a december prayer

real is rare

Recently a friend posted this on facebook and it struck a chord with me as loud as the Hallelujah chorus.

It’s the holidays. Time for happiness, joy, warm-fuzzies and smiles all around. Right?

Um, no.

For me, as soon as November hits, I start feeling ancy. Well, let’s be real. Not ancy, but more like anxious.

I can’t completely explain it and I’ve stopped trying to. I’d like to say I love the holidays and all the pieces that go with it. Time to be real. I love Thanksgiving. I love spending the morning sipping on a killer-strong cup of coffee, watching the parade from the warmth of my couch and jammies, and then feasting with my family and feeling thankful. After all…

“There is so much to be thankful for.”

I know.

“Things could be worse.”

I know.

“You should count your blessings.”

I know. And I do.

Nonetheless, as soon as the world around me kicks full-force into Christmas mode, I struggle. I can’t explain it. It’s not logical. Why in the world would the season for celebrating Christ’s birth make me feel anxious, sad, and seriously lacking in holiday joy?

Part of it for me is the weather. I know this and can’t do anything about it. I’m sad in the winter. I hate feeling cold. I need sun and bright light. I’ve asked my doctor if he could write me a prescription for a trip to Florida every winter, but that was a no-go.

There’s a lot to do at Christmas time. I mean a ton. Let’s be real again. Making the season bright takes a lot of work and it only comes around once a year. So ya’ get one chance to do it right. No pressure there. Don’t get me wrong, I cherish our traditions and appreciate deeply that my family enjoys them too. But sometimes it just feels like a lot. And then guilt sets in, making me feel crummy again. Not a lovely cycle. More reality here: Every December my poor mom gets a phone call from me. It’s my traditional Christmas breakdown phone call. It makes no sense. In the grand scheme of things, I shouldn’t be complaining. But bless her heart. She never says that. Instead the line of communication is completely open and she lets me vent, cry, freak out and then laugh at myself for my regularity of a holiday freak-out session. She gives me a hug through the phone line and every year tells me it’s gonna be ok. And every year, it is.

So when I read my friend’s post saying “Real is Rare”. I had to prioritize this because it’s so true. Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting or a sappy holiday movie where issues are resolved before the closing credits. Although I like looking at difficult situations through rose-colored glasses, sometimes you just gotta get real and say today was rough.

When thoughts like this pop up, the best place to go is to God. He knows where we’re at and is ready with open arms to listen and extend peace. With that in mind, here is a prayer for December…

Dear God,

Christmas time is when we celebrate how incredibly generous you are. As we prepare to celebrate your Son’s birth, please help me to keep my focus on the right things.

When it’s time to decorate, help me to not be so picky. In the grand scheme of things, no one will die if one light bulb is out or if all the ornaments aren’t straight.

When it’s time to bake, help me to make the favorites my family loves and know that it’s enough. Making every recipe in my book does not make me a superhero.

For those of us with crafty blood pumping in our veins, help us to not bite off more than we can chew. Choosing to sew an entire blanket starting in late December will make us crabby instead of cheery.

Please help me to embrace the sparkle. The sparkle of old, handmade treasures covered in glitter that falls off just a little bit more each year. The sparkle in a child’s eyes when they tell you how excited they are for Christmas. The sparkle in house lights, whether or not they are all twinkling. The sparkle in new-fallen snow.

And while we’re on the topic of snow, please help me not to squelch others’ enthusiasm for this chilly loveliness.

Even though I would prefer my toes sticking into a sandy beach instead of my wool socks, I can be thankful that I have wool socks to keep me warm. (Who am I kidding? I have an entire drawer-full that I will be wearing until mid-April!)

Thank you, God, for my memories of Christmas times gone by. Instead of feeling sad that those times aren’t in the present, help me to be thankful that they happened at all and embrace what’s current and new.

Help me to breathe deeply and fill my heart and soul with your peace. Your love is more than I could ever completely soak in, so help me to share it with others. Guide me in random acts of kindness that will shine Your light – the brightest one of Christmas.

Amen.

time to rest


Many years ago, (more years than I care to mention), my little ones saw me crying in frustration one evening. I didn’t mean to let it all go like that, but I couldn’t hold in my feelings any longer. My sensitive daughter asked me what was wrong and I said that Mommy was having a rough day and I was just feeling sad. My son wiped my eye and tenderly said, “It’s ok, Mommy.” The wisdom of children. They aren’t trying to be wise, but in their simplicity, they can speak God’s truth.

Did you know God runs the world without your assistance? I know it’s a comical point to make, but sometimes I think we need to know. Sometimes, (alright, many, many times!), we try to do everything. If you are a parent, I bet this rings true for you. If there was a reality job description for parenting, I imagine it would read a little something like this:

“WANTED: kind and nurturing adult to raise beautiful, but not always attentive children. Such responsibilities include bathing, feeding, coordinating clothing, protecting, loving, hugging and disciplining. You will be provided with a home that you will also be responsible for maintaining. Be prepared to cut, fertilize and water grass, plant an attractive landscape and shovel snow. You will also need to complete all home repairs and decorate seasonally. Children will need help with homework and chauffeuring. Plan to be in your car often and well-prepared with nutritious snacks, entertainment and referee skills. There will be no monetary salary for your efforts, but we are sure you will manage somehow.”

Are. You. Crazy? No one in their right mind would sign up for this. And yet we do.

Parenting or not, our days can be overwhelming and exhausting. At the end of the day, who can relax? Our minds race with thoughts. We run down our mental to-do list and move whatever didn’t get done over to the next day’s list. Then we plan. We plan menus. We plan outfits. We plan schedules. Whew! We plan everything under the sun. Or should I say, ‘under the Son’? Slow down. Did you know God has everything under control? An old favorite mug of mine said “Good morning, this is God. I will be handling al your problems today. I will not need your help, so have a good day. I love you.” Ahhh…let that soak in.

That’s right. All those things we plan and worry about are all in God’s hands. Let God take care of it. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10) I love this verse. Be still. In other words, chill out. We are not God. We can only manage so much and we should let go of the rest. Our Father can, and will, run the universe without our assistance. Let yourself relax. Allow yourself to let go and let God. Sleep peacefully, knowing that the world is in good care while you snooze and snore. The sun will rise tomorrow just like it is supposed to without your help.

Take refuge in Jesus’ promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:2) Take a deep breath. His arms are wide open and waiting for you. Give your stress to Jesus and know that it’s ok.

Giving credit where it is due: Gorgeous art in the photo custom-created by @taylorjacobscc www.taylor-jacobs.com. It hangs in our sunroom, my favorite room in the house.❤️

Push the Rock

Have you ever heard someone say that your frame of mind is ultimately your own? We decide to be a happy person or a grouchy one. If a rude driver cuts in front of us, do we rev up our engine and display a gesture that means something far from “Have a nice day”? Does a nasty phone call throw us into an angry rage? When we see water dripping into the basement again and again and again, what do we do? Toss in the towel? (Soggy towels and dry ones) Sometimes, wouldn’t it be easier to stop trying to find the silver lining? I mean, how positive can we be as we mop up basement puddles, search for lost keys or decide how to divide the contents of the bank account amongst a pile of late bills? I know that sinking feeling when we ask ourselves, “How much more do I have to take? How do I persevere?”

My first day at the church I now call home was a God moment for sure. I walked in the door and was warmly greeted by a smiling gentleman who shook my hand and asked me if this was my first day here. I obviously looked new and unsure and when I affirmed that I hadn’t been there before, he said “Great!” He asked if I had ever been to church and when I answered him, although it had been awhile, I used to attend a place with much formality, rules and procedures. “Well”, he replied enthusiastically, “it’s nothing like that here. As a matter of fact, we have a guest speaker today – a mime!” A mime? As the guest ‘speaker’? I figured since I was already through the door and I actually did want to check out this church that promised to be a safe and accepting environment, I would stay and ‘listen’ with an open mind.

Little did I know that God had more in store for me than just a casually observing morning. The mime was interesting and I had never seen Bible stories played out in this way before. But what hit me over the head, loud and clear, was the message. The mime acted out the story of a man who was told by God to push on a nearby boulder. “But God”, questioned the man, “this boulder is gigantic. I can’t move it.” God again told the man again to push. Being a good follower, the man pushed. Of course the enormous boulder did not budge an inch, although he used all his force against it. The story continues with the man pushing and pushing, using every muscle in his body. Sometimes he questions God, asking Him, “How much longer?” “Why the struggle?” He doesn’t understand the need to persist when, obviously, nothing was happening. Days and nights go by and still, no apparent change that the man could see. But since God continued to tell the man to push, he persists and pushes.

Finally, the man is exhausted, sweaty and above all, frustrated. I thought, as I watched, that the boulder would at least slide a smidge. After all, God told him to push. Was He just wasting this man’s time and efforts? (Side note: I wondered why each row of seats had full boxes of Kleenex. This is the time I found out.) The man cried out again to God, “Look, I haven’t even moved this thing. I tried and tried but I’ve failed.” The man hangs his head low in defeat. Our loving, Heavenly Father speaks gently to the man. “No. You have not failed. You are right; the boulder did not move. I didn’t ask you to move it. I just asked you to push on it. But you cannot see what I see. You are exactly as I planned for you to be. Look at yourself. You have persistence. Your muscles are strong. You are trusting and mighty. I am with you, and always was. You haven’t let me down. On the contrary, you are just right. You are now ready for what I have in store for you.”

I had never turned on the waterworks at church so much in my life. Goosebumps and tears were all over me. My walk into that church, on that day, to hear that specific message, was planned out by God. There is no doubt in my mind. But also, my walk was heavily burdened with an upcoming change. A big, scary life-change that I did not want and was deeply afraid of. I didn’t know what would be on the other side of my boulder, but I heard God telling me to push anyway. The man in the story could not change the situation. That big ol’ boulder never did move. We may push and shove our ‘boulder’ until we are blue in the face. Guess what? Just like that man wasn’t supposed to move his boulder, maybe we are not supposed to move ours either. Perhaps we’re just supposed to be obedient and push. God uses our persistence and new muscles for exactly what He has planned. And until we follow, we won’t be ready.

No matter what frustrations you are fighting, God can take them and turn them into amazing, miraculous stories. Keep pushing and then share your story. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21 NIV)

watch and see

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

God is faithful. He knows all about you. Maybe you are stuck in a traffic jam. Maybe you’re drowning in bills. Are you freaked out about classes? Perhaps you are potty-training an unwilling toddler. Perhaps you’ve shed your last tear and sit next to a huge pile of crumpled tissues. God knows where you are. If you are praying for answers, listen. Listen hard.

Answers to our heartfelt prayers will come, but in God’s timing, not our own. In a world where we tap our fingers waiting for high-speed internet and expect everything to be as speedy-quick as possible, it is SO HARD to wait! As the self-described Queen of Patience Deficiency, I understand your agony with waiting. I cannot wait for medicine to take effect. I cannot wait for microwave popcorn to pop, (well, I CAN, I just don’t like to). I cannot wait for water to boil.

Watch and see.

God plays out the coolest scripts. He aligns everything just right before His plans come into fruition. He knows your needs and He is ready for them. Maybe we don’t see the end of the line, but God promises that He is there, waiting for us. Sometimes we wish for a “sign” of some kind to affirm for us that there is a plan in our future. My dear friend tells me over and over again, “Watch and see.”

When you do get your sign, move on it! In the Parable of the Great Banquet, (Luke 14:15-24), Jesus tells of a man who prepared a fabulous meal and invited many guests. When everything was ready, his servants went to tell the guests, “Come, for everything is now ready!” But guess what? They all had excuses about why this was not a good time for them to come. One had a new field he needed to tend to; another had new livestock to train; and another had just gotten married. The man ended up inviting strangers from the streets to share and celebrate instead! There was no rescheduling. The original guests missed it. They missed the opportunity to dine and have a great time.

Watch and see.

God will answer our hearts, but we need to listen also. Listen for His soft whispers and when you know – go! Act on your answer. It may be a part-time job you have been praying for. It may be a person you are supposed to meet. Maybe it is a door opening to your dream. Let God handle all the details. When He has it all in place, you will see! At that time, move on it! God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t put the food right into the nest.

Watch and see.

You may be praying for your children. God hears you. Watch your little one pray with his eyes closed and hands lifted. See your sweetie sharing a good deed out of the kindness of her heart. Shed a thankful tear and praise Him. He always hears you!

Watch and see.

And yet we all have our limits

The ‘Unattainables’ – you know them. They drive clean mini-vans to soccer; they volunteer; they fix cars, plunge toilets and bake cookies (OK, not at the same time!). They’re like superheroes. They never have a bad hair day; their children were potty trained early and they have houses fit to be in Better Homes and Gardens magazine!

While it may appear that some people do it all, let’s face it, we are human and cannot possibly do everything. And guess what – God made you that way! He knew exactly what He was doing when He designed you. He knew you weren’t capable of doing everything. But guess what else? Maybe you don’t know how to snake a drain. But there is a wonderful, honest and fair plumber out there who does. And you know something else? God designed that plumber to do the very task they do so well.

So let’s see, God made us to do some things, and not to do others. I have a friend who explained something very important in this way. “When you don’t ask for help from someone who can help you, you’re denying them of a blessing.” Who am I to deny a blessing? If you like to be in control, like me, asking for help may be incredibly difficult. But remember God wants to bless someone here. Maybe you are the tool He needs. Open the doors to blessings! Ask for help – whatever it is: tutoring a child, lifting something heavy, teaching you how to put up drywall, tie a decorative bow or scoop a dead mouse. (Yes, I do know lovely, dear folks who will eliminate a dead rodent. I love my friends!)

While on the topic of rodents, I digress to share a haunting story and make a suggestion. Get to know your neighbors! Find out who is squeamish and who is not. Find out what treats they enjoy and plan to repay favors with baked goodies. I tell you this because here’s a spooky story about a most-unwelcome rodent!

I love summer and everything about it. Living in Michigan where we have winter temps below zero, I soak in the warmth of summer with great joy and anticipation. Although I realize that summer brings with it a share of irritating pests. Mosquitoes, seagulls and moles are animals we expect to see at home in the summer. But I tell ya’, when my kids and I found a BAT IN THE HOUSE I was less than enthusiastic! A bat at a time when trick-or-treating was long gone was not enjoyable, to say the least. I was scared to death! When I saw the flapping wings of a bat upstairs in my home, I admit, I could not play mature parent who doesn’t loose her cool. Instead, I locked myself and my sweeties in my son’s room and sat there wondering what the heck was I to do! Of course I remembered to bring the phone with us and close the door upon the room the creature had flown into. Ha-ha! It was more like this: I trembled with fear as I cracked my son’s bedroom door open just enough to reach out and grab the phone. I called my wonderful neighbor and begged for rescue! If that’s not a neighbor going above the call of neighborly duty, I don’t know what is! After the flapping creature was disposed of, I made not only dinner, but a bat-shaped cake for my neighbor to express my heartfelt thanks! Squishing spiders is one thing, but there are some things I just cannot do! Realizing my limits has been insightful and scary at the same time. My neighbor and their teenage sons not only received a blessing of satisfaction from that haunting experience, but a good meal to boot.

Receive God’s blessings, and let those around you receive them too. We are not designed to be all in one. But the One who is, designed us just way we are supposed to be. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”. (Psalms 139:14). Celebrate your uniqueness and your abilities, and share a blessing with those helpers around you! And God bless all you rodent-removers everywhere!

capes and slippers

It was a long-time dream of mine to write a book. I’m a ‘planner’. Are you a planner too? Having things all laid out, “ready to go” and in order makes me feel productive, secure and in control. Guess what? Life is messy. We aren’t in control. My garden needs weeding. (I’m pretty sure there’s a bean in there somewhere!) Socks are on the floor over there, there and there. I’ve got piles of ‘stuff’ everywhere and I work best in clutter and noise. As a matter of fact, don’t you feel like you’re riding on a wave of chaos at times? What happened to those plans? What happened to the dreams we had? I’ve recently come to realize that our dreams aren’t entirely our own. God plants dreams into our hearts and it is up to us to tend to them. Unfortunately, as we grow older and ‘mature’ many of us give up and squelch our dream of becoming a beautiful ballerina or a brave superhero. Waiting for dreams is just not realistic in our adult, grown-up world of bills, grocery shopping on a budget and piles of laundry reaching up to our eyebrows!

But God never gives up. He never gives up on us, or on that childhood dream. What was yours? Think back and allow yourself to remember. Did you want to grow up and be a fireman, an astronaut, an athlete? Maybe you wanted to be a singer, a teacher or a movie star? Perhaps your wishes were to travel, own a cute little bakery or paint beautiful landscapes.

God whispers to us that our dream is still there. Not only is it still present, but it patiently waits for us to tend it. There is still time to give a little water and TLC. We are superheroes when we squish a spider or toss a ball back and forth with a child. I can’t imagine a better way to feel like a princess than when my sweeties were little and used to decorate my hair with clips, give me a sloppy smooch and tell me I am their beautiful mommy. Of course we can pursue our dreams, because God gave them to us and He is with us as we do!

And what if the superhero cape doesn’t fit and the ballerina shoes are worn out? Does that mean our dreams and plans aren’t valid anymore? Of course not! God takes all the seemingly random pieces: the dreams, the desires of our hearts, life’s curve balls and works them all together into an amazing plan. Why? Because He loves us. Because He gave you those dreams and had a plan to create something amazing for you all along!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” You know this one. You’ve most likely heard it before. It’s from Jeremiah 29:11. If you didn’t know this verse before, now ya’ do! Dream away…