Was Thanksgiving really just last week?! From there we went right into Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It seems like for all the preparation it takes, Thanksgiving gets left in the dust way too quickly. I’ve always wondered why Thanksgiving and Christmas are so close together. Why not have it somewhere in early October? I am sure there is a valid fact like the whole pilgrim thing, but if I were choosing, they would be farther apart so Thanksgiving gets the attention it deserves.
Here is what I did not do Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday shopping, decorate for Christmas (this still feels wrong), list making and drive my family nuts with what needs to be done.
Here is what I did do:
Ate too much.
Olivia and I talked Craig into chauffeuring us around a little Thanksgiving night to the Tanger Outlet (doesn’t count as Black Friday, it was still Thursday) where we “got some exercise.” He gave us a time limit (of course) so we made the most of it and got some gift buying in.
Took Olivia to see WICKED at Michigan State for her upcoming birthday. It was awesome!!!
Had dinner with friends both Friday and Saturday night and did some much needed and enjoyable catching up.
Went to church and then took off for Alabama with a friend to enjoy some warm weather, Christmas shopping, and gift wrapping. Yes, wrapping. She brought all this beautiful gift wrap along for us to take our time with and enjoy wrapping gifts. This is not a strong suit of mine. My family is going to wonder where the heck these gifts came from! Our plan is to come home with my van filled with wrapped and ready-to-go gifts to put under the tree. Wait, I don’t have a tree up. Oh well, it’ll happen.
I wrote last weekend about being thankful for peace and I still am! Meaning, I am still thankful and peaceful most of the time. My goal is to stay there through this holiday season and beyond. Right now, I am doing it one day at a time. When I feel the rush of busyness and lists trying to invade my peace, I quickly take a deep breath, tell myself to slow down, and focus only on what really matters in the moment. Try it, it works.
I was thinking about how I had started the holidays with peace and that seems to be going pretty well, so what could I focus on this week to keep this peace going? Maybe a word? I found that word in church, two Sundays in a row! The Sunday before Thanksgiving we were worshipping at the Florabama and Pastor Dan Stone talked about hope.
I love what he said and this is just a snapshot of a great sermon based on I Peter 4:
Hope is never missing; it is just often replaced.
Where you place your hope makes all the difference.
My job today is to keep hope alive.
I was deeply impacted by his words. When I challenged myself to think of where I might have misplaced my hope in my life, what did that look like? Well, I put it in a bottle, my husband, my family, my church, but mostly myself. I put my absolute hope for a beautiful life in everything but God. Oh God was part of it, part of the whole package I listed. But here’s the thing, God doesn't want to be just a part of the package. He is the whole package. Start there. He is all you need, always available, and all the rest will fall into place. Notice, I said fall into place not that life will be immediately perfect.
I was at a store last summer and while I was making my purchase, I was sifting through this box of rocks that had words painted on them. Words like peace, hope, love, grateful etc. Well, as I was looking through them (because I am the biggest sucker born for cash register clutter) I found this one! It said Hop! That's my maiden name!
So, when I tried to buy it, the clerk laughed and said, “You don’t want that one. It's defective. It should say Hope." I’m like, "Nope. Whilst I do agree this Hop can be a little defective at times, I want it for my desk."
She sold it to me for half price and off I went. Now this was about 6 months ago and I have been staring at it on my desk for awhile. One day I looked at it after hearing Dan’s message, and thought, "Yes. It is supposed to be HOPE but instead its HOP." I had put all my eggs in the Hop basket (me, myself and I) instead of the God basket of hope. I keep that stone in front of me to remind me of that. This Hop girl needs to put all of her hope in Christ.
In the second hope sermon I heard at my home church, Pastor Scott said, “No hope is like not expecting a sunrise.” Can you imagine a beautiful clear crisp morning and the sunrise just not happening? Or doubting if it was ever going to? What a letdown, especially the first time but what if it continued to be absent day after day? I believe that’s how God feels when he sees us not placing our hope in him. Disappointed, let down, frustrated. He is as predictable in his love and commitment to us as that sunrise. Even though there are days we cannot see the sunrise because of the clouds, it is there. Even though a situation might feel hopeless and we cannot see how things could ever change, God is there.
We hear the expression often, “Do not lose hope.” I would say this, “Do not lose hope in God.”
He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pray and talk to him with faith and expectation. He’s available. Then even if your situation doesn't change, you will because you are living a faith walk with him and not something artificial that in the end won’t help anyway. You won’t find faith on a shelf (or a clothing rack,) you will find it with your eyes closed, talking to God.
As children at Christmas, there was always that hope for that special gift you really wanted (ok, I still do this as an adult). This Christmas, I pray you experience the gift of Hope that he has waiting for you. Unwrap it and bask in the peace that it brings. It's the best gift under the tree.
Peace on your weekend,