Seriously. Don’t Take Christmas So Seriously.

santa hatWow. This year was weird. We didn’t buy a thing online and instead went into the stores and made our purchases! I think it was good for me to go out and see the people. Watching people is one of the primary ways we writers find things to write about. Thanks for all of the good material, by the way!

Last week as I wandered through the stores, I noticed an overwhelming seriousness on everyone’s faces. Everywhere I looked, people were intently scouring the shelves for the items on their lists. Very rarely did I see a smile even as they passed me by.

After experiencing about as much seriousness that I could stand, I tried an experiment. I decided to go through the grocery store with a smile on my face the entire time. Do you know how hard it is to smile that long?  Anyway, the results were interesting. As I wandered up and down the aisles smiling, people literally stopped and watched.  When they realized that I noticed them watching, they would give me a half smile and look away quickly. As I was leaving the store, a lady getting a cart to go into the store stopped and watched me.  I was actually able to make eye-contact with her and she shouted across the lobby of the store to me—a complete stranger—“Merry Christmas!” I was blown away by how just a simple smile could attract so much attention.

In Matthew 5:13, the Bible talks about believers being salt and light to this earth. It goes on to ask the question, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will it be seasoned?  I was reminded of that verse this week. Christmas is a time for us to celebrate our King!  It is a time to tell the world about Jesus! It’s an open door to talk about what our Savior has done for us in our lives. We need to season the world with true reason for the season! If we lose our joy, or our saltiness, during the most important season of our Christian walk, we are simply no different than those with no hope.

The world needs those of us who are believers to be the salt just as the scripture calls us to be.  We need to smile and remember why we celebrate!  By our smiles on our faces, the world will wonder what is different as we truly are salt to a serious and lost world. A little salt’s effect in a dark and too serious world is amazing.

If you have salt on your food, you know it. Some spices blend and make an overall nice change to the taste, but not salt.  Salt makes a statement. If we are truly salty, our presence will be felt. Try not to take the secular constraints of the season so seriously and allow them to rob you of your saltiness. Rather, take time to rejoice and focus on The One that brings a smile to your face!  Be prepared as when you do, others will take notice, recognize your saltiness and will want to know more about why you smile.

Just simply be the salt.

Have a blessed and joyful Christmas!

Matthew 5:13 (NKJV) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?

What’s Your Word for 2014?

sunrise on Christmas morn

This was a beautiful sunrise Christmas morning, 2013.

I’m never good at keeping New Year resolutions, so I decided several years ago not to even try.  However, I’m not sure why, but it seems that God gives me insight for the year ahead each January.  In fact, last year I went into 2013 kicking and screaming with what I felt was ahead.  I was prepared for the worst and it came, plus some.  This year, though, I am at peace.  I feel in my heart that 2014 is going to be a year of blessings—so that is my word for 2014.  Blessings.

We have all been through several years now of uncertainty having lived through the recession, job losses, cutbacks, high gas prices, changes in healthcare and other various stressors just to mention a few.  Some of us were better prepared than others.  However, I don’t think any of us have walked through the last few years unscathed.  Through these lean years, our household has cut back dramatically on eating out, vacations, and other things we would typically have done in the past just in order to save a few dollars to make ends meet.  Perhaps you’ve done the same.

Maybe it’s just me…or maybe you will relate.  It seems like when we go through lean times like these that we tend to get our priorities in line a little better than when times are easier and more certain.  Sometimes when things go smoothly in everything we do, we take things for granted.  In today’s world, when you go to work and come home with your job intact, it is a good day.  So many people I know in the last few years have struggled financially just because they were out of work or perhaps their job was cut back to part time to avoid high insurance costs for their company.  In 2013, God showed me how He provides.  He taught me once again to praise Him for His provision and reminded me to pray for my husband’s career and mine.  He gently pointed out to me that I should not put my faith into our employers; rather, I need to trust Him daily and seek His direction for our income.

Also, a year ago this week, it was confirmed that I had breast cancer.  Talk about your world losing control.  As a matter of fact, most of 2013 was spent going to appointments related to treating either my condition or the residual effects of the cancer.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that I can actually say, “I feel like myself again for the first time in a year!”  God taught me in 2013 that no one’s good health is guaranteed.  We can eat all of the right foods, exercise and get 8 hours of sleep every night and still get a disease that can threaten our life.  He taught me to slow down and do only the things of importance for a while.  The house can wait.  I may not be able to be superwoman to my kids and grandkids for a season.  He met me every morning, faithfully, and showed me through His Word that He was taking care of me and it was OK not to be so independent.  He spoke to me about the fact that I am human, living in a temporary world.  He designed life so that we could depend on Him to get us through whatever comes our way.  He gave me renewed hope of an eternity with no more suffering someday.

I say all of this because even though 2013 was a year of suffering, depression, uncertainty and lots of unexpected expenses; God has proven Himself, once again, to be faithful.  I can go through life like I started out last January, kicking and screaming; or, I can simply choose to trust God.  If we experience despair in our finances, health, and other circumstances, we can make the choice to put God in a box and don’t believe He can.  Or, we can seek Him through our situations and marvel at how He takes us through the valleys so gracefully.  I went into 2013 scared and uncertain about tomorrow.  Today in 2014, I still don’t know what tomorrow brings.  However, I am grateful for a year of suffering so that when God’s blessings fall, I will no longer take them for granted. I look forward to trusting God even more and growing into a deeper relationship with Him in 2014.

God never lets us down. He may not answer how or when we would like, but He is always there.  Today I am rejoicing through the days ahead in 2014 knowing He has my best interest at heart.  I am looking towards 2014 as the year for blessings because I have learned; blessings may even come disguised as trials and tribulationsEvery year is a year of blessings if our hearts are set on Him!

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

What’s your word for 2014?

God Heard My Prayers and Rescued Me!

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can’t lie.  Last week I hit an all-time low.  I was recuperating from surgery and instead of my pain getting better, it was becoming worse and more widespread.  I called the nurse on Thursday to make sure this was normal as my healing seemed to be going in the wrong direction.   She called me back that evening and said unfortunately, the nerves were waking up and all of the extra pain was very normal.  Then she proceeded to say, “Oh, you’re six days from surgery, your pathology reports should be in.  Let me see what they said.”  Then she started ho-humming around about the computer being slow and not working, then she delayed a little more and then I started to worry.  Could it say something bad that she doesn’t want to tell me?

She was already deep into the fact that the report should be there and she could give me the results so at that point she was committed.  Eventually, she said, “They took three lymph nodes and the good news is that two of them looked good.  There were just a few cancer cells found in the third one.  It’s a very small amount it probably doesn’t mean anything.  They will probably take care of it with a little extra radiation in that area and maybe some chemo.”  At that point she had lost me.  In my mind, even just one cancer cell in your bloodstream is one too many.  As I tried to stay positive and focus on the baby shower we were having here that weekend for my daughter, I was struggling to stay on top of things.  I found myself curled up in bed more often trying to sleep my cares away.  I could tell that Jim was beginning to worry about me as it really isn’t my nature to be down for long.

I knew in my heart this was a job for God. Sunday I went to church and found a few friends who I knew were prayer warriors.  I asked them if they would please pray with me after the service.  By that point I knew that I was allowing my focus on God to wane while my focus on my worries grew.  The sermon highlighted the scripture from Proverbs 3:5-6.  It reads Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  I memorized that verse over twenty-five years ago so it didn’t strike me as anything new.  However, as the service went forward the Holy Spirit showed me over and over how I had taken my eyes off of God and put them on my fears of things that may or may not lie ahead.  I was not trusting in God at that point.  I was leaning on my own understanding.

After the service my friends swooped in to come pray for me as I had asked.  They probably saw me crying through most of the service and knew they were on a God Mission to pray for me!  I was a mess!  We all prayed but my pain and sadness didn’t disappear right away.  It wasn’t some miraculous and immediate change.  However, as the night went on I eventually felt the burden of my illness leave my shoulders and the Holy Spirit take His place once again in my life.  As I’m writing, it’s been three days since we prayed and my pain is becoming much better too.  I’m giving God the praise and glory for this huge change in me physically, mentally and spiritually!

I won’t know what the oncology team has to say about my lymph node until tomorrow. However, for today I am no longer a blubbering mess.  I am at peace with whatever lies ahead.  No.  I’m not going to like it if because of this new finding I am faced with more diagnostic tests, more surgeries and/or extra chemotherapy that I was not expecting.  I will probably see more down days if this is the case as I am only human.  However, moving forward I will be making sure that I’m focused on God.  I’m trusting Him that whatever comes my way is the path that He has ordained for me to travel.  I’m no longer leaning on my own understanding.   I am putting Him in control once again for that is where I find joy and peace.

I know I’m not the only one facing hard times right now.  What are you worrying about that shouldn’t be?  Are you leaning on the Lord or on your own understanding?  Take time today to tell God of your fears and worries and ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and give you peace over your circumstances. Get into the Word and seek encouragement from its pages.  Perhaps you have a friend that needs prayer like me.  Maybe this week you don’t need the blessing but need to be the blessing to someone else.

Many have sent me scriptures of encouragement over the last several weeks.  Please enjoy the greatness of our Lord as you read God’s words below.

Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV)  When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 71:14 As for me, I will always have hope: I will praise you more and more.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Isn’t God good?!  Have a blessed week!

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