Sunday, December 26, 2010

PRICELESS

50” Plasma TV… $600.00. Vera Bradley handbag… $75.00. Barbie Doll House… $50.00. Spending time with your family making memories… PRICELESS!

Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time making memories with my family. One of my favorites was one of our family traditions. Before my boys were born, Al and I decided we wanted to make Christmas more about Jesus and less about the gifts. We wanted to find some creative way to make Christmas “special” for our family. We found the perfect book one year and decided to set it back for when we had kids.

The book tells the story of Jesus life from the perspective of his niece. It is called Mary’s Treasure Box by Carolyn Walz Kramlich. It tells of a little girl asking her grandma Mary to open up her treasure box to look at all of the things she saved back to remember Jesus. We have made a treasure box of sorts of our own to share with the boys as we read it each year. It contains a piece of straw to remember the stable, wool to remind us of the shepherds who came to visit, a wooden flute, a piece of cloth, and the gifts of the magi. Holding the elements in our hands somehow makes the story more realistic.

The boys got more excited this year than any other about reading the Christmas story. They wanted to hold each item from our treasure box in their hands to imagine what it must have been like the day Jesus was born. It was PRICELESS. I loved seeing their eyes light up. What made it even better was the fact that they knew and understood the magnitude of the treasure that could be found in Jesus.

I read something recently that speaks about Jesus life so perfectly…

The greatest man in history named Jesus, had no servants, yet they called him Master. Had no degree, yet they called him Teacher. Had no medicines, yet they called him Healer. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet he conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

Wow… Jesus is PRICELESS. Be sure this holiday season and for years to come that you take the time to share the true reason for the season with your family.

Here is a link to a site that has some ideas of how you can make it special for your family. http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art7018.asp.

Instead of taking all of your time to shop for the perfect gift that will be forgotten, broken, or lost weeks later, next Christmas choose to place your priority on what is really important. Choose to make the holiday special by remembering Jesus through telling the Christmas story, reading a special book about Jesus birth, or having a special birthday cake for Jesus to celebrate the occasion. The kids will love it and you will be making memories that last a lifetime. Give the gift that never goes away… start a tradition this year that you can pass down from generations to come. Jesus is a priceless treasure. Don’t keep Him to yourself… give Him away.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Monday, December 20, 2010

What if this Christmas was your last?


I met a lady recently who has only been given a few months to live… this Christmas will be her last. She has no family close to her and she will most likely be alone on Christmas day. When you hear something like that, it gets you thinking. What would I do if that was me? How would I feel? Have you ever been there and thought about it? Imagine… What would you do if this Christmas was YOUR last?


~What would you want to do this year compared to other years?
~Who would you want to see?
~What would you want to say?
~What would you want to give others?
~How would you want to be remembered?


When our prognosis by the doctors becomes grim or someone close to us takes a turn for the worse, it seems like life stands still. We want to go back to a slower pace and put everything on hold to savor every moment with the ones we love. We make the issues of the moment a priority over the busyness of our everyday lives. We don’t want to regret one moment in these last days they have with us.

In moments like these, time is priceless. We are all given the same 24 hours each day; however how we each choose to use it is very different. For many we choose a variety of ways to “spend” our time… we punch in our “time” cards at work, frequent the grocery stores, chip away at household projects, wait hours on end at various appointments, hang out with family and friends, play sports & pursue hobbies, take time for beauty sleep, and feed our faces at least 3 times daily. Time is precious and what we choose to spend our time on shows what is truly important to us.

How much is our time worth today? How much is your time worth? Did you know that we can give and receive when it comes to our time. We are paid for our time when we work, but when we take the time to be with family and friends, we are choosing to give our time to them. Giving our time to others shows them how much they are valued. How much of your time are you giving away?

Think about it…

Are you above average when it comes to how you spend your time? What do you do on a daily basis? What do you value? Check out a survey that was taken on how a typical American might spend their time. This is based on an average 25-54 year old employed person with children. Here is the breakdown of what was found.

How a typical American spends their time daily…

~Sleeping…….......….. 7.6 hours
~Working………...…… 8.8 hours
~Eating and drinking… 1 hour
~Household activities…1 hour
~Caring for others……. 1.3 hours
~Leisure and sports...…2.6 hours
~Other……………...…. 1.7 hours

With a grand total of 24 hours spent.

Remember this is an average American. We are all given the same 24 hours each day. If we want to be beyond average, we are going to have to make some changes to our schedule to fit in what we feel is most important. We may need to sleep less, work less, or readjust some things to show those closest to us that they are priceless to us and worth “our” time. What we value shows in how we spend our time? Does how you spend your time show what you value?

What would you do if this Christmas was your last?

James 4:14 says…
“…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”


I think we need to live each day as if “it” was our last. We aren’t promised tomorrow. Living this way would make life richer, more fulfilling, freeing, and full of possibilities. We would hug people more, speak words of encouragement, Lavish love on others, Forgive and Forget quickly, say “I love you” often, and spend countless hours savoring the moments with the ones we love. I challenge you to strive to look back upon your life with no regrets… cherish the memories made, the lives impacted, and the journey traveled. A life well spent is a life well lived. Let this Christmas be your best yet!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Monday, December 13, 2010

"If You Ever Wonder Letter..."


Did anyone ever ask you as a child who you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. What did you want to be? I also wanted to have a pink jeep like Barbie when I was younger, but I think I changed my mind now that I’m older. The dreams of a child are so innocent and filled with wonder. A life filled with hope for the future.

Those childhood dreams can sometimes be crushed by the pressures of reality. Have you ever felt… unnoticed, unloved, hurt, rejected, or alone? Sometimes life can be painful… and sometimes that pain can be inflicted upon us by those that are closest to us. People can be cruel and hurtful. Words and actions can make heavy imprints on our hearts. They can shape who we become if we let them.

Our words and actions are powerful. They can build others up or tear them down. They can speak life or death. What is inside of us comes out… and words cannot be taken back once they are spoken. That is why it is so important that we are careful what we say especially to those closest to us. Not only is, what we say important, but also how we say it.

Children are very impressionable. They are trying to discover who they are and many of them do that by listening to what others think about them. “What a great job on your test!” – I’m smart. “Why don’t you pick your things up… this house is a mess!” – I’m a horrible person. “I can’t believe you forgot that again!” – I’m dumb.“Your hair is sticking up, brush it!” – I’m ugly. “I can’t believe you did that!” – I’m unlovable.

We need to be especially sensitive with the words we speak to our children. Not only do we need to keep from speaking the negative to them, we need to purposely speak the positive. Speak the obvious to them… after awhile they will start to believe it. “You are beautiful!” “I love your handwriting.” “Thank you for helping me. You are so good at helping others.” Look for the positive… you are building your child’s self-esteem daily with your words. It is at times overwhelming to know that “my words” are molding my kids daily. Wow… what a responsibility.

Each child has a self-esteem bank. It is active daily. There are deposits and withdrawals made. Life in general at times can drain their accounts. As a child, most of their time is spent at school. School can be a very negative environment. They are cut down, discouraged, and most days come home defeated. We need to be the ones as parents who actively make deposits daily into their bank. If nobody else encourages and lifts their spirits up, we need to be their biggest cheerleaders.

I am constantly trying to watch my words with my boys. Not only do I need to be purposeful about what I say, but I also need to watch my careless words. If I fail and something comes out that I didn’t want to say, I need to fix it immediately. By fixing it I mean… say you are sorry to your child for your tone, bad attitude or ugly words, and ask them to forgive you… and WAIT for them to say they will. This shows them that you fail just as they do and how to move forward afterwards.

Self-esteem is important. It defines us. It is our opinion of ourselves reflected for the world to see. I had a low-self esteem as a child. I didn’t think other people liked me. I thought I was ugly, unlovable, insignificant, and unnoticed. As a child we decide who we are based on everyone else’s opinions of us. What do they like about us? What do they dislike? We look for imperfections in ourselves and wait for someone else to confirm it to us.

I’ve decided this Christmas that I am going to give my children the gift of an “If you ever wonder letter.” I want to give them a constant reminder of my never ending love for them. I’m going to write them a letter sharing “my opinion” of them in case they ever wonder. I am going to speak life-giving words to them to make impressions on their hearts for the future. No matter what age they are if they ever wonder about my love for them… this will be a spoken and visible reminder.

As we grow into adults, we can face moments of discouragement and may have doubts along the way. Am I loved? Does anyone care about me? Why am I here? Does my life make a difference? In those moments of doubt, I want to be the steady determining factor of my boys moving forward with a healthy self-esteem. What would your life have been like had you been given a letter like this? In your moments of doubting, would this have made the difference?

It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered who I really was through a relationship with God. I was seeking for others to tell me who I was instead of seeing myself through God’s eyes… after all, He made me. I realized that it was God’s opinion that mattered most and He was the only one I needed to seek to please. My favorite chapter of all in the Bible is Psalm 139… it speaks of how well God knows me.

13 -16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.


God knows us better than anyone else. It’s good to know that not only does God know me, but He loves me too. In case YOU ever wonder…

YOU are an amazing, intelligent, gifted, giving, compassionate, loving, kind, sensitive, tender-hearted individual whom God loves, made on purpose, and has a purpose for your life.

This Christmas season choose to seek God’s opinion over man’s. It will change your whole perspective and YOU in the process.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Grow Up!"


Have you ever been told to just “GROW UP!” When I was little I couldn’t wait to grow up. I looked forward to each milestone along the way… turning double digits, being an official teenager, getting a car and driving, getting a job, graduating from High school, getting married and having kids. I wanted to grow up. As you get older, it seems the other way around. Time goes by too fast and we want to go back and be young again. But the fact is whether we like it or not that, we can’t stay babies forever.

As Christians and followers of God, we have to grow up too. We can’t stay spiritual babies forever. Our spirit person wants to grow big and strong in God. It’s our job to feed it what it needs to grow. If we don’t, we will become full grown adults with a limited knowledge and understanding of God. Our lives will become “Me” focused and solely dependent on others to feed us spiritually. Spoon fed Christianity. We will continue to be baby Christians who never truly mature in God.

Let me tell you a little bit about babies. Babies are cute, but can’t really do much. Their whole life is dependent on another person for everything. They can’t talk, can’t eat on their own, walk, or take care of their basic necessities. They are pretty much limited to what others choose to do for them. As a Christian if we choose to stop growing or just stay where we are spiritually (baby Christians), we are choosing to limit what God wants to do in our lives. He has so much more in store!

As we choose to grow in God, we will start to look more like Him. Our reflection of God can be seen by the God-like fruit in our lives that resembles Him. These are traits or qualities of God that begin to shine through us. As we grow in Him, they will begin to become a natural part of who we are as a person. We will become more loving, forgiving, serving, self-controlled, etc… as we strive to grow closer to God.

Think about it this way…when you plant corn in the ground… what do you get? corn… When you plant pumpkin seeds… you get what? pumpkins… When you plant green beans… you get what? Green beans… and when you plant God inside of someone’s heart you get… a life filled with the fruit of God.

The fruit that is produced on the outside of a person shows what is really on the inside. There is a scripture that says… “out of the mouth the heart speaks…” What comes out is what is inside of us… pretty scary. If there is ugliness inside of us, ugliness will come out no matter how pretty you make it look. We can not hide an ugly heart. When we give our lives to God, we should change … we should become more like Him each day. Our old life, ways, and habits should be set aside as we focus on our new life with God.

Ephesians 4:22-24 "…everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you."

When we start showing “God-like” fruit in our lives… it means we are GROWING in God!

What does that fruit look like?

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

The message version says it a little different…

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people." (MSG)

Growing in God and moving forward is a process. This growth process involves overpowering the pulls of the flesh or our old ways and habits, to replace them with the character of Christ. God wants you to grow beyond where you are spiritually. He has more in store for you than baby food spiritually.

We need to take responsibility to “grow ourselves” in God.
One meal a week would never be enough food to sustain us. One message a week and visit to church is not enough to sustain and grow us spiritually either. We’ve got to feed our spirits every day.

How can we “grow ourselves” spiritually in God? Here are some ideas…
~read the Bible
~pray / talk to God
~go to church faithfully
~memorize scriptures
~tell others about God
~get baptized
~find a place to serve or minister to others
~tithe
~really worship God
~read Christian books
~hang around Christian friends who encourage you
~find a spiritual mentor to help teach you more about God
~go on a Missions trip

These are just a few ideas of ways you can “grow yourself” in God. Choose to grow and you are choosing to change. We are changing to become more like God each day. The more fruit we have in our lives, the more of Jesus others will see in us. Our “God Like” fruit can give us opportunities to reach others for God.

I love how 2 Corinthians 3:18 talks about this process of growing in God… it says:

"…our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him." (MSG)

Shine brightly for God today. Let that “God-like” fruit shine through you for the world to see. Choose to grow up! You can’t stay babies forever. It’s time for us to grow strong enough in God to lead the way for others to follow. You can do it! “Grow Up!’

Living to leave a legacy!
Julie