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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Survival Skills

The countdown is on. Does the date pop into your head as soon as you wake up? Or only when you look at your To-Do List?

Bowls of dough and trays of cookies surrounded Trish when her iPhone rang. She wiped her hands on the red-checked towel and pressed Accept. Two sentences in, her mother’s sweet voice suggested her cousin Sue and her kids join them for Christmas. “It’s only been a month since Joe abandoned them. They must be struggling.”

Mom said she and dad would pitch in all they could, but Sue lived hours away. Coming for the whole weekend made the most sense. Yes. It made sense. Was something Trish might have thought of on her own . . . if she had a moment to think.

She heard herself say, “Of course. I’ll call her right away.” Her thumb poked the S in Contacts then chose Home. Peter, Sue’s oldest, answered. Trish felt hollow when she asked for his mom.

“Hello?” Sue sounded frail.

“Hi, Sue. It’s me, Trish. How are you?” Her mind snapped back into place.

Photo by Sandra Allen Lovelace
The cousins chatted for a few moments before she offered an invitation for Sue and her three children to join them for the holiday. Sue hesitated. Trish described cozy pajama times with young ones around the tree, fortified by hot chocolate and hymns. “You would bless us if you come,” did the trick.

She placed her cell phone on the granite counter top as her mind threatened to collapse. On top of preparing for the traditional visits from her parents, her brother and his family, not to mention her two returning college kids, she had no idea how she’d survive. What did I just do? How could I let my mother talk me into this?

She caught the bad attitude. Holy Spirit alerted her exactly as she’d been asking Him to. She went to the blue wingback by the picture window, her devo chair. Grabbing her Bible off the side table, she settled back and opened to the next chapter in her reading plan, Isaiah 63.

Her mind raced over the endless tasks ahead as her eyes flowed across verses 1 to 8. The word distress caught her attention. She placed her finger on verse 9 to steady her thoughts.

In all their distress he [the LORD] too was distressed,
She paused to soak in the idea of God sharing her panic.

and the angel of his presence saved them.
God joins His chosen ones to rescue us.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
            Deliverance is based on His character, not our efforts.

he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old (Isaiah 63:9).*
            Trish relaxed into God’s presence and provision.

How about you? Has your holiday pace hit the fever pitch?
Relief is as close as prayer and an attitude change based on Biblical Truth.

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).*


Brief Bio

Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s an award-winning speaker and author, and a sought-after mentor. Sandra’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers, and has two manuscripts underway, Wallflower Women and Naomi. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/
You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook. If you contact her at Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+  she’ll be delighted by a reason to practice.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The “Perfect Christmas”

Before we had children, it didn’t matter to me for some reason. I would have celebrated Christmas at a dirt track if that’s where we happened to be. But once we had children, I found myself dreaming about a perfect Christmas.

My perfect Christmas didn’t have to have snow on the ground, although that would have helped, but everyone would get up early, though not too early. They would gladly wait to open presents while drinking coffee/hot chocolate. The kids would be quiet while we read the Christmas story (or maybe even acted it out). We would have a time of prayer and thanksgiving around the tree. Everyone in the family would enjoy the food, spontaneously burst into carols, and get along. And most importantly, we would be at home.

Are you laughing yet? Because the perfect Christmas never happens.

Like most girls, Mary, the mother of Jesus, probably imagined starting her own little family. Living in Nazareth, near her mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins, she would have enjoyed plenty of support and know-how for that scary labor-and-delivery…plus the even scarier first days at home with a newborn. But after a low-key marriage with no wedding-night intimacy, she got none of that. Instead, Joseph—a carpenter and a man (in a time when men didn’t know anything about babies)—yes, Joseph helped her deliver her baby in a stranger’s barn in a town miles away from her family. Then, the only people to visit her were a bunch of smelly shepherds (again, all men).

No one would call that a perfect scenario. No one dreams of living like that.

I don’t compare myself to Mary, but I think we still (even after all these years) have much to learn from her. Nothing in her life turned out like she anticipated, but she found contentment anyway. Mary traded a quiet existence for the quite extraordinary Emmanuel.

When I dream of some ideal Christmas, I put stress on myself and my family to live up to my unrealistic expectations. I end up disappointed, and my family ends up frustrated. Plus, I do something God never does with us: anticipate earthly perfection.

We travel every year at Christmas, and it usually rains. We invariably duplicate or royally miss it on someone’s gift. The cousins get in an argument…or three. Some distant relative gets offended. The food gets cold before we can gather everyone to eat. Some years (and I’m just being honest here), no one even mentions Jesus until after the wrapping paper is in the recycling bin and the cookie tray is down to crumbs.

But this year, I’m asking God to help me be okay with that. I’m trying to remember that even the first Christmas wasn’t ideal, and Mary, the first mother to observe Christmas, probably wasn’t too happy about how it went either. I mean, straw and shepherds? Really?

What counts—for Mary and for me—is the result of that first Christmas. Even though our plans may fall by the wayside, the perfect plan of God’s perfect son incarnating imperfect human flesh went exactly as planned.

And that’s enough.
Question for Reflection: What Christmas expectations do you need to reexamine? What can you release so that everyone—especially yourself—has a more peaceful Christmas?


Carole Sparks has celebrated Christmas in three countries and several states since she got married, but she’s still a sucker for Tender Tennessee Christmas. Sorry, but she hopes it doesn’t snow because, as usual, she’ll be travelling between grandparents those days. You might find her on social media (Twitter, Facebook, her blog) this month just because she needs an excuse to get some peace and quiet.

Carole, five days before Christmas last year.

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