What’s the Point of Singing “Peace on Earth?”

Bombs exploding around the world.

Children gunned down in their schools and classrooms.

What's the Point of Singing Peace on Earth??The “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave” ripped apart once again by racial tensions and ethnic divides.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket and it flies in the face of what we see and hear during this Christmas season.

We sing songs of Joy, Hope and Peace. We declare peace on earth and goodwill to our fellow man, and yet what we find when we step outside our doors or turn on our televisions or scroll through our Facebook feed is the exact opposite.

I read an article the other day bemoaning this exact state of affairs. The author shares her experience of how she no longer anticipates Christmas with excitement and jubilance, but rather with lament. She says,

Around this time of year I become a battering ram of lament, pounding against the season’s greetings and wreath-clad doors. We are dying here and there are none to comfort. Does anyone sense the dissonance between our Christmas songs and our actual stories? Does a quick scan of the headlines remind you that Christ, the deliverer, is a long way off? Does anyone care that West Africans are still dying of ebola, Syrian families hang by a thread and brown bodies are under constant threat in their own country?

When I first read that, my  heart groaned in agreement. Yes!, I thought. Why are we proclaiming peace and joy when we should be mourning and lamenting the state of the world and the godless existence so many experience?

Yet, something didn’t sit right with that thought alone. My heart laments the state of this world. It breaks under the weight of grief, despair, depravity, hatred. And yet, I sing.

Peace on earth, good will toward men is not some naive declaration of the way things seem to be every time December rolls around. It is not some empty platitude used only to fill the void and make an attractive Christmas card.

Joy the the World is not merely a rote exercise in remembering better days long past. On the contrary.

It is a prayer. It is a cry lifted to the Holy One, to continue to bring about His master Plan.

It is Hope embodied as I turn from that which is seen to that which is unseen yet so desperately hoped for.

It is a reminder that the best is yet to come, and this world hasn’t been fully left to its own devices. Yet.

These days, these dark times are but a glimpse of what humanity without Divinity would be. We are looking head-on into a dingy mirror of our own souls and seeing what would become of us if left to our own devices. If the Holy, the Almighty, the Great and Compassionate God were to remove the entirety of His presence from among us.

I sing JOY because I see what could be, and I see what He has done.

I declare HOPE because I see what Christ has rescued me from. It may seem now like a mere tiny candle flame in a Grand Canyon abyss of darkness, but it flickers there nonetheless.

I sing PEACE because I look ahead to the day when our Prince of Peace will come and make all things new; will make things as they were always meant to be before the decay of pride set in on that day so long ago under the apple tree.

The darker the day, the louder I will sing.

Because though my heart lament the Shadow of the Valley, my soul will sing His praise because the break of dawns glows dim on the horizon.

My soul grieves in the depths of me for the evil in this world, yet my heart shouts joy! because I’ve been lifted out of that miry, disgusting grave.

My view today is only as  a smeared image through a filth-coated glass, but I see it anyway and it burns hope so deep and so hot that song nearly bursts forth on it’s own.

These days are hard. They are dark. Full of pain and grief. Humanity groans just like a woman in labor for the pain. But I sing PEACE and I sing JOY and I sing HOPE all the stronger because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is more than able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Will you sing with me?

When JOY Seems Lost

5 Verses to Renew Your JoyLights twinkle white and rainbow in windows, on trees, stores and street lights, and one words seems to be on everyone’s lips.

We sing songs about it, pose our kids with cardboard letters of it, and plaster smiles on our faces as we spread Christmas cheer near and far.

JOY

Yet, maybe it all feels lost on you this year? Maybe you’re singing Joy to the World out loud, but inside you feel like a big, fat liar because joyful is the last thing you feel. Overwhelmed? Yes. Tired? Oh, yeah. Guilty? Bingo. But joy? Not so much.

I’ve been there, friend. In fact, I am there. So I decided to take action to try and reawaken true Joy in my heart, and in my life. I want to share some of what I have been learning with you. Join me at The Better Mom, where I’m sharing 5 Verses to Renew Your Joy {and they might not be the verses you think!!}. So if, like me, your joy is running a bit low, come on over and see if these help it start to bubble up.

If you’ve just clicked over from The Better Mom, I want to say thanks! And welcome you into my crazy little corner of the Interwebz. Grab some cocoa and a gingerbread man, make yourself comfy and look around!

When You Can’t See God in Your Story

What's Your God Story?Have you ever felt like even though you’re doing all the right things, God seems glaringly absent in your daily life?

Does it seem no matter how hard you work, things just don’t seem to get better and the outlook seems bleak?

I have so been there, friend. I want to encourage you, though, that God is present and He is whispering His story of love and grace to you every single day.

Join me at The Better Mom today as I talk about finding our God Stories. Check it out and then I’d love to hear what your God Story is!

If you’ve just joined us from The Better Mom, I want to welcome you! I’m so glad you’re hear! Feel free to grab a nice cuppa and look around awhile!

How to Make Christmas Truly Meaningful and FUN! {Truth in the Tinsel GIVEAWAY!!!}

***This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!***

I used a random number generator and the winner is….comment #5!! (Any comments from me where not factored into the total number). Congrats! I have contacted the winner via email. >IMG_1871.JPG

What comes to mind when you think of the Christmas season?

Joy? Reflection? Family?

Stress? Shopping? Pressure? Chaos? Is it over yet?

For those of us in the western world, Christmas seems to bring quite the hodgepodge of emotions, and conjure a myriad of thoughts and expectations. Particularly in the Pintrest-Crazy Internet Land, it can be easy to succumb to the notion that our homes must spotless, decorated to the nines and our children perfectly behaved and able to recite the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth from heart as well as sing Here Comes Santa Claus with the best of ‘em.

My heart is racing just thinking of it all. The cooking, the shopping, the shipping of packages (and the trips to the post office it requires – gag me with a  spoon, please!), more cooking. Don’t forget the teacher gifts – handmade and all organic and fair-trade of course, the church play and those six dozen brownies we agreed to make for the class party at school. Anyone else beginning to feel like a zombie yet??

Yeah, me too.

That’s why a few years ago I was really searching for a way to make Christmas a truly meaningful time for our family. A time when we set aside the chaos that the busy-ness of the season can bring and really focus on why we were celebrating. I was thrilled when I found an Advent curriculum complete with Bible readings, devotional thoughts, and even hymns to go with it! My little heart pitter-pattered as I envisioned our family circled around the fire, cocoa in hand, all listening quietly to the 50-verse Bible readings and then each one in turn offering a thoughtful insight. I’m talking revival right there in our living room!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Truth in the Tinsel GiveawayOh, sorry. It’s just that that particular curriculum required sitting still for more than five seconds.

Enter Truth in the Tinsel.

This is more than an curriculum – its an adventure!

It is designed to begin December 1, and you do one lesson, with a small craft, per day until Christmas. Before you’re eyes glaze over at the thought of a craft every.day., hear me out.

Amanda White, the creator of Truth in the Tinsel, created it when her kids were very small. She gets it. Not only has she lined out amazing, fun lessons, she’s made it as easy as possible for mom (and dad)! Each lesson has a short Bible reading, a short devotional thought and then the craft. There is even a hyperlink to the Bible verses, so you can just click through to read them if you’re not familiar or comfortable with flipping through a paper Bible.

There is also a master supply list for the crafts, as well as a daily list so you can easily look and see what you need for a particular day. She has also created a couple of different schedules. If every day is a bit overwhelming for you, you can just study the main characters. She has really taken all of the guess work out of really celebrating the Reason for Christmas.

Flexibility is the key here. If you don’t have the things for that day’s craft, no problem! Skip the craft, or use what you do have. Or, you can also download printable ornaments for each day. Print and color. Simple, no? (If you want to see more in-depth details about the lessons and crafts, check out the Manger Mondays tab at the top of this page.)

Perhaps the thing I love most about Truth in the Tinsel is how it instills in my children – and in myself – a deep understanding and connection to the Christmas story – the birth of Christ – and it’s meaning. My kids understand not only that Christmas is important, but why. And it was all done in about 20 minutes each evening, having fun.

I’m so excited and grateful that Amanda is graciously and generously giving one of you awesome readers a copy of the Truth in the Tinsel eBook and the printable ornaments!!

This giveaway, since it is all digital, is open world wide and will run from Monday, November 3 – Friday, November 7. I will announce the winner no later than Monday, November 10.

Don’t want to wait to get your hands on a copy? Or want to buy it if you don’t win? You can get 20% off of the eBook until December 25th using the code GALSJOURNEY.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this blog post and tell me: What is your favorite thing about the Christmas season?

To earn one extra entry, share this giveaway either on Twitter or Facebook, then come back here and leave a second comment telling me how you shared.

Good luck!

 

*This post contains an affiliate link.

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You Say Potato, I Say…Zulassungsbescheinigung

We get a lot of comments from people about how lucky we are to live where we do, how exotic our lives must be, and one question we get asked all.the.time:

What’s it like living in a foreign country?? 

 Let me tell you a story…

Today, I needed to run some errands. I needed a winter coat – like, a real winter coat, not the cute little cotton thing I had last winter – and I needed to get some things checked out on the car. In case you didn’t know, it snows in Austria. I mean, the Alps? Hullooo! So, it would stand to reason that on occasion, one needs to drive on said snow (and ice) during the winter months. (It’s also totally the law that every car be fitted with winter tires from October to April).

I’d like to share with you the conversation I had with the man at the tire shop about getting an estimate on winter tires. This entire conversation happened in German, so I have provided the translated version here for your enjoyment.

Me: Hello, I would like to get an estimate on winter tires and wheels, please.

Tire Man (TM): Of course! Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: … I’m sorry, what was that?

TM: No problem. Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: I’m very sorry, I don’t know what that is.

TM: *chuckle* Oh, right. It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: But…what is that?

TM: It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: I’m sorry, I am new to Austria and I don’t know what a zu… zus…what a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is.

TM: Oh, haha, of course. It is a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *blank stare*

TM: *blank stare*

Me: …

TM: …

You Say Potato...

Eventually I did find the Zulassungsbescheinigung…at home, in a file.

Me: Could you maybe write it down for me?

TM: *reaches into a drawer and pulls out what looks like a European driver’s license*

Me: Oh!! *pulls out my European driver’s license* This??

TM: Exactly!! Oh…no. This is a driver’s license. You need a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *headdesk*

The End.

You may think I embellished this story for humor’s sake, I assure you I did not. (okay, I didn’t actually say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but whatever word protruded from my lips was just as nonsensical, I assure you.)

If fairness to Mr. Tireman, he probably felt that he was in fact giving me an accurate description of the item, because that’s how German works. All those big, long words German is so famous for? They are a bunch of smaller words jammed together so that it very accurately and in great detail describes the item, location or office/department to which it refers. Zulassungsbescheinigung probably means “little card containing all the pertinent information pertaining to your car ever in the history of man”, because that’s what it is. And, as I learned today, any time you need work or inspections done on your car, you must present this.

Later this afternoon, I went to a second tire shop for another estimate. When TM2 asked me for my Zulassungsbescheinigung, I grinned slyly to let him know I’m hip to the code and whipped out my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious before he could even finish saying the word. Booyah.

Yes, living in Vienna (or any European place) has its amazing highlights. Just the other day, I was buying paper towels and coffee in the shadow of the world-renowned Stefansdom Catherdral. I mean, wow. So many times we stop in the middle of our day and just look around and take it in because we – how do the kids say it these days? –  just can’t even. Sometimes we literally can’t even.

However, most days…this my friends – this conversation right here – is what it’s like to live in a foreign country.

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