Christmastime provides us a wonderful opportunity to share our faith with lost or unchurched family members. But, what is supposed to be Good News can become difficult to share for many reasons. Maybe we fear our loved one will reject this Good News. Maybe we feel inadequate. Maybe we have tried before and it seemed to fail.
How do we shine the light of Christ brightly for those we love most and desperately want to see come to know Christ? What are some ways to share our faith with them?
Invitation - Audra’s Pick
With all of the Christmas performances, kids choirs, Christmas Eve services, as well as your regular church services, we have plenty of opportunities to invite friends, family, neighbors... to join us. Offer to give pick them up, have a meal together, or just save them a seat!
Living it Out - Laura's pick
Since we are in ministry, conversations about what the Lord is doing in our lives come up often when we are around family. We love that we get to share about God's faithfulness as we are obedient to His calling on our life. No matter if you are in the ministry or not, as believers we can all say God has been so good to us. So find ways to share that with your loved ones. So, my pick would be just living the Gospel out in front of them and take full advantage of the time you are given with those you love.
Read the Christmas Story - Rebecca's pick
Reading the Christmas story from Matthew or Luke during family get togethers is a beautiful way to express our faith. Psalm 119:130 says, "The unfolding of your words gives light." This verse tells us that Scripture illuminates darkness. What a promise! We can trust that as we read about the birth of Christ, His light will be reflected to all those who are in the room and potentially create a spark from within.
Candy Canes - Tammy's pick
Every December 1st, I love to stuff my pockets and purse with these Scripture Candy Canes to hand out to one and all. Whether it's a cashier at a store or a fast food window or a waitress or waiter, I smile and say, "Thank you!" as I hand them one of these little gems.
The front is clear cellophane so you can see the candy cane. The back has the Candy Cane story pointing to the glory and honor of Christ. I honestly don't know how many have been opened and eaten or thrown away. But it is my prayer that at least one precious soul has read the back and a seed has been planted and watered.
Faith-based Gifts - Tricia's pick
I like to give little presents to my friends and neighbors who may be doubting God... or may not truly know Christ as their Savior. And the presents are usually notecards that have writing on them and also my tote bags (they have a quote or verse along with a painting on each one). It's not preachy but it shines out God. I love to have art and verses and quotes mix together for gift giving. It is a natural way to just show love and fun. As I like to say, "It's mixing the holy and fun together!"
"Healthy parents don’t find family time, they make time."
Make time. Ha! How does one do that in this day and age? Even though we all have the same number of hours in a day, some of us are just a little more intentional with those hours.
I want to be one of those people. So as I started brainstorming ways to be more intentional, I remembered three of my friends who gave neat Christmas gifts last year centered around making time together!
Below you'll find their explanation of why they did their activity and how. "The Why" will touch a familiar chord in your own precious heart. "The How" will make your job easy. Choosing which one you want to implement will be the hardest part.
Adventure Box - by Darlene Howell Waller.
The Why - If we looked back on our years, we don't remember the gifts that were given or WHO gave them. But for me, time spent together are some of my sweetest childhood memories. I remember the family vacations, the Saturday trips to the grocery store, the lake and camping adventures with my family, the fun we had in the tree house that my dad built for me.
But I couldn't tell you a single gift that was a "thing" that I remember receiving.
I love my grandchildren so much. One day I will be gone. I want them to have wonderful memories of their time spent with me, their Nonna. They have every toy imaginable! I just want to give them the gift of my time.
The How - Every year I try to figure out how to creatively give gift cards. This year, I found some ideas on Pinterest.
- I found a husband's letter he wrote as a gift to his wife. I just changed some words. This introduced me to the idea of "a monthly adventure for the year".
- I went to Hobby Lobby to purchase a shoe box, stickers and envelopes, but then I saw this trunk!! It was perfect!
- I found stickers that said, "Adventure Awaits". I loved the idea!
- Every month's envelope has a different experience that is pre-planned and pre-paid (mostly). The gift cards are places we go anyway: Movies, picnics, laser tag, go carts, the beach and Redneck Island, Christmas lights, pumpkin patch...etc.....I added some extra adventures, like horseback riding that I think they will absolutely love. (I can't believe I hadn't thought of that sooner.)
- We will take pictures at every outing and those pictures will go back into this box. In years to come they will have a trunk full of memories with their Nonna to fondly look back on.
Date Cards - by Denise Slater
The Why - A few years ago, my husband and I wanted to find a way to give more individual time to our kids. We live multiple states away from our families. This means we do most everything as a family, except for our date nights when we pay for a sitter.
We have triplet boys, so we don’t have different times to spend when a younger child is napping, or an older child is in school. To solve this, we came up with “date cards”.
They are given to them in their stockings. It is always one of their favorite gifts!
We currently give them three “dates with Daddy”, three “dates with Mommy”, and three “stay up late” cards to be used for the next year. The categories for this year are “Kid’s Choice”, “Parent’s Choice” and “Both Choose”.
The How - The first year we gave choices on the cards for different dates. The next year we gave less specific choices because we learned that some are weather related. The third year we learned to give date ranges on the cards to keep us accountable.
We have done different activities such as an escape room, the movies, disk golf, hiking, Skyzone, Chuck-e-Cheese, painting party, crafting, etc. (My husband now has a “no Chuck-e-Cheese clause for his dates. Haha!) Our “stay up late” cards are just that. Individually they get to stay up 30 min later than their brothers and pick something to do with both Daddy and Mommy. Most times it ends up being a board game or card game.
We have found that three dates per child, per parent works best for us. That is 18 different times a year that we schedule to go out, while the other two kids and parent are home. This would work easier for those parents of two kids to two dates in one night. While my parents were visiting from Michigan this past spring, we were able to do three dates in three nights while they had individual time with each of our kids also!
This has been an amazing experience to spend individual time with our boys. Giving them our undivided attention, without them competing with their brothers, brings out different sides to them. Our quiet child talks nonstop. Our boisterous child tends to be more reflective. Our creative child shows more insight. We are giving them the gift of time.
Our boys are tweens. Oh, that is hard to write the word “tween”! We are praying that these individual times invested will help us roll easier into the teen years to spend time with each of our boys. This gift of individual time has not only been great for our boys, but a blessing for my husband and me. I hope this will be a blessing to your family.
A Day to Remember - by Lesley Guilaran
The Why - The idea for our family Christmas gift ironically began in the toy aisle at Target. It was a hot August day, and I remarked to my husband that this was the time of year I started to look for gifts for the kids for Christmas, since Target clearanced toys in August.
He looked at me and said, “I think I’m done getting them toys for Christmas.
Every year they open them, play with them for a little bit, and then they are finished. It’s just silly.” Inside, my heart was rejoicing! I had been wanting to give our kids experiences as gifts for awhile, so we began talking about that idea on that day.
At first, we thought of some grand plan to go to a different city, almost like a mini-vacation. However, our oldest son has autism, and this past fall was a difficult season. Traveling to another city seemed to be a bit too much for him to handle, so we sat on the idea for a few months.
About three weeks before Christmas, I was listening to a blog post from “The Lazy Genius”. She was discussing this very topic and the idea of giving experiences, like a family movie box filled with pajamas, special snacks, and a movie for the family to watch together. I thought, “YES!!!” This is the family gift I have been looking for! Not some grand plan, but something simple; creating a beautiful memory out of something not so fancy.
One very important lesson that autism has taught our family, is to see the beautiful in the ordinary. So, ideas began churning in my head, and the one we landed on was to have a day in the small city we live in with our family.
The How - Each person in the family could pick one place they wanted to go. We would pile in the car and go to each place one afternoon. The funny thing was, we didn’t really go anywhere new! I chose the Old Town Spaghetti Store, my youngest chose SkyZone, my oldest chose The Green Frog Cafe (for coffee, of course!), and my husband chose to watch the sunset from a high point in our city, which just happens to be the Dairy Queen parking lot overlooking Wal-Mart!
We made a schedule for my oldest so he could handle all the transitions and off we went! At the end of the day, everyone said their favorite part was drinking our coffee or eating ice cream (depending on what they chose) and watching the sunset in the car. Our youngest LOVED it and said, “Can we do this again next year, Mom?”
It was really the best; we all felt it.
The gift of time is the best gift we could have given our kids. We have all loved it. They have not missed the tangible gifts at all, and honestly, that makes my Momma heart full!
Make time. These three friends have been intentional to make family time happen. I hope these ideas have gotten your wheels spinning.
What better gift can you give your family this year than the gift of being intenional to spend time with them?
May this be more than just a spark in your "want to"; may it ignite a fire in your soul to make time with those you love.
**If you want a copy of the downloadable to go along with this post, please share your email and we'll zip it over to you! <3
How about you? Do you have any neat ways you "make time" for family time? Please share as we'd love to hear about it!
Tammy Valdivia - Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Find us on Facebook here.
Amusement parks are not my forte. So when we decided to visit a popular amusement park, I knew I needed help planning. One of my friends is an expert of this particular park, so it made sense to ask her the best places to eat, what sites were a must see, and what rides were worth the 1-hour long wait.
Sure enough, she zipped over a detailed email outlining the best ways to get the most bang for our buck. I forwarded her info to each of my family members and saved it to the top of my email list for easy reference.
While we could’ve navigated the park with our own game plan, our visit was so much better because we chose to defer to her vast knowledge of a park we’ve never experienced resulting in a thrilling, fun packed adventure.
Unfortunately, most of life’s decisions aren’t even remotely related to navigating amusement parks.
Real life issues tend to focus more on:
Tricky job scenarios
Heart-wrenching health diagnosis
Financial gain or loss
"How could this have happened?” situations.
“What should I do?” scenerios?
Real life problems and situations require expert advice, sound counsel, and unwavering wisdom.
Thankfully, we have to look no further than Isaiah 9:6, which describes the character of God wrapped up in the gift of His Son, Jesus.
For a Child will be born to us,
A Son will be given to us,
And the government will rest on His shoulders:
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Wonderful Counselor. My friend, His counsel is a wonder! It’s amazing! It’s awe-inspiring! It's miraculous!
And where better to look this season than at the Christmas story which shows us a glimpse of how His counsel is indeed wonderful, wrapped up in one of Christmas’s unsung heroes, Joseph.
Joseph’s world probably seemed all right and orderly until the woman he was engaged -- Mary, a godly woman, a virgin -- told him she was pregnant.
Not quite the news he would expect from her.
Being a righteous man though, he considered his options and elected to send her away secretly so as not to disgrace her in a day where a pregnancy before marriage usually resulted in being stoned to death.
Apparently, this secretly sending her away seemed the best course of action.
But God. God stepped in and suggested a different course of action setting him on the course of a life way better than he could have ever imagined!
Four times in Scripture (Matthew 1&2) we see Joseph choosing to follow God’s counsel over his own, starting with Mary.
1st time - God sent an angel to tell Joseph in a dream that it was all right to take Mary as his wife, for indeed his heart's greatest desire was wrapped as a gift in the womb of his betrothed.
By faith, Joseph obeyed God’s counsel — that went against his own — and chose Mary as his wife.
2nd time - Soon after he had made this decision, an order arrived from Rome commanding all citizens to return to their hometown for a census. Mary’s pregnancy had progressed to the point of nearing the delivery of This Christ child, but Joseph felt compelled to go to Bethlehem. Can you imagine him knowing she was so close to delivery and having to ask her to leave her home and family?
By faith, Joseph trusted God’s timing and traveled to Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife.
3rd time - Having settled in a dwelling place in Bethlehem in which to raise the Christ child, Joseph received an urgent message from the Lord to uproot his young family and flee to Egypt — a place so opposite of his own customs and language and food, etc. — to escape a mad ruler’s death edict.
By faith, Joseph followed God’s counsel and left the comforts of everything familiar to protect the Christ child.
4th time - When it was finally time to return to Israel, instead of returning to his hometown of Bethlehem, the Lord advised him to go to Nazareth.
By faith, Joseph followed God’s counsel, curtailing his desire to return to his hometown.
Like us, Joseph faced tough decisions; marriage, obeying the law of man, his family's safety, and where was the best place to raise his family. God, in His kindness, didn't leave Joseph to wonder and guess which way was right, but He was faithful to walk Joseph thru them victoriously.
Did you catch that? Victoriously!
God's counsel isn’t only wonderful in Joseph's story; it’s wonderful today with any issue you face! Dear one, just as it was true for Joseph, so it is for you, also!
Our minds cannot begin to comprehend the depth of His amazing, life-giving wisdom!
Why are we negligent to seek His counsel first and foremost? Better yet, why don’t we heed it when He does send it?
It all boils down to trust.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your path straight.
Joseph lived as if he believed Proverbs 3:5-6. He humbled himself and followed God's counsel, entrusting the results to Him.
So should we!
Dear one, does your life illustrate an unwavering trust in the counsel of God thru thick and thin? Think about situations you are wrestling with. Like Joseph, allow God’s wonderful counsel to become part of your story, a story with a way better ending than the one you could ever imagine.
May your life's tagline declare, "By faith, ___________, trusted God's counsel over her own."
Father God, thank you for the gift of Your wonderful counsel. Forgive me for areas where I choose to follow my own or other's counsel over Yours. Change my heart. Increase my faith to trust Your counsel even when I don't understand and my flesh rebels. May my mind and heart embrace your counsel as wonderful and more desirable than any advice man can give. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen!
For further reading:
The Gift that Keeps Giving
When God Doesn't Move Mountains
Is God Good When Life Isn't?
Tammy Valdivia - Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Follow us on Facebook here.
It's that time of year where the hustle and bustle can easily take over the true meaning of Christmas. It happens to all of us, but how can we be intentional and keep Christ the focus?
When our daughter was younger, there wasn't an "Elf on the Shelf" alternative. Now hear me out, I am not against having an Elf on the Shelf and I do believe you can still keep Christ the focus even by using them. For us, though, we didn't have access to different alternatives. So, we started thinking of ways we could fill her mind and heart with Scripture and challenge her to do things for others. That's when we decided to have the Wisemen come visit our home during Christmas.
We have a child's nativity set that we put out every year, and the Wisemen travel through our house looking for baby Jesus. They leave "acts of kindness" to do for that day and Scripture to go with it along the way. Our Wisemen typically come to visit on December 1 and stay through Christmas Day. Both of our children, ages ten and four, love this tradition and anxiously await where the Wisemen will be.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” - Matthew 2:2
As our daughter has gotten older, it has given us the chance to really dig into Scripture and have great discussion on things such as: Were there really only three Wisemen? Did they really find Jesus in the manger? We love these teachable moments to help her grow in her knowledge of God's Word.
I have included the FREE download of 25 printable cards with acts of kindness and Scripture that you can use in whatever way you choose. Please let us know some fun traditions that you do with your family!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!
Today, my sweet friend, Shannon, is sharing a piece of her heart, a piece of her story for God's glory. It's a gentle reminder that God is always there. We just need to listen. You can read more of Shannon's beautifully strung together words on her blog found here.
I sit here in the early morning hours of the sixth day of being snowbound. The house quietly waits for the hustle to begin but I know it will be a bit longer. My husband has long since left for work, and the girls are hidden in a mound of blankets trying to absorb the luxury that sleeping in affords.
I pull the fluffy throw closer to me and my pup and wrap my cold fingers more tightly around my hot mug. The sun isn’t shining, so a gray cast falls across the floor and a light snow begins to fall. The whiteness surrounds me. I snuggle in and listen. I listen for His voice.
“Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning for I am trusting You. Show me where to walk for I give myself to You.” Psalm 143:8
I want to hear His voice. I long for it. It had been quiet to me for some time. Oh, it hadn’t been His fault. It had been mine. I am sure you have heard the quote, “If God feels far away, guess who moved?” Well, that is true. He doesn’t go anywhere. It is us. It was me.
I would like to say I had a good reason, but I didn’t. It started innocently enough.
- Our best friends moved.
- My job changed.
- My ministry shifted.
- Family members died.
I was lost. Every single thing I knew had suddenly crumbled like a tower around me.
I knew, in my heart of hearts, because I had loved the Lord for so very long, that He had not left me. I knew that He was still there. I knew that He still loved me. I knew that He was working something good in the hard. And even though I knew these things, I couldn’t see the good for all of the thick dust surrounding me from that crumbled tower!
I couldn’t read my Bible anymore. I just sat and stared at the words. I couldn’t pray. I opened my mouth to pray but nothing came out. I felt I was completely ineffective in everything I did and felt I no longer had a purpose.
Maybe I was having a pity party. Maybe it was a little depression. But I felt alone and worn out.
I longed to hear Him. I longed to feel Him. I wanted to feel the joy bubble up in my soul again. Instead, I slept more and more, and my physical self grew sicker and sicker.
I appeared fine on the outside. But on the inside, I had lost my joy and my sparkle. It was exhausting putting on a front all of the time, trying to appear happy when I was dying inside.
The holidays were drawing near, and I was dreading them. I love the time with family, the decorations, and traditions, and all of the food. I am like a child when the holidays are here!
But this year, I wanted to retreat and skip it all. I knew they wouldn’t be the same without the loved ones we had lost. Overall, I was just in a mood, and it wasn’t a good one.
Although I did not want to, we went to our Christmas musical at church. As I sat and watched the people milling around and hugging and talking, all dressed in their Christmas attire, I felt my heart squeeze.
I was tired of being sad. I was tired of being tired. I was tired of missing Him.
As the music began, I began to feel the weight of those blocks of that crumbled tower begin to lift off of me. Suddenly, the smoke lifted. and I could see! My heart felt light and free, and tears filled my eyes! I could feel Him again! I could FEEL!!! What I thought had died with all of my dreams and plans, He had made new again, just like that, in an instant!
All along I knew He was teaching me a lesson. My history has always shown me that I can never see His lessons in the midst of them, but only when I look back, after I have gotten through them, is when I can see.
What I learned through this is that He truly hasn’t ever left me, even though my stinky heart does wander from time to time. He is always waiting right there for just the right moment to show me how much He loves me and if He has to strip every single thing from me to show me to depend on Him more then He will.
He has also shown me that periods of grief are alright. He understands my sadness and desires to restore my joy. Grief should be for a period of time but not a way of life.
He also taught me that He was using me even in this wandering in the desert time, no matter how ineffective I felt.
He used it to grow me closer to Him, and it has become part of my testimony to help others. There is not one moment of our life that the Lord doesn’t use. Not one minute is wasted.
We are not here for us. We are here for Him, and He uses every moment for His glory.
So, this new year, my heart is lighter. I am reading the Bible through and enjoying it so much. My prayer life has been renewed. I am so far from the woman that I wish to be, but I know that taking daily steps to growing closer to Him gives me more joy than anything else that I can do.
I will stumble, be discouraged, and be sad again. But I know He will be right there waiting for me because He is the God that loves me. He is my Abba Father. And He is yours as well. No matter how hard life gets, never stop pursuing Him, this precious love of your life!
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
The presents are opened. The cookies are eaten. The company is gone. All the build-up and excitement for Christmas has disappeared like yesterday’s snow. While the rest of humanity seems merry and bright, reality comes crashing down on you.
The marriage is still broken.
The child is still a prodigal.
The bill is still unpaid.
The ________ is still ___________.
The distress, darkness, and despair threaten to suffocate you. While others might tell you or you might tell yourself, “It’s the holidays! What do you have to be depressed about?” Depression can still show up as the Grinch and steal our hope and joy.
I get it. I understand the distress, the darkness, and the despair.
Much more importantly, so does God.
Oh, my friend, look with me at the hope-filled passage of Isaiah 9:1-7! There are such treasures found in its depths. Lock arms with me as we step into the light of His glory and grace.
Let's start with Isaiah 9:2:
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.
Did you catch that?
- walked in darkness.
- dwell in the land of the shadow of death.
Darkness. Death. Despair.
BUT because of Christmas,
- they have seen a great light!
- upon them hath the light shined!
Look what this light will do. Christmas day and every day, it will give you:
1. Joy! (Isaiah 9:3)
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Just like the light of God increased their joy, the light of God will increase your joy!
2. Peace! (Isaiah 9:4)
He will break the yoke of slavery
He will lift the heavy burden from their shoulders
He will break the oppressor’s rod !
The light of God set His people free. By providing freedom, He allowed them to experience peace like never before. Just as He did then, the light of God can break the yoke of whatever enslaves you and give you peace like never before!
3. Love! (Isaiah 9:6)
A child will be born to us!
A son will be given to us!
Not just any child, my friend, but the Son of God, Jesus! That is a gift of love that can’t be taken or sold or fade away.
How kind of God, but what does that have to do with:
The marriage that is still broken.
The child who is still a prodigal.
The bill that is still unpaid.
The ________ that is still ___________.
Whether it’s Christmas Day or any day of the year, this Child is the gift that keeps on giving. He is the:
Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
- His counsel boggles the mind because it’s beyond our understanding.
- It is life-giving, freeing, and joyful.
- When we don’t know what to do about our marriage, our parenting, our bills, He does!
Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)
- His strength and His power are unsurpassed.
- He can do anything because He has the strength to follow through with His purpose.
- He has maximum ability to save a marriage, a child, and unpaid bills. Just ask and see what He can do!
Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)
- His Fatherhood has no end.
- He is not limited by aging or dying.
- He is the Protector and Provider of our marriages, our parenting, our finances, etc. He cares more than we realize.
Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
- A deep abiding peace that cannot be taken away.
- Spiritual harmony between God and us: in any marriage dispute, any parenting issue, and any life problem.
- This is not a promise of an easy life, just His unsurpassed peace to get through life.
Just because the gifts are open, the cookies are eaten, and the company is gone doesn't mean Christmas has to be over! Jesus! Jesus is the gift that keeps giving.
He is the light of the world!
He is joy like a fountain!
He is peace like a river!
He is love like an ocean!
He is the Wonderful Counselor!
He is the Mighty God!
He is the Everlasting Father!
He is the Prince of Peace!
He is the gift that keeps on giving!
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14
Merry Christmas to us every day!
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Let me begin by saying, Merry Christmas from Audra, Laura, Rebecca and Tammy at ByFaithShe!
My prayer for you today and throughout this Christmas holiday is that you're taking a break to spend time with your Savior Jesus. As we celebrate His birthday, I want to take another look at a few of our most recent Christmas posts. Maybe you missed one or maybe there are a couple that spoke to your heart and helped you focus your eyes on Him. No matter how you choose, take some time to BE STILL and plug in to Jesus today.
Click below to check out our favorite Christmas posts!
What's So Special About a Baby
The Cause of Joy is Jesus
Why This Weary World Can Rejoice
Our Homes - A Place of Refuge for Those in Need
Why Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?
Jesus Our Savior