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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Vallejo

'Tis the Season

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, followed by Christmas and then ringing in the New Year. So much to look forward to, so much excitement and energy! A joyful time with family and friends giving Thanks before spending time in gratitude for the Greatest Gift of all. It truly is amazing to live in a place where we can gather and celebrate the birth of Jesus our Savior – I am so grateful.

And yet, this time of year always brings little reminders of how a season full of joy for some can be a season full of hardship and sadness for others.

My parents were Navigator missionaries during the 80’s, I’ve written some about our time spent in England during my teen years. The purpose of our family’s placement in England was to minister to the men and women stationed at Air Force bases far from home. Most of dad’s ministry involved enlisted and many of them were very young – 18, 19, and early 20’s.

During the holidays it was especially hard for military members away from loved ones. But the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas was often especially hard for those who enlisted purposely to escape difficult situations - for many of them there was no other functioning family of origin. The military, and the Navigators, were their family.

I still remember the "shifts" of meals. My mom and her friends would bake and prepare food for days, freezing pies and cookies in preparation for the onslaught of humanity. Thanksgiving Day would see a constant stream of people coming through our living room and kitchen. Some sat at tables, on the couch, on the floor, or stood at the counter. So much laughter and joy, and sometimes tears.

Many of those who walked through our doors on Thanksgiving were exceptionally easy to care for and love. You know the people - they help with clean up and getting the next round of food ready or spend time with friends struggling emotionally with the day. Still others were not so easy. Like all families, there were challenges. Individuals that require a little something more mentally to keep up with significant social awkwardness or intense conversations. There was “drama” at times, and things did not always run smoothly. We are dealing with people after all.

However, one of the greatest assets of the church is the number of people there to help carry the load. To support those who need supporting, and care for those who need caring. And that’s what I remember the Nav’s were – a functioning church family. Mentoring and Discipleship are an intrinsic part of the makeup of the Navigators, and the close relationships built through that discipleship are demonstrated in seasons of emotional and mental hardship. The organization isn’t perfect, but they do discipleship and deep friendship well. I know my parents impacted a lot of people. Just this week we are trying to set up a get together with a couple my dad led to Christ who are coming to Dallas for a weekend. It’s amazing.

Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

The level of hospitality modeled in my parents’ home made an impression on me… because my mom was exhausted when Thanksgiving Day was over. Absolute, next level can’t get out of pajamas for days, exhausted.

Still, mom would say it was worth it. Worth all the time and energy, the money and resources, to provide some normalcy for young men and women away from their country and families. It was an incredible example to me growing up, of how to care for others even when we are weary. Those times are also a good reminder to me of how there are so many others with circumstances different from my own. How can I keep my eyes and ears open for those who need a little extra care, kindness, time, or resources not just during the holidays, but throughout all days of the year?

It’s impossible to provide for every need around us, we are not God. However, praying for God to open our hearts and broaden our view so see those in need of extra care is a great way to begin actively looking for others to serve. This time of year often magnifies the emotional, mental and physical needs of others, and so provides opportunity to discover areas of ministry you may ordinarily miss.

Thankfully we are not saved by our works, I am beyond grateful for my Savior and believe God demonstrates love and kindness to the world through his Son and his Church. But my works and care for others, even those closest to me, is a demonstration of my saving faith. I am praying God opens my eyes to how He will use me to care for others well this season.

1 Peter 1:3-6 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, through now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Today's podcast features a conversation with Amy Sedatole as she walks us through her journey with depression and anxiety. Amy provides insight through personal struggle with managing mental health and discusses having hope when hard things "don't just go away." We hope you listen and are encouraged by her story!

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