How a blanket reminded me that God’s way is always better

We’re getting ready for a new resident at Safe Haven Farm. I haven’t really said too much about it because I wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out, but because of some visa issues, my best friend who has been living in England for 2.5 years is coming back to Kansas. And we’re super excited that she’s going to be moving in here at the farm! But I can’t give her back her old room from the six months she lived here during her last furlough. That room has since been converted into an office and shipping area for my crazy book business, so the only room I’ve got for her is–get ready for it–my old closet.

Now, truth be told, the closets here at the farm are pretty massive. I’ve had a guest room in one for the last few months, and it works just fine. So she’ll have plenty of room. My only concern is the fact that the second floor of the farm still has no heat or air conditioning, and the winter months are coming. It gets freakin’ cold up here. I acclimate really fast, and I’m super hot blooded, so it doesn’t bother me. But I wanted to make sure that my friend wouldn’t freeze to death.

My plan was to buy a little infrared heater and an electric blanket for her room, but there was just a tiny little problem. I don’t have a steady paycheck anymore, and I don’t just have $50 laying around that I can invest in heaters or electric blankets. And, good grief, electric blankets are pricey!

But God’s been teaching me a lot about trusting him over the past 10 months or so. In the past, I would have just rushed out and purchased what I needed, but this time, I wanted to leave it up to Him. So that’s what I did.

Shortly thereafter, I found a cute little electric heater on sale for $10 at Wal-Mart, and it’s perfect. And yesterday as I was cleaning out another closet that my friend can use for storage and clothing, you’ll never guess what I found. That’s right–a practically new twin-size electric blanket. We didn’t even know we had it. It’s just been sitting in a pile of plastic bags in this old closet upstairs for who knows how long.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a miracle of provision to anyone else, and that’s fine. But it’s exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I walked around all day long yesterday just grinning ear to ear because God took care of a need, and I didn’t have to do anything about it. And that, Christians, is exactly how we’re supposed to live.

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:19.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Over and over and over again, the Bible tells us that God will provide for us. Over and over and over again, I experience His blessings on a daily basis, but there’s something in my brain that keeps me from grasping that He isn’t going to stop providing for me. There’s this idea in my head that tells me one day He won’t come through, one day He’ll realize that I’m not worth His time.

I’ve given God every reason to give up on me. He knows my heart. He knows how screwed up I get sometimes. He knows that I struggle to trust Him. And if He hasn’t given up on me yet, He isn’t going to.

But I think we look at God’s provision with a skewed perspective. It’s not wrong to ask God for what we need. It’s not even wrong to ask God for what we want. But where is your heart when you ask Him for something? If you ask God for something and He doesn’t deliver, do you get upset? Do you take it out on Him? Do you walk away from Him because you think He’s a liar or a trickster?

If that’s your response when God doesn’t give you your way, your heart isn’t in the right place about what you’re asking for.

God has promised to provide everything we need, and He always keeps His promises. I needed a heater and an electric blanket, and I decided to sit back and let Him provide them instead of rushing out ahead of Him to get them myself. And He came through. And if He can come through so perfectly on something like this, He’ll absolutely come through on the bigger things. I just have to have the same faith and patience about the big issues in life as I do about the small issues.

What are you asking God for today? Or have you asked Him for something and then turned away from Him because He didn’t give you what you wanted? Don’t walk away because you didn’t get your way. His way is always better.

Life will surprise you but it doesn’t have to upset you

Life doesn’t always go the way you expect it will. You can plan all the details carefully and still not be ready for the curve balls it throws you. You can be capable and clever and still end up on your backside when life is done with you. And that’s why it’s important to understand that you can never plan life.

You can get ready for what you think will happen, but that’s it. You can’t control when it happens or how it happens. Sometimes things just happen. Both good things and bad things can catch us off guard. When the surprise is good, sometimes it’s hard to accept because–come on, good things don’t just happen, right? When the surprise is bad, we tend to point fingers at God and demand an explanation for why He would hurt us like this. Neither perspective is helpful.

So if you can’t avoid surprises, good or bad ones, how do you get through life without falling down all over yourself? Well, honestly, sometimes you are just going to trip and fall on your face. It’s good for you, though. Getting up again builds character. But facing the uncertainties of life is a lot easier when you see them the way God sees them–not as speed bumps sent to frustrate and annoy you but as opportunities to see a miracle up close and personal.

me-n-katie

Me and my best friend (I haven’t mastered the Art of Selfie yet ….)

Today’s verses are Luke 7:1-10.

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”

So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Can you imagine the faith this Roman had? He didn’t have to see Jesus do a miracle to believe that He could do it. We should be amazed. Because Jesus marveled at this guy.

I’m putting my best friend on a plane today. Again. I think this marks the fourth or fifth time I will watch her walk back through security in an airport and step out of my everyday life.

I never expected to have a best friend other than my brother, but when you encounter someone who is quite literally the other half of your brain, friendship sort of just happens. Almost overnight in our case. We’d known each other for years, but the best friend bit came along in the last six or so. And just as we had gotten to the place where we could finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you happen to be a Frozen fan), God told her to become a missionary.

That’s life. What’s more, that’s life following God. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what He’s going to do. And honestly it’s better if you don’t know it ahead of time, but man–it can be frustrating. Because for once–just once–I’d like things to be easy and straight forward and simple. But they don’t work like that. This abundant life thing God has given us tends to complicate our worlds.

At least, that’s what it seems like if you’re looking at it from the world’s perspective. When you see it from God’s perspective, it’s really quite simple. God knows what He’s doing, so just trust Him and do what He says.

It’s all in how you see your circumstances. Your attitude about God and what He’s doing in your life depend on how much you trust Him. Do you believe He knows what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises? If you do, then you probably don’t have a problem leaving the country to become a missionary half a world away.

But what if you’re the one left behind? What if you’re the one who always ends up the anchor, the one who stays put, the one who holds down the fort? What if you don’t get to be a missionary and have to stay where you are instead? What if you’re the friend left alone in the airport waving goodbye to someone you won’t get to hug again for six months–or maybe longer? How does trusting God work out in that situation?

Well, who says they’re different? One person has to trust God enough to leave. The other has to trust Him enough to stay. Believe that God has a plan either way. Everything comes down to trust. Do you trust Him enough to believe that He can bring beauty from ashes? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He is more than your current circumstances?

It’s okay if life catches you by surprise with the things you don’t expect, but you don’t have to stay surprised. God is right there with you, and He’s big enough to manage any complication. So tell Him about it, listen for an answer, read the Scripture, and then do what He says.

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams's super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I don’t know the right question to ask

I’m a geek. Fair warning. Just in case you didn’t know that already. But I’m geekier than most because I can make references to a lesser known science fiction British satire novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. You can learn a lot by reading this cornucopia of sarcasm and hilarious Britishness, including how bowls of petunias think, what dolphins are really saying, and the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

No, really. The answer to life, the universe, and everything.

See, in this story, an ancient race brought on the two most brilliant people of their age and had them design and build the greatest super computer ever constructed, for the sole purpose of having it tell them the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And after around 7 million years, the computer was ready to tell them the answer.

Ready for this?

42.

Yes, that’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And if that answer confuses you, the computer simply explains that it would make sense if you know the right question to ask.

Today’s verses are Job 36:22-26 and Job 37:23-24.

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams's super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams’s super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

“Look, God is all-powerful.
Who is a teacher like him?
 No one can tell him what to do,
or say to him, ‘You have done wrong.’
 Instead, glorify his mighty works,
singing songs of praise.
Everyone has seen these things,
though only from a distance.
Look, God is greater than we can understand.
His years cannot be counted….

We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty;
but even though he is just and righteous,
he does not destroy us.
No wonder people everywhere fear him.
All who are wise show him reverence.”

These are the words of Elihu, one of the not-so-friendly friends who were “helping” Job into a nervous breakdown on the worst day of his life. And maybe Elihu had misinterpreted Job’s situation (no maybe about it), but what he has to say to Job isn’t necessarily wrong.

If you had the opportunity to ask God any question, what would it be? What would you ask Him? Would you want to know why you lost your job or why someone you love passed away? Would you ask why a child is diagnosed with an incurable illness or why sick people have to suffer so much? Would you ask Him why He didn’t just start over after humanity screwed His perfect plan up? Would you ask Him why He allowed Satan to live, knowing the damage he would cause?

So many unanswered questions. And we all like to have our questions answered. We don’t like not knowing.

But have you ever asked yourself what you would do with the answer if you got it?

If you asked your impossible question and God gave you your answer, what would you do? How would you react? What would change?

I’m just like everyone else probably is. Unanswered questions leave me unsatisfied, discontent, unsettled. But something I’ve learned over the years is that I’m never going to know all the answers. And even if I did, I don’t think I would understand them. Because, honestly, I don’t even know the right questions to ask.

You can ask any question. God doesn’t sit up in heaven rolling His eyes at our dumb questions. Well, maybe He does, but that doesn’t mean He loses patience with us. But what hit me yesterday as I sat thinking about questions we would ask God is that even if God answered our questions, I’m not sure we would understand the answer.

Why?

Well, God is so much bigger than we are. God’s thoughts are so much greater. Can we even comprehend how massive He is? How huge? How mighty?

Maybe Elihu, Job’s friend, had misinterpreted Job’s situation, but he wasn’t wrong about God. We can’t understand God. We can’t wrap our heads around Him because He is infinite, and we are finite. Granted, we have the Holy Spirit living in us, if we’ve chosen to follow Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we get to grasp God. That just means we have a way to talk to Him and that we have some insight into why.

It’s like an adult trying to explain something to a child. An adult has to dumb down the answer so the child can understand, but in dumbing down the answer, an adult can’t explain what’s really going on. Because the child won’t understand. And I really think it’s the same way between us and God.

It’s not that He’s holding back. It’s not that He’s keeping information from us. It’s not that He wants to frustrate us. It’s just that if He tried to explain, if He tried to answer our questions the way we wanted, we wouldn’t understand.

That’s not to say we should stop asking questions. No! God wants us to ask questions. God wants us to dive deeper into a relationship with Him, and that means asking as many questions as you can think of. But sometimes you aren’t going to understand the answer you get. And that doesn’t mean the answer is wrong. It probably just means you aren’t asking the right question.

So think about it. Pray about it. And move on. If you don’t understand it yet, maybe you’re not supposed to. But that doesn’t mean you never will.

Do you pay attention to the instructions?

Can you recite the safety speech flight attendants give before every airplane takes off? I’d be willing to bet I can probably tell you everything they say and even pantomime their motions, and I’m not even what you would call a jetsetter.

Most people tune them out completely. Most people stay buried in their phones or tablets and ignore them. After all, what they’re saying is common knowledge, isn’t it? Everyone knows the safety regulations on an airplane, don’t they?

I’ve never read the seatback information card on a plane. I’ll admit it. I already know the basics. But what would happen if someone told me that I needed to help the child sitting next to me with his mask first in an emergency? What if that person told me I was honor bound to help the less able around me before I take care of myself? I’m a Christ-follower, and I’m supposed to put others before myself.

Doesn’t that make sense? Never mind the flight attendant says to get yourself settled before you try to help the person next to you.

Today’s verse is Hebrews 2:1.

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

The devil’s in the details. It’s an old saying, but it’s true. You can think you’ve got everything right. You can think you’ve handled every issue, but you usually always miss some small, pesky detail that screws the whole project up. And the same is true when it comes to our faith.

Sure, you can get the big picture right. You can live your life according to the major tenants of what the Bible says, but the details matter too. The details of the Christian life often affect the big picture more than we think they do.

Example? Say you believe that murder is wrong. It’s wrong to kill someone because the Bible says it’s wrong. But that’s a broad subject. Let’s get specific about murder. Let’s get down to the details. What do you believe about abortion? Does your belief about murder match up with your belief about abortion? Because the Bible is pretty clear on both. The Bible calls murder the ending of someone’s life unjustly, and the Bible also says that life begins at the moment of conception. And what’s more unjust than ending the life of an innocent who can’t even fight back?

I’m not trying to start an argument. I’m just trying to make a point. You can believe that murder is wrong all day long, but if you pay attention to the details of what the Bible says, that means you should also believe that abortion is wrong. If you don’t, you’re a hypocrite—picking and choosing what you like about the Bible and dismissing what you don’t.

The Bible doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to approve or disapprove of God’s plans. He’s God. He does what He wants, and He is gracious enough to include us on some of what He’s doing in the world. Just because you disagree with Him doesn’t make Him wrong. And it sure doesn’t make you right.

It seems to me that every street is lined with people who would twist the Christian faith to fit their own purposes. Every day there’s someone on television or radio who’s claiming something that the Bible never promises or quoting scriptures God never inspired. And it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what the Bible actually says.

Don’t just listen to the next person who comes along. Don’t even listen to me. Like I blogged about earlier in the week, you need to take responsibility for your own faith, because at the end of days when you stand before God Himself, you won’t be able to shift blame on anyone else. You’ll have to stand on your own, and if you don’t have Jesus, you really will be on your own.

Every American has heard the truth in some form or other. Americans are without excuse, more than any other nation in the history of the world. We have freedom. We have churches on every corner. We have Bibles gathering dust on our coffee tables.

So listen carefully. Pay attention. Don’t just ignore the safety demonstration when God decides to give it. Don’t shove the seatback card in the pocket and plug your earphones in while the plane burns up around you.

Listen up. Speak out. And don’t back down, especially when you’re faced with people who treat the Bible like it’s some kind of tree that only produces good fruit half the time.

When your heart doesn’t match God’s

Do you always do what God tells you to? Do you always make the decisions that the Bible says are right? I don’t. I wish I could say that I did. But I don’t. Not always. Maybe a good chunk of the time, but not always.

Just being transparent this morning, I don’t even always think the way He wants me to think. In many instances, my thinking is directly opposite of what He wants it to be.

But in spite of that sometimes I can get myself together and do what He says. Sometimes I can make the choices I need to make to live the life I’m supposed to live. But other times? Not so much.

Other times I do what I want, I think what I want, and it doesn’t matter what He says. I know what He says. I’m fully aware of what He says. And I’m fully aware there will be consequences. And I’ve actually even gone so far to say to myself that the consequences will be worth it because I’ve gotten to do what I wanted. I valued what I wanted to do more than what He says is right.

When you get to that point, it’s not about what God says anymore. At that point, it’s about your attitude. And–again, being open and honest–my attitude has sucked for a while.

When your attitude isn’t right, when it doesn’t align with God’s attitude, you have problems, especially as a Christ-follower. Because Christ-followers know better. I know better. But after a while, the stress and the frustration and the anxiety just get to be too much, and you convince yourself that doing what you want to do is better and that the consequences are no big deal.

And whether your sins are white collar or blue collar, at that point, that is a dangerous place to be.

The front porch light at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The front porch light at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 21:2.

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.

Our attitudes, our hearts, direct our actions. They control what we do and what we say and what we think. You can tell what kind of a person someone else is by their attitude, and you can tell their attitude by the decisions they make.

Attitude is everything.

When your will doesn’t match up with God’s, when what you want to do doesn’t jive with what He says is right, how do you find the strength to do what He says? That strength comes from your attitude toward God.

There have been times in my life where I haven’t wanted to do what God told me, but I did it anyway because my attitude toward Him was right. But when my attitude toward Him isn’t right, I don’t really care what He wants. And maybe I’m the only one who has experienced this, but I kind of doubt it.

So for the next little while, until I can get it through my head, I’m going to be doing a study on attitude. Because I’m tired. I’m tired of being angry and being frustrated and being anxious. I’m tired of relying on myself all the time. I’m tired of trying to make situations work out on my own strength. I’m tired of taking all of that on my own shoulders because I don’t trust God to take care of it the way I want.

I’m just tired.

My attitude hasn’t been what it’s supposed to be, and I recognize that. But I haven’t wanted to do anything about it. And I’m so thankful that God is so patient with me. He lets me have my sulk time. He lets me do things my way long enough for me to realize that it’s not getting better and I really can’t handle life on my own.

So this is me turning my heart back to God where it belongs, doing my best to trust Him even when He doesn’t let things work out the way I want, doing what He says is right even (and especially) when I disagree.

He’s promised that if I honor Him in the things He’s said are right, He’ll take care of everything else. If I obey Him in the things I need to do, He’ll bless me in the things I want to do.

So how’s your attitude today? I hope it’s better than mine has been. But if it isn’t, know that you can still turn back. It doesn’t matter how far away you wander, God always leaves the porch light on.

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Believing God will do what He’s promised

When God makes you a promise, do you believe Him? What does that look like in your life? Maybe it looks different to different people, but when someone promises to do something for me, generally that means I have to sit back and wait for them to make good on that promise.

Has that happened to you before? Someone promises to do something for you, but they don’t get it done when you expect them to? What do you do? How do you react? And what happens when their tardiness jeopardizes your future plans?

It’s hard to sit still when your future is on the line. It’s hard to sit still and keep waiting on somebody else’s actions when you have the opportunity to make something happen yourself.

So what happens when the person you’re waiting on is God? What happens when the person who’s promised to help you is God and the only assurance you have is His Word?

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:11-12.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

In case you blog readers don’t know (most of you are probably sick to death of me talking about this, but it’s heavy on my heart right now), I am part of a group of writers who’ve decided to start an independent publishing company. It’s ambitious. It’s unique. It’s unusual. And, oh my goodness, it’s expensive.

You never realize just how expensive starting a business is until you do it. I knew it would be, but there’s a big difference between knowing how expensive something will be and actually shelling out the money to pay for it. But starting this small press is something God has called us to do. All four of us believe that with all our hearts, and God has already opened so many doors and shown us in so many ways that this is what He wants us to do.

Paying for it is a necessary investment. But, of course, everything else that could possibly cost me money in other aspects of my life has to blow away, break down, fall apart, or just crap out at exactly the same time.

So when a new, completely unrelated opportunity to make some money drops in my lap, what do you think I thought of? Money! I can make some extra cash to supplement the business.

Great idea, right?

Okay, well, here’s the problem. I’m stretched so thin on time, I barely have time to eat and sleep. I’ve got so many responsibilities weighing on me right now, I can’t keep up with them. I’m doing better, but I’ve had to drop some things. And now I want to add something else in?

So what do I drop? Out of the things I’m doing that God has told me to do, what do I drop to make room for this opportunity to make more money to pay for the dream God has given me?

Anyone see the flaw in that thought?

Why do I think I need to provide for the dream God has given me? Why do I think I need to sacrifice something I’m already sure God wants me to do in order to make room for something else? Why is that responsibility on me?

This is me, remember? The performance-driven perfectionist. The control freak. The micro manager. I love telling God what to do because I know best, right?

Here’s the deal, friends, and I’m still working through this. But following God is a process. God never says it’s anything other than that. Following Christ takes faith, and faith takes a strange combination of hard work and patience.

Yes, I think faith is hard work. Maybe not hard work like hauling feed sacks, but it’s difficult to sit still and let God do the heavy lifting while you cling to Him, especially when you’re used to depending on your own strength to define you.

One thing I’ve learned is that God will never ask you to do something He won’t equip you for. Maybe He’s equipped you already and you just don’t know it. Maybe He’ll equip you along the way, and He just wants you to do it. Either way, He won’t send you out to tackle a job for Him without the support and the tools that you need, and no matter how you look at that, money is a tool.

It’s not your job to worry how you’re going to meet your financial needs. It’s your job to make sure you’re doing what God has called you to do, and God will take care of your needs.

God has made a lot of promises, and He’s kept every single one. And the ones that are still outstanding are just around the corner. We just have to believe that God will do what He’s promised (that’s faith) and hold on until the plan comes together (that’s endurance).

So what am I going to drop so I can make some extra money? Nothing. God has called me to do everything I’m doing. So I’m going to pass on it. Maybe you think that’s irresponsible, and maybe you’re right. But instead of trying to make it happen on my own, I’m going to take God at His word this time, and we’ll see what happens.

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Believing when Christmas is over

Christmas is my favorite time of year, and ringing in the New Year is always bittersweet for me because that means Christmas is over. That means vacation is done and I have to go back to the “real world” again. And we also have to take all our decorations down. That’s the part I dislike the most, mainly because taking decorations down is so much more difficult than putting them up in the first place. That’s what I did on New Year’s Day–took down Christmas decorations, packed up the lights and the ornaments and disassembled the trees. We stuffed everything in boxes and stuffed all the boxes in the basement where they’ll wait until the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 when we’ll put them all up again. I guess it’s a vicious cycle. So why keep doing it?

During the Christmas season, everyone talks about hope and dreams and being thankful for family and friends. Even people who don’t follow Christ do it. It’s just something amazing God does in people’s hearts at Christmastime, and part of that comes from the decorations, I think. Because if people who don’t even believe in Christ can set up a Christmas tree and decorate their homes and sing Christmas carols about the night of His birth, you have to admit that’s something special.

When it comes down to it, I think it’s easier to believe in God at Christmastime because the whole world stops, even if the world doesn’t understand why it’s stopping. It’s easier to remember that Christ brought us hope because we’re face to face with representations of that hope in every manger scene on every street corner. It’s easier for me to believe in general because I get a reminder of God’s goodness every time I see an ornament or a tree or a blinking light on a tree.

So what do we do when all the decorations are gone?

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 27:11-14.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Christmas should be more than a time of year for Christ-followers; Christmas, or at least what Christmas means, should be a lifestyle. Maybe it’s more difficult to get through the ordinary everyday grind when Christmas isn’t coming, but just because we haven’t got the tree or the ornaments or the lights up doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate what Christmas is. And since we don’t have the reminders on every street corner and on every radio station, we have to make more of an effort to remind ourselves.

Life has bumps and valleys we have to get through. We face challenges and obstacles that are way bigger than we are, and sometimes it really does feel like life’s circumstances are laughing at us. Sometimes I feel like life is just looking for the next opportunity to screw with me. But whether that’s true or not, my responsibility as a Christ follower doesn’t change.

My attitude and my perspective is my responsibility. Tough times are coming, more than I know about, and I need to accept that so I can move on, so I can face those oncoming difficulties remembering who God is and what He’s done for me, in spite of the fact that it isn’t Christmas. It’s absolutely 100% possible to keep believing when it isn’t Christmas; it just takes an effort.

Experiencing God’s goodness doesn’t mean life is perfect. Life down here will never be perfect. That’s the point. But God is still here. God is present in our lives, and He never stops taking care of us, and if we look for Him, we’ll see Him. If we’re open to what He’s doing, He’ll become obvious.

You don’t need a Christmas tree to keep celebrating Christmas, sort of like you don’t need perfect circumstances to believe that God is still working. Just believe. Make the choice today, that no matter what happens in your life you’ll keep believing. It won’t be easy. Life is hard, but God is good.