Wednesday, December 07, 2011


*guest post by Michelle Massaro, Asst. Editor at COTT

Can you believe it's almost December? I love the holidays, but I always struggle this time of year. My heart aches for the Thomas Kinkade paintings, for smiles and laughter and goodwill toward man (especially between siblings in the house!), for snuggling by the fire, kisses under the mistletoe, all that good stuff.

Real life is not a painting. Or an old black-and-white movie. (That's often why we love escaping into our novels.)

Nope. Real life finds too many dust bunnies when it's time to move furniture to make room for the tree. Real life has pouting kids who don't want to help lug in the decoration box or be pulled away from their video games in order to just sit by the fire with mom. Husbands who tolerate, but don't enjoy, watching White Christmas, and who grimace and sweat--and possibly even swear--while wrestling with the Christmas lights.

Add to that the fact that I never got around to shedding that extra five pounds--and now feel it's too late to try--the constant pain in my neck, the myriad bills we aren't sure how to pay, a toddler in the throes of the "terrible two's" (to be fair, he's the sweetest boy in the world, just extremely rambunctious), and homeschool pressures...and each day starts to feel overwhelming. Beyond my ability. Sucking me under. Life does not meet my expectations. I'm failing.

And sometimes "failing" at something as simple and earthly as creating the "right" home atmosphere can lead to a depression that slips into spiritual darkness. Lies. All lies. But too often, I believe them.

Maybe you can relate. Or maybe your set of challenges lies elsewhere. Regardless, we all have seasons, or areas of our life, where we don't feel up to the task. And we grieve that ineptitude.

A dear friend recently gave me a gift--a daily devotional--and the first day's reading hit its mark in my heart. In essence, it reminded me that the measure of God's strength given to me on a daily basis is determined by two things:
The difficulty of my circumstances, and my willingness to depend on Him for help.

This concept completely changed my thinking when it came to facing challenges. Demons. I don't need to assess the situation and measure it against my usual ability and strength. I need to depend on Him and believe that He can and will empower me that much more in order to handle the task. And tomorrow, when the challenge is not so great, He will give me just the strength I need for that day.

Today it might be preparing the house, encouraging generousity in my kids, and finding ways to trim the grocery budget so that we can get that tail light replaced.  Tomorrow it could be the death of a loved one, a falling away of a brother or sister, or the loss of a job. But the degree of His power available to me will match whatever circumstance comes my way.

And the same goes for you, too. So if there's any chance that one of you share this struggle of mine at this time of year, I pray this truth shines like a beacon in your heart and gives you hope. It did for me.

If you're interested in the devotional I mentioned, it's called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The entry I referenced was November 11th. :-) And if you want some great Christian novels to dive into or pick up as gifts, you always know where to find some winners. (There's always a contest going on at COTT, so I hope you'll join us this week for a look at a couple great cover images.)

Have a blessed week!


Keli Gwyn said...

I've learned to slow down and savor the true blessings of the Christmas season, a lesson taught me by my college daughter. She likes to have the tree up and trimmed with the wrapped packages beneath it before she heads back to school after Thanksgiving. By doing my shopping all year long, this has become a realistic goal. Now that I've embraced it, I won't go back. I'm free to focus on friends, family, and the real reason for the season.

I have to add that my life is more like a Thomas Kincade painting than you might think. I live in Placerville, California, the town where Kincade spent his childhood. He attended the same elementary school our daughter did. The elegant Victorian house he used as inspiration for the painting in your post is one I pass when I walk to town. I love my historic town and am happier here than I've been anywhere else. My Gwynly and I have lived here 18 years, and this is home, a place that brings me a great deal of contentment.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Life is never quite like the Kinkade paintings that seem so perfect. They speak of a simpler time. The good memories and idyllic settings of our childhood fill us with nostalgia, and we wish for things to be as they once were. But reality doesn't let us go back in time and recreate the past. For me, that's just as well. I'm content with the present.

Three of our family members died in mid-December in different years, the last being our adopted daughter fifteen years ago. Sometimes, as you so perfectly put it, I "grieve the ineptitude" of not being able to feel the bubbly joy that others exhibit at this time of year. But God is always sufficient for my day. He infuses a different kind of happiness into my holiday... one that's wrapped in peace.

Thank you for this post, Michelle. Christmas blessings to you and to Christine.