Christmas in July!

christmas in july

I was caught red-handed, or rather, red-faced in the department store recently. My girls were dawdling behind me, like little ducklings, grabbing and demanding everything in sight, causing a raucous and a scene–and that’s when it happened.

I resurrected Santa in July. Short on time and out of patience, through gritted teeth, I heard myself say, “No! You may NOT have that! Or that. You’re just gonna have to ask Santa for that! (in July?!)” I shared before that I have a tendency to leave my nativity set out for way too long, but this Mama crossed her own line when I pulled Santa out of my bag of tricks far too soon.

But if there’s a writer who could encourage me and set my heart back on the path of timeless truth, and then point to the Christmas tree of the cross–in July–it’s Renee Robinson, author of Seeking Christmas. I met my kindred spirit writing friend in May at a writer’s conference. We shared a short week together, but she sure felt like a long-time friend.

renee me to use

You may have already read her viral post, A Letter to My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No to Electronics). She’s worth the read, I promise. So sip on some sweet iced tea (or hot cocoa if you please), and take in her hope-filled message of love and Christmas– in July!

 

Days before Christmas break, I sat in the balcony of the theater with my 8-year-old son and the entire 2nd grade to watch a performance of Miracle on 34th Street. Zachary was born with a sparkle in his eye. A true lover of life, his eyes reflect the joy and thrill of Christmas every single day.

Leaning back into my seat, I breathed in deep, inhaling peace, joy, and hope. Yes, this is what Christmas is all about, I thought. The dimming lights quieted the children who slowly took their seats as they watched Santa stumble about the stage. My heart smiled back as I remembered watching this movie every Christmas. It has always been my favorite. Lost in my memories, my ringing phone in a silent theater brought me back.

Exiting the theater as quickly and quietly as possible, I answered the call I had been expecting. It takes only a moment for your world to feel flipped upside down and inside out.

“Mrs. Robinson, we have the results from Zachary’s lab work.” I listened as she relayed the information to me, much of it making little sense. He had fluid around his knee that had been drained. They didn’t know what caused it and ran tests on the fluid.

“Mrs. Robinson, his white blood cell count is very high. We recommend further testing.” I nodded my head, my brain moving too fast for me to know what questions to even ask. I knew I should at least get the count. The ringing phone started the course of turning my world upside down, her next words set my upside down world spinning. “His count is 35,000. A normal range is 0-200.”

Hanging up the phone, I buried my head in my hands and sobbed. Fear didn’t creep in, it burst the door wide open with one swift kick and grabbed a hold of my throat attempting to choke the very breath and life from me. Hope never dies. It fights for us when we are too weak to fight back.

Moments later the arms of teachers and friends wrapped me in their love. And they prayed. Hope never dies. Days of tests. Days of prayer. Days of thinking. Fear always reminding me of what might be. Hope fighting back.

Here is what hope taught me that Christmas season. Hope was born on Christmas. Hope was nailed to a cross. Hope was resurrected to life. Hope can’t die.

No matter the test results. Hope remains. If I face the worst the world offers me, hope stays alive. He came to offer what the world takes from us. The world steals our joy. He offers joy. The world steals our peace. He offers peace. The world takes our hope. He gives hope.

When we root our very lives in the security of his salvation, no test result, no failed relationship, no financial crisis, nothing can take away our hope. Because our hope is not here. Our hope is in what waits for us on the other side of eternity.

The world tries to steal the meaning of Christmas when it sets up display in August. The world tells us Christmas is about the gifts, the parties, the perfect table settings and decorations, the pinterest perfect preschool gifts. While all of this is fun and lovely, I learned the true meaning of Christmas, yet again, when I faced the possibility of losing a gift that God had given to me.

In the quiet of that Christmas season, I came to a true understanding of where my hope comes from, and I thanked God no matter how He decided to answer our prayers. Good news to the test results he didn’t promise me. Yet he did promise me good news. He is the good news.

My hope is in him, not the health of my children. That may be taken at any moment. My hope is in him. My prayer continued to beg for good test results. But my prayer also became, “No matter what you decide, I trust in you. If you answer my prayer with a no, I will still love you. If you answer my prayer with a no, I will not stop trusting you. If you answer my prayer with a no, my hope will remain in you.”

Christmas in July can make me cynical. I’m turning it, flipping it upside down and setting it spinning in my own heart. I won’t let the marketplace steal from me what He was born for. The true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas isn’t just a season that follows Thanksgiving. Christmas is a daily choice we make in our hearts to grab hold of what he was born for. He was born to die for our sins so we could have eternal life. Yes, he was born to die. The true meaning of Christmas can’t be wrapped in a beautiful package. It’s alive in our hearts.

So when I see the advertisements for Christmas in July, I will choose to turn my irritation to praise. The enemy can try to steal Christmas from us, but he can’t. The hope of Christmas is alive and well. Every. Single. Day. If we choose. Christmas in July, Christmas in December, Christmas in the everyday.

P.S. Zachary is fine today. All his tests were normal, for which we praise God. However, we learned our hope is not in anything on this earth, so we praise Him always. In the good. In the bad. All year long.

renee robinson

christmas book

Check out Renee’s book on Amazon!

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A WRITING STAYCATION {and a BLOG HOP}

girls july 4

We skipped our summer vacation. Who needs all that sweat, sand, and the beaming sun anyway. However, my writer friend Karina, who blogs at For His Name and His Renown, asked me to do a little traveling with her. Well, kind of.  She graciously invited me to join her on a blog hop, where we women get to reveal our writing hearts, and then pass the baton on to others. Sharing our love of faith and story, and the God who intricately weaves them together.

So it’s kind of like a writing relay race. Except without the running, or the perspiration. I’ll answer a few fun and simple questions about writing (at least that was the promise), and then quickly pass it on.

Sounds as easy as 1, 2, 3, (and 4). That’s what I thought anyway. But this post still had me sweating, thinking, and just about snotting all over myself. Yeah, I said that. But no worries. I kept the Kleenex box close by.

1. What am I writing or working on now?

Besides this weekly blog that God uses to bolster my pen and my faith, I’m focusing any tidbits of time and attention I can get on research and writing about a woman I can’t get enough of.   I’ve been drawn to her for a decade. I could almost trace her face–and God’s hand–with every word. You’ve surely heard of her. That woman with the issues. You know, the one Jesus healed. I want to be like her. In ways, I think I’m becoming her. Grasping for the hem, while reaching for Him. The book of Matthew called out her issues. Jesus called her daughter. Faith and healing.  That’s what I’m writing–while God’s working on me.  A work in progress.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There’s nothing new under the sun, as the Word tells us. And that applies in the non-fiction, women’s issues genre. However, there is only one you, and one me. My voice, my view, just like yours, can’t be duplicated. (I can hear my brothers shouting Hallelujah from here.) The truth, the power of the shared story, remains the same. But a fresh, new story-telling voice can make a difference.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I was chugging right along, going at a steady pace, with baton in hand and question 1 and 2 behind me. But this third one slowed me down, so I hurdled it instead. I sprinted to finish number 4, made a U-turn, and landed right back here.

To avoid a dripping nose and some painful prose, I’ll borrow from my about me section:

“Why do I write? Kind of hard to say, but I’ll go straight from the hard part and hit straight to the heart part. It’s about that daughter part. What this daughter misses most about her mama are the encouraging words. So I’m just here leaving a legacy of love and words to mine.   For them, for me, and for anyone else who could use the same. Sitting at the well. As I simply write out life and fight out fears in the light of His Word.”

That’s the reason we all share what God’s done in our lives, whether it’s to children of our own or to our spiritual legacy He’s given us to steward. So I write to pass the baton of faith on to my next generation.

4. How does my writing process work?

That’s a work in progress too. I’m in a teetering balance between trying to gain pockets of writing time without losing precious moments with my ever-growing, pre-school aged girls. And without letting the walls fall down, or get grafittied, around me.

It’s past midnight now, and the tap-dancing clicks of the keyboard are competing with the sound of my husband’s snores, while my eyes keep veering off the screen to my sleeping 5-year-old, late night intruder. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*Addendum. Maybe I typed too soon. It’s after 6:00am. Last one to bed. First one up. And I’m sandwiched between the midnight intruder and the 3-year-old one who climbed in our bed at 4:00am, after a sweet husband arose to answer her request (ahem, demand) for milk. Not a usual occurrence. But usually on nights I need to write.

So after a sleepless night filled with knobby little knees digging into my back and wispy little fingers thrown across my face, I smile over at three good reasons why I write. Just before getting up, ever so quietly, minus the crackling noise of aching joints that mimic the sound of old, creaking wood floors. But I’m still thankful for the chance to breathe, love, and write when I can. Sometimes the “process” looks like running on fumes (and caffeine), but writing on a heart of gratitude.

You show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Cor. 3:3 (NIV)

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I’m also thankful to be able to learn from other writers. I met Lindsey at a writer’s conference, who then connected me with Amy and Crystal.  I’m blessed and better for it, and you will be too. Between us, we share a love for the power of stories (and Starbucks, and 80’s songs, and motherhood and messes). And even some sorrow and pain. But mostly, we share a deep love for our Savior.

And the baton goes to…..

lindsey brackett

Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle school literature, but now she writes from home about the grace she finds in the everyday random chaos of motherhood. Her four children keep her home full of laundry, lost library books, and strong coffee. Currently she is a community columnist for The Northeast Georgian and is working on her first book. Connect with her on her blog, Lindsey P. Brackett, random acts of motherhood and everyday grace.

 

amy

Amy Lanham is a Midwest wife, mother, and women’s ministry leader.  She loves searching for the grace in the middle of the everyday mess of life.  She’s also an e-book author of Roofcrashers, How to Start a Successful Bible Study.  Check it out on Amazon. She strongly believes in the power of story to motivate and encourage, and hopes to connect with you on her blog, Middle of the Mess, finding the beautiful in the broken.

 

crystal

Crystal Walton is a contemporary new adult fiction writer from Chesapeake, Virginia, who’s addicted to sunshine, Starbucks China Green Tips tea, and the power of words. As a blogger, a novelist, and a writer for iflourish magazine, she gets to invest her life in something she absolutely loves: encouraging you along the journey of discovering and flourishing in who you’re called to be. Crystal shares weekly words of encouragement on her blog, www.crystal-walton.com and would love to have you join in the conversation with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

Reason to Celebrate!

celebrate

This month I’m celebrating a BIG anniversary. SIX WHOLE months of consistently putting my fingers to the keys and putting myself out there. Chasing freedom with every word. Following a pinky promise I made to my Mama to write. To push past fears. To swallow pride whole and just write. For an audience of One, in hopes that maybe just one woman would be encouraged along with me.

Half of a year may not seem like long to you, but it sure feels like eons to me. Like the way time droned on in grade school. Months, years, were BIG deals back then. And how about when you “dated” a boy in junior high and celebrated your “anniversary” of “going together?”

I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s, so that’s the lingo we used. And we didn’t actually “go” anywhere. Except maybe to the movies or the roller rink. But I sure remember celebrating my whopping THREE MONTH ANNIVERSARY with my 8th grade boyfriend, who now just happens to be my husband and my lifetime love.

It WAS a BIG deal, capped off with some couples’ skating, indoor fireworks, and a snail-mail Hallmark card enclosed with, hold your breath, wait for it–his football picture–of him clad in shoulder pads and braces, given to me to frame and keep, like, FOREVER!

That’s how I feel right now, for my “six month anniversary” of sorts. Smiling as big and wide as his sweet little brace face that I still keep in my 8th grade scrapbook. Only now I’m scrapbooking a blog. Taking the scraps of life, the leftovers and do-overs, and even the torn pieces, and handing them all over to God.

Looking up to the One who saves and keeps every last one, then renews and reuses them for my good and His glory. Helping me paste them on the pages of a well-worn life for others to see. For my little girls and my guy, for women like you and me, and for my Mom. Oh, how I hope she’s reading these pages from Heaven.

And a fellow blogger and friend just gave me something else to celebrate and glue right here on this post, and I can’t thank her enough. Paige at Tales from the Laundry Room gave me her top spot and nominated me for an inspirational blogger award. I’m so blessed to write, arm-in-arm, and heart-to-heart with amazing women like her.

most-influential-blogger-badge

To accept it, I’ve gotta follow the rules: (which is fairly easy for a recovering, people-pleasing rule follower like me. 🙂

1. Display the Award on your Blog.

2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.

3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award, paying it forward.

4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).

5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has almost everything, just copy and paste the link into youreditor). If a video is not possible, you can embed a SoundCloud track.

Wish I could list more, but my 10 are:

Angie at angieryg.com

Bonnie at bonniejwallace.org

Jo Ann at JoAnnFore.com

Karina at forhisnameandhisrenown.wordpress.com

Kathy at Cornerstoneconfessions.com

Lindsey at LindseyPBrackett.com

Michelle at MichelleLazerk.com

Rachel at RachelWojo.com

Renee at ReneeRobinson.com

Twila at gottatellsomebody.com

They’re inspiring writers who point to the ONE name that matters, which brings me to a favorite song.  It’ll make you want to sing, dance, and celebrate! And based on my prior post, you know I can’t sing. But since you can’t hear me, and I can’t hear you, let’s press play and belt it out together.

The Only Name–by Bid Daddy Weave:

Then in the comments, share what God’s given you to celebrate. And I’d be so blessed if you would scroll to the bottom or hop over to the sidebar and input your email to receive my weekly blog posts. I hope to bless you right back!