advent, christmas, Faith, joy, Uncategorized

Day 14 – Did Mary Know – JBA

Mary, did you know?

It’s a great song…but also an interesting question.

As I think about Mary, my heart is stirred. We only have a glimpse into her heart, mind, and life, and the rest is, well, unknown.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” – Luke 1:26-28

How did she feel about her arranged marriage? What did her heart long for? What was she doing the moment Gabriel came to her? I imagine she was in the middle of chores; fetching water, cooking, or cleaning perhaps. Maybe she was daydreaming about her upcoming marriage, or meditating on her favorite psalm.

He calls her favored, but did she know that? Did she feel or believe that she was favored by God – set apart? I imagine that she was a young woman of purity — in heart, mind, and spirit. She knew the Lord, and he knew her. She was obedient and faithful, but this was a real moment, and Mary was a real girl….

“Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.” Luke 1:29

I love that we are privy to this reaction! When the Lord calls us favored we often don’t see it. We are not judged by our initial reaction, the Lord gives us so much grace to process in our humanness. She was confused and disturbed, not by the angel’s message (he hadn’t told her the big news yet!), but by the label, favored.

She wasn’t favored by the world’s standards. She was a poor servant girl who didn’t have much going for her, accept the thing that really mattered – her heart was pure.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” – Luke 1:30-33

In this moment, the angel reveals to her that the her baby will be the King! But did she know more than that? Was she able to process the full extent of what he said? Like most of us would, she had a hard time getting past the reality of her perspective and current life situation…

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” – Luke 1:34

No matter how big our faith, or our love for the Lord, we can’t help but assess our situation from our own perspective. We want to believe but often we cry, BUT HOW, GOD!?

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.” – Luke 1:35-37

God is so faithful to meet us where we are and provide for our every need. Mary wasn’t punished for her questioning – he answered her. The Lord even provided her with someone to link arms with – someone who was also in a miraculous situation. He thought of everything. He is so faithful.

“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:28

There it is again – a pure and faithful young woman. Trusting, obedient, and even though she probably didn’t completely understand, Mary was going to walk forward through the fear.

And there was plenty to be frightened of!

Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.” – Luke 1:46-55

Mary was not perfect, but she was chosen to carry the perfect one. We will never know all she knew and when, but we can learn from her story.

Like Mary, we are chosen to carry the perfect one. All it takes is a willingness to believe and receive him into our hearts.

We can trust that God is doing things in our lives far beyond our capacity to understand and all it takes is a, “Yes, Lord.”

And finally, we need to hold loosely the gifts the Lord gives us. Mary was given Jesus, but only to give him away. The gifts we receive from the Lord aren’t just for us. They are for us to bring him glory by giving them away to others.

Today, my prayer is one of gratitude. Like Mary, I rejoice that the Lord has taken notice of me, and you, and given us the gift of Jesus.

And in case you haven’t been told lately, you are favored by God!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

 

advent, christmas, Uncategorized

Day 13 – To Eggnog Or Not To Eggnog – JBA

I hate it.

My family loves it.

But to be fair to the beloved traditional drink, I looked up the recipe. After all, the passionate polarization eggnog creates in a group has to be based on something good, right? Maybe I just haven’t given it a chance!

It starts out pretty good.

Directions
1. Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.

Not a bad start! There is a part of me that is drawn to this. Creamy, a little sweet, and full of holiday flavor…let’s keep going!

2.  In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy.

REALLY!?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love eggs. I eat them all the time….but I am not sure I can drink them – especially just the yolks! The thought of the thick and slimy texture that takes me right to the edge of…well, you know. But, to be fair, I do love eggs, and I certainly love sugar….I will continue on with caution…..

3.  Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about an hour.

Here is where I wonder how you don’t suddenly wind up with scrambled eggs in the pot! I know, I know, it’s a slow process that you must follow exactly, but I can just imaging my batch suddenly transforming into a fluffy batch of sugary scrambled eggs! But assuming that doesn’t happen, we move on….

3.  Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Two things here…if you are inclined to add the adult portion, maybe that’s what helps you get over the fact that you are drinking liquefied egg yolks! Also, I don’t appreciate things I have to wait for 24 hours to enjoy. Every time I make sugar cookies, I find the recipe that doesn’t require the long refrigeration process – I want my dang cookies now!

One other question, does anyone ever serve or drink it warm? I think that may help. I do love warm and creamy sweet things (ie, hot chocolate or tea with cream).

So, there you have it. Will you be drinking eggnog this Christmas?! I just may give it a try. And if you want the recipe I just covered, the link is below. The creator calls it, “amazingly good eggnog” so, there you have it.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/57028/amazingly-good-eggnog/

advent, christmas, Faith, joy, Uncategorized

Day 12 – What Color Is Your Christmas – JBA

White?

Black?

Red?

Green?

Blue?

Let me explain.

For many of us, our childhood Christmases were red and green and sparkling with hope and possibility. Bright lights twinkled with our heart’s desire. The smell of food and the sounds of laughter are carved into our memories and all it takes is one sighting of the infamous red and green combination to bring that feeling to the forefront of our hearts.

But at some point, for many of us, the colors have changed.

I’ll never forget the year that not one, but both of my grandmothers were in the hospital….and no joke, same hospital, same floor, a few rooms away from each other. Talk about a grey Christmas! My parents and I spent both Christmas eve and Christmas day going back and forth between their room trying to bring as much cheer to the gloomy situation. Of course, the hospital’s cafeteria was closed so we ventured out to find an open restaurant to have some kind of Christmas dinner. The truck stop we found didn’t help to bring any color to the moment….Just grey and very sad.

I don’t have to go into too much detail to tell you about when Christmas was black. Fresh divorce, living alone, no family (almost all recently diseased), and ugly crying all day on the couch.

There have been times when Christmas has felt more green than anything. A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves both unemployed, penniless and totally at a loss as to how to pay rent or any of our bills, let alone provide even one gift for our girls on Christmas morning. We were thankful that our daughters were with their mom that year so we didn’t have to disappoint them with our financial reality.

You’ve never seen two more downtrodden people than my husband and I on the couch all day on Christmas with no kids, no money, and no cheer…only silent prayers and football on tv. But just like the Lord in his faithfulness, a friend of my husband stopped by late at night on Christmas day and gave him a card to thank him for helping with some personal fitness goals. In the card….$500. The friend said, “please use this money to bless your family.” He knew nothing of our situation. We were able to hit the stores early the day after Christmas and buy each girl a few things so that when they came back to us that night, we had gifts under the tree (and money left over to get groceries).

There were many years of blue Christmases where nothing sparkled because without my mother and grandmothers, I couldn’t grab hold of the hope and promise that was supposed to be celebrated.

But then there was the yellow Christmas. Christmas day 2011, the day I met my future daughters. Hope and light came back into the picture. I never thought it would happen that way, but the Lord knew. I was given the best Christmas present ever…a family of my own.

And now, after a kaleidoscope of Christmases, I can honestly say Christmas is now red. It’s full of love, warmth, and truth. I’m able to see and celebrate the reason for the season. I am struck by the power of my Savior’s love and I marvel at the beauty of God’s great plan.

What color is your Christmas?

White: peaceful and pure?

Blue: painful and lonely?

Green: full of financial strife? Or abundance!

Black: hopeless and dark?

Whatever color your Christmas, the truth is, all color is beautiful. No matter what color, you have permission to feel and be just where you are. But, if I may, as one who has been through the many colors of Christmas, let me encourage you with this. It will change. Your black Christmas will not be black forever.

The colors are endless.

At its core, Christmas is full of color. The black of the world in turmoil, desperate and in need of breakthrough. The shining yellow star of hope piercing through the darkness. The white and pure Savior who was born to bring peace to the world. And the red love that was poured out from the throne room of heaven to a world in need.

Whatever color your Christmas, be encouraged and remember, a beautiful rainbow doesn’t exist without all of them.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

advent, christmas, Faith, joy, Uncategorized

Day 11 – Makin’ A List – JBA

Making a list, checking it twice…..

Ok, I get that this song is in reference to Santa, but I was just asking what the Lord what he wanted me to write on today and those are the lyrics I heard.

I am not going to write about being on the naughty or nice list…although I am a very good girl. Today, I feel led to write about our wish list.

Do you have a wish list?

Mine was not a family of Christmas wish list makers. I am an only child and my mom never needed a list to know what I wanted. She was a professional gift giver – especially to her one and only daughter. So, I’ve always found it odd when people make lists of what they want and give it to others. Que the personal epiphany! Maybe this is why the Lord wants me to write on this today! (Welcome to my external processing! This is really happening as I write this!)

I’ve had a problem over the years asking the Lord for what I want. A few years ago the Lord called me to dream again. You see, I had lived my dream – dream job, marriage, house, etc. I had it all and then it sort of turned. There was another side of it all and it didn’t turn out to be what I thought. So I gave the reigns over to the Lord, thanked him for fulfilling what I thought were my dreams, and surrendered my life and dreams to him. I said,

“You dream for me now, Lord. Whatever you have for me, wherever you want me. You have full permission to do anything with me and my life.”

And thus began a few years of surprise after surprise:

  • Getting my Masters of Divinity in Seminary
  • Meeting and marrying my husband Kris (in 10 weeks!)
  • Becoming a mother to 3 daughters
  • Moving to another city
  • Becoming a pastor

I could have never dreamed these things! They were so far off my radar that it literally took the hand of God. So, as I settled into these new roles, I began to hear the Lord say,

“It’s your turn to dream.”

BUT HOW, LORD?! My new life was so far beyond what I expected I didn’t even know where to start.

The Lord is so patient with us. In a kind and gentle way he encouraged me to just start with something.

“State your dreams.”

So one night, I thought real hard, closed my eyes and squeezed out, “Lord, I want to go on a missions trip with my husband.” I felt like I had just dropped a bomb and waited for the fallout.

THE NEXT DAY….isn’t God crazy like that…..THE NEXT DAY WE GOT A CALL! Not only were we invited to go to Mexico with a group, it was all expenses paid, AND (here’s the kicker) the guy had thought of inviting us the night before AT THE SAME TIME I WAS PRAYING! Glory!

I think the Lord gets such a kick out of doing this to us. That began a series of me stating a dream, and in an instant, him making it happen. I was shocked! He kept saying,

“Dream bigger, Season!”

But it was hard! I felt like I couldn’t dream too big. I had lived a great life. I had gotten all the things I thought I wanted….was there room for more?!

I was under the false impression that we can only experience so much goodness until we meet some kind of Christian quota and we can’t have any more or it would be bad.

WRONG!

The Lord has taught me that it’s his joy and delight to give good gifts to his children when we connect to him and are in line with his heart. It’s the same with our own kids. When they earn our trust with what we give them, they can have more.

I have come into a season where the big dreams I have stated to the Lord are really coming true. It’s taken a lot of trust, patience, prayer and deep connection with Him, but it’s all real and it’s all happening on His time. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

As I write this, friends, it’s for two reasons.

First, I want you to hear what the Lord is saying. It’s time to dream. And for some of you, it’s time to dream again. He wants you to know that he cares so much about your old, dusty dreams. He loves to make them a reality! All it takes is a turning to him! That’s the thing. In all this that I’ve gone through, he’s asked me to rely totally on him and not try to make my dreams happen on my own. That’s been so hard!! When I asked what I needed to do for these things to become a reality he simply said,

“Look at me.”

He wants you to lean in. Cuddle deep into the arms of the Father and rest. Tell your daddy in heaven your heart’s desires and watch what happens.

The other reason I am sharing this with you is for my own development. I hear the Lord saying, again,

“You’re not done, Season. Dream bigger.”

Dream with me friend,

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

advent, blended family, christmas, joy, Uncategorized

Day 10 – Santa Wraps – JBA

We met and married in 10 weeks. We knew it was right and we dove in.

Because of the speed in which we moved, there were two things we didn’t talk about that, in time, caused some issues.

How did we not discuss it?! We married in February, and as summer rolled around and football season began, it was discovered that (GASP!) we loved rival teams!!!!  OH THE HORROR! But a marriage covenant is a marriage covenant and we would just have to learn to cope.

There were only a few seasons of rivalry in our home until my life-long team finally decided to make good on their threat and skip town. They were so bad for so long and I stuck it out – I was a loyal fan! But my loyalty to my home town ran out once they left. I couldn’t do it anymore. The (now LA) Chargers are dead to me.  The bright side is that I have now won the best wife award by coming over to the dark side – I mean, the Kansas City Chiefs. (My husband wants me to add, “the winning side” which, to his credit is true).

The second major issue we encountered was at Christmastime. I was so excited to be a mom and do all the mom-things. We dreamed up a list and shopped for our daughter’s gifts, decorated, and loved establishing our own traditions – that is until the time came for gift wrapping. I had thought through it all: each girl would have their own wrapping paper according to their personality (but still complimenting each other), and Santa’s wrapping paper was also specific to each girl – but Santa themed, of course. Or so I thought.

To my surprise, my husband had a visceral response to the idea that Santa would wrap his gifts. His experience was that Santa NEVER would wrap his gifts, but simply leave them under the tree. He argued that Santa didn’t have time to wrap gifts, and that most of the gifts he brought we not easily wrapped.

WHAT?! I never knew that was a thing! Santa always wrapped my gifts, and his wrapping paper was different from my parents gifts.

Little did I know that this is a deeply dividing issue! My husband conceded and allowed Santa to wrap our daughter’s gifts. I am now more sensitive to the idea and would not impose my experience on others. So, please tell me, dear friends,

Does Santa wrap the gifts he leaves under your tree?

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

advent, christmas, joy, Uncategorized

Day 9 – Sing GLORY – JBA

I’m continuing my look at the deep and powerful truths found in traditional Christmas songs. The joyful songs of the season!

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria!! I love to worship. I sing and dance with abandon. I clap and shout without a care for anyone else’s opinion. Why? Because I know freedom. I’ve known captivity and I’ve been rescued. I’ve been freed from guilt, shame, fear, and the list goes on. I’ve been identified as a daughter of the King, full of her Father’s approval. The ransom has been paid for my life and

my gratitude is LOUD.

I love this song because it reminds us that there are witnesses to the overall big story of the good and powerful God of the universe…but they are also witnesses to God’s beautiful story in our lives.

The angels and mountains rejoice over the goodness of God. They see so much more than we do, and they are moved to cry out with the celebration, glory! But here’s the crazy thing, they aren’t even the ones Jesus died for!

So what will your response be? Jesus came to take away your sin, shame, and fear, and bring you into a loving and beautiful relationship with the all powerful and glorious God of the universe. He loves you… So how will you respond?

If you’ve never responded to the life changing offer of love from Jesus Christ, it’s for you, and you can say yes today.

And, if you have said yes, how are you thanking him? Let us take a cue from the angels and mountains, and respond with a gratitude that shouts, GLORY!

Joyfully,

Season

Psalm 148, Isaiah 55:12, Luke 19:37-40

advent, christmas, joy, Uncategorized

Day 8 – Candle of LOVE

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

I discovered this poem by Christina Rossetti when I sung an arrangement of it in a Christmas show. It was published 133 years ago and has deeply touched my heart.

Today is the second day of Advent. So, again, imagine with me that we are lighting a candle, the candle of Love.

During this season we celebrate the birth of the messiah, Jesus. But just like today, back then, not everyone believed. As humans, we long for proof. As this poem says, “but wherewith our sacred sign?” How shall we know that this baby born is actually our savior?

The answer is, love.

According to this poem, love came down at Christmas. It came down from heaven to the world that was in desperate need. It’s not of this world. It’s far beyond our understanding, and certainly greater than our labels and human examples.

Love came down at Christmas. With the baby born in a manger, love entered our earthly existence.

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

So the question is, what did we have before Jesus? If we didn’t have love, what was it? The world knew obligation, fear, and ritual, but we didn’t know love.

Love came down at Christmas. Jesus, God incarnate, could have come as anything he wanted. He chose to enter the world as a baby – lovely and perfect.

What kind of experience have you had with love? Has your version of love been conditional, full of threat, or routine? Has the love you’ve known built you up or shut you down? No matter what you’ve known as love, Jesus came with a gift just for you.

The gift of pure, unconditional, powerful, and perfect love. Love shall be our token – our sign that God is real. It’s a gift just for you. Congrats on your beautiful bundle of joy! Merry Christmas!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

advent, joy, radio, Uncategorized

Day 7 – Father Christmas – JBA

“Daddy, what brings you joy?”

“Well…… you!”

“Aww, daddy that’s sweet, but I’m serious, what brings you joy?”

“You, Season. You. Knowing you’re taken care of, being with you – being together.”

Wrecked.

For many years, since my mom died in 2004, my dad and I have had a great distance between us. Not because of anger or anything dramatic, just the perfect storm of mileage, new family situations, and a huge difference in communication styles and desired ways of connection.

And this is where I get real vulnerable….here’s the ugly truth,

Because I had already dealt with so much death – loosing my mom, two grandmothers, two great aunts, and the death of a marriage, it was easier to consider my father dead than to directly deal with the difficulty and inevitable disappointment of attempting to maintain the connection. Ouch.

In January 2019 I heard the Lord say, “this is the year of the Father.”

I was a bit surprised by this declaration. My response was, “I don’t think I have any distortions about the Father, Lord, but I am open to what you want to teach me.” In my zeal for connection and growth with the Lord, I began to read parts of the Bible that reveal the heart of the Father, have conversations with some of my friends who are passionate about the Father’s heart, and even ask if there were any books that I could read that focus on this subject. My head was all about it….my heart didn’t know what was coming!

When I began to lean in a bit more to the invitation to connect with the Father, I realized my connection to the trinity was a bit lopsided. I am deeply connected and intimate with Jesus, surrendered to and powered by the Holy Spirit (well, that’s my intention anyway!), but if I’m honest, I always came up short with a knowing and being known by the Father.

So what would I do with that?! There was no shame in it, I just didn’t know what to do with the revelation.

In true God-like fashion I didn’t have to do it, He had a plan.

In March, my dad, Jerry Marshall, moved in with us.

An unexpected and painful divorce led him to spiral in every area, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He was broken, lost and confused. My father is the most committed man I’ve ever met. He lost my mother, his wife of 28 years to cancer, has played drums at my family’s church for 40 years, and worked at one job for 38 years! This man doesn’t know how to quit! So what was he to do when his wife of 10 years was done?

My amazing husband says to him, “well sir, you will come live with us.”

That thought didn’t even cross my mind! I am so grateful for the man I married, a father who knows how to love sacrificially, without fear.

At first it was ROUGH! My dad was holding on by a thread. I wasn’t sure he would make it through each day. As he evened out a bit it became very clear that we needed to find a home that was conducive to our new life. Having to walk up and down our stairs, crawling over the baby gate that kept the dogs from the second floor, sharing a bathroom with my teenage daughter, and not having any place for his stuff was not helping him feel settled and safe.

I decided to do a 90 day fast. There were some major things in front of me and I needed to seek and surrender.  I fasted for three things, my dad and his divorce, finding a home, and the future of my job.

On day 30 my dad’s divorce was final. He now had freedom to heal.

On day 40 I was ordained as an Elder in the Free Methodist Church (I was already licensed as a pastor but this was the full ordination).

On day 60 we found and bought a dream house for this season of our lives.

On the final stretch of my fast, I quit my job. I will share more about that another time…you may already know that I have stepped down from my full-time job as a Pastor at Centerpoint Church. I still remain a pastor, and I am still very much a committed member of the best church in the world.

Who buys a house and quits their job?! A daughter who is being taught the abundant love of a Father. That the thing about dads, they love to provide for their children. My father is a gift from the Father to show me what being a loved daughter means. It is so hard to receive! My dad has made it possible for us to buy a house and for me to quit my job and follow Jesus into unfamiliar territory because he’s given me my inheritance so to speak.

He said to me, “All I have is yours. You’re my daughter”

Hmmm, sounds familiar. I am reminded of the Father in the prodigal son story. The younger son demands his inheritance while his father is still alive, and is given it freely! And the other brother who is jealous of that gesture is told that he had everything the father had all along!

The love of the Father comes without earning it. It comes when we don’t feel we deserve it.  And the love of the Father comes with teaching. What dad doesn’t want to teach their children about the things of life?

On October 20th my father went into the hospital for what would be a month of agony for us. I was so thrown!

Lord! This is supposed to be the year where you reveal the goodness of the Father to me and now I am a caretaker for my dad! WHAT’S THE DEAL?! This is hard and painful, and I hate it!

That’s exactly what the Father was trying to teach me. The love of the Father includes sacrifice. Love isn’t only about receiving! In fact you’d be hard pressed to find much in scripture about love being anything other than self-less, sacrificial, and HARD! We have so missed the point when it comes to love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son….

To know the love of the Father is to know sacrifice. In my new experiences of pain and sacrifice I know it’s only a glimpse of the pain of what my father must have felt in 10 years of being estranged from me, all for the sake of my discomfort.

But this isn’t payback.

The Lord is so faithful. He does not punish us. He only longs to draw us near. It’s in the nearness of my father that I have learned more about the love of my Father in heaven.

This is an ongoing discovery. Please understand that I am not done. I have only begun to comprehend the Father’s love. I have been broken by my selfishness and restored by the love and kindness of Jesus and Jerry Marshall. Though I don’t deserve it, the Father has given me the gift of my daddy this Christmas.

The Father will stop at nothing to be reunited with his children.

I bless you this Christmas to learn more about the love of the Father. If you have a painful experience with your earthly dad or he may be no longer on this earth, your Father in heaven has so much to reveal to you. And if you have a wonderful relationship with your earthly dad, hold him close and thank the Lord.

Joyfully a loved daughter,

Season

P.S. One of my favorite ways to connect with the love of the Father is through my friend Aeron Brown’s album, The Father’s House. You can stream it on any platform or buy it here.  Be sure to have tissues!

advent, blended family, christmas, joy, step kids, step mom, Uncategorized

Day 6 – A Christmas Miracle – JBA

December 25th, 2011.

The day I met my daughters.

I didn’t know how I would become a mom – well, technically I knew how I could, but I didn’t know how God was going to make it happen. I always knew that I would have a family, but my marriage ended without any children and I hadn’t thought much beyond that.

When I came across a super good-looking, passionately devoted Christ-follower on ChristianMingle.com, my interest was peaked. That is, until I got to the bottom of his profile page and saw,

“And I have three beautiful daughters.”

Que the record scratch.

Call me naive, but I had never thought about the idea of being a mother to someone else’s children. It freaked me out. So much so that I didn’t reach out or even like his profile, I just signed out of my account for a week. Clearly I had stuff to think about and I needed to seek the Lord about this new idea.

Could I love someone else’s children?

I prayed earnestly about this everyday for a week. I didn’t really hear anything specific from the Lord about it, I just surrendered my heart and told God,

“I trust you. I give you permission to make me a mom any way you would like.”

Seven days after I logged out of my account, I received an email from ChristianMingle.com saying that someone was trying to reach me via email. YUP! You guessed it – the super good looking father of three! He had seen my profile and was interested.

I read his email and it said all the typical things, “I love what you say about your love for Jesus. I would love to get to know you, and I think you’re super cute.” Eek! Then he finished with, “Check out my profile and get back to me.” I thought, well, funny thing, sir, I’ve already seen your profile, freaked out about your kids, and have been praying about you for a week!

I said something a bit less crazy than that, and it began a great conversation.

It went fast. We knew what we wanted. Within a few weeks it was time to meet the girls. I had spent the week leading up to Christmas in Maine and before I came home I was invited to spend Christmas day with him and his daughters.

I was so nervous! I didn’t want to come empty handed, so while I was on the east coast I filled a stocking for each girl, complete with a personalized name thingy I made for each one. I wasn’t even a mom yet, but I enjoyed every minute of searching for the right stuff based on their ages, 6, 8, and 10. Girly, fun stuff! I was falling hard and fast for girls I hadn’t even met yet.

I landed at 9 am on Christmas morning and made the hour long drive from the airport to his house in 40 minutes flat. The day is a bit of a blur. I remember smiles and laughing, long hair, one at a time showing me all the things they loved (hours of listening to softball cheers), and ending the night watching a movie with three little girls piled on top of me.

It was love at first sight. The Lord did a miracle in my heart and life that day. He gave me a family. We got married about 8 weeks later and I became and insta-mom.

The Lord can create a beautiful family out of anything. The Christmas story is a great example of how, when we have willing hearts and open minds, the glory of love wins, and family is born. It’s love that creates it, and love that keeps it alive.

It doesn’t matter what your family looks like: traditional, blended (smooth or choppy), or with no DNA to be found. Family is made by the miracle of love.

Jesus said, “who are my mother and brothers?” It wasn’t dishonoring to his blood family, it was a confirmation of what unity in love can look like and accomplish.

The holidays can trudge up drama and pain within families. Today, I want to encourage you to reflect on the miracle of love — the gift of family.  My family isn’t perfect. It could be easy to look back on the 2011 miracle and be disappointed, jaded even, if I compare that sparkle and shine to the dull glow of today. But I tell this story to encourage you, and REMIND MYSELF that found at the heart of the miracle of love is commitment, follow through, and perseverance. Jesus certainly models this with us, right?!

Family may not be easy, but where there is love, miracles can be found.

What is your miracle made of?

Joyfully,

Season

advent, christmas, joy

Day 5 – My Dog Ate The Christmas Tree – JBA

“Why can’t we have nice things?!”

Last year we had a one year old Irish Wolfhound weighing in at 120 lbs (he’s now 150 lbs), and a 12 week old wiener dog weighing in at three lbs (now five lbs). They are best friends and quite a pair. There is something so fun about having puppies at Christmastime – in theory.  It’s more like in commercials and movies it looks fun to have a puppy at Christmas, that is until they discover the pretty things.

The phrase “my dog ate my —— (fill in the blank)” has come out of my mouth more than I can count. Most recently my dog ate my brand new computer’s cord. The little one, Pippin, likes to chew through things. The big one, Samson, just swallows them whole. We find whole socks, underwear, partial shoes, and pieces of all manner of things in the piles of you know what in the backyard. But they sure are cute, which is why they are still living with us.

We were excited to deck the halls and complete the romantic picture of Christmas in our home. Lights, trees, boughs of holly, and puppies – what could be sweeter?!

I wasn’t sure how they would react to the new additions. It began with the nose, of course. Even though it was a fake tree, it sure smelled good to them! We hadn’t put the ornaments on it yet, but there was great satisfaction in getting it up and lit – so much so that we decided to put off the adornment for another day. It was just so pretty the way it was.

The next morning, it was less pretty. As I came downstairs, I noticed the branches were hanging in strange formation, with fake pine needles EVERYWHERE. Yup, they did it. The two of them went to town and ate the Christmas tree. The strings of lights were chewed through, the branches were stripped and wonky. Our poor tree lost the battle of the beasts.

It was so discouraging. I cleaned up the fake pine needles. I unplugged the ragged end of the string of lights. And then you know what we did? Left it up – mangled limbs and all. I didn’t have the heart to fix it. We just sort of cleaned up around it and left it the way it was. The truth is we didn’t need it to be anything other than it was.

That’s the thing about Christmas – it’s not about the polish or the perfection. It’s about welcoming Jesus into our world, right where we are. The one who came to save us, even though we didn’t deserve it, didn’t wait until it was pretty.

Our home didn’t look good, but neither did the stable and feeding trough. But it didn’t disqualify the love that was brought to us. We had Christmas. We had love. We have Jesus, and that’s all we need.

But with all that said, I’m hoping this year is different and our tree lasts more than one night!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent