Valentine’s Victories

A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged when I received some not-so-great feedback on a writing project. My writing coach thought I could do a better job. I was rather disheartened until a friend popped into my office unexpectedly and encouraged me.

So imagine my relief on Monday of this week when I received positive feedback instead! I had revised the same material from before and my writing coach was pleased with the improvements.

As we talked, I explained how frustrated I was previously and how difficult this task had been for me. We discussed how our most challenging work often happens to be the most important.

Sometimes the ‘edits’ are easy—like grammar and punctuation—and don’t affect the overall content. But other times, the edits are tough. Content revisions are more important structurally, and in my case, lay the foundation for the next round.

There will be a bigger payoff later if I do the hard work now.

As I realized the significance of the work I had done, I was excited. I had pushed through this perceived setback, and to me, it felt like a breakthrough.

The victory made we want to celebrate! Soo, on a whim, I decided to go to the movies!

On my way to the theater, I praised God for the writing victory and thanked Him for the movie, too. It almost felt like a Valentine’s date because God blessed me so much that day.

I used a gift certificate to buy my ticket and also bought a kid-sized popcorn (not wanting to over-do it!). I even shared some “snack cash” coupons with the couple in front of me.

I watched ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I’m so glad I did!

The movie was fabulous and I highly recommend it! The music (soundtrack) was also so inspiring. Without giving too much away, I loved the overall message about being yourself and appreciating each other’s differences. It makes you consider what is really important.

Most—if not all—of us have felt like we don’t belong at times. There are days when we struggle with feeling like we don’t measure up. Or, maybe we have been rejected and treated poorly… Sometimes, it’s totally unfair!

Some people feel down on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a ‘special someone.’ I can understand that perspective. But, don’t be discouraged. Turn those feelings around and make someone else feel special.

Sometimes, we overlook how powerful it is to love people and show kindness every day. Even just a little note or phone call can have great impact.

Remember, whether or not you have Valentine’s plans is not a determination of your worth. You are so very loved!

In Christ, we have infinite value. If we have that perspective, we see that with Jesus, we can thrive. When we keep our eyes on Him, we see His grace and blessings—not our lack.

In Jesus, we have Victory! We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 My little girl, Lydia, reminded me of this Victorious perspective in a recent drawing.

I asked her to explain the picture, which to me, looked a little like four people at a disco party… 😉 Lydia explained, “This is a picture of my family. The first person is my daddy, then you and me, and then God.”

Lydia is starting to understand the difference between immediate and extended family…

I loved that she drew what was in her heart, including both her daddy, Dave, and her Heavenly Father, God. And, the disco figures made me smile. 

I see Lydia’s confidence in God’s love for her as a huge Victory!

Nothing can compare to God’s love for us! He is soo good!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me. Thank you for leading me to Victory. Help me stay close to You and keep the right perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had a personal breakthrough recently? Have you seen any good movies lately? How can you show God’s love to others today?

Tasks: Write down your victories in a journal so you can remember them. Celebrate your successes and thank God for all He has done.

It’s Totally Unfair!

This has been an… ‘interesting’… year already. I have seen God direct my path and use me to make a practical difference in other peoples’ lives. But, honestly, I’ve also seen some things that seem totally unfair to me or others…

For example, recently a friend slipped on her child’s Legos in the dark, hitting her entertainment center—with her face.  She busted her nose and needed major surgery. An accident yes, but still unfair.

Another friend had to forgive someone for major offenses when they clearly didn’t deserve it. Forgiveness is required for that relationship to move forward. But it’s definitely not fair.

I have seen friends struggle with various injustices, such as discrimination, financial difficulties, and health problems, too. It is easy to see how anger and resentment build up.

My own story is complex with its own challenges and I know yours is, too. We don’t have time to rehash or compare our stories here… Besides, these issues are not always bad—though at times they really do seem unfair.

Most of us, if we allow ourselves, could easily go down the “poor me” path or the “this would be better if” road. But one thing is certain: Complaining doesn’t help.

If our emotions are allowed to run the show, we will get stuck and never move forward! Instead, I have learned the best thing I can do is redirect my focus back to Jesus. When we bring Him our fear, pain, sorrow, anger, resentment, and embarrassment, He gives us hope, healing, wholeness, peace, forgiveness, and joy.

We can trust Jesus through and through. As both God and man, He has a unique perspective. He understands what each of goes through because He has been there, too.

You see, Jesus faced the same types of battles. Quite often, He didn’t know where His next meal was coming from or where He would sleep. Yet, He was expected to help people at all hours of the day/night. He was often put to the test and judged unfairly. He was used by the people but rarely thanked.

Also, Jesus was like a local celebrity so He was scrutinized at a higher level. He never could win over everyone—but He reached out to help as many as would receive Him.

All Jesus did was done with love. He healed people and comforted them. He even raised the dead back to life! He taught new ways to love and used His own life as an example to follow. Yet, he was still rejected.

Then, at the end of His young life, Jesus was wrongly accused and suffered a horrible death on the cross. Completely unfair. But to Jesus, we were worth it. He loves us so very much!

When I compare my conditions to what Jesus faced, I have no room to grumble. Jesus was well-acquainted with the ups and downs of life. So… if Jesus had to struggle, then we have no excuse.

At least we are in good company!

By definition, grace is an unmerited or unearned favor. Yes, God’s grace toward us is also unfair! We don’t deserve any of it!

Thankfully, God does not see our uncertain circumstances like we do. He can see the end from the beginning—and His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours.

Trials have a way of refining us for the better—though it may take some time to see how. But no matter what we face, God loves us and is for us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He leads us and guides us.

God never changes. And no problem or difficulty—however big or bad—can change God’s goodness toward us. He has us covered!

Yes, God’s grace is unchanging, unfailing, unrelenting, unearned—and praise God, totally unfair!!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Jesus! Your everlasting love and abundant grace toward us are beyond unfair. Thank You! Help us have the right attitude as we walk in grace, love, and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you respond when life seems unfair? Can you trust Jesus?

Tasks: Listen to “O’Lord” by Lauren Daigle and “Grace that Won’t Let Go,” by Mark Harris

Magnifying the Lord (and Other Divine Moments)

I believe it was Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we are going through something difficult, we have a tendency to make the problem our focus. Also, we can get bent out of shape if someone else is doing better than us. We compare our failures (or lack of progress) to someone else’s successes.

We can also lose our joy when we only bring the Lord our worries and complaints, not our praise. Yes, He cares about every detail in our lives, but He is worth so much more!

Thankfully, our setbacks are no match for God’s abundant grace and power. Instead of acting defeated, we can choose to magnify Jesus…not our problems.

I love this example from the Gospel of John:

In John 3:22-36, John the Baptist’s disciples were concerned that Jesus’ ministry seemed more successful than John’s ministry. At that point, people were going to Jesus more than John. But John was not jealous of Jesus and didn’t see Him as a threat.

John knew he was called to point people to the Messiah—and that’s what he did. He was faithful. I love how in John 3:30, John the Baptist humbly magnified the Lord.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I prayed like I often do. However, I felt discouraged and had a lot of questions for God. I was also confused because something just. seemed. unfair.

Nonetheless, in prayer, I gave my concerns to the Lord, thanked Him, sang a song, and asked Him to direct my steps. I chose to come to Him for peace and help, knowing He cares for me and is greater than any of my problems (real or perceived!).

Then, at work, something unexpected happened. A friend from church popped into my office! She recognized me but wasn’t previously aware that I worked there. We caught up for a few minutes and briefly shared what God was doing in our lives.

We discussed some nutrition topics, but soon our conversation turned to the concerns I had just been praying about. I hadn’t planned on telling anyone, but it felt good that she understood. It seemed the Lord directed our conversation!

As my friend stood to leave, I was struck with an idea. “You know, I was planning to attend that worship event at church last Friday night, but at the last minute, a friend really needed help. I had wanted to go, but felt the sacrifice of my time was worth it.”

This special event had been on my calendar for weeks. I was looking forward to what God might do during that time. I was anticipating something good! Yet, in the moment, I decided to stay and help my friend. I made the best decision but wondered if I missed out.

I continued, “So on Friday night, I prayed about my decision not to go, saying ‘Lord, I can worship You anywhere, and if You have something specific to say to me, then I trust I can receive a word from You anywhere, too.’”

To my amazement, yesterday God showed up and spoke encouragement through my friend. Before she left, she hugged me and prayed for me.

Cue the happy tears!

Oh God be greater, than the worries in my life
Be stronger, than the weakness in my mind
Be louder, let your Glory come alive
Be magnified”

–From the song, “Magnify,” by We are Messengers

Yesterday, I was in awe and deeply touched. God cares so much to speak to me in personal ways… He is so good!

Only God knew… I needed a special word from Him on Tuesday instead of Friday!

I truly believe that if I was still focused on my problems, instead of the Lord, then I would have missed the chance to talk to my friend and be refreshed.

I don’t know exactly how God will handle my problems. But I do know He is working on them for me. I don’t have to worry or be afraid. I can trust Him and magnify Him.

He is greater!

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Oh God, be greater than the worries of my life. Be stronger than my fears, doubts, and questions. Lord, wherever I go and in all I do, be magnified. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How can you magnify Jesus in your life this week?

Task: Listen to the song, “Magnify,” by We are Messengers.

Nick at Night: Seek and Find

As I mentioned last week, I am scribing the gospel of John with friends. Mainly, I want to engage with God’s word in a more personal way. I am learning more each day! Last week, I shared a little about Nicodemus in John Chapter 3, but am still thinking about him…

I used to think Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he feared what everyone (his fellow Pharisees) would think. That may be true, in part, but as a friend recently suggested, maybe he didn’t want to be interrupted by all the crowds that followed Jesus.

Perhaps it’s a parallel that Nicodemus (in spiritual darkness) sought Jesus, the Light of the World (which John mentions later). At any rate, I’m guessing Nicodemus was so intently searching for truth and answers that he couldn’t wait until morning to talk with Jesus.

Similarly, there are times I cannot sleep at night because I am dealing with something. In fact, this happened to me recently. Each time I woke up in the night, I had a prayer on my lips for a friend in need. I love that Jesus is always available to listen, help, comfort and teach us…even in the middle of the night.

We do not have to question if Jesus wants to help. Whenever we come to Jesus for help, we will receive encouragement and direction. That said, we also may receive correction like Nicodemus… We need to be willing to do whatever Jesus says.

v.10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

Here, Jesus gets on Nicodemus for being a spiritual leader without actually understanding spiritual concepts. Ouch… Apparently, the Jews had created eight different ways one could be ‘born again’ (all physical things to do to earn God’s favor). The Jews missed the point of spiritual rebirth and salvation from sin.

But Jesus made it simple.

Interestingly, in my Bible, the words of John 3:16-21 are not in red, suggesting that perhaps Jesus did not say them. This surprised me because I always thought it was Jesus talking. It seems that this may be John’s explanation of what Jesus was saying.

I asked my friends for their input (on who said what) and learned some other Bibles and translations handle this differently. Many Bibles have those words in ‘red letters’ or quotations, but not the one I am using currently… So, I did some prayerful searching online and saw this is a common question.

Various Bible scholars have wondered the same! No one has an exact answer because (ahem) we weren’t there. But either way, the basic consensus is that the words are inspired by God and the message does not change.

We don’t have to lose sleep over what God meant in John 3:16. The point is: God so loved the world and so Jesus came. God gave us Jesus, our Savior, and we have eternal life through Him alone.

We know John did not record every single word or action Jesus did (John 21:25), and that’s okay! Instead of agonizing over the details, we will let the Holy Spirit lead us.

Here are a few takeaways:

It is common to hurry through our day, but in doing so, perhaps we are missing what Jesus really said (or maybe didn’t say). There is always more to the text than meets the eye—I love that my friends are picking up different aspects of the same text!

Nicodemus came directly to Jesus for answers to his deepest questions. He didn’t rely on someone else to ask for him. Jesus often spoke in metaphors and I love that Nicodemus sought clarity. Also, he trusted Jesus’ perspective and didn’t make it about himself.

Studying the Bible with other people can help everyone grow in faith. Nonetheless, we have to personally apply what Scripture says to our own lives.

Finally, God’s Word is trustworthy. When we have questions, it’s okay! God is big enough to handle them with His grace and truth. And, when it comes to Jesus Christ, He is always worth taking a closer look!

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God, thanks for the gift of Your Word! Renew our minds and draw us close to You. Teach us Your ways and lead us into deeper fellowship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you trusted in Jesus as your Savior? Is there anything in Scripture that you’ve had questions about lately? How can you pursue a deeper level of understanding?

Tasks: Listen to “God so Loved,” by Jaci Velasquez. When you sit down to spend time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, Jesus, the Living Word.

           

Finding Grace #98

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week, I felt God’s blessing and favor in several personal ways. I was able to help several people in meaningful ways. I prayed for these people and used my writing skills to encourage and advocate for them. I provided timely input when asked and used my strengths. It made me feel like I am exactly where God needs me to be.

We had all our usual activities, including deadlines, work, school, and JBQ. Yet, instead of feeling stressed, I was excited! I think it has to do with the fact that I saw God using me to move in the lives of those around me. I enjoyed seeing Him direct my steps!

The weather is warmer today, but early in the week, we had wind chills near forty below. On Monday, I spent an hour-and-a-half outside clearing snow… Let’s just say it was a character-building experience! My legs and feet are sore even now, but I am thankful for the ability to do what was needed. With the warmer weather, I am taking it easy!

Recently, Lydia joined a cheerleading program through Upward Sports. She and her friends cheered for their first basketball game today! I didn’t know if she would be too nervous, but she handled it like a champ. (I’m sure the camaraderie helped!)

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Jesus is Greater

For the last two weeks, I have been scribing the Gospel of John with friends. We are enjoying the process so far, which includes people in eleven states. My friends have invited their friends, too!

It’s amazing how much more I have noticed when going slow and writing it down word-for-word. We are each going at our own pace, but checking in as we go. I have divided each chapter into sections so we just post on what we are currently working on.

I’ve noticed everything from punctuation to chronology, such as the timing of miracles and Jesus’ calling of his disciples. I can sense John’s attention to detail and the honor he must’ve felt when writing about his dear friend and savior. I can also see God’s love pouring through each page and each interaction.

Already, I am amazed at how many times the religious leaders ask Jesus to prove Himself and His authority with a sign. Yet, we do the same thing.

We pray and then immediately want to see our prayers answered. We ask for guidance and then want something to pop up (out of nowhere!) to show that we are on track.

But we can trust in Jesus, the Living Word. He is greater than all things because He was before all things and created all things. He was in the beginning with God…

I love that every single time someone asked Jesus to help, He did. To start, He turned water into wine! And later, He provided food, healed the sick, calmed a storm, and raised the dead…

He met with people in everyday places: weddings (Cana), funerals (Lazarus), drinking fountains (woman at the well), and in the middle of the night (Nicodemus).

When we understand just how much Jesus loves us, we don’t need a sign. We can do what He says (obey) and let Him work out the details on our behalf.

He knows what is best for us and loves to provide us with all we need.

When we pray, we can have confidence that God hears us. We know He is moving, even when we don’t see something happening. We walk by faith, not by sight.

It’s not always easy. In fact, I know lots of people who are going through really tough situations right now. Life hasn’t gone according to plan.

Like Nicodemus, you may have a lot of questions for the Lord. He is the Answer.

Even Jesus went through brutal circumstances, too. He was often judged and misunderstood. His own people used him for miracles but then rejected him. He gave and He gave and He gave. Yet Jesus was rarely thanked for all He did.

Then, on top of that, He was crucified…and still chose to forgive. Wow…

I don’t know the exact details of your situation, but Jesus does. He cares deeply about all you are experiencing. With His help, you can do all you need to do.

Whether you need a friend, provision, peace, healing, mercy, or forgiveness, come to Jesus. Or, maybe you need to do the forgiving—if you let Him, Jesus will enable you to rebuild and move forward with Victory.

Cling to Jesus. He loves you beyond measure. Whatever you need, let Jesus help. With Him, nothing is impossible!! Praise the Lord!!

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Father God, thank You for Jesus! Lord, you are greater than anything we face. Please give us wisdom and courage. Help us to do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you believe that Jesus is with you and for you? Will you trust Him to help you?

Tasks: Listen to the song ‘How He Loves Us‘ by the David Crowder Band.

 

The Proverbs 31 Woman: What’s So Special?

Last year, my church read the One Year Bible by Tyndale. I followed along, but most of the time listened to each day’s reading on my YouVersion phone app. So on Sunday (Dec 31st), we finished the Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as Psalms and Proverbs.

Sometimes I wear my headphones, but on Sunday, I did not. Thus, Lydia was listening, too. Proverbs 31 piqued her interest as it lists attributes of a godly wife (or woman). She asked, incredulously, “Wait, Mom…who IS this woman?!” I had to laugh at her reaction. Sometimes, the list does seem impossible!

It seems no one really knows who the woman is. It could be the author’s mom or wife…or more likely even a composite of several women. Anyway, to be clear, we don’t have to be Rosie the Riveter or Suzie Homemaker. We don’t have to feel bad for not doing all those activities listed.

Indeed, we often set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations. This is certainly more likely at the start of a new year. For me, it always seems if I am doing well in one area, another goal is suffering. Maybe I try to do too many new things…

We want to read more, sleep more, and have more fun; weigh less, spend less money, and eat fewer sweets. We feel like we have to do it all to be successful: clean more, eat more veggies, give more, spend more time with our kids, etc.

Thankfully, God doesn’t look at us in the same way—for all we are or are not doing.

Interestingly, the Proverbs 31 woman’s physical appearance is never mentioned. So what makes her worth emulating? What makes her so appealing to us, even all these years later? What’s so special about her?

Here’s my theory… It’s not because her children are dressed immaculately. It’s not that she can afford servants to help her. It’s not her personality or that she is married to a husband who appreciates and encourages her. It’s not even because she’s a bargain shopper or a whiz at using her Instant Pot. Though, those are all wonderful things.

I believe her godly confidence is what makes her so attractive—that is, her confidence in the Lord. She knows she is loved and fully lives out of that freedom and grace. She doesn’t feel the need to compare herself or her life to other women, or anyone.

She trusts the Lord to bless her work and be her provision. As a result, she is kind and generous, wise and industrious. She does not run around frantically but is content and cheerful. She rests in the Lord while she works to honor Him.

This year, I do have few personal goals. Of course… But most of all, I want to stay close to Jesus and let Him lead me. He is the source of all my hope and my expectations.

I’m not saying I will completely relax my standards. But when the laundry sits too long, or I forget to start the dishwasher (again), or I get behind on my exercise program… I will remember my ultimate goal, my ‘One Thing’ is JESUS.

It doesn’t matter what else I do—if I don’t have Jesus, I have nothing. Jesus is my strength and my joy. I trust Him to bring me through to Victory! Without Him, all my “good” efforts won’t last. But with Jesus, I have all I need—and an abundance to share. Praise God!

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Dear God, thanks for loving me so much. Help me make changes as YOU see fit, without setting myself up for unrealistic expectations. Help me stay close to You this year. Be my one thing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What about the Proverbs 31 woman stands out to you? Are your goals for the year realistic or do they need to be adjusted? What are you looking forward to this year?

Tasks: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else! Stay close to Jesus and He will make you exactly who He wants you to be. Make Him your ‘One Thing.’

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… So apparently, there are several versions of this song, but now that it’s probably in your head…my work is done. 😉

O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson
That constant faith
And hope sublime
Lend strength and
Comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson

While I enjoy the smell of real Christmas trees, Dave and I received a ‘hand-me-down’ artificial one years ago. Dave loved the ornaments, and we always enjoyed decorating it together. I’ve noticed some of the lights are out, but overall it is still in decent shape.

When Lydia was really little (our first Christmas without Dave), I bought a smaller tree and new ornaments because it was just too difficult to think about the big tree. I have come a long way, but it is still bittersweet.

After this year’s Thanksgiving, my dad brought the tree upstairs for me and helped me set it up. Then it sat there until last week. I had brought the ornaments upstairs, but I felt myself postponing it…

So last Friday night, I decided not to ‘fake brave.’ Lydia and I decorated our six-foot-tall Christmas tree for the second time since Dave died. (Last year was our first…and perhaps the first time Lydia has had a more active role.)

This time, we listened to Christmas music while decorating. Lydia was thrilled!

At first, I too, was excited. But as we opened each box of ornaments, I grew more nostalgic. Maybe it was related to the Christmas music. As we opened each box, memories flooded out. Lydia was completely unaware, however.

She was completely in her element, placing all the ornaments just within her reach. Her approach to life reminds me of Dave. “Mom, isn’t this fun?!”

While I never burden Lydia with my grief, I do try to be honest and model that it is okay to show our emotions. So, I mentioned I was a little sad.

As usual, Lydia’s reply snapped me back to reality. “Well, it’s okay to be sad, Mom.” She continued, “But you could try to be happy and enjoy your time with me!” She said it so sweetly, it was hard to disagree.

Ever-practical, Lydia was right. My mind was on Christmases past, instead of focusing on the present. Besides Jesus, Lydia is one of the best gifts God has given me!

 Thankful for Lydia’s outlook and gentle reminder, I took her cue and was glad.

 As I thought about our conversation, I gained a new perspective: This is why Jesus came.

Not only did He come to save us from our sins, but He also came to take our burdens.

When we let Him, He gives us love, joy, hope, and peace. He eases our pain and suffering.

He restores and renews what has been broken.

Hearts included.

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Dear Jesus, thanks for all You do for me. Thanks for carrying our burdens and for bringing us peace. Thanks for renewing our hearts and minds with Your grace and truth. Help us stay focused on You this holiday season. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? How is it decorated?

Tasks: Let Jesus carry Your burdens and give you His peace instead.

Seeking the Savior

Last month, my mom, Lydia, and I went to the movies. We saw “The Star” which tells the Nativity story from the perspective of the animals. It was cute! Since then, I’ve noticed a theme: That special Star keeps popping up in our daily lives!

For example, the other night Lydia woke me up in the middle of the night. “Mom, you should move the Star from Afar because I just found it in the bathroom.” Thanks, Lydia!

The Christmas Star from Afar is a special thing we started last year during Advent. This year, Lydia begged me to set it up. She finds the Star in the morning and we discuss a Bible verse. She then moves the wise men to the star. On Christmas Day, the Star will finally appear over the little stable with Baby Jesus. Pretty simple…just how I like it!

To clarify: I don’t recommend hiding Christmas items in the bathroom! : ) I simply put it somewhere Lydia would find it quickly on a school day. Finding the star each morning has helped Lydia look forward to waking up and getting ready to go.

This past Sunday at church, the sermon was also about the Star and the three wise men (or Magi). Scripture does not denote the number of wise men, but we usually go with three because of the three gifts they brought. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

The Magi were very well-educated, as either astronomers or astrologers. At any rate, they noticed something new in the sky and were eager to follow the Star (or light, as it may have been). What amazes me is that they expected to find something good—the Baby Messiah—probably without having a ‘proper’ or perhaps ‘personal’ knowledge of God.

I’m also amazed by the fact that no one else seemed to understand or pay attention to what was happening in the sky around that time. Jesus’ birth was foretold over centuries. Why did no one else seek the newborn Jesus?

Actually, some people did look for Jesus… Evil King Herod was jealous and wanted to kill Him. So perhaps it was a protection the newborn King didn’t gain a lot of publicity! Also, the shepherds found Jesus after being notified by an Angel and Heavenly choir, but not because of the Star. All things considered, most people must’ve ignored the sign. 

To seek something, you have to be focused and intentional. For instance, on this blog, I use the tagline: Seeking God’s sweet and refreshing grace. It’s as if I am on a mission to find His grace and goodness. I am looking for these things on purpose!

The Magi in the Nativity story traveled a long way to find Jesus. It was a costly and time-consuming trip, possibly requiring a couple years’ journey. They were dedicated!

It makes me wonder…am I like the Magi seeking King Jesus…or do I act like everyone else who apparently couldn’t have cared less about the Savior?

Oh, I never want to take my Lord for granted. I want to seek and celebrate Jesus Christ each and every day! He is worthy of my time and adoration.

Each of us has the potential to ‘be a star’ for others. We can point people to Jesus, living in such a way that they are drawn to Him. On the other hand, our actions and attitude also can deter them from coming to Jesus. Am I helping or hindering others from finding Jesus?

Both positive and negative events (or people) can cause us to seek Jesus. When life is good, these things help us praise Him. When things turn bad, we can praise Him for His help! Either way, we have to be intentional about turning our hearts toward Him.

If we don’t seek Jesus first, we will miss Him in the chaos of everyday life. If we are not careful, something else will always pull us away from Who is most important. Ultimately, I don’t want someone to get stuck following me (or some object or an idea). But I do want to direct them to Jesus the Savior.

Jesus is our Peace and our Wonderful Counselor. He alone is the Rescuer that we need. In Him, we have Victory. Come, Lord, Jesus, Come!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for being our Savior King, our Rescuer! As we celebrate Your life, may we be a pleasant reminder to others of Your love and grace. Help us point people back to you. All blessings and honor be unto Your Name! Amen

Questions: What (or whom) are you following? Does it lead you to Jesus or away from Him?

Tasks: Read about the Nativity in Scripture: Matthew 1:18-252:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.

The Scenic Route

Recently, on the way to get groceries, Lydia asked me, “Mom, is this what you call ‘the scenic route’? I had driven through a neighborhood and around a pond. I intentionally bypassed the main road and avoided about five stop lights.

I often do enjoy less traffic and curvy roads over the normal stop-and-go route. I like noticing the details, such as new houses or construction, trees changing color or losing leaves, and/or holiday decorations.

Our trip to the store wasn’t all that exciting…but it did make me think. This holiday season, I’ve decided to take the ’emotional scenic route.’ That doesn’t mean I am ignoring traditions or avoiding anyone. I am simply slowing down to enjoy the journey!

I’ve been more intentional about ‘doing nothing.’ That is, I’m trying to set aside time to rest and meander with nowhere I have to be. Ok, so this doesn’t happen often, but it’s a goal!

I am taking time to stop and notice all the good around me. It’s something we should do every day, but we can often become so focused on putting out fires that we miss the little things that are going well.

As such, I have noticed more internal peace. I also have noticed when my heart is not peaceful. If I suddenly am feeling worried, stressed, or restless, I can make quick adjustments in my attitude, relationships, or schedule.

I have noticed more joy in a season that sometimes brings pain. The holidays can be rough for many of us, though I am learning to just be present in each moment.

For example, yesterday, as I waited for Lydia’s bus after school, I was in a contemplative mood. I was stuck in a funk, problem-solving and praying for wisdom. Suddenly, I noticed tall trees in the wind, towering over a house near the bus stop.

The trees have already lost all their leaves before winter. Their bare branches stretched straight up toward the sky. As they danced in the breeze, limbs waving back and forth, I imagined them giving glory to God!

Watching those huge trees sway in the wind prompted me to take a second glance. It really did look like the trees were worshipping God!

I soon realized that I was holding onto my ‘little’ problems when like the trees, I should be praising the Lord! Jesus is greater than my problems!

I quickly surrendered my bad attitude and let God handle my problem. It was a special moment, which I might have missed had I taken another route or been reading on my phone.

Life is an adventure, isn’t it?!

Occasionally, we find a bypass that gets us to our destination more quickly! And sometimes, scenic roads can take longer…

Quite often, we don’t know what lies around the next corner. Taking the scenic route can lead to unexpected road conditions or detours. Surprises may throw us off-track, but if we move forward with expectancy, we are better prepared.

Either way, this season, I plan to enjoy each day for what it is. I’m making up my mind to embrace each challenge as it comes. I’m choosing to have a good attitude and praise God. He is always faithful, so I can confidently smile and expect good things ahead!

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Dear Jesus, You are so gracious. Thanks for showing me beauty and glory each day. Help me stay in the joyful present with You. Guide me and give me peace each day, no matter which path we take together. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you like to meander along the scenic route, or do you prefer to follow the beaten path? Do you like to map your own way or follow the navigation (ie GPS)?

Tasks: Pre-decide your attitude before the path changes. Pause each day and notice what is going on around you. Decide to praise God no matter what!