All posts tagged Christmas

Working Mom’s Devotional: Not Ready For Christmas?

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Not ready for Christmas?  Me neither.  If I could just stop time this week.  There are just too many gifts to buy, presents to wrap, and cookies to bake.  The teacher gifts alone can drive me mad.  And then there’s my travel schedule.  Four cities in five days.  Who has time to get ready for Christmas?

Not me.

Sometimes, I think if I was a “really good mother” I might finally feel prepared.

But then I look at Mary.

She wasn’t prepared either.

When I look at the birth of Christ I am comforted by Mary’s lack of planning. It doesn’t appear she attended birthing classes or decorated a nursery. She didn’t have a birthing coach, and she was far away from family and friends, traveling to Bethlehem. (She also didn’t bake cookies or run around buying teacher gifts at the last minute!)  The amazing thing is that God had prepared her.

I had read the story of Mary and Elizabeth since I was a child but only recently was struck by God’s complete brilliance in using the birth of John the Baptist to prepare Mary for her own labor and delivery. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary and foretold the birth of Christ, Elizabeth—John the Baptist’s mother-to-be—was already six-months pregnant. (Luke 1:56) Mary went to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her three months. Six plus three is nine, so Mary must have stayed for John’s birth. Assuming she did, she would have watched and learned about labor and delivery firsthand from her older cousin Elizabeth. So Mary didn’t have to attend birthing classes or rent a video. How else would a young virgin in the middle of Bethlehem know how to give birth with an inexperienced husband in a stable?

In other words, God is in charge of preparing the way for Christmas, not us.

So, how does Mary teach us to respond?

She says“yes” and trusts God with the details.  When the angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary to announce the immaculate birth, listen to her response:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  (Luke 1:38) 

Can getting ready for Christmas really be this simple?  Like me, are you struggling to get it all done this year?

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[Dear Readers, As many of you have noticed, I’ve taken a break from blogging during this season.  Thank you deeply for the kind notes and encouragement.  Life is complicated, but God is good and I hope to ramp up writing again in 2015.  I miss you dearly!  Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.   Warmly, Susan]


 

***Excerpts above from Chasing Superwoman.

Working Mom’s Devotional: What Santa Teaches Us About Conflicted Faith

Santa Claus in Chicago

Abby (age 8) is at that age where she wants to believe in Santa, but she has her doubts.  So this year, she’s decided to put Santa to the test.  It’s simple.  She wants purple Nike tennis shoes.  But the manufacturer doesn’t make her size.  So she’s asking Santa to step in and make it happen.

In her words, “I’ve decided I’m going to see if Santa can do it.  I’m going to ask him to make the purple shoes in my size.  If he doesn’t bring them, I’ll just have to get a different pair after Christmas.”

In other words, I’m not really sure if Santa exists.  If he does, he will make the shoes.  I want to believe, but I just don’t know. 

It’s a perfect picture of conflicted faith.

We want to believe, but our circumstances seem impossible. And like Abby, we’re conflicted. In the same breath, we tell God we believe but we really don’t believe. How can we possibly overcome our unbelief when we can’t even make up our minds?  So we find ourselves praying conflicted prayers.

I used to feel guilty praying in the midst of my doubt.  I used to think it was all or nothing. Doubt or faith. How can the two possibly coexist?  Then I read about the young father who asks Jesus to heal his son.   In the words of a desperate man who is wrestling with doubt, he tells Jesus:

“I do believe.  Help me with my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:24)

Thank God – I’m not alone!  The young father shows us it’s normal to be conflicted.  That doubt and faith often go hand and hand.  He also shows us that we can pray for faith in the midst of our unbelief.

And Jesus shows us that he is not limited by doubt.  He is not surprised by the young father’s conflicted prayer, and he heals the son, despite the father’s unbelief.

Like the young father, I often find myself praying a conflicted prayer. My motives are mixed and my faith is weak. I want to believe, especially at Christmas, but some days it’s really hard.  I want those purple tennis shoes, and I just can’t find them in my size!  Is God really out there?  And how am I supposed to believe in him for the big things when I can’t even trust him for something little?

I want to believe God, but sometimes it’s hard.  I live in a conflicted state, and I need your help. Like the young father asking Jesus to heal his son, I confess, “I do believe. Help me with my unbelief.”

Are you struggling to believe this Christmas?  Have you asked God to help you with your unbelief?

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Need some gift ideas?  Check out these great books by several women I know and admire:

Expect To Win, by Carla Harris

Faith Powered Profession, by Elizabeth Knox

Work Love Pray, by Diane Paddison

(And, if anyone knows where I can get size 1 1/2 Nike purple tennis shoes, I’d be most grateful!)

Working Mom’s Devotional: I Have Nothing To Give God!

Working Mom's Devotional

As we come off of Thanksgiving, many of us feel like we have nothing left to give for Christmas.  There are too many gifts to buy, activities to attend, and people to please.  So while Christmas is known as the season of “giving,” deep down we feel a bit empty-handed.  Maybe even resentful.

“I’ve got nothing to give, God!  Can you please send someone else to feed the hungry families and clothe the poor?  I barely have time to get my own family ready for Christmas!”

Let’s face it, giving does not feel convenient.

Yet the Widow in Debt (2 Kings Chapter 4) challenges us to “look again” before we conclude we have nothing to give.

This widow is destitute.  She’s in debt up to her eyeballs, and she is about to lose the only thing she cares about – her sons.  Giving is anything but convenient.  It is next to impossible.  Yet the Prophet Elisha sees beyond her social and emotional poverty.  Elisha doesn’t pity the widow.  Instead he asks her a gutsy question.

“What do you have to give?”

Her initial response is classic. It’s also the way most of us respond when God asks us what we have to give. Can you hear the indignant tone in her voice as she responds to what appears to be a stupid question:

“Your servant has nothing there at all.”

In other words, I’ve got nothing to give God!

Yet this widow does something amazing. She goes back to her cupboard and looks again. She doesn’t stop at nothing.

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she says, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

She sees that she does have something to give.  It’s not the size or the value that matters.

If a widow with “nothing” can find a little olive oil in her cupboard,  I too can go back and look again.  And my cupboards are far from empty.

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When God asks us what we have to give this Christmas, how will we respond?  

Working Mom’s Devotional: Christmas Isn’t A Race

Working Mom's Devotional

If you’re like me, getting ready for Christmas is like training for a marathon.   After working until 7:00 p.m. Friday evening, I was at the shopping mall at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning, getting “ready” for the final lap.  Today, we’re wrapping and delivering gifts to a needy family and baking favorite cookies for family and friends.  I can finally breathe.  I can almost see the finish line, and I keep reminding myself that next year I’m going to train earlier and set a steady pace. 

It’s as if Christmas is a destination.  After running for weeks, I will finally cross the finish line on Christmas morning, and the race will be done until next year.  (And a secret part of me can’t wait until Christmas is over!)

But I think I have it all wrong.

Christmas isn’t a race to the finish.  Christmas isn’t the end.  Christmas is the beginning. 

This didn’t sink in until I visited a dear friend last night.  She explained that during Advent, her church doesn’t even sing Christmas carols.  Instead they prepare.  So we sang the lyrics to her favorite Advent song into the evening.

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.

(Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Charles Wesley).

Will you sing it with me?  Are you ready to say goodbye to the marathon and start resting?

Are you ready for the beginning?

Is There a Scrooge In Your Office?

 

Scrooge is alive and well in the workplace.

No, I’m not talking about an old man who is screwing the workers out of holiday bonuses.  I’m not talking about a boss who forces everyone to work on Christmas Eve.  And I’m not talking about a cheapskate who won’t spring for a holiday gift.

Scrooge is much more subtle.   Care to take a look?

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Remember the days when we looked forward to the “after-work” holiday party?  We even drew names for a “Secret Santa” and brought homemade cookies?   But somewhere along the line, everyone started buying gift cards and bringing store-bought cookies, and some people actually expected to get “paid” for staying after work.  And Santa got a bad wrap because he bought a few inappropriate gifts and had too much eggnog. 

Unfortunately, office holiday parties are not like Vegas.  What happens at the holiday party doesn’t stay at the holiday party.  It remains workplace legend for years and years to come.

So we canned the “after hours” holiday party.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Welcome to the holiday lunch.  Scrooge may even host the lunch and spring for a few gift cards.  He’s just glued to his cell phone during the festivities because he has “more important” things to do.  The menu is preset, there is no mess or clean-up, and the lunch fits nicely into a 60-minute calendar invite on Outlook.  (Ok, maybe 90 minutes, but who’s counting?) 

The great thing about the holiday lunch?  We already spend too much time at work – so who wants to hang out with our coworkers after hours?  We can check the holiday party off the “list” while keeping our colleagues arms length.  And everyone gets a Starbucks card instead of a gift – because we need more caffeine to keep us productive at work!

The Ghost of Christmas Future

Holiday gatherings at work are for people who don’t have enough to do.  Forget the lunch.  Forget the gift cards.  Everyone just wants CASH!  It’s bad enough that people have to work together.  Why fake the good will? 

Christmas cheer should be reserved for our personal lives.  Who needs the jingle jangle at work?  Holiday parties decrease productivity, create tension, and just add to the stress of the season.  We’ve already had too much to eat and drink since Thanksgiving.  Just let everyone off work an hour early in lieu of the holiday lunch, and send them to the treadmill! 

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I for one am not prepared to usher in the Ghost of Christmas Future!  I’m not saying it’s easy to counter Scrooge, but let’s at least recognize what he’s up to and be intentional about sharing the joy of Christmas at work. 

Is Scrooge making his way into your workplace this year?  And, more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

[Looking for ways to share Christmas with your co-workers?  Check out Diane Paddison’s post here.]