Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

I consider you, my reader, a friend and wanted to share our family Christmas letter with you as well!  I pray the season finds you full of excitement and joy and asking God to bless you in 2012!!
    I always love trips to the mailbox during this time of the year, not because I like winter, but it’s a joy to get updates from each of you and see some pictures too!  This year I’ve found myself struggling to sit down long enough to write our Christmas letter.  As the day of celebration gets closer and closer, I find myself a bit overwhelmed and feeling a little stress.  Perhaps you can relate?  Presents to buy, cookies to bake, letters to write, plans to make…you get the idea!  But tonight I’ll pause and scratch one thing off my list!
    The highlight of the year would have to be the birth of Jesse Clay Beran!!  He arrived on July 19th and was instantly loved by all!!  I feel like a coach once again…it’s no longer 2 forwards and 3 guards, but 3 boys and 2 girls!!  So for the rest of Team Beran, the year has been busy with school, AWANA’s, sports, sleepovers, farming, sewing with Grandma Marie and the annual summer trip with Grandpa and Grandma Biwer.  There were lots of fun times and many memories made during 2011!!  Thanks to all of you for being part of them!!
    As I sit here and reflect on the year we’ve had my thoughts have shifted a bit, being overwhelmed at Christmas really isn’t something new.  I’m sure I could ask my mom, grandma or any mom if Christmas and all the prep it includes ever left them overwhelmed and the answer would be yes.  But I’m thinking of going back further than that with thoughts of another Mom, Mary the Mother of Jesus, the boy we celebrate.  Then there’s Joseph and the Shepherds…if I had to guess at some point in the story I believe they were overwhelmed. 
    So if you find yourself in a similar place this Christmas will you join me in setting aside the overwhelming feelings and simply remember the Reason for the season!  You’ll still be overwhelmed - not because of all you have to do, but instead because of all God has done!  These feelings won’t lead to stress, but always help me remember I am blessed!! 
   Merry Christmas to you!  We pray the season brings you peace, joy and love and even leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed!!! 
                                                                                                      With Love,
                                                                                                      “Team Beran”
                                                                                                       Job, Jill,
                                                                                                       J.D. (8), Joy (6),
                                                                                                       Jaylyn (4), Jed (2)
                                                                                                       and Jesse (5 Months)

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

Question of the Week

Lately it seems like every conversation holds a similar question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" If I'm the one being asked my answer is "No!" There's still presents to buy and wrap, a few decorations that are still in the box and cookies in need of frosting. But the other day I was challenged by an answer I heard someone share.

When he was faced with the question of the week I heard him say, "In my heart, yes. Under the tree, not yet."

Immediately in my mind I thought wow, that is good! Perhaps I'm the only one who's been distracted and a bit stressed with all there is to do, but I was feeling quite convicted of losing focus of what the season is all about as I heard this gentleman's response.

Thankfully his words have challenged me to make the most important preparations and truly be ready for Christmas! Friends it's not about the gifts we put under the tree, it's the One God sent for you and me! It's not about the gifts we buy or receive, but instead the one we give when we die to self and choose to believe!

So today I'll a question you've probably already heard, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My prayer is our hearts will be ready on Christmas morning!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Baby Born to Die - Repost

Yesterday our Sunday School performed their Christmas program and I was reminded of the one that took place two years ago. These memories took me back to my blog and after reading these words again I felt the push to share them once again.

From January 2010 - As I wrote in my last post, I recently played Mary in our Sunday School Christmas program and doing so has given me much to think about. And today my thoughts revolve around the idea of a baby born to die. At Christmas time that can be a phrase we hear quite often, but do we really listen and more than that do we take the time to stop and think about the significance of those 5 words?

I have and I suppose you have to, but as I sat on the stage looking at my newborn son wrapped in swaddling cloths, the words were more alive. Anyone who's had a child can recall the emotion that overflows as you hold your baby for the first time - there's the overwhelming feelings, the awe at what took place, dreams for the future, really it's more than words can describe. I'm sure the same and more was true for Mary as she gazed at the Son God had given her...not only was she looking at Jesus her first born, but she saw the face of God!

Honestly I have to say this experience was the first time ever I was on stage and totally unaware of the audience looking at me. (If you know me that says alot!!) But really I was consumed with being in Mary's shoes and still I'm amazed when I reflect on it all.

The impact of the experience doesn't end there though. When the service was done, a gentleman from the congregation asked me, "Do you know the significance of swaddling cloths?" The mom in me internally thought yes, they keep the baby warm and wrap them tight to ease the little one's transition. But he continued on, "Swaddling cloths were what they used for burial. He was born to die." That I knew, but I hadn't heard of that connection before so I looked into it a bit more.

In my research I came across this explanation, "In the Middle East, people traveling long distances were often met with many hardships and trials on their journeys. In the event of a death in travel, the body could not continue to be transported for many days. For that reason, travelers wrapped a thin, gauzelike cloth around their waist many times. If someone died on the journey, the others would use this cloth, referred to as "swaddling clothes" to wrap the corpse in before burying them. When Jesus was born, there was no room in the Inn, and so Mary and Joseph used a nearby stable for Jesus' birth. With no other cloth to use, Jesus was wrapped in Joseph's "swaddling clothes" - the cloth normally reserved for a person's death."

From the beginning Jesus was preparing to die. Now when my mind flashbacks and I see myself holding my little Jed, that can be hard concept to think about, but in life that is a reality. Thankfully chances are my son will not be called to the same death as Mary's, but just like Jesus, Jed's life on this earth will not last forever. And neither will mine...or yours.

Which brings me to another way to apply those 5 powerful words - Christ was born to die for my sins and because of that I am called to die to myself and live for Him. (Matthew 10:38-40). And as a mother I'm called to teach my son about His ways so someday he will do the same because when we die to self we live with Him and that is a birth that has no end!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Comparison

Recently I was reminded of a prayer I prayed in the past.  Back in October, I attended the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat.  The day was wonderful, God was there and hearts were touched.  This was the third year I've been blessed to be a part of this retreat, but this was the first year I was not on the leadership team.  Honestly, it was different to sit in the crowd and be on the receiving end. 

Like I said, the day was amazing.  The worship was wonderful, the fellowship was uplifting and God spoke through the guest speaker, Susie Larson.  I wasn't the only one who felt this the days that followed I heard many comments, all positive and full of praise.

Such as, "This was the best one yet."  "Susie Larson was wonderful."  "I don't think it can get any better."  "God spoke through Susie in a powerful way."  "I don't know if they can top this."  Words of praise and rave reviews.

But after a few days this started to bother me.  I'll be honest...initially that scared me a bit because I didn't want this to be about me.  It was hard to step down from the team, but I know it was a step God led me to.  So when these thoughts first hit I asked God to take them away for fear of them leading to jealousy. 

A few days passed and someone shared, "Susie was the best!"  Again I found myself bothered by the comparisons.  This time I clearly remember stopping and asking God, "Why does this bother me so much?"  Before I go on I want to say God spoke to me in amazing ways through Susie Larson...she truly is a woman filled with the spirit!  I am thankful for her and all God says through her, but I can say the same thing about Renee Swope and Lysa TerKeurst (Speakers in '09 and '10). 

So I sat in silence and waited for an answer to my question.  It was as if God assured me in His eyes they're all the best, but like usual then He asked me a question, "If this comparison thing bothers you so much, why do you do it all the time!?!"

My reaction, "Ouch, that hurt!!"  God's right (isn't He always?!!) I do that all the time and it's always the other guy who is the best!  And those thoughts are ones that bother Him!  He doesn't want me, or you, comparing ourselves to anyone.  We are all made in His image and if we've accepted Him, His spirit can work through all of us.  It's not a competition and I believe Susie, Renee and Lysa would be the first to agree with that statement.

Actually I've heard Lysa say, "We're all on the same team!  Let's work together to make Jesus the star!!"  Friend that's only going to happen when we all strive to be who God made us to be and allow Him to shine through us.  Then we will be our best and the glory will be His!

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:16

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"I can't!" - Part 2

The other day I wrote about a new way to look at the phrase, "I can't!" You can read all the details by clicking here, but to summarize I shared how sometimes "I can't" is actually what God wants us to say. These words are good when they are words of surrender. Basically for me it was the realization that I was at place where I couldn't do the task that God was calling me to and that is a good thing.

But over the last couple of weeks I think I've taken the thought that "I can't" is a good phrase a bit too far. Because honestly these two little words aren't always a good thing. When "I can't" becomes an excuse these words no longer please our Father.

Again this thought takes me back to my coaching days when girls on my team found themselves being punished for verbalizing the words my mind has been saying. "I can't dribble behind my back." "I can't do a left hand lay-up." "I can't get up that early to lift weights." "I can't...." These were words of doubt and defeat. I didn't want my girls to give up before they even began. And I didn't want a little work to keep them from being all I knew they could be.

Friend, the other day God brought all this back to mind and I felt like dropping to the floor and doing some push-ups. You see my "I can'ts" were rolling through my mind...I can't write...I don't have time. I can't write...she's better anyway. I can't be a good Mom...I lost my patience again. I could go on but you get the idea.

How about you? Do you have any "I can'ts" rolling around in your mind? Perhaps what God is calling you to is bigger than you ever imagined, maybe it requires time (or money) you don't have, perhaps it appears to be more work than you would like, I don't know, but I do know this - when our "I can'ts" are based on our abilities or resources they are nothing but an excuse. Think of God as our heavenly coach He knows what and who we can be and He doesn't want a little work, doubt or fear to keep us from fulfilling the purpose He has for us.

Would you join me in doing what my friend, Kimberly shared in a recent comment, lay your "I can'ts" at His feet. And as you do remember, He CAN and if He lives in you that means you CAN too!! I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

Off to do just that and for old times sake I think I'll do a few push-ups too!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"I can't!"

Lately I've found myself thinking about the phrase, "I can't!" At times my children have said it, but I believe it's been on my mind because it's been on my heart. And over the last month I've realized there are two sides to these common words (ones we probably hear and say and think more than we know) - the good and the bad.

Honestly it was the good side that hit me first, the side I hadn't ever really thought about that much. You see thoughts of "I can't!" take me back to my coaching girls knew that negative phrase would bring punishment, but still they often found themselves doing push-ups after expressing the doubt we all feel.

So I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I got to thinking about these words in a positive way. Before I explain, here's a quick summary of where I'm at - God has put it on my heart to write a book - a crazy, scary thought, but He's done that before and it happened. This last month I've been wrestling with this and even avoiding it at times, but a couple of weeks ago I found myself saying, "I can't."

In the midst of this, memories of my first crazy, scary book came to mind. I clearly recall the first time I verbalized this idea...the scene is playing in my mind right now and these are the words I hear myself say, "I could write a book."

Don't get me wrong in no way was I oozing with confidence 4 years ago when I wrote! But I have been struck by the comparison between my initial response back then (well it was in words anyway!) to the thoughts I have now - "I could" versus "I can't."

More than once I've found myself in prayer about this saying things like, "Lord, if I really was supposed to do this wouldn't I have a bit of confidence?" or offering words like these, "I can't - I don't have the time, the words, the wisdom, the platform" and on and on and on!!

During one of these quite conversations, God helped me look at the contrast between the two phrases in a whole new way. "I can't" is what He wants me to's not a bad thing when it means I'm surrendering, when I'm letting go of what I can do and trusting what He can. He showed me that sometimes, "I could..." simply means I might, or someday I'll get around to it and when I do, I'll do it in my own power. That is not what our Father, the One who lives in me wants for me, or for you.

Friend, I don't know if you've found yourself saying, "I can't" lately, but today I challenge you to think about it...perhaps that is just the response God has been waiting for! Sometimes these words are a good thing, but that's not always the case so stop by soon to hear about my experience and share a bit of your own.

Today I leave you with this thought, "when we can't remember He can!!"