What I Wanted To Say Before Christmas…

Hello Girlfriends,

Well, today is the first day of a brand spanking, full of promise new year! I hope your celebrations from Advent through New Years have been wonderful!

You may have noticed that I never finished the fourth of my Advent devotions. I planned to wrap it up the Friday before Christmas, but I was still struggling with a cough and cold. It was all I could do to finish my work week and get ready for the big day!

We managed to have a great holiday with the family, but Pat and I have had this bug for over two weeks now! The thing that hangs on is the cough, and with it my inability to talk for any length of time without choking and carrying on. Not attractive. So, no video blogs until I am back to my old chatty self.

The fourth Advent devotion would have been on grief. Our girls, Elizabeth, Mary and Anna had their share of it, that is for certain. It’s been a while since I wrote on the subject, but I felt a holy nudge to share a few things with you, should your Christmas and New Year be a particularly sad one. So many of us had loved ones missing from our gatherings and it hurts.

I know it is kind of after the fact now, but I hope you gave yourself permission to be sad, to spend time reliving precious memories, to carry on a Christmas tradition commemorating your loved one and to have a good cry.

Grief must do its work in you. It can be put off and ignored for only so long. We must go with it and let it be what it is. It is God’s way.

In the end, through our suffering and grief’s work, He will show us beautiful things we have never seen before.

For the Christian, suffering has meaning.

When this cold and cough were at their worst, I had to come downstairs to sleep on our living room sofa so as not to keep Pat awake. My head was all stuffed up, I couldn’t breathe and the coughing wouldn’t stop. Nothing seemed to alleviate my symptoms, so at 4:30 AM I got up, cold and miserable, and tried to get comfortable in my living room.

I laid there awake for I don’t know how long and then something caught my eye. Outside of my living room window was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. The sky was deep orange and pink. The bare trees looked black silhouetted against the vibrant sky. It took my breath away and I immediately realized that had I not been sick, I would have missed it. That gorgeous sunrise and the quiet time I had with God that morning, completely changed my perspective.

Being able to see beautiful things as you are mourning will change your perspective too.

I have heard grief described as like being under water and not able to come up for air. You try to surface, but instead keep sinking. You have to wait it out. So while we are stuck under water, what if we take a look around? We just might see beautiful things under the surface that we have never seen before – beautiful coral, plant life and sea creatures.

We experience God’s beauty that is normally hidden from our view.

When the Body of Christ shows up to walk alongside us, when a neighbor brings over a treat or when God makes Himself known through a sunrise or His powerful Word, we see Him working on our behalf in ways we have never seen before – He is real to us in a new way.

It may be too early in your grief to see anything beautiful, but I hope not. God is at work ministering to your broken heart and taking good care of you. He will teach you important lessons through your grief journey – lessons that you need for your life. He will show you more of Himself and His great love for you – and that, my sweet sisters, is beautiful.

This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life. – Psalm 119:50

With so much love for all of you – and a special hug for you who are grieving,

 

 

 

And one more thing…

I want to thank each one of you for the kindness and support you have shown me over the past year. It has been a time of amazing growth for the ministry He has given to me. I am so grateful to Him – He alone makes everything grow.

Thank you for contributing to what He is nurturing. Whether you have invited me to serve at your event or retreat, left a kind comment on the blog or have been a faithful reader and listener to my posts, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could put into words how much I love meeting you, serving with you, hearing your stories and staying in touch. Your testimonies touch me deeply and I do not forget.

My New Year prayer for you:

I thank my God every time I remember you, always praying with joy for all of you.  I thank God for the help you gave me while I preached the Good News—help you gave from the first day you believed until now. God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.

This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God. – Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11

 

Christmas Joy

Just as I did last week, I am sharing a post from two years ago. It was the first Christmas without my mother and I was in danger of losing my joy. Maybe you are at risk of losing yours too. If so, I hope this little message will be a blessing and remind you to turn your focus away from all the endless ‘to dos’ and onto the Joygiver.  – Laura xo

 

Merry Christmas dear friends!

I hope you are enjoying the days leading up to Christmas Eve!

No, you didn’t read that wrong – I did say enjoying. See the word JOY in there? It’s between the ‘en’ and the ‘ing’. Joy is so easy to lose – even in the most joyful time of the year.

I don’t know about you, but I have had a few frantic moments over the past week or so. Honestly, I think I was trying too hard to make this Christmas extra-special since it is our first without my mom. Bad idea. What I thought would bring my family and I joy, ended up causing a good amount of stress for me.

I was anything but joyful.

Ask my friend Jeanne. She was with me in the car last Friday night when I was having a pre-Christmas meltdown! It wasn’t pretty. Jeanne’s a saint, by the way. She just let me vent. That’s what best girlfriends do.

Finally, by last Saturday morning I had to have a little talk with myself about calming down and letting a few things go – and, thankfully, I listened! As a result, this has been a much better week. I’m actually enjoying my preparations for Christmas!

I’m thinking my husband is, too. Poor man.

lightstock_180825_medium_laura_Several years ago, I found this little article among my grandmother’s things. She always posted it on her refrigerator right after Thanksgiving to remind herself to keep things in perspective as she prepared for the holidays.

Now… it could be that I simply come from a long line of women who get frantic in December – or maybe, just maybe, you get a little crazy at Christmas, too. If so, I hope that Marjorie Holmes’ words will help you refocus and, if necessary, let a few things go.

This was written nearly 45 years ago. I find it comforting to know women have been struggling with Christmas stress long before we have. You will see that even though her words are a bit old fashioned, they are completely relevant today.

A Woman’s Conversation with God

Let me come eagerly to Christmas this year, Lord.  Let me come gaily, with a new delight in the countless things I must accomplish – the shopping, the wrapping and mailing, the addressing of mountains of cards.  Let me find new joy in the bazaars, the parties and programs, the baking and decorating…not to mention all the things I’ve promised to do for others.

Instead of my usual seasonal panic, fill me with a glowing sense of trust and peace.  Each day that I awake, let me rejoice in the fact that I’m well and able to do it – that I can get up and begin.

And though there never seems to be enough time (or money), let me remember that you’ve never let us down.  That, as with the loaves and the fishes, a miracle happens each year.  There is always plenty – more than plenty.  The house overflows with gifts and friends, the tree is bowed with its shining burden, the table groans with delicious things to eat.

Even time stretches out like a magic ribbon, somehow embracing all that must be done.  As for a woman’s strength – therein lies the greatest marvel of all. You give each of us extra portions for this season so that at the end, like children, we hug Christmas close to our hearts and don’t want it to be over.

Remind me of all this as I prepare for Christmas this year, Lord.  Let me come eagerly to the seemingly impossible, knowing that this holy, happy season is a time of miracles. — Marjorie Holmes

My grandmother’s original article, just the way she fashioned it with felt and yarn, now hangs in my kitchen.

IMG_0232May our sweet Lord grant each of you extra portions of whatever you need over the next few days.

Grace? Comfort? Peace? He has an unlimited supply.

Belief? Hope? Sanity? Just ask.

And don’t forget…JOY!

He is the one and only place where you can find it!

Merry Christmas and lots of love,

laura

 

A Beautiful ADVENTure: Anna

This is our 3rd devotion for Advent and it is coming to you in written form instead of video. I have been battling a cold for a few days and trust me, you do not want to hear my voice right now! I am praising God that this little annoyance waited until my speaking season was over – He is so faithful. I will be returning later this week with the 4th  and last Advent devotion – hopefully on video. Until then, there is deep truth in what we can learn from Anna. We can grow in worship and devotion as we wait. – Laura xo

 

Did you know that Christmas doesn’t end on December 25th? The 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day, and will end on January 5 – the eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany. Epiphany commemorates the night that the Magi visited the baby Jesus.

Our culture says that Christmas began around Halloween and ends a week from now – but don’t you believe it! We prepare during Advent and then celebrate His arrival beginning on the 25th. Don’t let outside influences rush you through this joyful season!

The Christmas story itself doesn’t end on the day of Jesus’ birth, either. The book of Luke records that on the 8th day after His arrival, Jesus was named and circumcised. Then, a few weeks later, His parents took Him to the temple. When they arrived, they met two remarkable people. We don’t hear their names sung in Christmas carols, but their stories are very important just the same.

Simeon and Anna were devout, elderly Jews who had been waiting a very, very long time to see their Messiah.

As devout believers, this meant that they had prayed and fasted over decades for Israel’s salvation to come. These two seasoned citizens were part of the faithful remnant.

Here is how Scripture describes Simeon:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. — Luke 2:25

And Anna:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. — Luke 2:36-38

These were two faithful people who were prayed-up and in the right position to see the answer to their prayers.

And that is exactly what happened.

As soon as Simeon and Anna laid their eyes on the infant, they recognized Him!

No one knew the Messiah would come as a baby born to two teenagers from Nazareth, but that didn’t matter. Both Simeon and Anna had eyes to see the answer to their prayers – even when the answer came in a surprising way.

They knew Him when they saw Him.

Prayer and worship move us into the right position to see the blessing when it comes.

Anna was widowed at a young age – life certainly did not turn out the way she planned. She could have been bitter and remained focused on her loss, but Scripture says she spent her life praising God. Wow!

How many times have I missed seeing the blessings or the answered prayer when it arrives because I am dwelling what I don’t have? 

Years ago, I lived through a prolonged season of what I considered ‘unanswered prayer.’ I was so discouraged. It wasn’t until a wise, older woman brought to my attention that I needed to lift my focus off of what God wasn’t doing so that I could see what He was doing.

I was so hyper-focused on what I wanted to see happen that I had completely missed many blessings that were occurring all around me. He was answering my prayers, but not in the way I expected.

Girls, we need to lift our eyes to see the big picture.

God is working in our lives and He is answering our prayers, even if the answer doesn’t come as we thought it would.

Like Simeon and Anna, we need to be in the right position to see the blessing when it comes. Devout and faithful were not just who they were. Devotion and faithfulness are the disciplines they practiced for a very long time.

Here’s the thing – there is no shortcut to a relationship with God that can be described as devout and faithful. It takes investment, commitment, and a true desire to be a follower, not just an ‘admirer’ of Jesus Christ.

With a bright and shiny clean slate to begin the coming new year, I pray that you will consider where your eyes have been focused. Is it time to lift your gaze to view where your prayers are being answered? Don’t miss it – they may arrive in a most unexpected way.

In His Love,

 

 

 

PS. If you missed the first two Advent devotions, click here for week one and here for week two. 🙂

A Beautiful ADVENTure: Mary

Hi There!

If you are like me, trusting God while waiting is an on-going exercise. I’d like to tell you I have conquered the tendency to want to worry and fret, but that’s simply not true. I am still growing and learning.

In my 59 years on this earth, I have increasingly trusted Him more and more, but I still struggle. My natural self wants an answer to all my ‘what ifs’ before I say yes to God.

In Elizabeth’s story last week, we learned that we can grow in patience as we wait. She was one patient sister! When she found she was finally pregnant, it was clear her prolonged time of waiting was for a divine purpose. With God, timing is everything.

In Mary’s story, Elizabeth appears again and we learn a valuable lesson about trusting Him when we can’t see the whole picture. Mary shows us how to say yes, and leave all of our ‘what ifs’ to Him.

Love to all!

 

 

 

I have an ETSY shop! I am offering bracelets and scripture cards from my speaking engagements. All ‘Be Brave’ items are sold out!  For my blog subscribers: if you purchase 5 or more items, use the code MERRYCHRISTMAS at checkout and you will receive 20% off your order. Shipping is free!  A portion of the profit goes to The Samaritan Woman Home in Baltimore , Maryland. You can visit my shop here:   Faith Gifts by Laura

Long Walk Part Of The Gift

In between our weekly Advent devotions on Mondays, I thought I would share a few blog posts from last year and the year before. I hope you are blessed and challenged by this sweet story. – Laura xo

 

An African boy listened carefully as his missionary teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she held  the gift up to the light.The young boy told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.

 “Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift. **

depositphotos_71892405_m-2015

I love this story.

It perfectly illustrates that going the extra mile is the most precious gift of all.

I don’t know about you, but my heart has been extra tender this Advent. When that happens, at any time of the year, it usually means God is urging me to grow in a particular area of my life.

Does that ever happen to you? He turns up the heat, stirs the emotions and pushes us to grow. It’s possible to ignore, especially during this busy time of year, but I have learned to lean in and listen when God is speaking – most of the time, anyway. 🙂

Our son Grant moved to Chicago in December a few years back – just in time for a polar vortex, sub-freezing temperatures and a ton of snow. He wasn’t really prepared for such weather, and his commute to work was a three-block walk from his new apartment. Needless to say, our Christmas gifts for him that year included all manner of outerwear.

I was so concerned about him that it almost became an obsession to find the just the right things that would keep him warm in such extreme cold.

I was a mom on a mission!

I scoured the LL Bean Catalog, Cabela’s and other stores to find sub-zero clothing for the brutal Chicago weather. That stuff is expensive!

I shopped sales, used coupons and was able to get him taken care of without breaking the bank. It took some extra time and effort, but what a relief to know my boy had good quality gear to keep him warm.

Grant, moving to Chicago in 2013. Boo hoo.
Grant, moving to Chicago in 2013. Boo hoo.

And so, as the Lord has been working on me this Advent, He brought the memory of Grant’s first winter in Chicago to mind.

And then, almost immediately, came the challenge: Every year I donate items such as hats, gloves, scarves and blankets to the homeless. Have I ever taken so much time and care to find the same quality gifts for them?

Have I been as concerned about one who actually lives on the street as I was for a very well-cared for son who walks three blocks from one warm place to another?

Have I scoured the catalogs, used coupons and shopped sales in order to find the best gifts that I can afford? 

Has it ever become an obsession and a mission to find things that will really keep a person warm?

Do I give away the same quality of gifts as I give to my own family? 

If I am being honest, my answer would be sometimes – but not nearly enough. And this Advent, He is impressing on me to do more. Not necessarily to spend more, but to make more of an effort and to treat those who are in need as well as I treat my own family. In other words – to make the long walk part of the gift.

And here’s the thing – the recipient may never know about the long walk, but it doesn’t matter and it’s not the point. As the missionary teacher told the little boy, “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other.”

So, if we are joyful over the birth of Jesus and truly love people, the long walk will become the most precious gift of all.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40

Merry Christmas! 

laura

 

 

PS. If you look under the freebies tab, you will find a free pretty printable of our family recipe for Christmas Wassail. It has been served in our home on Christmas Eve for 35 years. Enjoy! AND..if you missed this week’s Advent devotion, click here. It’s not too late to join in!

 

** The story is attributed to Norman Vincent Peale

"The first time I heard Laura communicate, my exact response was 'Wow'! Laura's teaching style is passionate, relatable, and hope-filled. She radiates warmth, kindness and a genuine interest in those around her -- on and off the platform. Her amazing story of transformation, coupled with her solid biblical teaching, will leave you also saying "wow!" If you're looking for a dynamic communicator, Laura has my highest recommendation!"

- Cindy Bultema, International Speaker and author of Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church and Live Full, Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin Soaked World