He makes all things new!

It’s almost New Years Eve. I have always loved the thrill of the countdown to a new beginning. It was on this night, 22 years ago that my husband proposed to me at the strike of midnight and I remember the magical moment as if it was yesterday. We have had many happy New Years Eve celebrations together since and enjoy remembering the years that have past.

As I reflect on 2015, shake my head in disbelief. Last time this year I was in a job that left me feeling unfulfilled, unsure of the path that I felt that God was leading me to. I had been writing and blogging, but wasn’t sure that I had the courage or strength to really go forward with my story. This is when God made it clear to me. He put people in my path to help answer my questions, build my confidence, and showed me the way. I published a book about my journey to forgiveness and faith; something I never thought I’d do.

Isn’t it wonderful how He can do that? He can wipe away our insecurities and allow us to see that He is all we need. All we have to do is trust Him! We can make plans and resolutions, but He will guide us to our true purpose and knows what we really need.

So as 2016 quickly approaches, I think about how I can improve my health, my role as a mom and a wife, and make goals for my personal and spiritual life. But my biggest resolution is to thank God everyday for guiding me to His love and for giving me the strength to reach my goals.

Thank you for reading my little blog and encouraging me this year! I look forward to what He brings for us all in 2016!

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Knock knock….

Waiting is hard, but when what you’ve been waiting for happens, it is wonderful! This is Advent. We are waiting to celebrate the day of our Savior’s birth. The day that everything changed for us as man.

Isaiah 9:6 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.

Along with this wonderful time of year comes a lot of business. We shop, we wrap, we party, we travel. We get busy! In this business it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. The innkeeper had no room for Jesus. Do you have room in your busy life to let Jesus in?

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I find it amazing that He came to this earth to be crucified so that you and I may one day live with Him in heaven.

Will you come to Jesus?

If not, why not?

Maybe today is the day that God is knocking on the door of your heart.

Do you have room for Jesus?

 

I think I’m being setup

Dear readers,

Two weeks ago I wrote about a promise to make this December a “stress-less” time. I promised that I wouldn’t over-do it and just relax and enjoy this magical time with my family.

Just three days later everything changed. My mom fell and broke her back on December 4 and was in the hospital for a week. She has been moved to a rehabilitation center and is receiving physical and occupational therapy and is very unhappy. This has caused a lot of stress for me and my family. If you’ve read my book (hint, hint) you know that my relationship with my mom is very complicated.

As I have been back and forth to visit my mom and talk with doctors and therapists, I desperately want to feel some Christmas joy!

So now I am trying to focus on what Christmas is really about. Jesus. His love and God’s grace have made me who I am today. For that I am thankful and know that He will see me through this difficult time. th

I know that I’m not the only one having a rough holiday season and wanted to share so that we can remember His love for us. Today I saw this:

“Difficulties are a setup for God to do something greater. Setbacks are a setup for God to move you toward your destiny.” Joel Osteen

So let’s embrace the fact that God is setting us up for something wonderful! Who’s with me?

Love,

Tracey

 

 

Why now God?

I am a busy mom with 4 sons, a dog, and a hard working husband. Christmas season means lots of fun and extra items on my to-do list. I embrace the annual Christmas card, host a cookie exchange for friends and neighbors, love to decorate and shop for meaningful gifts. It’s a busy time, but it’s fun!

I was right in the middle of all of this when I got a call last week that my mom was taken via ambulance to the hospital (see my previous post, “Please wait”) I have been to the hospital every day since. I spent 7 hours at the hospital yesterday and came home to hungry kids, laundry, and a hyper dog. Today is day 6 that she has been in the hospital and I am feeling very overwhelmed. Everything has stopped for me. I don’t know the next steps for my mom and desperately want to move forward. I feel helpless and nothing is in my control.

Often when we get in these situations, it’s easy to feel alone. I was reminded today to trust God and found Proverbs 3:5-6 very comforting.

“Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

God

Please wait

Have you ever had a time in your life when things aren’t going as planned and you wonder if God is trying to show or teach you something?

I feel like God is teaching me about patience right now.

It is a nice, sunny Saturday and I had a full day planned of pre-Christmas fun and festivities. But sometimes our plans get interrupted don’t they?

Instead of going to the craft fair at my church, I am sitting in my mom’s hospital room as we wait to see the doctor. She came in via ambulance yesterday after falling and now has a compressed fracture in the lumbar section of her spine. I am waiting for the doctor to tell me what the options are as we wait for an MRI. (Apparently there is one machine for the entire hospital and other people need it too).

I am writing this from my laptop because my cell phone is officially dead. My husband took it to the AT&T store and they can’t get any data, contacts or pictures off of it. As a busy mom of 4 sons and a very silly dog, this is very upsetting. How is this teaching me about patience? I won’t have my new phone until Tuesday…..

It is lunchtime and I’m hungry, but I don’t want to leave in case the doctor comes by…..patience, please!6bc84695af949900c9808059b3f0e079

But then I hear myself whining, and I think about the other people in this hospital. The parents in the children’s wing who are also asking for patience and answers. The woman I saw being wheeled into radiology…. They would probably like to get some lunch too.

So I will sit and be thankful that my mom is in a good hospital and smile as I chew my gum and wait.

Thanks for the lesson God!

 

Four Ways to Protect Your Holiday Joy

I love how the blogging world has introduced me to so many new friends. Today I am excited to have Brianna George from Unveiled and Revealed here at Grace! Brianna reminds us today about the real beauty of the holidays and how to remain joyful when things get tough.

Four Ways to Protect your Holiday Joy by Brianna George

The Holidays are upon us. It’s time for all things delicious, auspicious, and glorious; including succulent turkeys, bright decorations, and stunning gifts. We can get so caught up in all the STUFF of the season that we allow it to rob the revelry of the festivities. We forge ahead trying to accomplish “all the things,” but afterward find ourselves a joyless, exhausted, empty shell. Instead this season should fill us, refresh us, and remind us of the gratitude of the gift of Christmas. Here are four ways to protect your joy over this holiday season.4 ways protect joy

Stop comparing! Comparison robs us all year round, but perhaps even more so during the holiday season. We compare how our turkey turned out compared to the magazine cover, the size of our gift compared to our friends, how many gifts we bought our kids, our invites to parties, the outfits at said parties and So. Much. More. Sometimes our comparisons lend us to degrade ourselves or the opposite and we puff ourselves up. Neither are the answer. There is a difference in comparison and appreciation. We can appreciate our neighbor’s beautiful light display without being dissatisfied with ours. We can admire the eye-catching holiday outfits of our friends without despising our own. The issue is when we begin to think with an “Us vs Them” mentality; we cross into comparison and make this season about ourselves. Paul encourages overcoming self by Christ; adopting the practice of doing things in humility, counting others more significant, and doing this for other’s interests and not our own.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil 2:1-4

Invest in your tribe. Family relational tensions usually increase for many during the holiday season. Many find the holidays challenging because they have no family to celebrate with. Others don’t want to spend time with their family because of difficult or toxic personalities. When we are faced with being alone for the holidays, isolation can become easy. For this reason, investing in community the rest of the year is so important. Your community becomes your family with which you celebrate during what would otherwise be a very lonely season. The same is true for those who do not find celebrating with family joyful; invest in your tribe so joyousness of the season is not lost.

Paul encourages to live in affection and in empathy with one another, being of the same mind, in full accord. This means that we truly experience one another’s hurts and joys, lifting one another. Our tribe members who’ve lost loved ones will experience sadness this season. Let us come along side them and remember with them. Giving them the space to grieve a season lost, but not allowing them to remain there and miss all the joy around them. There will be those in our tribe who’ve gained much and are celebrating the season with the birth of a child. Let us celebrate with them this season of firsts. There are those in our tribe who feel adrift in what to do next. Let us come along side them and pray for wisdom made apparent. There are so many ways we can love one another this season and overcome the relational tensions that can overthrow joy of the season.

Have Realistic Expectations. Part of the beauty of the holidays is the built up expectation of it all…the gifts under the tree, the delectable desserts….they only happen once a year. But, sometimes we can allow unrealistic expectations ruin the memory of the joy in this season. So what if the family picture is terribly awkward? So what if the Elf just moves from shelf to shelf and peaks over doorways instead of being part of overdone scenes all over the kitchen table? So what if the tree’s ornaments are all at the eye level of your toddler? So what if there are only 3 gifts instead of 20? It’s so much easier to be full of gratitude, thankful, and content when there isn’t a competition for perfection. Instead of thinking and expecting more, better, bigger during this season, perhaps we can find contentment in giving more, better, bigger in mighty smallness, simplicity, and genuineness to those we know are in a situation of need? Serve at a food bank or soup kitchen, give to a family in need, invite the lonely homeless person to your Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:10-13

Focus on the Spiritual aspect of the holidays. Perhaps the most notorious thief of holiday joy is the lack of spiritual focus our culture has for this season and our response to it. In our culture the focus is all on the externals of the holiday instead of why the season is set aside; celebrating the Gospel. {As believers we celebrate the coming of our Savior as an innocent, weak, and poor babe who redeemed us to himself by living a sin free life, 35 years later obediently dying a painful death on a cross, buried yet rose again, and ascended into heaven.} He surprised the world by coming as a poor baby, not a rich king as imagined by many. LOVE in action. THIS is our focus of the holiday. THIS is our reason for joy. THIS is why we celebrate the weak and lowly, the poor and in need. THIS is how we can celebrate in joy despite disparity of circumstance of abundance or need.

But in saying this it doesn’t mean being loud gongs of condemnation toward those who do not celebrate as believers do. Too often believers are so worried about Christ being removed from Christmas, that we’ve removed the Spirit of Christmas by our own rants and raves over phrases such as “Happy Holidays” or the intention of meaningless “red cups.” The truth of the matter is we can’t remove Christ from Christmas or make Him less by these external matters of the season. He won’t allow it. The only way He’s made less is when those who proclaim to love Him don’t actively love through words and interactions. We must remain focused on the divine spiritual element of the season, LOVE, which allows us to in turn love our family, friends, and neighbors during the holidays and beyond.

So, as we jump into the Holidays let’s not allow ourselves to become distracted and instead celebrate in full revelry of this gorgeous season!

Celebrate.
Give.
Enjoy.
Love.

briannapic

Brianna is a Speaker, Teacher, and Missionary as well as a part-time Writer and full-time Encourager. She currently lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband of 12 years, Jason, busy being Mom to two spicy little boys and Bosa the Boxer. You can read more of her writing at www. unveiledandrevealed.com.

A Stress-Less December

December is here! I have usually worked myself into a full blown panic by this time. I worry about all the details that I think will make it the perfect holiday: cards, parties, presents, food, and decorations. You see, I am a lot like Martha in Luke 10:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This year I am going to do my best not to and want to be able to truly enjoy the holiday season and all the joy it brings. Jesus

I was tested this morning as I began to feel overwhelmed by tasks that I need to complete today. I reminded myself of my promise to myself and thought of how I could spin my “to-do” list into a list of things to be thankful for:

  1. Walk dog in the rain-I am so thankful for the big, silly dog that we rescued last year and love him to death!
  2. Purchase and deliver birthday treat to my son’s 5th grade class- I am thankful for a job that allows me flexibility to pop in to celebrate with my son during lunch.
  3. Buy 50 pound bag of dog food- I am thankful that I don’t have to prepare him a “real” meal.
  4. Bake birthday cake for my 4th son- Ok, this might not happen….back to the store.
  5. Pick up 1st son from college for family dinner- I am so happy that he goes to a college close enough that he doesn’t have to miss family events like his baby brother’s 11th birthday.
  6. Vacuum and straighten up the house before grandparents come over for cake and presents- I’m so thankful that we have family close enough to celebrate birthdays and holidays together!

There…that is much better. I challenge you to try to do the same as you feel overwhelmed this season. Think of Mary and Martha. Remember the reason that we celebrate.