December, Day 24: Counselor

Wonderful: of a sort that causes or arouses wonder; amazing; astonishing (Dictionary.com)

Counselor: a person who gives advice or counseling (merriam-webster.com).

You never have no one to talk to.

You need not search for the right advice.

Because of The Gift Of Christmas you always have The One willing to listen, to give advice, to counsel you. The answer is always right there in the Word.

“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.” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

No office hours.

No answering service to go through.

No appointment necessary.

As a child of God you have a direct line with The Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

May your Christmas be filled with peace that comes from time spent with The Wonderful Counselor.

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December, Day 18: Grace

923256_10153674499848260_323941106443188240_n“Grace is the very opposite of merit…Grace is not only undeserved favor, but it is favor shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite.”- Harry Ironside

How is your holiday season progressing along? As we reach the final week before Christmas are you exhausted, worn out, worried?

Are you lying in bed at night, unable to turn off your mind?

Worried you have forgotten someone or something on your Christmas to do list?

Imagine being Mary. A young girl of approximately fourteen years of age and being visited by the angel Gabriel, and told:

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,

And you shall call His name Jesus.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;

And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father, David,

And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever;

And of His kingdom there will be no end.”

(Luke 1:31-33)

But…. you’re a virgin, betrothed and now you are going to have a child. You have to tell your fiancé. You have to face your family. Your community, the gossip, the whispers.

Talk about overwhelm.

Imagine Mary in bed at night thinking this all through and the words that must have been playing over and over in her head:

Probably she must have been thinking “Why me” most of all.

When we read those passages we often get confused. Thinking that she had done something to earn God’s favor.

In fact, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The word translated “favored” means to receive grace. 2 Later, Gabriel will add, “Mary, you have found favor with God” (v. 30), or “you have become the recipient of God’s grace.”

We have been under the impression that Mary was chosen by God to bear his Son because of something righteous in Mary. Gabriel makes it clear, however, that Mary was chosen by God as an act of grace. Mary’s blessedness derived from God’s grace, not from some inherent goodness of her own. Mary will confirm with her own testimony that she, like every other human being, needed a Savior.” from “Mary, What the Bible Really Says” by Douglas Connelly

That’s the grace of God. We have done nothing to earn in, in fact “…

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:9 (ESV)

We just have to accept and believe in the gift of Christmas – that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.

Now that is overwhelming Grace.

May your holiday season be filled with moments to see His grace.

 

December, Day 15: Trust

 

In 2014 the word was Trust…

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Each year for the past several years I have prayed for and selected one word and one bible verse to focus on for that year. This practice has helped to create breakthroughs in my faith and has enriched my character.

In 2015 the word I chose wasn’t the word I needed at all, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Today, I want to focus on my word for 2014 and how, in His perfect way, He knew what I needed, long before I did.
Trust.

That was the word that was in my heart as we strode into 2014. I had always been a believer, but had I ever, fully, given myself over to God?

In a way that truly showed those around me that He was in charge of my life, or was Amy still trying to steer the ship?

I was about to find out.

I selected my verse of the year: Proverbs 3:5-6.

Just after my selected verse I copied this quote:

Trust is faith in action! It is the manifestation of our faith in our thoughts and actions. While faith says, “He can…”, trust says, “He is… and I will think and act accordingly!” – Unknown

By the time summer rolled around it felt like my mission to trust was enriching the soil of my soul, sending the roots of my faith deeper into more fruitful ground.

I’ve seen troubles in my life. I’ve been down in the pit. I’ve felt deep and lasting heartache…

But, still, I thought I was an expert on the way things were “supposed to go.”

Then came July. And Ryan’s accident.

That day my world exploded and the shattered pieces embedded themselves so deeply into my heart and lungs that I couldn’t breathe without a stabbing sharp pain.

And not only did I fall off that gentle path I’d been walking on, but I was left holding onto the side of the cliff by my fingernails. Below me, the enemy was waiting for one of the aftershocks of grief to knock me into the blackened pit with him where he could unravel my soul.

But that didn’t happen.

Guided by the light in my heart, God helped me back up the side of the cliff. His promise of hope kept me going, walking along the path made strong by the trust He’d been working on in me prior to that fateful day.

Because I trusted Him, I was not lost.

If I’ve gone on too long, and you’ve stopped reading, please read this:

In this life, we will all come face to face with the choice between letting go and falling into the pit, or trusting Him enough to climb past the heartache, around the pain, and through the overwhelming grief that this life sometimes hands us, back onto the path of faith.

As it says in 1 Peter 1:7 (NIRV)

“Your troubles have come in order to prove that your faith is real. Your faith is worth more than gold. That’s because gold can pass away even when fire has made it pure. Your faith is meant to bring praise, honor and glory to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ returns.”

May your holiday season be filled with faith in action.

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December, Day 10: Love

What do you love about the holidays? What is hard to love about the holidays?

Often, the answer to the second question is people.

The family squabbles, and spending time in the company of someone that makes you uncomfortable.

Incompetent salespeople, inconsiderate fellow shoppers, traffic jams and road rage.

What’s there to love?

Yet if there is one word that defines this season above all others it is love. Christmas is about love, because “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

As Christians, we are commanded to “Love others in the same way you love yourself.”” (Mark 12:31 (Voice))

But you know what?

It’s impossible.

We are way too human to always love the ones:

Who hate us.

Who pick, point out our flaws, and push all of our buttons.

Who are driven by drama, and thrive on unhappiness.

Who wrong our children, spouse, or other loved ones.

Yes, by our own strength it might be impossible, but “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

I want to love by faith, even when my feelings fail me, not just during Christmas, but the rest of the year too.

“Love by faith. Love our enemies by faith. Love our neighbors by faith. Love fellow believers by faith. Love our family members by faith. Love our spouses by faith. Love our in-laws by faith. Love a rebellious teenager by faith. Love our betrayer by faith. Love an ill and bitter parent by faith. Love by faith, not just by feeling.” ― Beth Moore, “Believing God”

I hope your holiday season is filled with love.

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Sharing Christmas With Those Who are Grieving

Kay Warren’s blog  about Christmas cards, and her grief were on my mind a lot last year as we faced our first Christmas without our son (my Stepson) Ryan. This year, it still resonates with me as I have friends who are dealing with the first Christmas after the loss of a loved one. So I am sharing it with you.

I seldom put a voice to these things, but I have thought long and hard about this, and I do have something I want to say. It is not meant to offend, and it is just my feelings on the subject.

Last year I braced myself for those envelopes to start arriving in the mail with the smiling family pictures.

And they didn’t come.

I think we got two cards. Of course I understood, people didn’t know what to say—so they didn’t. Being as human as I am, that hurt too. Sorry friends, I’m fully flawed.

I know this is a busy season, but if it is not too much to ask, could you take a moment to write a word or two of comfort on that card you are sending to anyone on your list who has lost a loved one this year?

As for us, it’s very hard now for us to take pictures, there will always be that one smile that is missing.

But this year, we’d love to get your wishes. To see the picture of your beautiful family, their smiles shining, and the letter updating us on your year. It offers us an opportunity to celebrate with you and that is no small thing.

And if you have a moment, and could mention Ry in your greeting, letting us know that you remember, well, that would also be no small thing, because we can’t forget.

December, Day 7: Words

“A word spoken at the right time is like fruit of gold set in silver.”— Proverbs 25:11(NLV)

A lover of words I marvel at the way they have been used to shape my life. My husband and I spent a year building our foundation with words before we met in real life. Ten years later, I’d say that worked pretty well : )

Sometimes people were harsh and hurtful with their words—haven’t we all been—but even those words have helped make me into who I am today.

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Now more than ever our words flow out, in Facebook posts, Texts, emails, coffee orders, goodbyes and hellos. The quick “I love you” as the screen door bangs and we rush off to work. The whispered Goodnight against the lips of the one we love as we come to the end of another day.

You don’t have to know me for too long to know I am a strong believer in telling others how you feel about them. The holiday season is a perfect time to step away from our routine and be more mindful with our words. With that in mind:

To my son, “You make me proud each time I look at you with your sons. And I see the way they look at you, too. I know it isn’t always easy, and I know how much hard work it takes to keep all of you afloat. I’m proud of you for digging in deep each day. Someday, those babies will be grown, reflecting out into the world the character you’ve shown them—It makes it all worth it, it really does. ”

To my daughter, “This year was more of a struggle than you’d hoped. I am proud of the way you have not only kept going, but also kept on smiling and making me laugh almost every day. I know how hard you work, with little time for fun. I know all of your hard work will pay off, and your future will be filled with much success. I’m proud of the woman you’ve become.

To my stepdaughter, “Your high school career has begun and with that comes new pressures. I know, having a hole in your heart due to the loss of your brother only makes things more difficult, but you’ve handled your hurt with such grace, and haven’t allowed it to make you bitter. I am proud of the choices you have made this year. I know Ryan would be proud of you too, “little one.”

To my love, “The journey as of late has been a difficult one. In the past year and a half we have faced things we prayed we would never have to face. On the days when I’ve been at my least, you’ve encouraged me with your strength, love, and most of all your faith. I pray that I have returned the favor. As we prepare to say goodbye to another year I want you to know I am a better person just for knowing you.

To my friends, thank you: For making me laugh when I really needed to, and for caring when I cried. For sharing your pictures and pieces of your life. For offering your prayers and allowing me to pray for you. As you have shown me a part of your world, it has greatly enriched mine. I look forward to many more years of knowing you.

“I thank God for you whenever I think of you.” — Philippians 1:3(NLV)

As the Holiday season ushers in the close of another year may you find many opportunities to be an encourager with your words. And may you also be encouraged by the words of the special people in your life.

#‎25DaysofJoy

December, Day 5: Ambassador

Ambassador: an authorized representative or messenger (Merriam-Webster Online)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV).

I love the verse in Luke when Mary visits Elizabeth:

“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” Luke 1:44 (ESV)

That baby was John the Baptist. And that joy encompassed his entire life.

From what we know about John, he was a character. He didn’t “fit in”, he lived in the desert, spoke forcefully, telling people to reflect on where they were with God, and to repent if necessary.

Additionally, he ate locusts.

Maybe not someone we would automatically assume to be a messenger.

But he was.

He was the messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus and His teachings.(Malachi 3:1)

Despite his nonconformist ways his message was so compelling the people flocked to him.

John lived his life to introduce others to Jesus Christ, yet he said he wasn’t worthy to tie Christ’s sandals.

As believers, we are called to be ambassadors of Christ. Meaning, we are to act on behalf of Christ, representing Him in this world.

If only we could be the ambassadors that John the Baptist was.

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This Christmas Season, may the joy of the Birth of our Savior fill you up to overflowing, spilling out as a blessing to others so they too may know of His great love.