Monday, December 10, 2012

Joy! Joy! Joy!

"You have not seen Christ, but you still love him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory." 1 Peter 1:8

I sat with my husband at the kitchen table, tears welling up in my heart. I was getting so frustrated!! No matter how many times we reworked the budget, no matter how many times we were getting ahead, finally in the black, something came up, and we were pushing the red once again. And this time, it was cutting into Christmas. 

We are not big Christmas shoppers in our family, almost always making the gifts we give. Even the gifts we get the kids each year end up coming from a consignment store, and most likely it is a gift of necessity. But this year, we had decided to utilize Lay-Away to get the kids one BIG gift that was for the entire family. Just as we had put down the first half of the payment and our family members had already bought the accessories that go with this item, we received a notice in the mail. A very unexpected AND very costly bill came up. And this was the cause of my frustrated, almost defeated tears. 

I started questioning whether or not I should still continue to stay at home. I ran over a list of things we actually need to function in our house and what we could get rid of. This was becoming a bit of a habit for us. Cutting back, cutting back again, and then cutting back even more. It wasn't until this last time did my heart actually break. What were we going to do?

After my husband had "the budget discussion" with me, he hugged me tightly and then left for work. As I sat in the kitchen, I tried to reorganize my thoughts. My first thought was "How is God going to pull us out of this one? And what, exactly, is He trying to teach us?" 

And then God did what He always does for me: He began to give me comfort in various forms. I looked around our house and took in all that we had, knowing that we weren't truly in need. There were others who had less and continued to survive and have JOY. Then a friend on Facebook posted a wise statement "Others are happier with less than what you have." {Did you notice that my own thoughts and the statement my friend made were pretty much the same thing...uh, God was seriously trying to let me know I needed to be content.}. And then this week as I was going through the Advent Bible Study through Good Morning Girls, I was reminded of the JOY we receive just being in God's presence. These verses stuck out for me: 

"God's power protects you through your faith until salvation is shown to you at the end of time. This makes you very happy, even though now for a short time different kinds of troubles may make you sad. These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold, which can be proved to be pure by fire but will ruin. But the purity of your faith will bring you praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is shown to you. You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You cannot see him now,but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory. 1 Peter 1:5-8

HIS JOY should be sufficient for me. Not things, not silly presents, not having a perfect house, not having well-behaved children, not having a successful husband, not being admired by others. Those things will come and go. God gives and he takes. 1 Peter reminds us that struggles are what refine us. They make us stronger; and in my case, they help me put things into perspective. 

So as I continue into this Christmas season, whether we have the money to buy nice things or not, I will focus my joy on the PEACE, HOPE, and LOVE God provided for me through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Don't be discouraged, friend. Rest in Him and experience the JOY you receive when trusting that God knows what He's doing. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Devotion: Unexpected Love

"Because Mary's husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly." Matthew 2:19

Photo Credit 

I am currently going through an Advent Bible Study through Good Morning Girls, and this week's theme is "Love." We started off this week reading Matthew 2:18-25, and as I was reading these verses to my children, it dawned on me Joseph's character. I always felt bad for the guy because he always seemed to take the back seat in things. His wife, Mary, was a key figure in this miracle story; her cousin, Elizabeth, was also key in her miraculous pregnancy with the child who would grow to be John the Baptist; in the manger scene, Joseph takes back seat in the awesome story of the Jesus, and the shepherds, and the wise men. We just don't really hear much about Joseph.

Today's key verse, though, speaks volumes about this silent figure. The Bible calls him "a good man" and we see how much love he has for Mary. As I was going over these verses with the boys, we were trying to pick out examples of love, as that is our theme of this week. Through this discussion, we talked about Joseph's unexpected love that he showed Mary. He had every right to publicly embarrass her, to divorce her, and to free himself completely of a woman who was having another's child {at the time, he didn't know she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit}. But even before he understood there was a miracle in the making happening with the love of his life, he loved Mary enough to show her kindness. You have to imagine the intense love he had for her and how heart-broken he was to break off their engagement. But instead of lashing out in anger, he was preparing to reach out in love.

1 John 4:18 says, "My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring." Joseph's actions were a small example of God's love for us. As much as we deserve His anger and complete separation from God our Father, He chose to love us. As children of God, we, too, are to share that love with others. The Advent Study I am doing is challenging us to participate in Random Acts of Kindness for those around us, for those we know and those we don't know. I love RAK. And although I have a pretty decent list of things I can do {just do a basic Google search or look up examples on Pinterest}, I had to send out an all-call on Facebook for ideas my kids could do {because, honestly, they don't have the money to get a gas card and tape it to the pump for the next person in line}. I also checked out the list my friend made for RAK she did for others on her birthday. See the post HERE for a list of things she did to bless others.

I encourage you to Unexpectedly Love Others this week. As a believer, this shouldn't be a seasonal thing. Make a list with your family, and once a week decide on a RAK to do for others. I bet your mail carrier would love a candy bar left in the mailbox in March just as much as getting a special gift during Christmas. Make this a tradition; make this a part of your daily life; make this part of your ministry; and most importantly, do this because God loves you more than you deserve.

Love others unexpectedly, and you will be surprised at the blessing you will receive in serving others.