Needs: Theirs, Mine, and (H)ours

Imagine that you are running a 5K.

You’ve set a steady pace for yourself and you’re doing well. You haven’t spent too much energy, and if things keep going along the way they are you will finish this race with enough energy to pump your arms in the air as you collapse across the finish line.

Suddenly, a hurdle is thrown in your path. You can either keep your pace and expect to run right through it (with horrible results) or you can pick up momentum, leap, and then resume your steady pace. Another hurdle may or may not be thrown in your path, but you never know.

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As a woman, you know that this 5K race is one you run every single day. Some days there are obstacles/hurdles that suddenly appear at any given point and on others days the path couldn’t be clearer while you are trying to reach the finish line in this race of life.

If you are a work-outside-the-home-mom, that hurdle might be the call from school telling you that you have a sick child that needs to be picked up. For the stay-at-home-mom, that hurdle could be the dreaded crayon incident that occurs while you are homeschooling your older child and sends you scrambling for some type of cleaner while saying “no, no, no” and trying to keep your cool at the same time (if it sounds like I know something about crayons on surfaces other than paper….. I do).

There are always going to be little things that come up during your day. Your children and your spouse need you and quite often need something of you. You have needs, too! And there are only so many hours in the day.

 

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So how do you keep from getting derailed but instead ending your day with a semblence of peace?

1. Put God first

It goes without saying. When you put The Lord first in your day, even if it is just having a prayer time with Him first thing in the morning, you are, in escence, handing your day to Him. It could not be in better hands than that.

2. Evaluate your responsibilities for the day

Make a list of what you and your family need to do, and then check it twice! Do you really need to get everything on that list done? What can be eliminated? Is your list overreaching what is even humanly possible to do on any given day?

3. Evaluate what your family’s needs/desires/wants are

If you have small children, mommy/child playtime is high on their list of needs/wants. Keep that in mind. What does your husband want? A nice dinner, a particular favorite meal, couple time? Keep his needs in mind. What do you need/want? A hot cup of tea or coffee during naptime, a chance to put your feet up for half and hour? Keep you in mind, too.

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4. Break up your day into thirds

On a sheet of paper (or open a page on a digital notebook), write down morning, afternoon, and evening.

Then take your list of responsibilities and your family’s needs/wants and fit them within the three parts of your day.

For example, my list yesterday looked like this:

Morning- devotions and prayer, exercice, dress, quick clean, 2 loads laundry, and homeschool.

Afternoon- fold laundry, blog, , begin purging Ian’s room, prep dinner, read, and play games with the kids.

Evening- watch a movie with the family, quick clean, layout clothes for tomorrow (me and kids), pack Ian’s lunch, pack Brian’s lunch, pack Addie’s back pack and lunch, clean the kitchen, and prepare for Classical Conversations Community Day.

For me as a goal oriented person, I like knowing that one of my “things-to-do” is to stop, sit, and play or interact with my kids in a fun way without thinking about what I have to do next.

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I do get “me time”, also. As long as all of the kids’ responsibilities are completed by 2:00 in the afternoon, they have a designated technology time that allows me to sit with a cup of coffee while I read or take care of my online things. For me, that is relaxing.

By getting everything done by the time the kids go to bed in the evening allows me to be available to spend quality time with my husband.

Not having an excessive amount of things on my to-do list means that when hurdles suddenly get thrown in my path during my daily race, I have time to adjust my speed, pray, leap, and keep running.

It’s a new day, Ladies! Lace up those running shoes and let’s hit the pavement at a steady pace today!

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year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

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We’re ten days into the New Year. Our toes have touched the waters of 2017, and we are slowly adjusting to the temperature and feel of this brand new year. We’ve made our plans and written down our goals.  As I began to wade further into the year, I thought of sharing with you a kind of blueprint to make this the Year of the Purposeful Woman.

The foundation for any project is the most important part. Yes, decorating is fun, and designing is a blast, but without a firm foundation, any project will collapse.

The foundation of a Purposeful Woman is her daily time with the Lord.

My foundation is my devotional time. It’s my time to talk to God, to hear from Him through his Word, and to hear Him in the quietness of my heart.

year of purposeful woman

Growing up, we were taught to have our devotions every morning before we got up from bed. Our Bibles had places on our night stands that would allow this to actually happen for us. I remember going to kiss my mother in the morning and having her ask, “Have you had your devotions yet?”

Morning devotions were a natural part of our morning routine.

That taught me a great lesson. I needed to put my time with the Lord before everything else… before tackling the day, before that first cup of coffee, before putting my first load of laundry in the washer, or before my first bite of breakfast.

Now as a wife and mother, I start my day with a devotional time. For me, giving the first part of my day to Him means I am giving Him the best of who I am. There has been no time for me to get unnerved or put anything before Him.

I see the first part of my day as my first fruits.

Exodus 34:26a says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.”

year of purposeful woman

God’s Word brings peace. When I let myself get so busy doing other things I feel overwhelmed and stressed. When I am in the Word, reading it daily, and really being open to what God is trying to tell me, I am at perfect peace. And what a sweet place that is to be.

Are you unsure where to start?

We live in a wonderful time where there are options galore. I like to alternate among several options to keep my devotion time fresh.

Pick up the Bible and just read– No matter what you read or where you start, God’s Word will always have something for us to learn, glean from, or apply to our lives. If you’re still not sure, John is a great place to start.

Proverbs- There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Try reading one chapter every day for a month. It is a great place to start since Proverbs is a book of wisdom. As you are reading, ask God to give you wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

year of purposeful woman

Bible.com offers plans in every topic imaginable. At the end of 2016, I went through the plans and saved all of the plans dealing with “Joy“- my favorite being this one by C. S. Lewis.  Are you looking for something on marriage, parenting, singleness, faith, prayer, forgiveness, or worship? There is a plan for that.

Good Morning Girls– Are you looking for a devotional that you can do in the quiet of your home yet offers the accountability we often need to get into the habit of daily time with God? This is a devotional that is offered as a small, closed Facebook group. A daily application question is asked about the passage read that day, and each member of the group answers the question in a thread. The group I have been with for a few years now has reached the point where this is the first group of ladies we turn to when prayer is needed in personal situations. You just have to be willing to be real.

First 5 app– For a time, life got really busy. This became my go-to devotional. Because may of us keep our phones right by our bed, grabbing it in the morning, opening this app and giving God the first 5 minutes of our day, can make all the difference.

Devotional books– There are a whole host of devotional books on the market. Although this was not written to be a devotional, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman was one book that really drew me into a quiet place in my heart and brought me to the feet of Jesus many times.

One thing I know for a fact, no matter which method you choose, you will not regret starting your day with the Lord.

Take this month to work on building a personal devotion time into your routine. It’s the first step towards being a Purposeful Woman.

To read more in this series:

year of purpose

Living wiith Sincerity

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (KJV)

A W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life is the kind of life I believe the Lord wants us to live.

“What does that even mean?” you ask.

Simply this. “What you see is what you get.”

So, often it can be easy to show one face in public and another at home. One face in front of others and then another when we walk away.

We all want to look good… Don’t get me wrong. Putting one’s best foot forward is always a good thing.

In fact, we should all strive for that.

The only problem is… Sometimes, I think we feel that once we are no longer in the presence of others, we have the freedom to be different from how we just represented ourselves to be.

Of course there are always going to be people we just simply don’t mesh with and situations where it takes God’s grace to wear a smile when inside we feel just the opposite.

And yet, I believe the Lord is calling us to live above that… To be a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G kind of person.

As I look back, I remember a day when I knew I was going to be having someone over our home that I really struggled internally with. In times like these, the tendency is to build up all kinds of scenarios of what might happen during your time together. Or you find yourself focusing on all of the things that you don’t like in the other person. (Can I be real for a minute?)

But you know what….  I remember that on this one particular day, before the guest arrived, God spoke a verse into my heart. I absolutely know without a doubt it was from God because it came to my mind in a translated version of the Bible I don’t normally used in my personal Bible time.

The verse that came to mind was from Romans 12:9, and it said, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

(As I said before, believe me, it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking that into my heart because I don’t usually use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version, which is where the verse is translated that way.)

Another version, the New International Version (NIV) translates the same verse as “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

And that’s what W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G living is… Sincerity. Genuineness.

As followers of Jesus, God wants our lives to be true reflections of Him, reflecting his heart and His attitudes towards others in our interactions with them…not only when we are in their presence, but also when we walk away.

No…He doesn’t expect us to put on a face that we wouldn’t normally wear. But what He does want is to so transform our hearts and lives so that who He is and His kinds of responses are what supernaturally flows out of us by His power.

How is this possible? You ask.

Well, if you reflect on the verses shared at the beginning of this post, it’s vital that as Christians we live in the Light.

While it’s true that others may only be able to see one side when we are in their presence, God wants our lives to be the same everywhere we go.

Everywhere we go our lives are open books.

And while we may be able to hide some things from others…

Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father.

And anything we do want to hide must be brought out into the open for God to clean away and change.

Because, you know what…. Those hidden things… At some point, they’ll come out anyway. (Luke 8:17) And on top of that, it is those hidden things that bring us the most bondage.

And God has called us to Freedom.

Am I still a work in progress in living a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life? You bet I am.

But the more I allow the Lord to work in my heart, and realize the freedom living in the Light brings, the more joy I will experience and the more I will live the kind of sincere and genuine life Jesus has called me to….

…The kind of life that pleases God and is a genuine blessing to others.

Make 2017 a Year of No Regrets

Regret is a joy thief that hijacks your present and also your future.

It keeps you ever-grieving over the past and incapable of moving forward into a brighter tomorrow.

Rather than making the progress you’d like to see, regret keeps you circling the same mountain again and again…wishing for change but not seeing much at all.

And instead of seeing “failures” to meet your own expectations as mere “potholes” along the journey, you set up camp within them, defining yourself by your setbacks.

We all have expectations for ourselves.

For some, it’s living a healthier lifestyle and getting in shape…. For others, it’s following a better daily routine and becoming more organized… And for others, it’s giving more attention to the people and things that matter most…. The list could go on and on…

We all have goals and areas we want to work on….

And these are all good things.

But, hey! “No biggie” on meeting these goals…

The New Year is approaching, and our New Years’ resolutions will be the cure to everything we want to see different in our lives, right?

Everything will be better on January 1st… when the “magical” refresh button is pushed and change finally becomes possible.

Um….The only thing is…

Let’s be honest…

What typically happens to us when…

…After two weeks into the New Year of dieting, we cave into eating that delicious looking gourmet donut that was calling our name in the break room?

Or…

…We procrastinate too long on a project we promised ourselves we’d finish right away?

Or…

…We miss an opportunity to express love to our family or friends because we allowed ourselves to become distracted with things that were less important?

Then what?

I’ll tell you, because I know…

We beat ourselves up and define ourselves by our failures.

“I’m so undisciplined,” we tell ourselves.

“I just can’t get my act together,” we sigh.

If you’re anything like I know I’ve been, we subconsciously label ourselves based on our failures to meet our own expectations…

And so the cycle continues….

Because… “As a man” (or woman) “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)

In our minds we have labeled ourselves based on our inabilities to fulfill the expectations we have of ourselves, and what’s even worse is that when we do see someone else who meets the expectations we have for ourselves, we rank ourselves lower, causing us to lose even more joy and perpetuating the cycle of defeat.

If this sounds familiar at all to you…I have some refreshing news for you.

There is hope.

And it doesn’t have to wait until January 1st to be experienced….

Because…. “His mercies are new every morning”… (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)

No, the Lord doesn’t want us to continue defining ourselves by our failures to meet our expectations.

He so lovingly and faithfully offers us a clean slate every day…if we choose to accept it. 

We can start each day to move forward little by little with His help and strength.

And thankfully, this doesn’t have to wait for the New Year… (Although I know we often enjoy the “newness” of a completely brand new calendar where the details of life have yet to be written.)

But, here begs the question… Will there be days in this New Year of 2017, where I will feel displeased with the decisions that I’ve made? When I eat the slice of cake and bowl of ice cream that I “promised” myself I wouldn’t or when I fail to keep the daily routine I’ve made for myself?

Yes, I’m sure there may be days like this…although I do aspire to be more disciplined in my choices.

And yet, while I continue to hold high expectations for myself, something I feel the Lord speaking into my heart as this year comes to an end is this…

When you fail to meet your own expectations, rather than camping out in regret, and allowing it to undue your day… keep moving forward.

Don’t stay there. Don’t dwell on the short coming. Press on.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to live in the joy and freedom His Son came to abundantly give us (John 10:10), and we have His mercy, grace, and love to rest and run to at every moment. (Hebrews 4:16)

Neither my successes nor my failures are what defines who I am.

I belong to God, and I am His forever. 

He chose me. He loves me. And He has great purposes for my life. (1 Peter 2:9 & John 3:16)

It was the Lord that started the good work in me, and He promises to be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) No, I won’t stay where I am forever. My life is always forward moving, because I have Him in it.

It is Him working in my life that causes me to “will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

So, as I yield myself to Him and follow His leading, I know I will arrive at my desired destination.

And as for regret….?

That’s something I don’t want to carry into the New Year. Instead, I want to carry God’s mercy and grace everywhere I go, running to Him when I fail and allowing Him to pick me back up again so that I  can once again stand and move forward into all that He has planned and purposed for my life.

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16 NASB)

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV)

book list 2017

My To Read List for 2017

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I love books.

I was the kid who read a couple of chapter books a week for fun, the teenager who waited for the newest installment of the Left Behind series and finished it in two days (before I had any real responsibilities).

As an adult, wife, and mother, my time to read is not nearly as much as I would like, but I still manage to read a good number of books each year. One way I manage that is by having a mandatory 30 minutes of silent reading time scheduled in our day.

I have an unrealistic amount of books on my “to read” list this year, but I do have a few that are on my “must read” list. Here they are in no particular order:

The Lifegiving Home and 12-Month Guided Journal by Sally & Sarah Clarkson This was on my Amazon Wishlist, and I was so thrilled to get it on Christmas morning. My goal has always been to create a home that was a haven, safe place, and provided an environment of love and learning. Because I do not believe in living a status quo life or being comfortable in a rut, I am  always looking for ways to tweak and improve our home life.

Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America by Glenn Beck In the fall, our Classical Conversations studies will be focusing on American history. What better way for my children to learn about history than for them to see me learning along side them.

to read 2017

Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup I am currently reading another book by Ruth Soukup, so I thought I would read the book named after her blog and learn what she has to share about living well without spending a lot.

The Smart Parent by Gary Ezzo When I was pregnant with Addie, I read Gary Ezzo’s book On Becoming BabyWiseAlthough the idea of sleep training can be controversial, we had great success with our kids and putting them to bed. Since he is a Christian counselor with a Biblical perspective on child-training, I’m interested in reading this book.

Night by Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passed away this year. His book, Night, opened the eyes of many to the horrors of the Holocaust. As a homeschool mom teaching my children using the classical method, original sources are a huge part of learning. I began reading the preface as soon as I received it and am already hooked.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth I loved Mr. Rogers as a child. Although I knew he was a believer and even a pastor, I would love to know more of this gentle man and how his faith in Jesus affected his influence on children.

to read 2017

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford We live in such a digital age. Between texts, phone calls, and checking my social media accounts, I’m sure I can learn something important about being more hand free than I am. Ironically, this book is an e-book that I have to read from my hand-held device…

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Shauna Niequist  I just love Shauna Niequist! After listening to the audio book version of her book Present Over Perfect this year, she has become one of my favorite authors. And since part of this blog has to do with sharing our stories with our readers, I look forward to learning more of how my story can help others.

Hoodwinked: Ten Myths that Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk Let’s face it, we all live our motherhood lives based on myths we believe are true. My friend Amanda had read this a while back, and every time she shared a snippet of what she had read, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

Raising Uncommon Kids: 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids by Sami Cone I want my children to be world changers. World changers are uncommon. As I read God’s Word, God shows me what I need to do in my own life and for my husband and children. I also love reading what God has shown others that I can also benefit from.

to read 2017

What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow When I first was married, I read a book by Linda Dillow recommended to me by my mother. It was wonderful, especially as a newlywed wanting to be the best wife I could be for my husband. Now after 12.5 years, I still want to be the best wife I can be.

Raising a Modern Day Joseph by Larry Fowler Joseph was taken from his parents early in his life, yet he never lost the faith his father had taught him. As a mother, my desire is that my children follow and serve the Lord whether I am standing right next to them or if they are spending time with a friend. Larry Fowler is one of the founders of the AWANA program, a ministry my own children are a part of, designed to teach and instill God’s Word in children around the world.

Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley Since I have gotten married, I have not read much in the way of novels. But… I found this book by Michael Landon Jr., son of the late Michael Landon of Bonanza and Little House fame, and I am excited to read it. Michael Landon Jr. is a professing Christian and is the creator of the Love Comes Softly television series based on the books by Janet Oke. If I like this book, I may just have to read the other two in the series.

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey In the summer, I love reading books that will inspire me in the teaching of my children in our homeschool. This is one of the books recommended by Classical Conversations.

to read 2017

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman What is it that you were created to do? What was I created to do? I love how the author simply sums up the purpose of her book on the back cover- “Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.”

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lisa TerKeurst There are so many things pulling for our attention. We say yes to so many good things that sometimes we have to say no to the best things. I know I am guilty of that! I look forward to getting some courage from this book to say no to the good so I am available to say yes to the best.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp This will most likely be one of my first books this year. Ann Voskamp has skipped the bucket list and asked herself how she could find joy in the midst of the everyday. Perfect for my word for 2017!

Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen This is another inspirational book encouraging us to take the passions God has given us and use them to glorify Him and bless others.

to read 2017

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs How many of us feel that we are not living life with everything we have? Is it because fear is holding us back in some way? as a coffee lover, I love that each chapter begins with the name and city/state of the coffee shop she wrote that chapter in.

God’s Word must always be our first book to glean and gain understanding from, but I do believe that God gives insights to others to share. Everything we read needs to be filtered through the Word. As long as what we read lines up with His Word, I believe we can learn tremendously from those books.

What is on your to read list for 2017? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Is there an author who you really enjoy? Feel free to share in the comments.

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word for 2017

What Is Your Word for 2017?

I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions set me up for failure. I am successful for maybe the first three weeks of the year, and then it is all downhill from there.

However, a word to focus on, character quality to work on, or a verse to live by has been a  tremendous benefit to me. It keeps me focused and working, and it gives me a goal to strive towards without ever feeling like a failure.

So with that being said, I have been really thinking about what my word for 2017 will be. And our Christmas season has played a huge part in the word I have chosen.

My word is JOY.

word for 2017

JOY is different from happiness. Happiness stems from our circumstances. We had a good day, our kids had a good day, the party we went to made us smile, we had a great experience with family and friends and we are happy.

But happiness comes and goes.

JOY is a Conscious choice that has to be made every day despite what my circumstances look like.

JOY is experiencing God’s peace in my heart regardless of the circumstances. Joy is knowing that my salvation is secured no matter how unstable our world feels. Joy is being content with what I have been blessed with and not wishing or wanting for more.

JOY has order: Jesus first, others (my family) second, and you (myself) last. When I keep that order in mind, serving my family becomes an extension of serving Christ and my attitude changes. After all, who knowingly serves Jesus with an attitude? When I voluntarily put myself last in the order, I choose to give up my “rights” and choose to serve my family with a joyful heart. The grumbling spirit that says, “I am not your servant” changes to, “I choose to serve you with joy.”

word for 2017

For the Holiday issue of Strong and Courageous Women, I made a set of pillows that spell out the word JOY (you can get a complimentary issue of SCW here). It sat on my bed for a few months and moved into the living room for Christmas. It is a visual reminder to me of the word I have chosen for the year. Even when the letters are played with and end up on the floor or the O is used for human ring toss (true story!), as I pick them up and put them back in place, I am reminded of the attitude I have chosen to have. Before I begin complaining about how long it took me to hand sew the letters (because the sewing machine needle broke in the process), the very act of picking up these three particularly chosen letters quiets my heart. How silly I would look putting the letters J-O-Y on our sofa with a huff and a grumpy heart?

How Can a Purposeful Woman find JOY in the every day?

word for 2017

How can we as Purposeful Women find JOY on a daily basis? When we remember that JOY is not based on our circumstances, we will see all of the situations in our lives where JOY can be our modus operandi.

I can show JOY despite my dress size.

I can show JOY despite how long or short my to-do list is or how well my children follow the daily routine.

I can show JOY regardless of how a fellow customer or cashier treats me as I run my errands.

I can show JOY when the dishes are piled high and the laundry is begging to be folded.

As much as I want to pursue JOY, I cannot do it in my own strength. I must have God’s help. Finding out what He has to say about JOY is important. After all, JOY is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Here are three verses that have spoken to my heart as a woman and a mother in regard to JOY.

John 15:11- These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Habakkuk 3:18-Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

As I go into 2017 with JOY on my heart, I pray that His JOY is reflected here at Purposeful Moms.

If you are tired of resolutions and are looking for a change in your New Year’s focus, I hope you consider finding a word for God to work on in your life and heart. Search the Scriptures for His input on how to  approach your year, and may it be your best year yet!

If you choose a word, feel free to share it with us. We would love to hear from you!

word for 2017

keeping-christmas-simple

How to Keep Christmas Simple

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I am a huge fan of Christmas!

HUGE!

I love the feeling in the air, the decorations, the lights, the glitter, the way stores are decorated (in December… NOT September), and giving to my family.

But how many years did I go into the Christmas season with gusto and grand ideas only to burn myself out mid-December? Pretty much every year.

Each year I go into the Christmas season with the idea that this is going to be the best Christmas ever!

keeping-christmas-simple

I figure out how many fun Christmas related activities we can fit into our schedule, and I cram all of our days and weekends with something to do.

My kids end up tired.

I end up frustrated that no one appreciates the effort I put into making this the best Christmas ever.

And then we are ready for Christmas to be over and done with and to move into the New Year.

But not this year…

I have always been a fan of simple living, of not making things more complicated than necessary, of believing that less is more. But Christmastime has never reflected that.

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, we don’t have to see every Christmas pageant in our county.

This year, we don’t have to attend every Christmas party or activity.

This year, we don’t have to plan to do something Christmas related every night.

This year, we don’t have to have an advent calendar that involves a ton of extra gifts for me to purchase, wrap, and remember to distribute each day.

Instead…

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, we’ll stay home more evenings than we go out and watch the old Christmas cartoons I grew up watching like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and the Little Drummer Boy. And because I homeschool my kids, we can stay up as late as we want to watch these shows and sleep as long as we need to the next morning.

This year we will delight in the simple joy of finding our little monkey pal, Melk, in the mornings and learn something about the character of God.

This year, we will limit the parties we go to, and, if bringing an exchange gift is necessary, we’ll bring something simple but sweet.

This year, if there isn’t a Christmas moment on the calendar, we won’t make one up just for the sake of it. We’ll just carry on as usual.

This year, we will make paper chains and countdown to Christmas the old fashioned way.

Because…

Satan’s mission has always been to destroy what God has created- to interfere with the message that God loved us and sent his Son (Awana Cubbies key verse). How are we supposed to stop and reflect on the purpose of Christmas Day if, during the time of the year that we are supposed to remember and recognize the giving of God’s gift to us, we get so busy and distracted and we keep our kids running from one activity to another?

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This year, rather than focusing on the “show” of Christmas, I want to focus on the message. That God loved His creation and gave us a gift, the most precious gift He could give- His Son.

Trendy wrapping paper with a perfect bow was not the wrapping of this gift. Strips of cloth were the wrappings of this gift.

His surroundings were not Pinterest worthy. A barn with hay and animals was the setting for His birth.

Those who came to see him that night did not come with $5 gifts for a gift exchange. They came with empty hands, but sincere hearts.

I want our Christmas to reflect those ideals.

So here is your Christmas challenge…

Before you are swept up in the tinsel and show of Christmas…

Before you are knee deep in the quicksand of activities and parties…

Before you find yourself drowning in receipts and wrapping paper…

Take an hour one evening to think through what you want your Christmas to look like.

Figure out your non-negotiable calendar items.

Next, determine in advance how many activities you will be a part of.

Decide how many $5 dollar exchange gifts your budget will allow for.

For your sanity to be kept in tact, set in stone how many evenings you need to stay home each week.

Establish your gift giving list early and stick to it.

And then, sit back and enjoy this Christmas with your family and closest friends.

simple Christmas

Grocery Store Meltdowns & the Opportunities They Offer

Others “May”…You May Not

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Don’t ask me the situations…..

I won’t even remember the specifics.

What I will recall from these times after being hurt by others during my teen to younger adult years, though, is my dad pulling a book from his library shelf and opening to a chapter with the following quote:

“Others ‘May’… You May Not.”

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No…It wasn’t always an easy pill to swallow or the lesson you wanted to hear at the time…

Especially not when you’re “needing support”…(or so you think).

No, in these moments, you want validation for wanting to respond in a reactionary way to others.

No…It’s in these times you want someone in your “corner”.

Someone to say, “You’re right and they’re wrong. It’s okay. Go ahead and give that sarcastic and witty comeback response that will knock them off their feet.” (Not that I’ve ever been good at comeback responses anyway… It’s usually more like a delayed comeback response…… And in my head, no less, long after the fact..)

But no. Instead of support and validation for reactions I may have felt were justified, what did I hear instead?

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

A beautiful quote right?

Ummmm….? Let me think about that one for a bit….

To me…? In that moment…?

No.

But to God?  Um…. Yes.

To God… It was beautiful… (1 Peter 3:4)

And afterall, that’s really all that matters anyway, right?

a-sad-girl

Now in mid-life, looking back at this important lesson my dad reminded me of during my younger years, I stand very appreciative…

…Because rather than adding fuel to my fire, he instead steered me in a direction that I would need to grow and mature… not only as an adult interacting with others but more importantly as a Christian.

And I would learn more from this lesson than if my momentary feelings had gained his support. In fact, as I said earlier…I can’t even remember the specifics of the situations in which I had been hurt, but I still remember to this day the “take-away”.

In this life, people will hurt, offend, and reject. They will be rude, sarcastic, and unkind….

And you know what?

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect at applying this lesson in my own life.

I still struggle at times… Especially when others don’t respond in ways I hoped they would.

And yet, what is it that God asks of me during these times?

To do what is right… No. Matter. What.

Yes.

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

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Here’s what the Bible has to say specifically regarding this point…

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39 NIV

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 NIV

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:7-8 NIV

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Romans 12:17 NIV

Oh…It’s so easy to want to shelve it out as easily as others have given to us at times, and yet as Christians we are called to be different.

We are called to follow a different path.

A path that dies to “self” and lives for God, truly representing the Savior we boldy claim to follow, not only through our words but also by our actions…

And even more importantly from our hearts.

If the thought of living like this is still hard to swallow, consider the following example from the life of Jesus…

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:33-34 NIV

carry-your-cross-follow-Jesus

Can you imagine how Jesus was feeling as He watched the people around Him?

He came to be their Rescue. Their Help. Their Hope. Their Peace.  Their bridge back to a right relationship with God.

The angels announced “good tidings of great joy for all people” at His birth. (Luke 2:10) His life, death, and resurrection would change and restore any person who came to God through Him. And not only would those who turned to Him find their lives changed and healed, but He also promised an eternity with God through faith in Him.

The words He taught, the miracles He did…. All He ever did was good. There was no reason for any of this.

And yet, here He is on the cross watching the faces of those who are glad to see him hanging there, hearing the mockery of those watching, and observing as people cast lots to see who will get to keep his clothes.

But what message do Jesus’ actions speak from the cross?

Do good, love, and forgive no matter what others do or have done.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14 NIV

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re the one on the receiving end of pain, hurt, and rudeness…

And yet, Jesus left us a perfect example to follow.

An easy one?

…No. Not on our own.

But thankfully…We’re not on our own.

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Jesus has given those of us who have place our trust in Him His Holy Spirit to indwell us. And the more we yield ourselves to Him and His leading, the more we will be able to respond in ways that Jesus would in times of conflict.

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Why not?

Because we follow a different way… A path that was marked out by our Savior, showing us by His own life how we are to respond even when others treat us wrong.

others may

words hard say

When the Words Are Hard to Say

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There are moments in our lives that create opportunities for us to grow. Sometimes those opportunities are beautiful and bring a rush of joy and excitement… but most of the time, those moments are hard.

It’s the hard moments that either grow our faith or uproot us. We either choose to dig in and stay strong, or we give up and let our circumstances blow us around leaving us battered, bruised, and lifeless at the end of our storm.

We can either learn the lesson of the storm, or we experience another storm similar the previous one in order to finally learn the lesson God is trying to teach us.

These storms come in many forms- a broken or strained marriage, a financial crisis, the sudden loss of a loved one, a physical illness, children who have strayed from the faith, or an unexpected diagnosis.

words hard say
But remember, dear friends, we are not alone.

God has included the account of Job in His Word for our benefit, as our reminder that we are not the only ones to experience storms. It is a reminder that we are not the only ones who have walked this path. Job is God’s gentle reminder that someone else has had it worse.

Job experienced the great losses of his riches, family, and health. Everything he owned was taken away from him stripping him of his wealth. His children were all killed when the home they were in fell on top of them, crushing them. Job himself was struck with a disease which caused his body to break out in boils. He was in such pain he wished he had never been born. Yet, in his storm, instead of cursing God, he chose to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And those are not easy words to say…

My storm

I began thinking about Job soon after Mom went home to be with the Lord. She was no longer here, but, as I thought of my loss, I felt the ever-present movement of a little person who would be making an appearance exactly two weeks after her passing.

My storm was struggling with the whys of my mother’s passing. Mom was still in her 50’s. She was going to be a grandmother for the first time. My mom was one of the most faithful followers of Christ that I knew. She was the kind of woman who would change her plans if we needed her. I couldn’t understand why God would allow her die at the time when I needed her the most.

This was my time to either stand firm in my faith in God and His sovereignty or let the storm beat me down and shred my faith.

After our daughter, Addie, was born, the thought that “He gives and takes away” kept going through my mind. My mother was gone, yet I had been given the beautiful gift of a baby girl.

words hard say

My cousin, Lisa, had given us a DVD from the Praise Baby Collection (highly recommend!). One of the songs on the DVD was the praise chorus “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”. I would sit with my baby, move her hands to the music, and sing along… until it came to the lines “He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away, My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.”

Then I would stop.

Until one day as I was washing out bottles at the kitchen sink and the DVD was playing. I stopped washing, and I forced myself to sing those lines.

Yes, it was a struggle, and, yes, I cried the whole time I sang. But after that first time of forcing myself to verbally acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my situation, I was able to sing those lines without crying. Now when I hear that song, those lines remind me of my response to the storm. It has become “our song”- a song with a special meaning between my Heavenly Father and me.

God does give, and He does take away, but we have to choose in our hearts to bless His name in the storm, regardless of our agreement with His decisions. God is sovereign and all-knowing. He understands the “whys” so much better than we do. Eventually, He allows us to see glimpses of His purposes and reasons, but He is not required to.

He is God, and I am not.

And my heart does choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.

words hard say