Serving the World is Easy

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As I waited in line for my premium priced mocha, I noticed a basket on the floor with a sign that read, “End domestic violence.  Donate a roll of paper towels.”  My first thought was outrage that the coffee shop actually believed something as evil as domestic violence could be ended with paper towels.  I wanted the sign written to better reflect the truth – something like “Care for victims of domestic violence by donating paper towels.”  Evil won’t end until Jesus returns and I could take this post in that direction, but I won’t.

Here’s another thought from that sign.  It’s easy for me to pay $5 for a coffee, throw a roll of paper towels in the bucket  and go about my day feeling good that I gave back in some way. Especially at Christmas when I am feeling more generous.  Maybe I would feel less guilty for spending $5 on a coffee even.  Maybe I would feel better that I had chipped away at the evil that exists or the injustice of this life.  I can walk away feeling like I did something.  It feels good to help.  And donating paper towels is easy for me.

Is there a side to this I should be aware of I wonder?  Does the ease with which I serve the world make me less compassionate to the needs right in front of my face.  The ones I have some kind of connection to and know the histories of?

You see when I serve a homeless man, I feel immediate compassion for him.  I don’t know his history, his mistakes and failures, his story.  I can’t judge him.  I simply feel compassion for his circumstances despite his history.  Sadly, when I know the history of the people in my very own life, I tend to focus on their choices and path rather than allowing myself to feel compassion for where they are right now.

God doesn’t treat me that way.  Did Jesus treat people that way?  No.  He felt compassion and offered mercy and forgiveness.

One Christmas when my children were very little, I wanted to do it all.  I wanted to help every way imaginable.  Our kids were little and didn’t need much, so we had the funds to adopt a family in need.  We provided Christmas for a family of 5.  We packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, we provided a gift through Angel Tree Ministries, we sent an extra gift to our sponsored Compassion child.  Basically, everywhere I saw an opportunity to bless someone in need, we did it.

While all of these things we did were fine and wonderful, they were easy for us.  It was easy for us to meet the physical needs through these ministries.  It felt good to do something tangible. To see in some small way the impact of our gift, of our sacrifice whether it was time or money. I thought I was modeling to my children the “true” meaning of Christmas.  I was.  But I had only scratched the surface.

To unwrap the gifts of Christmas, the true gifts of Christmas, should we look within our families, our neighborhoods, our circle of friends?  Not instead of serving the world.  But in addition to.

Aren’t there deep needs within arms reach?  The ones within our very own families, churches, neighborhoods, and communities?

Don’t mistake what I’m saying.  I’m not saying we should focus on our own and not help the world.  If you know me at all, you know that is not what I would say.  But I, for one, sometimes become a bit tunnel visioned.  Sometimes I just see the one thing I’m focused on and miss what is screaming for my attention.

The greater sacrifice might not appear so great in the eyes of the world.  But are we performing for the world or serving the Maker of the World?

The world recognizes when we go on international mission trips and serve in a soup kitchen. But God recognizes it all.  The mission trips and soup kitchens and the ones that the world doesn’t see.

It’s easy to serve the ones we don’t have to do life with.  There is no history, no hurt, no misunderstandings.

The harder ones to serve are the ones God has placed in our lives, in our own families even.  The ones we have histories with….good and bad.  The ones who aren’t so easy to love.  The ones who don’t find us so easy to love.  The ones who have messed up big time or have been on the receiving end of our big mess ups.  These aren’t easy to serve.

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While serving the world feels good and is necessary, I encourage you this Christmas to choose the hard road.  There is room for both.

Christmas is hope. Christmas is love. Christmas is peace. And Christmas is joy.

Offer love to one you don’t think deserves it.  One who has hurt you and disappointed you.  Has God not done that for us?

Offer love to the one you have hurt that you are unsure if they’ve forgiven you.  Or you are insecure about your standing with.

Offer peace to one who disturbs your peace.  Has God not done that for us?

Offer peace to the one you have been the cause of disruption in their life.

Radiate the joy of Christ to the one who is weighed down with regrets, bitterness, or unforgiveness.  Has God not done that for us?

When you do these, hope shines through.

The world needs us.  We need to serve the world.  But those that God has placed in our lives are there for a reason.  We need to serve them too.  It is harder for sure.  To serve God’s kingdom, we must be open to the easy and the hard.  We must be open to the ones we are sent out to serve and the ones He has brought to us to serve.

For a wonderful message on the biblical priorities of mercy, listen to this.  Christmas is a season we are more open to serving and loving.  May we seek God’s direction to the ones He wants us to serve this Christmas.  It may not look as radical as the world recognizes, but God may use it for a radical work in the hearts of his children.

 

 

Expectations of the Season

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“I can’t watch Frosty.  I’m a big kid now.”

I looked at my 5 year old and replied, “Well, I’m a big kid and I still love to watch Frosty.”  I felt this tiny twinge in my heart when he uttered these words.  A twinge that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.  

(A few days earlier)  “Hey guys y’all want to watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas?”  Flashbacks of years of watching this movie to the point of reciting lines ran through my mind.

“No thanks, Mom.”  I closed the movie case and tried to hide my face – afraid it would reveal the tiny twinge in my heart.  The one that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.  The oldest piped in, “Mom, it’s just that we’ve seen it so much.  That doesn’t hurt your feelings does it?”

“Of course not!”  I didn’t lie.  It didn’t hurt my feelings.  He didn’t hurt my feelings.  It’s just this darn little twinge.

I listened as my dad and step-mom discussed how it is pointless to decorate a tree when your children won’t be visiting at Christmas. Christmas looks different for them now.  I felt this twinge in my heart.  A twinge that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.

And the Comforter of my soul whispered to that twinge, “Each Christmas may look different, but each Christmas holds the same truths. Celebrate the truths each Christmas and you will discover the true gifts of Christmas every year.”

Yes, expect to encounter the true gifts of Christmas despite how each season presents itself. Expect to encounter Him each season and celebrate the true gift.

Christmas is hope.  Christmas is peace.  Christmas is joy. Christmas is love.

And that little twinge loosened it’s grip.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.

 

 

The Christmas Magic of Faith

“Maybe Christmas“, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss

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When I was 4, I discovered a picture that led to me to ask my parents the question that all parents hope they won’t have to answer for many years.  Is Santa real? Having decided early on to tell me the truth when asked, they answered me honestly.  I felt robbed.  I remember for years after that discovery wishing they had just lied to me.  Wishing they hadn’t stolen that magic away from me.

They hadn’t stolen the magic, of course.  Christmas magic can’t be stolen.  It resides in the heart.  And it has nothing to do with Santa.

As a 5, 6, and 7 year old, I longed to have the belief that all the other kids around me had.  I saw this excitement and joy in their eyes as they held out for something they couldn’t see. They had a longing for something unseen.  I didn’t have that….and I wanted it.  I wanted to have faith like that.

Determined to prove my parents wrong, I attempted for years to prove that Santa was real.  I said I believed, and I played along with the other kids, desperate for a taste of faith.  They told me to stop pretending and assured me the gifts would arrive without belief.  They thought that it was about the gifts.

As a child I likely believed this too.  As I grew, and my faith in Christ matured, I realized what He was doing.

There was a longing in my heart planted by God.  A longing for more than what the eyes can see.  A longing for more than the magic of Christmas that Santa offers.  A longing for Christ.

Christmas is so much more than we wrap it up to be.  It’s so much more than the presents, parties, treat exchanges, and decorations. All of that is fun and exciting and adds to the experience of it all. But.  When we unwrap the experiences of Christmas in order to discover the true gifts of Christmas, we will find ourselves in a state of holy awe.

Christmas is hope.  Christmas is peace.  Christmas is joy.  Christmas is love.  No matter what each Christmas season looks like, these 4 remain when our faith is placed in the Unseen.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.

 

The Blessing of You

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After a full fall schedule, I sit here with few words.  Seeking Christmas released the last week of August, and I haven’t stopped until this week.  My last official event took place Thursday and Friday, so now I breathe.

The Lord has challenged me, encouraged me, and sustained me.  And He has blessed me wildly.  And not the way the world may recognize. (Remember this post?)  Seeking Christmas hasn’t broken records, topped charts, or won awards in its first season….yet I feel wildly blessed.  One of the ways the Lord has blessed me is through you.

Your words slipped into my inbox, your notes coming quietly through Facebook messages have filled my heart with encouragement and allowed me a glimpse at the work the Lord is doing in each of you.

I write to inspire and encourage….you.  I pray for you.  I connect with you when I write.  And the Lord has blessed me by bringing each of you into my life.  Writing has brought me an unexpected gift.  You are a gift and a treasure to me.

Through readers of this blog and readers of Seeking Christmas, I have come to love people I have never even met in person.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the lives of once strangers brought into my life through words shared, hearts revealed, and passions grown.

I sit here now watching the rain puddle on the porch- realizing I have months worth of life to catch up on.  But it can wait 2 more weeks. We are quietly seeking Christmas in our home. Each Christmas holds the same truths, yet each Christmas looks different.  Even when we are living out traditions year after year, each season may look different.

My prayer today is that we pause.  That we pause and reflect on the true meaning of it all-that we seek the true holiness of it all.  He is coming.  His birth was humble and simple, the message profound and turned the world inside out.  May he do that in our lives this season with the simple gifts of Christmas:  hope, love, peace, and joy.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.

 

 

A Different Kind of Christmas

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In a world where consumerism thrives, we are bombarded with a message of “more”.  In a world where Pinterest reigns, we are flooded with images of how to create the perfect Christmas.  In a world that says our worth comes from what we do, we believe that Christmas is a time to do EVEN more.

Let’s choose this Christmas to declutter.  Let’s simplify the season.  Let’s choose to have a different kind of Christmas.

Christmas is one simple message.  Christmas is simple and it needs more simple.  Christ was born to die for you.  It’s that simple.

Let’s get back to the basics.

Let’s not allow ourselves to feel anxious this Christmas.  Let’s allow ourselves the freedom to not have a Pinterest perfect Christmas.  We can’t change our culture.  We can’t change the commercialism of the season.  But we can choose how we interact with it.  We can choose how our family keeps what is sacred sacred.

I wrote Seeking Christmas so that my family could step off the busy train on a route to commercial land and step onto a train that inched its way along a track that leads to Holy. Along the way, we will stop, we will experience, we will breathe deep, we will create, and we will hold dear that which is most important.

We will have a season filled with memories and traditions.  And I don’t need to consult any blogs or boards to find out how to make it perfect.  Because imperfect is just perfection in disguise.

Simplicity is beautiful and it needs nothing to adorn it.

Our savior was born in a simple setting, a simple birth, to a simple girl.  Descended from Heaven into a complicated world.  With Him He brought a simple message.

Seeking Christmas is a different kind of devotion.  It’s surprisingly short, surprisingly simple. Intentionally created in  a way to help you step off the path our world takes to Christmas.  It will disappoint the readers who are looking for a book full of ideas and activities.  If you are looking for a book of 100 ideas for Christmas, please don’t buy it.  You will not like it.  At all.

If you are looking for a way to slow Christmas down, a way to intentionally enter the season, a way to create memories and traditions that don’t require online research and multiple trips to the craft store, a way to capture the hearts of your children and direct them to Christ, then Seeking Christmas is for you.

Seeking Christmas was written intentionally simple- because we need a little more simple at Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas will emerge when you keep your Christmas season simple.  Guaranteed.

 

Let the light shine

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Matthew 5:16 NIV In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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When the boys were little, one of our first family mission projects was filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Sparks are ignited in simple beginnings.  No matter how young.

Filling shoeboxes has become a tradition and one that takes place before the season gets kicked off into full swing.  When the kids’ school did a shoebox drive, I thought they wouldn’t be interested in doing our family shoeboxes.  When I made the mistake of expressing that to one of my children, he took it upon himself to begin the shoebox filling.

“Mom, we have to do the shoeboxes.” And he wouldn’t let up.  We did the boxes.  Afterwards, he looked at the 3 boxes and said, “That’s not enough.  We need to do more.”

My response back was shameful.  “Well, you did some at school.  We did 3 here.  And we have the other projects we are working on as well.  It’s just impossible to do much more than what we have planned to do.”

At first he was speechless.  Then he said, “We have to.  I will use my own money.  I want to set a goal.”

In that moment all the years of wondering if packing those boxes made a difference simply disappeared.  They made a huge difference.  He has a heart that cares about caring for the needy.

I was deeply convicted.  Packing these shoeboxes had become a box to check off for me.  A box on our tradition list.  For my children it was a deeply moving experience where they were able to pour into the lives of hurting children.  To give gifts they would love and to imagine the joy on the faces.

I hesitated to post about this because I feared you might feel like I am patting myself on the back and saying, “Look how great my kids are.”  I assure you that is not my intent here.  And if I had time, I would videotape the fighting and bickering and ugly moments to show you that is just not true.

I decided to post this because I believe we need to let our light shine this Christmas.  Brighter than ever before.  It is not bragging.  It’s shining the light of Christ.  Let the world see the good works so God can be glorified.

And then maybe, just maybe, you will have the privilege of seeing how that light inspired another to action and how your good works done for the glory of God have multiplied.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Over the summer my boys hosted a lemonade stand for Blood Water Mission.  One of my friends sent me a message that because of her boys learning about that, he decided to ask his friends at his birthday party to contribute to Blood Water Mission instead of giving him gifts. She sent a thank you to let my boys know they had inspired her boy to take action.

When we let our light shine, it’s not bragging.  It’s giving glory to God.  And it’s inspiring and encouraging others to take action.

When I shared with my boys how the $80 they raised by selling lemonade had turned into close to $300 because someone saw what they did and were inspired, you could have heard a pin drop in our car.  In a rare moment, silence.  The weight of it lingered.  300 Africans would have clean water for 1 year because a group of little boys took action.

It’s not bragging.  It’s not look what I did.  It’s not I’m working to gain favor in God’s eyes.  It’s I love Him passionately and I do it because of that love, and I want the world to see that love and see Him.

Let your light shine this Christmas season.  You can start now.  The giving spirit doesn’t have to kick off on a specific date.  It can start right now.  The spirit of Christmas is alive all year long.

Matthew 5:14-16 Msg  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

How to Create Seeking Christmas Ornaments

My favorite element of Seeking Christmas is the ornament activity.  When you purchase Seeking Christmas, you will find instructions for using your ornaments each day as well as instructions for downloading here by signing up for email updates.

There are so many ways these ornaments can be created.  I can’t wait to see all the creations from this Christmas season.  Whether you are crafty or not, you will love creating these with your family.

When you sign up for email updates, you will receive your free download.  Ornaments can be created in sizes of 2 inch, 3 inch, or 3.5 inch.

In addition, check the Store page for all kinds of ornament info.

If you are not the crafting type, you may prefer to simply cut out the ornaments, glue the back and front sides together, tie a string and call it a day.  You can take it a step further by putting a slightly larger colored cardstock circle between the front and back pieces.  Or you can even laminate.  This is the simplest and fastest way to create these ornaments.

Some may choose to use photo insert ornaments to display the cutouts.  This involves almost no crafting.

But for the crafting lovers, we have lots of ways you can do this.  And since I’m not crafty, I am really excited for you to share with me your creations!  For now, I will share some of my materials and completed ornaments to spark some ideas for you.

Ornaments can be created with many types of materials.  Below you will see wooden circles, cork coasters, paper mache ornaments, and porcelain.  All of these items I purchased at Hobby Lobby.

For the wooden circles, just pick up a bag of eye screws (located right with the wooden circles at craft stores) and some ribbon or twine.

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corkcoasters

 

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After selecting your ornament material, you will print your downloads.  I suggest uploading to a copy center such as Staples, Office Depot etc.  It’s 59 cents a copy.  To me it was easier.  I selected the paper weight (I suggest 110 weight white card stock), uploaded the file, and chose pickup location and time.  Print at home if that is easier for you!

Next, cut out your circles.  The super crafty people will have tools to cut perfect circles.  I used good old fashioned scissors and worked carefully.

Here are the cut outs

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I then spray painted my ornaments.  So fast.  I like short cuts.  Another option is acrylic.  Both work just as well.

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After paint dries completely, you will glue on the ornament cut-outs.  I use Mod Podge because I simply love it.  Just a good all in one glue and sealer.

Apply a coat of Mod Podge to each ornament and place the cut-out on the glue covered surface.

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Then you seal with a coat of Mod Podge.  Simply paint it on, trying to stay in the same direction.  Let dry about 20 minutes before doing the other side.

Finished products

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