You see cyber sisters, this has been a hard Christmas season for us—sadness, death, divorces and turmoil in the lives of many families close to us. It has been painful to watch and experience as we try to help and ease the sorrow. In our own family, we are experiencing uncertainty as my husband is an employee of one of the big three automakers in Michigan and has very low seniority. Bailout or no bailout (which we are against, by the way) Todd has been told to expect to lose his job permanently in January.
Well, I cannot tell you how the truth “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) has played out over these past twelve days. While my sweet Proverbs 31 sisters are the ones actually giving the gifts, I have loved giving the time and effort to present you all with some ideas and encouragement to not only make it through the season, but to make it focused on Christ and on family.
So enjoy this last day and if you are just joining us, scroll down and get caught up on all of the other posts. You may still leave comments on all 12 days up until midnight Friday, Pacific Standard time (Hey, I am Eastern Standard Time so I’ll give all you west coasters some extra time!!!) All 12 winners will be posted Saturday morning–sometime after I’ve read my Bible and had my coffee. Mid-morning most likely. We have a late night of basketball games tonight.
And in keeping with the theme of giving, if you have a minute sometime today, hop over to my friendMarybeth’s blog. She is helping to get the word out about a family who has adopted some children from China and is selling some delightful candles to try to raise money to adopt more!! You could Christmas shop and help out this sweet family.
Allrighty then….. Now for our last day’s giveaway. Today you will meet the ever talented and equally godlyRenee Swope. She is a gifted speaker and humble leader at Proverbs 31 Ministries who is passionate about connecting women to God and to each other. She has been such a blessing in my life and I know she will be in yours too. So…get to know my friend Renee. Here she is in her own words:
I love to laugh, I love my family, and I love having fun with my girlfriends. Oh, and I really love coffee – especially with options! Give me a tall, soy latte, no foam, no whip. No, make that a grande, coffee light frappachino, with one pump of sugar-free cinnamon dulce syrup, an extra shot of espresso, no whip, but keep the sprinkles. High maintenance? Never!!!
I am a southern girl with a mix of Louisiana spunk and North Carolina sweet – I think it’s the iced tea we drink. I was born in New Orleans and grew up there until my mom re-married when I was twelve-years old. We moved to N.C. and I love it here. We are nestled right between my two favorite places to experience God’s presence – the mountains and the beach.
I fell in love with Jesus when I was a senior in college. He took my breath away when I found out how much He loved me and I have never been the same.
I make my home with three awesome guys– my husband, J.J., and our sons Joshua (almost 13) and Andrew (10). They make me laugh, they say I’m beautiful without make-up and they remind me every day of what matters most – family!
Now for our chat with Renee—
Renee, what are some Christmas traditions your family has implemented to keep Christ the center of Christmas?
First, we place a few different mangers in the most popular rooms of our house to remind us that Christmas is about Christ’s birth. We even have a Veggie Tale manger scene in the kids’ bathroom. I also hide all of the “baby Jesus” figures so that our mangers are not complete until “Jesus is born” on Christmas morning.
A few years ago we started a new tradition. We wait to open our gifts after sitting down together for Christmas breakfast. We set a place for Jesus at the table with a red “You are Special Today” plate. Then during breakfast, we tell what gifts we each want to give from our hearts to Jesus in the coming year. We have small candle holders clipped to each plate and as we go around describing our gifts to God and each other, we light our candles.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t a popular new tradition when I suggested it, but now our whole family loves it! Our hearts are in such a sweet place once we go to the tree to open our gifts. Plus it makes the day and the fun last so much longer.
Do you have a Christmas verse or passage that you are focusing on this year? If so, how has it impacted you personally?
I was recently re-reading the story of Mary finding out God had chosen her to be the mother of His Son (Luke 1:28-38). I love how Mary responded with complete surrender to God’s calling, making herself available because she believed that above all else she was “the Lord’s servant.”
When the angel described how the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her and Christ would be formed in her, she answered with confident faith: “May it be to me as You have said.”
It struck me how in that moment Mary declared that she was a woman who not only believed in God, but also she really BELIEVED God!!!
God honored her faith and encouraged her to keep believing when He brought another woman (Elizabeth) into her life that would remind Mary of God’s promise, God’s power and God’s purposes. Elizabeth celebrated and encouraged Mary’s faith when she exclaimed: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (v.45)
This part of the Christmas story challenges me to be a woman who really believes God, and to look for ways to encourage my friends and family to be blessed by living like they believe Him, too!
You recently wrote in the Proverbs 31 Woman magazine about unwrapping the presence of Christ at the holidays. What happened to spark this thought?
A few years ago, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come and bring with it lots of family and holiday joy. But when Christmas day got here and my guests arrived, I couldn’t wait for them to leave! I ended up with a full house and a very full schedule, but an oh so empty heart. Christmas afternoon I snuck away from the holiday noise. I tiptoed into my closet and hid with my Bible, hoping the Christmas story would put my heart in a better place. As I read about Jesus coming as Immanuel, God with us, I realized what I needed more than anything was to remember and find joy in the promise of God being with me. I’d been so busy hurrying around getting ready for the big day that I’d forgotten to unwrap the most important “present” of all – God’s presence! That day I closed my eyes and imagined Jesus – wrapped like the gifts I had under my tree. Then I imagined opening that gift and treasuring the reality of His promise to be with me. It put my heart in a much better place and helped me go downstairs to enjoy the gift of my family’s presence as well.
In the following years, I prayed for ways to unwrap His presence throughout December. I also wrote a Christmas prayer that I framed and set out with my holiday decorations each year. It prepares a place in my heart for Him as I prepare my home and schedule for the holidays.
I’ll be posting my Christmas prayer “The Manger of My Heart” on my blog todayalong with some ideas of how we can unwrap God’s presence each day in December.
Thanks Renee for helping us focus on Christ this month!
You’re so welcome. It helped me, too!
Now for the idea and question of the day and Renee’s give away:
Renee mentioned opening presents on Christmas morning and opening the present of God’s presence all season long. Our topic of the day has to do with the former and our give away with the latter!!!!
First, one happy winner will receive a cd of Renee’s Christmas message “Unwrapping His Presence” along with a warm vanilla sugar candle from Bath and Body Works. So get ready to leave those comments gals. Then you will be entered.
As for presents; our question today is this: what is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received or given and why?
While I can think of quite a few, I think the most memorable gift I was ever given was a sweet, ceramic, Precious Moments figurine that my husband gave me about five years ago. Now please, I must say that I am NOT the knick-knack, ceramic figurine type of gal. No sireee. I like the simple, clean, uncluttered look in my abode. What made this gift so special was that Todd got it for a sentimental reason and with no hinting at all from me.
The figurine is of a small, compact car with a Christmas tree strapped down on top and a happy couple inside. He wrapped it up beautifully and added a hand-written note that said this:
“I was at the store and this caught my eye. It reminded me of our first Christmas in 1986 when we drove to Constantine, Michigan, bought our first tree for $5.00 at a corner gas station and tied it on top of our Volkswagen Rabbitt to take it home to our tiny apartment. I loved you then and I love you even more now. Thanks for always making Christmas so special for the kids and me.”
Oh ladies….I melted.
You see, I usually hint at what I want. Really hint. In an “oh-she-is-hinting-so-much-it-is-obnoxious” way. Now, that way I may get something I know I like, but I also feel some what disapointed because it really didn’t take much thought on my dear hubby’s part.
Or, since we try to be so frugal, Todd will often ask me what practical things I could use. Again, I’ll make a list. He’ll shop from the list. But the thrill just isn’t there when I open the gifts.
That is why that little nick-nack is so special to me.
A. I never hinted that I wanted it.
B. He never asked me what I wanted and I told him about it.
C. He was thinking of me, randomly, in the middle of the day when he was at the store.
D. He remembered a sweet time in our marriage with fondness. (Hate to be stereotypical ladies, but it has been my ongoing experience that men forget waaaaaay more than they remember!)
At any rate, that little knick knack is a treasure to me. Yep! It will be on my night stand at the old folks home someday.
Now, how about you? What is the best gift you have ever received (or given, if you’d rather) and why? Renee is just waiting to give one of you her inspirational cd and that warm, sweetly-scented candle.
Sad-it-is-our-last-give-away-day-Blessings, (but stop back by often, ya here??!!!)