Snowflakes

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

25359763_10154795884896511_1674824007_nMy forty-first birthday found me buried beneath mounds of blankets and surrounded by furry friends in an attempt to stay warm and hidden from the beautiful white, winter wonderland that transformed our community into a Christmas card perfect picture last Friday.  My sons and our dogs enjoyed playing in the cold, wet mush while I was perfectly content to take a few pictures as proof that the snow-pocalypse really happened and quickly retreat back to the warmth of my blankets.

Snow is one of those things that completely fascinates me.  While I’d rather not suffer frost-bite from throwing snowballs at people, the monochromatic colorscape it creates provides a tranquil and peaceful ambience that is second to none.  Considering how far and wide of an area any given snow storm covers and the depth of it, the fact that no two snowflakes are identical is nothing less than a miracle.  Then consider that each and every detail of each of us is just as unique as that of a tiny snowflake, how can we do anything less than stand in awe of our Creator?

Psalm 139:14 reads, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  God hard wired us to be an “individual” who is completely unique from any other so that we might all work together to fulfill His purposes for us and accomplish the greater good.  This is also why the body of God, the church, is also so important.  Ephesians 4:16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  We cannot do nearly as much by ourselves as we can within a group of like-minded believers.  Together, and only together, we can reach a dark and weary world with the good news of Christ. Sins Like Scarlet White as Snow

During the Christmas season, I hope you are reminded of how special you are to your Creator.  As you celebrate the gifts that make you unique, I pray you also are able to use those gifts to share the good news of Christ with others.  The hope of Christmas is found in Isaiah 1:18.  It reads, ““Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.”

Have a blessed week, y’all!

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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

giftIf you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

I shared last week that when it comes to Christmas, I am a fanatic.  In addition to all of the things I previously mentioned (caroling, cooking, decorating), one of my very most favorite parts of the month comes from carefully selecting the perfect gifts for each of my four children.  Because I have a large family and a small budget finding just the right gift for each child can be challenging.  I look for items that cater to each individual and are sure to surprise and delight the recipient.  It would be easier to search sale items and special buys, but the gifts lose their purpose without a meaning.

Keeping the gifts hidden until Christmas Day can also prove to be a challenge. I get so excited to see my children’s reactions, that it is hard to wait until Christmas morning.  The effect would not be the same if we gave them their gifts earlier than intended.

The same is true of our Heavenly Father. He delights in blessing His children. He sits on His throne watching us thinking, “That’s my kid!” He’s a proud daddy and loves watching our faces light up to the many gifts He has chosen for us. He wants only what is best for us, but sometimes we have to wait for the best appropriate time to receive His gifts. He can’t give us everything at once or it won’t have the same effect for which it was intended. He says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes God’s gifts for us are obvious: a new life to celebrate, a promotion, restored health. But most of the time His gifts are in the simple things we often take for granted: a smile from a stranger, fall leaves, laughter. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

pexels-photo-186615As you spend these next few weeks preparing for Christmas, be sure to share Jesus with others.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus was the original Christmas present, and He truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Have a blessed week, y’all!

The Jesus Tree

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

1466204_10151702835846511_1962287314_nIt’s the most wonderful time of the year!  It doesn’t take being around me long to figure out that my enthusiasm for Christmas is rivaled only by Buddy the Elf from the movie “Elf”.  I love everything about the season – the lights, the carols, the traditions, the gifts, the parades, the movies, the smells, the food, the memories from past years and the ones being made.

As soon as Thanksgiving lunch is finished, our elves (aka my kids) go to work decorating the outside of our home.  Once that is complete, we put up our Christmas tree (usually while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”).  After the tree is finished, we turn out all but the Christmas lights, sing carols, drink hot chocolate, and then fall asleep in sleeping bags around the tree.  Our family Christmas tree is special to us.  The ornaments that are on it are not beautiful and they do not coordinate, but it couldn’t be more beautiful to us.  One of our yearly traditions is for each family member to get a new ornament that represents something from our past year.  We have everything from stars to M&M candy figures to Tonka trucks to nativities on the tree.  Each one is a special memory that we each cherish.  I also put up a small tree in my bedroom that has pretty and coordinating ornaments on it.  I started putting this tree up when my children were smaller, and I kept it in my bedroom so that I could better protect the breakable ornaments from little hands and playful dogs.

On December 1st each year, we put up a third tree.  Though this is the newest of our family traditions, dating back just five years, it has quickly become our favorite.  We refer to this third tree as “The Jesus Tree”, and it also serves as our yearly advent calendar.  On a table next to the tree, we arrange twenty-five ornaments in a basket that have a name of Jesus and a corresponding scripture on each of them.  (This is a very inexpensive project.  I bought a twenty-six pack of ornaments for less than $5 and wrote the names and verses on with a Sharpie.)  Each night of December, we turn the TV off at a set time, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, sing a carol or two, have devotion and prayer, and then add an ornament from the basket to the tree while discussing the relevance of who Jesus is in our lives.  (You can find the complete list of names and corresponding verses that our family uses HERE.)

This tradition causes us to drown out all of the rest of the noise of the season and focus on the reason for it instead.  The lights and the smells and the carols and the movies are great, but nothing tops celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  The presents and parades are fun, but without Christ there is no Christmas.    The Jesus Tree

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  As this 2017 Christmas season gets underway, I hope that each of us will pause to remember amongst the shopping, cooking, wrapping, and decorating to enjoy the celebration of the greatest gift the world has ever received – Jesus.

Have a blessed week, y’all!

Everything I Know I Learned From Veggie Tales

Hey y’all… how’s your mama and ’em?

Everything I Know I Learned From Veggie TalesEverything I needed to know in life, I learned from Veggie Tales. If you are unfamiliar with the animated vegetables, you have missed out. The DVD series from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s are still much loved in our home. The lessons, though directed towards children, are relevant for kids and adults alike. From the story of David, we learned, “little guys can do big things too”. Archibald Asparagus taught us, “You never have to be afraid to do what’s right.” We learned along with Jr. Asparagus that “God is bigger than the boogie man.” And at the end of each Veggie Tale episode, Bob the Tomato, leaves this reminder (that I still tell each of my children every night before bed), “God made you special and He loves you very much.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Veggie Tales was from Madame Blueberry. Madame Blueberry was never quite content. She had everything her heart desired, but it was never enough. At the end of the day, Madame Blueberry discovered that it wasn’t her things that made her happy. It was God. “A thankful heart is a happy heart,” she proclaimed after realizing how futile her efforts to gain possessions had been.

Possessions have never been an entrapment to me, but when I was much younger, I was very well acquainted with discontentment. Regardless of what my circumstances may have been, I seemed to have a cloud that hung over my head and followed me. During that time I was advised to keep a journal. I started writing down one thing daily that I was thankful for no matter how small or trivial it seemed. Over a period of time I realized just how blessed I truly was and how good God had been to me. It was then that I realized the truth that “a thankful heart is a happy heart.” Joy has been a way of life for me ever since.1902e56f1670fea9d530c9bf6b1510ca--veggietales-i-am-thankful-for

I still go through hard times and even seasons when I feel blue. Life is hard, but God is good. When I think about what He’s given me and what He’s already brought me through, it is hard to be anything less than thankful. Psalm 118:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I hope that we all are able to do just that!

Have a blessed week y’all!