Where Is Joy?

Why is it when Christmas rolls around, life gets out of control?  It is suppose to be a wonderful time of cookie baking, Christmas shopping, tree picking, party going, Christmas light gazing, family gathering, and church going, right?  Yet, in-between all of those things, sometimes we deal with sickness, deadlines, financial difficulties, deaths, bickering, whining, loneliness, needing a vacation from the vacation.  Where in the world are we suppose to find joy in all of the mess?

I’ve found myself asking that very question this year.  Whenever I planned out my week, things changed and threw me into a forced decision; either I take the red pill of frustration and anger or the blue pill of calm and collected responses to life’s curve balls being thrown at me from all directions.

Normally, my default response is anger and frustration, but I don’t want to be that way this season.  So how do I change?  I need to find true joy!

The thing is, I know I can never find it from the world.  It is impossible.  The world only offers temporary gratification, like a box of Sees Chocolates. =) I don’t want to chase down happiness in empty promises anymore. I want the real deal.

Deep down I know it comes from keeping my eyes on Jesus.  That is the only way I have ever felt true joy in the past.  When I stop looking at Jesus, my mind returns back to the chaos and I take the red pill.  So I am making it my goal this Christmas to get my eyes back onto my relationship with Jesus.  He is so loving and such a great companion.  He has never been unfaithful to me.  I know He has all of the solutions to every conflict I face.  He needs to become my number one priority again.  I don’t know if you can relate to the same struggle I am having.  If you are, let’s pray that God will help us get our eyes off of our problems and onto His love.  As my pastor said, we receive joy from the Holy Spirit’s outpouring of joy over our lives.  We don’t create it, it is poured over us.  Plus, there is so much to be grateful for.  Pray that we counter negative thoughts with thankfulness instead.

I am thankful for being able to serve my family.  I am thankful I was able to sit and watch a show with my teenage kids.  I am thankful that I saw God’s faithfulness and grace today.  I am thankful for a loving husband and loving children who love Jesus.  The list goes on…What is your list?

Lara~

This Christmas ~

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I drew this on an airplane, flying up to the Northwest last year.  I don’t remember what it was that inspired me to pen this picture, but I just happened upon it today as I perused through my pictures and it was ironic how timely remembering such a beautiful memory was for me this Christmas.  Advent has been about unpacking the concepts of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace and how they came to us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

My life has been jam-packed with four jobs, as a Worship Pastor, voice and piano instructor with 20 students, singer/songwriter, and a care-taker for my in-laws.  Because I have rarely had enough margin to rebound, I had lost the excitement of celebrating Christmas; until today.

Today, I sat down to listen to Christmas music as I planned out my Christmas Eve worship set.  As I listened, my heart softened in remembrance of how much God’s love was for me and my family.  “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You,” “O Holy Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  The lyrics in these songs have been carried from one generation to the next over hundreds of years, reminding us of the true promise of Christmas.   It is not about the Christmas parties, or the gifts that we must buy for everyone on our list, or the acts of service we participate in; it’s about how God reached down to His creation by sending His only son, Jesus as a baby, fully God and fully human, to be the redeeming sacrifice for our sin, and to rescue us from the chains of darkness that constantly entangle us, offering eternal life with Him.  When we think about it, why would we ever want to be separated from our Father?  Wouldn’t we want to be in His loving arms forever?

So, as I looked at this picture, I saw the gifts of the Spirit pouring down to a surrendered heart.  I saw an exchange taking place, a broken heart for Joy, Peace, Grace, Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Mercy, and Faith.  What an exchange!!  Let’s not forget about the real reason for the Christmas season and let all of the frustrations, sadness, uncertainties, sin, busyness be put to the side, so that we can be filled with the love of Jesus.

Lara~

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Singing Christmas Songs

Merry Christmas!!  Here are the next two Periscope Christmas songs I’d like to share with you.  Please join me over in “Periscopeland” if you’d like to interact live.  I scope a Christmas song weekdays at around 12pm p/t and on the weekends (when I can 😉 )

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear https://katch.me/embed/v/2bc2fc6e-2e06-38cf-ae6f-ffb885202b4c?sync=1

It’s The Most Wonderful TIme Of The Year https://katch.me/embed/v/a234c86f-0fec-394d-a5f4-c213552aed3c?sync=1

God Bless,

Lara ~

FQ Worship – Top Five Christmas Songs ~

My Christmas song, “Glory, Glory To God” has been chosen to be in the top five Christmas songs on Chris Tomlin’s FQ Worship site. Here is the link so you can listen to them: http://fqworship.com/2011-christmas-top-5/ To listen, click on the FQ Radio at the top of the page. This song is registered on CCLI, so feel free to use it in your services.

Thank you everyone for all of your love and support. Merry Christmas!

Lara~

www.laramarriott.com & itunes

God’s Call ~

Jesus Calling devotional-“…A life of praise and thankfulness becomes a life filled with miracles…” I loved this line. It sounded musical to me. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” – This verse hit home to me today. This is a season of constant busyness. Emotions and stresses rise in adults especially, because there is pressure to make the Christmas experience a meaningful one. It is hard to see other Christians bicker and stress out about little things. Everything has to be perfect for them to be close to Christ. I have been this way before and it made me feel awful inside. I want to encourage all of us who call Jesus as our Saviour, to remember this verse during Christmas. We are called to peace, not frustration. May we all relax, take a deep breath, and surrender our days to the Lord, giving thanks and praise to Him for everything even if it is different from what we were expecting this season. And let’s be committed to be peaceful in our hearts. God promises “miracles” when we follow His ways. The miracles are joy, peace, love, hope… How wonderful to be filled up with these characteristics during the Christmas season. What a testimony to the love of Christ. And we will be able to defuse anger, stress, resentment, frustration, worry, and hopelessness in others around us. What a beautiful thing. Let us give the gift of peace ~

Lara~

www.laramarriott.com & itunes

Psalm 119:105-112 (The Message)

“There is a tradition that King David used this psalm to teach his young son Solomon the alphabet—but not just the alphabet for writing letters: the alphabet of the spiritual life.” – Wikipedia

I guess the writer of this psalm used the alphabet to title each of the sections of this verse. I did not know that = )

Psalm 119:105-112 “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Everything’s falling apart on me, GOD, put me together again with your Word. Festoon me with your finest sayings, GOD, teach me your holy rules. My life is as close as my own hands, but I don’t forget what you have revealed. The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don’t swerve an inch from your course. I inherited your book on living, it’s mine forever- what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say- I always have and always will.”

I love how the Bible can give us just the right words to speak into our lives at just the right time. I wanted to share this with you today.

My world has been consumed with dropping kids off, picking kids up, playing with the kids, errands, cleaning, worship leading, rehearsals, teaching voice and piano and preparing for Christmas by buying gifts and making them which has led me to discover a love for crocheting hats!! I actually put some in a store here locally to sell. So I am making some as gifts for friends and family. It has been time consuming, but a lot of fun! Even in the midst of all of the busyness, I’ve made it a point to start my days off with the Lord by doing my devotions and talking with Him. That has helped me tremendously in keeping me centered and at peace (for the most part lol)

As far as singing is concerned, God is guiding me to lead worship more. Brian has been sensing it and so helping me learn how to do it. It is a surreal experience. My dad was and still is a worship pastor, Brian is a worship pastor, but I have always been a performer. Leading worship was so foreign to me and scary. You mean I have to get out of my comfort zone and communicate with the church. What if I say something dumb? (Which I have been known to do on more than a thousand occasions lol) Will they actually follow me and what I ask them to do? My voice is quiet, how can I make it leadership quality without sounding commanding. These are questions that come to the surface of my mind very quickly, but I have discovered with Brian’s guidance and my surrender to God’s leading, He has been able to use me to lead some great times of worship. It has been amazing to see and I give full credit to God, my help and strength. Kind of a change of direction for me. But very exciting. I am still writing more songs, but this season has become very busy for me and for my producer that we will probably wait until the new year to start recording again. It is hard to wait, but it also is very important for me to follow God’s lead. I do not want to take control and do things my way. I want to do things God’s way even if it might not make sense to me at the time.

Lara~

www.laramarriott.com & itunes