Christmas Past and Present

Memories of Christmases past shimmer in my mind. 

  • My sisters and I sneaking out of bed and tiptoeing down creaky stairs, anxious for our first glimpse of the Christmas tree.
  • Baking and frosting Christmas cookies.
  • Waiting my turn to open the next door on the Avent calendar.
  • The scent of incense wafting in the air at Christmas Eve mass.
  • Visiting Grandma and Grandpa and Uncles Dave and Bill on Christmas afternoon.
  • Holiday singalongs with my huge extended family. Laughter and love float around the room, like angels’ wings.
  • Grandma and Grandpa Herrmann singing Silent Night in German.
  • The Hallelujah chorus ringing through the auditorium and echoing in my heart.
  • My husband noisily putting together a bunk bed on Christmas Eve.
  • My own little children excitedly bounding up the stairs on Christmas morning, a bundle of laughter and energy.

The older I get, the more I reflect on those times, those people who are no longer with us, or, like my children, who have grown up to establish their own families and traditions. Intertwined in the memories is a sadness for what has changed. 

I Miss …

I miss my mom, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents who are no longer with us. I miss those shared celebrations of laughter and love. I miss my children as little ones, carefully holding our candles together in the Christmas Eve service. I miss seeing them race up the stairs on Christmas morning. 

These are precious memories, part of the fabric of who I am. 

Yet, It’s Time To Move On

But I realize God doesn’t intend for me to dwell in my Christmases past (or my life past) because if I do that, I will miss my Christmas present, the present life that is waiting to be discovered and lived now — and shared with the next generation. 

This quote by Joyce Meyer puts it in perspective for me:

We often spend our mental time in the past or in the future, instead of living in the moment we have now. When we don’t truly give ourselves to what we are doing at the moment, we become prone to anxiety. If we live in the now, we will find the Lord there with us.

Joyce Meyer Battlefield of the Mind Bible, p. 814

If I’m honest, I was spending too much time wishing that this Christmas, this season of life looked more like some past ones. But that cannot be. It should not be. God has given us this Christmas present, this life present and has promised us His presence now. After all, He is called the Great I AM. Not the great I was.

We are to rejoice in Him for who He is, for the amazing gift of heaven intersecting earth through Jesus’ miraculous birth — to be celebrated in our current season of life.  If we just let Him, He will make every season of our lives purposeful and filled with His presence. It is the miracle of Emmanuel, God With Us.

Merry Christmas!

email signature

Advent Devotional

Advent devotional

What Advent Is All About

Advent is about waiting – waiting for the birth of Jesus. It’s the magical time when heaven intersects earth through the lives of ordinary people who are part of God’s extraordinary plan to redeem the world.

Mary and I have been feeling the nudge to make time and space in our lives to prepare for Christmas by celebrating the Advent season. We’d like you to be part of it, too, by joining us on this Advent “journey.”

Advent Group

We’re introducing our Advent devotional called Advent-urous, Seeking Jesus in the Season. We’ve started the Advent-urous Facebook group and have released the above devotional ebooklet on Amazon Kindle. We’re excited about this opportunity to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Here’s what you can expect from our Kindle devotional:

  • Weekly scripture reading.
  • Five devotional readings, one for each the four Sundays of Advent, plus an extra one.
  • Theme of the week.
  • Weekly prayers.
  • Weekly activities to apply the theme to your life.
  • Optional participation in the Advent-urous Facebook group. In this group, we are encouraging people to post their thoughts and insights about the devotional reading for the week, their Advent prayers, and the activities they did to apply the theme to their life. You can post as many times in a week as you would like.

Advent Is a Season of Hope

As we said, this year we want to be intentional about celebrating Advent with meaning. No matter what your life’s situation is right now, there’s hope. Let’s find it together.

The devotional begins on the first day of Advent, which for 2019 is Sunday, December 1. At any time during the week, you may post in the Facebook group about your experience. As God gives you more insight, or you try multiple activities throughout the week, feel free to post as often as you feel led. We’d also love to hear any new Advent ideas you have on how to apply the theme too.

Join Now

To get started right now, you just have to do two things.

We look forward to experiencing this Advent season with you!

email signature

Follow Along Advent Readings, Day 5

Welcome back to Day 5 of Only ByPrayer’s thoughts on the Painted Advent devotional. Thanks for joining us.

Sometimes I am tempted to gloss over Joseph’s part in the Christmas story and focus on others. But that means I’m missing such an important part of Jesus’ earthly life: His father.

Joseph was a man of amazing integrity. If you go back and read Matthew 1, we see that Joseph had been planning to quietly divorce Mary upon receiving the devastating news that she was pregnant. That all changes when an angel visits him in a dream and validates Mary’s story.

Joseph Is the Man

Joseph never looks back. God knew that Mary would need a husband of strong character to stand by her. Joseph is the man. He marries Mary and raises Jesus as His own. Surely they were the subject of gossip. But Joseph stands as an immoveable barrier of protection between his family and society.

Three more times in this chapter we read (who knows how many times in their lives?) God uses Joseph as the protector of his family by warning him in dreams of danger to Jesus’ life on the part of Herod or his son Archelaus. Each time Joseph heeds the warning and whisks his family away to safety.

Joseph’s sense of alertness is so heightened that in verse 22 it seems he senses danger before he was even warned.

He is the epitome of what a man, husband, and father should be. Men need to be protectors of their wives and children. We live in a society where a man’s role is often belittled or worse yet deemed unnecessary. That is a lie that is doing unchecked damage to our families. Women need to let men be men and fulfill the role GOD gave them to fulfill without trying to manage them and make them more “like us.”

There have been times in my life where my husband took an action to protect our family that I didn’t like because it would “make waves” with others. I was wrong. When a man is being led by God and acts to protect he family, he is doing what God created him to do.

Men of Character Are a Blessing

Despite what society preaches, we need to celebrate the strong men in our lives and support them.  Like Joseph, they are a blessing from God.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below.



Follow Along Advent Readings, Day 4

Welcome back to Day 4 of our discussion about the Painted Advent devotional from the Bible app. Today’s painting is called Good News.

You never know when it will happen.

You’re going about your daily work all things appearing normal when BAM! A chorus of angels lights up the night sky and scares you to death! At least that’s what happened to the shepherds in the Christmas story. What had been an ordinary day for them turned into an extraordinary one in a moment’s notice.

I wonder if the shepherds noticed anything different that evening.

I imagine all of heaven on the brink of a holy explosion—the angels barely containing their excitement. Was the night sky especially bright? Maybe a shooting star or two streaking across the sky in anticipation of what was about to happen? Or perhaps the air was charged with electricity, the impending fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

All we know is that one minute all was normal and the next it was not—the world forever changed.

The same can be true for us.

Within each day lies the potential for a Richter-scale change, for the glory of God to burst upon our everydayness with a power that takes our breath away.

What will that look like? It could be an angelic visitation (those things still happen today). But it could also be an invisible but just as mighty display of God’s power as evidenced by a changed heart, salvation for a loved one, a healed relationship, a new job, a sick person made well, a prodigal come home.

We go about our lives always praying for what God lays on our heart while watching for His displays of power. Today could be the day!

What do you think about living in holy expectancy? Share your thoughts below.



Christmas To Do-ers List, 2017: Day 2, Make Room for Him

Christmas To Do-ers List

Day 2: Make Room for Him

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

No Room

Can you imagine being Mary perched on a donkey, already in the pangs of labor, as they entered the city of Bethlehem? I am sure she was hoping for a quiet place, a haven to give birth to her son. But that’s not what greeted her. A city teeming with people and noise, with nary a haven in sight.

Or perhaps you identify more with Joseph, with the full responsibility of Mary and the imminent birth on his shoulders. Every inn was packed; every door he desperately knocked on slammed in his face. No room.

Make RoomMake Room Day 2 jpeg

As we consider Mary and Joseph’s plight that night, one of the most important lessons we can take from this story is to make room for the Savior in our lives.  In the whole city, one innkeeper took pity on their plight and offered what he had for their use.

What about us? Do we make room for the Word Made Flesh in our lives? John 8:37 tells the sad story of those who have no room for the word. But when we make room for Jesus, when we give Him what we have, He changes everything. The more room we give Him in our lives, the more changes He makes. And the more He uses what we give Him.

While it’s a good start, Jesus is asking for more than just Sunday morning. We need to make room in our schedules, in our homes, in our leisure time, in our work, in our hearts.  

Rather than being a once-a-week commitment, Jesus wants to be our everyday priority.

When we pray about our schedules, Jesus can multiply our time, help us to make the right connections and opportunities. When we invite Him into our families, He can soften and quicken the hearts of ourselves and our loved ones to bring about necessary change. When we pray about our leisure time activities and hobbies, He can spark creativity and opportunities we may not  have had otherwise. When we give Him our work, He can help us weather difficulties and inspire us with new ideas. When we step out in ministry, he can bless our five loaves and two fish into much more than we imagine. Making room for Him is the key to change in our own lives.

Action Points:

Determine how you will make room for Jesus this Advent.

  1. What does your devotion time look like? Are you meeting with Jesus in the morning or evening? If not, when can you make time for Him?
  2. Is there an area of your life that you have put up the “no vacancy” sign at, that you haven’t yet yielded control of to Jesus?
  3. Can you make room for an extended time of prayer once during Advent? Perhaps as a mini-retreat in your own home or somewhere else?
  4. Is there a step of ministry God is asking you to take for Him?

Please share any ideas of how you will make room for Jesus this season in the comment section below and enjoy the music selection for today: Do You Have Room?, by Shawna Edwards.

Let’s be To Do-ers of His word this Christmas season by making room!

Previous Posts:

Day 1: Believe Him



Christmas To-Do List, 2017: Day 1, Believe

Christmas To Do-ers List

Day 1: Believe Him

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

Blessed is she who believes.

It was an ordinary day for Mary, one like any other. Chores to accomplish, tasks to finish, water to fetch, meals to cook and a wedding to plan. But, God interrupted the ordinary and asked Mary to do something extraordinary … believe Him. We might scoff and think how hard is that? Anyone can believe God.

But do we?

Do we believe God for anything beyond salvation?

Believe Him.

When Mary chose to believe God, it changed everything, her past, her present and certainly her future. Mary’s choice to believe God was a true test of faith. In order to accept God’s plan for her life, Mary needed two miracles. One miracle to start a life (she knew not a man), and another miracle to save a life — hers. Despite the seemingly impossible circumstances, Mary believed Him.

To believe or not to believe.Day 1 Believe jpg

God, in His infinite wisdom, does not force us to act. The choice is ours—we can believe or not. But for some reason, God will not implement certain actions unless we choose to believe Him.

Believe like Mary.

Live Mary, believing God changes everything about our past, present and future.  What do you need to believe God for today?  Your marriage … your health …  a job … a child … forgiveness? Because of the cradle and the cross, you can believe.

What if you live today as is if you believe what God says? What if you live today as one truly forgiven? What if you dare to live as a person who is called by God?  What would it look like to believe Him today? What actions would you take? What words would you say? What decisions would you make?

Action Points:

  1. What has God said that you need to believe? Choose something from the list below.

    1. You are beautiful.
    2. You are chosen.
    3. You are gifted.
    4. You are loved.
    5. You are forgiven.
    6. You have purpose.
    7.  ____________ (other).

Today, choose to believe God over the wisdom of the world,  the advice of friends, the counsel of your own heart and the lies of the enemy.

What are you believing God for today? Please record your goal in the Comment section below.

Believe Him.


All rights reserved. Copyright 2017

For your listening enjoyment this Advent season, please click on the link below.