Oppression is Dead; Embracing Peace This Christmas

Tragedies unfold each year pausing for nothing. Heartless shootings that result in lives lost with no cause. The Las Vegas Massacre. The Texas Chruch shooting.Those left behind consumed with grief which feels as if their hearts are being ripped out, no words can describe its depth.

Natural disasters devasting countless people. Leaving communities once thriving fighting to stay alive. Desperately trying to rebuild. Each natural disaster claiming lives. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in California.

Then the issue of human sin within the truth of Hashtag Me Too. Ugly, heartless sin which begs to be hidden. Revealing the horror humans are capable of. 

Of course, these few things are only the surface of the devastation surrounding us. Financial difficulties, abuse, and relationship issues add to the impact. Additionally, much devastation consumes us. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, panic attack, grief, and personality disorders. Physical pain with relentless symptoms. Chronic illness which seems to never let up dictating life. 

The hardships are unending. The news reminds us of this often. Is there meaning in life? Any purpose in all the pain? One can even question if there is anywhere safe anymore. It is draining; sucking the joy from us. At times, we feel dead inside, nearly falling apart as the world caves in burying us. 

Where is the peace in all of this devasting chaos? 

The Christmas story is rooted in hardship and in devastating pain. It is not the simple nativity we see so often in our childrens Bible. None of it was easy emotionally or physically for the family of Jesus. It was a difficult journey of fear, anxiety, sadness, and confusion. God came as a helpless baby turning the world upside down. Ultimately, He overcame death by the work of the cross. We celebrate Christmas because of Easter. “Christmas is more than a story about sleigh bells jing-jing-jingling — Christmas is the beginning of the story where death itself gets killed.” God desperately wanted us to encounter true peace rooted in His love. 

_Merry Christmas in it_s original language means all oppression is dead._1

Christmas is the perfect reminder that we are all equal no matter the background, color, or education level we all have a sinful nature in desperate of a Savior. There is peace in the midst of the Christmas season, but it is not found in the lights or getting everything just right. Joy is not found in the decorations or the gifts. 

“God is so moved by our being entangled in suffering — that He moved Himself into our world and entangled Himself in the suffering with us. God with us”.  Peace begins with Christ in the middle of the devastation. It begins with pouring out your heart to Him in a lament. 

It’s not about reciting movie lines but being intertwined with the lines within the Holy Word. Being immersed and consumed by those living Words. “His glory in the highest runs down to meet us who are at our lowest, those left out in the field, those who’ve lost our flock, lost our way, lost our hope, His glory in the highest always runs down to meet us who are at our lowest.”

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We have peace in the anticipation of the work Christ is doing in our hearts this Advent season. Furthermore, it is rooted in the anticipation of Christ return. This peace consumes us when we intently make space for Christ in the midst of the hurry and allows us to put to death our worry. In doing so we cherish each moment and live an abundant life.

Living out peace this Christmas season requires us to extend compassion and grace to one another. “Let us listen to one another in the depths of our suffering and sadness — and  only speak words that make souls stronger.” Living each moment with a thankful heart. Living loved and loving others. 

 

*All Quotes By Ann Voskamp 

 

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Christmas Cookies

Baking is an enjoyable part of the Holiday season. I have been extremely spoiled, every season there is something homemade my mom makes for us from applesauce to pies to cookies to candy. I always enjoyed assisting her in baking, especially during the Christmas season. It has been difficult for me to bake on my own because of POTS and a lack of energy. I am going to share some cookie recipes with you. Some are spoonie friendly, others just taste good and are worth sharing.

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Low Spoon Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup of peanut butter

1 egg

1 cup of white sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Combine ingredients. Bake for about eight minutes

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Philly Cream Cheese Cookies

I simply love these cookies. They are different than the norm but festive and delicious.

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup of softened butter

1 cup of powdered sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon mint extract

Combine ingredients. Allow dough to chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes about three dozen cookies.

Shortbread:

More of a classic type cookie. I love simple cookie recipes. They can allow those with chronic illness who are sensitive to take part in the cookies. I am not gluten-free but have a lot of abdominal issues and this cookie always sits well.

Preheat oven: 350

1 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of cornstarch

Being on your feet for too long is draining. I recommend sitting while making cookies. Using an electric mixer can help conserve energy as well. Take breaks in between, if needed. Rember there is nothing wrong with getting help baking or having someone bake for you 🙂

My family and I love this Gingerbread Cookie Recipe by Trisha Yearwood.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring
  • Nonstick cooking spray, for the baking sheets and rolling pin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the cookies: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the shortening and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, vinegar, and egg and beat on high speed to blend thoroughly.

Sift together the ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt and 4 cups of the flour in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed shortening and sugar and mix to make a firm, manageable dough, adding more flour if needed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Then the super fun part! Cut cookies into tons of fun Christmas shapes using cookie cutters. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes.

What are your spoonie baking tips? What is your favorite Christmas Cookie recipe?

Hope

The pain intensifies as the minute’s drag by. There is an indescribable ache and stabbing pain nearly with each breath.  A sickening feeling overwhelms my body along with waves of nausea from the pain. As quick as possible I unsteadily get up as the urgency increases to get to the bathroom and on my way, I partly dislocate a knee.  Weakness consumes my body from lack of nutrition and hydration. Anxiety plagues the mind as I come up with theories of what is occurring.

Moments like these it is impossible to read or to focus for more than five seconds to pray. Moments like these are when I need hope instinctively. “Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.” He promises no matter how dark, painful, and hopeless things feel that joy comes in the morning.

There are times when all looks hopeless to others that Christ fills me with His hope beyond explanation. On the contrary, I am sad to admit, there are too many times that my heart aches with sorrow and hopeless tears spill out.

There have been times friends feel so hopeless they have walked out of my life never to return. Countless times, doctors tell me things are hopeless that they are stumped. Thankfully, my Savior has never felt that my health is hopeless.

What are the things which leave you feeling hopeless?

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea.png

 

Hopelessness seems to fill this fallen world. Maintaining the hope that Christ calls us to have can seem like an impossible task. Hope is not a feeling. It is so much more to the believer. It is an anchor to our soul that connects us to Christ.

Advent is a time to rekindle our hope. The story of the birth of Jesus bursts with hope.  Jesus is the source of hope and furthermore our ultimate example of remaining hopeful.  The Lord is renewing our hope today through the first Sunday of Advent.

 

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea (1).png

Lord,

I am amazed at the way the whole Bible is connected to the birth of Jesus. I am amazed at the way that you are always at work mighty ways. Thank you for providing hope when all seems lost. Thank You for the joy You provide. Thank You for who You are. Thank You for the grace You provide.

I praise You for the hope found in Your Son, Jesus, Christ. Thank you for the renewed hope of Advent. Allow me to read the Advent story with an open heart and new eyes. I surrender this Christmas season to You knowing that You will do a new awe-inspiring work in me. Fill me up with You, Lord Jesus. Allow me to be a blessing to others.

Amen

Welcome December

I adore the Christmas season, it is absolutely magical. Beauty overflows all around from stunning lights to warm smiles to traditions and so much more. Christmas carols sweetly fill the air. The Christmas season brings joy as it reassures us gently that things will be okay. It helps us connect with our inner child reminding us of the wonderful Christmas memories. At the same time, it encourages us to move forward filling us with a hope like no other. It unites us with those we hold dear in our hearts. I cherish every aspect of Christmas.

Unfortunately chronic illness and the stressful demands that go with it does not take a holiday. The doctors appointments, treatment, and testing still must be done. Chronic illness tends to complicate things and get in the way of our joy during this season. It is easy to lose focus of the beauty in this season when we are consumed with emotion and pain. When the world seems to be caving in on us and everything seems to be falling apart. Chronic illness isolates us. We feel the effects more so this time of year. Finding a balance between doing things and resting becomes more difficult. For some, this season is depressing, reminding them of all they cannot do.

I hope you are able to take the time to rest and reflect this holiday season. Take to reflect about all the ways you have grown as an individual, all you have accomplished, all the blessings in your life, and everything you have overcome the past few months. You, my friend, have come so far. I am proud of you. You deserve to take time for yourself this busy season. You are an inspiration. Your story is breathtaking and laced with beauty along with encouragement it will change lives. I pray your strength is renewed. The Lord will bless you greatly this season, be open to all he has to offer for you.

I pray you would have a flare free Christmas season. I hope that despite your pain you are able to enjoy this season of blessing. Cherish every moment with those you hold dear to your heart. Hold onto the Christmas spirit. I pray that this season would bless you with little to no pain, plenty of spoons, memories, joy, and love. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

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My Advent Reading Plan

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I have shared many times that I tend to read a few books at a time, furthermore, it seems to an outsider that I over complicate my time with God. I enjoy hearing what others are reading for advent so I thought it would be fun to share what I am reading.

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

Hundreds of thousands of readers have already fallen in love with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, and this Christmas, Ann invites readers into the rich and meaningful celebration of Christmas we all long for — a celebration of the complete love story that’s been coming for you since the very beginning.

In what is certain to become an instant holiday classic, Voskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift.

Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, The Greatest Gift retraces the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.

Sure to become a holiday staple in every Christian home, The Greatest Gift, a New York Times bestseller, is the perfect gift for the holidays and a timeless invitation into the richness of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna By Liz Curtis Higgs

Meet the women who played pivotal roles in Christ’s birth! Elizabeth is barren, yet trusts God’s promise. Mary is a virgin but says yes when God asks her to bear his Son. And prophetess Anna proclaims the Messiah’s arrival. Unpacking each verse from the Gospel of Luke, Higgs illuminates their love, faithfulness, and obedience to God.
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YouVersion App Devotionals:
From Darkness To Light, From Sorrow To Hope: Lessons from Jeremiah and Lamentations for Advent
Expectation. Longing. Yearning. These emotions fill our hearts during the season of Advent. Drawn from the Latin word adventures, which means “coming,” Advent is a time of anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s Nativity. It is also a period of preparation for our Lord’s Second Coming. Paradoxically, this holy season focuses our attention on the historical fact of Christ’s birth as well as on the promise of his anticipated return.
Waiting Here for You, An Advent Journey of Hope 
Advent is simply a season of expectant waiting and preparation. Join pastor and author Louie Giglio on an Advent journey to discover that waiting is not wasting when you’re waiting on the Lord. Take hold of the chance to uncover the vast hope offered through the journey of Advent. In the next seven days you’ll find peace and encouragement for your soul as anticipation leads toward celebration!
The Gospel of Luke.
Have you considered what you are reading for advent? Do you do anything else special during advent?

The Spirit In Me: Online Church

Online women’s ministry has been a part of my life for a while now. It has opened many doors that allow me to serve Christ even though I am limited physically. I have seen it change lives of many women from all walks of life.

I am excited to share an online church group which I am sure you will

“We are a ministry dedicated to provided church and prayer specifically for people like you with chronic illness and your loved ones as well as people who just need more of Jesus. If you know people who are hurting, who are unable or afraid to go to church, this could be for them. Please share with others!

I have been providing this to people for two years now, and have been receiving requests to copy church into other groups. This makes it a available to everyone, but gives privacy and respect, by keeping it exclusive.

We are unusual as we do not have “live” church, but have a series of posts, that center around the themes of the sermon and devotion, along with opening worship. Everything is designed to be meaningful and encouraging, without being legalistic or judging. Our God is one of mercy, grace and abounding love, and we come to worship and be fed.

So scroll down, soak it up, you can come and go as you please. Feel free to comment and share as you are led. Please keep in mind that for some, this is the only church type interaction they are getting. We are so blessed to have you with us!” – Kim

This ministry was founded specifically for those with chronic illness and your loved ones. We are expanding it and it is open to all who would like to join; those who have a mental illness, single mamas, those feel broken at times, want more time with Jesus, or want more fellowship. This is a ministry of Renewed Minds Online and Chronically Hopeful and will be open all week. We would be honored if you would join us!

Thankfulness in Advent

We are encouraged to write wish lists. The media hypes up the season with empty feel good out of reach promises. Such as promises of “true” love, materialistic gifts., and the picture-perfect Christmas day with family.  People strive for perfect.

Days that are nearly bursting at the seams with activities become more hurried so that more activities can be intertwined. There is no time to breathe in this season. In the blink of an eye, Christmas day has come and gone, leaving a sobering tragedy that we missed the opportunity to cherish moments and grow closer to Christ.

People become so busy that cannot hear the whisper of Christ. It is funny that the one thing we need most is the first thing we normally cut out, which is, our time with God. We might have a sing that says keep Christ in Christmas yet we neglect doing so.

Keeping Christ in Chrismas is more than using the phrase Merry Christmas. Keeping Christ in Christmas is slowing down and cherishing the gift of time. Keeping Christ in Christmas seeking Him with your whole heart and spending extra time in His presence. Additionally, allow Him to speak to You and transform You. Keeping Christ in Christmas is loving, praying for, and caring for all those around you.

Christ should be at the center of our excitement and focus. Jesus whispers gentle reminders to us. His name is whispered in the Old Testament. Jesus whispers to us in the chaos. He whispers in moments of silence in front of awe-inspiring lights. He whispers to us in the Christmas songs and through the texture of garland. He even whispers to us through the aromas of Christmas. Jesus whispers to us in Christmas, can you hear Him?

What if instead of wish lists we kept a gratitude list, how would this transform our Christmas season? Slowing down in gratitude, as mentioned in a previous blog post, enables us to enter fully into each moment. Advent overflows with gifts from the creation story up until our present day. These gifts are waiting to be acknowledged all we must do is pay attention.

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Christmas Gratitude Challenge

Jesus,

I am amazed at how you, my Sovereign God, parted with heaven for a season. You entered in a womb through a miracle utilizing uninvited women. Entering into the beauty of You creation and navigating this fallen world. You became a helpless infant.

I praise You with all my heart for the hope found in Advent. Help me to slow down, to cherish each moment, and to hear Your loving voice whispering to me. I surrender this Advent season to You knowing You will do a work beyond my dreams. Cultivate in me a Christmas heart of gratitude.

Amen