Advent with Arms Wide Open

It's the first week of Advent and I'm already feeling behind.

The stockings are hung but I have yet to purchase the goodies to fill them.

The picture we'll use for our Christmas card has been taken but cards have yet to be ordered, no less sent.

Names have been exchanged but no gifts have been purchased.

One Christmas dress has been purchased – since we have two daughters, I suppose having two would be a good idea to avoid the other attending her Christmas program in blue jeans and a t-shirt.

Half of the outdoor lights are up – the rest needs to be done with the use of an extension ladder and therefore, I'm deferring to the Man of the House.

We've brainstormed gift ideas for the kids but have yet to carry them out to fruition.

And the list of half-done (or none-done things) goes on.

On one hand, I look at what I've accomplished so far and think, “Hey, not bad! After all, it's not even December yet!” But on the other, well, I'm feeling just a little bit stressed.

And you know what's ironic about that? I'm stressed about trying to not be stressed.

You see, during the 34 trips I've taken around the sun, I've learned a thing or two about time: it just goes faster. And faster. And FASTER. And the older my kids get, the worse it seems. My girls are now involved in the Christmas program at church which occurs the Sunday before the holiday. So now, instead of feeling like I have until the 24th to finish everything, I feel like I really have to have it all together by the 18th since that service is really the “kick-off” to the chaotic “Christmas week”. And then you throw in a few other events, such as our annual Gingerbread House-Making Day at my mother-in-law's, Birthday Party for Jesus, Christmas cookie-making, a few get-togethers with friends and of course, getting and putting up the Christmas tree, and you might as well kiss the month of December good-bye. And I know this.

And every year I say I'm going to be on top of things. Every year I vow to get more done earlier. Every year I promise myself I won't be stressed when Christmas finally arrives.

But it's the first week of Advent. And Christmas is coming, whether I'm prepared for it or not.

And where is my focus? Where is my heart?

We've all heard the adage “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and while that is entirely true and a noble saying, we miss the point if we think it only refers to Christmas Day itself. The truth is, pledging to get more done earlier really doesn't help anything; it simply leaves more room to fill with more “stuff” in the weeks to come. We leave our hearts ill-prepared to embrace the joyous celebration if we fail to focus on the coming Christ child in the weeks leading up to it.

So this year, I am asking God to help it be different...help me be different. I'm not asking Him to help me finish my to-do list in record time or suddenly make me a person who can function on only mere hours of sleep. I am asking Him to help me let go of the stuff that steals my focus, the tasks that fill my arms, leaving no room for Him, and the things that make Christmas feel more like a burden than a blessing. I'm asking Him to guide me through this Advent season with arms wide open, ready to receive His ultimate gift of His Son.

Please say you'll join me...we're going to have the best Christmas yet :)

Day 28

I hope you’ve heard about or have been following along with our Grateful to God challenge here at Holy Hen House for the month of November. If you missed out, no worries, you can make any day “Day 1” of the challenge to think and meditate on some of the blessings our wondrous God so freely gives to us. Regardless, here is today’s blessing to consider on “Day 28” of the challenge.

Strength (noun): the quality or state of being strong; capacity for exertion or endurance

Strength is one of those words I consider to be “loaded.” What can be portrayed and communicated by those eight letters is so much more than that simple definition from Merriam Webster. In all honesty, there were actually nine different definitions for that one word and still those descriptions feel like they fall short.

How does one describe the ability to stand up when you’ve been knocked down over and over again? How does one give thanks for the motivation to “keep on keepin’ on” in a life and world that is anything but easy? How often do we stop to think about whom that motivation and desire even comes from?

Life is hard. It is so often filled with challenge after challenge - a difficult co-worker, a family member that no longer values a relationship with God, a personal health crisis that makes you want to doubt everything you’ve ever believed. Challenges that beat day after day on that weathered door leading to your heart and soul. Will the wind and rain ever stop?

You know, the beautiful thing about God’s blessing of strength is that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside. It doesn’t matter if that storm stops or if the wind finally calms. With God and with His promises, we can know and trust and believe in everything (and I mean everything) working out for our best whether or not it looks or feels that way right now. Having that faith, that trust, and that hope in our extraordinary God certainly does renew our strength and it is that blessing of strength through and from our Lord that continues to help us face any trial.

Thank you Lord for strength.

Traditions to Get Behind

What traditions do you celebrate on Thanksgiving?

On Thursday of this week, most working Americans in the United States will receive a paid holiday to celebrate a national Thanksgiving Day, a day of feasting, family, fun and of course thanksgiving. It is estimated that 46 million turkeys will be eaten on this day and about the same number of people will travel to get to the place where they eat this traditional meal

At Holy Hen House, many readers have participated in our Grateful to God Challenge. Though not yet a tradition, we are in the second year. The stories and reflections are poignant, heartwarming and sincere! We thank our readers for the messages of faith, family, and friends that God has moved them to share. We look forward to more as the month continues. 

As these posts have attested, the fabric of our lives can be filled with joy and gratitude, no matter what our present circumstances. After all, we have been rescued and redeemed by a risen Lord! As women of faith we sing and make music to God with the attitude of gratitude that sets the tone for every family interaction.

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A forgotten fact about American Thanksgiving is the perseverance of a woman named Sara Josepha Hale. For 17 years she crusaded to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In support of the proposed national holiday, Hale wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States: Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. 

Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln convinced him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863. The new national holiday was considered a unifying day after the stress of the American Civil War. To this day, Thanksgiving is the second favorite holiday of Americans. Churches across the land worship and thank God for his many blessings to our nation. Families gather around tables laden with these gifts. (Wikipedia) 

Today we are grateful for people like Sarah who persevere for their beliefs and do not give up. We especially celebrate women of faith who carry on the traditions of God’s people. Traditions like worship, Bible study, and teaching their children to pray. They might not do these perfectly, but as our tagline says,

"We are imperfect women spurred on by God’s perfect grace..."

God’s faithful are thankful and have grateful hearts. They live out the gospel and share it in a dark and dying world. They are…

“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Now, that’s a tradition we can all get behind.

From Holy Hen House, have a joyful and grateful Thanksgiving!

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