silhouette of trees under starry night
Advent, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

When there is one less this Christmas season

silhouette of trees under starry night

The first holiday after a family death is disorienting. The usual practices of the seasons are happening around you – parties, gatherings, celebrations – but you find that sometimes you either go through the motions or want to just run and hide from it all.

Gathering together when your family is fractured by death feels out of sync. The usual rhythms that you were once used to have to be re-coordinated, new roles assumed, and traditions shift.

In times like these, when you are no longer as you once were and those who remain are trying to find their way – this is a time to gather in holy defiance.

When there is one less this Christmas season: In times like these, when you are no longer as you once were and those who remain are trying to find their way – this is a time to gather in holy defiance. Click To Tweet

Death, though it has lost it’s final battle over eternity, still gets it’s punches in while we walk this earth. The enemy continues to pull us away from hope and the promise of life in heaven. It likes to tug at us in our grief, pulling us into despair.

We could choose to let the Christmas celebrations go to the wayside. We may very well want to stay away from the cheery crowds and joyful celebrations. Or perhaps you’re joining in the merriment – the cookie making, the gift giving, and the carol singing. You’re going through the motions but they’re not necessarily coming from the heart.

And that can make the feeling even worse because you know the real reason to celebrate. You know that Jesus is the reason for the season. You know it but you just aren’t feeling it.

Believe it or not, this season is for you. This is exactly why Jesus came.

He didn’t come for the happy, the healthy, and the no-care-in-the-world.

He came for the sorrowful, the sick, and the low.

It was for those walking in darkness – THEY saw a great Light. It was for the poor in spirit, the downtrodden, and those who have lost hope.

He didn’t come for the happy, the healthy, and the no-care-in-the-world.He came for the sorrowful, the sick, and the low.It was for those walking in darkness – THEY saw a great Light. It was for the poor in spirit, the downtrodden,… Click To Tweet

What if we saw our choice to gather, despite our feelings, as an act of holy defiance? A stand-up against all the things the enemy wants our life to be consumed with? He wants isolation, pain, loneliness, and heartache. We can choose fellowship, hope, and healing.

If you’re feeling low, if this Christmas is a bit harder to conjure up the cheer, please, take heart. Spend a moment in quiet, celebrating in stillness the joy of a Savior made flesh, dwelling among us. Allow yourself time to grieve what once was. There is goodness found even in the house of mourning. He brought hope in the dark, quiet night all those years ago in Bethlehem. And He can bring hope to your heart, too. Jesus isn’t looking for the most festive and joyful Christmas spirit. He desires the hearts that come to Him broken, knowing He can heal.

top view of a family praying before christmas dinner

He wants hearts tuned to him, even when they’re broken. Hearts looking to Him, the true joy-giver. Hearts that know that the only hope, the only path to healing, is found in the Hope of Jesus. Hope came all those years ago in a small stable, and it’s still available for each of today.

So, this year, will you join with us who keep going forward despite the heartache? Who look up to the sky with expectant hope of our coming Jesus? Will you celebrate this Christmas in holy defiance to all that the enemy is trying to steal?

We may do it with tears glistening in our eyes, but we’ll also have a spark of joy in our hearts. Because we can take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming Messiah with the same holy defiance, despite the darkness that surrounded him –

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone ✨ Isaiah 9:2

person running on dirt road
Anxiety, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Mental Health

Ditch the ‘just’

person running on dirt road

For the last 10 years I have been training for and running half marathons. My husband and I always do a specific one every October, going back to the city where we first lived as newlyweds. I pretty much run 3 days a week year round.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a runner.

Since elementary I have loved to write. I would always get excited for any writing assignment that was given. While the rest of the class groaned, I grinned. As an adult, I have been writing on a blog for over a decade and even self-published an Advent devotional a couple years ago.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a writer.

Because I’m not the fastest, haven’t taken home any awards, and don’t really have a runner’s physique, I disqualify myself from the “runner” category. Because a large publishing house hasn’t taken an interest in my book, I lack confidence that my writing is good. It feels too self-serving to call myself a writer so I disqualify myself from that category as well.

And I’m not alone in this. We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often downplay it by putting the word “just” in front of it. Just part-time. Just a stay at home mom. Just a small business. Just a hobby.

We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often… Click To Tweet

Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t do this to us?

When we come to Him with a repentant heart, desiring a change, and seeking Christ’s blood for our atonement, then we find mercy, forgiveness, and love. We become a child of God. Even when we stumble, lose trust, forget who is in charge, and do a poor job of representing Jesus, we are still a child of God. Even if someone is doing it better than us, yet we still remain His.

What word are you putting just in front of? Why do you downplay that in your life? Is this thing a gift that God has given you? Is this a way that you can glorify God?

Colossians 3:17 ESV says,”And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


woman wearing white top

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

— Colossians 3:17 ESV

Whether you work part-time, are a stay-at-home mom, run a small business, run races, or write blog posts. Each one is something that can bring glory to God. 

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things.

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things. Click To Tweet

Because when we continue to think that our lives are not helpful to others and aren’t significant to God, then we downplay it and keep the talents that God has given us hidden.

people walking

Paul encourages fellow believers in Corinth with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58 ESV

When the actions of our daily lives are for God’s glory and not our own, the ‘just’ part of the title is stripped away. Anything done for the Lord is never in vain. The world may not recognize it, but God does. You are a child of God. And there is no ‘just’ in front of that.

group of people making toast
Anxiety, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Love Your Neighbor, Relationships

3 time-wasting busters

We all like the idea that our time is not wasted, yet how often do we fall into the time warp of distractions: social media, emails, procrastination, streaming videos, and lack of priorities. We know these things can suck up our time, but yet we fall into their traps time and time again. How can we break free? 

With small, intentional moments.

Of the myriad of things we do each day, we want something to count– not just in a quantifiable way, but in a soul-filling, joy-inducing way.

God’s word calls us to be purposeful with our time, even calling us to “redeem” it. To redeem something means that you buy it back. But, how can you take back something that is fleeting and slipping away constantly?

We have an Enemy that wants to distract us, to keep us from our mission of spreading the Gospel and God’s love. Every moment spent distracted from that work is a moment that he has won. So, to redeem the moments we are in right now, we can intentionally take it from the enemy that wants to distract us, and focus these moment on lasting things. We can take a temporal moment and use it to fulfill something on an eternal timeline.

Sounds great, but how?

Be aware that you are an ambassador
Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Even when you don’t think anyone is watching, someone is. It may only be one person, but to that person you may be the hope and encouragement they need to desire to seek a joy-filled life like yours. Keep your words kind and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you.

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Encourage others with God’s Word
Ephesians 5:19
…Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
The world is full enough of discouragement, be the one to encourage. Find ways to spread the hope of Jesus to your fellow brothers and sisters. Be willing to take the time to listen to another’s hurts, be willing to pray, and to point them back to the hope of Jesus.

crop psychologist supporting patient during counseling indoors
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Look for ways to do good
Titus 3:8-9
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 
There is always an opportunity to do good. Prayer, generosity, showing grace, choosing selflessness – these are all excellent and profitable. Choosing to step away from discussions that you know will go nowhere, choosing instead to have those intimate chats with a person’s heart can move more obstacles than a rant on a social feed.

man couple love people
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Your turn. How are ways you can redeem your time this week? Where can you take back the time that the Enemy distracts and use it for furthering God’s Kingdom work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

a message to Jeremiah is one for us, too

You may be familiar with Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet. At around 20 years of age, Jeremiah was called into service by God, prophesying the coming exile of Israel and Judah. The Israelites were wandering away from God and God was trying to call them back. Jeremiah was faithful when God gave him a strong word and challenged him to execute that word. 

If you’ve read through the book of Jeremiah, you know it’s heavy reading. There is a lot of warning and devastation. Jeremiah didn’t have light-hearted things to say, but he was faithful to the task that God had called him to. However, Jeremiah had to have had low points, especially when everyone around him despised him for his words and doubted what he had to say.

At one point, in chapter 15, Jeremiah cries out to God. Despite Jeremiah doing exactly what God had called him to, he was met with hatred from others and a life of isolation. He likened it to “pain unceasing, a wound incurable, refusing to be healed.” (vs 18)

mountains with author quote

You’ve most likely not been in the same spot as Jeremiah, crying out to a large, lost people group who refuse to listen. But you may have felt alone as a Christ follower in the middle of a world that seems to be getting increasingly troublesome. You may look around and see people who are not following God’s ways, prospering and seeming to have it all. You may be in the middle of a calling that feels hard, unending, and isolating. Jeremiah felt that, too.

God had an answer for him, and He has an answer for you:

If you return, I will restore you,

    and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

    you shall be as my mouth.

They shall turn to you,

    but you shall not turn to them. (vs 19)

God’s reply is relevant for us today as well. Three things we can do when we feel overwhelmed by our pain, circumstance, or position:

  1. Return and be restored. Repent of any sin in your own life. Be restored so you can serve God with a pure heart.
  2. Speak good words, not worthless ones. When we speak the words of God, if we are immersed in His scripture, then the words that we speak to others will be truth-filled and loving.
  3. Be the influencer, don’t let them influence you. It can be easy to get swept up in the latest news, ideas, and fads. But we are called to be in this world, not of it. We are effective servants of Christ when we choose to be influenced by the Word, not the world.

And with this command comes a promise. God said that if Jeremiah would do those things, He would follow through.

And I will make you to this people

    a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

    but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

    to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (vs 20-21)

A simple command and a beautiful promise.

Jeremiah 15 command with mountain image

Return to God, speak good words, and influence others. Your enemies will not prevail, you will be delivered, you will be redeemed.

Intentionally go to God with your heart, pour out your complaint as Jeremiah did. And trust Him to be the keeper of His promises. 

Depression, Encouragement, Mental Health

For the times when doubt and shame creep in

For the last couple years I have been working on writing a devotional. I figured writing a 60,000 word manuscript would be difficult. It takes time and space to get it put all together.

 

What I didn’t anticipate was the level of difficulty that has come with the editing process. Grammar and punctuation haven’t been much of a stumbling block. Plus, there are even applications these days that can help with that type of thing. What has been hard to get past is the critical voice in my head.

As I read back through my writing, I have this voice that keeps berating me, telling me the words are awful, pointless, already been written better by someone else, and that they will never help anyone. I know it’s not true. If God calls us to something, He will equip us for it. Still, the doubts come and slow me down.

mountains with hikers and quote

 

 

 

Maybe you struggle with those voices of fear and doubt, too? Thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay this way.

 

In Psalm 34: 4-5, 8 the psalmist writes:

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

When you start to have the voices of shame and doubt speak louder than words of grace and hope, seek after God. He promises to answer you and bring you through. 

I love the word picture of a radiant face that is pointed upward, unashamed. It gives me an image of going outside after days of rainy weather to finally see the sunshine, to turn your face towards it’s warmth with a smile on your face. You bask in the radiance that the sun gives, it’s rays beckoning you to lift your face upwards. 

 

God’s word can do that for our soul, too.

When we have days on end of rainy weather in our lives, we don’t have to let it stay that way. This psalm calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good and that we are blessed when we seek after Him for our refuge. Find a psalm today that echos how your heart is feeling and pray it out loud to God.

psalm 34

 

 

 

My prayer for you is that God would silence the thoughts of fear, doubt, and shame. 

 

Instead, may we only hear the direction of His voice. 

Even if His words are ones of admonishment, they are encouraging, because they lead to a closer, better, higher walk with Him.

You can pray this prayer, too. For when those discouraging voices try to shame you. May you hear only His voice and find comfort and love that only He can give.

Keep pressing on, friend.