I finished my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving this year — gifts wrapped and under the tree. My cards are done — complete with handwritten notes. My decorations have been up for weeks.

Now, in an ideal world, I’d be sitting back with my peppermint mocha enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells of the season.

But wait … I just got a card from a friend I marked off my list years ago. And last week I had lunch with someone who came bearing gifts. We’ve never exchanged gifts before. Should I run out and buy a gift? Or does that make it even more obvious that I didn’t intend to get her anything? And while I was out running errands the other day I saw some decorations that would look great outside my house. I do need to add to my collection this year — all the neighbors did.

And then there’s that holiday baking I wanted to do. But I’m running out of time, so I’ll probably just pick something up at the bakery. I’m sure my friends will enjoy that more anyway. I’m not much of a cook.

Funny how it seems as if it’s never all done. I’m exhausted. I thought by getting ahead of the game I would eliminate the stress I experience every year when I focus on everything I think needs to be done —  and done perfectly, of course.

Maybe the real stressor isn’t the dozens of things I feel I need to do but, instead, why I choose to do those things. Do I send Christmas cards because I genuinely want to stay in touch with all those people? Or do I send cards because I feel an obligation to those who send cards to me? Do I give gifts because I want those special people in my life to know I think they are special? Does the gift have to be the “perfect” thing? Or can it be something that reminds me of my friend or a memory we share? And what about those decorations? Do I really care how I measure up to the neighbors?

This year I want the reason behind everything I do to be a reflection of Jesus. I want my Christmas cards to serve as a way to catch up with those I don’t talk to often but care deeply about. I want to give gifts out of love. I want to bake so that the important people in my life have something I took time to create just for them. I want to decorate because it makes me happy and makes my home welcoming to others.

Things don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be special. After all, the stable wasn’t perfect, but it was special because Jesus was there. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and I pray your holiday will be about those things that are closest to your heart.

Until next time,
Signe

‘‘What are you doing tonight?” is a phrase I’ve heard my friend Lynnette say more times than I can count. We met our senior year in high school but didn’t really get to know each other until college, where we became best friends. Lynnette and I have been through a lot of junk together. She’s the absolute only human who knows all my secrets. And she’s always had an uncanny knack for knowing when I need company—whether I say so or not.

All grown up and years beyond college, Lynnette’s a married mother of three. Several years ago she and her family moved out of state, but until that time we were together more often than not. I’m not talking about the two of us doing girl stuff. We did some of that, but mostly Lynnette embraced me as a part of her family. She would invite me over even after her craziest days of driving the mom taxi and cooking dinner and doing laundry and running errands. It didn’t matter what was going on in her life; she still took time for mine.

None of my evenings at Lynnette’s house ever looked the same. Sometimes she cooked and sometimes we just ordered pizza. I remember nights of homework, playing with the kids, watching movies, or helping with baths. It never really mattered to me. I just loved being in the midst of a family.

Although I would guess it was the farthest thing from her mind, Lynnette is the one who first taught me about true, authentic community. About what doing life together really looks like. I don’t remember lots of other details of what we did through all those years, but what I do remember is how Lynnette made me feel. And that is what challenges me to want to do the same for others.

It wasn’t about a spotless house and a perfect meal and keeping me entertained. It was about loving me.

You may have sensed God nudging you to open your heart—and maybe even your home—to someone. The perfect time may not be when everything is just right. The perfect time may be right now.

By inviting others in to do life together, you could change your little corner of the world. Lynnette inspired me to look beyond waiting until my house is perfect and the menu is just right. I really don’t have to be Martha Stewart. It’s about relationships. It’s about loving others. It’s about accepting and being accepted. It’s what we’re made for.

Until next time,
Signe

A flower…are you kidding me?  I was actually thinking about the start of a new football season: high school football games on Fridays, college football games on Saturdays, even NFL pre-season games on Sundays right now.  Fantasy football is kind of cool too. So the topic I was thinking about was passion.  About the things that raise my energy, raise my emotional level, stir my heart.  I must admit I was a little concerned about what photo the internet might associate with “passion” but I sure didn’t think a picture of a flower is where I would end up!

There are several times in the course of a day where my voice becomes a bit louder, the pitch rises, I become more expressive, and folks around me know…really know that I care about something…that I am passionate about something. At times it’s sports, at times politics, at times family, and often work-related.  I wish there were more times though that my passions told others the true story of my heart.

Here are just a few definitions of the word passion for our edification:

1. Passion- a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc

2. Passion- ardent love or affection

3. Passion- the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm

4. Passion- the sufferings and death of a Christian martyr

Big difference there, huh?  I sure wish my passions fell more often somewhere between the third and fourth definitions (at least in a figurative sense).  How about you?  What are you passionate about?  How does that compare to your passion for Christ?  No guilt trip here.  Just sayin’…

Have you ever felt beat up after reading something in God’s Word? Sometimes when I feel like I’ve been an A+ Christian, I read something that exposes the ungodly things in me that I’ve shoved way down out of sight. And it hurts. It hurts my pride knowing that I still struggle.

This verse gave me a black eye:
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20, HCSB).

When I read those words last week, I was overwhelmed with conviction. I began to argue with the Spirit: “I do love. I love God with a love so deep I don’t fully understand it. I fail constantly, I fall into the same things over and over, yes, but I can honestly say that I long to please God with my life. I want to know more about Him. I want to hear His voice. I want to worship Him without inhibition. I can’t imagine life without Him.”

But the voice of God stopped me in my tracks: “But you do not love others the way I’m asking you to. And if you don’t love them, then you don’t love Me.”

I was speechless. I couldn’t argue because He’s right. It’s so easy to love God. He’s good. He’s faithful. He offers grace to the most undeserving. How could I boast in something so logical, so natural? What I need to strive for is showing real love to my family, my coworkers, those I admire, and those I can’t in my own strength stand to be around; the poor, the wealthy, the tolerable and intolerable, seasoned Christians and those riding the fence—all of them. And not that fake love I’ve gotten so good at expressing. It’s got to be honest and as real as the love God has shown me.

I’m swallowing for the first time the fact that my relationship with God cannot be whole unless I love others the way I’m supposed to. Loving others doesn’t just impact those I’m loving; it affects the most intimate and significant relationship I have. Stepping outside myself and truly loving people allows me to draw nearer to God—and that is the profound desire of my heart.