Melancholy. That’s probably the best word I could find to describe how I felt yesterday as we began to take down and put away all the Christmas decorations and paraphernalia. I was almost flat out weepy.

There’s always something a little sad to me when we take the Christmas decorations down. I’m not sure if it’s just the end of the season, or the recognition that this signals the end of another year.

I just love Christmas time so very much! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Of course, I blogged about that already, and so I won’t bore you with a repeat of how much I love the season and why. Instead, I want to focus today on these feelings I… and PR31… and our boys… and maybe even some of you experience when we put all those Christmas items away for another 10 months… or 6 if you’re like us and celebrate “Christmas In July.”

I think we must feel this way because it feels like everything is just going back to normal. Maybe people won’t be as nice… or as generous… or as joyful. But let’s face it, even after that first Christmas, things kind of had to get back to normal. Joseph had to go back to his construction work. Mary had to take care of a baby. No angel visits for a couple years. Just normal, everyday life.

Yet their life now contained Jesus daily. He who brought such joy, love, peace and hope was with them daily. The one angels sang about, and shepherds came to see was right there with them each and every day.

And we do not have to lose the love, joy, peace and hope of Christmas either… even after all the decorations are put back into storage… for the very same reason. He is Immanuel… the God who is with us. Jesus came that first Christmas, and we celebrate it every year, because He brought us His ongoing presence. We can live kindly… generously… lovingly… peacefully… and hopefully… all year long.

So cry a tear if you must because you love the season so much, and hate to see it “go away” with the packing up of the decor. But remember that He came in order for us to have that sweet, abundant life daily. We don’t have to feel like life is miserable till next Christmas. We can enjoy Jesus and that abundant life He offers every day between December 26th and the following Black Friday.

Happy New Year, friends! 2018 is going to be great, and I look forward to sharing more of this blog with you as we start fresh and new in a couple days!!!

We celebrated Christmas in July as a family for the first time in a big way this year. And beginning November 1st, the decorations went up for Christmas at our house. So I’d say we’ve been celebrating for awhile.

But tomorrow, we begin celebrating at full tilt. So my posts may be a little shorter than normal, and I’m not going to fret if I fail to post one day because I was having too much fun being in the moment with family. In fact, I won’t even feel badly if you are too busy having with your family to notice if my posts are short or non-existent. I hope you enjoy celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s gift to mankind.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

At Christmas time, people just seem to have more faith for miracles. And it’s fairly obvious why… The very coming of the Son of God to earth, born of a virgin teenager is miracle numero uno of that first Christmas. But the whole historical Christmas account is replete with moments of sudden miracles.

I suppose the only place in Scripture that really uses the term “suddenly” is found in Luke 2 when the shepherds are watching their sheep at night, and “suddenly” an angel appeared among them to let them know that the Messiah had just been born a bit earlier, and that they should go see the miracle baby. (I particularly love that it says the angel appeared “among them,” rather than above them as our westernized Christmas art and productions often depict it.). Then “suddenly,” that one angel is joined by the angel armies of Heaven singing praises to God. I love it! This is a military choir of epic, eternal proportions. And then suddenly they’re gone. That’s quite a set of “suddenlies.” And the shepherds’ lives were changed forever that day.

Of course, while it doesn’t say it in Scripture, the account of Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her how God’s miracle plan involves her appears to have had a “suddenly” to it. She is caught quite off-guard by this miracle news, and her life was changed forever that day.

Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, finds out she’s pregnant and he’s not the father, and he decides to break it all off. But he has a “suddenly” experience of his own when an angel tells him the whole story of Mary’s miracle, and how God wants him to be a part of it as well. He says to go ahead and marry Mary. Wow… what a “suddenly.” And Joseph’s life was changed forever that day.

Just this week, a friend sent us the sweetest Christmas card, and in it reminded us that God has “suddenlies” for us as well. She told us to be on the lookout for our “suddenlies.”

As I meditated on that some this morning, I had a “duhhhhh” moment as it struck me that “suddenlies” happen… well, suddenly… seemingly out of nowhere… when we are least expecting them. And when they happen, our lives are changed forever that day.

I’m glad people’s faith for miracles increases at Christmas time. I want to live with that kind of faith year-round, because “suddenlies” can really happen any time… any place… to anyone. In fact, I believe God has “suddenlies” planned for each of us. I don’t know when yours will come… or where… or how… but be on the lookout for “suddenlies” that will change your life forever!

And if at some point, you struggle to believe for them, just pick up the Bible, flip over to the first couple chapters of Luke’s & Matthew’s accounts Jesus coming to this earth as a baby. Start there. Then flip around the rest of the Bible, and you’ll find that others had “suddenlies” of their own… plenty of them not even at this time of the year.

Merry Christmas, friends! And may God bless you with a “suddenly” soon!

I love it when our boys teach us incredibly deep truths in the simplest of statements! Last night, it was Austin.

Teeth had been brushed, boys were in their PJ’s, and we were about to tuck them into bed, read their Bibles to them, and pray before they went to sleep. I told Austin that he was awesome. He encouraged me back by telling me that I was also awesome. It made me think of a famous brand breakfast sandwich commercial in which the main character portraying the sun says, “You’re all awesome! Now let’s orbit,” and so I said that line. Austin replies lightning-quick, “We’re all awesome, but we’re not always perfect.”

Mic drop moment for the six year-old. He could have been retweeted hundreds of times if he had been speaking at a conference and said that. Come to think of it… nah, I won’t steal his line for that… maybe just for this blog. We told him that he was right in what he said, and we wrapped up the night in usual fashion.

I couldn’t get away from that truth, though. “We are all awesome, but we aren’t always perfect.” The Apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 3:23, “… we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” But then over in chapter 8 of the same book, he reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

It’s staggering to me to try to grasp that God always sees me as awesome because I’ve accepted the grace and forgiveness Jesus provided for me at the cross. Even though God and I both know I’m not perfect all the time, He still sees me as awesome.

And we all have things that make us awesome, even though we don’t get everything right every moment of every day. Blew that presentation? Still awesome. Ruined that friendship? Still awesome. Made a poor decision. Let God think about it… yep, still awesome! Caused an accident? Spoke too harshly to the kids? Burned the beans? Caught the mower on fire? Forgot your parents’ anniversary? Still awesome.

So, does this mean that we can just be reckless and do whatever we want with no consequences? No! It simply means that God chooses to love us and see us in the light of Jesus… as the finished products we will one day be… awesome… even though each day finds us less than perfect.

So tomorrow, get up, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that, if you belong to God, then He sees you as awesome. Then go out there and do the best you can do to live right and honor Him. And at the end of the day, when you stand in front of that mirror one more time before you hit the hay… and you reflect on all the times you didn’t hit the mark… remind yourself again that He still sees you as awesome, even if you aren’t perfect… because one day, you’ll be standing before Him instead of that mirror of yours… and He will lift your chin, look you in the eye, and say, “See? I told you that you are awesome!”

It’s been a full day. A great day, but a full day. It seems like every day is a full day for PR31. I mean, she didn’t get that name by accident. She gets up early, and goes to bed late. She takes no naps along the way, and only an occasional break for a snack.

She had just told me recently that it feels like she can never get done with all she has on her to-do list. So it was funny to us this evening when our six year-old, Austin, says to her, “You get done with one thing, Mama, and you always have something else to do.” We laughed, and agreed.

The truth is that this time of year… designed to be enjoyed… can turn into hustle and bustle if we’re not careful. With all the places to go, and people to see, and things to do, we pick up the pace to try and get it all done. We say to ourselves, “Well, when I get done with this, I’ll be able to stop and enjoy the season.”

The problem with that way of thinking and living is that more things are always being added to the list, and the enemy of your soul will try to rob you of the peace that comes from taking a break to stop… breathe deep… smell the sugar cookies… and relax. But you don’t have to give in to the tyranny of the urgent.

In fact, I give you permission right now to take a break. (Okay, so if you’re at work, you may have to wait till lunch or till you get off. That one isn’t my call.). I give you permission to just sit down without worry, and listen to a Christmas carol… eat a cookie… call a friend. The dirty dishes can wait another 30 minutes. The presents that need to be wrapped will still be there when you get up from your break. And you’ll feel better. You’ll feel at peace.

That’s not just one of the titles Jesus was given before His birth, you know. It’s something He wants to share with you… Peace. All you have to do is set aside that to-do list for a few minutes, make snow angels or drink hot chocolate, and do nothing. If it will make you feel better, put “nothing” on your to-do list or calendar. Schedule an appointment with “peace” at a certain time… and keep it.

And for that person who feels like you’ll never get it all done if you stop to take a break, you’re right. And you’ll also never get it all done if you don’t take a break. So, you might as well take a break, and receive His peace to keep going. And hey, who knows… you might like it so much, you might even try it again tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!

PR31 was determined to work some Christmas magic… as you learned she is prone to do in yesterday’s post (click here if you didn’t get to read it yet & you’ll understand). Today, she attempted making a Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël. Yeah, she blows me away all the time.

Well, things were going pretty well until she got to the filling for the classic European Christmastime cake. It just wasn’t setting up like it was supposed to. She set it aside, and moved on to the other parts of the dessert, determined that she would figure it out. I’m getting over some allergy-sinus stuff, and I opted for a nap while she “figured.”

When I woke up from the nap, she informed me that way on over into the process, she came across more steps that had to be completed for the filling to set up properly. It had simply had to be set aside in its current condition, and then further steps would transform it into what it was ultimately supposed to be.

We’re not so different from that Yule Log filling, you know. There are times in life when we just can’t seem to figure out why our lives are not turning out to be what we know they are supposed to be. Perhaps the Lord has put a dream in your heart, and it hasn’t come about yet. Maybe you feel called to do something significant in this world, but the right door hasn’t opened yet. It could even be that a relationship hasn’t developed like you thought it would.

My suggestion? Keep reading the recipe. God may have more steps that He needs to accomplish with you before you turn into what you envisioned from the picture on the website. You can trust that it will turn out right if you leave it in His hands. Philippians 1:6 tells us that, “…God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished.”

His work. You may have been set aside while He works on some other elements of the situation, but it’s His work, and He will come back to you and finish what He started. You can count on it. And when He does, it’s going to be oh, so good!