Connecting the Dots

John 17:20-21  English Standard Version (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…”

Connecting the Dots5

 

If you have ever struggled with feeling like you don’t belong, I understand.  If you’ve ever struggled with the worry that people just wouldn’t understand you, I do understand.  If you’ve ever wondered if anyone heard your cry, I’m listening.  If you’ve ever struggled with how you fit into the grand scheme of things, boy, oh boy, do I know how that feels.

I’m finally starting to see where God has been leading me my entire life.  Funny thing is that, as much as I fought it, it is right into His arms. Funnier thing is that, when I got here, there were a whole bunch of others here, too who had thought the same stuff!  We are now connected in Christ.  My dots are connected to their dots now.  And there is strength in numbers.

The scripture I started this post with is where Jesus is praying that people would come to know Him by hearing the gospel and the testimonies of the ones who were with Him.  That people would believe in Him and come to the Father through Him by being witness to the changed lives of His disciples.  His prayer was that those who came to believe because of those lives would become one with them, and one with Him, just as He is one with God.

That’s not the only time the Bible says that He prayed for us.  Luke 22:32 shows that Jesus prayed for Simon, that his faith would not fail him.  John 14:16 says He would pray for the Father to send us an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be our helper so He could be with us forever.  Most importantly, in my opinion, when he pleads with God to “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” in Luke 23:34. No doubt about it- Jesus is our great defender.

By praying for us, Jesus set an example of how we should lift each other up.  In this culture of “whoever looks best in their neighbor’s eyes wins,” that’s a challenge for most of us.  I take the challenge seriously now.  In fact, I published my testimony the other day and I can’t even describe the whirlwind of  response it has received.  I prayed it would open doors for people who thought they were alone.  I prayed it would give others courage to do whatever it takes to get their voices back. I prayed for grace as people came to know my secrets.

Then I realized that, wait- people would know my secrets!  But then they might come to understand that they are not alone. And maybe some of them would come to understand that they were meant to hear my story because God is calling out to them!  Yes, that He is calling their sleeping spirits awake because they need to know that He is still on the throne and that He is still in the business of setting the captives free!

I have no more secrets, at least that I am aware of today.  All of what has been done to me and all that I have done has been confessed to God and to a small handful of who I consider to be safe sisters in Christ.  As I continue to walk in His protective shadow, I am being equipped to handle any other secrets that come to the surface but I am also being prepared to address the wrongs I have committed.  I have not been blameless in this life.  But I am free.  I am happier than I’ve ever been.  I am no longer ashamed or afraid.

So I pray that you are free.  I pray that if you are not free, you would find a way to start that process.  It can be as simple as looking at a friend and saying, “Hey, do you have a minute?  I really need to get something off my chest.”  Or maybe over a cup of coffee, you can start asking God to put someone in your path that would speak to your heart.  Someone who would speak to your pain, be the first to say it so you can say, “Yeah, that happened to me, too.”  Oh, the dots that are connected when we find we aren’t alone!

•     •     •   

There is healing in Christ.  There is freedom in Christ.  There is joy here.  No lie.

Peace y’all….

Beauty from Ashes

Isaiah 61:3 ESV-

……to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]

Beauty from Ashes

 

I went to a retreat with the women from my church last weekend.  That was a pretty huge step for me because I’m not exactly famous for trusting women, or for being hidden away on a mountain with 30 or so women, and especially  if those are “church women.”  I got the opportunity to confess that little secret at the retreat and we ended up not only laughing about it, but bonding over a deeper discussion on the subject.  It turns out I wasn’t the only one there facing that same giant.

Theory of being chronically unique shattered…

Drops-Mic

I came to understand that having the common bond of being in Christ changes a lot of things, and changes the lies we tend to believe about ourselves.  For example, standing in the kitchen in my PJs and tattoos, I asked one lady, “If it weren’t for Christ, would you even want to hang out with me?” She laughed and said, “If it weren’t for Christ, why would you want to hang out with ME?!”  That was when I realized we all have these fears. She was asking the same question I was:  Am  I enough?

The funniest thing that happened was that I learned that I actually am not enough.  Yep, you read that right.  I’m not enough.  I’m not enough to fix my life by myself.  You can’t fix God-sized problems with human-sized strength.  I know Christ is enough though.  Christ is enough to make my mess something beautiful.  Christ is enough to turn the pain of my life into a light that encourages others to come  out of the darkness with their junk.  There’s nothing that defeats the enemy more than a shared secret.  There’s nothing that glorifies God more than a testimony of all the wrongs in your life laid at the feet of Jesus.

I walked away from that gathering on a beautiful mountain in Gatlinburg more in awe of the women than of the scenery.  I walked out of that cabin knowing not only that they knew my name, but that I had nothing to fear of them and that neither did I have to fear telling my story.  I am giving my testimony at a banquet in a couple of weeks and I know that afterwards, I will tell you about it here.  I am no longer a slave to fear and I will wear that headdress of beauty over the ashes of my life any day.

This is my story. This is my song…. you know the rest.

Peace y’all…

 

Busy Work is for Bees

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Honey Bee Cross Process

 

I’ve been too busy to write for a few days… ok, a week.  I’ll admit, it’s been busy work to keep my mind off of writing.  There’s a lot going on.  But I’ve worked it out and now I know what I want to say.  So here it is….

God’s Got This.

Profound, right?  Sounds like the same old stuff everyone else says, but I mean He really does.  I’ve taken a week to stress and then spend time with Him to make sure I had this down before I came back to tell you about it.

I love to make stuff.  I love creating tiny gifts to give my friends and I love to talk about how each day God shows me something else to be excited about.  My dream is to one day incorporate the two into one big, pay-the-bills-and-have-free-time-to-play-and-create pile at The End of the Sidewalk.  But life keeps happening and distracting me from it!

So this past weekend, I turned my phone’s ringer off, including all social media notifications, on Friday night so I could think.  I left it that way until I needed it for church and then for the GPS for a prayer dessert I was going to on Sunday. I wanted to read, pray, and listen.   I had received a text earlier in the evening from a friend about the bookmark I had recently given her, saying her daughter wondered if I made panda bookmarks.  Of course I never had but I quickly responded, “Why yes, I do!” As soon as the ringer was shut off, I started doodling.  Saturday morning I got to work and by noon, I had created a few I thought she would like- cute, huh?

MyMy's Bookmarks

Nothing fancy, but she loves them.  They’re mostly corner covers, and they’re not all pandas, but they were a hit!  There’s even one her big sister might like and her dad’s a Tennessee Vols fan so yeah, I had to make one like that, too.  Judge me. 😉

But it made me happy to know that I was able to share a little bit of the crafty side of me with a friend. And to boot, to show me how happy she was, I think she’s 7, she made one especially for ME!

imagejpeg_0 (2)

This was all in response to listening to God to just be.  Not be a bee: but Just. Be.

I have an hour drive home from work, so Friday on my way home, I was having this talk with God about why I’d been stressing all week.  About why I even got to the point of wanting to be mean so my voice would be heard. I mean, earlier in the week, I had wanted to remind people that they had made choices that effect others and that just because they feel ignored doesn’t mean they get to get out of the choices now.  I wanted to tell people they aren’t God and to be mindful of the examples they’re setting.  I wanted to tell people “Let it go!” and “I told you so!”  And every time, instead of posting or emailing or texting or confronting, God kept bringing me back to the thought of a yoke.  The yoke of trying to fix things especially.  The yoke of thinking that, after the life these people have watched me live (read: survive), they should be able to believe that I knew what’s best for them.

The thought of a yoke reminded me of a lesson from the Freedom in Christ classes I worked through last fall.  In this particular class,the facilitator taught us the Biblical meaning of the yoke by telling us a story about a young ox that was hooked up to the yoke of an old ox.  The young ox (Judi in this case) thought she was tough and strong and could work circles around the old ox (this one would be Jesus) and tried to prove it. The young ox would pull as hard as she could to get the old ox to hurry up and get the job done- probably so she could go play Candy Crush or something- but the old ox just kept up the easy but steady pace.  The young ox pulled and stressed and got so exhausted the old ox ended up just about dragging her around while He finished the work.

Thinking of that scenario made me realized that God was trying to show me that all of that stuff that’s going on isn’t my problem, it’s His.  He was trying to show me that my job is to keep the pace He has set for me and to let Him help me through it all.  I realized I was trying to play God but that’s His job.  I realized that all of the stressing and the busy work with groups and games and visits I had pulled off last week was about avoiding Him while I tried to figure out how I could work it all out myself.  He was trying to remind me of how much I need Him.  All the time.

So I closed it all down for a few days.  I shut out the noise of social media, put my face in the Bible and a couple of good books I am reading, and I made a little girl some silly bookmarks. And you know what happened?  The world kept turning.  Facebook kept Facebooking.  Twitter kept up with the tweets.  People kept peopling (yes that’s a word now). Jesus kept being Jesus.  And I survived not being in control.

I can’t fix anything but I can work to improve who I am as this new creation in Christ. I can focus on who I am called to be now that He is living in me.  I can trust that He knows what’s best, what’s going on, and how it’s all going to work out while I take care of my little piece of the earth.  I’m officially hanging up my robe and sandles folks.  I’m gonna leave the busy work to the bees and let that easy yoke guide me on this journey.  God’s got this.

Peace y’all.

 

I’m No Billionaire

Mark 8:36 English Standard Version (ESV)

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

POWERBALL2

I woke up today with absolute certainty that I had not won the lottery, the biggest in history, from what I understand. I might have wondered differently if I had actually bought a ticket.  Now, before you start thinking I’m being a judgmental self-righteous Christian telling you gambling is a sin and that you’re doomed to hell for buying tickets, stop right there.  Stop reading this post right now and go back to the very beginning of this blog where I tell you it’s all about me.  This blog is about me; the failures described here are about me; the interpretations of the scriptures are about me. It’s my life I’m talking about, not yours. Ok?

We good?   Good.  Let’s move on then…

I have never wanted to be rich.  I’ve always wanted to be debt free, but that’s a different concept.  I’ve lived through too many examples of the kind of damage that having too much money can do.  I was raised poor but with all of my needs met and once, when I had a job making three times as much as the highest paying job I had ever had, I became a complete idiot with the money.  I’m blessed to have survived the aftermath of a layoff with my sanity.  I know a lot of people that were laid off with me lost everything.

The scripture from Mark that I used at the beginning of this post is about more than money though.  To me, it’s about what we treasure most.  Look at today’s inCouragement calendar:

January 14-

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~Hebrews 11:1

I’ve always thought of those words in the context of believing in God.

But that morning it seemed the One Who Loves Us whispered that part of faith is also about believing that our obedience makes a difference- when we can’t see the results.

~Holley Gerth, Heart to Heart With Holley

My Input:  Holley’s thoughts about faith had never occurred to me but the concept isn’t too far fetched.  I mean, I used to see the Bible as a rule book that I just couldn’t keep up with.  I used to think I had to beg God to help me or to bless me and then list all the things I had done or not done in order to convince Him I deserved it.  Winning the lottery used to be on that list.  Oh, yes.  I used to try to convince God that He knew I would just turn around and give most of it back (after I got myself and my family out of debt and bought an island and a new truck and all the other junk I didn’t need)… yeah, I made those promises. You ever do that? Tell God,  “I’m gonna buy a piece of land so big my whole family can all build houses on it!” We all know better… I’m convinced God does, too.

I tried searching the Bible for wisdom on the topic of gambling and it all boils down to Matthew 6:21 for me.  Where my heart is shows what my real treasure is. If what really drives me is money, or if it’s sports (Go Vols), or my kids, or service to my church or my job; if it’s anything BUT chasing after the heart of God, then that thing becomes my God.  If He’s not first, in my life at least, He may as well be last.

Only this past year have I come to understand that the more I choose to seek the face of God instead of His hand, the more obedient I become.  I mean that like this: the more I choose Christ and the more I strive to respond to this life like He would, the more willing I become to lose things- things like bitterness, rage, hate, competition, envy, jealousy, greed…The more I lean into Him, the more thankful I become for the grace that was shown to me, the more grace comes to me.  Is that crazy or what?!  Gratitude with an open and obedient (meaning, “Yes God, please change me because I’ve been such a stinking train wreck all these years!”) heart causes change in my life that leads to more gratitude!

So, there you go.  I didn’t win the lottery.  I’m no billionaire today.  But I am rich.  You better believe it!  Because I accepted Him, I am a child of the One True King!

 

Stuff- We’ve All Got It

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Stuff 2

 

I bought this little storage box at Michael’s in the middle of October because I literally couldn’t walk by it.  It cracked me up, and yes, I do mean out loud, right there in the middle of the store.  It made me feel good about my life- to know that someone else realized how much “stuff” they had and they not only admitted it, but they painted a pretty box to store it in! I knew it wasn’t just me!

Today’s inCouragement is about stuff.  Good stuff.  God stuff.  Check it out:

January 12-

I want to share hope.  I want to share the longings of Christ’s abundance with confident expectation.  I want to experience His hand at work in my heart.

~ Heather George, Especially Heather

My input:  Yesterday’s post was about a quote by a lady I didn’t take the time to look up so I thought I’d try doing that today.  Turns out that Heather George, like me, has had a lot of stuff in her life.  I saw the scripture quoted on her About Me page and knew I was supposed to write this today.  The scripture is God’s way of saying He gives us stuff so we know how much we need Him.  And boy, oh boy, do I need Him.

Heather is the mother of a little girl named Emma Grace (which just happens to be the same name as one of my all-time favorite humans on the planet) who had been born in congestive heart failure, received a new heart at 5 months old, and then died at age 9. It tore my heart out to think about that kind of family trauma and even as I was reading it all, I thanked God for His great mercy in my life.

But Heather’s story (aka: stuff) didn’t end there.  In 2007, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  The bulk of the blog is about treatment and survival and life along the way.  She’s no longer updating the blog, but I found her on Facebook- yes, I have been known to do a little stalking- and, to my joy, found out she is still alive and appears to be thriving.  She is devoted to Christ and lives by His promises and tells the world she couldn’t have come through the stuff in her life without Him. That’s where I am now.

You know that song by Plumb called Need You Now?  You know, the one where she sings to God, “How many times have You heard me cry out ‘God, please take this’? And how many times have You given me strength to just keep breathing?'”  It’s another source of encouragement for me  to know that I’m not alone, that we all have stuff that we beg God to take off of us.

For example, I love listening to a certain Passion Conference video where Francis Chan explains how Jesus must have felt when He was in the garden praying before they came to take Him away.  Francis is so passionate in his teaching that it brings me to tears every time I hear it, how he imagined if it was his own daughter asking him about the cup that needed to be drank- “Daddy, is there ANY other way?!”  Do you get that?  Do you know that Jesus carried our stuff to the cross for us? He didn’t have any stuff of His own, for real, but He carried our stuff to His death so we didn’t have to.

1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your “stuff” on God because He cares for you.  Psalm 55:22 assures us that if we bring Him our stuff, He will not only help us through, but He will not allow us to be shaken.  He wants our stuff and He literally wants all of it.  The more I give to Him, the more room for Him I have in me!

So today I will give Him my stuff.  I’ll keep the box on my desk, right next to the dancing monkey who reminds me we were made to live free and joyful lives, and I will put my stuff in it as it comes up.  I’ll make it a symbol of literally giving my stuff to the One who wants to free me from it.  You’re welcome to drop yours in it too.

Why (blog) now?

 

Deuteronomy 11:18 (The Message Bible)  Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder.

011216 inCourage Post

Disclaimer:  This may be a little long, but it’s another “catch up” post and starting tomorrow, they will be shorter…. maybe….

 

If you’ve been friends with me or are connected to me otherwise on any social media outlet for more than a year, you may have noticed I don’t post the same junk I used to.  I was looking back through some of my “Memories” the other day and discovered that it’s incredible how seeing proof of growth gives you confidence that you’re on the right path.  I know I’ve changed.  That should be enough, right?

But I’m no butterfly yet.  This is journey, not an event, considering it took 46 years to get here, so it will be fun to see where it goes.  Anywho, I was talking to a dear friend after church this past Sunday and she asked if I journaled.  I told her I had this blog, but wasn’t very good at keeping up with it.  She suggested I write something every day, just the little “pearls” that come up in my life, the things God is doing that show He is very much alive and working in me, because I don’t want to forget them.  So part of this is that; gathering pearls.  It appears that I have said some things that actually helped people when I didn’t know it so if that happens here, then I thank God!

That’s the biggest reason, you know.  To thank God.  I’m blogging, journaling, or whatever it’s called, so I can thank Him daily for provision, for my health, for my clearer mind these days, for friends who humor me enough to read what I have to say…  Be warned though, each entry will be completely doused in typing errors!  I despise wasting the time it takes to spell check and will still miss some when I do it, and besides, I can’t look at the monitor while I type- thanks to some horrible experiences in my high school typing class…. in 1986…. but I digress….

So, my goal this year is to say what I feel, in love, and when I feel it, instead of allowing anything to build up inside me.  The only thing that I want to have building up inside me is the love of God and a fruitful, faithful love and trust in Jesus Christ.  I have laid it all out and will continue to do so in order to continually make more room for Him.

That being said, I started reading a daily “(in) courage” calendar I bought at a Christian bookstore on Black Friday because it was cute and was only $4.  I started reading it on January 1st and it occurred to me that I have a growing group of girlfriends at work that enjoyed my Countdown to Christmas posts so they might enjoy this in-courage-ment calendar with me, so voila!  The blog was given meaning!

So, from here on out, through this year at least, my goal is to give you my take on the calendar, mixed in with the pearls that come up in my life and the blessings, struggles, joys, fears, tears, and chocolate that come along with them.  I’m new at interpreting scripture, but that’s the beauty of the living Word- it feeds each person that reads it according to the daily needs they have.  Isn’t our God so amazing like that?!

I am open to feedback, especially of the teaching kind, but won’t accept mean or judgmental “trolling.” Thought I’d share.  Whatever helps us grow is considered welcome so comment away!  The Bible does in fact say this in Philippians 4:8 (oh, and almost everything here is English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted) :

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So there. I’ve started this thing.  To catch you up to speed before I move on, here’s what I did:

Yesterday I gave the ladies a key chain for the Class of 2015 with Jeremiah 29:11 on them (see the first gift photo above, courtesy of Wendi, pronounced Wind- Eye, one of my favorite ladies) with a note about why 2015. I also gave them little food journals I “made” (meaning I bought them at Big Lots and wrote on them and wrote a note and stuck it inside each one of them) – to explain, we started the Hungry Games, otherwise known as The Biggest Loser, at work and it was a perfect day to start encouraging!- and I made bookmarks to keep them smiling as they marked where they are in the journals.   Here’s what that looked like… and yes, that’s real glitter…

011216 inCourage Post 2

Then I wrote this in an email (slightly edited to make sense to those outside my work family):

Ok, so if you’re here and opened your presents, cool.  If you’re working from home today, there is a small present on your desk.  I wanted to explain them a little without giving away what they are.

The last time we started the biggest loser, I paid my $20 and proceeded to gain 30 lbs!  I was down on myself and doing it for all the wrong reasons so I just quit.  This time, I’m doing it so I can be healthy enough to be used.  If God wants me to go somewhere and I can’t go because I can’t fit or because I can’t breathe enough to walk there, I’m not serving like I should.  I want to become healthier and to learn to take better care of this temple He’s created me to be!  I made the gifts so you would be encouraged to know you’re not alone and to know it’s not a race, it’s a lifestyle change.

We are worth the time and effort it takes to care for our bodies and I for one am ready to take charge and take back my temple!  I bought a little calendar that, like the Christmas countdown, if you’re interested in reading it, I will send out each day with my thoughts.  It’s called “(in)courage” and it was written for women to be living their lives In Courage!  Here’s today’s page and I will let you all get back to work.  I love y’all!

January 11-

God made the world and then He came to change it.  He isn’t a principal, He’s an artist.  He doesn’t condemn, He creates.  But sometimes we stop too soon. And when we do, things seem unjust.  Perhaps they are simply unfinished.   When the world tries to change you with its painful, cutting ways, instead embrace the story, receive grace, turn around, and change the world.  ~ Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky

My input:  Life is unfair.  And the funniest part of that is that life is perfectly fair because it’s unfair for everyone!  When rough patches hit us, what would happen if instead of griping or fussing (or like I used to do, cussing!) at the situation, we chose instead to look at it as part of the story God wrote so very long before He even created the world?  What would happen if we literally just made the decision to accept whatever it is as a lesson He wants us to learn from?  Are you willing to say, “Lord, I have no clue what You’re up to, but I’m in” and mean it?  I’d just about bet that if you tried it, He’d respond to it and would blow your mind with the outcome He has in mind instead of what we think we deserve.  Like I said on Facebook in my New Years’ post, I’m tired of picking out Pintos when God wants me in a Mercedes.  I’ll wait on Him and believe Romans 8:28:

Romans 8:28 English Standard Version (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

I hope you all have an amazing day!

Much love-

That’s where it ended.  I sent that out to my girlfriends email group at 10:30 am.  Then, at about 1:20 pm, we were notified that one of our co-workers had passed away.  We have (almost all) worked together for 5 or 6 years and she was here before any of us and had been fighting cancer in several forms for a few years.  My coworkers know that, before I accepted Christ, I was not her friend.  I was not kind to her.  I took her witnessing to me as her trying to be in my business all the time.  I took correction from her, when she was in a leadership role in a department where I used to be the trainer, to be sarcastic self-righteousness.  I said that’s how I was to her BEFORE I accepted Christ.  March 28, 2015, I did everything I could to lay that Judi down at the cross and walk away from her forever.  That’s the day I accepted Christ.

Her name was Darlene and she was one of the first people on my list of those I needed to make things right with.  I mean, I walked by her every day and never said a word, and that’s after I had spent two years working directly with her!  When I needed info from her group in my work, I dreaded having to ask her because the guilt and shame I felt knowing she knew I was now in Christ and was still not acting like what I thought a Christian should act like to her.

I watched her with this cancer thing.  Melanoma.  I call it a “thing” because that’s what it became.  It literally consumed her.  And you know, she smiled through it.  She said, “Oh, I’m fine and should be back at work in a week or two.”  On one occasion when she was back at work, I knew she was sick and not feeling well, but I couldn’t stand myself anymore.  I also wasn’t any good at face-to-face stuff because I cry- All. The. Time.- so I sent her an email.  I won’t go into detail, but I admitted my wrongs to her, in detail, and asked for her forgiveness literally thinking she’d tell me to go straight to hell.  She not only forgave me but told me she knew my heart had been torn by the world and was watching the changes in me and knew something was different about me, even if I hadn’t told her about Jesus.

Peace made.  I was kinder, gentler, more patient. I worked with a group of friends one day in her yard to help prepare it for winter when she was too sick to do it herself.  We didn’t talk much, but she knew that work day was my way of saying thank you.  Thank you Darlene for showing me how to trust Him anyway.  Thank you for showing me that, no matter what the day holds, I can smile and know Who holds the future.  Thank  you Darlene for never, ever one time saying I told you so or you owe me or anything else that directly reflected the kind of person I had been to you for so long.  And thank you God for moving me to ask my girlfriends what if.  What if we decided not to be angry at God when things don’t go our way but to thank Him for allowing us to be a part of the story.  Thank God I was a part of Darlene’s story.

I started this post with a verse from the Bible about writing the Word of God on your heart.  About tying it to your wrist or hanging it on your forehead, whatever it takes to remember it.  That’s because life is going to happen.  This fallen and often very ugly world is going to happen.  It’s always changing, and it seems like most of the time, it’s changing for the worse!  But the truth of God never changes.  He has- past tense, done, in the word of a friend from middle school, finito- defeated the enemy and has won the war He waged against sin and death and we ARE victorious in Him.  You may take it differently from day to day, but if you search your heart and listen to the voice of God as He leads you through your days, you will find His meaning.  Yesterday I asked my friends to remember that He is in charge and to keep the end of the story in mind instead of the details on the pages in between.  It appears I asked just in time, too.  In God’s always-perfect time.

So now, today’s calendar note says this:

If we’re not moving forward, we’re stagnated. – Heather Gemmen Wilson

I have no idea who the lady that said that is, but she’s right.  Water that doesn’t move gets stagnant and you know what happens to it, right?  It gets all slimy and turns green and starts to stink.  That’s what happens to our hearts if we don’t nourish them.  I don’t have a lot of favorite stories to tell you but I know the story of what my good, good Father is doing in me is becoming one of my all-time favorites!  He is moving me forward in Him.  That’s my part of the story.  I have no idea what the end of it looks like except that I get to be like Darlene someday, standing in His presence, glowing in pure love, and not worrying any longer about the cares of this ratty old place we call earth.

That’s why I’m here… I think.  To be a source of encouragement, or inCourage-ment, to you.  I want people to know that there is a better way, and believe it or not, it really is a lot easier than the way I used to live. I still babble incessantly but these days, I’m talking more and more about what He’s doing, in me, in my circle of friends, in my world and yours.  His yoke really is easy- because He sets the pace.  His burden is light- because He will never leave me to do it all alone.  He draws me, daily, deeper still into Him.  And I dive, eyes wide open, with open and trusting arms…

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

– William Barclay

A Countdown to Christmas- Part 2 of 2- for now or next year

So back to this.  I’ve had such a blast doing this for everyone!  It started as a silly little “maybe they’ll read” idea, but I’ve had people stop by my desk asking if I was still doing it on days when I’ve been busy and late getting it sent out!

Keep in mind, I’ve literally copied and pasted the original emails I sent to my group of friends so it’s a little weird-and technically in the past with a couple of added notes (and a picture or two)…. so just go with the flow.

 

So let’s continue where we left off, shall we?

 

Countdown- 11 Days til Christmas

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:7  English Standard Version (ESV)

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

Mary had to be so strong to be so completely submitted to the plan God had for her life- to bear the seed that was told about in Isaiah 53?  Can you imagine?!  Young girl, no midwife or doctor on hand, Joseph had probably never seen a girl’s knees much less what he was about to help with!  Oh, how I strive to have that kind of trust in Him, too….

Fun Idea:

  • Build a gingerbread house.  If it falls apart, put a toy dinosaur (or a monster truck or a Barbie Corvette- whatever can do that kind of damage!) in the middle of it and call it a victory!

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 10 Days til Christmas

Only 10 Days to go!!!!

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:6-7  English Standard Version (ESV)

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

I know verse 7 is a repeat of yesterday, but that’s how it’s printed on the chain link- by the way, if you haven’t actually seen the links, they’re hanging on the stocking on my desk shelf.  You’re welcome to come by and read them all. (Or since you are reading a past email, here’s a picture!)
The Countdown to Christmas Chain

 

I think it’s significant that the nativity story tells of Mary, who literally was a virgin and was so young, who had left her hometown to go have a baby in the middle of what many called Nowhere, with a guy who knew the baby wasn’t his but who obeyed God and stood by her in a time when women could and should be stoned to death for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, much less giving birth to the baby!  My first delivery was so complicated, it resulted in an emergency C-section!  How scary it must have been for her!  Keeping that in mind, and keeping in mind how harshly we as humans can be quick to judge, it all reminds me of that song Mary Did You Know….

Fun Idea:

  • Do a chore without being asked and without complaint.  For example, run the dishwasher without being asked, or maybe check the laundry room to see if anything needs to be folded or put away.  Sometimes, the best gift we can give is a few minutes of our time that allows someone else to rest.  It really is the little things that make the world go ‘round.

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 9 Days til Christmas

I hope your shopping is done- or at least very nearly done!

Scripture to Read-

Micah 5:2  English Standard Version (ESV)

[a] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

 

If you try to define what is good and what is right, on what do you base that definition?  What within you makes you know that something is right or wrong, good or bad? I know, that’s a tough one for me, too.

Like in this scripture from Micah, he knew that a King was coming.  A savior to make the world right with God again, once and for all.  The religious rulers of the time were sure that King would be from a family in high standing in the community and in the eyes of God.  They were only half right.  It did happen. God found a completely humble young couple that was indeed from the house of David and who were completed submitted to the will of God to bring His perfect sacrifice to life.  It’s good news folks.  The best I’ve ever heard.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Wrap random items around your home in Christmas wrapping paper and put them back where they were.  Fun displays that may just freak your friends out. ;0)  Examples are photos or art on the walls, lamp shades, books, vases, stuff like that.  Have fun with it and paper and tape are only a buck each at the Dollar Tree!

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 8 Days til Christmas

What?!  Only a week and a day left?!

Sometimes, if I’d just take the time to say, “Show me, “or “Help me,” my life would be so much less stressful.  I sure hope none of you are as stubborn as I am! Unlike building eFiles now that Vector is “technically” up and running, today’s countdown item is one that should help alleviate stress and lighten your spirits- a no pressure kind of fun thing to do!

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:5-7  English Standard Version (ESV)

to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[a] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

Can you imagine how the owner of that inn felt once the story got out that it was Jesus he had turned away?!  Whoa, I bet he awful!  I hate it when I do that stuff in my own life.  I’m guilty of jumping to conclusions way before I know the whole story and I usually end up sorry for it.  I’m working more these days to see opportunities for service in my choices instead of trying to first how I stack up against a situation before I step up.  It goes back to that part of the story in Matthew 25:40 that says, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’”

 

Fun Idea:

  • Read and discuss the Nativity Story together.  Imagine the time, the literal circumstances, the ability of the people on hand to actually deliver a baby.  Think about the things- the comforts, the epidurals, the clean surroundings- we take for granted today that weren’t there for Mary and Joseph.  Wouldn’t hurt to make a list of things you’re grateful for when you’re done and stick it in someone’s stocking…

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- Weekend Edition (#3)

Um, this means this is the last weekend before Christmas… sorry this is so late today- I’ve been busy!

Saturday- 7 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:4  English Standard Version (ESV)

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David…

 

Scripture says in several places that the Messiah would come from the house of David

Fun Idea:

  • Bundle up and take a walk through your neighborhood (or load up the car and head out) to look at the Christmas decorations!  Shadrack’s has a Winter Wonderland at the Smokey’s baseball stadium if you’re like me and can’t get enough lights!

Sunday- 6 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 1:22-23  English Standard Version (ESV)

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 

Are you getting it yet that the story has always had a point and that the end was always going to be that we needed that God-shaped hole within each of us filled with, well, God?  Because of His deep and genuine love for us, it’s always been about bringing us back to Him. He WANTS to be with us!

Fun Idea:

  • Stage, photograph, and post to social media a personal- that means with you in it- Christmas “card” to your friends, family, and followers… yes, and the stalkers, too.  You know they need love, too.

Countdown- 5 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 1:21  English Standard Version (ESV)

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

There He goes again, drawing us back to Him.  I was recently asked to define “sin.”  It literally means to miss the mark.  In God’s eyes, perfect is “the mark” but He knows who he’s dealing with…. And that is the definition of “grace.”  Lucky me!

Fun Idea:

  • Buy or make an ornament for your best friend!  From simple to complex, when someone knows you took the time to literally stop what you were doing to think about them, it makes a difference… at least that’s what I’ve been told.  ;0)  Click here for some ideas!

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 4 Days til Christmas

I know, I know, it’s late, but it’s been a crazy day!

 

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 1:20  English Standard Version (ESV)

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

 

In the days of Mary and Joseph, remember I said a woman could have been stoned to death for being found pregnant without a husband.  She was innocent and Joseph knew it, but can you imagine the stares and jeers, the accusations and shame he put up with to raise a child everyone knew wasn’t his?  That’s a brave guy, even by today’s standards.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Take the bell ringers at Wal-Mart or wherever you will be finishing up your Christmas shopping some Hot Hands or homemade hand warmers.  It’s the first day of winter and it’s in the high 50’s but hey, they may need them more than you know.

 

Peace y’all….

Countdown- 3 Days til Christmas

I’m too busy to be this close to Christmas!! This was supposed to be a laid back week that I’ve used for years to catch up on cleaning up email archives and files, but Nooooooooo, there’s too much to do!  Lol, I really do love that I have a job when so many people don’t, you know?  So I will count myself as blessed.  Way more than I deserve.

 

Scripture to Read-

Luke 1:46-55  English Standard Version (ESV)

Mary’s Song of Praise:

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

 

Young Mary could have seen her situation as hopeless- having to leave her home to have this baby that wasn’t hers with a man that had never touched her but that was shamed for staying with her.  Lots to feel bad about, if it hadn’t been for her love of God.  A lot to feel helpless about, if it hadn’t been for her faith in God.  A lot to be ashamed of, but only if she hadn’t believed that she was fulfilling her part in the greatest love story ever written because she was the apple of God’s eye…. Just like you are.

Don’t believe that?  Read it for yourself:  Deuteronomy 32:10 says (regarding the way God sees you in this crazy ol’ world we live in) ““He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.”  Yep, that’s you He’s talking about, too.

Fun Idea:

  • Make it a point to smile at everyone you pass today… I hope you make eye contact when you do it, too.

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 2 Days til Christmas

I’m not sure who is working tomorrow, so I wanted to go ahead and share the last two days with everyone before you’re gone for the week.  I’ll be here, but then won’t be back until after the new year!

 

Scripture to Read-   

Matthew 1:18  English Standard Version (ESV)

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

 

This is basically a pretty way of saying Mary was a virgin. She was not yet married and had never had the influence of Facebook or other social media outlets to make her question her self-esteem so she was literally pristine in the eyes of God.  This is part of the miracle and the proof of the divine intercession by God to bring us what it took to build the bridge that would bring us back to Him.  Even though I am as far as the east is from the west in comparison to Mary, He built that bridge for me, too.  To say I am thankful is an understatement by leaps and bounds.

 

Fun Idea:

 

Joy

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 1 Day til Christmas

Silent Night, Holy Night….

 

Scripture to Read-   

Luke 2:21  English Standard Version (ESV)

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

 

This verse reminds me of that whole part of the story (Jeremiah 1:5) where we’ve been on His mind for all eternity- “before I formed you in the womb…

 

Fun Idea:

  • Start a list today of all of the things you are thankful for. Add to it all day long as things come to mind.  Read it out loud to your family before bed on Christmas eve.

 

It’s really been a lot of fun to share my countdown with you all, but also to give you a small glimpse at the reason for the changes in me this year.  Yes, I’m still a goofball, yes I still get angry at the people we work with that “have been doing it this way for years” or who swear “they just keep changing things!” and I still have plenty of issues to last a lifetime, but I know I’m not who I was this time last year.  I know that choosing to accept that this precious gift of Jesus was for me, too, even before I was created and even though God knew I may never accept Him, has been the difference maker in my life.

 

This year has been one of building relationships- first with Christ, and then with you all.  I’m the first to admit that I’ll never be perfect, but I know I’m a better version of me these days.  This has been a rebuilding year, one of finally facing some giants I’ve needed to deal with- like my bitterness towards the people (and institutions) who have hurt me as well as my need to forgive others.  Yeah, I’ve been dragged through the mud, the fire, the pits of hell it seemed sometimes.  But this year I started to make choices for MY peace.  I’ve heard it said that holding on to anger (insert: bitterness, hate, fear, jealousy, etc.) is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die… I decided this year that I’m not going out like that.  This is the year I decided that the crazies aren’t gonna change so it’s time to change me.  Plus it’s made it a WHOLE lot easier to show y’all how much I know that I would be lost without this team.  Where else could I go work that would let me be me?!  Lol, you know it, too-  nowhere!

 

So, there ya go.  In this very special Christmas season, I truly hope you have peace and are surrounded by friends and family, the human kind or the furry ones, that warm your hearts and make you happy to be alive.  I wish you cookies and pudding and too much fun and oh yes, football.  Here’s to a huge Outback Bowl win for the Vols!   The “other” teams rooted for here, well, I’ll lose my Vol Card if I say it so, you just enjoy your games.  ;0)

 

 

And seriously, Peace y’all…

 

Judi

 

A Countdown to Christmas- Part 1 of 2- for now or next year

I started this countdown on December 1st.  yes, yes, i know it’s the 11th, but I wasn’t thinking of a blog post until today.  New bloggers, whaddaya do with ’em?

 

So anyway, “this past Sunday” was November 29th but, well, just read it.  You’ll get the point.  Thanks.  🙂

 

Every time there are 5 Sundays in a month, my church has what we call “Out of the Box Sunday.”  It’s where we do things to serve the community we are in (the Pellissippi Corridor and specifically Karns High School).  This serves as a way to immerse ourselves into the community the way Christ intended for His church.  So this past Sunday, we made Christmas cards for all of the teachers at Karns as a way to show them we appreciate the use of their space- we have classes in their classrooms and try hard to get them all back in order so they wouldn’t know we were there (they know, we just don’t want to make them clean up after us).  We also decorated trays of cookies to take away and share or keep- it was just one way to be in community with our church family, too-  and we made countdown to Christmas chains.

 

A Countdown to Christmas Chain is literally a chain of daily ideas or ways to have fun and prepare for Christmas day, starting with 24 days til Christmas and counting down to 1.  Shopping and family obligations can take the fun out of the season and, even if you’re doing that stuff together, it’s not difficult to get wrapped up in the “job” of it instead of the real meaning behind it.  In my heart, Christmas is about family and most importantly, about the birth of Christ Jesus.  So when I made my chain, I made it with my work family in mind.  I also kept in mind cost- we already have families to buy presents for and finger foods to bring in for this place, so I was thinking about fun things to do together that won’t break the bank.  The links were printed and laminated with Scripture already on them that I will share daily, too.  Here’s a couple of ideas- and keep in mind that I made the list, so you know that it can get a little goofy…

 

  • Decorate your bedroom for Christmas!
  • Write Santa a letter!  Tell him about all the great gifts you’ve received and, regardless of your age, tell him about all the ones you didn’t get but still wish for!
  • Build a gingerbread house- and if it falls over, put a toy dinosaur on it and call it a victory!

 

So, see?  Nothing very painful.  I will be posting the scripture and “unveiling” the daily fun activity here by my desk for all to view.  If you can’t come to me and want to see it, just respond to me (not to ALL) and I will be happy to keep the email chain up for you.  We don’t have to do this stuff here or after work- unless you want to!  But it’s my way of giving you all an idea of some things (that are mostly free) that you can do to have fun with your friends or families.  The ones that aren’t free are probably made up of stuff you already have laying around the house!  So let’s do this and we will start here with this one:

 

Countdown- 24 Days til Christmas

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 2:9-11  English Standard Version (ESV)

9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Invite neighbors or friends over for a night of board games…. Take pictures to share!

 

Yeah, so I didn’t have the calendar with me to work with weekend ideas, but you get the gist of it!  If you can’t do it tonight, save it for another day this month.  And you don’t have to do them all.  I just wanted to jog your minds for ways to celebrate Christmas without stressing.  I hope we can all look back at this month and laugh and, of course, make fun of each other for some of the junk we did!

Peace y’all and Happy December!

Countdown- 23 Days til Christmas

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 2:2  English Standard Version (ESV)

saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[a] and have come to worship him.”

 

You remember the story about how the Messiah was supposed to be coming that would be born of royalty so everyone wanted to go see Him?  Yeah, they were in for a surprise, huh?  Lucky us.  J

 

Fun Idea:

  • Pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru!  Pay a blessing forward.

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 22 Days til Christmas

Good morning everyone- I hope the paint fumes aren’t messing with you too much!  It’s looking better around here, but it seems that improvement only comes after adversity, right?  Like a potter can throw the perfect vase on his wheel, but it’s structurally useless until it goes through the fire… funny how life does that to us, too.

 

Scripture to Read-

Matthew 2:1  English Standard Version (ESV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem,

 

The scripture isn’t necessarily in order on the calendar strips, so it skips around within the story, but I’m sure it will all work out in the end…. Wait- yes, as a matter of fact, it does do that.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Bake cookies and deliver them to the clerk(s) at your favorite morning stop.  Chances are, you’ve been going there for years and see that they work nearly every holiday and get little thanks for it.  Like the lyrics to one of my favorite songs these days say, “Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come, when you can be one?” J

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 21 Days til Christmas

Oh, Vector Files,

Vector Files,

How I wish you’d work!

If they fix

The errors today

I won’t act like a jerk!

 

Sometimes, if I’d just take the time to say, “Show me, “or “Help me,” my life would be so much less stressful.  I sure hope none of you are as stubborn as I am! Unlike building eFiles now that Vector is “technically” up and running, today’s countdown item is one that should help alleviate stress and lighten your spirits- a no pressure kind of fun thing to do!

 

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:25-32  English Standard Version (ESV)

 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[a] depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

People in the time of Jesus were quicker to believe because they had the opportunity to actually see Him.  I’ve heard it said that the most REAL things in this life are the Ones we can’t see.  Today I’ll choose to believe that.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Go “Christmas Wish Window Shopping” with friends or family.  No Buying!!  Wishing Only!! J

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- Weekend Edition

Since I wasn’t prepared for the weekend events, I will do better this week.  Here’s what you missed for Saturday and Sunday:

 

Saturday- 20 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:22-24  English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

 

Luke 3:21-22  English Standard Version (ESV)

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[a] with you I am well pleased.”[b]

 

Fun Idea:

  • If you’re unable to “sponsor” a name on a local Angel Tree, go there and pray for the names on it!  Ask God to meet the needs of each tag’s namesake and to bless them through the Christmas season.  That’s the best present we can give.

 

Sunday- 19 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:21 English Standard Version (ESV)

 

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

 

Fun Idea:

  • “Camp out” in front of the Christmas tree with!  Pretend the lights are stars and make a wish on each one… oh yes you can, too! ;0)

 

Countdown- 18 days til Christmas:

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:19-20 English Standard Version (ESV)

19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

Luke 2:33-35  English Standard Version (ESV)

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

He came for all for us.  Every. One. Of. Us.  Yep, YOU, my friend, are worth Jesus.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Watch a Christmas movie together.  Grab your kids or the dog or (no, not Sgt. Pepper) your neighbors, grab someone and watch a Christmas movie with them!  Cry at the sappy parts….

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 17 Days til Christmas

It’s moving quickly, isn’t it?  I hope you’re taking the time to slow down and see the lights, put up your own lights, drink some wassail, eat something smothered in cinnamon, and to be thankful for the best time of year!  The time of year that some humans actually go out of their way to be kinder, to smile more, to show that they really do know what it’s all about, even if it’s short lived.  In the end, it’s all about the babe… and I don’t mean the one that

 

Scripture to Read-

Psalm 95:6-7  English Standard Version (ESV)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,

 

Fun Idea:

  • Make a list of everything you love about each member of your family. Write the lists individually on pretty or festive paper and wrap it up to place under the tree for them to open up on Christmas Eve for sweeter dreams before Christmas morning!

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 16 Days til Christmas

It’s “Mint Day” for the 12 (Business) Days of Christmas here in my office so I tried one of the donuts…. It wasn’t mint-y… but it was really good… I hope you all know you’re worth a mint to me. J

 

Scripture to Read-

Luke 2:15-18  English Standard Version (ESV)

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

 

Why is it that we have such a hard time believing unless an angel comes to us and says, “Dude!  Go that way!”?  Sometimes I wish I’d get more of those, but real faith believes anyway.  I’ll try that today.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Take some funny photos as a group or family and post them to social media! I’ve got snowman glasses at my desk if you want to borrow them! ;0)

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- 15 Days til Christmas

I hope everyone is having a great December so far!  Mine is looking like the best one I’ve had in a long time.

 

Scripture to Read-   

Luke 2:13-14  King James Version (KJV)

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

My only goal in this life is to one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  That’s what it’s all about.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Bake a Birthday cake for Jesus!  Who cares what the office of diversity says! We wouldn’t even be celebrating this time of year if it wasn’t for Him, so remember to include Him in your festivities.

 

Peace y’all…

Countdown- Weekend Edition 2

Countdown- Friday- 14 Days til Christmas

Oh, look!  It’s Friday again!!  This time, I’ll give you the weekend ideas BEFORE the weekend.  Don’t know about you, but I have a LOT to look forward to this weekend; friends, food, music, and my son visiting.  Here’s some ideas for ways you can spend yours!

 

 

Scripture to Read-  

Luke 2:12  King James Version (KJV)

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

 

Fun Idea:

  • Write and send letters to out of town/ out of state friends or relatives.  Not just a Christmas card, but an actual note.  Remember what that was like before texting?  I’ve got pens if you need to borrow one….

 

Countdown- Saturday- 13 Days til Christmas

Scripture to Read-   

Luke 2:8-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 

Do you remember in the Charlie Brown movie, when Linus was on the stage and telling this part of the story?  Did you know that if you watch closely, between the frames when he said, “And the angel said unto them” and “Fear not,” you will see that Linus dropped his security blanket?

 

He went from this:

 

Before

To this:

After

It’s a 50 year old cartoon that shows that even this little boy knew he could trust the angel when he said it was all going to be ok…

 

Fun Idea:

  • Visit a live Nativity Scene with family or friends.

 

Countdown- Sunday- 12 Days til Christmas

Scripture to Read-   

Isaiah 9:6  English Standard Version (ESV)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Isaiah’s part of the story took place way before the birth of Jesus, but he sure did know what he was talking about.  You see, Adam and Eve burned the bridge between us and God at the fall of mankind.  Being born in sin literally just means being born without the knowledge of God.  But the truth is that God didn’t want us to think He was unapproachable so He gave us Jesus as a way to draw near to Him.  How cool is that?!

 

Fun Idea:

  • Decorate your bedroom for Christmas!  Go all out with lights, stockings, and decorations all over the place! Come on, you know you want to!

 

Peace y’all…

 

 

Thankful Is An Understatement

I’ve been up since just after 4:30 am, drinking coffee, cruising Facebook and Twitter, chasing Sgt. Pepper off of the bookshelf and other furniture, and watching the sun come up. I’m not cooking today. I’m not spending the day surrounded by a crowd of (blood related) family. Instead, I am spending time with friends that are as close as family and who make me feel like family to them. For this I am thankful. I’m thankful I am blessed enough to have another friend-family that wanted me with them today. Work demands (yesterday and tomorrow) keep me from going, but my heart is with them. I sure will miss almost falling over while Black Friday Shopping tomorrow…

image

I’m also thankful that while my boys are otherwise occupied today- Sam is in Ohio and Dan is with his girlfriend’s family- I will see them soon. Tomorrow is Dan’s 21st Birthday and I know I’ll see him then. Next weekend I’m driving to Ohio to spend a day with Sam. So I’m sure I will survive today.

I’m thankful my mom doesn’t have to be on her feet all day to cook because my sister and her family are having her and dad for dinner and my niece is having them over for supper and to spend time with some of their great grandchildren.

I’m thankful that all of my sisters in Ohio, California, and Florida are surrounded by their families and grandkids today, and that my brother (in Ohio, too) will be swarmed by his family that includes a herd of beautiful, cheerful grandbabies that idolize him.

I’m thankful I have the day off of work when so many people don’t. I fully intend to go to at least two grocery stores today- in all the hustle this week, turns out I forgot food for Sgt. Pepper- just to smile at people. I’m thankful that I have the ability to just get up and go to a store, any time I want, because despite what some people believe, I still live free in the greatest nation in the world. I’m also thankful I have the right to refuse to shop for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day because, quite frankly, I’m much more into presence than presents. Friskies Savory Shreds are not Christmas presents, so there!

I’m thankful that I’m a Big Orange fan by choice, through good times and bad, and that Jalen Hurd, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Derek Barnett, Jashon Robertson, and Malik Foreman chose to play football for the great University of Tennessee over Vanderbilt. I’m thankful that while Curt Maggitt may be wounded, he will still leave school with a degree and a VFL belt to wear and, if he’s not healthy enough to help us win whatever bowl game we go to this year, will someday be back on the field for homecoming and other alumni events. I’m also thankful to be blessed with a seasonal job as an usher for the Tennessee football program and actually get paid to be their biggest fan.

I’m thankful for players like Brian Randolph, Josh Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, Todd Kelly, Jr., and Malik Foreman who openly express their faith and a strong family-oriented Coach Butch Jones who instills the importance of prayer before and after games because it’s in the spirit of competition with hopes for a healthy outcome regardless of the scoreboard. I love the prayer circle tradition at UT!

I’m thankful I was raised in a generation that wasn’t numbed by video games and social media and who understood without a doubt that all lives matter. All. Lives. Matter.

All of that stuff is great and amazing, but I’m most thankful that I am accepted by a loving God that is still in the process of writing the greatest love story of all time and that I’m one of the main characters in it. Just as YOU are!

I’m thankful that, even in my mess, my confusion, my fears, my running, my complete craziness, He met me right there and showed me how He made the perfect sacrifice in His only son Jesus on the cross, knowing the entire time that I just might not love Him back. Yep. He loved me that much. Didn’t matter what my life would be like, He wanted me to know it’s all going to be ok and that nothing, absolutely nothing can snatch me away from His love.

I’m so thankful that all I’ve ever had to do for it was believe it. That’s it! Just believe that it’s the truth that He is madly in love with me and wants so badly to be the biggest part of my life that He would do whatever it took to prove it. Jesus is the proof and I can’t even begin to express my thankfulness. I’m thankful that there aren’t mandated clothes to wear or mandated prayers to speak in mandated ways, or mandated junk to do to prove to Him that I love Him back. I’m thankful that al I really need to do is just plain old call out His name and He will hear me.

I’m thankful for this blog platform from which I can tell you what He’s done in my life in the last 8 months. I’m thankful I am free of the shame of choices I’ve made because- weirdest thing here- I’m human and prone to being less than perfect and it’s perfectly ok. I’m thankful to really understand that other humans are not my judges and that I am clean and forgiven in my Father’s eyes. I’m thankful I’m learning to forgive, myself included, and I’m thankful there is love in my heart today.

I pray today is nothing short of a miracle in terms of blessings to each person who reads this and that you are overwhelmed with peace and love and pumpkin pie.

Peace and love, y’all.