Embracing the unexpected on {The Road to Christmas}

10836401_10205496065826382_347504392_nI’ll never forget the all-nighters spent in that cramped apartment closet, swaying my cranky firstborn and softly desperately singing “Be Still My Soul” until my words could no longer break through my tears. We had excitedly welcomed our first baby, but the road was harder than we had anticipated:

A shocking job loss and last minute move two weeks before the baby was due.

Unexpected health issues that plagued our sweet boy since the day he was born.

The surprising struggles and sad emotions I felt in the weeks after giving birth.

Unplanned financial strain over a house in another town that wouldn’t sell.

And just when I was doubting my competency in almost every area of my life, I woke up one morning with a wailing six month old in one hand and a positive pregnancy test in the other.

“Lord, I can’t do this.”

It wasn’t the gift of another baby that grieved me. Life is absolutely a miracle from God too amazing to fully comprehendWhat weighed heavy on my heart was my doubt in my ability to walk this unexpected road well – because let’s face it, my mothering journey up to that point had left me feeling pretty weak and unqualified.

But God doesn’t call the qualified.

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I already know it, so why do I so often need reminded? I’m frustrated in my own lack of faith that in the unexpected, God knows better than me. Listen, He always knows better than me.

But Mary.

Mary’s young, trusting hands were unclasped. She wasn’t paralyzed by fear when Gabriel told her she’d give birth to the Messiah. Oh, in human terms, it was shocking, unexpected, surprising, unplanned news to be sure.

But she didn’t hesitate.

She didn’t fall to the ground in a weeping, doubting mess.

She didn’t ask a million questions or raise her voice in anger, and she definitely didn’t fire back with, “Lord I can’t do this.”

No, she accepted her calling and lifted her humble voice in praise – not because she was confident in her abilities – but because she KNEW the One who had called her.

When the unexpected comes, we have two choices: we can either become paralyzed, or we can praise.

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Christmas 2002.

That was the Christmas that rocked my world… in the form of an eight pound, eight ounce unexpected baby boy.

But listen, God always, always knows better than me.

God knew that I’d need bright spots on weary days, so he gave me a boy who is always the first to jump up and clean a puddle of spilled milk – even if he wasn’t the one who spilled it. He knew I’d need comic relief, so He gave me ONE child – this boy – who consistently laughs at all my bad jokes. He knew I needed to know more compassion, so He gave me a boy who challenges me to love people unreservedly. He knew I’d need fresh reminders of redemption, so He gave me this boy who accepted God’s gift of grace and never got over it. But God also knew that I needed to let go of my self-sufficiency. My pride. My control over my life. And so he gave me this boy, who has also caused me to depend on Jesus like never before.

Unexpected roads can paralyze, or cause us to praise.

The great thing? You don’t need confidence in your ability to walk your unexpected road well. You just need to KNOW the One who calls you – and then with unclasped hands – place your full confidence in Him.

God doesn’t call the qualified, but He qualifies the called.

Embracing the unexpected on {The Road to Christmas} sounds a whole lot like this:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” ~ Luke 1:38

Can you say it?

Father I praise You, because the unexpected road is also a road that leads to unmerited grace. You are worthy… have your way in me.

At His feet,

 

Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. ~ Psalm 63:3

*LET’S TALK: Are you ready to hand over your unexpected road to Jesus? As a first step, in the comments section today simply type Mary’s humble, willing plea: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

{The Road to Christmas} Week 2 ~ Willing to be used by God…

Love God Greatly

If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine! ~ Elisabeth Elliott

If you’re anything like a typical girl, you’ve probably spent a considerable amount of time at some point in your life dreaming about the details of your future. I know I have. In fact, when Angela and I were neighbors as little girls, you could often find us on hot summer days playing “wedding” in the carport of her tiny duplex. We draped ourselves with white lace tablecloths and our moms’ cheap jewelry and took turns – along with my sisters – walking down the driveway “aisle,” imagining the day when our dreams would become reality.

But our lives don’t always follow the fairy tale path we dream about as little girls, do they?

Rahab and Mary – two more unlikely women listed in Jesus’ lineage in Matthew 1 – certainly found out that life doesn’t always turn out according to plan. But a wise woman of God knows that God’s sovereign plan trumps her plan any day of the week.

Rahab the prostitute was a social outcast who was willing to be used by God.

Mary was a young virgin girl whose willingness to be used by God would make her a social outcast.

They didn’t come with stacked resumes, they surely weren’t the most popular girls in town, and they were far from sinless. But God used Rahab and Mary because he’s God, and he specializes in making something beautiful out of what the world deems as broken.

We don’t have to have all of the answers before we submit to God’s plan for our lives, and we might not ever reach a point where we’re considered “qualified” by the world’s standards. But like Rahab and Mary, we can say “yes” when God calls us because we know that God will illuminate our paths with his grace and power, gently guiding us by his sovereign hand with each step we take by faith.

{The Road to Christmas} is becoming more and more beautiful with each grace-filled step, amen? We’re excited that you’re back for {Week 2} of our study… we can’t wait to dive into God’s Word with you!

At His feet,

*Let’s Talk ~ Does doubt or fear hold you back from saying “yes” to God? Our team would love to encourage you and pray for you in the comments section today!

{Week 2} Challenge: In your study time this week, take time to search your heart and identify any personal inadequacies that might be weighing you down and hindering you from saying “yes” to God. Write those inadequacies down on a piece of paper, then over the top of each item listed, write the word GRACE. Thank God for his grace that covers you, and ask him to give you confidence to boldly say “yes” to him.

W2 Challenge

{Week 2} Reading Plan:

RP W2

{Week 2} Memory Verse:

MV W2

{The Road to Christmas} ~ The road that leads to grace…

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“Buried in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter one is a gospel treasure. That treasure is five women. Their inclusion in the list is notable because it’s a patrilineal genealogy — a record of fathers and sons. Their inclusion is also notable because they were among the most notorious women in biblical history.

The first mentioned is Tamar (Matthew 1:3). Tamar entered the royal bloodline of the Messiah by disguising herself as a prostitute and seducing her father-in-law, Judah, so he would make her pregnant. Honestly, Judah had it coming because he had denied her justice, but it was an ugly affair all around (see Genesis 38).” ~ Christmas Bloodline: Notorious Women in Jesus’s Family by Jon Bloom

It wasn’t what you expected, was it?

These first few passages we’ve studied on {The Road to Christmas}… they don’t line up with the lights, glitter, peace and wonder that we’ve neatly packaged into our definition of Christmas.

But stay with me here… it’s a necessary road.

Every bit of this dark, messy, uncomfortable, embarrassing, scandalous journey is included in the Bible for a specific purpose. The tension, the unrest, the building of the story and the anticipation of the rescue…

This is the journey that highlights our great need.

This is the path that makes salvation that much more longed-for.

This is the road that makes the arrival of the babe in the manger that much more personal.

{The Road to Christmas} is dark and sin-filled in the waiting, but it’s a road that leads to grace.

God has ordained that Satan have a long leash with God holding on to the leash because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations, struggling with both the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring, more of God’s glory will shine. ~ John Piper

Tamar’s story was one of rejection and disgrace. Her family history was tainted, and her personal reputation paid the price over and over again. It must have felt like prison with no way out – this ugly web of shame that Tamar found herself tangled up in while she waited for deliverance. Yet along that dark road, Tamar became the mother of Perez, and it was from his line that King David – and eventually Jesus – was born. This unlikely Gentile woman who lived for years in darkness became a crucial piece in the lineage of Christ (Matt. 1)… the lineage of grace.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is immeasurably more than a list of ancient names; it is even more than a list of Jesus’ human forebears. It is a beautiful testimony to God’s grace and to the ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, who “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13). If He has called sinners by grace to be His forefathers, should we be surprised when He calls them by grace to be His descendants? The King presented here is truly the King of grace! ~ John MacArthur

Sweet, amazing grace.

Because on {The Road to Christmas} no one is righteous… not even one (Romans 3:10). But grace.

Maybe you can relate with Tamar today:

Do you find yourself constantly stuck in a web of sin that is choking the life right out of you? There’s new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Does your family have a long history of dysfunction? Jesus can break those chains (Gal. 5:1).

Has your life been filled with all kinds of unexpected twists, turns and misfortunes? God specializes in making crooked paths straight (Prov. 3:6).

Have you walked a hard road filled with darkness? That’s why the Savior came (John 10:10).

Grace came down to a humble stable, so that you and I might live. Light in the darkness. HOPE for the world. Praise God, there is a road that leads to grace… and grace shines brighter.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

~ John 1:4-5

At His feet,

 

*LET’S TALK: On {The Road to Christmas}, let’s offer up praise to our great God for his amazing grace! Share your thoughts and prayers of gratitude in the comment section today…

{The Road to Christmas} Translations NOW AVAILABLE!!

TranslationsAnnouncing {The Road to Christmas} translations… AVAILABLE TODAY!!!

We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving here in the States, and today our hearts are full of gratitude and praise to our great God once again as we think about women all.over.the.world coming together to study God’s Word in this humble little space! Only God could bring us all together under one “roof” to join in this great adventure!

These verses in 1 Thessalonians remind us of you ~ your faith, love and hope demonstrated in your passion to know God and make him known

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Join with us in thanksgiving and praise as we offer the following NINE translations for our four week Advent study, {The Road to Christmas}!!!

Afrikaans.

Czech.

Dutch.

French.

German.

Hungarian.

Malagasy.

Russian.

Spanish.

Can you – or someone you know – benefit from our {FREE} resources for {The Road to Christmas} study in one of the languages listed above? Simply click on the link below to access {The Road to Christmas} Reading Plans and Study Guides for the NINE translations offered this session:

The Road to Christmas Translations

Help us offer a HUGE THANK YOU to the incredible women who have made these translations possible.  MUCH prayer, time, effort and sacrifice has gone into their labors of love so that even MORE women are reached, inspired and encouraged by the LGG community, and most importantly, by studying the truth of God’s Word together! Oh, how we adore these girls!!

Just THREE more days and we’ll begin our beautiful journey on {The Road to Christmas} together! Grab your friends and family and join us, won’t you?! It wouldn’t be the same without YOU!!!

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This world is messed up, people matter, and why you should make this Thanksgiving count…

Dorothy1I sat at her feet again this week.

You guys, she’s ninety-eight now. Unbelievable, this woman who has been my “mentor mother” all these years. I got a call from her son earlier in the month asking me if I’d come, but I just hadn’t made the time. You know… kids, schedules, work, life. She has good and bad days now, but all signs clearly point to the fact that heaven is near.

She couldn’t remember names of dear friends one minute, but a moment later she was breaking down the Twenty-third Psalm in so much detail that her words sounded like they came straight out of a Bible commentary. I could almost physically see it – it was as if God was opening her mind at that very moment, gracing her with understanding, comfort, and confidence as she looked at death square in the face.

I asked her if she knew that Thanksgiving was coming, and she said yes.

Bound to her recliner other than assisted trips to relieve herself, there would be no celebration for her this year. I quickly offered a personal delivery of mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, rolls and everything else I could think of that might go down easily, but before I could finish, she cut me off and said the most profound thing of the night:

“It’s not food that I crave, Whitney. It’s people.”

{Sigh}.

Most of the people in your life won’t have the guts to tell you straight up, but when you’re ninety-eight, you let go of some of your previous filters and go ahead and say it like it is.

People matter more, and we’re seriously messing it up.

She’s told me a million times before and every time I brushed it off, chalking it up to generational differences. But this time her final days demanded my attention, and I let each heavy word soak in deeper than before…

People today don’t visit with each other anymore.

They’re always in a hurry. Overcommitted.

They’re consumed with themselves and the next best thing.

They’re easily distracted. Rarely satisfied.

People matter more, and they often get our worst. From big picture tragedy that floods our newsfeeds, down to the words thrown around carelessly within the walls of our very own homes, we’ve forgotten how to look beyond ourselves and love people generously. 

LoveGodGreatly-Gratitude Study

Are you gathering for Thanksgiving this week?

Trust me when I say that no one cares nearly as much as you do about thickened gravy or lumpy potatoes.

They’re not looking at your fingerprinted walls or the stains on your carpet.

They aren’t obsessed with that ten pounds you gained or whether or not your entire family shows up in brand new color coordinated outfits.

They didn’t come to focus on your landscaping, the square footage of your house, your mismatched silverware, and they probably won’t remember your well thought out centerpieces a week from now.

But they’ll remember how you treated them. 

It took spending time with the dying this week to be reminded that I have a whole lot of living to do.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m putting away my smart phone.

I’m simplifying my menu and I’m allowing others to pitch in.

I’m scrapping my plans for dreamy Pinterest-inspired décor to make way for my kids’ homemade creations made out of faded construction paper.

Instead of obsessing over a perfectly put-together house, I’ll shove a few cluttered piles in closets beforehand and will wait to deep clean until after my guests are gone.

I won’t freak out if the turkey is dry, if someone spills cranberry sauce on my cream-colored placemats or if my kids track mud through my living room after a rowdy game of backyard football. As a matter of fact, I’m already telling myself that these things are most likely going to happen.

Instead, by God’s grace, I’ll be patient. I’ll sit. I’ll listen. And I’ll behave as if people matter more.

Because we’ll be together. We’ll be making memories. We’ll be loving. And we’ll be living.

Because we’re never guaranteed tomorrow, I’d rather them see Jesus in me…

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: How might you need to alter your plans in order to love people well this holiday season?

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