Christmas Is Now!

Over this Christmas week, Marvin and I will enjoy this glorious season – family, friends, celebration! (Be back blogging in one week.)

Marvin Debra Christmas

Christmas is now. I don’t always relish tradition or media infused images of how Christmas should be or could be in my life. Life’s changing nature often brings with it a different movement of Christmas for me year by year. Some years are a bit traditional. Other years are more spontaneous or random. That’s life. So I rest in Christmas, now, and enjoy it without any self-imposed expectations.

I found myself saying to Marvin last week, “Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.’ Then I had this aha moment of how incredibly ridiculous that sounded. How is Christmas exactly supposed to feel? What defines this glorious season? Christmas is about birth, life, and glory in Christ. Life moves and changes so why don’t I just move with it, finding joy in the moment of this season? That changed everything for me.

Christmas Tree

I choose to view Christmas as now, for that is what it is for me. Christmas moves around me with its own way, its own beauty, and wonder, right where I am, today. I won’t let tradition dictate my course of action, but allow Christmas to be Christmas, wherever I am and whomever I am with at the time. There is no perfect Christmas. There is only the message of its beauty and grace and glory in Christ Jesus. Christmas is now for me.

Peace On Earth Ornament

Images try to form in my head this month dictating the perfect Christmas – media shows me what I need to buy, how I need to look, or what I need to do. Those happy pictures of people shopping in malls loaded down with gifts. Families gathering around Christmas trees, smiling filled with an innocence and sweet perfection. Christmas music playing.  Those invasive templates can make or break you. You can see that it is an illusion. Or, you can fall prey to their schemes and get depressed over your apparent lack – financially, relationally, and spiritually.

Santa Candy Cane

I choose to take control over it all and declare, “Christmas is now”. And in seeing  its beauty now, I can relax and enjoy the season in my way. Whether I lack finances or have plenty. Whether I am surrounded by many people or are alone or with one other person. Whether I can feel anything or not. Whether I even have a tree or not. Christmas is not defined by any of that. Christmas is Christ and no matter how much they try to remove Him from the equation, there is no Christmas without Christ. In that respect, you have it all. I have it all. He is all.

Christmas is now and each year is a vivid reminder of its inherent glory in the awesome reality that a child, a King, a Savior, the Christ lives in me so Christmas is alive in me now and everyday. In Him I find joy and peace amidst the chaos and changing conditions of life. He alone rises above every false expectation or grand illusion about Christmas. Jesus Christ is alive and His life is flowing through me, right now. It is a time to be filled with joy for joy is not based on the external but rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. I leave you with a prayer from my heart.

Joy To The World

May this Christmas awaken you to the reality of the season, Jesus Christ. His great love for us is so wide, so deep, so grand that our hearts cannot begin to comprehend its depth. How He loves us so! May His love flow as an ocean’s wave into the depth of your circumstances, into the reality of your life right now. Rise up from everything that seeks to entangle you in cynicism or negativity. Rise up in the beauty of joy and the simplicity of His love for you. Look past the ordinary to experience the extraordinary wave of His love for each of us.

Merry Christmas to each of you!

Debra Westbrook

Our Kenya Years

Kenya Map

Kenya Map

The best thing about Kenya is its people, their joy, their resilience, and their strength. Our experiences in Kenya were the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, yet our love never wavers for this nation. God called us there for the first time in 2002. It has been over 5 years since we have been back. It is almost 2014 and I still think about it quite often. Waiting on God, I listen carefully should He open a door for me to return.

When I think about Kenya, I think ‘light’. There is a radiance and splendor shining forth from the heart of the nation. Amidst the villages and the cities, the Lord has blessed Kenya with beauty. Look into a Kenyan’s eyes and you see light, the light of hope that tomorrow will be better than today. They live with hope for the future, despite any attack that presents itself in the day. Kenyans are resilient. You knock them down, they get up. And, when they get up, they are still joyful despite everything that tries to come against them.

When I think about Kenya, I think “joy”. The joy of the Lord is their strength. That inner fortitude carries them into their future, investing their lives into their families and children. Joy flows through Kenya like a river. It flows through the generations despite outward turmoil or inward despair. Joy is inherent in their nature, as if God, by His hand, wove it throughout their DNA. They are joyful. It is who they are. It is how they live.

Kenya Girls with Bananas

Kenya Girls with Bananas

When I think about Kenya, I think about its greatest resource, its people, especially its children. Children are a living, running, smiling testimony that God is making a way from generation to generation. God manifests in the present His own hope for the future in the children of Kenya. God births life through children so that we remember; He is greater than poverty or lack. He is greater than despair and disillusionment. He is greater than disease. He is able to do above and beyond anything we can think or imagine.

Children are unique – simple, unique, shining brightly with joy. They are loved. They are wanted here. They are valued. Families loving children generation after generation. I can still see meetings where the children would gather at the front of the venue, sitting and watching us minister. I see their smiles –always smiling.

Kenya Marvin and Girl with Flowers

Kenya Marvin and Girl with Flowers

Before I jump into 2014 with passion and purpose, I remember where I came from in years past. I remember who influenced me and what impacted my life. Finland has changed my life. Abu Dhabi has changed my life. And Kenya has changed my life. Each nation has imparted strength into the fiber of my being. My life has been greatly blessed and enriched by Kenya. I feel quite sure in what I am writing. I am not rambling about my travels. I see God making a way through all of this to show me again that my call is to the nations. I am a nomad at heart for travel and adventure burn in my spirit.  In writing this, the Lord is speaking to me to remember His promises. Remember the doors that will open with the new experiences and the greatest adventures. Remember the call to go forth in His glory and grace. Remember that He who has called me is faithful, and He will do it.  

Who? You? – Quotable Living

“Never let anyone steal your joy.”  Me, Debra Westbrook

Growing up, I was part of the generation that ran outside to get the Sunday paper that was delivered to our door. I loved reading the comics and I loved Peanuts, especially Charlie Brown. His imperfect, bumbling, insecure, and insignificant life made me laugh. And Lucy – well she was the forerunner of a generation of haters soon to come. They always made me laugh or even cry. I love this cartoon below.

Image

Why do we let people get in our face, invade our place of joy, and touch our substance? A friend once said to me “Child, don’t let them touch your substance.” I didn’t get it at first but then he proceeded to explain it to me.  Substance means that part of you that makes you, YOU. That inner depth, feeling, thinking, quirky, unique, and creative person that YOU (and me) really are. That part that God said is wonderfully formed and beautifully made. No one can touch that. No one, so don’t give them access.

So here comes Charlie Brown, beaming, laughing, and dancing with joy after a home run. “You?” Sally Brown exclaims. Ever been there? I think all of us have at some point. She reached out with her words to crush, annihilate, and destroy any bit of possibility and hope within him to be HIM. Maybe she didn’t mean to, but she did. She touched that part of him that believed he could rise above the status quo and be someone or somebody for even one minute. With that home run, which I am sure surprised Charlie Brown himself, he vindicated himself in the face of all those preconceived notions family and friends had about him.

Well, we don’t know what Charlie Brown did after that but I know what I might do with a comment like that. I could laugh it off, but feel devastated inside. I might ignore it, but that isn’t likely. I could even laugh along with the condescension pretending like it didn’t affect me. But knowing now, what I may not have known years ago, I would realize that those words cannot and should not penetrate who I am.

What do I do? I have this inner place in me, the secret place where I pray, talk, and meet with God. It is that place where I am unconditionally allowed to be me by a God that created me, knows me through and through, and loves me. When words try to hit that place and get in, I have a protective shield that flings them back in grace. Now, the person saying something like that to me may never know this about me for I could be smiling all the time. But, eventually I run to the Lord, like Charlie Brown, dancing and leaping with great joy and He says “Great job”, with no condescension, no condemnation, and no sarcasm.