Coulda…Shoulda…Woulda…

Scan_48“Maybe you aren’t supposed to – this year.”
Through a knowing smile her gentle words permeated my heart.

It was Christmas Eve. Our family had just enjoyed dinner with friends. As we’re leaving, she quietly handed me a gift. Thanking her, I sighed with frustration, “Ughhh, I wasn’t able to bake cookies for friends this season. I’m so frustrated!”

Her response has lingered….
Does that ever happened to you? Someone’s words, linger.

Unbeknownst to her, this theme had recurred to me through an assortment of circumstances over the past few months.

I seemed to bounce back and forth between “I’m so frustrated! I REALLY WANTED to do that,” and “I feel like I SHOULD be doing that!”  In my mind, I was talking to myself. In my heart, I knew I was indirectly complaining to God.

When I’d think on my diffused effort, I consistently concluded, “I’m obviously not to do this.” Predictably, frustration, sometimes anger, fretting, or feeling sorry for myself followed. I wish it didn’t take me so long to recognize ‘obvious’ …

Sometimes I moved on and prayed… (Ahh, to remember to do this in the first place!)

Scan_49We moved to our new home in a new city on December 10. I hurried to unpack and settle our home, wanting all to be “just right” for our children as they came home. Then, on to decorating for Christmas… and on to Christmas shopping. Hurrying in my heart, while trying not to look like it on the outside to them.

I need to…  I want to… I should… played countless times in my mind.  Physically exhausted, I was mentally exhausting myself, too.

And then I got sick. Forced rest. Well, as much as a mom can rest in the days before Christmas.  I don’t like admitting that I rested only because I was sick…

“Maybe you aren’t supposed to…”

Upon reflection, I see how voids in my heart are exposed through the WANT’s and SHOULD-DO’s I entertain. Voids that can only be filled by HIS LOVE. Yearning that can only be satisfied through His peace.

Scan_50Do you ever toil like me, pushing yourself or your own agenda?  Rather than following His lead, taking on His yoke.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30)

On this last day of 2012, I pray for all of us that we will first seek Christ in all things. Inviting Him into our wants, releasing to Him the burden of the should-do’s, and embracing His will, with faith. Realizing how deeply He loves us, wants to take care of us, and yearns to show us how to walk through each day He gives us on this earth.

Dear friends, I am very grateful to Him for you. Your readership and comments encourage me. I hope and pray this blog is an encouragement to you.
I cherish praying for you daily.

Teresa

 

When Our Plan Changes

“So what’s the plan?”

Over the past few weeks, each of our kids has asked us this.

We’re moving again.
Packing up.  Saying good-bye to friends.

A change of plan, the unexpected.
We didn’t see it coming.

I’m glad nothing takes God by surprise.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55.8-9)

His plan is always about SO MUCH MORE than the obvious.
… while the obvious is often SO MUCH MORE than we think we can handle!

Mary had a plan.

She was engaged to marry Joseph.  She probably hoped that they’d have children …. some day … after they were married.
In a moment, her plan changed.

Joseph had a plan.
Having asked Mary to be his wife, he was anticipating their marriage and probably hoped to … some day … have a family with her.
In a moment, his plan changed.

The shepherds probably had a plan that cold wintry night… or at least an idea of where they’d pasture their sheep for the next couple of days.
In a moment, their plan changed.

The kingdom of heaven broke forth into their lives in a profound way.
They saw.  They listened.
They relinquished their plan.  And submitted to God’s.
IN FAITH they trusted Him.

Was it worth it?

Yielding.  Not being the plan-maker.  Following an unfamiliar path.  Vulnerably facing predictable and unpredictable challenges….

Mary and Joseph became the earthly parents of JESUS, THE SON OF GOD.
The shepherds met THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

Lord God, before I begin each day, help me lay my plan at your feet.
Every day, help me seek, recognize, and welcome Your kingdom breaking in to my life.
Help me yield, follow, and trust You IN FAITH.
Amen.

My Advent Calendar

Happy Thanksgiving!  I pray that this week is a blessed one for you and your loved ones.

I want to share something with you. It is our family Advent Calendar.

Click here to print it out or view it.

When our children were little, they could answer the typical questions about the birth of Jesus, but beyond that and what they learned at church on Sunday, their focus was pretty much their Christmas list.

The countdown in our house was the same as it was when I was a little girl…  Just 20 more days til Christmas! (Til I get to open my presents!) …15…10…5…1!

I knew I couldn’t replace that anticipation. But, I could enrich it – the OTHER anticipation.  Anticipating JESUS.

So I designed this Advent Calendar.  Our family has enjoyed using it over the years as a means to maintain (or gain) focus on Christ in preparation for Christmas.

This is how we use it:

1. Before Advent begins, fill in the “Pray for” as a family. Then explain how the calendar works. Share that the whole family is participating, but the only thing you’ll do together is the Bible verses.

2. On the first day of Advent (This year it’s December 2.), at the beginning of the day, read (or a child can) who to pray for that day. Agree to try to remember to pray for that person throughout the day. Give ideas for what to pray: God bless Nana. Help her have a good day… Heal __ … Help __ …

3. Also, announce the “kind deed”. At the end of the day, everyone can share how they “accomplished” the kind deed.

4. Bible verses: Do this at a time and in a way that suits your family!

Our family read the verses toward the end of supper (A couple of cookies after the meal helps!). Ask a couple of simple questions. Depending on their ages and the amount of time you have, attempt to enter into brief conversation about the verses.

5. Keep the calendar in a central place – like the refrigerator. As our kids got in a rhythm about it – or could read – they would check it themselves or ask “Who do we pray for today?” and “What do we do today?”

6. We made an Advent wreath and the children took turns lighting it at supper. (optional)

Throughout the month pray for God’s help:
for the children’s participation
for the devotional time
FOR ALL OF US TO PREPARE OUR HEARTS FOR JESUS.

Relax and have fun with this as a family. I pray that it will a sweet time to encourage, laugh and grow together in Christ.

Have a blessed Advent!