Reader Favorites ~ 2014

I’m so thankful for you, my faithful readers, my sisters in Christ (and let’s not forget the brothers, too).  You have made this space a friendly zone for sharing my most personal writings, and 2014 was just the year for it.  All year long, the Father has been challenging me to “Take Courage.” and having encouraging readers certainly helps me to do just that!

Often this space is mostly for me, a place to share what is on my heart, what I want to write about and hear about. But today I want to share YOUR favorites from 2014.  If you haven’t read these top posts before, just click on the individual pictures. Perhaps you’ll find a new favorite. :)

reader favorites 2014, Being Confident of This blog, top posts of 2014, number one posts, grace for the work-in-progress woman

Most time in the #1 spot:

marriage, Christian marriage, how to love an unloving spouse, feeling unloved, want to feel loved, loving a difficult spouse

“I’ll be honest. As a busy mom of four, I wrestle with this idea that God should be my sole supply. After all, God cannot help with the bedtime routine or sweep the kitchen or sign permissions slips or pay the bills, at least not in a physical sense.  I wrestle, too, with feelings of disappointment and unkind thoughts toward a husband whom I truly wish to respect.

So, how can I demonstrate love for my husband even when he’s not demonstrating love for me?”

Most comments in 2014:

confidence, fat girl insecurities, insecure, overweight, fat, trying to lose weight, obese, heavy, healthy body image, health

“I’ll never forget the first time I heard the word aimed at me.  He spewed it out like vomit, his eyes filled with disgust. “Fat,”  the boy accused me, and I believed it even though I wasn’t anywhere near “fat” back then.

I always was a…”

Runner-up for most comments in 2014:

That New Girl: Finding Confidence

confidence, finding confidence, that new girl, no condemnation, identity, loving yourself, identity in Christ, self-acceptance, imperfect progress

“Sin temporarily hijacks our child-of-God identity, the world teaches us that we will never be enough, and the pride and insecurity of self often confirms the lies. But the truth, sisters, the amazing truth is that we don’t have to be enough because He is already everything for us. It’s this Christ-confidence that sets us free!”

Most comments of all (even though it’s from 2013):

marriage, imperfect progress, perfectionism, grace, through my grace-colored glasses, work in progress

“Last night I had a little run-in with Perfectionism again.  He just won’t leave me alone.

He follows me wherever I go, pointing out flaws in my house-keeping, my parenting, my marriage relationship, even my walk with the Lord… He whispers lies to me: “you’ll never change” or “you’re never going to be good enough” or “why even bother anymore.”

I’ve been enslaved by his words before, but last night was different…”

The Top 5 written in 2014:

#1

big list of energetic indoor fun, high-energy kids, boys with energy, stuck indoors, cabin fever, school break, I'm bored, kids bored, get energy out

Are the kids driving you crazy? Do your boys have too much energy to stay cooped up indoors? Need a cure for cabin fever?  Is the weather outside frightful?  This huge list of ideas for expending pent-up energy while stuck indoors will help you stay sane!

#2

7 ways to teach bible verses to kids, teaching bible verses to kids, memory verse, preschool, toddler, children, homeschool, church, creative ways to learn memory verses, scripture

For moms, dads, Sunday School teachers, homeschooling families, Children’s Church leaders and anyone else who works with little ones – here’s how to help them hide the Word away in their hearts.

#3

dollar store deals, cheap homeschool supplies, early childhood education, preschool, toddler, preschooling with dollar store deals, what to buy at the dollar store for homeschool

This isn’t just a list of what to buy for the littles at the dollar store. It’s also a list of how to use the items you buy!  Great deals + great activities=happy learners.

#4

Saving money on kid's clothes, clothing budget, frugal, stewardship, single income family, clothing budget, tight budget, saving money, frugal living

This is part one of two posts on how to save money when buying clothes for a large family.  With three boys and one girl in the house, our tight budget really gets stretched when it comes to purchasing clothes and shoes for the kids. Over the years, I’ve learned quite a few tricks for working within our small clothing budget to make the most of it.

#5

keeping Christ in Christmas, kid friendly advent free printables, The Christmas Adventure Box, family advent activity, homeschool, church, AWANA, youth group, easy advent, flexible advent, advent fun

Kid-friendly Advent with Free Printables!  I created these as a companion to the Christmas ADVENTure Box that we do each year as an advent activity with our children. Our boys especially love the adventure aspect of it.  It’s an easy, flexible way to keep Christ in Christmas!

Thanks for making 2014 a great year for Being Confident of This!  And even though this isn’t a reader favorite (yet!), I want to leave you with one last post as you head into the new year. It’s close to my heart and really sums up what this year has been about for us.

Courage to Face a Giant

courage quote, fail or succeed, take courage in the Lord, be strong and courageous, facing a giant

Take Courage in the new year, my sisters!

Jen :)

Sharing with: The Pin-it Party, Grace and Truth,

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with  infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.

Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha.

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels. :)

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...                  How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t already have an ear infection complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were only back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong?

How?

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!

Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe your finances are in such a state that you don’t even know where your next meal is coming from.

Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance.

You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas.

Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas?

Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...      How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance.

He did it for you, for me, for them.

He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun.

The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, friends?

The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us.

It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen :)

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women, Tell It To Me Tuesdays

Best of 2014 ~ #TheLoft

Hello, Loft crew!  We made it through another week – whew! :)  Did you find it hard to choose a favorite from 2014 to share?  I certainly did.

I think I’m finding myself as a writer more this year, and so the choosing was difficult because I actually like some of what was written.  That’s an exciting thought, but also a little scary because it means I’m putting more of my real self out there.

In the end, it was a close tie between the post where I talked about my fat-girl insecurities and another one.

Since I’ve already shared about my fat-girl insecurities with The Loft crew, I decided to share something from earlier this year about choosing the struggle, fighting the fight, even when it feels like we might not be winning.  Look for it in the link-up.

I can’t wait to read YOUR best from this year, too!

Jen :)

If you are new here and want to join in, it’s an easy week to do so.

Just follow the instructions below.

We’d be happy to have you as part of our community of writers!

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

This Week’s Topic: “Potluck: Best of 2014″ (Link up your best post of 2014. “Best” is defined loosely!)

Next Week’s Topic: “Christmas Traditions” (Tell us how you celebrate this rich holiday.)

 

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

While there are many link and leave blog hops out there, we are different in that we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic. This fosters community and conversation. It also helps us practice “topic” writing as bloggers. Please mention The Loft in your post so we can find each other. Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic :)

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find and share with each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!

 

Courage to Face a Giant

Have you ever asked the Father for something big, something miraculous, and been so afraid that He might choose to say no that you avoid His presence altogether?

I have.

So you hide away, like the original sinners amongst the leaves in the garden, and when He calls, you cower because what if you don’t like what He has to say?  What if you don’t have the courage to face what’s coming?

Yeah, that’s me lately.

Courage, fear, cowering, hiding, avoiding

You feel this yearning to give in and stumble to His arms, yet your stubborn heart resists with questions like why? and right now?

My sisters in Christ, have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone?

Yeah, that’s me, too.

And perhaps, like me, you feel more than a little lonely standing there with your simple slingshot in hand. Maybe you long for a superhero sidekick or two…or three.

As you stand there, wind in your face, jeers wafting through the air from the Enemy’s camp, you hear a still small voice speak, “Courage!”

“Take Courage, my daughter.”

That’s the message I’ve been receiving from the Father all year long.

He’s been sending it to me a million different ways. Through a Beth Moore simulcast.  Through Bible Study.  Through a talk He had me prepare for a MOPS group. Through prayer and quiet time.  Through facebook posts and pintrest pins… you name the method – He’s used it.

At times I’ve soared gloriously on that message, that promise.  Other times I find myself a doubting Thomas, looking for evidence, asking for proof.

And I keep looking for rescue to come in human form, but He tells me, “Courage.”

Galations 1:1-0

 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

At first, I thought He meant the message for me in one specific area – that of pursuing writing and speaking.  But after a while I began to see that Courage applies to so many other areas of my life – marriage, parenting, trusting God, finances, and lately… well, this potentially life-changing  Giant.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about Courage, sisters:

       it’s not supposed to come from me or you or any human source.

Surprised? I was.

 

Have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone? Words for those times when you need courage to face life's "giants." There is only one way to succeed, and it doesn't depend on human effort! Courage to face a Giant from Being Confident of This

When you search for the word Courage in the Old Testament, you often find it used in connection with the phrase “be strong,” especially in the early years of Joshua’s leadership.

Keep in mind that Joshua was new in his leadership role, and he had some big shoes to fill. I mean, who wants to follow Moses, the man with the burning bush experience and the credit of leading the Israelites out of slavery?!

In addition, Joshua faced the enormous task of leading the people of Israel to conquer the Promised Land – hooray, right?!  Well, sure that sounds good after wandering in the desert an extra forty years, but something I didn’t realize until this year is that the Promised Land wasn’t empty.

No.

The Promised Land was filled with “giants” and well-fortified cities.  Joshua faced this very land.  No more Moses to look up to and learn from.  He was flying on his own set of wings now with a seemingly impossible task lying before him.

I’m sure Joshua was afraid. I’m sure he wasn’t completely certain that he was up to the task.

I’m positive because the Lord reassured him again and again in the first chapters of Joshua that He would be with Joshua.  He commanded Joshua four times to “be strong and courageous” in the first chapter alone!

And I’ve realized something about myself this year: I’ve taken the world’s view on Courage – you know, chin up, man up, just do it, what’s the worst that can happen, and all of the other sentiments we use to get past fear.

Maybe you have taken that view, too, without even realizing it.

But that’s just not God’s view, my sisters;  that’s not what He’s telling Joshua. It’s not what He’s telling me or you, either. Because when you look up the Hebrew for “strong and courageous,” you find both words or phrases (be strong, take courage) linked back to the Hebrew root “chazaq”  (pronounced khaw-zak’).

Last year I wrote about that root, but I was more focused on waiting patiently.

This year He’s telling me, “Take Courage!”

We must take it, you see, because “chazaq” doesn’t come from any human source. No, chazaq comes from a supernatural act:

as in David’s triumph over Goliath,

as in Samson pushing down the pillars,

as in angel armies going before Joshua as he led the Israelites in battle for the Promised Land.

Don’t you see? The courage comes from Him, sisters!  He doesn’t expect us to muster courage up within ourselves. He offers it from His very nature, for our taking!

Words for those times when you need courage to face life's "giants." There is only one way to succeed, and it doesn't depend on human effort!

It’s true. We’re destined to succeed in whatever He sets before us when “chazaq” comes into play.

So, I’m asking for some BIG things right now, Father.  And I’m a little afraid, so I’ve been hiding out, avoiding your Presence.  Hiding has only served to leave me feeling lonely and a little bit miserable. But like my friend Arabah Joy wrote, I’m asking for “rain” and I’m taking my umbrella with me.  I know I’m lacking in the courage department right now and the fear seems to be winning a little bit.  But I hear you say, “Courage, daughter,” and I know that means that You’ve got this. Chazaq – it’s Your Courage, not mine.

It’s Your battle, not mine.

Suddenly that giant doesn’t seem so big.

And I’m crying, but I’m grinning, too, ‘cause I’ve missed you, Father.

I’ve missed you.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go.

I hear Him whisper Courage to me, and to you, too, sister.

Do you hear it?

Jen :)

Sharing with: #TheLoft, Cornerstone Confessions, Rich Faith Rising, Missional Women, Jennifer Dukes Lee/Tell His Story, Work in progress Wednesdays, Grace and Truth

Lessons from 2014 ~ #TheLoft

It’s that time of week again! I’ll see you all in the link-up.
Jen :)

 

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

This Week’s Topic: “2014 in Review” (We are getting introspective this week. Share the greatest lesson of 2014 or anything else about this year that you’d like to.)

Next Week’s Topic: “Potluck: Best of 2014″ (Be prepared to link up your best post from 2014. “Best” is defined loosely :) )

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

PLEASE NOTE: While there are many link and leave blog hops out there, we are different in that we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic. This fosters community and conversation. It also helps us practice “topic” writing as bloggers. Oh, and please mention The Loft in your post! Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic :)

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!