Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

It took a while for me to notice. But one day, I realized my thoughts were overwhelming me. There was a situation in my life that I was thinking about a lot. But at some point, my thoughts were no longer just thoughts. They had become little dictators. Dictators that were demanding my attention, directing my emotions, robbing my peace. And my sleep. I felt trapped and captive by what was going on in my mind.

Can you relate?

The Bible makes it clear that our thoughts don’t have to take us captive. We can take them captive!

“We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10: 4b-5

It sounds simple enough, but how do we do it?

If you look at the Greek words for captive and obey, here is what you will find:

Captive – to ensnare, to make it a prisoner

Obey – submission to what is heard, obedience as the response to someone (Jesus) speaking.

So, we could say it like this…

We must take every thought as a prisoner and make it submit to what Jesus is saying.

When I thought about all the thoughts that had been overwhelming me, I realized I had been letting them run free in my mind. I also realized that almost all of them were not in agreement with what I knew Jesus was saying about my situation. What if I had made those thoughts prisoners as soon as I thought them? What if I submitted them to what the Word says to see if they would even agree? I believe if I had, I would have left space for the Sprit to speak His truth over my situation and to show me His perspective. Oh, how I needed His perspective.

If we want to change our life, we must start examining the thoughts we think. The problem isn’t the circumstance in your life. It’s what you THINK about that circumstance.

The problem isn’t your past, it’s what you THINK about your past.

The problem isn’t your relationships, it’s what you THINK about your relationships.

The problem isn’t your life, it’s what you THINK about your life.

When we change the thoughts we think, we change the life we live! Such a simple statement with such a powerful message.

So, how do we change our thoughts? Where to even start?

A great place would be to repent. It’s where I had to start. What I realized is that I had been exalting all my thoughts higher than the Word of God. I was letting my thoughts rule my life instead of the truth of His Word. Repentance was necessary. Repentance was essential. To repent just means to change your mind. To say, “I’ve been thinking this way about my situation but now I’m choosing to think the way Jesus thinks about it.” Repentance is a gift to us.

The other thing we can do is read our Bible and meditate on what we read. We read all other books, but the Bible reads us. The Word of God has the power to tell the difference between our soul and our spirit. Our thoughts cannot hide from its truth. Do you know why the Word is so powerful? It comes in, finds thoughts that are in opposition with it, and slays them and at the same time, searches for our wounds and heals them. Isn’t that a powerful truth? If we truly believed this to be true, we would make it a priority to read our Bible and meditate throughout the day on what it says.

I hope I have inspired you to begin examining the things you think about. If you have been feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts, I want to encourage you to remember that you are not alone. The Holy Spirit was given to you to be your helper. He can help you move your thought-life from overwhelming to life-giving if you’ll let Him.

Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Amen.

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this blog post.

Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

“Since you have been raised to a new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”. Col. 3:1-2

I enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, but a big part of the goodness is the kind of cup used to hold the drink. One of my favorites is the one with the little fox smelling a flower and written in bold letters ENJOY THE JOURNEY. It reminds me to not waste a moment of this precious life God has given me. Not on anger, fear, worry, jealousy, condemnation, or unforgiveness, but instead to choose the fruits of the spirit: “joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

Stewart and I love to travel (RVing) and have been blessed to see and experience many beautiful and amazing places. I have discovered in these travels that most of our memories are not of the final destination, but of our journey to get there! Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  We know as children of the Heavenly Father our destination (Heaven) is secure in Christ Jesus our Lord. Col.1:12-14, Jn.5:24, Jn.3:16.

It’s in the everyday living (our journey) that our memories are made. In our travels, we have had days filled with such beauty that it takes your breath away, joy and laughter that makes your stomach hurt and peace that is so all-consuming you know it can only come from the Holy Spirit. There have also been times that have made me wonder if I was going to make it through the day. There have been valleys, detours, roadblocks and even fire. It’s during these times I have felt closest to my Lord, where my memories are the most defining and beautiful. Where God’s love, promises and goodness are the most evident.

Romans 8:39 says “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On one of our trips to Canada, we had set aside several days to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. When we arrived they had several forest fires. After a couple of days of heavy smoke, we decided it was time to move on into Canada. A day trip was planned to visit the little village of Waterton, a little Swiss village sitting by a crystal clear lake surrounded by beautiful, majestic mountains. There is a RV park on the edge of the village next to the Lake. We were told at the Waterton visitor center the RV park was first come parking, no reservations needed. Not knowing Canada’s Park system, we return to our RVs and pack up for a very early morning trip back. Arriving at the upper park entrance, the attendant asked for our reservations. Not having any, we were told all campsites were full in the park. We knew it would take a miracle to be able to stay there. There on top of that mountain, the four of us, with our two trucks pulling our 5th wheel campers and no place to turn around, chose to trust our loving Father and His promises to take care of us! Our mindset is our responsibility! We head down to the village RV park entrance booth and ask about vacancy. God Wink Moment! Two spots just became available, close to the water and right next to each other. What a loving, faithful, good Father we have! 

Our father cares about the big and small things that involve his children. He only asks us to trust him, to set our eyes on the realities of Heaven (Jesus finished work on the Cross), to bring to memory His love and goodness, of the times He turned our ashes into diamonds, our sorrows into dancing, the miracles and blessings He provides for us each day. We have a choice to set our eyes on the things of heaven or the things of earth. CHOOSE LIFE!

We would like to thank Elaine Norrell for writing this blog post.

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Editor’s Note: For the month of September, our focus verse is found in Colossians 3:1-2. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong? The kids are crazy, everything is breaking, you’re fighting with your husband, your best friend is unavailable, and work is just out of control?

I think we’ve all had one of those days. Maybe you’ve even had one this week. Most of the time, by the time the end of one of these days rolls around, the words coming out of my mouth, sound something like this:

– Well, if the kids would have behaved, I wouldn’t be so frustrated.

– If he had done what he said he was going to do, I wouldn’t have this extra work to take care of.

– If the dishwasher would just work like it’s supposed to, I’d be able to get more done.

And yes, those things tend to be true. But what is also true, is what Colossians 3:1-2 says. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Since we have been raised to new life with Christ, we carry a responsibility within us to mind our mindset. What happens on days like this, is that instead of setting our minds on the things of Heaven, we set our minds on the things of earth. Instead of setting our minds on our Creator, we fall into the trap of setting our minds on our circumstances. When we fall into this trap, we end up with a mindset of victimization instead of victory, which is what Christ has won for us. When we see ourselves as the victims, we think we are not responsible, which is the exact opposite of the truth set out in God’s word.

When we allow ourselves to fall into this victimization mindset, we forget the truth that our circumstances don’t make us who we are, they simply reveal who we already are. And if we can stop in these moments, and seek God, they move from being times of torment, to becoming tools of transformation. These moments, these days, filled with frustration and trials, aren’t meant to just test our sanity. They are divine opportunities for us to truly seize responsibility for our mindsets. They are circumstances that God can use to truly change us.

If we want transformation to occur in our lives we have to take responsibility for our mindsets. 

There are a few ways we can do this.

1. Pause, Ponder, Pray – In moments of frustration, when we believe lies that our circumstances make us this way, we need to stop. We need to pause, and really ponder where our thoughts are vs. where they should be. Then, we pray. We seek God for his truth, and we speak it back to him in prayer. We ask him for his divine perspective, and then we declare it over our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:5 calls this “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2. Choose Gratitude – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When you have these days, choose gratitude. Something in the atmosphere changes when we choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise to our God, despite our circumstances. So instead of cursing the dishwasher, be grateful you have one. Instead of complaining about our kids, let’s choose to encourage them. Gratitude changes everything, including our attitudes.

3. Call a Friend – Sometimes, we can’t beat this alone. We need to call a friend. And when we call a friend, we don’t just complain and vent. We ask for prayer. We get to the root of our struggles with true vulnerability. Sometimes, we confess our sins. James 5:16 tells us to

 “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

In truth, if we aren’t careful, we can allow most of our days to become days full of frustration. But we don’t have to. We can walk in a life of freedom and victory, because of the work our Savior did on the cross. It’s simply a matter of choosing to make my mindset, my responsibility.

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

Building the House of God

Building the House of God

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Think of a home being built and all the people it takes to get it done right! This is just one of many times in life that more than one is needed to accomplish the tasks. We all have our talents that God has blessed us with or lead us to study and gain knowledge in.

Listed below are just some of the many it takes to build a home:

Excavator, Developer, Architect, Engineer, General Contractor, Construction Superintendent, Inspectors, Ironworker, Steelworker, Carpenter, Electrician, Plumber, Pipe Lifter, Masonry, Drywaller, Plastering Expert, Painter, Floor Layer, Tile Setter, Glass & Glazing Expert, Roofer, Heating & Air-Conditioning Expert, Designer and not to mention the Special Trade Contractors such as Artificial Turf Layers and Bowling Alley Installers. 

If even one is missing, the house could not be built properly. Same goes for God’s house. God sent his Son to this earth and when Jesus ascended to heaven, he left a helper – the Holy Spirit. Together the three are one known as the Holy Trinity! Through the Holy Spirit and as believers we are each blessed with our own unique gifts so we can be the best disciples!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

All my life I’ve gone to church and known Jesus to be with me always. I just didn’t know what it meant to be his disciple. After I experienced a hardship as a late teen, I was ready to give God more, but wasn’t sure how. I soon became part of the praise and worship team which was right up my alley. A few years later I prayed for guidance to be God’s hands and feet in my community. Not long after, offers to join organizations all over town came pouring into my life—so I got involved. For years I’ve served with a happy heart and have seen pieces of God’s fruits for myself and others. 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:22

After attending our church, which I know to be a bible teaching, holy spirit moving church, opportunity arose to learn more about the Holy Spirit and I have now connected and grown in my spiritual gifts. I’ve also been helped by so many disciples in my journey with God. The power of unity in the body of Christ should not be overlooked. It is important to be sure you are connected to a church family so you can learn and grow in your relationship with Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing your selves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5, 7-8

 We are here to use our gifts for each other as the body of Christ. Don’t put it off—God is calling you now and how much more blessed you will be so you can also bless those around you. That is how God intended us to experience His joy, peace, and love. We can experience heaven on earth. It is here for the taking. We just need to surrender to Christ Jesus daily and he will provide!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:18-21

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for writing this blog post.

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

“We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” Ephesians 2:10 TPT

Do Good Works.…oh yeah, easy! Such a simple phrase, yet such a difficult task in the day to day hustle. To me, it’s kind of like a watered down version of the golden rule that your mom used to recite to you when you were being less than kind…”Treat your sister the way you want to be treated!” We hear it all the time and make note, but how often do we really dig into what that truly means? To me, it means actively meeting people in their hardships and pain and serving them even when our humanity is uncomfortable. From my experience, sometimes showing up for people in pain can feel almost intolerable to our human nature, but I think that is the difference between spirit-led good works and good works for reasons driven by human nature. It doesn’t feel natural, but it’s a choice driven by a recreated spirit in Christ.

“However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil.” Matthew 5:44-45 TPT

If our purpose as Christians is to further the kingdom of God, then maybe this is our tool to do so, to be an example of what Christ would say or do when met with the pain of another human being. When I think of a person who is actively furthering God’s kingdom, I see someone who is taking the time and energy to meet hurting people where they are and serve them either with their empathetic words, actions, and prayer without judgment.

I believe we all have unique ways of doing good works. God has given EACH of us a destiny to fulfill. He said EACH, not ALL. To me, this implies individuality and it’s no surprise to us that we all have different gifts. For example, I have a precious friend who is great at connecting with teenagers. She pours into them by hosting their church group for dinners in their home, coming up with fun, engaging games for them to play, and her circle of influence is large! On the other hand, good works looks different in my life, like one on one encouragement of smaller kids at work, fostering my own children’s relationship with God, spending time talking to a friend or family member who is feeling down. My circle of influence is much smaller and the season of life I am in changes what good works looks like for me. The core of doing good works is intentionally loving God’s people, and the world needs each of us to show up authentically to show His love!

Back to Ephesians 2:10, the term “recreated” implies there was a before. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul tells us we are naturally prone to be driven by our selfish desires. I truly believe that good works driven by a spirit that is not transformed looks like doing good deeds with selfish intention. When God redeemed and recreated us, He gave us the capability to do those good works with a changed purpose and intention. Not just that, we get to do it joined to Jesus, who fills those gaps in our human abilities that cause us to doubt and shy away from brave, intentional acts of kindness. I don’t know how this lands for you, but it gives me immense peace to know I am not alone in trying to fulfill my calling at home and in my job. I can think of countless times I have been driving to work or struggling in my role as a wife and mother telling God, “I’m just at a loss here, God. I don’t know exactly to do and I feel less than qualified to do what I know you’ve called me to do”. You know what? He has shown up EVERY SINGLE TIME and guided me through. That gives me peace to know that if we come willing and with our intentions aligned with God’s, He will help us because He knows exactly what we need. So take heart. Be Brave. Do the Good Works!!!

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post.

My Words Have Power

My Words Have Power

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. God was ready to settle His people in the land which He had promised them. But first, God had Moses send an appointed leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel into the land of Canaan and report back to Moses what they saw there. Moses told the twelve scouts to see what the land was like, if it was fertile or unproductive. He sent them to see if cities were fortified or mere encampments. He told them to see if the people who live there were strong or weak, few or many. Lastly, they were told to bring back some fruit from the land. You can read all about this in more detail in Numbers 13:1-26.

Let’s pick up in Numbers 13:27-32:

27“They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” 30Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” 31But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size.”

The report from the eyes and mouths of the 10 scouts surmised how they saw themselves—like mere grasshoppers. And that’s when it happened. Words of defeat were spoken over the Israelites, and the Israelite community accepted those words into their spirit. They believed the report from 10 of the 12 spies—that they had no chance on God’s green earth to ever battle and win against the giants who occupied this land which had been promised to them by God. And so began their defeatist mentality. 

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been told you would never amount to anything? Have you ever heard voices in your head that said you weren’t good enough? I have. 

One of my earliest memories of feeling like a worthless grasshopper was as a young girl of age 4 or 5. Standing next to me, someone screamed to whomever would listen, while looking right in my eyes, “Why was SHE ever born?!” Her words spoken over me planted feelings of my worthlessness deep into my spirit.

I also remember struggling in second grade trying desperately to improve my handwriting so I could graduate from using a pencil to using my first blue BIC ink pen. For whatever reason, my being a left-hander proved difficult for me to master writing legibly. As our handwriting exam papers were passed out to each student after being graded, I was singled out before the entire class for being the lone remaining user of a #2 pencil. Unknowingly, this teacher had spoken words of defeat into my spirit.  

At the hands of 10 scouts, words of fear, doubt, and discouragement were spoken over every heart in the Israelite community. They had forgotten God’s promise—that He would give this land to them. They believed those powerful words of fear that had been spoken to the extent that they were prepared to head back into slavery rather than take a step of faith and take hold of the Promised Land.

In what area of your life are YOU struggling? I believe we ALL need to stop believing the lies in our hearts and in our heads that others have spoken over us or that we have spoken to ourselves.

Recently I read a book entitled Breakthrough-Living a Life That Overflows by Rabbi Jason Sobel, who is a Messianic Jew. In speaking of the time we are in now, Rabbi Jason teaches that the year 2021 is the beginning of a new decade. He states this is the decade of breakthrough as well as the decade of strength, and the decade of the mouth. Rabbi Jason writes, “We can become mighty and strong, and since this is the decade of eighty, the decade of the mouth, we need to openly declare, “I am strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.  I will overcome internal and external oppositions by God’s power.”    

Eighty is the number of the yesod. In Hebrew, yesod means “foundation.” This is a foundational decade and a foundational season. God is establishing new foundations in our lives. We need to remember the natural and the spiritual go hand in hand. If we are going to break through natural limitations, there are new spiritual foundations we need to establish. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more, but the foundation [yesod] of the righteous is everlasting.”

When we view life through our natural eyes, we will remain stuck in Egypt. When we view life through Holy Spirit eyes, we will be empowered to speak breakthrough over our life. Just like the Israelites, each of us falls into one of these two groups: those whose sight leads to “breakthrough thinking,” or those whose sight leads to “stinking thinking.” Both affect what comes out of our mouths. There is a spiritual significance here—there is power in the mouth.

Paul tells us that God is for us (Rom.8:31).  If we want a breakthrough, we need to know who we are in God and develop an understanding of what He is capable of doing for us and through us. God wants you to excel in both your identity and also your destiny! Knowing you possess a royal identity and a priestly calling is a critical experience that leads to more significant breakthroughs in your life. 

Coming into agreement with God and His promises for our lives is an essential part of any breakthrough we experience. Remember:  Our words hold power!

Speak life over your situation.

Speak life over yourself, your spouse, your children, and your coworkers.  

Speak His Truths into every facet of your life and be watching for the breakthrough to come!   

We would like to thank Cristie Harrell for writing this blog post.

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!

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 Quiet

Contentment in the Quiet

Are you craving some quiet?

Your soul needs quietness to thrive. Depending on what season of life you find yourself in, that may not seem possible. You might have to grasp for whatever snatches of time to yourself that you can find. Let me encourage you that it is so worthwhile!

Regardless of our personality types, we all benefit from some span of time to be alone or be still. This is true whether we are naturally introverted or extroverted. God’s Word says, “In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15). Learning to embrace the quiet is a vital soul-care practice that strengthens us in our inner being. If it’s uncomfortable at first, don’t give up. Relax, breathe, and let your mind wander. If I’m finding myself antsy or distractable, I’ll try a couple things. First of all, I set a timer, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. I decide what I’m going to do — just until the timer goes off.  Also, I keep my sticky notes nearby to just jot down any thoughts that bubble up or distract me. The important thing is just to pause during your day and recenter.

Sometimes in these unstructured moments, creativity will rise to the surface. Imagination. Impressions. Stirrings of God’s voice. Sometimes I look out the window or move outside and notice nature. Sometimes I pray or meditate on a song or verse. Other practices of quietness for me: reading for pleasure, walking (without earphones), doing jigsaw puzzles, journaling, puttering in my flowerbeds.

But guess what? Your child’s soul needs quietness to thrive too. But that same child may never know it unless you help him discover it. This practice will have to start small, but try it and see where it leads. It can be a vital piece of developing peaceful rhythms in your home.

This habit can apply to all ages. Yes, our children thrive on interaction and engagement because we were all created for meaningful connection. But even infants can be content without constantly being held or soothed. Babies can even learn to put themselves to sleep. (One of the best routines we ever developed early on!) Toddlers and preschoolers can play alone in a playpen or inside a gated area for limited stretches of time. (I have one little friend who can happily occupy herself for long periods in her play tent with just her finger puppet “people.”) School-age kiddos can entertain themselves without external stimuli. Tweens and teens are not beyond this practice either.

Choose a time that works for your own schedule and lifestyle. Pre-determine the length of time appropriate to your family members and their ages. Assign a personal area that works for each one. Set the expectations ahead of time about what this quiet time will look like. This is not punishment! This practice is different from naptime or screen time. Provide a limited number of quiet activities that each individual child may select from, such as reading, puzzles, colored pencils, individual games, or soft toys. (Limitations like 3 choices per day boost the likelihood that your child will get creative and really engage in an activity instead of bouncing from one thing to the next.) Music or audiobooks could be optional, but this is not the time for electronic stimulation.

This habit also helps provide an environment where your child knows how to flourish within boundaries. What a life skill! Here are some examples of the guidelines that we trained our kids to follow during different seasons:

● Stay in the room or space assigned to you; we do not come in and out.

● Choose calm activities and a quiet volume; we do not raise our voices.

● Trust the adult to let you know when the time is up; we do not ask questions or pester about how much longer. 

These ideas are flexible and adaptable to your own style and preferences. You can expect the experiment to be most successful if you start small and add one layer of expectation at a time, with lots of practice in between. Most of us need encouragement and training to become comfortable with this habit. Then get ready to see the creativity, the independence, and the self-awareness skyrocket. The art of establishing some type of quiet time in your home will allow each of you space — including you, Mom! — to figure out what makes you feel the most like the person you were made to be. 

We’d like to thank Jill Brown for writing this post!