Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review in Pictures

Pictures capture memories and moments throughout the year that we otherwise might forget. Below is a recap of our wild and crazy (and fun!) year, as seen through pictures.

January 2011- a lot happened this month. Zach and Emily came to visit, we went to NYC on a missions trip, and Daniel's grandma passed away.

(with Daniel's mom after the funeral)

February - the only picture I have from this month is when we went to Chuy's for my birthday. And with good food like this, it deserves a pic on the blog.

March - apparently I took no pictures.

April - another busy month. Daniel was in a wedding and we went to Little Rock to look for a place to live!

May - a bittersweet month. I had my last day of work at Christian Academy, we moved from Louisville to Little Rock, and Daniel graduated from Southern!

June - I think this picture is from June, but we got free chicken for dressing like cows. We were still recovering from the move, so we didn't do a whole lot this month.

July - I was able to go home to Florida for my mom's birthday, so I captured a picture of this sweet little guy! And we went to Dallas and Northwest Arkansas. I only took a picture of us visiting Razorback Stadium, but we traveled a lot in July.

August - again, I have no idea what we did in August. I took no pictures!

September - another big travel month. We went to Branson, Louisville, Ohio (briefly), and I'm sure we went somewhere else, but I just can't remember!

October - took no pictures! Micah came to visit us and I had surgery. No one wants to see pics of me recovering. Trust me.

November - another travel month. We went to San Antonio (hence, the Alamo), celebrated Daniel's 30th birthday and Thanksgiving, and went to Oklahoma City!

December - we went to Florida for Christmas! We met our new niece (precious!) and celebrated with my family. It was such a fun time and we were really sad to come home! This was our 4th Christmas together, so it was fun to take our 4th picture by my parents' tree!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Waiting for the Light

One of the hardest elements of this past year has been the lingering feelings of darkness and sadness. It is in these moments that it seems that I'm unable to feel anything at all. I know I should be feeling joy in the Lord. I know my only hope is to treasure Christ and cling to him alone. I know I should be talking to myself instead of listening to myself. I know a lot of things in those moments, but the kicker is that I don't feel a lot of things.

We are feeling creatures. God made us with emotions that are meant to be experienced. If he didn't want us to feel things, he would have made us differently. When dark nights of the soul come (and the will come for nearly every Christian), it is hard to feel deeply and favorably about Christ and his word. In order to combat some of these dark seasons, I've been reading When I Don't Desire God (by John Piper) over the last few weeks and have been helped greatly by the biblical and practical nature of the book. I had only been a Christian for less than a year when I first read this book, so it was only fitting that I read it again when I am now in a very different season of life. All of the book is extremely helpful regardless of your circumstances (happy, sad, or in-between), but the last chapter really gave me some helpful tools to utilize when it really seems that the "darkness will not lift."

Piper says (speaking about Psalm 40):

"Then comes the king's cry: 'I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.' One of the reasons God loved David so much was because he cried so much. 'I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping' (Ps. 6:6). 'You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?' (Ps. 56:8). Indeed they are! 'Blessed are those who mourn' (Matt. 5:4). It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God."

"Then after the cry you wait. 'I waited patiently for the LORD.' This is crucial to know: Saints who cry to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait. We saw this in Micah's experience in Chapter Six. 'I sit in darkness...until [the Lord] pleads my cause and...will bring me out to the light' (see Micah 7:8-9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving towards his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don't mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ. We say with Paul Gerhardt that our night will soon - in God's timing - turn to day."

Throughout the book, Piper says that just because we feel a certain way, or cannot get out of the pit of darkness, it doesn't mean that we allow it to take over and be a controlling force in our lives. The Christian life is war, in darkness and in light. What I found most helpful in the book is the lack of formulaic answers. We can fight for joy and wait a long time for relief to come. But, as Piper says, it is all part of the process God has given us to make us more like him. When we fight for joy with God's word we will get joy. It might be joy through tears, joy through suffering, or joy in extreme brokenness. But it will be joy, because our hope is in the Lord and not what we can see. Lord, give us all the grace we need to wait for your light to come and pierce our dark night.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Christmas: A Poem

No infant cries to call our own
No tiny presents that fill our home

Just a deafening silence that tells a story
Of what was, is not, and now will not be

We sing the songs that tell of good cheer
And all the while wish you were here

Your mommy and daddy, we miss you so
Yet in our sadness we hope and know

That your Christmas celebration is much greater than this
More joy, more laughter, and endless bliss

For in our Savior's presence you forever will stand
And one day we will meet you in Emmanuel's land

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday is for Fotos: Christmas with Family

Hope for the Holidays: You Are Not Forgotten

For many people the Christmas season is a joyous time filled with family gatherings, way too much (good) food, and an abundance of gifts. But for some, it’s far from the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is only a reminder of what is missing, or broken, or not right. Christmas only highlights the fact that they feel completely forgotten by God.

It’s easy to make that leap if you are walking through a difficult season of your life. The external circumstances are grim and there seems to be no relief at the end of the dark tunnel you are staring down. If this is your life this Christmas season, you have far more in common with the biblical characters surrounding the Christmas story than you might think. The people who make up the birth account of our Christ are a very unlikely cast of characters. They are an old couple who are burdened with childlessness, a poor teenage virgin with a husband from an obscure town, and the Savior himself—born in a manger, not a much deserved royal palace. Christ’s descent to earth was (and still is) a loud call to all of us that we have not been forgotten.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

Consider this unlikely couple. Every external observation implies that they are long forgotten by God. Luke tells us that while they have asked God for a child for many years, they have now reached old age with no child to call their own. In this culture barrenness meant certain reproach for Elizabeth. She would be viewed by her community as defective and unable to do the very thing she was created to do—bring life into the world. When the women around her experienced pregnancy after pregnancy, Elizabeth was an outsider looking into a world she couldn’t know. Zechariah surely faced tremendous pressure also as he cared for his wife, grieved his own loss of having no heir, and fulfilled his God-given duties as priest. While many would give into the temptation to sin by taking the matter into their own hands, or turning from the God who made them, we are given a small glimpse into Zechariah and Elizabeth’s response to their lifelong infertility. They were righteous. They entrusted themselves to a faithful God, believing in his promises to them, and trusting that he would work good in their lives. They hoped in him alone and believed that he was not finished with them yet.

And he wasn’t.

We know from the rest of the story that God answers their prayer for a child, and not just any child, but the child who would be the promised forerunner to the Messiah. This old couple who waited years for God to answer their longing for a child, now have one who plays a pivotal role in the greatest story of history—the story of Jesus.

Mary and Joseph

By the time the angel appeared to Mary, and ultimately Joseph, the people of Israel had experienced over 400 years of silence from God. Many Jewish people died having never witnessed any revelation, prophetic voice, or tangible act from God. And that took its toll on God’s people. Many Israelites turned away, determining that God’s promises could not really be true. Mary and Joseph, who Luke tells us are righteous people, represent the faithful few. They are the ones who held on to the Old Testament promises even when it seemed like God would never act. It was through this seemingly insignificant girl that the Savior would come into the world. In a cave filled with animals, in a small town far away from home, she would give birth to the Messiah with her loyal husband by her side. No one would have expected it from them.

And that is how God works. He takes the forgotten, the outcast, the insignificant and shows them his kindness and greatness by glorifying himself through them, sometimes in some of the most surprising ways.

Christ the Savior

But no one shows that we are not forgotten more than the Savior himself. Isaiah 53 says:

“He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.”

He was momentarily forgotten, afflicted, and separated from God the Father so you would never have to be. That holy night in Bethlehem was moving towards this very reality. Christmas is the precursor to Easter. The incarnation proves that God keeps his promises, and the atonement on the cross seals that promise for good, making us God’s own children. It proves that you are not forgotten because God can never forget his own.

The wonder of Christmas is that we weren’t forgotten. And he showed up in the lives of people who the world viewed as forgotten and of little worth. God became man to rescue us from our sin and bring us into fellowship with himself. He made himself nothing, identifying with lowly and despised people to show that no one is forgotten regardless of their circumstances. You are not forgotten this Christmas, or anytime of the year. The manger where this little baby lay all those years ago is proof of that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rest is Not My Savior

The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be an extremely busy time for most people. Between the rush to buy the perfect gifts for family and friends and the seemingly endless parties and family gatherings, we can easily burnout before mid-December. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to realize that the holiday season just seems to get busier and busier. And sometimes I just don’t like all of the busyness.

In college, I would rush to buy all of my presents after finishing finals sometimes a week before Christmas. I would think to myself, “when I’m done with college, I will have more time to enjoy the holiday season.” When I was single and working full-time, sometimes I was too exhausted at the end of the day to even think about Christmas cheer. I would think to myself, “when I get married and have a husband, I will be more settled and able to anticipate Christmas.” Then I got married—to a seminary student. Every December meant studying and final exams. Every Christmas break meant prep for the next semester or J-term class. Again, I would think to myself, “when he graduates and we live a normal life, then I will be able to prepare my heart for Christmas and enjoy this season.”

And now here we are. Christmas is merely an example of the many other times I tell myself some variation of the “when _____ happens, then I can rest and enjoy the season.” Well, I’ve learned something really profound in these last six months. It won’t happen. It’s not that I can’t experience rest, or a more streamlined schedule, or even a lighter schedule. Those are all manageable and attainable goals. And of course there are instances where I need to take a hard look at my schedule and see if I’m being a poor steward of my time. But sometimes no amount of rearranging will change the subtle discontent in my heart regarding my desire for more time. More than anything I have needed to learn that my constant looking forward with longing eyes only reveals a heart that is simply not able to rest in what God has given me right now. Over time I’ve seen rest and a lighter schedule as my savior and means of contentment.

Daniel has often reminded me of a very important truth regarding my “if only” statements. Those things are not my savior. Only Jesus is my savior. Only he can provide me the rest and contentment I yearn for even in the midst of an overwhelming schedule. When I fail to recognize this simple yet crucial truth, I separate rest from the giver of rest, and thus make my desire for rest idolatry.

So as I finish up my final preparations for Christmas I don’t want to be ruled by my sinful desire and grasping for a season that is not mine. I want to find rest in Christ even when my mind is scattered and fuzzy, and my to-do list is longer than I would like. Only he can give us true and lasting rest, in the busy times and the quiet times.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday is for Fotos: Oklahoma City

A couple of weeks ago Daniel and I went to Oklahoma City for his job, and while we were there we visited the memorial site where the Oklahoma City bombing happened. It was a very well done memorial, but it was sobering to walk through the place where 168 Americans were tragically killed. I remember exactly what I was doing when the news broke that the bombing had taken place. I was home sick from school that day, and I remember watching the coverage with my mom and being scared and overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. As a 12 year old it was really frightening, especially knowing that 19 children were killed as well.

The chairs were the most moving part to us. Each chair represents a person who was killed, with the smaller ones representing the children killed. Below are some of the pictures that we took from our visit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

He Made Himself Nothing

The following post includes excerpts taken from Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (edited by Nancy Guthrie)

"The Holy Spirit wants us to understand where Christ came from. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-7, 'Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.'
Coming in the very form or nature of God, Jesus didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. In other words, instead of holding on to his own uninterrupted glory, he chose to set it aside..."

"If you look again at Philippians 2:7, you notice that there is a comma after 'nothing,' and then you have a verb in the present continuous: he 'made himself nothing, taking...' There is a link here between nothing and taking.

Alec Mattea, a wonderful scholar and friend of mine, suggests that if we ask, what did he empty himself into? rather than, of what did he empty himself? we will be closer to coming to grips with it. It's a fantastic paradox. It's what the Lord Jesus took to himself that humbled him, not what he laid aside. He emptied himself, 'taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.' It was in taking to himself humanity that he became nothing. Of course, for those of us who think that man is the apex of it all, we can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be absolutely excited to be a man. But if you were God? Imagine. To be God and come down a birth canal, to be laid in a manger, to live as an outcast, to die as a stranger, to bear the abuse and curse of the law - it sounds like 'nothing' to me..."

"Jesus did not approach the incarnation asking, 'What's in it for me, what do I get out of it?'" In coming to earth he said, 'I don't matter."

Jesus, you're going to be laid in a manger.

'It doesn't matter.'

Jesus, you will have nowhere to lay your head.

"It doesn't matter"

Jesus, you will be an outcast and a stranger.

"It doesn't matter."

Jesus, they will nail you to a cross and your followers will all desert you.

And Jesus says, "That's okay."

This is what it means. He "made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

-Alistair Begg

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Fullness of God

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”—Colossians 1:15-20

This passage has been rocking me lately, especially verse 19: “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” So many of our Christmas celebrations include verses from the Gospels, and they should. We sing the usual songs, read the familiar narratives, but often miss that Christmas is not only a happy story, but a deeply theological one as well.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that this awesome reality really hit me. Growing up in a Christian home, the meaning of Christmas was not far from all of our festivities. But it was only when I thought hard about the incarnation that Christmas was launched to a whole other level in my mind. Christmas is about God coming to earth and taking the form of man. God who is the creator of the universe, became flesh, and walked this earth. Christmas is about the fulfillment of everything God promised to us and those who lived before us. Can you imagine what those who actually understood what was happening felt when they saw this promised Messiah in the flesh? All they could do was worship.

As the days leading up to Christmas become fewer and fewer, I want the wonder of the incarnation to stir my heart to worship King Jesus. That God would leave his throne and dwell among a sinful people is amazing enough. But that he would come to willingly die to rescue us from sin is even more amazing. I want this to be the focus of my heart this Christmas—treasuring the Christ who saved me and made me his own.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hope for the Holidays: Advent and Waiting

Christmas is an exciting and joyous time. There is so much joy brought into our lives this time of year—parties, family, lights, decorations, and even shopping for presents. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Absolutely.

But Christmas is also about longing, waiting, and hoping. The weeks leading up to Christmas tell a story of expectancy. For the culture around us, many are anxiously waiting to open presents or visit Santa Claus. As Christians, we are waiting for a great celebration—the birth of our Savior.

Weaved throughout the Bible is this common theme of waiting. It is present in the individual stories of the Patriarchs and in the corporate stories of the Israelites and their hope for a Messiah. In the New Testament, the waiting looks a little different. Messiah has come, but it’s not the end of story.
We are still in a period of waiting for his return, for his second coming. Advent is an already, but not yet. Our anticipation for his return is not unlike the anticipation many Jewish people felt as they waited, and waited, and waited, for Christ to come. And our longing for final restoration joins us with the righteous Jewish men and women from long ago.

While we are waiting corporately for the return of our Lord, we are also often in seasons of waiting in our own life. Whether big or small, waiting is difficult and often very painful at times. The story of Christmas provides us with wonderful reminders and examples of what it means to wait with biblical expectancy.

As I’ve thought about how the Scriptures define waiting well, two different types of waiting come to mind:

-Bitter and indifferent
-Expectant and hopeful

The Israelites as a whole fell into the first camp. John 1:9-11 says: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

Years of hardening their hearts and following false gods blinded their eyes to see that who they were longing for had come. Some simply didn’t care. This bitterness and indifference, fueled by despair and giving up after years of waiting, led them to miss Christ’s first coming. It began with many years of mistrust of God’s good plan for them, led to indifference when his plan was fulfilled, and ultimately led them to kill the One promised to them. They did not wait well.

The expectant and hopeful were fewer in number, but given special attention in the Bible. They were Simeon, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Anna—all people who were longing for the Messiah’s birth, but did not give in to the temptation to fall away and serve the gods of this world. They held on to hope, trusting that God always does what he says he will do.

It’s much easier to fall into the first camp of bitterness and indifference. When you spend your entire lifetime waiting for God to fulfill his promises and still don’t see them met, the world around you seems a lot more promising. In long seasons of waiting the temptations to sin are great. The Jewish people had grown so cold and bitter towards God that they missed his ultimate work in the sending of his son.

Lest we too miss Christ’s work, we must wait well. Waiting well sometimes mean going your entire life without seeing the fulfillment of his promises for you this side of eternity, but you trust him anyway. Waiting well means holding on and trusting even when his promises aren’t met until you are advanced in years (like Zechariah and Elizabeth), yet you believe in his good and perfect plan anyway. Waiting well means trusting God’s purposes even when your life and reputation are in jeopardy (like Mary and Joseph). It’s hard to wait well. It’s costly to wait well. But it’s essential to wait well. Waiting well means we get to see Jesus in all of his glory. Waiting poorly means we miss him, at great cost to our souls.

Regardless of where you are in the waiting process this Advent season, know that you are not alone. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, many who did not see in their lifetime the fulfillment of the promise we now have, yet the hoped in the God who is faithful and true.
How do you wait well this Christmas season? Consider God’s word to us from Lamentations 3:22-27

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

It is good to wait on the Lord and trust in him alone. Waiting well means trusting in the One who knows the end of our waiting. He will always be faithful.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Victoria Secret Fashion Show and Christians

I’ve never seen the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, and I don’t intend to start making it a yearly ritual. But my choice is irrelevant considering millions tuned in last week to watch the annual show boasting big name entertainment and barely clothed models. Some find it repulsive and demeaning to women. But mostly, the wider culture embraces the message and gladly joins in on this party.

So why am I writing about this? The Victoria Secret Fashion Show has very little do with Christian women, right? Yes and no. While it might seem like the Victoria Secret Fashion Show is tailor-made to appeal to the interests of men, I’m surprised (and discouraged) to not only see that there are women who like it, but Christian women. And that is a troubling trend.

The issue with it isn’t so much lingerie and underwear. Nearly every major department store sells those. The issue isn’t even really about Victoria Secret as a store, even though their marketing demographic seems to be getting younger and younger. Victoria Secret makes their money selling sexy. Every ad, every fashion show, and every picture displaying their apparel promises one thing to the woman (or man) looking to purchase—buy their stuff and you won’t just feel sexy, you will be sexy. There is no problem in feeling sexy, if you are married and if the person you want to feel sexy for is your husband. But if you are 15—or even 20—and not married the last thing you should feel right now is sexy.

So, no, the problem with the Victoria Secret Fashion Show is not necessarily the lingerie. It’s that they have taken something that God intended to be private and made it into a marketing and entertainment masterpiece—and we have believed their lies along the way.

For the Christian woman who chooses to watch the Victoria Secret Fashion Show it might not seem like that big of a deal. If you are single, you might like their product and want to see new apparel, or you might just like the entertainment aspect of it. Or even more dangerous, you might secretly like the way the show makes you feel—like a woman who can be just as sexy as the models on the screen. If you are married, you might watch because you want ideas of what to buy, or you might like the way it makes you feel as well. You might secretly wish you could be as uninhibited as those models, or wish that you were gawked at by millions of men and women who praise your body. Just because you are a woman, does not mean that watching other women parade around in their underwear is a normal or acceptable practice. We must be careful to guard our hearts and our minds from not just images, but also messages that tell lies about God’s created design for us.

When we don’t, we buy into the ambient culture’s message that sex and sexuality is for public consumption, not the privacy of the marital bedroom. Even if you are married, you have no business joining in the party that makes sex entertainment. The message of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show is that anyone can be sexy enough to be lusted after, if you just buy their products.

So if you are tempted to tune in every year to watch the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, or things like it. Or if you just think it’s harmless, think again. The message that a woman’s body is for everyone to look at is not a harmless message. It’s a deadly one. And as Christian women, our hearts should grieve that our culture has adopted such a perilous philosophy on sexuality, rather than revel in it and join the party.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Resource: A Poem for Christmas

One of my favorite things about being at Bethlehem Baptist Church was when Pastor John would read an Advent poem every Sunday leading up to Christmas. While I never heard this one live, last Christmas The Innkeeper really ministered to me in moments when I felt so sad over our loss. You can hear him read the entire poem on Desiring God's website, but here is a little taste of the richness of his words.

I am the boy
That Herod wanted to destroy.
You gave my parents room to give
Me life, and then God let me live,
And took your wife.
Ask me not why
The one should live, another die.
God's ways are high, and you will know
In time. But I have come to show
You what the Lord prepared the night
You made a place for heaven's light.
In two weeks they will crucify
My flesh. But mark this, Jacob, I
Will rise in three days from the dead,
And place my foot upon the head
Of him who has the power of death,
And I will raise with life and breath
Your wife and Ben and Joseph too
And give them, Jacob, back to you
With everything the world can store,
And you will reign for evermore."

This is the gift of candle three:

A Christ with tears in tragedy
And life for all eternity.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hope for the Holidays: Encouraging Resources

Last Christmas I really struggled to find joy in the midst of losing our baby. We were only a few months out from our miscarriage and at times it just felt like God had forgotten us. Last Christmas I thought for sure I would be pregnant (or have a new baby) by this Christmas. And here we are again, our empty arms still aching. Our story is not unlike so many stories out there. There are a lot couples, like us, who are facing Christmas longing for their family to be enlarged, or grieving the loss of the child they hoped for. It's painful. It's lonely. And at times it feels like you would much rather curl up in a ball and forget the whole Christmas thing. It's hard to feel joyful when you feel so joyless.

One of the ways I have fought the temptation to forget the joy of Christmas is by reminding myself (through helpful resources) what Christmas is all about. It's really easy in this season to walk through Target, or watch a peppy Christmas special, and just go crazy from all of the sugary happiness. But Christmas isn't about all of those things (though I do enjoy them). It's about a deep longing that is fulfilled by a little baby born in Bethlehem many years ago. And I need to remind myself of that on a daily basis, in good times and in bad. I have more thoughts on that for another post, but here are some resources that have served me these last couple of weeks as I've walked through Thanksgiving, and now Christmas.

Hope in the God Who is Not Done, Pastor Sam Crabtree's first Advent Message at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I cried through most of this message. It was exactly what I needed to hear that day.

Joy to This Cursed World by Nancy Guthrie. I love everything she writes. It is always so biblical, compassionate, and honest. As I read this article I seriously felt like she was putting to paper everything that had been swirling around in my head.

This next link is not a shameless plug, but all of the sermons for our church are now online. The Sunday before Thanksgiving (November 20), my husband preached a message that wasn't necessarily about suffering, but in it he talked about what rejoicing always, and giving thanks in all circumstances, looks like. It was really helpful to me, especially leading into Thanksgiving and Christmas. And on October 2, our other pastor (Jeff Breeding) preached a sermon called "Faith in the Face of Suffering." Because I was in the nursery that day, I just listened to it last week. It encouraged me greatly, and if you are facing suffering right now I promise it will bless you as well.

We will always be learning what it means to suffer in a way that honors God. Satan wants nothing more than for us to "curse God and die" when everything around us is caving in. He wants us to forget everything and give up. And it's tempting sometimes. But one of the ways we fight that temptation is by filling our minds with the truth. We fight by remembering. I'm sure there are many more helpful resources out there that can serve a sorrowful or discouraged Christian this Christmas season, so these are just a few. But I pray that if you are fainthearted these resources will serve to strengthen your spirit even when the darkness around you seems too much to bear. God has not forgotten you. The manger is proof of that.