Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Cards: To Do or Not To Do?

So I absolutely love getting Christmas cards, some years I've even packed them up when we put away the Christmas decor so that the following year we would be surprised to see the smiling faces of our loved ones and see how much they've changed in the past year.

So why haven't I ever done them? Well I guess there's a couple reasons excuses I've used:

1. It's too late. (I always procrastinate and by the time I remember, it seems silly to do it.)
2. We don't have the money. (All that money for printing and postage? Really?)
3. We don't have 'good enough' pictures. (I'm a perfectionist and think I'd have to hire a professional photographer. Of course with the perfect matching outfits and beautiful scenery.)
4. Who makes the cut? (I can't imagine going through the "Christmas list" and deciding on who to cut? Otherwise we'd have 200+)
5. I can't compete. (I've always thought it was a "keeping up with the Joneses" type thing to do. I guess that shows the ugly root of my competitive and comparing flesh. Yuck.) 

So I always resolved that it was just too much for me. I can't do it.

But tonight, while putting my feet up after a very long day (aren't most days in December extra long?) I was scanning my news feed and was pleasantly surprised by this refreshing perspective on sending Christmas cards... from a woman I have endless respect for (I mean she was voted Mother of the Year!)

Her words really say it all. What a great way of remembering all of the people in our lives that have left their deposit in us, touched our lives. The people we've been so blessed to know, the people who've made us better. It's a great time to think of them and thank God for them. Just writing this so many people come to mind when I think of who has shaped me as a woman, us as a family. I think of Tony Jones, one of my husband's childhood mentors, who helped shape him into the man he is today. The husband he is to me, the father he is to Caleb & Connor... he deserves an update and a thank you for investing in our lives. I think of my friend, Kara. She was relentless in inviting me to youth group when that was the last place you'd ever find a girl like me. She was my first "accountability partner" and really led me to knowing God. Even though we live across the country from each other, I'd love to send her a little love each year and thank God for her.

I need to let go of the reins of control, or the "illusion of control" I think I have. I need to stop thinking my cards would need to have a perfect picture, we are far from perfect people. Just be real and take time out to thank God for the people who've shaped our lives and those we get to share our lives with- our closest friends and family.

What's better than having the faces and words of those we love most filling the walls of our home during the Christmas season? Looking at the nativity scene and reflecting on the relationship we now have with our Father because He chose to send His Son for us. Then looking to the relationships that lead us to knowing Him more and that enrich our lives daily.

This is our kitchen wall that displays cards year round.

It only seems fitting to replace my five excuses with five good reasons to do Christmas cards in the future!

1. To take pictures to capture the moments of each stage of life.
2. To count your blessings and recap another year of love & life.
3. To remember and thank all of the people from your past (who've left a mark on your life!)
4. To share the season with those who you currently live life with.
5. To commemorate all the years for your family (keep one from each year and make an album.)

What's funny is I made this "card" for our house but it didn't meet my "expectations."

I'm resolving to care less about everything being perfect, to think less about how things "appear"... maybe I should take pictures in our messy love-filled home one year?

Thankful for a perspective change.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hope is Beautiful

About three and a half years ago I was flying on a plane. I had just experienced a loss I could have never prepared for. I didn't know what to think, how to feel. I was confused, sad, hopeless, tired, in pain, trying to keep it together, looking at everyone I came in contact with like there is no possible way they could understand what I was going through. I was trying to keep my mind distracted and had picked up some magazines in the airport, when I came across this ad... 

It was one of those moments I will never forget. It's funny how something so small, simple and really intended for something altogether different... spoke to me, right where I was at. This image has been ingrained in my mind ever since, I just found it again for the first time. In a moment it was like hope was implanted into my heart. I was inspired, I was refreshed, a light came on! I love how God intervenes, He can whisper to our heart and everything changes. 

Hope had saved me once. Now on this airplane surrounded by strangers, no one knowing what was going on in my heart... hope collided with my heart once again. Hope saved me twice. 

I had to post it, praying it would find someone else at that perfect moment. The moment that God could use this simple picture, this simple phrase to ignite hope in their hearts.  
Hope is beautiful.

So whether you're in the middle of it or know someone who is, share this. 
Here are some of my favorite verses about the hope we have: 

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." (Psalm 62:5 NLT) 
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:19 NIV) 
"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word." (Psalm 119:114 AMP) 
"Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!" (Psalm 31:24 AMP) 
"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (Romans 8:24-25 NIV) 
Sometimes we have to preach to ourselves: 
"Why, my soul, are you so downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 43:5 NIV) 
This is my prayer for you: 
"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13 NLT) 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Do you really BELIEVE in God?

Goodbye to “BELIEVE” as we know it...

“I believe in God.” Most people think this means, “I'm sure that God exists”. Then you hear people say, “even the devil or demons believe in God”… which is true… they KNOW and have full confidence in God’s existence I’m sure… but BELIEVE in the Bible means so much more than we think...


Do you ADHERE (stay attached to, cling to, be devoted to, be consistent to) God?
Do you TRUST [expect confidently, hope, rely on His (integrity, strength, ability)] in God?
Do you RELY (depend) on God?!

So the question should not be “Do you believe God exists?” Rather, “Do you cling to God? Are you a consistent follower of His? Do you trust His ability? His integrity? Do you depend on Him?”
With this in mind, now read….

"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life." (John 3:16 AMP)

 Believing is more than acknowledging the existence of! When God is asking us to "believe" in Him... He's asking for so much more than we think... trust in, be devoted to, hope in, stay close to HIM!


"For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation--he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ's name.] (John 3:17-18 AMP)

Read v. 19-21 for more!!!
Disclaimer: (I actually wrote this (above) in 2011, but was reminded of it with my other recent post. So now I add...) 

I want to be a woman who stays attached to Him, that has a consistent relationship (not just highs and lows), I want to expect confidently in Him and put myself in position to depend on Him. I want to live in His strength, not my own.

I want to be like the father in the story found in Mark 9:14-29:

"'But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'  'If you can?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.' Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:22-24 NIV)
In the Amplified version it words it like this, 'Lord, I believe! [Constantly] help my weakness of faith!" (Mark 9:24 AMP) Lord knows I am in need of constant help!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Solution to All My Problems

Ever feel overwhelmed by life's troubles? Your own? Your friends? Strangers? I know I do. I can let the circumstances get the best of my emotions and feel hopeless. I always know what's best though. I know Who is best. I can choose the more narrow path. The path which changes my perspective completely. This is because Who I believe in, changes everything about me, my life, and my world.

Let's stop there for a minute. Who I believe in. Believe not in the sense of the typical response of, "oh yea, I believe in God, but..." No, my believe changes things. Does yours?
"Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me..." (John 11:25 AMP)
The 'believe' that Jesus is talking about is not merely saying I believe in God as a higher power, or even in Jesus as a historical figure who lived on earth. Believing in Him means adhering to Him, trusting in Him, relying on Him. Wow. This is enough to chew on... but I have to keep going with what brought me to writing tonight.

I feel bombarded right now with life's troubles, not just mine-- but of those I love. How much trouble can one handle? When I see the load my loved ones are carrying, sometimes I feel lost for words. From financial instability, to miscarriage, to marital separation, to abandonment by your baby's father, to homelessness, to insecurity, to sick children, to loss of a loved one, to pregnancy complications, to neglect from a father, and the list of troubles goes on. Comparing our troubles with another is never the answer, we all have only so much we can handle in different seasons of our lives. And I do hold onto the promise of Romans 5:3-5:
"But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."  (Romans 5:3-5) NIV
We all have troubles-- the daily kind and the seasonal overwhelming kind. As we just read though, we have had God's love poured into our hearts and have been given the Holy Spirit. I know I can't even begin to fathom all that truly means.

Life doesn't have formulas that give us the answer or the easy way out. And I obviously have a deep craving for this, because I've seemed to kind of make one.... but I think it works because it's based on the words of Jesus Himself.
troubles --> take heart + overcome
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peaceIn this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) 
The moment of the onset of trouble... I try to remember this truth. I've realized that when I encounter troubles in life, I've stopped allowing them to take control. I try my hardest to not let them make me lose it! Because when I encounter trouble I remind myself that Jesus (my best friend, the light of the world, the prince of peace) told me that I would have trouble... (He warned me!) But he said "take heart for I have overcome the world." And that Overcomer... yep, He lives inside of me. Which means I have that same overcoming power in me. So somehow I have to figure out how to take that trouble and apply the overcoming power of God over it.  So maybe this is simpler:
trouble + overcoming power = peace
How can you apply that overcoming power to the troubles you are facing? How can you remember to take a deep breath and "take heart" the moment trouble knocks on your door?! Don't allow the trouble to have the victory... because He has already overcome the world. He already has the victory. Amen!