The Spirit of Christmas

This early morning, as I was driving in my car, I heard a story of a woman who lost her husband unexpectedly, after he had just gotten a long awaited kidney transplant (he was in his early 40’s)  The oldest daughter wrote into a radio show. It was very heartwarming as the radio hosts had her call her mom and read the letter, and then the radio station told her they were helping her with all sorts of gifts, house cleaning, money towards utilities, gifts for her kids, and more. It was good and sincere.  I was in tears before I arrived to work.

Something hit me about the “Spirit of Christmas.”  I love this time of year, and the radio station was giving gifts to help out a family in need at Christmas.

First, the whole story, and many like it are evidence that we were created to “do unto others”.  There was joy!  Everyone felt it, it was good to help this family, and this was a secular, mainstream radio station.  People love to give. People gain so much when we serve others. We were made for it. Imago Dei.

But further…I thought, Why– when there is so much good–do we get soooo overwhelmed at Christmas?  Sooo busy. And there is so much “stuff”.  Stress!

The reality is, I think much of it is meant to be good things. Here is what I mean. A lot of what I want to do around Christmas is good. We just have SO MUCH we want to do! For instance:

  • I love baking and giving treats to neighbors and friends and spending time with my kids in the process.
  • I enjoy wrapping something meaningful for the people who are in our lives…the piano teacher, or teachers, and family and friends and, and, and the list goes on….
  • I love creating Christmas cards and keeping in touch with friends and family. (And receiving others’ cards)
  • As always, I look forward to church, and the extended joy of the extras…singing Christmas hymns or giving money for those in need.
  • I enjoy thinking and brainstorming and figuring out what gifts I am going to get whom.
  • I want to serve the homeless and wrap presents for the less fortunate, and put money in the bell ringers’ Salvation Army containers.
  • I enjoy having lights on our house, and the memories that are spurred when we pull out ornaments that we have collected over the years.
  • There are heart warming Christmas movies I would love to cuddle and watch with family and parties we love to attend to be with others.
  • Nutcracker, or the Singing Christmas tree, or Zoo Lights are always fun!
  • And I enjoy dressing up and dressing down.
  • I look forward to connecting with my husbands office mates once a year at a Christmas lunch…
  • A family Christmas gathering with extended cousins that we rarely see, and old family traditions is wonderful!
  • And hunting for a tree (though, I didn’t act like it this year-ha).

And you know I could go on and on….but this “Short list” is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

And now….I … am …. busy.

These are all GOOD things….but when they are all shoved in a time period of less than 30 days, it just can be….so. so. much.

After taking inventory this morning, it became apparent to me, that many of these traditions are things I do, in fact, enjoy! There are so MANY things I WANT to do!  It’s just that either I can’t physically do them all, or don’t have the time, or feel like I am bone dry and out of energy when the day of Christmas actually arrives. How do we keep the “Spirit of Christmas” alive?

Well, first, my simple definition of “The Spirit of Christmas”:

The “Spirit of Christmas” is love, and giving to others, and spending time connecting. It is caring for others and enjoying moments. Christmas is old traditions, and creating new traditions. And it is remembering what Christmas was for in the first place. It was God’s revelation of his Son to the world. The ULTIMATE gift of Christ.  The fulfillment of prophecy since the very beginning, that God would send a Son, His own, to come into the world…he would be with us (Emmanuel = God with us) and walk among us.  God’s gift of love to us.

So, how do we deal with the overwhelming sense of all that happens during Christmas?

GIVE THANKS:  We start with giving thanks. When we are thankful for what we have, in each moment, we have the joy, and the energy and ability to move through each moment without becoming….let’s say….scrooge.  And the turning of our minds (and then hearts) to “giving thanks”, most of the time, needs to occur in our most frustrating moments.

MAKE MOMENTS COUNT:  We make the most of each moment and each tradition. What do I mean? Simply making the things we “do” meaningful!

For example, when giving gifts is just money and a checklist of who we have purchased for and who we have not, it just becomes a “to do list”.  We have a VERY long list of gifts for family.  Why we don’t draw names yet, doesn’t really matter. I actually enjoy giving gifts. The only thing that holds me back is time, or money.  One thing that has helped me this year was deciding to make sure that every gift either “gives back” in some way (see future post), or has a message of love, joy or hope specific to that gift. Though this has been CHALLENGING, it was been so wonderful to know that nearly every gift is giving at least TWICE.  The challenge and finding meaningful gifts has bee incredibly FUN and this might be my favorite year of giving EVER!!!!!

THE “SPIRIT” IS MEANT TO BE EVERY DAY:
“I just can’t fit it all in!?!!!” I often feel like this. I know my friends do, too.

We must remember that the “Spirit of Christmas” isn’t just meant for Christmas.

This can be hard when we feel it all needs to just get done or our expectations are that each of these things we do at Christmas are only meant for Christmas!   But in reality, what matters is the heart behind the “why”.  But if we search the why, we realize that 1.) Our heart is in the right place, or 2.) we are just doing some of these things “to do”, and it might be time to let some go (along with a few expectations).

If you WANTED to send out Christmas cards then DO it. You can still keep in touch with friends, and make a photo card. Who cares if they get your family update or photo in January… or February?! (Each year, I get a card in Jan and one in Feb from people who have fit it into the time frame that works for them). If you are sending for the wrong reasons, STOP.

If you want to bake with your kids and make shaped sugar cookies for neighbors and spread joy, PLEASE do! They would love to receive them in March. No one gives home made cookies in March!  If you don’t like baking, but feel you need to, then STOP.

When you want to serve the homeless, you can ANY time! (even better, join me on a Thursday night!!). Maybe you want to help a family in need, or give to a cause, but December is not a good month for your business – give later in the year.  Giving doesn’t have to be “year end” to get your tax write-off…you get tax-deductions for your giving ALL year long. You want to have a party and friends for dinner, but December got booked too quickly– just plan it for a later date…

Love people, serve others, be present. THIS is the Spirit of Christmas.

What I mean is, God sent His son, Jesus to teach us. He sent Jesus to be with us and walk among us. And He meant for the lessons of Christmas and it’s meaning and tradition, to be applied every single day. He wants our hearts and wants us to love people, every single day. Be present with our kids, every day.

Let go of what is holding you back. And hold on to the things you do for the right reasons.

Our hearts are definitely prone to give.  We were made to love.  We were made to connect! These are the Spirit of Christmas.  Let’s not worry about the to-do list and just spread the “Christmas Spirit” all ….  year ….. long.  Then, when we aren’t able to complete the MASSIVE to-do list at Christmas, we can forgive ourselves and move towards tomorrow…and the next day… and carry the “Spirit” throughout the year.

Living Intentionally: Finally gonna go “Do something”.

This gallery contains 3 photos.

So, there is this song by Matthew West called “Do Something” (previous post).  It’s pretty powerful and it was something that hit me last year. And then there is this book by Bob Goff called “Love Does” (previous post).  Again, … Continue reading

Repurpose/Recreate: Nightstand chalk paint, distress project

Ahhhh. It feels so good to have a project complete!
Some days I don’t have a lot of time, but I had a day off, and finished painting a nightstand that I purchased at the Goodwill outlet a couple of months ago for $6. I liked the shape and the height for some reason…and I just felt like I could experiment with making my own chalk paint, and achieving a distressed “pottery barn” look by using Vaseline!

My supplies:

Nightstand from Goodwill Outlet $6
Sample of Paint from Home Depot in “Bali Blue”
Sample of “oops” paint for .50 from Home Depot in a creamy white
Unsanded tile grout
Water
Vaseline
Nail files and sand paper
Paint Brushes
Johnson’s Furniture wax/paste

I always paint and forget to take a before pic!

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I mixed the Bali Blue with unsanded tile grout and water to my liking…following a little bit of information I got from Pinterest on homemade chalk paint….

and a little more painting…..First Coat

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Decided I liked the inside shelf and inside cupboard and top, creamy white.

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And then sanded a little and distressed and applied vaseline to keep paint from sticking on the areas I wanted “distressed”

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An up-close look of some distressed love (not for everyone, but I likey!)

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And with a second painting and sanding and then a coat of Johnson’s Furniture Paste to seal the Chalk Paint … I have a “pop of color” in the Guest Room (my 13 year old artistic and creative daughter’s suggestion)…Voila!!!!

 

The heart, soul and MIND: holding every thought captive, and my ‘spiritual workout’

My last couple weeks have been FULL.  Full of good, yes.  But, also full of unexpected, frustration, busy, chaotic stuff.

Arm broken in two places, growing bent  ….  anxiety at outdoor school for middle guy …. daughter’s  soccer club changing everything–she can’t even try out  …….  father-in-law wanting us to buy into the business in 18 months (can we?) ……..  one kid playing a sport requiring a ton of time (and that we don’t really love) …….. soccer team that I coach has to figure out what league to play in because the one we planned on playing in, dissolved …..got a call from school district lawyer about oldest’s 504 plan (a 2 year issue we have been dealing with)  ….   ….. need to write a letter to superintendent of the district (per his request) about the 504 plan  …. working everyday in different schools for different teachers, with different kids …… (I am sure this is much like any of you…or that some of you have MORE than I… I feel bad even putting some of my list here….)

And all the while, God is doing stuff. He’s working…. and this time he was talking to me about my MIND.

A friend tried to encourage me on Monday when one of the situations above got my mind thinking every possibility, every outcome,  every angle.  She tried to tell me, “It really will all work out, God loves you, knows you and the oldest and you will be in a place He needs you”

I got kinda frustrated.  Not with her, just the circumstance. “Yeah, it will ‘work out’… it did for Joseph in Genesis….but how many years was he in slavery, or prison before he did….I just want it ‘my’ way.  Just one area of my life to feel normal, organized, predictable”, was the short of my (ridiculous, immature, selfish and very real) reply.  I said a few more things, and felt extremely frustrated while thinking of all of the possibilities and running them through my mind.

Oh, I was being honest and –whoa–, in sin, I know. I am being honest here.  I knew (as I said it) that I don’t want to follow MY plan…but I felt like it.  And God told me…. “Hold every thought captive….”

Okay, I hear you God.  And I did hear Him…I adjusted and apologized to my friend…

But this problem I was frustrated with kept entering my mind…my realm…from emails, texts from other people, more emails to forward…I was just going to ignore the problem…think on other things…..but God had other plans….this “issue” kept (and is still) making it’s appearance…. more emails, more conversations, questions about “the issue” asked of me.

“Hold every thought captive…and make it obedient in Jesus.”

Oh, so I can’t “ignore it”? I have to make it obedient to Jesus? I have to say in my mind… “I trust your ways. I trust they are better than mine…I really do.  I trust you care. I trust you love me….I trust you love my oldest….I trust you know what you are doing…”

But.  But….my mind it keeps moving… But…. Flashback.

I don’t know what the conversation was, or how it was presented, but I remember being identified as something in school, for “gifted kids” (Whatever, I am not one of these, but somehow tricked them into thinking I was, haha!) and somehow, at that time in my life, I picked up, “Rachel, you are a very good brainstormer.  You come up with lots of ideas, different angles, and have a creative thought process…”  I don’t know if those are the exact words said, but that is the message I took to heart.  It is a message I have believed and acted on for the entirety of my life:  I am good at ‘brainstorming.’ My mind…..

Well, I learned this week, that when you brainstorm the good — the creative — the solutions,  your mind is moving, thinking churning…..and guess what people….I JUST NOW (this week) realized that my mind is thinking, churning and processing ALL of the NEGATIVE possibilities of life,  as well!!!!

“Hold every thought captive….”

So, Wednesday, after listening to a talk in this small group I am in…and hearing the speaker quote the bible verse, “Hold every thought captive and make it obedient in Christ Jesus.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5).  I confessed to my small group.  Confessed my struggle, and shared where God wanted me to listen.

And then this morning…I read this, in the “Living Life Undaunted” book of 365 Readings and Reflections from Christine Caine….May 2nd:

body, soul, mindAnd I immediately and already knew the answer to the question. Confirmation of  God’s work in my life.

He wants me to Spiritually Exercise my MIND.

And even in the chaos, even amidst the distractions in my life, the world’s views, the enemy’s diversions…God speaks.

The problem I spoke of…it is still a “problem.”  But, I will say, the more I relinquish my mind to the issue, and don’t dwell on it, thinking of ‘all of the possibilities’, the more I let go (as another friend suggested I do, haha), the better I feel.

So, I have a challenge — a way to “spiritually exercise”.  I will be trusting, thinking on these things…anything that is good, pure and noble.  And consciously trying to hold the overwhelming flood of thoughts, brainstorms, ideas – captive in obedience to Christ Jesus.

What is the answer to your question? If you are to “exercise” the body, soul or mind, which one do you feel is the most difficult to strengthen you as you learn to follow God?  Easiest? Why? 

The Brain: Why are teens difficult?! My “adolescent brain” findings and how to support them in their awkward stages.

I have been away from the blog for quite some time.  It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been typing…..and thinking…just not in the scope of the “I am Rachel Kathleen” blog. I had to take a graduate course…to jump through … Continue reading

Do Something: Book review: “Kisses from Katie” & “Love Does” and how to see the world through a different lens, not worldly expectations.

I had some time to be in silence last week.  As I was in the quiet, I was reminded from a song, “Do something” by Matthew West, and two books that are all about acting on God’s call to live by faith.  I was reminded how important it is to MOVE, ACT and DO things for the causes of Humanity and also to express gratitude towards Jesus for all He has done for me.  Also, while listening to the song, I thought on two books that show living faith in action:  Kisses from Katie, By Katie Davis, and Love Does, By Bob Goff.

Matthew West Sings these Lyrics in “Do Something”:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God why don’t you do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said “God, why don’t you do something!?”
He said, “I did, … I created you!”

These lyrics speak to a conversation that I have had with God on many occasions.  The conversation when I feel like I just couldn’t possibly help–or the one where things in the world seem so hopeless that I just feel helpless.  I just want to do something, and sometimes it seems like there is too much to be done! (I feel like this with laundry often too!)

But, there is always hope.
And God has a heart for children, the poor, the widowed, the fatherless.

Psalm 10:14,   “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Love Does, by Bob Goff

Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Love Does, by Bob Goff

And into the book review…There are two books that amazingly demonstrate the power of God through one person who decides to listen to His voice and act or “Do Something”.

In the book Kisses from Katie, it is clear that Katie Davis is one person who listened, acted in faith, and has made an impact.  It is not a story about how amazing Katie is…It is a story of what can happen to any of us if we choose to quiet ourselves, listen to God’s voice, and then act on God’s plan (not our own), regardless of what we think or others think.  Katie’s story is so incredibly encouraging because she follows God’s word and God’s plan and shares all of the glory of God and His work.  Her book and story is really God’s story that he offers to each of us–and is so encouraging to those of us who want to follow His lead.  No, I, Rachel, can not pick up, move to Africa and adopt 10, 12, 14 girls.  That is not the story God wrote for me.  But I can do what He asks me to do where I am at.

Also, Katie writes about the pull between her family–who are awesome, amazing and wonderful and Christian.  They are well intentioned, but had plans for her to follow the normal American Dream…graduate from high school, go to college and have a successful career.  She wanted to be a nurse. God still has given her opportunity to mend and tend to sick and poor people, but just not the dreams in the way in which her parents had imagined (or that she had imagined, for that matter).

As a parent of three, I have dreams and hopes for each of my kids.   I would love for them to experience education, success and wonderful things that I have experienced…or that I haven’t had the opportunity to experience!  However, reading Katie’s story, even with her “worldly potential” being valedictorian at her high school, etc…..all of the opportunities she would have to go to an amazing college, chances to be a huge success–she listened to God’s voice of His calling.  Not the world’s.  As a follower of Jesus, it is very important that I let my children follow God’s voice, support them with good questions and prayer, and trust that God knows what He is doing.

The second book that also speaks to the pledge to “do something”, as Matthew West puts it, is Love Does  by Bob Goff.  I have had the privilege of hearing Bob speak, which helped bring to life his voice in the book.  The book is written as series of stories from Bob’s life.  Some stories are extreme and crazy and many are hilarious! Each are examples of him stepping out in faith, or sharing what he has learned from Jesus.  Bob lives boldly and his vivid personality comes through!  I SO enjoyed each chapter (each chapter is a different story), I began to read them aloud to my offspring.  The youngers loved them and were challenged to think outside the box.  I also know for a fact, that Bob Goff WILL respond to your correspondence! One of my dear friends took the challenge to contact Bob.  They ended up going to lunch with him!

Both of these books have challenged me to live more boldly in my faith.  I highly recommend both and will definitely read them again.

I hope you are inspired to put your faith into action!
Here is a YouTube of Matthew West’s Song, “Do Something”:

Valentine Projects – How to create something out of what you already have – Paper Rosette Banners

I have had my creative spark re-lit!  Something about making something pretty, nice or functional out of stuff I have already is wonderful.  It makes me smile and I get a short term feeling of accomplishment in this “always a work in progress” world!

It was already lit, but a friend, some time, and teaching a high school art class for two weeks has inspired me 🙂

Supply List: 
Scrapbook paper, scissors, hot glue gun, cardboard/chipboard, string/ribbon/twine, Glitter, Letters (chipboard, cardstock, sticker)
For the Vertical Banner:  Twill Tape and a belt ring, or re-use a twill belt/strap like I did (found at Goodwill)
 
Go, create something…even if it is small!!!!!