Tag Archives: relationships

Lessons from Your Favorite Christmas Songs – 3: Count Your Blessings

The best part of the holiday favorite, White Christmas, is when Bing Crosby, in his baritone voice, sings Count Your Blessings to Rosemary Clooney.  The advice is ageless: “When you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”

Everyone’s story in 2016 contains victories and defeats. Even if yours was countyourblessingsmostly packed with victories, most are hard-fought and include moments of difficult work, questioning if the end would ever come and times of despair when it all seemed too difficult. The defeats come with their own set of worries.

Christmas is usually thought of as the season of comfort and joy, yet the world is not exempt from sorrow during this season. Perhaps life has changed dramatically for you. A cherished relative or friend might be missing from the celebrations. Maybe you fear being alone. Or the time brings back painful memories from the past year – things you wish could be undone, but can’t.

Remember at the first Christmas, Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, thought she had been unfaithful and wanted to break off the engagement. Probably to calm things down, Mary’s family sent her to live with her cousin, Elizabeth, for a while. And just as Mary was getting ready to give birth, the couple had to travel on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a distance of about 90 miles. Mary gave birth in a stinky, cold stable with only Joseph to help. Yet the Light of the World made his grand entrance as a little baby. The glory of that night could not be held in. Angels sang, shepherds and wise men came to visit because hope, true Hope for the world, was born.

Life will always be less than ideal, so it is wise to count your blessings. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, rejoice in what you have. Rather than arguing with your family, praise them for the gift they are. Rather that wishing for better circumstances, embrace God’s plan for your life. And rather than walking through suffering alone, depend on the hope Jesus gives as He walks through the valley with you.  Christ’s birth brought healing and promise to the entire world – no matter what the ache or longing, the sorrow or suffering.  That is the best blessing anyone can receive.

Peace is a Matter of Perspective

When a mind is stayed on the Lord, peace is ours. That’s what the topic of the panel discussion was at Leadership Training that morning. Let me be perfectly frank: I’m not a big fan of panel discussions. I’ve been to many conventions and conferences. It is extremely rare I come away with great insight from a panel discussion. Whenever one is on the agenda, I tend to hit the snooze button. This one was different.

It wasn’t so much of a discussion as it was 5-minute talks by 5 different women explaining on how they found peace in their lives. They each had a unique story to tell and that’s what caught my attention. Good stories have the ability to transform hearts, stimulate imagination and inspire people. Stories ask questions and inspire conversations. Stories entertain us and make us laugh. More importantly stories open our minds to ideas that might be unfamiliar to us.

But there was one woman whose story grabbed me so much I want to share her wisdom.

Each of us has over 50,000 automatic thoughts each day. If we let negativity creep into those automatic thoughts, we’ll never have peace. So, we must be careful our thoughts uplift and encourage us. She had a simple, daily 5-step process to accomplish this. The steps are hers, the verbiage is mine.

  1. Each morning say a quick surrender prayer to God. Do this before sunriseyou even get out of bed or kneel beside your bed as soon as you get out of it. Lift up the day to God, surrendering all you will do to Him. Remind yourself of God’s promises to protect you, to use you for His glory and to always be with you as you move throughout your day. Every great victory begins with prayer.
  2. Write down gratitudes every day. Researchers have found if you scan for positive things in your life, your brain trains itself to see even more.  Sometimes we get entangled in bad habits, destructive behaviors and fear. But if we turn into God with an attitude of gratitude, He can wash away our wounds.
  3. Journal right. Many of my friends are not into journaling. I love it because it helps me experience the freedom and healing that only comes from being reconciled to God. Make it easy: just expand on your gratitudes. When I quiet myself to write down what makes me thankful, I turn to God, who is reaching out to heal me. Jesus is the One who give us strength. Don’t ever get caught in the trap of turning away from God. If you aren’t the type to put pen to paper, spend time every day thinking and meditating on all the wonderful ways God showed you His love.
  4. Complete a daily act of kindness. We can assure a brighter future by practicing profound kindness. There are times, often in the face of no easy solutions, when we restore each other with the strength of our kindness. This act need not be large or daunting; it can be just a simple as sending out a short text complimenting a friend. Start practicing: say ‘thank you’ to as many people as you can today, hand out as many compliments as you can, maybe even wave at as many truck drivers you see today.
  5. Movement – Each day, get your body into motion. It will enliven your spirit and replenish your heart. It could be taking a walk to soak in the beauty of nature or something even smaller like hugging someone who wouldn’t expect it.

Peace grows in our hearts when we share our love with others with our eyes locked on Jesus. The world may be divisive and seek to destroy our peace, but what changes our world is sharing and giving away His amazing grace. We get more peace when we spread it through our love.

The world can wear you down, even on good days. Yet, peace is not only possible, it is available in abundance through Christ. Learn to be so intimate with Christ, people will want to imitate you.  Peace only comes when a mind stays focused on God.

Proposal

I was robbed! When I found the man of my dreams, I envisioned a marriage proposal for the ages – with hearts and flowers, violins softly playing in the background as candles lit the scene. The fellow on his knees, professing his unending love for me, complete with a gorgeous wedding ring. We’d end the evening close to one another, two hearts beating as one, while we sipped sweet champagne and ate decadent chocolate covered strawberries.

wedding 041616001Mine was the polar opposite. Richard and I were in the midst of an argument, so that night I almost didn’t let him into my apartment. I certainly didn’t expect a proposal, so when it came, I doubted his sincerity. There were no candles, no soft dreamy music, not even a flower – much less a ring. I didn’t believe Richard was serious until he called a friend who was mostly negative about our relationship to break the news of our engagement. Instead of champagne and strawberries, we celebrated with pie at Baker’s Square. Richard didn’t even get down on one knee until I requested that. Not a romantic proposal at all!

It isn’t how a man proposes that is romantic, rather how he tenderly lays his life down for his wife. Romance is how a man willingly lets his beloved bore a hole deep into his heart, so that his heart is forever seared by her. It sounds painful and in a way true love is. It will make you suffer because it grows only through service and faithfulness. For 25 years of marriage, Richard has been down on one knee.

Love isn’t about hearts and flowers, but about a mutual laying down one’s agenda for the other. Both husband and wife relinquish their own desires in order to strengthen another. Love is not passion; it becomes passionate only through sacrifice.

Dancing in the moonlight on a rainy beach is splendid, but true romance is about the tough task of taking two lives and molding them into one stronger than its distinct parts. It is about commitment that grows deeply sacred while fixing toilets, staying up all night in order to avoid going to bed angry and enjoying the mundane days simply because they include each other. The good, the bad and all the things in between are challenging, yet both husband and wife do them voluntarily for the sake of love.

Romantic men and women know how to treat their beloved with dedication, devotion and surrender. The courage to so only comes through the strength of Christ. While I may be disappointed about the proposal, I am ecstatic I have a man whose love is based on Christ’s.

Love is more than a feeling. Real romance is heartfelt sacrifice. And it is the only way two lives grow deeper in time, more firmly rooted in love with each passing moment.