Tag Archives: advent devotional

First Gift Giver

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 2: 14–15 NASB

imag0398I didn’t know Christmas had this fragrance. I breathe deeply, filling my nostrils with the clean, fresh scent of the evergreen tree. The aroma is like God’s favor washing over me. In it I smell His faithfulness. His kindness. His attention to detail.

I pause, away from the busyness, away from the bustle and noise. Seeking. Seeking Him.

“Thank you,” I whisper. “Thank you for what you have done and will do in my husband and in all of us. For being the One who fights for me, my family, and our hearts.”

He whispers, “I Am the First Gift Giver. I Am the ultimate Gift Giver.”

The day outside is a wintry gray, but my tree twinkles, full of light. The dimness outside the picture window only makes the lights prettier. I climb into the recliner gifted to us when Bernice passed away, the recliner that replaces the big blue one where I rocked my children and sought my Savior year after year. Pulling my special blanket around me I snuggle in, staring at the twinkle lights, inhaling the scent of Christmas.

“My Father is the Gardener.”

I grab my journal and listen, ink flowing across the page, recording the sweet Jesus whispers.

“My Father does great works of beauty in the human soul. I treasure the garden of the hearts of My people. When You let My Spirit cultivate a dwelling place for Me, you prepare a fragrant offering.”

I breathe deeply again, inhaling the aroma of this gift, this tree.

I watch the snow fall and think about Jesus.

How does He smell? Does Jesus have a manly, clean scent like that of my tree? Spicy like the cinnamon of my holiday baking? Or maybe his scent is hearty and tantalizing like homemade bread.

I may not know His exact smell, but I believe all these lovely aromas, like of all of creation, point to Him.

He is nourishing like bread.

Fun and a bit feisty like cinnamon.

Strong and clean like the fragrance of my Christmas tree.

My tree.

This gift of God, given through the willing hands of the man who loves me, is forever a reminder of the God who keeps His promises, the God who is forever green, strong and vibrant through storms, always producing something new in this world.

In my family.

In me.

And you.

And through all of us.

This Gift-giver is the God who gave His very self so we could be intimate friends with Him.

Friends close enough to catch a whiff of His fragrance.

My mind wanders to the Song of Songs, a love story I’ve taken for my own. I am the beloved of the Bridegroom.

We who love Jesus are His treasured bride.

His voice leaps from the pages of my Bible:

“I went to my garden, dear friend, best lover!
breathed the sweet fragrance.

I ate the fruit and honey,
I drank the nectar and wine.

Celebrate with me, friends!
Raise your glasses—‘To life! To love!’”

(Song of Solomon 5:1, MSG).

Precious Jesus, You are altogether lovely. You smell good. You are good. The garden of my heart is yours. Breathe in the fragrance of my love, the garden love You planted to be a sweet aroma to Yourself. How I love You! I celebrate You—Your entrance to this world as a baby, your offering upon the cross, your dwelling within me. But most of all I celebrate our friendship. Our love. Help me inhale Your clean, fresh fragrance every day. As we hang out together, make me so much like You that as I pass others a whiff of Your clean fragrance trails after me.

Still talking trees and Jesus tomorrow . . .

Until then,

paula-another-test-401x192-2

Tossing and Turning (5)

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can find this series here.

O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You are the God who keeps his kind promises to all those who obey you and who are anxious to do your will. ~ 2 Chronicles 6:14 TLB

Funny things happen.

imag0270Yesterday I told you about my friend’s vision of my husband bringing home a Christmas tree and how for many years this promise went unfulfilled. Each year we tried to figure out Christmas, and over time we fostered some good family times to look forward to those last two weeks of December, but still I felt stifled, like the opportunity to celebrate in freedom during my children’s formative years had passed me by. Here is the rest of the story.

Strange occurrences marked the days after Sam and I hung the cross in the upper window that year, and I prayed God would help me worship. It started when my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, David, asked if they could move in for a few months between apartments. My first response was to ask if they could wait until January. With the two oldest boys on break from college over the holidays, I simply didn’t know where to put everyone! But the reality was Sarah and David’s lease was up in November, and the boys would return home soon after. I finally shrugged off the worries about wall-to-wall stuff and the reality that there wouldn’t be enough beds. I told Jerry, “We’ll just pile up like puppies and enjoy the family being together.”

My husband just grinned at me. He loves being surrounded by his children.

The beauty of the season began to seep into me. Jerry took me on a date and seemed to actually enjoy the twinkle lights lining the river pathway where we walked. I liked having imag0271Sarah and David home for the little traditions of Sarah’s childhood. Cutting snowflakes out together was fun. David, and Seth’s girlfriend, Amanda, created exotic designs unlike those our original family had made. We hung them in the window, commenting on the unique artistry of each person.

Then Jerry began tossing and turning at night. We typically enjoy open communication, easily sharing our concerns with each other, but when I asked him if something was wrong that we could pray about together his no was sharp. Immediately, he softened his tone, explaining that at some point we would talk about what was bothering him, but that he needed some space to process.

Little did I know he was praying intently about God’s perspective on Christmas and its traditions.

One day my sweet husband asked, “Honey, has it hurt you that we haven’t celebrated Christmas like you wanted?”

“You don’t know?” Oh how I fought to keep sarcasm out of my voice!

“I know it’s not been what you wanted, but has it hurt you? I mean deeply hurt you.”

My tears answered his question.

“Are there ways you haven’t felt freedom to celebrate and worship the way you want?”

After the years and all of the discussions I couldn’t believe he was even asking.

“What specifically?”

Too vulnerable with a pain carried for too many years, I offered a vague answer and excused myself from the conversation. Then I hid and prayed through my emotions. The issue of how to celebrate Christmas had blocked our intimacy for years. I’d felt so alone. I was disappointed in myself for shutting down now that he was asking questions and trying to understand. Later that night when we were alone in bed, I apologized for how I handled the conversation and told Jerry I would answer any question he wanted to ask. I didn’t want anything to come between us and the intimacy we desired.

“It’s okay, honey.” He snuggled up to me, comforting me with his presence. “I got my answer.”

What I didn’t know then was how gently God was revealing His heart and mine to my husband.

How about you? Is there anywhere you feel God’s gentle nudge this Advent season? For Jerry and me the journey is to learn to celebrate, to let go of old teaching, to discover new freedom. Maybe it’s different for you. May He’s asking you to refocus your Christmas. Or to include someone new in your traditions. Or to let something go that you’ve held onto in your celebration. Maybe God is revealing His heart to you in a new way.

Change can be hard. But God’s plans are always good.

Father, Please open my heart to how you want me to worship and celebrate this Christmas.

The story continues tomorrow!

Blessings,

paula-another-test-401x192-2