December 24 – Behind the Christmas Card – Busyness

Read Matthew 11:28-30

The overwhelmed seems to scream loudly as the craziness of Christmastime gathers momentum. December blew in and the to-do list blew up.

Even in the midst of a freed-up Saturday morning, I feel paralyzed by all I have to do. I pick up my phone to check the weather and instead find Facebook events and holiday shopping deals blaring. They’re trying to fill my life and dictate what’s important. Two minutes into my day and the quiet my soul longs for is already out of reach, drowned out by the noise of the season I’m trying to savor.

Ironic, isn’t it? The whole purpose behind the crazy of Christmas is to honor the One who came to quiet our souls. The busyness that overwhelms is the very reason we have Christmas at all.

There is so much to do we don’t know where to start. It’s like trying to find the end of the Scotch tape roll so we can get that gift wrapped.

But somehow even in the spinning, He whispers in the deep places where thoughts form.

Remember the quiet that Almighty God offers. Remember the baby we’re doing this for.

Let it take you straight to your knees. Face to the ground, let’s bow before the God who thought up Christmas. He knew the crazy overwhelmed we would feel. The stress and the busy and the too-much-to-do list.That’s why He stepped in. That’s why Christmas.

Even right in the middle of the minutes you have to get something crossed off your list, be still and tell God He is Lord. Lord of the whole earth. Lord of your whole life. He already knows, but we can always use the reminding.

Let Him quiet the noise of overwhelmed and show you what to do. Let Him remind you that this is His plan. It’s His hand that’s brought you to right here. His hand has pointed us straight into this season.

Let the Living God breathe air into the lungs of your soul, and whisper away the paralysis.

Bria Wasson

December 23 – Behind the Christmas Card – Discontentment

Read Hebrews 13:5

One thing I love to indulge in around Christmas time is that of the Hallmark Christmas Movies. I know, I know, how could I? I don’t actively seek them out or look forward to them; however, when I turn on Netflix and see a new one, I get a little excited. I find the characters and stories they build so fascinating, even though the acting is sub par at times. Somehow, they seem to make the air feel a little more like Christmas. However, I often have to guard my heart with them because it causes me to compare, and, when I compare, I become discontent.

Behind my smiling face on our family Christmas card, at times, is a mind running through the list of things that I “want” in this life. The Christmas season often highlights my wants, as people around me receive that which I desire to have, and I become discontent with where we are. Discontentment is a state of mind that I believe every human battles with at times. Any one of us can yearn for something we don’t have. I have to guard my heart and mind when watching said Christmas movies or shows (“Fixer Upper”) because I find myself looking at my life, belongings and surroundings and wanting something else or more. However, God has called our family to a season of humble means because we have an ultimate goal and He, a desire, for our family.

I am reminded of the writer of Hebrew’s words:  “ Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being discontent with what you have…”. The writer is speaking of how we show Christ in our lives and, even in this season, I get slapped in the face with the truth that my purpose is not what I have or want but about being like Him or working towards His desire for my life.

I am, by no means, saying that giving and receiving gifts is wrong, However, I am simply asking; Where is your heart this Christmas season? One thing I love about our church during this season is that it causes us to focus on putting our funds toward a need among our church community. So think and reflect; Where is your heart? Is it on the next best electronic or that necklace you’ve been eyeing since summer? OR is it on Christ himself and what He WANTS of our lives, time, money, and talents, even in this Christmas season?

Kelly Lawson

December 22 – Behind the Christmas Card – Comparison

Read Genesis 3:1-13

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate . . . (Gen. 3:6).”

It could be the story of nearly every Christmas experience that ever was. We can’t see the amazing of all that we have because we’re too busy comparing. Each time we think we have the best, we find someone else’s bigger, better, more enticing version of it. Maybe it’s a gift for a child’s teacher or the lights outside our homes. Perhaps it’s the family Christmas movie night made less perfect by a friend’s post on Facebook of her picture-perfect family baking cookies and stringing popcorn before taking a long walk together with big mugs of hot cocoa. No matter how much we have been given, when we turn our focus from gratitude for what we have to realizing what we’re missing, we open the door to discontent. “Comparison,” Theodore Roosevelt said, “is the thief of joy.”

The story traces back to the beginning of time. Eve and Adam and Almighty God walked together in the Garden until Satan showed up and pointed out what they did not have. They couldn’t see all that God had given them anymore because their attention had turned to what He had withheld. And perfect intimacy with the Giver of all good things was broken when that terrible thief named comparison snuck in.

Perhaps it’s never more prevalent than at Christmastime. We have so much, yet there is always someone with more. If we let our focus go there, we will miss the true joy of the incredible gifts we have.

Don’t let that be your experience this year. Instead, remember what God did when He gave you this life, this grace, this beautiful moment, this Christmas season.

Bria Wasson

December 21 – Behind the Christmas Card – Excessive Spending

Read Philippians 4:11-12

I love the spirit of giving at Christmas time! It is a joyous and contagious act. However, following my Christmas spirit and smile, for many years, was a dread of the bill to come because I spent beyond my means excessively.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot. My mother was a single mom of four and she worked incredibly hard to get us the “stuff” on our lists and, instead of using a credit card, she saved. Later in life, instead of listening to her instruction, I applied for my first credit card at the age of 18. From the ages of 18 to 23, I used a credit card often with no intention of paying it off right away. I swiped that card and thought “I’ll deal with this later.”

The Christmas season was no different; I wanted to always get my loved ones what they wanted or couldn’t afford for themselves. So, even though I couldn’t afford it, I put a smile on my face and acted like I was financially sound and swiped the card so they would feel loved. I spent so excessively that my family is now working hard to get out of debt. I never actively pursued what it meant to worship the Lord by stewardship of means until about 5 years ago. For so many years, I was exchanging the long term satisfaction for the short term gain and that is the opposite of what God has asked of our lives.

Though this season brings an encouragement to give, we must remember that, what honors the Lord more, is stewardship of what He has given us. Our family is currently called to a time of humble means and stewardship during this season and, though it would bring smiles and feelings of appreciation to give to those we love, what we want more is to honor the desire of the Lord for us to live debt free. Which means, steward the means and make a plan. Since being married, Jake and I have created a plan that every dollar will still have a name, even at Christmas.

I believe the secret Paul is speaking of in verse 12 is that of Christ. Living so intimately with Jesus causes Paul to steward when he is being filled and when he is hungry. Clinging to Jesus, even in our finances and how we steward our spending, is an act of worship and one our family lives to praise His name with!

So I encourage you, if you are spending beyond your means, cling to Jesus and seek counsel to find a plan. Even though there is a spirit of giving, steward what He has given this Christmas.

Kelly Lawson

December 20 – Behind the Christmas Card – Expectations

Read Proverbs 10:28 and Philippians 3:20-21

There are many reasons why we dread the Christmas season. Such reasons have already been mentioned in this series with another one being expectations. Getting together with family could very well include family members sharing their expectations with you:

  • “Are you really still at that job? You need to work at ___.
  • “Are you and ___ still dating? When are you going to pop the question?”
  • “You’re looking a little chunky there. You should go on a diet.”

Hopefully, your expectations aren’t that blunt, but we all face them in one way or another, either placing them on ourselves or having them placed on us.

The difference between proper and negative expectations is all in the motive.

We all know what it’s like to be held under, what we believe to be, unrealistic expectations. I know that I do. The weight that you feel seems incredibly heavy. We all have examples that come flooding to our minds as we read this. Maybe the person that was holding you to such expectations didn’t have the best of intentions. I have been there as well. How do you handle that? I know I wasn’t the most godly all the time in how I coped with it. I just couldn’t get behind anything because I couldn’t see the expectations as realistic.

However, there’s another side to the coin. What happens, and how do you respond, when someone, with the right intentions, pushes you to be better?

When I was a (VERY) immature teenager, my dad never faltered. He never failed to tell me, lovingly yet factually, that I need to be relentless in my pursuit to honor the Lord. “When you do something, do it 100%”, “Never let someone question your work ethic,” “Do whatever it takes to do the job well and, when you get credit for it, point to the Lord.”

That’s something I can get behind.

Our reading this morning talks about positive and negative motives. Proverbs references expectations made by the flesh. As much as we would consider certain family members to be wicked, Solomon is telling us to trust in the Lord and live by his expectations which are laid out in Philippians 3. Expectations from the spirit will captivate you about God! As a follower of Christ, think of your heavenly future! Now THAT is proper motivation. Do whatever you can to share this hope throughout this holiday season!

Jake Lawson

December 19 – Behind the Christmas Card – Coping with Grief

Read James 1:17

Christmas can be hard when you suffer loss, but despite the loss I have experienced, I believe God is STILL GOOD.

In 2011, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and in 2013, we could no longer have my dad take care of her and had to place her in a facility that knew how to deal with this awful disease.

By 2014, my mom was starting to not remember my dad or myself. In 2015, we lost my mom. The loss was so great for our family, especially for my dad, because they had been married for 65 years. Even though I never really had a relationship with my dad, our family decided to include my dad in every family get-together and holiday. During that time, I developed a closeness to my dad that I never thought possible.

As Christmas 2015 drew closer, both my dad and I were sad to think mom was no longer with us, so we asked dad to stay with us over the holidays. He was so excited to be with us on Christmas Eve and he even went to the 11:00 candlelight Christmas Eve service, then stayed up with us till 2 am talking and joking around! The next morning we all gathered together and dad was like a little kid in a candy store.

The Lord blessed us ALL that Christmas with the best gift ever. The chance to really get to know my dad.

Dad was a “Family Circus” cartoon addict and he would read it faithfully every day, and, if it pertained to any of us in the family, he would cut it out, put our initials on it and hand it to us with a chuckle. Well, the day after Christmas he cut out the one from the paper and put all our initials on it and said, “This is SO TRUE!” It read…”Santa’s going to have a hard time topping this Christmas next year.” Dad was right . . . it was going to be hard to top.

We did get one more Christmas with my dad before he passed last year, which we are forever grateful for.

As I go into another year without my parents, the loss is still great, but the Lord is still good. As I pulled out my dad’s stocking, I cried, remembering what a perfect gift I received that year. The GIFT of time with my dad, the GIFT of celebrating Jesus’ birth with him and the GIFT of knowing one day I will see them both again.

Missing a loved one is painful, but never more so than during the holidays – I know! But over the past few years, I’ve learned it’s okay to not be okay. The tears will flow, the sorrow may overtake you and paralyze you, but, just remember that there’s One who knows EXACTLY what that’s like. God knows! He is my lifeline and He wants to be yours. He cares and is never offended by our questions or our deep pain. He just doesn’t want us to stay there! The key is to keep turning to Him, He’s our peace in the midst of our pain!

It is so true what James writes in James 1:17, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”

Lori Lehman

December 18 – Behind the Christmas Card

Read Psalm 55:22

I’m not sure about you, but, every time I get a Christmas card from someone, for a split second, it appears that their family is perfect. They are all smiling with seemingly such genuine joy. None of the kids are fighting but have arms around each other in the spirit of Christmas splendor. The baby may not be smiling, but at least is looking at the camera. Heck, even the dog is sitting down and looking at the camera. You look at a card like this and suddenly your perception of this family is based off of their Christmas card. You think to yourself that, if their Christmas card is any indication, they must have things figured out.

Little do you know that, right after the picture was taken, kid #1 punches kid #2 in the face, causing a hot pursuit around the living room, the baby throws up everywhere, causing the dog to instinctively investigate, the mom remembers that dinner is burning in the oven while the dad tries to restore peace in the house. You may be thinking of your own family and chuckle, “What peace?”

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be examining issues “Behind the Christmas Card”. These are issues that most all of us have dealt with at one point in our lives and some may be battles we currently are fighting. These issues could be causing you to dread the holidays. Christmas isn’t always joyful for many people.

As you read through these corresponding devotionals, take an honest inventory of your life. Can you relate to what is being shared? True change won’t take place unless you are honest with yourself. Healing and growth won’t happen apart from the Lord. Our passage in Psalm 55 today encourages us to cast our burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain us. As Pastor Nick has said repeatedly, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to stay that way.”

As you read the words from our writers, open your heart to some of the same issues that you are dealing with. If you know someone who could be encouraged through these words, share the series with them and allow them to be encouraged as well!

Over the next couple of weeks, let’s all peek behind the Christmas card and examine ways that the holiday season can cause some internal issues to arise. Let’s also open our hearts to the Lord and the healing and forgiveness that He offers!

Our EverydaywithGod team is praying for you as you journey through this series with us!

Jake Lawson

December 24 – Behind the Christmas Card – Grudges

Read Ephesians 4:31-32

I will admit, when I saw that this was a topic of “Grudges” I was reluctant to write it. However, if I have learned anything as a believer, the Lord teaches us, even in that which makes us sad.  I read Ephesians 4:31-32 and I think to myself, “I don’t hold grudges, I am forgiving”; but the Truth is that I am still learning to have a forgiving heart in certain relationships.

To shed some light on a bit of my story:
My parent’s divorced when I was 6 years old and wounds that are 24 years old are still healing when it comes to my relationship with my father. Christmas time has certain sadness because I do not have a warm relationship with my father, and, because of this, I need to consistently approach the Lord for guidance, wisdom, truth and comfort.

No matter what has occurred over the last 24 to 30 years of my life, nothing changes the call the Lord has given me when it comes to my father. Ephesians 4:31-32 is a perfect example of this Truth that He has called of me.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Something I am reminded of when reading this verse is that my father is my brother in Christ FIRST and, just as I look to a complete stranger who is a brother in Christ, I need to see my father through the eyes of Christ. Jesus is the reason for the season, and this reason, alone, is one that causes a change of heart.

I am not sure if there is someone in your life that the Lord has brought to heart when reading this truth, but I urge you to take some time to pray over that relationship. Pray over the wrong that was done and allow the Lord to cover it with His peace. Allow Him to show you a new perspective of that person’s life and the relationship He wants for the two of you.

I haven’t figured anything out as far as my relationship with my dad, but, what I urge you to do, I ask and challenge this of myself too. This Christmas season, let’s choose to change the perspective we have and let’s see ALL as Christ sees them.

Kelly Lawson

December 23 – Behind the Christmas Card – Sick Family Member

Read Psalm 34:15,18

Have you ever been given something for Christmas you didn’t like? It’s even worse when you can’t return it.

About 9 years ago, my father was given something neither he nor my family members wanted. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD is a degenerative disease that shrinks the frontal lobe of the brain, affecting his memories, his personality and ability to say basic things. He was in his 50s and this would forever alter his life…and mine.

I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas being so tumultuous for my family as we went through a season of testing to understand what was wrong. No one wanted to talk about it; no one wanted to cry about it. We just wanted answers. But there weren’t any. So we gathered around puzzles and board games in those days, finding solace in some classic family pastimes.

Often when we’re in distress or despair, all we want are answers. We want to know why hard times have happened and what to do with the broken pieces we have in our tired hands. But answers often don’t come when we most want them. You may be in that place this Christmas.

What God offered us instead in those moments was pretty simple. He offered Himself. He knew our grief and He knew who we were. He stayed close and filled the silence with His presence. Scripture says He loves us so much He knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). I suppose God knows every memory we hold in our hearts, too…even when we forget them.

Psalm 34 says:

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (vv.15, 18)

Did you see in those verses how God is close? His eyes are on you and His ears are listening. He’s not far away.

How would you save something that was crushed? You’d pick it up with tender hands, wouldn’t you? Perhaps devote careful time to restore it, piece by piece? God does that for you.

At the beginning, I said my father was “given” something, likening his disease to a gift. It didn’t seem like a gift in the moment, and I’m not saying God gave him the disease. But what I can say is that 9 years later, we know God’s presence in a way that surely is a gift. And, what God redeemed and did behind the scenes as we waited for Him as a family, was truly a gift as well.

Ben Framstad

December 22 – Behind the Christmas Card – Non Nuclear Family

Read Jeremiah 1:5

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday! I love the crisp winter air that comes with the season, the music and the spirit of joy and smiles that seem to surround the atmosphere. However, when growing up, Christmas wasn’t always a joyous holiday.

Just after my 6th birthday and before Christmas, my parents divorced and everything changed. My world flipped on its axis and I was labeled “different” by my friends. A one-time happy season turned into a chaotic discussion of how and where we were to spend our holiday.

To my parent’s credit, they tried to make it an adventure and an exciting time as “we got two Christmases’” but it didn’t change the chaos of emotions that came at every Christmas because we were, and still are, a non-nuclear family; we were, in a sense, torn apart. My favorite holiday was marked with tears of sadness. As an adult, I love the lessons that came with being a non-nuclear family; it made me the strong woman I am today. One of those lessons is that of Jeremiah 1:5.

I love what God reminds Jeremiah before his work begins. He reminds him that He formed Jeremiah, that He knew Jeremiah and consecrated him. He reminds Jeremiah, at the beginning of his call as a Prophet, that He prepared him for what is to come. God formed and shaped Jeremiah exactly for this life of his. God formed us, shaped us, and prepared us (and continues to do so) exactly for this life and what is to come. He is the true gift that Christmas reminds us of. This gift is THE answer to our chaos of emotions as we deal with changes in our family. He is the strength to cling to when things aren’t as we wished they would be. His spirit is within us to access when we can’t see anything but our own perspective.

So, bottom line; no matter what your family may look like this Christmas season, no matter who shows up to Christmas dinner, no matter who walks into Christmas Eve service with you, know that Christ has formed you and He has instilled in you the ability to walk and see life as He sees it. You just have to look.

Your family may be “different”; you may compare your family to others, but, if Christmas means anything or reminds us of anything, it is that the gift of Jesus helps us get through a rough season, even at Christmas.

Focus on Him.

Kelly Lawson