I’d once met this man who nonchalantly told me this unforgettable story.

This story of how he’d picked up this painting at a yard sale.

And he hadn’t really thought it was worth that much  —

so he’d hung the thing in mudroom hall, right where he shook off his rubber boots everyday and kneeled to pet his nuzzling pooch.

Frame, Louvre

The man told me that too, how he’d picked up at the thrift store, these larger paintings in brassy Walmart frames and he’d hung them like they were impressive, right there, over the couch.

And he’d scrounged relentlessly through Sally Ann’s looking for better oiled canvases in better frames for that revered place right there over his off-tune piano.

Turns out?

That painting that he’d long ago found at that chintzy yard sale? That he’d relegated to the back hall with his rubber boots? Was an unknown masterpiece of a painting, a painting of one of the greats, worth hundreds of thousands — a painting that was worth all his attention.

A painting that gave him the greatest worth.

Turns out — If you don’t recognize the worth of the masterpiece you have — you can waste your life looking for more that doesn’t matter.

Yeah, that’s the story that comes tugging at me this time of year.

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Because it turns out in the midst of any day, or the holidays, you can find yourself a bit overwhelmed and lost, you can find yourself valuing things that don’t really matter, and not valuing enough what matters most, and you can find yourself not knowing what’s worth it and what’s not?

Tell me I’m not alone?

Yeah, I can get ridiculously lost this time of year. I can buy this bad bill of goods about what this upcoming season of holidays is supposed to be about, what’s important enough for center stage — that turned out be pretty empty in the end.

I mean, it’s happened — I can get up caught up thinking November and December are about trying to jump through a million little Pinterest hoops—

And all my recipes end up looking like very bad science experiments gone wrong, and my crafty-decor looking like yeah, something you want to drop off at the thrift store as soon as you can, and frankly? I can waste my time looking for that more, trying to make, produce, perform, find that more — that ultimately doesn’t matter. That ultimately makes me feel a failure. Worthless. 

But there’s a Word, this genuine Masterpiece, this Real Story, that reaches out on those days, the hard days, the holy-days, the holidays, and says, “You are not alone — Your messed up family, your wrestle to know what matters and what’s worth it? You are not alone. Let Me help you find your way back to who you really are… to what really matters… to your own worth.

Turns out? I just have to open His Story, stay in His Story, stay in the stories from His Word, I just have to value the Real Worth of His Word, above all the other fake stuff this time of year, to know what really matters — to know what His Story says about my real worth, my kids’ real worth, so my kids’ know their real, unshakeable worth is in the Grand Love Story — not in the not-so-grand stuff.

So — that could be the intentional plan this year.

To make this intentional plan in November for December — this plan to open up the pages of a book that is like your own larger-than-life Advent Calendar, that tells His Story, right from the beginning of The Story, for every day  Advent —  much like opening the flaps of an Advent calendar counting down the days to Christmas, and finding an ornament that goes with every story —

like this Unwrapping of the Greatest Gift.

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To gather as a family each night and give the place of importance to what matters the most:

to read Story after Story from Jesus’ own family treeand hang the ornaments from each Story on a little (or big or wide or tall) tree of our own, to make a masterpiece that’s called a Jesse Tree, a picture of Jesus’ own family tree

to make a real masterpiece of our Christmas, a Christmas tree that tells the whole love story of Christmas.

Because this is the Masterpiece of all of History, The Story that will give us the gift of our real worth — the gift of how desperately we are loved by Him. 

To begin to tell The Story of Christmas — right from the beginning:

” In the beginning — is when this Story begins. Which is far better than a story beginning with any old “once upon a time.”

This story’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read — because this story is all true. And this story is our story — your story.

Your story starts with a kiss. The One Real God — the Father King of the whole universe, He kneeled close and closer, and closer, until His very breath breathed upon our skin and His life and love filled us warm and fully alive!

Your story begins with a kiss —

because your Father King knows the greatest gift that your heart really wants and needs is love — just to feel the safe, forever warmth of love.”

[~excerpt from the family read aloud edition: Unwrapping The Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas]

What could we want more for us, for our families, than that this year — the gift of immeasurable love and worth?

So, yeah — let the first bit of Christmas start to happily ring its bells, turn up the holiday tunes, and let the holiday planning of The Greatest Christmas begin, and start setting up the tree. Because the thing is?

If we want our Christmas tree to really stand wondrous and not just fall over in a heap of worthlessness this year, the tree we really need to understand and be astonished by —

is the wondrous story of the real and honest family tree of Jesus Christ!

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Because this is our story — your story.

The Real Story that tells us our Story, that tell us what really matters and Who really matters and what has ultimate value and what’s really worth it in life.

Because Jesus’ Story doesn’t cut off all the Big Cheaters, Bad Liars, Weasley Sneakers, the battling brothers, the fighting families and the broken hearted from His family tree (uh, yeah — know any messy families like this?).

Jesus makes families just like this — perfectly His!

“Jesus adopts all the messy people and all the broken people and all the imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives you His family name and His absolute happy perfectness and He makes you valuable, and He makes you a masterpiece and He makes you know your great worth (yeah, what kid’s heart doesn’t need that the most?).

Christ comes right to your Christmas tree and looks at your family tree and says, “I am your Rescuer and I will win you free from all the feelings of worthlessness, and not-enoughness, and brokenness and sinfulness and sadness and I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Will you take Me? Will you want Me?”

Who says yes to giving Him the most important place this season? Who doesn’t want to miss Jesus this year? [~excerpt from the family read aloud edition: Unwrapping The Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas]

Because it could happen (ask me how I know)

the part of the holidays that is worth the most, that is the real Masterpiece, that tells the Story of what really matters, that tells what you, your kids, the people you love, what they are really worth in God’s eyes — that Story could get relegated to a back corner, to an unimportant place, it could get forgotten.

It’s like a whisper of relief that you can hear already this time of year: “Come and don’t miss Jesus this year. You don’t want to miss Jesus this year. Come and don’t miss the greatest Masterpiece the world has ever known, come and don’t let anything make you and your family miss out on the Greatest Story Ever Told, that gives you, your kids, incomparable worth.

Come and don’t waste the wonder of the holidays on anything less than what really matters the most.”

Who wants Jesus the most?

Jesus in the manger’s feed trough who makes Himself bread for us who are so hungry — who feel an unspoken broken, a hidden worthlessness.

Jesus the Savior in swaddlings who rescues us from the blackness and confusion of what really matters, that we can’t get out of unless we hold our Jesus, Light of the World.

Jesus, who makes precisely what none of us can but what all of really want the most this year: a real Christmas.


Come unwrap all of HiStory, His-story, your Story — one story at a time, one ornament at a time, so that your Christmas this year for you and your family tells the most unbeatable, unstoppable, unfailing love story —

a story that is better than the best fairy tale you’ve ever told  because it’s all true.

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This is the Power of The Story.

His Good Book, His Story, the story we’re called to stay in — it’s like someone holding out a hand:

Come and be kissed by God and loved into the happily ever after and unwrap the greatest gift of the safest, warmest love you’ve ever known.

The masterpiece of His Story —

is The Way to really come Home this year for the holidaysto come Home to what’s real and what matters the most… what has the greatest worth —

and what gives us and those we love the greatest worth. 

 

Related:  All the Ornaments, for both adults & children that tell the story of our worth & His, that tell the Greatest Love Story Ever Told 
Because every adult needs the wonder of Christmas for them again too: The NYT bestseller, The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas
The Family Read Aloud Edition, for ages 4-94: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
Free gift tags, foldable boxes, Christmas scavenger hunts, colouring pages, to help Unwrap The Greatest Gift for both adults and kids
The Best Gift Ideas for this Christmas

*  *  *  *  *  *

Click here to unwrap The Greatest Christmas ever 

The Greatest Christmas

Q4U: How does/has this time of year made you feel worthless sometimes?
What’s your plan this year so that you don’t feel worthless, or like a failure — and so the people you love don’t try to find their worth in things, but in Him?
So tell us — we’re all ears — how do you feel about the holidays this year?

(Email and RSS Readers — Please, come join the conversation here? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the holidays…)

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  • http://kriscamealy.com Kris Camealy

    “He makes us His masterpiece” …..why does this truth stick in my throat, rather than imbed itself deeply in my heart? I love Christmas, and every year we are trying to shape our celebration and observation of the season to better reflect our faith in Jesus and our value of Him as the reason for the season. I always feel a little anxious, how do we do this with the kids? How do we help them shift their focus from the gifts to THE Gift? How can we show hospitality and grace to our neighbors who don’t know Him, or to the ones we know are in need? I’m trying to go into this Advent on my knees, to spend less time clicking through links and more time caring for hearts. I’m grateful for the wealth of resources accompanying your new book–we will be incorporating as many as we can to help us all SEE Jesus this Christmas.

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

      Kris, has anyone told you lately what a beautiful soul you are?
      You just nail it with such truth and vulnerability and brave honesty —

      How DO we help shift the focus for the kids from the gifts to THE GIFT?

      I think the key? Is to Stay in The Story — for each day of Advent, of December, to make a SPACE in the P-A-C-E to read more of the Love Story that been coming for us, right from the beginning, make space for *E*mmanuel, God with us — and we find Him, we find P-E-A-C-E.

      When we as a family stay every day of Advent, of December, in His Story — that Epic, Majestic, WOW story — it captivates us, and He captures our hearts, and it FREES us… frees us from the pressure to try to *produce* a Christmas, or buy it, or perform it, or feel overwhelmed by it.

      (Each day of both Advent/December devotionals, The Greatest Gift & the family read aloud, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift — they both have the EASIEST, most SIMPLE, little action points — to reach out and love and surprise people with little treats — and THAT GET’s KIDS EXCITED!!! They start to LOVE coming up with ways to surprise OTHER people! :) Because it’s true, what His Word says is granite rock true always– it’s far better to give than to receive! :)

      I am SO excited for you, Kris — A Christmas of SEEING Jesus through all of you — THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS!

      • http://kriscamealy.com Kris Camealy

        Thank you, Ann. I got goosebumps reading your words here, because this is exactly it, making SPACE for Him to enter–into our hearts, our homes, our actions, our meditations…He is our peace. as I type this, the coloring pages are rolling warm off of my printer. I can not wait to sit on the couch in the middle of my children and read through your book. I believe it is going to change us all.

        Thank you for your hard work, friend. thank you for tirelessly pointing us to HIM. Is it too early to say Merry Christmas? ;) LOVE you, Ann.

        • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

          Kris, it is NEVER too early to say Merry Christmas! :)
          Because the thing is?
          When we truly celebrate the depth and awe of Christmas — Christmas never ends! The essence of Christmas — Christ– goes on all year round! :)
          So Merry, Merry CHRISTmas! :)

      • http://positivelyalene.com Positively Alene

        These words — the key is to stay in the story! That, Ann, takes my breath away. Yes, I long to stay in the story daily. Lord, help me! Ann and Kris — thanks so much!

  • http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com Linda@Creekside

    Ann … I love that you’ve written this now.

    I smile, just a bit, because I just encouraged my own readers to grab hold of the invitation to choose what’s most essential for them in this coming holiday season rather than be swept up by everyone else’s expectations and the overwhelming demands of our crazymaking culture.

    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2014/11/one-urgent-question-you-must-ask.html

    Blessings to you, to yours, to us all as we listen closely to His Spirit and discern how best to celebrate His birthday …

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

      Linda!
      THAT is exactly it, isn’t it, you are right!
      Choose NOW what is is essential for our families this holiday season — be intentional and visionary and proactive…. instead of reactive, instead of feeling pressured into holidays that don’t feel like holy-days, meaningful days for you and yours.

      What a needful, helpful ministry you have, Linda — you just blessed my socks off today! :)

      • http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com Linda@Creekside

        You’ve encouraged me today with your sweet affirmation!

  • ro elliott

    Thank-you Ann… I love this for everyone… but especially for those younger mom’s… helping them turn the ship around before it’s like trying to turn the titanic in a different direction. Oh, how I could have used these words when I was young… “Come and be kissed by God and loved into the happily ever after and unwrap the greatest gift of the safest, warmest love you’ve ever known.” Yes and Amen!!!! So thankful for His faithfulness and unfailing love… a love that never stops wooing us into His love… His freedom xoxo

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

      Oh, Ro — the wisdom you don’t always shower us all with, girl.
      Really — what you said is so eloquently powerful: “turn the ship around before it’s like trying to turn the titanic in a different direction.”
      And you know? Each year — we can change the direction a bit more. Baby steps :) Just baby steps…
      Yeah, I’m with you, that’s the greatest gift our hearts all want to unwrap this year, isn’t it, just that:
      “Come and be kissed by God and loved into the happily ever after and unwrap the greatest gift of the safest, warmest love you’ve ever known.”
      Bring on The Greatest Christmas! :) ((Ro))

  • http://www.lisajobaker.com Lisa-Jo Baker

    Thank you for how you make Christmas come alive for so many of us Ann – stepping off the shelves and discount sales and twinkly lights right into our hearts – a person and not just another mall holiday. So so grateful.

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

      oh, wow, isn’t that it — you’re writing my heart now, sister: A Christmas that steps off the shelves and discount sales and sings HALLELUJAH in my *heart!*

      That we get SomeOne — the most AMAZING One — and *not* just another mall holiday.

      Come on, December — our hearts are preparing room for You, Lord Jesus, to COME! :)

  • http://www.bethcoulton.com Beth Coulton

    Thank you so much for this writing, Ann, as already in very early, barely begin, baby-of-a-month-still November, I can feel my heart wearying of the season. Maybe it was the Christmas Kleenex boxes and hints of thngs glittery that I saw in the stores before Halloween. Maybe it’s the nervous anticipation of “How will I get all the shopping done now that I’m working full time?” Maybe it’s seeing the mental image of my calendar filling up, leaving me no margin or whitespace to breaths in or relax. But I know I want to change my focus, shift my perspective, remember to focus on The Gift, Jesus.

    Can’t wait to see how He changes me this Season!

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

      Beth,
      I think you give voice to how lots of us feel:
      December = Weary
      December = Fear
      December = Overwhelm

      when what we really want is:
      December = Joy
      December = Memories
      December = Awe
      December = Merry & Bright & MORE JESUS

      Sister, we are so there for you at http://www.TheGreatestChristmas.com — to give you as many free tools and resources to really make this The Greatest Christmas….
      Have you checked out the printable there: How to have a Sane & Sacred Christmas?
      Truly expectant that this cold be the Christmas we always dreamed of…

  • Diana

    The post was very well written. However, it tells me it will soon be the Advent season. I find little joy in the season. My father pasted 15 years ago a week before Christmas. Yes, it should be getting easier but still feel the void. This summer my mother-in-law past away and an still grieving over it. She always would make Christmas very special for everyone even in the smallest ways. Now she too is gone.

    I wish I could view Christmas as a happy time especially since it was the birth of our Savior. He will take us home when He is ready and our work is done.

    • Penny

      Dianna,

      I understand how this must feel to you. I lost my Dad last Christmas and it had always been my favorite time of year. I came to terms that it must of been the Lord’s gift to him.

      My Mother who is also gone poured her heart into Christmas to make it special. I have tried to find ways to make it special, in my own way. Maybe there is something that you like to make or do that you could include in your gift giving. Something that is YOU….

      I hope this helps makes it a bit easier to bear the pain and loss you feel…..

      blessings to you….

      Penny

      • Penny

        I meant to say has been not had been(sorry)

  • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com jdukeslee

    Let every heart
    prepare Him room.

    Thank you for showing us the way, Ann.

  • http://www.jacquewatkins.com Jacque Watkins

    Just. This. Thank you for reminding us of this…

     “I am your Rescuer and I will win you free from all the feelings of worthlessness, and not-enoughness, and brokenness and sinfulness and sadness and I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Will you take Me? Will you want Me?”

    Thank you for tirelessly pointing us to Jesus…all of us. And for doing it with such beauty and refined grace–products which are gorgeous and stunning and wooing–just like He is. Christ through you is beautiful and magnetizing, and know He is smiling and being glorified through the faithful offering you choose every single day.

    This season, may He become more real and intimate and glorified through us too, as we do this together as families, all saying yes to Him–receiving Him every day as the gift, and allowing Him to make us into the gift too.

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Ann, I’m so grateful for your encouragement and insights here to help not just women unwrap the Greatest Gift, but their families, too! It will be such a joy to tell them that I am not the only one who starts her celebration early. Every October I start listening to Christmas carols (sung by pristine British boys choirs) lilting on my CDs. This is not about mall commercialism, but about mammoth craving in my heart for the Greatest Gift. As I hear those melodious strains, the melismas of choristers who *sing* the meaning of Christmas, my heart is lifted and soaring to the Throne. So….like yours, my heart is already tuned to the Tonic note, the Christ note, first in the scale of everlasting praise. Thank you so much for your encouragement to know how to gather the family to sing the Christmas chords of praise….through the lovely, meaningful Advent celebrations you convey. Admittedly, so often my husband, daughter, and I fail (or flail!) in this. It’s not so much that we are too busy, but just awkard. You’ve given simple ways to focus on the Savior, ways intentionally to behold the Masterpiece. And admittedly, I can occupy precious beholding time with banality…..things that no one is asking me to do, but which I succumb to . . . too much Net time, not enough nestling time with Him; too much TV news and not enough time TELLING THE GOOD NEWS; too much time getting distracted over nothing, really, and not enough time being ATTRACTED to the Masterpiece. It seems to me, thanks to your beautiful encouragement, that I can set my gaze differently–change my focus on the eternal, living Christ. It seems to me that I can beg God for discernment to differentiate between the priceless and the worthless. Once, when my Daddy (now with the Lord) took his school children to the art museum, one boy, particularly engrossed in studying some masterpiece–maybe signed by van Gogh? Renoir?–told my father how much he loved viewing the worthless painting. In his little mind (and with this crazy English language), he had equated price-less with worth-less. I laughed at the time, but it’s sobering to realize that I am doing the same thing in a far more soul-consequential way. Oh! Oh, Ann! I am praying that God will give me new Christmas eyes of faith and delight to behold God’s greatest Gift, His MASTERpiece beyond compare. May I behold and obey my Master.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    Love
    Lynn
    Just yesterday I bought your new book, and can’t wait to include it in our Advent devotions.

  • Penny

    Ann,

    Your way with words leaves me speechless so i just wanted to thank-you for always being there to remind us of what really truly matters in life and how we have so much to look forward to celebrating.

    Your book and ornaments look absolutely beautiful…

    blessings….

    Penny

  • Kelly

    “How DO we help shift the focus for the kids from the gifts to THE GIFT?

    I think the key? Is to Stay in The Story — for each day of Advent, of December, to make a SPACE in the P-A-C-E to read more of the Love Story that been coming for us, right from the beginning, make space for *E*mmanuel, God with us — and we find Him, we find P-E-A-C-E.”

    So glad I read the comments! This will stick with me. If you haven’t written around this in it’s own post, please do. Others will enjoy it. (If you have, and I missed it, please post a link to it in comments here?)

  • http://www.nancyaruegg.com Nancy Ruegg

    So much joy squeezed into that paragraph about Jesus adopting all the messy and broken people! What a gracious Savior He is, grafting us to His family tree and enfolding us into His heart. How over-the-top generous He is, giving us His family name and perfectness. And he considers each of us a valuable treasure. All praise to Jesus who is OUR treasure! Thank you, Ann, for an inspiring head-start for the Advent season.

  • Kelly

    Lol… Actually Ann, better post that link directly on Facebook… otherwise it will be lost in the shuffle

  • http://www.bigfatf.com Lisa H.

    Ann, thank you so much. This year, with our finances as tight as they are, it’s easy to focus on, “Oh, what will the boys think, there won’t be much under the tree,” and to let that discourage me. Thank you for reminding me that the real meaning of Christmas isn’t a gift wrapped in pretty paper, but a Gift who stayed on the cross to save me, and my husband, and my boys. I’m excited about your Family Read-Aloud Edition – I think that will be great for my 5-year-old (who’s always excited to tell us what he’s learned about God and Jesus in Sunday school) and my 12-year-old (who’s made a profession of faith, but whose heart is struggling to grasp what it all *really* means, as mine did at his age). I am so glad you take time to share your heart with us. I’m always blessed by what you have to say!

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.com Shannon @ Distracted by Prayer

    While cleaning out my in-laws’ attic, we found a cloth-bound primer that had belonged to a grandparent. It had been stored in the cow shed for years, then in the musty attic for many more. I rescued it and took it for appraisal. You guessed it- worth about $1,000.

    Your point hit home, Ann. I need to decide right now, as I stand outside the front door of the holiday rush, what’s most important.

  • http://holleygerth.com Holley Gerth

    Love all the ways you bring glory to Jesus and add beauty to our lives. Thank you, friend.

  • Christine

    Hello Ann! I plan on buying the book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, for my son (new born Christian) and his family. I will be going to Lifeway Bookstore this Saturday to get it, especially since they now have a new addition…a little baby boy. Right now they need a lot of prayers and encouragement (they are going through rough times). I know the book will help them to focus and let Jesus’ joy settle into their hearts. You’re the best, Ann!

  • Jennifer

    I read the article and felt it was just one more thing to clutter up the holidays. Lets just keep it simple and read straight from the good old Bible and sing hymns;o.k.?

  • http://n Karen

    How do we feel around here for Christmas and how to plan?

    It starts on December 26. Being intentional to be the gift and looking away from distractions to Jesus is something I have found best cultivated the other 364 days in the year. Then when this one day rolls around on the calendar, it doesn’t make or break us. There is no amount of “right” celebrating at Christmas to make up for a soul-empty year.

    And how my soul knows this. Blessings all!

  • Judy

    As a mum of young adults, I would just like to affirm the importance of focussing on Advent as a whole, joyous, hope-filled season with young children. For many years we used materials I had created, and then later, I discovered your website with your Advent readings and ornaments, which became the focal point of each day of Advent – providing an opportunity for the annual retelling of the stories and prophecies that point to Jesus. Years later, those stories, those verses – they remind us all of the trustworthiness of God; they are the truths that provide hope in the face of big questions and life’s sorrows. We, like the children of Israel, are sure to fail over and over again, but Jesus – the One who comes Christmas morn – His worth is without comparison. He does not disappoint. We still take the long journey through Advent because the great joy of Christmas is that our Advent expectations are fulfilled.

    As a single mum, abandoned by a husband whose addiction overcame all other affections when my children were just four and eight (thirteen years ago), there are many ways one can feel insecure or worthless this time of year, but truly, I want to encourage other moms, single or not, that the daily discipline of Advent readings with your children, will be a better gift than any found under a tree or on a feast laden table. To learn that our sure hope is in the Lord is a gift for a lifetime.

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann

      Judy, you nailed it. Because you’re living it, the real deal, in the bravest way.
      Judy, might you email us at annvoskampholyexperience.com? Our family would love to be the hands of Jesus and just give you the longest hug this season — You are so loved, Judy. xoxox

      • Judy

        Oh my goodness – the grace of this. You just made me cry.

        Thank you Ann. I will be in touch.

  • Jono Hamer-Wilson

    Hey, Ann – just in response to your starting-off analogy: I’m sure you know this wonderful poem. We all need his touch.

    http://allpoetry.com/The-Touch-of-the-Master's-Hand

  • Carol

    My husband just lost his job. We have 6 kids still “at home” which has made it necessary for me to currently be a stay at home mom. My husband is seriously considering a job offer in another country which would require him to be gone most of each month. Feelings of worthlessness and anxiety are very predominate right now in our home despite prayer and an overall knowledge that God is in control. My close friend is going through breast cancer so I feel guilty to even feel bad knowing it could always be worse. I don’t want the specialness of the season to be overshadowed by the challenges. The struggle is always transferring the head knowledge to the heart. I drove 8 hours to Women of Faith last year to hear your presenration and bought your Christmas book. I lead a Bible study with your book 1000 Gifts a few years ago which was so inspirational. I am praying that my heart and those of my family can find peace and gratitude once again in this current challenge in a seemingly unending series of trials. My 4 year old asked me today if we could go up to heaven after her birthday party. I told her, “I hope we will get to go there for your birthday” Come soon Lord Jesus.

    • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann

      Beautiful Carol?
      Sister — would you email me at annvoskampholyexperience@gmail.com?
      Our family would like to send a little something to your family — and for your friend struggling through breast cancer.
      You aren’t alone, sister — and if we can just be the hands of Jesus and give you the longest hug right now? We’d love to do that ((Carol))

    • Beth Williams

      Carol,

      Prayers for you and your family! Being unemployed is never easy, especially at this time of year. Most people are happy, cheerful going about their days, but it can be super hard for others. May God provide a good job for your husband and money to pay bills.

      Prayers for your friend going through cancer. That is super hard. Watching a friend go through this is tough enough! May God bring miraculous healing to her.

  • http://www.inspiredtolivefully.com Tyra

    Sweet Ann, thank you for the grace words today. I am right with you and have purposed in my heart to let His light radiate from me to the world so that He is seen and felt during the holiday season. My challenge friend comes when my sweet husband and my in-laws want to make a show of it all: gifts, toys, clothes, parties and more gifts, clothes and toys than my 5 children could ever want, need or use. Looking for some insight as to not feel frustrated with them. They all know my position on the matter as I’ve tried to graciously explain and demonstrate my desire to live simply yet love extravagantly.

  • Beth Williams

    Ann,

    As I age I begin to dread the holiday seasons. I get tired of all the commercialism and hoopla surrounding the holidays. I love a lot of the music & pretty sparkly lights, but want more of the “real” Christmas spirit!!!

    I’m ready to get back to the basics of the grrreatest gift ever given to humanity! I want to say MERRY CHRISTMAS!! That’s what it’s all about. My favorite show is Charlie Brown Christmas and his cute tree! I have one just like it!

    I get down some during the holidays as my family is getting smaller and smaller. My mom died in 2009 and dad is now in assisted living. The rest of my family is our of state/country. My husband’s family is small with parents, 2 nephews and 3 great nephews. One nephew and great nephews live 5 hours away and rarely come in. It is just usually the two of us.

    I’m praying that everyone will see the true meaning of Christmas this year and we can start a trend by saying Merry Christmas !! :

  • Jeni Harding

    This is just the ticket!
    I’ve been married 8 years and am a first time Mama to a handsome 6 month old miracle, nestled asleep in the crook of my arm as I type…because, I’ve learned (ummm, learning) that’s what Mamas do…do as we can, when we can. Anyway…the hubs and I spoke last year of “what to do” to make more Jesus traditions in our hearts this next Christmas. This book seems a perfect fit! Tell me, do the ornaments come with the book?

  • Ann F. Newton

    Ann………I just purchased your book for my great-grandchildren! It portrays so beautifully why we need to know and study the Old Testament before we can begin to understand the New!!! So many things stimulate our little ones these days! Pray with me that all who receive this book this Christmas season will read each day the wonderful story of our Redemption!! Thank you! Your words go straight to the heart of the matter with every blog you write. You have been gifted by Our Father to write and I thank you for using that gift for His glory.

    Ann Newton….Louisville, Kentucky USA

  • Lisa E

    Ann,
    I am humbled by your writing. You absolutely nailed what the holidays should be about. For the first time in years I am dreading the Holidays. My husband has been very ill. He has kidney failure and hasn’t been able to work for over a year now. My 4 children are adults now, and my daughter and son in law do not want us talking to our 3 grandkids about Christ. She wants them to decide when they are old enough. They do however celebrate Christmas. This year we are so low on funds, and that feeling of being worthless is setting in. I’ve always gone out of my way to make the holidays special, not with gifts but with fond memories. I have fibromyalgia and some days the pain is unbearable, but I have to take care of a sick husband. We’ve been together 41 years, married for 39. He’s my high school sweetheart. I live in fear that the bills won’t get paid, but I know that God is good all the time, He controls everything and it will all go according to His plan.
    Your words bring me hope!

  • Susan

    Thank you, Ann. I recently started working as an inner city high school teacher. My eyes have yanked wide open as to how many seem never to have felt the real love of Jesus. I want to pour that love all over my kids. And I want to have the energy and determination to do the same at home with my husband and three sons. Finding that energy definitely is rooted in me making Christ number one in every way. I need this book as much or more than my kids do. Love you, Ann. You are a blessing and a beautiful soul.

  • elizabeth

    I am so broken this year….so hurting. Need to hear this gospel truth over and over. Thanks. Waiting to unfold the story of Christ this Christmas with my little boys and waiting expectantly for that day when we will see him face to face. Christmas is just a small taste of what’s to come….

  • cristine skelnik

    ann, thank you for directing our focus now, before the mad rush and we all start the spiraling sinking. God has been impressing upon me to remember that we are all so desperate to do, do, do. scramble to impress, please others, measure up…to be needed. to be worthy of being loved. He has been reminding me that we do serve Him, BUT He did not send His Chief of Staff into the world to fill His giant mansion with servants. He sent His SON to come and adopt us to fill His HOME with CHILDREN. we aren’t loved because we do. we do because we are loved. the work will never be done…”you will always have the poor among you…” (Deu 15:11, Mark 14:7) if i focus on the work i become a servant again. focus on my BIG Brother (the “firstborn”), and i become beloved! oh, this season how i long to ‘grow my roots down deep into God’s love and be strong. may i have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. may i EXPERIENCE the LOVE of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. then i will be MADE COMPLETE with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.’ (Eph 3:18-19) may this be the season my doing flows from the loving! may the loving flow from resting in being loved!

    thanks again, ann, for helping me to find words for the heart cry rattling within!
    God’s richest blessings on you!
    cristine

  • http://TrendingMama.com Marisa Slusarcyk

    I am so excited this year for Christmas and Advent, normally they are a time of year where I pull away but this year I just want to pull closer and be near. :)

  • Lisa

    Thanks Ann. Your words definitely resonate with me this year. I’m going to be very intentional this year to leave plenty of white SPACE in my family’s calendar so that together we can find PEACE. I know it won’t be easy because it’s hard for me to say NO sometimes to events and outings that sound exciting and fun. Before I realize it I’ve said YES too many times and find myself dreading the thing I’ve agreed to attend or do because I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Looking forward to taking time to BREATHE this Christmas season and embracing Jesus. Merry Christmas to all!

  • Jessica Schmidt

    Thank you, Ann for this reminder. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve already experienced the meltdown of my six year old daughter in the store, after explaining to her that she can’t expect to get every single toy that she sees on the shelf as a Christmas gift. This pressure to buy – as if that is the way to happiness- is relentless. I’m not feeling particularly close to Jesus during the past few months. The hectic nature of life, homeschooling and illness seems to have taken priority over quiet time and prayer. Time spent with Him, listening for His voice… It seems like it has gotten lost in the shuffle of the day to day. I don’t want this Christmas to be meaningless. I don’t want it to pass by and be left feeling worthless because I focused on what I could find on the shelves of a store rather than in quiet moments with Jesus, what is truly meaningful this season… sigh. It is so easy to function on auto-pilot. Sometimes seeking Him seems an arduous task, and I don’t know why. Maybe, just maybe, these advent readings will help me re-connect with. Him and show my children what is really worth seeking and finding this holiday. You’ve inspired me to find my Jesse tree devotional that I printed out a couple of Christmases ago. I pray that you and your family are filled with peace and light and full of His presence this holiday and all year long.

  • http://www.oldfashionedgirls.wordpress.com Kerry Hinton

    Ann, I cannot tell you how often your spirit filled words feel as if they were written just for me. The past 12 months have been some of the most difficult of my life, separated from my beloved of 29 years, not by choice, though I did the leaving. This is not supposed to be the life I am giving my 4 precious children…a once pastor father, now turned atheist, with a heart so filled with darkness that my once happy, loving, kind man is no more to be found. I left to rescue my 4…our 4. So last Christmas they call “the worst Christmas of our lives.” Tonight, as I tried to introduce the topic of what our Christmas might be like this year, they asked me not to talk about Christmas. They know the true meaning. We focus on the One True Gift…yet no longer in oneness of family. Their father turned on them. Then their grandparents, even throwing the evilness of blame upon their young shoulders. Shameful. I struggle now to help them see Christmas anew, yet still centered upon Him. I feel lost and heart torn by their brokenness. This Christmas will be different than any they have ever known, as last year we attempted normalcy, though it was cloaked in sadness. They were not fooled. I cry out again, “this is not how it is supposed to be.” Pray I lead them only into His presence.

  • http://littletribeofbenjamin@blogspot.com Jo

    Merry CHRISTmas Ann! Last Advent season, I read The Greatest Gift each morning and Jesus opened my eyes to reveal that I too had been missing Him during previous Christmas seasons in many ways. The year before, I remember feeling like their was a “task master” hovering over me telling me I had to check off a list of to do’s in order to have a meaningful season celebrating Jesus. Yet, that was usually when I spent the least amount of time in the presence of my Savior! So, I began praying and I imagine it was right about when you were writing the book. As always, His timing is perfect and He truly beckoned me to sit at His feet last Christmas season and I finally experienced the Peace, only the Prince of peace can give. Finally, the “tasks” were no longer pressing on me and my family and I just sought His presence and direction each day. What a relief! What peace! What rest! What joy! Thank you for your obedience to do what He’s called you to do. He has impacted my family’s life and drawn us closer to Him through it.

    PS- If you happen to see this, I want to tell you that the post on a “multivitamin” weekend toward the end of last March changed our lives! Actually, God’s grace did through it! We had been sensing He was calling us to adopt for many years, but had absolutely no idea where our son was, how old he was, or anything. I clicked the link about the 13 year old boy needing a family in China, which led me to a few more links and God suddenly showed us a little 4 year old boy in China and said, “He’s yours. Trust me and step out of the boat. I’ll hold your hands and lead you every step of the way.” So here we are, 6 months closer to our son and hope to travel in a few more, Lord willing, an bring him home. We are sooooo grateful God used that post on aholyexperience last Spring to lead us to such a precious, beautiful gift from God!

  • Lois Brooks

    Ann–I can’t say how grateful I was to discover your book last year and read through the devotionals each day! It really was a beautiful gift and helped me redirect my thoughts and restore my soul from all that the frenzy of December typically robs me of.
    I also wanted to respond to today’s post since it really resonated with me. Although that gentleman’s amazing discovery is hard to beat, it reminded me again that although I didn’t find a rare painting, I did discover that I’d been given an invaluable gift…one that took me by surprise too. Twenty seven years ago I gave birth to our son and quickly discovered that he had the most adorable nose and also, Down Syndrome. In those first days, although we loved him like crazy, I saw what was “different” and the hours of therapy it would require to help him compensate for it…I didn’t see what an invaluable gift he would be to my husband and me!
    Fast forward to this spring when I was memorizing the “year to fly” verses from John and I had this crazy idea of teaching Robby the first verse. Within a week…done! To make a long story shorter, he has memorized 10 verses, one from each chapter!! The most remarkable…the truly powerful discovery has been that despite a serious stuttering issue Robby has, when he quotes the verses, he doesn’t stutter! I wish you could hear him Ann…he doesn’t stutter! Of course the undeniable conclusion is that the power of God’s Spirit is alive through His words in my precious son. The Lord has used you many times in my daily walk to grow but honestly, the challenge of memorizing these verses has been the most significant!! Thank you from the deepest place of this mama’s heart for showing me the way and know too, I am praying that the Lord will bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you today!

  • http://loveletterstomylittlegirls.blogspot.com Joanna Jespersen

    Amazing Ann, without the fanciful ‘e':

    I am so thankful for how God uses you and your words to speak TRUTH and LIFE to so many of us when we need a word from Him. Thankful!

    I have two little girls, 4 and almost 2, and am eager for a more simplified, focused, and stress-free Christmas this year. I know you know how hard it is, even among well-intended Christians, to go against the cultural tide of the commercialism of ‘the holidays.’ I want more Jesus for me, for my family and for us as believers. You are a blessing and I am so thankful for your ministry!

    Joanna Jespersen

  • http://melbourneroad.blogspot.com Lori Barre’

    I think when my kids were younger it was easier to stay focused on the sweet simpleness of Christmas. Our advent paper chain with something different each day included giving to others, reading and watching Christ centered things and family activities. Now my youngest at home is 12 and oldest is 19. Everyone is so busy that it isnt as easy to gather my chicks under my wing for a story and cocoa.
    Transitions can be tough and as a single parent trying to hold onto the specialness of Christmas by myself even harder.
    Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Mary

    Dear Kerry
    Prayers to you and your sweet family. As an adult child from a family that went through a spiritual/emotional implosion, my heart goes out to you and yours. There was a time that I could only see hypocracy and chose to turn angrily away from Christ. My mother continued to plant seeds of faith in all 3 of her children’s hearts. In time my child faith that ended abruptly began to grow anew from those seeds into adult faith. my mother planted during the darkest of times. Your faith as a mother enduring great heartbreak is a tremendous testimony to your children. Don’t be afraid of the dark time you are in. I wish I could give your children huge hugs and hear them and share my story. As an adult now I know Christ is bigger than the darkness. He redeems all things, even those things that looked like hypocracy. I pray for your husbands heart too. My father still struggles in the dark, loving and forgiving as an ongoing present tense (can’t see how this will ever get better) is hard. But my heart is so much lighter as an adult looking at it with faith. God is good. I pray your children feel that this Christmas. I pray that we all do.