2 More Days

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?

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  • Maybe sing Happy Birthday (Everyone loves that song at their party).
  • Maybe bake Him a cake and make a wish for his love to be spread across the land.
  • Maybe give Him the gift of your heart and worship; rededicate yourself to Him.
  • Maybe write Him a love letter of your appreciation.
  • Maybe hang a banner with balloons.

Whatever you do celebrate Jesus. Worship Jesus. Give thanks that because he was born, He was able to sacrifice His life for yours. I’m ready. Are you? #2MoreDays

Always a positive word

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! 

Letters to Jesus

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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. 


Uninhibited

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?

Giving Back God’s Gift

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.

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Be blessed!

Christmas is All About _______

Last week, right after Thanksgiving, we started decorating the family room for Christmas. As I thought about what I had already placed around the house and what we had planned for Christmas in terms of the elves, activities, letters to Santa, etc., I thought, we need to balance this out a little bit more. We need a lit-tle more Jesus around here. Then, I did it. I added some advent readings, nativity viewing and more Christian-focused decorations around our home. I felt good about this. I took a pic and thought, “this is good.”

The next day as I was exercising in front of our mantle (with my little guy playing behind me) I fixated on a little block that said, “Christmas is All About Jesus.” Always looking for a teachable moment, I said to my 5-year old, “hun, can you fill in the blank for me — Christmas is All About What?” He said, “ah, Santa.” When he realized that wasn’t it, he said, “Elves.” Sorry son, try again. This time he said family. When I told him family wasn’t right either, he was beside himself. I said, “No son, Christmas is all about Jesus.” Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth — like his birthday. He was like oh, Jesus’ birthday. (I promise you we have this talk with the kids every year but he’s the youngest so we’ll cut him a little slack.) This was not a first time conversation but it made me think about how easy it is for kids and adults to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. Nothing wrong with Santa (in my opinion), or elves (we love the shenanigans of our little Bubbles and Blitz), or any of the other traditions that we all have at Christmas, but we have to remember with each day that those things are side items, accompaniments and it is really All about Jesus.

While we are for the fan fare of Santa, the elf scenes and shenanigans, Hallmark Christmas movies, Olaf Paint n Sips with the kids, building gingerbread houses and decorating gingerbread people, we have to remember that this thing is all about Jesus. These things are all just mini celebrations leading up to the biggest birthday party of the year. Celebrate Jesus all month. Celebrate him big. Celebrate his heart, his giving nature, his love, and the joy he brings to the world. Celebrate with fun, giving, laughter, parties (virtually this year), but just remember who we celebrate and why. Remember that Christmas is All About Jesus. The more our actions and heart align to what’s really important, the less likely we are to forget.

How will your family celebrate Jesus this advent season? How will you keep him first?

Be Blessed!

Giving Tuesday

Today is a day when you will see ads and tweets about donating to worth charities, giving toys to tots, donating to coat drives and even pleas to give to food banks. All worth while and great places to donate but lately I have been thinking a lot about all the children that go into this season, not just without fresh coats or toys, but kids that enter the season without a home, a good home, a solid family. Of all the ads I saw today for Giving Tuesday, I didn’t see anything about Giving a Home to a Child.

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As a foster parent, believe me, I know more than many how difficult it is to take a child into your home that is not your own, love the child and try to love away the bad, the tragic, and hurtful times. It’s hard and it’s also thankless, but there is such a need out there for loving families to all kinds of kids. When I think of all the needs out there, this one touches my heart most. This Tuesday, consider giving of yourself to a child in need. Consider giving a temporary or even a permanent home to a child in foster care. Consider being just a weekend respite provider for families that need support as they foster. Today, as I thought of Giving Tuesday, I thought of God’s command to us to care for the orphans. There are so many out there — going in the wrong direction — not because they are bad kids but because they are kids void of love. Love can cover a multitude of hurt in a young one’s life.

I pray that you will consider pouring love into these little vessels. I pray that you would consider giving a warm hug full of family meals and tuck-ins to a child that has felt nothing but the cold chill of trauma.

This is not a choice to be made lightly, but as you go through the advent season, just maybe you consider shining a light into the lives of these little ones. #GivingTuesday #GivingSeason #ShephardingHearts

If you take the plunge, I hope you will come back and share your experience.

From Thankful to Thoughtful

This weekend is the time when many really get geared up for holiday shopping and that’s ok — but let’s keep the right heart. Be thoughtful as you shop. Don’t just scratch off people’s gifts like items on a grocery list. Select thoughtful gifts. Gifts that speak to your loved ones truest selves. If you have a friend that loves to craft, buy gifts to nurture that. One of my favs is Paint Yourself Positive. It uses watercolor to work through challenging feelings. Perfect for one who loves to paint but has been through a lot this year (like many of us). I have also really been enjoying purchasing journals for friends that want to go deeper like Soul Therapy and Believe Bigger.

If you have a friend that lost a loved one, perhaps a personalized memoriam gift or even an ornament to commemorate a milestone, accomplishment or just a memory.

Give (gift) from your heart ❤ as Christ gave from his. Christmas is about love and love is kind and thoughtful.

Sometimes through our gifting, we can give someone what they never had on their list. We can show them that we know them, we love them, and that we are really present…and that’s the real gift.

Already Beautiful

This morning within the first 3 notes of the intro to “My Worship” (Phil Thomson), first scripture that came to mind were the words of Ecc. 3:11, He has made everything beautiful in its (his) time (depending on the translation).   I usually think of it as meaning that everything will be beautiful when God is ready for it to be.  This morning I woke up with a realization that God just makes everything beautiful.  God’s time is every second of every day.  There is beauty in everything and all the moments.  We are not waiting for God to make it beautiful. Even in the struggles and challenges, even in this space and season.  Yesterday, my sweet boy, had his first birthday surrounded by a multitude of family.  It was of course virtually but it was the first time ever where he had family across the nation there to see him on his birthday, to interact with him, to love him, to sing with him and to enjoy his birthday with him.  He received videos of friends and our sweet neighbors singing to him (kids and adults).  He said it was the best birthday ever.  I agree.  He was happy, but my heart was warmed all day long.  You can probably tell that it still is. I thank God for the beautiful things in this season in spite of the rest.  I thank God for each of you.  I pray you all find the things God has already made beautiful — even now — whether it be time with loved ones that you have never had time to enjoy, time to not only pray but also time to be still enough to hear God speak back, time to rediscover yourself, time to read, to appreciate the sound of the birds, to pour into our kids daily, or to actually have unrushed family dinners. God will make the globe pandemic free at some point but in the meantime in spite of the sadness, concerns, and inconvenience, he has given us so much beauty to enjoy – right now.   For that, here’s my worship.  Be well, be safe.  Hugs.

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What Gift Will You Share?

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Saturday nights are a little bit different now. Seriously, every day is a little bit different now. This is definitely the most challenging time that I have ever lived through. It can be scary. It can also be frustrating and enraging when I see some of the activities of others. But thankfully, it has also been so encouraging. In such a time as this, I have seen people coming together. I have seen people giving things away. I have experienced us living life differently, but still living and doing it with laughter, joy, and most of all (in spite of being physically distant), we have been doing it TOGETHER. Last night, people all over the nation were posting about the good time they had last night – in their own homes, yet together. People are being brought together in ways we hadn’t really thought to do before. People are coming together to use their gifts to encourage, inspire, uplift, protect, energize, motivate, educate, feed, and teach others. Some can give out of their abundance fiscally. Some can offer the arts or technology support. Pastors and ministers are bringing the encouragement of faith and peace. DJs are bringing the MOST needed party many of us have ever needed. The really cool thing is that we ALL have gifts. Not one of us was born without a gift to give the world. What is your gift? What gift will you share with world during this time? As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10.) Use this time not to complain, bicker, hoard, or fight over groceries, but to use your gift (whatever that may be) for the good of others. Be well and be blessed!