Advent Season: Looking Back to Look Forward

“I waited patiently for the LORD, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 40:1-3

Waiting is not my strong suit, especially when the wait drags on for what seems like an eternity. In fact, I feel like it’s a sign that God needs my help to make things happen. I just jump on out ahead of Him to get the ball rolling. Not a good idea. Because evidently, I need to learn the lesson of waiting, this past year has been just that, a year of waiting on God.

A few years ago, I rebelled against setting myself up for failure and self-loathing by refusing to engage in the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. A friend of mine had shared with me the concept of the One Word for a year. That is where you ask God to place a word on your heart that He will use to focus your thoughts for a solid year. The first year I tried this my word was “Possible”, then came “New”, “Joy”, and the ever lovely word, “Humility.” However, last year I was planning on not participating, but God had greater plans. I’ll give you three guesses as to what my one word for 2018 was going to be, and the first two don’t count.

Wait.

One day I was cleaning out my oldest son’s old bedroom. Collin had been given a lot of books by one of our pastors, but he had left them behind when he got married and moved out of the house. I was sorting through them all, when this tiny little book caught my attention. It was “Waiting on God,” by Andrew Murray. This little book was written a really long time ago, but it is a gem. It is meant to be read as a devotional everyday for a month. And if you didn’t know, the word “wait” is in the Bible…a lot! It makes for a great word study.

My lesson began at the beginning of 2018 with a quick dive into the valley. Right off the bat, I began experiencing symptoms which I would come to realize was a relapse of my multiple sclerosis. The symptoms started off gradual but increased with intensity and unending neurological pain. Fortunately, my doctor was able to treat the pain with medication. However, I was still left with more muscle weakness, and after much prayer and discussion with my husband, I decided to quit my job. Then my dearest friend (who also happens to be the mother to my daughter-in-law) found out she had an aggressive sarcoma cancer that had metastasized to her spine. What was God thinking! It seemed as though my life was falling apart. Here I was with no job, which made me feel like I had no purpose, and my best friend was given a devastating diagnosis. But God showed up in big ways this year, and has become more real to me than ever before.

So what’s the point of my story? Wait on God. He is faithful. As this year comes to a close and Christmas is around the corner, my word “wait” is at the heart of it all. Advent is expectant waiting and preparation. It is looking back to look forward. It is preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ.  He is coming again, praise God!

Looking Back This Year, What Have I Learned?

  1. God is enough, and I am not. In all my striving and self-sufficiency, God showed me who He was. The valley forced me to look up, to fix my eyes on Jesus. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable,” (Isaiah 40:28). This knowledge should change how I live everyday.
  2. I need to make the most of my days. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). Quitting my job (which I realize that is not everyone’s calling, but it was mine) showed me how much I was spending my days just surviving and not truly living. Every day is a gift from God.
  3. I need community. I could not have made it through this year without my people, and they know who they are.  Surround yourself with people who love Jesus first, and who will speak truth into your life. This too is a gift from God, and it will be oxygen for you!
  4. Stay in God’s word. Period. Maybe you are in a season of waiting in the uncertainty, in suffering, or in the ordinary. God is actually waiting on you. Come to Him in His word. He will show you the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Join Me On an Advent Journey

I hope you will join me on this Advent journey into reminding us all of God’s past faithfulness and His future hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. I will be diving into God’s word to pray, reflect and rejoice! Come along every Monday for my Advent Meditations. I know there are a lot of voices out there teaching and talking about Advent, but I truly feel God wants me to exalt Him in this space that He has graciously allowed me to have. It will be my privilege to share with you. God is worth the wait, and I know He is longing to show us more.

You can choose to follow my blog by signing up to receive the posts in your email inbox, and/or you can also follow me on Instagram @sharon_sose_bee. I would love to build community here also, so please leave a comment!  God bless!

Here is the Advent wreath I made. Very simple and I put my own touches on it. The base greenery came from a cedar tree outside my home.


Christmas Past: What I Wish I Could Tell my 20-something-year-old self

Santa Claus. Black Friday. Family gatherings. Stress. What do these words have to do with Christmas past? They are some of my biggest regrets, and they are things I wish I could go back and change. But since I can’t, I will endeavor, hopefully, to help others by sharing with you what I am doing today. Here are a few notes to my 20-something-year-old self.

You are not Martha Stewart, Joanna Gaines or your girlfriend on Instagram who seems to have it all together.

Perfectionism is a joy killer, and it is straight up pride. Who are you trying to impress? Do you purchase stuff to make your home more beautiful, only to put more of a strain on your finances? Don’t get me wrong, having beauty in my home is important to me, especially at Christmas, but I need to work with what God has given me today, in my current circumstances, in my current budget. A verse that jumped off the page during a sermon from my pastor, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8, emphasis mine). Meaning “food and clothing”, keep it simple. What I have is enough, because that is what God has given me. Do I trust Him in this? Again, Who am I trying to impress?

You can’t please everyone.

Extended family can be a blessing (for some ;), but trying to make every stop within a span of two days robs my peace, and thus my husband’s and children’s peace.  Looking back, I have great memories with my parents, siblings and in-laws. However, I was also very stressed out. I yelled at my kids more and treated my husband disrespectfully because of all the shopping, preparing and traveling. Now that I have multiple sclerosis, I have learned to place some boundaries – for the sake of my health. So, what can I do differently to guard what is most precious to me? 

  1. Get the calendar out and see what demands there are for my time. I know that there is a Christmas party for my husband’s work and for my lifegroup at church. I know that my church is also having a Christmas concert and a Christmas Eve service.  I also know that my extended families are having gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I want dedicated time to spend Christmas with my husband and my now grown kids (we have a daughter-in-law now, so I want to be mindful of her time with her family as well).
  2. Prioritize. Some things are good things, but they are not what’s best. For instance, the Christmas concert is a no go. It will be one more thing on the calendar, and the timing does not fit with what’s best. It’s a good thing, but it’s not what’s best.
  3. Rethink time with extended family. I am blessed with a wonderful, loving extended family (this includes my husband’s family). I truly enjoy spending time with them. This is another good thing, but I need to put this into perspective. We just spent Thanksgiving with them, which required us to travel. In the past, we have traveled for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. With two small children, this was a major source of stress for me. Often we would return home and then become physically sick. I was trying so hard to please everyone else. I should have put my foot down. There were a couple of instances where we couldn’t make it to those family gatherings at Christmas, and it was the best time. I had time to enjoy my boys, and they could wake up in their own homes on Christmas morning. Now my boys are grown and out of the home. I can’t get those years back. Learn from my mistakes.

Remember what Christmas is not.

Christmas is not about spending on gifts to the point of debt, stress and excess. Christmas is actually not about giving gifts how we as Americans give gifts. Christmas shopping stresses me out. Christmas is not stress. Christmas is about hope, faith, joy and peace.

Christmas is not about Santa Claus. This would have been a major game changer for me. I wish that when my boys were babies, we never introduced them to Santa. The focus would have been on Jesus. I would have created more Jesus memories, not Santa ones. I admire my brother and his family who take a trip for Christmas together as a family instead of giving gifts. They spend time together, and then on Christmas day they bake a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. They keep the focus on what matters and on Who it is all about. Consider giving gifts only on your children’s birthdays or keep gift giving to a minimum on Christmas, and keep Christmas solely about Christ. Instead or in addition, find ways to give to those in your community who have little to nothing, and involve your children. Put your faith in action.

Start this year.

If you have children in your home, it’s not too late. Begin to prioritize now how you want to remember holidays and traditions, and how you want your kids to remember them. Pray asking God to help you gain an eternal perspective of Christmas and family and time. I want the traditions I keep for my family to foster a love for God, to worship Him for who He is and what He has done for us.

Guard your calendar and don’t succumb to FOMO, or else you truly will miss out on what’s best. Have the courage and faith to make changes, even if it means you may disappoint someone. In the long run, you won’t regret it. If something doesn’t work, get rid of it and try something else (if it causes you stress, that’s a sign you may need to rethink it). Find traditions that work best for your family. Keep it simple. Less is more. Keep Jesus the main thing. He is worth it, and the reason for it all. 

If you are older, it’s still not too late. Be mindful of your children and their young families. Respect them and their boundaries. Create new traditions with you and your spouse. Things are different and are changing for us, and that’s okay. It’s just a new adventure!

Comment on this post and share what traditions are meaningful to you and your family. We all could use some good ideas!

See how I am keeping it simple by following my Instagram account @sharon_sose_bee, and here on my blog as I journey through the meaning of Advent and Christmas for me and my family.