Merry Christmas!

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(These are the pictures and the copy of the letter we mailed out in our Christmas card this year)

Well, 2016 will for sure go down in the history books for our family as one where we saw God provide, grow, bless, and protect us.  As most of you know I was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 10.  I had mastectomy surgery at the end of March, chemo throughout the summer, reconstruction surgery in August, and an oophorectomy in October.  In the midst of the cancer journey we moved six days before my first surgery, put our beloved dog down in July, and I tore a ligament in my foot the day before my last surgery this fall.  But…God has been good to us.  (You can go to ashleyjansen.com and read all my posts from this year for those details).  There were some hard days no doubt.  And I don’t doubt there will be more hard days in our family’s future.  For now, His will has been to save me from this disease.  But even if he had not (or ultimately does not), I still serve a good God and gracious God that has saved me eternally.  He did this by sending his Son as a baby to grow up to ultimately be the redeeming sacrifice for my life (and your life).  And that, no matter what happens to my health, is so so good.  “…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you can recognize, maybe for the first time, who this Savior, Jesus, is in your life.  Because for me, He is more real than ever before.

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*Photos courtesy of Shannon Holden Photography.

Reckless Abandon

As we embark upon Christmas next weekend I want to share a little on what I have been reflecting.  Maybe it’s because I’m a woman or a mom, but I tend to think a lot about Mary when I consider the Christmas story.  I recently read a wonderful book by Francine Rivers titled A Lineage of Grace. (It’s actually a collection of 5 short stories on the women named in Jesus’ lineage: Unveiled (Tamar), Unashamed (Rahab), Unshaken (Ruth), Unspoken (Bathsheba), & Unafraid (Mary)).  Francine has the amazing gift of teasing out a Biblical account and really putting feeling and context to the story without altering its accuracy.  Reading the account of Mary was captivating.

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What would it have been like to be a 14 year-old girl, engaged, anticipating and preparing for a wedding and what married life would be like when an angel literally stops you in your tracks? (Don’t just read that word because you are familiar with it – actually think about an ANGEL appearing to you).  The angel says you are going to be pregnant and have a baby boy which, dumb-founded, you talk back to the angel and say, “How? I’m a virgin!”, with which he replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”.  Luke 1:38 “Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.”  Really?  Like, seriously?  I would have way more to say than just, “Okie Dokie God, whatever you say.”  I mean: First, what is the Holy Spirit (keeping in mind the Holy Spirit had not been ‘released’ onto believers yet (Luke 24:49; Acts 2) and she would have had no context of the Holy Spirit)?  How will He come upon me? When will this happen?  What am I supposed to tell my parents?  How do I explain this to Joseph, you know, that guy I’m ENGAGED to?  But luckily God chose Mary; and her response proves his choice wise.

And to give you a little more context – no one had heard from God in over 400 years.  Four. Hundred. YEARS.  (I mean, people, the good ole’ U.S. of A. is only 240 years old – we are talking almost double that time).  She was obviously raised in a faithful and believing home, but I’m sure by now a lot of people were way beyond doubting the God of the Jews existed.  And now you are going to tell me that he breaks his silence by appearing to a 14-year old girl?  God sure knows how to make things interesting.  The Scriptures go on in verse 39 by saying, “A few days later…”.  Think about this – what in the world was going on in Mary’s heart and mind during those few days?  Do you think Mary told Joseph what she had seen and experienced?  (I don’t know if it would’ve gone over very well: “So Joe, I know we don’t know each other very well yet, if at all, and no one has heard from God in quite some time, but he just told me I was gonna get pregnant, but don’t worry I’ll still be a virgin.”  Uh, yeah, ummm, ok…)  Do you think she told her parents? Do you think she pondered it and kept it to herself (as she will do in 2:19 after Jesus is born & again in 2:51)?  Did she sleep at all?  (I wouldn’t be able to sleep, keeping one eye open looking for this ‘Holy Spirit’ the angel referenced).

Mary stayed with her cousin Elizabeth for the first 3 months of her pregnancy and then returned home (vs. 56).  So for the remaining 6 months she was pregnant, engaged, living with her parents.  Think about the stares she received.  The gossip she heard.  Think about the ridicule Joseph received for not breaking the engagement with his ‘unfaithful’ fiancé (By now Joseph had his own angel encounter and was in on the truth (Matthew 1:20-25)).  Think about the comments her parents received; what a joke the dowry was that her father had worked so hard to collect for Mary’s hand in marriage.  The loneliness and injustice would have been heavy to bear.  All of this confusion and scandal with the parents of the long-awaited King and Redeemer?  It’s unimaginable.  It’s unthinkable.  It’s not what was expected.

Yet, Mary’s response to all of this can be summarized by the opening verse of her song: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (v. 46-47).  For the rest of the birth account of Jesus the Bible really doesn’t tell us anything else Mary says. It just tells us what she does:  She gave birth, she loved and cared for Jesus – probably snuggling with her first-born child and even nursing him, and she treasured much in her heart.

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So when I think of sweet Mary I just can’t help but be impressed and in awe of her faith.  Her absolute and complete unwavering trust in God.  All with reckless abandon. Not caring what the consequences were because she knew who who was calling the shots.

Christmas shouldn’t be measured by how tall your stack of gifts is on Christmas morning.  Christmas should be about remembering and acknowledging the story of how our Savior entered this world.  This year, maybe you can think more about his mom and her part in the story.  As you celebrate Christmas next weekend I encourage you to practice a “Mary-habit”; treasuring/pondering much in your heart.

Where in your life should you be trusting God more?

In what situation, relationship, or area in your life can you recklessly have more faith?

Have you responded in praise to that unexpected, unthinkable event in your life?

Your level of trust, your level of faith and your response should impress those that encounter you and hear of your story.

Just like Mary’s story still impresses us!

A Thrill of Hope

The King is Coming!

Open up your eyes to see it,

Open up your ears to hear it…

The King is Coming!

Open up your mind believe it,

Open up your heart receive Him…

So if you know me even a little bit you know I’m a HUGE fan of Christy Nockels.  Her music has ministered to me endlessly throughout college and my adult life.  I was first introduced to her music when I was a student at Baylor and she was a part of a duo named Watermark with her husband Nathan.  I would go all over the place to hear them sing live.  Random churches in Texas.  The Christian radio concerts at malls (KLTY called it Lunch Bunch I think).  I would stand in line and have her sign my CD.  Then I’d go to the next concert and just turn the page and stand in line again.  Looking back that was probably pretty weird.  HA!  Each time I would talk to her though I’d say, “Please record a Christmas album,” and she’d always say, “I hope to one day”.

So fast forward, I’m living in Georgia and meeting with my mentor, Regina.  Regina had asked me to come be on a panel at a conference she was speaking at.  By now, Christy had gone out on her own as a solo artist.  I walk in and Regina (knowing I was a huge fan of Christy’s) walks me right up to her.  I had no idea she was leading worship at the conference.  We talked for a bit (me all red faced) and again I said, “Please record a Christmas album (and put O Holy Night on it)”.  She smiled and said, “I hope to one day.”

Most recently, Regina’s husband Bill, ran into Christy at a conference.  I’m not sure how she had heard about my story, but she had.  She wrote me a note and gave it to Bill to give to me.  I received some awesome notes and encouraging words from some stellar people this year, but that by far is my most treasured!


So I’m of course a member of Christy’s fan club and get her emails.  So you can imagine my excitement when I got an email announcing that she was putting out a…wait for it…CHRISTMAS ALBUM!!  It released on November 4 and does in fact have O, Holy Night on it.  The track list:

  1. The King is Coming Prelude
  2. Advent Hymn
  3. O Come O Come Emmanuel
  4. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/O Come Let Us Adore Him
  5. Angels’ Lullaby (Mary’s Song)
  6. Song In the Air (featuring Chris McClarney)
  7. Dance at Migdal Eder
  8. Wrap This One Up
  9. Amaryllis
  10. O Holy Night
  11. Silent Night (Holding Us Now)
  12. Our Christmas Song/Make Good Your Christmas Day
  13. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  14. Joy to The World/The King is Coming

It is called A Thrill Of Hope and I highly recommend you get yourself a copy.  It is AMAZING!!  Here is the link to purchase in iTunes (Click Here) – I’d love for you to support the album and her.  I promise you it will bless your Christmas season!

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*The chorus at the top of this post is sung on a couple songs on the album – absolutely beautiful.