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!

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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!

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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.



Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

No doubt many of you have been preparing for Christmas by purchasing gifts for your loved ones. Our very first example of gift giving at Christmas was from the Magi. After their years-long trek to find the Christ Child, they presented Him with the priceless gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

As an aromatherapist, I’ve studied the essential oils of frankincense and myrrh more in depth, and I realize how valuable — and useful — these gifts were to Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ parents. Let’s explore the interesting history of these two botanicals.

Frankincense, Boswelia carteri

In the ancient world, frankincense, a resin from a small, shrubby tree, was once considered more valuable than gold. Merchants traded it extensively along the Frankincense Trail and the Silk Road. In Christian tradition, frankincense was used by the Israelites in their worship of God. In Exodus 30, God gave Moses a new recipe for Holy Anointing Oil that was reserved only for the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Testimony. Additionally, Aaron and his sons (the priests) and many articles inside the Tent of Meeting were anointed with it. Frankincense was part of that recipe. It has long been considered a sacred oil in many cultures.

Besides it’s religious history, frankincense possesses medicinal properties that make it a healing oil. It would have been a powerful medicinal substance for Mary to treat her family with during the years they were traveling. Frankincense is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anxiolytic, a nervine, vulnerary, and an immune enhancer.

When blended in a cream, it is wonderful for skin conditions of all types. As an inhalant, it helps to dry up congestion in the lungs. When used in a cream or salve and smoothed over a wound, it enhances healing after sutures have been removed. It blends well with myrrh, lavender, lemon, Roman chamomile,and helichrysum. The ancient Egyptians used it to treat everything from head to toe, and they used frankincense to make kohl, the black powder Egyptian women painted on their eyelids. Before the day of modern antibiotics, frankincense and myrrh were the primary antimicrobial, antibiotic substances.

This was a valuable gift for Jesus’ family. Besides using it medicinally, they could have also sold it to
finance their trip to Egypt.

Myrrh, Commiphora myrrha

You may not be as familiar with myrrh as you are with frankincense, but myrrh was once again an incredible gift to bless the young family with. Myrrh comes from the needles, trunk, stem, and branches of a small, shrubby tree. In the Old Testament, myrrh was also part of the recipe of the Holy Anointing Oil. Additionally, it was used in a recipe for powder placed in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting. People used to wear pouches of frankincense and myrrh around their necks as perfume and also to benefit from their medicinal properties.

Beauty Treatments

In the book of Esther in the Bible, Esther received 12 months of beauty treatments before she was presented to King Xerxes. The first six months of treatment was with oil of myrrh. I’ve always wished I knew exactly what the formulas contained!

The most interesting fact I found about myrrh is that when the soldiers were preparing Jesus for crucifixion, Mark 15:23 tells us that they offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh (probably to buffer the pain), but He would not take it. Jesus wanted to fully experience the cross. It is significant that myrrh was part of the beginning of His life and the end of His earthly life.

In aromatherapy, myrrh is know historically for being an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, endocrine regulator, and a vulnerary. It is wonderful for periodontal disease. It’s healing for the respiratory system and also for assorted skin diseases like ulcers, athlete’s foot, eczema, and acne. Myrrh blends well with cypress, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, mandarin, patchouli, sandalwood, Scotch pine, tea tree, and vetiver.

I am amazed at how perfectly God provided for the needs of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with the gifts of
(gold), frankincense, and myrrh.

Recipe for Today

If you’d like to try frankincense and myrrh, here’s a recipe you can mix up using either an unscented cream or oil.

Frankincense and Myrrh Skin Oil

Update: Or~ I found a blend that contains frankincense, myrrh, cedar and vanilla that will be a cheaper option because it’s all combined in one product. You can check it out here:
Frankincense & Myrrh Synergy Blend

If you go with this option, simply add 36 drops of this blend to your cream.

Directions: Mix the synergy of all your essential oils together first. You can use a small shot glass or other glass or ceramic vessel. Don’t mix them in plastic. Stir the synergy into the cream or oil and mix well. Once the synergy has been mixed into an oil or cream, it can then be stored in a plastic or glass container. Smooth onto skin as needed. This is a 3 percent dilution, which is intended for adult use. Pregnant or nursing women should consult with a doctor before using products containing essential oils. Check WebMD for information on specific drug interactions or chronic illnesses that you may have before using essential oils.

I’m sure you’ll find that frankincense and myrrh are wonderful oils to have and use just as they were for Mary and Joseph over 2000 years ago. It may be that you want to follow the example of the Magi and give a gift of the Frankincense and Myrrh Skin Oil or Cream to someone special this year.

Merry Christmas!

Just a note: *This post does contain affiliate links. I do make a small profit if you purchase any products through my links. I only link to products I use myself, have heard are reputable, or are on my own want-to-try list. If you do choose to purchase a product through my link, thank you so much.