“Christmas is Here” — JJ Heller

“Christmas is Here” — JJ Heller

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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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!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

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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Strange Way to Save the World – Michael Crawford

Strange Way to Save the World – Michael Crawford

Lana W

Lana W

I’m Lana, a native Oklahoman. Married 17 years to the first boy I ever dated. Mama to two amazing, darling girls. I’m a coffee-drinking, book-reading, home-educating night owl! An accountant in my life B.C. (Before Children), my dream job would be getting paid to read all day.And if you’re into Meyers-Briggs personality tests, I’m an ISTJ. Most important of all, I’m a follower of Christ.
Lana W

Joseph’s Reaction to Mary’s News

Don’t you wonder what Joseph thought when Mary told him she was going to have a baby? I can just imagine his shock at the news. I’ve always thought he must have been hurt and disappointed at first, maybe even angry. Matthew tells us that Joseph’s first reaction was to divorce Mary quietly. If Joseph had divorced Mary, how drastically different the story of Jesus would be! Once he accepted the news as God’s plan for a Savior, don’t you think he must have thought it was a strange way to save the world?

Fortunately for us and for the rest of the world, the Bible tells us that “while Joseph considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and gave him the rest of the story, so to speak. Aren’t you glad Joseph followed the angel’s instructions and married Mary despite his first doubts?

Have you ever considered that Mary might have had doubts about what the angel told her as well? Luke 1 says that Mary was greatly troubled at the angel’s greeting. And although she had questions for the messenger, she seemed to quickly accept what he told her.

Knowing our human penchant for questioning and doubting is one of the reasons I like this song so well. If I were Mary, I don’t know that I could have accepted the angel’s message as easily as she seemed to. But it seems to be part of her personality to reflect and carefully consider everything she observed concerning her son who would be the Messiah. (Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51).

May we all have a simple faith and an obedient trust like Mary did!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16

Healthy Holiday Habits

Healthy Holiday Habits

Julie W

Julie W

I am a certified fitness instructor and have been teaching group fitness classes for over 22 years. I am also a board certified holistic health counselor with a degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. I am 48 years old with a 25 year old daughter and a 23 year old son. My husband Chris and I have been married for 28 years. I have been a member of the Church of Christ my entire life as well as my mother, father and both sets of grandparents. I am the owner of a local food service based business and currently teach conditioning classes here in the Edmond area. I have been a strict vegetarian for many years but I will walk 10 miles barefoot in the snow for a good piece of chocolate! ;)
Julie W

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I am such a huge fan of all things fall and the holiday season!  What I am not such a fan of are all the years I spent feeling guilty for days after the holidays because of all the so-called bad food I let myself go crazy with.

I have since learned some simple healthy habits that keep me feeling totally satisfied with my entire holiday experience. I have determined to rid myself of the food-guilt relationship once and for all.

These tips also come in handy for that very purpose.

1. Focus on having a super-healthy couple of days prior to the BIG day.

Have a few meat-free days, load up on fresh produce, and try to reduce your sugar intake for several days, which will curb your desire for sweets a bit before you are bombarded with tons of desserts and treats.

2. Focus more on the gathering and the people present than on the food itself.

Yes, eating is a huge part of our American tradition, but take the time to really be present with your guests. Set a beautiful table and engage your friends in conversation and laughter, prolonging the eating experience. Statistically speaking, we do the most calorie damage in the first few minutes of eating. We power through the meal, and before we know it we have overeaten to the point of discomfort. Take time to savor the flavors and the simple joy of eating together. In a nutshell…slow down.

3. Keep some healthy go-to dishes on hand and even offer to bring a dish or two if you are the guest and not the cook.

Survey the table and fill your plate with the healthier options, filling up on those first. Then with the bit of room you’ve saved, go ahead and have the treats you look forward to every year. This strategy works wonders! You still enjoy the things you love, but you have nourished your body with some good choices first, which allows you to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here are a couple of my must-haves.

For me, the sweet tooth queen of the world, if I have these two backups on hand I am a happy camper and not totally at the mercy of the dessert buffet!

Click here for the recipe printable  – Healthy Holiday Habits

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My Favorite Apple Cider

In a slow cooker combine:

  • 64 oz pure apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks,
  • 1 split vanilla bean
  • 6 chai tea bags
  • Cook on low for 4 hours.

Remove all the bags, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla bean and add ¼ cup lemon juice, stir, and serve.

Pumpkin bread that will rock your healthy world

In a large bowl combine:

  • 5 cups pure pumpkin
  • 2 cups coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ¾ cup safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Thoroughly mix with a large spoon until combined. In another large bowl, combine:

  • 4 cups spelt flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ cup chocolate chips (I use grain-sweetened chips such as Enjoy Life brand)
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or macadamia nuts.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix until well combined. Note: if you want to hold back a little bit of the chips and nuts you can sprinkle them on the top before baking.

Bake in three greased loaf pans (I like to use coconut oil on a paper towel to grease the pans) at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Let the loaves cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack to cool completely.  ENJOY!

Happy holidays! Share love and Jesus with everyone who comes into your presence!

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season…

Tis the Season…

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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Tis the Season…

..to be lonely.  Everyone is shopping and spending time with family and friends.  It is such a busy time.  But, the holidays can be a very difficult time for so many people.

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I lost my grandfather eight years ago right after Christmas.  I was extremely close to him and was his caregiver during his last two years.  When he passed on, I was devastated.  I did not deal well with it so I went to a grief support group to help me better deal with it.  I still attend on occasion, mostly around the holidays because that is when it is most difficult for me.  I also continue to attend these meetings because it has become a time of fellowship with a wonderful group of mostly older ladies.

The most important lesson I take from these ladies is that with our loss things change.  We do not always like it, but it does.  When we lose someone, it changes our routines and our traditions.

For some people, this can even mean the loss of their remaining family, a wife that loses her husband and they have no surviving children or an child that loses his last remaining parent.  These are the people that can feel particularly lonely.

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The Bible even tells us several times to care for the widows and the orphans.  During the holidays, this can be as simple as visiting someone Take some cookies or fudge.  Have your children make a homemade ornament and take it to them.  Take a group of friends and go caroling.  Invite them to go look at Christmas lights.  There are so many little things that we can do that would mean a lot to someone else, something that would help them to feel not so lonely.

 What are some things your family has done?

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

Holiday Loneliness Grieving with Parents Marriaged Saved After Addiction Grief & Health

The Tradition of the Silver Box

The Tradition of the Silver Box

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

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!

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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Tips for a Stress-Free Advent Season

Tips for a Stress-Free Advent Season

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

Latest posts by Kristi F (see all)

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He is coming! It is that time of year again when we get to be in awe of Christ’s coming. We’ve only been enjoying advent with our family for the past five years or so. But I’ve noticed, that when we devote our full attention to Christ, Satan will try to divert it, discourage us, and just make us give it up. (This is true during any season of life.) That’s why I want to encourage you as this season begins not to stress over advent, but enjoy it as much as you can. Here are some tips for a stress-free advent.

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Tips for a Stress-Free Advent

#1 – Have a game plan that fits with your schedule.

We all have completely different schedules. It might be so awesome to hear what one person does, but if it doesn’t fit your schedule and you are trying to do what they do, stress will follow. So take a look at your calendar. Pray about it and set aside your family advent time.

Consider these questions:

  • How often you will set aside to enjoy the advent season? Weekly? Daily? A few times a week? Fan the spirit the whole time?
  • What will those set aside times include? Singing, Scripture reading, devos, ornaments, activities, etc?

After answering the questions above, maybe instead of doing a daily advent you do a weekly devotional activity that you can use as a talking point throughout the entire week. (Look below for advent devotional & activity ideas.)

#2 – Simplify Other Parts of Your Calendar

Easier said than done. December has become the BUSIEST time of the year. If we are running from thing to thing, our stress levels will already be high, and then adding advent to that, makes it feel like just another item to check off the list. When praying about your schedule, consider what you can cut back on during December to really allow peace to filter in.  I love what Tracy stated in her post about what she wants for Christmas:

Sometimes we get the idea that just because an activity is a “good” activity, we should do it… Doing fewer things and doing them well not only helps me to be less hectic… it also helps me to actually be present and enjoy the activities we choose to do. Less truly is more: more patience, more attention, more grace.

How about we make more room to be able to focus on Jesus, who is the peace-giver, this month, instead of overloading ourselves with fun things that just leave us drained?

Now, I’m preaching more to my heart than to yours maybe. I tend to overload my schedule but have been working really hard to give our family breathing room, to experience Christ and his grace in our lives, instead of just reading about Him and moving on. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing Christ’s light shine brightly in the hearts that are before us. Let’s not rush their little flames so fast that we almost extinguish them.

 

#3 – Decide how you will focus your thoughts.

Many of you already have your Advent devotional book picked out for this year and you’ve got everything ready to go.  Fantastic!  But if you don’t, don’t stress.  You can always pick one up, catch up, or just start at the day we are on.

Need some FREE ideas?

The Bible. Yes, you can just keep it simple. God’s word is beautiful and will fill you in on everything that you need. Read a few verses a day out of Luke, Matthew, John or all three. If you don’t have access to a Bible at home, use the Bible App on your phone or Biblegateway.com.

Family Time Training’s Advent Guide. This FREE guide will help your advent be memorable but not overwhelming. It brings the family together for Scripture and an activity once a week.

The Jesus Story Book Bible Advent Guide. This FREE guide comes with  a daily reading guide, printable ornaments, and activities.

Great Joy. 25 Advents Meditations by John Piper. These short mediation thoughts are FREE daily and can be read (via blog or email) or listened to on iTunes.

If you prefer to have a beautiful book to read from, these are great options:

The Family Book of Advent by Carol Garborg. This includes 25 stories and activities to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. These daily devotions will help center you mind on Christ and be in awe of Him.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp. These are beautifully illustrated devotional thoughts.

The Wonder of the Greatest Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a daily advent pop-up book

#4 – Set proper expectations?

This is what I envision:

Our family gathered together in our living room with only the soft glow of candles and the sparkling trees lights illuminating our time of singing and Bible reading. All 5 children are attentitvely listening and hungering for more. They are hanging on every word and can’t wait to hang the advent ornament on the tree. We will pray joyously and the kids will beg to do the craft.

But I have to expect that not every night will look like I’ve planned in my head. Right!?! And that is ok.

If we stress about having the perfect advent time, then we will be frustrated. But if we are flexible, have grace, and realize some nights we maybe doing our advent while driving in the car, or around the dinner table instead of in that perfect serene scene in our heads, then peace with follow it.

#5 – Keep it Simple!

If you enjoy doing all the extras then enjoy it. But the moment you start stressing about it, I encourage you to take a deep breath, take a step back and just enjoy Christ. The activities can get overwhelming for some of the advent devotionals out there. Keep it simple. Just because it has an activity doesn’t mean you have to do every. single. activity. Give yourself permission to be ok with skipping some of them. What I’ve done in the past is pick the activities I think we would enjoy the most or be the most thought provoking and do a couple a week.

Did you know there are no rules around advent?

It’s all about preparing our heart for Christ’s coming. We can use this beautiful season to start training our children and ourselves how to set our thoughts on things above all day and not just when we have a quiet moment. Then we will start to learn that any time is a great time to seek Christ, his love and wisdom. And we will start longing for him not only during the advent season but all throughout the year too. Because, he is coming!  And he is coming soon!

May your hearts be filled with Christ’s peace and joy this season!

Prayer Over Our Hearts

Lord, we come in absolute awe of you!  All you have done for us…all you left behind, just to set us free!  Your love overwhelms us.

We pray that we will learn to be in awe of you of you not just during this season but throughout our lives. Let us not let the devil keep us “busy” doing good works so that we forget to focus on who is truly good. Let us be expectantly waiting and rejoicing in your returning, just as so many were anxiously waiting your coming!

It is with open hearts that we embrace this season to focus on you and encourage others to be in awe of you as well.

In the One who is the light of the world and is coming soon – Amen!

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