What is the Meaning of Christmas?

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The end of my “25 days of Christmas” photo challenge (check posts below) leads me to asking, what is the meaning of Christmas?  I’m tempted to say, “family”.  Heck, I know lots of people who aren’t Christian who have a Christmas tree and exchange gifts.  I’ve even heard that Christmas has pagan roots.  Looking past all of this, what should Christmas mean, or what does it mean to me?

Mathew 1:23 reads, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  It’s funny because it was Christmas Day I remembered that I somehow forgot about the true meaning of it all along.  The meaning of Christmas is honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the holiday.  We can all get so wrapped up in the material things and forget what’s important.  But there’s something very beautiful about Christmas time: it requires you to think of others.  It brings people together.  If done right, it reminds us of what we should truly be grateful for.

My Christmas memory was from when I was a little kid.  I received a Christmas sweater I didn’t like, and I actually told the person who gave it to me what to get me instead the next year.  Yes, I was that kid.

Sometimes when I reflect on the person I used to be, and in some ways the person I am becoming, I feel so grateful.  My memories, good and bad, are not me.

Regardless of what you may have received this Christmas season, there’s is one gift available to all: salvation.  This means that everything that separates and divides you from the love of God is taken away because Jesus Christ died on a cross for your sins. This gift reminds me everyday that my worth is beyond any number.

You are loved and eternally valuable!  Merry “day-after” Christmas!  🙂

P.S- I’ll be renaming this blog and buying a domain name, does anyone have suggestions?  Let me know!

Learning how to love yourself

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Is love something that we are born knowing how to do?  Is love really a choice?

I learned late in life that writing is a lot about learning how to edit, and this is exactly what I’m doing to do in this post.  It started as a post about learning how to love, period.  But now it is a post about learning how to love oneself because this is something I feel a lot of people fail to do.

I grew up most of my life believing love was something natural, something we were born conditioned to do.  And I believed even more strongly that the ability to love was not a choice.  I didn’t love my family because I choose to love, I loved them because I just couldn’t feel anything other than love for them.  Now that I’ve grown up, somewhat, I’ve come to some sort of conclusion.  Loving someone isn’t simply a choice or not a choice.  I know this because sometimes I force myself to show love to people, this is me making a choice.  But there have been times when I’ve been so hurt that all I’ve wanted to do is hate someone, but still I found myself loving them.

There are times when loving people feels so hard.  My mom will say or do something that upsets me and the idea of showing love in that situation seems impossible.  There are times when I find it really hard to love myself.  It doesn’t make sense but sometimes the most hurtful things are not said by strangers, they are thought by ourselves.  We fail to recognize the power and authority held in words, even when these words are said to ourselves.  The bible tests to this fact as well.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

In the above verse we are taught that life and death are in the power of our tongue!  This doesn’t just apply to what we say to people we love, this is found in the words that we tell ourselves.  The devil is a liar.  To anyone who has ever thought that they were meaningless, that their lives were meaningless or that they are alone- do not believe that lie.  Your body is the temple of God!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This is how precious we are!  And we are never truly alone in this world, never at all.  The amazing thing about God is that even if everyone we ever love leaves us, we always have him.  This is something we can put our hope and trust in regardless of circumstance.

I mentioned this in passing earlier but love can also not feel like a choice.  I find myself unwilling to let go of some friendships because regardless of pain I may have felt, I still love that person.  With the same token, sometimes it make feel like we don’t have a choice in how we feel.  Although I believe this is somewhat true- we always have a choice. We may not be able to dictate the way we feel, but we can choose the way we act on these feelings.  This is even more true in regards to how we respect ourselves.  Please, love yourself enough to respect yourself.  If you are feeling hurt by someone or something, remove yourself from that situation.  And if you are hurting yourself, please learn the value held in your life.

The saddest thing for me to think about is the fact that so many people fail to see how amazing they are.  Those people who can be told time and time again that they are beautiful but fail to see it!  If you are someone like that, please just take a second look.  Give yourself a second chance.  Because you are valuable and you are loved.  I can guarantee it.

Everyone feels sad sometimes

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It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

Hope

People are born inherently selfish.  At the end of the day, all that matters is me, myself and I.  It’s a sad but necessary truth to come to terms with.  I see it in my everyday life; I see this in myself.  As much as I want to believe otherwise the truth is so clear.  Think about it.

In our friendships we care about how we feel.  Would we really continue a friendship with someone who really needed us if being friends with them made us feel bad?  I sincerely doubt it.  I don’t even blame myself for feeling this way.  There have been so many times when I’ve known a friend has needed me, but I have thought about myself instead.  I think about how I feel and whether or not I am being benefitted.  I think about whether or not I will be hurt.  It takes every ounce of love in me not to be this person who I so desperately want to be.

This has been my life’s story.   I feel like so much of my life has been spent struggling with understanding the person I want to be and the person that God wants me to be.  I never wanted to be the Christian girl.  It was a stigma I had avoided as early as possible.  But that is what I am and I am now proud of it.  So much of my time is spent struggling with anger, jealously and pettiness.  This is the person that I want to be in the moment.  This person who feels her blood boil in rage because of whatever reason.  The type of person who only cares about myself at the end of the day, as sad as that may be.  The type of person who I want to be, in the moment.  The person I desperately try not to be.

I sometimes don’t want to be around people.  I do not want to love.  Love is a choice.  I know it because sometimes I choose to love.  But despite everything that I have said, God still sees me and he loves me.  He knows that I am imperfect, petty, angry and sometimes just mean.  God knows this but somehow he loves me so much.

God is selfless.  So selfless that he gave his very own son to die on the cross for our sins.  He chooses to love us knowing our every downfall.

That is why I have hope.  I hope in a world filled with misery and shame.  So much pain and violence and hurt- yet I still have hope.  I have hurt so many people and I have felt so hurt but the only thing I know I can cling to, is my hope.

I remember hearing a song once that said just this.  “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteous”

Where is your hope built?

What do you stand for?

 

Daniel 3 introduces the reader to the story of Daniel and his three friends.  Just in case you don’t know this story or don’t want to read the passage, let me give a brief summary of what it’s about.  Daniel and his three friends entered a new land in which they were asked to eat and do things they knew they could not do because of their beliefs.  Instead of abandoning their beliefs in the face of obstacles, they choose to hold fast unto their God.

This even came to the point where they were subjected to death in a fiery furnace.  But God delivered them.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel 3:16-18

Their dedication was so strong that they were willing to hold unto their faith even when faced with the prospect of death.  How many of us hold faith like that?  How many of us are able to love God like that?

Do we all even know what exactly we stand for at the end of the day?

Someone once attacked my religion and I sat there in a sea of doubt.  But when they attacked my major I spoke up because I knew I was proud of what I was studying in college.  I was willing to defend my major, but not my God.  I was willing to defend something so small but when my faith was attacked, I collapsed.

Hold strong unto your faith.  There is nothing more powerful than God’s love in our lives.

I know that despite every heartache or pain that I go through, that God is always there.  He will always be there.  His love wraps around me and this assures me that despite trials and tribulation, I am secured.  It has already been promised to me.

The awkward moment when you realize you had it all wrong

I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian household being taught how to be a good Christian.  The thing is the majority of my life was spent looking through this pin hole thinking I was seeing everything, but in reality I only saw this tiny distorted section of the whole picture.  I saw my family and their devotion to God.  I saw my church friends give everything and dedicating their lives to God.  I was baptized with people I’ve known my entire life.  And when I accepted God for the first time my closest friends and family were with me the entire time.

I outreached on campus because I was told to do it.  I spoke about God when someone asked me about God.  I was too busy living my life looking through this tiny hole where everyone I loved would be fine.  And those who didn’t accept God were put to the back of my mind.  I stuffed them there not wanting to imagine eternity without them.

Today I visited a Hindu temple for an anthropology project, I wanted to learn about an aspect of my culture I never experienced.  Growing up as  christian as well as Indian the majority of people I met in passing assumed I was Hindu, unaware that I knew little to nothing about Hinduism.  What happened instead was this tiny hole through which I saw everything was broken open and my heart literally ached.  I left the temple and I sobbed.  Because if everything I was ever taught and believed was true then I would not meet everyone from that temple again one day in heaven.  I just wouldn’t.

I wasn’t used to thinking like that.

My entire life my purpose was to be a good student, to be a supportive friend, to be a decent person.  But as I continued to live my life looking through this tiny hole I was blinded to everything outside of my view.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to learn about an organization called, “The Price of Life” through”One cry”, it was there that I learned the first way I was blind.  Today I learned the second way.  First I was blind to the suffering of people who were sold into prostitution.  I was blind to the suffering of people around me in my life imaging pain was entity of my own.  That only I went through hardships.  I was blinded by my selfishness.  Conceding to myself that everyone else had it figured out and that everyone looked at all times as they appeared on the surface.

No one has it figured it.  But everyone is so keen and so used to hiding that a mirage of perfection is easy to portray.

I realized today that I had it all wrong because yesterday I prayed that God would break my heart for those who didn’t know him.  But as he did this very thing I wanted to beg him to stop.  My idea of Christianity was asking things from God hoping he would not hear me.  That was how things worked looking through this tiny hole.  The hole was narrow and binding and… even inaccurate but this hole was comfortable.  Everything I saw through it fit into what I wanted Christianity to really be, not what it actually is.

I’m writing this post right now because I feel like there most be other people out there like me.  People who have been living their entire lives looking through this tiny hole thinking they have it all figured it.  The thing is we don’t have it figured out, not even a little bit.  God doesn’t call us to live our lives blindly.  He is the light that shines in our darkness, he calls us to be free from all bondage.

We are called to love, to serve and to be uncomfortable.  Today was the day I realized what this actually meant for the very first time.

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

Hello everyone!  I can’t believe its already September 26th, I swear I try to keep these blog posts weekly but time flies!    I can’t believe one week has already passed since the last time I made a post.  But, lets stay on topic:  The Mind of Christ.  This was my topic for High Teens Speech, I do these yearly competitions in which I am required to prepare a speech in 10 minutes and then deliver it within a 5-minute period.  Needless to say, it can be VERY stressful.  My age group is High Teens so I compete against everyone in my age group.

This year our topic was the mind of Christ and I was so happy because earlier in the day I messed up my essay on Stewardship, a topic I thought meant being a servant of God but actually meant using your resources fully.  Obviously I was kind of off.

Being honest if I had not wrote an entire essay about the nature of God being that of a servant, I would not have spoken about this during my speech.  When I first thought about the very nature of God I thought of purity.  I would think about the God was sees our sins and is disgusted.  I would have never once thought about Jesus who went and washed his disciples feet as we can see in John 13: 8:

“ ‘No’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me.’”

This is the God we serve, who took on the very nature of man and came to earth to serve others.  How humbling is this?

We had a bible study with a few people from my InterVarsity chapter (Christian fellowship on campus) and we looked into the story of Stephen which is told from Acts 6:8-8:2, or at least that was the portion we looked at together.  I couldn’t help but think of how humble Stephen was through everything- it was never about him.

I couldn’t get a bible verse out of mind so we spent some time trying to find it and it was actually John 3:30 which reads:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

THIS is the relationship that we have with God.  One in which we are made smaller and smaller because we want God to be glorified rather than ourselves.

When I look at my life and everything I do, it is because I want recognition, I want to be acknowledged.  But this wasn’t the way we were meant to be.  We are created to be servants before God, laying everything we have down before his feet.  Laying our needs, our desires, our wants, everything.

And it’s so scary to think that maybe what we want from our lives does not align with what God wants from us.  But this is something we must accept whole heartily.  I don’t want to be Stephen who was stoned to death; I don’t want that for myself or for my life.  But if God wants this from me I must accept this.  Accepting this is scary and hard, but we must also know how important it is to place everything into God’s hands.  He knows us, he knows us so well and he knows what we need and what is best for us.