Joy to the World

Written by: Gena Christofferson

Do you struggle to show, share or be joyous this time of year?

November is a rough month for me. Most years it sneaks up on me and I start to blame the changing seasons for my off mood. Then I will receive an email reminding me to say Happy Birthday to my Aunt Patty. Aunt Patty passed away several years ago. Then there are the Facebook posts wish my Grandpa Don Happy Birthday in Heaven. He passed away in 2011. Not long after that we will see someone remember my Grandpa Jack who passed away in November a few years ago. Most of you would think November 20 would be the worst day for me. For those of you that do not know, November 20, 1993 was the day that my 2nd born child, Kylie Jo passed away.

I don’t talk about Kylie often- it’s awkward. People don’t know how to react to the idea of losing a child. And people REALLY don’t know how to react to me because I don’t suppose I react like the typical parent of a child who has died. Typical is not even a proper word because although we all share something in common – it affects each of us in a different way. Grief is about as unpredictable as life is.

I know many people who are deeply grieving their losses – years and years later – and then there’s me- I don’t normally get sad or weepy. I have very happy memories of life with Kylie and especially the last few weeks of her life. I was able to take a few weeks off work to just rock her and sing to her and my biggest pleading to God was not that she would be miraculously healed but that I wouldn’t be the one to discover she had died in the middle of the night. God answered that prayer for me.

I am thankful for the short time we had with her and I am even more thankful that she has spent much more time healthy and whole in Heaven rather than in pain here on Earth. I am selfish about a lot of things in my life but somehow when it comes to life and death and the hope of Heaven – I can separate myself from my loss and grief here on Earth and focus on the reward that awaits us. Please don’t take that to mean that I don’t get sad here and there or that I don’t miss my loved ones nor do I judge how anyone else grieves their losses. I just choose not to dwell in that grief.

The months of November and December each year are the “Holiday’s – where we are bombarded with reminders of Joy and where to find it. I think as a society we sometimes forget that finding that Joy and the source of Joy can be ever so hard. Please extend grace to those who are struggling. You may not be able to see their struggles but just know everyone has one and sometimes the best thing you can do is share a smile, a hug or a shoulder and say nothing at all.

We must remember what scripture tells us: “Weeping may stay overnight but there is joy in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b CSB – and for me sometimes there is joy in the mourning.

I am one of the lucky ones- one of the ones who know Jesus and has faith and hope for the future. I know God gave his Son over to die for me and for you. “As the Father loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11 CSB

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Gena Christofferson is a bible loving wife, mother and grandma! She is an aspiring bible teacher, speaker and writer working to encourage others to gather and dwell together in fellowship with one another and God. Gena would love to connect with you on her blog www.gather2dwell.com or on Facebook at Gather2Dwell.

Joy To The World, The Lord Has Come

Written by: Doretta Zinck

Greetings!

When’s the last time you jumped for joy? Really and truly did the dance? Maybe you won something, got that promotion or reached a hard- to- attain goal?

Congratulations on your accomplishment…but while you feel great happiness as you’re jumping and screaming remember, it is not joy. At least not the joy the Bible talks about finding as a strength and foundation for our daily lives.

Romans 15:13 (NIV) “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you my overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Happiness is not an emotion that we learn; we get it right away! Joy is an emotion we must develop and teach ourselves to intentionally choose every day. It’s like exercising a muscle, it takes time and endurance training to have the strength to call on when needed.

Being happy as a result of good circumstances taking place is like walking on shifting sand, we can’t rely on having good things happening all the time. Happiness is fleeting while joy is a staying power inside of us, part of who we are as Christ followers.

In the western world our search for contentment has been skewed by the pursuit of mountains of material goods and wealth or success and fame. Some tend to settle for a second rate happiness that “stuff” gives. The feeling passes and we’re on to the next item or acknowledgement. This can become a lifestyle and grow into an addictive behaviour pattern. But joy runs much deeper than that, deeper than wealth or fame ever could, for joy is that steady under current that exists without being influenced by the temporal highs and lows of everyday life.

Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV) “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

Training ourselves to choose this joy is a gift we can give ourselves, and releasing the idea that we can experience joy in and through every situation or circumstance is freedom. We begin to comprehend the spiritual truth that nothing trumps the joy of knowing that we are in perfect standing with God because of Jesus.

Lovely One, you have a choice to live joyfully regardless of your circumstances. Sound idealistic? Sound impossible? Things can happen around us that may rattle us but not destroy us, sadden us but not crush our spirit. Life may present challenges that test us in a situation but we can choose joy, knowing that though all around may fail He will never leave us or forsake us. Now that is a reason to dance, yes, dance for joy!!!

Joy to the world the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!!!

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Doretta Zinck is a freelance artist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can check out her amazing talents here: (https://www.facebook.com/ArtbyDorettaZinck) Her and her husband Phil have two adult daughters both actively involved in ministry. Doretta is a Registered Professional Counselor and also teaches young adult Bible Studies. Her passion is to encourage people in their journey with Christ.

The Source Of Our Joy

Written by: Rebecca Dotson

We poured the milk and pulled the hot sugar cookies out of the oven, carefully baked to perfection just the way Santa, or dad, likes them. The gifts were wrapped with attention to detail and placed under the gorgeous Christmas tree, laced with artificial snow. The crafts were made, the songs were sung, and the bannister leading up our staircase was decorated with perfectly tied garland and bows. In this moment, when the PJ’s came on and the lights went off, there was so much anticipation for me as a child.

Do you remember this moment?

The anticipation of Christmas morning is often filled with wonder, curiosity and self-reflection. The anxiety of, “Which one of Santa’s lists did I make?” that comes on Christmas Eve reminds me so much of life and the way that I often view my strengths, my shortcomings, joy and God’s favor in my adult life.

But joy always came in the morning.

The sun rose, if I slept that long, and the alarm went off. My heart would start racing as I opened the bedroom door and asked, “Can I come out now?”. As I turned the corner, I fully embraced time with my family, sticky-sweet pancakes and sausage and the giving of gifts specifically picked out with care for the recipient. Such unexplainable joy was present, absent of the worries that filled the heart on Christmas Eve.

I use a secular example as a metaphor for how we sometimes feel during the advent season. The “joy that comes with the morning” that David refers to in Psalm 30 may be something that is fairly easy for you to embrace this holiday season. But I would imagine there are some of us who are fixated on our shortcomings, our season of life and what we hoped this Christmas would look like.

Maybe you’re not sure if a wayward child will visit this Christmas.
Maybe you faced a divorce this year, and you’re not sure how to navigate the holidays with your children.
Maybe you’re still single, and once again, you don’t have a date to that Christmas party.
Maybe you miscarried this year and you have no idea how to face your family and this highly anticipated day with the longing in your heart to be called “mom”.

The definition of joy is “a source or cause of delight”. In the face of life, and all that it brings us, we have the privilege of choosing to let our cause of delight be Jesus this holiday season. But this privilege is a choice in the face of disappointment and less than desirable life circumstances.

However, if we focus on circumstance instead of the Savior, we are robbing ourselves of the Source of our joy – the true joy we have in knowing Jesus.

A Sunday school teacher of mine in elementary school shared an acronym for joy that has stuck with me for years. She said, “Joy is about having our priorities in the order of Jesus, others and then yourself.” We have so much to be grateful for and to “joy” or “delight’ in during this holiday season and so much truth that we can dwell on, even in the midst of hard times.

To be intentional about having a heart of gratitude and leaning into your true Source and Cause of delight, I challenge you to start a gratitude journal. Just try it until the new year! Who knows – maybe the habit will stick. Each night before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful for.

Some way you were able to bless someone that day.
A truth from Scripture you were reminded of.
A quality of God that you read about.
Someone you are thankful for and why.

In this season of giving and reflecting, this habit will help us “joy in Jesus” each day. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 6, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Heavenly Father,

Let our joy come from You this holiday season and always. Lord you are a good, good Father that you would send Your only Son to earth to do the unimaginable. To be born of a virgin, live a perfect life and then ultimately pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross. Help the “source of our delight” remain in You always and especially in this season. Your Word is never-changing and You are never failing. Help us claim these truths daily.

In Your Name,
Amen.

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Rebecca Dotson is the Founder and Chief Hatmaker of 818 Ministries based in Knoxville, TN (www.818Ministries.com). 818 Ministries is an organization dedicated to donating handmade hats and handwritten letters of encouragement to patients facing serious illnesses. This journey started for Rebecca after her mom’s victorious battle with breast cancer in 2014. She’s a marathon runner, coffee addict, bucket-list enthusiast, Jesus follower twenty-something on a quest to leave people better than she found them and knowing Jesus more fully than when she met them. Follow her (@rebecca.dotson) and 818 Ministries (@818ministries) on social media!

Is My Joy Evident To Others?

Written by: Rachel Shaw

Through my life, there aren’t very many memories that I can easily recall, but the ones that stand out so vividly are the ones that have changed me. A few years ago, a man walked into the front doors of our church in Amherstburg and I greeted him, welcoming him to the church. I knew pretty quickly that I recognized him as a customer at a local grocery store that I worked at. So, he continued attending the church over the next couple of months and we would talk from time to time. One day, the man approached me after church and began telling me that as he came through my till at the grocery store throughout the years, he noticed that over time something had changed in my demeanour. Since then, he had always wondered why that happened. I asked him to explain a little more about what he meant, and he said that I was more joyful. I was happier and I had a genuine smile. I asked him about when he started to notice this change in me and he told me it was the spring of 2010. I was amazed and told him that in May of that year, I gave my heart to the Lord and my life had been changed. I couldn’t believe that this man recognized the change in me!

As the years go on and the pain of life’s trials becomes more real, I feel that I have been losing that joy that was once so evident. Recently, our Pastor has been taking the congregation on a journey of restoring our joy from the inside out. He challenged us to find our joy from feeding our Spirit and spending time with the Lord instead of being tossed around by the trials of daily life. I’m learning that life will never be perfect but even through the difficulty; I can still have the joy of the Lord. Lately, my prayer has been, ‘Restore in me the joy of my salvation’, as I fix my eyes on Jesus and walk with Him in the midst of life’s storms. I challenge you women, to ponder on the questions “What gives me joy?” and “Is my joy evident to others?”

As we enter the Christmas season, be reminded of Jesus’ birth. Become joyful that he has saved you from your sins, and has called you to an eternal life with him!

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Rachel is a Christ follower, a wife to a Youth Pastor, and a mother of a one year old. She is a Child and Youth Worker at the Women’s Shelter in Chatham-Kent. Her family attends at Evangel Community Church and has a passion for young people. She enjoys long walks on the beach and warm chocolate brownies.

JOY

Written by: Angela Mercer

Earlier this year a dear friend of ours passed away. After a fierce battle with cancer, He went home to be with the Lord. During the months leading up to his death there were other circumstances in our lives that were heavily laid on our shoulders as well and it was everything in me to just breathe.

As pastors we have witnessed our fair share of heartache, we have walked people through the death of their friends and even children. It is never easy but our friend passing away hit uncomfortably close to home. My husband had been quite close to this young man and our kids loved him a lot too. It was just a really difficult time. I am sure as you read this you can relate.

There was one week in particular where my emotions were just so raw that I would burst to into tears at the most inopportune time. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like it. It took me off guard and I felt I had no control over it. I would feel my blood pressure rise and I could barely catch my breath. I felt like I was unravelling.

I remember the moment I had with the Lord like it was yesterday. I was feeling so overwhelmed. I can’t imagine what our friend’s parents were feeling or his wife, all I knew is that if I was in that much pain I couldn’t imagine how they were feeling. The heaviness in my heart was beyond comprehension. I cried out to the Lord. I felt like I was sinking and the weight was too much to bear. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.

Psalm 16:11 says, “…You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”

I couldn’t imagine what it was like to just feel better but beyond that how does one find joy in these circumstances. James 1 reminds us that we are to consider it joy when we face trials. Joy… really? I am not sure who reads that verse and thinks, but how?

My pastor recently expressed that trying to have joy is like squeezing water with your fist. The more you squeeze the more the water just squishes through your fingers. It’s fleeting. We don’t find joy, or try to have joy. When we attempt to manufacture something that is not innately in us it was just fade.

So, I realized that the only way I was going to have any joy in my life was through my quiet time in the presence of God. It seems that when we are going through the darkest times of our lives, these are the times we have the hardest time having any desire for God or His Word. But even if we are to just sit there and ask to fill us. Expressing that we can do nothing without Him and we need His presence.

During this Christmas season, if joy is some far off distant fantasy, know that the only joy you will ever experience is in the nearness of God. He will give you a joy that is not of this world. It does not come out of circumstance, feelings or things. It comes directly from the heart of God, who IS joy, to your heart.

Praying you experience joy this season in a way you have never experienced it before.

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Angela is passionate about Jesus, women and building community. She fully believes that women are the heartbeat of the church. Angela has been married to her favourite man, Blair, for 17 years and together they pastor Gateway Church in Komoka, Ontario. When Angela is not leading worship or running some type of women’s event, you will find her doing a DIY, reading a good book, drinking her husbands amazing coffee or planning a meal with friends. One day she hopes to make pie as good as her mom’s. Angela has two incredible kids to call her own (Isaac 13, Michaela 12) who keep her quick and on her feet and enjoying every single moment of life.

 

Joy, Is It Possible Midst My Grief?

Written by: Brenda Earley

Joy, joy, joy! (in my most Scrooge-y BAH-HUMBUG! voice)

‘Tis the season. (so soon?)

Merry Christmas. (sigh)

Season’s Greetings. (not)

Have a joyous holiday! (groan)

These are familiar sentiments during the Christmas season, but this year my heart is not singing the joyful tunes of Christmas.

Joy is seemingly impossible this year since my sweet Grandmother passed away merely two months ago! Memories flood this heart of mine; she was my inspiration, my wise counsellor and a source of my joy! And, most importantly, Gram was filled with a joy only Jesus could give.

Throughout my childhood, I have many memories of her; but the ones this season brings to mind seem to illuminate my joy-less world. Christmas Eve was always spent with my Gram doing so many special things– from using colored pencils to decorate wood ornaments, to baking cookies, to singing Christmas carols — this was a special time of year! And her presence made it all the more.

Every Christmas Eve for the past few years, she would give each great grandchild a well thought out gift, a gift from her heart. A Chik-fil-a gift card wrapped between a hamburger bun, money wrapped tightly inside a straw or taped to a Kit Kat wrapper- whatever the gift, each child was star gazed, filled with anticipation and wonder as they unwrapped their gift. Her love shown in this gift was timeless; and, oh the joy felt as they accepted it.

Which is why, I know Gram would want to keep these traditions alive. Even if it’s difficult. Even through the tears. Even though she’s no longer with us, she would want me to feel the JOY of Christmas despite her absence.

(My Gram, pictured, far left)

I don’t wish a Christmas overwhelmed with grief on anyone. But how do I have joy at Christmas when missing my Gram depletes this joy?

As Gram would say, happiness is found within each memory, each tradition; but genuine, hope- filled joy is found in Jesus. It is unpacked in the story of Christmas. We can have true joy when:

  • We rejoice like Zechariah because of new beginnings. (Luke 1:14)
  • We seek Him like the wise men. (Matthew 2:2)
  • We see the wonder of the newborn babe like the shepherds. (Luke 2:20)
  • We find joy in the unexpected like Mary. (Luke 1:46)
  • We hear the gladness like the angels sang. (Luke 2:13-14)
  • We love like God did as He gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus. (John 3:16)

And special moments create special memories. Gram’s presence is stamped on every memory, on every family gathering, on every tradition. She’s felt all around us and she would remind us — God’s presence in our hearts is where joy is birthed.

Joy is not wrapped inside the boxes we call presents. Joy is a gift God gave when His Son came into this world as a newborn babe. It’s God’s presence wrapped in our hearts! That’s what makes joy possible midst grief!

So this Christmas, I want Gram’s memories, family traditions to remain present. And the only way to truly do this is to choose Jesus, our joy in this Season.

So for you, my friend, at Christmas and all year long, I pray “the God, the source of hope will fill you, completely to the full, with joy and peace while you trust in Him.” (Romans 15:13)

May you have joy-to-the-FULL this Christmas season!

~brenda

https://youtu.be/fG9B0s30-HQ

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Brenda Earley is a wife to one, a busy mom to three, and volunteers with Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies as Study Leader and Writer. She is faithful to her church and uses her musical talents on the worship team as a Worship Leader and pianist. When she is not writing, singing, or playing piano, she is busy with attending basketball games and other school functions. You may reach her on Facebook: Brenda Earley. 💕

THE MAGIC OF CHRISTmas SPIRIT

Written by: Maria Theresa McCann

The Christmas season is upon us. A time of year when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and where the longing for love, family and friends is placed center stage. Also, people are more open to be loving, kind, forgiving and thoughtful. Every year my goal during Christmas is to find that feeling that goes deep inside the soul, some call it the “Christmas spirit”. A feeling of peace, joy, love and savouring each moment by living it to its fullest potential. True Christmas must be celebrated in our hearts and souls. I think what the world needs today, is to find that magical feeling and fall in love with Jesus all over again.

For moms, Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. We are pulled in so many directions: house cleaning, work, laundry, gift shopping, menu planning, hosting holiday gatherings, and let’s not forget, decorating the house. Then if we add our children’s requests – usually last minute – for teacher’s gifts, pot luck dishes, and friend’s gifts; the list becomes endless. When life becomes overwhelming during he Holidays, I always feel the need to sit quietly and talk to Jesus and really think about the gift of His birth and what His life really means to us all. In the end, His life was really an act of unconditional love, as He really came to die, so we can have the gift of eternal life with God.

In life, there are days I feel in control and on task; while; other days, I feel like I am falling apart. Many times, it is in those moments where I feel defeated that something amazing happens and God just reminds me of how much He loves me; even though, I think He is not listening or doesn’t care. I remember this one day, where my family got on my last nerve. Requests were coming in from all directions, the to do list was a mile long, and the way I was spoken to was not nice, and made me feel unloved. I decided that I had had enough with the day, and retreated to my bedroom to have a chat with God, more like a ranting session.

I told Jesus that all I wanted was for Him to come down from Heaven, have a tea with me, and then give me some advice, and tell me what was He thinking when He blessed me with four children, and what made Him think, I could handle it. Then before going back to Heaven, I told Him I would want a great big bear hug, because I know, that one of His hugs would make me feel loved beyond what words could describe. His hug would also give me enough energy and strength to last a year.  I fell asleep that night, telling Jesus that all I wanted, was His hug so that I could feel loved.

The next morning, I woke up, went to the kitchen, and proceeded to start my day. At one point, my two daughters came to tell me that our neighbour, little Ava Kennedy was at the door, and wanted to see me.  When I went to the front door, she handed me a gift. It was a white envelope. I said thank you, placed it on a table at the front entrance and proceeded to walk back into the kitchen. Ava stopped me and said: “oh no, Mrs. McCann, you have to open it now!”

I walked back, opened the envelope, and took out a piece of paper. Then, I took out a second piece of paper with pointy things. I told Ava it was very creative, which really meant I had no clue what I was looking at. Then, suddenly, Ava says: “Mrs. McCann, I made you a HUG!!” I immediately looked down and realized, that what I was holding, were two paper hands which were attached together by a green ribbon representing the circle of a hug. Chills came down my back and my heart stopped. Luckily, the school bus arrived and as it pulled away, I sat down at my front window and began to cry. I had received my hug! Not the hug that I wanted, but maybe the hug that I needed. In that moment, I felt that Jesus had heard my prayer, knew my pain, and wanted to show me He was listening, He cared, and He loved me.

As I sat in my rocking chair, crying, and savouring this moment of awe, I could not help but feel Jesus’s love swell up in my heart, and I fell in love with Him all over again.

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Maria lives in Tecumseh, Ontario with her best friend Sean, who she has been married to for 25 years. They have been blessed with 4 busy children: Patrick (22), Avery (17), Tia-Lynne (15) and Lianna-Maria (14). Maria has felt the calling to speak and write about the importance of putting God first in our lives. She is in the process of finishing her first book entitled “Footprints of Angels” being published by West Bow Press in 2018. Maria enjoys reading, listening to Christian music, photography, walking along shores of lakes and oceans, baking with her girls, and spending time with God in her prayer room. Maria will always cherish the experience of having lived in the small town of Bannia, in the province of Pordenone, Italy for 8 years where she had the opportunity to learn about her Italian heritage and experience first hand its customs and culinary diversity. Maria believes in giving back to the community. She is the Chair of Tecumseh Vista Secondary School Advisory Council  and is the Chair of the Tecumseh Community Policing Committee with the Tecumseh OPP Detachment.

Do You Want To Be Well?

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be well?” —John 5:6

I remember that day in the coffee shop like it was yesterday. I sat across from a new friend in ministry who was suffering through divisions in her marriage. Tucked into the depths of my purse sat a gift I brought for her. A gift that would, if she were willing, completely change her life.

I took out the meticulously wrapped package and cautiously asked her the question; Do you want your marriage to be well? She looked back at me for a few moments; pensive. It seemed she wanted to give her most genuine answer and she was figuring out for herself what that answer would be. “Yes, she carefully answered. I want my marriage to be well.”

I shared with her a lesson that I learned myself in my young marriage. Love is a choice, not a feeling. If you want your marriage to be well, you must choose to love. There are moments and seasons in a marriage that you will not want this to be the solution because choosing to love is hard work.

Sliding the gift onto the table that separated us, I encouraged her to open it. Inside was a book called ‘The Love Dare’. She looked back at me, confused. I shared more. Between the covers of this book was a months worth of challenges. Each new day the author gives you a task to complete for your husband…some easy, some incredibly difficult and sacrificial. Each task honouring your marriage vows to one another and further developing a habit to choose love.

Somewhere along the way, she simply stopped choosing. She didn’t mean to stop choosing. Life had thrown difficult circumstances at her from many directions and she was tired and weary; unaware that she had stopped. For accountability and support I offered to do the challenges alongside her with my husband. What a blessing for me!

The way the Lord used this book to restore my friend’s marriage is amazing. I love to see them together today, weathering life’s storms with arms linked, choosing to love no matter what circumstances they face. Fully understanding that the act of choosing to love often surpasses our natural instincts and requires careful intention. Knowing that oftentimes this choice to love will not be easy, but will be worth it.

Is your marriage struggling this christmas season? Do you want your marriage to be well? Don’t place the survival of your marriage on the hope that feelings of love will come back on their own— make the choice to love instead. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to serve. You’ll be blessed and your spouse will be too. Oh, and did I mention choosing to love is also contagious? When you choose love, you spread love as well! (John 13:34-35 says  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)

Praying you experience love in a supernatural way this christmas.

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Mandy is the founder of the ministry blog We are His daughters and thoroughly enjoys writing and providing leadership to this ministry. Mandy is an imperfect work in progress! She loves the Lord with her whole heart and counts it her biggest privilege to serve Him in ministry however He leads. Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she now resides in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia with her family. She has been married to her handsome husband Nathan for 13 years and together they have served in ministry for the entirety of their marriage. Nathan & Mandy have four beautiful children; Benjamin; Sophia; Spencer & Grayson. Mandy is passionate about singing, worship leading and music. She loves reading, writing, taking pictures, studying the bible and sipping peppermint mocha’s at Starbucks while chatting with a friend! She strives to be tidier, more organized (yes, she is a little compulsive!), a little more Martha Stewart-esque, and a little less ‘unglued’. Most of all she seeks to be holier and to love God through serving her family and her community.

The Many Looks Of Love

Written by: Rachel Albrecht

Years ago my husband’s younger brother lived with us while he was in college. He arrived in September and as December rolled around, I was curious as to what he would buy me for Christmas. We hadn’t known each other incredibly well before he moved in but over the past few months I had intentionally tried to invest in the relationship.

He had gone to my in laws over the holiday break and left us gifts under our tree. I don’t remember what my husband received, but it was nice gift, thoughtful and appreciated. When I opened my gift I was confused – inside the bag lay an old piece of hockey equipment, a goalie’s glove.

As the one who had cooked for him, picked up after him and watched way more of the sports channel than I ever desired, I had expected the gift to symbolize an appreciation, a value in the relationships we had, unique as it was. Whatever this joke was, it left me feeling hurt.

I tossed the glove in the outside trash can with disappointment. A few days later when I saw my brother in law at a family gathering, he asked if I liked my gift. Scowling, I gave a sarcastic thanks and told him I tossed that disgusting glove in the garbage. He burst out laughing, and asked if I had put my hand inside the glove. Obviously not! He told me to check inside. When we came back home I dug the glove out of the trash and peeked inside. There was a DVD I had long been hoping for.

Love was born in a manger over two thousands years ago yet many rejected Him because of the wrapping. This love, though vastly greater than anyone could have imagined, came to earth in a way no one anticipated and for some, in a way they couldn’t accept.

People were confused. They mistook His simplicity and humility for weakness. They expected the Messiah to be steeped in strength and royalty, to overthrow the oppression of their present day situation. From his birth in a manger to His death on the cross, so much of His life defied the expectations people had for Him.

I understand. This wasn’t what some of them had hoped for, dreamed of and painstakingly anticipated for hundreds of years. This wasn’t the answer they wanted or they felt they needed. If I’m to be very honest with you, I’ve got a couple situations in my life where I’m left wondering what is God doing? Did I not hear correctly? Why are these prayers remaining unanswered? Isn’t the loving thing to do in these situations to respond, and frankly, respond in the way I want Him to? I don’t understand the silence, I don’t understand the waiting period, I don’t understand why things are the way they are.

In times of confusion, I’m reminded love is multifaceted with countless expressions. Just because it doesn’t always show up like I think it should doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Love can mean stepping up to offer help, or stepping back to give an opportunity. It can mean standing behind someone or sitting beside them. Sometimes love means speaking up and other times it means staying silent. At times love comes and at times it goes, sometimes love gives and sometimes it takes. It can say yes or no, now or later. It can bring smiles or tears, laughter or pain. It can be full of glitz or full of grit. It can be found in a rustic manger or in an empty tomb. Love is still love regardless if we like what it looks like at times.

Despite Christ’s life on earth being so different than what was expected, the details fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy. Now with our place in history we can read the prophecies of the New Testament and look forward to what is coming when they are all fulfilled!

We know that because of His great love for us, Jesus will return to this earth strong and mighty, victorious and powerful! We know He is going to defeat darkness and death and make all things right. Hurt and confusion, sorrow and suffering will cease and we will spend eternity in face to face fellowship with our Saviour!

This Advent season, as we remember how Jesus came in the humblest of forms, we can look forward to how He will return, with His glory, majesty and power in full force! Love will return and Love will win!

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Rachel Albrecht is blessed to be a wife and mom. She resides in Leamington Ontario, and each winter is very thankful to live in the most southern tip of Canada.

Love Says, “I’m In”

Written by: Lindsey Feldpausch

I wonder if somewhere in the corners of her mind, Mary, while breathing through labor pains in the stable, thought to herself, “I didn’t sign up for this.” She must’ve thought a lot of things, but I wonder about this particular one. What did she do to deserve this kind of birth story for her son? Wouldn’t God have surely provided something better for her? For her Son— His Son?

I am not proud to admit this, but I have gone through a lot less than delivering a baby in the backyard of a hotel with hay beneath me, and I have said that phrase, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Sometimes, when I’m caught off guard, when life takes an unexpected, unpleasant turn. That phrase lurks in the desolate corners of my thought-life. It’s an immature thing to think and I don’t even want to think this phrase.  So, why does it linger? It’s silly, really. None of us actually signed up for anything or did we?

As I’ve thought about it, and considered Jesus, I’ve actually come to a firm conclusion. The moment that I said yes to Jesus, that was when I signed up for everything. Jesus, at some divine point, signed up for everything too. As he lay in that manger on a starry night, babe and king of the world — he was saying yes to life on earth and an excruciating death on the cross. He knew the plan and yet, he said, “I’m in.”

When life gets sour, instead of saying “I didn’t sign up for this,” what if I said, “I’m in”?

As I’ve turned thoughts about this phrase over and over in my mind, I’ve come to a few conclusions about love:

  1. Love says “I’m in” when circumstances change.
  2. Love says “I’m in” when people change.
  3. Love says “I’m in” because Jesus showed us how.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

What a demonstration that was. He didn’t look at us and think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Instead God provided the most beautiful, sacrificial, and awe-inspiring expression of what love looks like and said, “I’m in.”

This Christmas if you find yourself in a long line, if you find yourself cleaning up after a sick child, if you find yourself unsuccessfully trying to repair a relationship, if you find yourself lonely, sorrowful, frustrated, or afraid, remember that God demonstrated to us a love that said, “I’m in.”

The “I’m in” love is not an easy love, but it’s a rich love.

Jesus signed up for you, even at your worst. I invite you to say, these words — perhaps even as an act of worship. Also, it’s a much shorter phrase to remember than the first one. 😉 May your Christmas and everyday-life be filled with this robust, “I’m in” kind of love.

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Lindsey Feldpausch is a writer, speaker, and graphic designer. She lives in a small town outside of Grand Rapids Michigan. Married to a humble, handsome Youth Pastor, together they have four children. She is a Projects Manager for a Proverbs 31 Author & Speaker, Spokeswoman for Jonathan Park Audio Adventures, and Reviewer of Family Products at TheBetterMom.com. She can’t wait to tell you a story and can’t wait to listen to yours. Jesus is her Savior. She is currently unfinished.