Faith · Grief

Christmas Tears

I’ve always loved the simple things of Christmas. The tree glowing in the evening, Christmas music in the air, baking cookies, Christmas parties, the holiness of Christmas, Communion and candle light.

The gifts are an annoying side gig that I must participate in. There was always one beacon in all of the Christmas shopping and that was the annual shopping trip I took with my Dad.

He was the embodiment of Christmas cheer and we had some adventures.

There was the year we came out a different exit than we entered, and we were convinced that someone stole the car.

The year we were so busy talking that I missed our exit and we ended up in another state.

Secretly, our shopping was just an end to a means. The means, margaritas and Mexican food. At that table we would laugh, solve word problems and discuss all things past and present.

Dad was plagued with several health issues, failing lungs were one of them. The last few years we gave up the shopping and headed straight to the nearest Mexican restaurant.

It was all he could do to get from the car to the table. But once settled at our table, margaritas in hand we would laugh and talk. As we had dinner and our second margarita arrived, his breathing would ease and I was certain margaritas were his cure. If only we could stay there forever.

Sadly the margaritas were not the cure and this year Dad’s lungs, ever so slowly, stopped their breathing in and breathing out. We knew it was coming, but nothing prepares you for loosing someone so dear. The missing, the aching.

This year has been a year of tears, they can come at any time. Some days I feel panic set in as I try to remember his voice. Walking in my parents house and glancing into my Dad’s empty workshop, grief grips my heart.

Christmas has brought a fresh cup of brimming tears. The thought of Christmas without him seems unfathomable. I want to skip it, run away from it and I certainly don’t want to do any Christmas shopping.

As much as I want to sit with my tears and let them have their way, I have continued to resist them. Maybe I am afraid if I start crying I may never stop.

I read this article What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas , by Nancy Guthrie. I was given this fresh perspective on tears.

For most of us, grief tends to work itself out in tears — tears that come out at times we don’t expect. Sometimes grieving people sense that people around them see their tears as a problem to be solved — that te

Nancy’s words are true. Tears are not my enemy. I am still a woman of faith.

Tears are a gift, a healing gift from God. They will help to wash away my deep anguish.

This Christmas I choose to open His gift and let them fall.

Advent · Hope

Our Living Hope

Today we light the Hope candle. All had been quiet for 400 years. God’s people were waiting for the Light to pierce the darkness. Waiting for their Living Hope to arrive.

As we set our hearts toward Christmas, let’s take a moment and lift our hands and hearts in thanks to Jesus, who is still our Living Hope today. 🙌❤️🙌

Faith

The Hard Yes

Don’t we love saying yes to the easy yeses in our lives?  We love the yeses that offer us promotion, praise or comfort.  How do we react when God asks us to say yes to the hard yeses?  The yeses that require time, commitment and sacrifice.  The yeses that ask us to give much of ourselves – the yeses that hurt.

As we celebrate this holy week I think of Mary’s journey.  Baby Jesus stirring in her womb as she rode on the back of a donkey, making the journey to Bethlehem, the City of David.

Mary had said yes to a hard yes.  A yes that would be self sacrificing, life threatening, life changing and heart piercing.  Mary said yes to salvation, her own salvation and our salvation.

Those are the yeses that shape us, form us and mold us into the image of Christ.   As we celebrate this Christmas and begin to look into the year ahead let’s make a Christmas Promise to ourselves.

We Will Say Yes To the Hard Yes

Each of us, like Mary hold a hard yes within us –  

  • Some of us will will say yes and sit with a friend who is suffering.
  • Some of us will say yes and welcome a neglected, abandoned child into our family.
  • Some of us will say yes to opening up our home and our table to the lonely.
  • Some of us will say yes and finally go on that mission trip to a starving and broken land where we will pour ourselves out until our bones and our hearts ache.
  • Some of us will say yes and move far away from family and comforts to follow God’s call.
  • Some of us will say yes to compassion for that difficult co-worker or family member.
  • Some of us will say yes and set down our pride once and for all.
  • Some of us will say yes and open up our checkbooks until it hurts.
  • Some of us will say yes and love those who are difficult to love.

Within our Hard Yes, God is birthing something beautiful. 

Faith

Christ

The count down to Christmas has begun.  I have struggled with Christmas for several years now.  For some unexplained reason I feel like a greedy glutton through out the holidays.  I cannot shake this unexplained feeling of sadness combined with restlessness that seems to just sit upon me.

I am a terrible shopper, fifteen minutes in and I’m ready for a nap.  I don’t even consider Black Friday shopping, I find myself more of a Cyber Monday kind of gal.  How is it that as I shop for others, I keep finding things for myself, my selfish self.

A few years ago I made up my mind that I would refocus my mind and my heart.  I would refuse to allow these feelings overtake me, I had to find my way back to joy.   My husband made a beautiful Advent Log and week by week as I light each candle it stills my restless heart. It would become the tool that the Lord would use to bring me back to the miracle that is Christmas.

Advent3

Hope

The first week I light the Candle of Hope and I think of Israel waiting, hoping praying longing for a Savior for four-hundred years.  Hope came as Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Our Savior was immaculately conceived. Mary would have no idea and the greatness of this Yes, this life changing, life threatening and sacrificial Yes.

Preparation

The second week I light the Candle of Preparation and I think of our of gracious God who prepared the way for His Son.

I think of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, who was also expecting a great miracle as John the Baptist grew within in her, even at her impossible age.  For everything is possible with God.  I see how the Lord gave Mary a friend who would believe with her, pray with her and encourage her.

I read how the Lord prepared the heart of Joseph to honor Mary as his wife.  I watch as the Lord goes before them leading and guiding their every step.

Joy

As Jesus burst forth in the world, the whole Earth rejoices.  The sky is filled with angels who bring a great message of joy to the shepherds tending their flocks in the night.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2 10-14 

I cannot imagine a greater joy. I picture every living thing rejoicing in their own unique way. I can feel joy stir within me.

Love

As I light the Candle of Love Imagine someone I love and I let that feeling simmer. Give that a try, for you maybe it is a spouse, a parent, brother, sister, a child or a dear friend. Hold on to that feeling for a moment and then multiply it and keep multiplying it until you can’t anymore.  That is the Love of God.  The sacrificial love of God for you, for me, for all.

He would love us so much that He would watch this babe grow into a boy.  He would see a young Jesus who didn’t want to leave His Father’s House, the Temple.  He would listen when Jesus would go off alone just to talk to Him.  As His son became a man, He would watch as Jesus moved by compassion, would heal the lame, the blind, the sick and raise the dead.

He would see His Son beaten, spit  upon and humiliated by mere men. He watched as a crown of thorns would be presses deep into His skull.  He would see His Son carry His own cross up the hill where He would be crucified.   He, a holy God  would have to turn away as the sin of the world clung to His Son.  My sin, your sin.  He would endure all of this because He loves us.

 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.  

John 3:16 

Christ

I light the Christ Candle, the candle that all of the other candles point to and I think of those three days that Jesus spent separated from His beloved Father.  The three days where He defeated sin, death and the grave to give the greatest gift that will be over be given.

Salvation

I encourage you my friends, if you, like me find Christmas to be an overwhelming struggle. Pause and take time to light the candles and let your heart be stilled by the perfect peace of Christ.

 

 

 

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

Preparation

 

We spend more time preparing for Christmas than actually celebrating Christmas.  Our days are filled with grocery Lists, gift lists, baking, cooking and decorating.  Let’s be honest Christmas can be a lot of work and preparation, it is also part of the fun.  For me, I enjoy the baking.

With Christmas carols playing, I roll and cut the sugar cookie dough. Soon I’m pulling out trays of warm cookies and frosting them with a thick layer of butter cream icing. It’s my happy place… a place where my young  children, nieces and nephews would gather around the table to add the sprinkles.

Just like we prepare every year to celebrate this beautiful and holy day, the Lord in His wisdom knew that Mary would need some preparation.

Her cousin, Elizabeth played a big part.   As we read in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth had something wonderful happen to her.  She had been barren up to this point, longing for a child of her own.  In her words, she had suffered a lifetime of reproach, of blame, she was the object of scorn or contempt from those around her. The Lord was preparing to redeem those years that she spent aching for a child.

In their old age, when it would seem impossible to have a child.  An angel appears to Zacharias telling him that Elizabeth will bear a son and his name has already been chosen, John.

He would be a child who would…

  • Would bring joy and gladness
  • Cause many would rejoice at his birth
  • Be great in the sight of the Lord
  • Not drink wine or strong drink
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
  • Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 
  • Walk in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord

Zacharias couldn’t believe what he was hearing and for doubting his lips were sealed until the day he would name his son.

Elizabeth stayed in her home for the first five months of her pregnancy.  Why?  We wonder.  My guess, to stay away from the naysayers and doubters.  She was hanging on to her God Promise.  There are times when we must hold our God Promises, close to our heart, so that no one can bring doubt to our mind.

Elizabeth and Zacharias may have been weary of waiting and praying for a child, but the Lord was planning to give them an extraordinary child who was well worth with the wait, John the Baptist.

Elizabeth would be part of the preparation process for Mary.  Two women experiencing miracle pregnancies, they had much to discuss!

Let’s look at this precious greeting between them…

Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!  Luke 1: 39-45 Msg

Elizabeth knows and so does baby John.  The knew the were in the presence of the Messiah and both were filled with joy.  Just typing those words made my own heart leap!

Then the visiting began.  I am sure that Mary and Elizabeth laughed, ate, cried, prayed and encouraged each other.  Such a beautiful time between friends and all the while Elizabeth’s belly grew.  Reinforcing the miracle happening within her.

God knows how important friendship is.  How it encourages and strengthens us.  We see examples all through  the Bible.  We can find ourselves consumed with creating the perfect Christmas for our families that we forget our friends.  Our friendships are a treasure, we must nurture and care for them.

For me, spending time with a good friend, refreshes me in ways nothing else can.

As we light our preparation candle this week plan to reach out to a good friend.  Plan to spend time together eating, talking, laughing, even crying.  Make it a point to encourage each other, this will prepare our hearts.

Preparation