Thursday, 10 December 2015

What is your plan for when Christmas is hard?

Christmas is meant to be a happy, exciting and fun time.

Except that is not always the case. I think almost everyone can understand what a tough, sad and stressful Christmas is like.

They can come in different forms which makes it hard to look forward to Christmas.

·      Maybe you are still single after a number of years or have found yourself single after a break-up. Maybe you have experienced the death of a close person throughout the year. Maybe you have moved away from your community. Maybe tensions are high in your family.

  • ·         A family member or loved one has passed.
  • ·         Arguing and tension is high in the family.
  • ·         It’s the first Christmas away from family.
  • ·         You find yourself still single.

Whatever the circumstance, if you think it is going to be tough, I would suggest having a plan. It is easy to become caught up in the emotions of what has happened (or is happening). It is healthy to let yourself feel and be upset, but the day can still be enjoyed.
Here are some of my thoughts to encourage myself, and others, not to lose focus this Christmas.

  • ·         Cook a favourite dish in honour of a loved one or choose a special Christmas ornament. One year I bought angels for each of my family members to place on the tree in memory of our mum.
  • ·         Create your own Christmas traditions. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or homeless shelter, or visit people in hospital. Turn some negative and upsetting energy on being alone and/or single into focusing on others in need.
  • ·         Buy yourself a craft project to start on Christmas day, splurge on a movie you have been wanting to see, take a road trip to somewhere new.
  • ·         If you have friends in town over Christmas, see what they are doing. Even if plans cannot be made for the actual day, see if it is possible to do a dinner between friends on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. In my home church there are a few people who open up their homes over Christmas to those who do not have family nearby. Maybe there is someone near you who does that. Or, why not be the one to open up your place to others?
  • ·         Find some activities you can use as an out when the stress is high. Being in the middle of stress, arguments and tension is never any fun. Prepare some outlets.

Christmas always has the potential to be stressful and painful, but there is always a chance and a choice to turn that around. You can choose to wallow or choose to find the joy in the midst of the pain. The day is not even about us. The day is not even about our families. The day is about Jesus and the good news of the gospel. 

What are you doing to ease the pain this Christmas?

Monday, 7 December 2015

Do you have hope when Christmas changes?

The Christmas season is here. I have a few friends who have been counting down since July. Now we are faced with the reality that Christmas is 2 and a half weeks away. Often there are multitudes of emotions attached to that reality.

For some, there is a tinge of dread at the first sight of decorations appearing in the shops. For others, there is excitement and some people have been planning and buying presents throughout the year. The Christmas season is a busy time, sometimes even stressful. Even though it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and theoretically should be full of joy, there can still be an immense amount of pain associated with it for some people.

Christmas day is rarely a traditional happy-family day for everyone. I know my Christmas’ growing up never replicated a Disney Christmas. In fact, Christmas was very similar year-to-year until the year my mum died.

The year mum died was also the year I had moved out of home. Christmas had changed. Not only was my family having to face one less person around, I was also beginning to face the dilemma of whether to travel back home and spend Christmas with my family, or stay where I was and spend it with my then-boyfriend’s family. The decision was not a hard one because Christmas with my family was very important to me, especially since my younger sisters were still quite young when our mother had died. I, unintentionally, tried to take on the mother role over Christmas and ensure there were still plenty of presents under the tree for my younger siblings. I wanted to try to keep Christmas as ‘normal’ as possible. The true Christmas spirit was not really a priority for me—instead it became about my family, trying to please them, and in doing so believing that I could fix their pain.

Since moving back to my home-town, Christmastime has changed yet again. I have two immediate families I get to spend the day with. However, that is not because I have married and now have my husband’s family to consider. Instead, I have adopted another family. Even though Christmas still does bring some mixed emotions, I know I am actually in a pretty blessed position as a young, single woman. I have twice the family to be around in an otherwise hard and painful time. Many singles, by the time they are my age, are living by themselves or with friends, and probably far from any immediate family.

While Christmas this year is slightly different and I am fighting the ache of still being single and childless, there are a number of blessings I remind myself of:

  • ·        I do not have the fear of facing holidays alone.
  • ·        I do not have to face setting a table for one, and the conundrums of planning a meal for one.
  • ·        I do not have to question if it is worth putting up a Christmas tree or whether I should buy a present for myself.
  • ·        I also do not have to worry about being quizzed by relatives on why I am still single.
  • ·        Most of all, I have family surrounding me.

These blessings are only minute compared to the real truth behind Christmas. The real truth that easily gets buried among the focus on family, let alone the present buying, meal planning, travelling, end-of-year parties and school presentations. This truth remains good news no matter what has happened throughout the year. It is a truth I am challenging myself to remember and hold onto as I approach another different Christmas.

The good news the angel brought to the shepherds 2000 years ago on that first Christmas:

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ Luke 2:10-11. (ESV)

How are you facing a different Christmas?

Do you want to know more about this ‘good news’? Drop me a line and we can chat. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Do you believe freedom is possible?

If you asked me what sin I struggle with the most, I do not think pride would be at the top of the list. That is not to say I do not struggle with pride at all. A couple of years ago, I went through a period in my life where I believed, deep down, my sin was too big for God. I believed, whole-heartedly, I was trapped in the self-destructive life I had chosen. I believed I could not be free. I believed, even if God could, He would not want to free me. I was believing lies. Although it may not seem like it, this, my friends, is still pride.

I spent many months believing these lies even though I did not have any proof. Being that I am human, my heart is faulty. I can question where these lies came from- was it my perfectionistic tendencies, my people-pleasing nature, or failing to live up to expectation? Ultimately, it begins with our sinful nature leading to a faulty heart.

Whether it was one or a combination of those scenarios, the point was, I was squashing the Truth of the Gospel. I was ignoring the Truth that I am loved (John 3:16), I have been set free (Galatians 5:1) and I am forgiven (Ephesian 1:7). I was sinking deeper into a hole only God could get me out of. The deeper I was falling, the louder the lies were becoming. I was hearing, and believing:

You are not worth it.
You are not good enough.
You deserve to destroy yourself.
You will never be free.
You are not worthy of freedom.

Lies. We all hear lies. They are not uncommon. It is Satan’s trick to bring us down and draw us away from God and His Truth. Thankfully, with any lie, there is always the Truth. By God’s Grace, He brought some people into my life who persevered in speaking the Truth to me so that I believed I could be free. When I faced temptation or when I began to feel hopeless and lost, ‘Jesus is Bigger’ became the motto to remind me of the Truth. When I think my sin is too big for God to forgive and begin to shy away from approaching God, I pull out Psalm 103:12, ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.’ (ESV) The verse reminds me of how strong God’s forgiveness is.

Have you ever believed you could not be free? Have you ever believed your sin was too big for God? There is good news for you! The Bible is full of examples of Jesus being bigger than anything else. The greatest example is His resurrection. If Jesus can overcome death, I think He is bigger than any sin, problem, sickness, doubt and lie there is. Unfortunately, because we live in a sinful world, these will still be present until Jesus comes back again but He is still bigger!

Here are some of the ways I have chosen to believe the Truth:
  • Surrounding myself with Christian community. I need the encouragement of fellow brothers and sisters. I attend a bible study once a week, and I also meet up with a couple of girls regularly to pray and have accountability.
  • Praying each day to renounce the lies and believe the Truth. For the past 2 years or so, I have been praying a prayer at night for protection of my heart and mind. The Bible encourages us to take every thought captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Memorising Scripture. Having verses up around the home and workplace is great. For example, the mirror in my bathroom has ‘Truth = Freedom’ and ‘The Armour of God’. The mirror can be a place where lies begin to form so it is important to remind myself of the Truth. A couple of my favourite verses on freedom are Galatians 5:1 and Galatians 5:13.
Jesus is bigger and I am still human. I need to continue to work at fighting pride, renouncing lies, and reminding myself of the Truth. Jesus is bigger than my pride, Jesus is bigger than the lies, Jesus is bigger than my sin. Jesus is bigger!!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Celebrating the Quiet Victories

Imagine throwing a party every time a hurdle in life is overcome. The champagne gets broken out, streamers and balloons are hung up around the room, a cake is baked and iced ready to eat, and people are invited and ready to dance to a selected playlist of music. There are many victories that are not celebrated and it would be silly if there was a party each and every time. Life really would be a party!

There are some culturally accepted victories (most of us celebrate):

  • ·         Reaching a year older
  • ·         Passing a driving test
  • ·         Getting a first job
  • ·         Graduating

But within each of us we have personal battles and personal victories. The person next door may be struggling with insecurity, low self-esteem and anytime they walk in the room without apologising is a victory. The person who sits next to you at church may be battling anxiety and it is a victory they made it to the service. A work colleague may be battling depression and each day they turn up to work is a victory.

Each person’s victory is different but it does not make any of them less ‘celebrated’. The past two years have been full of victories for me. One of them has been a progression of overcoming fear in various areas of my life. Although I have usually been the last person to see them as victories, they are milestones all the same. I have a tendency, and I am sure many others have as well, to minimise any steps taken forward. If I look back over some of my past fears, I can chuckle as they seem trivial now.

Each step of overcoming fear is valid to celebrate. Maybe not to the extent of a party, but to acknowledge the step taken and thank God for giving you the strength. The steps I take to move forward in my life are different from the next person. When each step is taken to move forward, I picture Jesus celebrating in Heaven on our behalf. The power of the cross shows Jesus overcame death. With Jesus on my side, I can have strength to keep moving forward.

Whatever my personal victories may seem like or look like to someone else, each one is evidence of the grace of God in my life. When I look back over my life, not only do I feel thankful for the strength and hope of Jesus to have gotten me to this point, but I also see the growth that has allowed me to reach where I am in life now.

There is, however still one fear I have not yet overcome: spiders. Ironically, I write this post after having spotted a large sized spider hiding behind the couch I normally sit in. Even after I (so courageously) sprayed it and moved it outside, I am spending the evening cautiously sitting on another seat. Just in case. Maybe God is not finished with me yet!

And God is not finished with you yet, either. What is one quiet victory from this past week you can celebrate?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Choosing Joy

'Count it all joy, my [sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds' James 1:2

Say what?!

Have you ever gone through a trial of some kind and a friend has told you to 'count it all'? If they did, you would think they were mad. The presence of joy in the middle of suffering sounds like a mismatch.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Loving Difficult People

About 2 months ago I wrote a post introducing my goal of focusing on the Fruit of the Spirit as an area for growth over the next several month. (Click here for the link)

I have faltered slightly from my original timeline but I now bring my first post in my ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ series. I first saw this series as an opportunity for growth. But I sometimes forget to acknowledge that growth usually comes from a challenge. And that is exactly how I see it. When I think of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in my life I see where I am not loving, where I lack a joyful attitude, where patience has run away and the last thing I want is peace.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Heartache (Triple Braided Life)

I wrote this post for Triple Braided Life after a challenging week dealing with an aching heart. In the past I would deal with hurt and pain in destructive ways. I wrote this post to reflect on some truths of a caring and loving God who knows our pain. I hope you can find some encouragement from it:

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Purity Issue (Triple Braided Life)

I wrestled with this next post that I submitted for TBL. 'Is it too deep of a topic for a new contributor?' 'Is it revealing too much about myself?' 'What do I do when it is published, do I share it on my Facebook page?'

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Are you embracing godliness in your life? (Triple Braided Life)

In October last year, I participated in a '31 days of...' interview for a fellow blogger, Brenda. Brenda writes for Triple Braided Life, a blog for single ladies pointing them to truth. She decided to interview 31 single women, one for each day of the month, on the topic of, 'Living with Purpose.' I had the pleasure of being interviewed (you can see it here 31 days of Single Women). A couple months later, Brenda contacted me during the time I was setting up this blog and asked if I would like to become a contributor for Triple Braided Life. I was not expecting this. But I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity this has opened up for me this coming year. 

Last week, my first post was published. You can read the post here, Embracing Godliness
I have to admit that I am excited to see what kind of challenges come about in writing. I've had plenty of topics come to mind that have challenged me to think more about them in a way that can encourage others and also speak truth in my life. I hope that you will enjoy the posts, from myself and the three other girls joining Brenda! 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Valentine's Day

Some people find Valentine’s Day hard and confronting for various reasons. Whether you like Valentine’s Day is neither right nor wrong. Despite my single seasons, I actually like Valentine’s Day. I have taken the opportunity of the day to celebrate my family. The year my mum passed away, I decided to buy my two sister’s a little gift to remind them:

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Godliness, Fruits of the Spirit and the Christian Woman

It has certainly been awhile since I have posted here. And, nearly a whole month has gone into 2015. It almost seems pointless to talk about 2015 as a ‘new’ year, and reflect on the year just gone. I have enjoyed reading what people as they write about a single word for their focus of 2015. I didn’t set out to make specific resolutions.