Christmas ADVENTure

It’s official. Christmas is a month away. It’s time to start getting the December calendar out and planning the holiday parties, end of the year school functions, and work get-togethers. For our family, we have the calendar out to start planning our annual Advent Activities

In 2009 I decided I wanted to share my love of Christmas with my kids. I wanted to do more than just decorate the tree or watch holiday movies. I decided that we would do one Christmas activity a day during December leading up to Christmas. As a homeschooling mom, I wanted to incorporate fun into our learning and learning into our fun. I wanted to take our lessons and give them a Christmas feel. I wanted to teach the kids how to use math while they learned to bake. I wanted to put into practice writing skills with movie watching and writing their own stories. But most of all, I just wanted to have fun and spend time with my kids and my husband.

Things to remember:

1. FLEXIBILITY. Each year is different. Some years I am able to plan my days out ahead of time but most years I won’t know for sure what I am doing until the week, or even the day, before. Some days we have a big activity planned where we might go to Zoo Lights or watch a movie that has lots of cooking/baking that goes with it. There are a few days we simply add “go to Hope’s school performance” or “Candlelight service at church.” It’s something that we would do normally, but makes it feel special when we put it on the calendar for the entire family to be a part of.

I have had friends who panicked at the thought of doing 25 activities so they have asked me if they could do just a week or do a “12 days of Christmas.” Sure. Why not? You have to do what works best for you, your family, your budget, and your schedule. The very first year I planned on doing one advent per day, we were well into the month when my grandfather passed away. My kids were a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to finish the month because we were on the road for a week, but it was a special time being able to share some of our activities with our family when they all gathered for the celebration of Papaw’s life. I learned real quick that flexibility is key when planning for ADVENTures.

2. EASE. Don’t make the activities too complicated. Many of our activities are simply things that we all want to do every year such as watch a Christmas movie or go look at Christmas lights. With most movies, we will incorporate some sort of food. For example, when watching The Christmas Story we eat Chinese food like the Parker family does at the end of the movie. When watching The Nativity the kids and I get together to make no-bake cookies called haystacks. After 5 years of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and not having a food to go with it, Grace came to me and said “we should make brownies because they say ‘of all the Charlie Browns, you’re the Charlie Brownie-est'”. It made me so happy that she wanted to contribute and had been paying attention to the theme of matching movies and food.

3. HAVE FUN! If you get bogged down in the details, you will lose the magic and amazement of the Advent Activity. If you aren’t having fun, then the people you are sharing the day with won’t have fun either.

4. REMEMBER THE WHY. John & I value two things. God and family. Advent Activities allow us to spend time with our kids and share with them our true meaning of Christmas. Our family starts every year with reading the accounts of Jesus birth then watching The Nativity. We do our best to do a family devotional each day leading up to Christmas. We have used the Bible App to find many different devotionals (our favorite being Carols: A Christmas Devotional). This year we are doing The Way To The Manger by Jeff & Abbey Land that we got at LifeWay.com.

Now onto the real fun. Here is the list of the Advent Activities that my family has done year after year. *At the end of the list I have included a list of activities that we have done in the Memphis area.*

NATIVITY. Read the accounts of Jesus birth in Matthew and Luke. Compare and contrast the stories. Watch The Nativity (older kids) or The Star (younger kids). Make haystacks (no bake cookies using crispy lo-mein noddles, peanut butter, marshmallow cream, and butterscotch chips).

ELF. Watch Elf. Eat spaghetti. Buffet of candies and syrup

CHRISTMAS STORY. Watch A Christmas Story. Eat Chinese food (crockpot orange chicken and homemade fried rice). Drink Ovaltine

ITS WONDERFUL. Watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Eat Italian food.

CHRISTMAS CAROL. Watch A Christmas Carol (musical with Kelsey Grammer, Disney version with Jim Carrey, The Muppets A Christmas Carol, etc.). Compare and contrast the different films. Write your own version using people you know as the characters.

GRINCH. Read then watch the classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Eat roast beast or green eggs & ham

CHARLIE BROWN. Make brownies. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

GINGERBREAD. Decorate gingerbread houses (I buy kits from Kroger or Michaels; I use Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men instead of making my own). Watch Shrek and Shrek The Halls. Read the Gingerbread Man books by Lauren Murray

POLAR EXPRESS. Put on pajamas. Make crockpot hot chocolate. Read then watch The Polar Express. Drink hot hot hot hot chocolate and eat cookies.

REINDEER GAMES. Play board games while watching Rudolph. Make dips (from kits) to eat so you have one hand free for playing and one hand to eat with.

SIBLING GIFT*. Split up into two teams. Buy gifts for your sibling. Go home and wrap gifts

*this is my kids FAVORITE Advent. They love the one on one time with each parent and they enjoy thinking of others. We make a day of it: shop, eat, wrap

CAROLING. Find fun hats. Go caroling and deliver gifts to friends

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. Pile in the car and look for Christmas lights. Drink hot chocolate or eat holiday-flavored ice cream. Or both.


Memphis Area ADVENTures

-Nighttime at the Memphis Zoo lights

-Pink Palace Enchanted Forest and Festival of Trees

-Christmas Lights at Shelby Farms in Memphis or Southern Lights at Central Park in Southaven

-Drive through nativity at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch

-the March of the Ducks at the Peabody

-check out the holiday shows and movies at the Orpheum

-The Singing Christmas Tree at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova

-Holiday Wonders at the Botanical Gardens

-Southaven Christmas Parade of Lights

-Collierville Christmas Parade. Tree lighting with Santa at the square.

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

October 1st to December 31st is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I love fall. Yes, the colors of the trees changing make me smile. Yes, I do get out my Christmas decorations super early and start planning for the holidays (more on that In the next post). But those aren’t the only things I love about the holiday time.

When I met John 20 years ago it was pretty much love at first sight. We immediately started talking about our future. Where were we gonna spend our holidays and who was going to sacrifice? Would we go to see his family then mine on Thanksgiving? Would we do Thanksgiving with one then Christmas with the other? I was very excited when I found out that John loved Thanksgiving as much as I loved Christmas. We wouldn’t have to sacrifice anything. We could do Thanksgiving with John’s family and uphold their traditions and do Christmas, which is my favorite holiday, with my family. John LOVES Thanksgiving. The food. The focus. The family. Everything. On Thanksgiving Thursday we would spend the day with John’s maternal family. There was always turkey and ham, tons of sides and lots of desserts. We would spread out over his grandparents house in Central Arkansas to eat and visit with family we usually only saw once a year. Then on Friday we drove an hour north to his paternal grandparents home where we had sandwiches and appetizers and peanut brittle … and we would celebrate Christmas! It made me so happy. They did this because they knew that Christmas is a busy time and it’s hard to get all the family back together just 4 weeks later. We drew names and exchanged gifts and just had a wonderful Thanks-Mas.

In 2011 I was in a funk. John didn’t have a job and he was in school full time. We were in the midst of our “faith journey” (following God has John prepared for full-time ministry). November was approaching and I realized that I was losing my excitement for Thanksgiving. I was so excited for Christmas that I was glossing over Thanksgiving. I began daily writing down one thing that I was thankful for. I posted my list on Facebook so I could be reminded each year of the ways God took care of me and for others to be inspired to do the same. I’ve done this every year since.

“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:6-7‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Each year on January 1st, our family “prays through a word.” We have been through “joy”, “believe”, “faith”, and “trust” (and many more). All words that turned inward. They were things that I could do to better myself and allow God to work in me. It was time for a change. I wanted my daily life to be saturated with God and what He was doing in my life and a way to give back to Him, so I choose the word “Gratitude.” Each day I would come up with something that God had done that day to remind me that He is in control and blessing me. 365 days. Some days it was easy. A home. My family. A friend. Church. But some days I really had to think hard about it. But these challenging days helped me to find God in the madness. It was beautiful. It helped me to fall in love with God every single day and remind myself what all He does for me. It was sad for me when the new year rolled around and I wasn’t posting every day all that God was blessing me with. I enjoyed the intentionality of looking for ways to find God and His blessings for my life. I was eager for November 2019 to begin so I could start my daily “Thanksgiving Blessings” list (I know I can do this every day and don’t have to wait for November. But God has given me a new word to focus on this year).

Even though November has already started, go ahead and start your daily Thanksgiving list. It’s not too late. It truly is a blessing to see what God is doing in your life and see how He blesses you all day, every day.


2011

“Never be surprised, but always be in AWE”~Mark McEuen, refering to God’s blessings.

Tonight, I was IN AWE of my Heavenly Father when a friend brought over 30 bags of groceries & toiletries for our family. She did not know that we were down to our last items in the pantry, but God did. HE IS AMAZING!


2012

THANKFULNESS, DAY 17: Second Chances

God has given me 2nd, 3rd, 4th … the list goes on. But I am extremely grateful to the Lord this year for second chances in regards to this baby. I had my [miscarriage] surgery on MAY 12 and Mother’s Day was MAY 14. Michael Whitehead sent me a text on Mother’s Day that I still have: A very special Mother’s day to you, I know this one will be different, God feels you today & loves you so much.

God has truly shown his SECOND CHANCES this year. My due date for this baby is MAY 14 … a year to the day of Mother’s Day, just two days after my surgery. How special I am to have a God who loves me & gives me second chances!


2013

DAY 26: John’s call

I am proud & excited that John has embraced and us obedient to God’s call into the ministry.

I grew up with a music minister as a dad and John grew up in the home of a pastor. We both know how hard this is, but he is still willing to serve.

John loves the children’s ministry. He has so much fun acting, being crazy, and hanging out with kids…but his passion is for Christ and his desire is that every child will learn about Jesus.


2014

Thanksgiving Blessing

Day 8: my mothers legacy

Today I am celebrating my moms birthday by being with friends and doing the thing she loved: scrapbooking.

I scrapbooked the photos I took of her hands. Her beautiful hands were those of a servant. “Honor her for all that her hands have done and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” Prov 31:31


2015

BLESSINGS DAY 15: multi-generational church

I love that my kids are being ministered to by every walk of life, every age. From a student serving in the nursery to an 80+ year old great grandma giving out hugs, my needs are met at Broadway Bapt Church


2016

“Do everything you say or do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Always give thanks to God the Father through Christ.”

– ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

BLESSINGS, Day 14

My lil’ blessings

I am grateful that I got to spend the day with my kids. I love them so much & enjoy their company. And hugs. And kisses. And giggles.


2017

Branson with friends

10 trips, many hair colors, a million laughs … and a few secrets!


2018

Gratitude, Day 330: homeschooling

Some days are fun, some days are difficult, and all days are rewarding. Spending extra time with my kids, teaching them, doing our devotional together. All the time we spend together is a blessed time. Even if we do get on each other’s nerves…because we are together. It’s not for everyone, but for us, it works!

I am so grateful that God called me on this journey 18 years ago. I knew when I was pregnant with Sean that I was going to be his teacher and we would learn together. It’s been a joy, honor, and privilege to stay at home and teach my kids


2019

Thanksgiving Blessings, Day 2: technology

My dad (Phill L. Wilson) & Wenjuan just made it to Thailand after 6 months in China. I was pleased to wake up to 40+ videos from Wenjuan this morning 😂 I watched every single one … sometimes twice. This one of my dad saying “hello, Megan” I may have watched a dozen times. I am grateful for the chance to “travel around with them” on their adventures and “talk” to them. Wenjuan is very intentional on making sure he greets me at least once a week. And “proof of life” videos as we commonly refer to them gives me a peace of mind as they travel throughout Asia. Today I am extremely grateful for phones and apps that allow us to keep in touch (especially after 12 hours of no WiFi in our last night 🙄). #thanksgiving #blessings #technology #hifromasia

Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it

Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it – Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables

My most favorite-ist movie in the whole entire world is Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea. I watch it every year as soon as the first hints of fall waft through the air. I dream that I am running alongside that Anne-girl on the shores of Prince Edward Island, taking in lunch at the White Sands Hotel, and walking the dusty lane to the Lake of Shimmering Waters. We pick Queen Anne’s lace and braid each other’s hair. We sip raspberry cordial in the parlor and feast on cakes and pudding. We quote poetry and make up our own sonnets as we read Tennison by the fireside. And after a very Jonah Day, she gives my favorite words of wisdom: tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.

This always reminds me of the verse from Lamentations 3. His mercies are new every morning. What a wonderful promise!

I was reading about another promise that He gives us in Isaiah.

The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with winds like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (40:28b-31)

This weekend we celebrated my son’s 19th birthday. I have been doing Weight Watchers for 2 months. I’m down 15 lbs and would really like to lose 15 more by Thanksgiving. Knowing we had birthday plans coming up, I carefully tried to plan ahead my points and prep my body for a day of celebration. However, the celebrating started a little early when I decided on Friday to go to Krispy Kreme to get the donuts for Saturday’s birthday breakfast. It’s been a tradition for over 10 years that we start our birthday morning with donuts. However, the smell of those delicious pastries was more than I could stand so as soon as we got home, everyone (except Sean who was at work) unceremoniously took a donut to tide us over to party day. As I indulged, I felt gross and shame, telling myself this was the beginning of the end for me this weekend, then I pushed the thought from my head and finished the last bite. The next morning I decided to do better. “I will make better choices”, I told myself. One donut instead of two. One serving of pancakes at IHOP would be plenty. One piece of pizza for supper. No coke. However, by the time supper rolled around I was frustrated and hungry. I cried as I thought about scrambled eggs and turkey for supper instead of pizza. In a moment of shear weakness, I ate yet another donut and warmed up a hot pocket. That hot pocket still haunts me. It didn’t satisfy. I was filled with regret. I went to bed disappointed and dis-heartened. Sunday rolled around. Sunday is a day where the church provides breakfast and Granny provides lunch. Normally on Sundays I take my own shake to avoid the donut stand, but I ran out of time and didn’t make one. I resigned myself to the donut brought to me by Hope. At Granny’s I chose small portions of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and homemade pound cake. When supper arrived, all I was craving was a Freddy’s cheeseburger and fries with their fry sauce. As we pulled into the parking lot, I remembered a piece of paper I stuck in my Bible that morning. In 4th grade Sunday School, we talked about Jesus coming back and what that means for us during the interim. Each girl got to pick a card that said “If Jesus has the power to return, how should I … “. Without looking, I drew a card. It said “if Jesus has the power to return, how should I take care of my body.” Very convicting as I knew what a crazy weekend of eating I had had.

As I lamented to John about how I had struggled this weekend to eat right and really beat myself up about it, the kids tried to encourage me and tell me how Monday was the start of a new week and I could start over again. And I kept thinking “only with Jesus help. Lord, give me strength.” Grace insisted we could walking the next day and Sean told me that I had plenty of time to walk and get back on track. In the midst of us eating, my WW buddy texted and said “I’ve been eating terribly [this weekend]. Tomorrow is a better day and the start of a new week. Gotta get back at it…let’s keep each other accountable this week.”

I woke up this morning, trying to decide if I really wanted to walk. I sat down to do my devotional and Isaiah 40 was the topic: God gives your strength. These verses renewed my spirit.

TODAY I will do better! TODAY I will take care of my body in what I eat and drink. I will exercise and go for a walk. I will honor God with the way I treat my body. Today, His mercies are new. It is a fresh day with no mistakes in it. TODAY I will ask God for strength and I know He will grant it to me. He has already given me people to keep me accountable.

What is it that God needs to give you strength for? Something physically, just getting out of bed when the pain is unbearable? Homework, schoolwork, and tests? Being a busy mom or dad? Dealing with lacking faith? Depression? Call on Him for strength. Allow Him to grant you the new mercies of the day. TODAY is fresh with no mistakes in it!

*starting a new day, fresh, with no mistakes in it*

Chocolates of the Spirit

A month ago I made a change that I never imagined. I texted my sister and said “I’m officially turning into mom now. I’ve joined Weight Watchers and I’m exercising to ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” My life has now come full circle to a time when I remember my mom trying the different diets and exercise videos. I remember very clearly working out with my mom and Richard Simmons in our living room when I was just 7 or 8. Now my kids will get to share those same memories 😂

I started WW just a few days before we left for our second church camp of the summer. So many people told me what a bad idea that was, but it was actually the best time for it. For one, it held me back from gorging all week long. Two, I was able to recognize my unhealthy eating habits. Some choices I have made over the years have been mindless decisions to just eat and not even realize it.

When I was growing up, my mom struggled with her weight. I always found her beautiful no matter what size she was, but she detested her body. I understand that now. When my dad got married for the first time, they planned a big wedding. I was determined to lose the weight, make my mom proud. Over several months, I lost 25 lbs. It was a goal that I met and that’s it. I wasn’t prepared to keep it up. I just wanted to lose the weight to fit into a dress. After the wedding, I was so depressed and disappointed that without thinking, I gained all that weight back. I didn’t even see it coming. It just happened. I remember going to the ER with heart issues and the doctor asking if I’d been under any stress the last 6 months. “Does my dad getting married count?” I gained more weight. Then a month later I went to get my hair cut and the stylist asked “have you been under any stress the last 6 months? Your hair is thinning from stress.” Same answer. Same result. I gained more weight. In the end, I gained 35 lbs. I didn’t know how it happened, but I realized that I needed to make changes. My friend Jamie told me about her success with WW. I had already been doing research and saw that many studies showed it was the best program for losing and maintaining weight. I signed up … then went to camp. I started the week out trying to make good decisions. Water only. Walking several miles a day. Limited snacks. I was feeling good. It was tough at times, but I was making the best decisions I could under the circumstances. Then Thursday hit. I was tired and weary. In the afternoon, we needed to run into town to get some things. I was standing at the checkout, complaining about an incident that had happened earlier in the day and bought myself a piece of my favorite chocolate. The girl put it in the bag and before I had even paid, I opened up the chocolate and popped it in my mouth. Without missing a beat, Betsy gently said “I have some Fiber One brownies in the car if you want one?” I must’ve glared at her because she simply said “I think you are stress eating.” I whirled around and looked to Anita for reinforcement. Anita just nodded her head in agreement. Lightbulb moment. Had I really been eating when I was stressed? Had I lost all self-control?

The Fruits of the Spirit are: peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Unfortunately, they aren’t called the “chocolates of the spirit”. We need to be healthy spiritually AND physically. I finally feel that I have found peace in my self-control.

In 1 month I’ve lost 8 lbs. I have no idea where they went. I don’t feel smaller, but I do feel stronger. And sore. All the time 🙄 I’ve made some discoveries about myself and how I view food. I’m making the necessary changes to get my life in control and eat healthier. I wanna be around for a long time. I want my kids to see how to eat well and know that I care about myself. I want them to be proud of me. I’m actually looking forward to taking care of me, for once. Some days I feel like all I do is count points and exercise, but those days are fewer and far between. I have a weight-loss goal. I also have a goal of being happier and healthier. God has blessed me with this life and I want to honor Him with a healthy body. I want to be on this earth for a long time with my family. And I want to be able to handle the day-to-day stresses of life without depending on food to comfort me. That’s what God is for. He is my comfort in all times of trouble


My workout buddies. Such encouragement!

THIS IS A SAFE PLACE

We are preparing to go to camp and in order to be a chaperone, the camp asked each adult to watch a series of videos and take a quiz. I struggled to block out an hour of my busy day and decided to wait until Hope was asleep so I could watch uninterrupted. Around 8:45 she finally fell asleep and was snoring heavily. I took the opportunity to start the videos on my phone. I settled into bed, lights off and fan on high. The title of the first video was “The Definitions and Effects of Sexual Abuse and Child Molestation.” I quickly put down my phone and held back the tears. I snatched up my phone, swiped the app shut, and texted John (who, yes, was just in the next room). I texted out the following message: I’m not sure I’m emotionally able to watch the LifeWay videos. I know I have to and I will try my best.

I heard him rustle around in the next room and he quietly entered where I was. He whispered in the dark “you don’t have to watch it tonight, Baby. It can wait.” He slipped back out of the room and I prayed. “Lord, give me the strength.” I picked up my phone and hit the play button. I got about 2 1/2 minutes in and began to sob uncontrollably. I had thrown my phone down somewhere on the bed and covered my face when I heard John walk in. He gently sat beside the bed and tried to comfort me. “This is a safe place, Megan. There is no one here who wants to hurt you. You are in a safe place.” I don’t know how many more times he repeated that. Maybe a dozen or more. Bless his sweet heart, he had no other words to comfort me, but he tried desperately to calm me down as I began to hyperventilate. “This is a safe place. No one can hurt you. You are safe.” I finally composed myself. I had never reacted that way before. It was unsettling.

I began apologizing to John for my hysterics and I stopped myself from saying “I am so sorry that I am broken … “ The lyrics to “Just As I Am” by Travis Cottrell flooded my mind.

I come broken to be mended, I come wounded to be healed. I come desperate to be rescued, I come empty to be filled … and I’m welcome with open arms, praise God, just as I am

John left to get me some water and I thought “that’s Hope’s age.” I just had to hold her and hug her and pray over her. I prayed over my 6 year old. “I was 6 once …” my thoughts trailed. “May my children never experience something so terrible, that fundamentally changes you into a totally different person.”

John came back in the room and prayed over me. “… Lord, hold her and give her a peace that surpasses all understanding. God, love my wife.” He left after I assured him that I would be fine. I picked my phone up again. I had been texting with my dear friend Laura earlier in the evening and I texted to tell her why there was such a delay. We talked it out and she said “I am praying that God grants you a peace that surpasses all understanding.” He certainly answered their prayers. Peace washed over me. Peace that didn’t come from me.

As I laid in bed and tried to settle down, I searched my Facebook for a post that I had made the year before. I had attended a women’s conference and had posted the following:


Today I had the privilege of attending the gatHER Women’s Conference. The theme this year was “My Story … His glory.” Things I have known for years were finally made clear to me today…

When I was 5 years old, the 18 year old neighbor took me into a room and hurt me. Although God blocked specific memories from my mind for many years, the emotional and physical scars it caused stayed with me. Daily. It led me down a path of searching for approval, anxiety, confusion, and destruction. For decades I felt ashamed and dirty. For years I felt worried and confused. I began to ask myself “How can God use me? Would people want or allow me to work in ministry if they knew that I was damaged goods?” “You’re not good enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re unclean.” Whispers in my head filled with lies. “They know your secret. They know you are disgusting. So unworthy.” This one moment in time shaped who I was and how I perceived my relationship with God. Unworthy. Unrighteous. The actions of another made me feel unlovable and unforgivable. But today, I realized something…

We sang a song today that literally knocked the breath out of me

“I keep fighting voices in my head that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I won’t measure up …

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours

And I believe, oh I believe

What You say of me”

Salvation means that we have been delivered. That we are set free. Today I found the forgiveness toward someone that I had held bitterness for. Today I found freedom from the thoughts and lies that have flooded my life for so long. Today I found the freedom that I have so longed for for over 30 years. Today I focused not on the hurt, but on the healing. Today Jesus assured me that I AM FREE!


That was 11 months ago. And I still feel that way. I feel free from the bitterness and lack of forgiveness (for myself and my molester) I felt for so long. But in that one video clip, it all came rushing back to me. The pain, the torture from years of thinking I was worthless; sick to my stomach, overwhelmed by the weight of feeling dirty, angry, scared. In the dark, for a split second, I heard a voice whisper “This is a safe place.” It wasn’t John. It was the Father. Wrapping His arms around me, blocking out the voices in my own head, simply saying “you are MY child and this is a safe place!

If you have a similar experience, please know you can talk to me. It really is a safe place. I will listen. And know you can talk to God. He has the ultimate safe place, in His presence.

MOOD

By Grace

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:15‬

Recently while watching The Hobbit (all three of them in one day, because I am that nerd), I thought about what a relatable character Bilbo Baggins is. I don’t really know what it is about him, but several times throughout the three movies, I found myself thinking, “That would be me if I were the protagonist of a story.”

Funny, isn’t it? How often do you think something like that while doing … well, anything? A while back, after I had tripped and laughed at myself, a friend of mine chuckled, and said simply, “Me.” Somehow, for some reason, that’s just what we say now. “Me,” or “I would totally do that,” or “Relatable.” Sometimes even just “Mood” (Not something I have heard often until I spent a weekend with twelve of my peers). When we watch TV and movies, or read books, or play video games, or scroll through pages of social media accounts of celebrities we admire, we always tend to gravitate towards the one person we find relatable. A relatable character or person is very important to us, because we long for someone who understands us. Especially as teenagers, we want to be understood and have someone sympathize with us. We love characters that represent us, because we believe that they know what we’re going through.

I’m not exactly sure where this longing comes from, but it really is everywhere, especially in lonely people. I am a slightly lonely person, and I love relatable characters, too. Bilbo Baggins? Totally me. Peter Parker? I would definitely do… most of what he does. Charlie Brown? Mood. Doesn’t even matter what he’s doing or how he’s feeling, I relate. I can sympathize with him, and I know he could sympathize with me.

“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownie-est”

So, for all of you lonely people, I have good news. Jesus sympathizes with you. Whatever you’re going through, He understands. No matter how you’re hurting, He gets it. He can relate. Jesus knows you, and He knows how you feel, because He’s been there. He’s suffered in every way you have. Anytime you’re feeling lonely, or like no one understands you, or like no one knows you or what you’re going through, remember that Jesus does. And He’s there whenever you need Him. He’s there to talk or listen or just be a shoulder to cry on. Jesus is your comfort and your joy because He understands.

Jesus Got It Wrong?

I was the person you came to when you needed something done. I was the person who you came to if someone was sick and needed a substitute teacher or a dish for the potluck. I was the person you came to because I never said “no”. There was an understanding around the office in the Children’s Department that if you needed anything done, just leave a sticky note on Megan’s desk and it would get done.

One year at VBX (Vacation Bible eXtreme) I had a real “ah ha” moment. We were prepping for VBX and I was in charge of purchasing supplies and all the set up for the various age groups. My 20 hour work week went to 50+ as we prepped the week before. The week before VBX was always very chaotic, whether that’s writing our own curriculum, filming movies to go along with the theme, or buying craft & snack supplies for 400 kids. This particular VBX, however, was stranger than normal. The week before VBX we discovered that the spouse of one of our key team members was having an affair. It was devastating for our team. We hurt for her spiritually and physically. We did our best to comfort her and allow her time to grieve and save her marriage. But this was right in the middle of us taking registration forms online, which she was in charge of. Our Children’s Pastor asked me to take over registration and I received a crash course on how not only to take the registrations, but carefully place each child in their group. It was a very involved process, but I was able to figure it out. Then the day before VBX, one of our Bible Study leaders had to quit so she could care for her ailing father out of state. Again, he approached me about taking on the job of teaching kindergarteners the Bible Story, 4 times per day. I had less than 24 hours to prep. But I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. I went to Bible college. I had read these stories over and over. I CAN DO THIS! I repeated to myself “God loves a servant.” Little did I know what the first story would be. In the midst of all the studying and registration, my daughter Grace began throwing up. I had no one to watch her, so she came with me to my classroom, where I made a pallet for her in the closet with a trashcan and saltine crackers. Did I mention this was all just 4 weeks after a miscarriage and surgery? It was a crazy time.

As I read my lesson over with gusto, I began to realize I was not properly prayed up. I had spent time trying to prepare to serve, not preparing to learn from Him. I had read the story of Mary & Martha many times, and honestly, I’ve always thought that Jesus got it wrong. How could he chastise Martha? All she was trying to do was serve her Savior. All she wanted was to help. All I ever want to do is say “yes” to the Master. Then it hit me. Where is the fellowship? Where is the relationship? Serving in Jesus name is admirable, honorable, noble, but it’s not what God asks of us. He values our relationship with Him. He desires to know us. All these years, I felt that I had been doing what was asked of me out of a desire to serve, and even merit my way into God’s blessing…forgetting that what was important was time with Him. How can you serve a Savior if you don’t even know Him?

““Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬

Sometimes we are pulled in so many different directions that we don’t make time for what really matters. We get asked to teach a Sunday School or Bible Study, teach VBS, or counsel a family in need. But when our tank is on empty, we are ineffective. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit daily. And if we are always helping others, we may be missing out on HIS teaching.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:4-5‬

*Here are a few of my favorite pics from VBX that year. It really was a great week and God taught me so much. It was a blessing to spend time with Him and teach others about Him.

**John and Heath wrote and made a movie that was shown at all 4 campuses that year. It was very exciting!