Let It Be Simply Christmas

by Tama Fortner

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Other people do things at Christmas that don’t work for my family. And I’m learning—a little reluctantly at times—that’s okay. Like those adorably cozy pictures of the smiling family, happily decorating the tree together.

Sigh.

Starting that very first Christmas when I became a mom, I dreamed of creating those moments with my own family—reminiscing over special ornaments, drinking hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, Christmas music playing in the background.

Yeah. No. Didn’t happen.

As it turns out, my family doesn’t like decorating the tree. Never has. Never will. Oh sure, they’re happy to help with one or two ornaments, but then—as my son recently admitted—“There are better things to do.” I still take the photos, of course. But I’m just going to confess it here: they’re a lie. They’re completely staged. Yes, (practically) every year there’s a picture of my three gathered around the tree, happily hanging an ornament. But I’m telling you right now, they’re smiling because they know that as soon as the pictures are snapped they get to leave and go do whatever they want.

As with all shattered dreams, it took some time (and a little grumbling) for me to come to grips with that. But now, I enjoy my alone time—just me and the tree and all the sappy Christmas movies no one else wants to watch. But it’s a lesson I took far too long to learn.

What is it about Christmas that brings out the comparisons and the competition? I don’t know about you, but it’s almost like there’s this nagging sort of little tape measure that creeps into my thoughts. It’s constantly whispering, “Do you measure up? If you don’t do that—or this, or the other—then you won’t!”

So I would rush and scurry and “add a little more to” until I was ready to drop—and my family was ready to drop me! Then, one day, I found myself asking, “What exactly am I trying to measure up to? And why? And what if I didn’t?”

That moment was when I began to reclaim the joy of Christmas. That’s when I decided that decorating the tree with a cheesy movie for company was okay. And that’s when I decided to refocus our holidays on the One who should be at the center of it all.

I love Luke 2:19. It’s the verse about Mary pondering and treasuring up in her heart all the miracles surrounding the birth of the One who was both her Son and her Savior. That image encourages me—as I’m pulling out ornaments and memories, decorating our tree—to do a bit of pondering and treasuring myself.

Because it never ceases to amaze me that Jesus chose to leave heaven and step into this world. Chose to be born a helpless infant. To grow up stubbing His toes and banging His thumb with a hammer in that carpenter’s workshop. To be spat upon and crucified. For me. For you. For all who would call Him Savior.

When I ponder those things, that pesky measuring snaps closed. Jesus didn’t come so that I could compare or compete or try to perfect. He came so that I could savor this season of celebration and the wonderful truth that He has saved me.

Will you join me this Christmas in setting all that nonsense of comparison and competition aside? Will join me in taking time to ponder and soak in holy moments with God and family and friends? This year, let’s let it be simply Christmas.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than forty titles to her credit. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer.

Tama’s newest title, Simply Christmas, releases September 28th from Ink & Willow and is available for pre-order now. Catch up with Tama and all her latest book news at www.TamaFortner.com.

Join the conversation: What things have you learned to do without at Christmastime?

Sometimes I Forget

by Tama Fortner

…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 NASB

Sometimes I forget who I am. Does that ever happen to you? Oh, I don’t mean I forget my name or where I live. (Though what I had for breakfast or why on earth I went into the kitchen can be a total mystery.) No, what I mean is that I sometimes forget who I am as a child of God.

I venture out into the world, or at least my little corner of it, and I’m instantly bombarded by all these images and messages of who the world says I should be, could be, or most definitely am not. (That’s the one that really gets me.) Not important enough, not experienced enough, not skilled enough. Simply not enough to do whatever it is the Lord is calling me to do that day. And it’s so tempting—it would be so easy—just to creep back inside, thinking to myself, You’re right, world. God must have gotten His wires crossed when He sent that message to me. I’m sure He meant for someone else to tackle that project, teach that class, write that book, speak to that neighbor down the street. There’s no way He meant me.

Right? Wrong!

Liar is not a word I use lightly. It’s a terrible thing to be called. But that’s exactly what the devil is. A great, big, pants-on-fire liar. Jesus called him the “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV) because he has been murdering truth from the beginning, since that very first time he slithered into the garden and whispered to Adam and Eve. That serpent hasn’t stopped whispering yet.

Are you like me? Do you hear him sometimes too? His lies are enough to make us forget the truth of who we really are.

God doesn’t leave us defenseless against this enemy, though. He’s given us a whole Book filled with the truth of who we really are and who really wins this battle we fight each day. And while it may not matter that we’ve forgotten what yesterday’s breakfast was or exactly why we stepped into the kitchen, it is essential that we remember who the Lord says we are.

We are children of God (John 1:12), healed by our faith in His Son (Mark 5:34), and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit of God Himself (Acts 1:8). That power is not given to us so that we can shrink back in fear every time the devil comes slithering around, whispering his lies (2 Timothy 1:7). No! The Spirit empowers us to live out the plans—the good and perfect plans—God has for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 13:21). And, yes, that includes you and me.

So let’s step back out into the world, into the mission God has given us. And let’s shine the light of His life-giving truth into a world desperate to escape the darkness of the evil one’s lies. Because when we belong to Him, that’s exactly what He enables us to do.

We just need to remember who we are.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than forty titles to her credit. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer.

Tama’s newest title, Simply Christmas, releases September 28th from Ink & Willow and is available for pre-order now. Catch up with Tama and all her latest book news at www.TamaFortner.com.

Join the conversation: What lies do you hear whispered to you?

More Like Them

by Tama Fortner

Have you ever had a single verse just explode your perception of God and the magnitude of His love for you? That’s exactly what happened when my son introduced me to one of his favorite Bible verses.

It began with a simple conversation as our family gathered around the table. What is your favorite verse? One by one we shared the words that had touched our hearts and why. When it was my son’s turn, he read this:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.” Isaiah 43:25 NIV

Then my son offered his why: “Because it tells me that God wants me with Him.”

Wait! What? How had I missed that all these years?

Of course, I knew that God’s mercy—through Jesus—swept away my sins. (And some days, I keep Him pretty busy with all that sweeping!) And yes, I knew that He chooses to no longer hold my transgressions against me. (Though He has plenty to pick from!) But those four little words in the middle of this verse stopped me in my tracks and overwhelmed me with wonder. They’re the beautiful why behind everything our Lord does. How had I never noticed them before?

For my own sake.”

When these words were written, Israel had been behaving quite badly. Just one verse earlier, the Lord declared, “You have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses” (Isaiah 43:24 NIV). Oh, Israel. Oh . . . me.

And yet, God did not abandon His people. Nor does He abandon us. Instead, He freely offers not just forgiveness for our sins, but life—full, rich, and abundant life in Him (John 10:10)! God’s love for us is so great that He sent His own Son to purchase that abundant life for us on a Roman cross and through an empty grave. We’re not just another obligation to God. We’re not just part of some grudgingly kept, long-ago promise. God wants us to be with Him.

It was just a single verse, just a few words shared by a child, and yet they changed forever the way I see my God and my Savior.

I suppose some truths are so big and so wonderful that they can only be grasped by the hearts of those who are most like Him. Lord, help me to be more like them.

“ . . . for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” —Mark 10:14 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than forty titles to her credit. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer.

Tama’s newest title, Simply Christmas, releases September 28th from Ink & Willow and is available for pre-order now. Catch up with Tama and all her latest book news at www.TamaFortner.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever heard an amazing truth from a child?

Between the Storms

by Tama Fortner

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1b-3 NIV

There’s something about walking in the still quiet of the morning that renews my soul and energizes my day. Though I’m not overly fond of that early alarm, the lure of that time alone in nature and with God pulls me from bed most mornings.

Most mornings. Because it’s storm season here in Tennessee. From soft, gentle rains to flashing, crashing thunderstorms, you never know quite what our changeable weather will bring. So when the alarm went off the other morning, I listened to the downpour outside and considered simply rolling over for a few more minutes of sleep. But I didn’t. By the time I was dressed and caffeinated and had taken care of our four-legged friend, the rain had stopped. And though the clouds still hung heavy and gray, I grabbed my umbrella and headed off.

As always, the walking and the talking with God set my world to rights—or at least my perspective. Finishing my laps around the neighborhood, I had just stepped up on our porch and begun to turn the key in the lock when the rain resumed. And I couldn’t help but smile.

Because I’d been given space to walk between the storms.

I don’t know what is happening in your life right now, but mine is being buffeted with more than a couple of storms. Some days it seems that they’re blowing in from every direction—north, south, east, west, and all points in between. Some creep in, catching me unawares. Some boom and crash and send me searching for cover. And some simply soak me through.

When the storms hit, I’ve learned to live in the promises of Isaiah 43: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. . . . See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness (vv. 1–2, 19 NIV). In other words, God makes space between the storms.

As I stood there on my porch that morning, I realized a beautiful truth. Yes, there are storms. And, yes, there is sometimes rain when we long for sun. But there is also God. Always God. And by His power and His guiding presence, He lovingly makes a way for us, leading us through the stormy wilderness of lives lived out in this fallen world. The rains may pour down and the winds may howl around us, but God gives us space to walk between the storms.

And, oh, what a lovely space it is . . . here, with the One who calls us by name. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1 NIV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than forty titles to her credit. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer.

Tama’s newest title, Simply Christmas, releases September 28th from Ink & Willow and is available for pre-order now. Catch up with Tama and all her latest book news at www.TamaFortner.com.

Join the conversation: Has God been meeting you in the storm?