The Eighth Day of Christmas
Day Seven of Christmas
The Sixth Day of Christmas
The Fifth Day of Christmas
The Fourth Day of Christmas

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Hope

This is an updated blog that I posted in 2017.  Be sure to read the new ending.  God surely is our HOPE!

The decorating of the Christmas tree up on Rocky Top has always been a festive time….Christmas carols playing in the background, the smell of a freshly cut tree in the air,  a crackling fire glowing in the fire place, crab bites (a family favorite) and sparkling Welch’s.

Not so much this year.  As I sat on the floor going through ornaments, I begin to quietly cry.  Over half of our ornaments were given to us by people we had pastored in the past.  Satan whispered in my ear, “No more ornaments for you.  That part of your life is done.  You don’t even have one from your own mother.  And she’s dead now. ”

Preacher didn’t know what was going on in my heart as we began to decorate the tree.  I had chosen not to make any crab bites and the Christmas music playing in the background almost seemed annoying.

After it was decorated, we stood back to admire the work and I think I just let out a sigh.  Normally we sing a Christmas carol together as Preacher turns on the lights.  Not this year.

A few days later as we were traveling for our new ministry, I received a text from a friend who had agreed to come take care of our home and water our Christmas tree while we were traveling.   The text read, “Here is how I found your tree.”  It was followed by a picture of the tree turned over, stand and all, water everywhere with pieces of broken ornaments scattered throughout the room.

My heart sunk.  I did not cry.  Sadness just enveloped me.  Two dear friends cleaned it all up and even tied the tree to the back door to keep it standing up.

Upon returning home, Preacher and I once again decorated the tree.  Determining to change my perspective and heart, crab bites were made along with cookies.  Maybe food would soothe my wounded, grieving heart.

The tree stood proud for one week.

After a long day of ministry and Christmas shopping, I walked into the house to once again find the eight foot Christmas tree lying on the floor with more broken ornaments and  a water soaked tree skirt.

This Rocky Top girl would like to tell you she worshipped, kept perspective by remembering so many people who are going through much worse things than a fallen tree but I did not.

I sat in the middle of the mess and began to just sob and yell at God.

When Preacher got home, he helped me clean it up.  He offered to attempt to stand it up again.

“No! Get it out of my home.  Tomorrow I will buy a fake tree.” I yelled.

Preacher carried it out and threw it over the cliff on the back of Rocky Top.

The next morning when I sat with Jesus so many emotions swirled in my heart and head…..from anger to shame to failure.

As I opened His word He spoke with gentleness:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:18-21

Through His word, Jesus reminded me of why He came.   He came to sit with me in all my mess.

Christmas is grace in our failure.

Christmas is forgiveness to those who wound and betray us.

Christmas is strength when we are weak.

Christmas is justice and not judgement.

Christmas is peace in chaos.

Christmas is joy in our deepest sadness.

Christmas is comfort in our grief.

Christmas is knowing He will lead when we are wandering.

Christmas is your mentor, your Timothy, and your children giving you ornaments of truth to hang around your neck instead of glass ones that will eventually break.  (Proverbs 1:9)

Christmas is HOPE in what we believe to be hopelessness.

We want Christmas to be filled with laughter, fun, gifts and happiness.

Sometimes Christmas is just remembering that in all the hurt, in all the pain, in all the change, in all the disappointments in life, whether they are big or small, Jesus came to give us Himself:  HOPE!


About one week after I posted this blog in 2017, I received a box in the mail from one of our Life Action missionaries.  It was filled with handmade ornaments.  Each one had a gift that Jesus brought us when He gave us Himself written on it:   Grace, Forgiveness, Strength, Love, Justice, Peace, Joy, Comfort, Knowing, and HOPE.

The day I received that box of ornaments, Hope was delivered. This dear friend reminded me that we are to be the Hope-givers to those around us.

My prayer this Christmas is that I will bring HOPE to someone else. Is there anyone you need to bring Hope to this Christmas?

Day Seven of Christmas

The Gift of Kindness

I finally made it out of the house to do a little Christmas shopping.  Let me just say, it is crazy out there right now: traffic in town is hideous, checkout lines are long, inventory has been picked over, and clerks are frazzled. And worst of all, I saw many shoppers just being rude. 

One of the shops I often frequent is a children’s clothing outlet where I find great bargains when shopping for my grandchildren.    It has been weeks since I have been able to shop, so I went with great anticipation, ready to find some adorable outfits for my grandchildren.

After carefully choosing two outfits for each grandchild, I laid them on the counter for the clerk to ring it up.  She politely asked me if I had any coupons and I sighed when I realized I had left them at home.  After overhearing this exchange, a lady tapped me on the shoulder and offered:   “I have a coupon.  Would you like to use it?”   I was floored.  This lady was a total stranger and she was offering me her 25% off coupon.  What an unexpected kindness in my frantic day!

I began to contemplate “kindness”.   Ephesians 2:7 says God’s kindness was expressed to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The very gift that lay in the manger on Christmas was an expression of God’s kindness towards us.  According to Galatians 5:22 it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, meaning when I am walking in the power of the Spirit, kindness will flow from me.

After arriving home from shopping, I began to talk to the Lord about “kindness” in my own life.  Do I display this fruit of the Spirit?   BE KIND has become a slogan of sorts in today’s culture.  But for those who call themselves followers of Jesus, kindness should be on display in our lives every day.  

These thoughts led me to The Word and I began to research the meaning of kindness.  I was more than surprised to see a synonym for kindness is benignity. That got my attention because I am currently recovering from a surgery which removed a baseball sized tumor attached to my ovary.  In the operating room, the surgeon said the tumor appeared to be malignant, meaning dangerous, invasive, and cancerous. Yet, when the pathologist studied it under the microscope, the diagnosis was a borderline tumor, some call it low malignancy.   The tumor was neither clearly malignant nor clearly benign.  The only required treatment was to simply remove the tumor.

God says, “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness…”  (Jeremiah 9:24)

There is no borderline with God.  His character is kindness.  His gift to us this Christmas is not just His kindness toward us, but our own ability to walk in kindness toward others. 

I may have had a “borderline tumor” but I do not want to be known as a borderline follower of Christ.

Romans 2:4 also reminded me that it is God’s kindness that draws me to repentance.  It’s not his condemnation, not his cruelty, nor His pointing of the finger.

The Lord in His kindness clearly said to me, “Donna, I want to cut out anything in your life that does not allow you to live out kindness toward others.  There is no borderline.  You are either kind toward others or you are not.”

Do you see evidence of any “borderline” in your own life?  This season I hope that you will pray along with me:  Lord, fill me with your Spirit as I choose to live out your kindness every day.  May the kindness that flows through me draw others to You!

The Sixth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Giving

Wrapping gifts during the Christmas season has always been a fun tradition for me.  I usually wait until just a few days before Christmas, crank up my Christmas music, make myself hot chocolate, put on my favorite Christmas pajamas and stay up late until the task is accomplished.   Even though we limit gift giving to usually three or four gifts per person, last year I counted that I wrapped over fifty gifts in one night.

Not this year.  Still recovering from surgery, I just knew I couldn’t do a marathon gift wrapping session.  So I made the decision to just wrap a few every day.  I still cranked up the Christmas music and out of necessity am still wearing lots of comfy clothes.

As I slowly wrapped each grandchild’s gift, I thought of the joy I would see on their faces as they would rip through the wrapping paper and discover the treasure Nonna and Papa had picked out just for them. 

God whispered into my ear during one of the gift wrapping sessions, “Donna, this is how I feel as you discover more about the greatest gift I have ever given to you, my son, Jesus.”

It was a humbling, awe-filled moment as I realized I have the choice to open gifts from God every day.

After each one of these gift wrapping sessions, Preacher carries all the presents upstairs to put under our Christmas tree.  Another normal task that I am just not up to yet.  As the tree has begun to be surrounded by all the various gifts, my heart has grown full with the ability to be able to give.   God has placed into each of His followers the desire and the ability to give to others.  When we are giving we are like the Father.

“For God so loved the world that He gave….”  John 3:16

Some gifts may be tangible.  Some may be small and some may be large.   Other gifts may be an act of service or kindness. 

Whatever the size or the type of gift, there is one commonality.

A gift is not a gift unless it costs something.  It may be a financial cost or it could be the cost of time.  

Gifts that have meant the most to me over the years are gifts that I know were a true sacrifice on the part of the giver.     A few months ago, one of our Life Action missionaries gifted Preacher and I with a gift card for a date at a restaurant.  I cried.  This couple had no business giving us this.  In my mind, they could not afford to give this gift.  Yet, I received it with gratitude, knowing their love for us.  Sacrificial gifts speak of Christ’s love. 

As we draw closer to Christmas day, may we all ask the Lord to reveal to our hearts how we may give meaningful gifts to one another, not just trinkets and toys that will fade with time.  Gifts that will meet needs and change generations.   

What need is God calling you to meet this Christmas?  

The Fifth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Interruption

It’s seven days before THE DAY!   My mind is making lists of all that still needs to be accomplished before Christmas Day arrives, but my body is still recovering from surgery and telling me to slow down. 

This surgery has interrupted the way I typically do life at Christmas — BUSY.

Interruptions are by nature an uninvited guest, especially this time of year.

I like to have my day planned out with a list that I can methodically check off. But the Christmas story is all about the greatest interruption. 

  • The Father interrupted His Son’s comfortable existence and sent Him to earth as a baby.  He temporarily left His position next to His father to arrive on Earth as a helpless infant.
  • Mary’s life was interrupted by the angel Gabriel to receive the astonishing news that she would be with child.  She lost her reputation, the excitement of preparing for a traditional Jewish wedding, the trust of her fiancé’ (temporarily), and living a normal life. 
  • Joseph’s life was also interrupted by an angel, confirming that the child Mary was carrying was not his own, but the son of the Most High God.  Because he chose not to abandon Mary, Joseph’s reputation suffered. He even lost the right to name his firstborn son after himself, a special honor in his Jewish culture. 

Interruptions are often accompanied by loss.   It may be as simple as the inability to complete a task or as devastating as the death of a loved one.

When interruptions happen in my life, my response leans toward anger and frustrationAs I contemplate the response Jesus, Mary, and Joseph gave to their interrupted life, I am challenged.

Each of them said Yes to having their lives interrupted. Knowing it wouldn’t be easy,  they chose to trust God with their interruption because they remembered His faithfulness and chose to trust the Father.

Our lives were interrupted almost three years ago, when the Lord asked us to say Yes to leaving the pastorate, a large salary, and a way of life we had known for over 35 years to join Life Action Ministries.  Now we travel all over the United States calling others to give their Yes to God.  At times I miss my own bed and seeing my grandchildren as much as I used to.  I often wake up not knowing even what state I am in, yet I am blessed to see God healing marriages, families, and changing lives for eternity. 

I can almost guarantee you that in the next week, God will attempt to interrupt you.  It may be a small child who needs some attention; it may be your spouse who needs to feel prioritized over your daily tasks and wrapping up Christmas.   Or it could be someone who has never seen the Christmas story lived out in someone’s life.   

God is looking for those who are willing to be interrupted.  He is looking for someone to say Yes to Him and no to their typical to-do list. When you’re faced with the interruption, stop and thank the Lord for it as a gift.  Watch and see what He will do!

The Fourth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Joy by Kristi Nolan, a dear friend who has encountered JOY

If you asked me, Kristi, to describe 2019, JOY is not the word I would use.  Disappointment, anxiety, depression, loss – those are the words that would quickly spill from my lips.   But 2019 was full of milestones that should cause my lips to smile and my eyes to brim with watery pride:  our oldest child graduated from high school; our family took an amazing vacation; we received a special scholarship we’ve been praying about for three years for our middle child; just to name a few.   

Thankfully, the gift of God’s Word reminded me that the difficult period we have walked through was meant to produce something much different:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  James 1:2.    I don’t know about you, but trials don’t typically make me feel “joyful”.  God’s Word doesn’t just tell us: Have Joy in your trials.  He tells us how and why — because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…..James 1:3-4. There is purpose in our trials, and an unexpected gift: JOY. 

Jesus gave us the perfect example of this: …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.   For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand on the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2-3.

Jesus knew the cross was going to be painful, so He looked past the coming trial and saw the JOY on the other side.   

JOY isn’t just available to us on the other side of difficulties – JOY is a gift of living and walking with JesusBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23. 

In Luke 1 we see a young girl, Mary, already pledged to be married, encountering an angel who brings her what must have been confusing and frightening news.   She immediately travels to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also unexpectedly with child. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   Mary’s response is what we call “Mary’s Magnificat”.  It can be found beginning in Luke 1:46:  My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…  Her spirit, like her cousin Elizabeth’s, was filled with JOY.   Mary chose to receive this most unexpected gift with joy.  

What unexpected situations have filled your year? Are you choosing JOY in this season? Are you taking time to remember the JOY of your salvation?  

If not, I pray you will spend time with Jesus and receive the gift of Joy He brought on a cold night in Bethlehem.  

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