A reason to celebrate!

Today is my birthday! When we are young, we look forward to celebrating our special day with cupcakes, balloons, and friends. We make a wish for things that we hope will “come true” in the near future.

I’ve noticed that some people feel less like celebrating as they get older. In fact, our culture reinforces this by using phrases such as “over the hill.” We see ads for anti-aging creams and potions and are encouraged to reverse any sign of having lived. As I reflect on my past years of life, a happy marriage, raising four wonderful sons, establishing a career, saving money to explore new places, and writing a book, I feel fulfilled and certainly don’t want to erase any of that!

I like to think of every birthday as a new beginning; my own personal “New Year.” Yes, I’m a year older, but I’m also a year closer to many of my personal goals, some of which were met this past year. I’ve also grown in my faith this past year and look forward to learning more about Jesus in the next 365 days. I’m older, but also wiser and more content.

The truth is that God wants us to face everyday with joy! When we become followers, we are given a clean slate and the opportunity to face each day with gratitude for our life. Not every day will be easy, but knowing that we have a God who loves us gives us a confidence and strength unlike any other. We will be faced with temptations, but God has given us the power to change. We have tools to navigate uncertainty and be filled with a sense of peace.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

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So this year I invite you to join me and face every day as if it was your birthday. Smile, celebrate, be filled with joy. And eat a cupcake once in a while!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Blessings,

Tracey

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.

Write 31 Challenge: Word of the Day

October 6 Word of the Day: Joy

What a perfect word for today; my birthday!

cupckaeSo many things are bringing me joy today. Notes from friends, gifts from family, lunch with my son who is in college. I find joy on days that I’m not celebrating too. Sunny days when I can drive with my convertible down, a walk with my dog, singing at church, walking on the beach; all of these make me happy.

However, I must say that knowing that I was created and chosen by God is the one thing that brings me true joy.

Have a great day!

My Journey to Jesus

Jesus asks us to bring him our troubles, worries, and pain.

What would it look like if I did that?

I imagine walking on a long path to see him.

I arrive to his outstretched arms and put down my three suitcases at his feet. Woman-With-Luggage-At-The-Airp-42447106

After we embrace, he tells me that he is happy to see me. He then points to my bags and asks me to open them. Nervous and unsure, my trembling hands slowly open the first suitcase. The contents are in a state of disarray; wrinkled, stained, and dirty. He knows that this is my past. The sexual abuse from my dad, pain from years with an alcoholic mother, and my longing for love were in the bag. He doesn’t recoil with disgust as I expect and motions to the second bag. As I fold back the top to reveal the contents, they are not quite as messy. One half of the bag is folded and packed with care. There is a framed picture of my sons and husband, my Bible, and a large heart. The other side of the bag is not as tidy; there is my relationship with my mom, my self-esteem, and my doubt. Jesus smiles and invites me to open the third bag. I can’t recall what is in this bag and as I open it, I am taken aback as I see thousands of shimmering, sparking gems inside. I look at Jesus in confusion and he nods. As I look in the bag again I see mercy and grace that he promises that I will receive if I remain faithful. This bag contains freedom, joy, and the promise of a future that only He knows.