12/20/2016

Receiving Christmas

"Behold, the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel."
Isaiah 7:14

"All the prophets testify about Him that though His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins."
Acts 10:43

"For to us a son is born,
to us a son is given."
Isaiah 9:6

"For God so loves the world in this way; He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
John 3:16-17

"He has sent me [Jesus] to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Luke 4:18-19

"The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent me. I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit- the Father will send Him in My name- will each you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you."
John 14:24-26

"He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name."
John 1:10-12

"Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:10

"Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time."
Hebrews 4:16

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:57

(Holman Christian Standard Bible, italics mine.)





Christmas is the season of giving. We give gifts, time, cheer, cookies. We gives little bits of ourselves to the people that we love. I'm pretty sure I've purchased more things to give this year than any other year. And we love it. We love giving gifts and love.

But there's a flip to the coin: receiving.

At first glance, this sounds like the really fun part. Who doesn't like opening presents and receiving gifts? The inner kid in each of us is screaming right now at the thought of opening presents in five days. GETTING!!!!

What is the true gift of Christmas, though? Nope, it's not a Sephora makeup set or a Polaroid camera, it's Jesus. Jesus is the gift that God reminds us of each Christmas. He's the gift that we all need more than we could ever imagine. He's the gift that fills us up more than we thought possible. He's the gift of joy, of peace, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of a new life, and of celebration. He's the gift of salvation, of grace, of mercy, and of righteousness. He's the greatest gift. 

How come, then, we don't like receiving Jesus?


There's a certain code in adult gift giving that makes the whole process happier. I give you something. You give me someone of relatively equal value. It works. That way no one feels lesser, no one feels humbled, and no one really came out richer in the end.

Have you ever exchanged gifts with someone only to discover that they gave you something much more extravagant? It's awkward. It's humbling. You kinda want to run to Target right that moment to add on to your gift.

I think that's one of the reasons why we don't want to fully receive the gift of Jesus. When God gave Jesus to us, it was an unequal exchange. He asks for our belief and in exchange He gives us the life of His One and Only Son. Wait a minute? That's not equal. It's humbling because the exchange favors us. So we rush to the Good Works aisle of the store to try and match God's gift, but we can buy the entire aisle- the entire store for that matter- and still come out with more than we gave. God will always out-give us.

Santa's got nothing on God.

Remember when I said that the code of matching gift values was an adult code. Well, children have a different code: PRESENTS. That's their code. It's simple. Presents. They like to give presents, and they especially like to receive presents. They don't really know how much things cost, but they for sure know that they can't buy anything like what they've been given. They simply receive their gifts with squeals and joy. They use their gifts. They share their gifts. They receive.



This Christmas God's calling me- and you too- to receive Jesus. The verses I posted above (as well as so many others not included) all came from the She Reads Truth study that I'm doing. They study isn't necessarily about the giving/receiving process, but almost every day a verse talks about it. Every time I open my Bible, there they are, the words give, receive, sent. 

So this Christmas I'm learning how to humbly receive the gifts God gives- gifts of life, forgiveness, grace, and His Spirit. He gives and gives and doesn't ever run out of goodness. So even though we turn out the richer out of His gift unto us, His glory isn't lessened because He gave grace to us. His glory is exalted. We both come out the richer.

Rest in the richness of God's grace in the form of a baby in a manger. Bow down in praise to the One who gives abundantly more than all we ask or imagine. Live in the gifts that He gives with gratitude and joy.

This Christmas, instead of trying to buy, create, or decorate the gifts of the season, receive the gift of God like a child. This makes all of the difference.

12/16/2016

Balancing the Holidays

Christmas and the holiday season is well in our midst, accompanied by presents, cookies, family, and many other things that happen only once a year. I'm not sure if you've noticed, though, but the holiday season gets more and more extreme every year. Every years it's earlier, brighter, louder, faster. Every year we want to do more, buy more, be more. This extravagant festive season is beautiful and wonderful (especially because it is a chance to spend more time focused on Jesus), but sometimes balance can be hard to find. 




We want to eat all of the Christmas cookies, but we also don't want to gain fifty pounds. We want to go to all of the parties, but we also need time to ourselves. We want to sing songs about Santa and snow, but we don't want them to dilute the message of the gospel. I feel this struggle, the fight for balance during the holidays. And so I present three ways to find balance and peace during Christmas. After all, we are celebrating the Prince of Peace! 


1. Find Balance in Body


Christmas is the season for indulgences, especially when it comes to food. Christmas cookies. Christmas dressing. Christmas candy. Christmas coffee. Christmas everything. Christmas is also a weird time of year where our regular habits of exercise and taking care of our bodies can be abandoned. How can we find balance during this season of excess? 

Here's my strategy: eat the Christmas cookies. 

Yes, eat the cookies. But only when it is special. When you're at Grandma's house and she baked you cookies, don't feel bad eating them. Give yourself permission to celebrate Christmas cookies at these special times. Buuut, don’t live off of Christmas cookies and such just because it's December and they're Christmas cookies. In your normal meals, try to make an extra effort to eat something that's good for your body because then you can enjoy those special meals and snacks even more. 

Also, be proactive in making time to be active. Maybe instead of watching two Christmas movies with your friend, go take a walk and then watch one. Exercise how you like to exercise, and have fun. Play Christmas music as you run, do yoga, or whatever you do. Every time the characters in a Hallmark movie stare dramatically at each other, do twenty squats. Be festive in your exercise! 


2. Find Balance in Mind


Christmas is a very social holiday, filled with family, friends, and random other people who all of a sudden feel connected to you. There are countless opportunities to celebrate with those around you, from Christmas parties to family reunions to Church festivities. On top of that, there are so many things to do in preparation for these gatherings. You must buy presents, bake a cake, find a white elephant gift, clean the house, and more. This can all get a little much, and some may desire a day of rest and alone time. 




That is okay. It is okay not to go to every party and see every friend in town. If you stretch yourself too thin, you won’t enjoy any of it. That said, with a little foresight, you can prepare for the avalanche of things to do and places to go by making sure that you spend quality alone time. Do something every day that rejuvenates you and gives you comfort. For me, I like to watch movies and read blogs. For you it might be reading, going outside, playing with your pet, or making something. Balance out the crazy schedule of Christmas with a relaxing time of peace and rest. (For more about how to meaningfully spend time alone, check out my article The Art of Being Alone.


3. Find Balance in Spirit


Sometimes the spirit of Christmas isn’t too easy on your spirit. The fluff and stuff of Christmas can distract our spirits from the Spirit of Christ. Now, I’m not about to go and say “Jesus is the reason for the season,” because saying that doesn’t really help much. No, we have to live in Jesus’ spirit of grace lavished upon us. We have to receive the gift of salvation from the hands of God, but we can’t receive this gift if we are busy holding onto everything else. We have to let go of trying to force the Christmas spirit into our lives, seeking that feeling that we cherished as kids. When we let go of our own efforts and simply receive the gift of Christ, we will find a joy in our spirits much like that we felt as children. Maybe that’s because as children we didn’t try to create, buy, and decorate Christmas. We simply received Christmas. Maybe it’s time for us to receive the spirit of Christ like little children. 




One way that I loved receiving the gift of grace from God during the holidays is through Advent. To learn more about Advent, check out my 2016 Advent Guide. Saturating yourself with the Word of God, prayer, and wisdom from other Christians continually points our souls to Jesus, the source of all joy and peace. If you do nothing else this Christmas, receive the gift of Jesus with a humble and joyful heart. 

As it turns out, balance isn’t a foreign concept during the holidays. Finding health in your body, peace in your mind, and joy in your spirit make the holidays a season that you will look forward to in every aspect. So embrace Christmas cookies while you also take care of your body. Celebrate with friends and family while you also take time to rest. Enjoy the dazzle of Christmas while humbling yourself to God as He gives us all something that we can never earn, deserve, or even understand: Immanuel. May God be with you this Christmas like never before. 

Comment below how you find balance during the holidays. Also, WHO' FREAKING OUT THAT CHRISTMAS IS NINE DAYS AWAY????? Do you have big plans? 

Princess Hannah

12/10/2016

Chipped Nail Polish and Busy Schedules

"I'll be sure to add three writers by the end of the week."

"I'll get the team's articles edited by Saturday."

"Can I take responsibility for the social media accounts for this ministry?"

"I'm starting a girl's community group!"

"Sure, I'll help you with your research paper."

"I'll bring the twins home tonight."

"Can I film a documentary here?"

"I'll choreograph the dance for next week."

Chip, chip.



~~~~~~~~


12:30 a.m.- I've got plenty of time to edit these stories for my creative writing class.

1:30 a.m.- I can't keep my eyes open any more. Why do I keep staying up this late? Why is there still more work to do? I don't think that I can move, but I haven't brushed my teeth.

2:15 a.m.- Stupid thoughts, stop bothering me. I know that it's late, but I'll go to bed earlier tomorrow.

Tomorrow- ha.

Chip, chip. 


~~~~~~~~


"Thanks for letting me sit by you," I told a girl I just met that day at lunch. For never having talked before, we talked about a lot of things, from school to movies to church to family.

"You know," she said, "for this entire semester, I've never had anyone I didn't know just come and eat with me."

"Really? I do it all the time."

"That's cool."

Yes, I thought. It is pretty cool. I thought back to the handful of times that the little lunchtime conversations I pursued turned into something that gave God glory. It enboldened me every time I was tempted to simply sit with my phone over lunch. Sure, it was easier to catch up on Instagram or schoolwork, but kingdom work is so much cooler.

Chip, chip. 


~~~~~~~~


"We never see you anymore, Hannah," someone said. Well, more than one person said that this semester.

"I have a weird schedule." One that invloves staying up until 2:00 and sleeping in until 9:00. One that has a lot of school and work and ballet and not a lot of friendships.

"I've got to go, sorry I can't stay."

Chip, chip. 


~~~~~~~~


"You don't seem as happy this semester," Mom said one night as I talked about the stress of getting everything done before Monday.

"I don't?" The thought surprised me. I didn't feel unhappy. Just busy. And busy isn't bad. This is the prime of my life, and I've been waiting so long for opportunities like the ones I'm accepting now. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that some of these opportunities blocked the sun from the flowers that I carefully planted in my life: flowers like friendship, blogging, and rest.

I couldn't stop the tears.

Chip, chip. 


~~~~~~~~



"This semester beat me up a bit," I said to a couple of friends this week as we gathered around a table at a Christmas party. The semester just ended, and lights glittered in the room hardly compared to the lights in our hearts as we contemplated six weeks with no school. 

"Same, girl," one of the girls replied, leaning back into her chair.

"Same," one of my roommates added.

 "I think it's because I isolated myself," I said, "Because I thought that I could get more done that way. I don't want to repeat that again."

Chip, chip. 


~~~~~~~~



This is a picture of my nails at the moment. They are badly chipped, wearing away and pretty hideous. I should've taken the polish off two days after I painted them, but little things like that have slipped into the pile of less-important things to do, especially before and during finals.

So the weeks went by and life continued to chip nail polish off of my nails. I kept living.

There is something about chipped nails that give me a strange comfort. I know, this is very unlike me. I like to have everything together. My eyebrows must be on fleck. My homework must get a A. My spiritual life must be meaningful. But there is something refreshing about chipped nails. There is a freedom in remembering that I don't have to have everything together. There is a breath in remembering that I don't have to do it all, but what I am doing is more important than keeping up with my nails.

Because even if life is tiring, even if it chips at our nails, that doens't mean that life is bad. Busy doesn't equal bad, this I am learning. This semester I've been busier than ever before, but I've learned to embrace the busyness as well as the rest. We need both.

Life chipped at my nails, reminding me of the briefness of my time on earth and the smallness with which I can live on my own. I leanred how to do things and how not to do things. It took a toll, but it also left a little sparkle everwhere I went. Chip, chip. 

There is also a hope that my nails don't have to stay chipped forever. I don't have to busy myself all of the time. I don't have to isolate myself for long. Yes, these things may chip at my nails, this living may wear me down, but there is hope. There is hope that Jesus will take away the old and make us new.

"Because of the LORD's great love we are now consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion, therefore I will wait for him. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young." (Lamantations 3:22-27)

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I think I'm going to paint my nails this weekend. I think I'm going to try life on a little differently going forward, and hopefully this includes more blogging than I was able to do this semester. I've learned. I've laughed. I've cried.  Thank you for being with me during the hectic seasons and peaceful season. And thanks most of all to Jesus, who is with me in all seasons.

Comment below if my ramblings made any sense! Also, catch me up on the blogging world. I've been rather absent as of late, so tell me all the news, even if it's only that you painted your nails last week.

God's grace be with you all,

Princess Hannah