Oh my goodness it is cold, Merry Christmas, and Hello! Welcome back or for the first time to my virtual “front porch” here at Aprons to Iron. I am so sorry I have not been able to visit on the front porch in a while. Please know my heart has been here and forgive me for not being found here as frequently as I would like. I have wanted to but time and other life happenings have hindered me (including things like doubts, fears, frustrations and the Devil…). I really want to be here more regularly to share with you all…I’m trying. I am still learning how to get my big girl blogging pants on (he he). There is so much I do not know but I do know I want this blog to be a ministry of love and encouragement to you, a reaching out and inviting you to a place where you are always welcomed, wanted and loved, because that is exactly what Christ offers us. I’m not interested in building a following or fame, I am just using the gift of writing to reach out to you sitting on the other side of a screen that may just be so kind to take time to read my words, need to hear them and share a bit of our worlds together. I was wanting to blog once a week but I do not think that is doable, so my goal is twice a month. When I first started this back in July, I had such an outpouring of support and encouragement, I was and am still in grateful awe and hope that a few of you, well really I hope all of you and maybe more, will stick around and be encouraged as we struggle, strive and thrive together and I work through the “growing pains” of blogging. So if you are here today, thank you. I am honored you stopped by. Will you please pray for me? Pray I will show up here as the Lord leads, that I will make and guard the time He appoints for me to “peck” away at the keyboard, that I will have patience to “battle” technology, learn what I do not know, press through the hard and write the words God gives for the purpose He so desires. Thank you my dear front porch sisters and friends, you being here and your prayers mean so much to me.
I need some heat in my apron! It’s a little chilly on the porch, but the sights and sounds of Christmas are beautiful. What a reflection of the glory of God we get to celebrate this season! There is a cup of hot cocoa and as always a chair waiting for you. I am so glad you are here, thank you. I hope something of what I say is a gift to your heart today.
We love Christmas so much at my house we decorated our tree twice this year! Well not really, we do love Christmas, but sister decorating the tree is stressful, let’s just be real…I love the aftereffect but my holly ain’t always so jolly in the process and my “fa la la la la la la la la” can quickly turn to bah humbug! And even though I try not to get my “tinsel in a tangle” I can get pretty picky about how we decorate. (That sounds better than a perfectionist, right? As part of my perfectionist in recovery program I did agree on going from clear lights to multi-color lights this year… I am a work in progress.) So, we got a larger than the norm tree this year, well my sister picked it out for us (now I am wondering if this wasn’t her idea of some weird Christmas joke…hmmm). Anyhow, we got this gargantuan tree all up and decorated on this past Sunday, but by Monday afternoon I guess that tree had done lost its Christmas spirit (or had a little too much egg-nog with the elf on the shelf) and “Timber!”…
Up, down and back up again!
Down she came, face plant. (I just knew I was going to see a squirrel scurry out of that tree…Which if happened and got on video would make me a YouTube millionaire as well as a need for some dry pants ehhh hmm). I promise I was not gettin’ my “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on when this happened. Glass ornaments were shattered all over my carpet and several that were special to me were in pieces. Not to mention, because this tree was so huge, in nearly took me out, it missed me by inches. (Ok, more like several feet, actually I was never in any danger but that tree was about to be!) I was like seriously, what in the world am I going to do now with this Jolly Green Giant tree laid out across the middle of our living room floor. My dear hubs was at work or I would have yelled at him. (Well not really yelled, but I would have asked him in a really loud loving voice to quickly come to my rescue.) I was surprised at how calm I handle it (I guess that egg-nog the elf made really helped LOL, just kidding). For a brief moment I wanted to cry and have a pity-party (the elf was ready with the egg-nog) but then I heard God whisper to my heart, “Will you still give Me thanks?”
You see, all through the month of November I was purposeful about the discipline of expressing gratitude, daily giving God thanks for specific things in my life. The Lord used this to do such good things for my soul; I wanted to continue to be purposeful with this practice daily. So, just that morning during my quiet time, before our tree decided to take a “nap”, I gave God thanks for our beautiful tree, decorations and the ornaments hanging on that tree, for what they represented, all the many ways God had blessed and faithfully provided for our family and kept us together. Those ornaments tell our family’s on-going story and although it is a bit of a hassle to un-box, unwrap, hang and take off, re-wrap and re-box each one, I love the tradition our family shares and what those ornaments represent. After the shock of the tree topple was over, and I assessed no squirrel was involved, I heard God’s whisper and realized there was a grace lesson He had for me: When what seemed so “perfect” was now a mess will I still give Him thanks, when what was beautiful now seems broken will I still give Him thanks, when life isn’t looking so “bright” will I still give Him thanks, when what was done now seems to have come “undone” will I still give Him thanks, when inconveniences seem to keep pushing their way into my plans will I still give Him thanks, when I have to start all over again will I still give Him thanks, when people, plans and hopes fail, when I fail, will I still give Him thanks.…Is what I “treasure” solely in Him? I chose, by His grace, to still give Him thanks in that moment as I began to clean up the mess and work on getting our tree upright
again. And it just so happened all the special ornaments broke in such a way that I was able to easily put them together again with my handy dandy hot glue gun. There was a grace lesson in that too: Sometimes we need to be broken, but we are never so broken that God’s grace “glue” can’t put us together again, and in doing so can make us more whole. Brokenness can still be beautiful…Can I get a Hallelujah! (FYI: Two reasons why the glue gun is so awesome in case you did not know: you do not have to have a weapons permit or great aim to use it. Why was this amazing item not on my bridal registry many moons ago?).
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.’” Luke 1:46-47, NKJV
You know the decorations are fun, beautiful and help us remember the wonder of Christmas but we do not find Christmas decorations in the Bible, rather over and over we see the glory of God adorning hearts of those adoring the hope of the Savior. This week I have been meditating on the beautiful verses from Luke 1:46-53. In these verses we find Mary, who just heard from the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world! She responds by praising God for His faithfulness and favor even though this blessing would not be without many difficulties. In verses 46-47 notice not so much what Mary says as what it states she is doing and the result: “My soul magnifies the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced…(bold emphasis mine)”. When Christ is magnified in our souls, our spirits can rejoice! Sometimes, Jesus as our focus is too small in our souls, other things are magnified and our spirits can get heavy and in a slump, kind of like my tree.
As we chat here on the porch today and let down our guards a little and allow our hearts to be transparent, can I ask you to consider what is “magnified” in your soul today? Is your spirit rejoicing in this? I know you may be really going through something difficult right now and you are struggling to hope. Christmas means something different for you this year and you do not feel like celebrating and dear one that is absolutely ok…I have been there, I too have had the hope “rug” jerked out from under me many times and the falls are hard and they hurt. I do not want to make light that there are things that make our hearts heavy, we get afraid to hope again and we are too weary and beat up to even try. But I also know the hope we have in Christ is real, alive, certain, secure, eternal and strong enough to bear that heaviness for us and bring a rejoicing to our spirits. Hope is a person who is with us, within us as believers, near us, keeps His Word and acts on behalf of and for those who are humble and broken and belong to Him. Hope begins with relationship, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ is our only hope giver and keeper. His hope never disappoints and never gets jerked out from under us (Romans 5:1-5). No matter what you are going through His hope is for you, it is enough, it never fails, it is certain and real and promised and it is yours if you want to receive it. Will you by faith receive His grace and choose to magnify Him as your Hope, Comforter, Healer, Peace and Savior today? Oh dear sisters, how my prayer for you this season is that you will choose to magnify Jesus Christ and His greatness, adore Him and that your heart will be adorned with His hope and your spirit will rejoice; maybe for the first time or maybe you need your hope restored, a fresh and anew. He can do that too! May He alone be your hope, joy and treasure and may your spirit rejoice again, over and over again! I can’t help but think how often Mary had to remind herself in prayer and praise of His hope through her own words; remembering God’s favor, faithfulness and promises as she encountered many difficult and uncertain times in the days to come. The hope she held on to is your hope too.
“Remember Your word to Your servant. You have given me hope through it. This is my comfort in my affliction; Your promise has given me life.” Psalm 119:49-50, HCSB
Listen my dear sisters, I have not mastered, not even close to “Rejoicing always… in everything give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) or “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction…” (Romans 12:12). I have not mastered magnifying Him in my soul near like I need to. But I do know it is true, when we magnify our Savior, when we focus on Him, pouring our hearts out to Him, praising and adoring Him our spirits will follow with rejoicing. I do know, we cannot “hang” our hope on any external thing in this world …no person, place, position, status, career, relationship, job, no maybe next time, tomorrow or next year, no talents, no dream, no amount of money can hold our hopes because all these things can “fall” and our hopes right along with them. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, in Christ alone, we can always “hang” our hope securely and we are never without hope! And that is something I am so grateful for because He has proven this to be true over and over! He has never left me without hope…My dear beautiful friend if you need it, He can help you pick back up your hope too and “hang” it fully in Him.
If we could all decorate a tree together and “hang” some hope, here are some of my favorite verses I would hang in hopes they would bring encouragement to your heart. May you choose to believe these truths, may they adorn your heart so you can exchange your heaviness for His hope, may they help you magnify Christ in your soul and bring rejoicing to your spirit.
And so Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You. Psalm 39:7, NLT
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear the cries and comfort them. Psalm 10:17, NLT
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22, NLT
I pray the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what the hope of His calling…Ephesians 1:18-19, CSB
We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. This hope will not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us. Romans 5:2, 5, HCSB
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13, HCSB
Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23, HCSB
I want you to have the gift of real hope this Christmas and every day. If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I invite you to read the following verses. If you believe from your heart what you have read and desire to receive Christ as your Savior, I invite you to say the following prayer or one in your own words, and receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He truly is our only hope and the best gift we can receive this Christmas season: Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9, 12-13.
Dear Lord, I confess that I am a sinner. I ask that you forgive me of all my sins. I believe that Jesus is your Son and You sent Him to die for my sins and that you raised Him from the dead so that I can have eternal life through faith in Him. I invite Jesus now into my heart and life to be my Lord and Savior. I now turn from my sins to follow Him. Thank You God for Your forgiveness and for saving me. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.
If you prayed this prayer I encourage you to reach out and tell someone. I would love to know! Share with a family member, a pastor or Christian friend. Begin reading in the Bible, start in the book of John, and find a church to connect with,a community of other Christians believers so you can grow in your faith.
A funny little side note on this continuing Christmas adventure of mine, because I want to spread some good cheer: If you know me well you know I am not a fan of mice. I literally get up on the highest object around me I can find and squeal in panic when I see one. You know the ol’ Christmas poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”…you know it says, “… and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse…” Well guess what stirred right up close to my Christmas tree then fell over and died last night?(It wasn’t a squirrel.) Yep! A mouse…ewww, I know right…but a good mouse is a dead one… “Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight” (minus one mouse) “Fa la la la la la la la laaa!”
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Merry Christmas from my front porch to yours, where you are always welcomed, always loved,
Copyright 2018 by Rhonda Loftis