Hope: The First Candle of Advent

advent-wreath-hope-pixabayIn the New Testament church, an anchor symbolized hope. In 2015, I pursued a yearlong archaeological dig into God’s Word, studying the word anchor, and every angle of hope. As a result, I selected “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”(Hebrews 6:19),  as my verse for 2015.

My 2015 study of hope followed with an unexpected medical diagnosis and struggle to find my identity in 2016. I did not know the studying hope would be future preparation for my faith (and my family’s faith) to be tested. We battened down the hatches, clung to our anchor of hope and prayed for God to calm the raging storm.

Hope is choice.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He; when we choose to believe God can do what He promised; when we choose to have the audacity to praise a thrice-holy God in the face of the fiercest storm, we are choosing to HOPE.

I choose Hope.hope-meme-christmas-wooden-background-pixabay

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he wrote; Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.” (2 Corinthians 10:15)

Paul’s mission in these words is the same mission Christians possess today, to increase our faith, expand our area of influence, and spread the gospel beyond its current borders. One way we can do this is to cling to hope.

Each of us has a sphere of influence. Whether at work, school, or in our neighborhood, those around us are encouraged by watching our faith anchored to Jesus Christ. When we choose to hope in the face of adversity, others are watching, and we are doing exactly what Paul described—expanding the gospel beyond.

Blue anchor pixabayOur family and our extended church family have suffered greatly this year. To be honest, I wanted to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas and go straight to January. My grasp on hope was slipping. It took a wresting match with God and a verbal spanking from my daughter to strengthen my grip on hope.

 If your grasp on God’s anchor of hope is slipping, follow the instructions in Hebrews Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12) and cling tightly to the firm and secure hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Hope for Advent:  Week One Readings

  • Day 1: Psalm 62:5-6
  • Day 2: Hebrews 6:18-19
  • Day 3: Psalm 71:5-8, 14, 20
  • Day 4: Psalm 52:8-9
  • Day 5: Psalm 89:15, Psalm 130:5
  • Day 6: Isaiah 46: 3-4, Isaiah 54:7, 10
  • Day 7: 2 Corinthians 10:15

What is Advent?

    Advent is a season to remember that God reached down from heaven and extended Hope in the form of Jesus Christ. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Christ’s birth was “the first Advent” and the anticipation of Christ’s return in “the second Advent.”

When is Advent?

The season of Advent begins four Sunday’s before Christmas. The four week waiting period during the four Sunday’s of Advent represent the four centuries of waiting between the last recorded Word of God from the prophet Malachi (in the Old Testament) and the arrival of Jesus Christ (in the New Testament). Advent is time of preparing hearts for Christ’s birth, both in celebration, reflection, and repentance.

What the does the Advent wreath and candles symbolize?

          The greenery wreath, a circle, represents God’s never-ending mercy and His eternity. The color green represents the renewal of eternal life in Christ. The candles within the wreath symbolize the light of God coming to the world through the birth of His son, Jesus Christ.

            The lighting of the first candle begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The first candle symbolizes Hope—the anticipation of Hope in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The three remaining candles symbolizing Love, Joy, and Peace are light each Sunday during the season of Advent. Together, each of the four candles tells the part of the Christmas story of Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels. The fifth and center candle represents Christ, the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay. © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

How to Expose Shadowed JOY

Shadowed JOYIn less time than it took to prepare the morning coffee, the sun’s light traveled 92.96 million miles in eight minutes and twenty seconds. When I returned to my red chair, my favorite spot of reading and conversation with God, I noticed the early morning sunrays cast long shadows through the window.

Darkness and long shadows obscured the hand embroidered JOY on the mini quilt. I cupped my mug of liquid mercy and watched as shadows surrounded the word JOY.  I peered with strange fascination as light and shadows danced across the 16x16-wall quilt. The sun stretched higher and the waltz changed patterns. Will the JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness? I pondered. However, what I truly wondered was if my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness.

Will my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness?

This mini wall quilt is one of my favorite quilting projects. Utilizing scraps from left over previous sewing projects, I pieced together this simple mini quilt and hand embroidered JOY in red to accent my favorite color.

My heart has been exceedingly heavy this week.  When the Realtor plunged the FOR SALE sign into the dry earth, I felt the sign puncture my already broken heart. I’d been expecting and preparing for this day for over six months, but nothing could prepare me for the surge of emotions.  I thanked the Realtor, walked into the house, threw myself on my son’s bed and wailed.

 

JOY. Sometimes darkness casts long shadows in an attempt to hide our joy, but God’s light and our praise helps to expose JOY! - April White Click To Tweet

“Worship like the things you’ve been believing God for are on the other side of your praise.”- Pastor John Gray.

 

JOYMy heart is still heavy, but it is saturated in praise.  God is slowly pushing back the grief and darkness and exposing the JOY.

Dear friends, is something shadowing your joy? I pray for Christ to give you the strength to hold on and praise Him, while He pushes back the darkness to expose your joy.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10)

Blessings to you,

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of author.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Missing Pieces or Room for Blessings?

alphabet-missing-q-meme“I’m missing Q” stumbled out of my mouth before I realized no one was around to listen. I positioned the rediscovered Kindergarten photograph next to my son’s eight grade school picture.  The rediscovered Kindergarten photo displayed a round face, wide blue eyes, and a crooked smile. The recent eight-grade photograph, of the same child, displayed a confident and mischievous I-know-it-all thirteen-year-old smile. Staring at the two photographs, I pondered at the handiwork of our Creator.

During my son’s Kindergarten year, the dental hygienist noted that our son was missing the tooth labeled as “Q.” He was greatly disturbed to be missing something that everyone else had. It bothered him so much that each time our son saw his school picture from that year he would point to the photograph or his mouth and state, “I’m missing Q.”

I tried to convince him missing “Q” did not matter. I explained it was only a baby tooth and he would eventually loose it anyway. I tried to convince him that the missing tooth would actually provide more space for the future adult teeth. With each explanation, my strong-willed five-year-old peered at me with a look that said, “Mom, you can’t fool me.”

Over dinner one evening, my husband explained that he also had teeth that never grew in. Andrew’s attitude instantly improved when he realized he was just like daddy.

Eight years later, the phrase “I’m missing Q” automatically stumbled out of my mouth when I saw this old photograph. Talking to the image of my five-year-old son, I said, “See you were so worried about this and you didn’t even need it.” Immediately a thought, perhaps the voice of God, downloaded into my brain. These words penetrated my heart, “April, what about you? What are you so worried about missing, that you don’t even need?”

My knees suddenly buckled. Pressing my palms against the refrigerator, I steadied myself. “Oh Lord,” I exclaimed. “Please forgive me!”whats-missing-meme

We spend too much energy fretting over missing pieces. We are afraid these lacking details will cause us to appear different and prevent us from fitting in or worse, prevent us from fulfilling our purpose.  But, what if we changed our perspective? Instead of complaining about the missing aspect of our life, what if we praised God for the extra space it provided. What if what’s missing allows God the space to plant a future blessing?

What if what's missing allows God the space to plant a future blessing? Click To Tweet

Today, I ask you the same question that penetrated my heart.  Dear friend, what are you so worried about missing? Perhaps it is God’s way of making room for a future blessing. 

Last week, I explored the notion of having growing room in our faith in a blog titled, Soccer, Shoes and Faith: Growing Room. If you want to dive deeper into the idea of God making space and growing room for faith, I encourage you to also read this post.

GIVEAWAY WINNERbook-cover

Congratulations to Dana S. for winning a free copy of 66 Ways God Loves You by Jennifer Rothschild! Dana, I will be in touch soon.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of Thomas Nelson, author, and Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Staring in the Eyes of a Zebra: Encouragement in Desert Wandering

Confessions of zebraEyes of a zebra penetrated my desert heart and helped me find strength in God.

In the 1940’s Dr. Theodore Woodward coined the term “zebra” for any rare medical condition. I first shared about this in the article, Confession of a Zebra. Last week, I sat across another zebra and for the first time, I knew someone truly understood me.

Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis affects one per 100,000 people.[1]  It is isolating and lonely to possess a disease so rare that no one around me understands the paralysis, the pain, the impaired cognitive functioning, and sudden muscle weakness.

When I discovered a Texas zebra was attending a meeting in my area, we scheduled an afternoon together before her return flight home.  Over the past year, we have texted and spoken via phone, but I savored this rare moment to spend face time with her.

As she spoke, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast our lives.  She, a Texas zebra, whose diagnosis of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, was confirmed at the young age of six. There was no need for extensive genetic testing, since her father and her sister already possessed this rare neuromuscular disease.  Texas zebra is around my age and our daughters are the same age too. Unfortunately, her daughter (and nephew) was diagnosed this summer.DNA

On the other hand, I was clinically diagnosed at age forty, based on my extensive journaling of symptoms and the adverse effect of certain foods, exercise, stress, etc. Unlike, Texas zebra, I am waiting on the results of genetic testing.

Texas zebra grew up with the rare condition and has assimilated well into adulthood; I was diagnosed as an adult.

I feel like Dorothy, who woke up in Oz, desperately clicking my red heels together to go back home to my previous life.

 

The morning after our meeting, I read these words “Jonathan went to David [in the desert] and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). David was a man on the run, hiding out from the insane King Saul. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s best friend, came to him in the desert to provide encouragement and strength in God.

This Texas zebra was the Jonathan to my David. She met me in my desert place and provided my weary heart with encouragement and strength in God. We are relational people, not created to live in isolation. This was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “that you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).

God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Click To Tweet

children-542104_1920 teddy bears friends PixabaySo often, we want to fix other people’s problems and if their problem is too big, we feel overwhelmed by their need. God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Notice, Jonathan did not remove David from the desert; rather he spent time with him there and provided strength in God.

Are you in a desert place? God sees you and He cares for you. Seek refuge in Him and find comfort in the words penned by David (perhaps when he was in the desert), “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).

Have you been through the desert? I challenge you to reach out to someone in a desert place. Be their Jonathan and provide encouragement and strength in the Lord during this dry and weary season.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

[1] http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1171678-overview#a6

Personal Declarations and Self-Encouragement

alarm-clock-pixabayDoes your morning routine include encouraging yourself? We each have a morning routine and today I will share with you a glimpse into mine. Before my feet hit the floor, I recite this personal declaration and prayer:

 

Lord, I love you.

Lord, I trust you.

Lord, I trust your plan.

Lord, I trust your provision.

Lord, I trust your unfailing Sovereign timing.

Amen.

 

When my heart is  heavy with discouragement I encourage myself by reciting these truths aloud:

Lord, you are a good, good Father.

Lord, I am loved by you.

You are faithful and able to complete to good work you started in me.

You have chosen me and will not reject me.

You call me by name.

You are jealous for me.

I am yours Lord, now do as you promised.

Amen.

God does not have grandchildren. Some things you need to learn for yourself. Click To Tweet

Going Deeper

My personal declarations and self-encouragement truths are directly from Scripture. I encourage you today to dig a little deeper and read these passages:

Proverbs 3:5-6Do as you Promised Verse

Psalm 143:8

Genesis 22 (emphasis on verses 13-14)

Jeremiah 29:11

Lamentations 3:25-26

Philippians 1:6

Isaiah 41:9-10

Isaiah 43:1

Exodus 34:14

1 Chronicles 17:23

Years ago, I was thrilled to watch my favorite woman of God, Priscilla Shirer speak at Thomas Road Baptist Church. From the third row, I clearly recall her saying, “God does not have grandchildren, only children. Some things you need to learn for yourself.”

TRUST with bench 2016I challenge you seek God’s Word for yourself and create your own personal declarations. We all have bad days which is why it’s crucial to encourage one another daily. But, sometimes we need to encourage our self in the Lord.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.

*Images courtesy of author and Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Storm Survival: Faith Lessons from my Dogs

Faith Lessons from a dog“Where’s Guinness,” my husband asks.

“Hiding I’m sure. He’s scared of storms,” I reply handing him the kid’s lunchboxes. “You know that dog, I’m sure he is hiding under Rachel’s bed.”

Minutes later my husband and kids head out the door to school and work.  I pour a cup of freshly brewed liquid mercy and pad upstairs to my red chair.  Raindrops pelt the windows with fierce intensity. I look out over the lake, but it is too dark to see. In the distance, thunder booms. “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.” (Psalm 29:3) Savoring the hazelnut aroma, I close my eyes and sit in silence before the Lord.

I open my eyes to see a pair of soft brown eyes staring up at me, silently begging to be held. “Oh Kinsey,” I coo in her ear. She curls up close, lets out an exasperated sigh, and drifts to sleep.

I watch her rib cage expand and contract to the rhythm of her breathing. I smile at the thought of our two Jack Russell Terriers with opposite responses to the same storm. Guinness, the stout dog-hence the name, with the brown patch on his eye, hides in isolation and darkness during a storm.  Kinsey, our runt of the litter Jack Russell Terrier, seeks reassurance and refuge next to her master in a storm.

I stood, careful not to disturb Kinsey and padded into the kitchen to refill my mug.  Not wanting to be leave her Master’s side, Kinsey followed. Returning to my red chair, Kinsey sensed her master’s direction, ran ahead of me, and jumped on the cushion. I laughed.

Continuing my quiet time with the Lord (and Kinsey) I pondered these verses:sea storm pier I will not be shaken verse Pixabay

“He guards the lives of his faithful ones” (Psalm 97:10)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortressmy refuge in times of trouble.”(Psalm 59:16)

Through different surprise storms of life, I have responded in the same manner as Guinness and Kinsey. I hid my face from God and resorted to isolation, when I suffered a miscarriage, and I begged God to hold me up during my battle with post-partum depression.

In my current storm, I have great peace. Waves of uncertainty threaten to crash over me. I am anchored (Hebrews 6:19) to the one who created the sea (Genesis 1:9), and calms the sea with the sound of His voice (Matthew 8:26).

Isolation or refuge in God. How you approach a storm will determine your peace. Click To Tweet

What was the last storm you weathered? How did you respond? When surprised by unexpected storms, we can respond by hiding in isolation and self-sufficiency, or by seeking refuge from our Heavenly Father.  I’ve done both and only one response brings peace.

Seeking refuge in Christ alone,

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author & Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

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