What I Learned from Our Christmas Light Fight and the God Who Is “With You”

This week I received a not-so-subtle reminder of how Christmas used to be around our house.  It started out as an unnamed tension, a small inkling that something just wasn’t right between us.

Eventually, my frustration grew, and with it the realization that my husband and I were quickly heading down a path that neither one of us wished to revisit – the path of Christmas past.

In years past, unresolved issues often flared during the holiday season with the pressure of family functions and high expectations for extra quality togetherness.

Christmas expectations tend to create an unhealthy, doomed-to-fail attitude in my husband who struggles with baggage from the past.

Add to that my equally destructive tendency toward perfectionism (also heightened by Christmas expectations) and desire for magical family moments, and… well… you can imagine the disappointment when things don’t go as planned.

The Christmas Light Fight

It took a strand of Christmas lights for me to finally experience the “Aha!” moment we desperately needed.

Because every single year we argued over those stinkin’ Christmas lights!

Why, why, why?!

Why argue over something so silly and insignificant?

What I learned from a Christmas light fight and the God who is "with" you. Hope for the Hurting Wife sale|Being Confident of This|Christian women|Bible study|encouragement|devotional thought|inspiration|growing in Christ|progress|perfectionism|marriage|marriage help  #marriage #hope #Christianbook

Because we’re different.

My husband is a get-‘er-done, looks-good-enough-to-me kind of guy while I’m a detail-oriented, slightly OCD perfectionist.

His goal was to get the job done quickly while mine was to get the job done right!

And at Christmastime, of all times, I felt we should be on the same page (which, if I’m honest, really meant I believed he should get on my page). ;)

One year, we found a way around the seemingly inevitable Christmas light argument. Somehow, we managed to work together to get the lights on the tree without losing patience with each other.

It was our very own Christmas miracle!

Not only that, but we also managed to discuss a plan for the outdoor lights that we both agreed upon, and my husband carried out to near perfection.

That Christmas certainly wasn’t perfect, but it demonstrated real progress.

Sometimes, friends, we focus so intently on the standard, on where we desire to be, on the relationship that we desperately long for, that we fail to see the small steps that have carried us away from where we were.

When that happens, when we fail to see the progress, we wrongly believe that we’re stuck, doomed to repeat patterns of failure that we’re sick and tired of repeating.

Like our annual Christmas light fight.

Christmas Expectations & The Enemy

The truth is that Christmas, for all of its joy and light, is also a season of added stress – financial stress, relational stress, physical stress, and mental stress.

It’s enough stress to downright break an already limping marriage relationship like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

For women in particular, we often expect our husbands to be even more family-oriented during holiday seasons.

I can’t believe he’s acting like this at Christmas!

Doesn’t he love me enough not to ruin my holiday?

Can we get just one day without his selfishness – for the kids?!

Our unrealistic Christmas expectations provide fertile ground for the Enemy’s seeds of discontent.

Believe me when I say that the Enemy is keenly aware of the opportunity that added Christmas expectations provides, and he is quick to pounce on every opportunity to grow bitterness and resentment in our hearts, even during, no especially during the season of light.

It must make him incredibly angry to see families working together to decorate their homes in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth.

It must make him seethe with hatred to see the love and joy we experience in the act of giving to one another in honor of the Greatest Gift.

He must burn with rage to see families gathered around to listen to God’s Word, His love story come to life in the babe called Jesus, the God sent to earth to be “with us.”

No wonder he attacks families during the Christmas season.

There’s so much joy that he is determined to steal all that he can, and sometimes… sometimes we let him.

Friends, don’t let your Christmas expectations diminish your joy this year.

Unrealistic expectations add pressure to marriage relationships during the Christmas season! What I learned from a Christmas light fight and the God who is "with" you. Hope for the Hurting Wife sale|Being Confident of This|Christian women|Bible study|encouragement|devotional thought|inspiration|growing in Christ|progress|perfectionism|marriage|marriage help  #marriage #hope #Christianbook

The Setup for Christmas Success

Instead of setting yourself up for Christmas failure, set yourself up for success by:

  1. Lowering expectations. Be realistic! (will the Christmas light setup really matter in years to come? Or that perfect family photo – you know, the one where everyone is smiling but you remember the true feelings that reigned that day).
  2. Focusing on progress rather than perfection. (even baby steps are still steps in the right direction!)
  3. Recognizing the Enemy’s attempts to steal your Christmas joy.
  4. Keeping your mind stayed fast on the hope you have in Christ, the God who is with you!

Don’t let the sorrow of broken relationships or life’s hardships eclipse the light of the Savior’s birth.

After all, He came to be the God who is with us in all our brokenness, in all our sorrow and joy and love and frustration and messiness and wild beauty.

He came to be with us.

That’s the hope we have to offer you this Christmas season, that your God is the God who is “with you.” He never leaves you nor forsakes you, even when you disappoint yourself and your spouse by arguing over Christmas lights.

The God Who Is With You

He loves you with an everlasting love, even when you miss the first fourteen days of your advent plan.

He delights in you even when you fail time and time again.

He lavishes new mercies every morning upon you when you’ve spent half the night worrying about whether or not you and your spouse will make it.

He strengthens you to keep fighting for the healthy, abundant-life kind of marriage that He designed you to experience from the beginning.

He is the God who is with you.

Emmanuel.

And according to His word, nothing can separate you from his love, not even the prowling Enemy.

Believe in His promises today, friend. Cling to the hope that you are not alone!

When those dark thoughts and temptations enter your mind, just whisper His name – Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…

and remember He is the God who is with you, the ultimate, life-giving Gift!

*This post contains affiliate links.* Jen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Jen also participates in affiliate programs for other trusted products. Thank you for helping to support the ministry of this blog!

Hope for Wives This Christmas

Friends, we know the holiday season is rough on marriages, even healthy ones. But it’s especially hard on marriages that have nearly reached the breaking point. We know wives and spouses who are living unloved experience an intense loneliness and sadness during Christmas.

So, as a gift to you, my co-author Rebekah Hallberg and I have scheduled a special one-week Kindle countdown sale on our book, Hope for the Hurting Wife – a 30 day devotional for encouragement in your marriage.

What better gift can we give than the gift of knowing you are not alone, and that real Hope is within your grasp?

It’s the only kind of hope that is guaranteed not to put us to shame!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

If you’re living in a broken relationship, if you are a wife who is hurting this holiday season, I encourage you to pick up this book, especially while it’s so affordable.  Or maybe you know a fellow wife who is doing her best to fight for her marriage? Give her the gift of Hope this Christmas.

What I learned from a Christmas light fight and the God who is "with" you. Hope for the Hurting Wife sale|Being Confident of This|Christian women|Bible study|encouragement|devotional thought|inspiration|growing in Christ|progress|perfectionism|marriage|marriage help  #marriage #hope #Christianbook

Please don’t delay because the nature of the countdown sale is that the price increases incrementally as time passes.

Our greatest desire is that no wife should go through this Christmas feeling alone and hopeless!

Whatever your circumstances, choose to celebrate the hope of the God who is with you.

Let’s share that message around this season!

Jen :)

P.S.  My lovely and brave author friend Kaylene Yoder is also “birthing” these babies (below) into the world today. If you’re looking for more marriage and parenting encouragement, please check out her prayer journals! Harness the power of prayer to change your most important family relationships.

Why Tomorrow Could Be Too Late ~ Death and Jesus

You think it won’t happen to you, at least not yet. Death.

But it happened to a friend of mine just last night; a fellow blogger and most of her family passed from this life to the next as their home burned around them.

You think you have plenty of time.

As I prepared my children for bed this evening, we read a chapter from one of our Trailblazer books about the Salvation Army. This particular story happens to be about two orphans who sought refuge from the faith-based group.

And I thought of my friend Mandy’s surviving children, how they would be going to bed this evening for the first time without any parents. My heart broke for them all over again.

Without thinking about whether it was a good time or not, I told my kiddos about my friend’s tragic death right then and there. We talked about and prayed for the surviving children who I am sure feel left behind. My daughter even asked if we could adopt them, which brought a small smile to my face.

We talked about Jesus and how happy I was to know my friend and her family were now in Heaven even though I’m shocked and saddened to realize she will no longer live in this world.

Her death is the most recent in a string of deaths that have occurred in our lives this year.

And I keep thinking, all day long, we just don’t know how much time we have left.

I’m thinking of a man who sat in front of my church-planting husband and I last week, a man who heard the gospel clearly explained, a man who told us he knew he was headed for Hell. But when we asked if he was ready to accept Christ as his Savior, he responded with an honest, “No.”

He’s not ready. He thinks he has more time.

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I’m thinking of another man who recently passed away, a man who was laying in a hospital bed, a man who would never return to his earthly home. This man, this father, he too heard the gospel message, but this man said “yes” to God. And I’m confident that he now resides in Heaven.

I’m remembering a woman we spoke with a over a year ago now who has attended church her entire life, but when asked if she knew she was going to Heaven, her best answer was, “I hope so.”

I’m thinking that lost people are all around us here and wondering what are we really doing, I mean really doing, to make sure they have that same opportunity to know Jesus Christ?

What have I done here in this space to make sure you have that opportunity, too?

You think you have plenty of time…. until you don’t.

Life is fragile and temporary, but a vapor in the wind (James 4:14).

So in light of my friend’s unexpected passing, I’m appreciating my spouse more, and I’m holding my children tighter and telling them how much I love them.

But, friend, there are things in this world that matter even more than love for family and friends, things that matter beyond this life and for eternity.

So all day long I;ve had this burden to tell you what you need to hear most in the world.

God loves you and it’s His greatest desire to have a relationship with you. He created you for a purpose.

But sin creates a gap that we cannot overcome on our own.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23

We like to think of sin as the really bad things – like murder and rape and theft, etc. But sin is anytime we choose our way over God’s way. It’s missing the mark of perfection, and I don’t know about you, but I know for certain I am not perfect.

According to the first part of Romans 6:23, the consequence of our sin is death, separation from God both here on earth and for all of eternity.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

The Good News, also called the gospel, is that God desires relationship with us so much that He made a plan for our redemption. He provided a substitute who would pay the price of death for our sin – His one and only son, Jesus Christ, who bled red on the old rugged cross so that we might live!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8

Not only that, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. No! He rose again, proving his power over death and His ability to keep the promise of new life (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

Here’s the part some of us fail to understand – we cannot earn salvation on our own. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen many who falsely believe that they need to clean their acts up first and then come to Christ.

That’s putting the cart before the horse, friend, for two reasons.

First, we can never be “good” enough or righteous enough to please God on our own.

Second, we need Jesus to help us make changes in our lives. It’s only by allowing Christ to work in and through us that we can be the people we need to be, the people we were created to be from the beginning of time.

Are there broken areas in your life?

Do you struggle to overcome addiction?

Do you seek help to forgive others and heal from old wounds?

Do you wish for whole and healthy relationships?

Do you feel like a failure who can’t seem to do anything right?

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Christ alone is the answer to those struggles. He alone has the power to transform us from the inside out!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

But that power is only for those who accept Him. Accepting Christ means acknowledging your own sin problem, and recognizing and believing in Jesus as the only solution.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10

The Bible is clear that salvation is as simple as a choice to believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to reconcile yourself with God and to ask for forgiveness. There are no magic prayers to pray, no special words – just a confession that you are a sinner in need of saving, and that you believe Jesus alone can save you.

Let me offer another word of caution. Many people falsely believe that they have faith in God when what they really have is just a belief that there is a God. The two are not one and the same.

According to God’s Word, even the demons believe that God exists, and they recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet we know they will not receive eternal life in Heaven. Instead, they will remain separated from God and destined for Hell.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 7:21

Real faith in God is characterized by a belief that you are a helpless sinner, and a personal trust in Jesus’s work on the cross as a payment for your sin. Real faith humbly submits to Jesus, the son of God.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

If you are a visual learner, then please watch this video for a clear explanation!

The truth is that none of us are guaranteed even another hour, and this is one decision you cannot afford to put off.

I’m asking you, friend, do you know Christ?

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ as your Savior, would you do so today? I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have – email me at jstults@beingconfidentofthis.com .

If you’ve already taken that step to trust Christ, are you living out His plan for your life? Are you telling others of the Good News?

Because the truth is that it could happen to you; in fact, someday it will happen to you.

Use your time wisely, friends.

Live a life that matters.

Jen

For more on this subject, please visit these trusted sources:

How to Begin a Relationship With God

How Do I Become a Christian?

Who Is God and What Does He Have to Do with Me?

 

 

 

The One Time You Want to Be a Fool

I have a little confession to make:  I am afraid to fail, to look a fool.

Recently I realized I’ve been afraid to get excited about our church plant opening in less than two weeks.  Yes, me, a church planter’s wife. Afraid.

It all sounded so exciting back in the beginning and even leading up to the planning for our opening Sunday. But as the time draws nearer, I feel that familiar fear creeping up on me. What if we fail?

You know that fear, don’t you, friend?

Often we fear to take important steps forward in God’s plan for our lives because we might end up looking foolish if things don’t work out the way we think they will.

So we remain paralyzed, stuck.

I believe it’s the enemy’s favorite tactic when God’s people set out to serve and obey Him.  If he can overwhelm us with fear, then maybe we’ll freeze in place or start stepping backwards instead of forwards. Maybe we’ll even turn around, tuck tail, and run like Jonah in the opposite direction.

Maybe we won’t want to be fools for Christ.

But what the enemy doesn’t want you to know is that no effort is wasted when it is done in the name of the Lord. There is no such thing as failure in God’s economy when we walk forward in obedience!

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Gal. 6:9 NASB

Often the Lord asks us to do things that just don't make sense to the world or even fellow believers.  Throughout the Bible we see the evidence of such "fools for Christ." Are we willing to risk that label? And if so, what are the consequences? The One Time You Want to be a Fool. fool for Christ, fool for Christ quote, willing to follow Christ, Christian encouragement, followers of Christ

Consider these biblical “fools for Christ”:

Abraham sacrificed security and uprooted his entire family with no final destination in mind, then became the father of nations.

While building the ark, Noah preached for 100 years with zero converts, but his family was saved.

Daniel spent the night in the lions’ den, risking death rather than giving up prayer and changed the law of the land. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked into a fiery furnace rather than bow to an idol and influenced the heart of the King of Babylon.

Mary faced a world of scorn for the miraculous conception of the child within her, yet she gave birth to the Son of God.

And consider Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who had every right to strike his enemies dead rather than suffer on the cross for us.  Even as he strained for breath, those around him taunted:

And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  Luke 23:35 NASB

If Christ Himself was willing to look the fool for laying down His own life, why are we so hesitant to do so when laying down ours?

Why am I afraid to look a fool for the sake of His call?

Pride.

My own stinkin’ pride.

I’m learning that I’ve got to get over that silly pride issue if I want to be an effective servant of the Lord.  And you need to, also, friend.

This quote from recently departed Justice Scalia really speaks to me:

“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed. … If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

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Pride is the enemy of Courage.

If we want to be courageous, we must be willing to put our pride at risk, yes?

Listen, friends, maybe we can’t all have the influence of men like Abraham or Justice Scalia, or women like Mary, but we can all be everyday fools for Christ.

We can be fools for Christ by…

  • choosing forgiveness when the world would hold onto anger
  • raising children God’s way even if those around us scoff
  • remaining in a wounded marriage when friends advise divorce
  • sacrificing time to live on mission right where we are
  • following Christ into ministry even though we feel inadequate
  • packing up and moving when He says to go
  • writing when God says write or speaking when led to speak even if we’ve never done it before

We can be fools for Christ in a million other ways by simply following Him moment by moment, day by day.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot

Don't let naysayers keep you from God's plan for your life! Being a Christ-follower requires sacrifice, but you'll find yourself in good company with these other "fools."  fools for Christ, Christian encouragement, following Christ, trusting God's plan, jim elliot quote

We can leave jobs, and homes, and families, and possessions, all for the sake of Christ and count it as gain! We can look naysayers in the eye and say with confidence, “I aim to follow the Lord – that’s the best I can do.”

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” Phil. 3:7-8 NASB

Don’t be afraid to lay down your life like a fool no matter what anyone else has to say about it because the rewards are both now and for eternity.

What is it that the Lord wants you to do for Him?

Will you follow no matter the cost?

Be fools for Christ!

Jen :)

Sharing with: Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Wholehearted Wednesdays, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Grace and Truth

The Key to Finding True Love

Some say it is our deepest human need: to feel loved and accepted. This deep  need for love – it’s why we were designed for community, granted the ability to build relationships with others.

Yet many men and women alike walk through this life feeling unloved and unaccepted. I know this to be true because every month hundreds of you come here to this space searching one word.

“Unloved.”

Why?

The problem is that we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world; thus finding true love that lasts a lifetime seems nearly impossible. True love often escapes us no matter how diligently we search for it, and thus, we end up feeling unloved and alone.

Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places?

Many of us believe that we can fill the love-shaped void in our lives if we find that one special person we are meant to spend the rest of our lives with. That one person who will:

  • make us feel loved and accepted
  • love us unconditionally
  • bring out the very best in us
  • want only good for us
  • be willing to die for us – that’s how fierce the love is

We believe if we find “The One,” then we’ll never feel unloved again.  But even those who are happily married can sometimes feel unloved; it’s true.

Is love that lasts impossible to find then?

Many people walk through this life searching for the cure for feeling unloved.  They believe that if they find "the one" then they will find love that lasts.  But it doesn't always work that way.  Finding true love that lasts isn't a simple task.  Read here for the missing key!

Don’t give up just yet, friends because I’ve got good news for all of us today: there is such a person!

There is One who already loves unconditionally;

One who fills the void perfectly;

One who brings out the very best in us;

One who wants only what is good for us;

One who not only was willing but who actually suffered and died in our place also – that’s how fiercely He loves.

The cure for feeling unloved lies only in one person, and His name is Jesus.

If you need help finding true love, then He is the answer!

Maybe that sounds too easy for you, too simple or too trite.

Maybe you struggle to believe He is real, or that He could ever love someone like you.  Maybe others have hurt you, let you down in life and you’re not even sure if you believe in true love anymore anyways.

Before you laugh me off or click away in frustration, please hear me out.

The world is not kind to those who wish to find true love.  No, the world – fallen men and women – seek love for themselves first and foremost. We find love hard to come by, and thus, hard to give.

We’re so true-love deprived that we fear we can’t afford to just give our own love away.

But we don’t have to stay stuck that way, friends. We don’t!

I said it before and I’ll say it again.

The key to finding true love isn’t a formula, nor a special prayer, nor a happy accident, nor a karmic promise to those who “give back to the world.”

The key to finding true love can only be found in the person of Jesus.

Listen!

Listen to the lengths He has gone in order to prove His love is true.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. Jn. 15:13

 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us… 1 Jn. 3:16a

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jn. 3:16

This is True Love, friends, the kind that sacrifices all for the sake of another, even if that person never returns the love He gives.  That’s pure love like we’ve never seen before and will never see again.

Many people walk through this life searching for the cure for feeling unloved.  We believe that if we find "the one" then they will find love that lasts.  But it doesn't always work that way.  Finding true love that lasts isn't a simple task.  Read here for the missing key!

The key to finding true love is in a personal relationship with Jesus.

What does that mean?

A personal relationship goes deeper than just belief that there is a God or that Jesus exists, or even that He died on the cross for the sins of the world.  The Bible claims that even the demons recognize God and shudder, yet they have no personal relationship with Him. (James 2:19)

A personal relationship with Jesus begins with an understanding of your personal sin and how that separates you from the love of God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Rom. 3:23

As much as we hate to admit it, we are all broken. We’ve run away from our Creator God’s original design for us, and this has left us unable to be good and acceptable and whole on our own.

You don’t believe me?  You think mankind is naturally good?  Then why are you here searching for the key to finding true love?  It should be easy to find if that were the case.

If mankind were intrinsically good, then we would not feel so unloved.

A quick glance around our world and all of its pain tells us that mankind isn’t naturally good. And if you’re honest with yourself, you can admit that you have to work at being good, just as I do.

Being good doesn’t come easily or naturally.

That fact doesn’t negate the beauty of the human experience, though. In fact, our Creator God values us so much, in spite of our flawed nature, that He sent His only Son to die in our place, bearing our shame and punishment.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23

That death was and is ours to pay, friends!

The wages of sin, death, is what we have earned by our own choices in life to walk away from God’s plan in favor of our own plan.

But don’t despair!

The good news is that True Love took what we deserved and nailed it to the cross, just for the joy of knowing us, redeeming us, and calling us His own!

So many people are still searching for that one true love, but true love is hard to come by these days.  Read here for the key to finding true love that lasts a lifetime!

Who wouldn’t want that kind of sacrificial love in their life?

Because of Jesus’s death on the cross in your place, you can have that personal relationship with Him. It is a free gift, ready for the taking.

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

[T]hat if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Rom. 10:9-10

It’s really that simple.

Believe.

Believe that True Love is real, that True Love died in your place out of love for you.  Believe that the free gift of salvation is yours for the taking. Choose True Love and you won’t have to go through this life feeling unloved for another second.

The key to finding true love, the kind that lasts for a lifetime?

You won’t find it in a woman or a man.

It’s only found in Jesus.

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

 

Jesus Wins ~ Grace and Truth Week 26

I come to you this week with a sad and weary heart, friends.

Why?

Because I am witnessing firsthand what happens within a local body of Christ when leaders begin to question the validity of God’s Word and assert society’s interpretation onto Holy Scripture.

There is a sense of loss, of betrayal, of disappointment and devastation that I cannot adequately convey to you.

And I share this with you not to stir up some former controversy or to rehash previously argued points. No, I think by now we all know where we stand as individuals.

I share this story here because the closeness of this particular disappointment made me realize how lonely recent events might make one feel. And I’ve learned over my lifetime that loneliness is one of the enemy’s greatest weapons when we allow it to be.

Many of you are finding yourselves in a similar unexpected minority amongst your friends who also claim Christ.

You may feel utterly alone and be tempted to acquiesce. You may even be falsely accused, your character maligned, your morals despised.

Your very Christianity called into question.

To you, my Bible-believing, Christ-following friends, I would say take heart!

You are certainly not alone in your view on the authority of God’s Holy Word. You are certainly not alone in your desire for truth-telling either. I hope to share more with you on that later this week. :)

That said, I appreciate this voice this week:

“When the leading pastors of the land begin distorting the truth and adjusting the principles to fit the current cultural trends the moral compass gives an uncertain reading.” ~ F. Dean Hackett

Uncertain – yes, these are uncertain times.

Yet this voice here, gives me hope for what is to come:

“If there is any good that could come from this Supreme Court decision, it would be that a clear and distinct call would go out to the body of Christ to repent.” ~ Rosilind Jukic

Let it be, Lord.

So carry these words from Jesus with you into the coming weeks:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jn. 16:33

Because in the end,

Jesus wins.

Jen :)

 

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It Is Finished

“Yeah, tomorrow is Good Friday because you get a break from school,” our six-year-old daughter quips.

“No, sweetie, that’s not why we call it Good Friday. We call it Good Friday because that’s the day Jesus took our punishment by dying on the cross and paying for our sins,” I explain.

“Oh, that’s the day Jesus died?  That’s sad.” She grows solemn.

And we talk about it then, right there at the supper table, we talk about how He knew the suffering He would endure, yet He obeyed the Father anyways.

I think of them, His followers, the disciples, and how that day must have seemed anything but good to them. I think of the fear they must have experienced, the sorrow, the confusion. I wonder if they felt hopeless and helpless.

That’s what we humans do when the skies around us grow dark and suffering multiplies – we despair.

It’s our first response to most difficult situations. Like the disciples, we fail to look ahead, for we only see the present, the now.

Given the death and destruction of that day, some may wonder why we now call it Good Friday.  Certainly Jesus' followers wouldn't have called it a good day, yet today we call it Good Friday. Why? It Is Finished Thoughts on Good Friday

Yet on Good Friday we call the darkest day of their lives “good”  because we can see now what they could not then.

We have the broader perspective, the bigger picture. We understand that the pain, the suffering, the darkness and death that day brought were the beginnings of a bigger and brighter glory than any soul had ever known before!

But the death came first, before new life.

Isn’t it the same even now?

We must die to self in order to live for Him. And it’s scary and dark and painful, but it’s oh-so-necessary.

When we find ourselves on the other side, we can look back and call it “good.”

 

Given the death and destruction of that day, some may wonder why we now call it Good Friday.  Certainly Jesus' followers wouldn't have called it a good day, yet today we call it Good Friday. Why? It Is Finished Thoughts on Good Friday. Easter, Christianity, Faith, Christian Women, Christian posts, Christian encouragement, What's good about Good Friday?

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jn 10:9-11

On the other side of the cross painted red, we who believe can call that darkest, death-filled day Good Friday because…

with one fell swoop, one simple yet agonizing act of obedience, sin and death were defeated once and for all!

Given the death and destruction of that day, some may wonder why we now call it Good Friday.  Certainly Jesus' followers wouldn't have called it a good day, yet today we call it Good Friday. Why? It Is Finished Thoughts on Good Friday

So that we might know Him!

“It is Finished.”

Jen :)

I’m joining the Five Minute Friday crew this week!  We all gather at Kate Motaung’s place and free-write for five crazy minutes – no planning, no editing, no stressing. :)  Come join us if you like!

Also sharing with: Grace and Truth

Come Away With Me

Weary.

Burdened.

Just plain tired of being tired.

Sometimes we don’t realize how worn out we are until we have a chance to get away, a chance to rest, a chance to “be still.”  We don’t realize we’ve become weary in following our Father. We don’t realize we’ve become weary in serving others.

This past week we took some rest at a cabin in the woods during our children’s Spring Break.

I noticed that I didn’t feel as needy this year as I did last. Last year I was nearly desperate for some time away. Life seemed so very overwhelming in many ways then. And it’s not that life never feel overwhelming now, either, but it was different then.

I wanted relief.

I yearned for escape.

I thought that by “getting away” from it all, I might find peace from life’s problems. But those problems just followed me wherever I went.

I was looking for rest in the wrong places.

Come Away With Me, Rest, relaxation, get-away, finding-rest-in-Jesus

This year hasn’t been quite so difficult thus far, in spite of the flu-turned-bronchitis-add-to-that-mono months of December and January.  I have only one word for the difference – contentment. In general, I am content.

I’m certain the difference can be attributed to my walk with the Lord, which has been a little closer and a lot sweeter lately. I’m learning that no matter what comes my way, He is my only source of life, love, strength, shelter, and so much more.

In Him, I find rest.

Come-Away-With-Me, finding-rest-in-Jesus,  in-need-of-rest, feeling-weary

 

It’s that rest born from trust that leads to peace and joy beyond our understanding.

It’s a supernatural rest that doesn’t make sense using man’s logic because from the outside perspective our lives might look a little hectic. And the world would tell us, take some time for yourself. Quit serving others and serve self. You deserve it. You neeeeed it.

But I hear another voice that says take up your cross and follow me.

And just when I’m feeling overwhelmed that sweet reminder comes that by His side the burden will also be light.

Don’t get me wrong, now. I’m not against rest and I certainly need physical rest at times myself. But even more than physical rest, I need spiritual rest.

Do you have it, my sisters in Christ?

Do you have rest? If not, it’s yours for the taking and you can find it by abiding in Him moment by moment, day by day, trust building upon trust.

How-to-find-rest, Come to Me, Come-Away-With-Me. finding-rest-in-Jesus, I-need-rest, feeling-weary

Sometimes we need a rest.

But sometimes we just need Jesus!

Jen :)

While we were away, I had the opportunity to spend time taking pictures.  Lately I’m often reminded of the power of the Cross.  It’s because of the cross we can cease striving and be still. It’s because of the cross we can rest in the gift that is Grace.

Sharing with: 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

Kid-friendly Advent Printables

Every year the struggle remains the same: how do we keep their little hearts and minds focused on Christ when Christmas has become such a consumer-oriented holiday?

Enter the Christmas Adventure Box, a kid-friendly advent activity for the whole family.  Explore the spiritual significance of many of our favorite Christmas traditions, such as Christmas lights, candy canes, St. Nick, and more.

I first wrote about how we use this kid-friendly advent as a family tradition a few years ago.

If you haven’t read that post, I highly recommend you start there (just click this link).

I also recommend visiting my friend Lana’s site, which is where the idea originated. She gives more detailed instructions in a lesson-plan type of format which would be very helpful for teachers, homeschoolers, children’s church leaders, AWANA leaders, and so forth.

One of the things I love best about this kid-friendly advent activity is that it is very flexible!

Choose to do every day or just a few days a week, spend as little as five minutes or as long as an hour, and if you get behind (that never happens to us…haha), complete multiple days in one evening.

It’s advent that works for your family!

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

This year, I wanted to be a little more organized since last year flew by so quickly that we never actually completed the Christmas Adventure Box advent acitivity.  I was such a holiday hypocrite.

So, I created some free printables to attach to the items in the box (see below) with simple instructions for how to complete each day’s activity of advent for kids.

Using this method will prevent me from having to look up the blog each day or print out a new set of advent instructions when ours gets lost (which also never, ever happens, right?).

Want to keep Christ at the center of your family Christmas?  These printables make kid-friendly Advent easy! The Christmas Adventure Box is a fun, frugal, and kid-friendly activity for advent that will teach your children the true reason for celebrating the Christmas season!  Learn the spiritual significance behind some of our favorite Christmas traditions, such as Christmas trees, lights, stockings, and even candy canes!

 

And I thought if I was going to take the time to make printables for this advent for kids, then I might as well share with you all. :)

So, Merry Christmas to you, my faithful readers – here are free, downloadable printables to go along with your Christmas Adventure Box advent for kids. Just click the words below to download.

Kid-friendly Advent free printables

 

I plan to print ours out on card-stock, cut them apart and attach them to the wrapped items in our box, making this family advent activity even simpler than it already is.

I’m all for simplifying the holidays for less stress, especially with four kiddos in the house (okay, three kiddos and one young man).

Don’t forget to visit The Christmas Adventure Box post for details on how to get started and a handy list of needed items. Once your box is filled and the cards are attached, you are all set to go for this easy, kid-friendly advent that that whole family will enjoy.

Teach your children the stories behind holiday traditions

and, most importantly, how Jesus is the Greatest Gift of all!

Jen :)

If you find yourself worried about how to give your kids a good Christmas, read here.

Sharing with:

A Group Look, Cornerstone Confessions, Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Wholehearted Home, Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Grace and Truth

Because ~ We’ve Been Falsely Accused

Today I was falsely accused.

And it stung.

It’s happened before but this wound pierced especially deep because I knew.  I knew I was innocent.

I knew the accusations had more to do with the other person’s heart condition than any imagined offense on my part.  In fact, I knew I had been gracious, kind, and patient in spite of the circumstances.

To do right…and be falsely accused.

Have you been there before, my sisters?

I’m certain you have because even when no one else is accusing us, our Enemy is!  That’s even one of his names, the accuser.

Being falsely accused is one of the most difficult injustices to bear. However, as Christians we are guaranteed a Defender. Read on to find out how... christian women|identity in Christ|overcoming past|overcoming guilt|encouragement|women of faith|bible study|devotional thought

So often we find ourselves in need of a defender because we’ve been falsely accused, and we’re just hoping someone will stand in our defense.

Sometimes we look to friends or family members. Sometimes we look to brothers and sisters in Christ.

But only One can faithfully defend us.

I’m learning more and more to hear the Defender’s voice. I’m waiting more patiently for Him to fight on my behalf.  I can trust Him to go to battle for me rather than feeling the need to defend myself because

He has chosen me.

He has redeemed me.

He has declared, “No more condemnation” over me.

He says the same about you, too, my sisters. You, His beloved ones.

So, today I’m clinging to this promise:

 

Being falsely accused is one of the most difficult injustices to bear. However, as Christians we are guaranteed a Defender. Read on to find out how... christian women|identity in Christ|overcoming past|overcoming guilt|encouragement|women of faith|bible study|devotional thought

 

Yes, we’ve been falsely accused, but praise the Lord, we have a Defender!

His name is Jesus.

He speaks Truth over us.

The Enemy shudders at His name.

And nothing,

nothing can separate us from His love!

Jen :)

I’m joining in with my Five Minute Friday sisters again this week (albeit a little late).  We gather together at Kate’s blog and write on a one-word prompt for five frenzied minutes – no planning, no over-thinking, no editing.  It’s fun and frightening all at the same time.  This week’s word is “because.” Come join us!

And if you enjoyed what is written above, you’ll certainly enjoy this perspective from Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Also sharing with Grace and Truth