Hope for the Dark Days of Christmas

Christmas has always been one of my most favorite times of year.  In the middle of the darkest months of winter, we decorate with lights, bright colors, and cheer.  If there is reason to be sad, we can effectively hide it behind joyous carols and celebratory gift giving.

And yet, for many, Christmas is a deeply painful time.  Well-meaning celebrations become reminders of what’s lost and broken.

When finances are stretched there are few reminders as bold and blaring as Christmas time sales.  When a loved one has been stripped from your arms, few reminders are as painful and stabbing as the Christmas time merriment.  When you’re emotionally or spiritually lost, Christmas seems more a mockery to pain than a gift from God.  When your family is broken, family gatherings, or lack thereof, can allow a dark loneliness to set in.

Jacqi Kambish Christmas

The lives we live are often surrounded by hardship and the  resulting damp, thick fog of sorrow can press in and easily take hold during the “most wonderful time of year.”

When I was a girl, I was always the first to object if the Christmas decorations had not been pulled out as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey had cooled.  Even as a child, one of the most beautiful things in the world to me was staring at the bright colors of Christmas as they broke through the darkness with a sense of hope and belief in something better.

I still live by that hope.  Even when life is hard and I lament the way things are, I can’t shake the hope and deeply seeded belief that the light always breaks through the darkness.

Right now, things are hard.  There are so many things threatening to dampen the joy of the season or snuff out the light in my heart.  But, hope always persists.

Jesus came into a world full of darkness: Political darkness, spiritual darkness, and emotional darkness.  Many sorrows had been suffered by the people living in those turbulent times.  Much like today, people were divided and an underlying thread of anger, hostility and fear had threaded its way into the culture.

And where was God?

God had been silent for some 400 years.

But we make a mistake if we believe that silence is the same as distance.  God hadn’t left or forgotten his people.

Christmas Jacqi Kambish.png

And on that night, so long ago, the light of a star broke forth into the darkness and an infant took his first earthly breath.

Hope.

The beauty of Christmas isn’t a promise that life will always be what we wanted.  The beauty of Christmas is the belief that wrong doesn’t get to win; it’s the hope that no matter how bad it hurts or how difficult it is right now, that darkness doesn’t get the last word.  There is hope for healing and hope for betterment and hope for our souls.  There is hope for eternity and hope for our futures.

There is Christmas hope when darkness reigns.

Look up!

Lift up your head and see.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

That is what we celebrate.

That is what we celebrate when there is nothing else.  That is what we celebrate when everything else hurts.

We celebrate the hope of Christ and the hope that God hasn’t given up on us yet, even if he does seem silent for a time.

We celebrate the hope that what’s broken can be fixed.

We celebrate the hope that God is in the redemption business and the last page of our stories hasn’t been written yet.

Because Christmas is all about hope; hope that what’s lost will be found.


Jacqi Kambish

Jacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.
Advertisements

Faith in the Face of Doubt

Show me a Christian and you will have shown me a human prone to doubt.  Faith isn’t for the weak.  It takes a certain amount of tenacity to stand faithful to God alone while the world calls us foolish, silly, and uneducated.  It takes a level of tenacity to stand firm in faith when life, or perhaps our enemy, throws flaming arrows of difficulty at us.  Sickness, death, sorrow, financial ruin, and abuse are enough to make even the stoutest believer cry out in dismay.  Why does God allow such turmoil?  Why is life so hard?

It isn’t just the harsh reality of this life that allows doubt to creep in.  Our own sin issues get in the way of believing.  Fear, insecurity, selfish ambition, greed, and pride all raise their head in defiance at faith.

In fact, faith is not for the weak or foolish.  Faith is the life song of those with enough grit to quiet their prideful heart, and trust God in the deepest, darkest periods of life. Faith fills individuals with enough tenacity to cling to what is unseen when what is seen is ugly and painful.  Faith is for those willing to put aside their own ideas, dreams, and perceptions and ask the unseen God of the universe to “take the wheel” and drive their life.  It isn’t a crutch.  It isn’t easy.

Jacqi Kambish Doubt.png

Is it not easier to live our lives the way we want?  To pursue money and ambition and fame?  Is it not simpler to do what makes us happy with little regard for the next person?  Is it not more convenient to believe that our lives are our own and subject to no one else, not even God?

From the outside to those looking in, I know that I seem like a good person with a good life marked by good things. Others may question, what can I know of sorrow, pain and questioning God?  Yet my song, the song of my soul, is His Eye is On the Sparrow because I do know sorrow.  Sorrow so deep my heart sometimes feels ready to burst out of my chest under the pressure of the pain.  Sorrow that tears can’t describe; the sorrow of a life touched by illness, death, murder, suicide, mental illness, poverty, and abuse.  A life that was uprooted and left without a home for so many years that the idea of home seemed lost forever; a thing to be grasped that lays just out of reach.

My life…

But, even in the darkness and the sorrow, there is a knowing.  The kind of centered knowing that can only be found with a solid faith foundation in Christ Jesus, carried on by the work of the Holy Spirit, and rooted in experiencing the great and gracious love of God the Father.

In those dark spaces…there is no room for doubt.  Doubt is a liar.  Doubt is a thief that steals our joy and gets us off the right path.  And yet, Doubt is there.  Always questioning, always wondering.  And questioning and wondering bring new understanding and new insight.  Maybe it isn’t the doubt itself that causes us to lose our way, but the fear of what we will find when we wonder.

Fear, it seems to me, is the real enemy behind our doubt.  The enemy that says, don’t ask and don’t wonder and don’t grow.  Fear, as Zach Williams sings, is the liar behind us whispering that the truth is too hard and too scary and too disappointing.

But, fear can’t stand and doubts melt into assurance in the face of truth.  The truth is that we are wanted, loved, and precious Children of God Almighty.  We are righteous without our own merit and forgiven.  We are reconciled, and our souls are eternally free.  The truth is that no weapons formed against us can stand and the enemy must flee at the name of Jesus.  The truth is that we can suit up, arm up, and pray against our enemy and victory can be ours, in the name of Jesus.  We are filled by the Holy Spirit, backed up by the heavenly hosts, and set free by the blood of Christ!!

Doubt Jacqi Kambish

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8: 32 and Paul said, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…”  Ephesians 6: 14. Truth takes the power away from doubt and casts out fear. So, put on the belt of truth, rebuke fear, and stand firm in the face of doubt.

No, life isn’t perfect.  Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen.  Pain and sorrow can be overwhelming and hard to take.  Sickness can be discouraging and relentless, but even then…

Even then, I am learning to “sing because I’m happy.”  Not happy with circumstances, but happy because my soul is free, restored, and whole, because my eternity is secure with Christ and I know this life isn’t all there is.  In that, there is also hope.  And Hope and Truth shut the mouth of Doubt.


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook

Finding Identity Through Faith

I stared at my reflection in the mirror.  The image that stared back was different than the one other people seemed to see.  Inside, behind those eyes, was more…so much more.   I knew I was plain.  The world had made that perfectly clear, but the problem wasn’t my reflection so much as my inability to self- identify.

Over the years I had heard over and over again that our identity was found in Christ Jesus; that purpose came from living for God and bringing him honor.  I didn’t doubt it.  But that wasn’t the problem either.  My problem was that I didn’t know who I was, or at least I didn’t know how to explain who I was, even to myself.

Identity Jacqi Kambish (3).png

 

My friends could describe themselves in ways I could not.  I never had favorites.  “Favorite” is a term I’ve adopted to describe my current loves, but I don’t have true favorites.  I don’t have a favorite color, a favorite animal, a favorite book, a favorite band, movie, author, subject, food…I don’t have favorites.  I might as well try to pick a favorite star in the sky!  On any given day I may say my favorite color is crimson red, or purple, or yellow.  I might tell you that I love pizza best, or taquitos, or baked potatoes.  I might tell you my preferred creature is a ladybug or a turtle. It’s possible I could tell you that my favorite hobby is painting, snowboarding, reading, drinking coffee, or perhaps writing. I might tell you that what I like best is being with people…except for when I need to be alone.

I can’t tell you what I am specifically passionate about either.  If you ask me what my passions are, I am overcome with the endless number of possible answers, but what I can tell you is that…

I don’t know.

Deep inside is, actually, an eclectic love of many things.  I don’t know what I am most passionate about, but I’d be excited to talk with you about black holes, the lifespan of a turtle, the fact that ladybugs are opportunists, the law of gravity, puppy training, and Jesus (to name a few things.)  I can’t tell you what I like best to eat, but I can tell you that what matters is that I get to eat with you.  I may not be able to tell you my favorite color or my “life verse”  from the Bible, but I am excited by the opportunity to tell you about  God and to share how he is at work in my life.

I can tell you that I love coffee, but I can’t tell you what type or flavor I like best.  I can’t tell you who or what I am because…

What I kept deep inside, for so many years was that I am all of it.  I am a jack of all trades and a master of none.  I am a multipotentialite and an avid learner.  I am passionate about everything; all of it, at the same time.  I am dedicated to painting when painting is called for, reading when reading is called for, building when building is called for, creating when creating is called for, helping when helping is called for, and researching when researching is called for. Nothing is out of reach and yet…everything is.

Jacqi Kambish Identity.png

And there I am, gazing into the mirror, wondering what actually defines me, when I can’t even tell you what my favorite things are.  A crisis of identity arises in the swirl or thoughts while the face in the mirror furors her brows.

And then in the quiet, a gentle whisper breathes, “You are mine.”  And there is rest in that.  Rest in knowing that my identity truly does come from someone deep enough and vast enough to see and hold the entire universe in his hand.  And even if I am a builder,  writer, student, wife, mother, researcher, minister, gardener, and a teacher on any given day, the one thing that always remains true is that I am a Christian.  Even if my favorite color is different today than yesterday, my faith in God is not.  Faith is the anchor of my soul, strengthened by other anchored voices of hope, and that is who I am.  That is my identity: I am a believer, I am a vessel of hope, and I am God’s.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

 


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.

The Most Captivating Celebrations

My favorite holiday when I was a kid was always the 4th of July. I loved the fireworks, my family’s tradition of making homemade ice cream and running around in warm weather with my brood of cousins. It was enough to make it the most anticipated family gathering of the year for me. It beat out Christmas and Thanksgiving hands down. The fireworks were always the highlight of the evening and they filled me with awe and wonder.

Jacqi Kambish Celebration

As an adult, awe and wonder have been harder to grab a hold of. Life has a way of stealing joy and laughter if we let it, and there have been times when I let it. There have been times when I crawled into my hole of darkness and forgot there were reasons to laugh, or sing, or dance. There have also been times when other people thought that I should laugh less loudly, less heartily, and less often—I let their ideas dampen my joy. There have been times when it seemed the seriousness of life demanded that I apologize for finding the silver lining.

There are many reasons in this life to be depressed, hurt, angry, lost, resentful, and bitter. But I’ve found through the love and grace of Christ Jesus that there are plenty of every day joys to celebrate as well.

Even in the midst of sorrow, hardship, uncertainty, and pain there are often moments of pleasure, reasons to laugh, and opportunities to be filled with awe and wonder.

As a child the big celebrations grabbed my attention and held my esteem. But as an adult, I’ve learned to look for the little daily surprises and sweet moments to fill my heart with gladness.

Moments like my kids playing nicely together, the back yard flowers blooming with a sweet aroma, and the colors of the sunset.

Moments when my kids show undeserved kindness, plant pop-cycle kisses on my cheek, and talk to me about what’s happening in their lives.

Moments when we celebrate birthdays, academic successes, and new opportunities.

Big moments, like when my daughter reached the 6-months-seizure-free mark and the anticipation that, soon, she will reach the one year mark.

Celebration Jacqi Kambish

Celebrations over potty training successes and the kid’s remembering to flush…and wash hands!

Celebrations like 13 years of marriage to my best friend.

Celebrations like the grass coming in green and the roof holding out for just a bit longer…

Thankfulness for a working laundry machine, summer breezes, and quiet moments watching the kids run in the sprinklers.

And there is more…

Celebrating the way God provides when the money isn’t there, and watching as he moves in the hearts of my kids.

Watching as God turns the sorrow of Epilepsy, and a truck load of other diagnoses, into the development of strength and character in a struggling little girl.

Turning a regular boring night into a family dance party just because.

Celebrating all those little moments; moments I was given to spend with my family, just living and laughing together.

I wouldn’t change it, and I don’t want to miss it.

As a child, I watched the fireworks, but now I watch my kid’s faces.

At one time I was hoping for the man of my dreams. Now I’m proud of the man I married.

The every day celebrations beat out the big celebratory festivities of fleeting seasons every single time…but only if I notice them.

I wouldn’t change that for the most spectacular fireworks display.

Because the most captivating celebrations of my life are the ones I almost miss.

“The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3

 


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.

Parched Lips Can’t Sing

I grimaced as I swallowed, my throat scratching while it contracted with effort.  My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth as I searched it desperately for moisture.  The air felt dry, and I licked my parched lips to ease their pain as they cracked.  It was a fleeting reprieve that left a deeper longing the moment the air wicked the moisture away.

I rounded a corner and sought refuge from the hot sun in the insignificant shade of a nearby tree.  I berated myself for having left my water bottle behind on the desert trail.

My body screamed for water.  I thought briefly of sipping from a scuzzy looking puddle…it looked so inviting.  I was drawn to it so powerfully that I had to lift myself from my spot of shade and venture back onto the trail.  I needed clean, pure water not dirty rainwater remnant.  I needed refreshment that would restore my dry body and relieve my hurting lips.  Despite any temporary relief I might gain, I knew that the standing water might do more harm than good.

My steps quickened as I recognized the landscape and knew I was close to the trail head.  With each step, an overpowering call propelled my feet forward until I reached my car and found the crystal clear liquid treasure I so fiercely desired.  The bottle was depleted of its hot fluid too quickly, but I knew, with relief, where I could get more.

Jacqi Kambish Hunger and ThirstThe parallels are undeniable:  My soul can ache for the Living Water in the same way my body aches for the more tangible substance.  Nothing else can quite fill the void; I can stuff my body full of soda, juice, or puddle water but none of those refresh and restore a dehydrated body adequately. In truth they are more damaging than nourishing.

I can pour second rate fluid into my soul as well.  Sometimes for a while I feel satisfied.  I think it’s enough.  If I listen to a sermon, a worship song, or do something good then I think I’m okay.  Like soda or juice, they temporarily seem to put off the louder wails of a soul in need of the true Living Water…a soul desperate for connection with the life sustaining, soul quenching, relief-giving Source of Life…a soul living in a parched and weary land.

I can fill my soul with poison too.  I can chase things in the world that appeal to me.  I have tried to fill my need for Christ with shopping, friends, addictions, food, busyness, and noise.  Too often even the best of those leave me parched and desperate for something more.

For long periods of time I have run through life totally deprived of a meaningful connection to the Creator; a connection to the pure, clean revitalizing Living Water.  I have buried the need with thick surgery syrup based experiences; have felt exhilarated by the rush of indulgence…But in the end,  it still left me empty.

Hunger and Thirst Jacqi KambishSometimes, I can bury the need so deeply that I hardly recognize it for what it is.  I can trick myself into thinking that my need is actually something more superficial, material, or physical.  I can be filled up only to be more drained of what little energy, hope, and satisfaction I had to begin with.

When I fill my day with other things, other people, other pursuits and neglect my LORD, I am left desperately dry with nothing left to give.

When I, inescapably, realize I have neglected my relationship with him, I am too tired to meet him.  I’m too depleted to do more than whisper a prayer that He will increase my thirst for him and my desire to know him better.  I have to ask him to remind me of my need for him.  I have to ask him to help me make the time.  I have to apologize for being more concerned with my own life than with the Source of Life.  And then, little by little, he shows me where I have tried to appease my need for him with other things.  He opens my eyes and softens my heart.  Then I can pursue and cling to him more gratefully.  When I find that I am finally able to pursue him, I see that he has been pursuing me the whole time.  And, I realize that what I want, what I truly need…is more of Jesus.

I have found that, only then, when my thirst is correctly quelled and The Water fills me up, can my restored lips praise him.  Only then can I give back to those around me, in word and in deed.  Not from my own ability, but from the overflowing excess of a life fully connected to Christ.

And then…then I can sing.


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.

Sweet Freedom from a Bitter Heart

I crammed the square of chocolate into my mouth in wonderful anticipation of the smooth sweet taste.   My salivary glands were already reacting when my brain fired off an alert and my senses went reeling.  Something was terribly wrong.  I glared at my older brother who sat nearby with watchful eyes and knowing smirk while I spit the bitter brown nugget from my mouth.

“What is that?”  I yelled at him, my eyes flashing in anger and horror.

“Chocolate,” He replied with a laugh forming on his lips.

“No it isn’t!”  I protested as I tried to punch him; he was too quick for me.  My Mom emerged from the house, “What are you shouting about?”

“He’s trying to poison me.  He said it was chocolate!  It tastes like death!”

She turned toward my brother as he shrugged with a smile, “What?  It was chocolate.  Baker’s chocolate, but still chocolate,” he looked at me, “relax, you aren’t gonna die.”

My Mom sighed, “Kinda mean though.”

I shot darts from my eyes at my brother as I went to get a drink and wash the bitter taste from my mouth.

I’ve never forgotten that taste of baker’s chocolate, but I’ve come to know another kind of bitterness as well; the pain of a bitter heart.

I’ve also discovered that it isn’t as easy to wash away the bad taste in my heart as it was the bitter taste from my mouth.

It hurts more.

And when something once sweet turns bitter, the result seems all the more pungent; all the more unbearable.

Maybe that’s why addressing bitterness is a long, hard road.

You can’t just cover bitterness up, it has to be washed away and cleansed completely.  I only know one Person who can totally manage my heart.

Bitterness Jacqi Kambish (1)I’ve faced my fair share of bitterness.  In the past, I’ve try to force myself to get over it, but some things aren’t that easy.  Even when I thought I’d moved passed it, I’d come to realize I hadn’t.  I’d see the person in church or at school or wherever I ran into them and suddenly I would know.  The taste of loathing would find its way to my tongue, and I would know I hadn’t fully addressed the shadows in my heart.

Not very long ago, I had to work through those dark corners within me once again.  I stared at the object of my dismay across the room as she tipped her head back and laughed.  I knew from the ugly feelings bubbling up inside me that I hadn’t properly dealt with the hurt.

Had we been friends…once upon a time?

I supposed, in my grumpy state, that perhaps I had only thought we were friends.  Perhaps we never had been friends at all.  I felt betrayed, cast aside, and neglected.  I felt foolish and alone.  But even more, I felt ashamed that those feelings were twisting up inside of me because when I looked in the mirror and faced them, I saw how ugly they really were.

Every time I thought I could stuff them down and make them go away, I was reminded that the bitterness still raged like a monster inside of me.

It wasn’t totally her fault; life had happened and I got left behind.  It wasn’t malicious, but it still hurt.  My problem wasn’t her though.  Not really.  It was all the lies I believed about myself.

The lie that I was better than my feelings and that I didn’t need to address them because they were silly.

The lie that I wasn’t worthwhile or valued.

The lie that I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough or good enough.

The lie that I wasn’t needed and that it made me void of purpose.

The lie that I could be easily forgotten.

The lies hurt, the loss of friendship hurt and bitterness crept in.  I wanted to spit it out, but I couldn’t.  It stayed with me far too long.

It was then that I confessed to the LORD and asked the LORD to heal my wounded heart.  It was then that I confessed my feelings to trusted members of my church and asked for prayer, and it was then that the healing truly began.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

Jacqi Kambish BitternessWhen I finally faced the darkness in my own heart I realized I needed to confess and ask for prayer.  The change in my heart didn’t happen right away.  It was slow progress.  Still, God began to soften my heart toward the other person.  He started to show me that she was hurting in her own ways as well.  He started to create compassion within me.  Slowly, the compassion edged out the bitterness until all that remained was a genuine love, peace, and freedom I didn’t know was possible.

It wasn’t my doing.

I didn’t change me; God did.

But I let him.

And as I let him change my heart, he also showed me the truth about myself:

That those lies I believed where indeed lies. My value doesn’t come from being loved by people, but by belonging to God and being loved by him. That is the sweetest truth of all.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.