Category Archives: Christmas Countdown 2018

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 23

As we light the fourth candle in our Advent wreath this morning, the glow of the candles lights up the room even more. The tree lights give our living room a certain charm as I breathe in the fresh scent of evergreen. 

Russ and I are meeting up with dear friends in a little while and attending an early morning service at a nearby church. Our own church is doing things a bit differently this year with same service today as tomorrow so we will do Christmas Eve with our family there. 

I am a church nerd. 

I love sitting in what I still call a sanctuary …..

whether it is a traditional style with long pews and hymnals in racks…

or one that looks like a gym and the chairs are the same ones we use for classes and dinners and meetings. 

Church has been a part of my life for my whole life.

Years full of Sunday mornings leaning up against the suit coat of my dad while he slipped me sour balls to keep me quiet…or squirming in the pew between my grandma and my aunt and my mom as their various perfumes and hairspray waged war around my pigtailed head. 

Even in years where I didn’t live it out, I was still drawn to the Church each week because my soul longed to be near God and it seemed even if I couldn’t find Him during the week…He for sure would be there on Sunday.

The music and the Scriptures read, heads bowed in prayer…passing the peace and the plates…whether the offering we give to Him or receiving the one He gave to us….all of it. 

I have sat amongst believers around this country, and am blessed to be able to say…in four other countries …and in all manner of denominations. 

I have heard some wonderful and powerful sermons and I have nodded off in my fair share as well. 

I have felt an outsider…sometimes because of others and sometimes because my own sin has seemed too much for God to even welcome one like me.

But that was on me…not Him.

For welcome me He has always done and always will. 

And that is why I love the Church. 

Because He loves the Church…and gave His life for Her. 

For us. 

For a flawed bunch of humans who gather together as one because….

I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then the world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.

John 17:23 CEV

I hope you are gathering somewhere today with the rest of us…in some setting of worship…and that you will know and feel the love of your Father for you through Jesus Christ the Son <3

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 22
pc/Cindie Zelhart

In the past week, a couple of friends have texted me pictures with a few of the dates I need.

One was in the airport when she realized her gate was 21. She sent me a photo and when I texted back right away another friend had already covered that, she sent me 22 and 23 just as she was boarding. 

I love it. 

I love it so much that some friends have been thinking about the countdown and noticing numbers and remembering my request…it means that they have been reading and following the passages and it means that God has connected our hearts through His Word throughout this crazy busy holiday countdown…and that is what the Journey is all about to me. 

Yes, I am tapping away here with sloppy tears and a million things I need to accomplish today, but all of it is pointless if we are not linking arms along the way as we follow THE Way. 

It is the heart of Christ that we be united in thinking about Him. He is in the ministry of equipping us to be unified…

and so Jesus continued His prayer for us with these words…

And the glory which You have gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one….

Jesus shares it all with us, you know. 

All of it. 

All the glory the Father gave to the Son, the Son gives to us. 

The one big happy family all of our hearts long to belong to…is found in Christ alone. 

Let’s remember to be filled up with that truth so that when we go out into our earthly family gatherings…or gatherings with friends…

sitting in pews or around a card table…

opening gifts or putting our end of year offering in the plate…

munching on sugar cookies or taking the bread and cup as it is passed…

we belong to the family of God through the finished work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

And because of this, we love others well…because He first loved us.

All the praise and glory and honor are due Him, who gave His all…HIS ALL…for all of us <3

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 21
pc/Lisa Peck

Good morning and oh my, oh my…it will be Christmas Eve in three short days. 

There is a load of sheets for Bed #1 in the dryer…rooms are being prepared, menus solidified in ink and lists are everywhere.

The last of the cards go in the mail today…I know what items are left to finish the stockings…and I woke at 4 am and had to force my eyes to shut and try to get some much needed sleep. 

Before I share today’s Scripture thought, I want to tell you about a picture I didn’t take yesterday. 

It is etched on my heart in HD quality…full color…and filed with some of my most treasured heart prints. 

Rachel had signed Joel up for a class at the Children’s Museum so we took all of them down to that area and let them play after school. Then we had pizza together and I took the other three home while she and Mr. Joely Bear had a date. 

We had finished baths, read some Christmas stories and as I held Miss Caroline on my hip, I supervised the older two boys putting away the stack of clean clothes outside their door. 

We heard Joel before we saw him…little voice already spilling out into the house as Rachel got his shoes off. Up the stairs he came with eyes dancing and a handful of Christmas crafts he had fashioned. 

Two brothers and a little sis gathered at the top of stairs while he showed every creation and gave us details on how he made it. 

His mom…our daughter…blocked the whole mess of wiggling bodies from tumbling down the stairs as they peered over one another to see what he had made and they were asking as many questions as he was providing narrative and over the top of it all, her eyes were quite possibly filled with more sparkles than his and she beamed as she mouthed a thank you to me. 

And that is a win for this mom and Lola…a treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy. Stored up in a heavenly place where the thieves of this world cannot access. 

We have our struggles with this band of brothers and will be facing soon as Little Miss Thing begins to exert her own will into the mess…but oh my…these moments are golden when they come and worthy of offering as a sweet praise of thanksgiving to our God who loves us and wants us to be like this…to gather around one another with love and support…cheering each other on.

So let’s look at today’s verse, shall we? 

And no surprise…it fits well with what God gave me last night.

I am including yesterday’s for context…

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 

John 17: 20 & 21 NKJV

I have written in the margin of my bible this note from a previous read through:

Unity – in that as different as we are, we all have our eyes on Jesus 

How beautiful it is when brothers get along…amen? 

Be blessed today as you fellowship with others who love Jesus and as you strive to come together in the unity of the Trinity.

Be generous with love and encouragement for those around you…the ones who are struggling..the ones who are celebrating big…the ones who are quiet and reserved…the ones who are loud and gregarious….the ponderers…the wanderers…and all the in-betweens.

For this is what Jesus prayed for us who love Him…that we would be one as He and the Father are one…

Him..Them…in all of us <3

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 20

Good morning to you on this twentieth day of December 2018 <3

It is pitch black outside our windows and I am gathering my things to head north in just a few minutes as I write. 

Our verse is short today, which works well as I have…literally…miles to go before I sleep. 

It is a verse that ends in a semi-colon, which means we will follow it up tomorrow. 

It is simple but packed with meaning because it is the pivotal verse for us today. 

It ties us in to all that we have talked about and pondered the last nineteen days of this countdown.

Jesus said…”I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;…”

That’s us. 

That’s all who have believed since the very first disciple got over his fear of the powers of this earth and the culture and proclaimed the Good News that Messiah had come. 

That’s us when we read the Gospels and the letters of Paul, James and Hebrews…the book of Acts..all of it…and we have believed.

So all of the things that we have looked at that Jesus prayed thus far, all of these are true for us as well.

This makes my heart swell and grateful tears fall. 

So perhaps today we may want to read back through John 17 to this point and soak in and receive the prayer prayed for us who have believed because of the word…because of the Word…spoken to us through these disciples.

Disciples who were flawed and who scattered and yet who Jesus loved and pulled together and empowered to spread His story throughout history. 

Be blessed today and please come back tomorrow <3 

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 19

Today’s verse is using a big, fancy word that can be scary to us. 

It sounds all restrictive and like we may need to go to some retreat center and do a spiritual overhaul but it’s just our own ignorance, misunderstanding and perceptions of the word that keep us stymied.

Let’s look at the NKJV…

And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 

John 17:19

Since we have been using two other translations during our countdown, I am going to reference those as well…

First from The Message: 

I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

So we have “sanctify” and “consecrate” and right about now, if I didn’t know better about the heart of those words, I would be like…

I am so sorry but I am knee deep in sorting out stocking gifts and figuring out if I have fairly covered everyone in my family with purchases…I have egg nog to drink and a couple of more evenings of fellowship (otherwise known as eating lots of good food with dear friends…)

I have half my Christmas cards finished and the 2017 ornaments painted but have yet to start the ones for this year and time is ticking down on the giant holiday clock that I created in my own head and well…

I don’t really have the time or energy to be sanctified at the moment.

Anybody else?

But you see…I never have time to be sanctified or consecrated…even knowing that those words simply mean to be set apart…different…right in the middle of exactly where God has placed me on planet earth doing just the same normal stuff as everyone else…that somehow it will be done differently because of Jesus in me. 

And that’s just the point.

I don’t have the time or the resources or the capacity or even the right to sanctify myself or anyone else.


Even on my best day. 

And that’s why Christmas is so amazing. 

Because God sent His Son…the only who could do it.


He did it for me and for us. 

He did it all. 

He set Himself apart…He was obedient even to His death on the Cross…so that you and I … with our elves on the shelves and our Amazon boxes on the porch.

With our lists and our overflow and our deep voids…all of it…

our stockings hung by the chimney with care…

red and green and glitter everywhere..

these ordinary, every day lives…

are set apart…



By the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Let’s close with the Contemporary English Version wording…

I have given myself completely for their sake, so that they may belong completely to the truth. 

I urge you to remember today as we scurry along, that we belong completely to the One who completed it all for us.

In all you do, you are loved and covered by Him who completed it all for you <3