Has the Hustle Stolen Your Joy This Christmas?

This is the notoriously most stressful, and for many, most depressing season of the year. The pressure to buy that best gift, to create that perfect evening or morning for our loved ones, the urge to spend, to do, to plan … Then there’s’ the sting of unmet expectations or painful memories. In all that mess and stress, is it possible to experience the joy of Christmas? According to my guest, Carole Brown, yes, but it might take some paring down and refocusing.

Where’s the Joy? by Carole Brown

Word image with quote

My calendar—specifically December—said it was full and groaning under the weight of too many things to do and not enough time.

Shopping, Christmas programs, dinners, and decorating. I couldn’t fit anything else in. When had Christmas become so busy?

I had always loved Christmas and all that went with it but my emotions were stretched with stress and worry. I was being drained of all the joy of the season. The real meaning of Christmas.

Saint Luke tells us: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10, KJV).verse image with red star

Here’s how the verse spoke to me:

  • Fear not. Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christ’s birth the way God desires you.
  • Good tidings. What better news in all the world than when God sent his beloved son to earth for us? Indeed, The news is great tidings.
  • Great Joy. Christmas isn’t about how much we spend, or if every cookie variety gets into your jars, or even how many fun and well meaning programs you attend. It’s about Jesus and the real joy His coming brought.
  • All people. This celebration is for everyone. It’s a period to remember, share, love and celebrate the most wonderful gift in the world—Jesus.

In all the busyness of the season, in all my striving to cram everything that seemed important into our lives, in all my misguided notions that we’d “miss” something, I’d forgotten the most valuable item. Through my own good intentions, I’d robbed myself of the joy of the season.

Until one Christmas when I realized it all was too much and reevaluated what the season was about—that year opened my eyes to what really mattered.

Today, I pick and choose. The rest? Evaluation is easy when using the real reason for the season as the measuring stick.

  • I budget gifts on what I want to spend each year.
  • I plan my holiday meals ahead of time.
  • I do my favorite Christmas decorations and leave it at that.
  • I keep track of what events we’d like to attend and/or participate in and keep a tight rein on it.

However you celebrate the season, remember: it’s not about the busyness. It’s about Jesus. Only when we surrender ourselves to Christ, will the Spirit’s gifts be available. What are some of these gifts to a heart surrendered to God?

  • Peace that passes understanding. Trials, misunderstandings, disappointment and death does not affect the peace dwelling in a Christian’s heart.
  • Love that forgives, that never fails, that is kind and humble and never gives up—priceless and available to God’s children. (I Corinthians 13)
  • Joy that goes deeper than happiness, and only comes because of faith in the Redeemer. (Galatians 5:22)

Remember, works can not produce the fruits of the Spirit. Surrender, trust in our Savior, studying His Word, and talking with Him brings peace, love and joy. With those, we have the assurance that God is with us and working out His divine plan in our lives, and that knowledge makes it easier to focus on what truly matters and purge the rest.

Enjoy the season. Spend time with family and friends, but most of all, celebrate His birth. We have a reason to do so. God’s angel declared it to all mankind: JOY to the world!

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Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Carole’s post? Do you plan to imitate anything she’s done in her effortsimage of cover for study based on 1 Timothy to simplify her Christmas? What are some things you’ve done to reduce your stress and focus on Christ? Share your thoughts here or in the comments below.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive free, inspirational content (and recipes and craft how-tos) sent directly to your inbox. Subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And, for added fun, you can snatch Breaking Free and When Dawn Breaks for half off–with free shipping! Grab a copy for yourself or the book lovers on your list!

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An author of ten books, Carole loves to weave suspense, romance and whimsy into her books. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. They enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her:

On her personal blog

Facebook

On her Amazon Author Page

And follow her on Twitter

Make sure to check out her latest book, A Flute in the Willows:

Both rebels in their own way, Josie and Jerry Patterson must figure out how to keep the other’s love…and keep the German enemy at bay.

She has two loves—her skating and Jerry, her husband. But when he returns home looking like a skeleton trying to return to life, she’s scared. What happened in Germany to change a man so much? Has another woman captured his heart?

Jerry has vowed to let Josie live her own glamorous life…especially after what happened in Germany. But when his wife’s life is threatened, Jerry realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Jerry has to risk all for the very soul and life of himself—Josie.

These two damaged, rebellious people learn the hard way that leaning on God instead of their own selves and abilities is the only true way to love and happiness.

 Description of protagonists:

Josephine Rayner Patterson, the second sister, is quite different from her older sister. She’s athletic and training for the Olympics once it’s resumed after the war, plays the flute, a little uncaring about her looks and is quite rebellious.

Jerry Patterson, dark, sardonic, sensitive and smart, he despises his overbearing, condescending and wealthy father and joins the service. Because of his sharp senses, he’s trained in subversion for the military and ends overseas in Germany but will the mistakes he makes while there cripple his and Josie’s lives forever?

Trading Expectations For Joy

As a frizzy haired, awkward elementary student, I entered the beauty shop with such hopeful anticipation. A few snips and some deep conditioning, and my aunt would tame my unruly tresses, causing heads to turn the moment I entered my fifth grade classroom.

Oh, heads turned all right, but not in the way I’d expected.

Then there was the time, with a quivering heart and stomach, I stepped out in faith, fully expecting God to bring fruit from my obedience, only to hit a major setback that left me confused and broken.

And last Friday, I wrestled with our bike rack, heaved and grunted and fought to secure my husband’s bike in it, then headed out to visit him while he was away on business. All the while thinking about the wonderful, romantic time we’d have come Saturday afternoon. The weather was supposed to be perfect. My husband would be off by three, and we’d spend the afternoon enjoying one another and one of our favorite, shaded paths.

We’ve had a relationship of bike rides—of me lacing up my shoes and heading for a run while my sweet man pedals beside me. Those are some of my most cherished memories, some of our sweetest moments. Those were times I was greatly looking forward to repeating!

Things didn’t turn out as I’d expected. First, the straps on the rack came loose mid-drive, leaving his bike dangling by its brake wires, which had somehow become twisted around the handlebars. Then, once I’d managed to untangle the bike, I was left trying to  get the incredibly heavy contraption in the back of my already packed car.

I almost gave up, leaving my poor husband’s bike deposited along I-29, but I’m cheap and stubborn, and after a great deal of effort, managed to squish the thing in the back, front wheel cockeyed, and continue on.

Convinced, with some minor adjustments and tweaking, we could follow through with our plans.

I went running by myself that Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

Life is full of disappointments. When things don’t go as anticipated. When friends or loved ones let us down. When our best efforts are thwarted or lead to naught.

Some of our deepest hurts come from unmet expectations. Sometimes those expectations have felt so certain, we never fathomed things could turn out differently, only to find ourselves sideswiped by life or rejection or betrayal.

Did Paul experience this? I know those he trusted abandoned him. I know God abruptly shifted his plans on more than one occasion. I know he spent times alone, cold, hungry, and beaten down–literally (1 Corinthians 11:16-28). But I also know he lived with unconquerable peace and joy—during incredibly dark circumstances, like imprisonment (Philippians 1).

How was that possible? I believe the answer is found in how he refered to himself in Philippians 1—a slave for Christ. This was Paul’s mentality.

Slaves have zero rights and zero expectation except to serve. They live to honor another more than themselves. Their every focus is on their master, alert to the slightest command. Ready to do his bidding.

That is what it means to live for Christ.

People and life will let us down. If we expect otherwise, we will be disappointed. The only expectations we can count on are those rooted in Jesus Christ. It’s when we live surrendered to that truth that we find lasting peace and joy.

Let’s talk about this! Do you agree? When have expectations left you hurt or disappointed? What are some ways we can replace our worldly expectations with those grounded in Christ? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If this post blessed you and you’d like to receive more great content, including short stories, recipes, and craft how-tos, directly in your inbox, sign up for my quarterly newsletter. (You can do so HERE.) I’m working on it now and plan to release it at the end of this month, along with info regarding a fun give-away contest for subscribers.

You may also enjoy:

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by John C. Hutchison

Count it All Joy

Finding Joy in the Chaos 

Joy in the What?

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

 

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

Sometimes obedience comes easily, other times it can take every ounce of strength and courage to push forward and step out. But when we surrender to Christ and allow Him to love others through us … Today my guest Clarice James, author of Party of One and Double Header, shares how God used her obedience to turn the sorrow of widowhood into joy.

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

by Clarice James

Selfies here, selfies there. Selfies, selfies everywhere. It’s hard to see others if you’re focused on self.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 32 and returned to church. Being spiritually single for the next ten years was a lonely time. I waited (not so patiently) for my husband to join me. Once he did, we were blessed to worship together for eight years before he lost his battle with cancer.

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”  (John 16:20, NIV).

With my children grown and gone, for the first time in my life I had no one to consider daily but myself. I was grieving and bored, which made it easy to fall into a self-centered, poor-me mentality.

One Sunday, back in the pew my husband and I had called ours, I noticed a woman sitting by herself … then another and another . . . as if the Lord was shining a spotlight on them. I was amazed at the number of single adults in attendance and ashamed I had never taken the time to get to know them.

But here we were, all alone, together.

This sparked a passion for those who’d fallen between the cracks of families and couples. I suddenly saw single people everywhere: in church, at the grocery store, in study groups, at the nail salon, in my writers’ groups, and at restaurants. I began to reach out to them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV).

Once a week for a few years, I hosted a dozen plus young adults for Tuesday night supper. Two of the attendees got to know each other well around my table and later married. A couple who rented my apartment asked to join the group and was introduced to Jesus. Seeing these two couples now, raising children themselves, reassures me that my efforts were fruitful.

At one time or another, four different women shared my home: a young Canadian woman, trying to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary from a small Christian school; a middle-aged woman, taking over as principal of that same school; a Brazilian woman, working two jobs so she could send money back home to her family; and a nanny for eight children, spending her days off with me “to keep her sanity.”

My empty nest soon became the go-to spot for women’s Bible studies and get-togethers. I even toyed with the idea of starting a singles supper club at a local restaurant.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1-2, NIV).

Each time I blessed someone, God blessed me back. Not with money or material things, but with joy and fulfillment. Parents of the young adults thanked me for providing a safe place for their children to socialize. Many of my tenants and house guests became friends. The cross-section of people who have shown up at my author signings is confirmation that God was and is in the middle of it all.

God’s ultimate blessing came eight years after I was widowed when He gave me a new husband in Ralph David James. About five years into our marriage, I finally got around to starting that singles supper club. (It takes a special man to let his wife start a singles club!) I named it Party of One: A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone.

Put self on the shelf and focus on God. He is faithful to show you ways to bless others.

 

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out in obedience to bless someone and found you were the one who received the blessing? This past weekend, my church facilitated our annual Big Live celebration–where we mobilize our church family out in the community to love on the broken, feed the hungry, clean up messes, unite our community, and more. Mid-day Saturday, incredibly tired but immeasurably full, I thought, “If I could only do this full time.” Of course, I can’t, but to feel God’s love reaching through you as you step out into someone else’s darkness; that has to be part of the abundant life Jesus promised.

For when we lose our life for the sake of Christ, that’s when we find it.

We will never be fulfilled, never truly find peace and joy, until we begin to live as we were created–viewing ourselves through God’s eyes and living out the mission He’s assigned. This is Wholly Loved’s message in a nutshell. This is why we exist–to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are (or are meant to be) in Christ. Because life’s not meant to be endured; it’s meant to be lived. We’ve got a conference coming up this Saturday! I’d love to see you! Find out more HERE.

And before I go, have you signed up for my quarterly newsletter! In the next edition, which releases at the end of next month, I’ll be sharing some fun info on a contest (give-away, actually), available only to subscribers. You can sign up HERE! (You can check out my last edition HERE.)

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Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women’s fiction. Her first two novels are Party of One and Double Header. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, encouraging fellow writers, or involved in a home decorating project. She and her husband, David, live in New Hampshire. Together, they have five married children and ten grandchildren. Visit her online HERE. 

Party of One:

One Woman, A Great Idea—Party of One Inspires and Delights. When widow Annie McGee breaks through grief, she falls flat on her face into loneliness. In a bold move, she founds Party of One, a communal table for single diners. Outside of these weekly gatherings at a local restaurant, she has no intention of getting involved in the diverse lives of the people who join her. Set in her ways and critical, Annie believes she has all the answers she needs for her life and some left over for others. When confusion and curiosity chip away at her pride, she asks God for a sign, then gets way more than she hopes for. Her self-assurance continues to falter when she realizes the only thing weirder than the quirks of her eclectic tablemates is her fear of losing their company.

You might also enjoy:

Blessed to be a Blessing

When We Say No

 

 

 

Finding Joy in the Chaos

  • Does failing at something you’ve been assigned or entrusted with cause your stomach to knot? When you miss a deadline, does your thought life run amuck? The bigger question is, are you living in grace? That’s not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable and honestly assess our shortcomings and errors, but when we do, may we do so with an eye on grace.

As my guest today explains, that’s when we find peace and joy, even in the chaos.

Joy in the Chaos by Ralene Burke

As a writer and editor, there’s nothing like missing a deadline to take the wind out of my sails. That feeling of failure that wraps around my heart, squeezes, and then pops any modicum of self-esteem. Darkness falls over my day, and joy leaks away with each deprecating thought.

It didn’t start out that way, though. I was excited to receive the opportunity. I wrote it on my calendar, even setting the deadline a little earlier than the one that had been given to me. But as with many best laid plans, chaos intervened.

My husband and I got locked into a home improvement job that took more time and money than we had originally intended. Two of my social media clients had some “urgent” stuff that had to go up on social media or in newsletters right away. My allergies went into overdrive and had me laid out for a week.

My self-imposed deadline came and went. So did the one I’d been officially given.

It’s funny how the enemy knows those exact moments when we feel like a failure. When we could choose to accept the mistake and learn, joy and peace follows, but instead he presses those thoughts of what a mess we are, how there is no hope for us. He tells us God is so disappointed, along with everyone else.

Deep breath.

Ultimately, life isn’t about the missed deadlines. It isn’t about the crazy schedules or long to-do lists. Life is about opportunities. The opportunity to follow God, to be obedient, and to be His light in this world. We already know we were not made for this world, but for eternity.

We are responsible to one person: God. We are His children. And He loves us so much. He delights in us. But He’s known us from the beginning of time, long before we were born, long before time itself. He knew the lives we would have. He gave us a reason for being, passions, goals, and more. And He gave us purpose despite the mistakes we would make. Our lives are a constant learning curve.

When we put our focus on God and how He sees us, we should also find joy ourselves. Joy in the opportunity. Joy in the moment. Joy in the fact that He loves us no matter what.

God knew I would have health issues, and they would force me to find ways to work around the normal 9-5 job. He knew being a homeschool mom would keep me hopping, making it feel like I had 2 full-time jobs. Struggling to find my place in the world would give me the grace to work with others struggling to find theirs.

Failure is something I’m quite familiar with—and not just when it comes to deadlines. With each mistake, I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity to trust God and step deeper into grace. I know God is with me at each turn. And even when things don’t go as planned (and how often does that happen?), He still loves me. He still delights in me. And my joy is found in Him.

How has God been revealing His joy to you?

About the Author:

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Let’s talk about this! I never would’ve thought I have a fear of failure. I’ve often said, which I believe, that there’s really no failure when we walk with God. It’s all learning, growing in Him and His will for us, and allowing Him to transform our thinking and will. 

But yesterday, something hit my insecurities (and revealed my people pleasing tendencies!), oddly enough, in the form of praise. A reviewer tagged me in a comment on Facebook that, in essence, let me know about THIS. It was a bit surreal to see my name listed among such great authors. That should’ve been cause for celebration, right?

Instead, I felt a tweak in my gut as I thought about the story I’m working on, one I’ve revised at least half a dozen times that I plan to release … in a few short months. (gulp.) And all I could think about was how terrible the story was, how inadequate I felt as a writer, and how I would let this reviewer and all my other readers down.

And then I had to laugh as I realized how easily I fell into the fear of rejection trap–whenever I turn my eyes off Christ and His will for me.

That, my friends, is the answer. But isn’t it always? For as Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). 

Hm … Maybe I should make that my memory verse this week. 😉

Freedom From Entitlement

 

When in the middle of a crisis, one word dominates my mind—help! I’d do anything, give up anything, if only God would come through. But oh how quickly pride and entitlement creep in, once the chaos has passed.

It was maybe ten years ago, we were living in a beautiful, spacious home in a gated community, attended a church we loved, and I spent my days doing what I loved—homeschooling our daughter.

In a flash, everything changed, leaving me scrambling, fearful, and crying out for aid.

Our daughter and I were sitting at the breakfast bar, completing her lessons, when I heard the familiar screech-rumble of the garage door opening. I glanced at the time, finding it strange that my husband would come home so early.

When he walked past me without a word a moment later, heading straight for our bedroom, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately followed.

The defeat I saw in his eyes tore at my heart, but what he said after weakened my knees.

That morning began a six-month bout of unemployment that left us scrambling and me crying out to God, “Help us, please! Fix this.”

Then one day, He did. By this point, we’d depleted the last of our savings, and, with all our belongings in storage, we’d moved to a 500 square-foot, furnished, rent-by-the-month apartment. My husband had found temporary contract work while continuing to seek something more permanent.

It’s interesting what happens, when life hits hard and everything is reduced to necessity. In that tiny apartment, with its cheap used furniture, paper-thin walls, and stained and torn linoleum, I learned to become content. To rejoice, actually, in what I had. By taking away our big, fancy house and all the other fluff I’d come to rely on, God granted me an incredible gift—the ability to cherish those things that mattered most—time with my husband and daughter.

So when His aid came and He opened a door for my husband at Union Pacific railroad in Kansas City, MO, I thought I’d arrived. I’d learned my lesson, had found contentment, and could move forward, receiving God’s blessings with open hands.

Open hands that, once they quit clinging to Christ, quickly grasped and strived, until my easily-swayed heart became consumed with a sense of entitlement. It started while house hunting. Needless to say, our budget had changed drastically, and the houses our realtor showed us looked much different than the large, newly built home we’d frantically sold in Louisiana. As we toured smaller, older, and less aesthetically appealing homes, a sense of entitlement emerged, initiating an ugly and growing discontentment.

It was as if I’d forgotten all God had done—how He’d held my family together, kept us from debt, and provided for us at just the right time.

I had fallen into the same pattern the Israelites had, after God miraculously freed them from slavery to Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and personally led them, by a pillar of fire by night and a sun-shielding cloud by day, to the Promised Land.

“They forgot what He had done—the great wonders He had shown them” (Psalm 78:11 NLT).

They forgot and became discontent, and their discontentment turned their hearts from God, from the One who saved them, the One who loved them, and who cared for them as a parent for their young.

There’s danger in forgetting. Or perhaps I should say, there’s incredible power in remembering all God’s done. It frees us from entitlement, keeps us humble, grateful, and I believe, surrendered with a heart that’s ready to receive whatever God has for us.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever find yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? Do you notice, when you do, that your discontentment and misery increases? What do you do to stay centered in gratitude and surrender? In what ways has God used life circumstances to purge the sense of entitlement from you? Share your stories, suggestions, and examples with us, because we can all learn from each other!

You might also enjoy:

 

“Be Joyful Always” by Chaka Heinze

“Have Faith Like a Child” by Brooke Williams

What Is To Come

280031_1981504130857_3812148_o

Iris Peters, faithful daughter of Christ, 1973-2012

As death grew closer for my sweet friend, Iris Peters, a woman who valiantly battled brain cancer, our conversations turned increasingly toward heaven. She had so many questions, and as she and I wrestled with this heavy and pressing topic, we realized it wasn’t often addressed in the evangelical community.

Why is that? It can be hard to have an eternal perspective when our longing is never fed. But if we truly understood what awaits us, what God has prepared for us, our every breath would be, “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

This, my friend, is why I consider my chronic illness and pain a blessing–because it daily reminds me, as Mary Bowen, my guest proclaims, that “The Best is Yet to Be.” As you read her post, pause to rest in God’s presence this morning. And dream with me about the day when there will be no more sadness, no more sin and destruction, and no more pain.

The Best is Yet to Be
by Mary Bowen

We’ve all felt it, a “quiet but throbbing ache,” as Joni Eareckson Tada calls it in Heaven, Your Real Home. Inside we can sense a restless yearning for more and better. The relentless alarm-clock-590383_640ticking of the clock often seems like an enemy, snatching away our pleasant moments all too soon. Time makes us feel as if we’re caught in a strong current rushing downstream towards the waterfall of death.

Why do we long for permanent peace and love? Because we were created for them. “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. . .” (Eccl. 3:11). God made us for heaven: “. . .so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose. . .” (2 Cor. 5:4, 5). In the Trinity God enjoys such wonderful fellowship that He created us for this same intimate communion with Himself and one another. (The Sacred Romance).

Last summer I reveled in my “happy place” on the patio with the purple, yellow, orange and fuchsia of our flowers. But I don’t want to just see beauty, I want to experience it, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “. . . to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it” (The Weight of Glory, 1949).  We’ll do that in heaven.

Our happiest times with family and friends seem to pull back heaven’s mysterious curtain, revealing a glimpse of our life to come.  In his comprehensive book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn landscape-1590888_640tantalizes with descriptions of rich fellowship, incredible beauty and joy, and adventures. We’ll each have exciting assignments from God.

So it’s not just floating around on clouds playing a harp and enduring endless worship services? I sighed with relief when I discovered that heaven won’t be boring, because God isn’t. We are “destined for unlimited pleasure at the deepest level,” writes Joni (Heaven. . . Your Real Home, 1995). The famous poet Robert Browning affirmed, “There’s a further good conceivable beyond the utmost earth can realize” (“Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau,” 1871).

As we set our hearts and minds on things above (Col. 3:1,2), we are pleasing God. Life on earth will never satisfy us completely. Disappointments and heartaches make us long for heaven. Yet our trials are not wasted, but actually count for something. A godly response to them will be rewarded in heaven. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, person-371015_640but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Appearances are everything in our society; an athlete’s ability, a model’s figure are all admired. But their strength and beauty diminish with time, finally pushing them to the outside as younger ones step in to take their place. How we all fear aging! Yet for the Christian, each day brings us closer to heaven. We can accept what others fear, because we know that our time on earth is not the end of the story. C. S. Lewis wrote that this life is like only the title page of a book, and chapter one starts in heaven. Then, each successive chapter will be better than the last. . .”The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning!” (The Last Battle, 1956).

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dscn1905Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

 

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Mary shared such a joyful post on our life to come! Do you experience joy at the thought of being with Jesus? What are you looking forward to most? Do you feel fear when you consider death? If so, I would love to pray for you.

Leave your thoughts–and encouragement!–in the comments below or over on Living By Grace on Facebook. We can learn so much from one another!

 

Get Satisfied

ContentmentVerse“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6 NIV).

And discontentment? That will make you plain miserable. When I encounter the same theme again and again, I start to take notice, because chances are, God’s trying to teach me something. If we’re connected on Facebook, you likely saw my Internet Cafe post yesterday on how discontentment stole my joy. (Read it HERE.) Then I open my inbox this morning to begin formatting Angela’s devotion, and bam! Another devotion on contentment.

Kinda makes me wonder if God feels this is an area I need to grow in. Uh… yeah. Of course it is, because the moment I turn my eyes of Christ and all He’s done, my inner monster begins to grumble. Making everyone miserable, myself most of all.

As you read Angela’s thoughts on how to remain satisfied–deeply pleased–in all circumstances, ask God to show you how you can do the same.

But first, some housekeeping stuff. Starting in March, I’ll be launching two blog series, one here and another, well, everywhere. (Or wherever I guest post.) On Mondays, here, I’m implementing Momma-Mondays where I’ll be writing about ways we can parent (or grandparent) to our children’s heart, Brainexperimentjpgpartnering with God as He perfects that which concerns them and molds, trains, and equips them for their future calling. I’m also launching a series humorously titled the Brain Experiment, where I’ll invite readers to saturate their thoughts with Scripture in order to replace the lies with truth, fear with faith, and insecurities with confident hope. I’ll start that here on the 25th and will list where and when I’ll be sharing follow-up devotions. I hope you’ll join me! (Note to other bloggers, if this sounds like something you’d like to do as well, email me and we can chat.)

Get Satisfied

By Angela Ruth Strong

french-quarters-589004_1920On one of my first dates with my husband, we went to the mall and ate Cajun food. It was greasy and delicious, and I really should have saved half of it to take home rather than shovel it all into my mouth. But it was sooo good. As I got back into his truck, I said, “I am satisfied.”

For some reason, he thought that was the cutest thing ever and he laughed so hard he couldn’t even get into the truck. He kept repeating, “I am satisfied.” Now we say that phrase as a joke whenever dinner is really good.

The thing was that we weren’t only satisfied with the food, we were satisfied with the company. According to the MacMillan Dictionary, we were “pleased with what had happened.” We were in a place where we were so comfortable and happy we could laugh about nothing and simply enjoy life. It’s a great feeling. So good I want to remind myself of this feeling even when I’m not pleased with what is going on around me.

My word for the year is “satisfied.”

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep stuffing my face with Cajun food. That means that no matter what happens, I will remind myself of the gift God has already given me. Whether my furnace goes out (ahem, we had the repair guy here today), or my car decides not to let me pump gas into it anymore even though it’s empty (does this stuff ever happen to anybody besides me?), or I get another painful rejection from a publisher who expressed interest in buying my work, I can still be satisfied.

“When I awake, your presence will satisfy me” (Psalm 17:15b, ISV).

He is enough. I know this because I told him to test me once and then I lost everything. But it wasn’t because God wanted to test me. No, He’d lovingly prepared me for heartbreak. So when I had nothing else, He was able to remind me, “You know I’m your all, Angela. You know it.”

The great thing about having nothing is that when God restores what was taken, you are more grateful than ever. You are satisfied. Which is how I want to live not only this year, but the rest of my life.

“Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (Psalm 131:2b the Message).

***

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book (Read about that HERE), she’s decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she’s excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. For the latest news or to contact Angela, visit www.angelaruthstrong.com.

Finding Love in Sun Valley CoverFinding Love in Sun Valley Idaho:
Actress Emily Van Arsdale has returned to her Idaho hometown – with an entire film crew in tow! With its stunning scenery and reputation for hosting celebrities, Sun Valley is the perfect setting for Emily’s newest romantic comedy. Tracen Lake is happy to work as a stunt consultant for the movie but not as thrilled to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance Hollywood types. But Tracen is surprised to discover in Emily a down-to-earth Idaho girl who does all her own stunts and loves the outdoors. As filming wraps up and Emily heads off to her next gig, will she be able to leave Sun Valley – and Tracen – behind?
Let’s talk about this! Pause to evaluate your life. Are you content? What have livingbygracepic.jpyou allowed to steal your contentment (and therefore, your joy)? What are some steps you can take, this week, to find contentment? Share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions with us, because we can all encourage and learn from each other. Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
Resources you might enjoy:
A Still and Quiet Soul by Cathy Messecar (I contributed a story to this one.)