The Gift of You

As the year draws to a close, the Brave and Resilient team would like to wish you a joy-filled Christmas and New Year’s. May you be refreshed by peaceful times of rest and cherished memories with family and friends.

Ann Voskamp shares in her book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas: “The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.” A few pages later Ann includes this reflective quote by Frederick Buechner on the birth of the Messiah:

“The birth of the child into the darkness of the world made possible
not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.”

 It is our prayer at Brave and Resilient that you unwrap the gift of God’s presence this holiday season and throughout the days and years to come. We are grateful for the gift of YOU!


Two months old to the day, Beth is pictured
with her family for this Christmas photo
taken on November 1, 1959—Mom Bernice’s
29th birthday.

Brave and Resilient Tip #128: Unwrap the greatest gift from above: God’s own presence in your life.

My Girl and Two Goats

She’s my girl. Well, I call her “my girl.” Niyomukiza Joseline is my sponsored child through Compassion International, a child-advocacy ministry that pairs people with children suffering from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty.

On April 17, Joseline turned eight. She was actually born in Rwanda, the day of the Virginia Tech shootings in America. When I think about so many lives lost on the Hokie campus, I like to think of Joseline’s birth as a way of remembering the good in life. Joseline is truly a gift to our world and I want to brag on something she did for her birthday this year.

JoselineandGoatsApril2015She bought two goats! She bought two goats! My little Compassion girl used her birthday money from me to buy two goats for the family. It doesn’t sound like Joseline begged for more dolls or a bike or candy, instead she helped her whole family with the purchase of a nannie and a billie. Now the family can have better nutrition with goat’s milk and goat cheese. Ba-a-a-a-a-a-utiful!

I’m blown away by the sacrificial heart of my girl across the globe, in a rural Rwandan village where securing daily food can be a challenge. When I opened Joseline’s birthday thank you letter and saw this family photo with the new goats (Joseline is in the red boots between her parents), immediately my problems seemed so minute. There is just something about putting yourself in others’ shoes that freshen your own perspective.

Life is indeed weighty, sometimes months and years on end, but often what keeps us bravely moving forward is our pausing to think about the uncomplicated, the unassuming.

My girl and two goats. Uncomplicated. Unassuming. Here’s to living birthdays and every day in between with the simplicity and generosity of Niyomukiza Joseline.

Brave and Resilient Tip #112: Look for the uncomplicated and the unassuming in the world around you.

Let’s Talk

Slow Christmas

Q. Would you please share how to better navigate the anxiety-prone side to the Christmas season?

A. Let’s Talk! Yes, these are the days each year that we ask, “Can I do this well?” “Will I do enough, be enough, have enough…?”

There is a wonderful answer in Ann Voscamp’s book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. On page 60, Ann writes:

In the thin air of Advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it
would be easier.’ And your God comes near: I will provide the way. You may not
even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws close:
I will provide grace for the gaps. You may not even know how to find words
for it: ‘I thought it would be . . . more.’ And your God reaches out: I will provide Me.

God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives . . . and we only need to
slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time
in His presence, time at His feet.

On the back the book jacket are some other thoughts worth sharing:

I don’t want a Christmas you can buy.
I don’t want a Christmas you can make.
What I want is a Christmas you can hold.
A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me.
I want a Christmas that whispers Jesus.

One more excerpt to further answer your question is below. Note how counter-intuitive Ann’s thoughts are about “slow” in comparison to our normal frantic, hurried pace in this season. On page 70, Ann writes: “Like our own rich variation of the Slow Food movement, we could begin the “Slow Christmas.” Hurry always empties the soul . . . [go] slow.

Ann Voscamp, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), 2013, 288 pages.

For Deeper Reflection

Luke 1:31-35 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.  Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

May the power of the Most High overshadow each one of us this Christmas season.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at