Do you have joy this Christmas season?

b0a72c0de8112cec62b8a7de13c7eedaIsaiah 55:12 (ESV)

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Joy.  The last word in my series, and an important one…especially as 2016 comes to an end.  It’s been a tough year for a lot of people.  Six of my friends have lost a parent this year, my dad lost his third wife, there have been cancer diagnoses, other illnesses, suicides…the list goes on.  How do you find joy in the midst of all of this?  I think you have to choose it.

When I feel overwhelmed, I look for joy in the simple things.  It may seem trivial…and of course it does not take away the pain of what is going on, but it does help me to take the focus off of the bad.  Some of the things that give me joy:

Spending time with my hubby.
Having family time with my kiddos…which is hard because their schedules are so crazy.
A cafe mocha from Starbucks (hey don’t underestimate a good cup of coffee).
Walking in the rain with Lucy…I can talk to myself and no one can see me doing it because of the umbrella (smile).
Hearing a baby laugh.
Being in nature…if it’s the ocean that is a bonus.
Coming home to my dog Lucy…she always makes me feel like I’m the most important person in the world…and I guess I am since I’m her person (smile).
Puppies and kittens…luckily the internet is full of these so I don’t have to adopt any more furry babies…four is enough for me!
Laughing with a friend.

These are just some of the things that bring me joy.  They are simple, but things don’t have to be grand to bring us joy.  My friend Tara has a great perspective on joy that she shares in her blog Songs of Joy“.   You should check it out!

I encourage you to find joy in the simple things.  Life is too short and finding joy can help bring us peace, hope, and love.

Peace, Hope, Love, Joy…the words of this holiday season.  I hope you have them all, but especially love…because love matters.

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Do you have love this Christmas season?

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This Christmas season I’ve been reflecting on the words that we often see on Christmas cards…peace, hope, love and joy.  This week my word has been love and I’m sure you know that this one is my favorite (smile).

When I became a mother for the first time, I could not believe the immediate, overwhelming feeling of love I had for my son.  I knew I would love my child, but I really had no comprehension for the intensity of that love.  I couldn’t imagine loving anything or anyone more than I loved him.  Of course I loved my husband and my family, but this was a love I had not experienced before and it was very powerful. So much so, that I couldn’t imagine being able to love another child as much as I loved him.  It just didn’t seem physically possible to me.  I was actually really concerned about it when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter.  Could I possibly love her as much as I loved him?  The answer is yes.  I don’t know how it is possible, but my heart just expanded to depths I didn’t know were possible.  I did indeed love her every bit as much as I loved him.  To me, it really is quite the miracle that we have the capacity for this much love.  And it’s beautiful because to me it is a picture of how God must love all of us.  We are all His children so just imagine how big His heart is for us.  My mind just can’t comprehend it!

As I prepare for all the festivities of Christmas, I try to remember why Jesus came to earth…because God so loved the world.  Love.  God is love and to me Jesus is the greatest example for us of that love.  Jesus showed us what love looks like.  He didn’t let anything stop him from loving others, and he commanded us to do the same.  It’s not easy.  Love is easy, hard, and messy all at the same time, but it is so important. This article posted on Un*Lost shows us how important it really is to human beings. Science has shown that the need to be loved could be considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs.  Science also shows that we have a parallel need to love and care for others.

12391764_767543386681173_2827549231088575546_nI really like this quote by Liam Neeson.  As we celebrate Christmas with friends and family, let’s remember that there are some who have been abandoned by their loved ones.  There are some that have been told they can’t love or be loved.  Lets change that. Lets be Jesus to others.  Lets love beyond our capacity because that is when God shows up. Lets love one another as He has loved us.

Because love matters…

 

 

Do you have hope this Christmas season?

Well another week down and another week closer to Christmas.  McKensie was remarking to me yesterday that she can’t believe it’s December already.  Even at 22 years old, time is starting to go faster for her.  She said that it seemed like November didn’t even exist.  Well dear… the older you get the faster it goes….doesn’t seem possible, but it does.

Last week I reflected on peace.  This week I’m reflecting on hope.  I like Romans 15:13 because it reminds me that God is the God of hope:download-1

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That in itself gives me peace (smile), but I’m focusing on the hope.  Of course I find hope in God.  It’s where I get my strength because I know He is always by my side. And who doesn’t want to overflow in hope??  But I’ve been thinking about hope that I can see on a daily basis.  And again, you can see God in lots of things everyday, but I’m thinking of people kind of hope.

When I look at our world, my hope lies in the younger generation.  To be specific the millennials.  I’m not making a blanket statement here.  I know that there is good and bad in any group, but honestly I think they get a bad rap.  There are many things I like about this group, but this is what I see in the millennials I know and why they give me hope:

They are socially and environmentally conscious.  They “see” people…like really see them.  They are less judgmental.  They are accepting.  You don’t have to be just like them to be in their world.  They are diverse.  They take social justice seriously.  Like really seriously. They aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.  They voice their opinions. They do not remain silent when they see injustice.  Instead of relying on an election to change their world, they go out and be the change.  They look out for those who need looking after.

Now I know some people who would like to give me a list of the opposite of what I mention here.  Does it exist?  Of course it does…no one group is exactly the same. Like I mentioned there is good and bad in any group.  I’m speaking about the people I know.  I really admire them.  They inspire me.  They are far more like the Jesus I know.  I want to be like them when I grow up (smile).

motivation-picture-quote-hopeThe world sure can be a discouraging place sometimes.  How are you doing in the hope department?  My wish for you is that you also have something you can see that gives you hope.

Let’s be the kind of people that restores hope in others.  And while you’re at it…be the love that restores people…because love matters.

Do you have peace this Christmas season?

I can hardly believe that it is December 6th already.  The older I get the faster time goes…which is really scary because I can’t imagine it going any faster.  Before you know it, Christmas will be here and then we will be counting down the new year. 2017…I remember when the year 2000 was a big deal and we are almost 17 years in already.  Crazy!

During this time of year, there are four words that we hear a lot about…

Peace
Hope
Love
Joy

And the reason for these words this time of year is this:

Luke 2:10-11
But the angel said to them, “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.

christmas-peace-on-earth-christmas-peace-on-earth-peace-on-earth-6kfnr3-clipartBecause I need to remember these four words this holiday season, I’ve been reflecting on them a lot lately.  Today I’m going to start with Peace. How are you doing in the peace department?  I have to be honest, it’s been tough for me.

So much has happened lately.  In recent months, several of my friends have lost a parent.  The election…need I say more?  I’ve seen way too many suicides, physical assaults, property damage, etc.  The KKK paraded in North Carolina this weekend for goodness sake! I feel like I’m in the twilight zone.  The list goes on and on.  How can I expect to have peace in the midst of all of this?

I’ve had experiences where peace will just come over me.  It’s like a magical experience where all the stress and worries are just lifted away.  Have you ever experienced that?  It’s amazing when it happens.  But what if it doesn’t happen?

Sometimes I think we need to create peace for ourselves.  It might mean unplugging from social media for a bit, practicing a discipline that centers us, making time to do something that we enjoy, etc.  When things are stressful, we tend to fill up our days with busy work to distract us.  To gain peace, sometimes we just need to be still.

One thing that helps me is to be in almost constant communication with God. There is so much happening in this world that I just don’t get.  And it can be really frustrating and feel hopeless at times.  Seeing the hurt in others that I see on a daily basis can be really overwhelming.  So I talk to God a lot.  I ask Him a lot of questions.  And I’m still and listen for His voice.  And of course especially at this time of year, I reflect on the gift of Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6
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.

I think the most important thing I can do to bring peace to my life is to try to be a peace maker.  It is not always easy.  Sometimes I hear people say things and my gut reaction is to just want to cut them out of my life.  I always try to take a step back and look at things from their perspective.  I remind myself that we aren’t always going to agree with each other.  And, after all, I am called to love even those who I strongly disagree with.

So let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.

And I think a little peace could bring some love into the world…and love matters.

 

Hold onto those rabbit ears…

3d1d2912d5f866f10ad8c197590f15d1So they say God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes He works in really weird ways too.  I recently got back from a trip to Florida.  With potty stops and gas ups, it’s a 16 hour drive.  So as you can imagine I was pretty tired when I went to bed on the night I got home.  I woke up early the next day to go to church and the first image that popped into my mind when I woke up was an old television..and I was specifically focused on the antenna or as some people call them “rabbit ears”.  I wasn’t dreaming about televisions…it just was the first thing that came to me.  AND I got the impression from God that I needed to write about it.  What??

Maybe you are young enough that you don’t even  know what I’m talking about when I mention a TV antenna.  Showing my age (sign).  Back in the day, when you wanted to change the channel on your television you had to actually get up and turn a dial on the TV.  There were only a few channels and you were lucky if they came in clearly.  This is where the “rabbit ears” or antenna came in handy.  You would have to position them in different ways until the picture came into focus.  Sometimes as soon as you let go and stepped away the static would return.  We would gently let go and creep away as if to sneak away from the television.  Hence the aluminum foil you see in the picture.  That was a trick we would do to mimic the pressure of our hands.  It was a delicate process and it was so frustrating!

In my last post, I talked a little bit about the election and why some people might be upset about the outcome.  Since then, I’ve seen a ton of back and forth between people on Facebook.  The one thing that really jumps out at me in these conversations is the need for some to be right.  They argue their point so much that they lose sight of what the other person is trying to say.  They dismiss the other person’s feelings.

When you look at someone’s situation, it may not be clear to you why they feel the way they do about what is happening.  You may only see “static”.  It doesn’t make sense to you.  But for them, it is very real.  Take the time to stop and listen.  Flex your compassion muscles, even if you don’t totally understand, and maybe the “picture” may become a little clearer.  It’s easy to dismiss someone’s feelings when we don’t understand.  Try stepping into their shoes.  Can we just agree that if you aren’t in a group of people who are marginalized, you might not get why they might be upset about something?  You have nothing to worry about…but maybe they do?

I’ve seen so many people reply to comments, “Get over it already!  There have been plenty of presidents that have won that I didn’t like.  I wasn’t a cry baby about it.” These people aren’t “hearing” why these people are upset.  Yes, maybe they voted for Hillary and she didn’t win.  They are more upset about who won because of what it might mean for them.  And again, if you aren’t in one of the marginalized groups, you may not get that, but for them it is a real concern.

I was hoping things would have calmed down by now.  And it’s on both sides.  We need to respect each other.  Maybe agree to disagree at times.  I can say that I see people with really strong opinions about things that they really don’t know anything about.  I’ll give an example of something that I run into a lot…

People have admitted to me that they are starting to be able to wrap their brains around someone being gay.  They don’t “get it” totally, but they understand it a little more.  And then they will say, “But I just can’t get behind the whole transgender thing.”  9 times out of 10 when I ask them what it means to be transgender they either don’t know, or they have it completely wrong.  How can you be so against something that you know nothing about?  And these are the types of things I see in the arguments on FB.  Again, it’s all about being right…not about understanding.

So, I guess the bottom line is this…

Let’s have some compassion for one another.  Let’s listen to one another.  Let’s realize that people are feeling a little raw right now.  They may need space, they may need some understanding, they may need to be heard, and maybe they just need someone to hold onto them until the picture of their life is clearer.  Let’s be gentle, let’s offer support, let’s not back away from things that make us uncomfortable (and are sometimes frustrating).

We used to put so much time and effort into getting clear pictures on our television screens.  Shouldn’t we at least give that same time and effort into seeing and understanding our fellow-man?

I never said love was easy.  But it matters…now more than ever.

…And here’s hoping I don’t wake up to any more random weird images (smile).