It’s twelve days before Christmas, and although the traditional Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” really begins on December 25 and ends on the eve of January 5, I awoke this morning determined to use my time of rest and recovery in a productive way.

I had surgery a little over a week ago. All the reports have returned good, and for that I am so very grateful. But, honestly, I haven’t ever been good at resting. Like many, I’ve been brainwashed by American culture that successful people are busy and that rest has no purpose.

So now that all the anesthesia and pain-reducing medications have exited my body, I want to humbly share with you twelve truths the Lord has been teaching me as a gift for you over the next twelve days. My prayer is that during this busy season, you take a few minutes each day to rest and enjoy His gifts.

LOVE is the first gift.

In the last few months, I have literally heard Jesus shout to me through His Word, music, and the voices of others: “I love you, Donna Avant!”

The song “Good Grace,” by Joel Houston, says, “So don’t let your heart be troubled; Hold your head up high; Don’t fear no evil; Fix your eyes on this one truth; God is madly in love with you.”

Casting Crowns’ “Somewhere in Your Silent Night” declares, “When your pain runs deep, His love runs deeper still; He has always loved you, child, and He always will.”

When life becomes difficult, when I am struggling or hurting, I tend to think that God doesn’t really love me. I might not say it out loud, but my heart is screaming, “God, if You loved me, You wouldn’t let this happen to me!”

I grew up believing I needed to earn love from others. If my grades were good, if I looked good, if I performed well, then there would be love waiting for me. Many call this performance-driven love.

However, God’s love is not based on my performance. His Word declares His unconditional love for us: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV). God, the perfect Father, gave us His Son as perfect love in the form of a baby.

We can’t earn it, buy it, perform for it, or look good enough for it. Love is His gift to us.

Take a few minutes today to just ponder that little baby who was born, fully human and yet fully God.

He is love, and He is madly in love with you!

Before surgery, I had to remove all my makeup, nail polish, perfume, and deodorant. I had to literally strip myself bare of all that makes me feel more presentable and even somehow more lovable.

As I lay unconscious on that operating table, I believe—no, I know—that Jesus looked down at me with such love. He loved me, Donna Avant, even when I was utterly incapable of performing.

And, He loves you! He always has, and He always will.

I’m choosing this Christmas to rest in His gift of love.

Will you join me?