“Encouraging Words for Today” December 1, 2011


by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

December is here and everyone is already stressed! How can we embrace the ‘love and joy come to you’, the ‘all is calm, all is bright,’ and ‘rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing…’? Honestly, it’s a struggle — here we are in a season of waiting for the Prince of Peace and yet all too often there is no peace within our hearts.

I blame it on all the Holiday Expectations put upon us by others – our culture, our loved ones, and especially ourselves. We want this year to be the Best Christmas Ever for everyone and so we strive to help make it so, even if it means we leave our hearts behind in the process.

This year can be different! During this Advent Season (Nov. 27-Dec. 24) and the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec. 24 thru Epiphany Jan. 6) we can be intentional about embracing Light, and Hope, and Joy, and Peace, and yes, even ‘goodwill to all men.’ I don’t want to turn around on New Year’s Day 2012 and look back with regret on how I did or did not spend my precious holiday season. Three words will help me on this journey:


I need to decide where my FOCUS will be. It’s been a hard year for many of us and frankly, it would be easy to whine about struggles or get depressed at losses. Instead, I face my limitations and decide on boundaries – physically, socially, financially, and relationally. This first year in our new little home, we will have all four children here from far and wide. I want to welcome them to a home of acceptance, peace, encouragement and joy. My main priority is to keep myself in a place where that will happen. In the days leading up to Christmas I will spend time singing many carols (both aloud and in my heart) and focusing on Christ’s coming through scripture and prayer. I will say ‘Yes’ to some things (hosting the daughter of a west coast friend who just moved to Boston; speaking at 3 Christmas outreach events, breakfast with my prayer partners, Advent communion each Wednesday…) and say ‘No’ to others (can’t do neighborhood open house, simplified gift giving, shorter Christmas card list…). And I will continue to write down my Gratitude and Thanks to God every day!


But I will have FUN in the process! Yes, we will watch “Elf” at least once. We will gather around the fire and play games (Scattergories, Charades, etc.) and we will tell stories and laugh at each other and ourselves. Christmas should be a time of joy and merriment. I will take time to make every moment festive for celebration. I use Mama’s Christmas china every single meal every single day from Nov. 27-Jan. 6 as a statement that this is indeed a special time. We light candles and play Christmas music: Messiah (of course) but also Elvis, and Emmy Lou Harris, and Dolly Parton and Josh Groban. And, of course, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, especially in homage to my Daddy. So, smile a lot and wish every single harried store clerk and Merry Christmas as you are patient with them.


Most of all, I shall endeavor to live out my FAITH in practice and not just words. The best part of the holidays (holy days) are that they remind us of the lifechanging Good News that God sent His Son to us. “The Word became flesh and blood,  and moved into the neighborhood.  We saw the glory with our own eyes,  the one-of-a-kind glory,  like Father, like Son,  Generous inside and out,  true from start to  finish.”  (John 1.14 The Message) God didn’t just see us struggling down here on earth, shout down from heaven, “Hey, I love ya, so buck up!” No, He actually ‘moved into the neighborhood’ through Jesus Christ, Immanuel (that word means, after all, ‘God with us.’) That means we are never alone. Even when we feel alone during the holidays because there is an empty place at the table and an empty place in our hearts. Even when we feel alone as we start a new year, not knowing what it will hold for us. We are not alone. God came. And because He did, we can ‘be present’ for others, especially during this season when so many are hurting, needy, and seeking hope to keep going.

Giving and serving as a family is a great way to live out faith. But also, each of us individually, can be a Present to others when we offer gifts of Grace, Mercy and Time. Don’t feel you need to change your loved ones (especially during fractured family gatherings), just love up on ’em as Immanuel loves up on you. And, oh yeah, in case I forgot to say it, Sing Carols, Do Advent Devotions daily, Go to Church, Play Christmas Music all the time, Light Candles, Serve a Birthday cake, Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Fill Stockings, Pray for Peace….


“Lord Jesus, Master of both the light & darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things, look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessedin so many ways, long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy, seek the joy of Your presence. We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the Light. To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’ AMEN.”  ~ Henri Nouwen

And now, for my 4 minutes of fame on TV this week!!!

My Interview on ABC’s “Good Morning Connecticut Weekend” – Sunday, November 20, 2011

from “McDowell Family Interview 2011” YOUR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROL LINE?

Mike – “And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love.”

Cindy “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight…”

Justin – “He rules the world with truth and grace!”

Tim – Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!”

Fiona – “Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.”

Maggie – “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

All – “Fa la la la la, la la la la!” 

Love and Joy come to you, And to you a Merry Christmas too, May God bless you and send you a Happy New Year…. under the mercy, Cindy

copyright 2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net

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  1. maggierowe says:

    Enjoyed this, Cindy, and what a wonderful family photo at the end!

    Loved the Christmas carol lines too…

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