Christmas, Encouragement, Inspiration

In CHRIST alone at Christmas!

Christmas is ALMOST here – my most favorite time of the year.  I love, love, love every moment of it. I look forward to each Christmas with an expectancy.   You can find me usually before Thanksgiving addressing cards.  Yes, I still send cards.  I love receiving cards.  The day after Thanksgiving I mail cards, and start decorating and shopping.  I  try my best to make it special for my family, work really hard to keep Jesus’ birth at the forefront of our celebration.

This year that joy was taken from me.  We started an unexpected and unwanted remodeling project (due to foundation shifting) that was supposed to be finished in nine days—long before Thanksgiving. Today it is December 13, and we still have days the remodelers don’t show even though they are scheduled. I want to be angry and sometimes I am for a bit, but trying to remain Christ-like through this ordeal. I am trying to understand why. None of it makes sense—why do people make promises and don’t keep them? During a remodeling project things happen—pipes break, a refrigerator might not fit, the faucets leak behind the washer, treasures are broken, furniture scratched, walls are ruined, and the list just keeps growing.

In the book Greater, Pastor Furtick tells us about Elisha and how “He looked at every obstacle as an opportunity that God is greater than the confines of any situation.” It has been one obstacle after another during this remodel, but each one I count as a blessing. Walls scratched get new paint, broken pipes are new and won’t break and flood during a cold winter, broken things mean less clutter, days the remodelers don’t show give me time to unpack and get ready to re-pack for carpet. God is greater than this remodel—once it’s finished it will be beautiful and clean, and it will glorify Him.

If remodeling weren’t enough, Mom was in the hospital for a week with sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and a UTI they can’t kill, and is now back at the nursing home very ill on very strong IV antibiotics, and we don’t know if she will pull through. “God is greater than the confines of any situation” and any illness!

I have been asking God why, why at my favorite time of the year, is all of this happening? After all, aren’t I closer to God than I have ever been? I have been in Bible studies all year, taking baby steps and growing through I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer, Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, and now Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, and I even participated in the study on the book of John so I could stay in the Word during the summer.  I felt Him calling me to do more than just be “good enough” so I responded to that call to lead a group during this study and get out of my comfort zone, my mediocrity, and throw down that plow of fear because, like Elisha, I am not able, but available. So I took that very tiny baby step of faith to lead a group.

So WHAT’S UP GOD????? I am studying the book Greater with thousands of ladies on Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Studies. Pastor Furtick talks about God “uprooting us from the tyranny of the familiar, shattering the monotonous life and taking us on an adventure.” Is this an adventure? Are You uprooting me from the familiar? My whole life has changed in one year.  Did I mention I retired last December?  I read in the book where it says, “whatever He calls you to do is the greatest thing you can be doing at that moment”. WOW!  As my friend Donna Bostick says, “BAM, BAM, BAM.”

I have sat in tears at times—tears driving from the laundromat because my washer is in the den, tears because I feel such a responsibility for Mom, tears because these remodelers are still in my life and I need to be with mom, tears because 43 years of traditions are null and void this year, tears because I want to decorate, I want to shop, and I want my house to look nice for the family that will be here Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and tears because I am so tired. The greatest thing I can do at this moment, I believe, is to love on my mama and love on women all over the world in Jesus’ name. He knew. He knew that Mom would be so ill. He knew, He knew remodelers never finish on time and unexpected things would happen and He knew, He knew that I needed to be in this study because the house would be in utter chaos, and I could run to people who love me. He knew I needed prayer and encouragement to deal with all this—prayer from all our team leaders and showers of love, blessings, and words of encouragement. He knew I would have strength for little else than what I am doing this moment. How could I be shopping, decorating, and doing all those other things this year? I couldn’t. He knows that through all of this “stuff” that next year Christmas will be more special than it has ever been. He knew I wanted to write so He has sent me to these studies where I learned about blogs, and found some time (FINALLY) away from home this weekend in His presence for a few hours. So all I can do at this moment is take baby steps (Bible study, take care of Mom, and hopefully finish this very first blog), and in between times I get a few things unpacked (so I can start packing up the other rooms for new carpet, which may or may not happen before Christmas). In the in-between times I spend hours in this study and praying.

Uprooted? I think so. Uprooted from a filthy house, uprooted from the mediocrity of not reading my Bible like I should, uprooted to minister to women, and uprooted to get rid of old tile, carpet, and kitchen countertops that were long overdue replacing. Yes, I was uprooted and praise God for that. I read in Greater that “His greatest ambition in leading you into greater things isn’t that you would know what to do. It’s that you would know who He is”. WOW! What a nugget in that phrase—“to know who He is”.

So what has God shown me this Christmas, in this chaotic time? I could sit here listening to the enemy and whine and complain and say, “poor me,” but instead I have chosen to DIG DITCHES as Pastor Furtick calls it. One way to dig ditches is to change my words, my expressions, my thoughts, and my actions, using words of affirmation and faith, rather than words of hopelessness as I look over the mess—the disaster that is currently there will one day be beautiful if I keep my focus on Him. God has shown me that I can be Greater, not great and He is showing me daily who He is. I am digging ditches by choosing to have blessed thoughts rather than sad thoughts when I see no tree, no lights, no stockings, and a Mom who is suffering. Digging ditches and cleaning out clutter to donate that other families can use.  Digging those ditches and praising God when I walk in my kitchen and see that one candle that reminds me “who He is”—“He is the Light of this world and He is Christmas.” That one candle, a few plates, and a couple of things I picked up last week at a drug store are the only decorations I can find right now.  I look at those and am reminded that “He is my PEACE and He is my JOY” (my favorite word). I know that every great thing and every small thing in my life are blessings from Him and are the result of His most amazing grace and love. NOEL is written on one of those treasures I bought.  Do you know what it means?  I am ashamed to say I didn’t so I looked it up – it means CHRISTmas!  BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

So what am I enjoying this Christmas, when I can’t decorate each and every room, nor time to shop for my loved ones? I’m enjoying the simple things, the blessings only He can give. The blessing of using what little “widow’s oil” I have to glorify Him through leading a wonderful group of women, who will in turn bless others and show His love. I am truly experiencing what the joy of Christmas is all about this year and that’s to know who He is and pray for others to know Him too. It’s about Him, about His love, His blessings, His peace, and His joy! It’s about the simple things that God has blessed us with—not the presents under the tree but HIS PRESENCE, the gift of Him.  It’s not about trees, decorations, or stress—it’s about the things that build memories of who He is. It’s about the blessings, the things that God has given to bless our lives in “BIG” ways, but we miss them as we hurry through the season that is really the most special time of the year—it’s NOEL, it’s Christmas, it’s joyous, it’s the season during which we were sent the Greatest Gift on Earth.

Here are a few of the simple things that God has given me that I am relishing and enjoying this year:

My Family (my husband holding my hand or giving me hugs, my son and daughter and their spouses calling or emailing to see how things are going and stopping by to help pack, move furniture, and even go sit with me and Mom)
Visiting and loving on Mom, and the wonderful blessing that she still recognizes me as her daughter and knows my name.
A Bible study group where I can use my “widow’s oil” to love on, pray for, and touch women all over the world. That little “oil” can grow and grow to be much as lives are touched and they touch other lives
Christmas cards arriving from family and friends with beautiful uplifting notes and messages and the joy in hanging them up on my kitchen mini-blinds and awaiting the long tradition our family has had of choosing one card each time we sit down to eat and we re-read that card and lift that family in prayer.


A simple manger scene printed from my computer hanging on my refrigerator
A simple candle and displays in my kitchen reminding me what Christmas is about: “to know who He is”—the candle reflecting to me that “He is the Light of the world” and my few decorations that remind me “He is my peace and my joy,” and the wonder of those few things reminding me to remember “In Christ alone”.

Lessons I am teaching my grown children, that I can have joy in His presence no matter the circumstances. Because of Him I can face today and I can face tomorrow—because He LIVES!
A couple of Christmas plates hanging in the kitchen giving a bit of beauty in an ugly mess
Christmas coffee cups to savor coffee each morning with my Bible study leaders and group or hot chocolate in the evening with my husband
A new stove after five weeks of not having one with soup on the burner, and new pipes with a working washer and dryer
New tile floors to hear the pitter patter of small feet of future grandchildren I am praying for
The thought of a clean, remodeled home where I can entertain friends and family and use God’s house to glorify Him
That just like the widow’s oil—little is much and as the Greater book says “He is personally watching over the intricacies of my life”

JOY,  JOY,  JOY to you this Christmas!



45 thoughts on “In CHRIST alone at Christmas!”

  1. I am So Blessed by your post, sweet OBS sister! So many of your words speak directly to my heart, reminding me that God knows everything about me and Loves me in every moment! Thank YOU for sharing your heart! ❤


  2. Oh Debbie! My heart hurts so much for you. But as one who has been uprooted and had her faith shaken until it almost couldn’t be shaken anymore, I can tell you one thing. During my darkest nights, is where my relationship with Jesus grew. It wasn’t about the doing, it was about the knowing. Letting Him love on me through others, through serving with what little oil I had, but most of all by drawing near to Him. Asking the hard questions. Yet loving Him deeply. I pray for you my sweet friend. I pray that He comforts you as He did me. We in the OBS love you and are here for you day or night. May He bless you with sweet peace and healing for your mom. May He hurry them remodeler people along too, please. 😉


    1. Amen to all that Jennifer. Don’t you be hurting – I am resting in Him and if this is the “worst thing that happens to me today, well it is still a pretty good day”. Thank you Jesus these obstacles are few compared to what so many others are going through. Hugs lady!


  3. Debbie, what an inspiring post! I understand the road you are walking with your mom. We experienced several of those times with our mom. My heart goes out to you for having to endure that along with the “little foxes” of despair that had already popped up in your life.
    I was just having my coffee and reading my Bible and saw this quote in The Women’s Study Bible:
    “An iron is fashioned by fire and on an anvil, so in fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive the form which our Lord desires them to have.” St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
    When making my bed yesterday, for some reason this thought popped into my head and I started to share it with my group in reference to the Greater study but I didn’t see how it could mean anything. Now I do. There has been a lot of discussion about ditches, digging big or small and which ditch to dig. I was thinking about that and thought that for some people a major ditch would be just being able to make up the bed in the morning.
    This dark season won’t last and you do recognize who is in control. That’s powerful!
    RE the quote: We know who holds the iron to the fire and He is a master in dealing with fire. He knows how long each particular piece of iron can withstand the ravages of that fire and He knows when to give relief and release. From what I know of iron work, once the piece has been fired it is cooled by dunking it in water. REFRESHING thought! God bless you and your family in this Christmas season. Thank you for sharing your heart! You’re digging your ditches so be ready for that refreshing rain!


    1. Thank you so much! Isn’t God so amazing giving you that devotion for me today. We’ve been through similar things with Mom but this one seems to be lasting much longer. And thanks for the reminder – these are little foxes in the big scheme of things. I am blessed and spoiled beyond measure. I know that and I love Him and I have so, so much to be thankful for every day. Your post has been a special blessing today. Thank you for sharing.


      1. Thank you for being the blessing! I really know what you are facing with your mom. It is a difficult road. I’ll be praying for you, your mom, and her caregivers!
        I wanted to share this with you because you ARE a Woman of Faith. I shared this on our group page on Monday.


        F ully obey God (1 John 2: 3-4)
        A bide in Jesus/God’s love (John 15:9-10)
        I mmerse herself in God’s Word (Psalm 119:11)
        T rust in Gods’ guidance and direction (Proverbs 30:5)
        H umble herself before God (James 4:10)

        You are a real beacon for God, Debbie! Blessings 😉


  4. Debbie this is awesome! What a wonderful example you are of resting in His presence despite the chaos that surrounds us! Praying that when life returns to “normal” you always treasures the lessons learned while digging your ditches and burning your plows. Also praying for healing for your momma.


  5. Debbie, I loved this! I retired January, 2011 and have had so many things happen in my life too. This was so beautiful and I am so blessed by it! I lost my Mom the month after I retired and my daughter-in-law five months later. But I have a beautiful special needs granddaughter to teach about Him! Debbie, I was so blessed by this post! Thank you so much for sharing!


    1. Hey Lynda didn’t know you were retired. I retired Dec 2011 so you beat me. Thank you for commenting. I am so sorry you lost your mom and I cannot imagine losing my daughter in law – bless you Lynda Parker. I teach as a sub with the special needs kids. Another of those ditches. I said I could not do that, one day I got a msg from school to sub and it was my first trip there and they don’t tell you what you are subbing. I almost walked out when they told me – really I am ashamed to say it but I felt incompetent. I know now it was God – the special needs teachers call me all the time – the kids love me and I love them and that is the only classes I have subbed in this year. Was there today and it always humbles me and makes me feel so good. Now I am with mom – and she knows me – they called me twice while I was at school for only 4 hours but God is good all the time and we are just praying things will start turning around, but also preparing in case they don’t. Love you Lynda Parker and thanks for blessing me.


  6. The blessing I see in your whole remodeling expedition is that you are able to focus more on Jesus and His birth! My brother and I were just talking on the phone yesterday how getting ready for Christmas has become so busy with school programs, parties, buying presents, decorating, baking, etc., that we don’t even really get to enjoy the time leading up to Christmas.

    Congratulations on your first blog post!


    1. Thank you Lori. You are right – in the past I was working, taking care of Mom, and RUSHING. I’m not rushing this year – HA! Back at the nursing home again with Mom – the nurses called me back. Up this morning, then school but I think she is better when I’m present and I guess they did too. Today was the deadline for ordering carpet and that kinda stressed me – it won’t be here for my family at Christmas so they will be celebrating on concrete floors in my den. It’s all good, it’s all God and it is just fine. Can’t believe all this peace. I was going home after school to unpack some things but I’m right where God wants me. Love you Lori. Thanks posting. HUGS!


  7. Debbie,’
    What an awesome post! Such an inspiring one for sure! Love and blessings to you during this time…also will be praying for you, your family, and your mother especially.

    Kristen (OBS Group Leader)


  8. I would say lady, God is working hugely in your life. Does it feel like your heart and spirit are being torn up and remodeled? It seems God is showing you in the real world what he wants to do for your life, for your walk with Him. You’ve learned and grown so much. It has been such a joy to do this journey with you.

    OBS Group Leader


  9. Debbie,
    I can relate so much to what you write. “What’s up God?” I remember saying that while going through my mom’s illness. But I love how even though you are going through some very very hard times, you still find it in your heart to thank God and recognize the blessings in your life. Everything you are going through will strengthen you and also draw you closer to Jesus.

    Thank you for being so transparent in your post.
    Love you!


    1. Thank you Melissa Taylor and I know, I know I am being strengthened and I thank God for you and your studies for allowing me to have the most wonderful first year in retirement. WOW! Loving every study and every member of your team. AMAZING!


      1. Forgot to say Melissa Taylor thank you for the encouragement in blogging. Between you and Donna Bostick it got done. I was hesitant yesterday and Donna told me to just do it or go or something like that and I did.


  10. Debbie,
    Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us. This post was amazing! I love how you incorporated the process of digging ditches as well as how we have to start where we are and be thankful regardless of how much “oil” we may at the moment. If we had too much oil, it might clog up the system anyways right? 😉 Praying for you dear sister!

    Kristi Seat
    (OBS Leadership Team)


  11. Wow! I admit I had some tears fall. So many have already said so many great words about your post, I don’t have anything flowery to add. Just know,fellow OBS sister, thar your post blessed me so much. Thank you for sharing.
    Kelley V


    1. Wow Kelley I didn’t mean to make you cry. Thank you for such sweet comments. I am so glad it blessed you because it did me too in writing it. Showed me how much I have grown in just a year because I’m handling stuff pretty well. Glad to be in the group with you and all your encouragement. Thanks again.


  12. Debbie, what a blessing you have given by your blog. Living in reality and showing how you are depending on God through all your circumstances and he’s there for you. Merry Christmas!


  13. Debbie ~ What an awesome post! I knew you had great things to say and from the comments it is obvious that a lot of other people think so, too! I am sorry you are having such a trial this Christmas but I pray that you know that He remains faithful and His mercies are new every morning! I have been having a rough week, but nothing compared to what you are going through. You have reminded me to change my words, thoughts and attitudes ~ which I have been working on but got a little out of hand this week…. Thank you so much! You are a blessing!



    1. Hey Judie this blessed my heart this morning. By being Real we see others hurt too and we also see our hurts aren’t near as bad as they could be. Like I learned in another study with Melissa “is this is the worst thing that happens today, it is still a pretty good day”. Blessings to you today too and thanks again for posting. Debbie


  14. PRECIOUS DEbbie! i honestly don’t read blogs this long…but yours drew me in…i LOVE it, i love your teachable spirit….and I love that you are allowing these presumed obstacles to prune you….your eyes are fully open to how He can bless you in what seems like a mess. THANK YOU for sharing!!


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