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I don’t remember whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow two weeks ago. It really doesn’t matter since he doesn’t have a strong track record of being accurate. Still, I can hope spring is on the way even though right now half of the U.S. is gripped in an Arctic blast. A Google search says the spring equinox that marks the astronomical first day of spring doesn’t happen until March 19. I just have to wait, but at least I have a date!

Christians called to “Write His Answer” often feel stuck in a deep freeze with no date or assurance it will end. But instead of burrowing under the blanket of discouragement, we need to brave the cold. (Yes, these snowdrops really are blooming in my garden.) We need to keep writing and keep trusting that God will enable our work to get in print in His perfect timing.

As we wait, we also need to ponder what’s most important. Is it getting our name in print, especially on the cover of a book, or the journey of how we get there? Are our lives, not just our words, bearing fruit?


Bearing Fruit

A Bible Study Based on John 15:1-5; Colossians 2:7; 
Galatians 5:22-23; Jeremiah 17:7-8

Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

LOVE – He loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

  • Do I love my readers?
  • Is love my motivating force?
  • How much of myself do I give them?
  • What about loving my editors, especially the ones who reject my manuscript?
  • Loving people who make demands on my time, who take me from my work?

JOY – For the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).

  • Is my joy dependent on acceptances, praise, success?
  • Do I rejoice in taking up my cross (Mark 8:34-35), or look for easier ways to serve the Lord?

PEACE –  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27 NIV).
We never see Jesus uptight even when demands on him were so great that “he couldn’t even find time to eat” (Mark 3:20 TLB). See also Colossians 3:15.

  • Do I have his peace when I’m interrupted?
  • When I’m facing a deadline or blank computer screen?
  • When doors do not open for my work?

PATIENCE – Think about his patience as sinful men did such terrible things to him (Hebrews 12:3 TLB); his patience on the night he was betrayed when even his disciples  did not yet understand who he was (see John 14:4-11).

  • Am I learning to wait patiently on the Lord?
  • How patient am I with editors, family members, myself?

KINDNESS – Because of his kindness you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8 TLB).

  • Do people (editors, family, friends) see Christ in me?
  • Am I gracious?

GOODNESS – He went around doing good  (Acts 10:38 TLB).
Greek – agathos describes that which “being good in its character . . . is beneficial in its effect.”*

  • Is my writing benefiting my readers?
  • How can I “do good” with my writing?

FAITHFULNESS – He has enriched us, gifted us, strengthened us, called us, and is faithful (see 1 Corinthians 1:5-9).

  • Am I being faithful to him?
  • Am I using the gifts he has given me?

GENTLENESS – I am gentle and humble” (Matthew 11:29 TLB).
Greek – meekness, prautes: closely linked with humility, a fruit of power not weakness,not fighting against God, the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest.*

  • Have I argued with the Lord lately?
  • Am I on an ego trip?

SELF CONTROL – Jesus responded. He did not react. He was always in control of his feelings, words, actions (see Mark 3).

  • How much self-control did I exercise the last time something or someone irritated me?
  • What about my self-discipline?
  • Do I daily relinquish control of my life to the Lord?

*From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

Online registration is open for the May 13-16 Colorado conference.
https://colorado.writehisanswer.com

Over half of the faculty is in place for the July 22-25 Philly conference. Now a full three days plus an opening keynote Wednesday evening by Liz Curtis Higgs. Registration will open April 1.
https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com

It’s been a challenging week! That’s not surprising when I’m working on the Colorado or Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference.

For more than 20 years I’ve been typesetting the 16-page conference brochures on Quark, a desktop publishing program similar to InDesign. Since I write the copy to fit, it’s not a job I can delegate. And really it’s a task I enjoy – that is, when I don’t encounter problems.

Perhaps my joy (okay, pride) in opening registration four days early for the May 13-16 Colorado Christian Writers Conference was why typesetting the brochure was more difficult than usual.

I’ve got a laptop with a huge hard drive and lots of memory, but clicking on the over 50 text boxes in the two pages below was laborious. I clicked and clicked. When a box finally opened, I couldn’t find the cursor. It was taking forever just to typeset these two pages, and I still had another 14 pages to finish!

The above does not include our keynoters or continuing session and clinic instructors. You can see who they are at https://colorado.writehisanswer.com.

Finally ready to send to the printer

Wednesday afternoon, two days later than I had planned, I finally uploaded the brochure to the printer, or rather I tried to upload it. Can you imagine my dismay when I kept getting the message, “The file appears to be corrupted”?

Three hours and two calls to the printer later, I was assured they had the file and everything was fine. But the next day I got an email that they did not have the file. Would I “please upload it again.”

Unbelievably, Friday morning they called. Yes, same message! But now they admitted the problem was on their end. They said they would expedite the printing so I’d have the brochures in time for the February 22, Writers on the Rock conference. (If you live in Colorado or Wyoming, click here for info on this great one-day learning experience.)

I was more than ready to move on to the next thing I needed to get done that I hoped wouldn’t be another challenge. No such luck. (Well, luck has nothing to do with any of this. I am so beyond my own abilities and dependent on Father’s enabling.)

Facing another challenge

Again I faced not one but two challenges. I tried and tried to get the workshop grids posted on the website so they were readable. After hours of no success, exasperated, and at the “end of my rope,” I blogged “When you think you can’t . . .” promises from God’s Word. But I confess, I did give up (temporarily) and move on to the next thing on my never-ending to-do list.

Again, technology had me stumped and frustrated. After typesetting the mini-poster and Teens Write flyer below in Quark, I couldn’t create the needed PDF to send them to the printer. I tried to find answers in the 450+ page manual. I did multiple Google searches. Even got a Just Answer tech. He tried everything he knew and said, “You need to contact Quark.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Poster-and-TW-CO-2020-Teens-Write-CO-2018-2.png

I found a Quark tech online. Turns out my 2018 version of Quark is not compatible with the latest Windows 10 update. What? It was when I purchased it a year ago. The 2015 version that I typically use had created the needed PDF for the conference brochure. (The learning curve for the later version is so daunting that I rarely use it, but for some reason I couldn’t get the file I needed to update for the poster and Teens Write to load in 2015.) I couldn’t move the mini-poster and Teens Write flyer I created in the 2018 version to the 2015 program. I was stuck! (Yes, this is getting complicated. Stick with me, please.)

While I was relieved to know it wasn’t my lack of computer know-how, I wasn’t thrilled with the need to purchase an upgrade. And, of course, I encountered issues getting the upgrade to work! Again, I needed tech help, but PTL Quark included a full year of free support.

It was another long and exhausting day. I didn’t get near as much done as I had hoped to accomplish.

I’m so grateful Father helped me to persevere when the evil one tried to convince me that I had hit a brick wall
that I was not smart enough
or strong enough
or young enough to scale.

What about you?

While hopefully you’re not encountering the technical challenges that are so often a part of my experience, I know you face other challenges. The blank computer screen can be intimidating. Writing for the Lord isn’t easy. None of us will ever fully master the craft or understand all the intricacies of grammar and punctuation. And building a platform and finding a publisher are daunting tasks.

I’m often reminded of the challenges Solomon faced when his father commissioned him to build the Temple. I cling to the Lord and to the words He gave David to speak to his son – and to me and to you:

Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; he will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.
1 Chronicles 28:20 (TLB)

I know I’ll continue to face challenges, but God’s love and mercy never fail. PTL the new version of Quark is more user-friendly and isn’t hanging up. And now I’m able to create readable images directly from Quark. Hurrah!

Accept the truth – you can’t. But . . .

with God everything is possible. Mark 10:27 TLB

Choose to rely on Him and His enabling.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. Proverbs 3:5 AMP

Refuse to believe the evil one’s lies that you can’t do what God is calling you to do.

Now you have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing his will are yours during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:7 TLB

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

Claim His promises.

I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. Philippians 4:13 TLB

Don’t give up!

And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. Galatians 6:9 TLB

Praise Him in joyful anticipation of conquering the impossible in His strength.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. Ephesians 3:20 TLB

Surprises

I love surprises! But waiting has never been the part I love. I’d beg my mother to give me a hint – just a little hint. I didn’t want her to totally give away the surprise. That would spoil the fun of wondering what the surprise might be.

I remember one Christmas when my curiosity got the best of me. I hunted through all of my mother’s favorite hiding places until I finally discovered the tiny outfits she had made for my Ginny doll while I was in school. Christmas morning just wasn’t the same.

When someone tells me a secret and makes me promise not to tell, I have to bite my tongue. Although I’m busting to tell, a promise is a promise.

But when I’m in control, when I’m the giver, keeping a surprise a secret is part of the fun. I love being a tease and getting the eager recipient to play guessing games. I remember the time I had my children squirming in the back seat trying to figure out where we were going. Their squeals of excitement when they discovered the surprise was a puppy is a memory I treasure.

Even more exciting are the times when I surprise myself by accomplishing something I didn’t think I could do. Like the first time I overcame my fear and sang a solo in church. Or the first time I gave a day-long writers’ seminar. Just before the last session, my voice was gone. I remember desperately praying for help. And Father answered. My voice returned and was stronger than at the beginning of the day. That really was a needed surprise and a miracle since I did not have a microphone.

Just this week I surprised myself by beating a self-imposed deadline. I think it was a first! If you were with me online on Tuesday for the workshop I presented on Patricia Durgin’s Facebook Live Marketers on a Mission Summit, you were the first to know that registration for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference is open. I beat my February 1 deadline by four days!

You can view the workshop, one of my favorites – The Power of Story, Turning Personal Experiences Into Print – by clicking here. Presenting a workshop online via Zoom was another first for me. The amazing technology even enabled me to use my PowerPoints. Another surprise was that I could figure out how to do it, but Patricia is a good teacher!

Just as I enjoy giving and receiving surprises, I believe our Heavenly Father receives even more joy in surprising us with blessings. He wants our lives to be an exciting adventure of discovering the surprises He has for us when we put our trust in Him.

This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise,
God handling all the details.

Ephesians 3:7 MSG

I hope you’ll visit the website for the May 13-16 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Everything has been updated except for the conference brochure and Barb Haley’s amazing charts. Wow! That’s another surprise. I’m about a month ahead of last year! Thank You, Father!

I want to encourage you to register early. If you’re among the first 50 to register for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (we offer optional early bird workshops on Wednesday afternoon), you’ll receive a bonus appointment for a total of SIX free 15-minute appointments with the faculty of your choice based on availability.

Obviously, by registering early it is much more likely that you’ll get your top choices. You won’t be able to request your appointments until the charts of editorial needs, areas of expertise, and availability for paid critiques are online, but as long as you get your requests to us by April 15 and are paid in full by then, you’ll get preference based on the order in which you registered. Sounds complicated? It really isn’t, and we’ve got lots of how-to info online under Appointments to help you understand our system, make the best choices, and be prepared to get the most out of the time you’ll spend one-on-one with our faculty.

Plans are also surprisingly well underway for the July 22-25 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. The conference is back to a full three days and begins Wednesday evening with a keynote by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Yes, I love surprises! What about you? Have you recently been surprised by a blessing you didn’t see coming or by something Father enabled you to do that you didn’t think was possible?

The Learning Curve

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, but I confess it’s often sadly lacking in my life. Especially when it comes to learning new technology (or trying to), patience is not something I possess. Knowing that patience grows through testing, I admit that I avoid praying for patience. It’s easier to simply give up!

Hasn’t the technology that is part of day-to-day living gotten ridiculously complicated? I got a new smart phone, but it makes me feel dumb! I purchased a book (of course, since I’m a writer). But seriously, did I really think I would take the time to read 697 pages? iPhone the missing manual does have a good index and lots of illustrations, but I’m impatient. I don’t want to take time to study a manual. I want to immediately be able to use my iphone. After all, it’s supposed to be “intuitive.” Well, maybe for some.

Then there’s the daily challenge of wrestling with my computer. Instead of thanking God for all it enables me to do, I waste valuable time grumbling when I could and should be tackling the learning curve.

But today I made up my mind to stop moaning and groaning about HTML, HyperText Markup Language. It’s known as “the most basic building block of the Web.” Just the name makes me feel hyper, but it’s something I’ve known I need to learn to more effectively manage my four websites. So today I finally got started on a Udemy course, “HTML, CSS, Bootstrap.” It took some searching because I purchased it over a year ago. (Yes, I also struggle with procrastination!)

Amazingly I somehow had the patience to get through the first 14 lessons. (I didn’t pray for patience, but I did ask Father to “Please show me how to do this.) I’ve still got much to learn, but it was enough to enable me to copy, paste, and revise some bootstrap code (something else I need to learn) in the website for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

It took all afternoon, but I’ve now got bootstrap working to display two photos and text on the top of the Continuing Session page that will adjust to all different size screens. Thank You, Father!

Like a kid in a candy store or with a new toy, I’m revising the bootstrap code to add pictures throughout the website. Check out the Continuing Sessions page by clicking here. The eight sessions are all in place and I’m excited. (The link is not yet available through the menu at the top of the page. That’s a challenge for another day!)

The learning curve is not just something I need to grin and bear when I’m dealing with technology. It’s a key to my growth in all areas of my life – personally, professionally, and spiritually.

Study [learn and keep learning]
to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

For those who seek to serve the Lord through the ministry of writing there is also a learning curve. And it can feel really steep. That’s why we need to “encourage each other to build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11 TLB). And it’s why I’m directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for the 24th year and the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference for the 37th year. Someone has said they are the equivalent of a semester’s course in college. I doubt my first book would have ever gotten in print had my pastor not sent me to the St. Davids’ Christian Writers Conference over 40 years ago.

Father, You know how easy it is to get frustrated and discouraged by the learning curve. Forgive us, forgive me, when I grumble rather than trust You to help me do what feels impossible. You are so faithful!

What difficult task, that you’ve been putting off, do you need to tackle?

Creativity!

Today is my birthday! Turning 75 is one of those sobering birthdays like my 40th. Hard to believe I’ve lived 3/4’s of a century!

A friend sent me a link to this hilarious video. What a wonderful example of creativity.

Happy Birthday, by Beethoven? Bach? Mozart? – Nicole Pesce on piano
https://bit.ly/2QJYBPX

I can only play simple melodies (sometimes in two-parts) with my right hand. But He’s given me – and YOU – other gifts. In fact, His Word promises in Ephesians 4:7 (TLB):

Christ has given each of us special abilities—
whatever he wants us to have
out of his rich storehouse of gifts.

Do you believe it? And if you do, are you using the gift(s) He has given you to further His Kingdom?

One day all those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior will stand before Him. I have no doubt one of the questions He will ask us is, “What did you do with the gift I entrusted to you?”

I have invested 37 of my 75 years in directing the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference (24 years directing the sister “Write His Answer” conference in Colorado). Each year there are more challenges – not, I believe, because I’m “over the hill” but because the evil one knows his time is short. My purpose continues to be

to encourage and equip writers
in all stages of their journey to write about
a God who is real, who is reachable,
and who changes lives
.

Father has given me the special birthday gift of enabling me to have the faculty in place for the May 13-16 Colorado conference. Last year at this time because of my husband’s fall and long recovery I had just begun planning. Our faculty includes 3 agents, 20 editors, 17 authors, 9 other professionals, and 10 staff. Nineteen are new to CCWC; 6 were not with us last year. You can see who is coming at https://colorado.writehisanswer.com.

About half of the faculty is in place for the July 22-25 Philly conference. See https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com. Wednesday evening Liz Curtis Higgs will launch the conference by keynoting. Then, new this year, will be a full day of workshops on Thursday as well as Friday and Saturday.

If you’re not able to come to Colorado or Philly, I encourage you to check out the other Christian writers conferences around the nation. I believe attending a conference is the best investment you can make in your writing ministry.

You’ll find a list in the 2020 Christian Writers Market Guide. I have copies available at a discount (click here) or you can subscribe to the online edition. It really is a must-have resource as is a subscription to The Christian Communicator.

But the most important thing you can do to grow your gift is to grow closer to the Giver. In this new year I urge you to dig into His Word more deeply than ever. How else can you “write His answer”?

Beyond the Manger

How tiny and helpless
how wonderfully human,
yet so mysteriously divine,
was the Baby born to Mary.

How great the promises
of who He was,
of why He had come,
of what He would do.

But did Mary know,
did Mary see,
beyond the manger—
to the Cross?

Did she know
that He would bear
our grief and sorrow,
be wounded and bruised
for our sins?

Did she know
He would be chastised
that we might have peace,
and lashed
that we might be healed?

This Christmas
will we be drawn
just to the manger
or also to the Cross?

manger cross

My tree is decorated.
Gifts purchased but
not yet wrapped.
I still need to bake our
favorite cookies
and my mother’s
famous coffee cake.

Our inflatable Christmas nativity, lights, and two deer are shining brightly outside. (It’s too cold to go snap a picture.)

My husband’s health is so much better after a mid-June trip to the hospital by ambulance in the middle of the night. (He said, “I think I’m dying.”) A new primary care / geriatric doctor has discontinued three of Paul’s meds. He still walks slow since he broke his knee cap and tibia over a year ago, but except for occasional “senior moments” he no longer gets so confused he doesn’t know where he is at. Thank You, Father.

I’m still managing to avoid knee replacements and my kidney and blood sugar numbers are improving now that the same doctor has eliminated a pill my previous doctor prescribed that I should not have been taking. I’ve lost a little weight but need to lose at least another 40 pounds. Please help me, Father.

Sharon, our oldest daughter has just had her right hip replaced. The surgeon said it went “great,” but she’s in a lot of pain. Father, please place Your hand of healing on her.

The rest of our family and grandkids are all doing great. We are blessed!

The other night we went to our oldest granddaughter’s concert at the high school. It ended with about 70 alumni joining the chorus and the director’s request that we stand for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I sang along although I’m no longer able to reach those magnificent high notes.

I can’t help but wonder if this is the last year this “tradition” will be tolerated.

Our nation is gripped in a spiritual darkness that is rapidly intensifying. Will America be saved by a mighty revival that brings us to our knees at the foot of the cross? Or will we lose our freedom to proclaim the name of Jesus and be arrested and imprisoned for our faith in Him?

This may seem like dark thoughts for what should be such a bright and merry time of the year. But I can’t be silent. As long as I am able I will continue to use the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conferences to address the issues facing our nation and equip all who come to “Write His Answer.”

Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Help us, help me, to reflect His light and to share His love this Christmas and every day of the coming year.

A blessed Christmas to you all because He came and is coming again!

There are presently 38 on faculty for the May 13-16 Colorado conference and 18 for the July 22-25 Philly conference with more to be added to both conferences. Visit the websites to see who is coming, and save the date for what I know will be life-changing conferences.

Confused
and
unhappy!

Today we are dog-sitting our son and daughter-in-law’s two dogs. Bailey, the brown dog, climbed in my lap to get away from our Labradoodle, Emmy, who is clearly confused and unhappy that Bailey has taken the place that she thinks belongs to her. For about 15 minutes Emmy barked and Bailey howled. I laughed so hard I started crying.

Yesterday I felt like Emmy. A missing “i” in “Mennonite” in an ad for The Christian Communicator caused me 2.5 hours of frustration and real tears. For years I’ve used Quark, a desktop publishing program similar to InDesign. Although I’ve never mastered it (someone has said that takes a full year), I have gotten comfortable with it. But my 2015 version crashed, and yesterday I was forced to use the 2018 “upgrade.” I purchased it a year ago, but found the learning curve so daunting I gave up.

Computers are supposed to make life easier. Right? Wrong! Although I’m more computer savvy than most of my friends, I am still challenged every day to understand technology that keeps getting more complicated. And it’s amazing how dumb my “smart” phone can make me feel.

I confess I do not “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4 NIV) or “celebrate God all day, every day” as The Message paraphrases this Scripture. I try. But honestly, I probably do more whining. Father, why does everything have to be so difficult? Why didn’t You make me smarter or more patient?*

(Oops! I definitely do not want to pray for patience!) But seriously, why can’t I be like the elk I enjoy so much at CCWC? I don’t think they whine about grass becoming brown or sparse. Or about the cold and snow. You provide for them the same as for the birds of the air.

Father, thank You for being with us especially when we feel confused and overwhelmed. Thank You that we can know the joy of the Lord as our strength. Help us, help me, to embrace my need to be dependent on You knowing that I can trust Your promise:

I can do everything God asks me to
with the help of Christ
who gives me the strength and power.

Philippians 4:13 TLB

* Sigh. I can’t see anything in the code next to the elk box that increased the font size. Can a HTML or WordPress expert help?

Despite ongoing computer challenges, plans are underway for the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. Be watching for an email before Christmas with the latest news.

It’s been over 35 years since the traumatic Christmas Eve I wrote about below. Thank You, Father, for bringing Your peace to these strained relationships and for the assurance that my mother and stepfather are now home with You. Please bring Your peace – Your shalom – to families in conflict. Restore estranged relationships and help us to love others as You love us.

~ * ~ * ~

How fast the year has flown, I reflected as I took the photographs off the mantle to decorate it for Christmas. A charred mark on the paneling behind one of the photos instantly reminded of a Christmas when our home had been anything but peaceful.

My mother and stepfather were visiting. The relationship was strained, but we had been trying to keep the peace. On Christmas Eve the tension erupted into a bitter argument. The smell of burning wood stopped me from saying things I would have later regretted. A candle had tipped over on the mantle causing the paneling right near the thermostat to smolder. Trembling with fear of what might have been, I soaked the wall with water and later hid the damage with a photo. The damage in the relationship with my parents was not so easily hid.

Painful memories have a way of refusing to stay camouflaged. At Christmas we are forced to face the fact that all is not always “calm” and “bright” in our relationships with a brother or a sister, a parent or a child, an in-law or cousin. This season of joy can turn into one of misery as we have no choice but to spend time with people who go out of their way to avoid us the rest of the year.

When our homes are filled with conflict, what can we do to have “peace on earth, good will to men”?

1. Keep our eyes on the One whose birth we celebrate. The Gospel of John opens with the poignant words: “His life is the light that shines through the darkness–and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John l:5 TLB). The reality of that first Christmas was not just the angels’ song, but Herod’s decree that every baby boy two years old and under be slaughtered (see Matthew 2:16). The shadow of the cross was already hanging over the Holy Family as they fled to Egypt.

Jesus never promised us problem-free relationships, but He has promised to give us the wisdom to know how to love those who may be anything but lovable. Difficult relationships do not have to spoil the joy of Christmas if we follow Jesus’ example and respond with love and forgiveness.

2. Try not to put unrealistic demands on ourselves. Christmas Eve I typically am still racing to complete my “to-do” list and end up too tired to enjoy Christmas much less to cope with difficult family members. We need to learn when to make a good night’s sleep a priority so that we’re able to handle added emotional pressures.

3. Avoid having unrealistic expectations of others. It is unlikely that people who have been less than pleasant throughout the year will suddenly become nice just because it is Christmas. Yes, I believe God works miracles, but it is just as great a miracle to learn not to set ourselves up to be hurt through our unrealistic expectations.

I cannot remove that charred area of paneling without replacing the entire wall, but it can serve as a reminder that if I want peace in my family, it must begin with me. Truly, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19 NIV). Because Christ came, we can be reconciled to one another.
___________

The above article was first published in the December 1986 issue of Decision. It has been reprinted by Our Family, Messenger of St. Anthony, Christian Standard, Sunday Digest, Family Forum, The Gem, and ASSISTnews.net.