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It happened again this year...

Even though I said I wouldn't let it...

Even though I vowed, just last year, to kick crazy to the curb and remember the real reason for the Season this Christmas...

Then, just last week...I lost my ever-lovin' mind.

When You Need Peace This Christmas | thereisgrace.com

We were preparing to host out-of-town family for the holidays, and there was so. much. to. do. I don't remember what insignificant detail sent me into an emotional tailspin, but I do remember my wise and loving husband coming to the rescue (as he always does).

I rattled off the endless list of things still needing to be done, on top of the normal, everyday things like laundry and dishes, and homeschool. He let me rant, then he calmly said, "But we're not in a hospital recovering from surgery or chemotherapy." Then he lovingly sent me off to bed for a good night's rest, promising things would look better in the morning. And, of course, they did.

I woke up the next morning with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Still, I had learned a valuable lesson. That simple statement from my husband was a gentle reminder of all God has done for us. God used those words to help me pause in the midst of a hectic season and realize a painful truth: It's easier for me to trust God with the big things--like cancer--than the normal, ordinary, everyday things.

But that's not what Christmas is about. Christ didn't come just for the big moments in life--the mountains that we face or the valleys we walk through. He came for the everyday moments.

Why else would He have been born in a manger, rather than a palace? Why would He come to ordinary people, not royalty? Why would He make His entrance on an average day, without pomp and fanfare?

[Joseph] went there (Bethlehem) with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.  While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born.  She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay. (Luke 2:4-7)

Why would heaven choose to first announce the Birth of the Christ to shepherds? Simple, ordinary shepherds?

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:8-11)

Yes, there would be kings coming from the East to worship the Messiah. But the first who came? Shepherds. Because God is for everyone. On every day. In every situation.

Imagine the scene the Baby Jesus caused in the quiet little town of Bethlehem...a young couple, bedded down in a stable for the night where she gives birth to their first son. Then, when things are just beginning to calm down, here came a whole herd of shepherds trapsing through town with their sheep (you don't think they left them in the fields do you?), searching for the newborn King.

I can only imagine what the new-to-motherhood Mary was thinking when a group of smelly roughians approached her and her baby. That's exactly the kind of chaos every new mother needs! But tucked into the midst of all the chaos of the scene is my favorite verse in the Christmas story:

Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. (Luke 2:19)

In the midst of the crazy and the chaos, Mary found peace and stillness in the presence of her baby...the Savior of the world.

So, even if the shopping is not yet done. Even if the house isn't quite clean. Even if the gifts aren't wrapped. Take a tip form Mary and snuggle up with a cup of coffee, gaze at the Christmas tree, treasure this precious Baby--Immanuel, God with us, and treasure all these things in your heart.

Wishing you and yours and blessed and restful Christmas!

 

 

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The weeks leading up to Easter--Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week--are often filled with somber reflection. Even as I write this, it's a gray and gloomy Good Friday as though nature itself mourns the memory of what Christ did. I get that--we should reflect on what our sin cost our Savior. We need to remember we were lost and hopeless in our sin, and Christ paid a terrific price for us.

But Easter should be about more than reflection. It should be about celebration.

 

--we should reflect on what our sin cost our Savior. We need to remember we were lost and hopeless in our sin, and Christ paid a terrific price for us.

In reading through the crucifixion story this week, one overwhelming theme jumped out at me: God was always in control.

It was His plan. He called the shots.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ (Matthew 26:17, 18)

Did you see that? It's a whole week before Christ would go to the cross, and He's already in control of the situation. He is aware of what's coming, and He is already prepared for it.

And later, when He was betrayed...

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:54-56)

I love this moment in the story. Jesus--who is fully God even though He is fully man--had full authority to summon the powers of heaven and deliver himself from danger. But He didn't. He willingly gave himself up. Why? So that Scripture might be fulfilled...not just a centuries-old prophecy, but a promise to bridge the gap between a Holy God and an unholy people. A promise rooted in God's love for us--every. single. one. of. us.

Even in death...

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised...When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

At the moment Christ breathed His last, a great earthquake struck, tearing the temple veil from top to bottom and cracking wide the tombs. It was as though God wanted to reiterate: "This was not man's doing; this was My doing."

And my favorite part...

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb...But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen!" (Matthew 28:1-6).

This was it: the pinnacle of God's plan.

Christ came...in God's timing.

Christ died...on His terms.

Christ defeated sin, hell, and death...completing God's plan.

The cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. ~Oswald Chambers

The ultimate plan bringing the ultimate victory. If there was ever cause for celebration, I'd say that is it!

If God remains in control of the circumstances surrounding Christ's death, and if He's able to orchestrate the details of an historical ransom for the souls of His people, is He not able to also orchestrate the details of your life...no matter your circumstances?

Yes, let's reflect on Christ's suffering today. And YES! let's celebrate His resurrection on Sunday. But let's not limit our reflection and celebration to one week a year. Let's celebrate His victory in our lives each and every day!

 

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No, I'm not single. Let's just get that out of the way. I'm happily married with two children...but before you leave, let me explain...

My husband and I started dating when we were 27 and got married when we were 30. That means I spent roughly 12-15 years of Valentine's Days single. (Technically, I spent almost 30 Valentine's Days single, but those last 12-15 were the hardest.)

single-on-valentines-day

Believe me when I tell you I know a thing or two about being single. As a general rule, I wasn't sad or depressed. I lived a full life--I had a lot of friends and a healthy social life. But there was something about Valentine's Day that seemed to bring me down, no matter how content I was with my life.

While the rest of the world is expressing their love to their most important person, you can't help feeling even more alone when you're single. Somewhere, deep down, you really are happy for all the happy couples in the world. Still, it's not an easy day when you're not one of them. I get it.

As an old married woman now, I think I have a little perspective to offer. So if I could sit down with each of my single friends over coffee and share my "big sister" advice with you, here's what I would say:

1. You are loved.

Remember this: Alone does not mean unloved.

Just because you're the only one who doesn't get roses at work or a card in the mail, it doesn't mean no one loves you. You probably know this already, but you've somehow managed to forget it in the midst of all the greeting card and jewelry commercials.

There are people around you who love you...parents, siblings, friends, family. They may be focused on their own relationships right now, but that doesn't mean they love you any less. They're just distracted. You need to know that.

And just in case you can't think of anyone who loves you, let me give you a hint...

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. (1 John 3:1, The Message)

2. God has a plan.

I can see your eyes rolling now. Because, yes, that's what I did at age 25 when someone said those words to me. It seemed so trite at the time, when I was "so old" and still single. Trust me...it's not trite. It's not cliché. It's true.

God sees you exactly where you are. He loves you exactly how you are. And He has a plan for you.

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)

I don't know if His plan includes marriage. I don't know if it includes a relationship (and yes, I know how scary that sounds right now). But I know this: His plan is the best. And just because you're not in a relationship right now doesn't mean you'll never be. And, hear this: it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you!

3. Have fun.

This might seem a little difficult this Valentine's Day weekend when you're afraid to venture into public for fear of puking at the sight of another red heart balloon. But you can invite some girlfriends over to watch a movie (maybe not a romance) or play games. I guarantee you're not the only one without plans this weekend!

Here's the bigger idea: Instead of pining away or growing anxious about your singleness, make the most of your time. Further your education. Volunteer. Take up a hobby. Grow your interests. Press in to know God more.

In the 10 years I was a single adult, I was able to complete my education, gain valuable work experience (that's when I seriously took up writing), lead a ministry team, participate in numerous missions trips, and travel to places like Alaska and Paris. I love my life now, but trust me when I say there are no plans to visit Paris anytime soon! 😉

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11, 12 The Message)

This is where I would set down my coffee cup, lean in close, and hope you really hear me when I say, Your story doesn't begin when you get married; you're writing your story now.

Yes, dear sister, dream about your future mate. And definitely pray for him. But don't forget to live your life now. God not only has a plan for your future; He has  plan for your present.

Make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)

Married friends, what did I miss? Any other advice you'd offer?

 

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Last year I celebrated Christmas quietly at home with just my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. My body was weak from six rounds of chemo and I was emotionally drained from the battle we were waging--both physically and spiritually-- for my health. But my spirit remained joyful--hopeful.

I saw Christmas in a new light. Sure, I had a new perspective on what truly matters in life, as often happens when you face a crisis. But more than a revelation on the value of life, I had a new perspective on the whole purpose of Christmas. Suddenly, it was more than a simple story of faith. It was now a glaring declaration of God's love for us...for you, for me, for each of us individually.

Isaiah 9:6

It wasn't long after that weary Christmas Day that I received a Compassion Bag from Compassion That Compels. Since then, I've been privileged to write for their ministry and have grown to love Kristianne and her heart for women battling cancer.

This year, I will gather with all my family and celebrate Christmas CANCER FREE!! I'm talking about it over at Compassion That Compels...won't you join me there? While you're there, consider sponsoring a Compassion Bag for someone battling cancer. She'll appreciate it more than you'll know...trust me. And maybe next year, she'll be sharing her own story of victory!

Read the rest here.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It happens about this time each year...I begin the slow transformation into Frantic-Crazy-Christmas Mom. Armed with my long list of must-do, have-to-do, and want-to-do items, I hit the ground running on December 1. My transformation escalates as Christmas parties, obligations, shopping excursions, baking, wrapping, and travel fill the calendar. By the time December 25 rolls around, I've gone from Buddy the Elf to Mrs. Scrooge in a mere 3 1/2 weeks.

Last year was the first time in a long time that didn't happen. I was finishing up six rounds of chemotherapy, so I determined to focus on my health and my family and not worry about the rest of it. It was one of the most relaxed, enjoyable Christmases I can remember.

Even though I am recovering from two surgeries this year, every fiber of my hard-core, overachieving self wanted to jump back into the frenzy. I wanted to try every holiday recipe on Pinterest and every DIY wreath project on my FB feed! (Never mind the fact that I have been banned from using a glue gun on more than one occasion!)

But if there's one thing I've learned in our journey over the last 14 months, it's to focus on the truly important things. There's nothing wrong with Christmas parties and homemade gifts, but when my time and energy are consumed with accomplishing my to-do list, there's no time or energy left for what really matters...people. That's when it's time to kick the crazy to the curb!

5 simple steps to kick crazy to the curb this holiday season (plus resources!)
photo credit: nineminutes via photopin cc

1. Make a plan. We sat down as a family a few weeks ago and made a plan for our holiday season. We asked the kids their favorite traditions--foods, activities, events, etc. Then we scheduled those on the calendar; the rest are optional. We even gained an entire evening in December when we discovered an event we were all OK skipping!

2. Create time for family. We just completed a marathon trip for Thanksgiving--3 destinations and 19 hours in the van over 5 days. Why? Because we saw more family in those five days than we've seen all year. Yes, it was exhausting, but we'd do it all again in a heartbeat. If we wait to find time for family, we never will; we have to be intentional to create time for them.

3. Focus on giving, not getting. We asked our kids, "If you got only one gift from Mom & Dad this year, what would you want it to be?" Don't worry, our kids will not be deprived of Christmas gifts this year, but that question accomplished a couple of things: 1. It helped us hone in on the one thing they really want (as opposed to the 1,463 items they circle in the toy catalog!), and 2. It tapered their expectations (because they will never get all 1,463 things they circle in that catalog!)

I'm confident our kids understand Christmas is about Jesus, not about gifts and stockings. But this year, we wanted to be intentional about giving to and doing for others. We found opportunities through organizations like Operation Christmas Child as well as making special gifts for individuals in our lives.

4. Find silence. My favorite spot in the month of December is in front of the fire place with the Christmas lights on. I'll wake up early and curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of coffee. Then I simply sit and bask in the silence. Sometimes it's only 10 minutes before all my creatures start stirring, but those 10 minutes of calm will give me enough sanity to make it through the day!

5. Remember Jesus. That seems so simple, really--almost trite. Of course, we know Christmas is about Baby Jesus in the manger, but too often we stop there. We forget that Baby grew up--then gave up His life for us. Too many times we forget that part until Easter.

But that's what Christmas is really about...it's more than the fact that Jesus came, it's why He came. He came because God loves us so much that He could not leave us where we were. He loves us so much He wants a relationship with us, and that could only happen through Jesus.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16, The Message)

You don't need more things to do this Christmas. But if you'll take a few minutes each day to focus on God and thank Him for Christmas, it will go a long way in keeping the crazy out!

How do you stay focused and keep the crazy out during the holiday season?

It's not too late to start an Advent reading to help you keep your focus. Here are some great resources to get you started:

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie
Jesus: Light of the World by Candace Crabtree

Free resources
The Hope of Christmas
Advent: Preparing to Celebrate Christ's Birth by Billy Graham

For kids & families
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Truth in the Tinsel
More than Candy
Check these 4 Advent Resources for kids

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It was my first Mother's Day as a mom...I had only been a mom for thirteen days. I was physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed.

Just a few days earlier, my own mother, who had been with me since my daughter was born, abandoned me. She had hugged me tight and said in her calm, motherly voice, "You're going to be fine. Happy Mother's Day." Then she got on a plane and flew home to my dad...as if he needed her more than I did!

I cried big, crocodile tears as I held my new baby, right there in the middle of the nursery. I had no idea how this little person and I would make it through the next 8 hours until my husband came home, let alone how I'd manage the next 5 years until she started school.

How was I supposed to take care of this little person when I couldn't even figure out how to put her in the baby carrier?

I was a mom, and all I wanted was my mommy. 

motherhood-note

Not only did we make it through that day, we eventually made it through the first year. Then the next, and the next. We even managed to add another baby to our family, and I learned the secret to motherhood: multi-tasking. I could cook dinner with one child in my arms, one around my feet, a dog scratching at the door, and a phone to my ear. Still, there were times I struggled.

Nine years into this parenting journey, I now realize those moments are  universal...life for moms is simply varying seasons of insanity. Some are less chaotic, but all are some level of crazy. And hard. And stressful.

I am blessed to have a legacy of strong and generous women in my family, and motherhood allowed me to see them in a new light. These are the moms who have had the greatest influence in my life:

motherhood-2My Grandmothers To the untrained eye, my grandmothers couldn't be more opposite: One raised her only  son as a single mom, working a 9-5 to keep the bills paid; the other worked at home, caring for her four children and any neighborhood kids who might need a safe place and a loving hug. One was a genius in the kitchen, with a specialty for comfort foods and chocolate chip cookies; the other's culinary repertoire included only macaroni and cheese. One would not live long enough to see me marry or to meet my children; the other carries on, serving her kids, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.

Although very different, each of these women served her family faithfully through long days of hard work. I'm sure there were many times they didn't feel like getting out of bed to go to work or take care of a family...Those weary days we mamas know so well. But they did it with a warm smile and eager hands, because that's what a mom does.

motherhood-3My Mom When I was younger, my mom represented all I had yet to learn and all I wanted to be. Married at 19 and a young mom at 20, I'm sure she wondered often if she was making the right decisions for her children, for her family. I've watched her sacrifice much over the years. She has worked alongside my dad in ministry and stretched grocery money to feed her family. She has sacrificed her own desires to create lasting memories for her children and now for her grandchildren, because that's what a mom does.

motherhood-4

My mother-in-law I've heard it said that men marry women who remind them of their mothers. If that's the case, I am truly honored to be in the same category as my mother-in-law. She and my father-in-law saw some difficult times over the years, suffering job losses that uprooted their young family. She worked hard, right alongside her husband, to put food on the table and raise three kids born within four years. The days were long and I'm sure her energy gave out long before her to-do list was accomplished. Still, she got up every day and did it all over again, because that's what a mom does.

Thanks to the examples of these women, I have learned what motherhood is truly about; I have learned to be thankful for what the chaos represents...a home, and a life, filled with love and family.

To my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law and the many other women I am honored to call family....thank you for your love, your example, and the legacy you've given me and my children.

To moms everywhere...I know you don't need to hear it, but you really are the rock stars.

And to you, weary, first-time mom...trust me when I tell you, "You're going to be fine...Happy Mother's Day!"

photo source

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I was up, showered, dressed...I even had on makeup...all before my kids came down for breakfast. That was an unusual feat for this not-a-morning-person mama. But this wasn't just an ordinary day. This was Mom's Valentine Tea at my son's preschool.

Not only was I excited to wear cute shoes and curl my hair, I had visions of my little guy and myself chatting it up with all his friends and their moms...just as I had done with his sister a couple years before. My visions of our perfect little date were interrupted by my son bounding down the stairs. I could not believe my eyes. There, before me, stood my son in his favorite sweats and Avengers T-shirt.

While Valentine's Day is about flowers and cards and candy and hearts, love isn't really about any of those things. | www.thereisgrace.com

"Is that what you're wearing to school?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could.

"Yup" he replied matter-of-factly, not even considering that The Incredible Hulk might not be appropriate attire for a Mother-Son Valentine Tea.

If there's one thing I've learned from his older sister, it's to choose my battles wisely, especially when they involve wardrobe choices. My mantra has always been, If it's modest and weather-appropriate, it's not worth the battle. So, I bit my tongue.

Still, there was no hiding my disappointment as I walked back to my bedroom.

"Uh-oh, what's wrong?" my husband asked.

"Have you seen what your son is wearing?" (yes, his son)

No further explanation was needed.

"I'm on it," my husband replied, quickly exiting the room to track down "his" son. He swept our little guy back upstairs, and I heard glimpses of great wisdom being imparted...

"This is a special day..."

"Mommy is going to your school..."

"You want to look nice for Mommy when she comes to your school, right?"

A few minutes later, my son arrived downstairs, looking like this...

love-is-2

Your heart just melted a little bit, didn't it? I know mine did.

My husband had recognized something that I, in my disappointment, had missed: a teachable moment. I think he was trying to teach our son about manhood and how a man treats a lady (and he did). But I think the greater lesson was about love itself.

While Valentine's Day is about flowers and cards and candy and hearts, love isn't really about any of those things. Those things express our feelings of love. But love is so. much. more. More than cards. More than flowers. More than a feeling.

Love is about putting someone else before yourself.

Love is sitting through two and a half hours of non-stop singing because your wife is a sucker for a good story.

Love is going to the pharmacy for medication when you are sick yourself.

Love is holding a scared child in the night or rising early to make a special breakfast.

Love is wearing a button-up shirt and vest when you really want to wear Iron Man. 🙂

love-is-3

But love isn't just the sacrifices we make for those closest to us.

It's also taking a meal to someone recovering from surgery or sickness.

It's stopping in the middle of your day to help someone in need.

It's taking the time to write a note, e-mail, or text to a friend who needs encouragement.

Jesus explained it this way,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

As you think about love this Valentine's Day, you don't have to jump in front of a bus for someone to show your love. You don't have to take a bullet. You don't even have to have a Valentine. You can show a little love by simply finding a way to put someone else's needs or desires above your own. I think we can all do that.

How has someone shown you love recently?

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Happy New Year!

I love ringing in a new year. After the chaos and hustle-bustle of the Holiday Season, it's nice to take a breath and start fresh. It's also a great time for setting goals.

If your goals include reading more, challenging yourself personally, growing in your relationship with God, or any combination thereof, I have five great books you will want to read this year (listed in no particular order).

5-books-to-read-in-2014

youll-get-thru-this1. You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado

In the way only he can, Max takes you through the life of Joseph and shows you how the very God who was with Joseph in the pit and the prison, and the same God who placed Joseph in an Egyptian palace, is the very same God who is working in your circumstances, no matter how bleak or grim they may seem. If you know someone facing a difficult life-circumstance, this is the book for them!

2. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson circle maker

Prepare to have your prayer life revolutionized. If you desire a stronger prayer life in 2014, you need to read this book. It will answer questions you've always had about why/how prayer is answered, and it will challenge you to go deeper in prayer and in faith. I read it last year and just pulled it off the shelf to read again.

3. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This timeless devotional grows better each time I read it. In fact, it's the only devotional I've read multiple times. I'll be reading it again this year. Yes, it's that good!

1000 gifts4. 1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Ann will challenge you in ways you never realized you needed to be challenged. With her comfortable and friendly writing style, she will gently urge you to "fully embrace" every moment you experience and learn to be truly thankful for it.

5. The Bible

I don't include this to be trite, or even because it's a "given." The truth is, it should be a given. As the highest all-time selling book, and the only one ever written by God himself, it should be at the top of the list. But I put it last intentionally. Because too often we (myself included) are quick to give lip-service to the promises and truths of the Bible, but we neglect to crack it open on a regular basis.

Now's the perfect time to change that. I intend to do so, and I would love for you to join me. I did this challenge last year on the blog. This year, we are doing it on Facebook. Here's how it will work:

  • Starting tomorrow (January 2), I commit to spend at least 30 minutes every day for 30 days in the Bible and in prayer. (You can do this in two, 15-minute increments if your schedule will not allow for a whole 30 minutes. And you can divide the time into Bible and prayer however you want.)
  • Each morning I will post a passage from what I've read on the There Is Grace Facebook page. (If you haven't already "liked" it, do it now so you won't miss any posts!)
  • I'll invite all of you to leave a comment and share a verse or two (or a thought) from what you read that day.
  • Don't know what to read or where to start? Here are some great tips to get you started.

Thirty 4 30-250

I can't wait to see what God does in 2014...let's get started!

What books would you add to the list?

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Last week, I sat in a hospital room, praying my son's lungs were strong enough to go home after a respiratory virus had flared his asthma, leaving his little body desperate for oxygen.

Yesterday, I sat hooked to an IV-drip for my sixth round of chemotherapy.

To say this month...this year...has been different would be an understatement. But as I sat in that hospital room, and in the recliner today, I realized...I am joyful. Not because of my circumstances or surroundings, but because of a not-so-easy lesson recently learned.

Joy

I love everything about Christmas...the carols, the cookies, the crazy shopping excursions, and the chaos. As a matter of fact, I embrace the chaos. I get entirely stressed out with lists and plans and commitments, and I love. every. single. exhausting. moment.

But I knew I would have to scale back this year. No big baking extravaganza. No crazed holiday shopping sprees. No frantic Christmas party planning. I knew this year would have to be simple.

I really struggled with the idea of being content with less this year. Less time. Less energy. Less fun (in my mind). Which all led to less joy.

Then, in a sermon recently on joy, our pastor made the following statement:

Joy is not dependent on what happens to us, or around us. It is a result of what has happened in us.

I'm not sure what he said right after that, because I was stuck on that statement. That truth I could not ignore. That thing I've been clinging to and spouting about for the last few months. Somehow I had forgotten it in the midst of my holiday pity party.

If God is good (and He is)...

If He loves me (and He does, and you, too)...

If He has a plan for me (which He does, and for you, too)...

And, if He is big enough (which He absolutely is)...

Then I can have joy. Not because of my situation. In fact, I can have joy in spite of my circumstances. Because my joy is not based on what happens to me or around me...it's a result of what God has done in me.

Joy exceeds emotion and sentiment. It is a supernatural result of a supernatural grace.

Suddenly my perspective changed. I started to find joy in the small things...

Like the fact that our hospital visit came on my "good week" when I was feeling well and could be there with my boy.

Or that having treatment the week of Christmas has forced me to back down from my normally-chaotic holiday schedule. And slowing down allowed me to find the joy again in Christmas.

After all, isn't that how joy came that very first Christmas? In the smallest of packages...to the unlikeliest of people...in the most unexpected place...on the most ordinary of days?

No one noticed the young couple who wandered into town.

No one gave a second thought to that manger outside of town where the couple bedded down for the night.

Until...the heavens split wide open with an announcement to a group of roughians on their night watch:

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

That GREAT joy came in the smallest form: a baby born to an unlikely couple on an ordinary day in the most unexpected place.

So, whether you need a little joy to rescue you from the craze of the Season, or you need a lot of joy to outshine the heaviness that overshadows your life at the moment, I pray you find this Good News...this GREAT JOY that has come to Earth. Because in Him, and only in Him, can our joy be complete.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 John 1:3-5, The Message)

christmas card
 

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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According to the Amercian Cancer Society, "more than 1 million people in the United States get cancer each year." That is a HUGE number! It's safe to assume, then, that you know someone affected by the dreaded, 6-letter beast.

If someone you know is fighting cancer, here are some easy and creative ways you can show them some holiday cheer this Christmas.

Gift ideas for cancer patients...from someone who's been there! | thereisgrace.com

{Note to my family and friends: This is not a shameless plug for gifts. 🙂 It is because of YOUR generosity these last few months, that I can share these fabulous ideas with others. Thank you!}

1. Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift cards
Cancer treatment typically means little energy and a lot of "lying around" time. If he's a reader, your friend or family member will appreciate gift cards from Amazon or B&N to stock his bookshelf, Nook, or Kindle.

ushakable bookStories of those who have battled cancer (and won!) are especially encouraging to someone in the midst of the fight. My story of overcoming "non-curative," stage-four cancer and wrestling with my faith through the battle are told in my book Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. It's available in paperback or Kindle and would make a great gift for someone facing  cancer!

2. i-Tunes gift cards
Nothing soothes the soul and lifts the spirits like some good music. It's the gift that will be treasured again and again!

3. Accessories 
What better time to play with fun accessories than when chemo treatments force you to do so. If you are comfortable shopping for her tastes, she'll appreciate some fabulous new hats, scarves, and jewelry when the time comes.

4. Etsy gift cards
If you aren't comfortable shopping that specifically, Etsy gift cards are a great option. She will find an overwhelming selection of unique hats, scarves and other accessories at Etsy.com.

5. Soft, cozy blanket, sweater, hoodie
There is nothing like warm, soft, coziness while going through cancer treatment, especially when the weather turns cold. And having a great sweater or hoodie for those "not-feeling-so-great" days is priceless!

6. Restaurant gift cards
Even on a "great" day, the thought of cooking dinner can seem overwhelming and exhausting. Being able to order in without worrying about extra cost is a great luxury. And for those days when she feels like getting out, she'll appreciate having that option, too!

7. "Treat" Baskets
Cancer treatment can mess with your appetite and your taste buds. Sometimes nothing sounds good. Sometimes something in particular sounds really good. Gifts baskets of his favorite baked goods, candies, coffees, teas, etc. can come in handy on those days when his appetite returns.

8. Yourself
Your love and friendship is the greatest gift of all. Send a note, a card, an e-mail or a text. Offer to take her to lunch (if she's feeling up to it). Stop by to visit for awhile. I guarantee those are the things she will treasure more than any gift you can wrap.

9. Your services
Do you make a mean lasagna? Is scrubbing toilets your specialty? Do you love to take in extra children? Offer these services to your friend. Bring a meal. Offer to clean her home. Take her kids out for a play date. An extra hand or two on the days she's barely scraping by is worth more than anything you can put a bow on!

10. Prayer and encouragement 
More than any packaged gift, I treasure the prayers of my friends and family. I am truly humbled when someone says they are praying for me. I do not take it for granted. I especially like the written prayers and words of encouragement...sent in a card, a note, an e-mail, or a text. Those are the ones I go back and read on the hard days. They snap me out of my "funk" and help me get up to fight another day.

compassionbag
Image by Compassion that Compels, used with permission

Many of these items are found in the Compassion Bags from Compassion That Compels. Consider blessing your friend or family member with a Compassion Bag, or donate to sponsor Compassion Bags for other cancer overcomers!

No one wins a battle alone. The greatest warriors have a dedicated army backing them up. You may not be able to fight the battle for your friend, but every word, every prayer, every act of kindness and generosity gives her the strength she needs to stay in the fight.

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.