While preparing for this gift-giving season, I asked myself (and God) two questions (at different times.)
1. What is Christmas to me?
2. What would it mean to enjoy a "grace-filled" holiday?
QUESTION #1: In my journal I wrote the following:
To me Christmas is:
"Sooooo, every day is Christmas to me," I concluded. And then it dawned on me that this reality (that every day is Christmas for me) has caused me to "lighten up" my unrealistic expectations for celebrating Christmas. It's been more an internal shift than an outward one. I've released some of the intense "shoulds and have tos and musts" that society, the media, the church, my inner bully, and others--who appear to have it all together--tell me (or at least hint) that I NEED to do.
In my heart, I now know that I don't have to cram all my giving, caring, doing, gratitude, merriment, music, celebrations, goodwill, and spirituality into the 4-5 concentrated weeks of Christmas holidaying.
QUESTION #2: And then I read about the original meaning of the word "grace" used in the Bible to tell us about the Christ of Christ-mas. This "grace" is the direct opposite of "works", in fact the two are mutually exclusive. All my "trying too hard to make it all just right" at Christmas (or any other time) is the antithesis of grace. When I truly accept God's grace/favor in Christ, I'm able to be grace-ful with myself and others. (John 1:14-17)*
Practical Grace Example! I shared this with some women at the beginning of December. A mom with 4 little kids got so excited that she began thinking of ways to "grace" herself and her family this season. One practical thing she did was to relax her expectations for how her artificial tree would be decorated. When she put it together, she didn't have time to "fluff" up the branches, so she let it go--and allowed the kids to decorate, anyway! All very smile-able.
How will you "grace" yourself and your loved ones this Christmas week?
BOOK WINNERS: Thank you to all of you for commenting on my last blog and entering the book give-away for It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. The three winners were Robyn Bloomquist, Patricia Groff, and Tessie M. Congratulations!. Hope you enjoy reading the devotionals. Love your comments, Everyone. Keep them coming please! :-)
*The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ...From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:14-17
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN
"How can a snowman be 'parse and brown'?" I asked myself after singing Frosty the Snowman as a little girl. I didn't get it, but I didn't have the nerve to ask what it meant. (Years later I learned that the words really are "We'll pretend that he is Parson Brown!")
A more disturbing question that little Joanie Pressler had was: "Did they actually 'conceive' by the fire? (Hmmmm. Again years later I discovered the the word "conspire" isn't the same as "conceive.")
The words of the often-sung Christmas songs DO have meaning. I also remember the day the words to HARK, THE HERALD ANGELS SANG went from head-memory to my heart. I cried, smiled, prayed, and smiled all at once. It became my favorite Christmas carol.
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, willingly left His perfect surroundings with God the Father to be born into this messy, judgmental, chaotic, abusive world. To live with the same limitations of time, space, and to have the same hunger and sleep needs that you and I have.
He did this to reconnect imperfect me--and you--to all-perfect God. To demonstrate the character and attributes of God, so I can understand who He is. To give me a second change at life. And to give me hope that I'll live with Him forever.
This blows my mind. And thrills me deep inside, every time I hear or sing this Christmas carol.
What is your favorite Christmas carol? Why?
WIN A FREE BOOK THIS CHRISTMAS
(Comment below and I'll choose 3 names (yes, 3 people will win one) out of the hat and send you an autographed copy of my devotional book, "It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life" BEFORE Christmas. (My book reminds me of the classic Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life! Maybe you'd like to give a copy of the book and the movie as a Christmas gift.)
[Joan's taking some time-off and has asked her friends and fellow-writers Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph to share an excerpt from their funny and heart-warming book about food and love.
Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of
WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK. Drawing on 12/08/13.]
Excerpt written by Becky Johnson, mother of the mother/daughter writing duo
An aside to moms of all ages: Even Iron Chefs have bad days in the kitchen. And being a mom is a little like being an Iron Chef—with a million things to do in a ridiculously short amount of time—only you have to do it without a full night’s sleep or hired help.
There are no perfect cooks and no perfect mothers. You will try. You will try so very hard. Still you will fail and fall and sometimes flail. You will feel guilty about all this. When I read about Rachel’s younger self longing for order and neatness, for a mother who valued routines and was fully awake and aware in the morning, I ache with the yearning to go back in time and do it all better. If only I cooked beautiful breakfasts and kept a better house, I think, perhaps my children would never have suffered, never have any of their own personality quirks, never made their own share of mistakes. If I had been more perfect, perhaps they would also be perfect and have only perfect things happen to them.
But let me share something my mother, Ruthie, who the kids call Granny, shared with me. Perhaps it will comfort you as it has comforted me through the years. “No matter how well you do your job as a parent, even if you should do it almost perfectly, you’ll still raise little human beings with selfish streaks, temper tantrums, and the remarkable ability to lie to you with the face of an angel. And even if you could be a perfect parent, your child will still have to grow up in an imperfect world and live through their own share of disappointments and heartaches. Ultimately, you need God’s grace and they’ll need God’s grace, and that’s just the way it is.”
So try not to sweat your imperfections. We are just fallible human beings doing our best to raise other fallible human beings. Do your best with the big stuff, and trust that loads of love and laughter and grace will cover the rest.
On your deathbed your adult kids won’t remember how you loaded the dishwasher (okay, maybe mine will as it is a memorable sort of thing); they’ll remember that you thought they were remarkable, lovable, and capable—a blessing to you and others. If you do your job as well as you can, you will arrive at old age knowing you and your children both had your share of flaws and mistakes, but you’ll focus on what matters most—how, over the scraping sound of burnt toast being whittled, you loved each other to the moon and back.
Granny’s Oat and Fruit Gems
These make healthy snacks and great grab-’n’-go breakfasts.
2 bananas, mashed
2 peeled apples, grated
3 cups old fashioned oats
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup raw organic sugar
½ cup dried chopped fruit (dates, dried cranberries, coconut, raisins, apricots all work well)
1 cup nuts and/or seeds, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds all work well)
½ teaspoon almond extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
grated zest of one orange
Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix all of the above together in a large mixing bowl. Spray or oil muffin pans. Fill them about ⅔ full and gently press down with back of spoon. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden brown around edges and top. When cool to touch, gently remove from pan. Serves 18.
• Gluten-free friendly (use gluten-free oats)
Becky Johnson and her daughter Rachel Randolph, couldn't be more different...Becky is messy; Rachel craves order. Becky forgets what month it is; Rachel is an organizational genius. But in the kitchen they are in sync.
In WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK, Becky and Rachel share stories of their fun and oft-crazy lives as Rachel becomes a mother herself. Though their differences in personality sometimes cause a clash or two, the family funny bone - plus generous helpings of grace and acceptance - keep them from taking themselves too seriously. Sprinkled throughout are delicious and nourishing recipes they love to make and share. Please comment below for a chance to win WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK!
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.