Monday, December 29, 2014

"When the Christmas Lights Go Out" by Stacey Wooddell Imbimbo

My kids love Christmas lights.
They were so excited a few weeks ago as we set up the tree and decorated our house.
They were even more ecstatic to drive around any chance we got to see Christmas lights around the neighborhoods.
But now this week the lights are coming down.
Lights are such a huge part of Christmas time, and rightly so.
Since on that first Christmas, Light entered this world and pierced through the darkness.
John  1:4-5  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
As we are closing out 2014 remember the Light has come, and He is here to stay.  
There is grace, mercy, and hope in the promise of this Light.
Ephesians 5:8 tells us that you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of Light
So while you are taking down those beautiful Christmas lights, remind your children that the Light of the world has come and allow that light to shine brightly in you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All Wrapped Up at Christmas-time

One day last week I was all stressed out, doing work stuff on the computer, trying to manage the children’s needs, hungry, and the list went on.  I felt so bad that I had to be so focused on the computer rather than giving the kids my full attention.  However, in a moment of clarity I looked at Matthew, our soon-to-be five year-old and said, “I just want you guys to know the real meaning of Christmas…” 

Matthew’s birthday is three days after Christmas so the thrill of getting gifts must be on his mind.  A little while after my “real meaning of Christmas” statement, Matthew came up to me all excited with one of his favorite cars that he made with daddy and said, “Mommy, Mommy!!  Since its Jesus’ birthday shouldn’t WE give Him gifts?!!”  He said this like a bright light had just gone on in his beautiful head.  So I chose to let him and our three year-old daughter go for it!  Cutting paper, wrapping and TAPING.

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”  Luke 10:21

Since then I’ve noticed a few other toys have shown up under the tree with just a bow on them.  Matthew is the “bow-guy”.  If a present I’m wrapping for a friend needs a bow, I know I can call on him to get the job done.  He gets excited to help and a sense of accomplishment too.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6

It’s all about Jesus.  Instead of us getting all wrapped up in making everything just perfect, let’s focus on the perfect One – Jesus and get all wrapped up in Him!

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Happy Birthday Jesus!" by Stacey Wooddell Imbimbo

I clearly remember turning the calendar to Dec 1st.  I was so excited about the possibilities with my family this month.
I had so many ideas, thoughts and great anticipation on how magical I could make this Christmas season.
I mean, how fun to be the mom who gets to plan out all these fun filled activities, and come up with my own traditions.
I searched online for all the fun Christmassy things to do in our town.
Found cute crafts to make, got all the Christmas movies out, piled the Christmas books, and searched for advent calendars.
So…here I am days away from CHRISTMAS Day….and I look back on December, I didn’t get to half of it.
And you know what…..its ok!
I started thinking about what I remembered from my family traditions growing up.
It was really the simple things.
Extended family enjoying brunch on Christmas morning, complete with coffee cake and grape juice; which I drank in a blue Fenton glass.
My dad reading the Christmas story from Luke 2; some years my siblings and I memorizing it and had to recite it before present time.
Waiting patiently at the top of the stairs, while every grown up went downstairs to get ready for the presents.
Going to grandma and grandpa’s house for Christmas dinner.
Wonderful Memories!
So, as we enjoy this wonderful holiday this week, may we focus on celebrating Jesus, and sharing His love with others.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

One Simple Tradition

This week in Bible study, we were challenged to share sweet memories and traditions and those things we are thankful for this season. I began to think about what we do with the kids each year and it's eternal impact. A girl in our study shared a simple little tradition she does each year with her kids and I plan to implement it this year. I have already told the kids we will be doing this and they are SUPER excited.

So...what is it?

As soon as the kids wake up, they run to our room, jump on the bed (to wake us because kids are ALWAYS up first :) and then we will read Luke 2 before anything else. Before stockings and gifts, we will unwrap THE GIFT and remind us of the true meaning of our day.

As you are reading this, some of you may be thinking....that's it!?!?! But honestly this is something so simple and gets missed so regularly. The busyness of the day gets a hold of us. Kids are super psyched to open everything, you are excited to see their faces as they open those gifts we saved and hunted down. All good things, which I love too, but too often Jesus isn't even talked about on the day we are celebrating Him. 

This year we are ordering a special birthday cake for Jesus (but you can totally make your own for a few bucks). We will start our day with Luke 2 and end it with birthday cake.  A reminder of who we are celebrating at the start and finish :)

What traditions will your family do this year celebrating Jesus' birth?? Things we start now with our kids, they will take with them when they leave us to start their own families someday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE Mediator

I Timothy 2:5
For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus.

         Having adult children has many different nuances.  Many are so exciting and enjoyable, it’s hard to compare them with what photographs remind me that they were.
Google Image
         However this week I have found myself much like an arbitrator or a referee or a mediator. I was having several of the parties come to me as the “Momma Bear” and confide in me.  In keeping the confidences of each, I found myself frustrated by being able to understand both sides of the situations.  Although I could feel for either side, I couldn’t imput, because it wasn’t my place. It ISN’T my stuff.
         Over the last few hours as each came again seeking my counsel (or maybe partiality) I spoke the obvious.  I cannot “fix” your misunderstandings, disagreements or business.
         This time as they spoke of the frustrations they were experiencing, I reminded them, I am not their mediator.  I am not in the position to referee for them.  As adult children they need to address whoever has offended them.  I desperately want them to mend their strained relationships, but I am powerless to make it work.
         Moms, it can be so hard to see where we “step in” and where we “step out.”  It is imperative that we seek guidance from the Lord and ask Him to show us how we are to respond to the difficulties within family relationships.

         I Timothy 2: 5 says, “There is ONLY ONE God and ONE Mediator who can reconcile us to God and humanity…” we can trust our ONE God to listen to our ONLY Mediator, which is Christ.  He will speak on our behalf and He will listen on our behalf.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What are you waiting for this Christmas?

What is the gift you are most excited for this Christmas?  Is it clothes, a purse, the newest iPhone, jewelry, maybe a good book, or spending time with your family?  Recently I was reminded of two people who waited their whole lives for one special gift, and at Christmas time God gave them just that.

Simeon, a righteous and devout man, eagerly waited his whole life for the Messiah to come.  
Luke 2:29-32  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
 I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Another prophet, Anna, lost her husband after being married only 7 years.  Anna spent the duration of her life in the temple praying and worshipping God and waiting for the Messiah to come.   
Luke 2:37-38 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.  She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
Mammas our kiddos are watching us.  So I must remember to focus on the Giver of life, rather then on the giver of gifts or on the gifts themselves.  Will you join me?  Lets be like Simeon and Anna and anticipate the birth of Jesus, praising and worshiping our God and sharing Him with everyone. 
Lord Jesus please help us to adore You, really adore You.  Let us anticipate YOU this Christmas season and share that excitement with everyone.  Amen
Much love and blessings to you all!  
Merry Christmas,   
Fran Maynard

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Don’t expect Presents….Expect His Presence" by Stacey Wooddell Imbimbo

 The days are quickly passing, and soon December 25th will be here.
Christmas Parties, Ornament exchanges, Cards to send, and Cookies to bake.
Christmas time can be wonderful and exciting.
But, for some it is a time of sadness, anxiety, and depression.
Loneliness, loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, or family problems.
If none of these particular heartaches apply to you, look around because I’m sure not far from your realm of influence is a person that is hurting.
While wrapping your presents, pray for that person this season that needs to know that His Presence is so near.
A friend reminded me yesterday about the story of Moses in Exodus 33: 12-23
To summarize this passage God promises Moses that His Presence will go with him.  Moses keeps questioning God in this intimate exchange. Then Moses asks the Lord in verse 18 toPlease, show me Your glory. So the Lord places Moses in the cleft of the rock, and takes His hand and covers Moses. The passage continues when the Lord removes His hand and Moses sees God’s back, not His face for no man shall see His face and live. And God’s glory was revealed to Him in that moment.
If you are praying to feel His presence near you this Christmas season, know that He has His hand on you and His presence is very near.
Don’t expect a beautifully wrapped present but expect His presence to be wrapped around you.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas on a Budget

  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

This year our family was blessed with some extra Christmas money, so we decided rather than spend frivolously - we would do Christmas on a budget.  How freeing! 

We allotted $40 per child, making life so simple. We were frugal and looked for bargains. Once the $40 was gone, we were done. It freed me from getting consumed with the commercialism and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It also allowed our family to set aside some money to serve and bless others this month that are less fortunate, and need a touch from Jesus. Causing us to refocus on Jesus and not ourselves.

So many times the majority of my month is spent shopping instead of worshiping. Stressed and crazy! I lose sight of the reason we celebrate and find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle. This year was a turning point for me. For us. 

Do you have a Christmas budget?

Does this help you balance celebrating Jesus and gift giving?

Any Christmas tricks you've learned that help you enjoy the season and have fun with the kiddos too?

How does your family keep balance?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Memories of 2014

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” - Joshua 4:1-7
 In the beginning of this year a friend mentioned making a memory jar. One where we put slips of paper, with blessings written on, as they happen throughout our year. Memories of 2014.  A place we could go to recount HIS goodness at the end of the year, when my memory fails me. On New Year's Eve the Seawells plan to sit down, take out, and read each note telling of His supernatural provision. 

Throughout the Bible the Israelites needed reminders of who God was, and set up memorials and markers to help aid with that. The above verses remind us of the importance of sharing that experience with our children- telling of His goodness.

Have you ever thought about making a 2014 memory jar or journal to write down His goodness - telling your family of His character, love and great hope? Our family uses a large Mason jar with an orange sticky note with "BLESSINGS of 2014" attached on front. It can be simple. Something your kids can help make too!

Remembering HIS faithfulness is so important. Many times we forget. As we share with our kids - they'll remember and do with their own family someday too! Traditions with meaning! It's never too late to start one! Your kids have awesome memories - they will help you!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Humbled, Grateful, Challenged!

Christmas is a special time of year!  This season brings out an introspective spirit in me.  I think of the unfathomable fact that the Creator of the universe, holy, righteous and true, saw fit to come out of perfection and dwell on earth. He chose the humble form of a little baby, born into poor conditions on a cold winter night.

He would live within the confines of His human body and work, sweat, love and cry so that I would know that He truly understands my trials.  Then He would suffer horrific torture and death on the cross, and supernaturally raise from the grave so that my sins were erased and that I could live forever free of the power of sin in this life and the next.   I am humbled!!!

In considering Jesus,  I start thinking about my family and the many amazing people He has brought into my life so that I might be a better person from knowing them.  Some have offered truth, wisdom and a listening ear, others a word spoken into my life at just the right moment, and others prayer and encouragement to stay in the race.  Wherever I have lived, the Lord has been faithful to put these kindred spirits in my path.  I am grateful!!!

Finally, I ask myself what kind of impact have I had on others?  Have I been faithful in prayer and eager to listen as others have been for me? Am I bold enough to speak a word of truth when prompted by the Lord?  And do I let others know how precious they are to me?  Now I am challenged!!!

Will you accept the challenge?  Join me in encouraging those around us this season! Let's express how they have blessed us!  When the Lord puts someone on your mind, shoot up a prayer for them and then send them a text or give them a call . . . or even write them a note:)   Let's remind folks that they are important and appreciated and can overcome.  Let's assure them they are not alone.  We are in this together ... let's do it well!

Monday, December 8, 2014

"CHRISTmas" by Stacey Wooddell Imbimbo

Kyle and I just finished tucking the three kids into bed after coming home from enjoying some spectacular Christmas lights.
December is great….but it is even extra special with kids.
There are so many fun family traditions that we have adopted for our family.
The tree decorating, crafts, watching The Grinch, making sugar cut cookies, and playing with the Veggie Tales nativity set is among their favorites.  
In the midst of the glitter, snowmen, and jingle bells….I want this time of year to be about CHRIST!
As parents, our hearts desire is to teach our children the real reason we celebrate this beautiful holiday. The importance of having a real personal relationship with the Lord taking precedence over all.
Seize every teachable moment this month, Christmastime is a huge window of opportunity.
For example…
Kyle hung lights outside yesterday, our sweet neighbor Sue came over and Kyle just mentioned about how we love to put lights on our house because Jesus is the light of the world. John 1:4
Read Luke 2 as a family, make it come alive.  We like to reenact this story with our Little People nativity, different voices and all.
Before you pass out presents, remind your precious children that we give gifts because God gave us the GREATEST gift on Christmas morning.  John 3:16
Enjoy this month…point to Jesus every opportunity that you get!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

You Discipline Because I Need It

I know, O Lord, 
that your decisions are fair; 
you disciplined me 
because I needed it. 
- Psalm 119:75

My kids love to play with the magnifying glass. When lifted, the object below it is made large, where all the small details are seen, that otherwise might go unnoticed. This week God has placed a magnifying glass over my heart and showed me how my mouth is an area of weakness in this season of trial. 

This week, I have found that my son with Aspergers has been extremely trying, and my flesh is weak. Many times I have shouted back at him, instead of pausing to pray. Spewing out my thoughts instead of bringing them before God who can change his heart and mine too! God's word says so much about the mouth...

A truly wise person uses few words; 
a person with understanding is even-tempered. 
Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; 
when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. 
- Proverbs 17:27-28

As I sit down in devotion and commune with Jesus, He gently nudges me along, directing me to those scriptures that highlight my struggle. Lovingly God reminds me that I need change. I need His Spirit to direct me.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. - Psalm 139:24

Just as we discipline our kids because we love them, so too, does our heavenly Father do that for us. God holds that magnifying glass over that area He wants us to have victory over. Those hidden places we are embarrassed about. Jesus wants us go grow and in order to grow the weeds must be plucked! 

What is Jesus teaching you today? 

What verse can you memorize & cling to for hope?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fill in the _ _ _ _ _

As we said our final good-byes to Greg’s dad after our weeklong stay, it occurred to Greg we would not see him before Christmas.  Greg asked if he could read the Christmas story from Luke chapter two for all of us who were gathered in his living assistant housing.

Greg began to read the familiar story.  “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree..”  However, instead of reading straight through the story, he began to periodically pause.

The pauses became the invitation for our youngest and her grandfather to banter for the first position to shout out the word being paused for.  Although at first I was sure if this was offensive or sacrilegious to make this holy word some type of fill in the blank game. In the spirit of competition this new twist to telling the sometime too familiar story, became not only challenging but fun and inviting.

If you are looking for a new way to communicate the truth of God’s good news, I suggest you consider this game playing/truth telling completion.  We laughed and giggled as everyone eagerly sought a “point.”

I believe God would be all for this new challenge.  As you consider how to help your children hide the Christmas story in their hearts, I challenge you to take on this approach.  Allow your child(ren) an opportunity to win a “point” with each fill in the blank.

Continue to find new ways to live out and enjoy the truth of the Jesus’s life in your home!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When Christmas plans don't go your way...

I am a woman of high-expectations.  This I know and it gets me in trouble often, especially and, unfortunately, at Christmastime! If you remember my Christmastime blog from last year, you know this about me (link provided at the end if you're curious!)

This year, I had pretty expectations of having everything decorated by Cyber Monday, so I could sit in front of our beautiful tree, with my feet up, a festive beverage in hand, my husband by my side and our son peacefully sleeping.  Christmas carols would play in the background as we wisely saved money on cards and gifts. Periodic peeks at Facebook pictures and comments about how others were all set for Christmas validated for me that this is the way it should be.  Without realizing it, I also expected a jolly, incident-free time decorating together as a family (because I had learned so much about idols and expectations from last year), which would naturally produce a lovely photo for the highly reduced Christmas cards we would purchase on Cyber Monday.

It didn't happen. Are you surprised?  Our tree and decorations are up and our home is warm and festive.  But, it didn't happen when I wanted it to and our time together as a family wasn't incident free.  We had a misunderstanding or two, competing selfish desires and a somewhat stressful tree selection experience as my son struggled to stay close at a tree farm right by a busy street! I didn't shop for a thing on Cyber Monday.  I just didn't get to it. 

What happens in your heart when your Christmas plans don't go your way? What about in the hearts of your children?  It's a long, beautiful season, but it's likely there will be an event or two that don't go as planned.  How will you respond?

I was blessed to participate in a Day of Prayer on December 1, Cyber Monday, right when I needed it.  After praying for our local, national and world leaders, for Christians fleeing persecution around the world, for our soldiers, the lost, the parentless children and childless parents, the unloved lovers, spoken and unspoken requests, I was reminded of why God allows failure, disappointment and pain. 

Each of these unpleasant emotions remind us of our need for our savior! They remind us of the true meaning of Christmas, of why Jesus was born - to save us from our sin and to fill in the gaps when others fail us and when we fail them.  So, when disappointment threatens to creep in this season, allow it to remind you of your need for Him. Take the time to take it to Him. In the busyness of the season, we can spend less time with Him and that's when we start to look more like ourselves and less like Jesus.  That's when my ugly comes out!

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing." - John 15:4-5

In John 15, Jesus repeats "abide in Me" or "abide in My love" five times.  Why?

"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full." - John 15:11.

By abiding in Christ, we are able to keep His commandments and love as He does, because He equips us to do so.  Please read John 15 today - you will be blessed by His reminder. 

Sweet sisters, I pray you and your families will abide in Jesus this season and that you may experience His joy to the fullest!  Merry Christmas!

Last year's blog - Behold, I Make All Things New

 Behold, I Make All Things New

Monday, December 1, 2014

Satan Has Tactics

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. - Jeremiah 29:11-13

God Has a Purpose for Your Life
Some days can be really difficult as I try to parent my three children, one of which is special needs. Early morning therapy sessions, play dates that seem to go astray, meltdowns in the grocery store. In the midst of my crazy, I must stop and remember that HE has a purpose for my life. The life HE has given me, entrusted to me, I must remember there is a plan in it all. On those days I am barely making it, I cling to His promise that there is purpose in it all. My growth, my character, my faith, and those moments HE will allow me to share my experiences with another. 

God is always weaving ministry opportunities into my crazy. 

Satan has Tactics to deter you
As I walk with Jesus, and He has a purpose for my life...I also have an enemy with a plan too. Satan wants to deter me from the work of God, and he will try desperately to deflate my excitement for Christ, as he whispers lies into my ear. Failure. You can't do this. God doesn't love you. Give it up. You'll never be able to do that thing God asked you to do. Fear. Anxiety. All of those crazy thoughts that are literally from the pit of hell. As I walk with Jesus longer, I realize satan seems to use the same tactic on me over and over again. When I recognize this, I can deflect those crazy thoughts sooner and go to His truth to remind me of how HE sees me. After all He is my creator and knows me best. What tactic does satan use on you?

One of Satan's most deceptive and powerful ways of defeating us is to get us to believe a lie. And the biggest lie is that there are no consequences to our own doing. Satan will give you whatever you ask for if it will lead you where he ultimately wants you. 

God will direct you with hope
Each day as I seek the Bible in my quiet time, HE reminds me of where my hope comes from. He highlights where I am going and that my home, here on earth, is only temporary. My troubles that seem so large HE will use for His glory if I am willing to testify of His goodness. Those days I forget, or slack in my devotion time - has a huge effect on my hope. My focus is on the here and now, instead of the there and then. Those days when I question why I was given a child with extra struggles, His Word reminds me of the great character traits that are just below the surface of my little guy. 

God made my son, with special needs, with a purpose & plan that far outweighs what I can see. 

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. - Philippians 4:8

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"I Wanna Be Like You" by Stacey Wooddell Imbimbo

I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You'll see it's true
These lyrics from The Jungle Book have been my oldest son’s theme song for the past two weeks.
Isaiah is 11 months older than his brother Micah; they really don’t remember a time without the other.
As Mom, I have dressed them alike or very similar to one another.
So, maybe this is my fault.......
They are now at the age of wanting to choose their own clothes and unfortunately my oldest must be dressed JUST LIKE his younger brother.
If Micah chooses long sleeves than Isaiah must have long sleeves.
If the coveted Superman shirts are available then they both must wear them.
As parents we want to empower our children to make their own decisions and choices and be proud of those choices, stand firm, and not waiver.
We try to encourage Isaiah to make up his own mind and celebrate that God made him special, and that it’s okay to have different choices than your brother.
As I think about Isaiah, I find myself perusing Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Sometimes I want to be just like them.
I look at what other moms are doing with their kiddos, and I compare.
I wanna do that craft.
I wanna go to that Disney park.
I wanna have a house like that.
I am reminded that I have my own choices, and decisions, and it’s okay to have things different from other moms.
I need to celebrate the fact that God has given me this particular time in my life to be the best mom that I can be for my kids.