Our CHRISTmas - 2013

It's only a few short days away from the pinnacle of all holidays - Christmas. As a wife and mother this year I have felt particularly reflective about the blessings 2013 has held for our little family. I guess I always get that way this time of year, but I am far more emotionally aware of it this year than ever before. 

Our little family has never been more dependent upon God than we have this year. Every month we manage to live a life that not only meets our needs but surpasses our expectations. We are a single-income family in a county that glorifies the material successes of life and the ideal of 'financial security'. But this year has personally been an incredible reminder that abundance has no measure in worldly comforts. 

True abundance is contentment despite circumstance. Looking back at 2013 and all that God has provided in our lives I am astonished. On paper, we don't own a home, we have personal debt, I can't seem to keep a budget to save my life, and running a business is still a learning process that baffles me financially. All these things should make me frantic, especially at Christmas considering all the expenses that add up all too quickly. But God is so good.

He has the gentlest ways of reminding me that I live the richest life imaginable. I am unconditionally loved. I am saved from all the ugliness and imperfection that is who I am. I am provided for in EVERY aspect of life simply because I am His child. There is nothing I can do to thwart this reality of grace because it is totally underserving to begin with.

This life of abundance is not merit based or the result of 'being a good person'. I am living in this richness because God chooses to show me immeasurable grace and mercy when I could not be more undeserving. I live in this abundance because the more that I surrender to Him, the more I am aware of how He blesses my life in even the smallest of details.

When we couldn't afford one vacation, He provided another. When we doubted our dreams, He affirmed His purposes for our lives. When we can't imagine how we will provide the lifestyle we want for our daughter, He reminds us that she is His first - and He loves her more than we ever could. 

So this Christmas I want to remind all of us of the gift we are given daily when we wake up with breath to breathe. God loves us. He sent His only Son to die for our sins. He asks only that we follow the call He has given to us - to 'go and make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:19). To trust that He delivers all that He promises. To know that He is 'with us always' (Matthew 28:20). 

There is no greater gift; and in the season of giving it seems to be the one I need the greatest reminding of. In order to alleviate the pressure of making it the perfect holiday by buying the right gifts for everyone, I simply need to be present in the reality of the gift that has already been given.

If possible, I would choose to give the words of encouragement, the touches of compassion, and the depths of love that is known only in God to each and every person I encounter this Christmas (and everyday of the year for that matter).

So this year, I pray that God continues to prepare me and transform my heart to a selflessness that will serve others. It's a journey. Albeit a long, arduous, and uncomfortable one - but one that life is not worth living without.

And THAT is what I choose to celebrate this CHRISTmas. I hope you'll join me and prayerfully consider what it might look like to keep His truth at the forefront of your holiday to-do list.

May you all have a very merry CHRISTmas and a happy new year!!

Β 

Family Update:

This year we celebrated Zella turning 2 years old (which doesn't seem possible, already). She loved her vintage themed Tea for Two birthday party and truly makes everyday worth celebrating. She is the most loving, silly, independent, curious, and mischievous little thing ever. She is talking up a storm (sometimes in her very own language) and she LOVES to read books (often the same book three or four times in a row). She is a character to say the least. She is a blessing that has conjured parts of our hearts we never knew existed. We are so grateful God has entrusted us to parent this precious girl. It is the single greatest challenge and most joyous adventure of our lives thus far.

Zella is now a seasoned traveler with her very own passport. After visiting Tokyo, Japan in May at the invitation of a dear family friend our little family was able to check off one my top five bucket list trips! We loved everything about Japan - the food, the people, the city and the countryside, but most importantly Miko; the incredibly generous and beyond-hospitable hostess that we went to visit.

In September we were surprised again with an amazing family trip thanks to another close friend that took us to Northshore Oahu, Hawaii. It was the kind of tropical vacation you dream of taking. And we met some of the most wonderful people on that trip that we are so happy to call friends. Everyone was SO wonderful to Zella, I'm fairly certain she thought it was paradise for sure. I know Ryan enjoyed the beach thoroughly and actually started surfing when we came back home. As for me, I'm still terrified of the ocean no matter how beautiful it is to look at. Keep me on the beaches with a mai-tai and I am one very happy mama, but I don't do open ocean swimming. Ever.

Ryan is still proving to be the most amazing husband, father, friend, employee, student, and church volunteer ever - amongst other things. His selflessness never ceases to amaze me. He works so hard to provide for our family. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for the man that God has given me to share life with. After celebrating 10 years together this last November, I realized looking back on all those memories what an adventure he has made my life. Every day of it. He makes me laugh when I want to cry. He teaches me how to be disciplined, work hard, forgive, keep faith in all circumstances, and worship God with a heart that yearns to hear from Him. And in the midst of what is no doubt a chaotic and burdensome load, he is patient with his insecure, imperfect-perfectionist, big dreamer of a wife. He is a miracle of a man and I am so grateful to call him my husband. 

As for me, I love my life. I turn 30 this coming year and I am so happy about that. I may not have all the things crossed off my 'by-the-time-I'm-30-list' that I thought I would, but the best part about that, is the things I want in my life look completely different now than when I made the list over a decade ago. God had better plans for me than I had dreamed for myself. And living life trusting in His plans for me rather than my own is the greatest adventure; one that has taught me what true joy, love, freedom, and contentment look like. It's a good life, living life for God. 

-Ashley