Have a Mary Christmas

by Lori Wildenberg

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

The day after Thanksgiving, many of the homes in our neighborhood are already clothed in Christmas décor and lights. Our mailbox even presents us with our first Christmas card along with a bazillion catalogs.

Holiday anxiety seeps into my mind, as I notice the lack of red and green at the Wildenberg home while the browns and oranges comfortably reside in their seasonal spot. My stomach tightens and my heart skips a beat as one of my Facebook friends declares, “I’m done with my Christmas shopping!”

Me? I haven’t even made a list, let alone checked it twice.

When the calendar flips to December, this is when my home transitions to Christmas. I take some comfort in the fact I’m only one week behind my neighbors. The tree is up. The lights are on, the stockings hung. Even a little gift shopping has occurred.

Every year I give myself a holiday pep talk, “I’m going to do Christmas differently. I will look up. Stop. Inhale. Exhale. I will enjoy time with family and friends. I will remember the reason for the season. I will be more like Mary. I want to sit at Jesus’ feet rather than be consumed with worry over preparations.”

My memory is short. Martha and I are tight. Like her, I’m more of a do-er than a be-er.

I have found if I want to be more like Mary, I need to refocus my thoughts and attention daily. To reject the rush, I intentionally recall my desired priorities. When I push earthly frenzy and frantic aside and replace them with a heavenly perspective, I experience more supernatural peace and joy.

I know, living Mary’s way is easier said than done. I must commit to being OK with what I accomplish and with what I don’t. My Martha struggles with this. As Jesus says, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

Are you like me? Do you want to keep the holidays in proper perspective? These three values help me focus. Perhaps they will help you too.

 People are more important than stuff.

 People are more important than chores, cooking, and cleaning.

People are more important than my iPhone or screen time.

Here are 7 ways I can live out those values:

  • Plan times to hang out with family and friends. Commit them to the calendar. Then do it.
  • Divide up the household chores and errands. Distribute the responsibilities.
  • Create a no phone and no screen zone space and time.
  • Avoid the joy stealing competition of comparison that plays in my mind.
  • Whittle down the yeses to God’s best for me, my time, and my family.
  • Be OK with good enough. Avoid catching the perfection infection.
  • Keep some white space on the calendar so I have some margin to serve or engage.
  • Daily, I choose to be present with family and friends…and whomever else the Lord would show me.

And for this holiday season, I confidently say to Martha who camps out in my head, “Don’t leave. Just move over a bit because I really want to have a Mary Christmas.” 

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: Are you planning to do Christmas a bit differently this year?

Hope for the Holidays

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

This has been a tough year for a lot of reasons, and Thanksgiving only made it tougher. My grandpa died in March, and for the first time in my life, he wasn’t sitting in his place at our table. I cried as I made his favorite pumpkin pie and remembered he wouldn’t get to eat it.

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time of celebration. It’s Jesus’ birthday, for crying out loud. Light the candles and drink some eggnog, right? But it’s not so joyful for everyone. Depression is often at its highest during the Christmas season. Some days are just a battlefield.

It’s difficult to be joyful when I miss people who aren’t here anymore. It’s a challenge to keep moving forward when all of my dreams are still on hold. It’s hard to hope when my circumstances tell me that nothing is going to change.

Then I remember Jeremiah 29:11.

Many believers know the verse, but it’s really powerful when we remember to whom it was written: God’s people while they were in captivity. Let me tell you, I don’t think Americans understand that level of loss and hopelessness. How could we? We’ve never been in captivity. We’ve never even been invaded.

But Israel was. They were invaded and captured and carted away into slavery and obscurity. And then God sends the prophet Jeremiah to give them this news: “I’ve got a plan. It’s a good plan too.” If I were them, I’d laugh in Jeremiah’s face (actually, I think they probably did, and then they threw him in jail, but that’s another story).

I mean, there they were, enslaved and terrified and grieving the loss of their home, and God has the nerve to tell them that He’s got a plan?

The word our English Bible uses for know actually means to see, as in God knows what’s coming because He’s already seen it. He lives outside the confinements of time. The word we translate as plans is almost like the word engineer. It’s complex. It has lots of moving pieces. And it’s always in motion.

When you read it that way, this isn’t God spouting platitudes. He didn’t send His prophet with empty words to bring temporary comfort to anyone who’d listen. This is God making a promise—that He knows the future, because He’s seen it, and it’s a good future. This is God telling His people that’s He’s got this. They may be in captivity now, but they aren’t going to stay there. He’s got a plan, He’s working it out, so His people should have hope.

And if captive Israel could have hope, so can I.

I miss my grandpa, but I know where he is, because my grandpa knows Jesus. My dreams may be on hold, but God will finish what He started in me. And through God’s power, I am an overcomer, so my circumstances can’t dictate my success.

Those are God’s promises, and He always keeps His promises. So no matter what happens, I can choose to hope, because God has a future for me. He’s seen it. And it’s so good.

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Hope for the Holidays When Sadness Settles in – A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

amy c williamsAbout the author: A.C. Williams is an author-preneur who weaves fantastic tales about #AmericanSamurai and #SpaceCowboys, and she’s passionate about helping writers master the art of storytelling. A quirky, coffee-drinking, cat-loving thirty-something, she’s on Finding Firefliesa mission to help authors overcome fear and live victorious. Join her adventures on social media (@free2bfearless) and visit her website, www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: What are your hopes for the holiday season?