Last week I heard from a kid from my home town. He randomly sent me a picture of a letter and said,” Mrs. Sessa wanted me to give this to you.” Let me first say, I am a 40 year old woman and Mrs. Sessa was my 5th grade homeroom and math teacher. I haven’t seen or spoken to Mrs. Sessa in 30 years so imagine how blown away I was. Mrs. Sessa, now 90 years old, had a letter that I wrote her in 5th grade essentially professing that my math class was not challenging enough, I needed more, and I needed her help to change my situation. Reading the words of my 10 years old self was an emotional experience. I could not believe the professionalism of that 10 year old girl, the confidence of that 10 year old girl, a girl who knew what she wanted, needed and who she needed to help get her there. Even moreso, I couldn’t believe that my teacher of 30 years ago kept it. Through the loss of her husband, move from her home and into assisted living, she kept the words of a little 5th grade girl. Mrs. Sessa thought more of me at that time than I knew to think of myself. I keep asking myself, why did she keep it. What did she see in me? What if I had seen what she saw when I was 10.
What if we realized how awesome we are instead of focusing on how we just might not be enough? What if we realized how courageous, independent, and amazing we really are? What if we helped someone realize this about themselves. This year, I challenge each of us to see ourselves as wonderfully Christ sees us – as beautiful, blessed, gifted, talented, deserving of love and respect, valuable, strong and more than enough. Then I challenge us to pay that forward to someone else. #ApplyingGodin2021
I remember last year’s NYE so well. I was exhausted from a year of running, plans, to-dos and fulfilling family, personal and societal expectations. Last year, I sipped coffee just to get over the finish line of 2019 and I remarked to myself that I was glad I made it. I couldn’t wait for 2020 to rescue me from my fatigue, exhaustion and just the hardships of the year. Well, in came 2020 with its own hardships, losses, and definitely some emotional exhaustion, yet tonight I do not enter 2021 with the fatigue that I ended 2020 with. This year, I am not sipping coffee trying to make it to the end of the year physically tired. This year I am rested in my body, mind and spirit. This year, in spite of the challenges, concerns, and uncertainty, I enter the new year thankful for what I noticed in 2020. Thankful that my fast paced life was replaced with a life in slow motion. Slow motion is a pace used to demonstrate how an event unfolds. Not sure about you but I am usually moving so fast that I don’t know if I have time or take time to see and appreciate how life is unfolding — the details — the beauty of my kids’ minds at work each day, the absolutely peaceful surroundings of my own backyard, the laughter of an at-home wine tasting for two, and dinner conversations with the musings and random thoughts of a 5 and 11 year old. During my fast paced life, I was missing out on so much — the details, the vibrancy and color of the beautiful life that I had created because I was so busy being busy with my “exciting” life of to-dos, outings, jam packed calendars, and rushing here and there.
Each year, it often feels like I am running a race that I can barely keep pace with but the hardships of 2020 allowed me to see life from a different vantage point. My once hurried life slowed way down. The things that were once passing me by, were now still enough that I could enjoy them as I passed by at a reasonable pace. When the world shuts down, you can sometimes focus on what is right in front of you and enjoy watching it unfold. Regardless of the challenges we have all faced, I think this year has allowed us all to enjoy life in slow motion and reap the meaningful benefits of its view.
As I move into 2021, I know just from 2020 that life is beautiful in spite of how it looks. I know that blessings can be found in the least likely circumstances, surrounded by the biggest piles of mess. I pray that in the midst of these crazy circumstances and challenges of epic proportions, that you too have found beauty in some of these ashes, joy at the edge of any mourning experienced and blessings tucked in the creases of your burdens.
Cheers to all God has for you in 2021! Happy New Year!
You may not yet realize this about me but I am one of the least sportive people I know. I don’t really follow sports too much….although I did do a little assistant coaching with my Dad in 8th grade for a basketball youth league. Funny thing is that I find myself a mom of two boys, I find myself engaged to some degree or another in quite a few sports. My oldest’s favorite sport is basketball. (One I am at least knowledgeable about.) When I was at his game, I remember hearing the coach tell the boys to get their hands up and play a little defense. You see the coach wanted to boys to block the attack of their opponent. Every day, Satan, our opponent is on the court with us. From the moment we step out of bed, he is right there trying to knock us off our game, trying make a steal, or foul us out.
How can we play the best defense against such an experienced opponent? We start each day on the attack. We defend our goals, our plans, our life. We go against Satan before he has a chance to make his first play. Playing defense against Satan includes:
Continuous Words of Defense
Have you established a defense routine? Are you inviting God into your day? Are you asking for His covering, His support, His blessing, and His direction. Are you saying your affirmations? I sure hope so! Hands up!
My three year old wanted a pet – a dog in fact. He asked and asked for a dog to no avail but he doesn’t seem at all bothered by what he has not received. You see my son got a dog. His name was Rover. No one ever saw Rover but Rover was real to him. He named Rover. He considered Rover. He even asked me in the grocery store if we have enough food for Rover. Rover was my baby’s prayer. The other day I was reading about how God creates things before we can actually see them and I thought of Rover. Not saying my son will realize his dream of Rover — God’s still working on his mama — but I was so impressed how he has already at 3 learned to do what many of us adults can not. He could see what he was asking for, even though it was not before him. He has named it, made it real and even lived life as if Rover was present. It may sound like a silly kid and his silly imaginary pet but what if God wants us to have that same heart and mind. What if God wants us to not only come to Him and ask Him for something and regardless of whether or not it has come to fruition we named it, believed that we had act, walked in the confidence and belief of its existence, and considered it in our daily life and decisions. What if we really believed that God has already done what we are asking him for. What if we made our petitions real to us. What if we had faith that God was setting us up with our dreams. I always say that we can learn so much through our kids. I suppose that is why God says come to me as little children. Little children can believe in what they hope for as if it is, even though they do not yet see it.
This year become like a little child. Walk in the confidence that God is meeting your request, your need, your dreams. What’s your Rover? Ask for it, name it, live like you already have it.
Well, it is almost here! The big day! Jesus’ Day! For you purists, yes, we know that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25th but we can still celebrate the gift of Christ’s birth. It’s ok that we allow our kids to believe in Santa if we choose, or enjoy elf fun, decorate our homes, and participate in holiday gatherings (socially distanced ones of course this year), because we know that the festivity is about celebrating Christ’s Mass — Christmas. The biggest mass of the year. I’m excited! Excited for the expressions of love that we have passed along to family. I have been excited and happy about each advent activity of donating items to those less fortunate, enjoying much needed family time, spreading joy through cards, reading the story of Jesus’ birth, using our God given creativity to create our own Gingerbread house, and praying together. The lead in has been great…and we have taken every opportunity to enjoy the peace of Christmas and spread it to friends and family that need the reminder of God’s love…but I am most excited about the big day — the celebration of Jesus. What will you be doing in your home to celebrate Jesus this Christmas morning?
I remember back in Kindergarten we were taught if we don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I think that statement is wrong personally. I have learned that there is always something positive to say. In every area of our life, God gives us powerful life affirming messages that we can speak into our lives and those around us. When we do, our mood changes, our circumstances change, our families change and thus everyone we come into contact with can change as well.
Cool Life Affirming Words For Every Day Realities:
Spouses, Kids, or Coworkers irritate you first thing in the morning — Thank you God for this day, your mercy is new everyday (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Cranky — My heart is joyful (Prov 17:22)
Someone makes you want to just strangle them — Bless you (and mean it) (Romans 12:14)
Husband says something you find absolutely foolish 🙂 – Baby you’re excellent (Psalm 45:2 NIV – You are the most excellent of men and you lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.)
When other’s don’t appreciate you — I will not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9)
Not enough time for your passion — God makes room for the gifts He gives me (Prov. 18:16)
Laid off — God is my protector and provider (Psalm 18:2)
Negative self talk — I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
What affirmations are needed in your life? Where do you need to change your mood, atmosphere, life and those around you? I offer these to you freely, but consider creating a few of your own. When you do, I hope you will share them with us. Maybe we can all benefit. Go into this new year ahead speaking positivity amidst all challenges. Be blessed!
What if instead of writing letters to Santa, we wrote prayers to Jesus. Ever notice how people talk about Christmas wishes like prayer requests. I get children writing Christmas lists to Santa. After all he makes toys at the north pole with his merry band of elves…but he doesn’t provide healing. He doesn’t provide intangibles. He doesn’t / can’t make the world a better place. Recently I watched a Christmas special with my kids and the mom wrote Santa a letter asking for her family to be reunited. It seems that we are making Santa Jesus. I believe in the magic of Christmas but I think its important to remember that the magic, the miracles come from the God not Santa. This year maybe let’s try writing a Christmas prayer to Jesus. Let’s pour our heart and our belief into it. Let’s have the expectation that His desire is to grant us the petitions of our heart. We could even ask our families to join us. Let’s start a new Christmas letter writing campaign addressed to our Lord and Savior.
During this weird time in the world, I am incredibly blessed to work in the room next door to my kids’ classroom (previously known as the playroom). Through the door that separates my office from their classroom, I hear much of their participation with their classes. A few months ago, as I wrapped up a meeting and went near the door to check on my Kindergartener whose class was about to end, he says to the teacher, Ms. Panetta, can I sing a song? He then proceeds to sing a random song that he has made up. (He does this often at home, but I never expected him to have the boldness to do this with strangers that he just met 2 weeks ago when school started.) As I opened the door and glanced, he was so comfortable singing his tune for his class – no shy face, eyes on the camera, and confident. I thought to myself, “look at this kid,” and shook my head. The more I thought about it, I thought, “look at this kid,” with such pride, astonishment, and admiration.
As adults we often lose that boldness. As Christians (in our Christian walk), some of us never develop it at all. While we are here to teach kids, I often find that they themselves are the best teachers parent’s (adults) can have. Kids are really cool in that they are just themselves. No filter. No masking. What you see is what you get. Kids learn fear, self consciousness, and timidity and they turn into us — adults. This year, let’s get back to our truest, boldest, most confidence, bravest selves. Let’s live in our authenticity. Let’s boldly sing our song to the world. Who knows — just maybe they will sing along.
2021 is waiting. Let’s show up.
I’d love to hear how you are going to walk in your boldness, braveness and authenticity. What song will you be singing to the world this year?
Today I ran out to pick up boxes for Christmas gifts. The lady at the register was mumbling softly as she checked me out about how she doesn’t do Christmas anymore. She said she stopped years ago when she realized the history. I still wasn’t quite following her. Trying to understand, I asked if it just got to be too much. She replied that that wasn’t the issue, but that the issue is that the holiday is about everyone else but Him and pointed upward. She noted that everyone else gets gifts but Him. By Him, of course, she meant Jesus. Of course, it was a quick conversation and she spoke about it softly because it wasn’t really something that she was supposed to say to me as a customer. I told her that isn’t always the case. I shared with her that in our home we bake Jesus a birthday cake and in my childhood home, we sang happy birthday to Jesus each year. She seemed surprised by that. I left her with the statement that it’s all what we make it.
I left the store a bit bothered. A little bothered that there are many like the clerk at the store that don’t seem to think that you can celebrate Jesus and still enjoy the festiveness of the season. There are some that think just because you shop, buy pretty wrapping paper and spend til you drop that Christ isn’t in Christmas. There are some that think that shopping makes Christmas less about Christ.
For some Christmas can be just a time of meaningless overspending money on gifts, decorations, cards, etc. but I don’t think that’s the case for most. Spending money on those things doesn’t mean that Christ is taken out of Christmas. When people give gifts, many times, they do it to spread love. It is a time of year when they spread love, help, and appreciation to relatives, caregivers, neighbors and friends. It is a time of year when we share love, gifts, cookies, fun times and joy. It is a time when we remember to give toys, food, and coats to those we never met. It’s a time when we are kinder to each other. It’s a time when just the beauty of a decorated street or home can make you smile. It’s a time of magic and wonder where we light up the world with joyful expectation. At Christmas I look forward to bringing smiles to the faces of those I love. I look forward to spreading the heart of God through my kindness, generosity and love. God is Love — and for many, so is Christmas. It’s the time when we focus on love and giving. It’s the time we emulate the good heart and good nature of Christ. At Christmas time, even those of us that don’t believe in God, emulate His love. We give it to others to freely. We may not give gifts to God but we give out his gift of love to others.
There is nothing wrong with the beauty of the season. The season is beautiful and is to be enjoyed. Let’s continue to spread the love of Christ. When we do so, I think that is the best gift we can give. We can’t pay God back with tangible gifts but we can pay the gift of love and life that He gave to us, forward to others. That’s what Christmas is — being a walking, talking, joyous blessing — spreading the love and joy and peace of God to others.