Have you ever wondered what it was like that first Christmas? Let your imagination wander.

A young engaged couple have to go to Bethlehem and register to be taxed. When they arrive, there’s no place to stay. Finally, they find a stable to bed down. Then Mary goes into labor. What obstacles!

(Did Joseph find a midwife or did he help Mary himself? In those days, men didn’t attend a birthing, so what did Joseph think?)

Then after all that excitement dies down, shepherds show up saying they heard the news of the birth from angels singing in the sky. Angels. Not just one—a choir!

I’d be overwhelmed and groping for answers, as I’m sure Mary and Joseph must have been. But God didn’t leave them out in left field without any help or forewarning. Mary had received a visit from Gabriel (not just any angel). Joseph had a vision reassuring him everything was all right. They might not have understood in the beginning, but God had prepared them.

What situation are you facing right now? Think back and see how God has prepared you for the challenge. For me, it’s a second round of cancer. I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma before. Now it’s non-Hodgkin’s.

I think of the blessing I’ve been given through these trials. With the first round of cancer, I had no grandchildren. Now I am blessed with two little bundles of joy one year apart.

There is nothing too hard for our God. So give the gift of your smile and heart to those around you. It’s the gift they will cherish for years.

Leann Harris, an author and a teacher of the deaf, has always had stories running around her head. She started writing when her youngest child started school. Her first book was published in 1993. She’s published Harlequin through her eighteenth book. She’s written romantic suspense, inspirational romantic suspense, futuristic and inspirational romance. She has also ventured into Indi books. Her series Legacy of Lies includes The Last Lie and The Last Truth. A cancer survivor, she rejoices in each day.

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When I reflect on what Christmas is meant to be, one word rises to the surface of my mind: love.

From decorating the fragrant tree to baking cookies that fill the house with scent of cinnamon and spice, to handing out mugs of hot chocolate—each action is filled with love.

Baking cookies reminds me of happy times spent in the kitchen with my children, all covered in flour, cookie-dough prints on aprons, and delighted grins on youthful faces. These experiences fill me with joy.

Christmas is a time to connect with family, friends, and neighbors. I love to hostess a neighborhood cookie exchange to meet new neighbors and get chummier with others I haven’t spent enough time with.

People experience love giving and receiving in different ways. Gary Chapman discussed in his book, The 5 Love Languages, ways we give and receive love: words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time.

I puzzled out what I eagerly give and receive as acknowledgements of love. I appreciate words of praise, I like receiving gifts, I enjoy physical touch, and I’m thankful for acts of service.

But to make me glow with love, both giving and receiving, I crave the companionship of those I love and wish to show my love for. I’m a quality-of-time person. I would rather shop with a loved one than for a loved one. I’d prefer to dine with a loved one than receive a gift. Time spent with someone I love is the end-all for me.

But because quality of time spent together is the vitally important way to show and receive love for me does not mean my husband shares this trait. So, in giving love this Christmas season, my goal is discovering which of the five love languages my own loved ones need.

Who needs words of praise? Who needs tokens of love—gifts? Who needs to have hugs and hands held? Who needs me to give them help, acts of service? And who needs to spend quality time with me?

I want to put my love into action in the way that the person on the receiving end gains the most joy.

Anne Greene lives in McKinney, Texas, with her husband, a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Whether writing contemporary or historical, her books celebrate the abundant life Jesus gives. Her novellas include Avoiding the Mistletoe, Keara’s Escape, Daredevils, Spur on the Moment Bride, A Christmas Belle, The Marriage Broker and the Mortician, A Fool for Love, A Groom for Christmas, and A Texas Christmas Mystery. Her Women of Courage series spotlights heroic women of World War II. Her award-winning Scottish historical romances include Masquerade Marriage and Marriage by Arrangement.

 

 

 

 

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I have always hated driving in unfamiliar cities because I couldn’t watch the road and my map at the same time.

In the past, I worked hard to memorize directions and search for the next turn while maneuvering through traffic.

Even getting in the right lane to turn can be a challenge when I don’t know the area.

 

Rather than venture out, I often chose cowardice and stayed home. I could imagine myself embroiled in a major accident while floundering through alien streets.

However, I am quite grateful for the GPS on my phone. A holder on the dashboard keeps the map on the phone visible, and a voice tells me where to turn.

Can you imagine groping your way through life? Praise God we don’t have to do that. In Psalm 119 the Psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The Lord promised if we lean on him and seek his Word, our heavenly Father will reveal the next step. I discovered that to be true many times while raising my five children. God always gave me wisdom when I pleaded for help.

Praise God for his assistance while we walk through life’s bumpy streets.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She served as past president of Christian Authors Guild, directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference, and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.

 

 

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Thankful… Years Later by Judith Couchman

New York, New York. As a young woman, that’s all I wanted. In New York City, I would morph into a valued editor and writer. I would create a stylish lifestyle. I would prove my talent and worthiness. I would become who I longed to be–patterned after female writers in the biographies on my bookshelves–but of course, not addicted and less screwed up.

But even with those lavish dreams, I didn’t move to New York to work and write. Although in my late twenties a reliable NYC company offered me a job, I turned it down. Not long before that offer, I’d returned to a walk with God after an eight-year spiritual defection. At that juncture, I felt an unyielding call to work in Christian publishing. Within a year, I joined a Christian publishing house, but not without bits of doubt.

Through the years I wondered about my road less taken in Christian publishing, versus the tantalizing road to New York. Did I chose the right path? What would have transpired if I’d lived in Manhattan? And through the decades, I watched a few friends, one at a time, accept jobs in the City but in a year or two, leave feeling demolished.

Eventually, I privately admitted that with my ADD and emotionality, I might have fled New York with similar wounds. It can be an unrelenting place to work. I can’t know for sure, but crumpling felt like a high probability. Christian publishing suited me better, and in that industry, God allowed me to spiritually affect lives. Although many Christians migrate to that city and meet success, I’m not certain I would have fulfilled my dreams. They were selfish and uppity. They didn’t reflect God’s way.

Gratitude for Unanswered Prayer

Yesterday, as a nation we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Rightly so, during this holiday we focus on fulfilled desires, unexpected blessings, and answered prayers shouting God’s love. We feel thankful. At the same time, we can also express gratitude for certain unanswered dreams and prayers. The pathways God blocked with a better plan, more fashioned for you.

What if I’d married my high school sweetheart? What if I’d taken that assignment or trip? What if I’d spent large sums of money on that program? With time, we might feel grateful for “the things that didn’t work out the way we wanted them to.” We can feel relieved.

Think back on your writing and speaking ministry. Your family and personal life. What desires and prayers remained unanswered? Can you say “thanks be to God” for these blocked pathways? Tell Him. And gladly anticipate what’s next.

About Judith Couchman

Judith Couchman has traditionally published more than forty books, Bible studies, and compilations. She’s also worked as an editor, speaker, and writing coach. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com.

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Subsequent Inspiration by Linda Rondeau

“The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power come after we ‘get up and get going.’ God does not give us overcoming life—He gives us life as we overcome.” — Oswald Chambers

Chambers wrote these words a long time ago. How did he know I’d be so tired today I couldn’t think straight?

How am I supposed to inspire others when I can’t get inspired about what to make for supper?

There are days I think inspiration has permanently left the building.  

I’m a cancer survivor. Chemo and radiation treatments left me with permanent side effects of fatigue and memory loss. I count myself fortunate because I am 100 percent in remission. The side effects pale when I think of the alternative.

However, these drawbacks do impact my daily life. I tend to limit my to-do list according to how I feel when I wake up. That’s not what God wants.

But I don’t feel inspired today, Lord!”

I fail to remember the body eventually falls into sync with the mind. Inspiration is not a prerequisite to productivity.

The get-up-and-go mentality comes after we get up and go.  

This is true in the spiritual realm as well. There are days I don’t really feel inspired to read my Bible. Yet, God inspires me within a few verses after I start. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray. When I begin, God reminds me of what I need to pray about and for whom I need to pray.

God inspires most when I feel the least motivated. All I need to do is trust and start.

Award winning author Linda Wood Rondeau writes to demonstrate our worst past, surrendered to God, becomes our best future. A veteran social worker, Linda resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. Visit her web site www.lindarondeau.com or contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Goodreads. 

 

 

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