One of many nights this season, I sat in front of our Christmas tree looking at the lights, the ornaments my kids made when they were so little, the memories of Christmas’ gone by and thinking of the heavy weight, stress and almost anger I was experiencing this year.
I have always enjoyed Christmas, this year it was a struggle.
Maybe, because this is the first one without any of my girls living at home.
Um, no – I can’t be that, old?
Maybe, it’s the grief we are all going through this year, especially my
son-in-law and step daughter with the loss of their son last Christmas.
Maybe, it’s because I procrastinate, then stress out with expectations I put on myself.
Maybe it’s those Christmas cards! I stopped sending them a few years ago, I felt I couldn’t keep up. When my sister-in-law in California asked for my new address I felt compelled to tell her that if she was sending a card, I had stopped. So, basically, don’t bother. She reminded me, she doesn’t give to get; when did I pick up guilt over Christmas cards? I’m so grateful for the exchange we had, it really turned my heart around.
Or, maybe, because Jim and I watched, and made DVD copies, of ALL the VHS tapes we own of our girls growing up. Watching them brought not only joy, but sadness, tears and laughs, missing those days when they were little, days that seem like yesterday.
How did they slip away so fast?
As I was contemplating all of this and gazing at the tree, I remembered a special ornament, a tradition for decades. It must of been a gift, I really don’t remember. It’s a tradition I look forward to each year. It is the very first ‘ornament’ hung, inside, near the trunk. I forgot it was there.
Once the tree is decorated, with all this shimmering glitter, shining lights, sparkling ornaments, brilliant ribbons, this special ornament sits tucked inside, behind all the charisma.
Nothing sparkling or shiny, lit up or painted. No bells or whistles.
Simply a long heavy, nail, with red ribbon.
You won’t see it unless you look for it.
On the outside are all these beautifully placed, shiny inviting … distractions. While just a branch in, my Savior, Prince of Peace, Almighty God, Father and Friend, just waiting for me to remember Him.
Look past all the distractions, just dig a bit to find the peace and comfort your soul is craving….Debbie. Past the expectations, the grief, the loss, the stress, the cards, the procrastination and anger.
Jesus, the Gift, He came for you, for me.
YOU are the reason for the season – Craig Groeshel
As Craig Groeschel of Life Church put it, in his profound message, Change of Plans
Isn’t that the truth for us, not only during Christmas, but living day to day? Jesus is constantly calling us to be still and listen, recognize the distractions, be with Him, get off the grid, put down the screen, look a little deeper, look past the bling, the things that so easily distracts.
Do I stop? No, I do more and more and more…
endless activity and stress that leave my soul craving…
Jim took me for a drive to see a decorated house he thought I’d really like, oh my goodness, my husband knows me!
THIS house, this scene, powerful. If you can’t tell, there is a wrapped gift in that manger.
This was a breath of fresh air, a seal on my heart this Christmas. We pulled in so I could get a picture with a silent thank you to the family.
Simple, clean, quiet, uncomplicated truth.
Thank you Jesus that you didn’t come for popularity or fame, wealth or possessions, the perfect gifts or cards, to be entertained or excessive busy-ness.
Thank you for coming for me.
Have you ever regretted something that didn’t seem that big of a deal at the time?
Monday morning, I became overwhelmed with sadness over something I did the night before.
Scrolling through facebook can be so entertaining – pictures and videos everywhere. Just one click away from laughter or tears, or both. There are things that make you smile ear to ear, cause you to seriously laugh out loud, and then, other posts make you so sad or mad. There are those that make you scratch your head in wonder, and some of my favorites, the things I die laughing over and would love to repost – but can’t. I just can’t, but oh man, they.are.so.funny!
Sunday night it was a video, a video of a young woman who was clearly intoxicated by something. She was dancing away, completely uninhibited with her stomach hanging out, flopping all over the place. The people videotaping were egging her on, laughing and making fun of her.
As I watched it I snickered myself, thinking what in the world is wrong with her? I made my comments out loud, laughed a little and thought the world is a scary place for sure.
I didn’t think anything more about it, came home, did my usual night time routine and went to bed.
Our church encourages us to do a church wide 21 day fast, starting the beginning of January. A great way to start off the new year, giving God the first of our year. Jim and I decided to do the Daniel fast together, eating mostly fruits and vegetables, no caffeine, meat, sugar, dairy or flour.
During this time, when I was hungry, I would pray. When I craved certain things, I told Jesus I wanted Him more than the craving – more than the salt water taffy sitting on the frig in the office, that I tried to cover up with a napkin so I didn’t have to look at it!
Sunday was the end for many, Monday was our last day. We started a day later than most due to a family holiday dinner we had planned months in advance.
During this fast, my prayer has been to draw close to Jesus, not anything He would do for me in regards to things I think I need or want, but that I would surrender myself to what He would want to teach me. Not my agenda, simply His way with me. Another prayer has been that my heart would break over what breaks His.
Also, I’ve been listening to messages, this one was particularly awesome, Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeshel.
Reading more, a great devotional that specifically spoke to me this morning, Let Us Keep to the Point, by Utmost for His Highest.
Definitely praying and journaling more.
Today, my last day of the fast, was profound. I had to write about this right away, I just don’t want to forget it, ever.
As I was getting ready for work I kept thinking of the video of that young woman. I was going to post the video here for you to see, but decided not to. Why add to the shame and embarrassment she will feel one day, if not already.
I remembered her dancing with her belly all over the place, she is someone’s daughter, neighbor, friend and maybe, mother, sister or aunt. I thought of my own daughters that must be close to her age and the people laughing and taunting her.
I couldn’t escape the thought, what if that was my daughter?
I became so overwhelmed with emotion as I thought of all these things, but most of all at my own actions, my own laughing and snickering as I watched.
Oh Jesus, please forgive me became my prayer in my car this morning. Tears streaming down my face, the heart ache I was feeling was simply overwhelming.
Over and over I was thinking of my daughters, how I cherish and love them. What I wouldn’t do for them.
It is an honor to be their Mom, a privilege God has given me that I try to walk out in integrity and love, I fall short often I know. I thank God for them, for using them to reach, teach and stretch me in so many ways. Oh how I desire to make a difference in their lives. I am so proud of them, the adults they have become, the way they love and look out for each other, their jokes and sense of humor that is their own language. This is my greatest joy, these beautiful girls God has allowed me to be Mom to. And, just don’t mess with them – I will advocate for them in every way!
As my pastor says – the minute you become a Mom or Dad, your heart moves to the outside of your body.
What if that video was one of them, and I had to watch and hear people making fun of her. What if I was in a room full of people who were watching the video online hearing them laugh at her. I would be wrecked to say the least, heart broken, mad and so very troubled. Fairly certain I’d end up in jail.
As I processed all this I became so angry at myself for doing the same thing! I was yelling through my tears “Why don’t you just pray for that young woman!” Ugh, just a profound moment.
God really moved my heart, He was saying to me…
“She is My daughter”
“Break my heart for what breaks your, Lord” and He did, Oh how He did, over His daughter. His precious daughter that He knit together in her mother’s womb who is fearfully and wonderfully made. It was His daughter that I was laughing at, that He created and loves, that He died for.
Undone, completely undone is the only way to describe what He was doing in my heart.
This is a life changer for me, I am so grateful for His Forgiveness, Grace and Truth deposited into my heart today.
God has used my girls over and over to help me understand His love for me. His love for me and you is so much greater than this treasured love I have for my girls, or you have for yours, or anything you cherish in your life.
A truth I’ll forever be in awe of.
In my sorrow, my snickering has turned into prayer for her. My heart has turned into love for her. Lord please protect her, bring Your people into her life, open her heart to You, send someone that she’ll respond to.
I am praying for God’s grace that instead of joining in, I will stand out and up for those who can’t or won’t. Not laughing or making fun, not pointing fingers; but prayer, for His children.
Will you join me in praying for this young woman?
God knows her name.
He knows yours, too.
In my quiet time the other day, I was feeling pretty down with nagging thoughts of who I wasn’t.
I love to spend time in the absolute quiet. No TV, phone or people (this is not easy, I have to make it happen or it won’t). Just God and I, journaling my thoughts and prayers .
There is a pattern in this, after all these years, He impresses things in my mind that spur me to dig deeper.
This is what He nudged me to look up, turning the light on in the darkness.
Through my tears, reading this over and over, He renewed my heart, He is my Friend, my Lord, my Everything.
WHO I AM!
I am a child of God, I am accepted, I am secure, I am significant, I am free from condemnation, I am the salt and light of the earth, a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life.
I am assured all thing work together for good. I am free from any charge against me. I cannot be separated from the love of God, I am established, anointed, sealed by God.
I am hidden with Christ in God. I am confident the good work God as begun in me will be perfected.
I am a citizen of heaven, I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
I can find grace and mercy in time of need. I am born of God, the evil one cannot touch me.
I am the salt and light of the earth, I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit, I am a personal witness of Christ’s , I am God’s temple, I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
I am God’s co-worker. I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm. I am God’s workmanship. I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
Turn to Jesus friends, He never fails!
I hate to weed. I don’t know many people who actually enjoy it, my husband is so good at keeping up with it. I take the ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach. Just don’t look; I know, pathetic.
We have a couple area’s that were being taken over by clover, so we made a DAY of it, weeding. A whole DAY. Can you imagine? Seriously, not.my.thing.
As we were out there, I was having a conversation with myself; “What a waste of time”, “I could be doing…(fill in the blank)”, “There are so many ‘more important’ things than this.” On and on it goes, the self talk that surly wasn’t helping me get it done. The dread, the almost anger and resentment.
As I kept this up I decided to pray, have a conversation with the Lord. I asked Him if He would invade my thoughts to help me gain a better attitude as I pulled one weed at a time.
I praised Him for the beautiful day and all the rain we’ve had that made those weeds come out pretty easily, focusing on positive thoughts, then… He invaded.
I started thinking about the parables in the bible about soil, specifically the one that says
“Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and crowded out the plants.” in Mathew 13:7
This is what was happening on the hill, maybe not exactly thorns, but weeds were crowding out the plants. I’m more than half way done on this hill when all this started to resonate, so I took a picture – the bright green would be the weeds.
I’m studying Frances Chan’s ‘Crazy Love’ right now, it’s very challenging. In chapter four he says in reference to this scripture “…when the seed is spread among the thorns, it is received but soon suffocated by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.” And, might I add, busyness.
Anyone who knows me knows I am busy. I often hear “I know you’re so busy, but…” “I didn’t think you would respond because you’re so busy; I don’t know how you do everything you do….you’re so busy.”
I must admit these statements bother me, not because they aren’t true, but because inside I have this still small voice telling me the same thing … often; “you’re too busy”. But, I justify, ignore, manipulate and excuse that nagging feeling and thought.
I am too busy. I like to think I have a full life, the word ‘busy’ bugs me.
What I know the Lord was clearly showing me this day was that my busyness was crowding out my time with Him, just like the weeds are crowding the plants.
I am ‘with Him’ all day, thinking and talking to Him but being with Him? In the quiet time that I so desperately need?
If I’m completely honest, the answer is no, it is crowded out. I’ve allowed it, not purposely, but like the weed, it starts small then gets out of control.
For me, I have to turn off the noise, shut off the phone or at least the data & internet to just sit in His presence, journal my thoughts, read His word, listen and pray – those days had become slim.
My quiet time comes in spurts but not in the way it should be when you are in relationship with The One you love. If I treated my husband, Jim, the same (and I have), we would not have much of a marriage.
I am overwhelmed with God’s love and how He reminded me spending time with Him is never a waste of my time, even when I’m weeding.
What about you, what is crowding out your time?
Reflecting on the weekend I spent with my daughter Danielle in Colorado and how much I admire her for the bravery she’s shown. She made the decision to move there this year to start a new life and job with Southwest Airlines.
I wish I could say that I supported that decision the whole time in was in the process, but I didn’t. I didn’t want her to move so far away to an unknown place from me with unknown people in her life. I was in denial, I didn’t care to know much about it and frankly avoided most conversations.
The year 2014 has brought on so much change for my family, for me. Every single one of us has moved, all 5 of Jim and I’s children AND Jim and I! What are the chances of that? New jobs, new locations, graduation, kids in college, new friends, conflict and so much more.
Change has been the theme for my family this year.
Change brings anxiety in me, some of it didn’t bother me much, but some really overwhelmed me.
What I’ve learned AGAIN is I want control. If I feel like I’m losing control I feel angry and start thinking of how to stop the thing I don’t like. Manipulation? Such an ugly word. It’s confusing because I just want to protect them, I realize it’s fear and what people think that drive me.
Recently the Lord spoke to me about this, with tears down my face I recited the words during Worship “Let all the other names fade away, Jesus take your place” [Wide As The Sky – Matt Redman] I felt like I had a teleprompter going across my mind with my girls names over and over.
How many times do I give them to you Lord only to take them back again and again? I proclaim how very much I trust you in my life, I proclaim how you’ve provided for us, you’ve been my companion, my friend, my Lord, my Provider… BUT here I am in this place again. I could almost hear the Lord saying to me “Do you REALLY trust me Debbie?”
Ugh.. obviously no, as I try to control and manipulate to keep my children near me I realize all I do is get in God’s way and the plan He surely has for each of them. ‘Letting go’ is what they call it, I might as well call it Control. This season of life has completely changed my prayer life; my fears screaming in my ear, my God calming the storm inside… “What time I am afraid, I will trust”
In the past there are many area’s in my life I tried to control as I professed Christ. Only to surly demonstrate that I didn’t really live what I believed. Hypocrite comes to mind, on so many levels. It grieves me knowing that my actions brought contempt to so many that knew me then and watch me now. I’m so utterly sorry.
The Lord has taught me so much over the years, His Grace and Mercy overwhelm me as I think on the past and let go of control in the present. I pray that going forward my words and actions always reflect that I truly live what I believe in all areas, including letting go of control and trusting God with my girls.
I continue to pray that any damage I caused to The Name of My Savior, Friend, Prince of Peace and Lord, Jesus Christ be blotted out, redeemed and healed for His Glory.
What names run across your mental teleprompter?
“When we have become complacent the bible calls it ‘lukewarm’ our spiritual lives begin to have atrophy set in”
This is something I wrote a while back, after my surgery. Hoping you find it insightful.
This morning as I removed my arm out of the sling, I couldn’t believe it. In less than three days there was a visible difference in my left arm compared to my right arm. This is called “atrophy”. My muscles are already starting to decompose for lack of use in just three days.
My arm was drawn to my side like I still had the sling on and it was smaller and kind of sickly looking. I couldn’t believe it. I had to show my wife. She could see the difference too and was shocked how soon this was beginning to take place.
Then she said the magic words…”I wonder if…
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The insight here is incredible, It has helped me to understand better it isn’t about anything I can do for myself, it’s all in what Jesus did for me… It really is finished!
All four gospels give an account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but I think Luke gives the clearest one.
The gospel is summed up in “what we couldn’t do for ourselves, in our own strength, by our own works; Jesus did for us.”
I believe the two criminals that were crucified with Jesus sums up what we believe about the gospel and what we do with it.
We see in scripture that one criminal was crucified on His left side and one on His right side. Scripture doesn’t say which one was which, but for the sake of identification let’s call criminal number one, the one on His left.
In Matthew and Mark we see both men being crucified with Jesus and mocking Him, but one had a change of heart as recorded in Luke 23.
In Luke 23:39 it says “Then one of the criminals (number one)…
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