Sometimes Pressing Pause Is Necessary

I’m hitting the pause button. 

I hope you had a joy-filled, Christ-focused Christmas: one of awe and wonder as you reflected on the immensity of God becoming a human baby. All so you and I could live with Him forever!

My family and I are still celebrating. Traditionally my husband and I and the children settle into our finished barn loft for 3 days of uninterrupted time together over Christmas break.

It’s our family’s pause button. A beautiful time of reconnecting and loving each other (although by the end of the third night, we have grown a bit weary of each other’s quirks). But that, kind of, is the point (as silly as that seems).

At our barn, we focus on each other, not all the places to go and things to do. We realign ourselves with what it means to be family.

press pause

Pressing Pause to Reflect, Pray, and Realign

That’s what I want to do spiritually as December rolls into January. I want to pause and realign myself and my ministry with what it means for me to be a child of God, to be in God’s family.

Sometimes it's important to press pause and realign ourselves with what it means to live as a child of God. Click To Tweet

You may have noticed I’ve been quieter than usual on my blog. I will continue to be so for the next couple weeks as I take time to reflect, pray, and realign myself with the mission and purpose God has for me.

I may still post occasionally during that time, but I plan to exercise stillness, giving myself time to breathe, some whitespace to think and pray and be.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our doing for the Lord that we forget to be with Him. I’ve experienced it. It’s easy to become blinded by our current doing that we fail to notice when God’s leading us into a new adventure. 

I don’t want to miss that new adventure. I don’t want to miss Him. 

Journey with me into 2017 with the focus of experiencing more of our Lord and Savior in this new year! Pause, be still with God, and see what adventure He has for you in the coming months.

Focus on experiencing more of our Lord and Savior as you journey through the year! Click To Tweet

Have a blessed New Year!

“Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.” Romans 6:4 

Reflections: What are you doing to prepare for the adventure God has for you in this new year? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “walking into my new adventure.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Christian walk, Daily Living

Grace Delivered in the Birth of Christ (Merry Christmas!)

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” 
Luke 2:11

GRACE delivered in the birth of Christ Jesus

The Good News!

Grace has been delivered in the Babe.

The Prince of Peace.

The Lamb of God. 

The Savior of the World.

Birth of Jesus Christ

Salvation entered our world in the birth of Jesus Christ. The greatest Gift.

That’s ultimate grace and pure joy!

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…” Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas!

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Christmas, Hope, Jesus Christ

Jesus Reigns in Our Mess (A Christmas Confession) #AdventReflections

I expected this Christmas to be different. I planned for this Christmas to be different.

To be quieter … simpler … slower. 

And then life kicked in with a vengeance. The busyness of the holidays — no, my own ideas of the what the holidays should look like — ruled most days. 

Oh, I managed to squeeze in caroling, short visits with a dear friend, and even a bit of Bible study. But my attempt to get it all done won again. 

Even though I know better, even though the beauty and meaning of this holy day has nothing to do with lights, trees, and cookies, I let them own far too much of my time and mental energy.

Recently depleted, I repented and sank to my knees.

Jesus reigns, even in our mess.

Glimpses of Beauty

I messed up, repeating the craziness of past years. Yet, the most beautiful message of Christmas is Jesus entered our mess to clean it up, eventually, forever.

The most beautiful message of Christmas is that Jesus entered our mess to clean it up...eventually, forever. Click To Tweet 

We can’t see the full beauty He brought with Him just yet. But we can glimpse it. 

Even in the haste and busyness I invited in this season, I see the coming beauty.

In the wish, “Have a blessed Christmas,” I scrawled to my daughter’s aide.

In the words, “I love you,” I left with my elderly friend.

In the occasional devotional I read with my children and lighting of the Advent wreath.  

In the thank you gifts I sent to those who have poured into my children this year. 

Jesus amplified my little offerings to be meaningful and beautiful. 

Jesus Reigns, Even in Our Mess

Despite our good intentions, we too often usher in messy when beauty waits nearby. We give our everything to everything else and our little to the important and lasting.

But even when we forget, Jesus reigns. Even when we block Him out with the noise of our doing, He reigns. 

God delivered the world through an infant. He packaged the greatest gift in helplessness. He put salvation into motion with an everyday event.

God is fully able to compound our little to be His glorious. And He does.

The “not much” we too often give can become enough in the hands of the One who brought heaven down.

The 'not much' we too often give can become enough in the hands of the One who brought heaven down. Click To Tweet

I allowed in a messy Advent season, but Jesus is beautifying it.

He’s providing the Light in the midst of the dark.

He’s bringing peace where I ushered in chaos.

He’s infusing joy where I created angst.

This holy season? It’s all about Jesus. It always is (as is every day, really).

And Jesus will reign in our mess as well as in the great beauty to come. That’s the miracle of Christmas. That’s our greatest Gift!

Jesus will reign in our mess as well as in the great beauty to come. That's the miracle of Christmas! #greatestGift Click To Tweet

“The Lord will reign forever and ever!” Exodus 15:18

Reflections: Have you managed a slower and simpler Advent season this year, or like me, did you, once again, pack too much in? Regardless, what glimpses have you received this season, large or small, of Jesus’ reign? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “miracle of the new-born babe.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Christmas, Daily Living, Jesus Christ

Messy Is Real, but One Day Only Beauty Will Remain #AdventReflections

It’s all messy, but one day only beauty will remain.

This is the week serene images of the first Christmas will be displayed everywhere. They will feature Mary, the mother of Jesus, Joseph the Christ-child’s adoptive father, shepherd and wise men, and the Babe Himself (and don’t forget all the docile livestock looking on) all in a quiet peaceful stable, lit by the lovely glow of star and/or candlelight.  

Yet I can’t help think about the messiness of that moment and what it means for us. The birth of the Savior was indeed miraculous and humankind’s greatest gift. Still for the people present during this most Holy event, I expect pain, urgency, and uncertainty met them (that night and in the days that followed).  

Mary knew little about what her “yes” to God would bring. Even at her tender age, she could guess, at least, that it’d involve the pain of childbirth. Perhaps worse, there’d be the ostracism and shame of giving birth outside of wedlock. 

Yet, I sometimes wonder, would she have said yes if she knew the agony coming? Would she have agreed to be the mother of the King if she knew her heart would be pierced clean through?

Because of Jesus, one day only beauty will remain.

Beauty in the Mess

Maybe Mary would have agreed anyway. Maybe she knew the truth that incredible beauty lies in the midst of great suffering. Perhaps she understood that the beauty received in saying yes to God always outshines the sacrifice made. 

Jesus Christ came into this world, incarnate in the flesh as a helpless infant, spent His life on earth as a servant, and made Himself helpless again on the cross, to pave the way to beauty in a fallen world. 

The birth of the Christ child was messy and painful yet glorious in the fulfillment of God’s promise.

The blood of the cross was gruesome yet triumphant in the wiping away of our sins (Isaiah 53:5).

The hardships of life challenge our faith, yet the growth and transformation that occur through them are invaluable. 

The hardships of life challenge our faith, yet the growth and transformation that occur through them are invaluable. Click To Tweet

Mary may not have known the extent of the sacrifice she’d willingly endure. But no doubt she believed that out of whatever horror she had to walk through, would come a surpassing beauty. She trusted her Lord to redeem all the pain she’d face. 

What Will Remain

As much as we’d like to paint Christmas as a tranquil Norman Rockwell scene, the truth is it was and continues to be messy. From the soiled and unpretentious birth of the Son of God to the often complicated and chaotic circumstances of living in this fallen world, this most-precious holiday presents challenges.

But take heart! In the midst of that mess, a Light shines, Splendor reigns. Beauty clothes the ugly, joy replaces pain.

In the midst of your mess, a Light shines, Splendor reigns. Beauty clothes the ugly, joy replaces pain. Click To Tweet

So go ahead and post those pastoral nativity scenes. Because Jesus Christ is born! Messiness is terminal. One day, only the glorious and lovely will remain.

All praise to His holy name! 

“I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

Reflections: What thoughts do those tranquil nativity scenes bring up in your mind? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5608–5628. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Sunlight glistening off snow crystals; *Listening to Joey and his classmates for another wonderful high school Christmas concert; *Goofing around with my boys
  • *Hubby’s help to pick out new glasses; *Rachel’s excitement at creating sentences with her communication app (an emerging skill); *The “nonessential” medical care that makes my life more comfortable (too often a blessing taken for granted)
  • *A young deer frolicking in our front yard; *Fun of watching Rachel process math concepts in her very expressive manner; *Laundry caught up (for a split second I think)
  • *Able to greet Zachary’s roommate Wesley before he flies home for the holidays; *Picking up Oberweis eggnog as a special treat for when we decorate our trees; *Safe trip getting Zach home for nearly a month!
  • *Imperfectly perfect Christmas trees cut down and put up; *The 6 of us together this year to choose our trees; *My oldest being newly employed: official adulting reality begins with the new year
  • *Decorating our barn for the holidays with Hubby and all four kids; *Celebrating Daniel’s offer and acceptance of a position with The Family Leader, a Christ-centered organization whose mission is to strengthen families; *Playing Monopoly with the boys and being reminded of some of their past antics
  • *Woodstove warmth in the midst of frigid outdoor temperatures; *Hosting Bible study; *Sharing the blessing of our barn getaway

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Christmas, Jesus Christ, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Redemption

Put Down the Bonds: Jesus Came To Set You Free! #AdventReflections

I have a tendency to imprison myself—to become shackled by my own expectations.

I tie my worth to my accomplishments. I attach my holiness and righteousness to my outward actions. I align my happiness with my situation. 

Be Free

It’s one reason I cherish the Holy days of Christmas and Easter, and especially the season of Advent. Pregnant with meaning, these seasons remind me of the freedom I have in the Lord Jesus: the freedom from those bonds I’m compelled to wear.  

Be free in Christ

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, didn’t come to earth to bind us tighter to achievement, but to pave another way. He didn’t take on human form so we would do more and have more, but so we could be saved.

The Father sent His Son to give us the priceless gift of liberty. We couldn’t set ourselves free. On our own we’d still be imprisoned by our thoughts and actions.

And sometimes we still go back to that jail cell: Maybe you can relate.  

So Jesus came.

By removing the barrier between us and our Creator, by bridging the cavern separating earth from heaven, through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus severed the bonds of sin. He set us free from the constraints, demands, and deadly nature of the flesh.

Jesus severed the bonds of sin, setting us free from the constraints, demands, and deadly nature of the flesh. Click To Tweet

We find freedom from having to do enough or be enough in the power of God’s grace. In the cry of the infant Jesus, the starkness of the barren cross, and the echo of the empty tomb, our shackles are broken … the prison doors flung open. 

We find freedom from having to do enough or be enough in the power of God's grace. Click To Tweet

O glory!

Liberty in Christ’s Coming

Only in Jesus Christ can we exchange the bondage of our will for the liberty of God’s. 

I appreciate how the renowned Calvinist Preacher C.H. Spurgeon (sermon, May 17th, 1891), explains such surrendering:  

“To leave our times with God is to live as free from care as the birds upon the bough. If we fret, we shall not glorify God; and we shall not constrain others to see what true religion can do for us in the hour of tribulation. Fret and worry put it out of our power to act wisely; but if we can leave everything with God because everything is really in his hand, we shall be peaceful, and our action will be deliberate; and for that very reason it will be more likely to be wise. He that rolls his burden upon the Lord will be strong to do or to suffer; and his days shall be as the days of heaven upon the earth.”

Our freedom is found in Christ’s coming, not in our doing or worrying. May we never cease celebrating! 

Our freedom is found in Christ's coming, not in our doing or worrying. May we never cease celebrating. Click To Tweet

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Reflections: What does freedom in Christ mean to you? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “utterly dependent, but totally free.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Freedom, surrender

Discover the Beauty of the Season, Even When It’s Hard #AdventReflections (#Giveaway)

The holidays can hold great joy but also deep sorrow. What or who is missing from our lives becomes hyper clear at this time of year.

Focusing on the not here makes it difficult to be joyful at a time when we should be exceedingly so. After all, the God of the universe came down to earth, for us! 

The birth of the Christ child flipped the world upside down. The Sinless living in the midst of the sinful. The Divine taking on human form.

We should be glorying in the immensity and beauty of it all!

Beauty of the greatest gift

See Beauty Everywhere

Still, grief and anxiety are effective saboteurs of peace and joy. But cultivate a heart of gratitude and you’ll see beauty even in the middle of the greatest sorrow and most difficult circumstance,

because you’ll see Jesus there.

Cultivate a heart of gratitude and see beauty even in the middle of great sorrow, because you’ll see Jesus there. Click To Tweet

And wherever we find Jesus, we find goodness and love, peace and joy. This season of Advent reminds us, we can find Jesus Christ everywhere, in every moment, forever.

Wherever we find Jesus, we find goodness, love, peace, joy; and He can be found everywhere, in every… Click To Tweet

He has come, He’ll always be.

In mounds of dirty dishes and days of sick kids, in financially lean months and challenging-health ones, in relational conflicts and times of isolation, Jesus is there. He offers us Himself. He promises us Someone to walk with forever.

And He delivers. 

Jesus promises us Someone to walk with forever. And He delivers. #AdventReflections Click To Tweet

Share the Greatest Gift; Find Everlasting Joy

Jesus is our greatest gift. Gifting others reminds us … focuses us … on the what/Who we do have, not the missing.

So a way to glory in the glory of the season is by becoming the conduit of the love of the One who heals and redeems. To offer a hand to help, a shoulder to cry on, a word to uplift, a prayer to intercede.

A way to glory in the glory of the Christmas season is by becoming the conduit of the love of the One who saves. Click To Tweet

By gifting others we’re sharing the blessings of the One who came down for us … we’re sharing Christ Himself. 

The empty chair at the table, the absence of a secure job, the wayward child … they’re real and they hurt. But when we see all we still have in the Savior Come Down—all we have through the blessings of the Holy promise—joy reclaims the season. 

In the tremendous beauty of the Gift given, the Miracle delivered in the infant Jesus, we find true peace and everlasting joy … even when life hurts. 

In the tremendous beauty of the Miracle delivered in the infant Jesus, we find peace/joy...even when life hurts. Click To Tweet

“Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b, HCSB

Reflections: What sorrow is smothering you this year? Have you tried shifing your focus from what’s missing in your life to the glory you have … and will always have …  in the miraculous gift of Jesus Christ? 

In the spirit of giving and the glory of our Lord, just in time for Christmas, I’m giving away a fantastic study pack for Ann Voskamp’s bestseller, The Broken Way! The pack includes a Study Guide in paperback form and an accompanying DVD. Tell others about this giveaway and share the joy! 

Win #TheBrokenWay study pack by @AnnVoskamp, with guide and DVD! Easy entries. Share the gift.… Click To TweetThe Broken Way

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5587–5607. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Time to serve my son breakfast before he left for a few days; *Ability to write real pen/paper letters to several people this morning; *Vehicles all fixed
  • *Talking with a long-distance writer friend who is also a special need mother (we relate on many levels); *Working with Rach’s team to plan her next education year; *Spending time I didn’t feel I had to help my youngest gain perspective during an overwhelming week for him (well worth less sleep)
  • Squeezing in a tiny bit of deep cleaning; *Christmas caroling in the nursing home; *Being shown what unconditional love looks like through the interactions of my daughter with the residents
  • *Spending the day hanging out with my guy; *Celebrating the retirement of a special lady with wonderful friends; *The joy with which Rachel always greets me when I come home after she’s tucked into bed and check on her
  • *David Phelps Christmas music + candy/cookie making = purejoy!; *Technology to stay home and attend a meeting via webinar; *Joey jumping right in to help me up my kitchen mess so I’m not up half the night doing it
  • *Working with the youth at our church’s annual cookie/candy sale; *Incredible beauty of hiking in a snowstorm; *Finishing the second great read-aloud Tales of Larkin novel with the kids
  • *Able to join our church family for worship despite the snowstorm; *First cross country skiing of the season; *Danny home safely from Michigan/Indiana visit

*affiliate links present in this post

*Two copies of this book were received from BlogAbout Network and Zondervan in exchange for an honest review of the book, The Broken Way. The thoughts are my own. 

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, giveaway, Gratitude, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

The One Reason We Can Face an Overwhelming Future Without Being Overcome #AdventReflections

My friend and I struggle with looking too far into our daughters’ futures. It can be frightening.

She because her sweet Taylor has been given a shortened expected lifespan. Me because my sweet Rachel may well live a half century or more but will need care her entire life.

Both of us are facing overwhelming futures in their own right; yet, neither of us have given into despair. My friend and I are not overcome … not because we are stronger than others … not because we have greater faith.

We can stand in the face of such uncertain futures for one simple reason: we know Jesus Christ will be in each moment leading up to those paralyzing futures. And He’ll be in those future moments too, and the ones after that.

The Lord promises, “my grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And He is faithful.

grace, enough for overwhelming situations

Advent Grace

I can’t see the grace for that moment in time when I’m no longer Rachel’s primary caregiver. I won’t experience it until then. 

Yet this season of Advent assures me grace’ll meet me there, because Jesus will. “’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus came as a babe to provide a way through the sin that stalks us: Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus died and rose again to life to restore us to righteousness, to reunite us with the Father, to give us hope again. He continues to be with us in our scary and glorious moments alike.

Jesus is coming again. God With Us will be with us into the everlasting future. He’ll erase all our sorrows. He’ll reunite believers. Death will be no more. 

He’ll usher in a glorious future we’ll never be afraid to look into.

God With Us will be with us into the everlasting future: a glorious future we'll never be afraid to look into. Click To Tweet

Overwhelming Future Met With Grace

Jesus’ Advent in the past, present, and future prevent us from being overcome by our situations. Because He came to earth, is present with us, and will come again, we can look into the unknown knowing we’ll be met. 

Overwhelm may still make an appearance, but the Advent of Christ promises we’ll never be overcome!

Overwhelm may make an appearance in our lives, but the Advent of Christ promises we'll never be overcome! Click To Tweet

Grace meets us in God’s Word. Grace presents itself in worship. Grace pours out in the ministering of others.

Because of Jesus’ coming, in whatever uncertain futures we face, grace will be exactly enough, exactly when needed. Darkness will threaten, but light prevails.

Because of Jesus' coming, in whatever uncertain futures we face, grace will be exactly enough, exactly when needed. Click To Tweet

How comforting for me, Taylor’s mom, and all who live in Him! 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

Reflections: How does the season of Advent bring you comfort in your uncertain and overwhelming situations? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “overwhelmed, but I’m not overcome.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Grace, Jesus Christ, Rachel

Come Lord Jesus, Come! Our Advent Hope #AdventReflections

Recently, I’ve been reminded anew how fragile and precious life is and how tragic this world can be. I’m struggling to process the sad reality of 

  • young men who see no hope and end it all—most recently a friend of my oldest;
  • their parents, left trying to make sense of the senseless;
  • moms and dads I love faced with devastating diagnoses for their children;
  • displaced and abandoned children, battling to simply survive in war-torn countries … many of them not reaching double digits in age before they lose that fight.

Such sorrows and tragedies beg for explanations; yet, the answers are few and unsatisfactory. And I’m tempted to give into feelings of anger and sadness, fearfulness and helplessness. 

What do we do with it all, the ugliness, the evil, the pain? I guess we have a couple choices: We can curl up and forget that life still goes on, or we can pick up the pieces and somehow keep going.

Once I curled up and tried to forget, but God showed me a better way, a way to live in the mess of this world. A way to go on when it seems impossible. A way to even find joy.

God offers a way to go on when it seems impossible, a way to even find joy in the ugliness of life. #Jesusiscoming Click To Tweet

Advent hope: Jesus is coming!

Our Advent Hope

It’s because Jesus lives!

And He is returning again to wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4). 

We will again see our loved ones who die in the faith. Someday pain will not exist, parents will not be left to say a final good-bye, children will not wonder if they’ll see tomorrow. Someday we will all be well and whole and want for nothing. 

That is our hope. That is our Advent hope: Christ coming to bring us everlasting peace and joy … to bring us life, beautiful and complete.

Our Advent hope: Christ coming to bring us everlasting peace and joy ... to bring us life, beautiful and complete. Click To Tweet

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Come Lord Jesus, Come! 

Reflections: Where do you turn when the senseless strikes, when life turns ugly and painful? What is your hope in Advent? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5566–5586. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Road tripping with Danny to his appointment; *Family in an out-of-state city who helped us find a good auto repair shop; *Meeting up with niece Betsy and adorable little Vincent for lunch *Flannel sheets
  • *Watching an eagle launch from a branch above the lake; *A day that didn’t include getting into a vehicle; *Getting another full night’s sleeping
  • *Options to explore for Rachel’s future; *More time with Danny on a road trip to another appt; *Clear roads
  • *Able to help get Rach off to school before I had to leave this morning; *Joining with professionals to help facilitate family-educator partnerships; *A little time to Christmas shop on my way home
  • *Home; *Being challenged beyond myself (no I don’t really like it, but I know it’s growing me, so it must be a gift); *Promise of Revelation 21:4 (God will wipe away every tear)
  • *Spending afternoon with Zach; *Amazing Christmas Festival at @WheatonCollege; *People to care for Rach, so we can attend
  • *Surprised by the beauty of an overnight snowfall; *Returning safely home after attempting to make it to church and then having a sweet time of home worship; *Celebrating the life of my husband on his birthday

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Hope, Jesus Christ, Struggles, Suffering

What You Need to Know When Life Knocks You Down #AdventReflections

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a rather strong person, a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of person. Generally, I can see the next step and take it. Yet there’s been plenty of times when I’ve felt out-of-control and inadequate to handle a situation.

The big ones that quickly come to mind are my miscarriages and when Rachel was diagnosed with a lifelong disability. However, plenty of smaller setbacks and even normal everyday life can leave one feeling weak and insufficient as well.

I hate it, that helpless feeling, yet I’ve come to realize it’s actually a good thing. Because when we feel powerless, we’re more likely to let Christ in.

Our weakness opens us up to welcome in God’s power.

Our weakness opens us up to welcome in God's power. #AdventReflections Click To Tweet

In God's might we're never powerless

Feeling Helpless

Reading aloud to my children has always been a favorite activity of mine, even when they’re well into their teens. I’m always searching for an engaging Christian or classic story that would lend itself well to our read-aloud time.

Several months ago, my friend and fellow writer Natasha Metzler pointed me to a previously self-published fiction series titled the Tales of Larkin. This wonderful Christian trilogy by Alan W. Harris features a 1-inch tall race of people who initially don’t know about the triune God. Instead they worship many gods.

In the second book, which is really the prequel, war breaks out in the tiny’s world. Eventually, a couple of warriors from the good side, Larkin and his father General Ramus, get washed downstream into the world of giants who know and love Jesus. Befriended by a giant family (think you and me in height), Larkin and Ramus are cared for and learn about the Creator and Savior.

After many months, the two accept Jesus as their Lord and King. A short while later Ramus dies, but not before charging his son with returning to their country of Lanara and, with the help of “the Maker,” trying to save their king and his family from the evil bandits.

But following his father’s death, Larkin feels alone and powerless to follow through on his promise to help King Kaelen, much less return to his country. “I know I promised, Father,” he blurted, “but I don’t know how I’m going to do it!”

In despair, he falls face down before the Maker and pours out his heart to Him. As he prays, deep peace and gratitude wash over Larkin because “Larkin knew that the Maker had received his prayer and help would be coming.”

Tapping Into God’s Power and Might

Help is coming. In fact, help is at hand.

Whether facing big issues or smaller ones, many of us scheme and plan, trying to figure out how we can make it through on our own. We try to stand tall, but our strength can only carry us so far.

Finally, feeling defeated like Larkin, we end up face down before our Lord. But instead of falling despairingly into that position, why not begin there … in a posture of hope?

Humbling ourselves before the Lord should be our first act when faced with a troubling circumstance, not our last resort. It is where we should be often, because that’s where our powerless becomes powerful in the might of our Lord.

Humbling ourselves before the Lord should be our first act when faced w/ a troubling circumstance, not a last resort. Click To Tweet

The victory is secured friends. Jesus secured it. And He hands it to us.

He gives us His strength and power.  We simply need to acknowledge our need.

So let’s begin each day of this Advent season face down before our Lord, in humble gratitude and hopeful anticipation of all He offers. All He offers in His coming—in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Because tapping into His might ensures we’ll never be truly powerless.

Tapping into God's might ensures we'll never be truly powerless. Click To Tweet

“See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and His power establishes His rule.
His reward is with Him,
and His gifts accompany Him.
11 He protects His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them in the fold of His garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.” Isaiah 40:10-11

Reflections: In what area of your life do you feel the most powerless? Have you considered beginning your days before the Lord, humbly accepting His strength to get you through?

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I’m not powerless.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Advent Reflections, Endurance, Faith, Hope, Weakness

When Slow and Quiet Is Not Your Reality #AdventReflections

In the past, I jumped from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Like many, I’d bypass the intermediary season of preparation, expectation, and anticipation.

Yet slowly through the years, I’ve begun to realize what I’ve been missing. 

Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming.” His past coming in our secured salvation. His present coming in Word and sacrament. And His future coming when He returns again. 

This year my plans included beginning the Advent season in a slow and quiet manner, reflecting on the full extent of what this “coming” means. I’d have lit candles, background music, and planned scripture and devotional readings. 

Yet life circumstances aren’t lining up very well for slow and quiet. Instead long-distance doctor appointments; out-of-state travel to transport a child to and from home; and meetings found their way into my schedule, taking up entire days. 

My calendar is colored far too full to allow for the dream season I had created in my mind. My plan for a reflective Advent season seemed doomed.

Yet a sabotaged calendar doesn’t mean this Advent season of reflection and anticipation has to be sabotaged too. Even when life becomes busy, we can take time to appreciate and anticipate all this season means. 

A sabotaged calendar doesn't mean this Advent season of reflection&anticipation has to be sabotaged too.… Click To Tweet

not quiet and still, but still Advent with Christ

When the Calendar Says No to Quieter and Slower

We think of slow and quiet as something we do externally. Yet when we can’t physically slow down, we can still do it emotionally and intellectually.

We can still prepare our hearts and minds to dwell on Christ. Regardless of the circumstances in our lives during the Advent season, we can give our soul what it longs for, connection with our Savior.  

Even when life becomes busy, we can prepare our hearts and minds to dwell on Christ. Click To Tweet

When slow and quiet is not your reality, consider incorporating such simple practices as

  • breathing a quick prayer of thanks for your salvation,
  • reminding yourself of Christ’s birth and death for you,
  • reciting a prophetic Bible verse that points to Jesus’ coming, such as Jeremiah 33:15
  • Discover the blessing of having your Advent devotions read to you via a mobile Bible app (I like Bible Gateway) while running an errand or driving to an appointment or preparing the evening meal. 

Find something that works and then relax, knowing Jesus will meet you where you are. And the sweetness of the moment will be there when your schedule does slow enough to allow for those extra-special practices like candle lighting and calendar observance.  

Meet Jesus Where You Are

My week ahead continues to present rather full. For me, it’s tempting to cram everything I missed so far and all I will miss in my Advent observance into a one-day session. Yet that wouldn’t be very simple or reflective.

So instead of fighting for it all, I’m going to start where I am. I have today, where the hours are more manageable and the possibility of quiet exists. 

Instead of getting nothing out of any of it, I’m going to grab the slower moments that promise to grace this day. I’m going to quiet myself, so I can be fully present with the Lord in the time that presents today.

So today, the prophecy candle will be lit in hope and expectation for the coming Messiah. Today, the Advent Scripture readings for this day will be enjoyed.

Tomorrow may look very different, with few peaceful moments. Yet as long as we purpose in our hearts and minds to be in Christ, even the busiest days can bring us into closer communion with Him. Isn’t that what Advent is all about? 

Yes, circumstances may prevent us from being outwardly quiet and still, but we can we can still do so inwardly, slowing our minds and preparing our hearts to be with our Savior.

Circumstances may prevent us from being outwardly quiet and still, but we can still be so inwardly.… Click To Tweet

The promise was given, the way is being made straight, and our future hope is secured. We have a lot to be grateful for. Let’s dwell with Him today, whether in the middle of a chaotic day or in the hush of quiet moments.

Dwell with Christ today, whether in the middle of a chaotic day or in the hush of quiet moments. Click To Tweet

And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:12-13

Reflections: What Advent practices have you planned? How can you sit with Christ during this Advent season even when your days roll out too busy to be still? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5545–5565. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Beauty of frosted leaves; *Our oldest back home through the holidays; *The beauty of nature brought inside to decorate for Thanksgiving
  • *Christian radio and podcasts for long drives; *Zach home for Thanksgiving; *Living room turning into a wrestling room with all the boys together, and Rachel joining right in
  • *Cooking for my 6 (okay, maybe enough for 20); *Time to do day-before prep of Thanksgiving dishes to allow for more relationship time on the big day; *Thanksgiving Eve worship with my family and friends
  • *A delicious, on-time meal with the five people I love most; *A little football 500 with the boys followed by a quiet solo walk through the timber at dusk; *Serving my boy by doing a bit of sewing
  • *Sneaking in games between baking and making; *Having a couple helpers with candy/cookie making; *Crockpot soup for an easy meal
  • *Being part of a large family; *Looking past individual differences to love and enjoy time together as an extended family at the Reuter Christmas celebration – it’s not always perfect but it ends up beautiful; *Food, game playing, exchanging gifts, sibling/niece/nephew/cousin bonding, and laughter
  • *More time spent with family; *More car time with Zach, getting him back to college; *Warm hug via a simple, heart-felt text of acknowledgement

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

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Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's BLESSINGS to get lost in its HAPPENINGS. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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