Doubt

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

Last year, my daughter and I studied the book of John at Bible Study Fellowship. One theme that struck me was how John, a disciple and close friend of Jesus, identifies himself.

The one whom Jesus loved.

I was baffled by how it seemed to be new information even though I have studied John before. God’s timing is perfect – it took the entire year, but He finally revealed why this theme was so important to me.

To explain why, I need to first give you the backstory.

Our third child was born in May of 2016. She, like our firstborn son experienced silent reflux symptoms and spent her first months writhing and screaming in pain. It was gut-wrenching and we felt helpless.

Again.

Unlike the first time around, we had previous experience. We recognized the symptoms and assumed we knew what to do. Then our doctor agreed so she began reflux mediation.

But symptoms remained.

Long story short, we later learned she had a tongue and lip tie that was corrected by a pediatric dentist. Once healed, she was able to eat without choking or gulping air. Her reflux was controlled with medication.

Life settled down. She no longer writhed in pain.

And we put it behind us.

Well. Not quite.

My emotional distress over the issue lingered. I wrestled with why a child should endure such pain. And WHY it happened again to one of our children.

As feelings surfaced, I distracted myself. I reasoned – it was over, we had moved on. We had a healthy, thriving and now happy baby.

Lingering on what was felt like the opposite of gratitude. And I was grateful she was feeling better.

So I ignored it. Stuffed it. 

This was building to be more than just a little distress. Old, deep-seated emotions and pain from the first time when we watched our son struggle now mingled with the new these fresh new emotions. The old emotions had not lost their sharp, raw edge, even with the passage of time. (I’ve shared some about difficulties during my first year as a mom before. I’m not going to rehash it now but you can read about it here.)

The truth is, babies are born with all kinds of maladies and challenges – reflux is by far, not the worst. But when anything causes your child pain, it affects you deeply as a parent. This time around, our daughter’s pain also affected our other children.  They too coped with the stress of their sister’s pain and their parents’ attention being consumed by the baby.

Now, on to my doubt.

The last day of BSF is ‘sharing day’ – picture 500 women and an open microphone. Women share publicly what God has done in their lives through the study.

It’s amazing.

The morning was crazy and I was running late. As I slid into a row towards the back, I sighed with relief.

My plan was to just sit and listen to other women praise God for what He had done in their lives that year.

Then this funny thing happened. I kept having this strange thought that I needed to share. My heart started pounding and I thought – not in front of all these people.

Nope.

If the Holy Spirit has prompted you to share something before, then you know exactly what I’m talking about – whether to one person or before 500.

The heart pounding – it’s a THING.

Suddenly I’m scribbling notes with a pink sharpie on an old receipt – trying to get my thoughts in order before I head up front.

Several times in the study of John the topic of doubt came up. Each time, I quickly assessed myself (as in, not really) and pridefully said, of course I don’t doubt God!

He is who He says He is. Nothing is too hard for Him. His word is true and powerful. 

How could I doubt Him?

The most famous example of doubt is in John 20. ‘Doubting’ Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus appears to them after the resurrection. Thomas does not believe the disciples account and wants physical proof – to touch Jesus’ wounds.

You guys, Jesus is so kind.

He knew Thomas’ doubts and soon lovingly gave the opportunity to see and touch His wounds, without reprimand. Thomas believes and proclaims, ‘My Lord and My God!‘.

During the lecture the week we studied Thomas, we were challenged to ask God to show us our doubts and bring those doubts to Jesus. It was so compelling, I began praying before we even left the parking lot.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that I did have doubt.

I never doubted that Jesus was ABLE to prevent our children’s pain.

I never doubted He was ABLE to heal them at any time. 

We prayed and prayed. Both children were healed in His unique way, and in His time. But not in OUR Time.

So I doubted His love

For our son. For our daughter. For our family.

For ME. 

We placed our hope and faith in Him in our distress and didn’t get the response we desired. We prayed boldly. We trusted.

We pleaded and cried out before Him as we held our sweet hurting babies.

And for a time that seemed far too long, they kept on hurting.

And doubt creeped in.

Looking back, I see God’s faithfulness. He carried us, sending help and comfort, even when it felt He was far away and unresponsive.

If I had read Thomas’ story at the beginning of the year, I would have likely ignored what it challenged me to see – I wasn’t ready to face my doubt. 

But God’s loving kindness is so gentle. Before He revealed my doubt, He impressed upon me that my true identity is the one whom Jesus loves. And how the same is true for each of our children.

It is no accident that all these feelings from our firstborn were stirred up and relived with our daughter, just before starting the study of John – the gospel of love.

I will never fully comprehend on this side of heaven what God was doing when He allowed our babies to struggle. But He does show us glimpses of His work. I believe ONE reason He allowed this again in our life was to free me from the burden of doubt. 

Only after He had prepared me by showing me His steadfast love, did He reveal I doubted it. And carried around those feelings for the last 7 years.

That is long time to carry around doubt laced with pain.

So, tearfully but with unexpected boldness, I found myself speaking into an open microphone before 500 women proclaiming God’s love and confessing my doubt.

The God of restoration revealed my doubt, not to shame me, but to free me. He did it to redeem the part of my soul I had shut off from Him because it was shrouded in the fear that God didn’t really love us as I desperately needed Him to.

What a wonderful God we serve – who doesn’t leave us in our broken condition and continues to actively capture and heal our hearts! 

And He will continue to help us break free from the broken we harbor and carry around inside.

Today I stand in that freedom, knowing there will be other difficulties and hard things in my life and in the lives of our family that will challenge my faith and the truth of God’s word.

Without a doubt, there will be other doubts. 

This experience has shown me how in the past I’ve judged Thomas for his doubt.

You know what? ‘Doubting’ Thomas gets a bad-rap.

We all encounter doubts. Walking with Jesus in the midst of a broken world means we are imperfect and incapable of imperfect faith. Doubt is reality. There’s a little Thomas in all of us – when we claim to never doubt, we are deceived by pride.

As with every Bible character, their examples of imperfection and God’s loving response is left there for people just like me. And you. I’m so grateful God included Thomas’ story in the Bible to encourage us in our doubt. God wisely let us know that even one of the 12 disciples, who walked side by side with Jesus here on earth, had doubts too.

Today I stand better equipped to handle new doubts because I have experienced firsthand how Jesus knows my doubts, before I do. He does not waste them. Instead, He gently uses doubts to strengthen and embolden our faith. He draws us closer to Him and will continue to do so until we are with Him and like Him in eternity.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Amen.

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

PS: If you aren’t familiar with BSF, you may want to be! It’s an international organization providing FREE, true to God’s word, Bible studies to men, women and children. Next year’s study is Romans and starts in September – check it out!

The One Whom Jesus Loved

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This year I’ve been studying the book of John with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). Reading John’s account of Jesus’ life, one particular truth stands out.

John refers to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved‘. (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:20)

The one Jesus loved.

Years ago, reading this for the first time, John seemed kind of arrogant to me. The ONE Jesus loved – who does he think he is?’

Was he saying he was MORE loved than the other disciples? That idea didn’t seem consistent with Jesus’ character in the rest of the Bible. Confusion fueled the desire to know more.

And you know what? As I’ve studied the Bible, learning about God’s character and attributes, I identify myself more and more as John did.

I can tell you with certainty, it is not arrogance.

John knew he wasn’t more loved than his peers. John was Jesus’ friend and eye-witness to His life. He walked alongside Jesus daily, watching Him love everyone He came into contact with.

Everyone.

No matter how sinful, no matter how much they loved or didn’t love Jesus back – Jesus loved ALL people.

Jesus’ love is SO important to John that he replaces his own name with Jesus’ love – John’s most important characteristic.

So often, I succumb to a wrong-view of myself. I focus on negative aspects of my personality, image or actions. When who I believe I am doesn’t match who God says I am, my day is robbed of joy. Then too easily, this wrong-thinking infects my actions, thoughts and relationships.

What we think about ourselves needs to be rooted in truth. Who better to tell us who we are than the one who created us in His own image?

How do you identify yourself?

Often, we identify ourselves by what we do – mom, dad, scientist, manager, teacher, student, child, sister, brother, volunteer…

What we do is important, but have you considered your more important, all-encompassing identity?

Not what you do, or who you do it with, but WHO you are.

Jesus Christ knows each of us, inside and out. There is nothing you can hide from Him and nothing He doesn’t know about you, good or bad.

We are fully seen.

Fully heard.

Fully known.

And fully LOVED.

Do you know this truth in your bones?

As celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, will you take time to reflect on who HE says you are?

YOU are SO loved that He purposefully came to earth – fully God and fully man – to save you.

He lived a perfect life, demonstrating perfect love as He interacted with the people HE created.

He knew every sin of every person as He spoke truth in love. He lovingly healed their bodies and their souls.

He laid His life down on purpose.

Jesus is the perfect, unblemished Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

His perfect, sinless blood reconciles sinful, UNHOLY man with God.

We can be united with the holy God who cannot be in the presence of our sin. He is SO holy, He needs to be described by repeating holy 3 times.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Now united with Him through Jesus, what if we lived out our identity as John did?

Who are you?

The _________ whom Jesus loved.

You see?

The mama whom Jesus loved so much He died for her so she can spend eternity with Him.

The daughter whom Jesus loved so much He laid His life down so she can be forgiven.

The manager whom Jesus loved so much He purposefully died on a cross to bear her punishment.

The father whom Jesus loved so much He came to earth to reveal His perfect Father in heaven.

The blogger whom Jesus loved so much He chose to suffer so that she can share in His glory.

The one whom Jesus loved and longs to reveal Himself to – so you know you are fully seen, fully heard, fully known, and despite all your shortcomings, are fully loved.

Will you ask Him to help you believe it?

It is Well With My Soul.

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I woke up this morning surprised at the election results. I really had no idea who would win, and to be honest, I would have felt surprised no matter who won.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday or of how weary you feel after this political season – the wounds revealed and created during this election must be addressed. This election was heartbreakingly divisive. My heart hurts – although today the presidency has been won, the path to get here makes it feel like no one really won.

There is no easy fix – the pain in our nation simply cannot be erased just because the votes have been counted.

I think moving on is going to be difficult for many on both sides of the vote.  Throughout the election, my eyes were opened as the band-aids were ripped off old wounds and as new wounds formed and festered in the issues that divide us all.

I may not be able to fix all that is wrong in our nation, but beginning to move on starts with me. 

Today, I step back and focus on TRUTH.

We have much to be grateful for. Today, the TV will stay off and social media can take a hike. My house is full of the best medicine I know – piano hymns, a baby babbling, and a little girl playing dress up. I thank God I live in a democratic country, and have the privilege to vote that many fought and died for. My focus is on the people I love, and the God I serve. Why not take time to be grateful every day? It is November 9. Today is a great day to begin th HABIT of practicing gratitude with your family as you prepare for Thanksgiving. Start a family gratitude journal or set up a gratitude tree.

There are no perfect voters or candidates. See me. See you. See Donald. See Hillary. Need I say more? Each is imperfect, and we pull from an imperfect pool of candidates for leadership. We make decisions based on carefully calculated glimpses of who candidates are. Then our voting decisions are clouded by our own imperfection and sin. The only true judge is Jesus Christ who knows all things, and who examines the heart and mind. And to this measure, we all fall short.

The only future we know for certain is in Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot ever truly know the hearts of those we seek to elect, we cannot foresee the future repercussions of our choices. We choose the candidate who best suits us and our own vision for our future.  Only God, the Beginning and the End, can see all of eternity. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that eternity has already been won, even if it doesn’t detail everything that will happen between now than then. We don’t know exactly how, but we know the victor is Jesus Christ and He mercifully invites each of us to join Him.

No leader can stop the plan of the perfect God. He is sovereign over ALL creation, knows all things, and has already won eternity. No matter our circumstance, He has overcome the world. If you are disheartened today, step back and look UP.

O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 2 Chronicles 20:6.

One nation, under God. Many in our nation have tried to eliminate God from society. But the truth is, we are a Nation Under God whether we like it or not. He is still sovereign, even when we ignore, disrespect, or don’t believe it. Jesus is King, no matter who our president is. And He can and will use any leader to bring about His purposes on earth. Trying to stifle God’s presence has not done much to improve our nation has it? Instead we are more divided than ever. Instead of pushing God out, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him to heal our nation as only He can.

Our nation needs healing and love. Let it start with you as you love your friends, family and neighbors. Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’ or to tell others they got it wrong. What is done is done. Reserve judgement, offer encouragement, hope and practical help. Start listening more than talking. Freely extend forgiveness, love and respect. Since there are no perfect people, this means we need to give respect even if you don’t think a person has earned it – even those in leadership. Choose to treat all people as God’s beloved. Stop comparing – we are all in need of a savior. Here is a good place to start:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There is peace that transcends all understanding. The Bible has a lot to say about peace offered by Jesus Christ. Months ago in the mess of the election, I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus. It wasn’t easy keeping them locked there with everything going on around me – only by His strength. Last night, I went to bed early with the firm trust that no election result can pluck me from God’s good, sovereign hand. I slept well. Have you ever felt such peace? It is more valuable and more powerful than any assurance a world leader can offer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer keeps us grounded in Him. We can not be in line with the will of God if we are not spending time in His presence in study and prayer. He will give you direction and where to go from here. Focusing on WHO God is and WHAT He has already done in a time that seems hopeless gives joy and peace that transcends comprehension. Spend time now in His presence and ask for His view of our situation and practical ways to extend love and grace to others.

In this day of seeming uncertainty, I pray we can claim peace, cling to the certainty of God’s promises and let the healing of our nation begin with us.

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It is well with my soul. How is yours?

On Our Son’s Sixth Birthday – What I Love About You!

Today our son Aiden turns SIX.

Somehow, six years have passed since we first saw his sweet face. Time is a strange thing – it seems like he has always been, yet it seems like I blinked because he was just born! And now I can hardly pick him up.

How. Did. That. Happen?

While I may not understand how time can fly and go slowly at the same time, I DO know this – we are SO proud of him.

We love him more than we can ever express.

And we are so grateful to be his parents.

I’ve spent the past few days savoring his birthday celebrations with friends and family. It has been so fun to watch him be the center of attention, and to see him laughing and enjoy being blessed by those who love him.

Today I want to celebrate his special day by expressing how grateful we are for who he is, and the way God made him.

Aiden, this post is just for you.

Love, Mom.

 

Six things I love about YOU & the way God made you

  • Cautiously Brave and Wise
    • I love to watch you make wise decisions. You have amazing, God-given discernment for a six year old! This is something you were created with. Since you were small, you have removed yourself when uncomfortable or afraid. You willingly step back from activities or situations you know you should not participate in, and you do it while still being kind to your friends or whoever you are around. You turn off TV shows that are not nice or are frightening without a second thought. ‘Be careful little eyes what you see’ is something you’ve always inherently known and acted on. While being naturally cautious, you bravely take calculated risks. You have regularly, bravely faced and accepted medical treatments that scare you because you understand you need them. And we have watched you excitedly try new things and boldly go new places while joyfully meeting and making new friends.
  • Puzzle-Loving, Problem-Solver
    • Not many six year olds I know get excited about doing a 1500 piece puzzle with their parents, especially when they know it will take a week or more to complete. It is fun to see how you approach problems and puzzles alike with determination and follow-through. You are great at following instructions and sticking with something until it is finished. You were building Lego sets unassisted so early, we were amazed at your ability to focus for long periods and to complete complex projects. It would not surprise me if you become an engineer some day. Certainly God has blessed you with attention to detail and a joy of taking on and completing challenges.
  • Lover of God’s Word
    • It was fun to help you fill in your ‘About Me’ book to bring back to school and share with your class today. My heart swelled with joy when you chose the Bible as your favorite book. And you know what? I believe it really is your favorite book. It amazes me how much you know about the Bible. We have read every night since you were a baby and you have absorbed so much from church and BSF. It is our privilege to read the Bible with you at night and to see how you apply what you learn from it to your life. You ask thoughtful questions that show you ponder what it says and take these things to heart. Some of the content in there has been concerning to your cautious mind, and yet you keep coming back to God’s word to learn more about who God is, and what the Bible has to say. I love how God is drawing you closer to Himself as we read.
  • Kind and Empathetic
    • At your school conference, your kindergarten teacher told us you are a good friend to others, and are always looking out for others. We nodded our heads proudly because we see this in you at home. You love others well and treat them with freely given kindness, compassion and respect. When you were three, we learned Ephesians 4:32 which states: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. We see you living this out daily in the way you treat family and friends. It doesn’t mean you don’t have conflict with others – you do, just like the rest of us. What it does mean is that we see you being quick to forgive others and to move on after conflict has happened. You are also really good at stepping back to see the perspective of others in the situation, and are quick to say you are sorry. It also makes me so proud to hear your concern for others who are struggling and to see how you extend help to those you know you can help.
  • Big Brother
    • Being a big brother to two little sisters is a BIG job. And it is a job you did not get to choose. But you are a big brother and I am so proud of you in this role. You are so sweet and gentle with your baby sister Audra. She lights up when she sees you because she loves you as much as you love her. And it is no secret that Adelyn feels the same way. I love how you spend time with her, playing with her and hugging her when she is hurt or sad. You are thoughtful and considerate to include Adelyn in what you are doing and in playing with your friends. It makes me so proud when you encourage your little sister to follow rules or obey mom and dad, and to demonstrate how to do so with your own behavior. I love the excitement you have every morning about seeing both of them. Thank you for loving your sisters so much and for being the loving, protecting and kind big brother that you are.
  • Uniquely Aiden
    • There is no one on this earth who is just like you. YOU were knit together with care and love by the God who created the entire world and all the people and things in it. God made no mistakes and did nothing carelessly when He created you. I love who you are and who God made you to be. It is our prayer that you will see yourself as God sees you and that you will know HE loves you even more than we can, with His perfect love. We pray that you will continue to grow in faith and confidence in who God made you to be, that the most important identity you have is in Christ Jesus

Today, and every day, I am grateful for YOU.

oct-16

A Letter To Our Son, Who Just Broke His Arm

Aiden sling

My son, you amaze me.

This week you broke your arm jumping off a swing. It is thankfully not a bad break, but painful nonetheless.

Always the cautious child, I was surprised the first time you showed me your new swing-jumping skill. I was so proud of you for trying something new, and a little riskier than I expected from you.

And you jumped SO HIGH!

And stuck the landing.

WOW!

I considered the risk and whether I should ask you to not do it again. But your dad and I want you to be free to be a KID. Plus, I jumped off of many swings and monkey bars when I was your age.

And sometimes I fell too.

Many jumps later, you got off balance and broke your fall with your wrist. On the grass. Who knew a bone could break from something simple like that?

I knew you were really hurt when you were hoarse from screaming before you could even tell me what happened as a neighbor walked you to the front yard.

Even then. In your tears. You were so brave.

Many tears, deep breaths, an ice pack, and a root beer float later, you actually decided you’d rather play than go home.

It’s OK that after a few minutes you came back in tears, ready to go.

It really hurt. And you were brave for trying., and wise to know when it was time to stop.

That night, we iced it, and you went to sleep with nothing more than Tylenol in your system. It’s OK that you woke up several times in tears.

Knowing what we know now, I’m surprised you slept at all.

In the morning, you woke bright-eyed and said you thought it felt a little better. I watched you all morning, playing, but careful not to move it up and down.

When I asked, you were willing to try moving it. You winced in pain, but tried anyway. You were adamant that you could go and play with friends that morning.

You played all morning long and had a blast, arm cradled close to your body. After seeing you cradle it all morning, we headed to the doctor.

The doctor isn’t your favorite place, but you are always willing to go and to do what they ask of you.

Even when you’re terrified.

Through the years you have battled some serious woes – reflux, repeated pneumonia, ear infections, allergy skin and blood testing, wheezing and asthma, and more. Many kids don’t know the doctors as well as you do. But they also don’t have to be truly brave because they haven’t experienced the things you have as you head into the office.

I am always amazed that even though you are afraid there, you understand that they are going to help you and that we need to be there. You don’t fight me as we go in the door, and you accept that some of what may happen might not be fun.

I promise to always be honest with you about what will happen there – I know you can handle it, and will always be right there with you.

As we waited to see if we needed an x-ray, you asked all kinds of questions. I love your curiosity and how you carefully listen to understand. I love watching you quietly process the words and to hear the next question.

You are incredibly smart. A wise soul in the body of a 5.5 year old.

As the doctor asked you to move your wrist, you knew it was going to hurt, but you did everything she asked you to do. You held still as she gently examined your arm.

I was so proud as I heard you thank her before she left the room. And then you thanked the nurses and x-ray technician, too, as we saw them one by one.

You weren’t so sure about that huge x-ray machine, but you sat still, and watched with cautious curiosity as they prepped everything. Even though the position for each x-ray wasn’t comfortable, and I had to leave your side to stand behind the wall, you sat still. You anxiously looked for my face in the window, but did exactly as they asked.

When we told you ‘good job’, I saw you light up. You knew you did it just right.

Then it was fun to see your face light up when they showed you your x-rays and you saw your bones.

You were so excited! It isn’t every day you get to see a picture of your bones! Although a broken bone isn’t fun, you still emanate joy despite your circumstances.

Tired of waiting, I could see that deep down, you just wanted to know what came next – even if it meant the bone was broken.

As with so many other doctor’s visits in the past, you are always willing to hear the hard news – sometimes more than I am.

You meet these battles head-on.

When the doctor returned, I could see on her face that the bone was broken. She soberly explained what happened to your bone to cause a buckle fracture in the radius.

You listened carefully. You asked a couple of questions.

Then you quietly accepted the truth, turning to tell me it was broken, just in case I didn’t understand.

You held very still as they prepared the splint and wrapped your arm, even as your arm got tired from holding it out and above your head. I could see the fascination on your face as you watched what they were doing. Even though the splint and sling were uncomfortable, you were willing to wear them.

No fuss.

And when the doctor explained how we couldn’t take the splint off, you quietly nodded.

Always willing to do as they ask, even when it may mean the end of summer water fun.

Walking to the car, you kindly asked for help with your seat belt, offering suggestions for how the sling could go on top of the belt.

My little troubleshooter. If you want to, you will make a brilliant engineer one day.

And as the sling belt dug into your neck, you told ME it was OK, you were going to be fine. You were so sweet, thanking me as I placed a soft towel underneath to make it more comfortable.

You are one tough, thoughtful and grateful kid.

It was surely disappointing when we came home and all your friends were outside playing but we had to go inside because the temporary sling wasn’t dry or set yet.

And as you asked me questions about playing in water, riding your scooter, and bike, and more that wouldn’t be a good idea right now, I saw the sadness in your eyes.

But then you took a deep breath and again, reassured ME, saying…’It’s OK mom. I don’t care if I broke my arm. I’ll be OK’. And, even better, ‘I’m glad God made our body so it can heal’ (be still my heart!).

What more could we ask of you?

Easy going. Brave. Calm.

With a good attitude even with a broken bone in the middle of summer.

We get the cast on Monday. It wont’ be fun wearing it for the rest of the summer, but I know you are going to be OK, just like you told me. There will be disappointment, but I can already tell you are going to make the most of this.

This morning you made me laugh as you asked me to put your eye patch on you so you could play pirate with your sister.

pirate

A broken arm cannot touch your imagination, sweet pirate.

Today I’m writing this because I see you. I am proud of you. I am grateful for your positive attitude and joyful heart. I see your childlike faith and trust that God will heal you.

Today, you have encouraged ME, your mom – and I’m not the one with the broken arm.

Thank you.

I love you.

I promise you I will find fun activities for you to do with a cast and your one arm.

And to tell you just how much I love you and just how proud of you I am – today, and every day.

You Know What Takes CHRIST Out Of Christmas? Complaining Over A Red Cup.

Is anyone else confused by the hype over the Starbucks red cup? When I first saw the image of the 2015 cup, I thought it looked nice. Simple and a clever use of the Starbucks green logo on the red background.

No problem right?

Well, I guess not. It seems that some people are upset over the cups and think they do not stand for Christmas.  I don’t usually pay attention to these things but the articles that kept popping up specifically mention that Christians are the people making the fuss. I like to know what I’m being associated with.

SO, I looked at the last 6 years of cups that TIME put together for easy viewing. Do you know what I see? Nothing that says “Merry Christmas” or any mention of Jesus. In fact, the apparent change that makes people upset is the lack of a snow flake.

A snow flake?

Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ – since when is a snowman, snow flake or a person sledding on a coffee cup a symbol of Christmas? I don’t remember seeing any mention of these things in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. Haven’t read it? Check it out for yourself in Luke Chapter 1. These symbols are completely and totally unrelated to Jesus Christ.

I can see how this may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. You know what takes the CHRISTmas out of Christmas? Complaining, slander, and overly vocal disgust at red cups. Beloved of Jesus – there are so many more important issues to take a stand on. This distraction does not draw unbelievers to know and love Jesus. If anything, it makes Him less appealing because those who claim to follow and love Him are preoccupied with coffee cups.

As Christians, let us instead CHOOSE to celebrate Jesus, despite what is happening around us in our culture. Regardless of who says “Happy Holidays” and who says “Merry Christmas”, the culture does NOT decide the status of our hearts. We choose who we worship and what our focus is on.

It is either the world or Jesus. He longs for us to choose the latter.

So, as His chosen, and beloved people, CHOOSE to set your eyes on Jesus. Then CHOOSE now to let the rest of it roll off of you. All season long. Spending our precious time boycotting coffee cups is simply a distraction that takes our eyes off of HIM – All God’s grace in one tiny face.

How do we focus on Him?

  • Tell others you are grateful for them.
  • Tell GOD you are grateful for Him and spend some extra time with Him in prayer.
  • Set your grateful hearts on Jesus – on how He loved us and came to DIE for us so we could be saved. And how we can never deserve such a sacrifice and gift of grace.
  • Be grateful that in the United States you can speak the name of Jesus out loud without being tortured, exiled or killed.
  • Pray for those who are dying for their faith and have life and death concerns that make a preoccupation with coffee cups look foolish and careless.
  • Go out and treat others with kindness, respect, and love.
  • Tell others WHO Jesus is and WHY you love Him.
  • Intentionally spread some joy and cheer.
  • Find someone to help, serve or surprise.
  • Let Christians be known for spreading good will among men instead of complaining about things that have no eternal value.
  • Choose Jesus and show others WHO HE IS by sharing His LOVE.
  • Show the world that His love reigns in the hearts of Christians and speak well of others, regardless of where they buy their coffee. Or what color the cup is.

It’s a paper cup, people. We put coffee in it and then throw it away.

Doesn’t CHRISTmas mean more to us than that?

It’s the second week of November. There will be plenty more things this year that do not include Christ. There will surely be over-saturation of Santa, Happy Holidays and commercialization of the season.

Will you choose to allow those things to take your eyes off of Jesus?

22 Practical DO’s And DON’Ts To Show Love On Valentine’s Day {and Every Day}

22 Practical DO's And DON'Ts To Show Love On Valentine's Day  {and Every Day} | thisgratefulmama.com

Valentine’s Day is not my thing. While I will never poo poo a chance to go on a date with my husband, I could care less about going on February 14th, when the restaurants are packed. I’m not big on fancy chocolates (and basically none exist that meet the nut-free criteria to enter our home), or flowers (ah-choo!). By far, the best part about Valentine’s Day paraphernalia is the Gobstopper Sweet Hearts that show up in stores, right after New Years Day (oh, man we just can’t survive even a week without a section in Target devoted to the next Hallmark holiday).

Although the actual day is no biggie to us, we always make a point of going on a date on another night in February. I’m happy to have dinner on a less-crowded night and to not be forced to find something in the color red to wear. As busy parents, we can embrace and use any reason to go on a date and are happy to oblige the ‘love’ in the air by going out without our kids.

But our date is more about us than a pink and red ridden Hallmark holiday.

Whether you jump for joy at the thought of Valentine’s day or feel like it is no big deal, Valentine’s day (like any day) IS a great time to focus on the one you love, and to make an extra effort to make them feel loved. While this is written with marriage in mind, these are simple ways to love or not to love in any relationship.

22 Practical DO’s And DON’Ts To Show Love On Valentine’s Day {and Every Day}

1. DO acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is a reminder to celebrate your relationship, whether you like the holiday or not

2. DO NOT see a movie that isn’t about love at all – take the excellent advice on scissortail SILK blog and honor your spouse with your choices about what you watch and read. Play a game, sit and talk, or find another way to entertain yourselves

3. DO tell them how grateful you are for the way they love you and how they provide for and love your family

4. DO NOT cop-out and buy a huge heart-shaped box of chocolate unless nougat filled chocolate is what your spouse would really be excited about

5. DO kiss and hug your spouse at least 5 times more than usual, and I don’t mean a peck on the cheek

6. DO NOT just sign your name to a Valentine’s Day Card…write at least a paragraph to express what they mean to you

7. DO tell your kids how much you love their mom/dad and be clear that your spouse is your valentine, not your kids

8. DO NOT assume your spouse doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day just because you don’t or skip planning something if you know they want to celebrate it

9. DO volunteer to give a back or neck rub, or do a surprise run through Starbucks drive thru while you’re out and about (hint, hint!)

10. DO NOT be too busy making your child’s Valentine’s Day special to do something special for your spouse (even if it’s something small like ea special meal, card, small gift, coffee date)

11. DO put the kids to bed 30 minutes or 1 hour early and use it to spend quality time together

12. DO NOT spend your evening (or day) on your phone, laptop or tablet. Put the internet DOWN!

13. DO compliment them and those special characteristics that you fell in love with way back when and reminisce about your first date, engagement, etc.

14. DO NOT complain or grumble in any way about what you’d rather be doing on Valentine’s day

15. DO that chore or task that neither of you likes to do and do it joyfully before they can (in our house, it’s taking the Diaper Genie out to the trash…disgusting!)

16. DO NOT speak ill of them to your girl friends or guy friends. Defend them and speak well of them

17. DO something special about a week after Valentine’s day, and every week thereafter (email at work to say you love them, note in their lunch, extra kiss after they get home)

18. DO NOT eat too much, drink too much, or do too much of anything that detracts from the night your spouse will have on your date

19. DO snuggle, hold hands, hug, kiss, and so on…

20. DO NOT have expectations. Put away those expectations and be happy to spend the day together wherever you are, whatever you are doing

21. DO treat love as a choice. Do it when we are happy, sad, mad, silly and cranky

22. DO (or DO NOT) do these things every day, not just today. Love each other in thoughtful ways every day

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!