Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

‘Tis the Season for Writer’s Block

Due to my brain being preoccupied with decorating, and wrapping, and visions of sugar plums, I am suffering with a temporary case of writer’s block.  I’ll keep this one short and sweet, so all of you can spend more time enjoying your prepping and planning, too!  I’d like to share why Christmastime is so special to me, and to embrace this season of giving, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the giving heart of God.

We all know that God gave us the ultimate gift, when He gave us His One and Only Son as a living sacrifice on Calvary.  That is no little trinket or stocking-stuffer!  However, the “season” of giving began long ago with three kings who also had giving hearts.  There is some confusion about birth dates and about whether or not the Three Wise Men should be a part of our holiday nativity display, but this isn’t that kind of blog post.  Suffice it to say, this is the time of year that most of us celebrate the birth of our Savior, and the three kings who wanted to find baby Jesus to worship Him and lavish Him with gifts of love and adoration are a big part of that story.

I’d like to say that the example the three kings set for us is the reason I like to bestow gifts upon my children at this time of year, but that just isn’t my truth.  Remember, I did not grow up in a Christian home, and although I knew that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, that’s pretty much all I knew.  I grew up with the magic of Santa, and reindeer, and overflowing stockings of goodness.  Until my mother remarried, we weren’t very well off. I found out later in my adulthood that she would often have toast and hot tea for dinner, so I could have a full meal. But for as long as I can remember, my mom made Christmas the most magical day of the year for me.  Somehow, despite being a woman of very little means, lots of beautiful, wonderful gift boxes covered in bright, festive wrapping paper managed to suddenly appear under our tree every Christmas morning.  It didn’t stop when she remarried, either… it may have gotten even better!

Because of my sketchy memory, I obviously don’t remember specifics.  I would assume that very few people do remember specifics from that age, save for the really special Christmases when a shiny new bike would appear or perhaps that beautiful new baby doll.  But it isn’t the specifics that really matter to me.  It was the feeling I got.  That feeling of joy and excitement that made its way from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  It wasn’t just on Christmas day that I began to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it was ongoing throughout the entire season itself.  Everyone seemed a little more joyful, there were festive lights everywhere, and it was a pretty big deal back then to see cartoon specials on TV at nighttime!  Even the songs on the radio were jolly, and to this day, I’m ready for Christmas music as early as the first day of Autumn! 

It wasn’t so much the gifts under the tree that I wanted to pass down to my children, though that was a big part of the magic for me, but it was the spirit of Christmas.  It was that build of excitement and the feeling that all was right with the world.

I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and every Christmas morning, brightly wrapped packages were strewn from under the tree to the tops of the living room furniture.  (I had three children, after all.)  It was so exciting for me that I started our own tradition of letting the girls open up one little gift on Christmas Eve simply because I couldn’t wait for morning any more than they could. 

Although their Mom and Dad surely contributed to the piles of wishes-come-true every Christmas, the really “good” stuff always came from Santa Claus.  The one or two really big, exciting things that were the desires of my girls’ hearts were always from Santa, and that’s not to say that they didn’t know the true meaning of Christmas.  We were always sure to tell them the story of Jesus’ birth, and our oldest, who was about five or six at the time, went as far as to leave a note for Santa making sure that even he knew that Christmas was really all about Baby Jesus, and Mary, and “Jofess.”

One of my favorite images that floats around this time of year is of Santa Claus, hat in hand, kneeling down beside the manger where Baby Jesus lay.  Even Santa was giving honor where honor was due!

But in my mind, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t let my kiddos feel the magic that I cherished so dearly growing up?  I know there is a debate among Christians about whether or not letting your children believe in Santa is just like lying to them.  I suppose it is, for all intents and purposes, but this isn’t that kind of blog post, either.  Suffice it to say, there really was a Saint Nicholas long ago, so I didn’t really see any harm in keeping his spirit alive.

There is also the ongoing debate that some parents who go crazy trying to find that hot , hard-to-find holiday toy item should get the credit for all their efforts- not some old guy in a red suit who gets flown around by magical reindeer.  But I must tell you, no matter what time I had to get up in the morning on “Black Friday,” and no matter how many stores I had to travel to in order to get my hands on that one special thing, it was always Santa who had come to the rescue.

For me, it wasn’t about taking credit for making sure I nabbed the freckle-faced Cabbage Patch doll with the purple dress, green eyes, and red corn silk hair.  For me, it was about the magic that I got to feel every time I saw that look on those precious faces.  The smiles that went all the way up to their eyes.  Sometimes, a gift was so special that it brought tears of joy along with the wide, toothy grin.  Doing that for my children is what kept the magic alive for me well into my adulthood.

Why do I tell you all this?  Because God honors those with giving hearts.  I’m not just talking about the people who give to charities or put extra offerings in the collection bags at church, either. Although, yes-of course, God honors those givers abundantly! But the bible straight out tells us that we love to give good gifts to our children.  (See Matthew 7:11) God knows we love to bestow gifts upon our children, because He made us that way! He knew how much it meant to me to give my children magical Christmases, and that means it was important to Him, too. And He provided those for us more times than I can count.

One year, we were one of the chosen families to receive a large trash bag full of brand new, unwrapped toys from our church.  Then in 2009, we were going through financial hardship due to traveling back and forth to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland with a sick child.  Someone shared our story with a local Lion’s Club Association, and we were chosen to receive over $400 in checks and gift cards that were donated by club members.  Still another time, we were visiting an uncle, and without even having to ask him, he loaned us $1000 cash so we could give our children a great Christmas that year.  We didn’t have to pay him back until we got our income tax return a couple months later.

Years ago, we were purchasing a van from a different family member who no longer needed it.  The van was in like-new condition at the time, and we needed a larger vehicle for our growing family.  He was selling it to us for a fraction of what he had paid, but it was still a significant amount on which we had to make payments.   We had been paying on it for a while- at least a year or so, and it was going to be paid off soon.  One day in late November, out of the blue, he decided to not only wipe out the rest of the debt, but he paid us back, in full, for all the payments we had made up until that point!  He ended up giving us, not only the van, but God used him to give us a great Christmas, too!

There are dozens of stories just like these that I could share, and it’s not just at Christmastime, either.  When my husband lost his job this past May, he attended a men’s fellowship breakfast, which he hadn’t ever been able to do before because of having to be at work so early.  Our Pastor handed Greg an envelope, and in it was a gift from an anonymous donor who had asked Pastor not to reveal his identity.

Greg waited until we were together to open it, and when we did, we found $700 in cash!  It may sound like an odd number, but to us, it was very significant.  Greg had always remembered that the number seven meant completion, and he took it as a sign from God that he no longer had to worry about finding employment.  We knew that God had a plan, and it was a “done-deal” no matter how many other applicants there were!  Besides that, $700 was the exact amount of money we needed to pay an important bill that was coming up due before we had a chance to defer the payment because of the job loss.

God is good all of the time!  And He has so many different ways of blessing us!  God works in mysterious ways, and He often uses other people as His vessels of blessing.  Wouldn’t you love to be one of those people?  I heard in an old movie once, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”  Even a smile to someone who isn’t expecting it can be a big blessing in their day.  Think of our poor department store workers who are dealing every day with grumpy shoppers, layaway pickups, sticky carts, and swarms of children who are begging their parents for toys as they walk through the store.   

In this season of magic and joy and giving, challenge yourself to think of a way to be a blessing in someone’s life.  Maybe even think twice about walking by the bell ringer’s bucket without dropping in a few coins.  If you can’t give monetarily, maybe you can offer your time to someone in need.  If nothing else, you can always pray for those who are less fortunate. 🙂

Give a little bit more of yourself this holiday season, and keep your eyes open for blessings that might come back your way, too!  God loves a joyful giver, and He loves to lavish gifts upon His children.  Besides this being the season for writer’s block, it is also the season of giving!  So, keep your heart and mind open to receive, because you just might be surprised to see where your next blessing might come from!  

If you have any miraculous stories of God’s giving heart, we would love to have you share them! Please comment below if God has ever provided for you in an unexpected way!

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

Audacious Expectations

Gift    A few years ago, 2015 to be exact, my Pastor had been preaching about “audacious expectations.”  He said he’d been feeling in his spirit that 2015 was the year for audacious expectations, and we should seriously be coming to God with bold requests and expecting Him to move on our behalf.  (I’m paraphrasing here, of course.)

According to Dictionary.com, audacious means “extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless; extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive.”  That being said, it was my impression, then, that we were to come boldly to the throne of God, and be fearless, daring, and recklessly brave with our requests, asking without restriction, and expecting that our highly inventive (beyond our natural reach) requests, as long as they were within God’s will and we believed that we had already received them, would be granted.

In my mind, this doesn’t mean, “Lord, help me make all my bill payments this month” or “Lord, please help me get through this cold and flu season without incident.”  These are things that we no doubt pray for regularly anyway.  When I think of audacious, I think of things that are outside the norm.  I think of things that are so far outside our spectrum of thinking that they can only be God’s handiwork.  Miraculous, wonderful things that just don’t happen every day.

God is famous for making a way where there is no way.  He is well known for providing exactly what you need, exactly when you need it- especially when you have no idea how or where you are going to get it.  He is in the Miracle Business!

For one person, an audacious expectation may be a new car because theirs is on its last leg and they have no way of replacing it.  For another, their audacious expectation may be for their rebellious child to find salvation.  For another, it may be a divine healing to rid their body of a life-threatening illness for which there is no man-made cure.

For one person in my home church, her audacious expectation was to be debt free by the end of 2015.  (She was debt free by the end of March.)  And not only did God meet her audacious expectation, but He went above and beyond.  He also blessed her business to overflowing and provided her with a brand new vehicle to meet her business needs, too!  Now THAT is a God who provides!

The best thing about this story is that God is no respecter of persons.  That means, there is nothing we can do to earn His love or His provision.  No one is any more or any less deserving; no one is any more or any less worthy; He doesn’t just wake up and decide who He is going to bless that day.  There is no jumbo-sized computer that He uses to point-and-click on the people whose prayers He wants to answer next Tuesday.

Well I feel like 2019 could be a year for audacious expectations, too.  I’m feeling it in my spirit, if for no other reason than, I could sure use a miracle right about now!  I’m sure we all could!

So I ask you… what is YOUR audacious expectation?  Come on, don’t be shy.  Dream BIG!  We’re not talking small potatoes, here.  For me, I am praying that God will bless MY business to overflowing, just like He did for my friend.  As an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to the ups and downs that come with business ownership.  In fact, I have seen my business fluctuate more than my scale!

That being said, however, I also know the old adage “slow and steady wins the race.”  I can honestly say that when I began my first business two years ago, I did not completely give it to God.  Not 100% anyway, but I didn’t give up, and now I feel differently.  As a Christian, I know that nothing is possible apart from God, anyway, so why would I try to do it without putting Him front and center?  And now that I have finally pursued the dream of reaching others through blogging, I need God more than ever.  I have a story to tell and lives to change.  I pray everyday, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory!”  (Inserting plug now:  If you haven’t yet read the Prayer of Jabez, I highly recommend it, and you can find it here.)

So now, I’ve put God at the helm, and I am ready to come boldly before the throne to ask for a miracle!  (Well they have Miracle Grow for plants, why not for businesses and blogs, too?)

Now I’m not after some get-rich-quick scheme; let me just set the record straight on that point.  I’m truthfully not even after getting rich.  Being debt free and living comfortably, yes!  In fact, through the Personal Development I’ve learned to do since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to envision accomplishing something that, until now, was only a dream.  As we speak, I am picturing the day that I have enough money in my bank account to write out a check for my whole family to go to Disney World!  (Hey, it can happen!  I know someone who received 10 free tickets once, just because that’s how awesome our God is.)

Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.  As a parent myself, I would love to lavish gifts on my children all the time if I could.  Consider Matthew 7:11 for a moment:  “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  Now can you take a moment and reflect on this?  Even if you’re not a parent, I know there are times in your life when you enjoy giving good gifts to your loved ones.  It’s natural for us to enjoy it.  We love to show our love to others, and gift-giving is just one way to do that.  So if we, being made in God’s image, enjoy gift-giving so much, imagine how much more our Heavenly Father enjoys it!

When you were a child, did you ever ask for that one special thing for Christmas that you just had to have?  That shiny new bike or that new baby doll?  That new and improved electronic device with all the bells and whistles?  The hottest new video game?  Well this is BIGGER than that!  And your Heavenly Father is just waiting for you to crawl up into His lap (instead of Santa’s) and ask away.  Don’t be shy.  He wants to roll up His big sleeves and show you just what He can do!

*Now I ask you again… what is YOUR audacious expectation?  Comment below!*