Sunday, December 10, 2017

Transforming Power

Year 5-Day 344: Today...I am grateful for transforming power. 

When the boys were little, Transformers were a hot item. Toys that change from bugs or cars into robots. Oh yes, they were a favorite. From something ordinary to extraordinary in a few twists and turns. Actually, it was more than a few and it amazed me how fast they could choose what they wanted it to be and make the transformation. On my own, those toys left me dazed and confused. In the right hands, they were not frustrating but fun. 

I wonder if all the fuss that goes into holiday decorating leaves some feeling like I felt with the boys toys? 
Although Christmas lights are one of my favorite decorations, they are not alone in making the transformation from dreary winter landscape and decor to festive, fun and fabulous. I like to tuck a little holiday into ordinary places. 

The transforming power of garland, Christmas florals, sequined ribbons, snow globes and thousands of tiny lights fills the season with a magic that never loses its wonder. From the most humble homes to the extravagant... using homespun popcorn and cranberry garland or exquisite floral designs... a little holiday makeover delights the soul. It makes us mindful that it is a special season. 

This season, I want to be mindful of the transforming power of Christmas. Not just in the decorating, but in seeking out the reason for the season. In the same way we transform our homes for the holidays, Christ longs to change our hearts for all of our days. 

Faith Hill sings "A Baby Changes Everything". It is a song that still gives me chills every time I pause to truly take in the truth it reveals. 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fv7iPy8HcY 

The lyrics are so powerful.

Teenage girl, much too young
Unprepared for what's to come
A baby changes everything
Not a ring on her hand
All her dreams and all her plans
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything
The man she loves she's never touched
How will she keep his trust?
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything
And she cries!
And she cries!
Oh, she cries
Mary... young and innocent... asked by the God she loved and served to mother this miracle child. Joseph, a man of faith who had waited for the right girl. One who would and could be a true mate for him in faith, love and building a home. Finally, his dreams were coming true and then... it all came crashing down. A baby would change everything from ordinary to extraordinary
There would be whispers behind their backs, disbelief and shunning. Still, they said "yes" to the request to God's plan. Scholars say he was older than her. That was not unusual for the time and the culture. He needed time to mature and be ready for his role. He needed to be her strength and encourager. She offered him her trust and youthful wonder as they both played their roles in this miracle season. 
God became flesh and bone, and Joseph and Mary would be the ones to welcome and cradle the baby Jesus. Joseph as he aided in delivery and Mary as she took him to her chest and felt his heartbeat. The word "awesome" does not even truly magnify the moment... but it is the best word I find. Awe inspiring and glorious. 
Another piece of the lyrics that captures the moment. 
And she cries! ( in fear of the unknown )
And she cries! (in the pain of childbirth)
Oh, she cries (at the miracle baby in her arms)
A baby always changes how we see the world, when one is placed in our arms to love and nurture. And, it is normal to cry. From pain to happy tears in what seems like an eternity and a breath all at the same time. A baby changes everything. 
This season, the miracle of that night in Bethlehem is remembered. Our Lord and King longs for each of us to embrace the gift of the Christ-child. Born like us to live like us, but without sin, so that he could take away the sins of all who would choose to receive Him. That life changing grace is still available to all of us today. 

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2

A baby transformed a humble manger into a King's bed. That baby grew up in the ordinary way, with birthdays and siblings,learning his earthly father's carpentry trade. Then he transformed a cross of shame and death into a symbol of forgiveness and hope for all who repent, ask forgiveness and offer their lives as a gift. 

It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.-Galatians 6:15 

Today...I am grateful for transforming power. 




Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Movies

Year 5-Day 343: Today...I am grateful for Christmas Movies.

As I type this post, "It's A Wonderful Life" is playing in the other room. I never tire of George Bailey and Clarence. Such a sweet lesson about love, friendship, community, struggle and hope. 

Another favorite is "A Charlie Brown Christmas" which aired on this December 9th for the first time in 1965. Charles Schulz lovable cast of character bring the wonder of the Christmas story to life. 

Families coming together with popcorn, cocoa and the lights of the Christmas tree glowing. It sets the stage for a variety of favorite Christmas movies that stretch across the decades. And, of course, the new Hallmark movies. 

So many family traditions include Christmas movies. Do you have any? 

Randy loves "A Christmas Story". It still makes him laugh after all of these years. "Miracle on 34th Street" is one of my favorites. 

Just a simple gratitude today. 

Today...I am grateful for Christmas Movies.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent

Year 5-Day 342: Today...I am grateful for the advent.


Advent becomes almost a common word in December. It is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We rarely use the word outside of the holiday season.

The same term can, also, refer to the second coming of Christ. 

Outside of faith references, it means: "the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event". The advent of television, for example, changed family evenings at home forever. So did the cell phone. 

"Our whole life is advent. A time of waiting for the ultimate." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Bonhoeffer makes a powerful observation. 

Television commercials and news programs, especially this time of year, tells us that "the ultimate something" is about to be released or is available for this holiday season. The advent of the latest cell phone always finds seekers standing in long lines... even in inclimate weather... to have the opportunity to see, touch and receive the newest technology. 

Confession... I hate getting a new phone. I'm a long-term relationship girl. Upgrades mean I don't understand or know how to work the newest model. Thank goodness for iPhones for the phone challenged. 

I remember, never ever having used and iPod before getting my first touch screen phone. It was a cute little Lime Green Chocolate LG. Good thing it was so cute, because I was frustrated for several weeks! Okay... more like several months... but, I can and did learn. I've made friends with several cell phones since that time. Cell phones are not forever. But, they are very useful.

This Christmas, what are we waiting for with the excitement of a child? Are we standing in line for the latest and greatest technology? In our hearts, are we willing to make the same sacrifices to stand in line to worship the newborn King? Do we look toward the second coming with excitement?

Before Jesus, the people relied on priests for much of their access to the throne of God's grace. The Holy of Holies was separated by a heavy curtain and those who entered did so with great preparation, because they knew that if unprepared, they might die. God's inner sanctuary that was full of his presence was too much holy for unprepared humans. 

Jesus changed everything. In coming as God and Man, he would become our only high priest. His intercession the only one needed. His sacrifice, once and for all, would change everything. 

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.-John 14:6

And... this gift of a new way arrived in a stable because there was no room in the inn. 
The wonderful Savior of the world did not even have a proper bed. Not that it mattered. Cradled in his Mama's arms. Joseph surely wrapped his strong, carpenter's arms around both of them to ward off the night chill. Such a sweet and sacred moment that must have been with the scents of straw and Bethlehem evenings in the air.  

Such a strange way to save the world... but perfect, too. The advent season is holy. Can you feel the excitement? 


What are you waiting for? I need reminders to keep my eyes on the reason for the season. 

Today...I am grateful for the advent.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Things Unseen

Year 5-Day 341: Today...I am grateful for things unseen. 

Unseen does not mean "not real". 

This image is a quote from The Polar Express. The book is so charming and Tom Hanks poured his heart into the movie version. 

"Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see." 

How true!  Some things must be felt with the heart. 

In this busy, crazy month of December, what do we see and hear? What do we feel?

The streets and sidewalks are busy with the urgency of the clock ticking. The stores put out flags for sales because they are over-stuffed "Stuffmarts" (as Veggie Tales calls them). They offer goods we can touch. Yet, the most special gifts touch our hearts. It is not the price tag. It is the heart of the giver. The love we cannot see, but feel.  

This is not typically a "Christmas scripture" but it is perfect for the season. God longs for us to stop the insanity long enough that we can actually hear the Christmas bells and the angels singing. They still sing. He waits for us to pause long enough that we notice the star and find our way to the manger. Our self induced anxiety and stress are blinding. 

Paul didn't intend this for a Christmas post, but it is perfect:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -Philippians 4:6-8

This Christmas... we can seek a meaningful Christmas. In that process... we may be able to do more with less. Simple acts of giving from a heart that seeks His face, instead of joining in the scary rat race. 

God's unseen peace exceeds human understanding. We cannot be anxious when praying prayers of gratitude. Try it. I can't seem to do it. Thanksgiving and praise seem to dispel anxiety. One repels the other. It is His unseen peace that guards our hearts and minds. 

Oh yes... the unseen act of prayer and belief... it is a very real superpower from the Master of the Universe. 

Today...I am grateful for things unseen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tragedy into Promise

Year 5-Day 340: Today...I am grateful for a God who can turn tragedy into the promise of hope and a future. 

An child caught in the chaos of foster care is a result of someone's tragedy. Any life is a terrible thing to waste, but to put children at risk or in harm's way is profoundly sad.  Children are the innocent victims. At times, they can become pawns. They often struggle emotionally and educationally for a lifetime because they were unprotected in their innocence. 

The hopes for adoption for a dear niece and nephew are one step closer to reality after Godly wisdom was whispered into the ear and the heart of the judge holding court yesterday. 

With the combined prayers of so many... perhaps it was more of a mighty wind. The kind of wind that split the Red Sea and the Jordan River when God may a way through the waters. 

The next 28 days, if feels like so much hangs in the balance. How easy is is to fret and worry, but He is mighty and sovereign and carried them this far. As ,my nephew reminded me... "Just have faith... and he will show you amazing grace." The song "Our God Reigns" has been Earworm's favorite since yesterday morning when word came of the judges decision. 

One thing learned through failed attempts at adoption... sometimes, we have to wait and grow a little more to be ready for the task ahead. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. -Jeremiah 29:11-13

How we pray and how we seek him matters. Is it a desire to have it my way or is it with "Thy will be done." 

At this advent season, I have a huge soft spot for Joseph. He had waited... for whatever reason... for a wife. Then, he is promised this beautiful young woman. His excitement and feeling grateful must have been overwhelming, before he heard about the pregnancy. 

Talk about a punch to the gut. Still, this man was not chosen by accident. Mary and Joseph... together... would raise this God-child. Joseph didn't have the heart to have her stoned... as was his right by the law... he considered divorcing her quietly sparing her life, but not the disgrace for both of them. He would be wife-less again and she would be scorned.  

Joseph chose to call Jesus his son with all the rights and privileges of a first born. He taught him the carpentry trade. He loved him and Mary with such a tenderness and awe. God knew that Joseph would be the right adoptive father for his son. The time was right to send the long promised Messiah. Wow! What a surprise it must have been. Okay... what a shock! 

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep." -John 10:14-15

God knew His flock. When the timing was right, he knew that Joseph and Mary were the ones to raise the child that would grow to save all who would call on His name. 

So many wonders and joys are packed into the story of Jesus's birth. We forget about the wait... and that earth's gain was heaven's grief. When "The Word" took human form, the world would know light and life like never before. 

"In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness,and the darkness can never extinguish it." John 1: 1-5 

Heaven came down... and joy to the world rang out. Did heaven grieve? Our choices, rejection and sin meant God chose human form to be with us to help us understand his love and for our redemption. The God-child born to a humble home belonged on the throne. Adoption placed him where he needed to be. God made a way. 

For each home that goes from couple to family through adoption... this is a most special season. One to celebrate that a family begins in the heart, not the womb. It has very little to do with genetics. Choosing to love changes everything. 

Today...I am grateful for a God who can turn tragedy into the promise of hope and a future. 



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Shelter from the Wind

Year 5-Day 339: Today...I am grateful for shelter from the wind.

What a tremendous wind we experienced last night. It is not as violent this morning, but the wind still blows. How grateful I am to have shelter from the wind. The walls of our home keep us safe and warm. 

Growing up less than an hour from Chicago... but rural... I know wind. The windy city has so many buildings to help break up the force of the winds, but across the prairie, it simply billows and blows. The unseen force is fierce, reminding us that the things we cannot see are real and powerful, too. 

The trees bend and bow. Flags fly taut. In my college days at Olivet, many skirts were full, pleated and took flight at the most unexpected times when the winds billowed under them. There were many days we carried books in one hand and tamed our skirts with the other. 

Yes, unseen forces can be very real. They can be scary and intimidating. This passage from Matthew tells of the disciples waking Jesus when they are out in a boat. Jesus is exhausted from preaching, teaching and healing and is asleep. A squall storm sweeps in and across the water in a way that the seasoned fishermen in the boat are scared. It must have been intimidating. They decided to wake Jesus. They wanted him to do something fast. 

Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”-Matthew 8:26-27
What if... with bigger faith... they had let Jesus sleep? 
Jesus implies that the danger was more perceived than real because he was with them. They had Immanuel... "God with us"... with them. 
Fear and doubt creep in when circumstances seem more real... more concrete than the power of the unseen. It is hard to remember to breathe when the anxiety creeps in but Jesus makes it very clear that they were in no real danger. He was with them. 
He is still a very real and present unseen force. He still longs for us to trust him and to submit to his sovereignty with hearts full of love. "Thy will be done." does not exempt us from trials or storms. But, we are never alone. 
His angels surround us. His Holy Spirit is with us and in us for guidance and comfort. No wind is too much for Him.
Today... we will face some storms, but the one who speaks calm into the squalls of life is with us. "Even the wind and waves obey him." He is the ultimate shelter. 
Today...I am grateful for shelter from the wind.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas Lights

Year 5-Day 338: Today...I am grateful for Christmas lights.

We live just a few miles from the "East Peoria Festival of Lights". It is really pretty amazing. it has made national news over the years. When the big wreath lights up over I-74, we know that the holidays are truly upon us. 


Have I remembered to be grateful for the little lights that create a big splash from November through the first of January?

We are white light people at our house, but we enjoy seeing how others decorate. From the most simple spotlights on red bowed wreaths to the over-the-top "Christmas Vacation" style of "more is more"... what's not to love about Christmas lights?

Some lament that it isn't cold enough to snow. I am not on that team, but I respect their opinions. I think we have the icy sparkle of lights every night, and that is enough. Like fallen stars, gently tucked into the tree limbs, there is comfort and joy in the sight. Yes, I love Christmas lights. 

After angels announced the birth of the Baby Jesus... a special star hung in the sky over the place where hope was born and waiting. 

In the days Jesus walked the earth, people did not understand that the sun was a star... they just knew that it lit up the earth. Isn't it perfect that a star would guide seekers and the curious to the Light of the World? 

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:1-2  

A star led the Magi from afar. It filled them with wonder. 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12

In Him there is no darkness. How fitting that in these days leading up to the celebration of his birth... tiny sparkling lights prevent keep back the darkest winter nights? I think it is perfect. 

Today...I am grateful for Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sun in December

Year 5-Day 337: Today...I am grateful for sun in December.

Yes... it is a truly sunny December day. 
How can we not give thanks for this little gift? To feel it on my face and soak it up is a delight to my soul. It is a reprieve from what is expected.


Winter is not a punishment. It is not my favorite season, but it is necessary for the earth to rest. 
Plants and seeds that hibernate will return to life, but they need their winter sleep.  

Today, it feels like we are breaking the rules. Like we are not getting quite what we deserve based on the calendar date. So, we are pardoned from heavy coats, boots and scarves. We can simply enjoy a walk in the brisk air. 

Like sun in December, the advent season is a reminder to pause and remember that because of a sweet little baby boy, born to a virgin... we do not get what we deserve. He came to take our place. He was long expected, but such a surprise because of the "packaging". They were looking for a King... and missed the manger. 

I don't want to miss the manger this season. I want to hold tight to the wonder and the miracle. I want to live in the light... just like I can feel the December sun. Our Holy God cannot tolerate sin, so a sin solution was necessary. 

Our loving God, knew our past failures as a human race. Still longing for us to choose him back in love... not in fear or in brokenness... but to choose him with our whole hearts for our whole lives. So... He became one of us. 

With us, for us and not against us. Jesus came to make grace available to all who would open their eyes to the truth of his purpose and choose to receive Him as Lord and King. A baby changed everything. 

Jesus was not what they expected. They wanted a king. But, he was everything they needed and so much more. 

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.-John 6:35

 I am grateful for the unexpected packaging that brings us all back to the manager each Christmas season. It is a beautiful reminder that His ways are not our ways. His way is perfect. 

"This Godhis way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him." -Psalm 18:30 or 2 Samuel 22:31

Yes, his way is perfect. He is a good, good Father. He disciplines those he loves. We face consequences at times for disobedience... but his mercy and forgiveness are rich and deep and wide. 

There are even times he surprises us with goodness when we least expect it. 

Today...I am grateful for sun in December.







Saturday, December 2, 2017

Many Names, One Savior

Year 5-Day 336: Today...I am grateful for many names and one Savior. 

One of my favorite pages in my journaling Bible is my "Names of God" page. I created it as a reflection of the question Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" 

If Jesus stood before us today and asked us that very same simple question, how would we respond? "Who do you say that I am?" 

As Christmas songs play everywhere, what names for Christ do we hear? Take a minute and write them down. Look for the less common and your favorites, too. In recent years, Immanuel meaning "God With Us" has become a favorite of mine. 

As Christmas lights sparkle in and on homes around us, it is easy to miss the light of the mystery that unfolded more than 2000 years ago in a Bethlehem stable. Oh yes, the "wondering when" was answered. 

The promised Messiah was here. Wrapped in swaddling clothes... cradled in his mother's arms for warmth and comfort. 

Kind, generous and faithful Joseph snuggled with them... with awe...  and feeling as helpless as every new father after the birth of his first child. This child he did not father, but loved as his own, holding nothing back. God, a woman, a man... and now a God-child. What do you call him? 

His name was decided long before that star speckled night in the Bethlehem: 

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”-Matthew 1:20-21

"But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." -Matthew 1:25

"And his name will be the hope of all the world.”-Matthew 12:21 

Jesus means "The Lord Saves Us". Hope was born that night, and the he would be known by many names. To many to list here, but have fun making your own. 

Love came down and took on human skin with all of the struggles and challenges of daily living with other humans. He took on human physical limitations and struggles, but remained faithful to the Father's call on his life. He sought guidance in prayer. He experienced being stretched and pulled in many directions by all who needed what he had to offer. He knew exhaustion. He knew hunger and thirst.  The miracle of the manger... the reality of it... takes my breath away. 

Jesus would grow and he would fulfill the promise. He would be be the Lamb of God. But, first he would be "God with Us"...  our Immanuel. 

Today...I am grateful for many names and one Savior.


Friday, December 1, 2017

The Power of a Dress

Year 5-Day 335: Today...I am grateful for the power of a dress (or a bow-tie for the guys joining in the fight). Welcome to Dressember 2017.

Dressember is a campaign that raises awareness and funds to help organizations like International Justice Mission and A21 fight the darkness of sex and labor slavery here and around the world. Why do I choose this campaign when there are so many good things to support? It moves my heart at the deepest part.

20 years in social services, you see a lot. Before that, some of the people we met, through Dad's jail ministry with Gideon Bibles, have faces and names I remember. There was one woman, not much older than me at the time, although she seemed "old". I still wonder if she ever broke free of the man who owned her? Is she dead or alive? Her chains were part psychological and fear played a role. I don't know. I wear a dress in her memory.

I will occasionally mention Dressember this month. It won't fill every post every day... but if you see me this month, I will be choosing a dress each day.

The control over what we wear.. or don't wear is a reflection of the power of our choices. We can dress to impress, to conquer or to simply be comfy and cozy. Yet, today more than 40 million people are enslaved with no choices as to how hard or how long they will work today... or what sexual and spirit wounding violations they will suffer in "a day's work".

In Dressember... we wear a dress for them.

In the United States, about 83% of the youth that end up in the human trafficking rings are taken while in foster care or on the run. Children already wounded and hurting take to the streets to escape something bad... and find themselves caught in something worse.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. 
68% of them are trapped in forced labor.
26% of them are children.
55% are women and girls.
Some are toddlers. 

I choose Dressember because the funds support rescue missions, restoration and rebuilding. It serves to support the justice efforts in the courtrooms and the battles behind closed doors in counselors offices. The resources helps victims start and build new lives. The money goes to organizations that have proved themselves financially and are concerned about the souls of these victims of violence and brutality. 

I am not alone. My team is "Shalom For All". Our team is a part of the bigger campaign across America. Rescue... urgent needs and aftercare. Together, we will make a difference. 

Jesus was serious and repetitive in his caution that we must care for the women and the orphans. In that culture, they were the "least of these" and without a voice. In many ways, they still are. 

I live freely, loved, and with choices. The least of these are not that far away. This month, we wear dresses and bow ties for those who have no say. 

My scripture for the month is: 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’...   “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ -Matthew 25:40,45

This month... we can choose to take up a dress... or support a cause that touches "the least of these." 

https://dressember.funraise.org/fundraiser/valerie-smith

Today...I am grateful for the power of a dress


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Contagious Joy

Year 5-Day 334: Today...I am grateful choosing joy is contagious. 

This time of year handwashing becomes extra important as winter bugs begin. Just maintaining good habits can help fight the battle to stay well. 

What about that battle to not succumb to the holiday blues? For many it comes from focusing on what they cannot change instead of embracing the precious in the present... not the presents. 

What can we pass along today? Making every effort to choose joy. 

We are near the end of the fifth year of daily gratitude, and of this one truth I am most certain. Gratitude fuels joy. Thankfulness doesn't change God... it touches His heart and may move his hand... but it does not change Him. Gratitude changes us from the inside out. 

Tomorrow is December 1st. Once again, I would challenge anyone dreading the fullness of the season to combat the stress with intentional thanksgiving. How quickly we shift from gratitude to consumerism. Intentional gratitude is an antidote for much of what bogs us down in this busy time ahead. 

Make time to be kind. Tiny unexpected gifts of time to those who are lonely. Pay for the person behind you at McDonald's. Greet delivery drivers or the mailman with a hot cocoa in a disposable cup. Help an older person with Christmas decorations. Clear another's driveway. (Thanks Jim and Chad for the many times you have made our days easier sweeter with your plows... we are grateful) Let the person with a few items go ahead of you in the grocery line... or better yet... the one with fussy children and a cartful of needed items. 

To choose joy... we must slow down and observe all that we have to be thankful for when Thanksgiving is a memory and a full calendar threatens our peace of mind. Make time to spend time focusing on The One who is the source of our joy. When we enter his gates with grateful hearts, strength and joy are there waiting. 

"The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! 
Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling." -1 Chronicles 16:26-27 (NLT)


The holidays are harder for some than others. Some face illness or loss this season for the first time. Others are seasoned veterans of "the hard stuff" but it is still hard. I love this verse that Paul penned in letter to the church at Corinth:

"Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything." -2 Corinthians 2:10 

What spiritual riches can we gift to others in this advent season? Look to the children. Jesus said we must become like them. Look at the manger this season with new eyes and childlike faith. Embrace the wonder. The joy is not in the price of the gift, but the fullness of the love in the heart of the giver. 

"You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”-Acts 20:35a

We can choose joy.

Today...I am grateful choosing joy is contagious.