Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

This month, we’re focusing on what it means to have a beautiful home, especially in light of Titus 2:3-5 which says:

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I’ve been able to find beauty in many seasons of my life, but this season of being an empty nester is beautiful in a very unique way. 

My years of being busy at home look different now than they did when my girls were still here. As parents of two girls who are grown now, we enjoyed many fun-filled and active years of cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, and all the fun school and social activities that our girls were involved in. I was honored to get to be a stay at home mom and to be their chauffeur to all the events they loved to do. I thrived on what the girls and all of their friends would have going on; I just enjoyed the noise of laughter in our home for years. 

But time marched on–much too quickly, I might add–and the house is now quiet with just Lanney and me (and our rotten dogs). We do have two precious grandkids that we love to have over and spend time with, but for the majority of the time, it is just us. In all honesty, becoming empty nesters was an adjustment for us both. We had tried over the years to make sure that we still took the time for each other. We didn’t want to wake up one day with our girls gone and on their own only to discover that we no longer knew each other. We are now at a time in our lives where we can go on dates once a week, even if those dates consist of running to lunch and shopping at Costco or something pretty simple. We love finding opportunities to truly enjoy each other’s company. Lanney is my safe place and my best friend. I am so thankful that we took the time to prioritize nurturing our relationship with each other, even in those crazy years of also raising our children. 

Raising kids together has been so fun, but an empty nest has its own unique joys. We can sit back and relax some and know that God has got our kids in the palm of his hand and that our job as parents is not over, it has just changed. It’s a good feeling. If I can encourage couples with young kids in any way, it would be to say to make sure you make your spouse your priority. That is hard when your kids are young and are so demanding of your time, but you will not regret having time with your spouse without the kids at least once a week, even if it’s just to grab a babysitter and go get a Coke. You might be able to find others who also have young children, and you can exchange babysitting favors for one another. Your kids will have fun playing with friends without mom and dad, and you and your friends can invest in your marriage relationships. One day those kids will grow up and have a busy life of their own, and you want to look at each other and not be strangers living together.  

As I have thought about pouring into my relationship with my husband, it has made me think of how this correlates to our relationship with Christ. As important as it is to make time for your spouse, it is even more important to make time for the Lord. We must make sure we make time for our Savior and for that relationship first and foremost. I know this can also be a challenge with young kids in your home. But find a moment–early in the morning, or after your family has gone to bed, or anytime in between–to focus on praying, spending time in the Word, and listening to what God has to tell you. You won’t regret prioritizing this relationship. We don’t want our husbands to be strangers once we’re empty nesters, but we don’t want Jesus to be a stranger when we step into eternity either. 

Marriage is fun! There are seasons of difficulty as well as seasons of joy, but God has given us our mate to experience it all with, and we are so blessed to have each other. Embrace each other and each stage of your relationship–it’s God given, and it’s beautiful. 

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

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways, is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

When I think about those words in the title, I can vulnerably admit that I most often identify with “unbeautiful.” I wasn’t even sure “unbeautiful” was a word, so I looked it up in the dictionary, and in fact, it is a word. According to the dictionary, “unbeautiful” predictably means “without beauty.” If I honestly answer if I feel like a woman who is with beauty or without beauty, it’s without beauty. Unbeautiful.


So when I was asked to write this blog, I had a Sarah moment (Genesis 18:12-15) and laughed internally. “What could I possibly have to say about beauty in my home? They must have mixed me up with another woman they meant to ask to write this post.” But no sooner than that thought came into my mind, I heard the Lord whisper to my spirit, “I can make all things beautiful if you’ll just give me the ashes.”


Those words come from Isaiah 61:3, but let’s look at verses 1-4. In my bible, the heading on chapter 61 is “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” I know so many of us would not look on the last year of our lives favorably. It’s been difficult in many ways–maybe even unbeautiful. Maybe that sense of being unbeautiful extends beyond the last year of your life. Maybe, when you really think about it, you don’t remember the last time you felt beautiful or you felt like your home was beautiful. I understand that feeling. I’ve been there, too. But the Word of the Lord says that we
can live in His favor. Because of Jesus, we DO live in the Lord’s favor. The Messiah came to bring into existence His new, liberated people, and it’s our responsibility to pray into existence His new, redeemed world. That, my friends, is far from unbeautiful. That is a beautiful honor and
calling.


So how do we live out this beauty in our lives and in our home? We trade all the things we find unbeautiful–poorness, brokenheartedness, captivity, and being bound–for what the Lord has anointed for our lives–good news, binding up, proclaiming liberty, and releasing freedom (Isaiah 61:1) so that He can open a new era of blessing in our lives with some exchanges of His own: a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of a faint spirit. He makes these exchanges so “that [we] may be called oaks of righteousness…that
He may be glorified
” (Isaiah 61:3). Being an oak of righteousness means being grand, fruitful, lasting, and strong. This oak of righteousness is a reference to Psalm 1:3: “[She] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all
that [she] does, [she] prospers
.”


Close your eyes and picture a big, mature oak tree in a dry climate. Despite its environment, it thrives because it has a constant supply of water. That tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for others. Ladies, I believe the God of the universe is calling us to become beautiful oaks of righteousness, not for ourselves, but for those closest to us–our husbands, our children, our families, our friends, our coworkers, our community. When we plant ourselves in the Word of God and allow Him to be our constant supply of water–of everything we need to survive and thrive–we prosper, but so do those who are near to us. We need to recognize that He has made us and our circumstances beautiful, not for ourselves, and not even necessarily in a material way, but so that we can bring benefits for others.

We see this same image in Jeremiah 17:8. This tree is settled with resources no matter what happens. You see, beauty requires some perspective. Most days, I have laundry in the basket, dishes in the sink, toys and books scattered in the living room, and a desk you can’t really see because the piles on it are far too high. The outside of my house needs some TLC, I don’t have a pretty backyard, and my flowerbed needs to be weeded. So the enemy sometimes tells me the lie that my life is unbeautiful. But that’s a LIE. Sure, my house can get messy and sometimes chores are left undone, but I have an actual living, breathing, walking, talking miracle that lives within the walls of my home. She’s a two-year-old blessing, and she calls me “Mommy.” If you don’t know my story, I’ll have to share the miracle of her life with you some other time or in some other post, but even in the last few weeks, doctors once again told me how impossible her life is. But that’s just the thing. Our God is a God of the impossible; He’s a God of miracles. And I get to experience one every single day. If that isn’t beautiful, then I don’t know what is.


The next time you find yourself believing that you are unbeautiful or that some area of your life is unbeautiful, spend some time with Jesus. Ask him to show you what parts of your life He wants to exchange and make beautiful. It would be His greatest pleasure to help you find beauty in the unbeautiful.

We would like to thank Ashley Edlin for writing this post.

Created to Encourage

Created to Encourage

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

As I sit here writing this post, praying that God guides me with His Word, I think to myself, “What does biblical femininity mean to me?” God gave me the words “unique,” “brave,” and “encourage.” Women are created in God’s image, and with that comes a call to represent God well through our uniqueness, our brave spirit, and our encouraging heart.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

God has created us all in a unique way. He not only made us beautiful in His image but He has blessed us all with different strengths.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come”  (Proverbs 31:25).

Although we are all uniquely designed and gifted, we can trust that God has also given us exactly what we need in order to uniquely fulfill the call He’s placed on our lives.

For example, I’m a mom to 4 amazing kids who need me daily. “Mom I left my bag at home.” “Mom can you help me with my homework?” “Mom I’m hungry. Can you please make me something?” Appointments, therapy, church, bible studies, classes–whew! Sound familiar? Life with littles can be tiring, but God knew exactly what my life would look like in this season. Multi-tasking is one of my strengths, and although my circumstances might sometimes be overwhelming and I don’t always feel like I have the strength, God truly helps me stay positive and gives me the strength and comfort that I need to get  through it all.

When I hear the word “brave” the first thought that comes to mind is trying to get the courage to start something new. Maybe a new business, talking to new people, or going up on a stage. Several times in Scripture, the Lord reminds and commands us to be brave:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God

will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

My family is blended, and my two older kids–an 8-year-old  and 9-year-old–have hurts from our past. The situation is out of our control, so we bravely pray to the God Who Hears to heal their hearts. My family has also had to be brave as 1-year-old is going through health issues. He’s doing great, but every day is a different battle. I also have a 6-year-old who has Autism and speech delay. Most days are great, but sometimes it gets really hard not knowing how to explain certain things to him. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not doing something right, but that’s when I remember that the enemy is  trying to get at me again. The Holy Spirit helps me find the courage to bravely start praying to God to help me and guide me through the situation. When I thank him for my circumstances, even when they are overwhelming, somehow everything begins to feel peaceful again. The word “brave” reminds me that I am a woman who is facing the difficulties and challenges of every day, and even when I can’t understand why my family goes through these situations, God is always there to help us through it.

So let me encourage you today, whether you’re a mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, cousin, daughter, married or single, kids or no kids: you are strong!

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

Remember, you can do this! You’re not alone! We are all here to help! There are so many women going through hard situations. Let’s remember to uplift and encourage one another. Let’s set an example of what it means to be unique and brave. God will help you through any situation you’re dealing with. We understand all of our strengths and situations are different, but God helps us use our unique lives to encourage others. Be you, be brave, and be encouraged to share God’s love with anyone and everyone you can! Feeling at home with God and sharing his love and joy with others: that’s what “biblical femininity” means to me.

We would like to thank Bre Flores for writing this post.

Husband of the Husbandless

Husband of the Husbandless

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

As I walk into the store, I am surprised by the massive Valentine’s displays. I just got all of my Christmas
decor put up, and already Valentine’s themes appear everywhere I look. But as I look at my calendar, I
realize it IS only a month away. Wow! How quickly the seasons pass!


Although all my closest friends are married, Valentine’s Day is one of the only times of the year when I
am starkly reminded that I’m single. But talking about biblical femininity this month has me thinking
about my purpose and calling as a single woman of God. What is biblical femininity or biblical
womanhood, and how does it apply to the unmarried woman?

The first mention of “woman” in the Bible is Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the
man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
Then Scripture goes on to give the account of
how God made Eve from Adam and for Adam. Eve was created to be a helper, a companion, and a mate
or wife for Adam. This was her purpose.


Women were created to be wives, helpers for their husband, and mothers to their children. This is a grand
and noble calling, and I do believe this can be the primary occupation for some women, at least through a
season of their lives, but I wonder, “is this the only plan and purpose for women?” I think of the Proverbs
31 woman, and I am awed by her amazing character and accomplishments, but to be honest, I am not
really inspired. Actually I think, “Been there and bombed that!” So now what? As a single woman, do I
just live out the rest of my days the best I can, never really having fulfilled my purpose? Or is there a plan
B?


As I continue reading in Genesis, I’m so glad the story of mankind didn’t end in Genesis 3. The rest of the
Bible is the story of God’s plan of redemption. It is the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve
sons or the twelve tribes of Israel. In it the nation of Israel becomes the smaller story through which the
larger story of mankind’s redemption is told. And right there in the middle of that story, God speaks
through the words of Isaiah to the nation of Israel – and to me!


For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth
(Isaiah 54:5).


Your Maker is your husband. These words resound in my heart!


I go back to Genesis and read again the story of creation, but this time I back up to Genesis 1:26: “Then
God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish
of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every
crawling thing that crawls on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He
created him; male and female, He created them.”


We – both man and woman – were created by a triune, relational God who wants relationship with us.
Eve was created as a companion for Adam, but we were all created to be in relationship with God. And
we as redeemed believers are called the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7 & Ephesians 5:32).


So even though I’m single, I can still live with purpose and within the purpose for which I was made. I
am the bride of Christ; I am His helper and His companion; my Maker is my husband!

A special thanks to Sheila Campbell for writing this blog post.

Women are Life Givers

Women are Life Givers

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

When I was a senior in college, due to some major medical trauma of the past year, I began to lose my hair. Losing my hair was quite an identity crisis for me. Even though the head scarves my mom had bought me were very pretty, I still worried what other people thought of me. 

One evening, my sister and a friend of ours told me we were going to get coffee. But when we got to the car, our friend blindfolded me and would not tell me where we were actually going. Finally, we arrived at the destination. They led me carefully up the steps of a house and opened the door. 

One of them took off the blindfold. There, in the middle of the living room, stood nine of my friends from church. 

“SURPRISE!!!” they yelled. 

I gaped at them. “What is this?” I looked over at the girl next to me.

“It’s a surprise party for you!” she said gleefully. 

Each of the girls had a scarf wrapped around her head, and most of them had on their reading glasses—just like me. Each one of them had bought me a brand-new scarf, and at the end of the night, gave them to me. I even got some from a few friends that were not able to make it. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a turning point for me. These friends ministered to a place deep inside me, even before I knew I needed it. Their presence and their kindness told me that they cared, and I was not alone. 

My own definition of biblical femininity is: what it looks like to be a woman who follows Jesus every day. The women who have taught me the most about this will probably never be recognized publicly for what they do. They just continue to serve those around them and teach by their actions and their words. I have watched how these women have treated their families, their husbands, and me. They are full of kindness and speak life over everyone around them. Proverbs puts it this way: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Here are a few things I have learned: 

  • Women who follow Jesus are life givers. 

As women, we were created to make things around us better. When we choose to speak life and God’s Word over the people and situations around us, we change things (even when we can’t always see it). 

  • Women who follow Jesus see beauty in the broken. 

Whether it’s seeing the potential in a broken piece of furniture at the antique store or seeing the gifts in a broken and hurting person, women are created to notice beauty. As women, we make our homes places of comfort and welcome for our families and ourselves (whatever that looks like!). We ask God to help us see others the way He sees them, even if they are a bit “messy” on the outside. 

  • Women who follow Jesus are not afraid to set healthy boundaries. 

The more we follow Jesus, the more secure we are in our identity in Christ. We choose to follow His voice first. Sometimes that means narrowing our focus and saying no to good things in order to say yes to the best for a season. Setting healthy boundaries means protecting our time, our health, our marriage, and our family. When these areas are in a healthy place, then we can reach out to others beyond that. 

  • Women who follow Jesus love and serve those around them. 

You may feel like your “circle of influence” is small. But don’t compare yourself to someone else. Who has God put around you today? Wherever God has placed you, the people you are called to love and serve are the ones you bump into every day. 

Maybe you’re like me in the beginning story. You feel like you’ve lost something and you don’t know what it looks like to step into your biblical womanhood. Keep your heart open and keep being faithful with what God has put in front of you. God will show you how, one step at a time. 

A special thanks to Heather Dillard for writing this post.

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!

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!

Contentment In The Waiting

Contentment In The Waiting

Editor’s Note: Have you ever had to wait on something? Have you ever felt like God has given up on you? The truth is He has not and He never will. It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys, and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

When I was asked to write about “Contentment in the Waiting,” I almost panicked. Seriously. It’s so fresh. The “waiting” period has become all too familiar to my family and me in the recent years. I feel like we have all experienced or will experience a time of waiting, each difficult in their own way, and the way we handle that waiting can be extremely critical. I don’t know that I can give you any legitimate insight on “Contentment In The Waiting” without telling a bit of my story, so here we go. 

I’ve experienced the specific “waiting” of infertility two separate times, handling them both differently. When I was unable to conceive before my son, Hayes, I was angry. Truly angry. That kind of can’t even “fake it ’till you make it” anger and depression, touching many different areas in my life. Why me? Or better yet, why NOT me? I knew I served a God that loved me, heard my cries, and could move my mountains, but I doubted that He would. It was hard for me to truly find rest and ultimate peace in the hands of our Father. How arrogant, right? Obviously, my focus was on ME.

Fast forward to round 2 of infertility, which seemed a bit more extreme even from the beginning. This time, I had true diagnoses and fertility doctors telling me Hayes was the definition of a miracle and that I would not conceive again on my own without multiple surgeries. This time around, instead of getting angry, I decided I could fix this. My “control everything” personality heard surgery as a “fix it” to my problem. When my husband, Hagen, and I discussed it, he told me we would do whatever I wanted to do. I took it and ran with it. Honestly, I never even stopped to pray about it. I took charge, and I scheduled that surgery. I had no doubt in my mind that it would be my solution. Again, how arrogant. A couple weeks went by, and during worship at a Sunday morning church service, I heard God clearly speak to me: “BE STILL.”

When it comes to things in my life, “be still” does not fit my personality. I like to be in control. “No, God. I don’t want to be still. This isn’t fair. I deserve this.” Again, about me. Obviously, God wanted to teach me something during both of these waiting periods. He first taught me that control and contentment don’t go hand in hand when you are living in the Kingdom. What hit me like a ton of bricks, especially the second time around, was that if I would let go of that control and let God take over, miracles truly do happen. I cannot live in my desire of the flesh to react in anger or to control situations and have a true sense of peace and contentment in the Holy Spirit. And second, He taught me that sometimes our battles and our testimony are just not about us. Watching God use our storm and the rainbow He creates from it to help and better someone else’s journey is POWERFUL. 

Before these two specific waiting times, I truly believe God placed other things in my path that were designed for me to show complete surrender to Him and let Him work in my life, but I did just the opposite. Now looking back, it took me facing something I literally could not control and hitting rock bottom to give up my desire to control every little thing.

The memory of the phone call to cancel my surgery is so vivd in my mind. As soon as I said, “cancel my surgery, please,” I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders that I did not even know I was carrying. When I decided to follow God’s command of me to be still, it allowed me to not only trust in His plan, but it allowed me to step into the roles that He had called me to. I didn’t even realize what I had been missing out on in the everyday life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend until I let Him take away the responsibility of my infertility and the need to fix it. 

God’s timing and plan is always perfect. It may sound cliche, but it is absolutely true. My Hayes and Hatton are living proof. His strategy of teaching me “Contentment In The Waiting” was just icing on the cake. So in whatever waiting you’re facing, trust Him, friend. He’s worth it. 

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this post!

Hearing God in the Gap

Hearing God in the Gap

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

I’m throwing out a hard truth here: We don’t always get what we ask for when we ask for it. Sometimes what seems like a no is a not yet. And sometimes there’s a gap, a tension, between hearing God and seeing His word come to pass. 

The gap can bring discouragement and distance. When it doesn’t feel like God is answering our prayers, we might shut down altogether—and we might miss hearing His voice, the thousands of other conversations He wants to have with us while we wait.

How do you grow your relationship with God in the midst of a not yet? 

I spent years fixating on what I wanted God to do for us. I had a clear word from Him, and I sowed into it with prayer often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, it resulted in two unfortunate consequences. It focused my attention on my circumstances, on what was lacking. And when I didn’t see His word coming to pass, it caused me to question anything I thought I heard. Our relationship suffered because I had forgotten what His voice sounded like.

In early 2015, four years before God would answer our prayer, I reached a breaking point. I missed my Heavenly Father. Knee-deep in my grief and pain, I felt lost and confused, and I was desperate for His affirmation. But my ears felt clogged. So I committed to spending 40 days with Him, every morning, and I asked Him to give me a word every day. I didn’t spend that time praying for anything. In fact, I was mostly quiet because my soul needed to receive from Him. I needed to hear His voice again, to be reminded what He sounds like, and to remember what He says about me. During this season the Lord showed me that I had connected His love for me with what He was doing, or in this case, not doing. To wait for years and years, to get another no, another loss, over and over again, to watch those around me receive what I wanted (and sometimes they didn’t)—it all felt very unloving. 

But here’s another hard truth I learned: to equate God’s love with my circumstances is to manipulate who He is. 

I had to come to grips, and repentance, that I was angry because God wasn’t doing what I wanted. If He loves me so much, why wouldn’t He do this for me? The other side of that? I was withholding my love because He wasn’t doing what I wanted. Ouch. 

You know why I call that manipulation? Because it makes love conditional. If He loves me, He will do this for me. If He does this for me, I will love Him. 

When He showed me that His love is unconditional, the power of this truth transformed my life. It still transforms me even now. And it’s a good thing, my friend. I’m so grateful His love isn’t based on my performance. At the time, I wanted it to be because it felt like control. If only I could do something, He’d love me enough to answer my prayer. Today I’m so thankful He answered my prayer in spite of any works on my part. He loves me no matter what. And I love Him whether He’s answering my prayers today—or not. 

If you have heard God for something specific, and you find yourself in the gap, I encourage you to keep pressing into your relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Refocus your attention. Let Him remind you how much He loves you. Ask Him to show you what His purpose is during this season. Allow Him to refill your cup. Invite Him to speak truth over you, reminders of who He is and who He says you are. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17

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