Musings on the true meaning of Christmas…Plus, are you taking the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare?

Love Angel

Quietly this morning, after prayer and reading in Romans, I recorded blessings in a gratitude journal I began about five years ago.

TREE 2016

A baby Christmas tree for the Baby Jesus.

Cookies

Honey Shortbread cookies sampled while watching Prancer. {A new gluten free tradition for just the two of us.}

Baby Dino

Expectations of a bundle of joy coming in spring. 

North Pole

Delight in watching Michael’s enchantment when he returned home after a few hours to find a Christmas elf had transformed our loft into a tiny bit of the North Pole.

And I couldn’t help but say thank you to Father for how much better I feel now than in past Decembers when I’ve slipped into moaning and groaning about the things I dislike about the season.

Cold. Snow. Dark. Muscles aching more in winter. Being stuck indoors rather than outside. Overwhelming commercialism of this simple, holy season.

And always eating way too much dark chocolate to boost serotonin.

So I asked Him what renders my change of heart ushering in so much more carefree joy.

breaths

Several things — beginning with that moment in June that literally took my breath away. And over the ensuing months, pondering this second chance, probing the dimly lit back corridors of my mind where expectations and resentments haunt if dwelled upon negatively. Plus, choosing to be grateful and find the blessings in everything. And especially the great glad tidings in my family including graduations, a son dating a lovely girl and recently accepted to my alma mater, a son getting engaged and setting the date, and a son and his wife announcing the impending arrival of my first grandbaby!

God showed me my October birthday and how in three short years another decade will turn, urging me to listen more closely than ever to ensure I am where, and doing what, He desires in my small, yet meaningful life. And reminding me that joy is found in Him in the moment at hand, not in some future, far away land or some long ago longing over what’s been lost.

Wouldn’t you agree that it is in the present moment of our lives, fully embraced, that we unwrap the gift?

How we choose to receive or use our moment by moment gifts determines the course of our days, years and decades. For we are not robots and God is not some distant being pushing buttons to make us do this or not do that. He is a good parent who wants us to grow up and be strong so that we fulfill His call on our lives, share with others the blessing that is found in relationship with God through Jesus, and build healthy marriages and loving families — the bedrock of any thriving society.

Freely we choose, rightly or wrongly, reaping appropriate consequences. And God gives us time and space so we can figure things out ourselves if only we stop long enough to exhale, think deeply, and reach for Him through daily practices that build our character, working out our sanctification and transforming our human nature into something divine.

Baby Jesus

As we position ourselves in the Divine, we are capable of responding spontaneously in any given good or bad moment with the heart of God. Not the bits and pieces of our broken, sinful selves. Walking side by side with Him we are gifted with abundant life and freedom through that precious babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, not only at Christmas but every day that we would open and say yes.

GIFT

And speaking of abundant life and counting blessings, are you taking the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare? It’s a sure way to bless your hubby or wife and grow yourself through a practice of obedient thankfulness.

Because Christmas doesn’t come from a store, but a manger, and in giving our hearts gratefully the way God gave His son.

And when we do, we lose our inner grinch and grow our heart and marriage in love three sizes that day…

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And if you’re having a hard time with Christmas or your marriage is struggling, click on my image and contact me today for a FREE 20 minute mentoring for women session.

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Make your marriage a gift! Take the #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare…

GIFT

My beloved is mine and I am his…Song of Solomon 2:16

Days go by. Seasons change. And soon we find ourselves at Christmas once again, gift list in hand and wrapping paper and ribbons at the ready. Yet I’ve heard people say Christmas is routine. Or even a humbug. Seems they’ve grown weary and perhaps can’t see the star that shines in their darkness.

And in marriage days go by, seasons change and wedding anniversaries roll round again. With the passing of time, though, is our marriage becoming more precious? Or have visions of returning the gift of our spouse danced in our heads?!

Heaven forbid. Because even in those moments when marriage seems boring, cold, or currently hard, it is still a gift from above to assuage the utter loneliness of man and woman.JESUS

Marriage is a gift from God for as long as we both shall live

No matter how long we’ve walked side by side with our spouse if we choose to view marriage with the eyes of a child at Christmas we’ll be full of eager expectation, bubbling with joy, brimming gratitude and running over with hope that makes our heart happy and our marriage stronger. And like our relationship with God through Jesus, marriage is a gift that we constantly unwrap, discovering anew its hidden or long-forgotten treasures. Yet in marriage we must be mindful that it is fragile and needs to be handled with care.

And because it is better to give than to receive, as we give ourselves in marriage — which can mean repenting of pride, selfishness, greed, laziness, lust and other Grinch-like qualities — and put our partner first, we transform the perception of our union, becoming more appreciative for all the good and the not-so-good moments that comprise a marriage for a lifetime.

Saying thank you daily to our spouse — a dusty, frail human like us — and to Father, the author of this magical blessing unlike any other even — can increase the happiness quotient of our marriage.

And ease those times of overcoming obstacles in marriage — whether health, financial or two sinful natures vying with each other for control — yielding more tenderness, love and beauty.DARE

So here’s the dare

We all want peace and joy, hope and love and all things Christmas-y in our marriages not just during Advent and the Twelve Days, but for all the days of our life as man and wife.

So no matter how you’re feeling in this moment, or how busy you are with preparations for the holiday {and surely that includes time with Father preparing your heart} I now dare you to choose to nurture the gift of your marriage by recording your gratitude for your mate for at least the next 24 days.

Keep a running gratitude list of all the wonderful things that makes your husband or wife incredibly unique. Include all the big and little things he or she does for you and your family. Silly things. Serious things. Whatever comes to mind. Make your list and check it twice through prayer that will open your heart to appreciate your spouse more than ever.

Write your gratitudes on snippets of paper — day by day till Christmas. Make it fancy or plain, red or green. Be creative or not.

Just make sure to fill those snippets with words from your heart, truthful and real. Pour out your gratitude like never before.

Slip them silently into your spouse’s stocking when he or she isn’t looking. Remind them no peeking allowed!

Gifting your spouse in this simple, profound way will impact their heart long after the last decoration is packed away, helping make your union stronger and sweeter.

Head over now to Sheila Kimball Facebook page and let me know you’re in! by leaving a comment or visit Twitter and use the hashtag #ChristmasMarriageGratitudeDare.

Please let’s share this post! because what spouse doesn’t want to know how much they are appreciated and loved! And our world needs more gratitude and love at Christmas and everyday!

Seal it with a kiss

As you give of yourself this way, offering your gratitudes humbly, take joy on Christmas morning gazing into the eyes of the child of God who is your better half, both of you blessed by the beloved gift that is marriage.

And don’t forget to kiss under the mistletoe…

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Exquisite ache…reflecting with gratitude, anticipating with joy

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With Thanksgiving past and my heart flooded with gratitude for all our sweet and special blessings, as Christmas draws closer day by day, an expectant hopefulness rises within me bringing a desire to reflect deeper still.

On life, love and all things God.

And with the season of darkness and bitter cold descended at least in New York, I feel the urgent pull to be warmed by His embrace. Aligning my heart in sync with the heavenly heartbeat.

Breathing. Waiting. Opening.

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For there are certain somethings that touch me with the deepest ache.

Sunset. A full moon. Late afternoon sun sliding into a room like golden honey. Twinkly lights flashing like pinpoint stars. Melodies calling to the soul from somewhere long ago and faraway. And always, always the wanting for more time to spend with those I most love.

Brian Crain’s Summer in Italy transports me in this way and I invite you to listen.

Yet the ache is not sad, bittersweet perhaps, more a yearning so exquisite that I can barely breathe. 

A divine heart-call in whispers often unheard. And in the longing for what seems just beyond my grasp, behind the veil, comes again the realization that all my longings end in His heart of Love. 

For is there not unique and redeeming beauty in our ache when it urges us closer to God?

Drawing us with an intimate promise of all that was ever meant to be. And after years of wandering and wondering, attempting to assuage the ache to belong, to know and be known, to love and be loved as never before, comes the discovery both ancient and newly-born.

There.

Is.

Only.

One.

Him who obliterates darkness, fills the void, expands the heart, pours the grace. Holiness healing the deepest hurts and worst habits. And on those silent nights as we look up, when divinely-implanted loneliness is most acutely felt, our hearts will crescendo in hallelujahs for darkness brightens with the Morning Star.

RT Light

During the next few weeks as life speeds up, crowding out quiet contentment, make room at the inn of your heart to welcome Him simply. No frills or fuss, no pretense or striving. Come as you are and just be with Him in all the fullness of each present moment. Then linger with longing and fill even more.

Him the gift to us and us through Him becoming the gift He intends.

May Christmas come softly this year, helping us hear as He beckons us to rise from the ash heap of mortal existence to kiss His face, pursuing Him with passion the way He pursues us.

Our ache leading us home at Christmas. And then we will know. For certain sure.

We are His. We belong. We are loved. And the tattered remnants of our orphan hearts will tear away like discarded gift wrap as we emerge more fully grown.

At once and still becoming, a true-er daughter or son of the best dad ever…

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Five years of marriage…And grateful to be alive

HONEYMOON Dawn

Looking back my Michael and I realize our decision to elope after 47 days {and when we recently calculated it added up to a mere 80 waking hours in each other’s company} was the CRAZIEST BESTEST thing either one of us has ever done. But we were crazy. We risked EVERYTHING on one last chance at love.

And by the grace of God…we won! In five days we will celebrate five years of marriage.

By love and by choice we have woven our hearts together in an unbreakable bond as two lives became one. And we’ve had a ton of fun on this breathtaking journey, too. Moments of laughter and lovemaking and sharing dreams and making plans, and traveling near and far, and writing and always changing, growing and healing, becoming more godly.

While not all the days in all those years were wedded bliss we are convinced beyond the shadow of any doubt that our match was indeed made in heaven. For God knew that we were the ones that together would stand strong against all odds and form a sustainable, loving marriage so unlike former relationships and, we are sorry to say, marriages that crashed and burned.

So we celebrate His kindness to us as we celebrate our “magic five year marker” when the odds that a couple will remain together suddenly shift upward, according to Maggie Scarf, author of The Remarriage Blueprint. 

From the day we met high over the river on the Walkway Over the Hudson it was him for me and me for him and our Father for us both.  Pure grace this gift of each other in the second half after many losses. And we cannot thank God enough for His faithfulness, patience, and unending love. But in order to get where we are today we needed to grow up.

But God.

We crawled on our bellies some days, but once we truly madly deeply committed our hearts, souls, minds and strength to loving and obeying God, we began to walk. He took us both by the hand and we turned a corner on our individual selfishness to more deeply sacrifice for the other. Together we began becoming a true son and true daughter of God in a way neither of us had experienced in our earlier years of following God.

Yet there were days we stumbled and one or both of us wondered just what we had done in marrying the other. Days when we wore dirty diapers and fussed and fumed from too many pieces of the past jabbing at our hearts. Sometimes we fought and cried and stormed out the door and walked for miles or ate one too many chocolate chip cookies. 

STEEPLE

But no matter what, we repeated the mantra that the only option for our marriage is success.

And somehow we always found our way back to each other where the doors of our hearts reopened and words of love and forgiveness flowed. Pressing in to find the other in that way reserved only for partners who are married, we helped each other heal. We brushed ourselves off and got back up onto the high road. Clinging to scripture for guidance, we studied, and more importantly put into practice, the commands of Christ. We desired to be good for Goodness sake and in the process began discovering the glory and the gift that is marriage.

All along the way, no matter the times that challenged us, we kept falling more in love with each other, putting a greater value than ever on our relationship, growing in our respect for each other. We even conceived a DIY marriage mentoring technique which helped us greatly in fostering healthy communication and conflict resolution. It worked so well that we continue the process even without having any dire, negative needs.

And how we love this adventure of us.

ALBUM Walkway 5th

Yet on June 2, after a splendid day celebrating the fifth anniversary of our first date, reenacting how we met on the Walkway like we always do, Michael gave me a gift unlike any I have ever received. He gave me back my life for I started choking at dinner and he had to perform the Heimlich maneuver three times before I could breathe. We spent the next four hours in the ER where it was determined nothing was broken or bleeding but my rib cartilage was badly bruised and would take six weeks to recover. OUCH!

ALBUM ER

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And in these weeks of being quiet and still and mostly at home, I drew inward to my Father. Reflecting on His kindness to me and Michael. I remember thinking at the time that I couldn’t leave Michael on our First Date Anniversary because he would be so terribly sad on what had always been such a special and happy day.

I’ve pondered the meaning of it all with a quiet gratitude, reflecting on what God has done in our life and marriage together. Wondering where we are headed in the next five years, God willing. But I wasn’t ready to write about it or share the story until today.

Not able to do my normal routines — sitting at the computer for hours was too painful — I turned my attention to fulfilling Michael’s wish for a First Five Memory Album. While putting five years of love and life into one scrapbook was a huge undertaking, the finished pages are proof of God’s incredible, indescribable love for us. It is the story of us, what we’ve done, where we’ve been and how far we have come. How God has patiently helped us. And what He may do in and through us in the future only God knows. Thank You, Father.

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So for now we’re heading back to where we began and became one, consummating our love on the “Quiet Cape” in Massachusetts. For so many reasons we couldn’t be more excited or grateful or eagerly anticipate our future together. 

I think I’ll go start packing…

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Love that never fails…

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In a deep, dark wood

a wild rose blooms

unseen,

unfurling skyward

as petals fall

softly, softly

to a bed of needles

piercing.

Fragile in its fullness

fading it is

simply

made to be

what it is.

A rose

no matter the name

for its heartbeat

synchs and rises

with the sun.

And beauty rises

from ashes

blown by wind

as morning star

breathes life

again and again

with no end.

Until it becomes

what is yet unknown

though known

and seen as

ancient of days

summons

beauty forth.

Every rose dearly beloved

through the thorns,

Perfect

making imperfect

perfect in love

that never fails

though petals like teardrops

spill into the river flowing…

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