JOY in Uncertainty

JOY in Uncertainty

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

You know, the Lord always has an interesting way of working things out for me. Of course, it is always for my good. I was asked to write a blog about joy, to which I obviously said, “yes!” and about a week and a half later, I entered into what I like to call a “funk.” I started enduring some personal trails like disappointment and discouragement. And I’m over here thinking, “Lord, I’m supposed to be writing a blog about joy! How am I supposed to do that in the midst of all this?” He quickly reminded me of where my joy comes from and to just share my story.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my post about my funk. I typically try to keep my page positive and full of cute pictures of my kiddos and my family while just sharing tidbits of life and truth. That day, however, I was just honest about what I was going through so that others may not feel quite so alone in whatever it is they might be going through. To be truthful, I didn’t really think much would come of the post, but to my surprise, I was bombarded with support and love from people near and far. I even had people private message me to encourage me or tell me I had been on their heart. It was as if the Lord was say, “See?”

You see, I had been feeling quite lonely, wondering why it seems like I am in a season of pruning. I was feeling left out, wondering when it would ever feel like anyone wanted to include me as their “bestie”. I had spent a day or two, unfortunately, allowing the enemy to creep into my thoughts and convince me I wasn’t good enough for anyone to call friend. One night, with my sweet husband asleep to the world beside me, I laid in bed and just cried myself to sleep crying out to Jesus. I begged him, “if I’m not supposed to have a bestie-type friendship right now, can you please show me how to grow so close to you that you’re my true best friend that I know will never leave me?” It was in that moment that I was reminded of where my JOY comes from.

My JOY doesn’t come from having a picture perfect day with my four sweet kids not fighting and actually obeying what I say. My JOY doesn’t come from everyone on the internet being nice to me and liking all the stuff I post. My JOY doesn’t even come from having friendships. My JOY comes from Jesus! Not my circumstances. Not when everything is going my way. In the midst of uncertainty, God’s word says that we will rejoice and that during various trials is an opportunity to choose JOY. And that JOY comes from Him alone!

So today, I choose JOY! I choose to seek the One from where my JOY comes from!

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this blog post.

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one deserves; the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Do you feel joy all the time?  Nope – neither do I!  Sometimes in our everyday same ‘ole, same ‘ole it is hard to feel joyful and it is hard to find joy, BUT Jesus is with us at all times and that should erupt excitement from within that we can shout out to the world.  Fall into the arms of Jesus and he will fill you with joy! “Allow Jesus to introduce His joy to you.  The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.  “I delight to do Thy will.” Jesus prayed that our joy might go on fulfilling itself until it was the same joy as His.” – Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest.

We have all walked down roads of trials, disappointments, fear, loneliness…..the list could go on and on.  How we choose to handle those trying times is the outer skin that other people see.  And because we are human, when someone else is hurting, it is our human nature to pay close attention to how they choose to walk their uninvited path.  Joy is a choice.  We are given an opportunity to make choices every second of every day.  Choose joy because no one can take your joy from you!  When your heart knows how to rejoice in God, you have found the secret place of joy that comes from within.  We have to look through the smoky haze of our disappointments and hurt to see the joy of the Lord.  Hold onto the joy with God and your trials will diminish in size and your joy will shine.  God never promised that we would live a perfect life, but He did promise that He would be with us every step of the way. Live in the place God has put you in and live in it well! Lack of hope and joy produces pessimism; don’t let pessimism rule your being.

  “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.  And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-3.  What a mind-blowing verse!  We are promised perfection in our being!  Gladness of heart is a constant emotion, regardless of what is occurring in your life.  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 – Wow! What more do we need to hear?

My granddaddy would always say, “Be cheerful!” when we parted ways with him.  If you know my husband, Johnny, you know that laughter gushes from his being, so when Granddaddy died, Johnny claimed that saying.  I love hearing him say it because it embodies his life and that is what he wishes for everyone else. 

We do not know what each day will bring and this should be said with an expression of breathless expectation when we are rightly related to God.  Life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty but many times we turn these expectations into fear.  Fear can indwell our spirit and steal our joy.  “For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7. You don’t learn when your spirit is full of fear.  Joy will accomplish things that fearful intersession may never receive.  Psalms 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise you, O God, My God” . This is so exciting!  God is our exceeding joy – He gives joy to us – all we have to do is receive it!  Shout for joy! Joy is for a lifetime! Be Cheerful!!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this blog post.

JOY is a gift from God

JOY is a gift from God

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

True JOY is a gift from the Lord. In scripture, we see that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from believing God, belonging to His Kingdom, and knowing Jesus. Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)

Where is your joy coming from? Where do you seek to get your joy from? What do you run to the most? How are you feeding your mind? From my own experience, I can tell you that when my prayer and devotional life is healthy, I experience more JOY. When I get too consumed by TV or nonspiritual music, I begin to feel empty.

Joy is not necessarily the absence of pain; it is the presence of God. Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We were made for Christ and while some things are not apparently evil, too much of those things can take our heart away from Christ. We have to remove these broken tanks in our lives to drink the water that Christ has to offer. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, if we only gratify the Spirit, we can miss out on all that the Holy Spirit has to offer. Most of us are missing the beauty of Christ because our hearts are in other places. 

Psalm 16:11says: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Joy comes from community. We were not created to be alone. If we are not involved in a community, we are hurting ourselves. As Christians, we are told to encourage our brothers and sisters. We need to constantly remind each other of where our joy comes from. We need to frequently remind each other to focus on Christ. Community is essential on our walk with Christ AND it is essential for joy. 

Another powerful practice to encourage genuine JOY within is daily gratitude and a positive outlook! I even do this with my girls sometimes. Yes, even kids can see the abundance in the feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. Jesus at the center of it all. Gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways. One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to simply think about three things I am grateful for when I go to bed at night. I also find it helpful to write down those three things I am grateful for each day in a notebook or journal. I keep one on my nightstand, perfect for a routine. Gratitude is one of the most powerful gifts in this world. I know that might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but from my experience, adding a true gratitude practice to my daily routine has definitely changed my life for the better. Not only has it made me a happier person in general, but it has allowed me to become better at finding the good within seemingly bad situations in my own life. This has made me become more resilient and less vulnerable to negative emotions. I truly believe that the more I feel grateful for what and who I have, the more wonderful things flow into my life to feel grateful for.

John 15:11 says: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus’ desire for us as his disciples is for our JOY to be complete. I hope this encourages you to begin adding a practice of gratitude into your own daily routine and to find the joy that is within you.

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog post.

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Have you ever had a season where a word just keeps popping up? Every day it’s there, and it quickly becomes a constant reminder of a long-awaited change that is about to take place, one for which you have been praying. This word for me was JOY. I’d see it on billboards, on jewelry, and at the airport. I was reminded of joy every day, while I was living in the middle of the darkest season of my life.  1 Peter 1:6 talks about enduring many trials for “a little while.“  Well, I was living in the “ little while.” Although the wonderful joy was promised, and I was instructed to be TRULY glad- I was also instructed to endure.  

I had an exceptionally long season of waiting on the Lord for a new job. Much to my excitement, I landed a dream job of traveling the world as a lead singer of a cruise line- and not just any cruise line…a world-class cruise line!  I arrived on the ship with every expectation and hope that this new job would be everything I had prayed for. Based on previous experience, I had expected that my new co- workers would rally behind me and encourage me every step of the way. I thought they would be understanding of small mistakes and have my back.  After all, I was a well-seasoned professional; they would respect that, right? WRONG! I wasn’t shown kindness or understanding for the human errors I made. If I asked a question, I was mocked and eyes would roll at me. My worst nightmare in a job environment had come true.  

 At this point a lot of fear settled inside my heart, and I began to question myself and my purpose for being there. Did I truly hear from the Lord on this? Was I meant to be here? Anxiety like I had never known overtook me each morning. At one point I was so oppressed that I just kept my head down backstage in my Bible and I would make no eye contact with anyone. I was extremely lonely and didn’t have a friend to talk to. I could feel the light and joy gradually deplete from my spirit. “I can’t continue the way things have gone” my journal read, “It’s like living in constant fear or dread. I hate it and it wrecks me- Please lead me, Lord”. I was faced with two options: Either God is who He says He is and HE will help me through this, or He’s not. As those hard and miserable weeks passed, I wrote, “I had no idea this new season involved this. It’s been so hard. But God has been so real to me. He has not left me comfortless or alone. His word is right there to catch me.” And catch me it did! 

 God’s word never becomes more real than when you are going through a trial. As I poured into His word, there were 4 simple, yet profound things that helped me break through the darkness and into JOY! 

1. I Looked“Those who look to Him will be radiant with joy, no shadow of shame will cover their faces.” Psalm 34:4-5  Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. 

2. I Listened – “My sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name, the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” John 10:3-4  

Fear not for I am with you, I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you.”     Isaiah 43:1-2  

3. I Let it Go– Three simple words that changed my outlook!  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you. Be kind to one another; forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18-19  

4. I Loved– I was told by a mentor to just love on them for 6 months and then I would earn their trust. That was a true game changer for me, because that’s exactly what happened!   

This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. 

I don’t find it coincidental that just before this, in verse 11, Jesus says- “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”   

Have you ever wondered how Paul could write to the Philippians, “the book of joy” from a lonely prison cell? Just as he inscribed that book from a dark and lonely prison, Jesus inscribed new joy on my heart through a dark and lonely season. You see, my circumstances had not changed, but I definitely did! Those lonely places where we find ourselves are places the Lord has divinely called us because He has a work to do in us- a beautiful work! So there is wonderful joy ahead! In that, my sisters, you can be truly glad!

We would like to thank Julie Posey for writing this blog post.

Influencing the Social Media World

Influencing the Social Media World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

I remember when social media was a new thing to me. I was in high school, and the idea of having a “space” to express myself seemed like such a neat thing! Getting to pick a song that I identified with to play when someone visited my personal page, telling the whole world, or even, better yet, my list of friends, that Beckah is…. craving doritos…all seemed so harmless and intriguing. It was exciting to see who was writing on “my wall” or page or whatever it was called back then. What a thrill, right?! Am I striking up some memories here?

Fast forward a few years, or maybe 15 to be exact, and look at what social media has evolved into. Political controversy, comparison trap upon comparison trap, the blasting of a business when the service was subpar, hate speech and screen fighting. I mean honestly, the list could go on and on.

Even though sometimes it feels like the bad can outweigh the good, there are still good things about social media, too! The sweet family pictures, those accounts that have the best inspirational quotes, LIVE sales at your favorite boutique, and even a way to livestream a church service during a global pandemic (Thank you, Jesus!)! But when you look beyond the surface level of the content on social media, it is so much bigger than what we are seeing. We have allowed social media to come in, and create an addictive space to find our sense of value, opinion, and what we want right now.

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of negativity displayed on social media outlets that are alarming and a true display of deeper root issues, but what happens when we decide to be the change? If we decide to impact instead of impress, what good could we see?

A few years back during one of our women’s ministry events at the church, one of the speakers focused on being rooted in the characteristics of Jesus. One thing she talked about that really stuck with me was, if we are rooted in these things, the fruit of our branches display those also. For example, if we are rooted in the LOVE and JOY of the Holy Spirit, our sphere of influence receives those things from us.

Something that my sphere of influence included at that time was a women’s beauty tips and tricks Facebook page. I had always longed for that page to be more than just lipstick and eyeshadow. During this message at the women’s event, the Lord revealed to me that, “You can impact the beauty of the heart of the women you are reaching just like you are impacting the beauty of the flesh!” It took me back because, at the time, I didn’t quite understand what He was getting at. After spending time in prayer and in the Word, I believe that God gave me the vision of creating these beauty tutorials paired with devotionals that focused on Godly principles and Biblical truths to be displayed by me on my women’s beauty page. This was something truly different than what I had used social media for in the past, and different than what I had seen social media become.

It definitely took a leap of faith for me to get started, but the reward I saw through being different in the social media realm was abundant. When you get called to pray over women that you don’t even know, because they heard your devotional and felt called to reach out, THAT’S POWERFUL! When you are in a live tutorial and get a word from God that you share on a whim, and get a private message later that it was specifically for someone that was listening, THERE’S WALLS TORN DOWN THERE! When you have women that don’t know you, praying over your daily struggles via messenger because you shared your heartache, THERE’S HEALING THERE! I could give you numerous examples of God’s goodness being revealed to me via this social media outlet.

Now you may not feel lead to open a page with thousands of women on Facebook, but I challenge you not only to see the good, but to BE THE GOOD in the world of social media. Be the positive affirmation someone may be seeking. Speak words of encouragement over someone’s post that cries for help during a hard time. Write out your words of prayers over those that post about their struggles. Allow others to be truly “seen” by you when you are scrolling, and reach out to them. Choose a few people that you have seen when scrolling, and pray over their day. There are lots of ways that we can BE the positive. Take a leap of faith, be equipped and empowered by Jesus, and IMPACT those that you influence.

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt 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!