The Day After Christmas


‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

He’s eating some crumbs from the day’s Christmas feast

There are cookies and biscuits, cheese crackers at least

The stockings are empty, the toys are in play

The parents exhausted and sleeping all day

Carols and movies are done for the year; farewell to the relatives

We’ve all shed a tear

We waved over Zoom to those stuck at home

Next Christmas we’ll see them – none left alone

The meaning of Christmas still rings in our hearts

A birthday for Jesus is only the start

What if we could share all the love we’ve been given

Not only on Christmas since we’ve been forgiven

The New Year is coming within a few days

It’s never too late to live in new ways

Resolutions we’ve promised may flee out the door

Within a few months, we may be as before

I’m grateful for Jesus.

He gives our lives meaning

A place in God’s presence; on His life, I’m leaning

So even though shopping is done for the season

Let’s focus on Jesus—He is the real reason.

Wishing you and your families  a wonderful Christmas season and Happy New Year!

A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

What’s So Exciting About 2020??


My word for 2020 was EXCITEMENT.

The end of 2019 promised new vision, strategies, success, and growth. My husband and I looked forward to exciting experiences the new year would bring. Only it didn’t come like we expected. Instead it came with grief.

God’s grief for the brokenhearted of the world—those who are weary in their perseverance through loss. His cries for those who have gone their own way into hurt, hatred, violence, and division—his children whom he loves that don’t want to have anything to do with him. I feel his grieving heart as I pray for our community, our nation, and our world.

I believe this year has allowed us to see and know who God is, and what’s important. Being forced to be at home, we’ve had time to spend time with God. We’ve been given a chance to reconnect with our spouses and children. Maybe we’ve learned how to work from home, setting our schedules to adapt to higher priorities. Conversation replaced hours previously spent watching sports or sitcoms. Many families have grown closer to God and each other.

Granted, nothing is what we expected. Disappointment and despair over job and family losses is real. But maybe the 2020 turmoil is what we needed to wake up to a different perspective. What if this year has actually brought more benefit than what we expected? When I choose to look at each day with gratitude, I’m suddenly aware of all we do have; all we’ve learned; new opportunities and strategies for change and growth. Maybe that’s what God has in mind. He’s our hope. Nothing but Jesus can bring us peace in the midst of these terrible storms. That’s what I’ve learned to cling to even more this year.

And that has brought excitement.

Looking forward with excitement as we celebrate Jesus in the weeks to come!

LAURA’S BOOKS

If you’re a book reader or have one on your list, you might be excited to hear of these Christmas deals!

My contemporary fiction, A Deadly Silence, is on sale now through December 15th. In it, Sara Maree Matley unpacks a box that challenges her family with the hardest decision she’s ever had to make. You can get the paperback version here. Kindle version will be FREE for a limited time this Saturday and Sunday December 12 & 13th by going here.

I also have a limited supply of paperback copies of my newest release, When the Wind Blows, that were slightly damaged in shipping. You can receive a signed copy for only $7! That includes media mail shipping in the US. (takes about 7-10 days). These copies have minor flaws such as a bent corner or page or marks on the cover. Use the contact form to order. While supplies last.

AND as my Christmas gift to you, my biblical fiction, Rachel’s Son, about a woman named Rachel who’s son is killed in the Bethlehem massacre, will be FREE in Kindle version from December 23-27th for some Christmas reading. You know how the day after Christmas you don’t know what to do? Now you do! Merry Christmas to you.

I think that’s pretty exciting news! Enjoy!

Heart Sick?


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

This has been a year of hope deferred, hasn’t it?

We had expectations of how this year 2020—the year of vision and purpose—would pan out. I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of those plans for this last year did not happen as expected.

I wonder if that’s how the 400 years of captivity felt to the Israelites.

We’ve been through eleven grueling months, but they had to hold onto the prophecies and promises of God for hundreds of years. Palm on face here. I can’t imagine it. Can you?

But here’s the great thing.

Jesus—Emmanuel, God with Us, Prince of Peace, King of kings and Lord of lords—was scheduled by God to arrive. That plan had always been in place. God knew way ahead of time what he was doing.

And it’s no different today.

I have no doubt that God has a plan. It may not look like anything we expect. Just like the arrival of a baby in a remote town, placed in a cave manger with angels singing and shocked shepherds ogling. Not what anyone expected, right?

But it was a longing fulfilled to replace sick hearts whose hope had been deferred for centuries.

As we look forward to the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, we’re in the same place. Looking for hope. Longing for promises fulfilled.

And just as Jesus was that hope a couple thousand years ago, he is still our hope today.

There are a couple of differences.

We haven’t waited for hundreds of years—even if this year of 2020 feels like it’s stretched on for decades or centuries. And also, they didn’t know when to expect Jesus, but we have already seen him. We have the opportunity to not only welcome him into the world as a baby, but welcome him into our hearts and lives as our Savior, Lord, and King.

No matter what the virus or election or protests bring, Jesus is our hope.

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Farewell 2018 – Welcome New Life


DSC_0042

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

He’s eating some crumbs from the day’s Christmas feast

There are cookies and biscuits, cheese crackers at least

 

The stockings are empty, the toys are in play

The parents exhausted and sleeping all day

Carols and movies are done for the year; farewell to the relatives

We’ve all shed a tear

They’ve driven and flown back home for a time

Next Christmas we’ll see them—celebrations sublime

 

But the meaning of Christmas still rings in our hearts

A birthday for Jesus is only the start

What if we could share all the love we’ve been given

Not only on Christmas since we’ve been forgiven

 

The New Year is coming within a few days

It’s never too late to live in new ways

Resolutions we’ve promised may flee out the door

Within a few months, we may be as before

 

But I’m grateful for Jesus.

His birth and his death give our lives meaning

A place in God’s presence; on His life, I’m leaning

So even though shopping is done for the season

Let’s keep in our hearts Jesus—the reason.

Wishing you and your families  a wonderful Christmas season and Happy New Year!

All I Want for Christmas


DSC_0041All I want for Christmas I already have.

I can’t imagine that on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day you would spend your time reading my blog, but if you’re here, thank you and Merry Christmas.

My opening line may sound cheesy, but it’s actually true.

Jesus was born on Christmas (okay, so please don’t go all historically technical on me here), and He is all I really want for Christmas. I’ve recently discovered in a deeper way that he is truly all I need or desire.

Okay, so I’m not boycotting gift giving or anything.

But, the greatest gift has already been given, and while there are certain situations I’d love to see be different or physical things I would enjoy having, I’m not in want. I have Jesus. He’s given me his love and tremendous peace.

God’s provided for me and comforted me. He’s made a way for me in so many places where it seemed there was NO way. I have family and friends who value me. I’m loved, I’m covered and I’m content.

That’s all I want for Christmas.

I pray you get all you want for Christmas, but may Jesus be the best gift you receive this year. Merry Christmas.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received for Christmas?

What Turned My Heart to Christmas


DSC_0042This year the idea of Christmas has been rough.

With Hurricane Irma, all of us in Florida feel like we lost a month. I’m sure so many others across the country have felt the same with fires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes robbing us of daily life.

So Christmas crept up with a suddenness that stalled me.

In addition, some personal challenges made it difficult to embrace the season. I cried at the thought of what this year may be like for my family and for so many in my area still struggling to recover from tragedy. But then my heart flipped.

It started with O Holy Night.

A line in that song (one of my personal favorites), says

“…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

I can relate to being weary. Weary of recovering from trauma. Weary of the emotional roller coaster of relational issues. Physically weary of biking each day to a new job. And weary of the spiritual attacks of an enemy that wants to destroy my peace, joy and marriage.

But that is why Jesus came.

And as I sang with our congregation, allowing tears to fall, my heart grew a little hope–a small thrill if you will–that held promise. Just a hint. Because Jesus is my hope. He’s given me such peace and faithfully provided for me during this season of weariness.

This past week I still couldn’t bring myself to play Christmas carols.

But after another day of singing them at church both in our worship service and at another get together, I found my heart opening up to the possibilities. Allowing myself to be swept into the presence of God and gratitude for the birth of our Lord and Savior, I found release in the tears and joy in the celebration.

God calls us to live today. Nothing more. Nothing less.

When the Israelites were in exile for hundreds of years before Jesus came, God told them to live well there. Marry, give in marriage, eat, drink. Live. Don’t waste away because you are in a place that is less than what you’d like it to be.

So I decided to focus on what Christmas is, rather than what it might not be this year.

  1. Christmas is celebrating Jesus coming to a lost, weary world to offer us a way to God.
  2. Christmas is a time for love, joy, peace and hope.
  3. Christmas is about sharing in relationships: friends, strangers and yes, family.
  4. Christmas is about giving. Whatever resources we have. Maybe we don’t have money, but we may have time, or a listening ear, or a hug or gift wrapping skills. We can offer a ride or be a personal shopper. Let’s be creative.
  5. Christmas is about traditions. Keeping some old ones, making some new ones. Memory making lasts forever. Let’s make some good ones.

So I sang my heart out in gratitude to God. I gave what I could to those who needed something. I decorated. Lit advent candles. Put on my favorite Christmas music. And the very things I didn’t think I could bring myself to do have created an atmosphere of peace and joy.

I’m not sure all of what Christmas will look like this year. But at this moment, it looks pretty good.

How have you found a way to embrace Christmas and Christ this season?

If you need a thrill of hope, check out my church’s Thrill of Hope series at NextLevelChurch.com and if you’re in the Southwest Florida area we invite you to celebrate with us on December 23 and 24th during one of our many services at three locations.

 

 

How Hope Slipped in at Christmas


dsc_0060

He was born in obscurity.

A couple about to start a family traveled to a small town on a cold night. With no place to stay, a baby on the way, they found themselves in a cave with only a bed of hay.

Angels sang.

But no one paid heed to the bright star in the sky. Except some shepherds watching their flocks. What else was there to do that night?

Kings from afar sought him.

But how many others remembered the prophets of old who foretold the coming of this babe, from the line of Jesse? The family slipped away when Herod set out to destroy the child king.

He lived as a carpenter’s son.

No fame. No glory. No great fanfare. He didn’t become someone people wanted to know. Nothing about him was memorable. If he had been born today, no one would have posted him on Facebook or Instagram or given him a hashtag.

He healed, taught of life and love and fed thousands.

But he had no home. His friends left everything they had to follow him. And for three years he wandered through remote towns and by the sea.

And then he died.

People screamed for his death. Crucified violently. This solitary man who had only ever blessed those he met. He chose to give his life. No one took it from him.

But, he rose again.

Despite a secret cover-up, he showed himself to those he loved. Officials didn’t want anyone to know. “Keep it quiet,” they said. But his quiet power wouldn’t be hidden.

He slipped in silently, but the news of him couldn’t remain silent.

Silent Night, “How silently…” but now, more than two thousand years later, we still celebrate his birth.

Christ-mas.

This year, this song spoke to my heart about how Jesus came to us. How he whispers his love and hope to us. How gently he takes us from our broken places and leads us forward into freedom. Thank you, Jesus. Happy Birthday.

Merry Christmas. To all.

 

Looking Deeper


It’s been a rough week.

Symptoms of illness have flared again, leaving me discouraged and depressed. In addition, current circumstances are less than desirable. Can I confess that as a result, I’ve been having a hard time getting excited about Christmas?

But God has a way of flipping my perspective. 

Two days ago, I sat on a massive piece of driftwood, looking out over the expanse of our beautiful bay. My friend and I talked, cried and prayed. As I gazed at the bay, I felt a whisper from God.  What if I have something deeper for you this year? Are you willing to ask? Look for it? Find it?

In the moment, I didn’t voice those thoughts, but as the past couple of days have unfolded, I’ve come back to that moment.

What does Christmas mean this year? DSC_0002

It’s never really been about the materialism. Our family focuses most on the birth of Jesus, and our gift giving is a reflection of all he’s given us. But each year I find God digging deeper in my heart to turn up a nugget of spiritual gold; a treasure beyond even the best intentions of the season.

Last year, I was struck by Emmanuel – God with Us.

Everywhere I turned; the message danced around my head and evidenced itself in numerous ways. I needed God with me, and I knew with great confidence that he was. His presence was imperative to my existence and well-being so he showed up all over my life. His assurance dogged me this year.

What does he have for me this year?

I’m asking, seeking, contemplating. I expect it will hit me with a suddenness that will produce a rush of revelation and tears. And because of this anticipation, my heart toward the coming holiday has done an about face. Today, a seemingly impossible situation that unexpectedly changed reminded me that my God can do the unbelievable in a matter of moments. And nothing will be the same.

I remembered the words of James “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (4:14) In a moment, everything could change.

Waiting for that moment with anticipation this Christmas.

 

What about you? What does Christmas mean when you look deeper?

Time for a Makeover


Yes, I’m in the middle of a rewrite. Again.

But that’s not the makeover I’m talking about. The makeover to which I refer is the one the girls in your life can experience upon reading Sherry Kyle’s new book, The Girl’s Guide to your Dream Room.

A timeless treasure chest of stories, ideas, quizzes, and practical advice, The Girl’s Guide to your Dream Room, opens a new world of design for young ladies. In addition, it leads them through short Bible applications that tie in with each chapter’s theme. Your girls will enjoy the Interior Design 101 sections which offer lessons in art, decor, furnishings and more. This fun filled, DIY guide also offers Tiny Tips for room decorating and organization.

The easy to read layout made it fun to explore.   DSC_0047 (2)

My 13 year old daughter, Bella, has enjoyed taking the quizzes and filling out brief questionnaires to discover the styles and colors that best suit her. After reading and doing the activities in the first chapter, she came to find me, full of excitement and room design ideas she wants to implement as soon as she can!  Needless to say, she loves the book. We are even using it for her home schooling art classes since it has so much incredible information and project ideas.

And the book came with a key chain!

That, of course, made it an instant hit with Bella.

Highly recommended, a lot of fun, packed with great info – a great Christmas gift idea.

Go to Sherry’s website to order or for more of her fabulous books.