Taking Heart and Giving Thanks

Ah, November. Halloween is now over, and so we are in the holiday season!
In writing this, it hit me that this is also the season where so many personal celebrations occur. In years past, this was a very difficult time. Now, I am surprised it’s already here!

The fact that it snuck up on me after all this time is (I think) a good sign… that or I’ve lost my mind! 🙂 Last year was the best holiday season thus far, and so I hope this year will be the same or even better.

Lydia’s birthday is just before Thanksgiving this year. Then, in December, we have several family birthdays. I’m sure we will do something special on Dave’s December birthday, too.

Of course, there’s Christmas, followed by New Years, and our wedding anniversary in early January. I’m not thinking that far ahead, but the fact that I am not dreading ANY of it is worth noting.

This year, I’m extremely grateful. The road has been rough at times, but here we are four-and-a-half years later. I’m still standing—and even looking forward to this season. Praise God!

For anyone who is struggling, I’m so sorry. It could be grief-related, or due to other factors. I understand the mixed emotions that occur at any special event…but perhaps even more at this time of the year.

In years past, there were times when I didn’t even feel like celebrating. I just muddled through it as best I could. I let go of my expectations and took extra good care of myself, too. Instead of rushing, I rested.

This is my fifth holiday season as a widow, and each year has been so different. I plan to take it easy this year, seeing each moment as a blessing.

I wish I could say it’s easy, but each of us experiences grief, loss, and/or the holidays on our own terms. That’s perfectly alright. Take heart, and do what you need to do. Those who love you most will understand.

Since we are in the Thanksgiving season, perhaps one way to give thanks is simply to praise God for where you are right now. If you are in turmoil, this is especially important. Instead of shutting Jesus out or staying self-centered, find something—anything—for which to be grateful.

Even small wins count. Hey, we’ve made it this far, right? Praise God for that!

You don’t have to thrive in every single moment. Surviving still is a Victory in my book.

If you want to build gratitude, start with being grateful for this day…this moment. Start there, and then add to it. Write down your blessings. Don’t forget to breathe.

As you survey all that God has done for you, take in His abundant grace. His love really is all you need. Also, don’t fake brave. With Jesus, you don’t have to pretend. You can ‘ugly cry’ with Him! (Trust me, I know!) Let Him soothe your heart like only He can.

You may have a wide variety of emotions during this season. That’s normal! But take your heart to Jesus and remember: God alone never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is with you. He is for you. And, His love never fails!

God’s strength will give you joy and courage. If you let Him, Jesus will take your anxiety, fear, doubts, questions, even your tears. He knows exactly what you need in this season.

So take heart. Trust Jesus, and be grateful.

**********

Dear God, thanks for taking such great care of me. Thank You for showing me Your love and grace in every moment. Please be with me during this holiday season. I cannot make it one minute without You, Jesus! Give me joy and be My strength. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Are you thriving or surviving this holiday season? Are you willing to let Jesus carry you through to Victory?

Tasks: Worship always brings me comfort. It helps me express my heart on days when I am struggling. To start, listen to this song: “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher.

Finding Grace #42

I love the concept of 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 in 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 was loaded with God’s blessings! My friend left on Thursday after a weeklong visit. We had the best time, and I am so thankful she came. After they left, a couple in my neighborhood delivered fresh cookies! I was touched they would go out of their way to stop by. We have mutual friends, but don’t know each other super well. So, I look forward to getting to know them better in the new year!

Other friends in our neighborhood invited us over for an impromptu dinner yesterday! We had steak, baked potatoes and fresh berries. Lydia and I had stayed home all day, as I had a lot of work to do. She did well throughout the day, but it was great to get out of the house and let her get out her energy by playing with the neighbor boys! We also received another round of delicious cookies (different than the day before).

I guess this week was all about the cookies! Lydia and I saw friends at our church’s Christmas Eve service this afternoon. After the service, one of the ladies had a gift for Lydia. We ended up inviting her over to our house…for cookies! We chatted for several hours about what God has been doing in our lives. This has been the best holiday season in about five years. As I finish preparing a few details for tomorrow, I am extremely grateful for the Lord’s grace.

*******

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)!

Gifts Galore

As I previously mentioned, this entire holiday season has been the best in quite some time! The last several weeks have stood out for many reasons. Each situation—including Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Dave’s birthday—has seemed extra special this year. Praise God!

So far, Christmas has also been distinct. We’ve decorated more, started new traditions, and even skipped a few tasks. We’ve simplified where needed, but have also celebrated at a deeper level this year.

This year, Lydia and I are keeping it simple. I am enjoying the slower pace. Lydia…well, she’s super excited what’s already around the tree. I don’t go overboard, but loved ones have been sending gifts!

That said, I’m not super creative when it comes to gift-giving. In the past, I struggled if I couldn’t find ‘the perfect gift.’ Sometimes I would end up giving nothing if it wasn’t ‘just right.’ But I have since put off perfectionism and put on grace! And gift cards still count. When given with love, everything falls into place. It’s not so much the gift, but the heart that counts.

Jesus is certainly the most precious gift we could ever receive. At the same time, we give gifts to show love to each other. And, we show our love for God by living for Him—doing our best and giving our best back to Him.

I didn’t always understand this. I often felt like others had better gifts and talents—or were better at using them. Perhaps they were just willing to give whatever they had!

I felt like whatever I offered had to be super special…something extraordinary.

Yes, it took me awhile to figure out my God-given talents and abilities. Thankfully, I have learned so much these last few years. He can use anything given back to Him with the right heart. When we use our gifts to serve God and bless others, that’s when we find the most fulfillment, joy and peace.

When I didn’t have much emotional reserve, I brought my tears. I also brought my grief and uncertainty, fears and doubts. I guess you could say I gave out of my lack.

And in return for my weaknesses, Jesus gave me His strength. He also gave me even more of His love and grace, peace and joy. Yes, God has brought healing! He always gives out of His abundance! Gifts galore!!

This year I have seen beauty instead of ashes, color instead of shadows. He’s given me gladness in place of mourning (see Isaiah 61:3). And this holiday season, I have given the Lord praise with a grateful heart.

This week, we’ve had the honor of hosting a friend with her little toddler. Each day has been different but really fun. My friend made plans to stay with us months ago, and we have been looking forward to it. But her visit has also been such a gift to me!

We have visited other friends, watched movies, played in the snow, and shared childcare duties. We’ve enjoyed good food and stayed up late, talking and encouraging each other. These one-on-one skills use my strengths and bring me joy. And as we discuss what’s on our hearts, I can see more evidence of God’s healing my own.

This year, it really has been simple. I’ve been able to rest and give back to the Lord out of the abundance He’s already given me. And, as I have given hospitality, time, and friendship, I have been blessed with even more of the same!

**********

Father God, thanks for giving us Jesus. Thank You for Your gracious healing and dear friends. Help us give our best back to you each day. Change our hearts and perspective as we experience Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have special plans for Christmas? What was the best gift you have ever given or received?

Tasks:  Write down your God-given talents. If you don’t know your strengths, pray about it! Ask God and other people what you do best. Then, serve and bless others!

Hope and Healing for the Holidays

What a difference a year can make!

This year, my holiday preparations started back in September! One Sunday, I went up front for prayer during the church service. I asked the volunteer couple to pray with me; I was a little nervous about the upcoming holidays.

I needed peace and reassurance, because the entire last quarter of 2015—October through December—was pretty rough grief-wise. So I was praying for a non-repeat.

I’m so glad I asked for prayer.

Praise God, we’ve had by far the best holiday season yet. We’ve had many special moments with family and friends over the years, but this entire season has been good.

It’s not just what we have done—but also what we haven’t done—that’s different. We’ve hosted visitors, attended holiday events, and enjoyed new traditions, sure.

One thing we did not do: Send Christmas cards.

I felt I would have been running short on time to crank out cards to our many loved ones. And because our season has gone well, I decided to be still and take it all in.

Sure, the picture below is unedited (with other peoples’ heads in the way). 🙂 But, I have more peace and joy as-is. Honoring Jesus by not being so stressed feels way better.

Also, this season, Lydia and I reached a happy milestone! We decided to put up the ‘big’ six-foot Christmas tree for the first time in at least five years.

For the last several years, it was just too much physically and emotionally to handle decorating the tree on my own. It brought me more tears than joy. Yet this year feels vastly different—I am grateful for God’s gracious healing!

Last week, my neighbor helped me bring up the tree out of the dusty closet, so Lydia and I could decorate it. Now that she is old enough to understand more, it is so fun to see her excitement! Lydia is delighted with all things Christmas.

For me, this holiday season feels like a gift. It’s like I am seeing things in full color! To be honest, for the first time in years, I am truly excited to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth!!

I am already looking forward to Christmas, without even knowing my exact plans!

Instead of rushing through the season from one event to the next, I’ve taken time to pause and enjoy each moment. We hung a new wreath outside and bought new bright red, Christmas decorations for inside. We’ve played games, made treats and watched holiday movies. It’s been fun!

Dear friend, I pray you are also having a wonderful season of celebration. I hope you are able to feel the joy of Christmas. But, I also know how you feel if this feels like the worst season yet. Last year was unexpectedly difficult for me. So, I’ve been there!

Maybe this year you need to simplify your decorations or buy something new. Or, quite possibly, you might just skip decorating altogether. I understand!

It might be less stressful to stay home for Christmas or maybe you will feel better by traveling to visit loved ones. I’ve done both!

Yes, each season has its own unique challenges. Remember to treat yourself well.

Ask for help, when needed, and adjust your expectations.

If you want to read my holiday posts from last year, click here for the start of my December 2015 posts. I hope you are encouraged!!

You may feel like each day is a battle, when everyone else is laughing and carrying on. You might have to fight just to put on a smile. I get it.

I also know the best thing you can do…. Whether you are facing fear, loneliness, discouragement, or immense sadness, bring it to Jesus.

If you feel like you have nothing to bring to Him for Christmas, bring whatever you have. Your honesty is precious to Him! He can handle it and use it to heal your heart.

Jesus loves you deeply, and He will never leave you alone.

You don’t have to have your life perfect…Just come!

Someday, Life will be good again. It will get better! But, it’s going to take some time to heal. Let our dear Savior King touch your spirit with his grace and love.

Linger in Jesus’ presence. Even if that is all you can do today, that’s okay. The rest will come. Take it one day, one hour, or one minute at a time. Don’t forget to breathe. Conserve your energy, and reserve your best for Jesus.

In the midst of your struggle, God is there. His plan for you is GOOD. Remain close to Him and you will find peace and grace in your time of need.

**********

Father God, thanks for Your gracious healing. Thanks for making all things new. When our hearts are burdened with grief, pain, or discouragement, remind us to turn to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you have any special holiday traditions? Who, or what, are you missing this season? How can I pray for you?

Tasks: Find someone you trust and ask for prayer. Find a quiet spot and just be still before the Lord. Let Jesus fill your heart with peace.

Finding Grace #40

I love the concept of 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 in 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?

  • We welcomed full-blown winter weather this week! We had a blizzard on Tuesday, which meant an unexpected snow day for us. A blizzard on the Great Plains does not necessarily mean tons of snow. It has more to do with the lack of visibility. Because of that, Lydia’s school was closed and I worked from home.  It felt like an ‘extra’ day, so that was fun! Later, I shoveled and used my snow blower to clear the snow drifts!
  • I had several good one-on-ones with people. During one meeting, I received meaningful feedback regarding a personal project. And, then a new friend came over to visit. She and I discovered we were quite alike, so that was so much fun!
  • My neighbor offered to help me put up our large Christmas tree. It has been in the closet for at least 5 years, mainly because it was physically and emotionally challenging to put it up on my own. This year, Christmas feels joyful as I see everything through Lydia’s eyes. So, I am so grateful my neighbor encouraged me and helped me set it up on Thursday! We also ate homemade cheesecake, sot that really ‘helped’!
  • This weekend, Lydia and I have been enjoying holiday traditions, such as watching Christmas movies and listening to seasonal music. Tonight, we attended a Christmas program at church. It was fun to see all the kids use their God-given gifts (singing, dancing, and playing instruments). Maybe Lydia will be up their next year or so!

*******

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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

The Greatest Gift

After Lydia’s birthday in November, we sent out around ten thank you notes. Her job was to decorate each card with stickers. So when she started grumbling, I told her, “Well, if you aren’t grateful, I’ll just tell everyone NOT to send you gifts next year. Then, you won’t have to worry about saying thanks.” That seemed to do the trick!

Then, on Monday night, we read the Nativity story at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love how each story ends by pointing back to the Lord!

I usually ask Lydia questions to see if she can recall the main points.

Lydia has been interested in the night sky for several months. So the other night, we discussed the special star God placed in the sky at Jesus’ birth. She asked about the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. We chatted about frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

I also asked, “Did you know Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive?!”

Naturally, with Lydia’s birthday not too far from Christmas, this intrigued her. “So then, why do we give each other gifts?” She wondered out loud.

“Well, we show God’s love through our gifts.” I replied, in awe that she even asked. “It’s one way to celebrate what Jesus has done for us.”

When it comes to Christmas, I’ve been upfront with Lydia about Santa Claus. I have nothing against Santa, but I prefer to focus on Jesus and teach Lydia about Him.

And yes, Lydia knows not to tell her friends about Santa! Though, it is a little funny when an adult asks her, “So, what’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?”

In those moments, Lydia looks confused and concerned…like she’s thinking… “Wait, they don’t know about him?! …Well, I’m not going to tell them. Hmm…but what should I say?”

Up until last year, Santa wasn’t an issue for us. But then Lydia’s imagination kicked into high gear, and she started asking what was real and what was pretend. It became difficult to explain the nuances of make-believe cartoons versus shows with real actors.

Lydia questioned, “Is the person in that movie real?” I didn’t think much about it at first. “Well, yes. The person really exists, but he’s an actor who is pretending.”

Before long, Bible characters were examined, too. “Mom, was Jonah real?” … “Hey, my Daddy’s name was David! … So was King David real too?”

I answered Lydia’s questions, but was unsure if she understood.

When the holidays came, Lydia quickly applied the same ‘logic’ to Santa. “Why does the Santa on tv look different from this one in the book…and the one at the mall?”

I felt the need to address Lydia’s confusion in a truthful, yet sensitive way.

I decided to tell her the truth about Santa using a familiar example. “You know how Daniel Tiger (a PBS cartoon) is not REALLY real? He’s make-believe. Well, Santa is not REALLY real either. It’s fine that everyone talks about him, but he is just pretend.”

(Yes, St. Nicholas was real, but Santa has become quite different in our culture.)

Lydia took it fairly well. For about ten seconds, she looked a little surprised. “Oh.” And, then she asked about Rudolph, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. “Yep, their pretend too.” Twenty seconds later, with a quick, “Oh, okay,” she was onto the next thing, unfazed!

For me, this all is pertinent because there are bigger concepts at stake. Dave died when Lydia was not quite 18 months old; therefore, she doesn’t really remember him. So, over the years, I’ve done my best to answer questions about Dave and Heaven. Still, she occasionally she gets fuzzy on the details.

But whenever her thoughts drift toward Dave, I don’t want Lydia to ever doubt that Dave—and his love for her—are real! He loved her so very much!

Similarly, I never want Lydia to be confused about Jesus, because He is our only true hope in this chaotic world. Jesus and His love for us are most certainly real!

Last night, as I wrote this post, I asked Lydia, “Does it make you sad that Santa isn’t real?” To my surprise, she shrugged and answered, “No.”

Curious, I asked, “Really? Why not?” Lydia didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m not sad, because I still get gifts!” I laughed at how simple it is for her. Lydia isn’t going to sweat Santa; she knows she is loved. And to her, the gifts are evidence of that love.

Clearly, each child and each family is different. Therefore, everyone should handle these topics in their own way. But as Lydia reminded me, when talking about Santa and gifts: “Mom, Jesus loves me MORE than that!” Yes, Jesus truly is the greatest gift ever.

**********

Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! In Him, we have everything we need. Help us be generous with others and spread Your love in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Tasks: Consider ways to highlight Jesus this season. Check out Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. For kids, check out Star from Afar!

Rejoice! God Is with Us!

I previously mentioned this holiday season took me by surprise with the amount of grief I have experienced. I didn’t expect to sail through the holidays, of course. But it’s been more intense and has lasted longer than I expected.

Really, it has been a few months—from Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Dave’s birthday last week, Christmas, to our wedding anniversary coming up in early January. However, God has been faithfully reminding me of His love.

With each year that goes by, Lydia is older, understands more, and asks more questions— especially about Dave and God. In fact, she is talking about Dave nearly every day now.

I’ve heard it is generally wise to explain things to a child at his or her level of understanding. Two years ago, for our first holiday season without Dave, Lydia adored babies. They were her point of reference for everything in her little world. Lydia was very interested in Baby Jesus which helped guide our Christmas conversation.

As she asks me more specific questions about Dave, I point her to Jesus. If Lydia knows who Jesus is and that He is GOOD, she’ll understand that Dave/Daddy is safe with Jesus.

It helps me to reflect on that too.

manger

In explaining the Christmas story to Lydia, I’ve been able to see it through a fresh lens. It is so simple. The word “gospel” means good news… and I can’t think of ANY better news than this! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

While Christmas is still difficult for us without Dave, we celebrate Jesus! Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Praise the King of Kings!!

O come, O come Emmanuel!
(third verse)

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Jesus makes all the difference.

Knowing Jesus means that someday I will see Dave and other loved ones again. Because of Jesus, Lydia will get to meet her Daddy again. He gives us Victory over the grave…and grief.

Over these last few years, God challenged and conquered all my fears. I don’t have to be afraid because He is with me. In Christ I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28). With Him, I don’t have to do Life alone. I can have His love, joy, and peace today!

Whatever you are dealing with, take heart. With Jesus, there is HOPE. He brings good news to the poor, comforts the brokenhearted, and sets the captives free. He gives us favor with God (see Isaiah 61:1-3). He offers new life and purpose. Jesus changes everything.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

**********

Thank You, God, for loving us so much. Thanks for Your grace and favor. Help us walk in the freedom You have given us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Little Drummer Girl

At home, Lydia likes to bang on her own makeshift drum—an old Garrett’s popcorn tin from when she was little. The popcorn is long gone, but it has provided hours of headaches entertainment in our house over the years. Ahh, my little drummer girl!

“I wonder what the little drummer boy’s name was.” –Lydia’s Christmas carol commentary

In the song, The Little Drummer Boy, the (fictitious) little boy has nothing in comparison to other gifts brought. Yet, he gave what he could…a simple song. In some ways, we are all like the poor little drummer boy.

God is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17). He has given us the best gift in His Son, Jesus. Nothing we can bring will ever match His glorious sacrifice. All that we are or ever will be already belongs to Him, because it came from Him. So we can only give a portion back to God out of what He already gave.

The value of what we bring comes in the form of gratefulness—humbly accepting all He has done for us. As any loving parent, aunt, or uncle understands, it brings God great joy when we praise, honor, and adore His precious Son, Jesus.

What can we offer Him in return? In Luke 10:27, Jesus said that we should love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This might include your time, effort, or money (1 Chronicles 21:22-25). God loves a cheerful giver, and out of His own abundance He ensures we always have plenty (see 2 Corinthians 9:7-8).

You may not feel like you have much to contribute, but like the little drummer boy (whatever his name), we each have a gift to bring… And when you lay all of it before the King, He takes it and makes something good.

drum-107048_1280

The great news is that because of Jesus, we don’t have to stay “stuck” in our circumstances or grief (or any emotion). We can rejoice that God continues to work all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Praise God!

In our brokenness, we become a vessel He uses to bless others.

Because we are all so unique, this will look differently for each of us. For me, this recently has meant bringing my grief to the Lord and then being available to talk with others in their pain. Helping others has been healing in and of itself!

For someone else, it may be caroling at a nursing home, visiting a prisoner, or feeding the hungry. Maybe babysitting, writing an encouraging note, or giving a hug is more your style. Be generous. It all counts! They’re all gifts to the One who receives it. (see Matthew 25:35-40).

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).

Each of our gifts, talents and struggles will be different. But, we ALL honor the King when we bring our very best to Him.

**********
Father God, Thank You for Jesus and all the wonderful things you have given us. We can’t out give You, God. You are so generous to provide good things for us. Help us bring our very best to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions to consider: What are your gifts? How might they honor God and help someone else?

Oh, Come! Let Us Adore Him!

Last Friday night, Lydia and I attended the Phillips, Craig & Dean (with Shaun Groves) concert at our church. As I mentioned in last week’s post about grief, I had debated whether to go or not. This was partially because of Lydia staying up late…and partially because of my grief. In the end, I decided to take her along for a fun experience. I hoped it might get me in the Christmas mood, because I wasn’t “feeling it”…

Well, the night was amazing. These “singing pastors” have been performing for 25 years. So, they sang some older songs and their most recent ones. Of course, they also sang Christmas carols, like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’ I was glad I didn’t miss it!

Lydia had fun—I’d say her first concert was a success! I laughed when she asked, “Why isn’t Craig singing?” (I think it was Phillips…) 🙂 I replied, “Because they each have their own part, and it’s not his turn!” My cup “overflowed” with joy, and thankfully, I grabbed some Kleenex before the concert!

I don’t make it to many concerts these days, but I felt like God personally invited me to this one. That evening I heard one word consistently: ADORE. The Lord reminded me of a key principle—worship is all about Him. Lord, don’t let me forget.

PCD_Dec 2015

And to think: I went to the concert to help myself get in the mood for Christmas—you know, to celebrate Jesus’ birth… (Wow! I admit writing that makes my rationale much more horrifying!) Now, grief is necessary and appropriate at times. Even so, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus—not myself or my situation.

Worship is not to help me feel better (though that may occur). It’s not about getting something, falling apart, or keeping it all together. It’s not about the lights, music or singing. It is about giving praise and adoration to the King of Kings…because He is worthy. It’s about being in the presence of Almighty God, my Savior, my Healer, my Comforter , my Redeemer, my Deliverer…the One who makes ALL things right and new.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1). When we worship God, we give Him glory and magnify His Name. Jesus is the Name above all names (Philippians 2:10). When I recalled how magnificent He is, everything else faded away, unimportant.

I was reminded of the ‘smallness’ of my concerns because Jesus is greater. I am covered by the Prince of Peace. Praise God for His mercy and grace! It was an honor to be there in the presence of the King. He knew just what I needed.

PCD_Dec 2015 worship

“Come near to God and He will come near to you…” (James 4:8).

Christ Jesus the King invites us all to come. Come and behold the One “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Perhaps God is asking you to make some changes and switch your focus today. Oh COME! Let us adore Him together!

If you’ve never received an invitation like this, don’t miss it. God offers a new life and a new perspective through His Son, Jesus. Will you accept His personal invitation? Oh come! He is eagerly waiting for you.

If you’re uncertain about God, rest assured. He loves you so much! I can be that friend who introduces you to Him! Leave a comment below, or connect with me on Facebook. I’d love to help you know my Friend, Jesus!

**********

God, You are slow to anger and rich in love. You are kind and full of compassion; thanks for Your mercy. You have the power to heal and the grace to forgive. There is no one like You, God! You reign forever and ever! King of Glory, receive our full adoration! All glory be unto Your Name! Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This holiday season, I’m enjoying how ecstatic Lydia is for Christmas! She loved decorating her own little tree. At church, Lydia and her friends are practicing Christmas carols to sing in front of our congregation. Yay for sparkly dresses!

Lydia also listens intently to the Christmas carols on the radio and provides commentary. It has made for many interesting conversations. “Mom, is Jesus is the King?” And then, “But Jesus is not the angry king—that was somebody else.” (She was thinking of King Herod!)

Noting Lydia’s interest in Christmas carols, I decided to take her to a special Christmas concert this week. I can’t wait for her interpretation of the songs! Pretty much every song becomes Lydia’s favorite… 🙂

Though, I debated about going at all because this holiday season has taken me by surprise. I have been sadder than I expected due to a combination of factors. Most often, these things don’t cause sorrow. But sometimes, it just all adds up.

It took me awhile to recognize what I was feeling: a new wave of grief. It’s not sadness 24/7, but for me, it ebbs and flows. A dear friend prayed with me, validated my concerns, and made me laugh. Just getting it all out—acknowledging the struggle—was so helpful. Now, my heart is light again.

TidingsofComfortandJoy...

Note these famous words of the Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy”

Christ Jesus brings rest, comfort and joy. He sustains us with His mighty strength. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. What a relief!

**********

If you are finding it difficult to ‘be merry’ this Christmas season…

Take some time to reflect. Stop and acknowledge whatever you are feeling. It’s okay. Don’t run from your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the emotions (however awful); you’ll ultimately grow stronger. Each time, your heart heals a little more. Trust in God’s timing and love during this tender process. (see Philippians 4:6-8)

Then, call a friend. Share your struggle with someone you trust. There’s no need to bear it alone. Give voice to your pain; call it what it is. Ask God to bring His hope and healing. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

Also, take good care of yourself. Go to a special event, like a Christmas concert. Buy yourself flowers …or an orange poinsettia! Try this five-day Bible reading plan on grief during the holidays. Maybe take a nap, read a book, squeeze in a walk/run, or get a massage.

Finally, relax your expectations of the season. Celebrate those traditions that bring comfort, and hold off on the others. Keep it simple. Loss affects many people. You might feel better by helping someone else, so find a friend who needs encouragement too.

20151129_170442

If you are comforting a grieving friend or family member, here are some tips for you: Remember everyone’s grief is different. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does help. Grief can come at the most random moments—that’s normal. Grief cannot be “fixed” but it’s invaluable to know a good listener. Don’t press them to talk, but let them know you care. Invite them out or bring them a meal. Given the freedom to grieve, the feelings of loss may dissipate sooner.

**********

God doesn’t expect us to have it all together. So receive God’s grace and come to Him, just as you are. You are dearly loved. He has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11)!

Remember: Jesus already knows. And yes, He is the King!

Father God, thank You for Jesus! Thanks for Your peace, grace, and joy. Wrap Your loving arms around those who need comfort and healing during this season. Help them perceive  Your presence and Your love. Give them rest as they wait on You to heal their hearts. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.