“Christmas is Here” — JJ Heller

“Christmas is Here” — JJ Heller

Christmas is Here!

I love Christmas music! From Thanksgiving to New Year’s it’s the only kind of music I want to hear. This year I got started a little early though, thanks to JJ Heller’s new album, Unto Us. She released her lyric video for “Christmas Is Here” in October and I’ve been blaring it through our house ever since. The song itself is soft and sweet but the message of the song is so powerful.

 

Here are my favorite words:

Join in the chorus, sing to the baby

Sleeping beneath the stars that He made.

Light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless

His love will never fade away .

Heaven came down from earth

To bind our wounds and wash our sins away.

Let us adore him,

Lift up your voices.

Sing it out loud,

Sing it out clear.

Christmas is here. 

Who can resist the urge to praise God for the moment that our maker came to earth to love us in the flesh? Adoring Him. For my family, that is what Christmas is about. The gifts, Santa pictures, lights– those things are all fun–but the heart of it all is celebration for all that Christ’s birth meant. Celebration for his life here on earth.

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Music is a great way to adore Jesus this Christmas season! In the car, at work, around the house–Christ-centered music can help our hearts be full of worship all the time!

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My family is loving JJ Heller’s new album, Unto Us and we think you will love it too!

What are your favorite Christmas songs?

 

 

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The Tradition of the Silver Box

The Tradition of the Silver Box

One of the most sentimental memories from my childhood is Christmastime. The glow of the Christmas tree on the night of Christmas Eve. Candles lit throughout the house, special trinkets on display, festive music filling the air. The glowing fireplace filling the room with warm air, stockings hung on the mantel. Such beautiful traditions took place in this setting. Under the tree were beautifully wrapped packages–our family gifts, of course, as Santa had not yet visited. The sweetest gift we had to offer each other, however, could not be wrapped, but was symbolized by a small silver box that hung on our tree.

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Proverbs 16:24 tells us that kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Words of affirmation and life are something we all need from others and something we should be able to sincerely express to those around us.
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Family so often gets our worst. They are the ones on the front lines when life is stressful or frustrating. How beautiful it is to take a moment to say something lovely and life-giving to each other.
Our family had a special tradition of passing a silver box around on Christmas Eve, and with it, saying something kind to each other. We each took a turn to speak about every person. While it’s important to speak encouragement all through the year, there was something extra special about doing it at Christmastime. Our remarks to each other required time and forethought. Our kind words truly were a gift to each other. A sweet and precious gift.
Our silver box tradition was based upon the book Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer. In this book is a special poem that we read each year before we exchanged our kind words.

“Silver Boxes,” by Michael Bright

My words were harsh and hasty and they came without a thought.
Then I saw the pain and anguish that my bitter words had brought.
Bitter words that I had spoken made me think back through the past;
Of how many times I’d uttered biting words whose pain would last.
Then I wondered of the people I had hurt by things I’d said;
all the ones I had discouraged when I didn’t use my head.
Then I thought about my own life. Of painful words I’ve heard;
and of the times I’d been discouraged by a sharp and cruel word.
And now clearly I remember all the things I might have done;
but, by a word I was discouraged and they never were begun.
Lord, help my words be silver boxes.
Neatly wrapped up with a bow; that I give to all so freely, as through each day I gladly go.
Silver boxes full of treasure, precious gifts from God above;
that all the people I encounter might have a box of God’s own love.

On a night where God’s love is at the forefront of our minds as we are thinking about the babe Jesus, it is a beautiful thing to share God’s love in the words we say to each other. Oh, that our words might be silver boxes!

As we are mindfully preparing for our Christmas this year, let’s look for ways to speak life to each other, and to encourage each other with words as sweet as honey. The best part about this tradition is that is costs nothing, yet it is truly meaningful!

Merry Christmas, friends!

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What Happened When I Deleted Facebook

What Happened When I Deleted Facebook

Social Media is Good…Except When It’s Not

This is not your typical talk of social media cleanse. You see, I’m on social media all the time–undoubtedly more than I should be, but nevertheless I usually feel no guilt. I enjoy keeping up with my friends and family. Those crazy articles keep me entertained with the comment section. I love reading blogs and encouraging posts from some of my favorite Christian authors. Those tasty cooking videos inspire me to cook dinner. I enjoy Facebook and other social media throughout the day and I feel no shame!

Except for when I’m on it too much. When I can’t even hear God’s voice because I’m so tuned in to the voice of everyone else. I knew I needed a break, so I planned a trip to my in-laws. It was the perfect set up. They would play with my toddler and I could dive into the Bible and spend some much needed time in prayer. The part I felt most convicted about? A break from social media. Five days!

This wasn’t coming from a negative perspective, as I really do enjoy social media. One of our awesome contributors Megan, wrote about how social media can be a tool and I love, love, love her perspective on that! And earlier I wrote about how I was trying to achieve balance with my phone time. I knew I was starting to get consumed again and I was running out of steam. I needed to go offline. No big fuss. Just a quiet break.

Deleting Facebook

To prove my commitment to myself I deleted the Facebook app from my phone! About five minutes later I started to feel the weight of what I was doing. I picked up my phone out of habit and went for Facebook, but of course, it wasn’t there. “This might be harder than I thought,” I said to myself. Suddenly I felt a little bit of freedom. This was going to be a personal retreat–a time to leave all of my distractions behind and embrace God’s presence.

I could tell that Facebook was desperate for my return–not my friends–actual Facebook. My email inbox started filling with e-mails about the notifications I had piling up and posts my friends were making. I felt tempted to log on, but I didn’t! I made it through the five days without Facebook and I was so proud of myself for sticking to it!

So other than an exercise in self-control, what did I gain from this experience?

Time to think. The first day I had some quiet moments and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle them. But I learned to spend those moments in God’s Word. I worked my way through more of the Bible in those five days than I have in a very long time. All that reading gave me more dialogue with the Lord, and God revealed so much to me. I realized that I’m probably missing out on a lot of what God wants to show me when I’m overly consumed with social media.

When my five days were up I excitedly downloaded the app again, and enjoyed updating myself on everyone’s happenings. I saw two pregnancy announcements, one engagement, and another had their baby. As excited as I was to be back in the loop, I had a new excitement–the excitement that comes from turning off social media so that I can hear the Lord.

Hosea 6:3 says,

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
    or the coming of rains in early spring. (NLT)

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I’ve seen this to be true in my own life. When I take the time to seek God, he is always there to show me more. We can’t always get away for five days (wouldn’t that be nice!) but we can still find time to hear God. We just have to look for the spaces in our day that we are filling mindlessly. There is something to be said for putting our time with God first. I don’t want to discredit that! If you are searching for more time with him though, this might be your answer! If you can, take a personal retreat sometime, even if only for a day. Turn off your social media apps, take a little time for yourself, and a lot of time for meeting with God. He will respond! 

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Standing Tall with Purpose

Standing Tall with Purpose

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My daughter and I were recently reading The Scarecrow’s Dance by Jane Yolen. In this story a scarecrow gets blown off his post and in his happiness of freedom he takes off dancing from the cornfields. He comes to a window at the farm house, where he looks in on a little boy saying his prayers.

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“And bless tonight
Our old scarecrow
Who guards the fields
And each corn row
So that tomorrow,
When we reap,
There will be lots of corn to keep.”

 

Touched by hearing his purpose he danced all the way back to those fields, and feeling proud of his duty to defend the corn leaped back on to his post.

Everyone needs encouragement to stand tall with purpose

From a mother’s perspective I held back tears. For how many times does the job of a mom feel thankless and trapping? I’m so thankful for the times my family have let me known why I’m important to them. Knowing what we mean to our family will give us purpose and joy as we fulfill our maternal duties.

 

But it’s not just moms. Everyone needs words of encouragement and life spoken to them! All of us long for purpose. The single woman who lives away from her family, the widower or the retired couple, the teenager, the parents of the teenager, the young couple couple without children. All of us!
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:24 

 

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Preparing for Thanksgiving

As we are preparing to gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving might I offer a suggestion? Let’s use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to let those we love know why we value them. It doesn’t have to be a formal ceremony! You might make a comment to them about how they are making a difference, or perhaps a short handwritten note to them as they leave. You could publicly share your thoughts at the Thanksgiving table, everyone taking turns to talk about someone.
However it’s done, let’s fill our Thanksgiving guests not only with food but also with purpose so that when the weekend is over and they return to normal life they will know that they matter. If you are the host or not, I encourage you to find a way to speak words of purpose to those you are celebrating Thanksgiving with. Would’t it be wonderful to know they might stand tall like the proud scarecrow on his post, filled with honor for the duties they hold? What do you say? Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by honoring the precious people God has put in our lives!
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Embracing His Love

Embracing His Love

Last Thanksgiving my husband’s parents generously hosted Thanksgiving at a condo in Branson so that we could enjoy the holiday festivities at Silver Dollar City. It was truly a wonderful idea! We were very excited about taking our then two-year-old daughter to experience such a fun place!

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It just so happened that Silver Dollar City’s holiday hours were a tad bit inconvenient for our daughter’s nap schedule and so we went in the evening, a time that is usually not her happiest. In addition the crowds were heavy, which meant we couldn’t let her toddle around very much, and it was so, so cold. As you can imagine, she wasn’t very happy. She cried and cried. My husband’s sweet parents soon took her back to the condo where she could play in a more comfortable setting.

Of course, we were not angry with her for causing stress on our delightful plans. We could see her tiredness and frustration. Understanding her limits as a toddler, we had compassion for her. (As a side note, we really had a great trip and thankfully everyone was able to have a fun time. We just had to work around the limitations of our young daughter!)

The Lord’s Compassion

Psalm 103:8-14 says:

“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens of the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”

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Do you ever feel distraught over your mistakes? Perhaps you were given a wonderful opportunity to do something marvelous but ended up making a mess of everything. In these times it can be easy to let fear and embarrassment keep us from approaching our Heavenly Father. We might even back away from our church family. It is so easy to be overcome by our pride and insecurity. How easy it is to forget that God loves us as a father does his children, that he understands our limits and frailties.

I’m reminded of the prodigal son. He begged for his inheritance money and foolishly blew it all on worthless things while living a lazy lifestyle. When he humbly returned home with the plan to work as a servant, his father RAN to him and threw him a large party. His son’s return filled him with joy! Christ explained that God’s enthusiasm is the same when one of his precious children returns to him.

Embracing God’s Love and Presence

Our Father God is rich in love for us. We must be kind to ourselves when we mess up. We should humbly seek him at even our most shameful times. He understands. He will welcome us! When we rest in His love for us, we will be able to move past our mistakes and shortcomings. We can dare to do great things for Him without worry and doubt in our way!

So be encouraged, sweet friend! How freeing it feels to know the pressure to be perfect can dissipate when we truly embrace that we are His child, whom he dearly loves.

I love the music video for Andrew Peterson’s song “Be Kind To Yourself.”.” Two of his children are featured in the video with him, and the affirming words of his unconditional love for them are a gentle reflection of God’s love for us. I hope it will encourage you today if you are struggling with insecurity or past mistakes. God loves you so deeply! Embrace his presence today!

Click HERE to watch “Be Kind to Yourself”.

*A discussion topic found in The Lifegiving Table Experience by Sally Clarkson inspired this post.

 

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