Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I don't know if any of you take part in New Year's resolutions or not, but I just love this idea so I thought I would share it with you. It's called the True Beauty Challenge.

The challenge only lasts for a month, but you could easily extend it out if it's something that you are passionate about. But here's the original challenge:

Think about all of the money you spend each month on outer beauty. Whether it is money spent at the gym, on make-up, new clothing, hair, or manicures. It adds up quickly for most women! For one month give up something $30 worth of that stuff and spend it to help someone else get their basic needs met. Whether it be donating food to a food pantry, sponsoring a child through compassion, or providing drinking water over seas. $30 can go a long way, and for most of us it isn't a huge sacrifice on our end.

So that’s the challenge. This year, while everyone else is making their New Year’s resolutions for self-improvement, I encourage you to listen to Paul’s words to Timothy written in 1 Timothy 4:7-8: …train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

You can learn more about the True Beauty Challenge at FindYourTrueBeauty.com



~Once again I want to remind you that there are big changes coming to my blog in the new year. Check back soon to find out what's going on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ministry Month: Revive Our Hearts

This is the last post in the ministry month series. Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss holds a special place in my heart. It was this ministry that first taught me how to grow in my relationship with Christ. I had been a Christian for years before I found it, but once I did find it, I began to change as a person. I began understanding God's word and applying it to my life. Now, I know that it was the holy spirit that worked in me, but God used Revive Our Hearts in a powerful way in my life. Their 30 day challenges are amazing, and really every single one of their sessions is worth listening to (or reading if you prefer).

The first 30 day challenge that I did with them was their 30-day True Woman Makeover, and it really was life changing. Their 30-day Husband encouragement challenge was equally impacting (I have gone through it at least 3 times!).

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has also published some amazing books, and Bible studies. I really just can't say enough about this ministry. It's great!


~I mentioned earlier that there were going to be some big changes coming up to my blog. Please check back next week to find out more.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ministry Month: Scott Mason

I don't know if you have heard of Scott Mason or not, but he has an AMAZING testimony. It's a testimony of grace and forgiveness. He has been compared to Paul, as the worst of sinners now doing great work for Christ.

Scott is a Christian speaker and author. It amazes me that schools actually pay him to come and speak about the transformation that Christ did in him. I think what's even more amazing than secular schools inviting him to speak about Christ is that prisons actually give him (an ex-convict) freedom to move about unrestricted. I recently got to hear his testimony and it is so powerful. If the world can see the change in him and grant him forgiveness and grace, it saddens me to think that we as Christians, wouldn't offer that same forgiveness to him or others like him.

You can read part of Scott's testimony here. But that really hardly does it justice. The audio version that I listened to was over an hour long and still just scratched the surface. I strongly encourage you to purchase his book "No Reason to Live". All of the proceeds that he gets from book sales and speaking engagements go to help his prison ministry. He and his wife and children have opened up a rehabilitation house for women who have recently been released from prison. It is their hope that someday these houses will cover the nation, not just for women, but for all convicts so that they can be shown the love of Christ, and given a chance to turn their lives around.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Living True

I hope you all had a very blessed Christmas!

I have to admit that I have saved one of my favorite marriage ministries till last. The Stokers amaze me. Their "Living True Ministry" is so useful! I have been touched to the very core by some of their books, and I highly recommend them. You can learn more about them and their ministry here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoyed these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you missed a few posts, I hope you'll be able go back through and read them on this blog over the next few days. If you'd like to keep up with Pearl Girls and our new book project, Mother of Pearl, coming this spring, just click this link and sign up for our newsletter (lower left sidebar).

Also, just a reminder that today is the last day for the pearl necklace and earrings giveaway! Enter now by filling out this {form}. The winner will on 1/1 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Jesus -- The Reason For the Season

By: Rachel Hauck

Through the narrow scope of 2000 years, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one lucky woman. Chosen by God to give birth to His son, the Savior of the world? All right, Mary, way to go.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” Gabriel said.

How many of us would like a declaration like that? Highly favored. The Lord is with you. But Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Mary’s seems confident and resolved when she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

She’d just been told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, that God’s power will overshadow her, that she’d become with child even though she wasn’t married, and she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let your words be true.”

I find this amazing! A young woman. Ancient Bethlehem. Unwed mother. They stoned women for such things in her day. But Mary believed in God. And submitted to His will. He gave her the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to us. If He gave her confidence, He will give us confidence. Even though, like Mary, our situation seems impossible.

Listen to Mary’s song later on in the first chapter of Luke.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is his name…”

Conceiving a child out of wedlock, by Divine intervention. Not a girl’s every day existence. Yet she had a Yes in her heart to God. She rejoiced. She boldly said, “Generations will remember me!”

How we struggle to trust God with our children. Our finances. Our emotional well-being. We worry. We fret. And wonder why we have no peace.

Christmas is the season where words like joy, peace and love are bantered around like Christmas candy. Let’s not take them as just words, but as truth. Let’s be like Mary and embrace God’s favor on our lives. Boldly declare "He’s done great things for me!”

Out of the grit of our own souls, we can reach His heart, and feel Him reaching for ours. No matter the pain of our past, present or future, God is there for us. He is able. Best of all, He is willing. “My soul glorifies the Lord this Christmas!”

***
Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling author who believes God has done great things for her. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. Her next release is Love Lifted Me with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, January 2012. Then in April, look for The Wedding Dress. www.rachelhauck.com.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 12 Pearls of Christmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.



***
The Panhandler's Breath

By Robin Dance

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the "5" without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame...and his stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck.

I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of clamorous teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the electric shuttle picks up.



I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey.

The four of us were sealed in a four- by six-foot metal tomb. Tomb--that thought really scampered across my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was no where to run.

Extreme and ridiculous, these thoughts - and more - flashed through my mind. The Stranger began speaking.

"Yessir, I see you're a family man with your wife and your son here..." and he nodded in my and my son’s direction.

"...you see I'm homeless and all I've got..." and on queue, he reached into his left pocket and pulled out two old pennies blackened with age. Two cents to his name?! It was all too contrived, too practiced, and I didn't believe a word he was saying.

It was then I smelled it ~ the small space lent itself to that ~ and I doubted my doubt.

His breath.

It wasn't the scent of alcohol. His eyes weren't red, his voice didn't waver; his wizened face matched his graying hair.

His breath was morning's, zoo breath, the pet name I'd given to the scent inhaled when kissing my children awake when they were little.

He needed to brush his teeth. I wondered how long it had been since he brushed his teeth.

The elevator door opened and I handed him my leftover pizza as my son and I brushed past him. My husband handed him a bill and the Stranger thanked and God blessed him.

The elevator door closed behind us. Conflicted, I was relieved.

We got in the car and blurted first reaction--

"I didn't believe a word he said."

"That made me nervous."

"I wonder if he'll really eat the pizza."

In the quiet, we were left to our own thoughts, contemplating the right thing to do. At the end of the day, this is what I decided: It doesn't matter whether or not his story is true; for an old man to resort to begging, he has to be desperate. The money my husband gave him will never be missed. It was a reminder we've been entrusted with much and given much. Materially, yes, but more so spiritually. Loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, graced, lavished--every spiritual blessing. E v e r y.

There's a part of me that wishes I would have been brave enough to ask the man his story, made sure he knew he was loved...and bought him a tooth brush.

Later, it occurred to me he could have been an angel. Doesn’t that mean generosity, kindness and hospitality is always the right response? Then it's not about you or the stranger or the circumstance, it's about a simple, God-glorifying response.

Had we entertained an angel unaware? We'll never know.

But it wouldn't be the first time the Breath of Heaven smelled like a zoo.

***
In a decades-old, scandalous affair with her husband, Robin also confesses mad crushes on her three teens. As Southern as sugar-shocked tea, she’s a recovering people pleaser who advocates talking to strangers. A memoirist, Compassion International Blogger, and Maker-upper of words, Robin writes for her own site, PENSIEVE, and also for (in)courage by DaySpring (a subsidiary of Hallmark) and Simple Mom. She loves to get to know readers through their blog comments and on Twitter and Pinterest. www.pensieve.me

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Conclusion

This is the final post in my Anti-Santaism series that started on October 21st. Here are the links to all of the previous posts if you missed them, or want them for your reference:

Series Introduction
The Beginning
Santa the Counterfeit Christ
What Santa Teaches
The Christmas Idol
Two Masters
Distraction
Saint Nicolas
Christmas Alternatives

I have pondered about a good way to conclude this series, and I the only real way to do that is to share the miracle of Christ. You see, I wrote this series simply to share my beliefs with you. However, I did not write it to judge you, your decisions, or to convert you to my beliefs. I simply wanted to share. I know that not all Christians celebrate Christ's birth, and some of them do so at a different time of year, and that's okay with me. Everyone has their own walk with God that they have to focus on. I can't walk yours, and you can't walk mine. God works in each of us on the things that He deems important. We cannot earn our way into heaven by the way we celebrate (or don't celebrate) Christ's birth. For the whole reason that Christ was born was because we are not capable of earning our Salvation. He came so that we could have the forgiveness that we could never possibly receive apart from the grace of God.

Because our inadequacy, God sent His one and only Son into the world. God incarnate came to us humbly on a cold, quiet night. The King of Israel was not born in a palace, but in a manger for there was no room available for Him. This precious baby, sleeping in a manger, was not visited by his closest relatives. He wasn't welcomed into the world with any of the things that we would normally bless a newborn baby with. No, His first visitors were shepherds, strangers to His family. While Kings did come from a faraway land to bestow gifts upon Him, soldiers were also sent to kill Him. So He lived in exile for a time.

When this precious baby boy grew up, He lived a life of scorn. All He wanted was to show us the way, but the religious leaders planned to kill Him. We sent Him to the cross with our unbelief, with our sin. Yet hanging there, moments from death, He prayed for our forgiveness, for that is the reason He came. He was born that night so long ago, to die for us. For me, and for you. That was His purpose. He came, so that we may be forgiven. His whole purpose here on this earth was to redeem our fallen souls. He came to earth so that we would not have to spend eternity in hell.

This is the reason that for me to celebrate anything else on the day set aside to as the day of His birth, would be wrong. He was born to die. How could I brush that off so that my children can have 'fun' with a lie? Where ever you are this Christmas season, I hope that you remember our Savior, the reason He was born, and the life that He lived for you.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ministry Month: At The Well



At the Well is a fabulous ministry to Christian women. They have everything from mentoring to book reviews. I'm sure that most of my readers are actually quite familiar with this ministry, I would love for you to share one of your favorite features or articles with us in the comments!

Personally, I think one of my favorite things that they are doing right now is the Scripture memory blog hop. Several women are learning a verse a week, and if you are taking part, you link your blog each week. What a neat idea!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 12 Pearls of Christmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Family Traditions: A Glimpse into Christmas Future

by Tricia Goyer



Have you ever thought about family traditions? As I helped my 1-year-old place ornaments on the Christmas tree this year I imagined her doing the same thing with her children—and maybe even grandchildren—one day. Traditions are beliefs and customs handed down through generations. By sharing meaningful moments with your kids you're sending yourself into the future. How amazing is that?

Sharing family traditions cause us to slow down from the busy, adult world for a while. We ignore the laundry to set out the nativity set with our kids. We set aside time in our schedules to drive around and look at Christmas lights.

Holiday traditions aren't only fun, they also help strength family bonds. Through traditions kids trust in the security of family unit. They think, “This is our family and this is what I do.” Of course, the most important thing to share isn't just what we do ... but why. Why do we put out a nativity? To remind us the real meaning of the season—Jesus coming to earth. What do the Christmas lights represent displayed on homes and on trees? They represent the Light of the World, Jesus.

Using traditions to bond our families and share our faith isn't new. I love these two Scriptures that talk about that very thing.

Exodus 12:25 says, “When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.”

Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.”

What are you're traditions? Here are a few of ours:

Baking a Birthday cake for Jesus

Buying a new ornament every year for each child

Acting out the Christmas story (with props!)

Praying together before opening presents

What are your traditions? Write a list and appreciate them in a new way this year. Then ask, “If I could add one new tradition this holiday season, what would it be?” I'd love to hear what you choose! It also makes me smile to think of your children's grandchildren doing the same.

***
Tricia Goyer is a CBA best-selling author and the winner of two American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Awards (Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights). She co-wrote 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and contributed to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Also a noted marriage and parenting writer, she lives with her husband and children in Arkansas. www.triciagoyer.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ministry Month: CPP

Today, I wanted to introduce you to Christian PenPals.

CPP is a wonderful ministry that connects Christians with people in prison that sign up with their program. Some of these prisoners are Christians, others are curious about Christainity, and others just want to hear from someone. It is such a great opportunity to share Christ, and offer encouragement to our sisters in Christ (I say sisters because they match women with other women and men with other men, and 99.9% of those who read my blog are women).

I have volunteered with CPP for a few years now. I have had 3 different pen pals, each one was very unique and completely different from the others! The one that I am still in contact with is now out of prison and starting her own women's prision ministry.

To volunteer for this ministry, you just have to be willing to write to one or two inmates once or twice a month. It only costs you time and the money for postage. If you prefer to just donate money, they do accept donations to help buy stamps for prisoners and a few other supplies. You can find out more by visiting: Christian-penpals.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family is such an amazing ministry. However, since it's Mr. Monday, I really want to focus on the marriage aspect of it. If you visit their Marriage & Relationships section you will find articles, audio files and even discussions about marriage. Almost any topic you can think of is covered somewhere in their archives. However they welcome feedback, and actually have a link on the site where you can submit questions that they haven't addressed yet. On top of all of the fabulous information on the website, they also have a ton of books and such available.

~I'm going to keep this post short, but I did want to give you a heads up that I'm planning some changes for my blog at the start of the new year. Check back for important updates!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 12 Pearls of Christmas

(Please ignore the fact that there will not really be 12 posts in this series... I had already decided to do ministry month before it was announced, so I am only using some of the posts)

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
The Snowflake Party 

By Deborah Raney

The first snow of winter hasn’t fallen yet, but in our kitchen tonight we’re doing a pretty good imitation. The whole family is circled around the huge old oak table. The snip, snip, snip of scissors is background music as tiny scraps of white paper float down, making our floor look like a giant brownie sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Tonight has turned out to be the night for our annual Snowflake Party, a tradition that began when our children were toddlers. There has never been a date blocked out in red on our calendar, but one day we wake up and the brisk autumn air has turned bitter cold. Naked tree branches trace their stark calligraphy on a dull grey sky and we need a taste of the joyful promises of Christmas and snow. It’s the perfect time for a party.

On such a day, one of the kids will fly in the back door, fresh home from school, and declare “Hey, Mom! Tonight would be a good night for the Snowflake Party!” First we round up every pair of scissors in the house. This is one time when sharing is not a virtue. While the kids search for scissors, I cut white paper into squares and fold them caddy-corner multiple times. The resulting triangles are artfully arranged in a basket, awaiting the beginning of the party.

Later, while the supper dishes dry on the counter, I recruit a volunteer to help me stir up a big pot of hot cocoa. For the next hour it will warm on the back burner, tantalizing us with its aroma.

Now the fun begins with careful cutting and snipping, shaping plain white paper into intricate works of art. Each snowflake we create seems as unique and spectacular as the genuine variety created by God himself. As each masterpiece is unfolded, collective oohs and aahs go up.

When the last dregs of our creative juices are drained, Dad oversees the vacuum patrol while I pour cocoa into generous mugs. We spread our handiwork on the floor around us and sit, quietly admiring our work while we dunk marshmallows and sip rich chocolate.



With empty mugs piled up in the sink, it’s time for the judging to begin. There will be awards for ‘prettiest’, ‘most unusual’, and as many other categories as we need for everyone to be a winner. Dad is the judge because he studied art in college. He also usually wins one of the top prizes––because he studied art in college.

Snowflakes deemed runners-up might be pasted in scrapbooks or hung on the refrigerator. A few even “melt” into the trash that very night. But the winners are taped proudly to the picture windows in the living room for passersby to enjoy while they long for the day when genuine snowflakes will color the world clean and white.

Our oldest daughter went away to college last September. She called just after Thanksgiving to tell me that her dorm window was covered with snowflakes. No, not the real thing, but the ones she remembers from her childhood––paper ones that she spent an entire evening cutting and snipping while sipping hot cocoa.

That’s the neat thing about traditions: They go with us no matter how far from home we travel.

***
DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have since won the RITA Award, ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. After All, third in her Hanover Falls Novels series will release next spring from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. Their four children are grown now and having snowflake parties with their own children––and they all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the web at www.deborahraney.com.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 12 Pearls of Christmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas


Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

Why I Decorate for Christmas

By Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser

An old cassette tape of Christmas carols—received in a package twenty years ago when we had first arrived in France as missionaries—fills our den with delightful piano music as I place one more ornament on the already over-laden Christmas tree.  This one is a little white wooden rabbit with pink ears that move back and forth.  It actually doesn’t look much like a Christmas ornament, but I bought it for our baby Andrew when my husband Paul was in seminary, and I was working for less than minimum wage in the library.  This ornament was literally all I could afford.

As I hang it on the tree today, I get goose bumps and then a rush of warmth.  And that’s why I decorate for Christmas.  Not to impress but to remember.  I remember those lean, lean years, and God’s faithful provision for us.

There are the cross-stitched ornaments I made our first year in Montpellier—for the boys (for by now we had two sons) and Paul and me.  How I ever had time to do that, I don’t know.  I remember our puny little tree—the kind they sold in France back then—in a pot so that it could be replanted later.  We perched that tiny tree on a small table out of baby Christopher’s reach.  I guess I watered it too much, because about halfway through December, it started smelling and then stinking, and it rotted there on Christmas Day!

I smile with these memories.

I look at the other ornaments on the tree.  Many were purchased—one for each boy—when we attended conferences around Europe, and that makes me smile too.  Getting to travel on a missionary’s budget to exotic places!  There are the waxed red bear and red baby carriage from Wales, the brightly painted clay sun and moon from Portugal, the blue and white porcelain windmill and wooden shoes from Holland, the hand-blown glass Snoopys sitting on gondolas from Venice, and the delicately decorated eggs from Prague.

Other ornaments include the little pinkish shiny ball ornament with Paul’s name written in glitter—I think he made it when he was about six , and the little red velvet bows, bought at Michael’s after Christmas one year for a dollar.  They bring a unifying theme to the tree.  I say this, smiling, because our tree is, and has always been throughout the years, a hodge-podge of our life.  And I like it that way.  I don’t think I could ever have a ‘theme’ tree.  Mine is a ‘memory’ tree.

The music plays softly in the background and I smile through tears, remembering God’s incredible faithfulness to call and keep us here in France for so many years.  Heart-breakingly hard years, overwhelmingly joyful years—the same years, the same amazing God, our keeper.

Before we left for the mission field, I memorized Psalm 121 in English and in French, and over the years I have held on tight to those last beautiful words of the psalm:  The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. (NASB)

Of course He will.  He is God with us.

We decorate to remember Christmases past, our lives, our legacy, and mostly, for those of us who have embraced Christ, we decorate to honor and praise Him for coming to us—Emmanuel!  We make our homes ready to receive the Christ Child, with soft music and candles burning and the sweet flickering of angel wings on an over-laden evergreen.

***
ELIZABETH GOLDSMITH MUSSER, an Atlanta native and the bestselling author of The Swan House, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’  For over twenty years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work with International Teams.  They presently live near Lyon, France. The Mussers have two sons and a daughter-in-law. The Sweetest Thing (Bethany House, 2011) is Elizabeth’s eighth novel. To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, and to find discussion questions as well as photos of sites mentioned in the stories, please visit www.elizabethmusser.com and her Facebook Fan Pagewww.elizabethmusser.com

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Anti-Santaism: Christmas Alternatives

This is the ninth post in my Anti-Santaism series. I have been posting a new Anti-Santaism post each Friday since October 21st. There is only one week left between now and Christmas, and next week I will be posting the series wrap-up that will include links to all of the post in the series this year. You can read the introduction post to the series here.

No Santa


Up to this point, this series has mainly been about why I don’t like Santa (to put it mildly). However, I wanted to take some time to tell you about the alternatives that we use in our family. Simply removing Santa from the equation doesn’t accomplish much. The children still see him everywhere: at stores, friends houses, on Christmas cards that we receive, in yards, even in pictures of other family members. Last week I wrote about the real Saint Nicolas, and my kids know that the Santa that most Christians celebrate today, they do so because of him, however, they also know that the Santa that is displayed on decorations was a creation of Coca-cola as an advertising scheme in 1931.

Besides just knowing our history, and leaving Santa out of our home, we replace his presence with things to help us remember Christ. Instead of a tree, we have a manger to put our presents under. This helps us to keep our focus on Christ, because we are presenting our gifts to Him. We lay them at His feet. Instead of kneeling before a tree, we kneel at the crèche of Christ. We thank Him for the gifts that we receive.

Instead of singing Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, we sing Silent Night. We don’t sing Christmas songs about Santa or Christmas trees or anything like that. I will admit that I have no problem with songs like jingle bells, or Silver bells. But I will not sing about Santa, or to a tree. It’s so much more meaningful to sing about the birth of our Savior. Last year I posted a Christ centered Christmas song every day in December leading up to Christmas, from the 1st to the 24th. The best part is that I didn’t even struggle finding 24 songs that glorified Christ during Christmas. I actually posted a few more than that, because I posted some on my homeschooling blog as well.

Instead of having pictures of Santa or trees on our decorations, we buy decorations with pictures of the Nativity. We don’t want any Christmas idols in our home, so we only buy things that help us remember Christ. We have a nativity set as our center piece on our table, and we have a star on our window above our manger. We do have lots of snowflakes and snowmen for winter decorations out at this time of year as well to help decorate our home. We color pictures to put on the wall, and we have a banner with different Christian symbols that we hang up on our wall. Our home does not lack in the decoration department.

Our Christmas cards all have Scriptures on them instead of reindeer. We do not buy cards that feature Santa. There are so many cards in the store that have Christ, or Scripture (or both) on them, that I see no need to purchase anything that will not help us focus on Him during our Christmas season. If I were buying a birthday card for you, I wouldn’t buy a card that I knew you wouldn’t like, so I won’t do that on the day we celebrate for Christ’s birth either.

Instead of doing a Christmas countdown to Santa, we do a Christmas devotional book each year. We are using Why the Nativity by David Jeremiah again this year. It is such an awesome book!

Of course, we always have a birthday cake. We can’t celebrate a birthday without a cake the kids simply won’t allow it. Christmas Eve we watch The Nativity Story, and Christmas morning we read the story of Christ’s birth.

Is there some special way that you keep Christmas about Christ? I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Find Your True Beauty... In Christ!

I am amazingly thankful for FindYourTrueBeauty.com! When I started volunteering for Shelley several years ago, I never dreamed of where it would take me or how much fun I would have along the way! I have shared my personal testimony of my work there several times, so I'm going to keep this post strictly about the ministry itself.

FindYourTrueBeauty.com is a website designed to help today's teen girls discover that their true beauty doesn't come from the outside appearance. It also offers support for girls that are struggling with eating disorders, cutting, have suicidal thoughts, sex, dating and modesty. It is such an amazing ministry, I can't tell you enough good things about it.

Besides the website, Shelley also travels around speaking to teen girls. She has been ranked up there with Leslie Ludy as far as making a positive impact on teen girls.

If you visit her website there are a number of free tools available for download. You can get a free PDF copy of her book "Mirror Mirror... Am I Beautiful?" when you sign up for her newsletter, and of course our "Teen Devotionals... For Girls!" are available for free there as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Pearl Girls™ 12 Pearls of Christmas blogging series!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***


A Christmas of Kindness

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

"You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving." Amish proverb

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas Eve I'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.

Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much more to learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty spacebut space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is oh so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then. Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer's facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won't get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God's agendathe essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.

***
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California. www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Ministries

I probably should have posted this earlier, but these are two fabulous Christmas ministries, that have both already come and gone this season. Most people know about these but I thought I would share anyway, if you know of any others please leave a comment so I can add to my list for next year. :D

Samaritan's Purse has "Operation Christmas Child" Each year gifts are packed into thousands of shoe boxes to be delivered to children around the world.

Angel Tree was founded by a Prison Ministry to help prisoners give gifts to their children. We had a wonderful time wrapping the gifts that were donated by our church at our annual ladies Christmas party this year. After the gifts are wrapped people hand deliver them to the families and spend some time talking with them if they are invited to do so. It's such a great witnessing opportunity, each year we get to hear great testimonies from the families that do the drop-offs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

For Women Only

Okay, I don't know if this really qualifies as a marriage ministry, but Shaunti Feldhahn is amazing! Her book "For Women Only" is a MUST read (you can read my review here). She also has a book for couples that I haven't read yet (there are only so many hours in the day you know!). Besides writing amazing books (9 plus 2 fiction novels), Shaunti is also a Christian speaker. You can read her short bio and start exploring her website here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Anti-Santaism: Saint Nicholas

This is the eigth post in my Anti-Santaism series, which means that there are only two posts left. I have been posting a new Anti-Santaism post each Friday, you can read the introduction post to this series here.

No Santa


The strongest reason I have heard for why Christians choose to include Santa in their Christmas celebration, is the historic Saint Nicholas. While this will probably touch some nerves, I must ask if anyone out there thinks that the way we celebrate Santa today really honors St. Nicholas? Would he be pleased with what we have turned him into? He started the tradition of giving to those in need to glorify Christ, and people have turned it into worshiping him and writing him long lists of their wants. Quite frankly, if I were him, I would not be happy.

Do you think that the goal of Saint Nicholas was to take the focus away from Jesus, and put it onto himself? Do you think that he would be pleased with us reversing his teachings and having people send him lists of the things he desired? This is the man who sold all that he had and gave it to the poor. He gave EVERYTHING he had, how used and abused would he have felt if someone had sent him a letter of their wants. Don’t you think that he had wants? I’m sure he did, but he laid it all aside to serve God and give to others. The Santa tradition has taken his love and generosity and commercialized it. I kind of tend to think that if he were still living, it might possibly be reason enough for him to at the very least stop giving, and possibly even regret starting the whole thing at all.

But what do we know about the real Saint Nicolas? We know he was from the town that was biblically known as Smyrna. In Revelation 2 Jesus said that He knew them and while they were poor, they were rich. Smyrna was a poor town financially, but they were rich spiritually. I picture Saint Nicholas like the rich young ruler that Jesus addressed in Luke 18:18-30, only Nicholas actually followed through and sold all that he had. Saint Nicholas probably understood Proverbs 10:22 better than anyone we know. He understood that it wasn’t material items that he needed, but the blessing of God. He probably wanted to be counted among the poor of this earth, and rich in his faith and an heir of the kingdom of heaven (James 2:5). He was following Christ’s lead by becoming poor by choice, so that he could give to others (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Saint Nicholas knew what Spiritual riches were. They don’t tarnish, break, or decay. They can’t be lost or stolen. Which is the exact opposite of the earthly riches, which we are told in Proverbs 23:5 can grow wings and be gone. I can see Saint Nicholas echoing Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-11

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”


Saint Nicholas, didn't do anything to glorify himself, but to bring glory to God. How opposite has the legend of him become. The Santa that we teach kids about never sold all that he had to give to the poor. In fact, he owns an entire town located at the North Pole. He doesn’t care if someone is rich or poor, for he focuses on good or bad. He has no desire to share the love of Christ with others, or for anything spiritual. He only cares about toys for kids… the good kids. His entire life revolves around toys. He doesn’t care if you believe in Christ, only that you believe in him. I can’t imagine looking Saint Nicholas in the eyes and telling him that we remember him with Santa. Can you?

Do I think that remembering Saint Nicholas at this time of the year is wrong? Not at all, my kids know about him, but we keep our focus on Christ. There is one family in my church that participate in a Saint Nicholas party each year, that I think is FANTASTIC! They choose a family that has less than they, and then buy them tons of food, presents and such. The night of Christmas Eve they have a party, wrap presents, sing songs, and just enjoy themselves. Afterwards, once it is dark out they drive over to the selected families house and doorbell ditch the presents onto their porch. They never tell who they are; they just do it to bless others. What a wonderful way to remember Saint Nicholas. This is exactly the way I would want to be remembered if I were him. Not by having people write me lists and lie about who I am or what I stand for. Not lying to people about where I live, or what my house looks like.

I should also add that Saint Nicholas day is actually December 6th. So, if I were to celebrate Saint Nicholas, I would probably want to do so on that day, instead of removing the focus from the day we celebrate my Saviors birth… However, lots of Catholic Saints have days, and we don’t celebrate any others, so we probably won’t celebrate St. Nicolas either.

What about you? Do you do something special to remember the REAL Saint Nicholas?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ministry Month: Mom's In Touch

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for Mom's In Touch International (And for the mom who told me about it a few weeks back!).

The goal of Mom's In Touch is to have a group of mothers praying for every school around the world. Groups of women get together for 1 hour each week, just to pray for the schools that their children go to. There are groups for individual schools, community groups, and groups for homeschooler's. I am just extremely impressed by this ministry!

When praying with MITI(Mom's In Touch International-pronounced Mighty), moms follow the four steps of prayer: Praising God for who He is, Confessing our sins, Thanking God for what He has done (or is doing), and then Interceding for children, schools and MITI.

There isn't a group for the school that the boys go to yet, I am considering starting one if God brings me another mom to pray with. However, for the time being I am praying by myself. So, while it is a rule that what is prayed in a MITI prayer group stays in the prayer group, since I don't have a group yet, I did blog about my first prayer time, you can read that post here. Or if you would like to watch a short video that outlines the group prayer time, here is the one featured on their website:


If you have a child in public school, I cannot recommend this ministry enough! Even if you don't have a child in public school, our kids need all the prayer they can get!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Won!! --Again!!!!!!

So I must admit, the last several weeks have been pretty unusual here in blog land. In November I won my very first (as in ever) giveaway in blogland. And now I'm excited to tell you that less than a month later I won another one! How cool is that!!! Okay, enough rejoicing ;)

Rebecca, over at Rebecca's Hearth and Home, held a giveaway last week for the book "Given to Hospitality" by Judy Ann Lewis, and I won! I just received my book in the mail, along with a precious handwritten card:


I'm really looking forward to reading it! Thanks, Rebecca!



(and a special thanks to my friend Tam for sharing about the giveaway on her blog)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CJ & Shelley Hitz

If you know anything about me, you know that I love these people! I have had the privilege of volunteering for Shelley for several years now, and even had the opportunity of meeting them last year:
(Photo of Shelley and I taken by CJ)

CJ and Shelley are currently living in an RV traveling around the country speaking at churches, schools and other events for the glory of Christ. They also are hosting a book launch today as a matter of fact! The have revamped their book "Mathematics of Jesus" and re-named it "Forgiveness Formula". This powerful book is simply amazing (you can read my review here).

If you are interested in this wonderful book, when you buy a copy today you receive a ton of free bonus gifts as well as being entered into the grand prize drawing for a new Kindle Fire, Nook, iPod Touch or one of several other fabulous prize packs. Plus, all proceeds go to helping them spread the Gospel of our Lord and Savior. You can't get any better than that!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spiritually Unequal Marriages

As I mentioned on Thursday, I am going to be highlighting some ministries this month that I love, and I also mentioned last Monday that I was going to be doing Marriage Ministries on Mondays. The first marriage ministry that I want to highlight is "Spiritually Unequal Marriage". Lynn and Dianne have an amazing blog designed to help other women who are in the midst of an unequally yolked marriage. You can visit their blog at:




They have also co-authored a book "Winning Him Without Words". I haven't read it, but knowing these two women from their blog, I'm sure it's great! Don't trust that? You can read a sample chapter here.

They also have a show that they do entitled "The Intentional Marriage":



Anyway, point being that they are two fabulous ladies with hearts for Christ, and helping other women who are in spiritually unequal marriages.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Anti-Santaism: Distraction

This is the seventh post in my Anti-Santaism series. I will be adding a post every Friday between now and Christmas, you can read the introduction post here.

No Santa


Last week, I wrote about the two masters of Christmas, and I want to continue on with that train of thought. You see, one of the biggest things that bothers me about Santa is just the distraction that he poses. If you choose to celebrate Christmas as the time of Christ’s birth, then all Santa does is take away from that focus.

Every year at this time you hear Christians saying that we need to keep Christ in Christmas, but I believe that you can try to keep Christ in Christmas all you want, but unless Christmas is about Christ, than it really isn't His birth we're celebrating. Keeping Christ in Christmas, how would you feel if your family celebrated your birthday without you? Yeah, they decided to keep you in it by singing happy birthday to you, but it really wasn’t about you at all? Here is a video that illustrates that point:



This video really makes me think about our Christmas celebration. However, if you were to add a big clown in there that everyone was surrounding, and celebrating, it would really just make it that much worse. If you took the focus off of Mark, and put it onto the clown, but still remembered to keep Mark’s name involved, I think that would describe what Christmas looks like in a lot of homes. I’m not saying that to judge anyone. After all, I grew up in one of those homes. I just think it’s a great mental picture to help us see things from a different point of view.

It might be even more fitting to imagine Mark as a military man who is overseas fighting for our country. He isn’t getting shoved aside, but neither is anyone speaking to the video camera with a special message just for him. No one seems to really care about him, it’s just a great reason to come together. When he gets that video tape and sits down to watch it, he isn’t going to feel an overwhelming sense of love for him. He will be glad that his family got to come together, but with no one even recognizing him personally, it won’t feel like it was really about him.

Christmas when focused on Santa, isn't the celebration of Christ's birth, it is all about the presents that Santa brings, the looking forward to his coming, and something about a baby. Even for those few families that somehow manage to keep Christ at the center, but still include Santa, I don't see how that adds to Christ's birth. The only thing Santa can do is take away our attention from our Lord and Savior. Time that could be spent learning about the birth of Christ, is instead spent on writing letters to a man who either doesn't exist or is dead (depending on how you see it). Time that could be spent singing praises to our God and Father, is spent singing about a jolly fat man (as my husband calls him) and his reindeer. Time that could be spent looking forward to the return of Jesus someday, is spent in anticipation of parents lying to their children about someone breaking into their house and leaving them presents.

Yes, our kids get presents on Christmas morning, but they are pretty much all out when they go to bed that night. They can look forward to opening them, but they don't lose sleep in anticipation of animals on the roof. What we think about the night of Christmas is that somewhere many, many years ago a baby came into this world as a gift to us. It might not (or was not) on this particular night, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that He came for us.

Do I think that adding the Santa distraction to our holiday would be a bad thing? With every fiber of my being. If it doesn't add to our faith in Christ, what is the point? Fun? We have tons of that. Magic? The Bible says that God abhors magic. Innocence? Where is the innocence in lying? The only thing I can conclude is that Santa takes our focus off of Christ. I can't think of a single thing he could possibly add. Santa, in my eyes, is a huge distraction for Christians who choose to celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cure for the Common Life

Max Lucado has been my favorite author for quite some time now, and his latest book (Cure for the Common Life) did not disappoint!

While my life has been hectic lately, and I have had a very hard time trying to find time to read, I found this book simply inspiring. The simplicity of the ideas carried powerful messages. It seemed like it took forever to get through the first chapter, but I don't know if that was just because of me being so busy or if it was just that I didn't relate to the sports metaphor? Either way, I still enjoyed this book immensely.

"Learn to love tomatoes, appreciate the sound of an accordion, take art supplies to the canvas, not the sin, and view each child as a book, not to be written, but to be read." ~ Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life



I review for BookSneeze®

Ministry Month!

Each December bring tons of new support for ministries. Some people are trying to donate before the end of the year so that they can write it off on their taxes, others are just in the charity mood. People donate money, food, time, and energy to all kinds of ministries during this month. For others, on December 31st when they are making their New Year's resolutions, they decide to be more giving in the coming year. For all of these reasons I have decided to feature some of my favorite ministries here on my blog during this month. I do hope you will join me, as I am involved in each one of these ministries in someway, and totally believe in their causes.

The first ministry that I want to mention is Thankful Thursday! While this isn't your donate money, serve the community ministry, it is still a ministry. It is a ministry of encouragement, a ministry of hope, and a ministry of community. It's so wonderful to come together with other believers and just be thankful, to praise God for what He has done. The ministry of Thankful Thursday has been so encouraging to me, and I am so thankful for it. I'm thankful for Iris at Grace Alone and Laurie at Women Taking a Stand who both volunteer to host this link-up. And I am thankful for each one of you who take part as well, giving your time to write a post about thankfulness, or to visit a blog and leave an encouraging comment. I am just so thankful that we can come together each week, and be thankful together!



Obviously, this Thursday I am thankful for ministries. I'm thankful for the people that volunteer their time and resources, just to help others. I'm thankful that in the self-centered age that we live, there are people who still know how to give without recieving. I'm thankful that there is the opportunity to help people that we may never meet, or even know that we are helping.

If you have a ministry that you would like me to mention, please e-mail me at heatherhart84@gmail.com

Oh! And don't forget to hop on over to Iris's blog and check out the other Thankful Thursday posts :D

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unshackled and Free

Are you free in Christ, or do you find yourself bound by your circumstances, sins, or even your past?

If your answer was one of the latter, you need to know that you are not alone. So many Christians today don’t feel like they are truly free. We feel like there is no way to move forward because of where we are or where we’ve been, and that is exactly how Satan wants us to feel. The tighter we’re bound by his lies, the less of an impact we will have for Christ. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, we can find lasting freedom in Christ, and that is why CJ and Shelley Hitz have put together a free, 4-day online conference entitled: “Unshackled and Free”. They want you to know, and experience, the freedom that can only be found through Christ.

Starting tomorrow at 8PM EST each evening for 4 days we will hear from powerful speakers: Rae Lynn DeAngelis (www.livingintruthministries.com), Janet Perez Eckles (www.JanetPerezEckles.com), Renee Johnson Fisher (www.devotionaldiva.com), and Scott Mason (www.ScottMason.org), as they talk about how they have found lasting freedom in Christ, and how you can too.

They will be covering topics that are easily related to, including being set free from eating disorders, overcoming life circumstances, reflecting Christ in our relationships, and becoming a new creation in Christ. If you have ever felt bound by something in your life, regardless of where you stand today, I encourage you to sign-up for this conference. You can have lasting freedom in Christ, and these speakers would love to help you get there.

Each session will be broadcasted live, as well as recorded for audio replay. This way you can attend from the comfort of your own home, and if the scheduled time doesn’t work for you, you can simply listen at a time that is more convenient. Each call will be under an hour to make it easier to fit into your busy schedule of work, family and other activities. I do hope that you will join us for this life changing conference. For more information, including a complete schedule of events and speaker information, please visit: http://www.theforgivenessformula.com/conference/.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Anti-Santaism: Two masters?

This is the sixth post in my Anti-Santaism series. I will be adding a post every Friday between now and Christmas, you can read the introduction post here.

No Santa

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Santa...

Last week I wrote about the Christmas idol, so I thought I would continue on that tone this week, and write about Luke 16:13 where Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. My question for you is, who is Lord over your Christmas? Can you really celebrate both Santa and the birth of Christ? Take some time and ponder the following questions:

What do you look forward to each year at this time?

Do you look forward to studying and celebrating the birth of Christ, or do you look forward to decorating and Christmas morning when Santa's presents are under the tree?

Are you singing praises to God and to Santa? Which songs do you think are more 'fun' to sing?

What is your primary focus at this time of year? At Christmas time do you walk around telling others of Christ's birth, or do you ask what Santa is brining or what gifts people want?

Are you celebrating Santa and despising that Christ wants to be the Lord of this day as well as all of the others? Are you holding out saying that Santa is great, and that Christ needs to get over Himself and share the day with someone else? Obviously you would never use those words, but is that the feeling in your heart?

Can you really serve and celebrate God and Santa at the same time? Or on this day and this season each year, will you love one and hate the other? Will you be devoted to one and despise the other, because the Bible says that we cannot serve two masters. Will you serve Christ on Christmas, or will you devote yourself to protecting Santa, to serving him, and to promoting his legacy?


No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ~ Luke 16:13

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Won!

I'm so excited! Last week I won a giveaway over at Homesteader's Heart, and my prize came over the weekend! Here it is:


This beautiful doorknob pillow (that is not hanging on a doorknob because Kim said it was okay) was made with extreme skill by her friend Kathy over at Bluebirds Nest. Isn't it adorable?!

And I absolutely loved the personalized little card that she sent with it! This is the first thing that I have ever won in blog-land and Kim really made it a memorable experience for me :D

Thanks, Kim!

Homesteader's Heart

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mr. Monday

Last Monday I wrote about Squelching vs. Changing, and that is still very much on my heart. We have begun building back up our Coca-Cola themed dishes as McDonald's is conveniently giving them away free currently. So instead of sending a lunch with Mr. Amazing, I'm having him stop by and pick one up once a week. :D

That being said, while I have a huge list of things I want to write about for Mr. Monday, I am considering suspending Mr. Monday's until after the holidays. I'm just swamped right now, it it's hard to complete a train of thought.

December is going to be ministry month on my blog, so I might write about a ministry related to being a wife or marriage in general on Monday's just to keep the flow... If you know of any, please let me know :D

In the mean time, I hope you have a thankful Thanksgiving. :D

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Liebster: Blog it forward


I need to thank my good friend, Tam over at Apron Strings & Holy Things, for awarding me the Liebster blog award!

"Liebster" is a German word meaning friend, love or dearest. This award is shared and given to up-and-coming blogs that have less than 200 followers.

Here's how this award works:

~ 1 ~ When you receive this award, copy and paste it to your blog.

~ 2 ~ Thank the blogging friend who awarded you and make sure you link back to their blog so others can check out their fabulous blog too.

~ 3 ~ Choose your five (5) up-and-coming blog picks then go share the love by commenting on their blog.

~ 4 ~ Hope and encourage that the recipients will spread the love to other up and coming blogs! (Be sure to check their blogs for the list to check out other great blogs!)

Thank you so much, Tam!!

Now, to blog it forward, here here are some of my favorite up and coming blogs. Some of these I just recently discovered, but I am loving them!!!

A Future & A Hope

Christ In The Chaos

The Daze of Us

OPEN KIMONO

Write at Home Mom

And, while you're out blog hopping, please be sure to stop by Tam's blog:

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Friday, November 18, 2011

My Anti-Santaism: Christmas Idols

This is the fifth post in my Anti-Santaism series. I will be adding a post every Friday between now and Christmas, you can read the introduction post here.

No Santa


This week I’m writing about another topic that is very sensitive to me. The second commandment tells us not to have idols(Exodus 20:4), yet I believe that is exactly what Santa has become to millions. He is the idol of Christmas. People send their requests to him instead of God, they sing the praises of his name, and they line up for their chance to see him, going so far as to wait in the cold for hours for their 5 minutes of his time. People decorate their homes and yards with his image, then they wait while he ‘visits’ them at night, hoping that they found favor in his eyes. If that isn’t idolatry I don’t know what would be.

Exodus 34:14 says “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” We worship God in prayer and in song. Yet come Christmas time, the time that has been set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we submit our requests to someone who is not God, and then we sing praises to him and about him. We sing asking him to hear us (Jolly old St. Nicholas lean your ear this way…), we sing about his appearance (Must be Santa), and we sing about pleasing him (Santa Claus is coming to town). Then Christmas morning, we kneel before the tree, which is like Santa’s alter if you think about it. If we leave a tribute to him (usually milk and cookies), we always leave it near the tree to be sure that he finds it. We gather a the tree to see if they have been blessed by this magnificent being. Some families even encourage children to write thank you letters to him. Expressing their gratefulness for what he has done for them.

So what about you? Who will you be honoring during this holiday season? Are you worshiping God alone, or are you sharing His praises with Santa?

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. ~ Psalm 69:30

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Moms In Touch

I am so excited about Moms In Touch International! I don't remember who suggested the organization to me a couple of weeks ago, but I am so, so, so thankful! There isn't a group for the boy's school yet, so I just started praying by myself, and I have to tell you, it is amazing! I have been searching to improve my prayer life for a while now, but have never been able to find anything to help me go beyond the pray in the moment prayers (which are good, but they aren't enough).

So! While it is a rule that what is prayed in a MITI prayer group must stay within the group, since I am praying by myself, I thought I would share what my first hour of prayer looked like:

Before I could start I had to pick an attribute(or name) of God, and look up the definition and supporting scriptures. Because one of my biggest struggles about putting the boys in public school was that I wouldn't be as involved as I wanted to be. As a parent, it is hard to put them someplace where I can't protect them, or help them. So I chose to praise God for being our Father.

Praise:
Attribute: God our Father
Definition: Our parent/protector - originator, founder, or inventor.
Supporting Scriptures:
2 Corinthians 6:18~ “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Hebrews 12:7~ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Proverbs 23:13~ Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Proverbs 13:24~ He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
1 John 3:1~ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Romans 1:7~ To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

--My Prayer--
Praise be to you the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, you have blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Thank you Father, for making me your daughter. You Lord are a mighty God, lavishing your love on us. I praise you Lord, for all that you do. I praise you for being a wonderful Father, not spoiling me Lord, but being a loving Father that disciplines me, and lets me know when I am in the wrong. I praise you for offering me grace and peace in every situation, and for calling me to be a saint. Thank you for loving me.

Confession
During this time I confessed some of the sins that God has been convicting me of (worry, fear, and anger mainly).

Thanksgiving
I took this opportunity to continue thanking God for letting me be His child, for being my protector. I thanked Him for being my guide and being trustworthy.

Intercession
I chose 3 Scriptures to pray. Then I prayed one over each of my boys, and the last one over all of the children at their school~
Matthew 6:9-13~ “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

--My Prayer--
Lord, I ask that you are with Tyrel today. Please forgive him for his sins, and help him to forgive those who sin against him. I pray Father, that you help him to resist temptations and deliver him from the evil one.

Ephesians 1:17-23~ I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

--My Prayer--
Father God, please give Kainen the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that he may know you more. I pray that you open the eyes of his heart so that he may be enlightened and know the hope which can only be found in you. Father, please help him to know your power and love. You loved him enough to die for Him and you raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at your right hand. Help Kainen to know these things as truth. Father God, I ask that you show him exactly who you are, and fill him with your spirit.

Philippians 2:5-11~ Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

--My Prayer--
Father God, I ask that you are present in [name of school]. Please help the attitudes of all of the children there to reflect that of Christ Jesus, who, in being God himself, did not consider being equal to you on earth. Instead, He made Himself nothing. He became a servant, Lord. He came to live among us, and serve us. He humbled himself, and was obedient to the point of death, Lord! And because of this, you have exalted Him. Help every student at [name of school] to know this as truth, oh God. Every knee will bow to Christ, both in heaven and on earth. Help the students of [said school] to confess with their mouths, Jesus as Lord, for your glory. I pray.

Next I prayed for some specific requests:
I prayed that Ty would try hard and do his best, without giving up or getting frustrated (in accordance with Galatians 6:9)
I prayed that Kainen would control his seemingly growing anger (Psalm 37:8 & Psalm 4:4)
And I prayed that all of the students would come to know Christ (John 3:16)

I could not find a list of the staff at their school, so I prayed the prayer that they recommended over the principle. Then asked that God would protect the children from lies over the coming Christmas season, and that the school would take no part in encouraging them to believe the lies. Because the boys just started there, I didn't have enough information to pray for school concerns. I guess that I could have prayed for safe travel to and from the school, but I didn't think of it at the time.

Following intercession for the students, staff and school, I prayed for the MITI organization (using their prayer calendar for requests), to find at least one other mom at the boys school to pray with, and then because I live in Colorado I prayed for the MITI moms, group and staff in Angola, Ethiopia, Mauritius, and Slovenia with the requests I found on the website.

I closed my prayer time with the benediction found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 and lastly Philippians 4:20.

It was such a wonderful time of prayer. I highly recommend looking into this organization. Even if you don't have kids in school, or even if you don't have kids. It has changed my prayer time with God, and I just felt so much better after spending that time with Him! I am planning on keeping one day a week set aside for praying for the boys and their school (Mondays), but setting aside a time everyday to follow this prayer outline to pray for other things.

You can learn more about Mom's In Touch at their website.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Changing vs. Squelching...

It's Mr. Monday again here at Servant, Wife, Mother, and one of the things that has been heavy on my heart this week is the topic of changing vs. squelching. Very few people remain the same forever. We grow, we change, we mature and develop. We learn to like different things. I would hazard a guess that less than half of you like the same things today as you did when you graduated high school. The same goes for our Mr.'s. However, somethings don't change, instead they get trampled.

This was brought home hard one day this week when Mr. Amazing came home from work late. He had to be at work early the next morning and doesn't normally eat supper on nights like that. However he was hungry. One little thing you need to know about my Mr. is that he LOVE's simple food. He would be in heaven if I served hot dogs for lunch and hamburger helper for supper every single day. So, I tossed some hot dogs in the microwave and called it good. Now, I mentioned that he loves hot dogs, however, he gently reminded me that he doesn't love his hot dogs microwaved. :( He prefers them boiled then seared on the stove top. I knew this. I really did. However, the kids prefer the quickness that comes from the microwave. When I boil them for the children, I get groans and they stand in the kitchen longingly staring at the stove.

The whole situation made me start to wonder how many other things have been being squelched. I remembered when we were dating all of his dishes were Coca-Cola themed. If you look in our cabinets now, you will only find a handful of those dishes. The rest have been broken and replaced with more durable, plastic, dinnerware. Does he still like Coca-Cola themed plates? I'm sure he does.

I know that he also still loves his old '82 Supra that is parked in our driveway but never driven. That car was his heart and soul for as long as I can remember. He LOVES it. In fact, I think he use to love it more than me, but he's grown past that un-healthy car love. Since the time that he replaced it with a bigger vehicle (with more seats), it has had a tree fall on it, and one of our daughters has rubbed some of the now oxidized paint off of it. He doesn't complain, but I know that it is something he cares about.

So for Mr. Monday this week, I would love to hear about some of the things that have changed in your husband since you started dating or got married. Is there anything that hasn't changed but has been squelched by kids, marriage, or life? How can we stop squelching, and start nurturing?

Thoughts anyone?