Choose Different

2020 did not give us many great things to take with us into 2021. There are plenty of things I would like to leave at the threshold as I step through the doorway into the New Year. You have your list and I have mine, but I think we can all agree that COVID is at the very top. Not likely it will be obedient and stay in 2020, but we can dream, right?

One gift that I am very thankful for came in the form of a tv show. It was released around Easter this year and I could not think of a more God ordained time. “The Chosen” is a tv series about the ministry of Jesus Christ. Erase all of your preconceived judgement about faith based films, this one is in a category all on its own. You can watch it on You Tube (you can fast forward through the director commentary at the beginning) or download the app for free and watch there. You can also purchase the DVDs on Amazon and at Wal-Mart. I can not recommend it enough.

My favorite scene is when Jesus calls a quirky outcast named Matthew to follow him. Matthew is hated by the Jews because he works for the Romans and the Romans hate him because he is Jewish. When Jesus calls him, Peter (another follower) immediately challenges this decision. “Are you sure? Do you know who he is? Do you know what he has done?” Jesus reminds Peter of his own past and the choices Peter has made. “Yes, but this is different.” Jesus’ response?

“Get used to different.”

I think we can all agree that we have had to “get used to different” this year. Nothing has been normal and will likely never be normal again. But God hasn’t called us to be comfortable or normal. He has called us to be different, live different, act different.

What will you do in 2021 that will reflect that you are different? Through Christ and his death on the cross, you are made to live differently.

A couple of years ago I read through the Bible for the first time. I learned more than I ever imagined about God. I was sad when it was over and couldn’t wait to read it through again. I decided to skip a year, because I didn’t want it to become routine and mundane. I wanted the next time to be a little different. I decided to read through the Bible chronologically. It wasn’t published that way, but placed in its current order by genre.

This year I am choosing different by reading the Bible through chronologically and I would love for you to join me.

Below is a graphic you can screenshot or click to download for the month of January.

I can’t wait to see what “different” aspects we learn about God and ourselves in the process.

Choose different. Jesus did. He didn’t choose an everyday normal life or everyday normal people.

Its time to get used to different. Let’s dive into God’s word together and see what we discover.

Not Ideal

2020 has not been ideal.

That’s an understatement.

Did you complete your 2020 Resolutions? Me neither. Not even close. I made it to the end of 2020. That’s enough.

None of us saw a single aspect of this year coming. I have lost count of how many times the wind has gotten knocked out of me.

The other night, our family was watching one of our Christmas movies, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”. The early 80’s nostalgia is overwhelming as I remember wearing the same clothes and hairstyles as the little girls in this movie. If you have never seen it, the storyline is about a church’s Christmas play whose preparations are interrupted by a family of children, known as the Herdmans who are dirty and unruly. These children are bullies and feared by everyone who encounters them. They had never stepped foot in church, but the promise of something drew them there that year…food. One of the children at church mentioned he could get all of the snacks he wanted at church after his lunch gets eaten by a Herdman.

Each of them were cast in the major roles of the play because they threatened everyone involved. Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel, and three Wise Men were all played by Herdmans. The supporting characters of the movie take turns voicing how less than ideal these children were to play such glorious roles in the Christmas story. The Herdmans were dirty, their clothes were torn, they smoked cigars in the bathroom, stole communion juice from the pantry, and money from the offering plate. No one would have hand-picked these children to play starring roles in a Christmas play representing the Holy Family.

These children were not ideal.

Neither were the characters of the real Christmas story.

Mary was a virgin unmarried teenager when she first learned of her pregnancy.

Joseph was an unmarried man expected to support a child that he did not help conceive.

Jesus was not a warrior, come to save the Jews from Roman oppression, but a baby, born in a dirty room with smelly animals.

The shepherds were the least respected members of society. They were filthy and ostracized.

The wise men were not Jewish, but astronomers from foreign lands who worked for royalty.

To the members of the religious elite, each one of these characters played into scandal that was less than holy to their Holy Yahweh.

By the end of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, the Herdmans had everyone in tears, proclaiming it the best play the church had ever put on. Physical hunger brought the children to church, seeking the abundance of snacks they had heard about. Their spiritual hunger kept them there, seeking more details of the characters they would portray. The audience doesn’t know if the Herdmans changed their ways, but hopefully the pious church family did. Their opinions of an ideal Holy Family were challenged by viewing the play through the eyes of poor unruly children whose spiritual hunger was greater than their physical needs.

The Christmas story is not full ideal characters and circumstances, but neither are we. Maybe it is the circumstances that are less than ideal that can create the most change. They require us to shift our focus and our hearts onto the core of what really matters. The Christmas story is meant to change you and me to shift what we thought to be ideal and surrender those thoughts and opinions over to a God who can take the less ideal and shape it into something we never could have imagined.

“We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 MSG

The young virgin had no idea that the less than ideal circumstances surrounding the birth of her baby boy would result in His brutal death. It would be the ideal event to save the world from destroying itself.

Jesus’ death is still the one and only event to save each one of us from ourselves. The sin that oozes out of our pores is made clean only by the ideal sacrifice of one man.

Your goodness isn’t ideal enough, your kindness isn’t ideal enough.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” John 14:6-7 MSG

It took Jesus a baby in a filthy wooden feeding trough to be the bridge for us to have full access to a relationship with God. Until his death, the gap was too great for us to cross.

2020 is not ideal … but God can take less than ideal people and circumstances to flip our focus. We can’t spend our lives waiting on our circumstances or other people to change. Spoiler alert: there are plenty of aspects about you that are less than ideal, but a life surrendered to God is the first step. Ask God to shift your focus to see people and circumstances through His eyes. You’ll be surprised with a transformed heart you gain in the process.

Now that is ideal.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holy-days. Thank you for reading my heart and supporting my writing ventures. I can’t wait to bring you more in the next year.

With Love,

The Best Cheerleader

Parenting is 100% nothing like I thought it would be. It has pushed me, broken me, stretched me, and nearly destroyed me. If my children become productive citizens of this world, it will not be because of a single thing I have done. This parenting gig is the most fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing I do. I prefer lists, planning, and schedules, but God knew my hyper-scheduled life needed plenty of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants moments.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom. It was always my dream. God has entrusted me to be the mom of four amazing kiddos and I am very thankful. I love our adventures and memories, but my favorite thing about being a mom is that I get to be their cheerleader, their comforter and encourager. I love cheering my kids on when they are making beautiful artwork and creating intricate Lego builds. I love celebrating them when they have aced a test and when they have climbed the tallest tree. The loudest and craziest I have ever cheered for my kids is when they have endured a hard season. I am so proud of them my heart overflows my eyes with tears.

Our ten months in Louisiana was a daily struggle for my kids. Our last day of school was a mixture of joyous, relieved, and sad tears. I was so proud of their endurance to make it to the end of our time there. Seeing their growth emotionally and spiritually was remarkable.

2020 has been very much the same. This year has been full of hard pivots and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants moments that have given us all a bit of whiplash. Watching my kids struggle through unpredictable school schedules and technology quirks has made me want to scream and throw a 2020-sized tantrum.

No one wants to see their children hurting and confused, but when we have no other option to cheer them on in spite of it all, we are given the gift of seeing who they become at the end of it.

Jesus is an incredible cheerleader. In Matthew 14, he had just miraculously fed more than five-thousand men, women, and children. He sent the disciples into a storm, on a lake, at night while he prayed on the top of a mountain. The disciples didn’t know a storm was coming, but Jesus did. He watched them struggle from the top of that mountain. He also prayed and I think He cheered them on too. He cheered them on without them being able to see Him through the wind, waves, and darkness. He cheered them on through his prayers to God.

Jesus didn’t keep the storm from coming, but he cheered them on through it.

I love the account of this story in Matthew because before Jesus calmed the waves, he began walking on water into the storm. At the break of day, when the disciples realized it was Jesus, Peter (never one to remain on the sidelines) requested to join Jesus in the storm on top of the water. “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter didn’t ask Jesus to calm the waves or calm their fears. He wanted to join Jesus in the storm. Jesus said, “Come”. Peter stepped out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus, but when he saw how powerful the storm was he began to sink. Jesus continued to cheer for Peter by encouraging him in his faith and reached out his hand. Although scripture doesn’t say, I wonder if Peter’s friends in the boat were cheering him on from behind.

God has been cheering for you in this year of 2020. He has entered the storm with you and held out His hand. God saw the storm coming, but also knew He would be cheering you on in the middle of it. I believe God, our heavenly Father, feels heart-bursting pride for us as we near the end of 2020 changed for the better.

To celebrate the last day of school in 2020, I got up early and drove to our favorite donut shop. One that makes mouthwatering yeast donuts fresh daily. I reserve this treat for celebrations. We have weathered a storm this year and I can not contain the pride I feel for watching my children walk on water to the end of it. While I know this storm is not over, I have loved cheering my children on through it. Don’t get me wrong, we have had plenty of “this is so stupid” days and an abundance of frustrated tears, but they have proven over an over that they have endured some pretty intense storms. Whatever comes our way in 2021, they know they have a proud Mama and Heavenly Father cheering for them as they head into the winds and the rain.

God is cheering for you too. Meet Him on the water, in the middle of the storm, with the wind beating against you. He is reaching His hand out to you and cheering for you louder than you can imagine. I hope you hear me cheering you on too.

Sadness and Joy

There are countless people who shaped my faith as a child. The older I become, the more I realize the impact they had.

I never heard a negative word spoken about Alice. She had more energy than the rest of the church put together. Always showing up. Always serving. Always loving. Throughout her life, her health attempted to hinder her serving, diminish her activity, and dampen her spirit. Diabetes took both legs and her eyesight, but she continued to serve the Lord with a smile however she could.

My last memory of her was when I visited my home church on the morning of my grandmother’s funeral. Alice was on the front row, smiling, listening to the prelude. I walked up, crouched down as close as I could get, and asked if she knew me. She grinned bigger and hugged me. Her overflowing heart of Jesus’ love flowed into mine once more.

Last night, Alice entered heaven. I have a feeling, she didn’t just enter, I guarantee you, she ran full speed with completely healed legs into the first face her clear eyes saw, Jesus.

I can be sad in reflecting the life she led and the loved ones she left behind. Alice’s sweet daughter who lovingly cared for her and precious husband who always followed close behind helping however he could, were examples of the impact of Alice’s overflow of love. I can also be joyful Alice ran to Jesus last night, fully whole and fully healed. Alice, say hello to others in the faith for me who raised me to love and to serve from our little church with big heart. I know my grandmother is there waiting and you hear Joyce blessing heaven with her voice. You will be a welcome addition to their fold.

Thank you, Alice, for showing me what it is like to not only love Jesus, but to serve Him in a way that radiated His love on everyone around you. Your impact and legacy will go beyond your short time here. It is Christ-followers like you who have kept me in church my entire life. I am so honored you will be in the large cloud of witnesses waiting for me.

Make New Memories Thanksgiving 2020

Throughout my life, I remember when specific holidays looked different for me. I remember the first time I divided Thanksgiving between my family’s home and my fiancé’s (at the time). I cried, not because I didn’t love my fiancé or his family, but because change is hard especially when it makes you feel things you didn’t expect to feel. It was the first year I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my new family as they welcomed me warmly into their fold.

I also remember Thanksgiving four years ago when our extended family was 16 hours away and we were spending our first Thanksgiving in a new city. I grieved, not because we weren’t happy in our new home, but because change is hard. I pushed through and made new memories. That year was the first time I attempted my grandmother’s infamous chocolate meringue pie. While it wasn’t perfect the attempt was still delicious.

This week will be different for some of us, whether intended or not. There may be feelings of sadness and grief, weariness and complacency. Although it may not be the first thing you want to do, I encourage you to make a new memory. 2020 will stand out in our lives for eternity, but do not let it create in you only feelings of grief. Make a new memory, or multiple, so that you can look back on this year and say, “Thanksgiving 2020 was the year I/we…” .

For multiple reasons, this year will look different for us too. We are making a “Thankfulness Jar” by filling a jar with what we are thankful for and reading them on Thanksgiving day. We will be making goodies to say thank you to special people in our lives. On Thanksgiving Day, each person gets to pick a game and we all have to play each game (time limits for the super long ones).

I have also been scouring Pinterest looking for ideas to make new memories for our family. I am including links below. Leave a comment and let me know some of your ideas! I hope this inspires you to make new memories even though 2020 will look a little different for all of us.

Leah

For the Kids:

Kids’ Table Crafts

Turkey Roll Game

Thanksgiving I Spy

Thanksgiving Mad Libs

For the Family:

Conversation Starters

Thanksgiving Trivia

Thanksgiving “Would You Rather”

Thanksgiving Photo Booth Props

Praise through Pain

Encouragement for your Thanksgiving 2020 week. Stay tuned tomorrow for ideas to make special memories with your family this Thanksgiving when life may look a little different.

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Day 66/66

66 Days of the Faithfulness of God

Revelation 22:6-21

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Day 65/66

66 Days of the Faithfulness of God

Jude 17-25

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