Friday, December 19, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - JOY

For many years, I would see the word "JOY" displayed in yards with the nativity in the "O" during the Christmas season and would always think or even say how much I loved it and wanted one in my yard the next year. 

Although that never happened (and I'm glad it didn't since I couldn't have taken it with me), I had the privilege of receiving this ornament one year and it is one that I not only treasure, but was able to take with me! :D
The word "JOY" is the perfect description for what this season should be about and bring into our lives.

We all tend to get carried away, from time to time, with the details of the season and lose sight of our true reason for celebrating, sometimes in the midst of reminding ourselves to slow down.

But our JOY shouldn't end when the Christmas season ends!

In fact, it should only be the beginning of another year that starts, not with New Year's Day, but with the JOY of Christmas.

Christmas Day should represent our new year as we recall what God has done for us and in us over the past year and what the new year holds for us…beginning with…

...the JOY of His birth!

...the JOY of His love!

...the JOY of His peace!

...the JOY of His mercy!

…the JOY of His grace!

…but above all, the JOY of His Presence in our daily lives!

Thank you, Jesus, that You, not only bring JOY into our lives, but You are our everlasting JOY!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Born for Everyone

My children received this ornament one year from their Kidz Alive Children’s Church. 

It looks like any ordinary kid’s ornament, but to me, it is extra-special.

I don’t know if it is because we are missionaries or some other reason...all I know is that when I look at brings this overwhelming bubbling up of joy in my heart.

As most of us, who grew up in the church, did, I learned the songs “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” as a little child. But my favorite has always been the latter. Maybe it is because of my love for childrenI don't really know.

When I read in the Scriptures about people from every nation, tribe and tongue together praising our King one day, I get goosebumps imagining it. 

There is something special about all the different people in the world who have nothing in common except a love for Jesus. We may not be able to communicate with one another, but sharing the same Father makes us family.

As a missionary serving in a country where they don’t speak my native tongue, it can be difficult at times, but when we stand together in church on Sunday and worship our Savior, it doesn’t matter what language anyone there speaks. Our hearts share the same awesome adoration of our Lord.

When I look at this ornament... reminds me of the family of God. reminds me of the Hope of Salvation. reminds me that Jesus loves ALL the children of the world. reminds me that He was born for EVERYONE!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Jesus is the Gift

I love this ornament for so many reasons...
...because it looks like a gift.
...because someone gave it to me.
...because it states every reason why we celebrate.
...because without this gift there would be no chance of spending eternity with Him.
...because it reminds me of the Sandi Patty song...The Gift Goes On...
The Father gave the Son
The Son gave the Spirit
The Spirit gives us life
So we can give the Gift of love
And the Gift goes on

Don't you love to get a present wrapped up in a Christmas bow
God gave each of us a present on that night so long ago
It's a Gift that keeps on giving if our spirits can receive
It's the secret joy of living if our hearts can just believe

And the Gift goes on and on and on

When your life is full of Christmas then your life is full of love
You can give away the present that began with God above
Just like ripples in the water the circles of our love extend
What was started with the Father is a Gift that has no end

because, like the song says, it is a “gift that has no end.”
...because my family and I have the privilege of giving away this present to the people of Venezuela!
because He wasHe isand He will always be the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind!
…and above all…because God the Father loved me (and you) enough to send Him as His gift to me (and you)!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Joy to the World

Joy to the World, the Lord has Come

This is my favorite Christmas carol of them all. I think it is because one of our earliest traditions was to go to our church on Christmas Eve with our kids and at the end of the service, they would turn off all the lights with the only light coming from one candle. Someone would then light several others and those would be used to light the person’s candle at the end of each section and then each person would light the next person’s candle and so on until the entire church was lit with candlelight. All the while, we would sing, Joy to the World. It was always so special to see how that one candle with so little light could fill the entire church just by lighting one candle at a time, spreading the light to all. 

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

And the Chris Tomlin version that adds these words...

Joy, unspeakable joy
In overflowing where no tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go
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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)

The angel proclaimed the news of Great Joy that would be for All the People!
And now we have the privilege to share that same Great Joy using our one small light and spread it to All the People of the World! 

Oh, what unspeakable JOY that our Savior has come!

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - With Love from His birthplace

Our dear friends, Jon & Marcia, brought us these ornaments one year from our King’s homeland. They are made from Olive wood and are very close to our hearts. 

Not only did they come from special friends and servants who have been called to some of the hardest places, but they come from a place where we know He walked and talked and lived and died. But we know that is not the end of the story. 
We all can live because He lives! 

Having something on my tree that comes from somewhere so far away yet so very near to our spirits is priceless to me. 

I am grateful for friends who are willing to risk their lives in order to bring light to those in deepest darkness in places most would not attempt to go. 

As hard as it can be here at times, we have no idea the struggles they face in their daily lives. 

I am so thankful for those who say YES to a call that seems impossible because they know the One who makes all things possible!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Nativity City

When we were first married, we decided that we would collect one new Nativity every year. (Although, I can’t help that some years I couldn’t resist getting a second or third, because they were really unique and I was afraid I might not find them again. You understand, right?) 

So, by the time we began preparing to leave for Costa Rica, we had acquired well upwards of the one-a-year-so-we-should-only-have-17-Nativities. :D

And, although I did bring our ornaments, I could not bring all of our Nativities, so I had to downsize. While I left a few (that I just couldn’t part with) in storage in the US, there were others that I gave away or even sold in yard sales. 

And, while many would not think that would be hard, it was very difficult for me to give up one more thing in my life. And believe me, it wasn’t the Nativities, but an entire life being uprooted and changed. Sometimes, it wasn’t the big things but the minutest of things that would bring moments of remembrance of a life that would cease to exist. 

 The shock of beginning again is hard, and voluntarily giving up your life, what you have always known, to start over in a new place with a new language can be breathtaking, heart-stopping painful.

Please don’t feel sorry for me or my family, because we know Who called us and why and we willingly said, “YES!” But, I think, people get caught up in the excitement and intrigue of moving to another country and they don’t realize the deep impact 
it makes on your mind and heart and life.
But when I compare what I gave up for the life and ministry God has for us here, there is NO comparison. 

The rewards from what we do with our lives here are worth so much more than my lost Nativities. For the lives that are saved here that we will one day see in Heaven...there is nothing that I gave up that would even come close to giving me that same joy and fulfillment!

I shared all this from the deep places of my heart (that I don’t expose very often). I love my Nativities and what they represent, but for everything that we gave up as a family to come here, God saw and knows and He has restored any loss we may have felt with the Joy of His presence and doing His work for His glory!

I am once again collecting Nativities, but now they have a little cultural flair. I do have to be careful of the ones which downplay the Savior for other prominent figures in the Christmas story or the ones that include those who really weren’t there at all. :/

Now the memories are a little different. They are memories of starting over for the right reason, for just a glimpse of what He gave up for us, to come here as a baby (starting over), dwelling among us (definitely a different culture than Heaven) and ultimately giving His life for us (a people so unworthy) to bring us the gift of eternal life. 

Can I not give at least a little of myself back to tell others?

That, my friends, is worth giving up a few Nativities for...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Venezuela

Our Venezuelan ornaments...

Last year was our first Christmas in VZ, so, along with all transition come new traditions. We didn’t know how hard it might be to find ornaments here...cause let me tell ya...there are no Hallmark stores here! ;D

But, have no fear, this is where downtown shopping comes in handy. Shopping on Calle 20 in Barquisimeto near Christmas is like shopping at the mall the week of Christmas. It is a madhouse, but we found a store that sold little trinkets that represented this country and worked well for each of our children. 

This year, in Caracas (since we haven’t been here very long), was not looking so hot until we found an artisan shop in one of our local malls where I could have spent hours looking at all their unique hand-made items. In fact, I did spend quite a bit of time in there and when my hubby found me, I was able to walk around the store and say, “I want this one and this one and this one and this one and this one.” :D 

But since it isn’t Christmas Eve yet, I can’t show you the ornaments I found this year, but I can tell you that they definitely make my list of favorites.

But let’s get back to last year...

Malachi received a mini coffee mug, 
because it reminds us of how he is growing into a man 
and we enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with him
in the mornings and just talking.

Moriah received a harp, not because she plays 
that instrument, but because it represents a beautiful instrument that makes beautiful music 
and she is a beautiful instrument of God that makes beautiful music that glorifies Him, 
even if she is still a little shy about doing so. 

Micah received a plaque that reads “Naguara” 
which is a slang term used in the Barquisimeto area to mean all kinds of things, but all within the genre of, 
“No way” or “You’re kidding me” or “Whatever” 
or “I can’t believe it” kinds of phrases. 
It reminds us of how he has learned Spanish 
faster than any of us, even the slang terms or phrases 
that make no sense in any language, but they use them here and you just learn to use them and go with it. 

Matthew received a shirt with the VZ flag on it 
because it was just so cute and he is one cute kid. 
It also makes me think of how he just goes with the flow, so to speak. He puts on whatever “shirt” he needs to in order to fit the circumstances. 
He is great about doing whatever needs to be done without asking a lot of questions 
and if that means changing his “shirt,” 
then so be it. It doesn’t bother him 
and he is with you all the way. 

Merci received a doll that says, “I love VZ.” 
She is so into being a little mother...and sometimes
she tries to be big mama to her siblings. 
In fact, they are all really good at mimicking her 
“hands on the hips, teeth clenched, 
growling their name, little attitude” 
that appears when they don’t do exactly what she wanted or expected them to do for her. :D

All of their ornaments describe them in their new home and ever-adapting personalities. They have done so well at making VZ their home and although they have their culture shock moments, they have really adapted well and often surprise me with their ability to understand their new surroundings. 

Before September 2012, our children had always lived in the same small town in eastern North Carolina. But in less than 2 1/2 years, they have lived in two separate countries, and another continent in three different houses and said good-bye to too many old friends, new friends and even family. 

Although there have been tough times and tears shed, they are better for it. They are stronger, wiser, more discerning, and resilient and I am proud to be their mom! Scott and I have 5 great kids and we are thankful for all the lessons learned and all the fun times we have had and will continue to have with them. We couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do missions without them!