Saturday, December 25, 2010

Reason to Celebrate

It's been interesting to be at work the last couple days in the restaurant and hear the Christmas chatter. If I ask "What are you doing for Christmas?" I am liable to get so many different answers.... 

When you're a kid it's easy. It's that magical time that you hear stories of Jesus' birthday from your parents and your Sunday school teachers for a whole month while the days escalate with anticipation of that time you'll be able to finally know what all those enticing packages are under the tree! 

But then you grow up, and you realize that it's not just all lights and sparkles and surprises.... 

To some people it's seeing great uncles and second cousins that they hardly know and having to sit around making small talk for hours... 
To some people it's rushing to mall mad-houses and finding the perfect gift for everyone within range of closeness that might get them a gift back... 
To some people it's just a day. 
A hyped up, commercialized, traditionalized day that they would just a soon treat like any of the rest of the 364 days of the year. 

But during the past few days, I have been challenged with what I really mean when I refer to "the true meaning of Christmas." 

Christmas sets in motion 2,000 years ago the very thing that has completely changed my life today. 

AND my eternity.

What does Christmas mean to me? It means everything. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ONE THING (not a billion, just one)

Have you ever wished there was a "Go Back in Time and Fix Your Mistake" Button on life? That's where I'm at.

I started this semester with such promise and anticipation for a good school year.... But along the way I chose to let wrong attitudes creep in. And they came, ever so subtly, like a small bacteria eating away at my insides. I noticed the pricks slightly once in a while, but didn't truly turn it over to God. (It's one thing to say... it's a harder thing to DO.) Before I knew it, These wrong perspectives had control over my actions and clouded my vision from a fear of the Lord. Instead, I feared people. All it takes is a heart focus of selfishness and pride, and suddenly people are so big, and God is so small.
I could see that was the problem, even while I was right in the middle of it, but I was in a daze, ignoring the only cure I knew would work. There was a certain melancholy hanging over my head, and it is still one that I battle. It's so easy to just keep thinking "If only; If only..."

But I don't aim to get on here and write about the places of the semester where I royally messed up and am feeling guilty - Because, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. I'm not doomed to keep repeating the same sin, or to keep falling into the same wrong outlooks. If you are feeling that at all in your own life, I want to tell you that there IS hope! God has been using this Christmas break to reveal that to me.

It started with hanging out in a first grade classroom. During that day of elementary observations I was blessed with the chance to sit down with the teacher one on one and have the most enjoyable little heart-to-heart talk about teaching. Miss Edwards has been teaching for 34 years (give or take) and this prompted me to ask, "Do you use the same exact lesson plans year after year?" Thinking it might be a yes because this seemed like the easiest thing to do. Upon hearing that, she responded, "Oh no, Janell! I write up new lesson plans every single year. Because NO class of kids is the same. And I am not the same either. The Holy Spirit is always doing something in my life and teaching me something different. If it's not fresh for me, than it won't be fresh for the kids."
What a profound insight! Just like a quote I read from the book Teaching to Change Lives, "I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool." The day a teacher stops growing is the day a teacher stops teaching. The Word of God does not change. But my understanding of it changes, because I am a developing individual.

During our talk, Miss Edwards also left me with a very encouraging thought, "You don't have to be perfect. You're human. But let your kids in your class see that. Let God use your strengths AND your weaknesses, because HE WILL. He has a plan for your weaknesses just as much as your strengths. And it makes sense doesn't it?... Because when He uses your weaknesses, that's when HE will get the glory for what's been done."

I hope I never forget that when I enter the world of teaching. :-)

So with all these thoughts swirling in my brain, of weakness, and growth, and growing from my weaknesses, God had more to bring up with me. During my devotions the very next day I was reading through Philippians. (but I must admit I didn't get past chapter three.) I ended up getting stuck on verses 12-14" actually. There it says:

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, (because I know I'm not!)
But I press on to make it my own (perfection) because Christ Jesus has made me His own. (this is my hope)
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: (One thing! Not a billion things with the hope that they will all add up to perfection. But just one thing. And what is that? To strive, press, move forward. Growing.)
Forgetting what lies behind (don't let the regrets hang over my head and the melancholy control me)
and straining forward to what lies ahead (eyes on the prize... looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

If I'm always looking backwards then I'm likely to trip over what's in front of me. So don't look behind. It's in the past. Satan would love to use my petty regrets from yesterday to completely cloud my vision still and make me ineffective for serving my Master tomorrow. He would love to set those regrets in motion and then just watch them take their toll. (It means that I'm practically doing his job FOR him! After all, he is the Great Accuser.... But Jesus Christ is my Advocate, my intercessor, my righteousness.
There's a beautiful picture of this in the books I've been reading over break. It's a series of books - "The Chronicles of Narnia" which I'm sure you have heard of because of the latest movie that's been made about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund had betrayed his brother and sisters and acted like a total traitor, so much so that they were worried sick about him, while at the same time scared to death at what vital information he had given to the enemy. Yet when Edmund is finally rescued from the Witch's grasp, he is able to talk privately with the great lion, Aslan. Amazingly, when they return to the children, Aslan says something to the effect of, "He has asked my forgiveness. There is no need to bring up what is past."
In a huge contrast, when the Witch comes stomping into camp to have a word with Aslan, the first thing she does is point a finger at Edmund and accuse him of the wrong he had done. But in love, Aslan forgave. And in love, he gave of himself in Edmund's place, not just saying He forgave, but Showing it.
I just think that is the coolest illustration for how Christ forgives me! He does not accuse, but gently His Holy Spirit pricks where I have done wrong. And then once I have realized and repented, it is no longer brought up again! How amazing is that!?

God, thank you for your promise of forgiveness if I will only ask. All that I have worried about and mulled over, I lay down at your feet. It is no longer mine to obsess over. I pray that you would teach me of wisdom from above and renew my mind with a heavenly perspective! And I know I don't deserve it, but Lord, I miss the peace, joy, and assurance that comes with close fellowship with you. Restore unto me THE JOY.

It's interesting, at first I was really discouraged when I thought, "Oh man, being an assistant Resident Advisor has brought to my life a whole new set of problems!" But wouldn't ya know it - these are the same areas where I have always struggled!
This semester of mistakes has just spotlighted them.

But I'm grateful that's what God is using to help me grow.

And that's the most important thing about my life as a Christian is that

I AM growing!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas: 414 Style

Okay, I will just say, it's a writer's block night. 

I have been staring at this blank post box for, well, quite a while. And I wish I could bring myself to write. I even have a topic that I really want to share, but it's just not coming tonight and I really want to do it justice. 

So I think instead I will just do some picture posting and then tackle some more things on my to-do list before I head to bed. (Yes, I live my life by the lists... they never go away even when I am on a break from school! :-) 

Christmas in the Dorm of 414

Open dorm night - Melvin couldn't wait to have all his friends over!

You never know what you're going to get from these girls next! I just love it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


During this break, I've seriously been spoiled with so much extra time to think and reflect. And I am thankful for the wave of things God has been teaching me in the blessed time He has given. Here's the thing that hit me extra strongly today... 

Friendship is not based on how other people perceive me (or even how I think they perceive me). Because if it is either of these foundations than it is all about me, and it will crumble, if not sooner, than later. 
Count on it. 

My friendships now and in the future had better be based on a love for my Lord Jesus and an unshaken love for His people. It's the only way a friendship has the hope to stand in the hard times. 

"Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them." 

I always thought it was a cute phrase. A little simplistic really.... I never quite understood what profound truth lies in that song. 
Until now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I miss you buddy. 

I really think mom is right when she says, you picked me. 

I miss you being there to greet me when I get back from school. 

We went to the pet store tonight and there were some pretty cute ones.... It really made me wish we still had YOU. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

You Know it's Christmas Break When....

You know it's Christmas break when: 

* The snow outside is swirling in the air and accumulating on the ground.
* I am up beyond midnight by delight rather than diligence :-) 
* It's been hardly 24 hours of being home and five of those hours have already been spent hanging out with Jeremy, thoroughly enjoying his company and conversation. 
* I spent another five hours of the day with my youngest brother Wesley (due to my mom being miserably sick and needing someone to entertain him). 
* I spend the entire day in sweat pants, just because I could.... 
* We can have Taco Bell for dinner because it's a 2 minute drive rather than 20 minutes. 
* I finally sat down and waded through all the loose papers that had been piling on my desk for the last month and organized them neatly into a 3 ring binder with my class notes from the semester. 
* I can actually BE on the internet at this time of night.
* I continually get that "little kid excitement" whenever it truly hits me that I have nearly a whole month to spend here at home with my family!
* I have the extra time to blog every day - which I plan to faithfully do.... 

That's the goal right now for every day of Christmas break! We shall see how that goes :-)