Monthly Archives: December 2018

A Message of Hope From the Manger

The farmhouse is only half decorated.  We put up a lot of twinkle lights: on the fireplace mantel, sprawled across the buffet, outside on the front porch, and on the Christmas tree, but that’s the bulk of my decorating. Twinkling lights everywhere kind of make up for the lack of other decorations, in my mind. (Also a fire crackling in the fireplace. And hot cocoa in pretty mugs. That’s perfect decorating, right there.)

Oh, and I also got a wreath from Trader Joe’s and put it on the smokehouse outside (which everyone thinks is an outhouse building, when they first drive into the farm.) While we were at Trader Joe’s, the cashier saw my daughter and I in deliberation over a new brand of cookies. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get them.

He opened the canister and  said, “Go ahead, try them out first.” The two senior ladies checking out behind me heard the cashier’s words and came over to peek at the cookies. I motioned them to join in and we had an impromptu tea party, right then and there, courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Honestly, the generosity and cheerfulness of the place was so heart warming. My daughter and I walked out of there, wheeling our full cart, and singing “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come” at the top of our voice.

I so love Christmas. But I’m already eagerly anticipating New Year’s Day, the day of fresh beginnings and new resolutions.

It’s actually because of what we celebrate on Christmas Day, that I do look forward to what comes next. It’s not just the birth of the Savior, but His overcoming life He lived- and lives through us today- that we celebrate. And emulate.

And here’s His trajectory:

From the humble manger—> to influencing the whole wide world.

So don’t despise the day of small beginnings, Zachary 4:10 tells us. You can add to that,  Don’t despise the day of:

  • humble beginnings
  • insignificant beginnings
  • troubled beginnings

Do you know the opposite of the word despise? It’s

Those are all the words we need to apply to our humble beginning, our shaky start we made to any dream we felt called to. And it’s never too late to get back in the saddle of any dream we had set aside, out of discouragement, and start moving forward with it again.

If we don’t despise Jesus’ birth in the lowly manger (but instead we respect and cherish that scene), then we shouldn’t despise ourselves or our own humble, meager beginning…of anything.

That start of your dream? That shaky beginning you made when you went back to school? That relationship you wanted to build on the solid ground of integrity and love? Don’t despise it. Don’t disparage yourself or hang your head down in shame. Don’t kick yourself, or let anyone else kick you, if you’re down or not on track– because you’re not out of the running, friend. It’s not too late.

It’s time to accept your past, cherish that dream you have, that calling to help and give back, that desire to love again. And respect yourself, your humble beginning; and respect the process that is at work.

We go from strength to strength, Scripture tells us. From the manger, then out to impact a whole wide world.

I’ve got a big dream– with a humble, seemingly insignificant beginning. And you do too.

Pick that broken dream back up and get on with what you know you want your life to be about.  Forget how much you stumbled about in the beginning, how you missed connections or lost your way.

Move forward with God leading you, from the place of the manger scene, and out to the whole wide world.

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Worry…You’ve Got To Go!

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to break the Worry habit, this post is for you. And there’s a special Gift Giving Tip that will make your Christmas–and your life–so much better.

Just because it’s a holy holiday season, don’t think that Worry will respect this and refuse to squelch your festive spirit, because it won’t. It’ll tap you on your shoulder from behind,  wake you up in the middle of the night with those dreadful thoughts, and hound you right and left– because Worry thrives on presenting you with a million “could-go wrong” scenarios, and never presents the option that all may go right. That all is calm, all is bright, as the Christmas carol suggests.

For those of you who believe in prayer, you also know that when you’ve prayed and asked for help with this worry problem, that you don’t necessarily feel much relief immediately or that your problem that is causing the worry doesn’t necessarily go away. So that can add a little more to your problems because now maybe you feel like you failed at trusting God or that maybe you didn’t have enough faith.

I’ve found that when I go through a troubling time, circumstantially, that I actually have two problems:

1. the actual circumstances which are negative or distressing, and then

2. my perception of the resources I have to deal with the problem, and my perception of what (bad thing) I think will happen next.

In other words, my first problem is actually occurring (my actual circumstances) but my second problem I’m facing is not actual– but anticipatory. It’s what I think or imagine might go wrong next, and how I might fail at handling or navigating through my actual problem... or how God might also “fail” in reaching me in time.

Now wait a minute, Lauren, God doesn’t ever fail us, you’re admonishing. And you’re right, He does not fail us, ever. He cannot fail us. BUT THAT”S NOT WHAT OUR MIND TELLS US WHEN WE ARE IN A CRISIS.

Worry likes to present a Double Loss scenario to us: Worry says that we will not be able to handle our crisis AND that God will not be able to help us through it either.

So that’s why we have trouble releasing our worries to God. We’re not sure, deep down inside, that He really wants to, and that He really will, help us. In other words, we have to know this one truth first, before we can act on the second truth next:

  1. Does God desire to help me? And is He able to help me? (This is all about who God is, this question). Psalm 55:22 tells us, Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. We’ve got to spend some time really getting comfortable with the reality of this truth, poking it, drawing close to it, experiencing it and seeing that it’s real: GOD WILL NOT PERMIT YOU TO FALL.
  2. Then, if  I believe this first truth, will I then trust Him to help me, and therefore, WILL I LET GO OF THE PROBLEM TO HIM? I can’t let go of my worry if there’s no permanent place for the worry to go, no place for me to send my worry to. Because it’ll just turn around and come back to me.

This blessed season of gift giving and hope, there’s Someone who is waiting for the strangest kind of gift you could ever give someone: and that’s the gift of your worries. God says He would like you to give them to Him– and not take them back. Because that’s not proper etiquette. And for lack of a better term, that’s being an Indian-Giver. No taking back of a gift allowed!Especially when it’s the God of the universe you’re giving the gift to!

So do what you can to solve your troubling situation: make that phone call, confront that person, do the thing you’re afraid you’re going to fail at, pay the bills that you can, go into surgery having researched all options, ask for that time off….do what you can do, and then “give your burdens to the Lord” —and let them stay there, in His capable arms.

And when you release the problem to God, don’t let it return to you in the form of worry. When it tries to return, simply slam the door in its face, and say,

“Worry, you’ve got to go!”