Christmas Traditions That Point to Jesus

Many Christian moms strive to make sure the Christmas season doesn’t get swept away in commercialism, but is truly a time of joy. What an opportunity we have to celebrate with our family the greatest miracle the world has even known!  God coming to earth as a baby named Jesus to rescue us from the curse of this world is worthy of jubilant celebration. Christian moms know this and desire this for our families, but cutting through the expectations of the season and getting to the heart of Christmas can be difficult. What’s the solution?

There is no formula. What works best for one family doesn’t create a mandate for others to do the same. Some mothers excel at and relish in Pinterest-worthy advent projects.  Others find doing simple things like reading stories that point to Jesus’ coming in the Old Testament best for their family. I humbly share a few things our family does with our young children to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps one of these strikes a chord with you or gives you an idea all your own.

  1. Our girls love playing the “Star from Afar” game. My husband and I move the star every night, and the girls wake up each morning to search for the star. Upon locating it, they move the wise men under the star as they follow it on their path to meet the new King! When my girls wake up Christmas morning the star is over the manger and they along with the wise men find the Savior!
  2. We host an annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, normally on Christmas Eve. It’s small and simple. We have a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We sing a few Christmas songs and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. The children put on a play of the Christmas story using things we have around the house like sheets, sticks, and blankets as costumes.
  3. We snuggle on the couch and watch a YouTube video of Joy Williams song “Here with Us” set to scenes from The Nativity Story.

Children thrive on rhythms and routine. Having a few traditions in your family that clearly point to the wonder and awe of Jesus’ birth will seal in the lives of your children the miracle of Christmas. Celebrate and rejoice!

About the Writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

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Thanksgiving

Each year my family sits around the table discussing for what we are thankful.  I never struggle with the answer, but I always wonder if my answer will change.  For the last three years, the thing I am most thankful for is one word . . . well maybe three words:  God is faithful. 

I am thankful for God’s faithfulness, his ever-constant presence in my life, his faithfulness despite my lack of the same.

Faithful means “loyal, consistent, steadfast.”  It also means “true to the facts or the original.”  What an amazing picture of who God is!

God is ever all of these…loyal, steadfast, true to the truth,  original, and never changing. But life has a way of making you feel like you are walking alone,  like you are the only one going through something.

It makes me think of that poem “Footprints in the Sand.”  You know the one and if not,  google it.  The situation it describes is  when we think we are alone, we are not. We need to be reminded there is only one set of footprints because God is carrying us.  I normally would call this poem “cheesy,”  (please do not be mad at me!)  Lately though, God has reminded me of this truth: when I am feeling unsure, He is sure of who I am.   When I am feeling lonely, He is there.  When I am feeling insecure, He provides security.

When I think I am alone and look to see only one set of footprints, it is because God is the one walking for us both, or better, that God in His steadfastness is always there.

God is faithful despite my lack of faithfulness.

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9

Our God is faithful and has called us into fellowship with His Son!  This means that in the midst of this life, I can stand on the truth God is faithful till the end and, in the meantime, He is calling me into fellowship with Christ.

In my insecurities, when I’m unsure and lonely, I am called to walk in God’s faithfulness through a relationship with His son Christ.

So, this year I am again thankful for God’s steadfast faithfulness.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days teaching 6th graders the value of math and science while also displaying the love of Christ, and her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest.

Halt: Four Ways to Avoid a Panic Attack

Have you ever felt so afraid you were unable to breathe?  Have the worries and busyness of this world ever weighed heavily on your mind?  Does Satan really ever attack you in your weak spots (those things we worry most about) to try to destroy your joy?

A few months ago, after an exceedingly hard week both physically and emotionally, I experienced a panic attack in which I could not breathe, felt like I was choking, and my heart was filled with fear. I paced the house, moved from my comfortable bed to the couch, and on to an upstairs bedroom. Still restless, I drank a glass of milk, read my Bible, repeated verses aloud, but nothing seemed to help. Fear gripped at my heart, telling me I was incapable of doing anything.  After about three hours of what felt like wrestling with Satan, and finally convinced that I would just quit everything in which I was involved when morning came, sleep finally overtook me.

The next morning, with the dawning of day, the thought came that this might have been an attack from the Deceiver, the Father of Lies, or Satan; but in the darkness of night I was unable to drive him away. With daylight came ease of mind, peace, and strength from the truth of scripture that I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13)  and refreshment in the promises of His word and deliverance from all my fears (Psalms 34:4), (Psalms 34:7)  I realized how very small from God’s perspective my worries really were and that he was in control of it all. (Psalm 103:19)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.

 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. Psalms 91:1-6

Dr. Charles Stanley, from In Touch Ministries, has quoted four ways to keep ourselves from getting to the point of being overwhelmed. He used the acronym HALT:

  • H- Don’t let yourself get too hungry, take care of your physical body.
  • A- Don’t let yourself get too angry,  or emotionally distraught,
  • L- Don’t let yourself get too lonely,
  • T-  Don’t let yourself get too tired.

Even though I may never know if a spiritual battle was actually going on during my restless night (Ephesians 6:12),  these things I do know:

  • God, the Creator, and great Shepherd (Psalm 23) is able to take care of all of our needs, whether it be physical, financial, emotional, relational or otherwise.
  • We are not to fear.  Dr Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, says there are 365 verses in the Bible instructing us to not fear.  (God knew there are times I would need one for every day!)

 Do not fear, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10

About the Writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ by serving as Coordinator for Yada Yada.

How to Tame a Tiger: Parenting Tips and Tidbits from my Grandmother

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Because my family and I lived with my grandparents for the first six years of my life, I have very many precious memories of living in a multigenerational home.  My grandfather owned and milked cows on a dairy.  My grandmother was a homemaker, and lived in a time when there were no dishwashers, no microwave ovens, no fancy kitchen gadgets, and with only a wringer type clothes washing machine.  Most of her wonderful home cooked meals came from the garden she had planted and vegetables that were either fresh or canned.  Out of her home came the best pies, made-from-scratch cakes, homemade candies, fried chicken and steaks, and lots of joy and fun.  During my first few years of school, all of my clothes were made by hand by her and my mom. I can remember being so excited about having five new dresses – one for every day of the week at the beginning of each school year.

Grandmother demonstrated to us all the lovingkindness which God shows to us. There were no extracurricular activities, except an occasional baseball game in a nearby field with my cousins. Some of my best memories are just being with my grandmother learning to sew, crochet, and cook; working by her side, or just spending quality time with her fishing off a dock. She led by example and worked tirelessly to see that all our needs were met.  All of us grandkids knew where she stood when it came to doing what we were supposed to do and respected her high behavioral expectations. I never remember her even having to raise her voice with any of us.  Even though she died when I was only eighteen, I am so thankful to have had her example of how to parent and lead a family with respect, love, and kindness. She was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

As a grandmother now, I hope to pass along some of those parenting tips and tidbits I learned from her, as well as a few of my own.  Here are some of the things those include.

  • Read scripture daily – schedule a quiet time for yourself to reap the benefits of God’s wisdom. (Colossians 3:16) And pray, pray, pray. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Read scripture aloud daily with your children, talking about it in daily activities, and memorizing with them. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
  • Keep high expectations for behavior, teaching (Proverbs 31:26) and explaining to them your expectations, and train them as you go. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Don’t be afraid to discipline (train) age- appropriately with consequences related to the action. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • Set clear rules and boundaries always with their own safety in mind.
  • Be clear to the children when disciplining that you love them, but are not happy with their choice of wrong behavior, or actions. (Proverbs 3:12) And never let your own emotions get out of control.
  • Spend quality time with your children, stay connected, and know what is going on in their lives, always!
  • Finally, do all things with love and kindness, demonstrating the love of Christ, as He has done for us. (Ephesians 2:7) Don’t give up! It takes time to tame a tiger!

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

 

About the Writer:
Beverly has been a long time teacher and administrator who alongside with her husband have taught numerous Sunday school classes. As a grandparent today, she loves to share with others God’s Word and make it applicable to daily living.

 

Reality Check: It’s Not all about Me

As a new mother struggling to balance the demands that our world shouts so loudly, I often watch the composure of my grandmothers and think about the social changes that have taken place in just two generations. I watch them sit with a cup of coffee in hand and an easy rock in their chair. No TV in the background. No conversation necessary. They find comfort and satisfaction in the quietness.

With great admiration, I have periodically asked questions of my grandmothers about their early years of marriage and motherhood. My selfish desire is to glean nuggets of wisdom that I can apply in my own life, with hopes of achieving the sense of peace that I see in them.

So, in one of these conversations, I casually asked my 86 year old grandmother what comes to mind when she thinks of the word ‘Joy’. ‘Contentment,  satisfaction , and lasting’ was her response. Intrigued and hungry for a deeper answer, I went to the only source of truth on this matter, the Bible.

Passage after passage, I discovered the real truth at the core of this word: Joy is about GOD, not ME.

I had made joy something to be practiced and strived for, obtained, when all it really required was a closeness with the Holy Spirit that could be found through scripture. The faithful promises and unfailing truths of God’s word can shine new light on life’s circumstances.

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111  

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

Joy is a celebration of His sovereignty and His promises.  It is an eternal view that supersedes the world that surrounds you. Your demonstration (or lack of demonstration) of joy indicates what is important to you.  Are you distraught by temporary pains of this world, or are you looking expectantly towards the day of Christ’s return?

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

With this new understanding, I found great peace and a deep internal joy even on the hard days. The only maintenance that is required is simply to remain in closeness with the Lord and His word – to live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Love Tested by our Darkest Sins

“Lord I love you” is a powerful statement.  How do we protect ourselves from the hypocrisy of declaring it on Sundays, proclaiming it to receive affirmation on social media, but failing to hold fast to that commitment in the hard moments of our lives?

The proof of our commitment always comes in testing.  My commitment to love God has been tested again and again:  through the miscarriage of two of my precious children, through watching a sweet friend die of cancer, and through Satan’s destruction of God ordained relationships I held dear.  But trials have mercifully driven me to seek after God and to desire to know Him more.  God speaks often in the Bible of how testing and tribulation grow and mature our faith. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)

While all trials test and grow us, I think there is a special significance and precious proof of our love of God in the devastation of dealing with our own sin.  Grieving over, confronting, and laying before Jesus my own sin has done more to strengthen my relationship with Him than any other type of testing.  These excuses reveal my failings, my inability to strengthen that relationship on my own, and my deep need for Him.  The truth laid bare is hard to handle, but it is freeing.

King David is a gloriously God-ordained example of clinging to the love of God in the face of our darkest sin.  The story of David’s horrific sin and the unshakable love that rescued David is laid out in 2 Samuel 11 – 12.

David lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery, and then had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah- who was an unfailing loyal servant to David- killed to conceal the fact Bathsheba had become pregnant from their tryst.  None of his schemes worked.  God used the prophet Nathan to reveal David’s unthinkable shame.  Nathan proclaimed, “You are the man!” and exposed David’s worst sins.

This was a defining moment for David.  When confronted with guilt, our natural reaction is to fight back and rage against the exposure of the truth.  David’s love for God conquered all those impulses, and he instead turned to the Lord and lamented:

I have sinned against the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:13)

David would later write several beautiful Psalms, including Psalm 32, in acknowledgement of what God had done to rescue him from his iniquities.  What defined David, a man the Bible would call a man after God’s own heart, was not his worst moment, but his reaction to his worst moment. His action was rooted in a deep love for God.  He repented because he loved God more than he loved himself.

Sin separates us from the love of God.  But our love of God means we are willing to lay aside the encumbrances of this life and the sin which so easily entangles us and run to Christ.  We die to self, stop the justification, explanation, and minimization of sin and say, “I want Christ more, I love Christ more.”

Love God today.  Lay your sin before Him.  Turn from sin and say, “Lord, I’m depending on You to free me from the deepest, darkest corners of this sin.” We can count on the Lord’s grace, mercy, and unfailing love.  He honors those who love Him and nothing proves that love more than confronting our sin and casting it off.

About the writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

 

 

Eight in 2018 – Virtues to Sow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will never forget the time I heard my daughter use one of my slang words when she dropped something getting out of the car at only three years old.  It was not necessarily a bad word, but one I used frequently whenever something unexpected happened, yet it was shockingly inappropriate for a young girl, and, honestly, for me as well.  In fact, this was one I had learned from my grandmother many years earlier. Our minds are like a computer, what goes in, will eventually come out.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  Galatians 6:7

As an adult, I have heard preached more than once “you reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow”.  If we sow gossip, others will gossip about us, if we sow immorality, we may see our children live immorally, or if we sow an undisciplined lifestyle and recklessly squander our finances, we may reap the stress of debt and lack of necessities in life.  On the other hand, if we give of our tithe, we sow blessings. He promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing until it overflows (Malachi 3:10).  With these thoughts in mind, here are 8 virtues which we might try to exercise for 2018.

Dr. David Jeremiah reminds us if we are not growing in God’s Word we can become incomplete, ineffective, insincere, and nearsighted; and we can also lose our Christ-like perspective. When it gets right down to it, as we read His transforming Word, His convictions are motivating our actions.  It is not just focusing on doing the right thing, but allowing the Holy Spirit to work using His Word to “grow us up”.  Then we will be more likely to speak the truth through our deeds, and our testimony will be strong and clear. Reap his Word in 2018 to sow righteousness and bring glory to God, in order to be a shining light in a dark world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

About the writers:
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Studies teacher. For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans, who call her “Gigi” and is serving as editor for Yada Yada.

Beverly has been an administrator, educator, and Sunday School teacher; now is a wife, mother, and grandmother, who currently serves at First Baptist Dallas as Coordinator for Yada Yada.

Promises, Promises

When I read the book of Joshua, I am overwhelmed with the patience and persistence of God to fulfill his promises to his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. Throughout the book we read about how the Israelites responded disobediently to the instructions of the Lord . . . taking things from the destruction of Jericho that had been set apart for the Lord (7:1), and building an altar for themselves to rebel against the Lord (22:16).  And what was God’s holy response to their acts of disobedience?  We find it in chapter 21, verse 45:

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

In fact, from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 23, we keep reading about the Lord and exactly how he fulfilled his promises.

Wow!  That just blows my mind.  When I think of the times that I have been disappointed by friends or family, it doesn’t come to my mind to fulfill all the promises I have made them.  I tend to lean toward unforgiveness, thinking of the unfairness against me, or even lashing out or getting even.  But not God . . . in His mercy He forgives my unfaithfulness.  In His grace he forgets my desire to build walls against Him or his loved ones. In His love He continues to fulfill all the promises He has made to me. Now, that is worth praising Him.  That is worth trusting Him.  That is worth serving Him.  That is worth loving Him.

As a matter of fact, when I read these verses, I want to be forgiving like God; I want to be faithful like God.  Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, or my own plans for improving my situation, I want to let Him continue to show me His character of faithfulness through these Bible truths, like he does in the book of Joshua.

He has such a long way to go with me, but I’m so very thankful he doesn’t give up. He just keeps on cranking out the lessons with His promised blessings attached.  And then I am reminded . . .  “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

A Tale of Two Sisters In-Law

We don’t always hear wonderful in-law stories, but here’s a great one about a Mother–in–law from the book of Ruth in the Bible:

Ruth 1: 9-18: “Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me . . . Return home . . .’ At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

What a great mother-in-law Naomi must have been.  But when it came decision time, even Naomi wasn’t enough for Orpah to leave her familiar circumstances.  It would require something greater:  faith.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about faith and how it plays a role in our futures. To believe in something without actually seeing it requires a great deal of hope and patience. It is so much easier to go down a path we recognize, even when that path is filled with potholes we can see.  Ruth and Orpah show us the struggle with faith.

It has always intrigued me that Orpah chose to stay in Moab, and Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.  It seems that both daughters-in-law had a sweet, loving, loyal relationship with Naomi, and Naomi genuinely cared for them and wanted the best for them.  If this is true, why did Orpah turn back and go home?

I think there is a lesson we can learn.  Ruth had seen faith in God through observing this Hebrew family while they lived in Moab.  She was willing to let what was familiar go and head into an uncertain future with the God of her mother-in-law.  Orpah loved Naomi, but she wasn’t willing to risk losing the familiar for her.  Back then, to leave one’s country also meant to leave the gods worshipped there.  Orpah was not committed to the Lord, and she was willing to lose the relationship with Naomi, whom she loved, for a life she could predict. Verses 16 and 17 are two of my favorites.  As a matter of fact, they were featured in my wedding.  In these verses, Ruth not only commits to Naomi, but she states her unwavering faith in God, leaving all other gods behind, and clinging to Him, trusting that He has a plan for Naomi and her.

It is interesting to me that we never hear from Orpah again.  Maybe she did go back and remarry, or maybe she lived a sad but safe life in her familiar circumstances.  We may never know.  What we do know is Ruth was redeemed by God’s man and birthed Obed their son, who became the grandfather of King David, selected by the Lord to deliver His people, and become the seed of Christ.  Wow, what a legacy of faith!

God uses people who will trust Him, and He blesses people who will commit to Him rather than what they can see.  I pray I can remember this when I experience challenging circumstances, and remember to be more like Ruth and less like Orpah.

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Where You Go I Will Go

A most popular yet life changing statement, You will never move forward, if you continue to look back, has resounded to many throughout the years. Yet even though we may agree unequivocally with its declaration, many of us struggle daily with actually living it out.

Of the many lessons God has taught me in the course of my journey, one of the greatest has been the importance of moving forward while leaving my yesterdays behind. However, in all truthfulness it has been the hardest to master. The enemy has persistently attacked my heart and mind by tempting me to dwell on former regrets and even previous comforts. It has been a battle hard fought, to say the least. Yet countless individuals throughout God’s Word were also required to learn this valuable lesson.

Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage and onward toward the Promised Land. However, in the midst of trials and adversity Egypt came calling in the hearts of the freed captives. A moment of looking back to what used to be, birthed a desire to return. The same pattern of temptation and response continues today.

Our journeys can often times become challenging when difficult moments tempt us to revert to our former days. Yet turning back would limit future blessings. The story of Ruth illustrates this point beautifully.

Ruth had just become a widow, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi. When the opportunity came for Ruth to return to her former dwelling, she chose instead to move forward with her mother-in-law.

Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Ruth 1:16 

As Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, she knew her hope lay in progressing forward rather than turning back. Not only was she willing to let go of her former life, she also was eager to experience a newly appointed future. Eternal rewards resulted from Ruth’s decision to proceed, ones she never even envisioned. Ruth would later be listed in the very lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us cling to God with the same conviction as we let go of our past while taking hold of the future awaiting our grasp. Let us voice to our Father, as Ruth once exclaimed to Naomi, ‘Where you go, I will go.’

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to move forward with You while refraining from looking back. Direct my desires toward the future You have appointed for my life and remove any desires that would lure me back to the past.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NASB

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.