Christmas

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Making Room (2016)

Published December 26, 2016 by joypatton

“No room!”  Place after place, inn after inn, and all with the same reply. Bethlehem was crowded and bustling with people trying to abide by the orders of the census. Mary and Joseph searched everywhere for a place, and yet there was no room. Panic began to rise in Joseph as he knocked on door after door hoping to find someone who would pity this poor young man and his young pregnant wife.  His need to protect and provide began to take over about the same time that Mary’s need to settle down and nest could no longer be suppressed. Finally they found someone who was willing to make room for them, not in a house or an inn, but in a barn. Was this really God’s chosen place for His Son to be born or was it a default location?  How could a stable and a feeding trough be God’s perfect provision for the Christ child?  At that point, it didn’t matter how big or how small the room was.  God provided a space in a town with no room, and there was a place and a space for them to abide, even if for a short time.

It sounds so simple and so easy to welcome someone in or to make room for them.  However, making room is often a painful process that requires sacrifice. In order to make room for Mary and Joseph, someone would have had to give up their comfortable room. An innkeeper would have to give away a room without being paid.   When the angel told Mary that she would become pregnant with a child, it came with much sacrifice and pain. When a woman’s body makes room for another human to grow, it’s a painful process.  Not many women describe pregnancy as easy and comfortable.  Even my friends who have adopted children have gone through painful waiting processes as they tried to make room for a child, often much longer than nine months.

Making room for Christ in my life is a painful process that requires sacrifice.  I remember working in my flower beds in the front of our house.  I had these pretty little bachelor button flowers that just grew and grew.  They became these big huge bushes of adorable little flowers that took over the garden.  They were crowding out the other things that were growing like my mums and tulips, the flowers that would grow year after year.  So these perfectly fine flowers had to go; otherwise, the perennials wouldn’t get the sunlight and soil they needed.  It just didn’t feel right when I threw those precious little pink and purple flowers on the compost pile, but I knew it had to be done for the long-term plan of the flower bed.

God reminded me that sometimes in order to make room for the things he has for me, other things have to go.  At first for me, it was having time to do crafty things, like knit and scrapbook and decorate cakes.  As I asked Him about how I was supposed to find time to write and teach, he reminded me that I had time to do everything He called me to do.  I began to realize that my precious TV time for my favorite shows became less important as my desire to do his long-term list for me grew.  Sometimes the things that go are really good service opportunities at church or for my friends.  But when doing those things comes at the cost of a stressed out mom who is mean to her kids, the cost is too great.


This year, I was at a Christy Nockels Christmas concert and the word “room” kept sticking out to me. I remembered the above blog post that I had originally written in 2010. I was reminded again that making room is not easy, but I know that God only needs a little bit of room to be able to work. I was reminded of a time this past summer when I thought my marriage was over. I could not see change; I could not see progress, even the marriage counselor had quit. My parents and my brother asked us to give it one more try. They even offered to pay for us to go see a new counselor, something that would require sacrifice on their part.

Reluctantly, without much hope or faith, but with lots of boundaries, I agreed. I knew that I didn’t want to walk away from my marriage wondering whether we had tried everything. I gave God a small sliver of space to work; I gave my husband one more chance to show up in our marriage. I gave God a little bit of room to show up in a crazy, unpredictable time. Like the first Christmas, this was all God needed to make a miracle. God took the little space in my marriage and turned it into something glorious that only he could do. This Christmas we were all together as a family experiencing a new kind of marriage we never thought possible.

This Christmas I’m also making room in other ways. We’ve decided to sell our house in order to get out of debt and be able to live on less money until my husband finds a new full-time job. We need to make room in our budget and in our lives for whatever God is bringing next. I look back at the things God asked me to sacrifice to make room for him in 2010 like crafting and TV, and those sacrifices seem quite small compared to selling a whole house. But I realize that that is how God begins his work and shows himself to be faithful. He only gives us the next step of obedience. As we make a little bit of room, he shows up in all His glory to do more than we could ever imagine.

So as we go into 2017, how is God asking you to make room for Him in your life? What are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to be uncomfortable, in pain or heartbroken in order to make room for Him to do His work? I can tell you this: making room, no matter how big or small, is never easy, but it is always worth it.

 

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Making Room

Published December 14, 2016 by joypatton

They searched place after place, inn after inn, and all with the same reply, “No room!”  The city was crowded and bustling with people.  Everywhere they looked to find a place, there was no room.  I doubt Bethlehem felt like a very welcoming or inviting place to Mary and Joseph.  Constant noise and constant people in an unfamiliar, uninviting place.  I imagine panic began to rise in Joseph as he knocked on door after door hoping to find someone who would pity this poor young man and his young pregnant wife.  His need to protect and provide began to take over probably about the same time that Mary’s need to settle down and nest could no longer be suppressed.  Finally they found someone who was willing to make room for them, not in a house or an inn, but in a barn.  Was this really God’s chosen place for His Son to be born or was it a default location?  How could a stable and a feeding trough be God’s perfect provision for the Christ child?  I doubt it mattered at that point.  There was room for Mary and Joseph, a place and a space for them to abide.

It sounds so simple and so easy to welcome someone in or to make room for them.  However as I’ve considered this, I have realized that making room is often a painful process that requires sacrifice.  In order to make room for Mary and Joseph, someone would have had to give up their comfortable room.  Or maybe an innkeeper would have to give away a room without being paid.   When the angel told Mary that she would become pregnant with a child, it came with much sacrifice and pain.  I’ve carried four children, and each time when a woman’s body makes room for another human to grow, it’s a painful process.  Not many women describe pregnancy as easy and comfortable; it’s called labor for a reason.  Even my friends who have adopted children have gone through painful waiting processes as they tried to make room for a child, often much longer than nine months.

For me to make room for Christ in my life is a painful process that requires sacrifice.  I remember last summer working in my flower beds in the front of our house.  I had these pretty little bachelor button flowers that just grew and grew.  They became these big huge bushes of adorable little flowers that took over the garden.  They were crowding out the other things that were growing like my mums and tulips, the flowers that would grow year after year.  So these perfectly fine flowers had to go, otherwise the perennials wouldn’t get the sunlight and soil they needed.  It just didn’t feel right when I threw those precious little pink and purple flowers on the compost pile, but I knew it had to be done for the long-term plan of the flower bed.

God reminded me that sometimes in order to make room for the things he has for me, other things have to go.  At first for me, it was having time to do crafty things, like knit and scrapbook and decorate cakes.  As I asked Him about how I was supposed to find time to write and teach, he reminded me that I had time to do everything He called me to do.  I began to realize that my precious TV time for my favorite shows became less important as my desire to do his long-term list for me grew.  Sometimes the things that go are really good service opportunities at church or for my friends.  But when doing those things comes at the cost of a stressed out mom who is mean to her kids, the cost is too great.  I have to say no to the good short-term “mission trips” in order to grow the long-term “mission” in my life.  This means I have to sacrifice my reputation and my desires so that I can make room in my life for His desires.

At Christmas time, making room looks different for everyone.  Sometimes it means going to one less party, making one less trip or buying one less gift in order to make room for Christ in my life.  Making room is never easy, but it is always worth it.  Anyone who has held a newborn baby in their arms will tell you that.

Will you make room for the Christ this year?

“Come to my heart, Lord Jesus.  There is room in my heart for Thee.”

To young families at Christmas

Published December 25, 2015 by joypatton

IMG_0710For all the moms who are just beginning families: be intentional about the traditions you begin. They will be the things your kids remember, and it becomes very sweet as your kids get older and take over.

I remember one of the first Christmases we had as a little family. I tried to do all the things my family did and all the things everyone else said we should do. From big meals to Santa to Elf on the Shelf. I was exhausted at the end. So I decided to start some new traditions. The only rule was that it had to be easy for me. Yes, it sounds selfish, but going into Christmas with an exhausted mom is no fun either.

Fifteen years into making our family, I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck, and the payoff is good.

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Joy, Hope and Faith in 2009.

Christmas Eve – I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service after getting everyone dressed. I wanted a big meal, but I didn’t want to make it at the end of the day. So I started doing a pot roast in the crock pot. All you have to do it warm rolls when you get home, and you have a great meal. This year was ingenious because I used stew meat instead of a roast. Delicious! (See the recipe below) After dinner, everyone opens one gift: a pair of PJ’s. Everyone has a new look for Christmas morning, and the little ones satisfy the urge to open a gift.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole – What I love about this one is that you make everything the night before and let it sit in the fridge. On Christmas morning, I just wake up and put it in the oven while we open gifts. This is one of my kids’ favorite traditions. My oldest told me this morning, “This casserole is the only reason I get up on Christmas morning now that I’m a teen.” The best part is that this morning I got an extra hour of sleep because my 13-year-old helped me make it last night, and I told him he could start baking it in the morning. I got out of bed, and it was all ready to go. Merry Christmas to me! (See the recipe below.)

Kids Giving Gifts – One of my favorite traditions is having my kids buy each other gifts. I used to think everyone did this, but I have found out that it’s not very common. When we do our Christmas budget, I include enough for each kid to buy each of their siblings a $10 gift. It helps them to think about each other and keeps them focused on others…a little. This Christmas we used our Citicard Thank You points from my husband’s business card to buy gifts on Amazon. All the kids made wish lists, and shopping was really easy. Each kid sat with me at the computer and picked out gifts for each other. When they came, they helped wrap them. It was so sweet to watch Faith’s face light up as she watched her big brother open the gift she picked out for him.

I love this because it teaches my children how to give good gifts and think of others. This year we didn’t have enough money in the budget for them to buy gifts for mom and dad, but my oldest used some of his own money to get gifts for Andrew and me. They were things we actually wanted. He has learned to watch and listen to see what people need. He has learned that giving gifts is as satisfying as getting them.

As far as Santa and Elf on the Shelf, I’ve tried to avoid them, partly because we didn’t do either one in my family of origin. I don’t like that Santa gets credit for the best gifts, and an Elf that goes around the house and makes more messes for me to clean up is insanity defined.

We dabbled in Santa with my boys, but when they figured it out, we decided not to attempt it with the girls. However Faith, my six-year-old drug me back into it this year and her older sister Hope (age 8) played along with her. They each got one gift from Santa, and the stockings were filled after the kids went to bed.

I’ve learned that inviting some close friends over for Christmas dinner in the evening is just right because by that time we are tired of each other, and we prefer to travel to Ohio at Thanksgiving so that we can have our own family traditions for Christmas at our house. Last night we had our own little candle-lighting service. My boys instinctively started humming “Silent Night” because that’s what we always sing at church.

From left to right: Faith, Hope, Kyle and Connor

It’s so rewarding as a mom to watch these traditions become a part of the fabric of our family. The kids did most of the decorating this year because the decorations always go in the same spot, and they know where to put them. When I am old and tired, they will carry on. When they start their own families, our traditions will help them enjoy the holiday as parents.

I’ve seen the reward of being intentional about these things. As a young mom, sometimes you wonder if the day will ever come. I’m here to tell you that it will. When it does, it’s very sweet and fulfilling to a momma’s heart.

 

Glorious Impossible 2013

Published December 27, 2013 by joypatton

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The term “glorious impossible” refers to the impossible things that God does for his glory.  The Christmas story has so many “glorious impossibles” in it, and Carl Cartee wrote one of my favorite songs about it that our church often sings at Christmas.  You can read my first blog about it here to get the whole picture.  But this year God gave our family its own glorious impossible.

It was a few weeks before Christmas and our Christmas cash envelope was completely empty.  The money was tight this year, and in this last month of the year, we felt it more than we had before.  Because my husband is self-employed, a paycheck is never guaranteed, and even when we were able to pay ourselves, it wasn’t enough to make it all the way down the list.  By the time the other budget items had their say, there was no cash left for the Christmas envelope.

We had made it through the year working hard and being open to every opportunity God put in front of us.  We both picked up part-time jobs.  Andrew worked as an umpire during baseball season.  I took part-time jobs catering for weddings, being a personal assistant, working as a PR assistant for a marketing firm, substitute teaching and writing and editing on the side.  God even sent a wedding cake client to help make ends meet.  All the while, we knew I needed a full time job.  My resumes evaporated into cyber space, and I never even got called for an interview.  After being out of the work force for 13 years, I began to doubt my chances of getting back in.  The closest I came was a long-term substitute teaching position, which God used in interesting ways, that lasted for two months.

In the last year, we cut and slashed our budget too.  We got ride of cable and satellite TV.  We used coupons and menu planning to cut the grocery budget.  We were even down to one car for awhile because we didn’t want to get a car loan.  But finding extra cash for a car was as impossible as finding cash for Christmas.  The next thing on the budget chopping block were the kids’ extracurriculars, and that one we wanted to put off as long as we could.  Not to mention, the house repairs that needed immediate attention and sucked up whatever cash was left.

But then December was coming, and it looked like it was going to be impossible to pay for Christmas with cash this year.   Life with one car was impossible as we tried to figure out how to get six people where they needed to be every day.  My husband was ready to go get a car loan, and I was ready to buy a jalopy just to make it back and forth to school.  But then we compromised and moved some money around that was held for our salary to buy a car.  It seemed impossible to find a car in our price range that my husband wasn’t embarrassed to drive.  And yet once again God made a way for the impossible to happen.  We found a Lincoln “Alligator” in great shape, which Faith called the “Crock”.  After taxes, title and new tires, we had $400 left.  And this was the extent of our Christmas cash.

One night we sat down with our cash and made our Christmas budget.  We decided not to get gifts for each other, but to instead fix the fireplace that had been unused for six years.  We also wanted to give the kids money so they could buy gifts for each other.  That meant their “big” gift budget was $50 each.  Sadly no gifts for extended family, friends and teachers.  And no money to send Christmas cards either.  I sighed as I put down my pen.  I tried to make myself content with what we had.  My husband tried to tell me it would be fine.  We told ourselves the kids would be fine and having a small Christmas could actually be good for them.

On December 23, I was walking home with Connor from his pet sitting job.  He was telling me how hard it was for him to be “poor.”  To not have what other kids in his school had.  I tried to explain that we choose to live like this because we don’t borrow money and that everything comes with a trade-off.  I reminded him that his dad and I both grew up the same way.  We were always the “poor” kids in rich neighborhoods.  That night Andrew and I both agreed that we needed to get our kids around some people who really were poor.

I also found myself complaining to God.  I hated that our year had been so hard financially.  That we were both working our tails off and getting nowhere.  I remembered thinking that we weren’t poor enough to be on anyone’s radar.  That no one even knew we had nothing in our Christmas cash envelope.  That my kids would have a crappy Christmas, and it made me mad.

Then on Christmas Eve morning a strange car pulled up across from our house.  As three men pulled packages out of their trunk, we thought the new neighbors were trying to celebrate Christmas in their new house.  But then they crossed the street and came to our front door with six large gift bags labeled “teen boy,” “tween boy,” “older girl” and “younger girl.”  Andrew was puzzled and asked who it was from.  They simply said they were asked to deliver it to the Pattons and didn’t know where the gifts came from.

I was hiding around the corner still dressed in my pajamas.  Tears filled my eyes as I remembered complaining to God.  I heard his small whisper in my heart, “I know how hard it is.  I see you.  I see how hard you have been working.  I love you.”  I told him I was sorry for complaining.  We did not deserve this.  We didn’t even know how anyone knew.  We knew that there were other families much poorer than ours, much more deserving of this gift.  We honestly didn’t know how to feel in that moment.  The shame of the reality of our small Christmas threatened to steal our joy and our gratitude.

Very early on Christmas morning, Kyle stood by our bed and whispered that he couldn’t sleep.  I think he was imagining what lived in those mysterious boxes delivered to our door.  Soon enough everyone was awake and Christmas morning went on with our traditional breakfast and reading the Christmas story.  We opened the Christmas presents we had bought, and then it was time for the “bonus” Christmas.  Andrew and I looked at each other, not knowing what to expect.  We opened the envelope to the “Parents” hoping for a clue to the identity of our benefactor.  Instead we found a generous gift card for ourselves.  Kyle opened his smallest present first.  When he saw the $50 iTunes gift card, Andrew looked at me and said, “That was our whole budget for him.”

And the gifts kept coming.  Name brand clothes for the kids with names they couldn’t pronounce and stores we had never been inside.   Hope squealed with delight as she opened her “American Girl” doll from Target.  As we looked at the carnage of boxes and wrapping paper left behind, Andrew and I agreed it was the biggest, most expensive Christmas we had ever seen in our lives.  We couldn’t imagine who would have given this kind of Christmas to us.

This was our glorious impossible.  God gave my children a Christmas they would never forget, and something we could hope to do for someone else someday.  He reminded us that he sees and he knows and he cares.  His lavish grace is upon us even when we don’t ask for it and don’t deserve it.  And once again God in his mysterious way made the impossible possible.

Lessons from the Wasteland: The Ache

Published February 26, 2013 by joypatton

The Ache is the gap between how life is and how I think it ought to be.  The gap between Eden and reality.  The longing for perfection and justice that is never fully satisfied this side of heaven.  No matter how much I hate it and want it to disappear, the ache never goes away.  I tell myself if this happens, then life will be good.  If my life were better, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.  But the Ache never goes away.  In so many moments and situations, the Ache remains.  Will ever stop?  Is its defeat even a legitimate goal?

In the life of Jesus it seems that the Ache was constantly with him from the very beginning to the very end.  He was born in a stable and his mother felt the ache of wanting a warm, safe, clean place to bring him into the world.  And yet God’s provision was a stable.  The Ache of wanting the whole world to know, but his arrival only known by a faithful few.  Everyone in the story instinctively knew that this was no way for a King to be born, and yet it was exactly how the King was supposed to come.  The Ache is the gap between how we think it should be and how God made it to be.

As he chose his disciples, the Ache of knowing that Judas would be the one to betray him.  And yet, he chose Judas.  He walked with him.  He ate the Last Supper with him.  We see this gap in John 6.  He asks his disciples if they too would turn away.  Peter makes a beautiful declaration of belief, and yet Jesus feels the ache of knowing that one of them is a devil.  The gap between good and evil.

And how does Jesus deal with the ache?  Does he run away from it?  Does he pursue happiness hoping to remedy the ache?  Does he exert his power to force people to change, to make them right?  Does he cut off and cast out those who add to the ache?  No.  Instead he pushes in.  He stays consistently true to who he is and what he is called to do.

This is so contrary to everything inside of me.  I chase happiness and peace and perfection.  I cut off anyone who threatens that.  I run away from hard relationships and hard conversations because it’s just easier to ignore the ache.  I am satisfied with moments of happiness from my favorite escapes that take me out of the present: shopping, television, movies, and fancy parties that make me feel important.

And yet Jesus seemed content in sadness, chaos and imperfection.  He is at peace because he has submitted all things, including himself, to His Father.  He asked Judas to be one of the Twelve because that’s what the Father asked him to do.  He knew the Father had a purpose for the ache: His glory.  The Ache is what makes Jesus beautiful, unfathomable, supreme over all.

Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be afraid of the ache.  We don’t have to run away from it or try to fix it.  That the pain of life is mixed in with the joy.  Like the joy of sharing a good meal with good friends and the pain of knowing that it will be the last time.   The joy of feeling life in your womb and the pain of knowing it will be short lived.  The joy of being who you were made to be and the pain of being rejected and misunderstood.  Both exist in life simultaneously.

It is because of Jesus that the biggest ache, the biggest gap between God’s righteous perfection and my unrighteous imperfection, has been bridged by the blood of Christ.  Every other ache is temporary.  Every other ache will be remedied in His eternal Presence.  This is the hope we have: that because of Jesus, it won’t always be like this.

But for now…it is.  Like Jesus, I must trust the good hand of the sovereign God who is working all things for good.  In the ache, I remain true.  I pay attention to my heart.  I push in to hard relationships and hard conversations to know Him more, to follow in his steps more closely.  So rather than run from the ache, try to fix it or change it, because of His example, I embrace it.

Glorious Impossible 2012

Published December 10, 2012 by joypatton

I write about this every year because it is such a good reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to me.  The “Glorious Impossible” comes from a worship song by Carl Cartee we sing at church during the season.  It causes me reflect on all the “impossible” things that God made possible for His glory in the Christmas story.  How impossible it was for a virgin to get pregnant!  How impossible it was that Joseph decided to marry her anyway.  How impossible that Elizabeth, who was past childbearing years, would get pregnant.  How God moved a couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem to birth a child in the city of David from the “house of Bread.”  How impossible for shepherds to see a choir of angels singing or  for Mary to have an angel speak to her or for Joseph to have an angel in a dream… twice!  How impossible is it to get a man or woman to act in obedience based on a dream?  How impossible to find three kings willing to travel and bring gifts based on what they saw in the stars!  How impossible to move this couple from Bethlehem to Egypt to again fulfill a promise!  How impossible for God to become man and yet remain fully God!

So that brings me to think about this past year and the “impossible” things God has done.  This year there is one event that was full of impossibilites.  At the beginning of the year one of my goals (yes, I’m a nerd and and I write them down) was to attend She Speaks! presented by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  But finding the money to go simply seemed impossible.  My sweet husband knew what I wanted for my birthday before he asked me.  He had worked behind the scenes with my friends to put together the money to go.  However when I went to register a few days after my birthday, the conference was full.  By faith, I put my name on a waiting list.  LeAnn and her team at Proverbs 31 were so great about keeping me updated on where I was in the list.  I kept praying and praying that God had a spot for me.

In the mean time, my two friends were getting a small group of women together to go through From Ice Queen to Princess over the summer.  Each woman paid $10 to participate in the study.  When I got home after the first night, I received an email that my number was up and a spot was available for me if I wanted it.  That night I went to register.  As I was getting ready to pay for it, I chuckled at God’s timing.  The money from my birthday hadn’t quite been enough to cover all the costs, but because of the money from the small group study, I had enough to go.

When I went to register for the breakout sessions, the writer and speaker peer critiques were full.  But there was an option to put your name on a waiting list, so I did.  Sure enough…a couple weeks later I was told there was a spot in a writer’s group for me.  I printed out the copies of what I needed to bring with me and left for the conference.  While I was sitting in the first session, I heard them say that if you wanted a spot in a speaker group, there might be some openings and to ask at the registration desk.  So I did.

Sure enough…There was a spot in a group.  But it would mean giving up my spot in the writer’s group, and I had nothing prepared for the speaker’s group.  I called Andrew for some advice, and he said that he could tell that I wanted to do the speaker’s group.  So I took the opening and between sessions wrote an outline for a 5-minute talk of my testimony to deliver to my peer critique group after the last session.  That night it went really well, and I knew that I was in the right spot.  I loved meeting the women in my group.

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The next morning at breakfast I sat with some of the girls from my group.  They had heard me say I wrote a book and asked me if I was meeting with any publishers while I was at the conference.  “Oh, no,” I said.  “I signed up too late and I’m sure there aren’t any spots open.  Besides no one wants to hear about this book anyway.  It’s already been turned down by several publishers.”  I was immediately convicted about my Orphan mentality and felt like I should go ask if there were any spots open.  After all, you never know unless you ask.

After the session, I found the woman who made the appointments with publishers and asked if there were any appointments available.  “Who do you want to meet with?” she asked.  “Oh, I’ll take whatever you got.”  Sure enough…she had an appointment open with a publisher I hadn’t yet talked to.  I chuckled at God as I walked down the stairs.  He had all these appointments planned for me all along.  He just hadn’t let me in on it.  He was asking me to trust him with every step on this journey.

I wish I could say that the meeting with the publisher led to a book deal and that the Proverbs 31 ministries representative was so impressed with my speaking that they invited me to be on their team.  In any movie or novel, that would make a really great end to the story, but the publisher rejected my proposal like everyone else and Proverbs 31 never called.

But I got something even better out of that weekend.  I felt like God put together that speaking group just for me, and they ministered such healing to my soul through their kind comments and encouraging words.   I remembered how much I loved speaking.  But the highlight of the whole weekend was spending some quiet time in my empty hotel room with the Lord on Sunday morning.  He gave guidance I had been looking for and affirmation for where I had been.  He also told me that I do have a partner in what I’m doing…God.  And for right now, he wants to be the only partner.  He reminded me that weekend that even if I never write another blog or publish a book or speak ever again, that my identity in Him is secure.  I have been set apart and called by grace, and nothing will ever change that.

When I looked at all the doors that seemed impossible to open on this trip, I’m  amazed at all that He made possible.  This trip reminded me that He is big enough to orchestrate even the smallest details.  I remembered that He saw me, He cared about me, and He loved me so much that he made a way for me to go to the conference.  But the even bigger glorious impossible is that he has made a way for a sinner, unrighteous, unholy person like me who gets it wrong, messes it up and hurts other people to be in relationship with Him, the Creator of all who is righteous, holy, perfect, loving and sovereign.  He sent His Son to earth in an impossible set of circumstances to live a perfect life and die on the cross, so that I didn’t have to.

He doesn’t need me or any talent I have to offer to accomplish His perfect plan.  And yet He continues to invite me to join him in his work.  How impossible it seems to take a loud, selfish, bossy, arrogant person like me and use her in women’s ministry!  How impossible it is to take someone who has been rejected and disqualified and make her feel accepted and qualified!  God delights in making the impossible possible.  When he does, he alone gets the glory.  Glory to God in highest!

So what was your Glorious Impossible in 2012?  What’s the Glorious Impossible you are trusting him for in 2013?

Video of Glorious Impossible by Carl Cartee

If you want to see what my Glorious Impossible was for 2011, click here.

Hope Restored

Published December 5, 2012 by joypatton

One of my words for December this year is “hope.” I’ve been reminiscing about 6 years ago in November when we found out we were having our first girl. All through the pregnancy, I had been hoping it would be a girl. We had two boys and I thought it would be perfect to have a girl the third time around. This was a very far off hope considering that no female child had been born in Andrew’s family for six generations.

But just hoping with some far off dream is much different than realizing that your hope has been fulfilled. For me that ultrasound changed everything in my world. Here’s an excerpt from my blog post after the ultrasound: Before the ultrasound, I told people I just kept hopin’ and hopin’ it was a girl. But to hope for something and to see that hope fulfilled are two competely different states of mind. For the past two days, everything about pregnancy has been different. I’m not as tired and crampy. Instead of complaining and crying out, “Why are we doing this again???” I know why I’m doing this again. It is for my little girl. Before every time I saw a mom with a baby, I would ask myself, “What am I doing? I have two boys that are completely potty trained. I don’t carry anything but my purse, no diaper bag, binkies or sippy cups. The boys dress themselves and buckle in their own car seats. It will be at least three years before I’m in this situation again.” But now when I change a diaper, I’ll be looking at girl parts! It won’t be the same old baby routine I went through with the boys. I’ll be watching for how she is like the boys and how she is all girl. I can buy some new baby clothes for a girl!!! Yesterday I almost bought a baby girl stocking for the mantle. The whole world is new.

Recently I have realized that there are certain situations in which I have lost hope. I no longer even have the courage to hope that some day a relationship could be different. I assume that it will always be the same and nothing will ever change. So instead of reaching out in the relationship, I hold back. Instead of being fully myself and being vulnerable, I hide myself. Instead of sharing my feelings, which could in turn bring healing, I am silent. I have convinced myself that the other person doesn’t desire change. I have also lost hope that certain professional dreams will ever come true. When that happens, I lose the energy behind my work, and I write less, sleep more and spend time worrying about whether I’m on the right path. You see…I have lost hope.

In Luke, we meet another person who had lost hope. Zechariah was “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” (Luke 1:6-7) At some point in their marriage, I’m positive they had hoped for a son. They had even prayed and asked God for a son. Yet even after many years of faithful living, there was no son. But on the day he went into the temple to burn the incense, he had lost hope. On that day, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God himself, appeared to Zechariah and told him he would have a son. But Zechariah didn’t believe him. He asked, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) He was asking for proof that it would happen because his lack of hope led to a lack of belief. Gabriel then told him that he wouldn’t be able to speak until the baby was born because of his unbelief.

My lack of hope has also led to a lack of belief. Zechariah’s lack of hope is completely understandable considering the many years of prayers that went unanswered. All the evidence says that there is no reason to continue to hope. To hold out hope simply seems foolish. And yet, this is the very definition of faith…to believe what you cannot see. To continue to hope even when all the evidence is against you. Mike Mason wrote, “True faith requires painful waiting.” Waiting that is easy or makes sense because the outcome is predictable does not require much faith. But waiting and hoping in spite of the odds requires true faith.

A little later in Luke, we have a picture of what it looks like to continue to hope in spite of the odds. Shortly after his birth, Jesus was taken by his parents to the temple. There they met two faithful and devout people who had not stopped hoping and believing that they would see the Messiah. Simeon is described as “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” (Luke 2:25) The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Anna was an 84-year-old widow who was in the temple daily looking for the promised Savior. When they saw their hope fulfilled, they didn’t ask for proof or a greater sign. They simply believed. We know Simeon believed because he said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30) We know Anna believed because she told others about Jesus. Both had been waiting a very long time, but had not lost hope.

Hope fulfilled changes everything. When Hope Renee arrived in our family, everything changed. No longer could Andrew and I run a man-on-man defense and each take a kid. We had to go to a zone defense, and someone always had two kids. I also had a daughter who would go shopping with me and be creative with me. When I hope for the God to come in and restore relationship and mend broken dreams, everything changes. I can press into the relationship when needed. I am energized to work towards goals for my writing. I don’t have to spend hours worrying about the future and feeling shame over all the “shoulds” that haunt me. The hope is not some vague, far off feeling. My hope is combined with faith in a sovereign God who keeps His promises.

According to Luke’s account, the Holy Spirit was active in the scene at the temple. He wouldn’t let Simeon or Anna missed the fulfillment of what they had been hoping for. I imagine him standing next to Simeon as Mary gently handed him her newborn babe. The Holy Spirit whispered in his ear, “This is it. This is the one you have been waiting for.” The Holy Spirit is the one who engenders hope and belief in our hearts. Because of the Spirit, I can trust God to be at work in all areas of my life. He is the One who brings hope because He is the One who delights in doing the impossible. He won’t let me miss it either. I’m really hoping I won’t have to wait until I’m 84 to see the hopes fulfilled, but I just might. And when I begin to lose hope, I turn to him to remember the source of my hope. Or I look into the eyes of my beautiful daughter and remember what he has already done. And in this season, I remember that my deepest longing in my soul, to be made right with God, has been fulfilled when his sent his only Son to earth in a manger.

Where have you given up hope?

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