ChristmasWithin

Christmas is Coming!

With timely precision it arrives like clockwork.

Ready or not…December 25th is right around the corner!

Does that evoke panic or excitement in you?  Perhaps a little of both?

It does for me!

Why not ease our panic-stricken hearts by joining me in a cyber sing-a-long?

All together now:

Christmas is coming,

The goose is getting fat,

Please put a pennyIn the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny,

A ha’penny will do,

If you haven’t got a ha’penny,

Then God bless you.

That’s the spirit!  (smile)

At first glance, it seems obvious that the song is about:

  • an animal (which will be sacrificed and enjoyed by all in celebration of the Christmas season), and
  • the need for others to be charitable and generous (being grateful for what we have by being sensitive and generous to others who have less).

But I see another idea emerging – which highlights the need for preparation.  

Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed reading yours (and others) blogs.  And many of you have proved that you are no Christmas-preparation slacker!   You have written on everything from:

  • Preparing Hearts (how we can celebrate Jesus in the moments leading up to Christmas and not get caught up in the materialistic side of things) to 
  • Preparing Mantles (just finished mine – see below) to 
  • Preparing for Guests (I have 20 coming!) to
  • Preparing Food (keep those recipes and gift ideas coming) to
  • Preparing Strategies (in anticipation of connecting with more people in the coming year, and accomplishing more, or becoming a more efficient & effective blogger).  

So many great thoughts and ideas! Each offering a unique set of benefits and blessing to those wishing to delight and indulge themselves.    

How wonderful that we can partake of each other’s gifts!


But, what is on my mind today friends, aligns with those who enjoy probing the inward journey of the heart.  

We like to understand where we are on the journey of life.  We enjoy watching God work his miracles in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.  We want to go deeper, but are often frustrated by our humanness that gets in the way.  We know that we, like sheep, are prone to wander away from the God we love and live for. 

Do you want to become a more authentic you?  Less of a doer and performer – and more of a be-er?  Do you, like I, want to live for the approval of God alone – and not for the praise of men? 

Does this describe you? 

Then read on my friend. 

Christmas has always been and always will be a wonderful time to reflect upon the amazing story of God; A story that has relevance to our humanness, our past, and our future!  

As we share and grow together in this writing community, I’m wondering:

  • How has this past year prepared you for the coming year?  Or let me say it another way: What has he been up to WITHIN you this past year?  Can you identify areas of your life that Jesus has been trying to make beautiful as he seeks ‘to work mightily within you’ conforming your likeness to his?   and….
  • What might God want to do WITHIN you as you walk through the remaining Christmas season? Before we begin the process of making our New Year resolutions, commitments, and promises, I invite you to take a few moments to reflect with me on the past year – as we anticipate all God has in store for us in the year that lies ahead.   

Ask yourself:

1) What kind of things has God been doing in my life this past year in classroom of my life…in that everyday mundane place where I live and move and have my being?  In the trials that I have faced? In the life or career-transition I find myself?  In the loss of a loved one?  As I begin my new life as a follower of Jesus Christ?  As I move forward in a new job/ career/ ministry?  As I overcome areas of sin and guilt and regret?How is God teaching or healing you and trying to move you into places of more freedom?

2) Does my life look more like Jesus now than it did in January of 2011?  How so?  Why not? (This is not intended to provoke guilt or condemnation…just an honest assessment that you can talk to God about).  He loves you.  Do you know this to be the greatest gift of Christmas?

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  1 John 4:10

3) How might Jesus want to use the things I’ve learned this past year to prepare me for what will take place in the coming year?  How does my past and present prepare me for tomorrow? What relevance does one have on the other?

For me, honestly…

outwardly, things may look pretty normal, but within me…this past year has evoked a wave of unsettling activity somewhere deep inside me.  On top of the many issues I’ve wrestled with this past year…I think I may be going though Parenting Withdrawal, aka: Empty Nest Syndrome.

Okay I’ll just come out and say it…wait for it:

“Hi my name is Betsy, and I’m an empty nester”

While I know that it helps to acknowledge my new reality,

it’s another thing to embrace it!

In spite of my restlessness, I also feel a great sense of accomplishment!

My imperfect, yet wonderful life of balancing kids, family, work, and ministry has given me more that I ever deserve!  For every challenge and failure I’ve faced as a parent, I’ve experienced a double measure of God’s grace, joy, and love!

My kids are all doing amazingly well (you can read about them on “My Big, Loud, Crazy Family’ page: http://wp.me/P1PCiu-22).  And I can’t wait to be with them all when they start rolling into town next week.

I am blessed beyond measure and I am grateful for God’s grace that has sustained me over the long haul which equates to a total of 33 years of parenting and:

  • 72 months of pregnancy
  • 14 years of diapers
  • the family dynamics of 90 interactive relationships (not including those members that have since been grafted into the family through marriage)
  • countless sleepless nights
  • endless hours in the car shuffling kids from here to there
  • the highs and lows of (hundreds) of athletic games (all 8 were athletes)
  • who knows how many homecomings & proms & sleepovers (which should be called ‘stay-up-all-nighters’)
  • the management &  juggling of calendars filled with activity upon activity
  • various crisis & health challenges (yes, we’ve had some huge scares!)
  • periods of financial struggle
  • bouts of marital strain
  • I could go on and on.

But I wouldn’t trade a day of it!  

So…what’s all the internal fuss about?  

“Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God!”

All I can conclude at this point is this: a major season of my life – raising my eight kids, is OVER!  DONE!  FINISHED! 

No big deal right?!  That’s what I thought!  

Wrong!

Before my youngest son left for college this fall, I spent his senior year indulging myself in moments of  various ‘lasts’… my last ‘Parents Night’ on the football field; last wrestling tournament; last getting-my-house-tepeed; last Awards Banquet; last Open House; last HS Graduation & graduation party; last shopping-and-packing up-for-college…and a host of other ‘lasts’.

I made a conscious effort, as each event took place, to take in the moments as they happened.  I wanted to savor and celebrate them rather than grieve them.  

By God’s grace …they were more ‘sweet’ than ‘bitter’. 

Having run my parenting marathon of 33 years, Jesus has met me so tenderly at various points and whispered words of encouragement to my soul and I am thankful for those moments.

But the truth is…since dropping our last-born off at college, I strangely continue to find myself lacking in the area of contentment, clarity, and vision.

I’m restless…even anxious at times about the future. My identity is being altered…and…when I stop long enough to let myself dwell on it, I have to admit – that at the core of my being…

I lack a clear sense of purpose.

For me, the past year has been about surrender.  And that journey within is still a work in progress.  

For me, surrender this past year has meant:

  • Giving to God my need to know what tomorrow or the coming year will bring. For, ‘Who am I that I should understand’ what God may or may not be up to in my life and in the life of those I love and am called to serve? (Thank you Justin & Falon Unger for those lyrics to your beautiful song…they speak to that deep place in my soul).
  • Letting go of areas of pride.
  • Being honest with myself about wrong motives and insecurities I still have.
  • Changing the way I think about leadership – that it’s more about follower-ship and serving others than it is any title or worldly accomplishment!
  • Being willing to let God be God in the details of my life as well as the throne of my heart.
  • Walking into the unknown with childlike faith…my hand in God’s – knowing he knows much better than I what is best for me – and what will ultimately bring him the most glory!
  • Remembering that I’ve been bought with a great price…and that my life is not my own.
  • Giving up my plans to become a published author – unless God gives me to okay to proceed in order to accomplish his purposes (and not feed my ego)! 

When I allow God into my moments of fear, confusion, doubt and uncertainty and give myself time to both celebrate & grieve my changing identity, he comes.  Quietly.  Reassuring me.  In his presence, all is well. 

Although a season of my life has come to a close, I know God has something wonderful in store for me.  I want this next season of my life to be more about Jesus and less about me!  He is so worthy to receive all the glory and praise of everything good in my life.  

In Jesus Christ…who speaks to me in 1000 places and through lovely, challenging books like one thousand gifts (thank you @AnnVoskamp), and so many blogs (Bonnie Gray, Judy Douglass, Michael Hyatt and too many others to name)…I find great comfort…and peace…and hope…and encouragement…and strength!  

God has a way of letting the right person with the right words find me at just the right time.  So, although I may not always let you know, I want to say Thank you for your words!  Keep writing!  God is using you!  

So how can we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our amazing Savior?

By being thankful for the past, hopeful for the future, and allowing ourselves to be generous with his love in the right-now moments of our life.  

This Christmas, I am asking God to prepare my heart for more of Him!

  • More of his truth! 
  • More of his heart for the lost, lonely, confused, and hopeless.  
  • More of his enabling power to comfort others with the same comfort I have received. 
  • More of his peace when I feel my heart getting anxious. 
  • And an increased measure of faith to follow him – wherever the coming years leads me. 

And I’m asking him the same for you!

For it is only in Jesus that true joy and peace will ever be found!

Christmas is Coming the Goose is Getting Fat!  

Are you ready?  

Will you allow God access to the recesses of your heart?  Are you prepared to open wide your heart for more of Jesus? 

How kind of God to prepare for us a Savior!  

He is Christ the Lord!  

For…”He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 

And how wise we would be, to be as generous in the giving of ourselves, as Christ has been to us!  May we give him the whole of all we are and ever hope to be as we live in gratitude for all he has done and will continue to do on our behalf!

Until the next time, Happy Preparing friends!

bs

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