Looking Back (2015) So We Can Move Ahead–New Year 2016

Question to ask ourselves in the coming New Year is found in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword.”

It is incredible to think that the year 2015 is quickly coming to a close for everyone around the world, and New Year’s Eve will be a myriad of various traditions/customs and celebratory parties around the globe. For one night, everyone’s thoughts will be about ending the old year (2015) and looking ahead to what can be accomplished in the New Year (2016).

As Christians we are taught to “forget those things which are behind and run the race which is set before us.” For many, the New Year will bring a number of changes in their lives–financial gain or loss, personal goal setting, and physical/mental changes for themselves or loved ones.

What if we would take the year 2015 and look back at all of the experiences we have had throughout the year, both good and bad, and then take those learned experiences with us into the New Year? What would we be able to accomplish? Would we try to emulate those learned experiences in a positive or a negative way? Would we try to do the same things over again, or would we re-think some situations and circumstances in our lives and try to do them over with a new perspective?

The Book of Romans, written by Paul, teaches us that everything we need to know about God’s great plan for redemption lies in its sixteen chapters. Paul talks about God’s wrath against mankind and God’s judgment and how that no one is righteous, not even those who “follow the law.” Romans 3:21-22, and 24 says simply that Jesus died as a sacrifice to pay sin’s penalty and to those who believe and receive his offer, he justifies us. In Romans 5:8 it says that “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We now have access to God, peace with God, access by faith into God’s very presence, and we can be joyful even when we face hardships in our loves. He keeps pouring his love into our hearts.

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” We are controlled by the Spirit who lives within us. We can then look back at what has happened in this past year and take those life-changing lessons and apply them to the New Year. Heartaches and disappointments throughout this past year can even be turned into positive ones because we will be able to share those heartaches with those who may have to go through the same struggles in the coming year. Why? Because we have the love and compassion of Christ in our hearts.

Romans 12:9-13: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

If you continue reading in Romans, it also tells us that we are to “rejoice” with those who rejoice; “mourn” with those who mourn; and “live in harmony” with one another. Romans 12:20 sums it all up by saying, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” These instructions were given so that we can truly show our neighbors the hospitality that Christ would have us show them. Romans 13:9-10: “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

In summary then, how do we answer the question that I asked at the beginning and apply it to any given situation in the coming New Year? The answer can be found in Romans 8:37-39:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we all begin to examine our hearts and turn our eyes toward the coming New Year, let us remember the words written in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I believe that this applies to every area of our lives. God wants us to love others as ourselves. He wants us to help those less fortunate, and He wants us to share the hope of redemption with others.

God bless you in the coming New Year (2016) and may God bless you richly in every area of your lives,
Yvonne

A Special Christmas Gift

It is going on midnight and I am fully awake. My mind is thinking about past Christmases with my brothers and sisters and our mom and dad. As I lay awake, I am reminded of a very special Christmas which was quite a number of years ago. In fact, it was in the 1960’s. And I find my mind racing with excitement to share the following story with you. It is entitled, “The Cookie Jar.”

Let me take you back to when I was a young girl and my family lived in the low-income housing projects in Easton, PA. My parents struggled to keep food on the table even though my dad worked at the steel mill and, oftentimes, they had to get extra help at Christmas time from the Salvation Army for Christmas gifts since there was twelve children in the family. They also relied on receiving surplus items such as lard, flour, butter, and peanut butter from another organization as well.

One Christmas holiday, when I was around 11, I decided that I wanted to give my mother a very special Christmas present; however, with money being tight for everyone, I decided that I would try to do extra chores and even if I received or found a penny, it was saved. I threw the monies that I received here and there into an old shoe box and marked the box with an “X” so that no one in my family would bother to look inside. Of course, I hid it in back of the closet just to make sure.

With only two more weeks until Christmas, I decided I should count the monies that I had saved. There was exactly $7.00. I felt like the richest kid on the block. Wow, with that much money, I told myself I could buy an extra special gift for my mom and even have enough left over to buy some candy for my brothers and sisters.

Hurriedly, I put the money in an envelope and headed to the corner store which was only a mile to and from my house. I had seen a cookie jar in the store the last time I was there to buy my dad some cigarettes (unfortunately, back then you did not have to be 21 to buy them for your parents).

Mr. Cooper greeted me as I entered the store and asked if he could help me with anything. I told him I wanted to purchase the cookie jar shaped like a house. He, of course, knew exactly which one I was talking about, and pulled it off the shelf. When I asked him how much it would be, he looked at the price and said, “That will be $7.50.” My heart sank, because I knew I only had $7.00. I explained to Mr. Cooper that I only had $7.00, and sadly he told me that I needed fifty cents more. I was so disappointed because I just knew my mom would really like that cookie jar. As I started to leave the store, a woman who I did not know told Mr. Cooper that she would give me the rest of the money so that I could buy the cookie jar.

As I handed Mr. Cooper the money, I turned to the woman to thank her for her generosity but she was gone. Mr. Cooper smiled and gave me the cookie jar. I left the store and remembered thinking that she must have been my guardian angel who gave me the extra money that I needed to buy this special gift. I never saw her again after that day.

Christmas Day that year was extremely special. There seemed to be more food than normal, and even the number of gifts were more than we usually received in years past. When it came time to give my mom her special Christmas gift, I beamed when she opened the box and discovered the house-shaped cookie jar. She hugged and kissed me but was so surprised that I was able to save up enough money to buy such a wonderful gift. I told her what happened at the store and she, too, agreed that the woman must have been a guardian angel who wanted me to buy this extra special gift for her.

Childhood memories are so precious. Thinking about this particular time in my life was good, and it seemed that everything in the world was right and the stars seemed aligned that night when I purchased this special gift–with the help of my guardian angel. Gifts are wonderful to give and to receive, but it is not about the amount that we spend on someone; it is whether the gift is given from the heart. I can honestly say and know that the cookie jar was given with much love and was definitely heart-felt by both the giver and receiver.

I think back about the gifts that I have given since to special friends and co-workers, family members, and loved ones. Each gift was from my heart and only God can give us that love that we share with others. Love, joy, peace, and hope are all part of this special gift-giving tradition that we give to one another. It is simply the gift of ourselves–who we are as a person and the love that others can see in us.

I don’t know about you, but I love this time of the year because it reminds me that the New Year is around the corner and giving of ourselves and having love and compassion towards others is the way that I want to be all year long.

We all have special gifts and talents, and I believe that God intends us to use those gifts and talents for His honor and glory every day. May you find those special gifts and talents to use during the New Year (2016).

Blessings,
Yvonne

Christmas Time is Here: 2015

One does not have to go very far to hear the sounds of Christmas: in the store, on the radio, TV, Pandora on desktops and/or phones and Kindles, etc. Although I enjoy all the Christmas music at this time of the year, one can only hope that Christmas is with all of us throughout the year.

This Christmas, however, will be a very favorite one for my daughter and her husband, as well as for the grandparents of a one year old, little wide-eyed boy, Gryphon, who already has been enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas. The Christmas tree is basically up, without ornaments, but with all the colored lights. He has been enjoying putting on and taking off the number of candy canes on the tree and has even managed to feed some of them to the dogs. Our time together during the week now consists of playing Christmas music on the TV and/or my phone/Kindle which he happily dances to. He is so curious and full of life; and although he does not understand the true meaning of celebrating Christmas yet, he seems to be having a lot of fun watching “Billy, the elf on the shelf” that my daughter rested on a shelf in the living room. Maybe she moved him, so I will have to look for him tomorrow as well.

The weather here in VA is promising 70 degree weather on Christmas Day with no snow in sight, but I really don’t count that as a bad thing because we have lived in a number of places where we have had our fair share of snow. But, when I was growing up, we always looked forward to the snow during the holidays so that we could go outside on Christmas day and build a snowman. Hopefully, my grandson will get that chance after the holidays.

Today, at church, we had a Christmas service about hope and what that means to us as Christians. The past few weeks, our pastor has talked about love, joy, peace, and finally hope because Christ was born over 2,000 years ago for the redemption of man. That is why we celebrate this very important event and Jesus is our hope for peace in this world.

Quotes to warm your heart at Christmas time:

“If I could wish a wish for you, it would be for peace, faith, and happiness not only at Christmas, but for the whole year through!” –Catherine Pulsifer, “My Christmas Wish to You”

“From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another, the warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other.” –Emily Matthews

“Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance–each beautiful, unique, and too soon gone.” –Deborah Whipp

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

May the Lord bless you and your families during this wonderful Christmas season with love, health, and happiness and bless you abundantly in the New Year!

Blessings,
Yvonne