I want it to be different than the year before⏤you know, the way I go about celebrating the Christmas season.
Every December begins the mad dash to buy gifts, decorate rooms, pick out a fresh Christmas tree, make never-ending grocery lists, mail invitations, start new traditions and bake favorite foods.
And yet, one thing I’ve learned this year is that if I don’t take a few minutes each day to move me closer to necessary changes, nothing happens⏤nothing changes.
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – Albert Einstein
So, before the hoopla of the season hijacks the days of our December, let us consider small but specific ways to settle the soul and savor the beauty of our Savior.
Step outside for five minutes.
Depending on our season in life, this may mean stepping out while little ones nap or watch a favorite Christmas movie. It may require a bundling process but we can do this. Inhale and take in all God has for you. Thank Him. May we see⏤really see⏤our surroundings and remember the humble beginning of our Savior.
Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Read and meditate.
If possible, read from your hard copy instead of the phone. Intentionally slow down to ponder God-breathed words as you listen to crisp vellum-thin pages turn one by one. Click here to access Daily December Scripture Readings if structure is your friend (we’re BFF’s, by the way!) Obviously, longer reads are ideal but if given the choice to glaze over a chapter or indulge in a hand-full of verses, I’ll choose the latter any day, especially in December.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. -Matthew 2:10
Savor a favorite cup of coffee or tea.
What does this have to do with settling the soul? On the mornings I choose the sip over the gulp, my day begins on a calmer note. Couple that time with reading scripture, and it becomes both calming and enlightening, for nothing is sweeter than conversing with my heavenly Father over a hot cup of brew. Sometimes I even pull up a nearby chair to remind myself that yes, His presence is that real.
If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” -John F. MacArthur
Play Christ-centered Christmas music.
I’m a huge Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Johnny Mathis fan. Tears hit the brim line when I hear these artists at Christmas. Immediately, I’m transported back to my grandmother’s house where her stereo console turned all their albums upstairs while she crafted homemade fudge in the kitchen. Nowadays, we play a variety of music during the Christmas season but mostly our music consists of a few favorites. My absolute favorite artist is Michael Card. I’ve played several of his songs from The Promise in my bible studies throughout the years. A few other favorites are: Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson, City on a Hill: It’s Christmas Time by various artists and Windham Hill’s Christmas Solitude, which is instrumental. Its quiet notes quiets the heart. And a quiet heart is a receptive one.
O come, let us adore Him. (Based on Luke 2:15-16)
Light a Candle.
Before bedtime, light a Christmas candle. Marvel at its glow. Reflect on the warmth and the beauty discovered in the flickering light. Inhale and enjoy its fragrance. Close out your day by quietly worshipping the Light of the World who was born on a bed of straw that we might one day walk streets of gold.
I have come into the world as light so that no one who believes me need remain in the dark. – John 12:46
Is there one thing you would plan to change as you move through the days of December? If so, please share!
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I’m thankful the act of prayer isn’t limited to bent knees, closed eyes, or hushed silence.
Prayer is simply conversing with our heavenly Father. I use the word simply because, in the past, I’ve made it much more complicated than I believe God ever intended. Guilt whispered if my prayers weren’t long enough⏤whatever that means⏤or if I failed to use what I call “pretty” words. Let’s face it, we all know someone who prays so eloquently that we peek in the middle of her prayer in hopes of catching a glimpse of angel wings hidden beneath the “I Love Clemson” sweatshirt. (What can I say, my someone loves her tigers!)
I’m not an eloquent pray-er. After over two decades of praying aloud, I still stumble through the words, especially when I pray with others. At home, my eyes are open and my voice is loud. For some reason though, I always shut my eyes in a crowd, leading to a major distraction when my eyes start simmering from the mascara slowly melding my eyelashes together. But I digress.
As a new believer, I began to journal my prayers. My first journal was a $1.99 three-subject stark green notebook from Walmart. l still have it today, twenty-five years later. Since then, I’ve varied prayer formats. Sometimes I list out my prayers and other times I use paragraphs or even, well…doodles. These days, I use a plain ole blank steno from Barnes and Noble. I think we can agree that in the end, it’s not so much about the method of our prayers but the heart from which they are prayed.
When I received the Giving Shawl for my birthday, prayer ideas soon began to emerge. (Maybe I should re-name it the Prayer Shawl!) One idea I’m currently giving a whirl is what I call pocket prayers. I cut small pieces of paper, and on each piece, I write the name of one person from my list. The prayed-over congregate in an owl-cloaked pencil case.
Want to give pocket prayers a try?
Two Ways to Pocket Your Prayers
On the mornings I mull over my prayer list and pray, the power of prayer extends for one person/group on the list by choosing a piece of paper from the case. Sometimes the Holy Spirit burdens the heart for one particular person but if not, it’s a random draw (at least on my part.) The piece of paper is then tucked in my pocket for the day.
On the hectic mull-less mornings, I open the envelope, pull out a name/group and slip it in my pocket so I can pray for him/her throughout the day.
Either way, that person or group remains with me both physically and spiritually. Most importantly, I’m reminded to pray for them each time I reach into my pocket. Maybe it’s for the keys, a grocery list, or the extra packs of Stevia stowed away for my coffee stop on the way home. Or perhaps it’s not the touch of the paper that reminds me to pray but the sound of crinkled paper in my coat pocket.
(If you’re pocket-less, try writing the name on a sticky notepad and placing it somewhere you’ll see it throughout the day. If the desire is there, the ideas will follow.)
To some, an idea like this might seem so simple that it’s silly. But I venture to say there’s nothing silly about becoming more intentional in praying for another person. I just need tangible reminders and maybe I’m not alone.
“Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.” – E.M. Bounds, Crosswalk
How can I pray for you today?
My husband gave me a soft nubby-textured shawl for my birthday. But it wasn’t just any shawl. It was a Giving Shawl.
I recently spotted it in a local gift shop but didn’t pay too much attention to its name. So when I released the soft ribbon surrounding the shawl to find a label with the words Giving Shawl sewn onto the pocket, I was torn.
I loved everything about it but felt an odd sort of guilt for wanting to keep it. After all, the shawl was created to be given away.
In the same pocket was a cloth bookmark with these words:
“We all need a little comfort now and then…A reminder to help us know that we are not alone in the world…That there is someone in our corner, ready with a hug, no matter what. Always know you are being thought of, cheered on, And loved for exactly who you are⏤Someone who is beautifully and wonderfully made.”
It was the last line that left a lump in my throat.
You see, this year I’ve gained more than two books on the Amazon shelf. I’ve also gained weight and a lot of it. I shun the camera and scold Brian for posting my picture (unless it’s pre-2016) on his Facebook page. The mirror is my foe, not my friend. I avoid seeing people who knew me before the shift in weight, imagining the words they must be thinking when they see me.
Maybe I was, in fact, the intended recipient after all.
The Giving Shawl lay bare my desire to offer grace to others but receive it at sloth-like speed for myself.
Growing up, weight was a dirty word on my dad’s side of the family. The recordings to stay a particular size for everyone’s benefit have played in the background of my mind for most of my life. So while this post isn’t written from a place of victory (yet!) it is written from a place of desire. A desire not only for myself but also for my granddaughters because the way we view ourselves affects those in our sphere of influence whether we realize it or not. Just as I prayed the destructive cycle of divorce would end with my boys, I now see the need to pray with the same fervency that a Christ-centered cycle of healthy self-acceptance begins with me.
So, as I drape this Giving Shawl around my shoulders, I will remember:
- The only weight that defines my worth is the weight of my sin Jesus bore on the cross.
- My heavenly Father, husband, family, and friends love me unconditionally.
- Just as I pray to see others as Christ sees them, I can embrace this desire for myself as well.
- Acknowledging the need to take better care of myself physically is a gift from the Lord.
- Even so, if the scale never budges, I will still be the apple of my Father’s eye. (Psalm 17:8)
One last tag in the box calls the shawl a “Giftable Hug” and that’s exactly how it feels.
The Giving Shawl is available on Amazon but if you’re local to Upstate SC, it can be purchased for less at Expressions Unlimited in Greenville.