December: Good News Month!

photo_2Only Good News, Please

I think there should be a rule that you can only have good news during December and only good things can happen in December—in honor of Christmas, of course! But that is just not the way life works. Things that aren’t so good happen in December too. People get in car accidents, spouses fight, children rebel, and death steals loved ones.

For me, the doctors broke the good news rule by diagnosing me with another chronic disease: Crohn’s. Not really good news. Not life threatening and it’s something that can be managed—kind of. (Sound like it’s going to need prayer management most!) I’m just at the beginning of figuring this thing out (and I am grateful for really terrific doctors) but it certainly wasn’t the results I was hoping for … from all those icky, invasive tests in November. I thought inflammation was just an inconvenience, didn’t realize it could be so damaging. Who knew?!

Unchanging Truth

But the amazing truth is—any bad news we receive, doesn’t change the good news. Nothing can change the good news that Jesus came for us. And He came to make the bad news better. He came to make a way out of all the bad news that sin brought into the world. He suffered and died to bring us eternal life in heaven with Him. And even now, we have the incredible joy of knowing His Presence. The fact that He is with us, He loves us and He walks with us through all things makes this life not only bearable, but gives us Hope.

Healing, Trusting, Rejoicing

God could heal me in an instant. He’s done it before. (He completely healed me of motion sickness—which is the coolest thing ever! I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.) Or He could ask me to walk through this with Him, leaning on Him and obeying His leading. Either way, I trust Him and I give Him praise. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” (Psalm 103:2, 3.)

And I rejoice in the good news of His birth! No matter what else happens, He came to save me. There’s nothing better than the One you love coming for you. Through the strangest path and the most unconventional means, that’s what Jesus did when He was born as a baby on earth one night in Bethlehem. Just like the angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy”! (Luke 2: 10)

What are the “not so good” things in your life right now that you can use as reminders of His unchanging good news?

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Christmas Notes: Take Care of Your Spirit

photoThis is it! The last weekend before Christmas. The final push! The countdown to Christmas Eve. Is all your wrapping done?

Three Days till Christmas … !

All my shopping is done, even for stockings, but I still have a lot of wrapping to do. Today. After I play for a children’s Christmas program practice and prep worship team music for tomorrow morning. Sunday will be full and fun with church, an open house and a birthday party. I’m sure everyone has a busy weekend of Christmas plans and activities.

So now is the time to remind ourselves, as we have said in previous posts, we are body, soul and spirit. Because above all else, after all the preparations, it’s time to remember why we are doing all this and the One whose birthday we are celebrating.

Shh…Silent Night

This weekend, hopefully you’ll plan to take in a Christmas worship service or maybe you’re going to church on Christmas Eve, or both, like me. When we are in that service, we must be fully engaged in the moment. Don’t think about anything left to do or relatives arriving or all the cooking yet to be done on Christmas Day. Sit. Be still. Silent night, holy night.

After all the anticipation of Christmas, which is really the anticipation of the coming of the Christ child, we must not “miss” His arrival by not fully taking it in. We have to quiet ourselves and connect with the One who came to save us.

A Gift for Jesus

In addition to really enjoying church and thinking about the wonder of Christmas ~ that God Himself came as a baby named Jesus to be with us and to save us! ~ we need to ask ourselves a question. One last Christmas gift question: what does Jesus want for His birthday? What Christmas gift are we giving Him?

Jesus wants the same thing we want in our closest relationships. Time together. Some time alone with Jesus is the gift He wants most from us. It’s not that He doesn’t appreciate the things we do this month to celebrate and to make the holidays special for other people, but we must not do all those things and then forget about Him.

The Present of Being Present

The best present we can give Jesus is to be present with Him. Fully present. Looking into His face and thanking Him for coming and enjoying the amazing love He has for us and to say we love Him too. He came so we could have a relationship with Him. So let’s be sure to take some time during these busy days of final preparations to participate in that relationship. Even a few minutes, to quiet down on the inside, to pray and thank Him and love Him, will be the best gift of all.

When can you plan to spend some time with Jesus in the next few days?

Greatest Gifts: Grace

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Christmas Shopping!

Sometimes I feel like the worst “one for you, one for me” Christmas shopper ever! I get home and there are a number of small items for me mixed in with my gifts for other people. Nothing big and nothing on my Christmas list, of course. But if it’s something I need and it’s on sale, Merry Christmas to me!

Another “Greatest Gift”

There is a gift that is perfect for the “one for you, one for me” shopper. Just like the gift of forgiveness that we talked about previously, it is the gift of Grace. Grace for you, grace for me.

The dictionary gives one of the definitions of grace as “free and unmerited favor.” I also think of it as giving someone space. Space to make a mistake, space to fail, space to be human. Which means, grace is definitely something we need to give ourselves as well as others.

One for You…

This is a great season to extend grace. There’s plenty of opportunities: grace to “that … person” in the parking lot who doesn’t know how to drive, grace to the one who is taking forever at the checkout ahead of you in line, grace to the mother with the screaming toddler when you’re making your last run to the grocery store. We need to give lots of grace to anyone working retail during this busy season. They just want to get home to their families too. Instead of looking irritated in these situations, a smile and “Merry Christmas” can go a long way.

The holidays often mean time with extended family. This is a great time to give more grace. So maybe the relatives have the same political argument every year. Grace to be who they are. Maybe there’s someone who always finds a way to undermine your parenting or insults your cooking. More grace.

One for Me…

But then, do we extend any grace to ourselves? This strikes at the heart of the perfectionist, let me tell you. Grace to not be perfect. Grace to admit we made a mistake (because we are not perfect) and to not keep going over and over it in our head, but to let it go. Grace to not get everything done we have dreamed of doing this Christmas. Grace to let go of past regrets.

Giving ourselves some grace will bring us another gift: peace. When we can let go of some things and give some grace, some space, we will feel relief.

Grace Brings Peace

When we give grace to other people and stop expecting them to act differently than they do, we will have less frustration and anger inside. We will find peace in that moment when we decide to give them grace. Maybe we should try giving them our favor instead of our disapproval. In our hearts and minds, let’s give them grace. Grace for you. Grace for me.

Let’s keep giving the greatest gifts this Christmas season.

 

To whom can you extend the gift of grace to this Christmas? In what way do you need to give grace to yourself?

Christmas Notes: Take Care of Your Soul

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Christmas lights, Christmas music, the smells of pine trees outside and cookies baking inside. The beauty of Christmas decorations and presents under the tree – we take a deep breath and sigh, “Ah, Christmas!” Red and green everywhere, bell ringers at the mall, holiday parties – so many things evoke feelings we associate with Christmas. And those feelings come from a part of us called our soul.

We talked in a previous post about taking care of our body this holiday season, but we are beings of body, soul and spirit, and the soul is the seat of our mind, will and emotions.

How is Your Soul?

My organized, list-making manager mind completely takes over in December. So much to do! So many deadlines. It’s a season to be thankful for the higher reasoning powers we have, as we take multi-tasking to a whole new level! But we must not let the mind take over so much that our emotions are ignored.

Sometimes emotions simmer under that surface of activity all December. The funny thing about emotions is they will rise up and grab our attention when we least expect it. If tears come to your eyes during those touching family holiday commercials (and that’s not normal for you,) it’s time to check in with your heart.

Sad? Weary?

For many people, there is sadness with the holidays because of the loss of a loved one, either through death or estrangement. It seems that everything has a deeper impact at this time of year.  Perhaps you need to set aside some time to grieve (it’s ok to feel that sadness) and to give it the Lord again. Release all concerns, hurts or sadness to Him in prayer.

Or perhaps your soul is weary. We can wear ourselves down on the inside through too much stress and activity, either from this month alone or from a longer season of difficulty. As you come to the end of the year and look back, do you feel happy and pleased or disappointed and dissatisfied? Even if we are in a season of joy right now, we must take care to not completely deplete our emotional tanks this month.

Hope! Enjoy!

It’s easy to rush through the holiday season and we are halfway through the month already (and 10 days from Christmas!) But take the time to care for your soul. What do you need right now? What would fill your emotional tank? What would you enjoy?

Perhaps an hour on the couch in front of the tree listening (really listening) to favorite Christmas music might do the trick. Or maybe lunch with a friend would be just the thing. Think about what would be enjoyable and refreshing.

Including Jesus in all our plans and activities will add joy right away. Keep in touch with Him throughout the day. We don’t even have to text Him. He is as close as our thoughts and He hears every prayer.

Let’s plan some time to recharge our batteries so we aren’t empty on Dec. 31st.

 

Are you “missing” this holiday season? What can you do to enjoy the moment?

Christmas Notes: Take Care of Your Body

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Last December 26th, I wrote myself a note. I put it in my Christmas card box and marked it, “Christmas Note to Self ~ Read on December 1st!” Then I put a reminder in my calendar for December 1st to read said note.

I pulled it out this morning. It began like this:

My Holiday Downfall

“Dear Erica, It’s December, your favorite time of year. This month you will want to do more than ever. You need to be in good health to pull off this wonderful thing called Christmas. Usually, we feel worse than ever while trying to do more than ever because of one thing: Sugar.

You cannot eat sugar for three weeks and expect to feel good on Christmas. In fact, by Christmas you will feel terrible and be lucky if you don’t get sick. This year, we wound up with neck pain, headaches and upset tummy, just in time for the Christmas weekend.”

Wow. I forgot I didn’t feel well on Christmas. I remembered being really sick in January…and February and I’ve been thinking about how to avoid that. I came to the same conclusion: take care of the body in December.

My Holiday Advice

But, back to my note. I went on to detail some of my crazy schedule last year from doing so much. Early mornings and late nights. Then, I had some more good advice for myself:

“Plan for more sleep, if possible, but definitely drink your water, work out regularly, but most important—eat as low-carb as possible until Christmas Eve. That’s right. No candy ahead of time. Plan to eat some goodies Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve and then be done. Let’s have a carb week, not a carb month!”

Well, that’s pretty plain talk. But I wasn’t done yet.

“Plan activities. Don’t think you can do four times more than any other month of the year.

  • Start Christmas cards right now. Send them early.
  • Plan out what baked goods you’ll make and when you’ll make them.
  • Shop early.
  • Ship early.
  • Wrap early!!!”

Notice a theme here?

My Holiday Decision

Ok, this is a good word from my last year self. I’m on it. I worked out this morning, so that’s good. Have to adjust my eating to lower carb, for sure. And I won’t eat any more White Chocolate Peppermint M&M’s. (I only had a few!)

And the “Christmas Done Early” plan is now in motion!

Join me in planning for a happy and healthy holiday. It’s easier to spread good cheer if you feel good and cheerful yourself.

What things do you need to do differently this year? Are you always done with Christmas preparation early or are you wrapping on Christmas Eve?

Emmanuel: God with Us

I’m privileged to sing a wonderful song this weekend for our Christmas choir production. It’s called “Emmanuel.” One of the most beautiful words ever – Emmanuel. It’s one of the names of Jesus and it means “God with us.” Indeed. Jesus came to be God with us, God among us. He came to in every way experience the human condition so He could tell us, “I understand” and we would know it’s true.

It’s absolutely incredible what Jesus did—that He came and confined Himself to a human body, that He was willing to enter the restrictions of that physical body, to the point of starting as a baby. He could have just appeared on earth as a full-grown man, but He came helpless, dependent, just like we are. He grew up, through all the awkward stages of childhood and adolescence. He became a man, all the while subject to the laws of this earth. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He needed sleep. He was tempted “in every way” just like we are, and yet was without sin.

Son of God. Son of Man. Emmanuel. God with us. God walking around on earth among us. Jesus came out of love to show us the way to the Father, to show us the way to live, to show us the way to true spiritual freedom—to show us that He is the Way.

It’s one of the best things in the world to know that we aren’t alone. We know that God is always with us, every day. He hasn’t left us. He still understands. And He still reaches out to us in love saying, “Come. Walk with Me. I am the One you need.”

God is with us…and God is for us.

How does it make you feel knowing God is with you today?

The Only Christmas List You Need

Christmas is the season of lists. I love lists. They keep me on track and provide such a sense of accomplishment when you check things off as they are done. Check. Check. Check. So satisfying!

In December, there are even more lists than usual. There’s the gift list, the Christmas card list, the baking list, the shopping list… I’d never make it through without all my lists. Even with lists, Christmas and all the accompanying festivities can become overwhelming.

But this year…I don’t feel overwhelmed at all. Want to know the secret? I realized that I love all this stuff. I love all the decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping—ok, not the wrapping so much–but I love Christmas and all that goes with it. I love making people happy with presents and food and having an extra reason to hug someone and tell them they’re special to me. The message of Christmas is the song of my life. Of course I love this holiday!

I don’t feel pressured about all these things like I used to, when I was more focused on making everything “perfect,” because I’ve come to the conclusion that I do these things because I like to do them, not because I have to do them. Now I’ll just plan, do the best I can with the time I have and enjoy every minute of it!

My most important Christmas list looks like this:

  1. Give from the heart.
  2. Plan ahead and within limits—time and money.
  3. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Number 2 is very important. When I start to do more than I can really afford, I get stressed. When I try to cram “one more thing” into an already packed schedule, I can feel my blood pressure rising. It’s easy to get carried away, but respecting limits always brings peace.

A simple list. A guide for the month. It’s working. So far, I’m enjoying this Christmas season more than ever!

Does this list help simplify things for you? How are you feeling this Christmas season?

Holiday Emotions

(This turned into an early Christmas post. Yet, it feels timely to me, possibly because of all the Christmas commercials and store decorations. Or maybe it’s because it’s been snowing all afternoon! In any case, I just had to say…)

I’m a mess lately. I almost cry at commercials. I say, “No, no!” to the TV when something bad happens to someone. I am more easily moved then usual.

Must be the holidays.

Family, Food, Fun

Something about this time of year is so much more … emotional. First comes Thanksgiving with all the scenes of family around a table spread with a lavish feast. I’m so blessed because I get to actually experience a wonderful, huge family with a food-laden table to match.

Then comes the excitement and anticipation of Christmas with all the shopping and baking and wrapping. Yes, I believe in shopping the day after Thanksgiving. It’s so much fun!

Christmas Movies!

After that, the Christmas movies begin. Sometimes they’re simply—magical, as in inspiring and fanciful all wrapped up in one present with a beautiful bow.

I know there’s no actual Polar Express with dancing waiters, serving hot chocolate in amazing rhythm. I know there’s no Santa Claus. (Sorry if that’s news to anyone!) I know that Buddy the Elf didn’t save Christmas by teaching everyone to believe in Santa and to sing from their hearts, but it’s still a great moment when the crowd begins to pick up the melody, one by one, until everyone joins in (even Mr. Cranky Pants) with “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and Santa’s sleigh lifts into the air, carried on music and hope! (I know. I’ve “got it bad.”)

But I also know I’m not the only one who feels the splendor, the mystery and the wonder of Christmas. That’s what Christmas is all about. The splendor of angels singing against the backdrop of the night sky, the mystery of a virgin birth, the wonder of the Christ child in a manger. All the feelings of Christmas are rooted in truth.

True Christmas Wonder

I do believe that it is because Christmas is really about the love of God and the amazing gift of Jesus that even the most worldly among us are pricked with at least a few fuzzy feelings at Christmas. It’s a season of love and warmth and wonder. Everyone loves to see a child’s eyes light up in surprise at the sight of animated Christmas decorations or an entire string of houses done up with Christmas lights or the pile of presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

I think we should feel the wonder of Christmas. I think we should be moved when we remember again that Jesus, God’s Son, came as a baby to love us and to save us. And hopefully, we will find ways to show that mind-blowing love of God to other people this year when hearts are perhaps a bit softened, maybe even a little—emotional.

How do the holidays make you feel?

Child-Like Wonder

When was the last time you were so overcome by joy you felt like skipping? No, really. Actual skipping. Do you remember? You have to be light-hearted to skip. Seriously. Just try to skip with a heavy heart. It’s tough.

Christmas Awe

How about the last Christmas you were really excited? Do you remember a moment of Christmas awe as a child? Maybe it was the sight of presents under the tree. Maybe it was your first glimpse of a Santa’s village or sitting on the lap of the big man himself. Maybe it was even the view of Christmas dinner from your eyes just over the plate of abundant food and a table that seemed to go on for miles.

If you’re over 10, it may have been awhile. I love it when teenagers are still excited for Christmas and even if they’re trying to be cool, still don’t sleep that well on Christmas Eve and find themselves awake early. Presents anyone?

On Our Way to the Manger

How do we recapture child-like wonder? I think we have to come to the Child. And on our way to the manger we need to strip off every burden we’ve been carrying, every concern we’ve picked up this year. We need to lay down every stress, every adult responsibility and come.

I know it can be challenging, but intentionally find a quiet place sometime this week and just sit with Jesus. Whether you turn on the Christmas tree lights and curl up on the couch with a cup of tea or if you take a walk in the crisp winter air, find that place where you can calm your heart and mind enough to think. Dwell. Meditate.

Jesus

Think about what Jesus did when He lowered Himself to come into our world as a Baby. A baby born to save us all. He did it so we would know He has experienced this life just as we have. Then He overcame it. Now He reaches out His hand to us and says, “Let me carry that load on your back.”

Child-like wonder. A light heart. Exactly what we will feel when we give all our cares up to our Lord and just think about His expression of love for us. You can see it. Right there in the manger.

How can you make this Christmas your favorite Christmas memory?

The Gift of “Present”

Earlier this month, my friend, Sherry Kyle said on twitter (@sherrykyle), “Is your heart ready for Christmas?” Such a great question and it has stayed with me.

Rush, Rush, Rush

So many of the things we do this month are to prepare for Christmas. Right now, many of us are in the “Last Big Christmas Push,” stage. We still have gifts to buy and wrap, we’re getting those last Christmas cards out and baking for next week. Kids will be out of school and things are about to get chaotic in a “Celebrate!” kind of way. Many of us are trying to finish up a stack of work so we can take a few days off over the holidays. People start asking you, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Answer: Almost!

Prepare. Cook. Wrap. Prepare. Work. Cram. Hurry. Prepare.

The question is, what are we doing to prepare our hearts? What gift are we preparing for Him? Have we thought about what we can give Him?

Jesus Can Keep Pace with Us

We know the “correct” answer is to give Him our hearts, but what is a practical way we can do that? Jesus did all the amazing things He did so we could be with Him, in His Presence. Perhaps we should invite Him right into all the “hustle and bustle.”

We don’t want Jesus to knock on the door of our heart, ask to see us, and we say, “If you could just wait on the porch for a minute. I’m still wrapping and baking and well, things are just crazy in here!” How about if we say, “Jesus! Come in! I’ve been dying to talk to you. Sorry I’ve been so busy. Let’s visit while I wrap these gifts.”

Or maybe you hear His soft knock on your heart so you turn off the radio on the commute home and talk to Jesus instead. These days, no one will even think you’re talking to yourself. They’ll assume you’re on the phone–hands-free headset, of course!

Be the Present by Being “Present”

He is always with us and I don’t mean to imply by these examples that He’s not. But when He makes Himself known to us, when we sense the Holy Spirit nudging us to open our eyes and acknowledge Jesus, let’s respond with open hearts. Let’s prepare our hearts to receive Him and give Him the gift of being present, of engaging with Him. Isn’t this what “pray without ceasing” means? (I Thess. 5:17)

What activities can you invite Jesus into this week?


  • Hi, I'm Erica ~ a wife, a mom, a Christian speaker, singer, author, and worship leader. I love coffee & chocolate, reading & writing, music & more music, Facebook & Twitter, time with family & friends! Thanks for dropping by ~ I hope you are encouraged here.

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