Monthly Archives: November 2018

Looking for a Special Gift?

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

Recently, a friend posted this on her social media page:

Anxiety

Can you relate? Christmas can be this wonderful time of year with shiny packages and children filled with wonder… Or it can be a time for the adult kind of wonder. I wonder what I should buy my kids’ teachers, my boss, my in-laws, or even my spouse who says he needs nothing. I wonder if it’s rude if I don’t buy the secretary’s secretary something… I wonder how I’m going to have enough money to feed my family over the holidays let alone buy meaningful Christmas gifts. I wonder if everyone will get along at the family gathering. I wonder if I have anything worth wearing to that Christmas event. I wonder what folks will say about us. I wonder if a sick relative will make it to our party. I wonder if we can fit everything we need to do into our schedule.

The stress can feel overwhelming. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the season, you may realize another year has gone by and there’s not much to show for it. Instead of a list of blessings, you’re compiling a list of things to do, a list of what you have to buy, a list of work deadlines, and sadly, maybe even a list of regrets.

You want things to be so perfect for the people you love that you turn into Martha rather than Mary. You plan the meals, you decorate the house, you buy the gifts and you run yourself ragged, still feeling the anxiety that it may not be absolutely the dream you want it to be.

If this is Christmas for you, then STOP! Stop right now and take a moment and think about what the angels said when they announced that Jesus had arrived (in Luke 2). “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!” Isaiah foretold of the Messiah, saying But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” One of the verses that has stuck with me this time of year is John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

So, practically speaking, how can we enjoy more peace this season? I think part of the answer lies in the order of the holidays or seasons. Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. (And long before Thanksgiving started in the US, the harvest festival to give thanks came before the festival of lights.) So many people feel so uptight about the holidays that they start preparing early because there’s just not enough time in one month to get it all done… But, thanksgiving is important. Thanksgiving is necessary! Not the overeating and the turkey, but the actual giving of thanks.

When you are feeling anxious, stop and give thanks for ten blessings in your life. Why not make it a dozen? Thankfulness can bring us back into the moment where we are rather than worrying about what’s ahead. Thankfulness reminds us that all good gifts are from above – that God is all powerful and present with us. Thankfulness calms our hearts and minds as we humbly thank God for what we have verses focusing on what we don’t. Even folks outside the church suggest something similar for anxiety attacks, as shown in the picture below.

grounding

When you’re feeling anxious, ground yourself by thinking of your many blessings. Thank God for those people in your life who you love. Thank Him for the air you’re breathing, for the food you’ve eaten, for the wonderful smells of the season, for the warmth of your coat, for your family, for your friends, for the good in your life. Then try and remember that Jesus’ birth was a miracle – peace with God. Joy to the world! Don’t let anxiety over deadlines and expectations or what other folks may think ruin your peace this year. You have and you are more than enough. The Christmas season is the joy of the process rather than the finished product. Enjoy each and every moment with a thankful heart!

If you’re still feeling anxious, then pray. Ask God to ease your mind and cast your cares on Him. Find a friend and talk or perhaps go to a counselor. You are welcome to call me, and we can give thanks together. 🙂

I’ll end with this:

“‘Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” ~Isaiah 54:10

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Heartbroken. That word might be the best way to describe Hannah in the Bible when year after year she couldn’t conceive a child. Crushed. Wondering why God hadn’t answered her prayers, devastated that she was being provoked by a woman who had what she wanted…

But in all her time of weeping and anguish (as the Bible describes it), she was perhaps missing that her husband gave her a “double portion because he loved her” (1 Samuel 1:5). He asked her, “Why are you weeping? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” This time as I read this story, this last question really stuck out to me. Perhaps it was the BSF teacher saying she felt bad for the woman irritating Hannah who was likely feeling unloved that it made me think more about the situation. Or perhaps it was recalling times this fall when I was feeling devastated… when in reality I should instead be giving thanks.

This wasn’t the first time over the last few weeks that this theme had come up as I was studying the Bible. In Ruth, when Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth, she told the women there, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20). I always felt bad for Naomi – her husband and sons had died; she had a right to be bitter, right? But, the teacher this time asked, was she really empty? Was Ruth not standing right next to her? Ruth had pledged not to leave her side and took care of Naomi, yet Naomi was so focused on her hardships that she was perhaps missing the faithfulness and love of her daughter-in-law who was right next to her.

As I’ve experienced disappointing circumstances, I realize I am too quick to forget the many, many blessings I have. Can you relate? I focus too much on what I don’t have rather than what is right in front of me. For example, God has blessed me with a faithful husband who constantly shows me how much he loves me, wonderful kiddos who are funny and fun to be around, and so many sweet, sweet times together. I may want the “perfect” life where absolutely everything goes my way, but instead, I need to learn to give thanks in all circumstances. Not just the sweet times but also the bitter. When life feels down, I need to look up. Who is next to me? Who stands beside me? What is God working in the background on my behalf? Can I be content without what I *think* might be best and trust that what God has for me is even better?

If Hannah had conceived right away, she may have missed the miracle of having Samuel, who was known as an incredible prophet whose words God did not let fall to the ground. If Naomi wouldn’t have experienced the bitterness of losing her husband and sons, she would not have traveled back to Bethlehem and been part of the story and lineage of Jesus. Their tough times were really key to the greatest part of their stories…

So, don’t skip right to Christmas decorating and holly, jolly music and forget to give thanks… I mean really give thanks. Thanks for the little and the big things. Thanks for the sweet and even for the bitter. Thanks for the thing that is driving you crazy, trusting that God is working it all out for your good and His glory. Thanks for the person who is standing by your side to comfort you as you are going through the tough times. Thanks, even for the person irritating you… Only God knows the details of your story, but I believe He delights in the details of your life. He hasn’t forgotten your struggle. He hasn’t forgotten you. Only He knows how the story ends…

 

Dear God, thank You for the reminders in Your Word. Thank You that You are faithful and work all things for our good and Your glory. Please help us not neglect our loved ones when we’re feeling sad about our circumstances. We give You our hearts and our lives and trust You and Your timing in all situations. Thank You for being trustworthy. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!