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"Pre-Holiday Pep Talk"
by Barbara Smith


The Holiday season is close upon us, and for those of us who are domestically-challenged besides homeschooling we may sense a growing impression of panic that is overtaking our best intentions. December 25 will arrive, but we will be two weeks off in everything from shopping and baking to lessons again this year!

The trick for surviving these next couple of weeks is setting realistic goals. Now don't groan. Goals are good; they can be useful. Especially if we remember that coming short of them is not always terrible!

NOBODY has ever achieved his or her goals perfectly, except the precious Son of God!

The secret to setting realistic goals is putting on blinders. The end of November is not the time to read decorating magazines or recipe books. Make a note to do that in July, when it is too hot to plan much. Setting realistic goals means not looking at me to see how I am doing, and feeling smug or watching how Martha Stewart celebrates and getting all discouraged.

Developing some sane ambitions for the last few weeks of 1998 means surveying your castle and figuring out what God's game plan is for you and yours. (He never assigns a nervous breakdown! So if you sense you are on the verge of one, stifle it.)

With your checklist in hand, if you are tempted to note what is *not* in your castle, like money, talent, time, or "things," remember to thank God who has also kept pestilence, civil war, natural disaster and persecution out of your range of vision. When trying to figure out who in your castle needs to get shaped up so you can enjoy the holidays without a hassle, look into the mirror. (James 1:23)

Designing a sensible set of goals with which to end this year in a blaze of glory instead of a forgettable flame-out means practicing gratitude to God, for HE is unique in every person's life, although He asks us to master a set of basic principles.

"Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim {them} to you." (Isa 42:9)

*Let* the Lord be unique in your life, too: fresh and unexpected, wonderful miracle worker that HE is. For HE has a plan for you and all the inhabitants of your castle. Each member in your family is a gift, selected by God Himself for you. (Especially the cranky, unbelievers!)

Some gifts' value, you will perceive immediately; the value of other gifts will astound you only when you fully see in Glory what HIS hands wrought by giving you the gifts HE did.

Don't forget: God is NEVER finished with HIS children and ours until HE brings them (and us) home. What may be defeat today is but the first step to victory in Jesus tomorrow.

SO here's a little plan I pray I can practice during the next six weeks: What are the goals? Joyful obedience to authority, humble reconciliation and gracious forgiveness of transgress -- real or imagined? Oh yes, is one of your goals restraining your tongue? (What? You thought I was just going to tell you how to be like Martha Stewart in three weeks or less?)

Are you planning to make your bed every morning when you get out of it, wash your face, dress as if you *expected* a visitor, and purpose to put the things away that you get out?

For the rest of 1998, will you plan to read Scripture for five minutes each morning? (That may mean keeping a paper back Bible in the bathroom.)

Will you promise to return at least one kindness for an unkindness you suffer?

Will you try to do one thing every day for which you seek no credit or appreciation?

Will you ask God to open your eyes to see one *trouble* in your home for which you will pray?

Will you try to get to bed on time, every night for the rest of the year? Even if it means turning ME off?

Will you thank God, even if you fail to do any of the above perfectly because you know deep in your heart, HE is cheering you on to be a Proverbs 31 woman?

Will God do this for me?

My mouth says "yes!" but I confess: I still fret. So, WHY do I worry? Hasn't God promised to be my constant guide and companion and protector? Yes!

But, all still need help with overcoming unbelief. And there are some OLD tapes that when the enemy punches on, we stop and listen, with rapt attention. Maybe a good year-end goal should be destroying the "old tapes?"

Finally why do you want to celebrate Christmas this year? Or why are you looking forward to Thanksgiving?

These are secular holidays but God has permitted them, and the civil authority over us "encourages" our participation. We have one day specifically set aside for thanksgiving and one in which we can choose to worship the Savior and remember His birth.

Practicing thanksgiving and praise are great goals for ending 1998, not just somehow but triumphantly. Going over our goals daily as diligently as we rehearse other aspirations is a winning game plan.

Does that mean we will have no setbacks in the next few weeks? NO! But we can get through the day, believing God can and does cover HONEST lapses. When we are honest and confess our failures to do the work HE assigned, HE will forgive and set things right.

My prayer for the up and coming holiday hustle is that this year God will enable me to make the celebrations a delight. And that any memories or good works we do this year, when tested by fire on that great and awful Day will not burn up like so much wrinkled wrapping paper!


© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)




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