A Word of Encouragement if it’s Christmas time, and life isn’t turning out like you planned?

When it's Christmas and life isn't turning out like you planned, God has an even better plan!  SmellingCoffee.com

So here we are… It’s Christmas time… and maybe life hasn’t turned out just like you had hoped or planned.  (Somehow, Hollywood has made us think that everything should fall into place just because it’s Christmas.  Because OF CHRISTmas, yes.  However, it probably won’t all happen around December 25th.  Right?)

But guess what?!  God’s plans are so much better than ours, and HIS timing is impeccable .. especially when it seems as if our plans are failing at the moment.

Consider the people God chose to work through to do the greatest work in the world… think about them, what they may have been processing at the time… and then don’t give up.  Who, but God, knows that what is disappointing or frustrating to you right now may end up being a blessing for many one of these days to come.

“He makes everything beautiful in His time.” Eccl. 3:11

John and Elizabeth, the faithful old barren priest-couple, their dreams for a houseful of children and grandchildren dashed and destroyed as birthdays and life changes overtook them.

Joseph the obedient-bent carpenter, his dreams of the simple, predictable life of work, hearth, and home shattered when the Angel revealed that his intended was carrying the Christ-Child.

Mary, the young innocent girl with a heart full of trust, her dreams for quiet marriage and family radically altered by the Angel-visitor’s message from God.

Mary’s parentsJoseph’s parentsfamily membersfriendsonlookers… Though they listened to the testimonies of the messages of God delivered by divine interaction with these willing servants, they didn’t understand.  Neither fully did the willing servants.

This was not the life any of them had planned for themselves, nor for their loved ones. 

But it was God’s plan for their lives.  And because of their trusting embrace, we are all saved.

If you are looking around at your calendar and your circumstances and thinking that especially at this Christmas season your life has not turned out as you planned… remember this, my friends:

 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

The Lord knows what He will work in and through you and your loved ones as you presently face today.  Trials are tools when placed in the Master Carpenter’s hands, and the Creator of the World is creating something beautiful right now… in HIS time.

So like Mary, may we respond to the unanticipated twists and turns on this earthly soil,


“Let it be done to me according to what You have said.”
(Luke 1:38)

 

 

Let It Be To Me, O Lord

(an original poem)

Let it be to me, O Lord.

I give my plans to Thee, O Lord.

Your ways are more than I can know

My life – the stage, and You – the Show.


Let it be to me, O Lord.

It’s You I need to see, O Lord.

So take my dreams, my best laid plans,

And do to me just as You’ve said.

 

Let it be to me, O Lord.

Let it be to me.

(c) Jennifer Crawford Walker
12-11-12

With love and anticipation of ALL God has planned for each “undesirable” circumstance He has allowed…

written by Jennifer Crawford Walker

Looking for PEACE this Christmas season? Get your copy of Keeping Christ AS Christmas today. $4.99. For all e-readers.


E-book Keeping Christ AS Christmas: Preparing hearts, households, and homes for PEACE this Christmas season. Click here for more details, and “like”the Keeping Christ AS Christmas facebook page to share YOUR ideas on keeping Jesus as the Center of the Christmas season.

 

 

 

Looking for an Alternative to “Elf on the Shelf?”

Try playing “Seek and Find Jesus”!

Seek and Find Jesus. An alternative to Elf on the Shelf. SmellingCoffee.com

*** Let me start this post by making it clear that I am in NO way dissing the Elf. I think that, like every other Christmas-themed festivity, with some Spirit-inspired creativity, little Elfie on the Shelfie can be used in such a way that points children to Jesus.

In fact, I bought our family an Elf on the Shelf several years ago. Never mind that my kids were already in their teen years… (sigh). It just looked like so much fun on Pinterest, and that Elf got into so many messes that I thought we could create one more “childhood tradition” in our home. It didn’t work. (Boo hoo!) My sweet husband MADE our kids participate in looking for the elf, etc… and everyone joined in only because they loved me. That was sweet, but the next year, I gave the Elf away.

I don’t, however, like to promote the story book that goes along with the elf, so hopefully our little Elfie is getting ready to appear in someone else’s home with their {much younger} children… causing chaos and also teaching some valuable truths about life and living it in Jesus.

The year after I gave Elfie away, my little two year old friend Samantha spent some time in my house. Finally I had a child… and now had no elf. But I did have a Baby Jesus laying in a manger. This figurine was child-friendly – part of a nativity set given to us for our children play with, and had been the center character of many a Barbie-Star Wars-Toy Story-Christmas manger scene back in the day.

So, I made up a new game for Samantha to play: “Seek and Find Jesus.” I would hide the Baby Jesus somewhere (obvious, since she was just a toddler) in the house, then she would look until she found him. We would talk about how Jesus loves us and is what Christmas is all about.  After she would leave our house, I’d hide Jesus again so that the next time she came over, we could seek and find Jesus again.

Isn’t this what Christmas is really about? The Seeking and Finding of Jesus Christ?  It’s what the shepherds and the Wise Men did. It’s what any of us do who hunger for The Way, The Truth, and The Life… We seek and we find Jesus.

We are promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (NLT)

Seek & Find Jesus ~ An alternative to Elf on the Shelf. SmellingCoffee.com

Maybe this year a new Christmas game/tradition could be instituted in your home. I’m still pondering all that can be done with it.  Maybe one of these days it will be a full downloadable packet that will make it super easy for every household to use.  But so far, this is how “Seek and Find Jesus” could work:

“Seek and Find Jesus”

Materials needed:

*Baby Jesus figurine (preferably attached to a manger, since that’s how the shepherds found Jesus and since it will be a larger object than a lone baby figurine.)

 

*Treasure Cards (Scripture Verses that teach, or encourage, or instructions that speak to your household’s stage of life & need.)  Treasure Card ideas and instructions are below.

 

*TOTALLY Optional: A few treats to tuck away with baby Jesus – just occasionally if desired, since Jesus IS the Giver of all gifts, and easily obtained supplies for object lessons and extra activities.

Instructions:

Wrap up the baby Jesus figurine as a gift, and attach a note similar to the one below.  Present the gift on Thanksgiving night or Dec. 1, or on the day you put up your Christmas tree… or whenever your schedule allows.  Just be prepared to hide Jesus and a Treasure Card somewhere different every day/night from that point on through Christmas Day.

Read the note attached to the gift (see below).

Explain to the family that when the Wise Men heard about the birth of Jesus Christ, they traveled a great distance to seek and find Him, and that like the Wise Men, you are going to look for Jesus and the Treasure of His Word every day from now until Christmas.

You can make this game as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. The main thing about it is that you use it as a tool to:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.”  

Isaiah 55:6, NIV

 

SAMPLE LETTER OF INTRODUCTION

 

Dear _____________

In this package is a special gift that represents the greatest gift ever given to the world: Jesus Christ. When the Wise Men heard about the birth of Jesus, they packed up their things and began a long journey to find Him. Jesus wasn’t hiding from them, they just didn’t know where He was, so they had to look for Him before finding Him. They were wise not only because that was their title, but because they did what the Bible tells all of us to do, to seek Jesus.

“Search for the Lord and for his strength;  continually seek him.”
1 Chron. 16:11, NLT

And, the Bible promises us in Jeremiah 29:13 that if we seek Jesus, we will find Him when we search for Him with all of our hearts.

Seeking Jesus means to look for His presence in everything around us… in all we have, in whatever we do, and in all things that happens to us. Jesus loves us very much and is active in our lives, even when we don’t realize it.

So will you play this game of “Seek and Find Jesus” with your family?

Each day baby Jesus will be hidden somewhere, and with Him will be a Treasure (a word of wisdom or some instruction for the day, or sometimes a treat). Whoever seeks and finds Jesus leads the others to Him, just as we are to do in our lives.

This is a fun way to remember that “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” John 3:16 (CEV) Because “God has done all this, so that we will look for him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us…”  Acts 17:27 (CEV)

So let’s get ready to “Seek and Find Jesus” this Christmas season!

 Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;

    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.

Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;

    set your heart on a life of Understanding.

That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,

    and won’t take no for an answer,

Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,

    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,

Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;

    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5 (MSG)

___________________________________________

 

SAMPLE EASY TREASURE CARD IDEAS – Simply place a Bible verse reference on a strip of paper beside Jesus and look it up together and talk about it.  Or write the name of a Bible character in the Christmas story.  Use a children’s Bible story book, or a children’s Advent reading book, or print THIS WONDERFUL FREE STORY and read portions of it each day after Jesus is found.

This blogger offers adorable Advent picture cards with the Names of Jesus on them.  You could just print and hide one card each day with Jesus.  Boom! and Done!

******The purpose of “Seek and Find Jesus” is that when Jesus is found, you take a moment to sit with your child(ren) and discuss the Treasure that He really is, and the Treasure that we celebrate at Christmas.

 

And, just because I still think that the whole Elf on the Shelf idea (tweaked a bit… since I don’t like the story that goes with it) can be used to honor Jesus, I’m collecting ideas on my Pinterest board, “The ‘Elf’ who loves Jesus.”  … just in case we ever get another Elf in the house and some household members willing to play along. 😉


In the mean time, if you would like to know other ways to keep Jesus Christ AS the focus of tHIS CHRISTmas season, I invite you to check out my e-book, Keeping Christ AS Christmas ~ Preparing Hearts, Households, and Homes for Peace this Christmas Season.

written by Jennifer Crawford Walker

Looking for PEACE this Christmas season? Get your copy of Keeping Christ AS Christmas today. $4.99. For all e-readers.

E-book Keeping Christ AS Christmas: Preparing hearts, households, and homes for PEACE this Christmas season. Click here for more details, and “like”the Keeping Christ AS Christmas facebook page to share YOUR ideas on keeping Jesus as the Center of the Christmas season.

Whether you play “Seek and Find Jesus” or “The Elf who loves Jesus,” or whatever else that you do this holiday season, keep this truth as your motto and Jesus will be glorified in every festivity:

“And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

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It’s Advent Season 2016!

A Collection of Creative Advent Ideas to keep the focus on Jesus Christ during this CHRIST season. SmellingCoffee.com

A Collection of Creative Advent Ideas to keep the focus on Jesus Christ during this CHRIST season. SmellingCoffee.com

Are you and your family observing Advent from now until Christmas?  I grew up in a home where God and Jesus were very much a part of our lives, but Advent wasn’t something we participated in.  We just weren’t aware of it.  Some church denominations focus greatly on Advent and others don’t. Mine didn’t back then.  However, as my daily life has been blessed by friendships from various denominational backgrounds, so has my walk with Jesus and one thing I’ve picked up from these friends is the observance of Advent.

The word “Advent” simply means “coming” or “arrival.” As we prepare for Christmas – in the house cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping and gift wrapping, Advent observances help us prepare for the coming of CHRISTmas.  Although Advent is observed in various ways, and on various days, the main point of Advent is the intentional daily setting of our hearts and minds on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to earth the first time as a baby born in a manger. We joyfully celebrate His birth each Christmas season. But Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a Man – a Man who gave His life for ours and paid the death penalty for the sins you and I commit. Death could not hold Him, and He became the Victor over sin and death: the Giver of new life He provided for us. At Christmas time, we celebrate the advent of Jesus’ coming to earth as a Man.

But that’s not all we should celebrate. These celebrations of Jesus’ gifts to us while on earth ought to cause us to anticipate His next advent as well, because soon, He will come again. Except this next time, He won’t come as a baby in a manger. He’ll come as a Judge and The Triumphant KING of all kings and LORD of all lords (Rev. 19:11 & 16)!

In many churches, Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In our household, the celebration of Advent often begins the Monday after Thanksgiving or on December 1st.  From that point on, as our household’s “tone-setter,” I seek to offer something extra for the family to help them keep their focus on Jesus during the upcoming fun and festive days.

There are practically a gazillion Advent ideas out there in cyber space and in book stores.  In fact, if you follow my Pinterest boards, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Advent ideas.  Many Advent ideas you may find have nothing to do specifically with Jesus – they focus only on counting down the days until Christmas.  For a true Jesus-Advent celebration, we can take those cute Advent wreaths, boxes, or banners, and fill them with things that point to the coming of Jesus – not just the coming of Santa.

 

What can we put in these little Advent boxes, envelopes, drawers, or pockets?

Some people put candy in each one.  Or money.  Or a fun activity for the day. (This site has some good ideas for that.)

But in order to use Advent as a focus toward Jesus, we also include either a scripture verse/passage as part of the Christmas story (For Scripture verse ideas, see this wonderful list below, provided by the36thavenue.com.)


Or, include one portion of the Christmas Story Alphabet Poem for each day.  Click here for the poem.

Or tuck in a Name of Jesus inside of those Advent pockets, boxes, or envelopes.

Our family has used the Names of Jesus in various ways at Christmas.  I’ll usually choose 25 favorite names, or let the family contribute to choosing the 25.  Then each name and reference is written on a small strip of paper.  I’ll tuck it in whatever calender we are using, and if there’s room, I’ll include a little candy or something.

This is a link to some PRINTABLE NAME OF JESUS ADVENT CARDS from AllOurDays.com.

And I LOVE this NAMES OF JESUS PRINTABLE Advent CHAIN from SpellOutLoud.com.

 

Or: How about putting a letter of the alphabet in each pocket/drawer?  Whatever letter is drawn out for that day, have everyone list things they know and love about God and Jesus that begin with that letter... or a Scripture verse with a key word begining with that letter…  or list things begining with that letter for which they are thankful.  Just a thought I’m kickin’ around… 😉

As James 1:5 promises, if we lack wisdom, we can ask God, and He will give it to us!  So ask Him what He would like for you to put in your advent envelopes and boxes this year. He will show you.  It’s a promise! 🙂


Advent Ornaments with the Names of Jesus on Them

Several years ago I made a set of ornaments with the names of Jesus on them.  We used them in the mantle greenery – but then I saw an idea of using them as an Advent activity.   We placed the ornaments in a beautiful bowl and each day we drew out one ornament, read about that Name from Scripture, then hung it on the lighted mantle greenery.  It was a special way to begin each day as a family.

To make:
Use glass or plastic Christmas ball ornaments and gold/silver/white paint pens.  Write a name of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit on each ornament and let it dry.  Decorate as much or little as you desire.  String pretty ribbon through the top and you’ll have your own set of Advent ornaments to use year after year. 🙂

Advent Ornaments with Names of Jesus. SmellingCoffee.com

Advent Ornaments with Names of Jesus. SmellingCoffee.com

The Jesse Tree

A Jesse Tree is either a banner, poster, or a regular tree decorated with symbols that retell the story of mankind and the redemptive hope we have in Jesus Christ. Its name comes from Isaiah 11:1: “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (HCSB)

Jesse Tree from MyBlessingsFromAbove.com

By reading the specific scriptures and adding a specific ornament to the tree each day of Advent, the Jesse Tree is a way to connect the Advent season with the faithfulness of God to His people – thousands of years ago, as well as today.

The ornaments don’t need to be elaborate. They can be drawn or copied onto a sheet of paper, colored, cut out, and placed on the tree. If you have children in your home, this would be a great activity for them. The Jesse Tree is primarily a teaching tool, so don’t worry about being so formal with it. Most people draw a tree on a poster board, hang it on a door or the refrigerator, and attach the paper ornaments with glue or tape. I usually use a tiny table-sized Christmas tree that fits on a plant stand as our Jesse Tree.

Ann Voskamp, of the blog “A Holy Experience” and the book One Thousand Gifts, and The Broken Way  has a beautiful Advent devotional book called The Greatest Gift, with printable (or purchasable) Advent ornaments.  She also offers a wonderful and beautiful – both in word and art – Jesse Tree devotional e-book.  It’s called “A Jesus Advent Celebration.”  You can get the FREE PDF version here.  It contains beautifully drawn ornaments that are ready to cut and use.

Now… For YOU… This is a FREE Advent Devotional from the Good Morning Girls.  Click here and enjoy meeting with Jesus in His Word each day.

You know, from now until the new year, the days will become more hectic as they tick by.  So it will be imperative for us to be intentional on keeping our focus set on Jesus each day.  If we don’t, we’ll look back on this season and realize that we missed the most important Thing.  Let’s decide today to do whatever it takes to not just Keep Jesus Christ in Christmas, but to Keep Jesus Christ AS Christmas this year.  More ideas for keeping our hearts and homes stayed on Jesus during these days can be found in my e-book, Keeping Christ AS Christmas.

Blessings of the Lord upon each of you, my friends, as we begin to look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ – celebrating Him as a baby, and awaiting His return as KING!  Advent is here~

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E-book by Jennifer: Keeping Christ AS Christmas: Preparing hearts, households, and homes for PEACE this Christmas season.  Click here for more details, and “like”the Keeping Christ AS Christmas facebook page to share YOUR ideas on keeping Jesus as the Center of the Christmas season.

PS: Don’t want to miss another Smelling Coffee blog post? Just enter your address below.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

(Be sure to check your inbox for a note from me and to verify your email address.) No spam, I promise… Only encouraging words of Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place. 🙂

 

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