We had the best time this weekend celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! We had our gift exchange on Friday night after a time of worship together as a family and then on Saturday, we cooked and baked all day, had fellowship and worship together again, danced, sang, and just enjoyed time together! The kids have been working so hard on their special "performances" (which I really wish I could share with you!!). They sang "Joy to the World," performed the Christmas Drama according to the book of Luke, and then performed two dances, one in English and one in their language. I actually got to join them for the non-English one, which was a lot of fun! (Again, wish I could share the evidence!)
As I think about ALL the MANY things I have to be grateful for, the people I am surrounded by this Christmas are some of the first to come to mind! It is different here from the USA in SO many ways. Because this country's primary religions are Hinduism and Buddhism, they do not recognize Christmas as a holiday and so the kids do not get a Christmas break from school. In fact, they actually have final exams that they spend ANY extra time they have studying for! (One girl said to me..."I'm happy and I'm sad! I'm happy because it's Christmas and I'm sad because I have exams!")
During our time of devotions in the morning, we have been praying for the upcoming exams. They pray first and then I will pray last. And when I pray over them, I have been praying things along the lines of "God, would you increase their capacity to learn and help them to remember the things they need to for their exams." One of the girls interpreted my prayer to mean that I was praying they would pass their exams, no matter what! And she said to me, "how can we pray to pass our exams if we are not studying?!"
This girl! She's only 14 years old, but has SO much wisdom! I said to her, "you're exactly right! We are not praying that God would reward you for not studying, but that He would use the time that you ARE studying to increase your knowledge!" It may sound obvious, but I was so impressed with her! How many times do we pray for God to do a miracle...when we don't want to put in the work ourselves? And this girl knew "hey, God's not going to bless me in an area that I'm not making any efforts in!"
As we are less than one week away from New Year's Resolutions flourishing in our news feed, I'm reminded of that very thing. And it is motivating! If you're praying to lose weight, but you're not going to make any changes to what you eat or how often you exercise...guess what? You're probably not going to lose any weight. If you want or need a new car, but you're not making any money because no job is good enough for you, guess what? It will be next to impossible to save up and meet that goal. If you are praying for a good spouse to come your way...but are not already putting in the work into BEING a good spouse for someone else...you cannot be upset that it hasn't magically happened for you yet. If you want a better relationship with God but don't make any efforts to spend time with Him, it's probably going to take a while to get where you want to be.
It's AMAZING the blessings that God WANTS to give to us! And WILL give to us! And yes, He does things for us all the time just because He can. But don't get confused. He is NOT a genie in a bottle forced to grant us wishes. He is a GOOD FATHER. And good fathers bless their children AND show tough love to their children to develop strong character. They don't give their kids everything they want, especially if that kid is acting in a way that giving them the gift would enable or spoil them instead of blessing them. So when a single mom who is working hard to care for her family prays for God to help, don't be surprised when God shows OFF in the ways He blesses her! Or when that girl finally commits to her weight loss journey and gets up an extra hour early each day to get a workout in, YES. God will bless her efforts! Or when you see two people who desperately love JESUS move forward in marriage to one another, praise God for that too! They put the work in!
Please note, this is not meant to be interpreted as God wants us to work to get into Heaven or anything like that. What I AM saying is that we serve a HOLY and RELATIONAL God...someone Who came to earth in the most humble of ways and saved the world. And I believe He wants us to have EVERY good thing!! But not out of order! Good health, financial stability, healthy relationships, and companionship are all good things that God does not withhold from us. But WE may be withholding them from ourselves if we are not putting in the work to obtain and MAINTAIN the things we are asking for.
I'm not sure if that made sense or not and please know that I'm preaching to myself these very things! My hope is that as you set goals for 2022 that you would remember that reaching those goals WILL require ACTUAL CHANGE. Hopefully permanent change. If you can mentally prepare for that and be dedicated to making it work even when the motivation is completely absent, I believe you will be incredibly blessed and encouraged by the results!!
So I'd love to know...what are some of YOUR goals for the next calendar year? And more importantly, what is your game plan for reaching those goals? I'll let you know mine when I think more intentionally about them!
In case you've never heard these tips for setting goals for yourself...here's an acronym to help you decide how to set your goals!
Also, please enjoy these photos from my part of the world to yours!