Time To Breathe

Do you feel a bit stretched thin right now? Any of you mamas just on the verge of, or well past, wanting to pull your hair out (or someone else’s :-/ )?thumb_FullSizeRender-2_1024

If so, please PAUSE… 

and BREATHE…

And know that everything that’s making you crazy is temporary and won’t even be remembered by anyone this time next year. What will be remembered is whether Christmas is the joy you say it is or a burden, whether it brings the peace it promises or spurs chaos in your home.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”–Luke 2:9-10, 13-14

So…this year, in the midst of all the excitement, let’s not forget to bring good news that causes great joy. Let’s celebrate the Savior as the angels did and receive His peace.

Please say this with me: I are not a slave to anyone’s expectations. Especially my own! I hope you really believe that.

I hope that if you’re harried, you will slow down, connect, and find rest. Maybe jump in the car with your kiddos and go “light-seeing”. Curl up on the couch with hubby and watch a sappy movie. They matter. The “one more batch of cookies” you think you have to make for the party you don’t want to go to? Buy them. Or skip it altogether. And those gifts you want to wrap as beautifully as Macy’s? Stick ’em in a bag and know it’s enough. Sometimes, enough is just perfect.

“Enough” will leave you time to do what you love with the people you love.

thumb_FullSizeRender-5_1024Like chatting with friends over a cup of tea. Yep, that’s me with you…

…Thank you for hanging out with me during such a busy season. It means so much to me.

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of the Perfect Christmas and The Year We Beheaded Joseph

I’m an idealist. I always have a picture in my head of how every detail of every day is supposed to look. Magnify that multiple times and you have Christmas.

Needless to say, I struggle with expectations and the endless string of unmet ones. But that year was different. That year, it seemed Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincaid visited my house and painted the perfect Christmas scene.

My white farmhouse was glowing with lights, a fire crackled in the woodstove, and soft carols were playing on the radio. The perfect live Christmas tree stood in front of the window, garland was draped beautifully down banners and wrapped around light poles, and Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus were lit up as the focal point in my yard.

Perfect!

2143532291_b408712940_zI’d never had a yard nativity scene. I wanted one, because after all, I wanted to show my kids what Christmas was all about. Only I wanted a really nice one, and the price was a bit extravagant for our budget. But that year was different. That year, I’d found an incredible sale and it cinched the “perfect Christmas” for me.

And then, it happened. The kids and I were playing in the snow, careful not to go near the sacred nativity, when a strong wind blew Joseph’s head right off. I stood staring in disbelief as it plopped down by Jesus. Convinced Satan himself was trying to ruin my perfect Christmas, I heard from behind me something like, “Uhh, it was an accident.”

The words didn’t compute. Surely my children knew how long I’d waited to showcase this scene in my yard. Surely, they were not responsible for Joseph’s beheading. But they were. Or at least my son was, and his sister protected his secret.

Kieran was 12 that year and was perfecting his Chuck Norris kicks on everything in sight. Joseph was yet another casualty of a roundhouse kick. In an attempt to save his own head, he had set Joseph’s head back on his body and hoped for grace.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to call off Christmas. I wanted to scold my son for being so careless and insensitive and both of them for not fessing up. But as I turned on them and they stood utterly still and quiet, I heard that quiet voice whisper, “It’s not about Joseph or a manger scene in the yard,” and instantly the ridiculousness of it all hit me. My disappointment and anger dissolved into laughter.

How ironic it seemed. My picturesque Christmas was not so picturesque after all. But then, neither was that first Christmas when Jesus came onto the scene. The heavens may have been filled with singing, but the stable or cave or whatever He was born into was filled with manure. There may have been “the thrill of hope,” but there was also uncertainty and want.

Sounds a bit like Christmas today.

Since then, I’ve realized that the perfect Christmas is a phantom, and chasing it is the surest way to ruin it.

This year, instead of seeking the perfect Christmas, won’t you join me in seeking the One who is perfect? In doing so, we may not fill our Pinterest boards with ideas, but we will fill our homes with peace and our families will declare the glory of God.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Do You Know What You Were Born For?

I’m sure you all know that familiar voice that whispers every now and then, “There’s got to be more to life than this.” Do you know what you are here on earth for, or do you often struggle to find meaning in the mundane of daily living?ID-100339655

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As moms, it’s a question we must settle for ourselves if we are going to be able to guide our children toward purposeful and fulfilled living.

I know not all of you share my faith, but I cannot talk about purpose aside from my faith. As Christmas draws near, I couldn’t help but think of what the birth and life of Jesus teaches us about our own purpose even now.

Jesus knew clearly what He was born for, and He lived and died with singularity of purpose. There was no question; there was no soul-searching. He was born to die an agonizing death. Yet He moved through His life with such focus that in a short thirty-plus years, He changed not only the lives of those He walked with, but also the lives of countless others for more than 2,000 years since.

We may not be called to die for the sins of the world, but we were born with a distinct and unique purpose.

So, how do we live that purpose out?

1—Remember that God alone, not our circumstances, determines our destiny. Jesus was born amidst scandal, grew up in a backwoods town, and was mocked and scorned by the leaders of the day. Yet, He set his eyes on who his Father said He was (John 13:3) and accomplished what had been set for Him to do (John 12:49-50).

2—Finding our purpose requires God-searching rather than soul-searching. Jesus knew His Father in Heaven and talked with Him (Matthew 14:23). God is the author of our purpose and He wants to share it with us. He will show us every step as we get in step with Him (Psalm 37:23-24).

3—Do the hard thing and be willing to stand alone. Jesus challenged religion and tradition in order to fulfill His call. Because of it, He was sought and killed. He was driven to His death alone and shamed. Still, He died as He lived—intentionally (1 John 3:16, Matt 26:52-54).

4—If you seek to be great, seek first to serve. Who serves better than you mamas? The world may not see the glory in wiping snotty noses and jellied fingers, but I sure hope you know that your sacrifices done in love will reap a mighty reward (Matthew 23:11-12, Galatians 6:9)!

5—When you breathe your last breath, it’s really all about love. The “stuff”, the accomplishments, the promotions all disappear, but a legacy of love is eternal (Matthew 22:36-40).

We all have a myriad of choices every day. Some will distract us, some will detour us, and some will completely derail us. Still others will move us toward the life only we were meant to live. When we intentionally seek the Father’s will, walk with the One who made it possible, and serve those placed around us, we will not only exist, but will live a life worth dying for.

How about you? Are you living life on purpose or just trying to get through the day? What one thing can you do today to recognize and passionately fulfill your call?

 

 

 

 

 

From Our House To Yours–Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to pop in on Thanksgiving morning to tell you that I am grateful for each of you. From the Clucas house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

15991842457_d23d4cbd9d_z

Kim’s Jeans

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Although my daughter is now the mother of two teenagers, I vividly remember a day when she was twelve that helped me learn to recognize God’s voice. It was a simple matter, really. She needed new jeans for her sixth grade class trip to the Smithsonian Institute the next day. In a sudden growth spurt, she had shot up two inches and could hardly bend over in her old ones. For a month, I’d been promising to get her a new pair, and I was down to the wire.

At that time in my life, I had another mission, too: to get better acquainted with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Every morning, I climbed the stairs to our attic for some alone time with the Lord. If you’ve seen the movie, War Room, you’ll have an idea of how serious I was about this. I called it my “prayer closet” where I used The Helper, a book by Catherine Marshall, as my devotional guide.

The page open before me that morning was “He Saves Me Time,” so I prayed that I’d be able to find Kim some jeans that fit and still get to bed on time (not only for her benefit but also for mine since I was one of the chaperones). Before leaving my attic prayer closet, my eyes rested on these words from pages 75–77:

Lord Jesus, so often I ignore or ride roughshod over these strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit. . . . What is willfulness in me, Lord, change . . .  Nothing could be more foolish than thinking I know better than You do. Help me this day, no matter how busy I get, to listen and to obey.

I worked as a secretary at Delaware Technical & Community College, and things were fairly slow at the office, so my thoughts drifted back to the day’s lesson. Would the Lord save me time if I could actually recognize and heed the voice of His Spirit? Around 11:00, I began to toy with the idea of using some overtime hours to make a quick run to the Salisbury mall to look for Kim’s jeans. My boss was in a meeting, so I arranged for someone to cover my desk. I’m sure he won’t mind, I rationalized, and it sure will save me time. Off I went.

The 45-minute ride was, in a word, harrowing. I hardly ever speed, but I did that day. My thoughts kept time with the speedometer as I raced along. If it was difficult for me to recognize the Lord’s voice in the quiet of my home, how could I ever hope to hear Him with cars and trees whizzing by my window?

My heart tugged and told me not to go, but I tried to ignore it. Wonder if that nagging feeling is God’s inner nudge? No, I countered, it’s probably just my guilty conscience because I didn’t get the official okay. Besides, I asked God to save me time, and this looks like a golden opportunity time-saver.

“Listen. Don’t go,” the tug repeated. My heart thumped, but I sped on.

Rounding the bend, an inner voice cautioned, “Turn back; it’s not too late.”

“Is that You, Lord?” I couldn’t be sure. “If it is, please bear with me.” Was I guilty of ‘riding roughshod’ over the strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit? Maybe I shouldn’t buy Kim’s jeans without having her along to try them on. As I reconsidered my excursion, the internal struggle eased a bit. My mind is made up! I insisted. Again, something grabbed at my gut as I pressed on the accelerator.

“Turn back, turn back, turn back,” the voice seemed to echo.

“Lord,” I prayed, “if this is You and You’re trying to keep me from having an accident or something, please make it clear.”

“You’re speeding.”

“I know. I’ll slow down.”

“Go back. Don’t waste your time.”

“Lord, I’m sorry if I’m being bull-headed, but it’s too late to turn back now; I’m over halfway there. Besides, this will be a good test. If I don’t find any jeans in Kim’s size, then I’ll know it was Your voice after all. On the other hand, if I’m successful, then I’ll chalk this up to a vivid imagination. Either way, I’ll learn something. Thank You, Lord, for seeing me safely through this experiment.”

I rushed into the store and before my eyes stood a rack of 12-Slims, just what I was looking for. I scooped a pair of designer jeans off the rack and onto the sales counter where the cashier was quick to accept my credit card. I signed the form in haste, not paying any attention to the total.

An ear-splitting alarm sounded the moment my foot passed through the door on the way out. I jumped but, knowing I had paid, kept on walking, although I could hear a distant voice calling, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am.” When I turned around to see who was in trouble, the sales lady was racing toward me!

“What have I done?” My face flushed as she reached for the bag I was holding. She had forgotten to remove the security device from my purchase, and, although I was innocent of any wrongdoing, I had this eerie feeling that I’d been caught.

On the return trip, I concluded it must not have been the Lord’s voice to turn around, after all. My mind must have been playing tricks on me. The jeans were easy enough to find, and there were no traffic complications. Back at the office, everything was fine. I was relieved but a bit puzzled about that inner tug. I really had hoped that it was the Lord.

But surprise, the jeans didn’t fit! They were even tighter than Kim’s old ones. My heart skipped wildly.

“So it was You, after all! That is what You sound like.”

About that time, as if the ill-fitting jeans weren’t proof enough, I noted the sales slip and the outrageous price I’d paid. “Thank You, Lord, for convincing me. Next time, help me not to doubt Your voice and to be more obedient.”

Kim and I went shopping together that night, as originally planned. But this time, there was a difference. I was tuned in to the Lord’s voice, and I wasn’t racing around in a panic.

“You know where today’s sales are, Lord. Where should we go?”

“Dover.”

“Okay, here we are; which shopping center?”

“This one.”

“Which store?”

“This one.”

We drove into the parking lot and walked leisurely into the nearest store where Kim and I discovered a half-price sale and three pair of jeans that didn’t pinch, pull, sag, bag, or need to be hemmed. We were home and tucked into bed that night by 9:15.

Eventually, I returned the unwanted jeans to Salisbury. Some might say, “What a waste,” but I say, “What a workshop!” So many glorious lessons came out of that experience. It was almost as though God had enrolled me in a special “mobile classroom.” The return trip provided valuable time for reflection. Never again will I think that God is too busy with important things to be bothered with my trivial concerns. Not only did I learn that the Holy Spirit cares enough to save me time, but I know He’s big enough to pay attention to the tiniest detail and tolerant enough to deal with my clumsy experiments.

We don’t need good hearing to detect the Lord’s voice, just a sensitive, willing heart. I actually think the Holy Spirit delights in providing sensitivity training. Although the voice may be still and small, it is near. In fact, Luke 17:21 says, “The kingdom of God is within you”—in our very own hearts, souls, and minds.

But thoughts can be tricky. Not all inner nudges, promptings, impulses, or impressions come from God. The handcuffed, suicidal maniac I saw on the news who insisted, “God told me to do it!” as he was being thrust into the back seat of a squad car was responding to the voice of the god of destruction, not the God of heaven.

How can we be sure it’s God’s voice we’re hearing? Examine what the voice tells you in light of God’s attributes. I compiled the following checklist as a tool to test the validity of any inner leading I may have. Let the truth of these points sink deep into your heart, soul, and mind.

Checklist for Hearing God

  1. God will never lead me astray.
    He won’t ask me to do anything immoral, unethical, corrupt, vicious, dishonest, unkind, or unbecoming. If my morals or integrity are jeopardized in any way, the voice cannot be His. He is a God of righteousness.
  2. God will never violate His Word.
    He will never ask me to do anything that is contrary to the Scriptures. Even if I can find a passage that seems appropriate, I must be careful not to twist it to suit my own needs but rather consider the context in which it was written. He is a God of honor.
  3. God will never cause confusion.
    He offers me peace, joy, and clarity of mind. If I am experiencing anxiety or confusion, it is probably because of my own pandemonium, worldly pressure, or some unholy spirit—which I promptly and deliberately reject. He is a God of order.
  4. God will never bring condemnation.
    He is compassionate, righteous, and just. While He insists on confronting me with my own sin and shortcomings, He will not whip me with guilt. His desire is not to cripple but to lead me in the ways of repentance and restoration. His trademark is not incrimination but forgiveness. He is a God of mercy.
  5. God will never entertain discouragement.
    He builds me up and calls forth courage. He does not throw in the towel, promote defeat, or look for easy escape routes. He offers power and victory, no matter how bad a mess I get myself into. He is a God of hope.
  6. God will never contradict Himself.
    His message will never be in conflict with His nature that is comprised of unconditional love coupled with unwavering justice. God is love, and His Word is truth. Christ’s character and His law will always be reflected in the words His Spirit says. He is a God of conviction.
  7. God will never hurt me.
    He is the Great Physician—the healer and the restorer. He is the Good Shepherd—the seeker of lost sheep, the protector, and the guide. He is the Solid Rock—a ready fortress and refuge. He is a God of grace.

Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You
and wait in expectation
(Psalm 5:3).