What Christmas Means To Me

What Christmas Means To Me

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

When I was contacted to write a blog about what Christmas means to me, about what Jesus means to me, I hesitated. I thought, “You are definitely asking the wrong person.” As that was the case, why did I say yes to writing this blog? I felt God whisper to my heart, “You need to know what Christmas means to you. You need to know what My Son means to you.” Since then, I have prayed about what I should write. I have asked God if there is something someone needs to hear. I felt as though God was leading me to be honest and to dig deep. Maybe someone reading this can relate to my journey.

I have not only loved the Christmas season but also struggled with it. I have many treasured memories of Christmas events and celebrations from my past. Christmas was often a time to see my extended family, to decorate our home, to drive around town enchanted by the glittering lights, to sing Christmas carols, to join in merriment with others, and to give. On the other hand, I have been told I should not celebrate Christmas because of its roots in pagan traditions. I have spent the days leading up to Christmas stressed and in tears because I did not have enough money to buy gifts for all the different events that I felt obligated to attend. I have tried to give my best during the Christmas season, only to worry about how it was not good enough.  I have thought, “Why should I give to people who have so much and neglect the people who have so little?” I have lamented how the world has stripped Christ out of Christmas.

The truth is that I wrestled with whether or not I should even celebrate Christmas. I had convicting conversations with others, and I earnestly sought truth. Finally, I came to the conclusion that celebrating Christmas allows me to share the hope I have in Jesus. His birth was a turning point for the entire world. It had been prophesied for centuries. This birth was the ultimate gift from the Father. This birth brought Yeshua, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. This birth brought light to our dark world of sin and grief. This birth brought hope. My internal struggle helped me realize that Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift to mankind – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus means more than I can fathom. He has freed my soul from the shackles of my sin. Without Jesus, I was lost and hurting. I chose to believe in Jesus when I was eleven years old, and I chose to be buried with Him in baptism when I was twelve. However, it was not until recently that I fully understood what Jesus means to me. He is life to my death. He comforts me, guides me, and fills my soul. Without Him, I am empty and heartbroken. He is the One who gives me hope and a future. He sustains me through difficult seasons, and He never forsakes me. When I call out to Him in my agony, He answers with His peace. He paid the ultimate price for sin so that all those who believe in Him could have a home with Him in heaven. This means that I do not have to fear death. I do not have to fear what may happen to me in this world.

Because of Jesus, I have something to give during the Christmas season and throughout the year. I may look at what I have to offer and think, “How is this going to make a difference?” It doesn’t matter how large or small or what form my offering may take. What matters is that I was willing and joyful in my giving. I need to have faith that He will take what I have and multiply it.  Am I willing to give what He asks of me?

Let your heart be filled with joy this Christmas season. Rest in knowing that Jesus came to this world of sinners to bring hope and peace. This year has brought heartache, trials, fear and disappointment. As believers, we can navigate all of these things knowing that Jesus is there through it all. He loves us, and He was born to save us.

“Do not let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

We would like to thank Julia Franklin for writing this blog!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Birthdays have become more and more excessive…have you noticed this? As a child, my birthdays were typically celebrated at McDonalds. Does anyone else remember this? Let me set the stage for you. It was a package deal: you got there on time, typically between errands, you ate McNuggets with your buddies, played a bit on the outdoor playground, had a piece of homemade cake, and that was that.  

Fast forward to today’s birthdays: IT. IS. AN. EVENT. Yard signs are not uncommon.  Balloon numbers and garland are a thing.  Cakes are commissioned pieces of art. And gift bags are passed out to guests. Birthdays have become more and more of an all-out deal. 

But, there’s one birthday that tops them.

It’s the most celebrated birth in human history: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ birthday is the most important day in all our homes. You can be the most Pinteresty of all Pinterest moms and you will never come close to matching the grandeur of Jesus’ birthday party. His party comes every year with so much excitement and lasts over a month. Truth be told, even that never really feels like it’s long enough.

In my home, our Christmas tree is featured in our front window, for all passersby to see.  Each year, it’s filled with ornaments that we’ve collected throughout our marriage and the hand-made treasures that our children have made over the years. Each one with its own story—our family history symbolized in a collection of dangling, dainty decorations. There’s an evening each year dedicated to decorating the Christmas tree.  It’s such a sweet time of wonder for us all. The conversation flows over with all the earthly and eternal blessings for which we are most thankful.

Beautifully wrapped gifts are tucked beneath the tree, sparking joy and wonder from our children. They just love trying to guess what’s in each box every time another one appears.

Our hand-stitched stockings are hung with care above our fireplace: I hand-stitched my husband’s stocking, Evelyn’s and Graham’s stockings were hand-stitched by my mother-in-law, and my Sittie (grandmother) made my stocking the year I was born. After 36 years, it’s worn and tattered and one of the most special tangible things I have left of her. When I hang it, I always tear up as I imagine her delicate hands covered in thin skin and beautifully polished nails as she placed each stitch with precision. So much love and history went into the simple detail of stockings. And that is all because of Him. 

Our big old trees out front are wrapped tightly with about a hundred strands of red and white lights from their base to as high as I can reach on a 12-foot ladder. Nothing makes me happier than dressing up those beautiful trees. They were planted as tiny seeds into God’s soil and have grown with unimaginable patience, decade after decade, into these strong and beautiful living structures with root systems that go down and out even further than they stand high. They, in and of themselves, are miracles of God. Most of the year, their grandeur gets overlooked. But this month,  they will not go unnoticed. Drive down 16th street after sunset, and you’ll see our wrapped trees from blocks away. It’s their month to shine: they shine for Jesus.

Christmas is this magical time when I can’t help but reflect on what His birth means in the lives of everyone I love. On Earth,  we create these traditions celebrating Jesus’ life and what He sacrificed for us to have life eternal. These traditions are bound tightly in our families and are passed down from generations gone and will continue for generations to come. Christmas is this beautiful culmination of all our family histories, which I think is a most appropriate celebration of Jesus Christ because without Him, there would be nothing to celebrate.

“For in Him we have life, and motion, and existence” Acts 17:28. 

In these moments leading up to Christmas Day, take time to reflect on the beauty of tradition, the gift of family, and the unimaginable grace of God that He would send us His beloved Son. 

Happy Birthday, Jesus!!

We would like to thank Elizabeth Loeffler for writing this post!

Running to Jesus

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Decorating for Christmas is one of my favorite things of the year. The twinkle lights and ribbon turn an ordinary room into something extraordinary. We all have different styles of décor when it comes to Christmas. Some folks enjoy the very formal look of a perfect Christmas tree, while others want their tree to be filled with all their children’s handmade ornaments. If you are looking for a way to add a designer’s touch to your tree, you can follow these 5 simple steps:

Add lights:

I love the pre-lit Christmas trees. They are, by far, the easiest way to light up a tree. However, one year, you might plug in your pre-lit tree and half of the lights do not work. Or maybe you prefer a real tree and need to string your own lights. The white lights are my favorites, but if you like the colored lights, they add some fun whimsy to a tree as well.

Add ribbon:

There are many ways to add ribbon to your tree. Some people like to wrap the ribbon around the tree. Others like to start from the top and work their way down the sides. Others take small sections of ribbon and just tuck it into the tree. Adding your ribbon is a great way to add color that will tie all of your Christmas décor together.

Add filler:

By filler, I mean anything that you can fill your tree with that covers up the holes in a tree. I have added large floral picks, cotton stems or large Christmas decorations. Anything that adds visual appeal adds a designer touch to your tree.

Add ornaments:

This is where it really gets fun! You can add your child’s school-made ornaments, or you can add colored ornaments. There is no wrong way to add ornaments to your tree. To add some depth to your tree, you can add some larger ornaments to the inside part of the tree and not just hang everything on the outer branches.

Add tree skirt:

The final step in making your Christmas tree have a designer feel is to add a tree skirt. You can add a collar around the tree, a tree skirt or even use a blanket.

Although I love decorating for Christmas, my absolute favorite part of Christmas is the story of Jesus’ birth. We have all read this story multiple times, but this year, I chose to read it out of the Message translation. I was literally stopped in my tracks when I came across Luke 2:15-18. This part of the Christmas story is when God’s angel revealed himself to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock at night. Can you imagine how terrified it might have been to be sitting out in the field in the middle of the night and, suddenly, an angel appears to you? But the angel assured the shepherds that they had nothing to fear. 

Verse 15 says As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Running. That is the word that stopped me in my tracks. I think about the shepherds who were watching their sheep in the middle of the night, but once they heard the news of Jesus’ birth, they dropped everything and RAN to the Savior! How many times have I been THAT excited to RUN to Jesus? Do I drop everything that seems important to me and RUN to Jesus? The shepherds could’ve said, “Thanks for the information, angel, but we have work to do. We can’t get there until we finish the job.” Or maybe they could have said, “Babies are born every day, angel. What is so special about this one?” But no. They knew, without a doubt, that their SAVIOR had been born and they knew that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING would stop them from getting to Him.

I want to be like the shepherds. When I hear from the Holy Spirit, I want to be obedient and RUN to the Savior! I need to drop everything that I am doing so that He can be revealed to me just like He revealed himself to the shepherds.

Finally, in verse 20, it says The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told! This Christmas, I intend to “let loose” and live the GOOD NEWS of Jesus!

Christmas decorating is fun and festive. I love it, but I need never to forget the true meaning of CHRISTmas. Run to the Savior this year and LET LOOSE with the good news!

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this post!

Christmas & Memories

Christmas & Memories

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love making precious memories and new traditions with my family. Growing up the youngest of 4 kiddos came with lots of fun times, too. My mom made sure each of us felt special and loved. One Christmas season when I was a teenager, my mom and I decided to do something different and get a real tree. We jumped in our little 4 door sedan and drove to town to get a tree. We were so overcome with excitement we didn’t even have the forethought to think of how we would get the tree in the car and unloaded; not to mention it was so icy! We got the tree home and the two of us slipped and slid all the way inside the house with this gorgeous real tree that ended up being too big for our little house. We laughed together hysterically for years to come at the site of us and that big tree in the trunk of our car, in the ice, sliding all around the driveway.

I will always remember how fun my mom was and how truly funny she was. She had a lung disease the majority of my life, but she never quit laughing, smiling or praying God’s truth over us. I found the memories of my mom and family during the Christmas season as some of my most treasured. Looking back on past Christmases, I think of very simple times that brought lots of laughter and joy, not a perfectly put together meal or extravagant gift. I pray my own family has great memories of a mom that laughed, played, and was intentional to create lasting connections.

May we all find joy in too big Christmas trees, not perfectly put together homes or extravagant gifts, and focus on the reason for the season: Christ’s most perfect gift to us.

Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great JOY for all the people.’”

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post!

A Baby Changes Everything

Christmastime is my favorite. I love the lights, the food, the spirit of giving, and the togetherness the season brings. One of my most favorite things this time of year is listening to Christmas music. I use “this time of year” very loosely; Addison and I have been listening to Christmas music since…September. Listening to Christmas music really helps me to reflect and prepare my heart for the true meaning of the holiday: Jesus, our Messiah. 

I’ll admit that last Christmas, I was in a bit of a fog, what with a new baby and still trying to learn the whole mom thing. But this year, I’ve been much more intentional and present in enjoying the season and making memories, particularly with Addison. In fact, I was emotional at the Plainview Christmas parade, seeing the joy on that sweet face and the sparkle in those precious eyes. I didn’t expect the tears, but I let them come, and I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing she is to my life. 

I think back to Christmas 2018 or even Christmas 2017, and I’m reminded of the song “A Baby Changes Everything.” My top-half-only decorated tree and my Amazon shopping cart are proof. And you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addison is a gift from God. She’s changed my life in every possible way, but the changes have brought about blessing, growth, and fulfillment. 

I’ve soaked up all the time with Addison I can manage, and this season, my thoughts have gone to Mary, mother of Jesus. She felt the same level of love for her Son as I do for my daughter; yet her baby changed everything—for the world. The significance of her baby’s birth—the birth of Jesus Christ—is for much more than just Christmastime. A friend said something the other day that speaks directly to this: a thousand times in history a baby has become a king to rule a nation; only one time has a king become a baby to save all nations. That’s powerful, friends. 

The power in that truth, in fact, overwhelms me with gratitude for the gift of grace and salvation I could never earn and don’t deserve, but through His Righteousness, can accept and walk in. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He was always God’s plan for our salvation. Plan A. God didn’t need plan B. He didn’t send His Son as a last resort. Jesus and his birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection were always God’s plan for us, His children. 

As I sat listening to my Christmas music playlist a few days ago, I was struck by the fact that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of year, we should also celebrate the gift of salvation by grace through faith, the tremendous sacrifice of death on the cross, and the triumph and power of a risen Savior. The significance of His birth is much more than Christmas (Romans 1:3-4). Addison has changed my life in ways I never expected, and certainly, Jesus changed Mary’s life, too. But truly, a baby—especially this baby—changed EVERYTHING, and for that, we can only praise the Father and give thanks for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

I love this season. I love family traditions. I love Christmas music and lights on the tree. But more than anything, I love the reality of salvation and a new life in Christ the picture of a baby who changed everything brings. 

My whole life has turned around

I was lost but now I’m found 

A baby changes everything. 

Merry CHRISTmas!

We would like to thank Ashley Edlin for writing this post!

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Christmas is just around the corner!  For some, that can strike a chord of sheer terror. There is a relatively new tradition that I never had to deal with: “Elf on a shelf.” What sadist came up with this? I have neither the creativity nor the time to devote to elf shenanigans. I know that some of you out there love it, and I think that’s great! During this season, there’s always so much to do, like cooking, decorating, shopping, and finding the right thing to wear to the Christmas parties you don’t want to go to.

I always wanted everything to be just right. Not perfect, but just right. I was happy with all those crazy Christmas whirlwind times, but looking back, do you know what my biggest regret is? No, not the perfect sugar cookie recipe. Not the perfect gift for my mother in law. The biggest regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my kids at the feet of Jesus.

In the end, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

It no longer matters whether my kids got all 30 things on their list, but it does matter that they love our precious Lord and Savior and have accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives.  

This Christmas season, take some time to love on your family and experience God’s peace and love. Psalm 95:6 says “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Let us adore Him!  Let us worship Him! Let us focus on the real reason for the season!

By the way, I really do have the perfect sugar cookie recipe! Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup margarine              2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sugar                       1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg.                       2 ¾ cups flour

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Do not chill dough. Divide dough in half, rolling into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball in a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dip cutters in flour before each use. Bake 6-7 minutes or until light brown.

Icing:

1/3 cup cold milk

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups of powdered sugar

Mix all together. Add more milk if too thick, more powdered sugar if too thin.

Merry Christmas!

We would like to thank Trina Lewis for writing this post!

Perfection is a Liar

A few weeks ago, I re-entered the Facebook world. I had stepped back from it after a revelation in my life about comparison.

Facebook was a gate the enemy was using on me. I was allowing it to control me and that was not healthy.

I found myself looking at all the great women on there, with their clean, well behaved children. Their organized perfect lives. Their incredible birthday parties. Everyone else’s great fashion sense, etc, etc etc………..

It led me to compare myself to all of them. And to all of their stuff. And to all of their relationships. And that left me feeling like I was never gonna measure up.

It was cultivating a seed of jealousy in my heart.  

I don’t throw fantastic birthday parties for my kids. We wear wrinkled clothes. We have discipline problems around here. I don’t have much fashion sense sometimes.

I had to learn how to shut that gate, stop comparing myself and start intentionally focusing on what God says about me. By doing so, my life has changed!

I intentionally have to declare over and over and over:

I am chosen by HIM (1 Thes. 1:4).

I am anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20).

I am a saint and loved by God (Romans 1:7). 

I am enough for Him, and I am enough for my family. They weren’t given to me by accident. My kids and my husband are on purpose.

And you know what? They love their birthday parties. They love being home. They say things like “hey mom- thanks for washing my band shirt!”

Believing in Who I am in Christ,  has allowed me to be REAL. To be who HE created me to be. Perfection is a liar. We are just regular people. Doing regular life in Plainview, TX . But we have an extraordinary God, who loves us, supports us, and leads us.  I am so okay with that kind of regular.

So now, I can get on Facebook and enjoy and celebrate all the beautiful faces and beautiful lives I get to be a part of! It is so freeing. My identity doesn’t rest in what I am not, but rather in what I AM!

In this week of Christmas, I pray that you will have a revelation.  That you won’t have to struggle with expectations and comparison the ways I have. That you will know who God says you are, and that you will have freedom, to be your real self. Just the way He created you. And that you will know the love of our Father like never before! Love came down to you. Love took on flesh, and became man for you. Lets celebrate that this Christmas!

We would like to thank April Hall for writing this post!

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

December is an exciting time of year. The anticipation of Christmas morning: opening gifts, fellowship with family, singing carols…When I was a little girl, I knew Christmas was coming soon the day that the Sears catalog arrived in the mail! I would sit for hours checking the items that I wanted to add to my Christmas wish list:

  • A new baby doll ✅
  • A new pair of skates ✅
  • A new bicycle ✅
  • A new pair of pajamas ✅

Spiritual Gifts

Fast forward many years later and my wishes have changed. 

What I’ve been thinking about lately are spiritual gifts. I find myself “checking off” my wish list in the Bible just like I did as a little girl with the Sears catalog:

  • The gift of wisdom  ✅
  • The gift of prophesy ✅
  • The gift of healing ✅
  • The gift of tongues ✅

Lessons learned

To begin with, all gifts that I check are not gifts that I receive. As a little girl, I had a long list of wishes, but didn’t always get what I had on my list. My parents loved me so much and wanted to give me good gifts. My parents would’ve never given me a gift that I wasn’t ready to receive. For example, they would’ve never given me a bicycle if I hadn’t learned to ride a tricycle. Or they would not give me a new car until I was responsible enough to use it correctly.

Each child in my family received different gifts. My parents didn’t give me the same gifts as they gave to my brother and sister. They were older than me and had different desires than me. My parents knew that I didn’t want a football and they knew my brother wouldn’t appreciate a Barbie. They were good, good parents and gave us appropriate gifts because they loved us. They got to decide what was best for each of their children!

Just like my parents, God loves me and wants to give me good gifts. He knows when I’m ready to receive certain gifts and even though I have them “checked”, He decides when I am ready to receive them. Maybe I’m ready to receive the gift of wisdom, but maybe I’m not ready to receive the gift of prophecy. Does He love me any less because He doesn’t give me the gift of prophecy? Absolutely not! I have a friend who has received the gift of tongues. Does he love her more? Is she a “better Christian” than me because she received that gift and I didn’t? NO! God is a good, good Father who knows what gifts we need in order to grow His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12:11 says that “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” God gets to decide when I’m ready to receive an extra gift!

Be content in all things

As a little girl, I don’t remember a time when I woke up on Christmas morning and was disappointed because I didn’t receive a certain gift that I had checked off in the catalog. I was content with the gifts that I was blessed with.

I am content with the gifts that God has given me through the Holy Spirit. Do I want more? YES! However, I trust Him to give me the gifts when He says I’m ready for them!  Psalm 37:3-4 says to “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Using my gifts for others

I remember one particular Christmas, I received an Easy-Bake Oven. I was so excited to use that gift to “bless” others. My dad ate lots of tiny brownies that I made using this amazing Christmas gift! It was a gift that kept on giving!

God gives us spiritual gifts, but they are not meant to be consumed on ourselves. As we receive, we give it away and then more is given to us. When I feel like I’m not doing enough with my gift, I need to step back and reflect on how God is using my gifts to grow His kingdom.

Trusting that your gifts are good

I never doubted that my parents would give me good gifts! Although they threatened telling Santa to put coal in my stocking when I misbehaved, deep down I knew that I would get good gifts for Christmas. You can trust God to give you good gifts as well!

Luke 11:11-13 says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Merry CHRISTmas!

You can trust God, our good, good Father, to give you gifts that you need to receive in His time. I pray that during this holiday season, you unwrap your gifts and receive your spiritual blessings with the same kind of excitement as receiving the Sears Christmas catalog in the mail!

Be Blessed.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this post!