Out With The Old?

As 2011 comes to a close we are surrounded by all kinds of lists and reviews in every media outlet. From year-in-review issues of magazines to the top songs on the radio and top news or entertainment stories, the end of the year begs us as a society to look back at year that’s fading before our eyes. 

Many of us also look back at the passing year and do some evaluating of our own. We examine the ups and downs, the events that took place and the challenges we conquered, or perhaps we feel, conquered us.

Unfortunately many of us look back with a very critical eye on our personal year in review. I know I tend to glance over the good things that happened with a slight smile but stop and dwell longer on the things that weren’t what I hoped they would be. Too often I don’t give myself enough credit for all that I did well or the progress I made even if I didn’t reach all the goals I set for myself.

So this year I’m making a resolution, not or the new year but for today…and tomorrow, and each day that I look back and examine the past.

I resolve to look at things a little differently. I resolve whenever possible to put a positive spin on things that I feel like I didn’t accomplish. Some might say that I’ll look for the silver lining in the storm clouds.

For example, I had a goal to lose more than 50 pounds in 2011. I did lose a little weight but I didn’t reach my goal. In fact, I didn’t come close to that goal. In years past I would spend weeks dwelling on my failure and wallowing about it, probably consuming large amounts of chocolate to make myself feel better.

However this year I’m making a different choice. I’m choosing to see how much I did accomplish even without reaching the ultimate goal. I learned a lot this year about my eating habits and choosing healthy options. I learned that I can deal with stress and boredom without the help of chocolate. And by the end of the year I had developed a routine of exercise that will help me reach towards a new goal in 2012. So even though I’m not as thin and healthy as I’d hoped to be I’m further along than I was a year ago!

Does any of this resonate with you? Is it easy for you to see the sliver lining in other people’s clouds but only see the gray in your own? Maybe this year we can make the change together. Here are some ideas:

1. Begin by writing down the things you are reviewing in your mind. Make two lists, one for the good you see and one for the things you perceive as negative.

2. Spend some quality time with the good list thanking God for each thing you see as positive. Keep this list around. When you’re feeling down throughout the coming weeks and months and can’t remember the good things take a look back at your list.

3. Now take the list of things you’re not so pleased with. Break this list down and examine them one at a time for positives and things that can teach you something. Like my weight loss goal, maybe there are things that you can use to create new goals for the new year. If there’s absolutely nothing positive to be found, cross it out and move forward. Put it behind you just as you will put 2011 behind you.

Examination is a very healthy exercise but if it only leads to beating ourselves up and feeling badly about who we are it does us no good. Using what we’ve learned from our examination to put the old behind us and move forward with hope towards the future will bring peace to the puzzles of our lives.

Wishing each of you blessings and peace as you end 2011 and looking forward to growing and sharing with you in 2012.

Paula

 

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Christmas Letdown?

Well, it’s over. Another Christmas is history. Your floor may still be littered with wrapping paper, boxes and lost toy parts and your fridge filled with Christmas dinner leftovers. Hopefully your day was filled with love and joy and created many happy memories to carry through the years.

But now it’s over…

On this day after Christmas, how do you feel?

Are you basking in the afterglow of a wonderful day? Are you resting up from a busy, fun-filled time with family and friends?

Or are you feeling let down?

Perhaps Christmas this year wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Maybe the kids have long abandoned that new toy they had to have, or the fancy new electronic gadget is already broken. Are you looking around at your house and wondering if you’ll ever get it clean?  Maybe you worked so hard to make it a perfect day that you didn’t enjoy the time you had. Or maybe it was such a wonderful day that you’re just disappointed that it’s over.

It’s very common to get through a highly anticipated event and then have a sense of let down. Whether it’s Christmas, a wedding, or some other special event the days following can often be difficult. We’ve spent weeks or months planning and picturing the events of the day and now we’re left with only memories. Sometimes we’re not sure what to do. Now that the magic of Christmas is through it’s easy to look ahead and see only the cold and dreary winter months in our future.

This year let’s try something different!

Let’s look ahead towards how we can carry Christmas with us throughout the coming year. Take a few minutes in the coming days to think about what kinds of things you and your family can do to bring the spirit of Christmas to others each month. Then make a plan:

1. Make a list of things you do for others at Christmas. Maybe add things you wanted to do this year but had to cut out due to lack of time or funds. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Bake cookies for your neighbors and co-workers.
  • Donate food to your local food pantry (they need food all year-long).
  • Buy a toy for the toy drive (perhaps a local day care center or church nursery could use a new toy?).
  • Instead of Christmas cards, send a card to family members or friends “just because”.
  • Visit a shut-in or nursing home.

2. Now take one item off the list and “assign” it to a month throughout the coming year. You can do the same thing more than one month! Get out your 2012 calendar and actually mark one day as “Christmas” that month. Plan for it and build excitement for the day in your family.

3. Share your ideas with us here so we can expand our own lists.

By looking ahead we can help ease our feelings of let down after the “big day”. Planning activities that bring joy to others can help keep excitement going through each month of the coming year for you and your family.

Let’s work together to make the whole year ahead exciting and carry the spirit of Christmas throughout the coming year!

Blessings and peace to you!

Paula

Even on the Darkest Day

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16  NIV

It’s the first day of winter…the darkest day of the year. Today we will have the shortest amount of daylight of any other day. I’m glad it happens at Christmastime so that it doesn’t seem as dark. The lights all around brighten the darkest of days and nights. They add cheer to otherwise dreary surroundings.

What about you? Are you a light to others this time of the year? Do you brighten the days of those around you or are you a “Scrooge” – bah humbug-ing your way through the days until Christmas is over?

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. Just as we don’t turn a light on in our home and then cover it up, we should not hide the light of the Lord living in our lives.

So how is it that we let our light shine? Jesus tells us in vs. 16 that it is by allowing others to see your good works and praise our Father in heaven. When we do good things for others with the intent of having His light shine through us people will see it. And just as a light warms the area around it, you will warm your surroundings and the lives of those whom your light touches.

Now I know what you’re saying —  we all have a lot going on this time of the year and there’s just no time to make a difference for someone else. But there is time!

  • Time to hold the door open for the person coming into the store behind you…
  • Time to reach an item on a shelf or pick up something someone dropped…
  • Time to drop a few coins into the red kettle…
  • And there’s ALWAYS time to smile at a stranger!

God may be calling you to be a light in your world in some big and amazing way. And if He is you should do as He leads. But we shouldn’t wait for these big and amazing opportunities to let our lights shine. We should start each day asking Him how we can make a difference and light our world, then do every little thing He shows us.

And I’d love to hear of ways you follow His lead and light your world, or how someone else was a light in yours!

Blessings and peace to you as you spread His light to those around you!

Paula

Do You Believe?

This time of the year we see the word over and over:

Children are curious to believe in Santa Claus

People have permission to believe in miracles.

Everyone is enticed to believe that dreams do come true.

And all are allowed to believe that there is still good in the world. 

This time of year there seems to be a magic in the air and a softening of even the hardest hearts. People seem more willing to believe. It can be a beautiful thing.

 

Believing at Christmas started over two thousand years ago with a young woman named Mary.

She had her life all planned out. Mary was engaged to be married and making preparations to begin her new life with Joseph. She probably dreamed of what their life would be like together, Joseph becoming a leader in their community and she raising the children and making a nice home for her family.

Mary’s dreams were interrupted one day by a visit from an angel telling her that she was soon going to have a baby. What? A baby? How could that be when she and Joseph were only engaged and had not been together inappropriately? What would this news mean for Mary? She would surely be divorced by Joseph, probably disowned by her family and cast out of her community. The news could have shattered her life.

But Mary responded differently. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Mary opened herself to God’s plans even though she didn’t understand and couldn’t piece together how this would affect her future. She believed in God’s plan for her and her future.

God knew before he entrusted Mary with the birth of His Son that she would respond this way. He knew that Mary would embrace what He asked of her and that he could depend on her to do her very best in whatever He asked of her. I love the words of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth as she saw Mary for the first time after the angel’s visit.

45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  Luke 1:45

When I read this I had to wonder if this could be said about my life. Do I believe?

Do I believe in God’s plan for me?

Do I believe that even when things don’t go the way I thought they would that God is in control and will make everything work out for good?

And do I believe that when I know in my heart of hearts that God has made a promise to me that He will make it come true?

I believe…how ’bout you?

It’s never too late to believe that God has a perfect plan for you. And it’s never too late to believe that He will make that plan come true. It might not always happen the way you thought, but it will always be just right for you.

…and it doesn’t stop at Christmas. It’s true throughout the year!

blessings and peace to you this week before Christmas!

Paula

Christmas Hope

It’s Christmas, and hope is all around us. Children are hoping for presents to surround the tree and overflow their stockings on Christmas morning. Many are hoping for snow to make it a white Christmas. And so many are hoping that their budgets will hold out and the time won’t slip away before they have done everything they plan to make it a perfect Christmas.

How easy it is to watch the Christmas specials, see the lights and hear the sounds of the season and not look beyond ourselves this time of the year. For while many plan their perfect celebrations, many more wonder if they’ll have a meal, let alone gifts for those they love. Others face this time of year alone for the first time after the loss of someone they love or missing someone who is serving in the military thousands of miles away. For them Christmas hope is hard to find.

Hopelessness is not new to our times, nor to this time of the year. Thousands of years ago people were without hope. They were under the rule of kings who treated them unfairly and had no hope of being freed from all that surrounded them. Most had turned from God and the future looked bleak.

One night in Bethlehem changed all of that. Jesus left His perfect Heaven and chose to come to earth as a man. He was born as an infant and lived a perfect, sinless life, then gave up that life to die for our sins. He made the sacrifice of His life so that we can have the hope of Heaven and eternal life with Him. All we need to do is ask Him to forgive our sins and become the leader of our life. It’s simple, but life changing. As the days tick down towards Christmas morning, if you know the hope of Jesus I encourage you to do your best to emulate His example of unselfishness and give hope to those around you. Allow someone else to take your place in line while shopping. Put a little something extra in the food drive or buy a special toy for a child in the toy drive. Or perhaps just smile more at strangers and hold your tongue more at home.

If you don’t yet know this Hope that Jesus brings, I encourage you to surrender your life to Him right now…your Christmas will be more wonderful than you could ever hope for!