Treasured Traditions

We all have them, don’t we? Those treasured family traditions that truly capture the magic and joy of the Christmas season.

We have our fair share of them in our house, too. The Christmas trees (yes, plural this year!) are up and decorated, the singing Christmas dog (don’t even ask) has a new set of batteries in anticipation of its excessive use, the advent candles are lit, the nativity scene is in place, and the Christmas cake is in the oven as we speak.

And yet with all the excitement, there is a sadness too—at the many Christmas traditions we are unable to do in this pandemic year. No candlelit church services, no visits with relatives across the Atlantic or festive gatherings with friends, no Christmas concerts or parties or visits to Santa’s grotto for the kids.

And yet what this year has taught us is that perhaps some of the traditions we hold so dear are really not all that important after all. That in spite of all the things we are unable to do that typically give us that warm, fuzzy, festive feeling, Christmas is still happening. Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere.

Our circumstances may change from one year to the next. One year may ‘feel’ more or less like Christmas than the one before. But regardless of what’s happening in the world at any given time, regardless of where we are or how we spend it, God still sent His son and there is still a Savior worth celebrating.

And so this year we are reflecting on the traditions we want our family to truly focus on this season. The traditions that will hopefully last long beyond December and will be ingrained in our children’s hearts long after they leave our home. The traditions that don’t just light up our home but point us to the Light of the World.

We can bake as many gingerbread houses as we like, fill our house to bursting with sparkly lights, and cram as many presents under the tree as we can manage, but without Christ at the center of it all, it’s meaningless.

He is the only tradition worth celebrating.

What are your family doing this year to keep Christ at the center of the Christmas season?

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Reflections on the Voice of God

The voice of God is powerful and majestic.
The voice of God is still and small.

The voice of God thunders with fire and hail.
The voice of God sings over us with love.

The voice of God speaks the earth into existence.
The voice of God cries in a stable in the body of a newborn babe.

The God of all creation and the God of all comfort.
Holy and helpless.
Majestic and merciful.
Ruler and Redeemer
Sovereign and Son.

It is the greatest oxymoron. The most wonderful mystery.

That God on high would willingly bring Himself low—for us.

“I am the high and holy God, who lives forever. I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and repentant, so that I can restore their confidence and hope” (Isaiah 57:15).

He loves us so much that He refuses to leave us struggling in the pit of our sin. He reaches down. He pulls us up. He made a way. He gave us Jesus.

And because of Him, we can once again hear the Father’s voice.

Choosing Joy

What word would you use to describe 2020?

I can certainly think of a few—and none of them are all too complementary… But one word that does not immediately spring to mind is the word joyful.

“Oh remember 2020? That was such joyful year, wasn’t it?”

Yeah. I don’t think so.

And yet isn’t that exactly how we, as believers, are called to think?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” James says in James 1:2.

It seem so counterintuitive, doesn’t it? When all we really want to do is complain and rant and cry and wish we would never see such a year again, we are told instead to count it all joy.

All. Joy.

And the Reason we can do this is—as crazy as it may sound—is the very Reason we celebrate this advent season. The One who lay in the manger in a stable in Bethlehem and now offers hope and life and an eternal perspective that far outweighs the horrors of this world. The One who “for the JOY set before him… endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

He endured the cross with JOY because of us.

So we, in turn, can endure the events of today with JOY because of Him.

No-one can deny its been a rough year. And we don’t have to be delighted about it, walking around with a huge smile on our face talking about how wonderful it was.

But we can choose joy.

It is a choice
It is our strength
It is our weapon
And as a Christian, it should be our calling card.

How can you choose the joy of the Lord even in spite of your circumstances today?

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An Invitation to the Impossible

From Mary’s first encounter with the angel to God incarnate making His long awaited appearance in a dusty stable; every page is streaked with improbability; woven with strands of wonder.

And for a brief moment, we suspend our disbelief and enter into a world far beyond the limits of our finite understanding, reveling in the glorious impossibility of God’s master plan.

For we, of course, have the advantage of knowing how it all turns out.

Of course He can do it!” we encourage Mary, who asks with utter astonishment how she could possibly carry the Messiah in her womb.

“Believe her!” we urge Joseph as he wrestles with doubt and disbelief at the momentous calling God has placed on his betrothed.

“It’s true!” we proclaim to the sleepy shepherds unable to believe the sight before them as the heavenly host fills the starry sky above.

“Hurry!” we cry to the wise men as they make their preparations to follow the star and begin their journey to meet the new King.

Oh it’s easy to believe the impossible when it’s someone else’s story, isn’t it. But what about when it’s ours?

As I sit at the dining room table coloring with my daughter, doing (another) load of laundry, or attending a work meeting, these wondrous events of so long ago seem a million miles away from my everyday, ordinary reality. There is no impossible here.

Or is there?

I’m pretty sure Mary was having a rather uneventful day when the angel appeared; Joseph too. The shepherds had turned up for just another day at work; the wise men had no travel plans on the agenda that morning.

And yet, God did the impossible anyway.

This advent season, I urge you put your faith in the God who breaks through the walls of our unbelief, our ordinariness, our unimportance, even our lack of faith; and makes miracles happen—perhaps when we least expect it…

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” Corrie ten Boom

The Unfolding Story

The stage is set. An unlikely cast of characters is waiting in the wings, and the world is preparing to gather once more, relishing the retelling of this familiar story.

It’s a story that has everything. Scandal, intrigue, jealousy, trust, surrender, new life, and of course, love.

And as we gaze in wonder at the grand finale—the newborn King lying in the grubby manger, the star twinkling brightly in the dark Bethlehem night, we smile as we close the book for another year. The story has been told, everything is as it should be, and we can all go about our business as before.

But the story doesn’t end there, does it?

The baby grows up.

A manger is exchanged for a cross.
A birth for a death.
An innocent paying a heavy price.

“It is finished,” He cried as He breathed His last. What horror! What tragedy! What disappointment to see His story end like…this.

But it still wasn’t finished, was it? The Author still had a plot twist to reveal; one last surprise up His sleeve.

An empty tomb
A resurrection
A risen King.

What love! What joy! What hope! Now we can close the book, surely. Now the credits can roll.

And yet this story is one that continues to unfold. The Author has not yet laid down His pen, and the baby in the manger continues to work in and through our lives—restoring and redeeming hearts and lives, saving souls. And one day He will return again for the final chapter as the greatest love story ever written reaches its dramatic conclusion.

And so, this advent season as you turn the pages to those well worn, well versed chapters and read once more of angels, shepherds, and kings, remember to keep reading—long after the decorations are back in their boxes for another year.

For God’s love story to the world is still unfolding. And you, my friend, are in the midst of it.

Waiting on the When

When?

This year for so many of us, it’s more of a burden than a question; a heavy weight we have carried as 2020 has marched relentlessly on. And yet here we are 9 months in and the answers are still no clearer than they were in the spring.

When will we see our family again?
When can we travel or gather together?
When will there be a vaccine?
When will life return to ‘normal’?

And the truth is, we simply don’t know.

We never did. Not in 2019 or any year before that.

We only thought we did because we had some semblance of control. Dates in calendars, plans scheduled months in advance, like trail markers of our own making leading us step by step down an unknown path.

The path is still unknown my friends, the only difference is, this year, there are no markers.

And so, many of us find our lives on pause, waiting for direction, for the markers to magically appear to guide our way once more.

It’s not a comfortable place to be.

Yet the irony is not lost on me that we are just now entering Advent—the season of waiting.

A broken and weary world waited once before for a Savior. It’s waiting again for His return. And right now, we’re somewhere in that messy middle. Longing for Him to restore all the hurt and pain and brokenness and despair that is our everyday, constant reality. Waiting for, hoping for, and anticipating the time He has promised will come; the ‘when’ we will one day see.

We may not know the exact timing but we can be sure that He does. For this is the God who said, “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen” (Isaiah‬ ‭60:22‬, ‭NLT‬‬); the God who ordained a time for every season under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3); the God who calls us simply to wait on Him (Psalm 27:14).

This advent season, as we wait with hope and expectation for our Savior’s birth, let’s surrender those ‘whens’ to His care. Throw off the burdens, untie the chains that bind us, and trust an unknown future to the God who knows all things, who “is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

The whens will come. But first, let’s find joy in the nows.

Light that Transforms

It was a dreary November morning, the trail we were walking devoid of all color and life. The clouds formed a thick, seemingly impenetrable blanket of gray above us, casting a gloomy shadow over the already desolate landscape. We, like the exposed, skeletal trees lining the river, shivered against the chilly late autumn wind as we headed back toward home.

And then all at once the landscape changed. The sun, flooding through a crack in the heavy sky, danced and sparkled across the blackness of the water. Barrenness transformed to beauty; desolation to delight.

What a difference the light can make.

God has been using the imagery of light to speak to my heart in this somewhat desolate season— Light that penetrates the darkness and overcomes it; Light that guides us through unknown seasons and shadowy landscapes; Light that transforms, not only our lives, but those of the people around us—if we will only allow it to filter through the darkness.

“Once your life was full of sin’s darkness, but now you have the very light of our Lord shining through you because of your union with him. Your mission is to live as children flooded with his revelation-light! And the supernatural fruits of his light will be seen in you—goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:7-9‬, TPT‬‬).

When the desolation of our current season threatens to overwhelm, let’s allow the Light—Jesus Himself—to break through the gloom; dancing across the deepest shadows of our heart, transforming what was once barren—dead even—into glorious beauty and fruit. Fruit that can, in turn, be a lamp to those around us who may be lost and struggling in the dark.

“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” James Turrell

No matter how gloomy, how desolate the landscape of your life today, friend, look for the Light—and experience its supernatural power to transform.

Wait for the Light

My daughter has a blanket over her head.

“I can’t see, mama,” she calls delightedly as she stumbles about giggling and banging off door frames. Yet this momentary darkness is all just a game; at any moment she can take the blanket off and see where she’s going.

But real life isn’t like that, is it?

This year in particular feels a lot like stumbling about in the dark. In fact, Isaiah could have been writing about 2020 when he wrote: “We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows (Isaiah 59:9, NIV).

It might sound a bit hyperbolic to some and yet for others the darkness of this season is tangible. We can’t make plans; we can’t move forward; we can’t see what’s ahead. We are treading water, waiting for direction, ever hopeful that things will change.‭‭ And if they don’t? Well, sometimes we get impatient and decide to forge our own way ahead anyway. And spoiler alert, it doesn’t often end well.

“Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God,” Isaiah says. “But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment” (Isaiah‬ ‭50:10-11‬, NIV‬‬).

When the road ahead is dark, our choice is clear: surrender or self.

We can choose to inch forward on the path unknown to us, relying on the Light of the World completely to guide our every step or we can rely on ourselves—and our own rudimentary light—blindly and hastily bushwhacking through the darkness to get to the closest thing we can find to a destination. Even if it’s not the one we truly want.

So though the trials of this unknown season can be hard to endure friends, let’s be women of faith today who choose to wait on the Light; trusting and relying on the God who promises to walk with us through the darkness.

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Weight of the World

I’ve been listening to Deacon Blue’s melancholy “Weight of the World” on repeat lately. Whether or not you’re also partial to this iconic, been-around-forever Scottish band (and honestly why would you not be!), I think we can all agree the sentiment rings true.

The world is heavy right now—and most of us are struggling under its weight.

We are carrying the weight of a pandemic and how to thrive, or at least survive, in the midst of it. Drastic changes to home and work dynamic; separation from family; anxiety over safety measures, school decisions, and of course our own health and that of our loved ones. And then there are the other weights: the bitter, divided political landscape, a looming presidential election, racial and social injustice and unrest, fires, storms, murder hornets…

It’s all just too much. The weight of the world is just too much to carry—alone.

But we’re not alone, are we? We have Jesus—who offers to carry that weight on our behalf (Matthew 11:28-30). To come alongside us and exchange our unbearable yoke for His. One that is lighter, easier, and allows us to breathe a little once more. The weight is still there, of course, but it isn’t our burden to carry.

If we choose it.

And as we look everyday at the confusion and pain and anger and worry that circles around us, infusing our every thought and breath with its chaotic noise, we must remember the truth that this will not last forever. It is temporal. It will fade. And one day, we will exchange its weight—“this light momentary affliction… for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬).

And what joy and hope that truth brings in these difficult times.

The world may be heavy indeed, friends, but take heart, Jesus has already overcome it (John 16:33). So let’s stop struggling with the unbearable, unrealistic weight we are attempting to carry and place it as His feet instead, as we look with hope and anticipation to the eternal glory which is to come

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Your Grace is Enough

The words blared out from the car radio as I ran a few errands around town. It may have been the VeggieTales version but don’t you think for a minute that God can’t speak through screechy, singing vegetables.

“Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough.
For me.”

Believe me when I tell you I believe this. My mind recognizes this as Truth. And yet, somewhere deep inside, doubt still lingers. Somewhere deep inside, a little voice whispers: “Are you sure?”

The last several months have been a monumental challenge for so many of us moms. Having children around 24/7 while trying to do, well almost anything, has been an uphill battle. We are worn out, stretched thin, doing our best to fight all the fires and do all the things. And as patience wears thin and balls get dropped one by one, our failings are overwhelmingly evident.

“I’m not a good mom.”
“I’m not on top of things.”
“I’m not able to do this”
“I’ve made so many mistakes.”
“I’ve let people down.”
“I’m not enough.”

Sound familiar? I’m sure you have your own that you could add to the mix too. But here’s the thing ladies, it doesn’t end here, in this negative thought spiral. There is a place that we can take these thoughts—and it’s right at the feet of Jesus.

He takes each one and instead of using them to condemn us, to berate us, to question our worth; He responds with grace. So. Much. Grace.

He knows we’re not perfect. He knows we’re not superhuman (even if we don’t). He knows because He created us and delighted over our wonderfully weak and imperfect selves. He knows and yet He still chose to go to the cross.

And so, we can stand on the promise that no matter how we’re feeling, no matter how we’re doing, or what we’ve already done, His grace IS enough. When we feel unworthy, ashamed, incapable, and insufficient—when we feel human—He will meet the need, He will stand in the gap for us, He will cover us with His grace.

You were never designed to do it all. In these crazy, overwhelming times sisters, give yourself the gift of grace. He already has.

But God said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).E7FED1D4-8BAC-4EAB-A388-E25FED20D82F