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I woke up early this morning, long before the pitter patter of little feet echoed throughout the house. I didn’t want to wake anyone, so I curled up on the couch and took some time to really look at the Christmas tree in our living room. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has kept me so busy that I haven’t taken time to really admire the tree and think about the memories attached to the ornaments. As I was scanning the tree, I noticed that several of the bottom limbs have two or three ornaments a piece on them. This is the section where my grandchildren decorated the tree. You can barely tell one ornament from the other one because they are all just piled on top of one another, but I know they were hung with the truest excitement in the world. There would’ve been a time when I would’ve moved those ornaments around to meet my standards of what the tree should look like, but I’ve wised up since then. I know the tree represents something much more than perfect ornament placement! To me that tree represents two much more important trees…the tree that eventually had some of its wood become a feed trough that on the first Christmas night held the newborn King and the tree that eventually had some of its wood become the cross on which that King gave His life for us. I don’t need to teach my grandchildren about ornament placement,  but I do need to teach them what the Christmas tree represents. I need to make sure they know that because of those two important trees, we have a reason to celebrate not only on Christmas Day, but on every day. I need to make sure they know the best gift of all isn’t wrapped in pretty paper under our tree, but is the One who started His life in a feed trough and ended it on the cross. There is so much more to see when you look at a Christmas tree than if the ornaments are perfectly placed. Every Christmas tree is beautiful if you just focus on what it truly represents.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

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Recently my 16 month old grandson has become fascinated with cell phones. He loves to swipe the screen and change from one thing to another. He loves to hold it up to his ear and say, “Hello!” He loves getting on the camera to take hundreds of pictures…usually of the ceiling or his feet all while saying, “Cheese!” And he loves talking to Siri! When he activates Siri, he gets the biggest grin on his face. A few days ago, he was having quite the conversation with Siri. He was babbling as fast as he could, and Siri just kept saying, “I don’t understand.” Then Siri asked him who he wanted to call and he replied, “Nana!” He kept saying Nana over and over, and I couldn’t help but laugh when Siri said, “I don’t know this name.” No, Siri may not know my name, but my Father in heaven does. He knows not only my name, but every single detail about me. Siri may know a lot, but she is not all-knowing like my Heavenly Father. She doesn’t know me and care about me like He does. And not only does He know my name, He knows the name of every single person who ever has been, who is, or who will ever be. You may feel invisible or unnoticed by the world around you, but you can be assured that God knows you, and He calls you by name!

”So the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘I will do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:17

Not only did Moses find grace in God’s sight, but so have you and I. Not only was Moses known by God, so are you and I. You are known and treasured beyond your wildest dreams by your Heavenly Father! He sees you, and He knows you!

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

Today marks a day of thanksgiving  for most of us. We have gathered with family and friends to take time out to give thanks  for the blessings God has given us. Probably the most common things we hear people give thanks for today are family, friends, health, life, and food. And these are certainly things we need to be grateful for and thank God for, not just today, but every day. But do we give thanks for the difficulties, hardships, heartbreaks, and tragedies that we have encountered? Do we give thanks for the prayers that have gone unanswered thus far or the prayers that were answered but not in the way we were hoping? Do we give thanks for the frustrations and aggravations of life? Do we give thanks for the things that don’t go according to our plans? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. “ALL circumstances” included the circumstances that we don’t like, the ones that rip our hearts out, the ones that make us so mad we cannot even see straight, and the ones that hurt us all the way to our core. “ALL circumstances” includes when things don’t go out way, when God doesn’t answer how we wanted Him to, and when He doesn’t give us an answer at all. Giving thanks in all circumstances is not an easy task! In fact, for most of us, it’s almost impossible. Why would God want us to give thanks for something that hurts us, breaks our heart, or is really hard for us? Why would He want us to give thanks when the heartache is almost too much to handle? He wants us to give thanks in ALL circumstances because He knows that giving thanks changes our perspective on the situation. He knows that if we can find something to give thanks for in the situation, our focus changes and He can start to work through that situation to mold us into His image: He knows that giving thanks takes our eyes off of the difficulty and places them on the hidden blessings buried inside that situation. He knows giving thanks turns out attention onto the positive instead of the negative and that’s where He knows we need to keep our thoughts. God loves us and every single detail of our lives are divinely ordained by Him to shape us into the person He created us to be. Being shaped into His image is reason enough to be thankful in ALL circumstances!

Tonight I made cornbread to use in my dressing for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast. I mixed up the batter and left it sitting on the counter while I waited for the oven to finish preheating. My grandson came into the kitchen and before I could stop him, he grabbed the spoon out of the bowl and took a big bite. He immediately spit it out and said, “Nana, this cake isn’t very good.” My poor boy thought he was getting a spoonful of cake batter, but instead, got a spoonful of cornbread batter. I couldn’t help but laugh as he spit the batter out in disgust. What he thought he was getting and what he got were definitely two different things! As I thought about this tonight, I thought about how our experience with sin is very similar. We are enticed to sin because we think we are getting something we want, only to discover what we actually get is nothing like that at all. We take a big bite expecting something amazing, but instead receive something that’s not good at all. And just as my grandson has to have some water to get the taste of the cornbread batter out of his mouth, we need something to erase the effects of sin in our lives. Jesus is the One who washes the effects of our sin away and leaves us with something so much better…eternal life spent with Him!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

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These are two leaves that my four year old grandson gifted me with a few days ago. He was just beaming when he presented them to me. With a grin stretching from ear to ear, he ran up to me and exclaimed, “Nana, I got these for you!” He was so proud of his gift and I, as his Nana, was so proud to accept his gift. Now, I know that these leaves wouldn’t normally mean a whole lot to me, but the fact that my sweet boy gave them to me changes everything. Suddenly, they are not just leaves…they are precious treasure because of who gave them me. The fact that these leaves have no significant value   in the world’s eyes doesn’t diminish their value in my eyes at all. The fact that no one would covet these leaves doesn’t change the fact that they are special to me. You see, my precious little boy presented me with a gift from his heart and there is no treasure on earth I would rather have. God sees our gifts in much the same way. When we take the little we have and offer it to Him as a gift from our heart, He is thrilled. He looks at our “leaves” and sees priceless treasure. He doesn’t need anything we have to offer Him, yet He treasures every single thing we give Him. What we have may not be worth anything to anyone else, but to Him, it is priceless.

“So let everyone give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or if necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Last night, my husband and I saw the movie “Let There Be Light” which I highly recommend. It is the story of the world’s most famous atheist and his journey to becoming a Christian. While there are many facets of the movie that I really loved, one thing that really spoke to me was how the movie portrayed the emptiness you feel when you seek the things of the world instead of seeking God. The atheist in the movie has everything the world says you need for happiness: fame, success, power, people hanging onto his every word, and anything money could buy. However, he still struggled to make it through a day. In fact, he struggled so much that he wasn’t making it. He was burying his life in alcohol, drugs, and partying, but to no avail. He was still miserable. The more miserable he became, the more he drank. The alcohol eventually stopped dulling his pain. He sought psychiatric help, but didn’t receive the answers he wanted. His so called friends were not really friends – they weren’t there to help him when he was at his lowest. All they were worried about was the next deal they could make with him that would net them a big paycheck. He admitted the fact that the drugs were just giving him hallucinations and not helping him at all. Everything he has built his life on was failing him and he had no where to turn. He was pretty much at rock bottom when he met the Rock at the bottom. We’ve all been here to some degree or another. We have sought fulfillment in the things of the world only to discover that they are not fulfilling. We have sought answers in the things of the world only to discover the answers we find are not enough to satisfy our soul. We seek the important things of the world only to discover we are still left searching for something more. We cling to people who make us feel special in one moment who bail on us in the next. We try to drown our problem in drugs, alcohol, shopping, food, unhealthy relationships, etc. only to find the are pushing us down even farther under the crashing waves. The world is not our answer…never has been and never will be. The only answer we have is Jesus Christ. He alone will bring us fulfillment, comfort, peace, answers, help, hope, and He alone will fill the void in our hearts.

At my fist defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…” 2 Timothy 4:16-17

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father give good gifts to His children.” Matthew 7:11

Tonight, my four year old grandson and I went on a date to seePaw Patrol Live. It was a surprise for him. He knew we werrr going somewhere, but I didn’t tell him where until we arrived at the theater. He was over the moon excited when he found out what the surprise was. He thoroughly enjoyed every moment! In fact, he had such a good time that he has fallen asleep clutching all three of his souvenirs from the event. The only person possibly more excited than him about this evening would be me. I have been so excited to take him ever since I bought the tickets. I knew he would be thrilled because he is a big fan of Paw Patrol. I just couldn’t wait to see his face when he realized what was going on. I couldn’t wait to see him sing and dance along with his favorite characters. I couldn’t wait to hear him talk excitedly all the way home about the show. As I watch him sleeping, holding his treasures so close, I was so grateful that I was able to give him this special night. And I thought about how God must just beam when He watches us receive something good He has given us with. God is just like any parent…He loves to give His children good gifts. He waits in anxious expectation of our reaction when we receive His gift. He rejoices when we receive that gift with enthusiasm. Never forget that God loves you and desires to give you the very best He has to offer. Know that when you receive one of His gifts, He is even more excited than you are! What a good, good Father He is.

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