Christmas is Coming! {Bring Your Inner Child}

Christmas Ornament Collage ~ Simplystriving CC

He plunges into the tinsel bag eagerly. I catch my warning before it’s uttered and sigh in relief when his five-year-old hand retreats with only a few strands. And as he runs to the tree, I hear him humming his favorite Christmas Carol.

With precision, he hangs each silver strand just the way he wants it. His slippered feet patter on the hardwood as he asks his dad if he wants to come and lend a hand.

After much attention, we all step back and admire our handiwork. All six feet of it. The same tree I tried to replace years ago. The one my husband and I joke about — how it’s so fake it’s nearly real as I end up vacuuming up pine needles into spring.

And my boy, all four feet of him, he says it best:

“Mom, it’s the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen!”

I look again and see the ornaments he’s been making since preschool. I see the carpenter’s nail hung right in front as a reminder. And as I glance over and see my husband and I’s 14 year history together all hung in one place, I couldn’t agree more.

It is the most beautiful tree I’d ever laid eyes on. Thank you, child, for helping me see.

I’m not sure when our perspective changes. When we get too tall to truly see the glory displayed right in front of us…

This year, I’m striving to bend low. I’m approaching the manger on my knees as I reflect on the miraculous beauty that was gifted to me thousands of years ago. And as I contemplate the significance of a lofty manger, a smelly stable, an un-sanitized birthing room, I’ll step back and say:

“Father, it’s the most beautiful display of love I’ve ever seen!”

Friends, do you see it? Will you join me here down low, look up with me and proclaim His splendor? How will you celebrate the Reason of the Season this week? I’d love to hear.

And in true Music Monday fashion, I invite you to join me and my five-year old as we sing his favorite Christmas song:

Christmas is Coming

by Jason Gray

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Enter Into His Presence {Christmas Style}

.
When I think of anticipation,
I recall the all-familiar
scene in
“The
Christmas Story”
.

You know the one — where they are anxiously waiting for their moment with Santa. Ralphie’s rehearsing what he will say until it’s perfect. You can almost hear his heart pounding in expectation of what he considers the most defining moment of his young life.

Finally, his time has come, and as he approaches the man dressed in red, he freezes.

Ralphie’s mouth gapes wide. He stares at the one he’s been envisioning, his well-prepared speech weighing heavy on his tongue.

Whether he’s in shock, awe, or disappointment, I still can’t decide — maybe all the above… Regardless, he almost misses his chance to share what he longs for most.

burning-thru-the-fog-Courtesy of Greg Abel Photography

Friends, when we approach our Creator — hopefully every day — we are having that defining moment.

Think about it…

When we pray, we are walking up to the King of all Kings. The Jehovah. The Alpha and Omega.

We don’t have to travel far and wide, long and rugged like those wise men of old. We don’t have to leave our sheep behind to stand before Him personally. He’s already here with arms open wide. Inviting us into His chamber…

It should make our heart palpitate. Our souls should arrive humbled and yet expectant. Knowing this moment is sacred. Acknowledging this time is life-changing.

The best part? (Besides not having to wait in line) We don’t have to rehearse a thing. He already knows what’s on our minds. But if we can muster up enough strength to say it to Him directly, we’ll find what Ralphie was searching for.

Redemption.

Fulfillment.

Relationship.

Answers.

I’m not sure, but maybe it’s all the above.

This Christmas Season, let’s find out together. Let’s allow our hearts to flutter when we bring our meager selves to Him. And let’s tell Him what we long for most as we bring our souls to His knees.

I don’t know about you, but I can already hear Him saying, “Come…”

And do you know what else, friends…He knows our name.

How about you? How do you prepare for your time with The Savior? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Hallelujah {The Highest Phrase}

robinspinetree2-M

It took a homeless man to remind me. That no matter what, why, where, when, how, praise always applies.

Hallelujah is truly the highest phrase. (SEE VIDEO HERE)

And this Season, as we proclaim our glory to God in the Highest, I’m striving to put it to practice.

Can my every breath sing hallelujah?

Can I give Him all my Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh?

Would I travel far and wide, no matter how long it takes, just to follow His Light?

Just to give Him my humble cry of Hallelujah?

Is my hallelujah enough?

Oh how I wish I knew. How I long to say yes to each of these. I’m striving…

But friends, one thing I do know.

HE IS ENOUGH.

No matter what, why, where, when, how, He deserves my hallelujah.

So I will find the hallelujahs of today. I will give all I have to Him–whether it be gold or … my attention. I will proclaim His glory in the highest and allow His peace to rain here on earth. On me.

He deserves my hallelujah. The highest phrase for the highest praise.

Will you join me? This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and its message portrays this brilliantly. I’m sharing this video clip so we can focus on the lyrics, although THIS CLIP is my favorite and official video of:

A Hallelujah Christmas

performed by Cloverton

How about you, friend? How will you bring your hallelujah this Season? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

God Rest {and Tidings of Joy}

Dayspring Redeemed Christmas

My heart skips with each flip of the Advent Calendar and I wonder when it switched. When the act of waiting turned into scurrying. When the anxiousness of getting there transformed into wanting more time before it arrives.

As I’m lost in my thoughts, my son asks me what they’re singing on the radio…

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from satan’s power
When we were gone astray…

How have I missed it? The archaic verbage doesn’t help, but why have I thought this struggle of rushing was a new thing when they’ve been singing about it for more than 200 years?

If you research it, there are many discussions on what the first line really means. The word ‘rest’ is said to translate more literally into ‘keep’ or ‘make’. But it was the comma I’ve never paid attention to before.

It’s not God , Rest…we’re not pleading for it.
It’s God Rest…no comma — it’s given freely.

Friends, we’re not merry without the first part –rest– being given directly from God.

God rest. Yes, that’s what I need.

Clearly I’m no English savant, but no one will be able to talk me out of this invitation to take His yolk and discover joy.

Thank You, Father, for offering Your shoulder this Season to soak in the love You poured down long ago. I can’t think of a better way to display it than a birth of a child.

And may I never get over Your grace as You offer time and time again to save us from the enemy’s grip. Yes, Jesus, please…pull me in closer this Advent… 

Friends, I’m tired of excuses. No more “too busy” for me.

We get so caught up with life we forget to live.

We get so wrapped up in giving
we neglect the greatest gift of all.

Dayspring Christmas Cards

So as I sit amid the gift paper, tinsel fragments, and tape residue, I’ll slow down and write it all out. I’ll be thankful I forgot to order photo cards so I can personalize each one. And I’ll share with family and friends what this season means to me and what I’m hoping they savor all year-long.

Friends, let’s make praise our priority this Season as we declare the final stanzas:

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;

This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface:

Oh tidings of comfort and joy….
Comfort and Joy.
Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy.

And how can we send tidings of comfort and joy when we haven’t filled up ourselves?

Let’s take more time with Him this Season. Let’s rest in Him. He’s offering…

How about you, friend? How are you finding rest in Him this Season? How are you sharing tidings of comfort and joy? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This is a part of my Advent Series where I take portions of Christmas Hymn Classics and share what they mean to me. You may find others HERE.

Please know I was gifted with cards, an advent calendar, coasters and a mug this Christmas Season by Dayspring. I love each one but know this gift hasn’t altered my post in any way. All ideas expressed here are my own.

His Law is Love {And His Gospel is Peace}

STRIKEA-M-1

I can barely make it through the newscast. No amount of hand writhing can soothe the ache that burns hot in my chest. I’m pleading for Jesus to come quickly, while striving not to ask “Why?!?”

Because I don’t want to be able to make sense of something so senseless.

There’s never a reason good enough for acting so atrocious…

My soul tries to calm as it reminds me of words I’d just heard sung:

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.

Friends, I ache for the mothers left gaping over something so cruel and unusual. I can’t find the words worthy enough to provide any type of ointment and yet I long to soothe them somehow. Touch their skin, hold them up and encourage them to breathe. Slow and steady.

It’s what we’re reminded to do while birthing our children into this world…
and it’s the reminder we need when they’re ripped away from us.

I know God feels the same way. He mourns for how we treat His own children…this wasn’t a part of His will. But by His grace, He’ll include it. For His plan will prevail.

What gets me riled up is we’ve had the answer to our weakness for over two thousand years. He’s told us what we need. We’ve been singing it for nearly 200 years. The same song with one lyrical line providing the solution:

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Oh friends, if we just took His suggestion His commandment seriously. If only we could live out His Golden Rule like our lives depended on it.

It really is all about His love.

And if we included Him in our everydays and abided by the laws of His love, the gospel of peace would ring true.

I’ll never pretend to understand why we do some things we do. But I can follow His example. I can love till the bitter end. And if I only experience peace in my heart this side of heaven, it will be enough. For it was all I could govern.

Friends, I can control how I look at someone I don’t understand.

It’s not up to me to figure out their why…

I’m called to love. Just as He loves me.

Relentlessly. Despite my unworthiness.

None of us deserve Him.
None of us have earned freedom.
None of us have anything to offer He doesn’t already have.

But we can strive to love. To emulate His grace and mercy to even those we’d rather write off as hopeless.

Oh if we lived that way, I believe we’d know what peace looked like. I’m starting to see it in my own self…as I throw sense aside and put on my lens of love and truly see what He’s after.

I see their faces today on television and long to offer my shoulder. To combine our salty tears and leave them on the altar together. To extend His arms of love…

My palms open as I invite Him in. And I can’t help but do what the song suggests we do:

Fall on your knees.

Friends, we can’t do this alone. We need Him permeating our lives. We need our Good Shepherd.

Let’s worship Him this week. With everything we’ve got. Let’s love on those He loves. No matter what. And let’s mean the song we’re singing this Season, “O Holy Night” as we offer:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name!

How about you, friend? How can you abide by His law of love this week? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

And please, pray for those affected by this horrific tragedy. May they cling to His steadfast arms and feel His loving embrace today…

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This wasn’t what I intended on sharing today, but is still a part of my Advent Series where I share lyrics from the traditional Christmas Hymns and what they mean to me. I know I’ve shared this song already, but my heart had to go further…thank you for grace! You can view others like this HERE.

 

My Letter to Mary

barn_door

Mary, when I consider women worth striving to emulate, your name comes to mind. Not because I would have wanted your life, but because you knew how to live yours.

What you understood as early as your teenage years I have yet to fully grasp. And I believe I’m getting it now. I think I know where my problem lies.

I’m holding on too tight when I should be letting go.

That’s what it is, isn’t it.

I picture you on your journey with the man you’re hoping to grow old with. Full term. Uncomfortable on every platform imaginable and I wonder:

  • Did the conversation flow smoothly between you and Joseph?
  • Were you contracting on and off?
  • Did you have any idea what to expect with your marriage, your future, your immediate family?
  • Did you feel ready to meet this miracle of a baby?
  • Were you able to talk openly with Joseph about your fears? About your pain? Or did you try to hide as much as possible?
  • Did you comfort him when he presumably felt like an utter failure for not being able to provide better accommodations?
  • How did you handle the smell while breathing deep?
  • Did you feel alone? Or was living in His will enough?

My mind can’t help but sing the all familiar “Mary Did You Know” song when I contemplate talking with you. But that song is sorely lacking. Because I don’t want a yes or no answer. What I really want to know is:

How did you handle what you didn’t know?

These are things I plan on asking you when the opportunity arises. Even while typing those words I realize how silly that would be.

I’m doing it again, aren’t I. Getting caught up–holding on too tight to the details when I should be letting go.

Tell me, Mary, does it get easier with practice?

Of all the capable women, of all the more suitable prospects, God picked you to carry the greatest treasure this world will ever know. He chose you. Mary, how does that feel? Was it your humbleness that made it possible to say “yes” to the proposition?

I’m picturing you sitting across from me, sipping your chai latte, chuckling at my naive-ness. Because, yes, I can hear You, Lord.

You picked me, too…didn’t You, Father.

He asks the question to every believer:
Will you love Me with all that you’ve got?

And I realize, I am the one who has everything to gain by saying ‘yes’ as He’s already shown He’d give it all up for me.

Mary, thank you.

Thank you for paving the way for girls like me to see anything is possible to those who love Him.

Thank you for showing me life is way more adventurous while living out His will.

Thank you for bearing the pain, the ring of fire, so that I might be saved.

Thank you for saying yes. No matter the cost.

If you can do it, so can I. I can give Him control…I can live a life of worship. By your example.

And Mary said:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord and
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of the

humble state of His servant…
for the Mighty One has done great things for me
Holy is His Name.
Luke 1:46-49

How about you, friend? Can you let it all go and give your whole self to Him? Like Mary? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

All Hopes and Fears Are Met

corncrib

It’s when the moon invites quiet I notice it most. When I wonder how I let it get this bad.

Me…the one striving for delight with a life built on simple.

It becomes nearly comical how much we can truly whittle away. How little we need to survive with joy overflowing. And I make mental note of things I plan to erase off lists. For I can do better than this. I can slow down more to truly see the reason for the season…

As I clear my mind of life’s clutter, it hits me. Right there on the screen while singing it with my church family:

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in Thee tonight.

And I wonder how I’ve missed it all these years.

We talk about it all the time. I memorized the beatitudes ages ago. I know I don’t need to worry, or fret…

But friends, do you see it? Do you see how I’ve glanced over the first part while being so focused on the latter?

Our hopes have been met!

My breath catches as I realize I have been given another gift…a small glimpse at how much He loves me.

For what more could I hope for that my Jesus hasn’t already given me?

What more could I need than that which He has already provided?

I’ve said it before and keep receiving proof of how much it’s true. Friends, He’s got this. Whatever we face today, He’s already taken care of. Any hopes and fears we meet along the years, He’s got them covered.

His name Emmanuel? We can take that literally!

And I belt out the final stanza with ease as I claim it for my own:

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
          …
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel!

How about you, friend? What fears or hopes has He met for you lately? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Note: These lyrics were taken from the all familiar Christmas Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem. This post is a part of my Advent series where I share my favorite stanzas of our cherished Christmas hymns and reveal what they mean to me. You may see other posts like this HERE.

 

How Do You Let Jesus Be Born in You?

Friends, I’m excited to introduce you to Dolly today. What a gift she has been to me. She’s a blogging buddy turned real-life friend that is actually willing to talk to this introverted soul via phone!

Her words warm my heart and make me think every time. Will you please give her a warm welcome?

Dolly–lead the way: 

Are you willing to give up control to your life, like Mary? Your reputation? Your womb?

 

 

The first time I heard Francesca Battistelli sing “Be Born In Me,” my heart identified with this stanza:

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart
can offer is a vacancy

This touched me as I thought of how brave Mary was to give up control of her womb to God. She let the Spirit implant His life in her (Luke 1:26-38).

She first opened up her heart, then her womb to Jesus. In this most intimate surrender, she gave control to God without knowing the final outcome. Such trust.

And before my head agrees
my heart is on its knees
Holy is He
Blessed am I

Here, she was an unwed pregnant teenager, and she would still be, when she gave birth to Jesus.

Mary gave up control over her relationship with Joseph. She trusted God to smooth things over with her betrothed, Joseph.

Can you imagine Mary telling Joseph that she is still a virgin but an angel told her that she had been chosen for the honor of bearing the Messiah? And now, she is pregnant. Honest.

If I was Mary, I might have tried to explain the unexplainable to Joseph. But Mary did not.

When Joseph learned Mary was pregnant, he intended to quietly divorce her. Then an angel of the Lord told him, in a dream, to not be afraid of marrying her because the Child was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1: 25).

She didn’t try to manage or control other people’s perceptions of her. What would her family, friends, and village think of her? Even years later, there were rumors of Jesus being illegitimate.

If it is hard to be an unwed pregnant teen today, it was at least a hundredfold harder 2000 years ago. In Israel during Mary’s lifetime, it was socially, and culturally unacceptable to be an unwed pregnant woman.

Yet Mary didn’t let other people’s perceptions control her. She fully rests in God’s control of the situation.

I wonder, if she figured, since she was carrying the Messiah, He could begin saving her now by taking care of her problems.

After all, these problems came as a result of her open surrender and obedience to God’s will. This tells me I can expect some bumps in the road when I obey God.

Nor did she demand that God give her a five-year plan. She gave up any illusion of controlling her future. Her humility and trust leave me breathless.

Yet Mary’s story also reveals a joy and love is born that makes her surrender worth all the struggle (Luke 1:46-55).

I’ll hold you in the beginning
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
Make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

“Be born in me, Jesus” is my prayer this Christmas.

Whenever I have given up control of my fears to Him, He has birthed new courage to act despite my fears. As I reflect on all the new experiences and friendships God has birthed because I said “yes” to blogging, Twitter, and recently, to Facebook and Instagram, I am amazed.

Over the past several years, as I struggled to give a few painful relationships into His hands through prayer, God birthed a new peace in my heart. Of course, I still have difficult moments, but His presence and peace are showing up more and more. Grateful.

As I surrender control, He surprises me by filling more of my heart with Himself.

Nothing is impossible for you, Dear God.
I want all of Your Love,
Your holiness,
Your compassion, and
mercy to be born in me.

How about you? What phrase struck you as you listened to “Be Born in Me”? How have you experienced Jesus being born in you? What is an area or relationship that you can surrender control to God?

Thank you, dear Nikki, for the honor of being invited to guest post. Your friendship, prayers, and Spirit-filled words bless me richly, and so many, as you point to Him.

Thank you, dear reader, for being part of my journey to Bethlehem this year.

An idea for going deeper: I recommend listening to “Be Born in Me” while reading the lyrics on the video, then listening again with your eyes closed. After listening in this manner, write down what struck you.

Don’t edit yourself. Just free write, then read. See what God shows you.

Dolly @SoulStops

About Dolly:

God’s beloved child,
wife, mom to sweet girl, writer.
Lover of time alone with God, her family, and friends.
Passionate about prayer,
and making a difference –
one small thing at a time.

Feel free to connect with her at http:soulstops.com,
On Twitter: @Soulstops
And she just joined Facebook!
(Please be patient as she is still learning how to navigate FB.)

Adorning the Evergreen {Our Advent Tradition}

5minutes-christmas-traditions

Friends, I have the honor of joining the team of writers over at 5 Minutes for Faith this season as we share Christmas Traditions from our home, to yours!

Won’t you stop by as I share what adorning our tree means to me?

Here’s a sneak peek:

We drag out the buried box. The one wrapped in duct tape from years past. I remember joy bursting as my husband and I scraped enough money to buy this tree as newlyweds.

Now, it seems old. Skimpy. Worn thin and I scold myself quietly for not yet buying another. But my son, the four year-old bouncing out of sheer anticipation, sees the promise of beauty and I force myself to emulate his excitement…

Please stop by and see how God transforms this moment for me and discover our tradition during advent relating to our Christmas tree. I’d love to see you there. Simply click on the button below!

How about you, friend? Do you have any Christmas traditions that point you to Him? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

 

The Wonders of His Love

Sung words affect me in ways that said words do not.
Where sermons slide off, hymns sink in.

~Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church

Although I try to have said words sink in, too, you get the picture. It’s true for me. Songs bury themselves deep and percolate within…

So, this Advent season, I’m sharing the phrases of treasured Christmas Hymns that have refused to let go.  You may find other posts similar HERE.

And this one has been burning in my heart for weeks already:

“The wonders of His love…”

From the cherished hymn “Joy to the World”

I recall talking about this hymn last year, when I was focused on preparing Him room (post HERE). It seems now that I have prepared Him room, I need to reflect on His love…

I’m not done pondering but wanted to share my raw thoughts with you because I LOVE the conversations we have in comments and on Facebook. You help me work through these things faster than my mind ever could alone…Thank you.

Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

Do I wonder about His love? I’ve always had it, though I’m completely clueless as to why it was given to me.

But like Michael Yaconelli says in Messy Spirituality:

God’s love may be unfair,
but when His unfairness includes you and me,
who wants to argue?

When considering the context of the song, I realize we’re not wondering why He loves as much as how He loves. And it’s not a wondering as much as a contemplation of how wondrous His love really is.

Which reminds me the very thing I need to tell myself often through Advent:

It’s not about me. Or you. It’s about love coming down on us, for us, because of Him. It’s about His capabilities to love relentlessly. Unconditionally. Further, deeper, higher, fuller…

Friends, that’s worth pondering. The mystery of His love.

Human love will always be a faint shadow of God’s love.
Not because it is too sugary or sentimental,
but simply because it can never compare from whence it comes.
Human love, with all its passion and emotion,
is a thin echo of the passion/emotion love of Yahweh.
~Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

And when I sing this joy of a hymn, I realize something: it should feel new. Every glorious morn should invoke wonder.

The discipline we have learned alongside Ann in looking, seeking, making actual note of God-given gifts…friends…it reveals His love. It makes it personal.

Not a day goes by He doesn’t lavish upon you and I in a new and glorious way. Oh I pray we all slow down enough this Advent Season to see those secret moments. Meant for just us and our “Secret Admirer”.

Because when we see them, we become consumed with joy…an aftermath of His love. And you’ll want nothing more than to

Repeat the sounding joy by sharing His joy with the world!

How about you, friend? How has His wondrous love revealed itself to you lately? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki