It would've been the worst Christmas if...

...the Lord our God had not revealed His good, perfect and loving plan.

For the past 20+ years we've had an extremely strained relationship with my mother-in-law. Without going into the unsavory details, let's suffice it to say that my mother-in-law professes to be a believer, but sadly has no obvious fruit to prove her attachment to the one and only True Vine (John 15:5-6).

In addition to the uncertainty of her eternal salvation, my mother-in-law is a very ill person and has required many surgeries and other medical procedures. Our hearts break for her because her life here is so dismal and bleak and her eternal destiny is unsure.

Please pray for her salvation with us. We love her and don't want her to die in her sins, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31).

Due to all this, we recently invited her to come live with us (after her most recent surgery in October 2012). Many who know us and the grievous relationship we've had with  her, couldn't understand why this invitation made sense. To be honest, we really didn't either, but we prayed and searched Scripture for our heavenly Father's answer, and we found, regardless of how painful and difficult this was going to be, we have been freed and enabled by Christ to love her and care for her with all that we have.

"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
~1 Timothy 5:8

We spoke with her nearly every day, and honestly discussed what daily life here would be like. We didn't sugar coat the past, nor did we hold her accountable for it. We just let her know she was loved and forgiven, and we wanted to take care of her the best we could. We told her we knew this would be difficult for everyone, but we were willing to take this journey, if she was. She agreed it was time for her to make a healthier life change, both spiritually and physically, and happily accepted our invitation.

While there was great joy with her acceptance, there was also great stress with it as well. We knew this meant that all four of us had to sacrifice what we held most dear on this earth. For my darling husband, he knew he'd have to sacrifice me and entrust my health and well-being fully to God; our sons had to sacrifice our family's peace they love so much, as well as their Mama's time with them; I had to sacrifice my pride and comforts.

Understanding the reality of our sacrificial gift to the Lord whom we love with all our hearts, souls and minds, all four of us prayed, thanked God and asked Him to go before us and prepare our way. We then committed this sacrifice to the LORD and made plans to have her moved in by the end of February 2013.

You know, sacrificing what you hold most dear on this earth is difficult, to say the least, but when you keep your heart and eyes fixed on Christ, the sacrifice doesn't seem such a daunting task. When beholding Christ, though you recognize the bit of the human element of anxiousness, you're also filled with an inexplicable peace, and joy of anticipation. It's a very strange, but lovely thing to experience.

By God's good and sovereign will, because He loves us, He made it possible for my mother-in-law to come visit us for Christmas. Prior to this, she hadn't been in our home for over a decade. Therefore, we were all the more thankful for this opportunity to shower her with God's love.

During this visit, God revealed to us His intention for having us invite her to move in with us. It was not so that she would, but it was a test to see if we were willing to give up all that we had enjoyed in this life—all that we held most dear on this earth. Of course, the results of the test were no surprise to God, for He already knew. It was only a surprise to the four of us.

In our Father's immense kindness towards us, He revealed that we had all grown more trusting and loving towards our Savior, reminding us that when we consider His tests a joy, it produces steadfastness, and when steadfastness has had its full effect, we will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-3). Isn't our God awesome?!

On an exorbitantly smaller scale, it reminded us of Abraham and Isaac. The thing that Abraham loved most on this earth was his son Isaac, and God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham was willing.

Just like Abraham, we were willing too. And just like Abraham, God didn't actually intend for us to sacrifice what He asked. He intended to test our faith to encourage us and reveal to us, what He already knew.

So we rejoice in this test! We rejoice in this outcome! We rejoice to know that our faith has grown and God Himself has done it! We rejoice that this past Christmas, we gained a deeper understanding, as a family, the great and sacrificial love of God the Father, in Christ His Son!

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure...Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."
~Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Thess 5:23-24

Soli Deo Gloria!