Hope for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and with them come a mixed bag of emotions, fun, stress, drama and anticipation. Perhaps like me, you have lost someone or something you value this year. It may have been a parent, a home, a job, a son or daughter or a relationship. The holidays will not be the same this year, you may be thinking to yourself.

But are they ever the same? A lot changes in the course of a year, doesn’t it? Friends get married. Others get divorced. Babies are born. Loved ones die. Old friends move away. New friends come into our lives. Things rarely stay exactly the same as the year before.  Life changes and that is a good thing. The certainty of change means there is always hope.

As the season of Advent begins, the focus for this week is Hope. It is the first gift of Christmas.
It is a time to reflect back on the year and ask ourselves what can we do differently next year to improve our lives, to live closer to God, and to walk more in love. Each of us is on our own path and we each have different steps to take, but take them we must, if we want to move forward into a more peaceful and rewarding life.

We may need to let go of unforgiveness or bitterness; be more grateful, generous, less self-centered. We may need to laugh more and stress less; surrender more and control less, trust more, and fear less. In every trial, there is a hidden treasure in the form of a lesson to be gleaned and applied to our lives.

Look at the example of the young girl named Mary. When the angel of the Lord told her she was going to be with child, which in essence meant she was going to be an unwed mother, a crime punishable by stoning, what was her response? “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” Mary was willing to trust and to surrender her life and her will for God’s purposes. Can we say as much?

Mary’s hope was in the Lord and in His great love for her. For this same reason, we, too, can have hope this holiday season. When we are secure in the knowledge of God’s immeasurable and unfailing love for us, no matter what comes our way, good or bad, we can rest in God’s promise to be with us. His name, Emmanuel, means exactly that – God with us. Like Mary, sometimes we don’t know what the future holds, but we can hold fast to the One who does.

What are your hopes this holiday season? What is the longing of your heart? Whatever it is, give it to the Lord, and trust that He will surround you with His amazing love this season. His gifts are for every child of His and that means all of us.

If this post has encouraged you,& you’d like to receive my weekly posts, please enter your email in the space provided and do pass it on. Someone you know may need a little hope this season. Until next week, keep looking up!

Keeping Your Joy During the Holidays

Can you believe it is the week before Thanksgiving already? My sons used to quip that as soon as Mom’s birthday rolls around, that’s when the activity level picks up. Ok, I admit, I do love Thanksgiving and everything that goes with it. I love planning the menu, shopping for the turkey, and shining up the good silver and china. Then there’s my traditional blessings basket that I put out the first of November to remind me every day of something to be thankful for.

But this year, Thanksgiving is going to be a lot different. There will be several loved ones missing from the celebration and, in fact, I will not even be having Thanksgiving at my house. Now that is quite a change after all these years. Family members have passed on. Others have moved away. One has gotten married. It is easy to drift into a melancholic woe-is-me state.

And I know many of you have experienced the same types of losses this year. What are we to do to keep our joy during the holiday season?

First, we make a choice. Happiness, as I say in my book, is a choice. We choose what we focus on at any given moment in time. Refuse to dwell on sad things or what is missing in your life.  I choose to focus on my blessings. I am thankful my sons are independent and self-supporting. I guess they learned that from their mother. I am thankful I am at peace and content with my life. I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and a steady job.

Next,  I focus on how I can be a blessing to others and writing this blog is part of that gift I give to you. There are many ways we can give to others this holiday season: donations, food baskets, invitations to holiday festivities, even a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate to that lonely person sitting on the bench. We never know what heartache someone else may be enduring.

This Thanksgiving, my prayer is that the Lord will comfort you, bring you peace, and surround you with His great love. If you are blessed with a happy family and plenty of loved ones, remember to reach out to someone who may not be so fortunate. If you find yourself alone, reach out and let your friends know so you don’t have to spend the holidays by yourself. Holidays are meant to be shared by all.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and may the Lord bless you abundantly!

Are You Living a Fulfilled Life?

Would you consider yourself fulfilled? Have you accomplished the goals you have set in life? Are you full of joy and expectation when you wake up each morning? If so, then you are living a life of wholeness. If not, this post will help you to understand what may be part of the problem.

One of the keys to living a fulfilled life is focus. Focus is a critical discipline we need to master if we want to make progress in life. It means having a well-defined goal in front of us and a strong belief that we can achieve it. It means having our eyes and our mind set on the direction we want to head in and wearing blinders to everything else. It means practicing the word “No”.

If we are wise, we will put our energy towards what we value in life. If it really matters to me to look good in a size 6 jeans, then I will exercise. If I like my house clean and organized, then I will make time to clean it. If I care about my health, then I will watch what I eat and monitor my cholesterol and blood pressure. Like-wise, if I want to ditch my debt, I will monitor my spending habits. It really comes down to two things: values and awareness.

Values are the things that are most precious to us in a given season. Some values change over time while others remain constant. For example, family has always been a high priority for me and always will be. Good health and keeping in shape is also important to me. Other values are peace of mind, security, fun, and growth, to name a few. Our values determine our choices and how we spend our time. When our activities and choices align with our values we feel at peace and content because we are living a life of integrity and wholeness. When our lives are full of activities that do not align with our values, we will feel unfulfilled, uneasy, and discontent.

Awareness, or as some call it, mindfulness, is making conscious choices in the present moment that align with my values. I call it being in the presence of God, the great “I am”. When I am fully present, my mind and my thoughts are focused on what I am doing. I make choices based on my values and goals. I am listening to that still small inner voice. Peace and joy permeate my spirit.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>the days are evil.” In other words, it is very easy to be distracted and it is the wise person who makes good use of his/her time.

What goals have you set for yourself? Do you want to lose weight? Get out of debt? Declutter your home? Or achieve some other worthy goal? Whatever it is, one key to making progress is to stay focused and to believe you can achieve your goal. Until next time, keep looking up!

Making Room for What Really Matters

Most of us lead pretty full lives, yes? We are always on the go. Our to do lists are never ending and the activities never ceasing. But yet, in those still quiet moments, we get that gnawing feeling that somehow we are unfulfilled – something needs to change. Ever feel that way?

It happens to most of us from time to time. It’s kind of like when our closets are bulging with clothes or the attic or tool shed is so packed we can’t find anything. We stand there in confusion wondering how to find what it is we’re looking for.  Do we really know?

If the rooms of our lives are so full with stuff i.e activities, how can we possibly know and then make room for what truly matters to us? Begin by throwing out what is no longer useful.

Every 6 months or so, I ask myself this question “What am I holding on to that I no longer need? and then I begin an inventory of my life. I start with the easy and mundane like my kitchen drawers and cabinets. Then I move on to the house and closets. Then it’s time to analyze the deeper things like my priorities, my beliefs and thought patterns, and my relationships. Which of these are no longer useful or bearing fruit?

To be honest, I have been guilty of holding on to cars, jobs, and some relationships for far too long. I’ve held on to thinking patterns as well. The result of trying to hold on to something or someone that God was trying to get me to let go of was stress and anxiety and who needs more of that in our lives?

The key is to realize when I am holding on to something that is non-productive sooner rather than later, and then – let it go! When I let go of something negative or unproductive in my life, then I make room for something better to come along. It comes back to that ugly four-letter word – fear. Remember, we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7). Let’s not shrink back in fear of letting go of something or someone that is not good for us. God always has something better He is waiting to give us, but we must have open hands to receive it.

Today, I encourage you to take a step of faith to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back from receiving what really matters to you. Write me and let me know what it is that you are ready to let go of. I’m in your corner, and so is God. “For if God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!