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Are we celebrating the REAL Christmas?

The last 48 hours have been quite funny and sad at the same time. For the last 6 years I had stopped celebrating Christmas. I got divorced 6 years ago. I live alone with my dog and felt that there was no reason for me to put decorations or cook a big meal because I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Yes, I’ve gotten invitations from family and church family members, but it didn’t feel the same.

This year I got really down during Thanksgiving for the same reason. One of my brother’s in Christ saw me the Monday after and I told him how I was feeling. He told me to decorate my place and invite him and his wife over for dinner. Although I appreciate their gesture; something didn’t set well with me.

The next Sunday, visiting a friend’s church, they were talking about the meaning of Christmas. The pastor was talking about the time when Mary was visited by the angel. We all know the story, the angel told her she was going to fulfill the prophecy, have a virgin birth. She basically said let God’s will be done. Joseph wasn’t happy, but another angel came and told him this is from God and he went OK. He married Mary and off they went to Bethlehem and had the baby.

Was it that easy? I’m not a parent. Your 14 year old comes home and says she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Think about it, I’ll wait. Your virgin fiance tells you that she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. I’ll give you a chance to digest that. You are minding your business cleaning the house and an angel shows up and tells you that you are going to be carrying God’s child.

The faith and obedience that Joseph and Mary had to believe God’s plan against what the world was in those times and it’s right now, most of us wouldn’t pass that test.

It got me thinking, what are we really celebrating? Everyone knows that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but that as a society we picked that day to celebrate his birthday. Are we really? Our Christmas celebrations have become about us and not about Jesus, even for those of us who go to church.

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I’m sure many will think I’m the Grinch and I’ve come to terms with that. Our traditional Christmas celebration is usually to decorate the house, a tree, and have lots of food. I’ve heard that Christmas is about gathering the family together. I didn’t read that during the story of Christ’s birth, but here we go. And of course we need presents, lots of them, especially for the kids, because we need to make it special for them. So we go to church, and pray before the meal and read under the Christmas tree the story of the birth… Being the good Christians that we are,”right”?

I think we’re wrong.

If we’re going to celebrate the birth of our Lord, shouldn’t we be giving gifts to him? Shouldn’t this be a day of service to others as an offering to him instead of serving ourselves? Naty, what the idea of getting together with the family? You can do that any time of the year. Actually why are you waiting for Christmas to tell anyone you love them? That sweater or new TV is going to be the same sweater or TV March 13th as it is on December 25th. Save that gift for that person’s birthday.

Naty, what about the kids? What about starting to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas so that they don’t stumble through the same paths that we have?

We get hung up on coffee cups (which I know it was a hoax). We say we need to put Christ back in Christmas, when our celebrations don’t put Christ in Christmas.

As I was thinking about this post I realized that the majority of us actually partake in the 7 deadly sins even while  celebrating that God sent his only son to save us from hell. Naty you are exaggerating! Am I?

Gluttony- I don’t even have to explain that.

Anger- It’s a joke already about the fights that happen when the family gets together.

Lust-Remember lust is not only about sex, but about things and pleasures that have nothing to do with God.

Envy-Wait, why is their gift better than mine?

Pride- I’m not inviting/calling XYZ, You remember what s/he did to7-Deadly-Sins me? Or, I have to make sure my outfit is perfect for the next Christmas party.

Sloth-This one comes right after the gluttony attack.

Greed-It’s the season to “give” but I’m expecting to receive too.

We already received our Christmas present. It is JESUS, is he not enough?

That was my revelation. I realized that when I was married, I still didn’t have a big family. It was usually  my husband, my mom and I. But I used to invite anyone who didn’t have a place to celebrate to my house. I was sad out of my selfishness because I had forgotten who my real brothers and sister’s really were. I had bought into the lie of the traditional Christmas. And as I try to get closer to God I’m no longer afraid to be criticized for not following the world but for following Christ.

I think this is the real gift, anyone who says that they love the Lord should give to Jesus on December 25th. Ironically this is in Matthew 25:34-40

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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I challenge you to celebrate the true nature of Christmas. From this year forward, I know I will.

Merry Christmas

What are you doing with your gratitude?

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This morning I woke up thinking about what today represents. To many is the day to have an excuse to overeat, party or drink. It’s also viewed as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends; nothing wrong with that. To some is another day at work. To some is the day to strategize about the next shopping spree to spend money that they don’t have to buy things they don’t need.

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The holidays are not festive for everyone and I used to be sensitive to that. Even before the traditional holiday excitement started to elude me. When I used to own a house, my Thanksgiving weekend was dedicated to inviting over people who didn’t have someone who spend this time with. It was my way of giving back with gratitude for what I have.

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Reminiscing on that memory I felt convicted. I haven’t stop being grateful for the blessings I continue to receive, but once I didn’t have a place big enough to entertain, I just stopped sharing what I had. I’m grateful every day for the life God has given me, the friends and family who have taken me in these years of selfishness. God has continue to provide and bless me every day and although I do share my blessings… This is one I need to get back to.
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I remember a friend of mine who’s children were court ordered to spend the holidays with her ex-husband. She didn’t have family in town and instead of sitting at home having a pity party or feeling lonely she used her time to bless others. She thought about something she loved, babies. On holidays she would volunteer at a hospice with the babies. She would look after them to allow the parents the opportunity to go home to spend time with their other children, get some sleep or at least change clothes.

Are we using our gratitude to self indulge or to be a blessing?

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Is Today Thanksgiving?

Growing up I remembered the joy of Thanksgiving Day. I would wake up early to watch the Macy’s Day Parade, while my mother would be in the kitchen making our Thanksgiving meal. She cooked for our lunch as our neighbor across the street always brought us a plate from their meal for our dinner. So it was super neat. You got to eat turkey twice but different turkey and sides.
As an adult for some reason Thanksgiving was the highlight of the holidays for me. I was always invited somewhere for Christmas and we had a neighborhood tradition for New Years Eve, so I hosted every Thanksgiving. The day before, I cooked until late hours in the night. I made sure my Christmas tree was up because in my mind it was going to be my only chance for others to see it. It was a very exciting time.
I know times change, but there’s something very wrong about what I see starting to happen this year. I get the whole Black Friday thing. I’ve never participated and if you ever catch me at 2 am in the cold waiting for a store to open to buy anything, you have my full permission to commit me. But I do get the chase for a sale, the opportunity to buy things at a better price for the holidays (although those are not really sales, but that’s a different argument). However this year we have moved it to Thursday. There are stores that are opening all day on Thanksgiving Day for people to go buy stuff. Can’t we just wait a day?
I also understand that there’s people that rather be in the stores than at home with their families for whatever reason, but sometimes we have to think about others as well. This is a time to be thankful for everything we have, and sometimes we do not realize how much we DO have? If you’re reading this post, it means you have some kind of device and internet access to read it. It also means that you are literate, when there are tons of people without the ability to read. It means that you’re not blind, when some wish they could see anything. If you are standing by the door of a store or find yourself in one, it means you have means of transportation, that you have health, that you have money or balance on that credit card to make the purchase. Those are things to be thankful for. But you also have a choice, the person working at that store doesn’t.

When you sign up for a career as a doctor, a nurse, a fireman or a policeman you know that the job has no holidays. When you where hired for a retail store you expected that you could spend the holidays with your loved ones.
Do you remember the movie Scrooge? Do you remember Tim’s mom who was forced to go to work on Christmas Day out of her boss’ greed? She was a single mother trying to provide for her kids and all she wanted was some time with them. How many of those men and women we have taken from their families today over a sweater, a tablet or a television set that could have waited until tomorrow?
In case you’re missing it, this is what is really about:

Stay warm, be safe.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Surviving 2012

I can’t believe we are at the doors of a new year. 2012 seemed to have lasted forever. This year has been one of a lot of growth for me, and of course with growth comes a lot of growing pains.

This past year brought me a new opportunity to start over again. I have taken my writing to a new level. Last year when I published Growth Lessons , in my head I knew that this was something that I wanted to do. 2012 taught me that this is what I was called to do and every day I’m more motivated to do even more.

CIMG5895I was given a new start in my health, when I went from being a pre-diabetic morbidly obese woman , to losing 40 pounds and gaining my health back. With my new body still in progress I’ve learned to eat differently, live differently, respect my temple in a total new way. (By the way it’s 60lbs, but the first 20 had been coming down here and there since the previous year until I got serious this past May)Went from a size 24 to a 14. So I have had to shop for clothes, what a drag, right? LOL!

On that note, I am finally using my gym membership. I’ve signed up for dozens of them, paid off the contracts and never went. This time I’m actually using it.

I have a new career path. God changed my 9-5 to remind me that my focus is in him and his purpose. In this new path, that is not so new because I’ve walked it before, I know he’s training me for the day when I’m able to fulfill my dream to be fully dedicated to my writing.

I published my first work of fiction, The Road Home (TRH) and my first novella, Season’s Greetings from Amelia (SGFA) in 2012. These two pieces have brought me many joys. I did 3 book signings for TRH and have received remarkable reviews. SGFA sold 5 copies within the first hour of publication.

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I lost my favorite aunt, Juliana. I lost one of my best friends and one of my spiritual mothers moved over 600 miles away.

My 81 year old mother got an IPad for her birthday/Christmas present, got on Facebook and requested a Twitter account. Yes, I can’t get over that one yet, LOL!

As I posted the other day, I’m working hard on getting my next book out hopefully February or early March. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of a new year, a new beginning.

Happy and blessed 2013!!

WF: Lead me Lord

Now that all the presents have been opened, the food has been eaten. We were able to enjoy our holidays or able to survive our most beloved relatives. The point is that Christmas is over, but not the celebration. In the natural world we still have one more holiday to prepare for. In a few days we will be ending the year 2012, and what a year has it been.

In the US, we had to elect a president. We faced with the pain of several inexplicable acts that resulted in the loss of many innocents. And just as the year ends we’re still waiting to see how much more our finances may be depending on the decision of those we’ve given the power to rule over our country.

Although most of us laughed, the reality is that we were all on the edge of our seats to see if something was to happen on the 21st. So for the tenth time in our lifetime we have survived another announcement of the end of the world.

In summary is time to analyze what has been of this year in our lives: financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Join me in starting this journey this weekend and on Monday I will share the results of my evaluation of 2012.

The most important part is that God was with me and I know he was with each and every one of you through every milestone of this year. Let’s praise the Lord and meditate in his word so that he can show us the lessons learned in 2012

Remember that I have a contest going for the first one who answers a question regarding my new Novella “Season’s Greetings from Amelia” Check it out by reading the instructions of the giveaway here

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I recommend Season’s Greetings from Amelia highly. It was thoughtfully written and entertaining. I really enjoyed it…couldn’t put it down!

Putting Thanksgiving into Action

This year we will not be talking about the turkey, the history of this holiday or the thousands of things we are thankful about. The reality is that this year I want to encourage others to put their true attitude of gratitude to action.

We sit together as families and tell each other how grateful we are of the things we have, the love and company of those near us and just bask in the thought of the gratitude. How about this year you make a decision to be the force behind someone else’s gratitude? Why not share those blessings with others?

So here are some ideas to do just that:

  • Invite over for dinner those who are away from their families. I used to do that for the longest time. Every one I knew that didn’t have a place to go, were invited to my house. The only reason I stopped doing it was because I don’t have the space to host anymore. It was such a rewarding experience.
  • Cook a meal for a family in need. If you know someone in your neighborhood who has lost their job, have a family member sick or have struggling, take them a plate or a few plates. You very well know that after two days you’re going to hate turkey anyway. You’ll have less leftovers and you’ll have made someone’s day.
  • Remember those who have lost everything-It doesn’t matter how big or small your donation is for those recovering from the damages of Hurricane Sandy, any little bit helps. Even if it’s not money, blood donations are also very welcome.
  • Donate your time and talent. You may not have resources. but you can spend some of your day with someone who needs it. I had a friend who use to spend two hours on these kind of holidays going a children’s hospice. She’s a divorced mom and her children are with their father on Thanksgiving. As a mother she understands that when you have a sick child you don’t want to leave them alone. So she spends Thanksgiving mornings there giving parents an opportunity to go home to take a shower or go get something to eat and then in the afternoon she goes to celebrate with her family.

These are just a few examples of way to give back to others. I am sure you can come up with other ideas as well. What am I going to do to put my gratitude in action?

  • I’m actually cooking healthy desserts for the place where I’m going to be reuniting with family and friends. I’m grateful that God had shown me a better way to relate to food. I know that as I reunite with some that have not seen me for a while I will be able to witness to them.
  • I’m donating 50% of all my sales for both of my books Growth Lessons and The Road Home from today until Friday to the Red Cross to help the relief of Hurricane Sandy. (You can help me with that)
  • I’m joining an initiative of authors in the South that are donating books to libraries in New York and New Jersey, for those who lost the books due to the hurricane Sandy.

Please be safe and to all a Happy Thanksgiving!!

21 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude

Idea #15: Thank a Co-worker For Doing Their Job Well

Guest post by Shelley Hitz

Thanksgiving season is soon approaching and this year, I encourage you to take the opportunity to celebrate gratitude. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, take a moment (or two) to celebrate gratitude.

Don’t forget to check out the free book giveaway below.

 

Idea #15:Thank someone at work for doing their job well. If you are still in school or college, thank one of our teachers that has made an impact in your life.

See all 21 ways to celebrate gratitude this Thanksgiving at Shelley’s website: http://www.bodyandsoulpublishing.com/21-ways-to-celebrate-gratitude-during-thanksgiving-this-holiday-season/

Free Gratitude Resource:

On November 14, 15 and 16th, 2012 you can download a FREE Kindle copy of the book, “21 Stories of Gratitude: The Power of Living Life With a Grateful Heart.”

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009YWM3WI

Book Description:

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Are you living life to the fullest? Or are you merely surviving from day to day?

One way to live life to the fullest is to live each day with a grateful heart. In this book, we share 21 stories of gratitude to give you encouragement and hope in your own journey. Gratitude is possible! Even though many times we cannot change our circumstances, we can change the way we see them. We can ask God to empower us to change our thoughts.

Our prayer for you is that you find encouragement within these pages. And we pray that you will ask God for His strength to renew your mind with His truth and the hope He offers each one of us every day. It is only through Christ renewing our minds that we can truly live each day with a grateful heart.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

Other Gratitude Resources:

· 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge: Take the 21 days of gratitude challenge to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. You can do this by yourself or as a family.

· 21 Prayers of Gratitude: Read a prayer of gratitude for 21 days to focus your heart on God and all He has given us.

About the Author:

clip_image003Shelley Hitz has been writing and publishing books since 2008. She is also the author of the website, FindYourTrueBeauty.com, that reaches thousands of girls each month around the world. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing will inspire and encourage you.

Shelley has been ministering to teens since 1998 alongside her husband, CJ. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley’s main passion is to share God’s truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.

You can find more about Shelley at www.ShelleyHitz.com or invite her to speak at your event here: www.ChristianSpeakers.tv

I’m Not Perfect… I’m Priceless

My dear friend Staci Stallings is visiting us today with a special message for us, without further  delays I’ll let you enjoy this delightful read…

By: Staci Stallings

My almost-ten-year-old daughter got a little too much of her mother in her.  What is it with this perfectionist gene?  You’d think one generation would be far plenty for it to run its course and leave us alone.  Alas, it has not.

My gorgeous, lovely, loving, wonderful daughter got this one in spades.  I first knew this the year she took violin lessons and adamantly REFUSED to play for anyone she knew.  When Grandma came over, we begged and pleaded and bribed… to no avail.  She simply would not play a note lest she not sound just perfect and reveal to all the world that she was anything less than.

We battle this monster in school.  She has all-A’s for now.  And truth be told, I’m not looking forward to that streak coming to an end.  (I still haven’t recovered from MY OWN three-week cry-fest when I got my first B in 5th grade.  Don’t laugh.  Trust me, it makes it worse!)

With the beginning of volleyball, we are wading once again into the deep waters of perfection psychosis, and I have to be honest with you–I would have thought that since I’d been through this one, it would be easy to diagnose and treat in my own child.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  The diagnosis has been easy, but wow is this thing hard to heal.

Tonight on the way to volleyball, my beautiful, kind, wonderful little girl spent most of the trip in tears.  “Why does everyone think I have to be perfect?”  “They don’t.”  “Yes, they do. If I do one little thing wrong, they yell at me.”

Now, really.  How do you argue with that?  Because too often we do sound like we’re yelling.  Our corrections sound to a delicate perfectionist like we don’t or won’t love them if they aren’t perfect.  It’s such a vile, rotten trap.

On the way home later, we were hashing out the whole perfection thing again because this time it was the coach who yelled, “just because I missed one serve!  I got all the others.”

I finally made this simple observation.  “You know, you’re not perfect.  You’re priceless.”

That stopped her. “What does that mean?”

“It means you are not perfect.  You have chips. You have flaws. You make mistakes.  But God and Mama still believe you are priceless, and no matter what, that will never change.”

Strangely she stopped arguing and crying at that point, and inside, so did I.

Maybe I’m not perfect, but God says I am priceless, and who am I to argue?

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2008

Thank you Staci for those wonderful words. Guys, don’t forget to enter into our Valentine’s book giveaway. Go to the top and give us your email address for a chance to win one of three copies of “Love Letters to my Queen Bride”. The winners will be picked on Valentine’s day and announced on Friday February 17th.

To add sweetness to the pot, you can get your copy of Growth Lessons for $1.99 until Valentine’s day (better than chocolate).

Find Staci online:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StaciStallings @StaciStallings

Facebook profile:http://www.facebook.com/staci.stallings.author

Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spirit-Light-Author-Staci-Stallings/266593276699576

A Call to the Body

I had already decided to stop the Stewardship series during Passover because I think there were more urgent things to discuss. Last year I decided to bring light into what the commercialized holiday had become and how we were engaging in a celebration that we didn’t even understand. If you want to review that just read Eggs and Bunnies by the cross.

This year I wanted to do a deep play by play study of what Jesus did for us and that we so much take for granted. I sometimes forget that I don’t run this thing and that I’m just a vehicle, so needless to say things have changed.

This weekend I heard this words, “Why with so many Christians in the world the job is not done?”

I think that as the body of Christ we forget exactly that …that we are the body. We are the hands and the feet that Jesus left on earth to do His work. In a way it goes back to the stewardship of our bodies, time and resources. If we claim to be the body of Christ how can we continue to be silent to so many injustices?

I also heard something this weekend that brought light into the lie. We have believed the lie that “poor little me” can’t do anything. I know I have bought into that one plenty of times. Really? So you can’t be the instrument that Almighty God can use to do mighty things? We need to stop putting limits to our unlimited God.

He came to save us and left us a mission “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19

How are you doing that? I know I have some thinking to do. Meditate on this song as you do…

PS. Thanks Christine Caine for your awakening and encouraging words.

Be blessed.

Casting Crowns

Happy Valentine’s Day

christian valentine activities for the preschool classroom by

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

 Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

Love never fails.