Beauty.

Beauty.

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2020. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2021. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

Beauty.

When I see that word, I generally think of clear skin, long thick hair, long eyelashes, manicured nails, and a polished smile. But how does God see true beauty?

He looks inside of us.

He looks in our hearts.

None of that outward appearance stuff matters.

We are to adorn ourselves with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This kind of beauty will never disappear.

1 Peter 3:5 says, “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands.”

To “submit” means to cooperate voluntarily with someone else out of love and respect for God and for that person. Submission is mutual. Peter is telling individual women to submit to their own husbands but not for all women everywhere to be subordinate to men in general.

Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Jesus submitted to death so that we could be saved; we may sometimes have to submit to unpleasant circumstances so that others will see Christ in us. We could not be submissive without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Peter instructs Christian wives to develop inner beauty instead of being overly concerned about their outward appearance. Their husbands will be won over by their love. This does not mean that Christian women should settle on their outward appearances, but strive to let their inward beauty be outwardly seen through their confidence in Christ and themselves.

But far more important is the development of an inner spirit of godliness. Live your Christian faith quietly and consistently in your home, and your family will see Christ in you. True beauty begins inside (Proverbs 31:30). It is not of this world but is instead saturated in the word of God.

I remember the planning meeting Ian and I had just weeks before our wedding, with Matthew, my young adult minister from the church I was attending in college. I remember specifically asking him to read this scripture, 1 Peter 3:5, at our wedding. The minister giggled and looked at Ian to ask if that was okay with him. Matthew questioned me as to why I chose that verse, but without hesitation, I told him about how my parents had modeled such beauty in their submission to one another through a long, Christ-centered marriage.

After eleven years of marriage, and in my “Wonder Woman” skin (as Ian likes to say) God constantly invites me into His way of living, sometimes quietly, sometimes gently, and sometimes persistently. He loves me, and I can trust in obeying His guidance to lead me to His blessings. This kind of obedience shows my husband that he can trust my heart, and he honors me in this way.

I hope that you will look into your own heart and find the beauty that is within you.

I pray that you will see God’s desires for you: a humble attitude softened by knowledge of God’s grace, confidence in the Lord that leads to wise speech and kind action, trust in Christ’s sovereignty, determination to do good and obey God in love, and courage in light of God’s steadfast promises.

–Bonnie McIntosh

We’d like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this post!

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2020. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2021. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

I am a mother of four wonderful and beautiful children, but if I am being honest, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Some days I feel like I could write a book on parenting, and other days, I would like to crawl in a ball, with my stash of chips (that I hide from the kids), and hide in the closet. We don’t live in a perfect world, but having the responsibility of raising our children to not only be productive members of society but also caring and kind, can be overwhelming at times.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One thing I have learned during this pandemic and being quarantined and at home so much is that, number one: six people can get tired of each other, pretty quickly; number two: my children have no choice but to feed off of my attitude. It was a realization of how, even though being stuck at home all the time was irritating, I now had the opportunity to mold my children and to model behavior without having any outside behaviors influence them. I suddenly found myself grateful to the Lord for the lesson through the storm. In Ephesians 6:4 it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The Lord provided me with a time of reflection and a gift of time to mold habits that my children could learn from.

My children are all two years apart, so they fight like crazy. I discovered that being kind to one another had become a very hard thing for them to do. They didn’t understand that words cannot be taken back. They clearly did not know how to control their behavior and think about what they said before they actually said it. 

I think a lot of times, in society now, even adults do not understand that concept. Social Media has become a platform to say anything you’d like, without thinking there may be a consequence for it. This is all learned behavior that is being passed down to our children. We cannot simply sit back and expect our children to learn the gift of kindness from school or friends, because kindness seems to be a forgotten characteristic. It is our responsibility, as parents to instill this quality in our children.  I think about the story of Moses and how he trusted in the Lord to guide him, even against his father’s beliefs.

In our family, we have to actually sit down and explain in detail the lessons that we need our children to understand. We, as parents, cannot expect them to just “know.” If we aren’t careful, someone else will teach them the bad behavior that will have lasting consequences, and eventually habits will be created that will be tough for them to break.

It is an amazing feeling to know that God left these tiny humans in my hands and care. The Lord wants to guide us through raising our children and doesn’t want it to be an overwhelming experience but a gratifying one. I pray daily for my children and that the Lord will give me the guidance to not “mess up” my kids. 

Kindness goes a long way, but it has to be modeled and created in a home because the world is a scary place. Some days I fail, but I am grateful that God blesses us with a new day. I want my children to see that I’m not perfect. I don’t always say the right things. I do hurt their feelings sometimes. But I understand the consequences of my behavior and correct it. I tell them this all the time: It is fine to say that you are sorry, but by apologizing for something you did, that means you are going to intentionally put effort into not making that mistake again. “I am sorry” becomes a meaningless phrase when actions do not follow. Children have to be taught that.  

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). The peace that brings my heart is such a blessing. I pray that it blesses you, too, as you seek to raise up kind children in this unkind world. 

We would like to thank Brooke Vancleave for writing this post!

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2020. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2021. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!! The following post is a bit more vulnerable in nature. We’ve chosen to leave the author anonymous in order to protect those involved.  Many of us fight battles behind closed doors and are struggling to find  healing in those dark places.  We pray this will bring hope and encouragement if you’re walking through a similar situation.  As always, Harvest Christian Fellowship is here to help you.  Please reach out at anytime.  We are praying for you and we know God is always working things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Much love, Julie Snellgrove (julie@harvestchristianfellowship.org)

I could’ve easily titled this blog, “Dealing With My Husband’s Porn Journey,” but I’ve realized, this isn’t only about him; it’s our journey. And yes, I’m going to talk about pornography today.  (Insert smile here)

I came into our marriage with trust issues because of choices I made in my past. I was a guarded woman, and fear had taken root in my heart about infidelity and lust. As newlyweds, there were a lot of career and family distractions, so it was easy to shove my pain and my hurt under the rug and pretend I didn’t know my husband had a problem with lust and pornography. I was scared to face it, honestly. I was scared to address it because I knew that meant pain for us both. 

One night, I’d had enough and called him out when I saw him looking at another woman.  We had come to a spot in our marriage I never dreamed we’d find ourselves in: broken.  I’m not sure I will ever forget the pain that I felt that night. Women are emotional beings, and we tend to attach our self-worth to the attention we get from our husbands. And when our husband’s attention is not 100% on us, we get jealous. We feel hurt, inadequate, less than, betrayed, violated, not good enough, ugly. To compensate, we put up walls, cover up, and aren’t as willing to have sex. Is anyone with me? I became very jealous and hyperaware. The enemy had a foothold at this point. 

The evening that I lost it was the night the Lord began healing us both. My husband didn’t change instantly, and I didn’t trust instantly. Things actually got worse before they got better. I had a really hard time trying to understand; I felt so betrayed by these fake images.  It took some hard conversations, some honest evaluations of where we were in our relationship, some boundaries, and a lot of counseling to get through.

The Lord graciously gave me insight to this specific addiction. Desire for the opposite sex in itself is not sinful; it’s what we do with those desires.  I’ve found that pain from old wounds is what drives a man to look at porn. It’s a deep-rooted problem. If this is a struggle your husband is dealing with, he probably hates that he does it. He probably prays for enough strength to not look at those images and asks other men for wisdom and prayer for healing. He probably lives his life in constant shame. Through this process, the Lord brought enough healing to my heart that allowed me to see that my husband was being honest and had a desire to change. I realized that I needed to find a way to help him.

Here are some things that really helped us:

  • HONESTY. One evening, we sat down and my husband allowed me to ask some really tough questions under the agreement that we wouldn’t get mad at each other. I would much rather know and have him be honest with me about where he is than keep it from me. Warning: these conversations are NOT fun. But there is something supernatural that happens in your marriage when you get to this place of honesty (Proverbs 12:22). 
  • BOUNDARIES. We put boundaries in place and made a commitment to stay within them. Boundaries bring safety and cultivate deeper intimacy (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). 
  • COUNSELING. We went to counseling together, and I unloaded a bunch of pain that I had been holding onto. I realized that my husband was wrong for looking at porn, but I was wrong in assuming wayyyyyyyyyyy too much because of pain I had not dealt with in my own life. I had to swallow my pride (Ephesians 4:32). 
  • FRIENDSHIP. I was completely vulnerable with a few friends and they supported me, listened to me, grabbed my hand and told me I was strong and brave and could do hard things. They spoke life into my bones (Proverbs 17:17). 
  • COMMUNICATION. This is the bottom line: had we talked about our struggles years before, they wouldn’t have bled into more than 5 years of marriage. It’s taken a long time to take off each brick that has been put around my heart as a result of lust and porn. Our marriage isn’t perfect; we aren’t perfect. But we have learned some very valuable lessons along the way, and one of the most important is to communicate with your spouse (Proverbs 16:24). 
  • LOVE. I learned to love him through the sin. Together, we didn’t accept or support the sin; we acknowledged the sin and agreed to love each other through the sin. It was hard to love him while I knew he was still struggling with looking at porn. But love conquers all. Even a porn addiction (1 Peter 4:8). 
  • PRAYER. I prayed like crazy over my husband and myself. I prayed for freedom from this addiction. I prayed for empathy to rush over me. I wasn’t perfect, and I had to humble myself and realize I am a sinner, too. I prayed for forgiveness and understanding (1 Peter 3:8-9). 
  • SCRIPTURE. I saturated myself in the Word of God and in His Truth. I did my best to take every evil thought about my husband captive and submit it to the Word of God (Philippians 4:6-9). 
  • SUBMISSION. I learned that my husband was created for intimacy and has a sex drive, and my role as a wife is to submit to him and his needs. If I’m not giving my husband what he needs, it may be a stumbling block. Sex with your husband is a weapon of unity against the enemy (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

With confidence, I can say the Lord met us in these hard places, and with a lot of hard work, He delivered my husband from his sexual sin, and my heart was healed from jealousy and filled with trust. And I can confidently say that the Lord will meet you. He will walk with you through this valley (Psalm 23:4).  We had some very ugly fights and hard conversations, but the rewards are worth it. We now have an open and honest relationship with more intimacy than I ever thought possible.

Never be ashamed of seeking help; we ALL have issues. You may feel hopeless or feel like the pain is too deep. But know there is always hope! Our God is a God of healing and restoration. Please send an e-mail to the church office if you’d like more information on counseling. We are here for YOU!

Stepping Forward

Stepping Forward

I started blogging in 2007, before blogging was popular. (And I’m now told that it’s dying, like all things print, because people only want to watch or listen. Gosh, I hope this isn’t true.)

When I created this site on Blogspot, before there were other fancier forums, I titled it Obeying the Call because that’s what it felt like. Every post seemed vulnerable to share—and to do so was always my act of obedience. 

I’m an introvert—and not the kind that thrives in virtual spaces where I could have a larger-than-life personality. I’m afraid my online persona is basically the same as me in real life. (To give a slightly embarrassing example, even social media posts that get a lot of comments can sometimes overwhelm me, and I’m always in awe of those who can reply (cleverly) to each person. Meanwhile I’m like—ahh, all. the. people.)

And so, here I go again—sharing and being vulnerable—because I feel God nudging my heart to pick up my pen more in 2021. 

2020 was awful. I think we can all agree. 

I lost two friends.

I had COVID twice.

I had two non-elective surgeries.

You see a pattern there? 

I started studying the significance of the number two, and although not the only symbolism for this number, two can represent division or contrast or opposites. Like a line in the sand—that’s the picture God gave me. 

The number two represents a choice.

Life or death. 

Light or darkness.

Faith or fear.

Spirit or flesh.

Peace or anxiety.

Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Two masters: God or money.

The narrow gate or the wide gate. 

There are always two paths. We always have to choose. 

God continually invites us to go deeper. Writing that sentence reminds me of a dream I had years ago where God opened the door to a staircase and said, “Come.” 

There’s always a new step, a deeper level of discernment, a stronger capacity for faith, a fresh understanding of His Word. 

We’ll never have all the answers.

We’ll never have Him all figured out.

We’ll never know everything there is to know about His Word.

We’ll never not need Him. (Yep—double negative there. That’s how strong this truth is.)

Aren’t you glad? 

In 2021, God is still opening doors to staircases for me, still extending His hand, still saying “Come.”

And He offers you the same invitation. 

Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we asked for, but do you know what He never withholds? His presence. His goodness. His faithfulness. His joy. His love. 

And when we look back, when we reflect, we see that He’s always answering, always working, always making a way. Sometimes it’s a new path. Sometimes it’s the same. But we have to move, participate, engage.  

We have a choice this year, this day, this hour. 

I’m taking a step forward. How about you? 

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this post!

A New Year’s Challenge

A New Year’s Challenge

Anybody out there looking forward to closing the door on this year and opening the door to a hopeful and fresh 2021?

Me too!!

As you prepare your heart for the new year, I’d love to share with you a challenge that’s been valuable to me over the last few years. 

Five years ago, I began a practice that seemed like a small thing but has led to big transformation in my life. At the start of a new year, rather than becoming overwhelmed by all I need to do or change, I ask the Lord for one word. This word serves as a focus that I return to countless times from January-December. The word I hear usually bumps around quite a bit in my heart, but eventually settles in my spirit and becomes a marker that helps guide my thoughts, my decisions, and my growth for the year.

Words have power.

Words can change things.

One word from God, if we choose to acknowledge it and allow it to continually lead us back to Him…can change everything.

It’s not so much the word itself, but the fact that if I allow it to, it points me back to my creator again and again for understanding, interpretation, and guidance.  I’m shaped and made as I seek His voice and His interpretation of the world around me and the world inside of me.  

I’m always surprised to see the unexpected ways God is faithful to lead me into a new understanding and experience of the word He’s given me. I usually can’t see it at the time, but looking back, I see how camping on a specific word each year has propelled me toward knowing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and in knowing Him more—knowing myself better. He is faithful to form us into all we are meant to be in Christ.

Boldness. Trust. Health. Surrender. Prayer.

These are some of the specific words that have been my one word and have helped form me over the last few years.

Dear ones, God is intimately acquainted with us and is always at work drawing us to Himself, to give us identity, purpose, freedom, and LIFE.  Returning to my word for the year almost always causes me to take steps outside my comfort zone while at the same time being invited to hide in the shelter of His wings as He does His transforming work in me.  

I bet you’d agree with me that more than ever, we are desperate for the Lord this year. I’m desperate to know Him and to be known by Him. I challenge you to seek the Lord like never before in 2021. Be in His written word, the Bible. Listen to His voice in prayer. Tell Him what you want, and trust Him to provide what you need. Worship Him in spirit and in truth. Cry out for a focus and for vision for your life. Write down your word and keep the vision before you. (I even like to put that word into a pretty frame and keep it on my dresser so I see it every day!)

As you meet with Jesus, bring Him your questions and He will reveal what He’s doing in your life. I can’t wait to hear the impact one word can make in your life in 2021.  

“Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]” (Hebrews 10:23).

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!

What Christmas Means To Me

What Christmas Means To Me

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

When I was contacted to write a blog about what Christmas means to me, about what Jesus means to me, I hesitated. I thought, “You are definitely asking the wrong person.” As that was the case, why did I say yes to writing this blog? I felt God whisper to my heart, “You need to know what Christmas means to you. You need to know what My Son means to you.” Since then, I have prayed about what I should write. I have asked God if there is something someone needs to hear. I felt as though God was leading me to be honest and to dig deep. Maybe someone reading this can relate to my journey.

I have not only loved the Christmas season but also struggled with it. I have many treasured memories of Christmas events and celebrations from my past. Christmas was often a time to see my extended family, to decorate our home, to drive around town enchanted by the glittering lights, to sing Christmas carols, to join in merriment with others, and to give. On the other hand, I have been told I should not celebrate Christmas because of its roots in pagan traditions. I have spent the days leading up to Christmas stressed and in tears because I did not have enough money to buy gifts for all the different events that I felt obligated to attend. I have tried to give my best during the Christmas season, only to worry about how it was not good enough.  I have thought, “Why should I give to people who have so much and neglect the people who have so little?” I have lamented how the world has stripped Christ out of Christmas.

The truth is that I wrestled with whether or not I should even celebrate Christmas. I had convicting conversations with others, and I earnestly sought truth. Finally, I came to the conclusion that celebrating Christmas allows me to share the hope I have in Jesus. His birth was a turning point for the entire world. It had been prophesied for centuries. This birth was the ultimate gift from the Father. This birth brought Yeshua, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. This birth brought light to our dark world of sin and grief. This birth brought hope. My internal struggle helped me realize that Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift to mankind – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus means more than I can fathom. He has freed my soul from the shackles of my sin. Without Jesus, I was lost and hurting. I chose to believe in Jesus when I was eleven years old, and I chose to be buried with Him in baptism when I was twelve. However, it was not until recently that I fully understood what Jesus means to me. He is life to my death. He comforts me, guides me, and fills my soul. Without Him, I am empty and heartbroken. He is the One who gives me hope and a future. He sustains me through difficult seasons, and He never forsakes me. When I call out to Him in my agony, He answers with His peace. He paid the ultimate price for sin so that all those who believe in Him could have a home with Him in heaven. This means that I do not have to fear death. I do not have to fear what may happen to me in this world.

Because of Jesus, I have something to give during the Christmas season and throughout the year. I may look at what I have to offer and think, “How is this going to make a difference?” It doesn’t matter how large or small or what form my offering may take. What matters is that I was willing and joyful in my giving. I need to have faith that He will take what I have and multiply it.  Am I willing to give what He asks of me?

Let your heart be filled with joy this Christmas season. Rest in knowing that Jesus came to this world of sinners to bring hope and peace. This year has brought heartache, trials, fear and disappointment. As believers, we can navigate all of these things knowing that Jesus is there through it all. He loves us, and He was born to save us.

“Do not let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

We would like to thank Julia Franklin for writing this blog!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Birthdays have become more and more excessive…have you noticed this? As a child, my birthdays were typically celebrated at McDonalds. Does anyone else remember this? Let me set the stage for you. It was a package deal: you got there on time, typically between errands, you ate McNuggets with your buddies, played a bit on the outdoor playground, had a piece of homemade cake, and that was that.  

Fast forward to today’s birthdays: IT. IS. AN. EVENT. Yard signs are not uncommon.  Balloon numbers and garland are a thing.  Cakes are commissioned pieces of art. And gift bags are passed out to guests. Birthdays have become more and more of an all-out deal. 

But, there’s one birthday that tops them.

It’s the most celebrated birth in human history: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ birthday is the most important day in all our homes. You can be the most Pinteresty of all Pinterest moms and you will never come close to matching the grandeur of Jesus’ birthday party. His party comes every year with so much excitement and lasts over a month. Truth be told, even that never really feels like it’s long enough.

In my home, our Christmas tree is featured in our front window, for all passersby to see.  Each year, it’s filled with ornaments that we’ve collected throughout our marriage and the hand-made treasures that our children have made over the years. Each one with its own story—our family history symbolized in a collection of dangling, dainty decorations. There’s an evening each year dedicated to decorating the Christmas tree.  It’s such a sweet time of wonder for us all. The conversation flows over with all the earthly and eternal blessings for which we are most thankful.

Beautifully wrapped gifts are tucked beneath the tree, sparking joy and wonder from our children. They just love trying to guess what’s in each box every time another one appears.

Our hand-stitched stockings are hung with care above our fireplace: I hand-stitched my husband’s stocking, Evelyn’s and Graham’s stockings were hand-stitched by my mother-in-law, and my Sittie (grandmother) made my stocking the year I was born. After 36 years, it’s worn and tattered and one of the most special tangible things I have left of her. When I hang it, I always tear up as I imagine her delicate hands covered in thin skin and beautifully polished nails as she placed each stitch with precision. So much love and history went into the simple detail of stockings. And that is all because of Him. 

Our big old trees out front are wrapped tightly with about a hundred strands of red and white lights from their base to as high as I can reach on a 12-foot ladder. Nothing makes me happier than dressing up those beautiful trees. They were planted as tiny seeds into God’s soil and have grown with unimaginable patience, decade after decade, into these strong and beautiful living structures with root systems that go down and out even further than they stand high. They, in and of themselves, are miracles of God. Most of the year, their grandeur gets overlooked. But this month,  they will not go unnoticed. Drive down 16th street after sunset, and you’ll see our wrapped trees from blocks away. It’s their month to shine: they shine for Jesus.

Christmas is this magical time when I can’t help but reflect on what His birth means in the lives of everyone I love. On Earth,  we create these traditions celebrating Jesus’ life and what He sacrificed for us to have life eternal. These traditions are bound tightly in our families and are passed down from generations gone and will continue for generations to come. Christmas is this beautiful culmination of all our family histories, which I think is a most appropriate celebration of Jesus Christ because without Him, there would be nothing to celebrate.

“For in Him we have life, and motion, and existence” Acts 17:28. 

In these moments leading up to Christmas Day, take time to reflect on the beauty of tradition, the gift of family, and the unimaginable grace of God that He would send us His beloved Son. 

Happy Birthday, Jesus!!

We would like to thank Elizabeth Loeffler for writing this post!

Running to Jesus

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Decorating for Christmas is one of my favorite things of the year. The twinkle lights and ribbon turn an ordinary room into something extraordinary. We all have different styles of décor when it comes to Christmas. Some folks enjoy the very formal look of a perfect Christmas tree, while others want their tree to be filled with all their children’s handmade ornaments. If you are looking for a way to add a designer’s touch to your tree, you can follow these 5 simple steps:

Add lights:

I love the pre-lit Christmas trees. They are, by far, the easiest way to light up a tree. However, one year, you might plug in your pre-lit tree and half of the lights do not work. Or maybe you prefer a real tree and need to string your own lights. The white lights are my favorites, but if you like the colored lights, they add some fun whimsy to a tree as well.

Add ribbon:

There are many ways to add ribbon to your tree. Some people like to wrap the ribbon around the tree. Others like to start from the top and work their way down the sides. Others take small sections of ribbon and just tuck it into the tree. Adding your ribbon is a great way to add color that will tie all of your Christmas décor together.

Add filler:

By filler, I mean anything that you can fill your tree with that covers up the holes in a tree. I have added large floral picks, cotton stems or large Christmas decorations. Anything that adds visual appeal adds a designer touch to your tree.

Add ornaments:

This is where it really gets fun! You can add your child’s school-made ornaments, or you can add colored ornaments. There is no wrong way to add ornaments to your tree. To add some depth to your tree, you can add some larger ornaments to the inside part of the tree and not just hang everything on the outer branches.

Add tree skirt:

The final step in making your Christmas tree have a designer feel is to add a tree skirt. You can add a collar around the tree, a tree skirt or even use a blanket.

Although I love decorating for Christmas, my absolute favorite part of Christmas is the story of Jesus’ birth. We have all read this story multiple times, but this year, I chose to read it out of the Message translation. I was literally stopped in my tracks when I came across Luke 2:15-18. This part of the Christmas story is when God’s angel revealed himself to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock at night. Can you imagine how terrified it might have been to be sitting out in the field in the middle of the night and, suddenly, an angel appears to you? But the angel assured the shepherds that they had nothing to fear. 

Verse 15 says As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Running. That is the word that stopped me in my tracks. I think about the shepherds who were watching their sheep in the middle of the night, but once they heard the news of Jesus’ birth, they dropped everything and RAN to the Savior! How many times have I been THAT excited to RUN to Jesus? Do I drop everything that seems important to me and RUN to Jesus? The shepherds could’ve said, “Thanks for the information, angel, but we have work to do. We can’t get there until we finish the job.” Or maybe they could have said, “Babies are born every day, angel. What is so special about this one?” But no. They knew, without a doubt, that their SAVIOR had been born and they knew that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING would stop them from getting to Him.

I want to be like the shepherds. When I hear from the Holy Spirit, I want to be obedient and RUN to the Savior! I need to drop everything that I am doing so that He can be revealed to me just like He revealed himself to the shepherds.

Finally, in verse 20, it says The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told! This Christmas, I intend to “let loose” and live the GOOD NEWS of Jesus!

Christmas decorating is fun and festive. I love it, but I need never to forget the true meaning of CHRISTmas. Run to the Savior this year and LET LOOSE with the good news!

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this post!

Christmas & Memories

Christmas & Memories

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love making precious memories and new traditions with my family. Growing up the youngest of 4 kiddos came with lots of fun times, too. My mom made sure each of us felt special and loved. One Christmas season when I was a teenager, my mom and I decided to do something different and get a real tree. We jumped in our little 4 door sedan and drove to town to get a tree. We were so overcome with excitement we didn’t even have the forethought to think of how we would get the tree in the car and unloaded; not to mention it was so icy! We got the tree home and the two of us slipped and slid all the way inside the house with this gorgeous real tree that ended up being too big for our little house. We laughed together hysterically for years to come at the site of us and that big tree in the trunk of our car, in the ice, sliding all around the driveway.

I will always remember how fun my mom was and how truly funny she was. She had a lung disease the majority of my life, but she never quit laughing, smiling or praying God’s truth over us. I found the memories of my mom and family during the Christmas season as some of my most treasured. Looking back on past Christmases, I think of very simple times that brought lots of laughter and joy, not a perfectly put together meal or extravagant gift. I pray my own family has great memories of a mom that laughed, played, and was intentional to create lasting connections.

May we all find joy in too big Christmas trees, not perfectly put together homes or extravagant gifts, and focus on the reason for the season: Christ’s most perfect gift to us.

Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great JOY for all the people.’”

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post!

Peace With Your Children

Editor’s Note: During the month of November, we are going to learn how to build healthy, Godly relationships. Whether it is with yourself, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your co-workers, who we surround ourselves with matters! Relationships can be life-giving and sometimes not. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to foster healthy relationships. Enjoy reading these just in time for the holidays!

Many years ago, when I was expecting my first child, a dear friend said something to me I have thought about many times since. “This baby is coming into your world, not you into it’s.” At the time, we were discussing schedules, but over and over again as a mom, I have had to remind myself of this. As a wife, and a mother, I am not merely a thermometer in my home, but I am the thermostat. God has given me authority over my home, and I get to choose what the atmosphere is going to be at any given time. Do I want an atmosphere of chaos or peace? Personally, I prefer peace. That choice is mine.

Part of how we establish peace in our homes is through boundaries. One huge area in which we must establish those boundaries is with our kids. Contrary to what my dear friend told me many years ago, culture encourages us as moms to “be present” with our children. Yes, we absolutely need to be present. Our children need our hearts more than anything else. But the underlying myth that comes with the statement that we need to “be present” is that we need to be available at their every beck and call. I have four kids age 8 and under. I don’t know about you, but if I make myself available to their every beck and call, I am going to be CONSTANTLY called in MANY different directions. That in no way is going to establish peace in my home. It is going to bring, chaos, dissension, and discord.

So how do we strike a balance between being present, and bringing peace? There are lots of ways that you can do this in your home, but below are a few of the ways that I have been able to find that balance in my home.

1. Tell your children no.

As moms, our hearts are for our children. We want them to be happy. We want what is best for them. Sometimes, that means learning how to deal with the disappointment of being told no. God places us in families, and that can mean that there are different needs and wants at coinciding times. Part of our job as moms is to take all of the information in, and then make the best decision for our family. I’m sure you have discovered, this doesn’t always make everyone happy. In those moments, I like to remind my kids that they have an opportunity to “value others above ourselves” as Paul instructs us to do in Philippians 2:4. 

When you make a decision and you tell your children no, stand firm. When we concede to their pleas for a different answer, it may bring peace for the moment, but it does not bring an enduring peace to your home.

2. Be honest – with your kids, and with yourself.

Many times, my children ask me to play with them. I hate telling them that I can’t right at that moment. So what I find myself saying is “in a minute” or “let me just finish this one thing” when I know that what I need to get done is going to take more than a minute, or that I have more than one thing to finish before I can sit down and play with my children. What we are doing when we answer our children like this is just kicking the stone down the road. We don’t want to deal with the repercussions of telling our child no, so we delay the consequences. This isn’t honest, and it isn’t honoring to our children. 

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” So, instead, be honest with your child. Tell them that you would love to play with them, but you have some things you need to get done first, and you will come find them when you are ready. Another thing that works really well in my house, is to invite your children into what you are doing. Let them come along with you and help. Whether that is folding laundry, or making dinner, or even working from home. Find a way for them to be in the room with you, helping, or doing their own “work” from home.

The other thing we need to be honest with ourselves about is the actual “needs” on our to do list. Sometimes, when I look at my child’s eyes, and I stop and listen to the Holy Spirit, I can see that a few minutes spent with my child is actually a much greater need than folding the laundry on the couch.

3. Expectations and Routines

Kids respond well when they know the expectations and boundaries that are in place. Creating a habit out of the expectations and boundaries we have can be difficult, but putting in the effort at the beginning to create habits will reap rewards for years to come. If I thought that establishing a schedule and a routine for one child was important, it only gets more important for each child you add to the mix, and for each activity you add to the list. It is much easier to move a herd of animals when they are all moving in the same direction. The same is true with a family. A schedule has been crucial in our home because not only do my kids know what to expect when, but they know what the expectations are for that specific activity. If I tell them that it is time to get ready for school, they know that means they need to go and do their morning checklist. On Sundays, when we get home from church, it’s cleaning day, (yea for help!) and then they know that everyone takes a nap. They don’t fight us on this or whine about it, because they know what is coming. If my kids want a snack, they know they have to say their memory verse first. These are simple examples, but having these routines in place means that I don’t have to make extra decisions or answer extra questions throughout the day. My kids know what to expect, and this brings peace and order to our home.

Peace in our homes is something that the enemy fights against with all that he can. So moms, let’s not let all of our circumstances dictate the atmosphere in our homes. Let’s stand firm, and choose peace for our homes, so that the peace of Christ may also reign in our hearts, and in the hearts of our husband, and our children.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post!