Monday, 30 December 2013

As the year ends...

This year I have been thinking a lot about shining in my world - in the little corner I have been placed - but I haven't been doing a very good job of it! It's one thing to want to do it - but another to actually succeed. 

But the wonderful thing about 31 December - 1 January  is that we can go to bed one night and when we awake in the morning we have a brand new year waiting for us! 

Just like your new diary - which I LOVE filling in!! - or your new calendar, 2014 is full of space and opportunity to truly shine for my King and I am full of hopes of doing better at taking them. 

I wanted to leave you with this thought as we say goodbye to 2013 - every single moment of this year  God was with you. Through the good times, the bad times, the happiest and most wonderful times and the heart breaking crushing times. You were never alone. 

You may have felt alone - as we so often do when we are going through pain - as if nobody cares and even God has forgotten us... But He was there. 

So as we step into 2014 tomorrow, as we wake to a brand new day and a fantastic new year, let's try to remember that fact - He is always there - and He will never leave us - even if we fail Him; even if we stop talking to Him; even if we turn our backs... He will always be there waiting for us to come home to Him. 

Let's start the year off right - in the hand of the Father.
Keep shining xx

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Keeping Christ in Christmas #1

One of my favourite bloggers - Courtney from 'Women Living Well' - has a wonderful post about keeping Christ in Christmas. I have taken my favourite three ways and I'm going to share them with you over the next 3 weeks.

The first tip I read, and implemented is by far my favourite. I read it last year, but wasn't sure about how I would do it, but this year it was an easy decision to make.

This year, right beside my Christmas tree, I have a little table with an open Bible and a candle on it. The Bible is open to the beginning of Luke chapter 2, and when I pop the Christ,as tree lights on I light the candle as well, reminding me in a very visual way that this book - the Word of God - is the centre of my life, the light that leads my path and the real reason for this festive season. 

I did have a fleeting worry of how people - well, my husband and the boys in particular - would take this rather strange 'decoration', but they all have embraced it and commented on how nice and peaceful it makes our room seem. 

I love it - it's different yes - but it helps me to put Jesus in the centre of the season and helps me keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas :)

Keep shining xx 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Breath of Heaven....

One of my favourite Christmas songs is Amy Grant's song 'Breath of Heaven'. I make sure to have it on all my Christmas playlists, and it's even more breathtaking with the video. 

(You may need to view in You Tube but it's worth it!!)

I have admit to tearing up every time I play it. There is just something beautiful about it and I hope it helps to get you even more into the Christmas mood. 

Keep shining xx 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tuesday's thoughts....

I imagine that if you had never heard the Christmas story, and where reading it for the first time, it would read like the script of an episode of 'Jeremy Kyle' or 'Jerry Springer' - you know one of those shows where people have lots to complain about and then do so in front of the world!! Let's look at it - 

Mary and Joseph get engaged... And so the story begins
Mary gets pregnant... supernaturally... And here comes the aliens...
Joseph is told to marry her anyway... by an angel... Angels?? Really??
When she's 9 months pregnant she ends up in a different town, away from her family and support, having travelled on a donkey for miles and miles... What was he thinking dragging her all that way? 
He hasn't booked a room... so they have nowhere to go.... Typical men - never planning ahead!
Baby Jesus is born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling cloths... No way! He did not expect you to give birth there... and where were the midwives or at least someone with hot water and towels?? 

What a story! You can just imagine how stressful the whole thing must have been. This was happening in a country where women were stoned if they were caught in the act of adultery, so being pregnant and unmarried was a scandal. Then to have that long hard journey just before you are due to give birth.... horrendous doesn't even begin to cover it. 

But you never hear Mary complain. Mary acts with the grace of a woman who knows that she is right in the centre of God's will for her life. She knows that God has planned a very special birth for His Son and she knows that no matter what He will come through for her. 
And He does. His plan and His timing were perfect. Not only did they fulfill ancient prophesies, they gave Jesus a foundation and story that could only bring glory to His Father. For its only with God's help that Mary and Joseph came through these difficulties and hard times, and it's only with His help that they brought a beautiful and extremely special baby into this world, born in the roughest of situations, to bring ultimate glory to God on high. 

"She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them."
Luke 2:7

No matter what hit them on their way to Bethlehem, they overcame it with God's help. And today, no matter what situations we are going through, be it financial difficulties, health problems, if you find yourself in a spiritual dessert or your marriage or home has been hit with problems you see no way out of, God can and will bring you through it. 
His love is such that it overcame the temptation in the dessert, the discouragement of having his own people turn against Him, and the finality of death, to bring us into the victory that we can only have through Christ. 

This Christmas, while we celebrate the birth of the most miraculous baby, don't forget that love that took Him to the cross for me and for you. 

Keep shining xx 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Shining lights....

Each week we want to focus on a group of people to help and encourage at this festive time. This week is all about love, so I was thinking about how we can show love to those in need.

I began to think about my local community and the people who live in my area. How could we show them the love of Christ - the love that was so strong it carried Him through leaving the glory of heaven to be born as a baby - through life as a human, going through and experiencing everything that we go through - to His death on a cross for my sins and yours... before it raised Him from the dead giving Him ultimate victory!!

There are so many practical ways you can show love to those around you -

  • Take your neighbours in some Christmas cookies and a card
  • Check up on the elderly living on your street to make sure they are doing well as the weather turns colder
  • Take a meal to someone in need - whether it's a new mum, someone who has fallen ill or someone who has hit hard times and is struggling to make ends meet
It was when I thought about the last option that the lightbulb 'pinged'!! One of the local churches in our town has opened the first food-bank in Northern Ireland and it is doing a great work. They even involved our boys' primary school at harvest time, when the children were invited to give in items from the list for the food-bank for their harvest donation. 

I'd heard about food-banks in the US, mainly from watching programmes like 'The Biggest Loser' where they have a challenge where the contestants help in and work in one for the day. I remember one season it being a very emotional challenge for one lady who revealed that a few years previously she had been one of the families getting food out of the food-bank rather than now helping to put food in. 

So my challenge for you, and my focus for our family this week, is to find out where your local food-bank is - or find out where there is a soup-kitchen, or somewhere else that is helping feed those in need this Christmas - and get involved.  For us that will mean doing a special 'shop' which will go in its entirety to the food-bank, but we will also be doing a shop for a family or two that we know that need a little extra help this year. 

I'm not saying this to look good - or to have you think 'what a good wee Christian she is' - but to make you think and challenge you to take a look around you this year. Take a quick walk into your kitchen and open your cupboards - and then say a prayer of thanks for all the food you find just sitting there waiting for you to decide to eat it. And now think about all those who don't have that luxury. 

These are the people - living next door, or on the next street, or in the next estate - that need Christ's amazing love more than ever this Christmas. And we can share a little of His love by meeting a very practical need in their lives. So what are you going to do about it? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Keep shining xx 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A week of love....

This week's focus is love.  Here are the verses for Sunday.

We'll be thinking about this part of the story later in the week, but for now just read it and remember the awe of what is happening before our eyes....

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Shining the light....

We have been so blessed by God and everyone around us, so we like to take Christmas and use this festive season as a time to help encourage others and introduce them to the God who can bring them through whatever they are going through. Each week of December we take a different 'cause' to give to in a practical way, and discuss with our boys why they need some help right now. This week we want to think about a problem on streets all over the world. 

This is something that has been close to us recently - something our extended family was touched by - and something so many thousands of families are touched by every day. Some of us can easily walk past someone living on the streets and never look twice. Some of us take them to heart and want to do everything we can to help. Most of us are somewhere in the middle - not sure where to look but not sure what to do either. 

This wee video is amazing - and reminds us that any of us could end up in that exact position at any time - because those homeless living are our streets with no place to call their own - are people too...

This year a beautiful - inside and out - cousin of mine decided to take a collection of clothes up to one of the homeless shelters in Belfast. She put in on facebook that she was planning a trip up and asked if anyone had anything they'd like to donate. The shelter was looking for warm clothes, blankets and sleeping bags to deliver to those who couldn't find a bed in the shelters and would be on the streets this Christmas. She had so many offers that she has to take two car loads up! It has been amazing to be able to talk to our boys about how easily people can find themselves with no options and nowhere to go, and that these charities and shelters offer them hope - just like Jesus offers us hope. So what better way to pass that on than to help out where its needed...

"For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ "
Matthew 25:35-40

I'm sure there are charities all over the world who try to reach the homeless at this time of year, but for those living in good old Northern Ireland here's a link for one the Belfast ones. 
and it tells you how you can get involved this Christmas.
Keep shining xx 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Mary, did you know....

It is amazing how the young woman Mary is fully obedient to the Lord, even though she doesn’t fully understand the implications of what is about to happen to her. We hold up Mary as a woman of strong faith – her faith is strong not simply because she listens, but it is strong because she accepts God’s Word, even when she doesn’t fully understand it. She just knows that something amazing is going to happen. And because she obeyed, her special baby became the hope of all nations. 

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Luke 1:38

This is something that we all need to remember, especially at this time of year. We have that many times in our lives when we question our faith because we can't fully understand what is happening in our lives. We don't see the full story - just a little bit - and we struggle to understand why the things that are happening happen. But we need to stand strong and have faith that God knows the outcome of everything going on in our lives and He holds us in His hands. 

There are so many situations we can find ourselves, and so many times that God helps us to persevere and trust Him. As a family we have gone through a couple of 'interesting' situations and the only way we have come out the other side is to trust Him completely. Tomorrow we'll talk about how to take these thoughts and turn them into some practical hope. 

But for now - a little tune which makes me think about Mary as a young mother, bringing up the Son of God. I have so much admiration for her, especially since having my four boys, but just as God chose Mary as the special mother of His Son, He chose me to be the mother of my boys.... And He chose YOU I to be your children's mum. What an amazing thought! :)

Keep shining xx 

Mary, Did You Know.... by the Gaither Vocal Band 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Monday memories....

My boys and I watched 'A Christmas Carol' the other day - the Muppets version of course :) - and it made me think back to Christmases Past and think about some of the reasons I love Christmas so much. I thought I'd take a wee moment every Monday to share one or two of those memories and hope you can remember some wonderful things about your Christmases Past as well.

This week we are looking at hope.... The hope of a sinful world - a Saviour who is Christ The Lord. What better way to look at hope than to focus on the One who gives us that hope and the One who IS the hope for all nations. 

One of the most important traditions we had when we were younger was that we always attended the Church service on Christmas morning - in fact everything about our day revolved around it. We had certain things we did 'before Church' and others we didn't do until 'after Church'. It was usually in the morning - at about 10/10:30am - but it was truly the centre of our Christmas. No matter who invited us where, we didn't do anything until we had gone to worship and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Even though my parents didn't come to know Christ as their Saviour until slightly later in life, it was always a focus.

In our family now, we have taken it one step further, adding to it to help our boys focus on Jesus rather than their Santa presents - which they are all ultra excited about!!  Each year we gather at the top of the stairs and my eldest son reads out one of the Christmas passages about Jesus's birth. We then talk about the reason we are celebrating, and give a 'gift' to Jesus - one from our hearts. Last year one of the boys said he wanted to fight less with his brothers and I said I wanted to encourage us to be more peaceful (with less mama shouting!). Then we put them in a box, pray together and the following years we see how it went! It's interesting to see how astray our plans go, and to remind them that this might be a gift to Jesus, but we need His help to actually do it!

We need to make sure that this Christmas our focus is on the King - the hope for our salvation  and the only way that we can spend eternity in the presence of God - the baby Jesus Christ who grow up to be the man who bore my sins on that tree...

I think I'm going to have to get the craft things out and make a decoration like this - such a great reminder of who we are worshipping. Why not take some time to think back on some of your Christmas traditions from years gone by and think about who and what you focus on each year.
Keep shining xx 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

It's Christmas!!!

I love the Christmas season - it just brings thoughts of family times, love, gifts, kindness and thoughtfulness to my mind and I love it! 

This year I am doing a wonderful Advent study with the girls at GMG which starts today, so as it fits with my theme for December, I will be sharing the Advent Sunday readings with you. 

Each week comes under a different heading :

  • Week one - Hope
  • Week two - Love
  • Week three - Joy
  • Week four - Peace

So today we start off a week of Hope with Luke 1:26-38

Keep shining xx