December 17, 2022

By Stacee Helton

      A few years ago, I received the gift of a very nice, very giant Christmas ornament that reads “JOY”. The letters are made of red and black plaid and it really is a pretty decoration. While it is way too big for my tree, I have chosen to use it as a door hanger/decor item, proudly hanging it on my closet door knob, in our living room. While it is very “Christmas-y”, and I love to display it, there has always been something about it that has just bothered me. 

The folks who designed this lovely decoration chose to attach the twine to the top of the “J” and the left branch of the “Y”. It’s an obvious design flaw, because when it hangs from anything, it will not hang straight. Never, never, no not ever… and it drives me nuts! The rest of that “Y” is just too heavy and it hangs very crooked. It is the only thing I can see, when I look at it. I don’t see the lovely pattern. I don’t think of Christmas. I can’t see the JOY!!! I only see the problem…

At this point, I’m certain that you know where I’m headed with today’s post. This is supposed to be a season of joy! A time to remember what Jesus did for us, by choosing to be born as a baby, and then choosing to die a horrible, criminal’s death, that He did not deserve… just so that you and I could have the hope of spending our eternity in Heaven with Him. It’s supposed to be a time when joy abounds, because loved ones come home, or our favorite ornaments remind us of simpler, wonderful times, or snow falls on the ground… or anything that brings us an extra dose of Christmas cheer. 

But so often, this just isn’t the case for many. Christmas can stir up memories of loved ones, who are no longer living with us on Earth, and now live only in our minds and in our hearts. Even those of us who truly know and believe that we will see them again one day can be sad, because they aren’t physically with us. Or maybe we have loved ones who are incarcerated or missing, or have chosen to no longer come around, and we ache to see them; to have things be the way they used to be, even for a day. Or maybe they simply can’t get off work this year, and we miss them terribly. There is no happiness in any of these things… but there can still be joy, because it’s a choice, and it isn’t found in our circumstances. It is found in Jesus!

This week, my son has returned home from his first semester in college and has been bouncing back from having all four of his wisdom teeth removed early in the week. I casually mentioned yesterday about my “strong dislike” of the way in which my JOY decoration hangs so crookedly. I saw the wheels in his head turning, and when I came back into the living room later, there was the sign… hanging straight as can be. He had solved the problem by putting a knot in the string, and simply making the length of the twine shorter. (Why didn’t I think of that?).

Don’t lose your joy this season, over things that you can’t change, or that seem impossible. God knows what we need, and is ready to supply the joy we long for. We just need to search for it, in Him alone… and trust Him to straighten things out for us, in His way and in His perfect time. In the meantime, choose joy! And have a very Merry Christmas!

I Heard That

December 10, 2022

By Stacee Helton

     If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to be comforted or encouraged, I can definitely help with that. There’s a clearly-defined goal: to help get you through it. But when I’m not helping you, and am at home alone or maybe speaking one-on-one with someone I trust, I can occasionally become an emotional mess. (Not to worry… it’s usually laughter and tears, all at the same time). 

Earlier this week, I shared a picture of my babies at Christmas, taken 18 years ago. It’s always been a favorite of mine; the two of them sitting there in their matching little plaid. It was my son’s first Christmas and he was just barely sitting up on his own. My daughter was 4 years old, and in her mind, he was just as much her little baby as he was mine. 

Later in the week, I found some cute little pictures that each of the kids had drawn for me when they were very young, both declaring their love for me. (So precious!). I sent the pictures to my daughter, who is now grown and married. She said, “Gosh Mom, you’re all up in your feelings this week”. I believe she’s right. Christmas has a way of doing that to us, especially when the kids are grown and no longer residing  in our home, with the exception of breaks and holidays.

But pictures and drawings are not the only things that can stir major emotions within me. Show of hands… Does anyone else get a bit teary-eyed at Christmas commercials?  Or the videos of babies who are finally able to hear, with the help of surgery or implants? Oh my goodness… we watch, as they are hearing their mother’s voice for the very first time, and their sweet little chin begins to quiver. And then comes that cry that turns into laughter.  Or the videos of kids, getting their first pair of glasses, and finally seeing a clear, bright and colorful world. Their tears and laughter are so precious (and yes… I cry every single time, even if I’ve seen that particular video a million times). 

So, why do the little ones cry? Why are they filled with so much joy, that they just have to laugh? The answers are simple: Because their entire world was silent, until they heard the voice of the ones who love them most. Until the faces of the ones who care so dearly for them came into crystal-clear focus. Until all of their senses were working together, to display nothing but pure love, just for them. 

I believe this is what it will be like for us, one day. The day we finally get to hear the angels singing their sweet songs of praise and to see our Father, with our very own eyes. To finally thank Jesus, face-to-face, for His amazing love and sacrifice for us. Oh the sights! Oh the sounds! And yes… I have absolutely no doubt that there will be tears of joy and so much laughter on that day, for sure. Until that day, keep on laughing so hard, you cry. It’s great practice for Heaven!

Heavenly Peace

December 3, 2022

By Stacee Helton

There’s a familiar line from a song playing in my head today: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. It’s a time when family gathers, Christmas trees and decorations are brought out from their year-long resting places, our favorite goodies are made, and we all long to see our favorite people on a daily basis: those wonderful folks delivering our packages!  

I absolutely love the holidays. I love the lights and the music, the gift wrapping, and all of the fun events. But usually, near the middle of the month, I can start to feel a bit weary and even overwhelmed, at times. Like me, do you also fill your calendar with all the good things… parties, caroling, church musicals, bell ringing, secret Santa, volunteering, etc?  They are all wonderful things! And afterall, it is the season of giving. But in order to have something to give, we have to allow ourselves time to rest and recharge.

I’m sure we all know people who thrive under the pressure of an over-booked Christmas schedule; always looking to fill every open date in their appointment book. But in my house, we get excited when we finally have a night free of activity. A beautifully-blank square on the calendar. 

When it comes to taking a day of rest, you might not think it's needed, but it definitely is. If we aren’t careful, the most wonderful time of the year can turn us all into a bunch of Scrooges and Grinches. Carving out a little time for ourselves can help to “make the season bright”... and keep it that way!

Bethlehem was buzzing with people who were taking part in the census, at the time of Jesus’ birth. In fact, the Bible tells us that it was so crowded that there were no available rooms… not even for a very pregnant young lady. When Mary and Joseph were invited to take shelter with the animals for the night, I wonder if they felt a sense of relief to finally be out of the noisy crowd and somewhere quiet. (Until labor began, of course!). 

In all the hustle and bustle that this Christmas season might bring, I hope that we will follow Jesus’ example. He was surrounded by so much chaos, yet still found Himself being born in a secluded, restful place. And it wouldn’t be the last time He would go away to a “quiet place”, either. It was in those quiet places that He talked to the Father, and found rest for His own weary soul. He stressed the importance of resting, in the way in which He lived His entire life. May we all find the peace we long for, as we begin this Christmas season. That sweet, heavenly peace that is found only in Jesus.