Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with sinus and ear infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.  Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha. 🙂

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, trials, suffering, joy, salvation

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t get an ear infection before complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong? How?

 

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!  Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas. Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas? Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, Jesus, Hope, Salvation

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance. He did it for you, for me, for them. He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun. The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, sisters?  The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us. It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Christ, trials, suffering, hope, joy, peace

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen 🙂

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women

Advertisements
2 Comments »

Joy: It’s Not What You Think

It’s Five Minute Friday again, so I’m joining up with the lovely ladies over at Lisa Jo Baker’s place for a stress-free, five-minute, free-write on a one-word prompt.  Join us if you like!

Joy.

We hear people say it, “choose joy” as if it is a thing readily available for the taking.  Just reach out and grasp it and it’s yours to keep.

And some think they’ve found it in a nice house or pretty clothes or a fulfilling relationship, while others are just plain hungry for it. We think we find joy in children’s laughter, walks on the beach, sunny days, a good book. We claim joy in date nights, a healthy bank account, a successful career or ministry, good health, full stomachs, any and all of those blessings we’ve counted up.

We look for joy always in all of the created things; we crave it.

But all of these things, even these people, they are are fleeting, sisters: here today, gone tomorrow.  Any joy based on these moments, based on temporary possessions or circumstances, is destined to pass.

When that happens, we feel cheated somehow, don’t we?  We feel let down.  We may even wonder if something is wrong with us or question why the joy is gone.  Have you been there before? When the sunshine suddenly turns to rain, when laughter turns to pain?

I have.  I’ve walked through seasons where joy seemed scarce and even counting my blessings, though they are many, wasn’t enough to satisfy my soul.  I’ve found myself hungry for lasting joy, a joy not of this world.

joy, pain, suffering, sorrow

True joy, lasting joy, comes from one source and one source only – the Father God who created us purely for love’s sake.  His only Son took upon Himself the burden of the cross “for the joy set before him” so that we might have joy unspeakable.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

 Are you looking for real joy today, sister, the kind of joy that lasts through the hard times and back again, the kind that wells up from within, unstoppable?

Find it in Jesus.

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
Psalm 92:4
O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Psalm 95:1

Jen 🙂

You may also find me linking up with any of these lovely places.

13 Comments »

Cultivating Christmas: Reflect

Every morning when it’s time to “do hair” we stand in front of my mirrored dresser.  “Look in the mirror,” I tell her in an attempt to keep her still as I comb through the tangles that seem to multiply in her near-black hair overnight.  She chatters and squirms as I comb, my daughter, my mini-me.daughter, reflect

She’s the only girl in our bunch of four, but that doesn’t hold her back.  She’s spunky enough to hold her own with her brothers, tough enough to throw an elbow once in a while, and brave enough to climb the same tall pines in the backyard.  When she comes in the house smiling with dirt on her pant knees and twigs in her long, straight locks, I think – That’s my girl!  Half tom-boy, half princess!

Unlike her twin brother, she’s fiercely independent and prefers playing on her own as much as she enjoys playing with her brothers.  She’s smart and inquisitive, loving learning simply for the sake of knowing.  And when her feelings get hurt, we can expect a good twenty minute pout.  She doesn’t cry often, but when she does, big alligator tears roll down her face from her large, hazel eyes, sometimes silently.

She appreciates order, and beautiful things, and chocolate, and clothes (yes, even at the age of four!), and babies, and animals, and singing, and books, and laughing, and so many more of the same things that I do.

Mother, Daugher, Reflection, Jesus

She’s a reflection of me, both physically and in personality.  My only daughter, my sweet yet spunky princess.

And having experienced the separation of living halfway around the world as a missionary kid, I cannot even imagine sending her a world away (or any of her brothers, for that matter), especially knowing she would suffer pain and temptation, rejection and persecution, and even death.

But that’s exactly what our Father God did so long ago.  He sent us his only Son, His pride and joy, His very reflection, stripped of godly position to become fully human, fully feeling, fully fragile.  He did all of this, knowing what would be required of His beloved Son.  All so that we might know true life and know it abundantly.

Jesus.

He reflects real Light, real Love, real Hope and real Peace.

Because He is Emmanuel, God with us.

So that we might know Him.

How can we comprehend such a love as this, sisters?  That the Almighty God of the Universe would care enough for undeserving sinners to sacrifice the joy of His only Son’s presence in order to gift it to us, so that we might know Him.

That’s the joy of Christmas!

Jen 🙂

I’m joining in with the Five Minute Friday crew this week, albeit a day late. 🙂  We write for five minutes on a one word prompt, no planning, no editing, no stressing.  Just words.  Join in here!

I may also be linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

Leave a comment »

Power to Produce

Image

If you are anything like me, then cleaning out the fridge is low on the totem pole. You might occasionally reach in for some sustenance and pull out rotten food instead. Instead of giving life and energy, the food is wasted, worthless, and sometimes even downright disgusting.

Our spiritual fruits can be that way, too!  Have you ever tested your fruit?  Held it up to the Lamp, the faithful Word of the Lord?

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love,

joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control;

against such things there is no law.

 

In my bible, beside this passage I have written two small words: the test.  Do you want to know how closely you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit of the Spirit!  Do they pass the test?  Are you overflowing with patience, joy, peace, kindness, love, goodness and so on?

All too often I find myself trying to produce these fruit all on my own. I wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to be patient with my children today.  I’m going to be kind and loving to my husband.  And later in the day, when strength runs low, I feel frustrated and out of control. I wonder, “Why am I acting this way?  What is the matter with me today?”  as if some sort of spell has come over me, and I’ve been rendered incapable of obedience.

In truth, my fruits show that I’m not out of control, I’m off of the vine.  I’m not abiding, not remaining.  Instead, I’ve chosen my own path, my own methods.  I’ve chosen doing rather than being, resisting rather than submitting, striving rather than resting.

I’ve somehow forgotten that most basic truth of Christianity, that we cannot produce fruit on our own, for there is nothing good in me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Romans 7:18
When I lift my fruit up to the Lamp, I see it – that bruise there when I chose to be selfish rather than selfless.  The wormhole caused by putting off time alone with God.  The blackened area of sin left hidden and unconfessed.  Surprisingly, some of my fruit appears to be pretty and polished, but on the inside the core rots, the result of a valiant effort to do things in my own strength.
It’s ugly fruit.
It’s rotten and worthless.
It reeks of self.
I have to toss the bad fruit out and start anew: reconnect to the Vine, drink the Living Water, break the Bread of Life.

2Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,

for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

so that the man of God may be adequate,

equipped for every good work.

Only then, in the hands of the Master, can I produce beautiful and bountiful  fruit, sweet-smelling fruit. No matter how often I fail the fruit test, He is faithful to forgive, faithful to redeem.  His grace is sufficient for my weakness!
Today are you feeling weary, impatient, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or out of control?  Test your fruit.  Hold them up to the Lamp of Truth and see what they reveal.
come to me all who are weary
Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We have no power to produce good fruit on our own!  Instead of trying and toiling, why not take His yoke and find rest? Turn to your Maker and Sustainer for the power to produce!
Which fruit is most difficult for you to produce?  What verses help you to rely on the Spirit rather than self?  Please share with us in the comments!
Jen 🙂
8 Comments »