KEEPING CHRISTMAS UNSTUCK!

Monday, November 27th, 2017

 

 

 

Ever had one of those rollercoaster Chrsitmas’? A month full of ups and downs, and crazy twists and turns? Well my sweet and wisee friend, Pat Layton has lots of insights and encouragement for all of us. roller coaster 1

She has a new devotional book on Unstuck Christmas– hope this excerpt helps encourage you today . . I bought mine on kindle (you can also get a spiral devotional  from Pat) and I am a part of her Unstuck club online. I need all the help I can get!

Now let’s hear from Pat:

 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

 

Some days when I feel really brave, I drag the heavy plastic bin that holds 30 plus years’ worth of my old prayer journals from under my bed, blow the layer of dust off the top and crack open the lid, my HEART does that funny dance between terror and delight. You may know the feeling; It’s like what happens when you ride Space Mountain at Disney for the first time. My mind always reviews my options – burn these and let all this “stuff” stay between me and Jesus OR keep saving them as a raw record of “the things that have been fulfilled…so that you may know.”

Memories hold such a personal place. My family always teases me about the stories I share in my books and my speeches. They always remember things differently than I do. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

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We know we are supposed to love it and we do love it but sometimes we dread it almost as much.

The Holy verses the hustle.

The glitter verses the grief.

The tradition verses the trauma.

That feeling between terror and delight, right?!

In the familiar verses above Dr. Luke goes on record with his version of the birth and infancy of Jesus as it was handed down to him. Dr. Luke was a student of truth and details and presents a beautiful narrative of, not only the birth of Jesus but, his boyhood and launch into ministry. Luke introduces Jesus as “The Son of Man” and shares His prayer life, healing touch and His compassion for the lost and hurting. For me, as a follower of Christ, the only way for me to keep Jesus as “the reason for the season” is that like Dr Luke, I remain fully focused on His Great Story!

I am excited to join a few other women as we take a FRESH LOOK as we take a FRESH and RENEWED look at these very familiar passages. I hope you will join us!

Christmas-promo-website unstuck

Prayer: Father, thank you for leading me to this special journey with you during this holiday season. I trust you for the time and the space to get quiet and reflect upon your birth in my life. Show me some NEW things Lord. Show me some things that I have never seen. Most of all, I want to see you in a fresh way today. Open my eyes Lord. I want to see Jesus.

Amen!

 

Pat_Layton_ProfileYou can read more about Pat Layton’s  Quest to a “less hustle, more holy” Christmas in her new holiday devotional book A Woman’s Quest to an Unstuck Christmas available in 3 versions at www.patlayton.net Pat is the author of 7 books including Life Unstuck: Finding Peace with Your Past, Purpose in Your Present and Passion for Your Future (Revell, 2015) Pat lives in sunny Florida where she enjoys the glitter of “White Christmas” from a ribbon of sand known as Longboat Key.

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Imperfect Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Ever feel like Christmas is broken? IMPERFECT?

Me too.

Like this year. Usually my Christmas speaking engagement wraps up around my mid- December wedding anniversary and I quicklypam speak christmas ncc 2015 shift into a whirlwind of decorating, carol singing, an upbeat social schedule, and fun family outings. However, more often than not, things spiral into imperfection.

Imperfect people.  Imperfect attitudes.  Imperfect challenges to our “perfect plan.”

This year the contrast between the planned perfection and the imperfect was sent in the form of a “crash”, “bang” and “boom”  as they only Christmas decor I had up, my collectible nativity, was accidently bumped resulting into a broken Mary and a headless wise man. The shelf falling to the ground could be seen as an “accident”, God sent it “on purpose”, to remind me of the glory and gain of imperfection.

willowcreek nativity  It is so easy to fall into the “Life must feel perfect” at Christmas syndrome.  And if things don’t feel perfect, or if relationships are not working perfectly, or if circumstances refuse to fall into our perfectly planned expectations—then we can topple into the crevasse of depression. Statistically, those in the people helping professions report a significant rise in depression and suicidal behaviors during the holidays. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season .

. The Devil would want us to get all caught up in the lights, tinsel, costly gifts, fancy clothes, and elaborate parties. In reality, the first Christmas was FAR from perfect!

Pregnant Mary had to ride MILES on the back of a donkey. She was likely uncomfortable and apprehensive. This young woman (a teen, really) was carrying the Christ-child amidst the rollercoaster of emotions of an Angel appearing to her sharing the news that God, the Creator of her and all things, was going to overshadow her with the power of the Holy Spirit and she would conceive miraculously then deliver the Savior of the World. In human terms, there had to be some raised eyebrows and behind the back whispers going on. And the whole donkey ride trip was all because some leader wanted an accurate count of the population. It was politics, the ego of the governmental leaders, inconveniencing the everyday lives of those they were put in place to care for. With everyone on the road for the census, lodging was in very short supply creating the “no room in the inn” problem.

nativity Accompanying Mary was her betrothed husband to be, Joseph, who should have been home enjoying the praise and accolades of a community leader. However, he was more likely feeling his own fears, anxieties and questions. An angel had also appeared to him, but the angel did not appear to his entire community at his point so  there was likely a  shadow of social scorning based upon the humanly incomprehensible miracle of a virgin birth.  To Joseph’s credit, he took the brave, high road and protected the life of the young woman he loved and cared for her when others might have called for her death. In addition, he took on the responsibility of traveling with her, and overseeing her care, and the care of a child that was not really “his”.

The shepherds were in a cold field, alone, with sheep. They might have been bored . . . lonely . . . isolated– until they were christmas great joy vscompletely overwhelmed, overjoyed, over stimulated by the amazing light show and music heaven created! God addressed their primary emotion: FEAR:   “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

The Inn keeper was excited over the increased income stream—but if he had half a heart, he was also concerned about a very pregnant young woman sleeping in a stable full of animals in the cool night air. An imperfect setting.

The wisemen were not at home in their opulent “castle”. No, they traveled long and far across a vast desert on the back of camels following a star—hoping to prove their trip was not in vain.  And they sacrificed financially bringing with them gifts of gold , frankincense and myrrh for a child they knew very little about, but longed greatly to find.

Even Jesus could have complained.

 But think of his office grand demotion! He went from the glory of heaven to the grossness of a barn— surrounded by a bunch of smelly animals. Have you ever spent the night in a barn? I grew up on a sheep farm, and our lambing shed might be the closest experience any human might echo the surroundings of the Christ-child. It is a mix of cold night air, steamy, sweaty, smelly lanolin filled wool, mixed with smells of excrement, afterbirth, hay and animal feed.

I have had many an “imperfect” Christmas. As a child, the joy of a morning full of unwrapping gifts under the tree would quickly escalate into a family fleeing to the corners to escape the wrath of an unhappy, depressed and drunk dad. Today they call what I experienced “domestic violence”. But Jesus was with me. Immanuel. An Eternal Father.

As a young mom, with very little money, I was working hard one Christmas to hold back melancholy tears and fears. I prayed, “God we have no money for gifts for the kids and extended family!” God whispered toangel ornament my heart, “Don’t focus on what you DON”T have, focus on what you DO have. You have ME. What is there, in you, the woman I created you to be that you can offer to me? I can work with anything you offer up. “I have a little writing skill.” So God gave me a children’s story, I wrote it on paper angels, and God gave a creative way to give personalized blessings from the entire family  to each child, recorded on those angels—and on their hearts. The lasting impact has been POWERFUL.   Because Jesus was there-  Immanuel. Mighty God.

Then a few years later, I was in turmoil because I knew God was asking me to extend that blessing to Simple Skills GODS LOVE PLUS YOUR DECISIONSmy very volatile, imperfect, unpredictable, alcoholic dad. In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I share how God knew for me to live free, for my family to live free, I had to free my dad from his shame,  guilt, and mountain of regret. If he was ever to gain a shot at experiencing God’s love, God was asking me to first model that love. God gave each word of the blessing I wrote. My dad wept tears of hope as I read it to him that Christmas day. Christ was there! Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor.

And in 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I open up about the  mid-life Christmas eve, a decade ago, when bad news from a doctor rocked our world and pushed over the first of many difficult dominos of crisis and change I held tight to my Immanuel, my Prince of Peace—and peace came—not because circumstances changed but the God of change came into those circumstances!

And THIS Christmas, it feels as imperfect as any in my history.  This year, as others buy goods and gifts, I am packing away, sorting away, giving away, and throwing away material goods and gain. It is a season of downsizinchristmas pam bill moveg. My mind and heart are a rollercoaster of emotions of angst and apprehension mixed with adventure and excitement.

The year ahead appears to be a blanket of untouched, untrampled, and unplowed snow.  Our life feels like the “white out” blizzards of my youth. Those storms felt confusing because everything is white: the sky, the snow, your attire — so it is easy to feel lost and become lost on the icy tundra. And when you do finally get brave enough to take a step, into the snow, you must step carefully so as to not set off a life-quenching avalanche.  However, in any ice storm, blizzard, or flurry, all you need is one solid marker: a fence to follow, a sound to move toward, a light to progress nearer to then you can begin to make progress toward safewhite out blizzardty, toward home, toward hope. In our snow-blind of change, Christ is that light, that life-line, that song of hope:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. ( John 1:4)
He is our light… one step at a time . . .like a candle shinning in the darkness, my Lord is leading. So I am leaning, as I always have, as I always will, on my Immanuel. My Prince of Peace.

~christmas deb ak light xmasLife is imperfect! It is VERY imperfect EVERY DAY including Christmas day.   And that is EXACTLY why the gift God sent – Jesus—a saving Messiah–is the PERFECT gift:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)

            He is Lord, the SINLESS one. The ONLY PERFECT one who could heal our brokenness by growing up to extend His arms of love laying them down on the cross—for your imperfects and mine.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12)baby jesus

            He is Lord, a PERFECT Creator God, who is  not  afraid of our messiness because he has the creativity and power to recreate, renew, redeem, revive and rejuvenate anything, anyone, anytime we turn to Him.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.“
Matt 1:23

He is Lord,  GOD WITH US! A God, who as my 11 year old son once described as,:

This God, this Christ of Christmas, is PERFECTLY ABLE to be with us, moment by moment each day, every day—and on Christmas Day.

nativity scarred but strongerAnd that perfect God, he can do what I saw that  “superglue” do to fix my nativity figurines. The place of brokenness when glues was applied was scarred — but stronger. The imperfection is visible enough to make one ask about “the story of brokenness” and “healed” so it can carry its role beautifully reflecting the power of the healing agent.  

I am imperfect, my Christmas is imperfect, the circumstances of the birth of the Christ child—imperfect too—and God planned in the imperfect–  so we could recognize and reach out to the PERFECT ONE, wrapped in the manger, now wrapped in our hearts, and who now wraps us up in His PERFECT LOVE.     

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Parenting Plan Can Bless your Kids and Your Marriage!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

 

So much marital stress is caused because the husband and wife are not on the same page
in the way they deal with their children. One way our marriage has been protected is through the “Learner and Leader” day we do each fall (We do this family tradition from age 4 until our children are age 20 or get engaged for marriage- whichever comes first).

Years ago,when Bill was a youth pastor and Brock was a baby, I looked around the youth group we were running and then looked at this precious baby in my arms and prayed, “Lord, there seem to be kids that soar and succeed at 18 and others that stumble and fall” What traits, what skills, what leadership character qualities do we need to
train and pass on so that our sons can soar by age 18? Then I set about creating along list of traits and skills (the list (and many other tools) are in our book: 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make).

The list seemed so long that I was a bit overwhelmed so I showed the list to Bill and he said, “Pam, seems like there are really three main categories here. We want our kids to be:

 

  1. Learners—have a teachable attitude
  2. Leaders- be influencers in their own unique God given style instead of followers
  3. Love God—we want them to own their own faith.”

We prayed and I asked God to show a fun way to instill the values (because kids respond to fun!) So we decided to
have a Learner and Leader Day each fall and on that day we’d negotiate privileges and responsibilities for the year. (We did this for 20+ years- now we are DONE! becuse our kids are all grown and all leaders! So it works!)

We also select one trait off the list and focus on training and equipping in that area for that particular child that year. And we select a verse to pray over that child which had something to do with the trait we have selected (as the kids entered second grade we taught them how to select their own verse). Then we give a gift (because we wanted it to fee like Christmas!) The gift would be one that would build into their God given passion or calling as
the Lord was revealing their strengths year by year.

We have a set of criteria in choosing the gift:

It must be practical, something I might have to buy anyway.

It must be personal. The child should be able to tell I thought about the gift.

It must be prophetic, meaning that it speaks the truth about the uniqueness, the calling, or the strength we see God building into each child.

The Learner and Leader privileges and responsibilities chart is also in our book, along with other tools like a list of what children can be responsible for at what ages (chore ideas) , plus a teen relationship contract,
driving contract, education contract, and a set of  Freshman Foundation questions to use with college students or career age young adults. We have our children sign the contracts, and included in each are the
consequences they will receive if they do not follow through with their
commitment. As the children get older (early in elementary school),  we have them create their own consequences
ahead of time so they know exactly what their punishment will be if they drop the ball on their commitments.

By spelling everything out ahead of time, year after year, and having everyone sign off on it (both parents and the children), there is little arguing in our home and the children have never been able to “play one parent against the other” in our home, thus protecting our marital harmony as well. And because there is a built in relationship time, a fun family activity on Learner and Leader Day, the kids have always been motivated to complete the small yearly assignment (the chart), and because it also has a built in incentive plan (the Learner and Leader gift that applauds the child’s unique strengths), the child is easier to live with all year!

The less child-created stress a marriage has, the more everyone enjoys being in the family. And because we delegate work to our children as they grow, Mom and Dad actually have time to date and stay in love—which is the best gift that any set of parents can give their children. And because we are deliberately trying to help our children/ teens take on more and more responsibility year after year, by college (or for sure age 21), our children and yours have the opportunity to be leaders owning their own lives and leading others in a positive way!  Having responsible adult children is also a great blessing to your marriage! (And your future in laws will thank you too!Our daughter inlaws love us and so do their parents!)

            So this year, before you run to the store for new school clothes and pencils, pens, notebooks, backpacks and
lunchboxes, take time to hold your own Learner and Leader Day.  I you have college kids, set aside 5 nights to go over the Freshan Foundation  Dinner and Dialogue questions, and maybe this year, you might even get in a few dates to stay in love!

Parentng resources:

10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make, Got Teens? Learner and Leader Chart, Freshman Foundation are all found at www.Love-Wise.com

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12 Ideas for Heart Connections During the Holidays

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Holidays are the season for friends and family. It can be a strategic time to build a relationship bridge to another’s heart. (See our Christmas newsletter for even more ideas:http://love-wise.com/Christmas2011) Here are a few examples on ways to connect heart to heart over the season:

(1) I (Pam) wrote, framed, then read my dad a “blessing” as a Christmas gift to help repair the relationship his drinking had caused. I prayed and asked God to show me one positive thing and then I wrote affirming words from that place of memory. (Read the blessing in 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make) Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven . . . (Ps 32:1). 

(2) I (Bill) instituted a weekly Bible study on Skype with our grown sons because we are spread over 4 states, yet long for close relationship. We all read the same book and call weekly (or monthly) and discussed a piece of what is read. (We began with Uncommon by Tony Dungy, and will work through my (Bill’s) 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make in coming year). Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Pr 17:6).

(3)Robin selected 3 gifts that applauded each of her children’s unique passions or personal calling. As you think about gifts, by focusing the choice and connecting it with a personal letter of blessing, it can help a child see themselves more clearly, more from heaven’s point of view. (See 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make) Train up a child in the way he should go . . .(according to his/her God-given bent) Proverbs 22:6

(4) One year when money was tight, I (Pam) made a simple paper angel for each preschooler of our extended family (including our three sons). We placed a chair in the center of the room and each person in the family, answered the question, “When I think about ______, what comes to mind is_________.” Each person gave a verbal blessing that was written down on that angel ornament, and each year that ornament hangs on the tree—many of the qualities people spoke out about that were seeds of character, that now almost 20 years later, have fully blossomed in those now adult “kids” lives. The LORD remembers us and will bless us . . .( Psalm 115:12)

(5) Carl wrote a blessing, purchased a necklace and a tiara and “blessed” his Modern Day Princess daughter with a personalized prayer and gift. The power of words read aloud can change the course of a person’s life. As he or she rereads a letter, they then “hear” your voice in their mind. (Raising a Modern Day Princess) The LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory (Ps 149:4).

(6) Jeff apologized to his family and asked them to forgive him for the past choices he had made that stressed and harmed them. A true apology can bring a marriage back from the brink, call a prodigal home, or repair a strained friendship. Remember when apologizing–no excuses, no rationalizing, just a heartfelt, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me” has more power. A truly “contrite” heart can be felt and seen by those who you are trying to rebuild with. An “I was wrong” can be powerful gift! (See Love, Honor and Forgive)

These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit. (Is 66:2).
(7) Julie and Kent created a marriage mission, and had the kids help design a family logo (or “seal” or “signet”. For help, see 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make or read and see examples from past ezine and blog) ” . . seal it with the king’s signet ring . . .” Esther 8:8.


(8)
Jen and Steve, one in college and one a young adult, used 10 Best Decisions a Single Can Make to write life goals in 8 major areas and gave a copy to their parents (so mom and dad would quit nagging and gain peace knowing their kids had “direction”) . HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), Ephesians 6:2
(9) For the newlyweds in the family, do what we did when we wrote 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make—interview those in the family who have long lasting love. One of my (Pam’s) most treasured possessions is an audio recording made one Christmas of my grandparents telling the story of how they fell in love and stayed happily married for 60 years. Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll. . . (Job 19:23).


(10)
Gina helped her newlywed kids lay a stronger foundation with the Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti DVD, a waffle maker, a pasta bowl and server as a gift. (A less expensive version is the Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti book, some waffle mix and package of pasta. You can upscale it with a gift certificate to a waffle house and pasta dinner restaurant can accompany the book. “He created them; male and female . . .” (Gen 1:27)

(11) Sandra planned a rite of passage for her soon to be 13 year old to welcome her into adolescence. (See Got Teens? for ways to mark the moments all through the teen years for both sons and daughters). If your child is near a transition (into kindergarten, jr high, high school, college or marriage, use this as a teachable moment and have your gift(s) reflect what is on the path ahead and prepare him or her to succeed by building into them wisdom.

Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding . . .

 

(Prov 2:2).


(12)
Carolyn pulled several Farrel books, and a few others, off her shelf and scanned through the dinner and dialoque questions in the back of each book (or end of each chapter). She used many of these questions for “conversation starters” for the holiday meals where extended family and guests would be present. Planning conversation topics can ease the newcomer or help open up that “hard to get talking” person in your hospitality circle. . . . Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road . . . (Dt 6:7).

 

All these ideas will be more effective if you spend time while wrapping gifts, or cooking meals silently praying for each person you will be interacting with during your holiday celebrations.

Have a Merry, blessed, heart-felt Christmas!

(all resources available at www.Love-Wise.com)

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