Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Holiday

It is hard for me to believe that this is the last day of 2012. Just last week, I inadvertently wrote 2011 on a check I was writing. Now, I need to try to retrain my brain to write 2013!

The Christmas events of these past weeks have flown by. Now, the clearing, cleaning and de-cluttering awaits but for one more of the "Happy Holidays" I am choosing to celebrate in this one season of God's amazing goodness.

That's right, I am not procrastinating, I am intentionally taking time to celebrate God's faithfulness of 2012 and His everlasting promises preordained for 2013 before packing up all the red and green.

My guy and I are planning an early dinner date in Nashville this evening. (The girls are excited to spend a few hours not hearing the word "no" at their Nana's and Pa's.) We will use the time of uninterrupted conversation to reflect on the journey that God has led us through that we label 2012 and to dream about what plans God may have in store for the next 12 months.

Ephesians 3:20-21
English Standard Version (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This passage has been such an intricate part of our journey together. We will spend some time tonight looking at how God did "far more abundantly" than what we "asked for or imagined" (NIV). Then we will intentionally look at the future, trusting that God is in control and the plans He has for us are for our good. (Jeremiah 29:33, Romans 8:28)

He is the one to "work within us" and make it happen. He will be glorified "in the church." His name will be exalted in this generation and in "all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Let me encourage you to set aside some time and be intentional in this last holiday of the season. What will you do to celebrate?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lullaby Language of Long Ago-Silent Night

Christmas season gets crazier every year.  If your church is like ours, there are parties every night and sometimes several at the same time.  Everyone wants the pastor and his wife to attend their party.  Right now, we only have one night between now and Christmas to just sit and have a silent night with a nice cup of cocoa.

Ah . . . "Silent Night" is one of my favorite carols of the season.  I absolutely love a candlelight Christmas Eve service to end with this carol.  I can barely hold back the tears when we softly sing the words.  I have found myself at times closing my eyes to picture the first holy night.  I imagine in the quietness of the night Joseph is holding his sweet Mary’s hand as she labors in childbirth.  Around them the farm animals munch on hay or are resting.  I see stars sprinkled in the skies overhead.  It is a bright, clear night.  The world seems at rest yet I wonder if even the rocks know what is about to occur.  It is silent night until suddenly the cries of a new born baby can be heard.  Suddenly the heavenly hosts cry out with joy at the arrival of the Savior Christ Jesus.  All creation rejoices at the birth.

When my sons were little, “Silent Night” became one of their “go to sleep” songs on Christmas Eve.  After we would set out cookies for Santa and read “The Night before Christmas,” my husband would sit with the boys on the couch and read the true Christmas story.  Afterwards we would march our boys to their bedrooms and tuck them in.  When the lights were out, we would softly sing “Silent Night” together.  For me, it did seem the night was full of peace.  That creation was remembering the first holy night of long ago.

As we approach this Christmas season with all its commercialism, let’s remember to find a moment to be still.  Take a cup of cocoa, stand outdoors and look up to the star filled sky, and softly sing “Silent Night, Holy Night.”


**To each of you this Christmas season, many God pour out His riches blessings on you and may know you just how much He loves you.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lullaby Language of Long Ago-Away in a Manger

As I said the other day, we are preparing our home for Christmas in a big way.  There is much excitement in the house as well because our new grandson, Gideon, is coming for his first visit.  The tree is up, lights adore the outside of the home, a few gifts are under the tree, and although Gideon is not on solid foods yet, I am getting ready to do the holiday all-things-chocolate baking.  In addition, the extended family is coming in for the big visit as well. 

However, with all the commercial Christmas doings going on in my home, I want to begin teaching Gideon the true meaning of the season.  I want him to know that it is not about the gifts and the decorations.  I want him to know that Christmas should be celebrated all year because the birth of Jesus long ago in a manger.

I remember as a little girl that we had a very special nativity given to us by a relative.  Each year Mom would unpack this special treasure and place it in a prominent place in our home.  The manger was actually a music box.  My brother and I would take turns winding the knob in order to hear the carol “Away in a Manger.”  As a family we would sit and listen to the Christmas story read from the Bible.  We decided in our later years to not place baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas Eve night, but we always turned the knob to hear one of our favorite carols.  

This year is a little different.  Mom is celebrating Christmas with her Savior.  Dad now resides in a nursing home.  Our manger set is packed away somewhere at our parents home.  However, one day soon I plan to make the trip back home to retrieve this special treasure.

Although we do not have the manger set with us this year, we do have our Savior.  He is not in hiding.  He is alive and well.  When my sweet grandson wakes in the early hours of the morning, I plan to rock our special treasure from God and softly sing “Away in a Manger” and tell him of the true meaning of Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lullaby Language of Long Ago-Sweet Little Jesus Boy

In a few days there will some lullabies floating in the air of our home.  Our grandson, along with his mommy (our son is deployed overseas this Christmas season), is making his first visit to our home.  We are beyond excited and filled with anticipation for his arrive.  While we are excited about Gideon coming, I feel that Mary and Joseph were filled with anticipation at the arrival of their son, Jesus.  He would not be an ordinary child.  He was God incarnate.  However, I am sure that once Jesus arrived, Mary sang him to sleep with sweet lullabies.

Over the years many Christmas carols have graced the stages of concert halls and church auditoriums.  There are a few carols that actually bring tears to my eyes and bring memories flooding to my mind.  If you would allow me, I would like to share a couple of my favorite carols with you this week.

Sweet Little Jesus Boy, composed by Robert MacGimsey in 1934, is not a very common carol sung in churches today.  I first discovered this sweet song when my husband was in seminary and I was taking a vocal music class. The professor made assignments for our final and I was given this spiritual to perform acappella. 

Since I had no history of this piece I did a bit of research and discovered that although the song was written by a Caucasian man in the early 1900s, it depicted the sound and plight of the African American slave.  This song is filled with emotion.   This spiritual rings with hope, not just for the slave, but for a lost world.

At Christmas I often find myself humming or softly singing the words around the house as I prepare for the Christmas season.  Just the other day I was setting out our nativity and began thinking of that first holy night so long ago.

I wonder if Mary had prepared the manger bed with fresh hay for her soon coming child.  I wonder if her child birth pains were great or if she was at complete peace in knowing she was giving birth to the Savior of the world.  What did Mary do when she first heard her newborn son cry?  Did she sigh and smile?  Was she awestruck when she looked in the eyes of her newborn son?  Or did she cuddle her baby close, kiss his forehead, and hum sweetly in his ear? 

What about Joseph? Was a scared earthly father?   Was he uncertain of what life would be like?  It would certainly change for them in the coming minutes.  Their son would be no ordinary baby.  He was the Living God come to save the world.  At the moment Jesus arrived, did Joseph fall to his knees weeping in holy worship? 

In anticipation for this Christmas season, I challenge you to find the words or listen to a recording of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”.  Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and really listen to the words.  Try to imagine what Mary and Joseph might have experienced.  Then, rediscover what Jesus really means to you.


Friday, December 14, 2012

This Christmas, Give More……

As the gift buying starts to wind down (Christmas is less than two weeks away!), you may have some special gifts that you are giving this year, or perhaps you have a unique gift in mind that you would like to receive. After all, Christmas is all about giving….right?
Yes, Christmas is all about giving, for we know that our Father gave us the greatest gift the world has ever known, and will ever know: His only Son, our PRECIOUS Lord and Savior. Since we have been given so much in the person of Christ, what can we give back this season as an act of gratitude and love for our Lord?
 Perhaps, we can give more time, kindness, and love in honor of the One who first loved us.  Giving in these areas always blesses others, and as a bonus, we get blessed too, just knowing that we have poured into the lives of others!    
So this Christmas give more……….
Time:  Time can be given in many different ways. It could be spending time getting reacquainted with an old friend or running errands for a home bound relative or neighbor.  Also, it could be creating new memories with children or grandchildren that will become holiday traditions for years to come. Giving of our time is a wonderful gift to give to let others know that you enjoy serving them or just delight in being in their presence.
Kindness:  Small acts of kindness go a long way in encouraging others.  An appreciative smile and a gracious “thank you” given to a frazzled salesperson during this hectic holiday season can truly lift their spirits.   Baking special goodies to give away to neighbors or co-workers or offering to gift wrap presents for friends and family are other ways to be kind and thoughtful.  And if your schedule allows, give babysitting services for a young couple so they can enjoy a long over do night out.
Love:  We all probably know of or have individuals in our lives that are at times, shall we say, “difficult to love”. Go out of your way to show the love of Christ; perhaps it is a church member, family member, neighbor, co-worker, etc.  We truly need the Lord’s help to show us how to love the difficult people in our lives. Giving love could be as simple as offering a listening ear; because I truly believe that those who are hard to love at times may be hurting on the inside and are just in need of someone to talk to; you could be that someone.
So, this Christmas as we think about the greatest Giver in the universe, should not His love for us compel us to give these things and sooooooo much more?   What would you like to give more of this season and beyond?  
So, as we give this Christmas season, may Christ’s love compel us (2 Corinthians 5:14)!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's All About Him!

This year I got talked into doing something I really don’t enjoy doing: shopping on Black Friday, or is it Black Thursday now?  Unbelievably many retailers now attempt to catch multitudes of bargain hungry shoppers on Thanksgiving Day!
 I must admit that I, too, got caught up in the frenzy, but I didn’t stand a chance.  Here’s why: both of my daughters begged and pleaded with me to go shopping, which they have done for the past few years.  Their begging and pleading worked; I was weak this time, and just couldn’t say “No”.
However, I was not without a plan: I went out with my twelve year-old daughter at 8:00 on Thanksgiving Day to catch a video game/board game sale, and then at 12:00 a.m. (can you believe it!) my teenage daughter and I went out to catch a sale at a department store in the mall----we didn’t get home until 3:00 am!!  What madness!!  But it really was a lot of fun, and I actually got some of my Christmas shopping accomplished.  And I especially liked the fact that it was a special time of fun and bonding with each of my daughters one-on-one.
As I thought about this little “Black Thursday/Black Friday” adventure, and seeing the gobs of people out shopping into the wee hours of the morning, it made me think that perhaps this is all that Christmas means to many of them.  Shopping until you drop, buying and spending (sometimes too much!), getting caught up in the retail chaos, attending parties, the decorating, preparing for visits from out-of-town friends and family, and a myriad of other holiday traditions are not necessarily bad things; but these things should not divert our minds to cause us to forget about the true meaning of Christmas. 
Holiday traditions and activities should not be the main focus; the season is all about HIM, the One who came as a humble little baby to be born of a virgin mother, who would one day become our wonderful and glorious Savior.
As Christmas day quickly approaches, may we all slow down from the whirlwind of things on our “to do” list and take some time to reflect on the true meaning of the season: God came in the flesh to save us from our sins!    Wow, what a marvelous truth to celebrate.  Remember, it’s all about HIM!!
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name, Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm Gonna Wrap Up Myself for Christmas

As a young girl, my daughter use to sing this song all of the time.  It has become one of my favorite children's Christmas songs.
Let's all wrap ourselves up and give our complete lives to Jesus!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

He was BORN!!

Okay, ladies.......I warned you.......

I teach the pre-school class on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.  My class consists of mostly two year olds.  As you can imagine, this past Sunday morning I was still flying high because of the birth of Cameron and it is just amazing how God allowed me to use Cameron's birth to introduce the birth of Jesus. 

We began the class sitting at the table, coloring a big "J" with a manger and talking about "J" stands for JESUS.  Next, we made our way over to "circle time" where we have the story.  Sunday, during circle time, I showed them pictures of baby Cameron, and him with his mom, his dad, his Mimi and his Grandaddy.  We talked about how each of them was once a tiny baby just like baby Cameron.  For the first time, I had EVERYONE's attention;  that is hard with two year olds.

THEN....we talked about a long, long time ago baby Jesus was born...just like baby Cameron was born and just like each of them had been born.  They asked so many questions and were so interested.  Then Elan wanted to know who Jesus' mommy and daddy was....which brought us to Mary and Joseph.

All of the children were sooo excited about the lesson and went to the craft table so excited to put hay in the manger and lay baby Jesus on the hay.  They left class talking about baby Jesus was born just like "ME" and just like baby Cameron.

God knew it would be hard for me to focus because I had "Cameron" on the brain, so he opened the doors where I could use Cameron to get the children's attention.

This was a very simple little lesson, but, if we will allow God to guide us, He will always use simple everyday things to help us spread His word.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas is Forever...

Merry Christmas....
from the Brittons!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas....

Sunday morning at our church, we had our annual "Hanging of the Greens" program.  It was AWESOME!!!  What a blessing.

We have a beautiful sanctuary with a 12 ft. Christmas tree.  During our "Hanging of the Greens" program Sunday, my husband did the talking and brought meaning to everything.  He explained why we have the bells and greenery, etc. at Christmas.  While he was talking, the children and youth of the church did the "actions".

The two year olds began the program by walking down the center isle and going around to the side isle, ringing their bells, followed by the older children doing the same.  During the entire program, we had a slide show that went with the program and made it even more real. 

Bells were rung, wreaths were hung, candles were placed in the windows, poinsettias were placed in the alter, ornaments were hung on the tree, candy canes were presented to everyone present and the first candle of the Advent was lit.  "Oh, Holy Night" was sung and In the conclusion, the lights on the tree are turned on.  HOW BEAUTIFUL!!!  And HOW SPECIAL to be reminded of what each and everything means. 

Every year, our church tree looks different.  This year, our decorations were red and lime green.  Each family in the church is encouraged to get an ornament and put their names and date on it to be hung on the tree.

My husband and I have been involved in Southern Baptist Churches the entire 33 years that we have been married, but until we witnessed the "Hanging of the Greens" program at our current church, we had never seen it and knew very little about it.

"Hanging of the Greens" is a great way to begin the December holidays.  It helps to turn our focus on the true meaning of the season.

If your church does not have a "Hanging of the Greens" program already, I would suggest that you encourage them to plan for one next year.  You can go on the Internet and "google" it and find all kinds of suggestions.  I promise, if you have never sat through a "Hanging of the Greens" program, you will not leave with a dry eye.

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas......

Monday, December 3, 2012

MIRACLE I am learning by example and copying Vickie from a few posts ago.......

I am writing this post on Wednesday night, November 28th but will not post it until next week when I am scheduled to blog.  Now I understand why Vickie wrote her blog the day of Gideon's birth.  I just got home from a long day at the hospital.....and felt I would burst if I did not write something.

Today, we met our little MIRACLE; Cameron Lee Hicks.  (Our first grandchild.)  All babies are miracles, but Cameron is especially a miracle.  Almost exactly one year ago, our daughter had gone through a year of infertility and the "Specialists" told her that nothing had worked to correct her PCOS syndrome, so her chances of ever conceiving a child would be very expensive and slim to none.  They chose to give up and she went back to her midwife to be treated for the PCOS......and after sharing with her the words of the "Specialists", her midwife told her...........they are only and I know the GREAT PHYSICIAN......we are not going to give up....but continue to PRAY.  Anyway, without going into great detail.............she DID get pregnant and later because of the PCOS, developed gestational she was also having to see a High Risk Doctor.

However, against all odds, today, November 28, 2012, she delivered Cameron Lee Hicks at 8:26 a.m., by c-section because his shoulders were determined too large for her.  He weighed 8lbs. and was 21 inches long and has a head full of blond hair.

We PRAYED for Cameron before he was conceived.  We PRAYED for him before he was born......and we will continue to PRAY for our little MIRACLE.
Mom and baby are doing great.  Cameron's sugar has been good so far and since Cameron's birth, mom has been able to eat carbs without having the sugar problems.

God is soooo GOOD.........ALL THE TIME!!!  Praise God for our little MIRACLE.  No doubt, God has great plans for Cameron Lee Hicks and I look forward to watching God work in his life.

How can you NOT believe in God when you witness his miracles?
BTW....I am sharing Cameron's first day picture..........and I must confess up front, I will probably share lots of pictures in the future............I am one proud Mimi!!!  Just call it Mimi insanity.....and skip past the photos if you like.  Smile.