Christmas: The Greater Gift

christmas-cross-1

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I think this is one of my favorite images of Christmas. We celebrate the amazing gift of Jesus in the manger. But the even greater gift came as Jesus offered Himself in our place on the cross. What kind of love is this?

It’s the kind of love that leaves me humbled and feeling small. And yet, knowing I’m loved with that kind of passion fills me with a deep-down joy. As Christmas draws nearer, I am taking a break to spend time with my family.

Know that you, my readers, are a great gift to me as well. I thank God for you. May your Christmas be one that holds much joy, leaves you with treasured memories, and confirms that truth that you are greatly loved by our heavenly Father.

I’ll see you back here on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 (can you believe it?!).

Merry Christmas!

Test: God Is With Us

Test

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Why does God test us?

As I was reading Judges 3, I made it to the second verse before the Lord stopped me.

“These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wards in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):…” (NIV)

And it goes on to list the nations.

The first time I read this, I thought about the Lord testing the Israelites, as in—did He want them to fail? What was He testing? Their abilities?

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Homeless: A Heart Like Jesus

Home doormat

 

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Can I be honest and say I am a cynic?

And I am convicted.

As I watched this video, I was challenged to think about what home is.

I’ve seen and given to people who were wearing new tennis shoes and decent-looking clothes, and I’ve questioned if they were really homeless, or if they were trying to turn a quick buck.

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Humility: Choosing to Live Real

Wearing masks

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I suspect I’m not the only one who’s done it.

Who’s donned a mask for one reason or another.

Sometimes I’ve done it to impress others.

More often though, I’ve placed that mask over the real me because it felt safer to have people look at the image they thought was me than the picture of the actual me. Living as the real me was too dangerous.

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Whole: When We Are Broken

Quiet dandelion splayed

 

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

My Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—WHOLE. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

WHOLE

As a little girl, I began my school years feeling whole. Confident that I was a nice person, worthy of having friends. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with me?

It only took a couple years of being picked on to see that I was not really all that “whole” anymore.

A couple more years, and the lies broke apart my self-concept, leaving me fractured.

As I’ve written before, I spent decades trying to work through the fractures in who I thought I was, and align it with who God says I am.

I’m watching my boys walk through some of those same childhood struggles. Kids picking on them. Friends turning on them. It breaks my heart.

Always it’s the words that inflict the most damage.
I’m not advocating fighting, but boys sometimes throw a couple punches, and then they’re done with it.

But when the words come in? Those are what devastate a spirit.

white flowers snowy backdrop

When we believe what people say over what God says about us, that’s when our whole spirit becomes a fracture, a broken reflection of who God intends us to be.

That’s when we refract a crooked sort of injured light to the world around us. It’s filtered through the pain of words that broke our spirits.

I pray for my boys that they won’t walk through the years and years of pain that I have. I pray they will begin early to see who they are in Jesus’ eyes, rather than who they are spoken to be through their peers’ mouths.

It’s when we can begin to see that Jesus has made us whole—that He is the One who offers healing, that He is the one who puts the broken pieces back together—that we can be whole again.

Wild flowers burgundy amid white

It’s when we come under the sometimes painful revelations about the lies we’ve believed, the coping mechanisms we’ve developed— and when we allow Him to strip them awaythat we can become the clearer reflection of who God created us to be.

What about you? How have you seen God making you whole in some of the broken areas in your life? How has God done some healing in your life, making you more whole?

2016: One Word

Hazy trees, sun behind

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

It’s funny how some years, I know what my word is right away, and other years, I don’t know. I begin praying about my word around September of the preceding year.

This year . . . nothing came. I tried on a few words to see how they fit with my heart. One grated, another fit poorly. None resonated.

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Light: Light in the Darkness

Christmas Star

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

As we head into the Christmas season, it’s so easy to see the darkness in our world . . . terrorists claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent people, like in Paris a few weeks ago . . . mass shootings here in the States, false religions drawing people into their belief systems. Commercialism claims the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

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Busy: 15 Tips For Managing Holiday Busyness

Christmas peace

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Two weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on the effects of busyness on the heart . When I’m too busy for my own good, everything—and those closest to me—suffers.

A too-busy heart—a too-busy life—has no room in it for connections . . . with Jesus, or with those around us. We respond to people and situations on a surface level, because there’s nothing in us that can dig any deeper.

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Life Lessons: If We Will Just Move—Guest Post by Tiffany Parry

Moving Stream

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I met Tiffany Parry on a weekly link up we both do called Five Minute Fridays. As we’ve gotten to know each other through our blogs, my respect for this lady continues to grow. She’s a beautiful writer and a sweet lady with a vibrant relationship with God. I asked her to share part four of my series Life Lessons. (Find Parts One, Two, and Three here). I look forward to the day I get to sit and have coffee with Tiffany in person. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the words she shares on her blog.

Please help me welcome Tiffany!

~~~~~

My 40th birthday is a few weeks away. As I look ahead with anticipation, I also look back and assess the landscape of my life. I’m counting what I’ve accomplished, the dreams I’ve pursued, and even the longings I’ve allowed to slip through my fingers.

It’s true what they say: youth is wasted on the young.

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Learn: The Best Lessons

Autumn path

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Our Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—LEARN. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

This prompt goes along well with series I’m hosting on my blog this month on Life Lessons. I shared one of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned in a recent post. As I thought about other life-lessons, here’s another one I’ve learned.

LEARN

Life offers many opportunities to learn.

As a child, I learned the sting that rejection inflicts on a girl’s heart. I learned the warped lies that come from believing the words, when they’re said to you enough. And for years, I believed them.

As a teen, I learned the truth of Jesus’ gospel gift. And I embraced Him as my Savior, and my Lord. I wouldn’t learn what it means to know Him as a lover until much later.

As a college student, I learned that compromise never leads to lasting joy. Compromise may lead to temporary acceptance, short-term feel-goods, but never to lasting fulfillment.

As a young professional (teacher) I learned the beauty of falling in love with God’s word. Hardship in the classroom instilled on my heart the need for knowing God’s word. Leaning into Him was the best thing I could have learned in my tumultuous first year of teaching.

Quiet Time

In my twenties I learned the heartache and the beauty of waiting. That when I waited for God’s best for me, I would learn how to desire Him above any man. And when God brought the man I’d prayed over for years? He was so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.

Infertility? Yea, lots of lessons there. Adoption? Lots more lessons there. For another post.

Now, as a mom in my forties, I’m learning how to begin letting go of the precious boys God’s given us. Sure, they’re only twelve and eleven, but already, they’re anxious to discover who they’re meant to be. They may not know it yet, but they’ll have many life lessons to learn as well.

Watching them get hurt—trusting them into God’s hands is hard—but it holds its own beauty. 

Holding Hands

Growing older with my husband, I’m still learning the delight that comes in complete acceptance/unconditional love from a human.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned so far in my nearly fifty years? I don’t have to work for acceptance from anyone else. God’s unfailing acceptance of me—His delight and perfect love for me—is enough.

What about you? What ’s one lesson you’ve been learning? What’s the most life-changing lesson you’ve learned?