On Wednesday, some of the Beautiful Ministry staff went to Brighton Gardens to sing Christmas Carols! We had many takeaways as a team, and the joy that these men and women shared with us is irreplaceable! To let you in on our outreach experience, here are a few takeaways that we all shared as a team!

“…the joy of their faces as we sang…the smiles when we individually greeted them and gave them Christmas presents…doing something as a group to minister to those who are lonely and possibly forgotten. We had so much fun as a team!” Marilyn Hinders

“The love we were able to give them through our time and presence. The chance to relive happy memories they may have had with their families in the past years and the opportunity to make them feel important and cared for!” Maria Castillo (Uprising Intern)

“The Christmas Spirit is about much more than giving and receiving gifts. What is most precious is the gift of our time, caring for and listening to others. One of our most precious tools as believers is the ability to spread the love of Christ through our smiles and the joy of the Holy Spirit within us! Also, we should be grateful this holiday season for basic things: health, strength, and the ability to sing (even off key!)” Sharon Tubbs

“…on the car ride to Brighton Gardens, I was anxious about the Christmas to-do list I had to accomplish. But as we walked into Brighton Gardens, and men and women greeted us with warm smiles, my to-do list became nonexistent. This experience brought me joy, and it was a gift to be able to spread the love of Christ! The joy that they had on their faces is something I will never forget. As a team, we were able to share the joy together! We were able to worship the ultimate gift we have been given with men and women who just wanted a simple smile and hug! They were so great and even enjoyed us singing off key!” Dani Catherine

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

What brings you joy this Christmas Season? Share below! 

by Dawn Smiling

I recently had the longest plane ride home. A two and half hour flight took 5 hours! Usually, a flight from Tampa, Florida to New York City is not a long flight when you fly non-stop.  When my mom became ill, I couldn’t concentrate on what flight to book.  I simply booked the first flight I could find.  It was not until hours before the flight that I realized I did not have a direct flight.  In fact, I had to switch planes.  This flight made no sense to me, but everything to God.  This was my first flight since my divorce.  Wow.  I dreaded this flight.  Yes, I wanted to see my mom, but I had to pack myself, get myself to the airport, have my bags checked, and find my way through the airport.  I usually just followed the person who carried the luggage- which was my ex husband.  I took what I thought was a lonely ride home…but I thank God for His grace.  God will give you enough grace to get where He wants you to be.  He never said it would be a comfortable ride through life, but He promised to be there. God really showed up for me.

As I entered the hospital room I braced myself for the worse.  It was a bitter cold night in New York.  I was freezing under all those layers of clothes.  But when I walked into the hospital room, I saw my mom look at me with a beautiful smile on her face.  I knew at that moment that Christmas came early for me.  I ran to her bed and kissed her.  I saw the Lord on her face.  She looked different in many ways! God had preserved her for me. 

The flight back to Florida was just as long as the flight to New York.  Again, I didn’t choose the right ticket, but I had a wonderful time with God.  We talked on the plane, and I saw my strength in the Lord.  God is too wise to make a mistake.  Everything happens for a reason.  It is up to us to trust that God will reveal His purpose at the appointed time.  I grew up in so many ways during this flight.  I grew up in my connection to my heavenly Father.  He has encouraged me to stretch and explore without fear. 

Christmas is such a beautiful time of the year.  The beautiful gift of Jesus is one we are so blessed to have.  Who knew that a child would be born with so much responsibility, and so willing to fulfill it?  Jesus did it for us.  We get to experience Him every day and introduce Him to our family and friends. 

I find it amazing that a store merchant will offer gift receipts incase the customer wants to return a gift that they don’t like.  I am so happy that Jesus did not come with a gift receipt.  We cannot return Him, and one size fits all.  You don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to experience Jesus.  You can experience Him right now!!

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the greatest gift of all, Jesus!!

God Bless You!

 

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.

by Julie Jaunese

When our girls were 4 and 6 years old, we were living in Michigan.  It was just before Christmas and there was an older gentleman, in his 80’s, in the grocery line trying to talk to my daughters.  My Mom was with me and very observant. The girls wouldn’t speak to him because he was a stranger. Eventually he took out two nickels and gave one to each of the girls.  They began talking to him and you could see he was someone who just wanted to have conversation to achieve the feeling of Christmas.  My Mom began talking to him along with the girls and learned a couple of things about him.  After we were in the car my Mom explained that he was alone and he had some health issues. The girls said we should give him a present.  This was our first time we went out of our way to bless someone who did not expect anything.  I called the doctor the gentleman told my Mom he went to, this was way before HIPPA, and through a process of elimination, they could tell me who he was and where he lived.  My Mother was venturing to Georgia to visit my sister and Mike’s parents were going to Minnesota, therefore, Mike and I were alone with the girls for Christmas. 

We had purchased gifts for our new “secret stranger” and loaded the girls in the car on a very snowy Christmas morning to take the gifts to a gentleman that we didn’t know and who didn’t know us.  We got there about 11:00am and knocked on his front door. He let us in his home and remembered us from the grocery store.  He lived in a small house that he had made smaller by closing off rooms for the winter to make it easier to heat.  His living room and dining room were separated by a large archway.  His bed had been moved into the dining room and he had a single chair in the living room with a TV tray next to it and a small table with a television set on it. He had two folding chairs against a blank wall that we sat in while we visited…we would be his only visitors that day.

My girls learned a valuable lesson, as did Mike and I.  Every year while the girls were home we picked a person who we did not know, and we would bless them at Christmas. We have stories for each and every Christmas, but this was the first and the most significant, even to this day. 

We are going to celebrate birth of Jesus very soon. Jesus said in John 13:34 “…Love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  Everyone wants to be touched by someone….  How will you touch someones heart this Christmas?  Share your comments below.

 

Julie Jaunese has been married to her husband Michael for 42 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren. She works at Moffitt Cancer Center and hosts two women’s small groups, the Yada Book Club and the Fabulous Fems. Mike and Julie have been part of Grace Family Church since it began with 40 people in a house. 

by Renee Scott 

Today is my 40th birthday and I’m shouting it from the roof top.  I feel so blessed to be able to post for my church on my special day.  It’s hard to explain but I have an excitement and expectation about this birthday more than any other.  I fully embrace this new season in my life.

From a spiritual standpoint, the number 40 represents the ending of a trial, test, or period of challenge.  The end of opposition…yes, I’m excited!  I know some dread another year especially if they’re turning forty.  Thank God that’s not my mood today.

Throughout the Bible, the number 40 has major significance.
*       40 weeks of pregnancy before life is birthed.
*       Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for His ministry (Matthew 4:2)
*       40 days & nights Noah spent in the ark waiting for the rain to end (Genesis 6-9)
*       40 years in the wilderness before the Israelites could crossover into the Promiseland (Deuteronomy 8:2-5)
*       40 days Moses was in the mount and received the law of God (Exodus 24:18)
As I head into my birthday, I’ve just finished an eight week period of intense counseling.  The process began during the Beautiful retreat.  The timing is not coincidental.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been forced to deal with my past in ways I’ve never had to.  Accepting God’s forgiveness and His love toward me was vital and instrumental.  Letting go of anger and accepting responsibility was also part of the journey.

For years I’ve walked around masked.

My painful past became commonplace and my normal.  I manipulated myself into believing that I could just push down hurts and pains, never deal with them, and still have wholeness in my life.  Boy was I wrong.

I’ve been broken to be restored!

Despite how hard it was to face my past, I know that God designed this time to begin and end before turning forty.  I still have a ways to go in my healing, but I’m ready to face the dawning of a new day.  My cousin recently shared that my next decade will shape me! What I thought I knew will be challenged and what I learn will strengthen me for the journey ahead! He challenged me to enjoy my forties and live these next ten years with the curiosity of a child, learning everything as if I never knew!

Will you help me celebrate today?  If you’re over 40, I would love to hear some wonderful words of wisdom.  Leave a comment below and I promise to read every single one!

Renee Scott

 

Renee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog,  www.doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com ,where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children. 

by Kristin Bonham

On “Cyber Monday” I found it really hard to stay focused and not get sucked into cyber space filling up virtual shopping carts!  I was just thinking the other day about the Beautiful Experiment we did over the summer in the attempt to realign priorities.  I did so good cleaning out closets, eliminating stuff and here there I was tempted to fill them up again!

During the experiment, God really showed me that He wants more room in my life and that there will always be things that could take away from the room I could give Him.  What I’m realizing is that the temptations are right in front of me and they are usually never a surprise.  Why do I act like I didn’t see it coming?!

I know this will be a total shock to all of you, but the two things that keep me distracted the most are business and laziness.  I know!  It makes no sense!  I seem to go in cycles of being crazy busy where I am juggling multiple things and can “take care” of everything on time with my house clean.  Then when I have any down time, I find it difficult to peel myself off my comfy chair and engage. 

I want to find a steady normal speed and stop the crazy cycle.  I have been thinking a lot about it and I decided I’m not waiting for the New Year to get things in order and hear from God on the subject.  So, a few dayes ago, I threw my desperation on God and I’m listening.  I have eliminated a few things that are no brainer time wasters and I’m asking God to show me how to fully live again. 

I love The Message version of the Bible.  Eugene Peterson has such a way of describing things that connect with my heart.  If you have never read the introductions to the books of the Bible you are reading, I encourage you to.  These words from the Intro to Habakkuk spoke so strongly to me yesterday.

The prophet Habakkuk is upset that God is going to use Babylon to punish His people.  So he tells God what he thinks,  “God, you don’t seem to make sense!” But then He does something even more important: He waits and he listens.  It is in this waiting and listening – which then turns into his praying – that he found himself inhabiting the large world of God’s sovereignty.  Only there did he eventually realize that the believing-in-God life, the steady trusting-in-God life, is the full life, the only real life.

I was feeling pretty good after reading this and journaling about it and telling God all that I was feeling because of it.  I started moving through my day with a new sense of peace that God would help me and that I would again find the full life, the only real life.  And then I heard Him.  In my heart, I heard a whisper, “you didn’t wait and listen”.  Ugh, He was right!  I thought I was listening but I was still listening the way I do in the crazy cycle, with three other things going on at the same time!

So today, I am listening.  I will shut my mouth, I will surrender my anxious thoughts, I will wait, and I will listen.  And tomorrow, I will do it again. 

Do you find it difficult sometimes to wait and listen? Share your comments below! 

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She and Chris have been married for 25 years and have three children; Taylor, Abby and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with her family and friends around the table.