christmas blessings

James 1:17 reads, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”.

This Christmas especially, far more than any before it, I felt joy and incredible peace. For this holiday is not about simple packages under a tree, but it’s about a Savior who has given us the greatest gift, free of charge. Christmas is about the people who fill our lives with love. So I thank Jesus for the incredible blessing of FAMILY in my life.

My precious nieces and nephew

My precious nieces and nephew!

Papa took us all to Silver Dollar City in Branson

My mom and my sister

Mom is excited about her new son-in-law!

But they were not excited about roller coaster!

The Newsome's (minus one)

Roller coaster ridin' buddies

Mastered his leggo set in no time!

The littliest one...

Turning Jeff into a prince!

For the future 'Justin Jay'

Isn't she lovely?!

Jeremy & Christian

I'll let Santa decide...

Beautiful AND pregnant!

Dad decided we needed a new family photo!

so be good for goodness sake...

time for Jeff to open his gifts!

My very own record player!

Christmas at the Mullikin's

Mother & son

I can't get enough of baby Merritt!

Santa's little helper

after

My dad is a pastor, so I’ve heard a lot of sermons. I’ve heard sermons that motivate, sermons that convict, sermons that I’ve sworn were written and preached straight to me. And then there have been those sermons that have lulled me to sleep. It seems I’ve heard it all.

And yet, here I found myself sitting in a group with only 10 others, absolutely transfixed; as if hearing a sermon for the very first time.

The speaker was a man named Marvin. He dressed in shabby clothes and was missing a few teeth. Neither eloquent nor educated, however his words were like a knife to the soul. As I listened, it occurred to me that instead of a speaker’s level of education, perhaps it’s the amount of suffering he has endured which gives him and his words credibility.

Marvin is living with Aids. 

Along with a few dozen other patients he stays at the Hope Care Aids home. Last year, after hearing about the good news of Jesus Christ, Marvin gave his life to the Lord and became a Christian. Almost instantly his best friend at Hope Care, Larry, lost his fight to with Aids and passed away. It was a dark time for Marvin. And again, several weeks ago Marvin lost another friend at Hope Care to the disease.

“After my second friend died, I started to get depressed again and thought, Oh no, am I going to have to deal with this again? But, then God showed me a verse that gave me the strength I desperately needed.”

Marvin read 1 Peter 5:10 to us, which says, “And the God of all grace…after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Marvin will struggle with the hurt and reality of death, but the struggle won’t last forever.

In that moment, I wanted to pen a note with this verse and send it back in time to myself in 2010: Jen, I know you feel like you’re dying right now. But, keep holding on. The suffering won’t last forever. Restoration will come. 

Time seemed to stand still; Marvin and the others froze. I looked over at my husband, and realized how happy I am. How blessed I am. How far I’d come from the dark dungeons of August 2010.

Last week, I spoke with a friend who is struggling with a broken marriage and threats of divorce. She said, “Sometimes it feels as if this will never end; that I cannot make it through.” To her and to others who bind arms with us in struggles, this is the message of hope.

That God has a plan for restoration. 

The ironic part is, I was at Hope Care Aids home to minister to Marvin and the other patients. I was there to “give back” during the Christmas season after being challenged by our Christmas reading plan. But, I was the one who left encourage. I was the one who was ministered to. I left with a full heart.

This Christmas, don’t forget about those in need. Here are some easy ways to give, without even having to leave your computer screen:

1. Hello Somebody: a ministry existing to help educate and feed children and to break the cycle of poverty and hunger. You can make a financial donation or purchase a stylish watch which will help buy Christmas gifts for street children in Rwanda.

2. Operation Christmas child: a ministry of Samaritan’s purse which gives shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts to needy children. Donate $7 to help with shipping boxes or $35 online to fill and ship a box.

3. Operation Warmth: Make a financial contribution to help provide a warm coat to a needy child.

Question: What did you do to give back this Christmas season?

 

bringing back Christmas

I absolutely adore this time of the year. A side of me that I’ve never seen before has been slowly appearing. In the kitchen, I’ve evolved into a woman that is learning to cook and bake. In the living room, I finally mastered the Christmas tree decorations without begging my sister to come over and fix it. I’ve taken time to press the pause button on life and enjoy driving down a street intoxicated with Christmas lights.

But, what I love most about this time of year is remembering the origin and focus of Christmas; the miracle of it all. I’m a hopeless sucker for a good story and the real story of Christmas; well, it’s the greatest tale of all. Jesus’ coming is a story spun of suspense, love, sacrifice, drama and fulfilled promises.

As the November page is ripped from the calendar and the month of snow and gifts arrive, we will celebrate the advent season. I never really knew what advent meant, did you? Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the advent season celebrates the coming of the Savior and Messiah. Advent is about resetting Jesus as the center of our lives.

I found this awesome Christmas reading plan on Cissie Graham Lynch‘s blog, and I want to pay it forward to all of you. The reading plan comes from You Version; an easily readable 24-day plan leading up to Christmas Eve. Each daily reading is followed by some thought-provoking questions.

Jeff and I started the plan this evening and really enjoyed discussing the questions afterwards! I’m excited to wake up early on Christmas morning not just to give Jeff his gifts, but to have Jesus at the center of my holiday.

Dec 1: Luke 2:21-40

Dec 2: Matthew 1

Dec 3: Luke 2:1-20

Dec 4: Mark 9:33-37

Dec 5: Matthew 4:12-17,  Isaiah 9:1-3, Matt 5:14-16

Dec 6: Acts 20:35, 1 John 4:10

Dec 7: Exodus 25

Dec 8: Matthew 25:31-46

Dec 9: Isaiah 9:6-7, Revelation 19:1-16, 1 Timothy 6:11-16

Dec 10: Matthew 1:22-23, Isaiah 7:10-15, John 1:14

Dec 11: Genesis 1, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:1-10

Dec 12: Revelation 2:1-5, 1 John 3:1-3

Dec 13: Psalm 150

Dec 14: Acts 15:22-31

Dec 15: Luke 1, Jeremiah 32:17

Dec 16: Matthew 2:1-12

Dec 17: Galatians 4:1-7

Dec 18:Isaiah 58, Matthew 6:16-18

Dec 19: Luke 11:1-13

Dec 20: John 1

Dec 21: John 21:25

Dec 22: Psalm 100

Dec 23: Matthew 25

Dec 24: John 3:16

Dec 25: Luke 1:26-56, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-40

P.S. Jeff says he’s never heard of stringing popcorn garland on the Christmas tree. Tell me I’m not the only one who did this growing up!!?

2 is better than 1

Finally received some footage of our beautiful wedding day and I can’t wait to share it with you! I love how this video instantly takes me right back there. 

In other news, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our place…AND I LOVE IT!