How To Have Real, Lasting Joy {31 Days to Holistic, Christ Centered Living, Day #13}

All six of us get out in the bone-chilling, drizzling rain and deliver loaves of pumpkin bread to the neighbors the day after Christmas.

One lady who lives alone, she comes to the door of her trailer, peeps out and just simply says, “Bless you,” and she really means it, her eyes lighting up with a smile.

Other homes we stop at, there are still snow-tipped Christmas trees twinkling in living rooms, fires are blazing in fireplaces, and most are in warm flannel and gathered up to hearths as they invite us into the coziness shut away from the cold steady dripping. There is much hugging of necks, much loud visiting and laughter, much softening of hearts.

I know mine is pliable as putty at the moment.

I can only pray it will last.

At one home–our old pastor’s home–we linger a little too long in the doorway as we catch up on all that has transpired in the past year and hint a little awkwardly at the fact that we still love one another though we are no longer apart of the same church body.

The warmth that passes between us is obvious and overwhelming. We promise to get together for a field trip since we are both homeschooling mothers, and we hug and it is hard to close the door and leave because it’s like closing the door on a chapter of our life and relationships that blossomed from that time.

But we say goodbye knowing that one door closes so that another can open and relationships change with each coming new year.

As we drive home, after handing out the bread to hungry handshands of souls that just long for fellowship and someone to care {don’t we all come empty-handed to the Father’s table after all?},

after all that, our hearts are full.

I say to the girls, “Now wasn’t that fun?”

And I’m not pushing too hard, not trying to convince myself and them–my heart is filled to the brim and slipping over the edges and I’m really speaking from a place of abundance.

Maybe this is the key to real, lasting joy?

“That was fun,” says Mr. Simmons, in a soft baratone, and the girls nod their heads.

I’m simply thankful for this moment of sheer joy overflowing, all this fullness of grace spilling.


#409 text from a friend saying she misses her running buddy

#410 a peaceful, imperfect–yes, but peaceful Advent

#411 a peaceful Christmas celebration with all the family

#412 a 4 mile run with my mother and sister on Christmas eve

#413 girl time and how we all love one another

#414 an amazing Christmas feast and how I think that there will be a lot of families, children even, alone on the streets during Christmas who only dream of such a feast

#415 being truly thankful for what I have and the resulting joy

#416 eating cookies for supper with my family as we watch Miracle On 34th Street–a day of doing things that we never do

#417 Lilly covered up head-to-toe in her puppy blanket, walking around in it, it trailing behind her and all we can see of her are her little hands peeping out and puppy ears bobbing as she toddles around

#418 Lilly in her blanket, pointing to the rocker, a sign that she wants to be held and rocked by Mama for a few moments before bed

#419 watching Little Women with my four daughters and my oldest looking at me when I tear up

#420 Christmas church service on Christmas morning

#421 being back in our church body on Christmas day and one special lady coming to me to hug my neck

#422 a note from a friend assuring me that there is nothing I can do to ever make her go away

#423 knowing that God has all under control

#424 feeling like there is a dawning on the horizon! relief! joy! a new beginning!

Join me at Ann’s for more thoughts on gratefulness to God?

and at L.L.’s place for quiet poetry and reflections?

When Advent Doesn’t Go As Planned {31 Days to Holistic, Christ Centered Living Day #12}

We go on a nature walk–all five of us girls–through the tall, thick brush of the edge of our backyard. After tripping and pushing through weeds and briars taller than us, we finally come to a clearing with beautiful pines reaching up to the sky and patches of late afternoon sun streaming through forest green spiny branch shoots and pine cones.

I boost Lorna up next to a maple and she pulls down some branches with blood-red leaves and we snap them off for our mantle. We pick up pine cones and find a furry baby cedar tree that will be perfect for our Advent tree. So, after we come back to the house for a saw, we troop out to the woods again and cut it down and bring it into the house to our buffet table in the dining room.

We set the miniature tree in some water and my oldest asks me if we can all watch Nativity Story together. I sense her pure heart in her desire and I want a heart like that,

a heart that wants to behold Christ’s birth, to slow down and really see. But I am too busy with laundry, cooking supper, baths and making Advent ornaments to make it happen.

One evening when Mr. Simmons is at home after working a lot of overtime for a few weeks and being away, she asks again because I have promised we will sit down and watch. We all do baths, put pajamas on and eat supper and then we light our candle on the advent wreath and do our devotion.

We are way behind because we have forgotten to do Advent everyday and the babies are whiny and don’t want to sit still and my pre-teen crosses her arms in defiance.

I try to be patient and I read in low tones so they will listen and somehow, with an extra dose of grace, we make it through.

Then we finally sit down all together to watch the movie that depicts the Savior’s coming. Immanuel- God with us, a baby come to save the world.

When the baby is born and Joseph holds Jesus up in the glorious light–the Star of Sharon–streaming down on them as if from Heaven, something that is not from this world swells in my heart and the hot tears boil over.

When the first Magi places the gold in front of the baby and says, “Gold for the king of all kings,” I think of this majestic king, only a babe sleeping in a feed trough for animals.

Then the second Magi steps up and whispers, “Frankincense for the priest of all priests.” and the tears threaten again as my head fills with the image of this High Priest who will rip the veil into for me, who will go before the Father and will intercede on my behalf and will make clean all my filthiness.

Lastly, the third Magi comes forward–the one who had trouble believing in the Messiah–and he lays the gift of Myrrh on the ground where Mary is holding the baby. “Myrrh to honor thy sacrifice,” he reverently speaks it, his face betraying his obvious awe and faith.

But this is really what hits me: when the lonely shepherd leans over to see and touch the baby, the Christ-child, the gift–he pulls back in hesitation and Mary tells him softly,

“He is for all mankind,” and hands the baby Jesus over to his empty arms.

Now the damn breaks, my throat burns and the well of emotion rolls hot down my cheek.

I look over at Husband and see his eyes moist, and I glance at my oldest daughter, her eyes transfixed on the screen.

She is just taking all this in.

Simply beholding.

Yes, I want a heart like that–one that simply beholds, simply looks to Christ with the awe and faith of a child.

And I think–though I feel that I have failed at Advent and we haven’t been committed to the devotions every night and we forgot to hang the ornaments every day, didn’t plan a trip to a soup kitchen to ladle out food to the poor–

still, I think how far we have come and maybe, just maybe our Advent isn’t a failing one after all.

Because I want a child-heart that seeks Him, born this happy Christmas morning! Isn’t that the whole point of it really?

The point isn’t for us to do it perfectly, because we never will attain that. But it is a successful Advent if in our waiting and beholding, in our quiet devotion times and in our loud, boisterous, kids-running-around-the-house-breaking-things times–if in all of this we really *see* Him.

Come and let us behold Him like little children. Let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Join me at Ann’s for more thoughts on Advent and preparing for Christmas?

Advent: Preparing For Christ’s Coming {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #11}

Dishes in dishwasher and it humming and quietly grinding away, night has fallen and we all happily scrub counter-tops, light pumpkin-scented candles and put cereal boxes and banana peels–the remnants of the day–away.

The girls settled down with a movie, I think about Mr. Simmons coming home as I shower. I look forward to kissing him at the door and wonder what I will wear.

I feel a little like a love-sick teenager as I anticipate his coming, a little like the bride waiting for her bridegroom,

a lot like the church, the chosen bride of God, waiting for Christ’s coming.

Through all of it they held out.
The elect–those Israel children that told Moses they would rather go back to slavery under Pharaoh than to be desert-wandering–they waited so long and through much arduous toiling and slavery, through much miserable oppression–they just waited.

For generations and generations they waited. Each and every old man waited in exile for his ransom, His Saviour, and in his death, when no Saviour had come, he told the story to his children again of a Saviour, a shoot that would spring up from the stump of Jesse, as the scrolls foretold.

He would tell his children as they gathered ’round, of Immanuel, God with us, God that would come to them, these children held captive by sin.

“O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lowly exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel”

And when Mr. Simmons finally arrives, my hair still dripping, I kiss him and all six of us gather tight on the couch and light the candle on the advent wreath.

We let the candle burn bright in the dark room, God’s bright light, the only pure light shed upon our dark hearts.

And His perfect plan unfolds, all of us gathered ’round, waiting, just waiting for the story of the Saviour

and we hold out for the promised birth.

And we wait for our ransom, and we wait for Him to come and bring our freedom.

Immanuel. God with us. We wait for that.

We wait in the lonely season, in the dry desert. And it is here that we meet Him.

And we know Him as Immanuel.

I shift my gaze and see a little one falling asleep by the table that holds up our advent wreath, our waiting. And children touch one another back and forth and the baby wanders around while Mr. Simmons reads from the bible and I wonder if this lighting of the candle, this waiting, this beholding is helping at all.

I grow a little frustrated underneath my weak smile and I see the sin in all of us.

I see how that it will never be perfect here. We will never fully know God here in these sin-filled bodies. I silently pray in my heart for deliverance for us all.

And I wait. And I hope for Him to come. I shift my gaze again and in the dark we all feel Him here.

“O come thy rod of Jesse, free
thy own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell they people save
and give them victory over the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel.”

Please watch the video below of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” with scenes from Nativity Story:

And this one a beautiful song by Christy Nockels, “Waiting Here For You”, if you would like to listen in worship?

I wasn’t able to link up with Jen at Soli De Gloria this week since I didn’t do a Monday post, but I wanted to share her post, a vlog, because it really touched me. You will certainly be blessed if you would like to click on the link below…

Join me at Ann’s today for more ideas and inspirations on preparing for Christ’s Coming?

also at Emily’s…

Seasons {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #10}

I’m not so much sitting as I am reclined back, feet propped on suspended laziness under the maple tree, head resting against a pillow, listening to leaves rustle, sway and fall in the cool breeze of Autumn air, the warmth of the sun wrapping me in my cotton cocoon.

This is the dual season of fall and winter in the Deep South. The strong arctic wind blasts of snow are somewhere far away to the North. As I sit here (recline here), I notice the Spider Lillies are in bloom in our backyard. Lorna walks up to me and says, “Mama, the spider web flowers are blooming!” and my heart smiles warm.

It’s a full circle of life moment, when I recall all in one breath how my Mama, as a little girl, always enjoyed the spider lillies blooming in the fall, how Autumn has always been her favorite season, how as a small child, I brought the delicate spiny autumn inside for her to put on the sill, and how I, as a young girl, wrote poet’s lines about my favorite flower and pined for a love lost on leaves blowing in the fall.

Now my daughter knows the joy of them and their meaning–the ending of one season, sad as it is, but the beginning of something far greater than we could imagine.

God sees the bigger picture, doesn’t He?

We never fully see, but thinking that we can see, our perspective grows jaded and gloomy, like looking through a glass darkly, and we doubt and lose hope.

And we feel the pull and the dull ache as all the shallow, hard, dry places where seed has been swept away and not allowed to grow are carved and etched deep,

God’s mighty hand grasping, pulling, tilling, and gently plowing so none of the soil is lost but all is repaired, refreshed and He moistens the soil and awakens it by putting in new soil.

Something new–I can only explain it as the mystery of the blood pouring down,

is birthing life in me, the light of that glorious sacrificial gospel spilling red and rich upon my heart.

Red and rich and delicate because all this frailness, this sin-wracked body that I live in, must be willing to receive like the thin webbing of those autumn flowers–and they shoot up, the blood liveliness–

that aliveness –from Earth’s fertile soil, that soil dark and dying, the depths of decaying rottenness giving life–like the life-blood shooting up from veins as nails drive into His hands and feet.

And the seed cannot reproduce less it die first.

Then, through suffering with Christ, we are awakened and all we have to do is accept the sacrifice on our behalf and the blood shoots up, alive in us, making us alive to Him.

And I’ve been grafted in–in the midst of a desert-wandering life–he has drenched me in the life-blood and called me His own.

I watch my children, all the golden halos of them, dancing in the flowers, running and laughing amongst the red webbed flowers, and I run after them, and I think this is how God sees me:

just a child brought home, all of us dancing in all this grace, soaking up the moments given, the seconds and hours and days birthed out of love for us and I stand grateful, for it is just a season, a changing, a dying so that something greater can be birthed.

And this, too, shall pass.


#399 this season of desert-wandering…and knowing that God has a plan for it all

#400 these hard two weeks of trudging while Mr. Simmons works overtime…sun up to late nights cooking suppers, baths, devotions, eating suppers all together and bedtime stories and putting little ones back in bed over and over when they hop out…can i say thank you, once again, even for this? can i really lift up a thank you to God–even now–when i’m exhausted? are the worn places that i feel really making me a velveteen mama?

#401 large cartons of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes

#402 a mentor-friend, so kind and gentle, keeps writing and checking on me, offering support, advice and comfort for me to lean into

#403 a few loyal friends who keep writing, calling and just keep being there for me

#404 the way their smiles make the day seem brighter, the sun a halo on their heads

#405 a new exercise routine that has me feeling better and more like myself

#406 my sister, my mother and me all together at the movie late in the night on Thanksgiving…girl time and my mother’s “I’m glad we did this!”

#407 Older sisters wanting to give Christmas gifts to younger sisters

#408 these changing seasons…knowing that whatever comes, God is nearest in the hard times, in the pain, in the hurt. He is here.