The 12 Days of Christmas - The Gift of Contentment

I have learned the secret of being content.
Philippians 4:12

Months of planning lies in haphazard piles. Weeks of dreaming vanish like a breath. Hours of wrapping litter the floor. 

Christmas is a holiday that takes monumental time to architect and almost no time to execute. No matter how low you try to set your expectations, there exists a natural gap between the effort you put in and the satisfaction that comes out. For many, the late hours of Christmas day leave us feeling...empty.

I find it ironic that contentment contains the word content. Because it's when we focus on the content of our lives or event that we find contentment most elusive. The secret of being content lies in not focusing on content. Instead we have to shift our view from that which passes to that which lasts. 

Moments with Jesus build mountains of faith.

Minutes of prayer bring eternal results.

This Christmas why not steal away with Jesus before the first present is opened? As we shift our hearts from a single day on the calendar to the Eternal One, we move from content to contentment. Let's unwrap this gift lasts.

The 12 Days of Christmas - The Gift of Creativity

So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

A couple years ago I began a new tradition with my kids. Every day from when school lets out until Christmas dawns, my children and I do a special activity together. We've made Christmas journals, decorated ornaments and written special messages on puzzles. We've failed at making a rice crispy house and successfully constructed a sleigh. 

I do these projects with my kids for more than just passing the time. 

I want them to feel the pleasure of giving a gift made from their own hands.

I want them to enjoy time spent doing things together.

I want them to experience the joy of creativity.

We were made with the mark of the Master in our hearts. Deep within each of us is a desire to create. We may make music or string words like popcorn. We might whittle away wood or our pantry stock. We may construct spreadsheets or toys. But I believe we all have creativity tucked within the folds of our inner being.

Creativity is hard to give away. When we give what we make, we risk being misunderstood or underappreciated. But when we give what we make, we gain satisfaction that comes with giving no store-bought gift.

As we continue these days of Christmas, I wonder if you'd consider giving a piece of yourself away this year. 

Would you share your sense of style by selecting a signature color for your mom?

Could you spread your knowledge of cooking by penning a favorite recipe for a friend?

Are you willing to give away your gift of organization by offering to clean your sister's house?

The splendor of God's creation is multiplied when creativity is gifted from you. (Care to tweet that? -->

What has God uniquely gifted you to give this Christmas?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Consistency

The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.
1 Samuel 26:23

I never question if he'll do what he says. He is as reliable and faithful as the turning of the seasons. This is one of the many things my husband does to build trust in our marriage. 

If he tells me he'll be home for dinner at 7, I get worried at 7:05.

If he sets a budget, he stays within it.

My husband regularly gives me the gift of consistency.

We've all known people who try to compensate on Christmas morning for what they didn't give the others days that year. Consistency isn't like that. It can't be packaged up and placed under the tree one day of the year. Consistency is something you day, one decision, one promise at a time.

Consistency is something I need to give more often to my family and I don't have to wait for Christmas to give it. I can start right now. 

How would your primary relationships look different if you gave the gift of consistency this year?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Simplicity

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, 
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7

Each December, on more than one evening, our family piles in the old four wheel drive sleigh and heads out to look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we pay to enter a city-sponsored spectacle which, here in the South, nearly always includes a manger scene. Other times we meander through neighborhoods looking for glimpses of Jesus among the sparkle. 

But the most spectacular display of lights we see each year isn't in someone's front yard or a city-owned park, it's in the sanctuary of a church. One light bends to another as 5000 candles slowly come alive and flicker to the One born under a great light to be the greatest light. Silent Night is whispered from reverent lips. A holy hush settles over our hearts and we lift high the One who brought Himself low. (Want to quote this on Twitter? Click here -->

Christmas can be so complicated. Multiple social gatherings get scheduled for the same night. Packages and deliveries come and go at a frenzied pace. Cookies are baked, brought, bought and eaten. Sometimes I get tired such thinking of the details.

On this fourth day of Christmas gifts, I can choose to give myself and my family a present - the gift of simplicity. 

A simple dinner served on festive paper plates with every person preparing one dish.

Stockings filled with prayers from each family member to the others.

A morning spent leisurely engaging in Presence instead of tearing into presents.

A simple, uncomplicated Christmas rocks to the rhythm of Jesus' manger cradle.  (Want to tweet this? Click here --> This Christmas come join Him there. Away from the crowds. Away from complication. Away in a manger.

The gift of simplicity.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Sacrifice

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

For the last two weeks I've been dusting my face with an empty bottle of foundation. 

For the last two years I've been plucking my own eyebrows.

For the last two decades I've been short on sleep and long on worry.

As a parent these are just a few of the sacrifices I've made. Sacrifice comes with the job description. It takes shape in my finances, my emotions and sometimes even my physical well-being. But can I be really honest for a minute?

Sometimes I get tired of sacrifice. 

The other day I was grumbling and complaining to God about this (clearly I'd temporarily forgotten the truth of Philippians 2:14). As I did, I felt a nudge in my heart. It was as if God asked me, "What if I felt that way? What if I got tired of sacrifice? I paid the ultimate price for your well-being and yet you tire so quickly of sacrificing yours for others."

Sacrifice is the costliest of gifts. It's price is more than monetary. It demands a part of me. 

This Christmas I want to give the gift of sacrifice...without grumbling and complaining.

I want to give because He first gave to me.

I want to count the blessing instead of the cost.

I want to live simply so others can simply live.

Each of us contain sacrifices only we can give. Every day that I pour out these words it is a sacrifice. It is a love offering first to God but second to all of you. 

Will you open with me the gift of sacrifice this year and give of yourself to others?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Being

I'm counting down the presents I have left as I wrap them. This year each one gets a box, some wrapping paper and a circle of curly ribbon. These packages are marathon distance from the wrapping queen I started my adult life as. 

I used to spend hours (and tons of money) making every gift perfectly coordinated and wrapped imaginatively. I thought the outside of the package should invoke as much delight as the inside. I'll admit my Christmas tree had an extra degree of festive back then but I can't actually recall someone even noticing the wrapping...they were all about what was inside.

Sometimes I get so busy doing things for my loved ones, I fail to be with my loved ones.

My kids would rather wrap imperfect presents with me today than unwrap perfect presents in two weeks.

My hubby would rather me snuggle with him on the couch than watch me struggle to adorn his Christmas present.

They don't care so much about my doing...they are interested in my being.

Today as we continue the 12 Days of Christmas,  I want us all to unwrap the gift of being.

Let's give ourselves time with our families.

Let's give ourselves grace to giggle at our imperfections.

Let's give ourselves permission to execute a perfectly, imperfect Christmas.

Most importantly, let's give ourselves the gift of being alone with the One whose birth is at the center of our party planning.

Stop doing; start being. It's a gift you give to others by first giving to yourself.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Belonging

Let us not give up meeting together, 
as some are in the habit of doing, 
but let us encourage one another
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

I wish I could sit down with every one of you this Christmas. I want us to share a cup of cocoa or coffee, to chat and to hear each other's Christmas dreams. But since I can't be with most of you in person this December, I wanted to give you a gift this year. In fact I'm giving you 12 of them. Each day - Monday through Friday for the next 12 days, I will be sharing with you the 12 gifts I most want you to have this Christmas season.

The first is the gift of belonging.

Three years ago today I wasn't trimming a tree; I was trimming our household belongings as I prepared to downsize and move from Dallas to Memphis. My hubby had already made his way here. Soon the movers would pack up my memories as I packed up our children, and move us hundreds of miles away...just in time for Christmas.

I know I purchased and wrapped Christmas presents that year but frankly I can't remember any of them. Because...

More than any toy...

Better than the latest fashion...

I wanted to give my family one gift for Christmas - the gift of belonging.

That year we attended Christmas Eve service with strangers. We unwrapped our hearts in the presence of the unknown. We stepped out in faith into a community where we knew no one.

We needed the gift of belonging.

Belonging doesn't just happen. It's one of those gifts I have to give myself. I have to choose to make time for a women's Bible study. I have schedule the hours to attend a small group. I need to select an hour to get to know Christian friends. I can only truly belong with others if I first belong to Him.

The thing is I'm not the only one who needs the gift of belonging. You need it too.

Will you let me give you this gift this year? Will you let yourself be more authentic and less concerned with appearances? Will you make time for relationships that matter and let go of ones that don't? It may require attending Christmas Eve service with strangers but if you choose belonging and stay the course, eventually belonging will choose you too.

Not Away in a Manger

This Christmas I want Jesus to be born in me.

No I can't go back in time and switch places with Mary. But I don't want Jesus away in a manger. I Him resting in the manger of my heart.

I'm posting today over at Keeping It Personal and I'd love for you to join me there as you let Jesus be born in you...

When the Bough Breaks

For almost a decade I've been decorating two Christmas trees. Like the DoubleMint Gum ads, it's double the pleasure and double the fun. Something happened to my trees over the summer though. They went into the attic in the prime of life and emerged senior citizens.

One had a major bough malfunction - snapped at the neck as it were. There was no redemption; He was put out to pasture after almost 20 faithful years of service. The other had a major wardrobe malfunction - about half of his prelit lights burned out requiring him to be strung with new lights. 

If I had penned my perfect Christmas, that definitely would not be the first chapter. In fact, I started decorating at Thanksgiving and still have boxes cluttering my family room. It's feels like a broken Christmas.

I've had broken Christmases before. Some due to tragedy but most due to expectations that register a 10 on the unrealistic scale. Even though my Christmas is off to a broken start, I don't have to let it break me.

When the bough of your Christmas, starts to break...

Focus on the light - As a child I would sit and look at the Christmas tree for hours. I was mesmerized by the way the lights danced around the room. Things in my life looked different - more magical - under the tree. The same is true of Jesus' light. When I get in His presence, my life looks different - less stressful and more manageable - in His arms.

Let go - Ornaments are precious to me. They represent history, memories and little pieces of my heart. But every year some are broken by my children. The first time this happened my breath twisted around my heart...and then I let it go. I decided my kids were more precious than the bobbles they broke. When we let go of our expectations, we grasp peace.

I pray everything goes according to plan for Christmas celebration this year but if it doesn't don't let the bough break you.

What unrealistic expectation do you need to let go of this Christmas?

God Wants Me to Run

“Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has delivered him.”
2 Samuel 18:19

Saturday afternoon I finished a race I started ten years ago.

26.2 Miles & we're still smiling!
For over a decade I dreamed of running a marathon but...

The training seemed daunting.

My time seemed limited.

My body seemed ill-equipped.

Last May I decided I would no longer allow myself the luxury of excuses. I committed to train in rain, heat and cold. I chose to put in the hours and miles. Saturday my dedication paid off when I crossed the finish line.

Yesterday as I celebrated my run with my brother, he joked he was afraid my marathon experience might turn out like the first one ever run. It is reported that in about 500 BC an urgent military message was sent from Sparta to Athens via a runner. He ran the distance, delivered the news and died from exhaustion.

As I contemplated my accomplishment so long in coming, it occurred to me that while I didn't die Saturday sometimes my message does.

A friend mentions a need...and I don't run to pray for her.

God does something amazing in my life...and I don't run to share it with my kids.

I realize I've wronged my husband...and I don't run to ask his forgiveness.

What has God done in your life today? Who should run to and share His goodness?