Thursday, December 10, 2015

Prostitutes and Princesses {Day 10}

We started reading our Christmas devotional a few days early this year because we always fall behind and I always get frustrated:)
Not that I am a control freak or anything.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp is hands-down my absolute favorite devotional that we have ever done.  It is both visually and literarily beautiful, stunning into smiling silence even my eight year old!
So today we read about Rahab.  The prostitute.  I explained very carefully (so as not to open up THAT can of worms) what a prostitute is.  I read about the red rope, the two spies, the promise made and kept, and the faith of a harlot that saved both her and her family.  I read about grace...beautiful, irrational, heart-changing grace and how God took a prostitute and turned her into a princess.  And not just any princess, but the great-great-grandmother of King David.  And not just the great-great-grandmother of King David, but the (as Ann so sweetly calls her) the "many-many-many-times great-grandmother of JESUS."

And do you know what blessed my soul the most this morning? The wide-eyed delight and gasp of shock that my precious youngest three let loose when they heard that.  And when we asked the question...of how Jesus has been a lifeline to us?  My eight year old Ethiopian princess said, "He gave me a family, a good family, so that I don't have to be stuck in Africa with no food."
My son looked at her with surprise.  "You really had no food?"
"No, I really didn't."
Oh,  my heart.  After five years home, this is the first time I have heard her speak this matter-of-factly about her past.  And it was not out of a need to be dramatic, but out of a realization of what is compared to what once was.

What gratitude filled my heart that this little girl can see the beauty that has come from her hard, how Jesus was the rope that led her to safety and hope.  That she looks at me know with eyes of love and quietly sits close when we read together so that her cheek is touching my arm.

This is grace...beautiful grace.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Absolutely Nothing {Day 9}

I'm playing catch-up today.  This is the last full week of the semester for my homeschoolers and next week is mid-terms for my big kids who go to "regular" school.

I have never been more ready for Christmas break.

Laundry has piled up to gigantic proportions, the house is a study in clutter 101, and one of the dogs keeps foraging through the trash and leaving the evidence behind.  Lovely.

I got behind on my Revelation devotional...totally knew that would happen because that is how I after I finish this little post I am taking pen in hand and getting caught up.

Presents are (mostly) wrapped, the house is lit by colorful LED's (my first year with those and they are blindingly bright!) and so far the Elf has managed to move almost every day, though sometimes at mid-morning if my kids haven't noticed him yet.  ;)

I am craving still.  I am craving quiet, fire lit evenings and no homework or basketball games.  As much as I enjoy watching my kids play sports, I love watching them laugh at A Christmas Story from their spot next to me on the couch even more.  Family time is hard to come by in a season that is not only the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the busiest.

Christmas break is so close.  Just over a week away!  After that, we will CHILL the heck out.  We will sleep late and make cookies and eat too much sugar and get away from it all.  We will road trip and swim in heated pools and maybe even find a nice Whataburger on the way!  Doesn't that sound lovely?

So, I guess this post isn't really about anything.  It's like my own mini-version of a Seinfeld episode.  But, then again, maybe that is what we need.  Absolutely nothing but to be still.

Yes, my pen and journal await.  Revelation 8 and 9, here I come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Shepherded {Advent Day 8}

"Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."  Revelation 7: 15-17

Sometimes I read the news and I want to unsee everything I just saw.  I look at my children, at their peers, growing up in this hard, mixed-up, terror-infested world and worry threatens. Too many of them put on a good show, pretending there is nothing going on that should bring them to their knees in prayer and living life as if old-age is guaranteed.  Others, though the minority, have an inner maturity, an ability to see beyond the veil and long for the return of their Savior from a very young age.

I was once one of the former, choosing to ignore the potential of life being cut short, not realizing that life had not yet truly begun. God was distant and often displeased and I did not want to be near him.  I knew I didn't measure up to his standards and I wasn't ready to start trying.

Then something changed within me.  I began to grasp grace.  Maybe it is just the maturity that comes with adulthood.  Maybe it is watching my teenagers learn to navigate this hard world on their own.  Maybe it is the candid glances in the mirror when I see my wrinkles and gray hairs becoming more prominent.  But I just know that my focus has shifted.  I no longer hope Jesus waits until...whatever I thought I had to experience before I was ready for him.  Nope, as far as I'm concerned he can stop the madness right now and ride his white horse right into this world, whisking us all away in the twinkling of an eye.

We have a good, good shepherd.  He leads us to fresh water, to green grass.  He carries us through pain and tragedy and fear and rejection and death and promises eternity will be worth the journey.  Oh, how I long for that forever.  How I long to see my family and friends safely home and away from the hard of this life.

As Advent marches on, we can look forward in faith, in trust, in longing for the day that our faith will be made sight.  Our shepherd sees over every hill, across every valley, and he leads us gently.

Rest awaits, dear sisters.  When we are tired and stretched thin, we can turn our faces toward the One who holds the hanky and will gently wipe away every tear.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain...Hebrews 6:19

Monday, December 7, 2015

Coffee Stains {Advent Days 5-7}

It was the typical afternoon crash, especially for a Friday.  Too many late nights combined with too many early mornings had caught up with me and this girl was T.I.R.E.D.  My son had an occupational therapy appointment and I knew that, without a heavy dose of caffeine, I would be snoring in the waiting room.
We had a little time to kill so I took my three homeschoolers to a local coffee shop and got us all a treat.  I doctored my coffee up nicely and led everyone back to the car to drive across town to the Physical Therapy office.  As I sipped my African Skies it kept dripping in my lap.  The drink hole in the plastic lid was lined up with the seam of the cup and coffee was leaking every time I tilted it to my mouth.  I decided to try to turn the lid a little to get the seam on top (stupid me!) and, OOPS, the lid popped off and steaming coffee splattered all over me, all over my jeans and white sweatshirt.  Thankfully it didn't burn my skin but I was a mess and too far from home to turn around and get a change of clothes.  We had exactly fifteen minutes before the appointment so I darted a few blocks past the Physical Therapy office to Old Navy to hopefully find a cheap sweatshirt.
Talk about shopping to beat the clock!  I found a cheap and cute shirt, and grabbed a pair of jeans...even trying them on to be sure they less than ten minutes!  I paid, drove back to the PT office, and darted into the bathroom to change.  I walked out like I had planned to do this all along and stashed my stained and smelly clothes in the car, sitting down calmly to sip my coffee and fight sleep while my boy was in his appointment.

So tonight I was mulling this over and it struck me that there is a lesson in this mundane, coffee-stained story.  

When I came out of the bathroom with my new clothes on, there were different people in the waiting room than had been there when I arrived.  Those who saw me walk in saw the hurried, stinky version of me.  Those who saw me walk out saw me in new clothes...a signature sweatshirt and Rock Star cut jeans.  (High waisted...every over-40 woman's friend!)  They saw me sit quietly to finish the book I had been reading on my Kindle and probably thought I was a calm, laid back person.  They didn't see me yelling for wet-wipes as I drove down the road and hot coffee was steaming off my arms.  They saw the me that I like everyone to see, put-together and calm.

But you know what?  The frazzled coffee-stained mom is more the real me than the one in the new clothes.  Sure, I managed to hide the evidence in a plastic Old Navy bag in my car but those clothes are the ones I have worn for years.  Oversized, frayed and faded.  But when I got home, I still had to deal with the reality that those clothes needed to be washed.  The only other option would be to throw them away.

Do you see where I am going with this?

How often do I put on my calm, new-outfit self and pretend like I don't have coffee (SIN) stained clothes stashed somewhere?  Aren't we all guilty of being perky, bouncy, cheerleader Christians when we are really frazzled, frustrated, and faithless?  Why is it so hard to go out in public with stains?  Could it be because we think we are the only ones with them?

When I saw my friend this morning, a dear sister who I hadn't laid eyes on in person in a couple of years (even though we live in the same town), she quickly expressed concern and frustration with that child of hers who is clearly cut from different cloth than the others.  I saw the weariness in her face and felt so free in her presence because I know exactly what she is dealing with.  Loving someone who can be difficult, worrying that the struggle is the result of faulty parenting and just really wanting a break from the constant battle.  Yes, in her openness about her struggle I was put at ease to be open with mine.  Her lack of fear squelched mine.

This is how it is supposed to be!

When we let our brothers and sisters see our stains, maybe it helps them to reveal their own.  Maybe we are supposed to help each other do our spiritual laundry instead of stashing it in a plastic bag and pretending the smell is not coming from the back of our car.

Maybe, just maybe, this is what is meant by the words of Galatians 6:1-3...
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should
restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

I believe we are to look upon one another's stains with grace.  We are to help each other clean them up gently and make sure we are dealing with our own at the same time so that we don't become condescending.  God wants us to be real, to admit weakness and be strong for our brothers and sisters in their weak places while allowing them to be strong for us in our weak places.  
In this is safety.  In this is community.  In this is found true, Christ-honoring family.

coffee, spill, coffee cup, coffee stain, black coffee, messy, mess, clean up

Friday, December 4, 2015

Worth It {Advent Day 4}

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4:  2-8

This was the third year that I have asked God for (and received) a word theme for the new year.  In the past I had shared the word, but this year I did not because I felt like there was much unfolding that would need to take place before I would understand what God was teaching me.  I wrote the word in the front of my Bible and went on, not having a clue where this was going.  

The word was "worth."

Well, as I have been writing about over the past few days, this has been a hard year for me.  As I have confessed my weakness and looked at my days with fresh eyes I am struck with how God brings things full circle.  As the year draws to a close, here I sit...writing out the book of Revelation.  Writing it in cursive, taking my time, paying close attention to detail because every word is holy.  
Revelation...the vision given to John.  The glimpse of what is coming, what is in existence that we cannot yet see.  Encouragement to the Church as we await the promise of Jesus' return that he is, in fact, really coming for us. He will come soon and we are wise to long for that day.  God reminds us of what he has in store beyond this life with a foretaste of beauty beyond what our human imaginations can comprehend.

Picture it, or at least try.  Read the description of the throne.  A rainbow, flashes of lightning, peals of thunder.  A see of crystal clear glass.  God, seated on his throne surrounded by and the source of incredible beauty.

This, what John attempts to describe in his limited human vocabulary, is what awaits us!  Laundry, dirty floors, hurried schedules, persecution and hardships are all the Lord's refining work, preparing us for this...this unbelievably beautiful place that we will forever call home.  All the struggle, all the questions and fears, all the muddied stares into dim mirrors will be made clear and, my friends, all the junk we wade through now...even to the point of dying for our faith... will be WORTH IT.

Do you hear me?  It will be totally worth it!  Just as a new mama cradles her baby close immediately after the pain of childbrith or, in my case, after the heartache of parting with a grieving birthmother who walks away with tears streaming down her face, the joy is worth the pain.  Will the pain be remembered?  I believe so.  But it will be given the perspective of eternity, of how it fit into the tapestry that is our life in the context of the Kingdom of God.  As the world seems to fall into chaos and we fight to keep our families intact and teach our kids to think completely opposite of the twisted logic society uses to indoctrinate them we can lift up our eyes and fix them on Jesus.  We do our best but we remember, always, that it is not about us. Success or failure in any area of life is ultimately for the glory of God and we are only called to be faithful in whatever he places before us, not to measure our success by the world's standards.  My life may appear in some eyes to be a total disaster, but if I have been faithful despite the confusion then the One who writes my story will look at me and say, "Well done."

In the end, that is all that matters.  

Whatever the rest of my days hold, I can choose to trust God's loving hand is on me.  I can choose to believe his promises for me and those I love even when their lives don't look like I would have wanted them to because, the truth is, I didn't exactly walk a straight path to Jesus in my early years of life.  Far from it. Yet He brought me to himself and changed me from the inside out.  He has proven himself faithful over and over. In my life, and the lives of more people than I can count, God has taken rebel hearts and molded them into beautiful and strong servants.  When I don't trust him, I am choosing to ignore all the years he has spent proving himself to me.

But when I do trust him, I remember.  I remember the glimpse he gave to John, passed down to us over centuries.  I remember the stories of those who have gone before me, whose eyes lit up with wonder and smiles spread across disease-weary faces as they crossed of from this life to the next.  In that moment, with just one glance at glory, all the suffering was worth it.

For every one of us, no matter how trivial or extreme the suffering may be in the eyes of the world, Heaven will most certainly be worth it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mostly Dead {Advent Day 3}

     "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write:  'The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
     "I know your works.  You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."  
Revelation 3:1-3

My friend, Sandy, invited me to a Facebook group this week that is doing an unusual Advent devotional.  We are writing out, by hand, one chapter of the book of Revelation each day.  So far, it has been wonderful.
It totally appeals to my inner nerd.  I love me some pen and paper.  I like to take notes as I read books, underlining important sentences or phrases, and I like to take notes in church because I remember the sermon much better if I have had my hands involved in listening.  One thing I hate for our kiddos is that computers and tablets are replacing handwriting in schools.  I think that is a big mistake and hurts their ability to learn.  There is something about the scratching of a pencil on paper that sends louder signals to the brain, cementing the information.
That's why this devotional seems to be so effective to me.  It slows me down.  I have to pay attention to details, spelling, punctuation, where paragraphs begin and end.  I am reading and re-reading as I go and passages that I know I have read in the past are jumping out at me, like the one at the top of this post.

I think about my life, about the internal struggles I have been facing and the terrible attitude I have had toward them.  Most people would tell me I am a good wife and mom, a fun one, that they envy my relationship with God and the good times my family has.  And those things are often true.
I have the reputation of being alive, but I have to admit that I have been, in the words of Miracle Max..."Mostly Dead."

From "The Princess Bride"

Sigh.  Walking around mostly dead is mostly miserable.  When you are mostly dead, your eyes and ears are closed.  You may be physically in the same room with a hundred people, but for all practical purposes you are alone.

But Jesus tells us in these verses that we have a CHOICE.  If we didn't then the following phrases would never have left his mouth!  He tell the church (and the mamas and the wives and the sisters and friends) to WAKE UP.  

"Wake up," he says with eyes blazing intense.  "Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die."  
In other words, we are on our way out if we don't do something and do it quickly!  

"I have not found your works complete..."
Sisters, we have fallen short.  We were trying to do it all without him (again) and over and over Jesus reminds us that, without him, nothing will be complete.  
But with him?  ALL things are possible.  He is the author AND finisher of our faith.  He didn't just save us then step back to see how we did on our own!  No, he wants us to work alongside him.  He wants us to step when he steps and stop when he stops.  Rest when he rests and keep our eyes on him through it all.

"Remember what you have received and heard.  Keep it and repent."  
This reminds me of King David's prayer, when he asked God to restore the joy of his salvation.  When I remember what I have received (salvation, mercy, grace, instructions in God's love letter that will guide me through every circumstance of my life) and when I choose to walk in it, repenting of my failures and unbelief when they rear their ugly heads, then I will be awake.
NOT dead.

Jesus says in the last sentence, "If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."
Mostly dead mamas do not see or hear what is right in front of them.  Not only the lives of our families, but the fact that Jesus is right here, nearby, preparing to return at any moment.  If I am mostly dead, I will be utterly shocked when he shows up.  But if I am alive and my eyes are fixed on him?
I will see my King coming from a mile away!

Yes, I want to SEE.  I want to fully live right here, right now.  I want to be alive and eye to eye with this beautiful family that surrounds me.  Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.  I want to see you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Choosing Contentment {Advent Day 2)

Isn't it funny how, when God starts convicting your heart about something, He comes at you from several directions at once?

I awakened early yesterday morning, did twenty minutes on the elliptical trainer while listening to a sermon online and catching up on my Bible reading plan, then logged off and didn't check social media ONCE until my alarm went off at 8pm, giving me permission to check my newsfeeds.  I enjoyed my kids, took the oldest for a quick run to Wal-Mart and took special notice of his deepening voice and his daily-growing height as we walked together, and went to bed proud of my bad self.

Except I didn't go to bed.  Well, at least not on the first attempt.  One delay after another and the next thing you know I was turning in at 11:30, which nixed any willpower I had to get up at 5:30 and work out.

I didn't even make it 24 hours, y'all.

So I got up as usual today.  I resisted the urge to snark when a kid copped a 'tude and worked through the day's lessons with my three homeschoolers.  At lunch I sat down and began to scroll...
WAIT just one darn second.
Scroll?  Didn't I set an alarm for 8pm to prevent this very thing?
I suck, y'all.  I totally suck at self-discipline.
I turned off my phone in disgust and sighed.  My youngest son walked up to me to tell me something and I made it a point to look him in the eye and smile, to kiss his beautiful, full lips before he walked away with a grin, and remind myself that I am not going back.  No way.

After our school day ended I sat down for some Bible Study time and turned on a podcast.  It was by Priscilla Shirer and, let me tell you, it was no accident that it is what I happened upon today. The title of the podcast is Surprising Satisfied and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

She talked about our terrible habit of striving, of always hurrying through life.  Especially during hard seasons. She said, "We sleepwalk through now in order to race to the next thing."
I am so guilty of this, on an almost daily basis!

In the years my husband was in medical training, I "couldn't wait" until he got out of school.  Then I "couldn't wait" until he was out of residency.  I "couldn't wait" to have kids.  Then I "couldn't wait" to have more kids!  Then I "couldn't wait" until he had a real job that actually paid all of our bills.  I "couldn't wait" til my kids were potty trained.

Do you see a pattern here?  Even in the midst of the sweetest seasons of my life, I always wanted more...the next good thing.  So she challenged me.  She said I need to resolve to:
1.  Embrace the current season of my life.  That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It includes the stuff that I was sure I "didn't sign up for" but that God apparently signed me up for because He filters everything through his big, loving hands.
2.  Maximize the time in this season.  Look my children in the eye, even when they are angry or seem to be rejecting everything I am trying to teach them.  Appreciate what makes them who they are.  Love my husband with all that I am.  Let the things that I have had to put on the backburner stay there until God brings them out to the front.
3.  Resist the urge to hurry through the hard times or circumvent the journey altogether.  Eucharisteo:  Ann Voskamp's sweet reminder that, whether in the easy or hard we are told over and over in Scripture to live a lifestyle of thanksgiving.  There is a reason for everything.  Hard has a purpose.  Without suffering we are a weak-kneed and useless people.  (And so are our children...but that is a whole other post!)
4.  Love with a spirit of contentment.  She defined contentment in a way that I have never heard before.  "Sufficiency that comes from the Holy Spirit."  It all boils down to trust, doesn't it?  Trust in the sovereignty of God, trust in the goodness of God, trust that he sees and knows and is using every circumstance, both good and hard, to conform me (or my family) to the likeness of His Son.  It is being calm, not striving to "just get through the day."  It is stopping and looking around for reminders that He is still at work just as He has always been.  He never sleeps, nor does he slumber.

I don't want to miss out on God.  I don't want to miss out on the here and now with my family.  I want to be a woman who is not blindsided by difficulty and ends up in the fetal position out of sheer panic.  That is no measure of faith.  I want to stand firm in the face of the storm, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and let Him fight the battles instead of trying to wrench the sword out of His hand.  After all, that sword is way too heavy for me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Joylessness and the Cure {Advent-Day 1}

I have never felt less like putting up Christmas decorations than I did this year.  The lack of enthusiasm bothered me.  I looked in frustration at the boxes upon boxes of Christmas stuff that I have collected over nearly twenty years of marriage and felt burdened at the thought of having to get it all out then put it all away in January.

This is not my norm at all.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  Jesus, lights, sparkly ornaments, Santas and Snowmen make me happy.  Or at least they did.

What was wrong with me this year?  Why the blahs?  Why would decorating my home feel like a chore instead of a joyous task?  My kids were excited.  They happily helped their daddy carry the boxes downstairs.  They excitedly unpacked their own special ornaments (We get them a new one each year) and set up their little trees in their rooms.  But me?  I felt like a grouch.  A Scrooge.

Bah, humbug.

Then a text came through from my sister-in-law.  It was a photo of their baby, staring in wonder at their tree, her beautiful face lit up by the lights.  My heart ached and I realized that my problem is me.
I keep wishing for what has passed and struggling with what is now.  I miss having babies and toddlers.  My youngest is eight and my oldest is fifteen and these parenting years are hard.  My biggest worry used to be getting them to like carrots or potty train.  Now it is driving, relationships, and preparing them for adulthood The years are growing very short.  The pause button has been pressed on some of my dreams and the delete button has been pressed on others.  I have grown weary and self-centered and resentful and the inability to be excited about Christmas for crying out loud is a terrible indicator of the junk lurking in my sinful heart.  I am tired.  Stretched thin.

Then Sunday came.

Sunday's sermon was unusual.  A British missionary told colorful stories in his thick accent and reminded us who know Jesus of the importance of the gospel while admonishing those who do not believe that, despite what the world tells them, Jesus is exactly what they need.  He told the story of being forced to get a shot as a child at the doctor's office and realizing as an adult that if the doctor had given in to his childish tantrum he would have died that year at the age of seven.  In his words, "He didn't give me what I wanted, but he gave me what I needed."

This has resonated with me, cycling through my mind over and over and over.  What, exactly, do I want? Peace in my home, children who love each other and love Jesus, time to write my book that is not even halfway finished, and a clean house.  This all sounds reasonable on the surface, but the Lord is digging deeper.  Uncovering the root of my frustration.  And the truth is, I want easy.

There.  I said it.

I want things to fall into place while I watch with a smile, for my kids to rise up and call me blessed and my husband to praise me in the marketplace but I have allowed the frustrations of these years to rob me of my joy in serving.  I have stopped investing blood, sweat and tears and just settled for bitterness.  I have not exercised in weeks, stay up too late scrolling through my news feed, and long for the early years of parenting when my babies adored me and I happily wiped up their messes because I was just so thrilled to be a mama that I would do anything for these little angels in my charge.

King David prayed in Psalm 51, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit."  He had sinned with Bathsheba and was coming to the Lord in repentance.  He knew he had become ineffective for the kingdom of God.  That is why he continued by saying, "Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You."

My children are watching me.  What are my actions or inactions telling them?  Do they feel treasured, worth sacrificing sleep, time, and energy for?  Or do they feel like they are burdens to me?  Oh, how it grieves my heart to think of all the ways I have failed this year.

A joyless Christian is an ineffective evangelist.
A joyless mother cannot effectively lead her children in the ways of Christ.  

Now, lest you think I have disliked being a mom this year, I want to be sure to tell you I have not.  I have loved so much of the time I have been given with my children this year.  There have been beautiful milestones and moments of tenderness that I will forever treasure.  But my lack of joy as Christmas approaches caused me to stop and realize that sin was lurking and, unless I face it head-on, it will grow and continue to wreak havoc in my life.

So, how do I combat this?  How do I replace bitterness with joy?

Step 1.
Get off of social media.

Ok, ok.  We have all done "fasts" and that is not what I am talking about here.  Facebook is a part of modern communication.  Without it I would lose touch with too many people I care about.  But how often do I need to check it?  Not as often as I do, I assure you.  In the time I have spent mindlessly scrolling through my news feed, how many books could I have read?  How many pages could I have written?  How many times could I have read the Bible?  How many games could I have played with my kids?  So my plan is to put social media where it belongs.  I will set an alarm on my phone for once per day and I will only check my news feed at that time.  I am turning off all push notifications, etc, in order to make it less tempting.

Step 2.

I have GOT to make this a priority again.  First of all, I am not getting any younger.  Eating healthy is good but not enough.  My Dad had quadruple bypass surgery a couple of months ago and, because he has always been so active, he recovered in record time.
Would I?
I am going to set my alarm and get up earlier.  I have to.  If I don't exercise first thing in the morning it simply will not happen at all.

Step 3.

I am writing a book.  I'm thirteen chapters into it.  It is never going to finish itself so I am going to have to set aside time for it if I really want to complete it.   And this blog!  I mean, I really enjoy telling you what is on my heart and creating a community of women who encourage one another.  But I don't write often so most of you probably forget to even check because there is rarely anything new here!   Remember the decision to set my alarm and get up earlier?  I can use a few of those minutes to write, as well.

Step 4.
Pray and read God's Word.

This is really step one, but because of my messed-up priorities this has fallen aside...again.  Satan has had a heyday with me.  "Keep her busy and the first thing she'll drop is prayer."  Yep.  He was right.  But I don't have to be such an easy target, do I?  Short, desperate prayers become my norm when I am stretched thin. But God wants more from me.  He wants time.  He wants relationship and intimacy.   Kinda hard to have that with someone who never actually talks to you or lets you talk to them, right?

Step 5.

I was a really fun mama to littles.  As they have gotten older, I have become less fun.  In fact, the lack of exercise, sleep, and joy has made me grouchy.  I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  I want to run with my babies and splash in the pool.  I want to care less about a clean house and build relationships that are solid and forever.  I want my husband to look at me with pride and take joy in the lighter atmosphere of our home.  I realize that, because I am home with kids all day, I have the power to set the tone of our home.
It is time to dance again.

What do I want?  My flesh wants easy.  But God, He knows what I need.  He knows that, without pruning, there can be very little new growth.  He is pruning me.  It is painful.
But it is what I need.

If you are struggling with finding joy this season, will you join me?  Comment with your name and what you plan to do to combat the joylessness and let's pray for one another.  Share this post with your friends and encourage them to get a game plan.  Let's make this Christmas Season a time of fresh beginnings.  Like my baby niece who looked at wonder at the tree full of lights, let's encourage one another to see our role as wives, mothers, and daughters of the King with fresh eyes!