I met Jenny several years ago when she and her husband became leaders in the student ministry that my husband was leading at the time. We became fast friends and even had the oppertunity to live down the street from each other for a while. I’m so thankful that she is sharing her story with us today because it’s one of hope and healing and of God’s pursuit for her heart because of His great love for her, and for us all!
At 21 years old, I was a single mom of a two-year-old little girl and living in the big city. I landed my dream job at a trendy salon working as a hairdresser and managed to provide in our little duplex. I was lonely and empty, finding myself in dead-end relationships and bad decisions.
Rewind to my teenage pregnancy, I was very sick and unable to do much work. A lady from a large church in my hometown heard about my situation and offered me a job at the church on Sundays taking care of newborns-which became very useful considering I was about to have one of my own. She became a part of my testimony that forever changed my life. After I gave birth to my daughter and even during the time I lived in the city, I continued to work in the nursery on Sundays so my daughter could attend church on Sundays the way I did as a child.
Many of the ladies at the church would pray for me and encourage me as a single mom. That prayer led me to make a best friend at the hair salon who was going through a rough breakup and was also in need of a friend. She had a strong relationship with the Lord and I was so attracted to the light she carried in such an ungodly environment. One day we were hanging out, and she shared a Bible story with my daughter about Noah’s ark. I had this overwhelming feeling inside me as I listened to her tell that story. I wanted to be the one to do that for my daughter, so I really began to dig deep in my knowledge of the Lord and the Bible.
I was ready to decide if I truly believed Jesus when He claimed to be the Son of God. I studied and read and learned more and more everyday. The Scriptures were alive for the first time in my life. One day before church service, I asked my friend to pray for me because I was just so confused, scared and unsure. It was during that service that the Lord pierced my heart and I knew that day what I believed. I wish I could say that everything magically became perfect and my life changed overnight, but it was a long and very difficult process to remove the chains that Satan had bound me with so tightly.
I was in an abusive relationship, and spent many nights crying on the shower floor begging God to save me. I like to call it Satan’s last hurrah, because he did not want me to belong to anyone but him. The Lord prevailed in my life as He always does, and I was finally free from that relationship as well as many other things in my life.
I soon met the love of my life, we were married shortly after and had four little boys together. God is so good and I am genuinely amazed by Him daily. He truly is my healer and my restorer. He brought me out of darkness in the most beautiful and unique way, and He gave me a husband who loves me so fully. God was so patient with me on my journey and I will spend the rest of my life thanking Him for His goodness!
You know what I love? I love loving on people. I love making people feel special and letting them know they matter.
I am like a 98% extrovert, so meeting people and engaging in conversations come pretty natural to me. My husband on the other hand is the total opposite. He is an introvert by nature, but the Lord has really given him more extrovert characteristics through being in ministry. We like to say we balance each other out really well! I know when he needs some time at home and he knows when I have been cooped up and I need to get out! Ha!
We are in our sixteenth year of ministry and every year is getting sweeter! As I look back over the years, the one theme I find is that the Lord has been very gracious to give us favor with people. We have served alongside and ministered to the most amazing people and they have loved on us so well!
The one prayer that we as a family have always had is that we would be authentic, real, and love people intentionally right where they are. We view our mission field as more than just the church building. We strive to represent Christ and love people at the ball fields, schools, restaurants and wherever else the Lord may have us. Now, hear me out...we don’t always get it right and we have had to learn over the years how to love people well. It is a refining process that will continue until the day we take our last breath.
What would this world look like if we showed deep love for one another? What would this world look like if we were intentional and loving in the way we treated others and spoke to others?
I thought back over our married years and came up with four ways that we as a family have tried to show love to others. I hope they can help spur you on to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those you come in contact with.
First and foremost...BE YOU! Nobody wants a fake you. God created you for a purpose! Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. People are drawn to authenticity. When we realize that none of us have it together, the walls come down and real life happens. Whatever your struggles are, you can bet the people you are loving on have similar struggles too. We have so much to learn from each other, but that can only happen when we remove the mask.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
One thing that I hear people say about my husband is, “he calls me by name”. I am envious of that trait because I am not very good at it. Being intentional is not self seeking, but seeking good for that person. You loving on someone may not bring any benefit to you, but it may be everything that person needs to push them towards Christ. Scripture tells us to encourage one another! Let people know that you are praying for them and that you are interested in what is going on in their life.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
An important part of loving others well is being able to speak truth in love. God created each of us in His image (Genesis 1:27), so to treat someone poorly or to say things about someone that are hurtful is pretty much saying that what God created wasn't good enough. Have you ever thought about it like that? When people get to know the real you and see that you really care, my experience has been, they take truth so much better. People then begin to appreciate and respect your honesty.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
Have you ever heard the saying, “talk is cheap”? Our actions help solidify our words. Be there for people. Be present in their lives. There is nothing better than doing life together. Be aware and notice when people are not around. A friend of mine recently said that her family will begin opening their home one night a month for anyone to come and have dinner with them. She wants to create community and love on people around her dining room table. WOW! What a great idea! She inspired me to want to do the same in a different format for the women of my community. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just being there is all someone needs.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25
If I have learned anything about being a pastor’s wife, it’s to be bold in my friendships, to not fear rejection and to just be me. What you see is what you get and I am thankful for a Savior that is molding me and making me into an instrument to be used for Him everyday. If you are not an extrovert by nature and building friendships is scary for you, know that more times than not, people are wanting you to notice them and engage with them. People want to be acknowledged, loved, and feel that they matter.
Maybe there is someone that you have been meaning to reach out to...go do it! Maybe you see the same customer come through the door or the same lady at cheer practice...find out who they are and call them by name. This is where the journey begins!
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!
My daughter was in kindergarten when I came face-to-face with a big mommy fail. I had eaten school lunch with her the previous week and happened to notice a little boy pull a note out of his lunchbox with a big red heart on it. The handwriting indicated that it was most likely from his sweet mama. "I really should do that," I thought. “She would love it.”
Sadly, that good intention was already forgotten before the trash was collected and her class formed into a single file line. I kissed her goodbye, squeezed her tight and watched her walk away. The next thing on my to-do list was already filling my mind.
Then, as I was packing her lunchbox one night, I noticed the backside of a piece of paper in her zipper pouch. “I wonder what this is?”
I unzipped the pouch that held her spoon and the mystery piece of paper and this is what I found:
“I Love You from Mom”
My heart dropped.
“I never wrote the note. So, she wrote her own.”
With a pang in my heart, I documented this mommy fail on Facebook that night and wrote:
Mamas, do me a favor please? Help me redeem this error... Write your child a love note tonight. Tuck it someplace that will surprise them. Tuck it someplace...like a lunchbox...so that your kid can beam with pride knowing that mom paused, mom remembered, and mom loves them. I already have tomorrow's lunchbox note done and I hope you’ll do it, too.
The responses were swift and sweet. Some of my mama friends commented by saying that they hadn’t written a lunchbox note in years and were thankful for the reminder. Others commented by sharing how their own mamas used to write them notes and told me how much they still cherish them. Many more simply wrote, “Done!”
It helped my heart to know that, because of my goof, so many mamas were encouraged to pause that night and convey their love for their child. My child, and many others, were going to unzip a little surprise the next day and the thought of that made me smile.
The next day, much to my delight, my girl’s teacher sent me this picture and message:
“She was so happy that she wanted to keep holding it! When we got back to the room, I noticed her sitting at her table with it in her hands!”
Yes, it had originally been a mommy fail. But, it was also an easily redeemable mommy fail.
Unfortunately, I still forget to write her notes from time to time. However, like today, once I realize my lapse, I simply tell myself, “You can start again tonight.” And, that's exactly what I do.
So, mamas and grandmamas, will you join me? Will you pause and write a note to those precious ones in your life? Tuck it inside of their lunchbox. Tuck it inside of their backpack. Tuck it inside of the book they are reading. Tuck it under their pillow. Tuck it inside of their toothpaste drawer. Tuck it inside of their sock drawer. Tuck it some place that you are sure they’ll find it. Or, if they are long distance, mail it. Children love nothing more than receiving a letter in the mail.
A simple “I love you" is enough. Or, consider these other ideas:
Whatever you say, I can promise you one thing…your words will go deeply into the soil of their hearts. Scripture says,
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good...for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
What does this verse have to do with love notes? Well, notice the word treasure. This word is the Greek word thesauros and it means “a storehouse for precious things.” It is the origin for the word thesaurus. When you hear the word thesaurus, what do you immediately think of? Words! When we speak or write words of life to our children, they store them up as one would store up treasure. These spoken and written words are kept safely inside of their hearts and can influence their thoughts and speech possibly for their entire lives.
Notes that say, “I cannot wait to see you after school,” or “I’m praying peace of mind over you as you take your test today,” or “You are showing so much responsibility lately,” spur our children on.
Like seeds planted deeply into the soil, our words are deposited into their hearts and remain there.
Today I am challenging myself, and you, to what I’m calling The Love Note Challenge. Write a note tonight and tuck it into a familiar place. Then, do it again a week from now, two weeks from now, or a month from now. Just choose a frequency that works for you, circle it on the calendar, and stick with it. Your child may never mention it. But, I promise you, they WILL read it.
So, are you in? Do you want to add words of life to your children’s treasure boxes? Do you want your children to store up the good words that you speak into them? I know that I do! It would bring me great joy to know that a kindergartener's forged lunchbox love note resulted in a wave of mamas everywhere putting pen and heart to paper and joining me in this privilege that we have been given. Let's do it together!
If you want to accept this challenge, let us know by commenting! And, if you snap a picture to post on Facebook to encourage other mamas to join you, tag us by adding @byfaithshe so that we can see it, too!
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
If you have had an abortion, this may be hard to read. If you have not, but consider yourself a Christian, please read this with a heart to hear the message I am attempting to relay. May God be glorified above all.
Many stories are floating around about women who, against all the odds, delivered babies deemed terminal. There have also been stories from women, in willful defiance, celebrating their abortions.
I have not seen many stories shared like mine.
Abortion is one of the church's greatest shame and dirtiest secret; we are conditioned to be silent. However, healing is found in the light, not the darkness.
17 and a half years ago, on June 26, 2001, before I was legally allowed to get my ears pierced without parental permission, I had an abortion.
I was eleven weeks and four days along and the ultrasound tech who confirmed my pregnancy before the procedure commented on how "lucky" I was. Had I waited three more days, it would have been too late according to Colorado law at the time.
It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I knew how to prevent pregnancy, I just never thought it would happen to me. I believed that a baby was growing inside of me, I did not think of life before birth as just a cluster of cells. If we are honest, no one really does, we all know what is in a woman's womb.
When we were younger, my parents had taken in a couple of unwed, pregnant moms with no place to go. They didn't just preach against abortion; they put their money where their mouth was and opened their home to women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. They taught us about the sanctity of life...from womb to tomb.
Several years before I had been sent to a Christian behavior modification camp in Canada after running away from home. In my mind, I was sent there because they did not approve of the boy I was in love with and wanted to control my life.
I was a child and so reasoned like a child.
When I was brought back home under the threat of another year "in the program," I was sent to a Christian school where I fell in love again and resolved to just bide my time until I could escape from under my parents rule. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was terrified.
Still a child, I reasoned like a child.
I resolved that I would not be sent away again. I set my convictions and morals and beliefs to the side, locked them behind a steel wall in my heart. I set my God aside, thinking if I did not look at him, acknowledge him, I could pretend he wouldn't see. I tried to push him there, into a corner of my heart, pull the blinds, and hide him from sight.
The director of our local Planned Parenthood met with me personally. She spoke of my future, my beauty, intelligence, and potential. She explained the procedure clinically but commiserated personally, in that she too had an abortion when she was around my age. And then, when she was ready, some years later, on her own time and her own terms, she had another baby.
She talked with me, not at me.
She treated me as an equal; she was earnest and kind, nothing about her was scary or threatening. She had no malice in her eyes; she truly believed the words she said, she believed she was helping. She was not evil.
The next available appointment wasn't for a week. For that week, I held onto my resolve by the tips of my fingers. The Bible tells us that the Lord will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand, instead he provides a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Looking back now, I see where he was faithful to that promise.
Three times I was offered a way out during that week of waiting, three times I ignored them.
- My mom came into my room and asked if I was pregnant one night, she noticed I hadn't marked my period on the calendar, I lied.
- My best friend offered to talk to my parents with me, but I said no.
- The boy said I didn't have to do this as we read the long list of potential complications, even up to death. I grimaced and said it would be fine. I was resolved, and when I decide to do a thing, I do it.
I regretted it before it began.
Trembling, I forced myself to lay down on that table. Clenching my fist, squeezing my eyes shut, I stayed there by will power alone. When it was over, and I opened my eyes, the nurse walked right past the bed, carrying a canister that held the evidence of my choice, my shame. As realization dawned of what I was looking at, the devastating weight of my choice rushed over me like a landslide. My feet had not yet touched the floor, but it was already too late to take it all back.
It could not be undone, though I would have given everything to change my mind.
I can still see the room, still smell the antiseptic. I can still hear the sounds and the hairs on my neck stand up to think about it. The whole scene is burned into my mind, even all these years later. With just a whisper of remembrance, I am transported right back there. I am 17 again, trembling on the crinkling white paper sheet.
But, you see, what that lady didn't prepare me for was the crushing regret and shame.
The utter brokenness and devastation I would feel afterward. She didn't prepare me to hate my reflection and reject the boy whom I had loved. She didn't prepare me for the years spent seeking to drown out the demons that tormented me, or tell me how to stop dreaming about a little blonde baby with blue-green eyes. She didn't tell me how to build a future while being crushed under the weight of this secret when my head whispered "unlovable" to my heart.
When she spoke of my future, she didn't warn me that just two years later, after men, drink, and drugs failed to cover the shame, I would try to kill myself.
But, even as I sped toward the top of the overpass in the dead of night, Jesus was still with me. Though I had tried for two years to silence and gag him, to fight my way through the blinding regret, carrying my secret shame alone, he was there; he carried it with me.
I didn't realize until recently that he was always there.
He was with me in that room, he wept over me, over my baby. He held me tight as I fell apart.
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
He was with me at the parties, the mornings after. He was there when I woke up with bruises on my throat and breasts, confused and scared. He was there when I bent my head over a line of coke, he interceded for me, kept me alive against all the odds.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3)
He was there when I sobbed on the bathroom floor and as the joy drained from my eyes. He held me in his arms and whispered truth to my broken heart.
"I have called you by name; you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1)
He saved me on the bridge that night, and he continues to save me day by day. But the scars from that day are still there. The shame threatens to bubble up in moments like these.
Church, I am one of yours, your sister in Christ.
I am the daughter of the King, whose Son's sacrifice on the cross covered over my sins. I am redeemed, set free, wholly loved, and set apart for such a time as this.
Fight against abortion, yes! However, please, I beg of you,
- empty your pockets and your hands of the rocks.
- Watch your words, your posts, your pitchforks,
because, with each calloused remark about damnation, each meme calling us a baby killer or murderer, you may just be drowning out the gentle whisper of the healer to one of your sister's hearts.
You cannot in one breath condemn us to hell and in the other profess love for one of us. Christ's sacrifice demands more from us than this.
Jesus' blood covers over a multitude of sins...including mine...including yours. May truth covered with grace be the language with which we speak, forgiveness be the blessing we offer, and redemption through Jesus be the very breath on which our words rest.
For years I sought redemption by working with crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence organizations. There is not one woman, regardless of her beliefs who goes to her death bed without regret, without sorrow for what might have been. Moreover, when that day comes and the words from the past play in her mind, these women will remember your reaction.
Your words from today will tell her later to whom she can turn with her shame.
Will it be you?
Will you be able to extend grace to her then, because you extended grace today? Or will your words haunt her in the quiet night, suffocating her hope for redemption?
Is there a woman in your life, even now trying to gather the courage to stand naked in her shame in front of you? And, are you showing her that you will cover her with the cloak of grace or are you showing her your hands filled with stones?
My sisters, one in four of you are carrying this burden. You do not have to labor under its weight alone, I will stand with you, and beside you, and behind you. I will stand in front of you as the stones fly, because I know I have been forgiven and set free. (John 8:32)
Because my Redeemer bore the brunt of the blows, he has already paid the price. I pray you too will find healing through the love of Jesus. I pray you also will learn to listen to the Only voice that matters, the One who knew all your sins and shame and chose you anyway.
You have already been forgiven and healing is offered, you need only accept it.
"God only know what you've been through.
God only knows what they say about you.
God only knows the real you, there's a
kind of love that God only knows."
- For King and Country "God Only Knows"
Shawna Downs thank you for so vulnerably sharing your story with us. We pray it helps others, as it has helped us have compassion for those who have walked a similar path.
Shawna is wife to James and momma to 3 plus a bonus daughter. Several years ago, James and Shawna founded a nonprofit shipping ministry to serve missionaries, church planters, and crisis relief groups. Together with their children, a cat, and a dog they transport goods from Florida to the Caribbean on board their boat. She is equal parts teacher, deckhand, administrator, cook, captain, engine room helper, boo boo kisser, and storyteller.
Above all, she enjoys telling people about Jesus and that if God can use her and James, he really can use anyone.
Queue the sappy movies, the jewelry commercials, and flowers galore…Valentine's Day is right around the corner! It's a day of love and great expectation from your significant other! Some people love it, and some people completely despise it.
It has become so commercialized that U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $161.96 on Valentine’s Day as 55 percent of the population celebrates this year, an increase from last year’s $147.57, according to NRF’s annual survey. Total spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion, up from $19.6 billion last year.
But what if you don't have a special person to spend the day with? What if someone just walked out on you or you just lost someone to death? What a hard day to sit back and watch others wallow in the joy of love! I have had a really stinky Valentine's Day before. I was actually broken up with on Valentine's! Talk about bad timing!
I was talking with a friend the other day that had been severely hurt by someone she was dating. Trust was broken time and time again, and she had to walk away. She made the comment that she has learned that God was her first love and He will always be her true love!
So that's what brought me to this blog post. On a day that is filled with cupids, hearts, and gifts galore, God gave us the ultimate gift and showed us the greatest love that anyone could possibly show…His one and only son, Jesus!
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
I want to challenge you to shift your focus from the materialistic and tangible ways that the world says we should love and start at the beginning, where true LOVE first began.
If you are a child of God, how do you rekindle that love relationship with Jesus? You may not know Jesus as your personal Savior. If that's the case, we want to pray for you and talk with you!
I came up with an acronym for LOVE that may help to keep our eyes on the One who gave His life for ours…the most beautiful act of love.
L - Lean into Jesus: Lean means to "rest for support."
Audra wrote a post about how we can be intentional about spending time with the Lord. In any relationship, you have to spend time with each other to get to know one another. You have to communicate, and you have to listen. Leaning into Jesus and spending time in His Word and in prayer is a great way to combat Satan's lies that you are "lonely" on a day like Valentine's or that you don't have anyone. Rest in Jesus that He is enough!
In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3
Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. Psalm 1:2
O - Obey His Word: Obey means to "carry out commands or instructions."
As we spend time with the Lord, we are called to put His Word into action! How blessed we are to be given the most perfect, infallible book that was ever written! It's our instruction on how to lead others to Christ and how to live daily. God's Word is our encouragement when we feel alone, when we don't know where to turn, when we don't think we can make it another day…it's God speaking directly to us. So why do we take it for granted? When we hide His Word in our hearts and memorize Scripture, the Holy Spirit brings it to our minds exactly when we need it! Fill your heart and your mind with His promises, so when Satan tries to tell you differently, you can take those thoughts captive!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
V - Value who you are in Christ: Value means "importance, worth or usefulness for something."
You are valued, you are beautiful, and you are loved. If no one has ever told you that, let me be the first to tell you that Christ thinks you are super amazing! Don't take my word for it, read the Scriptures and believe it! Christ has placed you where you are for a beautiful purpose, ask Him to show you and use you where you are.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
E - Enjoy knowing the love of Christ! : Enjoy means "take delight or pleasure in."
Christ delights in you! Yes…He really does! Sometimes we let the noise of the world overshadow what Christ is doing. Make it your prayer to notice all that Christ is doing around you and through you. He never leaves us! We are the ones that drift away; He is just waiting for us to run back to Him!
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:26
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3
I don't know your situation, but I pray that if you are feeling lonely leading up to Valentine's Day that you will know that there is someone who loves you so very much! He loves you with an overwhelming, never-ending, reckless kind of love! He loves us, and He pursues us! There is no better message of love than the love of Christ!
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!
click the link below for the free printable version of this graphic.
So thankful their birth mom did something so brave and hard and chose life for these two! I can’t imagine life without them! Being called Mom by them is beyond a joy! And it never gets old...”Momma - you my beeeeesssst fwiend. I wuv you sooooo much!” London says so often. And Charles saying, "Mom, I need a hug."😍😍
Their Daddy was so proud of them! And yes.... even on the crazy days, I cherish each moment.
“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
Click here to read more about Springs journey to adoption~ A Different Desire, Not Plan B
Spring is a native Texan who is the momma to 3 year old twins, Charlie and Londie and widow of her late husband, Charles. She is currently a rehab nurse in Houston, TX but has been a part of many different aspects of women’s ministry through the years. She loves meeting new people, sharing a good laugh, deep conversations and sharing stories of God’s faithfulness. She has a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow more of her story at charlesandspring.com
We wanted to kick off this "Month of Love" with a FREE Downloadable to use with your children, your spouse, or any other special person in your life. Use these cards to help teach or remind you and your people what the Biblical view of LOVE is.
Click this link for the printable version. Download File
How to Thrive in Your Wedding Vows Series - Part 4
Disclaimer - Because of sin, there is severe dysfunction in some marriages today. This series does not mean to whitewash any problems inside of broken marriages. Instead, I desire to uncover the beauty of the vows thru a Biblical worldview and how they are intended to play out in a healthy marriage.
I’m not sure when it became so bad, but I distinctly remember the June day I flipped as never before, Dr. Jekyll turning into Mrs. Hyde.
I had miscarried our first child and underwent a physically and emotionally traumatic D&C. When we returned home, we discovered that our basement had flooded ruining many of our possessions.
I was a wreck.
My husband put me on a lounge chair in the driveway and told me to rest as he cleared the basement of our possessions as well as the water.
Heartache over the miscarriage, topped with a flooded basement seemed to be the setup for the perfect storm.
A few days later, family came for a visit. I was cantakerous itching for a fight. Sure enough, the match dropped, and I blew. Words and actions I'm ashamed to type unleashed from within me. The aftermath was awful.
I was sick inside, and my man didn't know the woman he married.
When we take our wedding vows, we promise to love and cherish our mate “in sickness and in health.” Most of us think of physical sickness when we hear this phrase. However, because of the fall, there can be extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors that can negatively affect marital bliss.
Our story is an example of the emotional side of sickness, of dark, dark days ruled by my erratic behavior and anger.
It's time we, as the church, recalibrate our thinking about "in sickness and in health." to include not only our spouse's physical health, but also their emotional and mental well-being also.
Brokenness may or may not have been present at the altar when we said, “I do.” Situations and circumstances can unfold causing us to wonder where is the person that we thought we married, for in their place stands a stranger whose actions are not lining up with who we thought we committed our lives to on our wedding day.
What are we to do? Throw our hands up in despair and deem the situation hopeless?
Christ's death and resurrection promise hope and victory in these hard places! This is where our faith grows feet and takes steps we didn't think possible.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
I’m sure there were days my husband felt hopeless, but he didn't give up on me or our marriage. What follows is his story on how he chose to live Hebrews 11:1 in our “in sickness and in health” story.
3 Ways My Husband Chose to Walk by Faith in the Darkest of Days
What kept me from walking away from my wife during those hard times? I have to admit that during the dark times, it was not easy, so I chose to focus on three things:
1. The Good Times
One of the things that kept me going was to focus on the good times between those dark times. The good times gave me hope and helped me push through the painful periods.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
2. My Issues
Another aspect was knowing that I too had my own issues. This perspective gave me compassion for the struggles my wife was experiencing. My issues were not resolved in a day, and I knew that it would take time to work through our problems together.
Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.
3. My Commitment
Lastly, it was the commitment that I made when we got married. No matter how bad things became, the word divorce never came out of my mouth. It forced me to seek God’s help, to focus on working on our marriage, and not to give up on it. It did not happen overnight, but each small step encouraged us to stay the course and see God do a work in both of our lives.
But the Lord is faithful,
and He will strengthen you
and guard you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Why do I share my man's choices on a blog for women?
Remy had no idea the depth of brokenness inside of me when he said, "I do." and vice versa. Though our circumstances may all be different, our choice as wives to stay committed needs to be the same. My friend, we need to stand by our vows "in sickness or in health," whether it's physical, emotional, or mental sickness.
How to Keep Going thru Your Spouse's Sickness
Over time dealing with health issues in our spouse can be taxing, even straining our compassion for our spouse. In those times we need to press into our faith. Christ extended sympathy to sinners like you and me. Since Christ bestowed His compassion on us, we can and should extend compassion to others, including our spouse.
Luke 5 explains:
"But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Whether or not you knew your spouse's physical, emotional, or mental health on your wedding day, you committed to who your spouse was as well as who he would be in all your tomorrows. You, my friend, can be faithful to love your "sick" spouse well because God desires it of us and is faithful to empower us.
If you are currently in a valley with a sick spouse,
- Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. He loves you and is for you!
- Seek to love your spouse through Christ's strength.
- Press into your promise to love your spouse in sickness and in health.
- Find an accountability partner, someone who will be confidential with your story and faithfully pray for you.
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
There are no guarantees your spouse will be well this side of glory, but the God of hope promises never to leave you or forsake you. He promises to complete the work in you that He started. He promises endless growth in ways the world can't hold a light to.
You. Can. Do. This.
Others are watching, dear one. Shine in the dark places. My husband and I are praying for you and cheering you on! May we all be found faithful thru the sick days and the well days to quietly live out a bold faith inside our own marriages to the glory of the Lord and for His Kingdom.
He will sustain you to the end,
so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
How about you, my friend? What are some tips you have used to not grow weary in sickness in your own marriage? Do you have any words of encouragement for us? Perhaps you're in the thick of a tough situation. I'm sorry. I'd love to pray with you. Let me know. You are not alone. <3
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.
Wedding Vows Series
I Do? What in the World Did I Sign Up For? - Part 1
Heat Up Your "To Have and to Hold" - Part 2
Winning Solution in "For Better or For Worse" - Part 3
Do You Feel Weary in Your "in Sickness and In Health" - Part 4
You CAN Meld Love and Money in "For Richer or Poorer" - Part 5
Love AND Cherish no Matter What? - Part 6
Till Death Do We Part - Part 7
If you don't know the rest of our story, you can find it here.
When I was a wee lass, I distinctly remember the first time I saw a color TV. Up to this time, we viewed the wonders of television in black and white. But then my cousin purchased a color TV.
His sister and I ran down the hill to his house, bursting into his living room eager to see this modern day marvel. And there it was, turned on, airing a hair commercial of all things. The model might have been showcasing the wonders of hair color, but I was more amazed at the explosion of color hitting my eyes rather than the color of her hair from a box.
Having just come off an 8-day journey thru the Holy Land, the wonder of stepping into the pages of beloved stories I’ve heard from my childhood is like the black and white to color TV scenario. My friend,
I’ve heard the waves lap on the Sea of Galilee.
I’ve tasted hyssop.
I’ve seen the sun paint the sky over the Valley of Armageddon.
I’ve felt the cold Jordan River.
I’ve stood in the EMPTY tomb!
I've walked where Jesus walked!
My Bible reading has exploded into living color!
And I want to convince you, dear reader, to save your pennies and go!
Here are 7 reasons why Israel should be on your bucket list:
1. The Atmosphere
Like any other country, a sea of humanity walks the streets of Israel. Yet, unlike any other place I have visited, outwardly expressive religions walk the same roads with each other. Stiff hats, dark garments, the swishing of the long robes, the curled sidelocks, the slits for beautiful dark eyes, all of it within a country the size of New Jersey! The mix of cultures, food, sounds, and smells makes for an unforgettable experience. Yet despite the mix, I didn’t feel unsafe at any time during my trip.
2. The Locations
Think of it, many of the locations we’ve read about and studied are right there,
- the Sea of Galilee where much of Jesus’s earthly ministry took place,
- the desert -- where John the Baptist started his ministry and Jesus was tempted -- stretches as far as the eye can see,
- caves where David and others hid
- the gurgling spring where God narrowed down a fighting force of men to 300 to fight by Gideon’s side,
- the Jordan River which God opened for the Israelites to cross on dry ground, and where Jesus was baptized
- the Dead Sea where nothing lives, but everything floats, including humans.
- Masada – a king’s desert fortress turned Jewish stronghold against the ruthless Romans
- Peter’s mother in law’s house!
3. The Guides
Like an expert on the Civil War or Yosemite Park, I’d highly recommend going on a tour led by a local guide who is a believer. Passages from Scripture have taken on deeper meaning when told in the context of what was going on in the place and time of the event.
A perfect example for me was Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Questions I had about that have now been answered all because I had a knowledgeable guide who was able to show and tell things I wasn’t privy to before.
Another example was the eye of the needle - Just look at the door in a door in the wall! "It is easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven."
Oh my! Where to start? There’s the Old City teaming with history centuries old, the underground tunnels hewed from rock and dirt to safely transport people and water in and out of the city, the wailing wall with rocks the size of a small car, the Upper Room, the basement where Jesus was beaten and flogged, the Via Dolorosa, the list goes on
5. The Garden of Gethsemane
Tucked away from the clamor of the city, is the garden where Jesus declared, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Such a serene spot to reflect and be reminded of what He did for us and can do for us.
6. The Empty Grave
Every other religion in the world visits their leader’s grave full of bones. But ours!! Think about it, we can travel halfway around the world to visit an empty grave! Totally worth it! Woohoo! “He is not here! He has risen, just like He said.”
7. The building of your faith
Of course, I’m still on my own Mount of Transfiguration trip high, but I pray I’ve been renewed and emboldened. Just opening my Bible this morning to continue my study of Mark was totally different than just two weeks ago.
I can now picture the sky being painted by the sun as it rises over the Sea of Galilee.
I can hear the soft lapping of the water, and the crunch of footsteps on the shore ladened with rocks and teeny tiny shells.
I can feel the water caressing my feet.
I have walked where Jesus walked! Glory be!!
I’ve dreamed of traveling to Israel for 30 years. And I long to go again!
So should you because while going to Disney may fill our hearts with glee temporarily, a trip to Israel gives us another brick in our foundation of faith. It's a trip with an eternal impact.
I'm not saying it's wrong to go to Disney or other fun places, I'm just presenting the question,
"We save our pennies to go to Disney, why not for Israel?"
Israel should be on every Jesus Girl's bucket list because a trip to Israel takes the Bible, a living book, and splashes gorgeous colors over every setting.
So, next year in Jerusalem! Yes? Start saving your pennies and let's go!
As I was asked to write for By Faith She, I began praying about what direction I should go. The words no one wants to hear crept into my life almost a year ago and since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I knew I needed to share my story!
Back in November of last year I received a call that came with an overwhelming diagnosis that changed my life from that moment forward. “Cancer” is all I could hear on the other end of the phone. I was forty-one years old and scared to the core! From the very beginning, I heard Jesus asking, “Do you trust Me?” To be honest, that was a hard question to answer because I felt as if Jesus had walked away from me. That sounds so crazy now, but during the diagnosis I felt alone.
As my doctors created a battle plan, my daily life began to consist of tests, doctor visits, blood work, chemo and ultimately surgery. During the process, I lost my hair. We all know that back in the Bible days your hair was your glory and of course it’s still an important attribute for women still today. Yet again, the Lord kept asking, “Do you trust Me?”
Throughout this process there have been many days that it’s just been me and Jesus. I have learned now more than ever to let go of things I cannot control and let Him move in my life. It hasn’t been easy, but when I really came to understand that He was the one that created me and He knows what’s best in my life, I was able to surrender and lay it all at His feet.
I was raised in the ministry and I thought I had given every area of my life to Jesus, but I learned quickly He didn’t really have all of me. Did he cause this cancer? Nope! But, I do believe He allowed it so I could reconnect to Him and go deeper in my faith.
Placing all my trust in Jesus and giving Him all my fears has truly changed my heart and my life. I have moved from simply loving Jesus to being crazy, madly in love with Him!
My hair is slowly coming back in and I am now a blonde, which is a hair color I have never had before! This journey has taught me how to be intentional with what I fuel my body with too. I used to eat whatever my flesh desired, but have seen the benefits of feeding it with whole foods that make God’s temple thrive. In the process, I have now lost 30 pounds. I am so thankful that the Lord has changed me from the inside out!
I can relate so well to the story of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. As the Israelites saw the Egyptians approaching and then saw how vast the Red Sea was, they were frightened! But God was speaking the same thing then as He has been to me on this journey…”Do you trust Me?”. With God on our side, He stands between us and the enemy and we never fight our battles alone! I’m telling you He is crazy in love with you and when the “Red Sea” comes in your life do you turn back or do you let Jesus part the waters for you to walk through?
My journey continues. The surgeon was able to get all of the cancer…Praise Jesus, but I am still undergoing precautionary radiation. Days can be so long and hard, but I know God is my Healer and my Poppa and I must continue to “trust” Him as He has asked me to do.
So, I leave you with this...will you let Him change you from the inside out? What He can do for you, which he has done enough already on the cross, is amazing!! I am very blessed and claim healing, and will claim healing for you and your “Red Sea”.
Hello, my name is Jennifer Williams. I grew up as a child of a kids pastor. I have been in church since I was a baby, and grew to know the love of who Jesus is. I am a wife of an amazing man that God placed in my life eight years ago after going through a divorce that I never would of expected. God turned it around and placed my soul mate in my life and showed me again that He was in control. I have 3 kids...2 from my first marriage, a son that is 23, a daughter that is 21, and now a bonus daughter that is 16. Also God has blessed me with my first grandchild! His name is Landon and wow what a HUGE blessing He is!! I love being a Grammy and know that God knew I needed him at this appointed time! For fun I like to spend my time with family and travel as well. I LOVE ministry and love helping others. My desire in life is to pray with people and see transformation in their walk with Christ, and to see people be healed!
Last year I wanted to work on my understanding of the New Testament. I decided that instead of trying to read through the entire Bible in one year (because I usually don’t make it very far into the New Testament when I try this) that I’d challenge myself to just read through the New Testament in 2018 using the same chronological study as usual.
I still have more to read before I complete the entire New Testament and 2018 is over. I didn’t make it 🤦♀️
I could tell myself I’ve failed. I could count 2018 as a loss because I wasn’t able to keep up. I could decide that it’s not even worth trying because I’m afraid I’ll fail again.
This year I gave myself grace when I didn’t get an entire day’s worth of reading done. And, when I missed a day altogether, I started back the next day right where I left off.
And guess what happened?
I spent some amazing time with the Lord 🙌🏼
I grew in my knowledge and maturity as a believer due to that intimate focused time and due to the reading I did complete 🙌🏼
I understood even deeper that it’s not about worshipping the process of spending time with God but it’s about actually spending time worshipping God 🙌🏼
I encourage you to set those goals for this coming year! Make a plan to study God’s Word and spend some intimate time with Him. Grow in your knowledge of Him and in your relationship with Him!
Give yourself grace when you lack. Start back strong when you miss!
It may not all play out as you have planned but that time you do spend with Him will surely be worth it!
Ask Him to take your time together and use it for your good and His glory.
Click this link to see the Chronological Bible we use and recommend.
The Bible is filled with God’s promises to different people. Some were made to specific people in certain situations, but many of His promises were made to His children in general. When He made those promises to His children, it included any children to come in the future. If you are alive today and are in relationship with God, through Jesus, you are God’s child and those promises are available to you!
For example, let's say Tom decides to play the lottery. He buys a ticket, picks his lucky numbers and when the winners are called, he has a multi-million dollar ticket! Unfortunately, Tom decides to hang on to his winning ticket and never turns it in for his reward. He has great riches available to him, but he never takes the necessary steps to access them.
The promises God gives us regarding prayer are rich and extremely powerful! Let’s take some time today to unpack what they are and how we can live the abundant life He offers.
I have to be completely honest, I’m not great at promptly returning all of my text messages. I’m even worse at Facebook Inbox messages. And don’t even try sending me an email.
But God promises to answer His children before they even call!
“I will answer them before they even call to Me. While they are still talking to Me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” Isaiah 65:24
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:13-14
He promises that He will 1. hear us and 2. answer every word we send His way.
It's true, His answer may be in a very different way than we had hoped, but even still, He will answer.
Now that is a big promise!
One of my former pastors, Dr. Ed Young Senior, wrote a book that I highly recommend, called Living Under the Rainbow. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific promise made by God to us as followers of Jesus Christ.
In his book, Dr. Young gives us several actions, straight from Scripture, that we must take to live abundantly in the promise of prayer. I have included some of them below.
1. ABIDE in Christ - We must be in a covenant relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is not like the interactions between acquaintances but rather intimate, soul-bearing communion.
We can take the earlier example of Tom winning the lottery further to illustrate this point. Let’s say Tom’s friend, Jim, knew about the winning lottery ticket. He drove straight down to the lottery claims center and told them all about his friend’s winning ticket. Unfortunately for Jim, he couldn’t claim the money for himself. He was trying to access riches that he didn’t hold the rights to. Just the same, God made this promise to His children. Someone who is not a child of God can not claim this for themselves. Only a person in a covenant relationship with God, through Jesus, has access to the promise of God’s ear and answered prayer.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 17:7
"Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6
2. Pray for God’s Will - Much of Matthew 6 is devoted to Jesus explanation of how we should pray. He tells us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and His will to be done. He tells us that our priority needs to be seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first, and all of our other needs will be added to us.
3. Set Aside Pride - We must come to our Father, in our need, and ask Him to give us what we can’t give ourselves. In Jesus explanation of prayer, He says we should ask for our daily bread, reliant on God to provide our needs. This takes humbling ourselves and asking God to provide.
If my people, who are called by may name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
4. Address Sin - When we are abiding in sin instead of Christ meaning we have unaddressed, unconfessed sin in our life, this blocks our prayers to God.
Psalm 66:18 - “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
Isaiah 59:2 - God hides Himself from those who are in sin.
James 4:3-4 - When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…
Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?
The promise that God will hear my prayers and act on those prayers provides peace and security as I live through the ups and downs life brings. It gives me confidence to live by faith, and trust that God is with me every step of the way.
Audra and her husband Jordan are called to ministry and he is the senior pastor at their church. They have two beautiful children who bring them tons of joy, lots of laughs, and on occasion new grey hair. She is a former teacher who still loves to teach, enjoys cooking and baking, and has a passion to lead other women to know Jesus and live out their faith in Him.
“I don’t think you should marry me because I’m not sure I want to go to Ethiopia with you.”
Words said by me to my future husband Tim, about 9 months before we got married back in 2005. He had felt called to missions for as long as I’d known him, and I was pretty sure I didn't.
Now that we’ve announced our intentions to move to Ethiopia long-term as medical missionaries, many people say, “Wow, I could never do that.” Well, for a long time I didn’t think I could either.
We got married believing that if God wanted us to serve Him overseas, He would work in both of hearts, not just Tim's. And during Tim’s 11 years of training to become a general surgeon, God did just that—worked in my heart to make me want to follow Him to Ethiopia. #31daysofcalling, a series I wrote to tell that story—here’s an excerpt from the intro:
God didn’t slam me with books about marriage that told me to get in line, and He didn’t lay guilt on me for not wholeheartedly following whatever my husband wanted to do. Instead, He did a thousand little things to open my heart to people who are suffering in Ethiopia, showing me how He’s crafted my personality and gifts to fit there, to give me a vision for what my life would be like there, and to make me literally WANT to go.
Here’s a peek into two of those thousand little things that I highlighted in #31daysofcalling:
Day 2: A Red Tin Roof
As a kid, there was a little house on our highway that I was in love with—white siding and a red tin roof (top picture.) That house made me fall in love with the idea of a red tin roof. If I ever daydreamed about my life as an adult, it was always with a red tin roof over my head. Fast forward to life as an adult, considering moving to Ethiopia, considering working at a rural missions hospital.
What do the missionary houses there have? Red tin roofs! (bottom picture) God cares about the details. ❤️
Day 19: Radical Generosity
A tap on my shoulder before church…the wife whispers, “I know Tim won’t always have summers off during med school, but does he have this one off?” It was his first year of medical school, and we had gotten married a few months before. I say that he does, and she excitedly says, “Can you all come over for lunch after church? We need to talk to you about something.”
We go, and these dear friends (whom we met just a few months earlier) explain that the husband received a big bonus at work, and they had been praying about what to do with it. They wanted us to consider returning to Ethiopia that summer to experience serving together as a married couple—at their expense.
Fast forward a few months, and we are making plans to go back to Ethiopia and help the Mission to the World (our sending organization) missionaries there with a big medical team that was coming to conduct clinics in a poor community. We worked up a budget for the trip, sent it to them at their insistence, and they then donated the WHOLE amount to MTW (have you checked ticket prices to Ethiopia? It’s not cheap).
Before we go, the wife tells me that she’s been thinking about how Tim’s future work in Ethiopia as a doctor is clear, but she has specifically been praying that God would give me a vision for MY life in Ethiopia.
The trip DID give me that vision—I worked with social workers, helped in medical clinics, and saw a lot about what home life could be like with the missionaries we worked with. Our interest in returning to Ethiopia solidified, which had a significant impact on the way we thought about our lives during the rest of Tim’s training.
And all of that, when we had had no plans of our own to return there any time soon.
- It was they who dreamed up our going that summer,
- they who wrote the enormous check instead of dreaming up what they could do for themselves with it (WOW),
- they who prayed for my vision.
God continued to work in my heart for years to make to me truly want to do this, but that summer was a pivotal start for me…thanks to God, and friends who listened to Him even when it meant great expense. Whoa.
On Day 31, here is part of my reflection:
So if you look back over the last 30 days with me, how can we not just give this a shot? How can we sit pretty as a surgeon and his wife in America when God has done ALL. THESE. THINGS. to pull us toward Ethiopia over and over and over again?
If we fight to believe what we say we believe, we need to meditate on what’s true:
- nothing can separate us from God’s love,
- God will lead us and hold us no matter where we are
- He doesn’t sleep (different time zone—no problem).
- He is near,
- He is good,
- He is faithful.
- He says not to fear,
- He says not to worry.
- He says you have to give up your life to truly find it.
At the beginning of #31daysofcalling, I was trying to answer the question “why?”. Why are we doing this, why do we think God is calling us to it?
But now that we’ve been through all these days together, the question I hope we’re asking is “why not?”.
After seeing time after time after time of God preparing, providing, protecting, and teaching us, why not do this? Why not take the gifts He’s given us and uses them in Ethiopia? Why not try to be faithful to follow Him when He’s obviously been so faithful to us?
Thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to read a bit of our story, and you can find the whole story at www.loveethiopia.org/31daysofcalling. And don’t be like me when I told Tim he shouldn’t marry me—believing the lie that things about you can never change.
Because God is in the business of change, in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
Merry Christmas! What a priviledge we have to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Jesus! We see the word "Joy" so much around Christmastime, so I felt led to re-share a post I wrote this time last year. It's a great reminder that it IS possible to have JOY in our lives despite our circumstances because true JOY only comes through salvation.
I'll never forget the day that I was sitting on the front steps of my first home talking with a friend that was not a believer at the time. One of her questions to me was, "Why are you always happy?" That conversation ultimately led to us praying over the phone together and her asking Jesus to be the Lord of her life! I think about her often and that pondering question she had for me. The one thing I told her is that happiness is fleeting, but JOY is everlasting and only comes from a relationship with the Lord.
Life has not always been kind to me. I have had my share of heartache; I began dealing with death at a young age with losing grandparents that I adored, my dad became sick when I was fifteen and life for my family was lived in and out of hospitals, my aunt was murdered and my uncle was sent to prison for conspiracy of murder, my dad lost his battle with cancer when I was nineteen, I lost one of my biggest cheerleaders (my dad's mom) several years ago, and another grandfather soon after our youngest was born.
Now I realize many have gone through much worse and I am sure not trying to have a pity party. Scripture is very clear in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world". If we are followers of Christ, we know Satan is going to fight us and try to defeat us. What I pray you see in this post today is that JOY is not determined by our circumstances, but only through salvation and that He is enough for whatever comes our way.
How can we live a life filled with JOY when we look at the world and see such darkness? We see that word JOY so much at Christmas, but is it really possible to have? The cause of joy is JESUS!
Depending on the translation you use, the word JOY is mentioned around 200 times in the Bible. So that tells me, there is something to living a joy-filled life....it IS possible!
1. JOY at the Manger: Luke 2:10"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people."
Can you imagine being Mary and Joseph and all that they endured getting to Bethlehem? Do you think anything about it seemed joyful in the moment? I know myself and I am sure there would have been much grumbling through the process! The one thing that Mary and Joseph clung to was the promise that God was doing something mighty! Jesus' birth did not occur like most people would have imagined; a cave, amongst animals, shepherds, a trough. A King to come as a humble servant, born into this world amongst the lowly. WOW! We are broken, dirty, sinful people that He came to this earth for. Let that sink in for a minute! He didn't come wearing a robe and a crown to rule above everyone. He came to serve, to walk amongst the people, to have love and compassion. We can learn so much from that today!
REFLECTION: Take some time and really focus in on Jesus and His birth; nothing about it made sense to the human mind! He came to serve, to walk beside us and to be our ultimate sacrifice! There is no greater love!
2. JOY in Suffering: Philippians 2:14-16 "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
Oh this is a hard one, but it is Biblical! It feels so right and natural to complain when hard times come, but knowing that Christ has a greater plan should give us JOY in the suffering. Can you imagine being Paul and writing this letter from prison? Philippians is Paul's joy letter. Although he had faced excruciating poverty, abundant wealth and everything in between, he was still able to write with great joy because he focused his attention on knowing Christ and obeying Him. Joy doesn't mean that you are "happy" all the time, let me make that clear! Joy doesn't mean that we can't hurt or cry. Our life is just a snap shot of what eternity will be like, so our suffering is not lasting and we have hope because of Jesus! That should bring us great JOY!
Isaiah 55:8-9 is one of my favorite verses, because when I begin to doubt God's goodness or question how things are transpiring, I am quickly reminded that He is God and I am not. His knowledge and wisdom is far greater than we can ever comprehend.
REFLECTION: Suffering is hard and doesn't seem fair. We tend to run to Jesus last, when He should be the first one we rest in. Get into God's Word and spend time in prayer with Him. Ask Him the hard questions that you are dealing with! What is it that you need to lay at His feet? He is working in each of us and we can trust what He says, He will do!
3. JOY in Salvation:1 Peter 1:8-9 "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Peter heard Jesus say these same words when Thomas was doubting Jesus' resurrection in John 20:29, so Peter is repeating them here in 1 Peter 1:8-9 as he encourages Christians who are suffering. Because we believe in Jesus, we have inexpressible and glorious joy! Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the Spirit and joy is listed right after love. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us and these are character traits found in the nature of Christ. It's not possible to "earn" or "try" to get any of the fruits in our lives, we must join our lives with Him to receive them. Although we know the end result and heaven is our eternity, we must still work diligently now to serve Him and point others to Him.
REFLECTION: Jesus is our joy! Thank Him for your salvation and all the beauty that you experience because you have His character traits in you! There may be some things that are defeating your joy right now. Pray and ask the Lord to show you if there are some areas in your life that you need to work on. Maybe you need to resolve conflict, be more faithful in your job, mend a marriage, or maybe you are just in a waiting period...do it all with JOY! If you do not know the JOY that Jesus brings, please reach out to us, we would love to talk with you!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids and a part-time marketing director. The Lord continues to teach and stretch her through ways she would have never imagined, all by saying "YES" to whatever the Lord has for her. She loves being involved in her community and building relationships...oh and she loves to laugh!
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!"
For me, picking a word or phrase of the year has been a powerful way to keep myself focused on areas where the Lord is desiring to grow me. In 2013, my phrase was “Press On” (Philippians 3:14) and it became a dominant theme in my life as the Lord called me to lead a Bible study in which we capped off the 10-month study by running our first half marathon. Prior to this, I was not a runner nor a teacher. And, I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. This same attitude permeated other areas of my life as well and it had to go.
That year, I learned how to strain every physical, mental, and spiritual muscle and rely solely on the Lord to supply what I needed to finish the task. And, He did. It was a lesson that I will never forget and one that He continually brings to mind when the going gets tough and the temptation to quit or to doubt loom in the air.
Other words such as “Thankful” in 2016 (1 Thessalonians 5:18) helped me overcome a recurring anxiety that I was wrestling with. In 2017, the year of our blog launch, the word “Persist” (1 Samuel 17:34) emboldened me to stand toe-to-toe and look my giant named Insecurity in the eye and knock him out. He’s nothing but an occasional powerless whisper in my ear now.
For 2018, I went in a new direction. Instead of a word or phrase of the year, I asked the Lord to give me a word for the decade because it was the year of my 40th birthday. The word He gave me was “Fruitful” (John 15:8) and the emphasis in 2018 was not to be on the fruit but on the pruning required in order to bear the fruit. Ouch.
It has indeed been a year of pruning for me. And, I can testify to two things: 1. The pruning shears are not pleasant and 2. Every snip has been necessary. But, it is because of this pruning–the rebuke of a carelessly spoken word here, the chastisement of a bad attitude there–that I have discovered the Father’s tender love and mercy towards me. He desires much growth in me yet knows that the parts that do not reflect Him must go. In every situation, I know that He is pruning me out of love so I have allowed myself (most of the time) to bend to His Hand and learn the needed lesson.
That brings us to this coming new year and the word that the Lord has chosen to represent it. I have thought long and hard, prayed continually, meditated on, and researched this word. I wanted to make sure that I understood exactly what it meant and what context the Lord is wanting to use it. And, I think it is all very clear now.
My word for 2019 is “Cultivate”:
1. (v. t.) To bestow attention, care, and labor upon, with a view to valuable returns; to till; to fertilize; as, to cultivate soil.
2. (v. t.) To direct special attention to; to devote time and thought to; to foster; to cherish.
3. (v. t.) To seek the society of; to court intimacy with.
4. (v. t.) To improve by labor, care, or study; to impart culture to; to civilize; to refine.
5. (v. t.) To raise or produce by tillage; to care for while growing.
More specifically, in the coming year, the Lord is calling me to cultivate relationships. First, my relationship with Him. Second, my relationship with my husband. Third, my relationship with my children. And fourth, my relationships with the women that He has placed in my life.
Cultivation is a gardening term that we see all the way back in Genesis when God commanded Adam to cultivate the land. Planting seeds then lovingly tending to and nourishing the soil requires a lot of time and attention. It’s a task that cannot be neglected or else the potential inside of the seed hidden under the soil will not come to bud or bloom.
Such is the same with our relationships. Time and attention yield a great return when they are invested in people. Jesus demonstrated this best as He walked through the streets of Jerusalem and over the hills of Israel. Again and again, he stopped to sow into those who came near to Him. It was never inconvenient, never rushed. What some would view as interruptions became moments of great impact where Jesus intentionally met their needs with a word or a touch. As a result, each person felt loved by Him. I want to do the same.
In 2019, I want to cultivate my relationships so that those whom the Lord has placed in my life will thrive from the time and attention, love and affection, that I sow into them. I want to see friendships blossom. I want to see intimacy with my husband grow. I want to see roots of faith become stronger. Each one is the potential yield of diligent cultivation.
Do I know how to do this on my own? No, because I understand the limitations of my green thumb or lack thereof. But, the Master Gardener is already teaching me how and I trust Him with the task.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
To be honest, I have not been one to set goals or have a clear vision of what the coming years may hold. There are times I love to have a plan, but I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. I realize that is not the best characteristic to have, but there are times I just love to be spontaneous. Thanks to my By Faith She friends, they have challenged me to be more intentional on what my life looks like as I walk hand in hand with the Lord daily.
Several years ago, Tammy asked me, “What’s your word for the new year?” I had no clue what she was even talking about! I quickly learned that she has been asking the Lord to give her a word to focus on throughout the year, you can read about it here. She prays for a word that can be a barometer for the many things this life throws at her.
I began that year to pray for a word. The Lord has given me words such as Simplicity and Intentional.
2018 brought change to our family with a new church and a new town. For the past several months I have been asking the Lord to show me my place, my purpose in this new season. That's when the Lord clearly showed me through Scripture and in my quiet time with Him my word for the year...PURPOSE. I am praying that the Lord shows me how His purpose for my life can be maximized this year.
It's so easy to let little, mundane tasks dominate all of my time. So this year, I want to focus in on specific areas of my life and how I can stay on track to the purpose God has called me to in each of them.
1. What is my PURPOSE as a Child of God?
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
God’s Word is very clear on what my purpose is. Therefore, go and make disciples and be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!
2. What is my PURPOSE as a wife?
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:10-31).
3. What is my PURPOSE as a mother?
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:26-27
4. What is my PURPOSE as a Pastor’s Wife?
"Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5
Ladies, we are called to help lead and guide the younger women. There is always someone younger than us, no matter what our age!
Now that I have a plan and Scripture to focus on, my prayer is when decisions and times of chaos come my way this year, I will filter every decision through these questions.
I am living my life in vain if I am not living with the purpose the Lord has given me. Nothing else matters except making an eternal impact while here on earth.
You can also read Audra's post about spending time with the Lord here. She includes a free calendar download.
For the past few years I have picked a (WOTY) word of the year, that will help set my focus for the coming year. Tammy wrote a post in late 2017 that explains it well. She has actually challenged our By Faith She Team to do this for a while now, and this year is no different.
As I’ve been thinking and praying about what my new word would be, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year. For me, the past has a lot to do with the word I will pick for the upcoming year. I look at where I’ve been falling short, or where I myself am in need.
This sort of reflecting tends to bring up a slew of emotions these days. Happiness from fun family time. Gratefulness for the ministry the Lord has allowed us to be a part of. Joy for the time spent with good friends and the new friends we’ve made. Sadness from missed opportunities. Pain from loss. Embarrassment from bad choices...
All of these emotions bring to mind Ecclesiastes 3, where Solomon reminds us that each season has its set time.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
To this I say,
“Mommas, like Mary, treasure up this time in your hearts, because they are only little for the blink of an eye.” (Luke 2:19)
“Mourners, take heart, your time of dancing is coming.”
“Joyful, bask in your joy and give thanks to The Lord! It likely won’t last forever.”
“Sufferer, persist in prayer for your season of healing.”
Seasons come and seasons go. Some are joyful and some are full of agony No matter what we are walking through or have walked through, we must recognize that God our Creator knows the seasons of our past, He knows where we stand right now, and he knows what is to come. We must give Him praise as Lord over each and every season.
So after spending some time reflecting, here’s what I’m taking away from the past year:
For the positive, this has been a year of faith building, excitement, and blessings.
For the hard, it has also been a year of battle, uncertainty, and change.
Although 2019 is of now a mystery, The Lord has continued to put the word Peace in my heart and mind. So, I will claim Peace as my word of the year. I will take on this word, and I will strive to rest in The One who offers true peace.
I will plug in to Him often and allow Him to fill me with this Peace that I so desperately need in the chaos of everyday life. And with that peace that He provides for me, I will in turn aim to create an environment of peace for my family. I will strive to offer a refuge of peace to friends and loved ones as well.
My prayer is that this WOTY will be the theme that surrounds our lives this season! And I will do my best to remember that it is just that, a season.
Just a few short months ago I found myself so deeply depressed. It was all I could do to get out of bed and go to work. On my days off, I stayed in bed because I couldn’t face life. The anxiety I had fought for years had surfaced and it was winning. I had tried to find happiness and contentment in one addiction or another, but they just left me empty.
I had given up on life and so desperately wanted to end it all when I came across a blog that I had been following for a few months. Normally, I would just scroll right on past anything faith-based because, as much as I wanted a way out, I was sure God was not the answer.
I was sure that there was no way God could love me after all I had done. I would never be pure enough to deserve God’s love. I was convinced that there was no hope for me.
I needed a way out!
I needed to be rescued from a life of addiction, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame and all the other things that had defined me for so long.
Then, on September 3, 2018, I came across a By Faith She blog post titled Love and Truth.
I was feeling so unloved and just downright unlovable.
When I read:
“If you are a sinner, I accept and love you! Do you drink, do you curse, are you gay, are you ________? Just know - no matter what you struggle with, no matter what sin you may face... We are all sinners saved by grace and we will love you exactly where you are.”
I remember saying to myself, “They will love me where I am? Surely not!“
I commented on the post something like, “I wish I could love myself.” And after a few comments back and forth I just left it at that (in complete disbelief that I even sort of made an effort to reach out). The next morning I woke up to a message in my Messenger inbox from By Faith She wanting to follow up from our conversation.
As we messaged back and forth that day I realized there was something missing in my life. A genuine, authentic relationship with Jesus! I realized that I needed a Savior! So, I asked about salvation and how to get it. They never hesitated to give me Scripture on how to come to know Jesus and about how He loves us.
How much He loves me...
John 3:16 - “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.” (It’s a big deal!!)
On September 5, 2018 my life completely changed! I was given the new life I so desperately needed when I went all in with Jesus. I asked Him to be the Lord of my life and to be my Savior. He met me right where I was (while sitting at my desk at work to be exact)!
I was broken and defeated, and Jesus reached me through a blog post and a few women who are willing to be obedient to His calling and who truly love others.
It has been a life changing journey and I know I will never be the same! I can now look back and see how my brokenness led me to reach out and ask for help. God has placed some really special women in my life who I can learn from and who I can reach out to when life just doesn’t make sense. I also have the privilege of attending church with Audra and Laura and even though I may not get to see them every week, it is comforting to know they are near.
God has given me the desire to know Him more intimately and the desire to study His word. He is healing me from the inside out and revealing His love for me over and over. He is showing me that I am a new creation in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
"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.
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Countless babies have been born into this world, and yet only one has the biggest holiday set to celebrate its birth. But why? What’s so special about a baby? About this baby?
The Bible tells us that from the beginning of creation, God had been in contact with His people in some way. But when Jesus was born into the world it was an interesting time, because for the previous 400 years leading up to His birth, God had been silent. This silence was broken only shortly before Jesus birth, proclaiming the coming Messiah!
The Jewish people (also called Israelites) had been completely disobedient to God and consequently, had been handed over to their enemies. Upon their return to their homeland they wanted to get it right with God this time. This caused them to go in the completely opposite direction. Instead of worshiping idols, like they had in the past, it was no longer tolerated. In fact, they made up a number of their own new religious rules leaving them with over 600 regulations for daily conduct.
Even for a rule follower such as myself who thrives from knowing what is right and wrong, this is more than overwhelming!
Then came Jesus.
The Bible says that His young mother was a virgin and that Jesus was placed in her by the Holy Spirit, therefore Jesus would be called, ‘The Son of God’. Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew in “Wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man”. (Just as a side note, this is a great scripture to pray over your children. Who more do we want our kids to be like than Jesus?)
Long before Jesus was born, God spoke to His people through prophets. Many prophecies had been made about how people could recognize the Savior when he came. In fact, 456 predictions were made about Jesus in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). Mathematicians and some people much smarter than me, concluded that if Jesus was able to fulfill just 48 of these predictions it would be a miracle because it was an absolute improbability. Not only did Jesus fulfill more than 48 of these predictions, He fulfilled every single one of them! All 456! Outside of the power of God this could not have been done. Because of this we know that Jesus really is the Son of God.
As He grew, Jesus lived a sinless life. We see Him stand strong when Satan tempts Him. This again is impossible for any human being. There are days when, with God’s help, we are able to fight against Satan’s tactics to draw us in to sin, but not one person alive today or that has ever lived, or ever will live, is able to go their entire lives without messing up, making mistakes, sinning. But Jesus did.
And then comes the most important part of all. If we go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible, we see that every time someone sinned God required them to make an offering to cover their sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and realized they were naked, they were ashamed and hid from God. In order to cover their nakedness and their sin, God used the skin of animals to make them clothing. This required the blood shed of the innocent animal. The Bible goes on to explain, how God established a process for His people, which required the sacrifice of a spotless animal to cover their sin.
As we come to the end of Jesus’ short life, we see Him become that final, spotless, innocent, blood sacrifice. He doesn’t fight back when the officials torture Him and nail His hands and feet to a cross. Although just hours before, we see Him praying and asking God if there could be another way, He knows this is God’s will and His plan to save the world. And He willingly gives His life as a sacrifice.
The Bible tells us that those who choose to believe in Jesus and accept His sacrifice to cover their sins are saved. If we are saved, our sins are forgiven. Every sin I have ever committed and every sin I will ever commit is covered by Jesus blood and it is forgiven when I choose Him. If we are saved, we are also free from the law. Remember the 600 plus religious regulations the Jewish people had to fulfill each day? Not anymore. They were free! And we can be, too. Choosing Jesus means that I have God’s Holy Spirit to walk with me and direct me through this life.If we are saved,then when wedie, we get to live eternally with God in heaven. I can do none of these things on my own. I cannot pay for my sin with money. I cannot earn credit toward my sin by being good, giving, or helping others. In fact, the Bible says Jesus is absolutely the only way and there is no other!
So why do we celebrate this baby at Christmas? This is why. We celebrate His birth, but also the life He lived and the sacrifice He made. My prayer for you today is that you have chosen Him as your sacrifice and your Savior. If not, then let today be that day!
Helpful Resources in learning more about God’s plan for us through Jesus:
Helpful resources in learning more about God's plan through Jesus:
1. Read the Old Testament and learn about the sacrifices the people had to make to cover their sin? Do you want to see for yourself all of the prophecies that were predicted and fulfilled? Check out this easy to read and understand Bible called The Story. There is also a Kids Edition, and a Student Edition.
2. Want to know more about choosing Jesus for yourself? Click here to check out our What We Believe Page! Plus click the mail icon below to email us at ByFaithSheGirls@ByFaithShe.com to ask questions or tell us about your decision! We'd love to hear.