Merry Messy Holiday | The Reason for the Season

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Ann Grace (please see her last Diva post for more on her journey). This is the finale of Diva Christmas 2019 – the reason for the season! Merry Christmas.

I woke up this morning excited to start this new day only to find myself struggling to
complete each tasks with a merry heart. You see, as I prepared to change my flannel sheets, I
looked at the various patterns to chose from only to be struck with tears as I saw the sheets with
vintage truck carrying a Christmas tree. Why was this such a trigger of emotions, you may ask?
Because those same sheets reminded me of Christmas with my little one. And this year, I have no
idea as to whether or not I will be reunited with him this holiday season due to this horrible
custody battle.
Have you ever been asked to wait patiently? Suffer joyfully? Or better yet, to trust the
Lord in the midst of so much uncertainty? In life’s messy moments that seem to only flourish
with the holidays, sometimes I am tempted to complain about all the trials and heartache I am
facing. I mean, lets face it. We say we “trust” God with our impossible Aunt Kay or something as
serious as a terminal illness, but, then find another reason to worry that just keeps us from being
merry! I can’t help but think about Jesus being ask to wait patiently for his big “reveal” only to
know that he would have to die for a bunch of sinners who will laugh at him and eventually kill
him unjustly. Jesus was a man acquainted with grief.
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV
Can you imagine grief as your constant companion? The truth remains that we live in a
fallen world and one thing we can count on as believers in Christ are trials and persecution.
James 1:2-4 ESV
Are you merrily trusting this day in God’s perfect timing for a situation in your life?
Maybe it’s waiting for a tear filled prayer to be answered? Or a supernatural healing that only
God can do? And then there’s the constant pleading with God to bring repentance and salvation
to your spouse or loved one… 2 Peter 3:9 ESV
I still can’t guarantee that the Lord will ever bring me back my baby taken away from me
unjustly or give me a front row seat when swift justice and redemption occurs, but, I can say
beyond a shadow of a doubt that we serve a mighty God who loves us and our little ones more
than we could ever! And He will be our comfort, strength and hope this holiday season. He is
faithful and knows what is best for us even when it doesn’t make any sense! He can see what we
can’t. And if that means we are destined for a future of trials and tribulations in order to refine us
into someone more like Him, then, it is worth it!
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being
renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal
weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the
things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are
unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

As we prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth this year, be solemnly reminded that unjust
suffering was apart of God’s plan for JESUS. And if we are called of Jesus Christ, we will also
face suffering like never before in these last days. But, take heart as Christ will keep us in His
hands! If we remain faithful and endure til the end, one day very soon, we will rule with Him!
Wishing you and your family a MERRY holiday season!

I am not a blogger, professional writer, photographer or foodie. I’m simply a mother of five (soon to be six) who has walked a road of grief after losing a husband and baby. I continue to encounter a Lord who is faithful. My desire is for others to know Him like I do and let Him be glorified in all I do say and do.

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Silent Night | reason for the season

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Sheila Ingle. This is the 5th post of Diva Christmas 2019 – reason for the season!

Legend has it that we enjoy singing Silent Night, Holy Night because of a broken church organ.

In the village of Oberndorf, near Salzburg, Austria, was the small Church of St. Nicholas. Some stories say that mice or rust was the cause of the ruined organ, but there would be no music at the Christmas Eve service. It was 1818.

Knowing that music was an important part of worship, Parish Priest Josef Mohr took a longer way home on the icy night. The slower path took him up over a hill overlooking the village, and he remembered a poem he had written a couple of years earlier. Looking down over the quiet, snow-covered countryside, he visualized the scene when the angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

The next morning, he took the poem to the organist Franz Xaver Gruber. This talented musician created the melodious melody that could be sung to a guitar.

On Christmas Eve at the Midnight Mass, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition in German to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar. They quickly picked up on this new song celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The organ builder arrived the next month, heard the song, and shared it in other villages, as he went about his work. In 1834, King Frederick William IV of Prussia heard it. He then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve. By 1863, the carol had arrived in America.

What an amazing history.

The simple words of this song even helped halt a battle.

The year was 1914, and soldiers on both sides of the battlefield somewhere in France were enduring a dark and frozen Christmas Eve night. World War I, the Great War, as it was called, eventually took the lives of more than 10 million people. But it is doubtless that the mostly-young men of that Christmas Eve were contemplating much more beyond their longings for home and warmth and family.

When soldiers on the German line placed candles on small Christmas trees and raised them above their trenches it touched the hearts of their enemies. These men — thousands of them on both sides — spontaneously began to sing the carols of Christmas.

Londoner Graham Williams described it. “First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

What began in those moments became the legendary Christmas truce. Weapons were put down; men gathered in No-Man’s Land, and they agreed on a truce to celebrate Christmas. A miracle, if you will, where British, Belgian, and French soldiers put down their weapons to fellowship with their enemies.

No shots were fired. Men on both sides buried their dead, took off their helmets, and held memorial services. Turning, they headed for their respective trenches. A voice broke the stillness with the opening words of “Silent Night, Holy Night” in French. From not far away, another voice, this time in German, joined in. Soon both sides sang about the “heavenly peace” that was far away.

It has the style of a lullaby. In fact, this is the carol I sang to our son Scott on his first few Christmases, as I rocked him to sleep. The words are tender and quiet, and the peaceful tune would send him to dream land quickly. As I held Scott, I couldn’t help but think about Mary and how she felt when she held Jesus for the first time.

Round yon Virgin, mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

There is no question about Who is in the manger. He is “Holy Infant,” Jesus! His birth is God’s gift to us, because “Christ, the Savior is born.” The world is changed in an instant, because He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This is Christmas. The “sweet, little Jesus boy” has brought peace to you and me. As the words declare, “Jesus, Lord at thy birth!”

Shall we sing this beautiful carol with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

Merry Christmas!


South Carolinian Sheila Ingle is the author of five books about unknown heroines who lived in SC. She blends history and fiction to create memorable women. You can read more about her at sheilaingle.com, @sheilaingle, Facebook Sheila Ingle Author.

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Nouns and Verbs | an eternal reason for the season

NOUNS AND VERBS, AN ETERNAL REASON FOR THE SEASON

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by June E. Titus. Here’s a great devotional to end this week’s Diva Christmas 2019 – reason for the season!

Here are some of the phrases we hear as we approach the Christmas season: “So, what do you hope to get under your tree this Christmas?” “I hope the family can get together for Christmas.” “I hope this Christmas is better than last year!” Reminds me of “The Griswold Family Christmas” . . . not the kind of Christmas most of us really want as part of our celebration. We sold live Christmas trees from our farm in the North Carolina mountains. They were shipped all over the eastern part of the United States. To many people, it isn’t Christmas without a tree. To some people Christmas is an industry

Those superficial comments about the Season above and the holiday industry never get to the heart of the reason for the season. The reason is Jesus. Pure and Simple. Indeed it goes deeper than our hopes for favorable gifts, family, or fun.

Our Christmas hope is a noun rather than a verb.

  • Hope as a verb: expectation that something will be the way we think it should happen.
  • Hope as a noun: expectation based on a promise and a reality—Hope based on what has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”[1]

But more. There is a “reason for the hope that is in you.”[2] The reason goes back, yes, not only to the manger when our Savior was born, but also to the cross when He “suffered once for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.”[3]

And even more. Jesus not only died, but He “rose again,” and will return for us and we “will always be with the Lord.”[4] Eternal Hope—that is a reason for the season.

But shall we go even deeper? Hope is one part of it. Hope is our “noun.” It is what we grasp hold and cling to. What was Jesus’ reason to give us that hope? His reason is a verb. He loved us and gave Himself for us, a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[5]

So then, what is our verb? Is it to wish for some gift or experience to make us feel good at the Christmas season? Is it decorating our place, putting up a tree, cooking a big family meal? There is nothing wrong with these things in proper perspective. When we get a whiff of the pine or balsam, or smell the aroma of that turkey and pecan pie, we might think about the true fragrance of His sacrifice to God. Why? It was His love for us.

We, too, are to be a fragrant reflection of His love—a verb, demonstrating His love in our hearts to others. Eternal love—His for us—ours for Him and others.

Now that is a reason we can celebrate at the Christmas season and every day.


June Windle Bare

June Titus is a retired nurse and poet and mother and grandmother, living with her husband in southern Georgia. Now in her eighties, she remains active in her local church. Among other church responsibilities, she teaches a Sunday school class of her peers. She writes a weekly blog on Facebook, entitled “Monday Musings.” Prior to moving to Georgia, she was a regular contributor to “The Watauga Democrat” newspaper, and “all About Women,’ a monthly magazine, both in Boone, North Carolina.

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Unlocking Christmas | The Reason for the Season

This is a guest story by Devotional Diva founder Renee Fisher! Here’s the third installment of Diva Christmas 2019 – the reason for the season!

One Christmas, I spoke on the 3 Keys to Unlocking Christmas at a woman’s tea. I started with my favorite phrase from my book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me.

“Thereis freedom from your past hurts, present circumstances, and future fears.”

There.
Is.
Freedom.
From.
Your past hurts.
Present circumstances.
And future fears.

Saying that out loud still haunts me today.

Past

The key that unlocks the past is forgiveness.

You and I may not have a perfect past. It may not be filled with magic like a Disney movie, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).

Every time you replace an ugly lie or half-truth with the Truth of the Gospel — you help turn that key even faster to unlocking any bitterness, hurt, grudges, or unforgiveness from the past. Take that first step today and learn how to forgive others including yourself!

Present

The key that unlocks the present is faith.

I waited 12 years, 10 months, and 24 days from the day I knew God promised me the best Christmas gift ever to the day Marc proposed down on one knee in Coronado.

We recently celebrated our 8 year anniversary in the North East seeing the fall leaves change, and I was so blessed to check off another botanical garden off my bucket list of seeing a garden in every state.

But what did I do while I was waiting on my big dreams? I learned how to practice my faith muscles by getting involved in my church, the community, and starting a business. I wrote like mad through each and every health problem. Through each low valley and high mountaintop experience.

The present may be filled with many roadblocks, bumps in the road, and all sorts of pot holes — but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have faith in the journey. My Type A personality took many years to learn that progress (the journey) is more important than perfection (the destination).

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV).

Future

The key that unlocks the future is grace.

The Good News (Jesus) is the key to the future, which is grace. By grace we’re saved.

An encouraging verse to unlock the future says,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV).

If you have not yet accepted God’s gift of grace, I encourage you to pray this prayer with me today:

Dear Jesus,

I confess that I have been blaming myself for too long. I cannot be good enough to get into heaven or earn your grace. I need your free gift. Please forgive me of my sins so that I can accept your Holy Spirit into my heart. Wash me clean. Set me free. Give me a bright future full of hope and grace. Thank you for loving me! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Good news! If you prayed that prayer — God now calls you His friend (John 15:15).

I just found out today that at least one of the women prayed to receive Christ at the women’s Christmas tea — Praise the Lord!

It is my prayer that you and your loved ones will have a Merry Christmas.
May you use the 3 keys to unlock your best Christmas yet!

Renee Fisher is an author, coach, and consultant who owns and operates a full-service creative agency for self-publishing. She is passionate about defending dreams and spurring others forward to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). #DreamDefender Renee is a BIG fan of glitter and gardens. She is a graduate of Biola University and lives in Austin, Texas with her handsome husband and their fur child named “Starfish.” Connect at ReneeFisher.com.

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The Good Shepherd | reason for the season

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Agnes Amos-Coleman. And this is the second post of Diva Christmas 2019 – the reason for the season!

My friends, this Christmas season reminds me of shepherds who tend, feed and guard their sheep. Jesus Christ symbolizes for us the Good Shepherd. The scriptures in Luke 2:8-11 talk about the announcement of his birth

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”.

Remembering the birth of the Good Shepherd – Jesus should cause great celebration in our hearts this season and reassure us of His:

  • Protection – In a world where trouble and chaos is everywhere, we need the protection of God from the rising of the sun until it sets and the only place where we can find that protection is in the word of God where He promises to save us from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  I urge you to meditate on Psalm 91 and you will be encouraged on the assurance of God’s protection for you and your family.
  • Provision – Just like a shepherd would provide for his sheep, God is able to provide for and bless us abundantly, meet our physical, emotional and spiritual needs because the resources of the universe belong to Him.

Christ follower, as you celebrate another Christmas, tap into the provision and protection of the Good Shepherd this season. If you are currently not a Christ follower, come, let Him give you eternal life.

Agnes Amos-Coleman

Agnes is a leader with proven business acumen in a variety of industries. She holds an executive MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP). She is the author of Transforming Business with Godly Governance: Nine Characteristics for Workplace Success; God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage and Divorce; The Provisions of God: Insights from a Cat Named Mascot, and Weekly Insights for the Workplace: A Devotional for Christian Professionals

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The Nativity Crèche | Diva Christmas 2019

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Sheila Lloyd. Welcome to Diva Christmas 2019 – the reason for the season!

I stand before the nativity crèche , looking at it as I have so many, many times before… Enjoying the colors, smiling at the way the expressions are carved in each face, thinking about the artist’s choice of costume. 

My eyes move to the center figure, the baby in the manger; and I am struck a new with wonder. That baby lying in the manger truly was King of kings and Lord of lords! In his eyes was all eternity past and all eternity future combined into a shining present moment. The Word that spoke the earth into existence, that made light out of darkness, had now become flesh. Once again, darkness would give way to light and creation would never be the same!

Every figure in that manger scene had a fixed gaze on baby Jesus–an attitude of wonder as well as worship. Lord, how I want that focus as well! The world creeps in with tinsel and to do lists, money and mall mayhem; and my heart begins to feel as if it’s cold hard plastic like the nativity figurines. 

Forgive me. Fix my gaze upon Jesus–Not just the baby in a manger, but the Messiah on the cross, the risen Lord, and the reigning King! May my gaze be one of fixed wonder and joyful worship. 

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:9-13

Sheila Lloyd is learning to live in freedom through Jesus Christ! Her vocational life has included teaching private piano lessons, writing, acting in and producing musical dramas, spearheading women’s retreats and other ministry outreach events, composing music, leading worship across the country, teaching Bible studies and mentoring. Shelia has two grown sons, one of whom has special needs. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Brian, since 1990.  The couple experienced growth on the cutting edge of faith as Brian suffered a massive rehabilitating stroke in 2014. They published a book sharing God‘s powerful hand in the situation titled, It’s OK! I Had a Stroke. It was released on Amazon and Barnes and Noble May 2019. Website here. The couple currently shepherds a storefront church in Woodstock, VA.

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Surrender Displayed

surrender displayed on devotional diva[Guest post by Jennifer Kelly: I love Jennifer’s vibrancy for spreading God’s grace. This is her story about salvation, forgiveness and most importantly, Jesus.]

I love it when other women share their personal stories of overcoming grief and pain and forgiveness.  It’s like receiving a precious gift when you least expect it. When you stumble upon a story of hope in the midst of hopelessness, healing amidst the pain, or love for the unlovable, it moves you.

I grab onto stories of life found in the desert, and bury them into my soul. In a world where brokenness, selfishness, and evil turn up on every street corner, I am need of a present wrapped in sheer grace. To actually see and hear and listen to how salvation has sprung to life through the lives of others, is so much more than a gift…  It is living water.

Actually, Jesus says this same exact thing to another woman overcome by grief. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14, NIV).

The word ‘life’ that Jesus uses is actually ‘zōē’ in Greek.  It is the element of life found in the spirit and soul. The Key Note Study Bible writes, “zōē is a somewhat metaphysical term which denotes the vey life-force itself, the vital principle which animates living beings to breathe”.

Did you catch that? Your soul actually breathes from the saving grace of God.

I can remember what it felt like to need to breathe.  I mean, I wasn’t the woman by the well with five husbands and a man on the side.  No, I was just a woman by a different kind of well (wine and bars and money and stuff), about to get divorced, having an affair, and no-where-else-to-go.  I was a woman who was exhausted, suffocating, and drowning out pain with all sorts of numbing agents.  Sure, some scars were not caused by me, most were.

I have had to forgive others for unimaginable transgressions, I find that forgiving my own transgressions are much more difficult.

When the consequences are from your own actions, when the grief is self-prescribed, when you find yourself on the dirt road of bad decisions, shame, and regret.

When it’s all your fault.

Forgiving others and ourselves is excruciating, both are impossible without Jesus. I found grace and forgiveness in the desert of my soul, much like the woman at the well.

Resolving your own sins, shame and guilt can only be done through surrender. This is what makes it nearly impossible.  I have a tendency to need or want or try to fix things on my own.  Surrender is in direct contradiction to this.

My absolute favorite woman in ALL of Scripture is the ‘sinful woman’ found in Luke. This woman (who only holds all of fourteen verses) beholds a gift wrapped in sheer grace. Scripture describes her as, “a woman who had lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37).  She had the reputation, she held the scarlet letter. But she also displayed one of the most amazing acts of surrender in all of Scripture.

Oh, how I resonate with her.  How I feel her pain of longing and suffering.

She pours oil at Jesus’ feet and sobs.  She did this in front of the people who would judge her.  She did this in front of the people who thought she was less than nothing.  Needing the love and forgiveness of a Savior.

Needing the inside of her soul to breathe.

The past two years for me has been a journey of forgiveness and healing.  I’ve had to bare my soul and trust that Jesus can really heal, can really forgive, can extend to me a gift of living water.  I’ve had to stand in front of judgment and opposition.  When people can’t seem to differentiate the sinner from the sin.  Jesus does and can.

And every time I approach Jesus in prayer, every time I get on my knees, every time I stand sobbing at his feet, He whispers to me in the deepest part of my soul, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”.  And my soul breathes.

 

jen kelley on devotional divaJennifer Kelly is a very messy wife and mom. She loves reading, writing, philosophy, music, art, theatre, and really anything that is created by an artist. Jennifer currently attends Christian Colorado University where she is studying Biblical Studies. Find out more at jenjkelly.com.

photo credit: Roberto Verzo via photopin cc

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