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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Strong Hand With a Soft Touch

I use to dream of being gentle. Then I was hurt. Again. Again. Again. I wanted to be mean. I wanted to be heard. If not for the grace of God, I would be that person still. Then entered the gentleness of God (1 Kings 19:12) like a soft breeze speaking words of truth and direction.
God, among other things, is gentle. He was described as gentle by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus even called Himself “gentle” (Matthew 11:29) and said those who are gentle are blessed (Matthew 5:5). He called us to be gentle (Ephesians 4:2). He said gentleness is an expression of the fruit of God’s Spirit in the life of a believer (Galatians 5:23).
What then makes the gentleness of God possible for Him and difficult for us? For me, it is desiring my gentleness to be rewarded—naively holding onto something like a chimera, the idea that, if I am thoughtful and kind enough to someone else, he will be happy and never do me harm—quite different from God’s calling to walk in gentleness.
When Christ showed gentleness, most people were mocking Him, spitting on Him, saying false things about Him, even crucifying Him. Yet, He was gentle. When Apostle Paul said, in Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near,” he was in prison. In 1 Peter chapter 3, where Peter was urging wives to be gentle in their attitudes and behaviors to their husbands, it was amidst an exhortation to women with unbelieving husbands. None of those situations promise a change of heart or a good response from the ones we are called to show gentleness to. 
Someone once said that “gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch.” It is the ability to speak the truth in love, guarding overtones and expressions so that the truth might be more easily received. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others’ weaknesses and limitations. 
So why do it? Why not speak the truth without love? Why not close one’s heart when it hurts so deeply? Why put up with someone else’s weaknesses when you could even more easily abandon ship? Why not write off others’ faults as “their” problem? The answer is clear! Do not think for a moment that you can experience the abundance of the kingdom of God while walking in opposition to Him (Galatians 5). 
The promise in the Beatitudes for the gentle is that they will inherit the earth. And, in Psalm 37, this promise is again repeated: 
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity…
Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it. (Psalm 37:7-11, 34)
If the hope of God’s faithfulness to a courageous woman who trusts in the Lord is not enough, if rising up to the example set by Christ Himself is not enough, if compassion towards the weaknesses of another sinful human being is not enough, ask God to whisper His Word in your heart…”A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice” (Isaiah 42:3).
About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

Great is Your Faithfulness

 

It doesn’t take long to realize that nothing we see stays the same.  A trip to the beach illustrates this as the coastline changes yearly.

Also obvious, is change in people.  Don’t babies change seemingly overnight?  Consider a high school reunion’s effect: “Tell me the truth, do I really look that old?”  No one remains physically unchanged. No human always behaves consistently.  Even the most dependable disappoint.

Some people experience change through betrayal or divorce.  The sweetest relationships endure unintentional mistakes, and, inevitably, loss through death.

The Bible described a life-change: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.  This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1 NIV)  Job was enormously wealthy and had ten children.

Unknown to Job, God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him.” (Job 1:8 NIV)  Satan stated the only reason Job feared God was that God had blessed him.  If you take away what he has, Satan suggested, he will surely curse you “to your face.” (Job 1:11b NIV)

God allowed Satan to destroy all of Job’s wealth, children, and health.  After devastating loss, Job responded as follows: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’  (Job 2:10 NIV)  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

We wonder at Job’s faithfulness.  Many struggle to cling to faith under far fewer  difficulties.  However, Job’s response to three friends who came to explain why he was suffering revealed his secret. (Job 19:26 NIV) declares, “ . . . after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”  Job’s faithfulness was based on his understanding of God’s faithfulness, not on his own performance or ability to explain what was happening.

Job declared finally, “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:5 NIV)  This echoes the words of Jesus in (Matthew 5:8 NIV),  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  When change rips our faith away from things that won’t last anyway, our wandering hearts are purified by recognizing Who remains worthy of our faith.  Our hearts are finally able to find rest in the absolute faithfulness of God.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m One of the Others

“Some people are naturally good, you know, and others are not. I’m one of the others. Mrs. Lynde says I’m full of original sin. No matter how hard I try to be good I can never make such a success of it as those who are naturally good. It’s a good deal like geometry, I expect.”
~ “Anne of Green Gables” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Like my favorite red-headed literary heroine, “Anne with an ‘e,’” I’m “one of the others.” I struggle with mastering both goodness AND geometry! Anne would be relieved to hear what Jesus said about being “naturally” good. In Luke chapter 18:19, Jesus declared, “No one is good except God alone.” Only God is inherently, completely, and, by His very nature, good.

Jesus very clearly states his oneness with God in John 10:30: “I and my Father are one.” In John 14:9, Jesus says, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Anything we know about Jesus is true of God, and anything we know about God is true of Jesus.

The whole of Scripture points to the goodness of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. Here are two of many descriptions of God’s goodness:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life  . . .  Psalm 23:1:6 (NIV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

In contrast, we read of our lack of goodness in Romans 3:12: “…there is no one who does good, not even one.” Thank goodness, (pun intended), we aren’t left to our own resources.

Because Jesus is God and has all the attributes of God, anything God has given to Jesus can be given to me, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in John 16:15, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (NIV)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

God’s goodness is mine through the gift of His Son, Jesus, the Only One who truly is “naturally” good.

About the Writer:
Nan is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Beyond Being Nice

As my son approached his second birthday, I held my breath and waited for the rebellion to begin. I gathered several books about discipline theories and how a toddler’s brain works and stacked them on my bedside table.

I felt so ill-equipped, as each day brought new challenges, but the more closely I looked into my son’s eyes the more I saw a child who wanted desperately to be taught. I saw a child who learned by watching and needed an example, a child who craved personal connection and needed to see, hear and feel how loved he was. This child was learning his place in the world and had a heart that was ready to be molded.

Our children are growing up in a world that is new and exciting to them, but it’s growing more perilous every single day (2 Timothy 3:1-3). We sing the song ‘This Little Light’ and tell them to go out and shine in our dark world.

My husband and I continually pray for a long list of traits that we want our children to develop. But at the top of that list is kindness because of the powerful effect it can have in winning hearts for Christ. Romans 2:4 says ‘Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?’ It sounds simple but here’s the catch . . . kindness requires us to be vulnerable.

Kindness requires an inner security that runs so deep that we are not shaken when the other person rejects or mistreats us in return. We must put aside our pride and show a gentle and genuine compassion. Our opportunity to respond is not based on the other person’s deserving of our forgiveness, but on mercy alone.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35

By teaching our children the principles of kindness, we are teaching them a multitude of other qualities like compassion, empathy, patience, and forgiveness. But all of these qualities are hollow without understanding the lovingkindess of God. This understanding can only be gained by experiencing it first hand in our lives, by having a personal relationship with Christ.

So, as parents teaching our kids about the meaning of kindness, let’s not confuse its definition with that of “niceness”. Let’s instead impress on them the grace and mercy that is at the core of kind actions. Let us point them to Christ.

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.

His Grace is Sufficient

Do the “what ifs” sometimes overwhelm you? When you let your mind drift to any of the endless list of potential crises that could be a phone call away, do you feel unequipped to handle the grief? Do you look at someone else’s struggle and think, “I can’t even imagine” or “there is no way I can handle that”? That particular feeling struck me recently: I have two young mom friends, sisters in Christ, who have cancer. Both have two children under five. I can’t even imagine.

The possibilities of these scenarios seem crippling. And then, in steps the power of God.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.                         2 Corinthians 12:9

The picture below is of my first baby girl, Elizabeth Alane. I never got to hold her. Eric and I saw her heartbeat at seven weeks, and by nine weeks her heartbeat was no more.

His Grace is Sufficient

After my miscarriage God held me up in so many ways. One way was through the Scripture that comforted and assured me. One of the verses that brought me so much comfort was 2 Corinthians 12:9.  His grace is sufficient. 

A week and a day before we found out that the baby no longer had a heartbeat, I broke down sobbing, and I told my husband, Eric, I was scared of losing the baby. I was mess. Eric held me and comforted me, and he prayed that we would put the baby in God’s hands. If you looked at what a mess I was then, you would have thought actually losing the baby would have rendered me a useless waste. But God gave me the grace I needed in the moment I need it. After my miscarriage, I had an undeniable hope despite my loss. I didn’t know how this would work together for good (Romans 8:28). I didn’t understand God’s thoughts and plans in this (Isaiah 55:8-9). But I believed that God’s word was true.  Even though I didn’t understand how He would fulfill the promise of Scripture, I knew that he would. God was extending me the grace I needed.

His grace is sufficient. It is sufficient to meet our every need, day by day as they happen. It is also sufficient to meet our greatest need – for salvation. Let the power of God be your refuge: no matter what lies ahead, He is able to see you through it.

About the Writer:
Caroline M. 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.

Forbearance: Weathering the Sudden Storms of Our Souls

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,   patience . . . ”, ah, yes, patience. (Galatians 5:22-23)  But what is meant by patience?  The Apostle Paul used the Greek word makrothumia, which means “long-tempered” or “slow to express explosive anger.”  Let’s replace patience with forbearance, the word that the NIV uses.  Websters’ Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines it as holding oneself back from something,” like lashing out in anger, “especially with an effort of self restraint.”  See why I prefer forbearance?

What is important is that we learn how to put it into practice.  Galatians 5:16 says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  Jesus said “Abide in Me  .  .  .  He who abides in Me bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)  We walk in the Spirit and abide in Christ, by spending time with Him daily in prayer and in His Word.  There is no other way to bear fruit!  If we want to be like Him, we must spend real time with Him, sharing our real problems with Him.

What are some of the things that make you angry?  May I encourage you to tell them to Jesus?  He knows and understands you better than anyone because He made you.  If coffee with a friend can sooth our souls, imagine what some quality time with the Lover of our souls could do!

Is exhaustion a source of your anger?  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.“  He is our Wonderful Counselor, and He can handle our anger, and whatever else we throw at Him.  We don’t scare Him.  He’s crazy about us and nothing we do could ever change that!

I encourage you to memorize Colossians 3:12-17, and to pray through it whenever the firestorms of anger begin to rise in you.

  • Put on tender mercies: kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering/forbearance (makrothumia).  Clothe yourself with these daily in prayer.
  • Bear with each other and forgive each other because Christ forgave us!  Unforgiveness is the source of much bitterness and anger. Forgive as an act of your will.  Tell the Lord in prayer that you forgive the one who wronged you.  You don’t have to agree with them!  You just have to forgive them!
  • Most importantly, put on LOVE!  Love bonds us together in unity.  Love is a VERB!  Our desire should be to speak the truth in love, without anger, and  to serve others through love.
  • Let the Peace of God RULE in your hearts. The idea is to let God’s peace be the referee in our hearts, the seat of our emotions. We can choose to be at peace even in the midst of turmoil!
  • Dwell on God’s Word and sing praises to Him! Praise is powerful because it invites God in, and it is a balm to our hurting hearts.
  • And WHATEVER you do, do ALL in the Name of the Lord Jesus.  Ask yourself?  Can I do this in Jesus Name?  Can I yell at a family member or colleague in Jesus Name?  How can I deal with my anger in a way that pleases Him?

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.  The Lord be with you all!

About the Writer:
Tiffany is a cross-cultural missionary, Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and worship leader.  More than anything, she desires to be one ‘who like a tree planted by the rivers of water, brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and have whatever she does prosper’(Psalm 1:3). She is committed to abiding continually in Christ, the vine, so that she may bear much fruit in, and for Him (John 15:5).

 

Are We There Yet?

We’ve all experienced it:  some kid, maybe our own, continually asking the same question over and over again hoping to get an answer different than the one he received two seconds before.  Having to exercise patience is no fun and can be quite frustrating at times, especially if you’ve been waiting for a LONG time. But there are some things we can be focusing on during the waiting periods.

The first thing we need to realize is that just because God does not answer on our timetable, we do not have permission to assume an answer and then act according to our emotions, desires, or even logic. Waiting on God to answer is an act of obedience; obedience is simultaneous with trust; and trust is an expression of love.

The book of Habakkuk shows us some great tips when we are having to wait on an answer from God.  In chapter 2, Habakkuk shows us that we must have a determination to wait to hear from God as well as an expectation for Him to speak. Habakkuk says in verse 1,

I will stand on my guard post . . .And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me. . . Habakkuk 2:1

God will speak to us. We have to be determined to wait on His answer.

During our waiting period, we must also isolate ourselves from distractions. If you read the book of Habakkuk, you’ll notice that Habakkuk sets up camp away from distractions so as not to be influenced by anything other than God. Again, the prophet is demonstrating his expectation and determination that God will answer him. Be warned that the waiting period is the perfect opportunity for Satan to attack us with feelings of doubt and grand ideas of logic on what we think God wants us to do.  So, be strong, sister!

Finally, Habakkuk also expects to be corrected while he is waiting on God. In the last part of Habakkuk 2:1 he says, “ . . . And how I may reply when I am reproved.”  God has something for us to learn. The lesson may be anything ranging from a correction of an action, or the actual waiting period itself. Even if His answer is a “yes” to something we desire, we must make sure we do not miss whatever it was He has been teaching us. He is the Teacher and we are the students; we must humble ourselves in view of that fact.

I like this picture because it is the perfect representation of how we all feel when we are asked to do the hardest thing: WAIT.

 About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has another one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

The Only Self Help Book You Need

I can recall clearly my prayers as a new bride. I prayed for God to change me, mature me, and to make me sufficient in my new role. With the new responsibilities that I believed came with marriage, I had many personal qualities that I wanted to refine and new skills that I wanted to learn. My weaknesses would now weigh both of us down, I convinced myself. I would anxiously read how-to articles and frustrate myself, growing impatient with the slow progression of change.

I was so focused on seeing change from day-to-day, that I missed the bigger transformation that God was already producing in me. A familiar verse to many is found in Philippians.

Philippians 1:6: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 

I had heard this verse many times and used it when encouraging friends of mine in their time of despair. But I didn’t believe it for myself.

What I see now is that my impatience and dissatisfaction with myself was a result of doubt and unbelief in God. In my continuing study of scripture, I’m learning that patience requires a surrender of earthly understanding, and above all else, a complete trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Scripture teaches that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) So, instead of trying to comprehend God’s timing, we must place our trust in HIS faithfulness instead of OUR understanding. That passage continues, saying that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

When I forgo my acute time lens and open my heart to God’s perfect timing, I see a story of His grace and patience as he writes the testimony of my life. It’s a story that didn’t just start when I prayed as a fresh-faced wife, but had started long ago with an insecure young woman helplessly surrendering to the Lord. Upon the realization that no person, status, or thing could make me feel at peace, I’ve learned that the Bible is the only self-help book that I could ever need.

The Holy Spirit produces patience in us that is made deeper by faith.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

I can see a direct relationship between the amount of time that I spend in God’s Word and my patience. I am continually learning that God is fully faithful, fully trustworthy, and fully sovereign in my life. He proves Himself over and over again in my moments of doubt. The Lord is my strength and my salvation, and He is working on a masterpiece in my life.

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.