I feel like I owe my sweet Mother an apology. Since she has been looking after an elderly aunt lately I offered to make her some pound cakes for her church’s Thanksgiving dinner. And I made 36 really cute miniature pound cakes.
There is something very rich and meaningful about Christmas with its ties to traditions, even more so in my opinion, when they strengthen our connection to the Church. We’ve only been celebrating and marking Advent for about five years now and I am surprised each year at how much it means to me and how deeper my joy in this season has become.
Each year Rob and I set up the Advent arrangement at church. I really enjoy the reactions the first Sunday it is all decorated, especially from the children. The decorations vary somewhat each time as we are finding things we do and don’t like about what we’ve done previously. Last year we loved using larger pillar candles but couldn’t find them unscented this year so we went back to taper candles.
Because of the layout of the platform the arrangement pretty much has the same place every year. From one angle there is the most beautiful juxtaposition of the Advent candles and the cross on our wall. It’s truly one of my most favorites sights to see each year.
We have a prayer we say all together each week after we have been called to worship. Whether you celebrate Advent or not may these words find room in your heart and mind. And may they enrich your joy in this season as you worship the One that stepped into time and became flesh.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
Becoming a teenager is a big deal in our house. We all know those years can be fraught with seething emotions and jagged edges as hearts and minds try to keep up with rapidly growing and changing bodies. But we have established traditions and ways to hopefully mark the beginning of this new journey with truth, beauty and goodness. A special date with Dad. a special ring, ear piercing…like I said it’s a big deal. We want to set a tone for our girls that their teen years don’t have to be overwhelmed with angst and they aren’t alone in the process.
We also do special photos. Abby’s fancy session got delayed for a bit but we finally got to do her birthday formals this past weekend.
My, but this child of ours is growing up! (Sorry for the picture overload.)
I loved all the pictures but the last two are some of my favorites.
It would be foolish to assume an easy answer.
In some ways it’s a very complicated issue yet the longer I have twisted and turned it over in my head the more I have come to conclude that the answer, while certainly not easy, is rather simple.
There are nuances and shades of all sorts of stuff that I will never even begin to understand. I am, however, smart enough to know that it is not just women and children seeking asylum. There is a potential threat in allowing refugees to enter our country. I am also smart enough to realize that not everyone of them are terrorist in waiting. Islamic? Yes, but not radical terrorist. No more than everyone who uses the name Christian is of Westboro. The vast majority of them are desperate people literally running for their lives.
Just as I want to do all that I can protect my children I cannot help but imagine the peril these mothers have faced. First to be hunted down and forced to flee their homes and then to make such an exhausting and terrifying journey, all in the hope of keeping their children alive. The fathers and husbands who have done all that they absolutely can and given up everything to protect their families.
I take it back. I can’t even begin to imagine what they have lived through.
There are people who will be making decisions and deciding for us as a nation how we will handle the refugee crisis. We can all be as involved as we can and should be in the process of making that decision but in the end it will be our task to accept whatever the general consensus is and act accordingly.
And this is the simple conclusion I have come too.
May God grant me the opportunity to reach out my hand to the needy.
May He give me the opportunity to offer peace in His name.
May He grant opportunity to declare His goodness to those who do not know Him.
May I be light in a world dark with fear and uncertainty.
Because He took on flesh to meet my need.
Because Christ died to bring peace between God and man.
Because He spoke into time and history and called my name.
Because He is the light of the world.
Because we are to imitate Him.
And may He grant me courage to stand in the face of whatever evil or threat that could possibly come. Because I want my children to see me follow after the way of the cross and not the media induced fear of the world.
I would rather die offering the love of Christ than live having withheld it.
A recent study found that when completely healthy people discussed pain the part of the brain that copes with pain became very active. The conclusion that scientists came to is that talking about your pain can actually make things worse.
It got me to thinking that I really don’t have much suffering going on in my life. My life is good…pleasant. I have a comfortable home, my basic needs are met and I get the occasional night of Chinese take out and a Lindt candy bar to enjoy. I’m in love with my husband and he with me, we have five great kids and a wonderful church family. We have a fantastic school that our children attend so we’re part of a great community there. We’ve got good friends and good health. Life really is sweet.
But because I’m human and we all live in a fallen world I do face trials of various kinds. Some are hard, others harder, and some only exist inside my imagination. Some of my trials are worse than what some others face and some of mine don’t even begin to compare to the genuine suffering that some people endure on a daily basis.
So what does it look like to suffer well? To, as James goes on to say, remain steadfast under trial? The more I have pondered the more I have come to see what it does not look like.
I have a sweet young friend with three children under the age of three. Her husband works from early morning until early evening and yet you never hear her complain. Now it would be utterly ridiculous to assume that because she doesn’t complain must mean that she has no struggles and her life is like some kind of Disney movie where she only communicates with her children via song and birds help fold her laundry.
She has three children under the age of three. Of course she has various trials and sufferings! How could she not? She’s a sinner, her husband is a sinner, and so are her sweet beautiful children. But her struggle is not lessened by complaining. Her burden is not made any lighter because she makes sure everyone knows that the struggle is real, y’all. This is, I think, the gentle and quiet spirit that God deems beautiful.
Another friend has four children of her own, yet without hesitation she took on the child care of a friend’s little one when it became an urgent need. It’s not surprising to see her with another friend’s three littles when a day shift has been scheduled either. She has a gift for helping others in this way no matter the extra work it may create for her and she uses it to serve others.
Still another friend has suffered more than a few tragic miscarriages but I didn’t even know this for a long time. She doesn’t live in the pangs of the past constantly bringing up the horrible things she has gone through. But she does quietly use those hard and difficult experiences to minister to others when the time is right. This is how we comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have been given.
What I am getting at is that suffering well doesn’t look like complaining. If your circumstances are genuinely difficult you won’t need to constantly remind people…they’ll know. Suffering well doesn’t look like cutting yourself off from the outside world. It doesn’t shrink your world to what happens within the walls of your own home. Remaining steadfast under a trial means that you don’t hold onto and nurture the pain of the circumstances. And part of that is not constantly trying to prove that your suffering is worse than what someone else goes through. You know you’re not in some kind of competition and you can allow others to have their struggle without it invalidating yours or feeling the need to bring up your own hardships.
In Philippians we are told that suffering is a gift. And I think suffering well means that you accept the gift graciously seeking to glorify God through it. But that can be so hard to do! I know this. But God has told us how to do it.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Give thanks. A grateful heart, one thankful even for the really hard stuff, the trials and the suffering is the key. Knowing that each and every moment we live is the will of God…how comforting and precious the thought!
Throughout Scripture the words thanksgiving and sacrifice can be found together. God doesn’t tell us that it will be easy but He does say,
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:23
My prayer is that God will use these simple words of mine to encourage you as you walk through your various trials and sufferings. May you bear your burdens well and in a manner that is worthy of the calling He has given you.
This blog post on Thanksgiving is part of a blog circle I participate in each month. As my fellow blogging friends add their links I will share them here so you can enjoy the goodness.
I would be lying if I said we never argue.
He’s a man and I am a woman and that means we are both human beings which means we sin against each other with some regularity.
It truly is rare for us to do more than get cross eyed with each other though. I think the last time I was honestly angry with the man was when he neglected to tell me that a party we would be attending later that evening was a surprise party and, you guessed it, I ruined the surprise part by asking if I could bring anything when we came over. That was several years ago and I’m over it. (For the most part 😉
I say all of that to say that my beloved was out of town last week and oh, dear goodness I miss that man when we’re not together. It’s not just the physical extra set of hands to deal with the kids or an extra set of ears to hear all that the kids say or whatever.
We both know that we are better together than we are apart. I am a better mother because of him. A better friend, a better person because of our relationship. Whatever I do I am better at it because of his love for me. And I pray that he is a better father, friend and pastor because of my love for him.
Because this is what love should do. God’s love changes us…makes us better and something other than what we are on our own that is glorious and impossible apart from Him. That is the love we should share because he is a man and I am a woman and we are His…together, as one flesh.
CS Lewis put it this way, “It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God…’Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run. Being in love is the explosion that started it.”
The cooler weather seems to have arrived in a wash of gray clouds and steady rain. I’m ready for some sunshine but I am doing a dance of joy over the lower temps since until today we’ve been in the upper eighties and that is just wrong as we near the holidays. I’m really hoping it sticks around.
Day one ~
Day two ~
I think these have been my favorite thing we planted this year and I don’t even remember what they’re called. But they are super low maintenance and have a ton of blooms all season.
Day three ~
Day four ~
Day five ~
Remember remember the fifth of November…only I almost didn’t. Kind of like I didn’t remember the month of October until it was something like the tenth of October but I’m good with it. Eleven months out of twelve is pretty good, right? Anyway, the only picture I took on Thursday was when I was at the mall and I came across these serving sets at Ross’. I am a sucker for the white serving dishes and love the tiered look. So not a very exciting picture but wouldn’t the table look pretty with this showcasing some delicious goodness?
Day six ~
I love early mornings.
Day seven ~
Next month should be fun. I participate in the December Photo Project each year ( a photo a day for the first 25 days) and even though I cannot believe it’s almost time for it I know it is right around the corner. I’ve started working on our Twelve Days of Christmas list and I am getting geared up for Advent to begin. Can you believe it’s only three weeks away?