we did lose the back half of the gutters on our house due to the heavy weight of the snow. And our deductible is $1000. Gulp…
I’ve been working on intentionally seeing the beauty and blessings in all things. I catch myself complaining about things and I immediately go to finding things that I can be thankful for. I won’t make a list for you. But family and friends have really come through for me as of late. They have been there for me in numerous trials. Little bits of love are just shining in my life right now. I have met new friends who are loving on me and my family. As my community grows, I’m seeing that the church is so much bigger than I have previously understood it to be. God’s grace is becoming so evident to me in all the little circumstances in life: keys locked in the car, lulls in my schedule, special conversations. I’m at a place where I am peacefully walking knowing that He is in step with me and I am in step with Him. I can’t quite describe it but I pray this is a season that lasts a long long time. Maybe there is something new and amazing around the corner, maybe not. Whatever may come, it is nice to be at a season of resting and peace in my soul.
What do you do to help yourself be at peace despite the hustle and bustle of the holidays?
Having never written a book before, I did not know how deep and personal I was going to get with my audience. I made what is called a mind map and wrote out one or two word prompts for the big ticket items that made up my foster care experience. You can read my devotional here. There was a very important thing that happen to me that I just wasn’t willing to make public. Granted, this story is not a secret. I told it publicly at my girls adoption ceremony in 2011 and have told it to select friends. But the story is deeply personal and I didn’t feel up to sharing it in the book.
Dealing with the “system” is difficult and the goal as a foster parent is to serve the children in need. It’s difficult to do this and keep our minds on Christ during this time. I had what I would call a “God moment” before we got our girls. It was big when it happened. But as time went on, I would forget about it and enter into a state of doubt and overwhelm when faced with the different aspects of foster care.
Of course, when we shared it at our adoption ceremony, God was on our hearts and in our minds. We were so thankful and hopeful and ready to start our life together as a family. Once again, as time went on, this story fell from the forefront of my mind. At a very low and pitiful moment in the last year, I shared my doubts and overwhelm at the situation of our oldest daughter to a group of sisters at a Bible study. One friend, who had been to our ceremony and remembered my story, hugged me close and told me that God had put me with them and that I had what I needed to take care of my child. She reminded me of the story that i had forgotten as I was so bogged down in the present and defeated. Since that moment, I have reminded myself of this story and used it to persevere through my trials.
I was winding down a road in my subdivision in the summer of 2011 when I heard on the radio a very unfortunate story about a local murder case involving a young child. Just hearing it pricked my heart and I started crying out to God. I was praying, “Lord, here I am wanting to help children who are needing homes. God, if you would give me children, I would love them so much and take care of them.
Fast forward two weeks. I get a call from our child placement agency while I am in my car. The first words from her mouth about the children were, “You might have already heard a little bit about their story, it’s been in the news.” I knew that exact moment who they were and tears filled my eyes. I pulled over to talk to her on the phone. I got to know their ages and my husband got on the phone with me to give his “Yes” also. We were on our way to welcoming the girls into our life.
I did not know that these girls existed when I called out to God that day in the car. There was nothing about them on the radio story. I’m not sure how it all works spiritually speaking but I think God knew that he was giving them to me. My spirit knew that I was receiving them. I made a space for them in my heart that summer’s day. Two weeks later, with God’s intervention, we made a space for them in our home. This “God moment” I like to call it, is a sign of providence and his hand in our lives. It spurs me on to continue to parent them as I was chosen to do, when I know without a doubt that they were meant to be with me. The scripture Romans 8:26-28 (NRSV) agrees with this principal.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
I hope that this encourages you. I know that you have God moments in your life too. I’d love for you to share them with me.
God is making moves in our lives all the time. He is touching us and anointing us for special things when we are ready to receive the call. I learned most importantly in the last year or two, to remember his calling on our lives. If we do remember, it will spur us onto great things. It will encourage us when we are feeling defeated; it will strengthen us when we are down.
“I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.” Psalm 77:11-14
It’s difficult when you are in the thick of your problems to forget how far you have come. Praise the Lord today for his goodness. Pray for a remembrance of the times that he has shown himself in your life, the times he has pulled through, and the great joy you have experienced in the past. Hope expectantly today for a breakthrough in the issues that you are experiencing, the sanctification you are needing, and the change you are desiring. God will provide a way.
It’s been almost a week since my devotional was published and what an exciting week it was. If you have read it and haven’t left a review yet, leave one here. It will help other foster parents find it and be uplifted.
I have already heard back from a handful of people about how much they have enjoying the book and it is very encouraging to me.
I love to read and if I am enjoying the book that I am reading, I really love to devour it. I would encourage you, however, that if you often devour books, that you eat the devotional as you would an elephant- one bite at a time. Let the scriptures soak into your soul and spirit. Watch as the truths manifest in your life by giving you joy and peace, that can only come from God.
You can get the book here. I have lowered the price to $2.99 this week.
I wrote the book over a period of a few months. During my little kids “quiet time” and my big girls’ “free time”, I would sit down in my recliner and study my bible. Then I would open up my laptop and get to writing. I’d spend a time writing down the memorable stories from my foster care journey- the tough times and then the happy times. One by one, I would relive the moments. I would put myself in that place and uncover old emotions and right the wrongs that I felt in my life.
I was also ministering to myself through the Word as I tackled the troubled situations that I am experiencing in my family. I was coming to terms with a decision made years ago, to love hurting children. I am still committed to loving hurting children, even more so now than ever, I am realizing that the first step of fostering was a big step, however, choosing to continue in daily love and commitment to these children is what carries me further in my ministry and faith. Living life and loving life with peace and victory instead of fear and defeat is my goal.
I want to get upfront real quickly and let you know that my life is not perfect. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139) but not a spiritual superstar. The past year or two have been difficult for our family; we have had difficult circumstances and difficult decisions to make. Our oldest girl (13) whom we adopted and have been with for 6 years, has had severe mental, emotional, and social struggles. This has impacted our family tremendously. I won’t get into the gory details but needless to say, it left us feeling like our world was turned upside down. I questioned everything: myself, my decisions, and even the character of God.
I never doubted His love, but I doubted His plan, His sovereignty, His promises. I was so confused- “Why was this happening to our family?” It left me topsy-turvy and literally sick at times. Luckily, I received healing spiritually and physically after getting back on track and digging into the Truth of His Word. I was approaching these circumstances all wrong. As I studied God’s truths I discovered the lies that I had been believing. I realized that I had made the correct decisions for my family the whole time. I needed to live by faith and continue on in this ministry- with the joy and peace of God. Jesus promised to give us his peace and that we could have abundance. It’s up to us to use this peace in our lives.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27 NRSV
I know that you have probably had the wind knocked out of your sails on more than one occasion. Problems in life can leave you feeling defeated, miserable, and lonely- we need to be reminded that we can weather the storms with Jesus’ peace.
All of the issues in our family right now are not solved. Week after week there are hiccups and bumps in the road. Now, I am learning how to whether the storm- not by simply hanging on in the storm, suffering with my eyes closed, because I can’t bear it. But now I am opening my eyes and looking to God, seeing the storm in my mind, and commanding it to be calmed. I’m praying for God and his ministers to calm the storm in my daughter’s life also. We are learning better ways to parent her and ways to set boundaries for our family’s sake.
I hope you will find comfort and peace in this message. Next week, I will tell you a story that didn’t make the book. It will help you to get to know my story even better. Until then, I will leave you with this scripture:
“For this reason, since the day we heard it (of the church’s new Faith), we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’swill in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Apostle Paul to the Church at Colossae (Colossians 1:9-14 NRSV)