Tag Archives: holiday

On Empty After Christmas?

For many years I wondered why this huge, empty hole in my heart lingered long after the holiday gift-opening and family-feasting had passed. Was it a let down from the hours of planning, shopping, wrapping, baking, and cooking that had zapped my strength, or was it something more? I truly didn’t know; I just knew that it showed up very year in the hours following Christmas. It seemed that I made a big hype about something, and when it was over, I was left with questions—and emptiness. Maybe that’s your experience too.

 

Today, I think I know the answer. Not that there is anything wrong with giving gifts to those we love or preparing a meal fit for a king, but God designed human beings with a hole in our hearts that can only be filled with Himself. No matter what we do to fill that hole—intended for Christ alone—we can’t seem to satisfy its hollowness. It doesn’t take years to discover that “more earthly possessions” are not the answer. In my case, a gnawing hunger for something greater loomed large in my spirit, reaching beyond what I had attained in my spiritual life. Could it be the intent of the heart of God, the Hound of Heaven, ever drawing me by His Spirit away from the unsatisfying things of the world and closer to Himself? I now think so.

 

For the first time in my entire life (more years than I care to count and announce), I feel full at the end of this Christmas Day. The very real presence of my God living inside me satisfies my soul. Why me? Why this? Why now? I’m not sure I know those “why” answers, except that a continual hunger drives me closer to my Lord, ever seeking more of Him, and always searching for writers who seemed to have found what I still long for.

 

This has been an amazing year of discoveries as my Holy House Guest guides my journey, leading me to writers that pen words of living water for my thirsty soul. My most recent discovery is Ann Voskamp, author of “One Thousand Gifts,” a book given to me by a dear friend. This best-seller has forever left its mark on my life.

 

Although I was still swaying from the depth of revelations coming from this one small book with a bird nest on the cover, I subscribed to Ann Voskamp’s daily blog at www.aholyexperience.com. One of the first emails I received included a link to John Piper’s website “Desiring God” to hear an interview with Ann. I challenge you to listen to it. The title of the Interview is “What our Christmas desperately, especially, needs this year.” Go to her website and look for the link on the right-hand side of her home page. Hearing the humility in Ann’s voice made me weep with her as she shared an experience of passing by a tarnished piece of jewelry lying on the ground—a cross.

 

The best Christmas gift I received this year is a new vision, not of the manger as you might expect, but of the cross. As I saw the cross more clearly—the pain, suffering, and agony endured by my Savior—I gained a deeper appreciation for that Holy Babe in the manger. You see, we cannot separate the two—the manger and the cross. Both are enormously significant. Both are totally essential, as one without the other lessens the meaning of either. We needed both—God gave both. We must believe both. We must embrace both. We must weep over both. We must rejoice over both. We must celebrate both. Their message intertwined is one great swelling announcement: GOD LOVES US! He loves us so much that He spoke it through a manger—He spoke it through the cross. He is ever-speaking His unfathomable love to us, hoping, longing for us to hear His voice, believe His message, and respond to His love.

 

Have you heard? believed? responded? Meet Him at the manger. Meet Him at the cross. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal their message of God’s great love for YOU. Allow the deep-satisfying presence of God Almighty to fill your spirit to full! That, my friends, is God’s desire for each of us—to be filled with all the fullness of God Himself (Ephesians 3:19). How can we have emptiness when we know the One who fills? We cannot. We must not.

 

R. C. Sproul said, “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” Believe Him now—He fills empty hearts! ~ Janie Kellogg

Finding Nemo ~ Finding Jesus

A popular children’s movie a few years ago was the story of a father fish that goes looking for his cherished son, Nemo. He was determined to find and rescue him at any cost. That story reminds me of the Heavenly Father who goes looking for His lost children—us. He too is determined to find and rescue at any cost.

 

 

As the Christmas season is upon us once again, some will have a vacant chair at the table this year as the family gathers together for this holiday celebration. Whether our loved one has been called to fight a war in a far away land, or we have the permanent loss of one we know will not be coming back, the emptiness is undeniable. Many have lost jobs due to a stressed economy, and yet others face uncertainty because of enduring illness or a diagnosis that just wasn’t what we had planned for. Nonetheless, Christmas is here, and we simply must by an act of our faith discover once again the reason to celebrate.

 

 

I propose that like finding Nemo, we must find Jesus. While the commercialization of Christmas attempts to make us focus on anything but its real meaning, it is still there. It may be obscured among the hustle and the bustle, the mythical versus the divine, yet its message cannot be diminished. That powerful expression of love by our Heavenly Father in the extraordinary gift of His Son is tucked inside every carefully wrapped package we give and receive. It is found in the glow of every candle that transmits its soft light into a darkened room reminding us that the light of God’s love still shines in a dark and seemingly terrorized world. If we look closely, we can find Jesus in the twinkle of each tiny tree light as it blinks a message of hope for a brighter tomorrow. Oh, Jesus can even be found in the image of a cute little snowman when it brings a smile to the face of a child. And believe it or not, we can find Jesus in the ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ of jolly Ole Saint Nick, if in any small way it softens the heart of a Christmas scrooge.

 

 

While I once complained because the season seems to start earlier with each passing year, I have decided it is actually a wonderful thing that we celebrate more fully and completely the most miraculous event in all of history. For the coming of the promised Messiah into a lost and undeserving world merits much celebration! As you decorate your home with lights, color, and warmth, at the same time decorate your heart with the love, hope and peace that come from knowing the Savior. Like the shepherds on that memorable night so long ago, seek the One who is worth finding. Let us look for Jesus in every Christmas jingle we hear, every shopping trip we endure, each musical program we attend, and certainly in the midst of every gathering of family and friends. May we allow the generosity of God to overtake us as we look for ways to share our blessings with others, and in so doing, help them find Jesus too. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about—finding Jesus? ~ Janie Kellogg

Thanksgiving Day Fullness

If there is one word that describes the aftermath of Thanksgiving Day, it would be fullness! You know what I’m talking about. We indulge ourselves in a feast of delicious cuisine from roasted turkey with all the trimmings to colorful and delicious sides, and top it off with a smorgasbord of desserts fit for a king. It amazes me that it takes days, maybe weeks, to prepare such a meal—planning, shopping, baking, cooking, and serving. Yet, thirty minutes after our families gather around the table, all we have to show for our efforts are a heap of leftovers, a sink of dirty dishes—and fullness.

 

In reality, fullness is a two-sided coin. Certainly, it is a result of having enjoyed plenty of the foods we love and that bring back memories of past family gatherings. It is those favorite dishes that excite our taste buds as we linger long, savoring every bite. It’s our encounters with Grandma’s dressing or Aunt Susie’s famous pumpkin pie that inevitably causes us to lose all sense of restraint. After all, it only happens once a year.

 

But fullness also means that we’ve had plenty of other things as well. The joy of being with family brings an abundance of familiarity to our hearts. We are filled to the brim with gratitude for the fellowship of those we hold dear and who make this holiday warm and inviting. No one tells jokes like Uncle Ben or stories like Grandpa. It matters not that we’ve heard them before—they just never get old. And it is the fullness of life shared with those who mean much that intoxicates us and causes us to repeat the same process year after year. You see, there’s just no place like home with the family.

 

Did you know that the word fullness in the Bible? The Apostle Paul prayed that we would have it. In Ephesians 3:19, he wrote “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I don’t know what all that entails, but I sure would like to. I suspect, just like the fullness from our Thanksgiving celebrations, it means we have enjoyed God. We’ve lingered long, savoring every bite from His Word. It is our encounters with His Presence that cause us to lose all restraint when worshipping and praising Him.

 

There is also the fullness we feel when we gather with God’s family. We are filled to the brim with gratitude for the opportunity to be with those we hold dear and who make our fellowship warm and inviting. We love to hear their testimonies and stories of how God has blessed them, and us. It doesn’t matter if we’ve heard the stories many times over—they too just never get old. And yes, it is the fullness of the life of God shared with those who mean much that intoxicates us and causes us to do it over and over. You see, there’s just no place like home with God’s family either.

 

Regardless of how your family celebrated Thanksgiving, I trust that you came away with fullness, both physical and spiritual. I am personally seeking for all the fullness that Paul prayed for me to have and that God has to offer. I know that “eye has not seen nor ear heard….the things God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9), but I am doing my best to see them and hear them this side of heaven. Someday, I hope to be filled with all the fullness of God that is possible for a human being. In the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the fullness that comes from being with God, family, friends, and God’s people. I hope you do too. ~Janie Kellogg