Happy Birthday 🎂

“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Today, Sept 29th, is my birthday. I tend to make this day all about me thinking it’s the one day a year I get to be celebrated. Most days I feel under appreciated, overlooked and insignificant to say the least. But God has been showing me that I was not created to live my life for me-I was created to live for Him and to serve others.
Thus I can’t imagine a better way to spend today than to bless others and I want to encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Today be encouraged to be a blessing to someone in your life or even a total stranger. Buy someone coffee, pay for a person’s groceries, help someone carry something that is too heavy, call a long lost friend and reconnect, pray with someone, strike up a conversation with your cashier, call the person delivering your lunch by name, thank a veteran, hold open the door for someone and especially SMILE at others you encounter today. Our world is full of strife but small and simple acts of kindness can be the reason someone smiles today.

Please share in the comments  how you blessed others or paid it forward with a random act of kindness!  God bless! 🙏🏻💕🎂

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The Promises of Christmas

I’m a child of the 80’s.  I love 80’s music, the fashion trends, old 80’s sitcoms and especially the brat pack movies like St. Elmo’s Fire, Breakfast Club and my all-time favorite, Pretty In Pink.  My kids are so aware of this that whenever we hear the song, “1985” by Bowling for Soup they both tend to yell out, “Hey mom, here’s your song!”  Ironically there’s a classic 80’s song that’s come to mind this Christmas season and not because it’s a Christmas carol of sorts.  In fact, it’s one of peppy Madonna song called “Material Girl.”  I think it’s prevalent right no, because Christmas is the best time of year to get caught up in materialism and totally miss the true meaning of Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, the song is a fun tune and if heard on just the right day (like when I’m home alone with no audience) you could catch me dancing to it just like Madonna in the actually video.  But the chorus lyrics say it all when we get caught up on the retail side of Christmas: “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl.”  To be honest-I am definitely guilty of being caught up in the “material world” especially at Christmas time.

I love Christmas.  It’s my favorite holiday. It’s the only day I truly love winter because it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a blanket of snow covering the yard.  I love decorating the tree, hanging the stockings and enjoying the glow of twinkling lights on a cold December’s evening.  Because it’s my favorite holiday, I long for everything to be perfect right down to the gifts I purchase.  And that’s where I get caught up in the material side.

I have two children and everyone knows I am an equal opportunity gifter.  That means I make sure each of my children have the exact number of gifts and buy them similar gifts so neither thinks I favor one over the other.  As a single mom, I also feel like I need to compete with gifts they will be receiving at the other parent’s home.  Not because of the other parent.  They’ve never made it a competition I suppose.  It’s just something inside of me that feels I need to give the same kinds of gifts even though that kind of competition is not fiscally possible for me.

I was raised by a single mom in a Christian home.  Christmases were always very modest and any gifts I received were valued blessings because money was not a luxury in our home.  I remember one Christmas the furnace broke in our tiny apartment and my mom and I slept on a mattress in our kitchen using the electric stove as our source of heat.  We opened presents in an ice cold living room and then spent the rest of the day in the one room that was warm.  I never got the latest or most expensive toys, my clothes were usually hand me downs or hand made by my mom.  But one thing my house was always full of was independence and love.  And love is the greatest Christmas blessing I believe we can offer. Love is God’s Christmas promise to us.  He said so in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…” 1 John 4:19 says we love because God first loved us. His love for us is unconditional and has no end.  And His love calls us to love others, even our enemies.  He promises love to us and desires for us to show His love to everyone He puts in our path. But love isn’t the only Christmas promise God gives us.  I believe there are five more that include, peace, joy, comfort, belief and miracles.

Peace is the second Christmas promise.  God’s word shows us this promise when the angels greeted the shepherds with “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) Philippians 4 tells us that God’s gift of peace is the kind that surpasses all human understanding, a peace that will guard our hearts and minds. (Vs 7.)  Isaiah 26:3 tells us He keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  Godly peace is truly a gift from our Creator that is unexplainable.  But if you ever experience it, you will know the Source of which that peace comes from.

Another Christmas promise is Joy. Have you ever found laughter amidst your sorrow?  Have you ever smiled in spite of the fact that everything around seemed to be going wrong or falling apart?  That’s joy.  It’s like although you’re surrounded by mass chaos your heart can’t stop smiling.  And why?  Because you’re filled with joy that only comes from the Lord and you fully trust that He is in control.  It doesn’t come naturally and just like all of our emotions, joy is a choice.  No matter our circumstances we can choose joy.  Christmas time always seems to bring a supernatural happiness that isn’t seen the rest of the year.  Strangers smiling at each other, “Merry Christmas” wishes offered to even our enemies, and people “paying forward” blessings in a far more generous way.  Why? Because Christmas is joyful.  But joy is a promise of God we can choose year round.  Part of that comes from being content in all circumstances.  Not an easy thing to do but what a world of difference it makes when we choose joy instead of anger, bitterness, rage or unforgiveness.

Comfort is the fourth promise of Christmas.  The bible has many verses about the Lord being near to the broken hearted.  But do you know why Jesus was sent to the Earth?  To be our Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6.)  What are counselors best known for?  Comforting those who are brokenhearted. You see Jesus’ birth was prophesied thousands of years before it came to pass to a people who was at war, enslaved and suffered great hardships.  Even though most died before Christ’s birth, those who heard the story were comforted knowing redemption would happen.  David understood God’s comfort best when he wrote Psalm 23.  In verse 4 he boldly decrees, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  He is always with and He is our Mighty Comforter.  Personally I’ve climbed up on my Heavenly Daddy’s lap many times in my life sobbing and pouring my grieved heart out to Him because I know He collects all of my tears and even grieves with me.  When someone walks along side with you, collects your tears and grieves with you, that’s true comfort.

Belief is the fifth Christmas promise.  The movie Polar Express has a great message about belief even though it’s about believing in Santa Claus.  A little girl is taken through quite a journey to the north pole only to learn that she should believe in herself and her ability to lead.  A little boy, traveling on the same train learns he can only hear sleigh bells when he chooses to believe in St. Nick.  For us, belief works the same way.  We go a lot further in life when we believe in our ability to be great and to do great things.  Our kids are far more successful when they have parents, teachers and communities supporting them, encouraging them and believing in their ability to be the best.  My home town alone showed that this football season when the entire community gathered to send off our local varsity football team with a police escorted parade as they traveled to the state semi-finals.  In fact, a travel trailer sized sign was posted that said, “We Believe” in letters the size of a billboard.  Even though our team didn’t win I believe those boys will go far in life knowing hundreds of people believe in them.

Just like the boy couldn’t hear Santa’s bells until he believed, we can’t hear God’s voice unless we believe.  Belief is the biggest factor of faith.  You can’t have big faith if you don’t believe.  And what is faith?  It’s “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Another word for confidence? Belief!  If you want to go far in this life you have to believe in the One who gave you life and believe in His ability to lead you in a journey that will exceed your wildest dreams.

The final promise of Christmas is the gift of miracles.  The Christmas story itself is an epilogue of miracles-from Elizabeth getting pregnant with John the Baptist at a very old age, John leaping in the womb when Mary visits Elizabeth because he knew he was in the presence of Jesus, a virgin birth and even the wise men traveling a different route home (away from Herod) to prevent Herod from killing baby Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry was all about miracles too-from his first miracle of turning water into wine to walking on water and his greatest miracle which was conquering death, not once, but twice (don’t forget He raised Lazarus from the dead before He raised Himself.)  Christ’s birth, the real reason for this season, is the miracle that reminds us to believe in miracles for miracles still happen today.  We are God’s vessels He uses to perform His miracles today.  Just last night at a candlelight Christmas Eve service I learned of a white helmet squad who miraculous saved a baby that had been trapped under concrete for 16 hours in Aleppo which is a war stricken are in the Middle East.  That’s a miracle.  This time of year also circulates stories of underprivileged families receiving financial blessings after praying for a miracle.  Personally I can tell you I have been blessed with miracles many times at Christmas.  One year I was anonymously gifted with $400.  Another year, after praying for God to give me provisions to bless a family in need and not seeing any room in my budget to give, God literally dropped a $200 prepaid visa card in my hands. And miracles don’t just happen in monetary instances.  Miracles happen through healing, restoration and other provisions too.  God is our Miracle maker.  And they’re called miracles because they’re things only He can bring to pass.  Christmas is a time to increase our belief in His miracles.

No matter what you’re facing this season, no matter whether your house is decorated or not, please don’t lose sight of these Christmas promises.  Love, Peace, Joy, Comfort, Belief and Miracles are the true meaning behind Christmas.  Keep your focus on His promises and you will carry Christmas in your heart all year through.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!  May God richly bless all of your lives in this Christmas season and especially in 2017.

A Holiday Hiatus

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Philippians 2:5 NLT

I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, not in the traditional sense anyway.  It’s not for religious reasons it’s simply because I don’t think we need one day to eat turkey and pumpkin pie, watch football with select friends and family and say a few “I’m thankful for’s”.  Personally, I can eat turkey and pie any day I want, football is on TV for several weeks August through January and I should choose to be thankful every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not condemn anyone who celebrates this holiday.  I’ve partaken in my share of family gatherings on Turkey Day, overeating and even getting in some pre-Christmas shopping.  But in the past few years, I have chosen to spend Thanksgiving alone.  Most people I share this with are aghast that I am alone on a holiday and some insist I come to their home for dinner because “no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.”  But I actually enjoy being alone that day.  My life is so busy, especially in the fall season that the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) are my guaranteed days to have nothing planned or scheduled and to just be at home.  My children spend every Thanksgiving at a large family party and I take the day to just detach from the hub-bub of a hectic schedule.  On Christmas day, my children are home with me. We spend the day enjoying presents, movies and again, unplugging from busyness-just like Jesus did in His ministry.

The New Testament has many verses on how Jesus would separate Himself from even His disciples to pray and regroup.  Mark 1:35 is one example; “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV)” Luke 5:16 is another great example; “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (NIV)” Jesus often withdrew…why, because He was a very busy, very in-demand man.  Jesus’ ministry consisted of many public engagements across multiple towns.  They didn’t have planes, trains or automobiles back then.  Travel consisted of walking or boat rides.  Distances of 75+ miles (approximately 120 kilometers) were traveled by Jesus and His disciples in any given “road trip.”  Each journey consisted of preaching to multitudes, performing miraculous healings, feeding 4000-5000 people, walking on water and calming storms.  Some journeys consisted of a wedding or family gathering for some Jewish festival or celebration.  Nonetheless if Jesus was in public He was bombarded with people.  Some seeking His healing powers and the truth He preached, others trying to trip Him up and prove His message to be a fraud.  One journey even consisted of a 40 day fast with the devil as His company.

Jesus was God, but He was God in human form.  He grew tired and weary.  He felt the overwhelming responsibility of His ministry and distracting pull away from what’s most important that comes from seasons of busyness.  That is why He was faithful in getting away, even without those He was closest to, simply to regroup, recharge and keep His focus on the reason He was on this Earth.

As the busy Holiday season is fast approaching there’s so much we can get caught up in-planning parties and preparing meals, thawing turkeys and cheering for our favorite football team, choosing the perfect gifts to place under the Christmas tree, decking the halls and spreading Christmas cheer, even thinking about resolutions for the upcoming New Year.  If you’re already an overbooked person like me, adding holiday craze to the agenda can make you feel like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a full stomach but having more and more piled on your plate.  If we over eat we get major indigestion that can put us on the sofa twisted in abdominal pain for the rest of the day or until our body digests all that we consumed.  In life, if we are overbooked and don’t escape the “noise” regularly, our bodies wear out and we can get far more severe health issues (physical and mental) that outweigh indigestion.

How truly enjoyable are the holidays when you’re bogged down with a to-do list that’s nearly impossible to accomplish anyway?  Been there, done that and never enjoyed a single holiday when I was in that season.  Now, I love the holidays because I am able to step back and focus on what the real purpose for the holiday season is.  I hope this post encourages you to do the same.  I am not suggesting you cancel all of your obligations or downsize on your Christmas shopping list.  Nor am I suggesting everyone should boycott Thanksgiving like I do.  My hope is that reading this encourages you to make sure you are setting aside time daily, once a week or biweekly (monthly is too far of a gap) to turn off the noise, get away from the hub-bub and decompress.  Human beings are not energizer bunnies that keep going and going and going.  We all need a good recharge. The holiday season is the perfect time to pause, reflect, pray and focus on what’s truly important in this life and the lives of those we are called to serve.