Christmas Traditions: Christ-Centered Edition

*Christmas = The Birth Of The Savior!!

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, the holiday portion of CHRISTmas in my house is about traditions that my kid will (actually) remember and that will draw him closer to God. I say poo-poo on the run-of-the-mill busy work to-do list that makes the whole season pass in a blur; if, after the one big day, I don’t feel closer to God, my family, or mankind then I say the whole holiday was an epic fail. So a few years ago we did away with what was expected of us and made our own list.

Here are our ‘Big 3’ as we call them:

3.  Making cookies for people who we think probably get overlooked. We bake & decorate cross cookies for the garbage men and the mailman. (We make a mess, have a ball, and spend the time discussing how important it is to look for ‘overlooked’ people in all areas of life, all the time, and draw them into our life.)

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2. Praying a “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” first thing Christmas morning before even donning our slippers and heading to the tree of presents.

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And the #1 tradition that elicits the most excitement:

1. Making a Birthday Cake for Jesus! †

He informed me that Jesus would totally prefer Funfetti cake

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Special Note: The most obvious tradition in our house is attending Church on both Christmas Eve & Day.
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What are some of your special traditions? How do you keep Christ in Christmas?

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My Struggle: Christian Response When Being “Wronged”

The WRONG response to adversity.

My mantra of late: Adversity = The Opportunity For  Integrity & Character to Shine.

I have a circumstance right now that is serious in nature and could potentially alter my family’s life for a long time. It feels that my family and I are being “wronged”. And nothing –nothing! –compares to a Livid Mama Bear whose Cub is threatened.

The real problem is how I catch myself responding. My devoted mind to Christ wants to behave the right way even in the face of someone else behaving (to my opinion) wrong. However, my heart and my mind are in complete opposition; The Bible warns us repeatedly that our hearts can be deceived, so I find that I must repeat my mantra over, over, over, and over all day long every day.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, ‘Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.’ ” (Mat. 12:25)

It doesn’t get much more obvious than that: To allow these evil thoughts or actions to continue would tear both our families apart.

But, oh my, …

Hateful, hateful thoughts pop in with no warning to the point that I’m even surprised by them! Most of the time I have to literally stop whatever I am doing (even if I’m walking, driving, etc) and say out loud “Okay Lord, my thoughts have run astray. I cannot keep these out of my mind on my own, I need your help! Clear these so that my wrong thoughts do not lead to wrong actions.”

Speak No, Hear No, See No Evil ©tayrawrdactyl.tumblr.com

I’m called to be the peacemaker even during the worst: “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18)

To try to control the situation or to try to “win” against another would only be a nonverbal statement that I don’t trust God. It wouldn’t show my integrity, it would show a lack of character. It would demonstrate to my children the value of winning instead of the value of loving thine enemies. They say morals are caught, after all, not taught.

The Bible tells us we must lead our hearts; so everyday I consciously choose to continue fighting my invisible attacker–I continue to ask God to clear the bad thoughts from my mind and to change my heart. My hope is that the Lord makes something beautiful out of the ashes of this lose-lose situation we face. I pray for strength to maintain my dignity in the face of a verbally and publicly abusive opponent. (I’m being slandered on the popular social media as we speak)

I wonder if this opportunity will help me lead others to Jesus? What is God’s plan? How can I use this to bring Him glory? Am I being pruned?

“But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor.” (Micah 4:12)

I know that God has this in His hand and my small part of His victory is to do the right thing, but it is oh so much harder than it sounds. No matter what happens to us here, our reward for being peacemakers and trusting Him is in Heaven. ….. ….

Please pray for me.

Date Night Recommendation

If you are anything like myself and hubby, a date night is just tooo much over the budget allotment once you’ve paid the teenager and replaced all the food said teen will inevitably eat (hey, that’s the best part of babysitting!); so your new idea of a date is reheating the leftovers you’ve stashed away so the kids won’t eat them for an after-school snack and the video you have rented at least twice but still haven’t gotten around to actually watching.

Well, my recommendation is that January 17th be the stay-home-and-snuggle-date-night kick off because Sherwood Pictures, the creators of Fireproof  (the number one independent film in theatrical release in 2008), is releasing its fourth family friendly movie, Courageous.

The synopsis from courageousthemovie.com briefly explains the film:

Honor Begins at Home

Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller are confident and focused. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.

While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they’re quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.

When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God and to their children?… Protecting the streets is second nature to these men. Raising their children in a God-honoring way? That’s courageous.”

Our male counterparts won’t be ashamed to watch this movie with us and will definitely stay awake and interested due to the “action-packed police drama.” And ladies, we can laugh, cry, and feel inspired for our real lives instead of feeling like another 1.5 hours of our very precious time was wasted! Because, let’s face it, most movie choices leave us trying to choose the lesser evil: an overabundance of violence or an overabundance of sex; it’s not exactly date night material for grown-ups whose time is valuable.

© Google Images

There’s something for everyone in the Sherwood Pictures films so it’s (still) perfect if your only time is when the kiddos are awake laying on the floor in front of the t.v.!! (Tell them the couch is off-limits; that’s for you two!)

And dare I say it?! We’ll have conversation topics with our partners after the show (!) and rejuvenation for facing the everyday challenges with our kids.

Originally I recommended that September 30th be Date Night Kick Off, but now I am revamping my original post for the January 17th DVD release. Check out my original post on my job’s blog if it is still playing in theaters where you live!

A Special Season’s Reading: Life Without Limits

“I found the purpose of my existence, and also the purpose of my circumstance. There’s a purpose for why you’re in the fire.”

Australian born Nick Vujicic (pronounced ‘Vooy-cheech’) is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring and uplifting  inspirational speakers of all time. Nick is president of international 501c3 non-profit organization Life Without Limbs, a world-traveling motivational speaker, and writer of his memoir Life Without Limits. What makes him truly exceptional though is his ability to use his circumstances–  being born with no limbs– as his greatest asset to change the whole world.

Life Without Limits: Inspiration For A Ridiculously Good Life

Image from Life Without Limbs website

“Imagine being born without arms. No arms to wrap around a friend ; no hands to hold the ones you love; no fingers to experience touch ; no way to lift or carry things. How much more difficult would life be if you were living without arms and hands? Or what about legs? Imagine if instead of no arms, you had no legs. No ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand. Now put both of those scenarios together… no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that affect your everyday life?”

Life Without Limbs asks a million dollar question and how many of us could really respond the way Nick did? His novel takes us through his quandary from infancy through teenage depression to the fated epiphany that launched him into his God-given purpose: inspire others and lead them to The Good News. You’ll muse, cry, and laugh hysterically. Nick Vujicic never writes with a tone that feels sorry for himself; his writing style is the same as his speaking style– honest, upbeat, and funny.

This is the perfect reading for this special season; the season of goodwill among men and a  renewed Hope for the coming year. Grab your warm throw blanket, put extra marshmallows in your hot cocoa (you deserve them!), and nestle in with this inspirational memoir!!

Want more, or too busy to sit and read? He also has many DVDs available at his website.

This is a sneak peek; I originally wrote this post for my library’s blog– it will be posted on the 16th: check it out here.

Everyday Conversation: Out of My Comfort but Into His Glory

So Testify! was born from a face-to-face conversation with my best friend about my inability to have face-to-face conversations. Yes, let’s just go ahead and get the fact that I’m a queen of the paradox out of the way. Eh; what can you do.

Here we are at a semi-fancy restaurant that shall remain nameless (but has the best salad &  bread sticks EVER!) celebrating her existence when the pros and cons of speaking our testimonies aloud(!) — like, to other people! — ensued with fervent gesticulation. We weren’t even drinking.

My past is…colorful. It’s no secret that I am a second chancer. That much I have no problem telling people. Unfortunately, my insecurities (or let’s say, Satan whispering in my ear) tell me that there are three serious possibilities that I’m not ready to face:

  • Judgment.  Whether I actually receive it or not, I will always be paranoid that I am receiving it. I will always be wondering what they think about me or the situation.

And, of course, what the Enemy is telling me is that the judgment I am getting is negative. He doesn’t want me to consider that perhaps they are saying, “She’s a good, strong gal for making it through and handing her life over to the Lord.” No, no. None of that. Lucifer wants me to think that everywhere I go and everyone I encounter can see the old me as if it’s a neon sign on my forehead. Ah, good ole Lucy.

  • I’m unqualified. I’m afraid that people will hear how bad I once was and decide that I’m not someone they should listen to. I realize this is a complete contradiction: the most powerful testimonies are from those most broken. Even though I know that, my insides tell me that people will judge the bad stuff so harshly that they’ll forget to hear the important message about accepting Christ, Grace, and obedience. Another portion of that is that I don’t know enough of the Bible to talk to people about any of this yet. This one may actually be legit.
  • Friendship loss. I didn’t used to believe that any person — not a one– made it through childhood/teenage/early 20s without the same kind of blemishes that I had. That is so not true. Although everyone messes up, lots of people still manage to make (mostly) right choices throughout their life. I have chosen to surround myself with these people since I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart. These are also the same friends who want to reach out and relate to people to help draw them to God. This is the double-edged sword: they will inevitably hear my testimony when I give it to others and knowing the deepest recess of my life may decide they don’t want to be tied down to someone with that much baggage (it’s exhausting no matter how far behind you it is). This is only natural human behavior. Whether this is relevant of truly rooted Christian friendships, I have no idea. Yet.

Darn you, you clever snake

Satan makes it sound really convincing, though. He’s all like: “It’s so cliché and naive to think that a real friend wouldn’t do that or to think that you just aren’t giving them enough credit…”

So here we are; we have arrived together at the point in my dinner story where this blog was first conceived.

The best advice I have received about this testifying is this: do not go into details about the past; use broad strokes so that the focus stays on how God redeemed.

What is your advice? And what “everyday” conversations have pushed you out of your comfort zone but into His glory?