A Christmas Reflection

christmas-reflection

As a child, I was obsessed with Christmas. I would try to figure out what my parents had gotten me by shaking presents or delicately tearing a piece of the wrapping. I would beg my mom to allow me to open one present on Christmas Eve. I could not wait until Christmas’ arrival. There would be new toys to play with or movies to watch. One Christmas, I wanted a Furby. Essentially, an ugly talking toy that resembled a gremlin. It was the “it” toy to have that year, and I got it. Another year, I wanted the movies “Save the Last Dance” and “Bring It On.” I received my requests. For me, Christmas was about what I was going to get. I had selfish motives, but I truly enjoyed the holiday. Yet, I believe most children enjoy it for this reason. Christmas turns into something else as a person matures.

As I grew older, I became a gift giver. Christmas became a mixture of stress, procrastination, and some joy. I would shop for presents during the week of Christmas. I would contend with busy stores and concerns about what to buy for people. I wanted family and friends to enjoy their presents and to find them useful. I also worried about money. How much could I spend on family members and friends? Who could I realistically buy a gift for? And would I buy them a “good” gift?

When my sister died in July 2013, I witnessed my small portion of positivity towards Christmas dissipate. I desired to run away from the holiday. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me about their anticipation of Christmas. With my sister’s birthday being a few days after Christmas, I couldn’t be enthusiastic. Grief overwhelmed me.

On December 6th 2013, my mom and I went to a Jeremy Camp concert in our hometown. I was originally supposed to go with a friend, but she was unable to attend. I did not feel my mom would be interested in seeing Jeremy Camp as she listened to more old-school gospel music. Yet, she went to the concert with me and enjoyed his music. We were both worn out and needed to be comforted from our grief. Since Jeremy Camp lost his first wife to cancer several years ago, we knew he had experienced the wretchedness of grief. Before he would sing, he usually read Bible verses and offered encouraging words. My mom and I sang along with him. We cried and praised God together. We embraced each other, knowing that we missed Wanda, but that God was with us.

Emmanuel.

This year, I wondered what my response to Christmas would be. Would I continue to be discouraged by the commercialism of Christmas? Would I hide from the reminders of Christmas because of my sister’s birthday? If I’m honest, I still believe that there is a societal pressure to buy the best presents and to go into debt. Despite some of stresses of Christmas shopping, I see how gift giving can be a display of gratitude between people. When two siblings or two friends exchange presents, they are experiencing each other’s thoughtfulness. And when sweet words are planted in a Christmas card, the recipient becomes joyful. Hence, there is significance in our tradition of gift giving; of thinking about the folks that we adore.

And even with my sister’s birthday hovering over this season, the Christmas story engulfed me. Being raised in a Christian home, I have always known why Christmas needed to be acknowledged. I’d heard about the angel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. I’d read about the manger, the shepherds, and the wise men. In church, I sung the Christmas hymns with congregants. But this knowledge of the Christmas story did not exclude me from gaining new revelations. Of seeing how Mary and Elizabeth had received miracles. A virgin and an older, infertile woman would bear special infants. God would use them to allow the Savior and the forerunner to come into the world.

As God revealed the magnificence of the story to me, I shared what I had learned with my Sunday School students. I told them that Mary was a teenager when God chose her to be the mother of Jesus, the King. I watched their eyes widen as they processed that Mary was their age. Mary, a woman of God, willingly accepted the news that Gabriel brought her.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38

I chatted with the students about obedience and that God knows what best for us. I explained that it can feel scary and even wild to obey God, but that our willingness yields good things. Jesus’ presence enhances our lives.

In my life, I have been angered, grief-stricken and even excited by Christmas’ arrival. And I believe that it is normal to experience this assortment of feelings during the holiday season. Yet, I know that the re-telling of the Christmas story can exist amongst these emotions. I see that the story shows how human beings were redeemed.

“The world became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “ John 1:14

Jesus, God in human form, was born in a manger. Hay and animals surrounded him.

Jesus, God in human form, grew into a man. John the Baptist baptized him. He chose disciples and performed miracles.

Jesus, God in human form, was betrayed and arrested. He was ridiculed and beaten.

Jesus, God in human form, carried the Cross and was crucified.

Jesus, God in human form, rose again and ascended to Heaven. He is coming back again.

The Christmas story is about God’s humility and love. And He was born to save us from our sins.

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post: 6 Steps To Embracing Your Uniqueness

(I am excited that Latotya from PowerfulU Blog is visiting today. As you have probably noticed, I enjoy encouraging others to be who God created them to be. Latoya is continuing in this vein with her own guest blog post. Please read and then share how God has helped you to embrace your unique personality. Blessings, afrotasticlady)

Guest Blog Post by Latoya

In a world that often embraces cookie cutter personalities, and encourages us to model ourselves after the latest, most famous celebrity; daring to embrace your unique voice can seem revolutionary. I must admit though, I was inspired by afrotasticlady’s series to young girls because I found it to be a neat idea of how to use our life experiences to mentor those who are at a stage in life that you have already passed through. We can all benefit from the experiences of others in one way or another, whether we learn what to do or what not to do.

Here are my thoughts on how to embrace your uniqueness:

Discover what makes you different

In order to embrace something, you must be aware of what it is. Observe your strengths and your weaknesses, your likes and your dislikes, your talents and skill, your opinions and ideas and your dreams and aspirations. Make note of nuances in your character in these areas.

Observe those around you and what they are doing. Can you identify with anyone? Are you drawn to anything similar? This can help you to distinguish yourself. It is important to continually make mental notes of things about yourself that you notice are different from everyone else.

I was always a reader. You could always find me wherever books are located, and so I always knew I had a keen interest in the written word, whether I produced it or it was produced by someone else.

 Love what makes you different

Find a level of comfort with what makes you different. Embrace it and treasure it. Do not compare it to others because it is specially given to you to distinguish you from everyone else. Think of what the world would be like if we were all alike. Think of what nature would be like if everything was the same.

Imagine there being only a few colors in the world, a world where there are no shades of your favorite color. The same applies to you. Imagine a world where everyone is identical. Where there are no shades of individuality. In this world everything looks the same. Picture how uninteresting it would be. Your differences help to create a more interesting world. The world is at a disadvantage when we bury our individualities under the weight of being liked by everyone else.

This is not to suggest that you be prideful, but instead, embrace what you are with humility. You are not seeking to throw what you are in other people’s faces but you do not think of yourself any less because of what distinguishes you.

Showcase your talents

With your inner confidence in your God given abilities, you can invite the world to take a look at your talents by stepping out of the shadows and giving them a taste of who you are. Let your light shine. Let your uniqueness be observed. Each time you do this, you get better at it. There is nothing like doing a thing to make you better at doing that thing. It shows that you know what you are capable of and you accept that. You are putting it out there that, this is who I am and I am proud of it.

Refuse to be defined by negative opinions

Be aware of persons who are not appreciative of who you are. Examine your circle by talking to those around you and see how they respond to your intentions. Not everyone can appreciate you for who you are because they probably need to work out their own journey. Do not hold this against them; just understand that if they are not helping you up, you have to decide whether it is worth it.

Some persons in our lives just have to be placed in different categories. Are they supporting who you are or do you need to support who they are? In essence, are they helping you to become a better person or do you need to help them to become a better person? Release yourself from those who seek to hold you hostage with their opinions instead of elevating your character.

Improve your weak areas

Life is about constantly becoming a better version of ourselves. None of us are perfect. We all have areas of our character that could use improvement. That is why we are works in progress. Make mental note of areas that have a negative impact on your life and learn and implement strategies that correct them. We become a better version of ourselves by acknowledging our shortcomings and gradually implementing practices that will change our patterns.

Know that you are God’s grand design

To me, this is the most important step. What could be more valuable than knowing that he who created you had a brilliant plan for your life in mind when you were created. Psalms 139 beautifully captures this thought, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it” (Psalm 139 13-14 NLT). There is nothing accidental about you. You were created with the greatest intentions.

If we seek to live according to who God made us to be then we can operate with confidence in our uniqueness. Whenever you have any doubts, you can go to the source, the Bible, to hear about how keen your creator was in his design of your intricacies.

 

Latoya

Latoya blogs about living a life of purpose. She is passionate about inspiring others to explore their God given potential and use their gifts and talents to honor God. You can find her blogging at PowerfulU and on Twitter at@powerfulublog.

 

 

 

May’s 6 Grateful Things List

May's Grateful Things List

Welcome, friends! As usual, I hope you will join me in this conversation about gratitude. Please let me know what you are grateful for in the comments section.

I would love to direct you to one of my blogger buddies, Mia, who highlights the concept of gratitude in her daily Periscopes and on her blog, One Grateful Me.  Please encourage her by checking out her Biblically inspired writing.

Additionally, I am excited that Emelda and I will be hosting our second #WomenCreativesChat on Twitter. We enjoyed chatting about creativity and how to make space for it in our schedules. During this next chat, we will discuss how creativity can aid us in our healing from emotional pain. Please look at the flyer and my vlog for more information.

Keep on the lookout for the special edition of my gratitude vlog next month as it is my birthday month. Woot woot! I’m a June baby and I’m also turning #clean30. I’m not a fan of the phrase #dirty30.  Hehe. Anyways, that vlog will be about that one thing versus six things. Be blessed!

2nd Twitter Chat