Christmas Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Peaceful

The house is quiet this morning. My four children nestled snug in their beds. Rain is hitting the window of my office as I type. All is cozy. Even though John isn’t here with us, there is peace in my heart.

I still marvel to find peace in my heart and mind; it is real and it is enduring. It is the first thing to reassure me in the morning, and it tucks me in at night so I can sleep.  This peace is from God’s constant presence with me.

This is our fourth Christmas without John. There have been four years of gradually accepting the story God has chosen to write in my life, in John’s life, and in our children’s lives.

Four years of trusting Him in the midst of a story-gone-wrong for as long as I live on this earth. His peace is greater, bigger, deeper, and wider. It covers all that is missing and disappointing in my life, today and in my future.

Peace is possible even though life can be so wrong. So broken. So confused. So stressful.

And the peace I know is from someone whose name actually means “God with us.”  His most familiar name is  Jesus Christ. 

Christmas is when God sent Him to be with us.

And that first Christmas was far from perfect: Mary was nine months pregnant and on a donkey. She and Joseph forced by a oppressive, foreign ruler to make an inconvenient road trip- the ultimate in bureaucratic annoyance.

No where to stay that was welcoming. Their only shelter in a barn. No other women to help her in her labor and none of their immediate families around to rejoice at this baby’s birth (though a host of Jesus’s heavenly family did show up!).

If your Christmas this year feels far from perfect, find comfort in knowing that it is consistent with that very first Christmas in Bethlehem. It has never been about the perfect surroundings or perfect travels or perfect gatherings.

Why should our Christmas be any different than his?

Instead, it has always, always been about the perfect gift. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world- God with us.

You can live every day with God; today, tomorrow, and even on your last day and into eternity. Jesus, the first and best Christmas gift, makes you evergreen inside. Forever.

And on a rainy morning (though maybe yours is sunny or snowy), I invite you to set aside all your busyness for just a few minutes and read the devotional I’ve tucked at the end of this post.  You’ll see how Jesus fulfills every wish and wonder of our hearts every Christmas- no matter the weather, the angst, the burned cookies, or the virus that just won’t stop because its Christmas.

You might even enjoy reading it to your family so everyone can pause and remember that our best gift isn’t under the tree.

May He truly make your hearts ever-merry this Christmas (no matter what or how or where this Christmas finds you),

because of His love,  Maria

PS I found the Advent devotional below on She Reads Truth (they also have a site He Reads Truth). Great website- definitely worth checking out.

Jesus is the Promised One 

Text: Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 16:5, Micah 5:2, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 1:20-21

Since Adam and Eve ate the fruit God told them not to, every generation has groaned with the pains of childbirth, longing to be delivered from the effects of their first parents’ fall (Romans 8:22). And now, our deliverer has come. He is the hero of our story, the perfect spotless lamb sent to adorn the doorposts of our hearts with His own blood (1 Peter 1:17–21, Exodus 12:22).

He is the descendant from Eve sent to crush the head of the deceiver (Genesis 3:15). He is Isaac’s ram caught in the thicket, God’s perfectly timed provision of a substitute (Genesis 22:13). He is the heir of Abraham’s line—born by a miracle and filling the world with laughter (Genesis 22:18).

He gave Jacob the gracious gift of a limp to remind him of his weakness (Genesis 32:25). He is the new Joseph, the forgotten brother, unrecognizable in a foreign land (Genesis 42:8, John 1:11), though He alone possesses the resources needed to satisfy our spiritual famine.

He is our new Moses, sent by God to deliver us from the land of our slavery into our promised inheritance (Exodus 3:7–10). He doesn’t just deliver God’s Law to us (Exodus 34:29), He fulfills it on our behalf—perfectly (Matthew 5:17).

He is the faultless judge who rescues His people from our own waywardness (Judges 2:17, 2 Corinthians 3:4–6). He does what no other judge is able to do—He takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

He is the King the Lord promised to David, a ruler from his own body whose Kingdom the Lord would establish forever, ancient and strong (2 Samuel 7:12). He has courage deeper than David (Luke 6:1–5), wisdom greater than Solomon (Luke 11:31), and faith firmer than Elijah (Matthew 4:1–11). He is the remnant growing beneath the smoldering ruins of Judah, the Son to be given, the child to be born (Isaiah 9:6).

He is Immanuel—God with His people (Isaiah 6:13).

Where there is despair, He brings hope. Where there is brokenness, He brings healing. Where there is sadness, He brings joy. Where there is bondage, He sets people free.

The people of His day had grown up with the stories of Immanuel’s coming. They had heard the prophets implore them to listen, but seeing, they did not see, and hearing, they did not hear, nor did they understand (Matthew 13:13).

But who could blame them? Jesus grew up like a young plant, like a root out of dry ground with nothing in His form—no majesty or beauty—that would lead anyone to desire Him (Isaiah 53:1–3). No one could know by looking at Him that He had come to bear their grief and carry their sorrows. The days ahead for Him would bring suffering so great that people would consider Him stricken by God and afflicted.

But the purpose of this suffering was what pleased the Father. He would be wounded for our transgressions. He would be crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him would be laid the punishment that would bring His people peace, and by His wounds we would be healed (Romans 5:1, Hebrews 9:22, Isaiah 53:4–5).

Like sheep, every last man, woman, and child has gone astray, each turning to their own way. So the Father sent His Son and laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6–7).

Under unjust allegations, Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and put to death as a criminal. But death could not hold Him. He had done no wrong, so He owed it no wage. Jesus was never the victim of men; it was the will of His Father to crush Him. It was God who put Him through such grief to bear the iniquities of His people, making many unrighteous men righteous (Isaiah 53:8–12).

No one took His life from Him. He laid it down, and He took it up again, claiming victory over the grave (John 10:18).

All of this required a birth.

written by Russ Ramsey
adapted from Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative

As found on this site: She Reads Truth: Jesus is the Promised One

Umm, How Are You Doing?

It is a question I hear often, and every single time my brain gridlocks. The question is asked earnestly. People care. They genuinely want to know how we are doing- each of the kids, our new house, the upcoming holidays, and the status of my grief’s healing process.

I want to honor their question with honesty. 

But where to begin? And do they have time for the answers? Are they really just happy to hear we are holding steady or do they want to know more?

In a split second, my mind considers those things before I reply. If it is in passing, they receive a smile and, “we are doing well, thank you.” If there is a window of time for conversation, they might hear various updates.

I guess the problem is that the question is ultimately too broad. Each of us represents layers of life:

Our bodies- healthy, well or somewhere in between

Our life responsibilities- jobs, houses, the chores of caring for the stuff of life, future plans

Our many relationships and their ups and downs

Our mental & emotional stresses & joys

Our soul’s pulse

So, the question, “How are you doing?” needs to be more specific because no single answer accurately represents the whole of me, or you. Maybe some parts of life are great, but others stink. The answers can vary tremendously. Life is always in flux.

When I was five, one sock could be nicely pulled up but the other one down around my ankle (sometimes, miserably down in my shoe!). One up, one down. Life tends to be like that. There always seems to be something to tend to.

For me, any answer I give is easily misread. Saying we are doing well doesn’t mean I am “over grieving” and moving on with this unexpected new life (whatever that means?!).

So, here are some how-we-are-doing highlights from two dimensions of my life:

Biggest news- my oldest daughter is engaged & getting married next summer! Surely, you will be hearing more about this in the months to come, but we are genuinely delighted she is marrying someone so wonderful. We have been praying for him since she was a little girl. John would be smiling.

Just like in many of your families, school/college is challenging and time consuming for all of them. Our third daughter is a high school senior; she is in the midst of college application stress (& we feel her pressure). Pray. Work. Love. (& give back rubs!)

They are becoming adults before my eyes and wowing me with the shift of balance. I am on a train headed back from NYC; typing as I travel. My second daughter lived there for a few weeks last summer so she was my city tour guide- confident, capable, and city savvy. It was so wonderful having her in charge. How the tables have turned since our earlier days in NYC when I pushed her in a stroller! I am really becoming enthralled with this stage of my kids becoming my adult friends. 

New House:
Our new house is feeling like home, and we are looking forward to spending the holidays there together. There are some areas that still need to be dealt with, but I just work on them when I have the focused time and the energy. There are at least 50 things that make it a wonderful spot for us! I exclaim about them to the kids frequently. All of the hard work to move was worth it. The Lord was so good to place us there.

And, as we have settled into our home, I have found I am settling in too. Quieting down inside. Moving- the anticipation, the decision, the process- it created a lot of angst, but the dust is settling literally & figuratively.

The unwelcome, awkward novelty of being a widowed mom is becoming intuitive and is actually, very rewarding. At first, after John died, it was a reflexive, protective response, but now it is a privilege and joy. I am relishing these last few years (or in my daughter’s case- months) of it being my daily job.

And, that, my reading friends, is a little slice of how we are doing.

May the Lord give you grace to keep on praying, working & loving,

By His daily grace, I am too,