Tuesday, December 27, 2016

When Christmas Is Not Picture Perfect

Have you ever read someone’s Christmas blog post or seen perfect Facebook pictures/statuses or Christmas card letters that oooh-ed and ahhhh-ed about life and family and thought to yourself, "Wow, I sure don’t feel/look/live like that right now at all!  They all look so happy!"

Just look at these picture perfect kids of ours!!!
My last post talked all about how great everything was.  I shared that I was so excited about kids coming and the mess and the chaos.  I raved about how precious the quiet was and what a blessing going to church on Christmas was and on and on.  You can read it here if you are so inclined.

It was all true…every bit of what I said was true. 

But there is more that wasn’t said.


Terrible thoughts I had that were not spoken or written.  Not all were lingering thoughts.  But fleeting, selfish, sinful thoughts.

  • Is this Jesus’ really real?
  • Sure would like to stay home.  Alone. 
  • Church messes up our traditional Christmas morning.
  • What if what we are giving them isn’t enough?
  • Why am I the only one who does all of the shopping and wrapping and cooking and preparing for Christmas?  Why doesn’t he help more?
  • Why doesn’t our relationship look like that one on the Hallmark movie channel?
There have been years where I had no aspirations to put up any Christmas decorations or even a tree because discouragement seemed to overtake any desire.  No parties or events were hosted in our home.  No cards were sent.  Gifts were wrapped but there were no ribbons or bows.  I did the bare minimum.

There have also been years where our house was decked from head to toe, so to speak.  We sent out (I mean, I sent out…no we about it if I’m honest) Christmas cards and hosted multiple events….including church-wide open houses.  I made Christmas dresses and baked cookies and wrapped presents with beautiful bows.

We love hosting staff Christmas dinners in our home….cooking and serving and loving on each one gives us much joy.  It has traditionally been a time of joy and laughter and memories.  Sadly, because of having to reduce staff for budgetary reasons, we went through a season of grieving and loss and discouragement and I just wasn’t up to doing the dinners.

Thankfully, this year was different!!  We had most of our staff and spouses over for dinner.  A miracle!!  Years change.  Years change us.

I guess what I want to say is this:  If this is a hard year for you…for whatever reason…you are not alone.  If you don’t love all of this Christmas stuff….it is OK.  Give yourself much grace.  If you don’t want to spend any more time with relatives or people in general….take a break.  If you want to be alone….I get it. 

If your life and thoughts are less than Godly…so are mine.  Forgive us Lord!  Turn our hearts and minds and will toward You!

My life sometimes might look picture perfect.  Or sound picture perfect.  Trust me…it is not. 

Christmas celebrations (or lack-there-of) can sometimes be hard.  or disappointing.  Or lonely.  Family can be hard or disappointing or annoying.  People can be.  Traffic can be.  Recipes gone wrong can be. 

So what do we do when Christmas (or any part of life for that matter) is disappointing?  As far as I can tell I have two choices:  Be disappointed or be pointed to Christ.  I can run this race with my eyes and mind on the scenery or other runners, or I can fix my eyes and mind on Jesus.  Isn’t it amazing how when we do that everything else grows strangely dim….even disappointment and less than perfect pictures.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow

Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring except for me…and I ain’t no mouse!

Funny how even when I CAN sleep in, I CAN’T sleep in!!  Anyone else have this malady?

Today I love that I got up while it was still dark with my hubby snoring away.  I love that I could plug in our beautiful lights and sit at the Lord’s feet for a while pondering His faithfulness and His mercies and His love.

Today I love that our house is quiet.

Today I love that even though I’m normally so very ready to pack up the decorations for another year and get this house back to ‘normal’….I won’t because our son and family will come for a few days….so Christmas is NOT over for the James gang!

Today I normally would be getting out the empty bins and boxes from the garage, purposefully wrapping and packing each item, labeling the box or bin, and finding someone help me put it all back in to the attic.

Not today.  Today I’m going to enjoy the calm before the storm.  Today I’m going to relish time with my hubby.  Today I’m going to get ready for more kids and grand kids to come for a few days.

Just when I thought Christmas was over….it’s not!  There’s more!

Yesterday, Christmas day was precious!  Could sleep later than a normal Sunday because we had no bible study/Sunday school…..just worship at 10:30.  No prep for me to go over.  No stress over teaching ladies.  I was super excited to sleep late but did I?  No!  I was up at 5:00 am!!!  Do you know how frustrating that is??  I could sleep past 8 and I’m up at 5:00 am!!??

Anyway…back to the point….yesterday was precious….worshipping with our family of God on Christmas Day!!  So fun!! 

(Side note:  did your church have church Christmas day??  Christmas falls on a Sunday every 7 years or so….and it has for as long as we have been in ministry—over 40 years now—so that’s a lot of Christmases on Sunday….and I had no idea….until this year, that is, that many churches did not have worship…perhaps this is a discussion we should have at a later time….but I found myself being critical over churches/pastors not having church on Christmas!!  Here I was, being all self-righteousness and all spiritual all because we have always had church when it fell on Sunday….and yet I certainly was NOT being spiritual but rather quite sinful as I was being critical!!  Oh my…)

Back to yesterday…..after worshipping Jesus with the Body…..we went to our daughter’s house to celebrate His birthday with her family.  We got there about 1:00ish and their three kids were waiting with noses pressed to the window waiting for us to arrive so that they could open their gifts!!  They had some flu going around their family so did not go to church and those kids had waited all morning and not opened any gifts!  Talk about torture!

Yesterday was sweet….laughter, oohhs and ahhhhs, food and music and rich blessings abounded.

Yesterday was sweet as hubby and I came home exhausted and full and the two of us opened our gifts to one another.  It was reminiscent of our first few years together before we had children.  Just us opening our gifts.  Sweet.

Yesterday was a blessing.

Tomorrow chaos arrives for a few days.  There will be lots of noise and playing and messes and more gifts and more food. 

Tomorrow and the next several tomorrows we will have family here….and we will love it.

Our lives consist of yesterdays, today's and maybe tomorrows.  Christmases past, Christmases present and maybe Christmases future.

The truth is…Christmas is not over.  But you know this.  You know it is new every day.  You know Christ has come.  Christ is here.  Christ will come again.  But often we forget...we box up the beauty and memories and love and fun and put it all away in the attics of our minds.  Keep it all out.  Keep it out for those days when the darkness seems overwhelming and the depression sucks us in.  Keep out the joy.  The light.

As you pack up your decorations and lights ponder how you can hold on to the beauty and memories and power it all represents for another day.  And for another day after that.  And another day. 

Friday, December 16, 2016


Christ, our Savior, is born!

My sisters, as we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, may we always keep in our hearts that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the greatest gift that we will ever receive.

His birth, our rebirth

His life, our abundant life

His death, our victory over sin’s power and control

His resurrection, our hope of eternity secured

The sinless Savior lying in a manger on that first Christmas morning is the King of Kings who will return one day in all of His glory!

Rejoice and celebrate the true meaning of the season, not just once a year but every day of the year!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Prayer in the Midst of Tragedy

A horrific bus accident


Violent storms

These catastrophic events have taken place in our state in the last month. Precious lives were lost, and terrible heartache and sorrow still remains.
In times like these we feel so hopeless and helpless, but we can……


The fatal bus accident that took the lives of six beautiful little children devastated our community. Many more children were injured, some severely, and words don’t seem adequate to express how this tragedy affected the lives of those involved. But, we can PRAY. WE can ask the Lord to heal broken hearts. WE can ask our Savior to strengthen and comfort the moms and dads who will never hold and hug their little ones again. WE can ask our Father to counsel the extended family members, friends, and teachers who will no longer experience the joy of being with these boys and girls whose lives were taken so suddenly. WE can ask the Healer to send help in any form He desires in order to help our community heal.

The wildfires that raged took lives, consumed many acres of forest, and destroyed countless buildings. Again, WE can pray for God’s peace to abound in the hearts of those whose loved ones were lost. WE can pray that resources will be provided to remove all of the charred debris, and that God will raise up the funds so businesses and homes can be rebuilt from the ashes.

The violent tornadoes and storms also took precious lives and devastated property. Again, we can pray, pray, pray!!

All of these things serve as a stark reminder of how helpless we are to prevent and control the tragic things that happen in life. We truly don’t understand when bad things occur, but we have a Savior who told us that, “……in Me you may have peace. In this world you will trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Lord promises, “….in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Most assuredly, all of these events were definitely NOT good things. Yet, those of us who know Christ believe and have seen God take the most painful of circumstances and bring rays of hope. The Lord is Faithful to His Word!! I look with anticipation to the day when He wipes away every tear, and takes away death, mourning, crying, and pain FOREVER! (Revelation 21:4)

After the bus accident, many in our community came out to donate blood (donors were lined up outside the building!). Almost immediately, a special fund was established to help the suffering families. The school bus company graciously offered to pay the funeral and medical expenses of the families involved. Prayer vigils were held to remember victims. So, we have already seen the compassion and love of The Lord Jesus Christ at work in the midst of tragedy.

So, my sisters, when life seems unbearable and it feels like the world is spinning out of control, leaving us feeling hopeless and helpless, remember we can always PRAY!!!

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Friday, December 9, 2016

Stress Relief?

What is your Stress Relief?

If you don't have one...you should.

To relieve stress, I will "fun" read or "craft" or "sew". 

For Roger's 60th Birthday this year, our son and daughter-in-law purchased him a carving pen making class.  WOW............what a difference that has made.  He has had a very stressful year with his secular job.  (They are out-sourcing to India.) 

He makes pens; ink pens with refillable cartridges.  He has gone WILD.  The store where he took the class is even impressed.  He is making pens out of pinecones....out of wood....out of deer horns.....out of acrylic....out of just about anything he can fine and they are BEAUTIFUL, and unique.

He has sold LOTS of them and given even MORE AWAY for gifts.  BUT....the most important thing..............he has given him a way to relief some stress.

What is your stress relief?
The top pen....bottom half is made out of a pinecone.

The 2nd one from the top is made of pinecone at the bottom and olive wood from Jerusalem on the top.  (He has started ordering "different" wood.)

This are acrylic and comes in lots of colors.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

20 Years of Ministry....at the SAME CHURCH

Well.....in January, we will have been at Whites Creek Baptist Church for twenty years.


Some days it seems like we just began our ministry there and other days it seems like we have been there forever.

Our children grew up there.  They were 7 years old and 11 years old when we went there.

Over the years............many folks have gone on to be with the Lord.  Some have moved out of town.  Some have become shut-ins and because of their health are no longer able to attend church.  Others....have just left the church for one reason or another.

The first Sunday we were there, they had 12 in Sunday School and 32 for preaching....and we were four of those.  Today....only one person, Mr. Jim is still living and able to attend church pretty regularly.  We have one other lady, Mrs. Margaret......but her health has declined the last year to the point that if she is able to come to church, Sunday School is all she can handle.

It is sad to think about the fact that those two are the only members still there.  However....on our first Sunday, the youngest deacon was 77 years old, so we were called to an older congregation.

Today.....85% of our congregation is under the age of 35.  WHAT A CHANGE!

God choses to lead some pastors to several churches over their ministry and others stay long term at churches.  We have always worked in churches.  Roger was the Minister of Music, Youth Minister, Associate Pastor, etc.  BUT....Whites Creek Baptist Church was the first church that he ever pastored......and it appears it will be the only church he pastors.  We are not sure why that was God's plan, but we do know that he is not finished with us there yet.

Some of the leaders in our church were teens that Roger baptized.  What a blessing to be able to stay long enough to see some of the seeds that were planted.............

Our prayers are that we will stay as long as God intends for us to stay, but when it is time for us to leave, we will leave gracefully.

We feel very blessed to be allowed to serve and witness the changes at Whites Creek Baptist Church.

I know you have a story too.  I would love to hear it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tennessee......what's happening?

I was on the computer messaging back and forth to my niece who is in Singapore and I told her that as soon as they left Tennessee....we went to pot.
  • A few weeks ago the horrible school bus wreck happened in Chattanooga, where six were killed.
  • Then the FIRES.......we live in Dayton which is in Rhea County.  For a few weeks, the air quality was so horrible that everyone had to stay inside because of all of the forrest fires on Signal Mountain and on Cumberland Mountain and the wind was blowing it up from Georgia.
  • .  THEN....the HORRIBLE FIRES that destroyed lives and lots of the Gatlinburg area...which affects all of us.  People from all over the USA visit the Smokey's every year.
  • Next....in the middle of the fires, in December....we had tornado weather.  One night, we were up all night.  The weather alerts kept going off...another tornado was coming our way.  I am pretty sure we were under a tornado WARNING for most of the night.  And just across the river in Athens, a tornado touched  down and done lots of damage.
It is hard to know whether God is trying to tell Tennessee something or, like Pat Brown said.....Satan is trying to stop God's people from doing great works in Tennessee.

Regardless...............we need to PRAY. 

Like Mrs. Pat said in her Facebook post....in the middle of all of the tragedies, God's Love and Grace is being witnessed.  I think Satan would LOVE for us to ignore that and only see the bad.

Let's US help to make sure that Satan does not win the victory..................share the good.

The folks in our great state came together to help CHATTANOOGA.
They came together to help GATLINBURG.
And they came together to help ATHENS.

(These are just a few of the "happenings" near me.............I know all of you probably have stories to share and I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I am so proud of my niece and her husband.  They have been working with Young Life in Franklin, TN........and last year, God began to lead them to go to Singapore to work with Young Life.

They sold their home and most of their possessions.  He gave up a great job and she gave up her Nurse Practitioner job.  They left their church.  They left their friends and they left their family.

Three months ago they boarded the plane in a huge step of faith, taking their two children (1 year old and 2 1/2 year old)...and traveled to a different culture.  A place where EVERYTHING is different....but the same.  The culture, food and transportation is completely different, but the young people's hunger for God is the same.

I would like to ask you to PLEASE put them on your Prayer Lists.  They KNOW they are where God has led them, but even so.....during the holidays, it is very lonely to be away from family. 

My daughter made them a sign and we had it sent to Singapore.

Missionary:  (noun):  A person who leaves his family for a short time so that others may live with their families for an eternity.

(They left a mom, dad, three grandparents, sisters & their husbands and a brother......not to mention a host of other family and friends.)

I am posting pictures so you will have faces to pray for.  Their names are Nick and Danae Ireland and the boys are Bennett and Jackson.

Thank you in advance for your prayers.

Even Christmas is different............it is summer all the time!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Merry CHRISTmas!

During this HECTIC time of the year......it is refreshing to re-live "the Magic of Christmas" through our grandchildren's eyes.  They are sooo excited and it is contagious!

Cameron just turned four a couple of weeks ago and Kinley will be three in February.

They are old enough to understand that Christmas is Baby Jesus' birthday.  BUT..every baby they meet, they want to know if that is Baby Jesus?  (I guess they are a little confused...but they will understand as they get older.  The seeds are being planted.)

During this Crazy, Busy, Tiring Season....let us slow down and celebrate and the children do.

Merry Christmas from the Britton's!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tennessee Wildfires

My heart  has been heavy this week.

While we live clear across the state from Sevier County, we have vacationed and retreated there for over ten years. The sights and people are near and dear to us . . .

Here is the Facebook post of one of our most loyal and supportive blog readers, Pat Brown:

I keep seeing that God is speaking to East TN and that may be true. However, I believe this is the work of satan. Sometimes we forget how powerful he is. TBC just had an amazing Summit in Sevierville a couple weeks ago and God IS moving in our state. People are getting about the Father's business and satan is scared. So let's don't get mad at God. Through the fires, tornadoes, murder/suicide and all the other stuff happening around us, we continue to see miracles He's done during these tragedies. I've never heard such a great call for prayer and the recognition that prayer is needed and is working, from so many on tv. We can't understand all this, but I choose to trust that God has all this under control. So don't give up on God. Keep spreading His love.

 I think she is spot on.

Here is the letter our state convention president, Randy Davis, emailed out today:

Dear Tennessee Baptists, 
As one who lived nearly 20 years in East Tennessee, and 10 in Sevier County, my heart is breaking for the people of Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. So many of them are close personal friends. I am getting reports of at least two of our churches that have been partially or completely burned, and other iconic places and businesses that have been destroyed by the wildfires that have swept across southeastern Tennessee over the past three weeks. Unfortunately, reports are also coming in that there have been a number of fatalities.
However, you’ll be proud to know that within 24 hours, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams mobilized and were on site serving evacuees and others. There are feeding units and chaplains on the scene and more teams are staging to deploy. 
But we need your help. This has been one of the most taxing years on our Disaster Relief teams with well over 20 callouts serving hurricane and flood victims in West Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Louisiana to name a few. But now, our fellow Tennesseans need us to rally. 
Please consider making a financial contribution to Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief. You can make that contribution online by going to tndisasterrelief.org/contributions or by mailing your check designated “Gatlinburg” to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024. 
And above all pray. The emotional, physical, and economic impact of this event is enormous. We need our Great God to pour out His mercy and grace in this situation. 
And from someone who made his home for more than 10 years among these beautiful mountains and dear friends, I personally thank you for your help and prayers. 
It is a comfort and honor to be with you on this journey.
-Randy Davis
God is moving and working in the midst of the fire . . . . He is not blindsided by this, nor is He wasting the opportunity . . . . The question is "How will we join Him in His work?"