Dec 27, 2016

Christmas Memories || Discussion

Ahh...the days after Christmas.  Where everyone tries to force themselves go back to "normal" without being saddened as the lights and trees slowly disappear.  The presents are gone, and the gifts might not seem quite as appealing as before.  But even so, one of the sweetest blessings remain:  memories.

I can't imagine what life would be like without memories.  I'm not talking about short-term memories, but the ones from years long gone.  How cold and gloomy the world would be if we forgot fun times of the past!  It's incredible how God gave us so many amazing abilities that we take for granted.

Now that Christmas has gone, I would like for us to share those memories.

What were some of the hidden blessings that you discovered this Christmas season?  Does your family have special traditions to celebrate?  Did you give a gift to Jesus this Christmas?  What was different about this Christmas compared to ones of the past?  Did you learn anything special as you celebrated Jesus' birth?  How did you keep the focus on Him instead of gifts, food, and fun?

I'm excited to read your answers. =)  I have found that we all celebrate this holiday differently, yet alike.  I enjoy discovering how each individual and family uses their own special twists to make this day special.

I think our holiday fun started a week before Christmas even arrived...because some truly amazing missionary friends came over to spend several days with us.  We just love them so much, and it was a blessing to be encouraged by their example.  (I might talk more about their visit and lessons I learned in a future post)

On Christmas Eve, my family watched Big Hero 6, which wasn't intentionally to start out the celebration or anything, but the next morning we were quoting it all over our house.  Hehe.  That was pretty fun. ;)

My family started out the day by eating waffles with maple syrup (yum!) and reading Luke 2 – the story of Jesus' birth.  We talked about different aspects of it as a family.  After that, we exchanged gifts, but the catch was that we didn't know who was assigned to buy OUR gift!  It was all secret.  A lot of laughter, smiles, and excitement followed.  We ate lunch with our grandparents, relaxed all afternoon, and hung out with friends in the evening – talking and singing.  It was a calm day, but we were very tired by the end. =)  I enjoyed the time to be together as a family and to focus on Jesus. ♥

And now it's your turn...I'm eager to hear some of your Christmas memories. =)

Dec 24, 2016

The Shattered Gift

Christmas.  Gifts stack up in hues of red, green, blue, and gold.  Lights sparkle on the trees that are decked with twirling snowmen, shining stars, and pristine ornaments.  Fires crackle, chasing away the frosty air.  Laughter fills the air as children kneel to discover their newest treasures.  Wrapping paper flies through the air.  Then eyes grow big and voices hush.

"But Momma," one voice is raised, "I wanted the other gift!"  Wails break the tranquil Christmas morning as a child throws his gift back at the tree.  It smashes into a million pieces.  "The one we saw at the mall!  Not this one!  This isn't the toy I wanted!"  Angry tears tumble down a round face as the child throws himself from the room.  He leaves his single mother who runs a hand through her dark hair.  A deep sigh escapes her lips.  She picks up the broken pieces one by one.  The shattered toy mirrors her breaking heart.  She had saved up all her extra earnings for this gift.  It was worth so much more than the other coveted gift.  Couldn't her child see that she gave her all for him?  Didn't he care?  Tears fall, but they are tears of regret.  Tears of sorrow.  The perfect gift she had chosen had been rejected.  She knew what was best for her child, and he had thrown it away.  He treated her valued gift like a piece of coal.

Christmas.  The cheer in the air had vanished.  Only a gaping hole of selfishness remained.


Such a beautiful, special day.  A day of joy, thanksgiving, excitement, and remembrance.  A day to celebrate the greatest gift of all times.

But so often we forget the true meaning of the gift.  When Jesus came to earth two thousand years ago, He wasn't desirable.  He wasn't shiny, or glittery, or lovely.  Isaiah 53 said, "There is no beauty that we should desire Him."  He was plain.  Regular.  And not very exciting.  Perhaps He was something like those brown paper packages that are the last ones to be opened.  Almost reluctantly, you tear off its wrapping after the other ones are revealed.  The stark plainness makes you almost forget that it's even there.

When I look back on the amazing love that came with the gift of the first Christmas, it saddens me to think that we simply rejected it.  We rejected Him.  God sent the absolute best gift imaginable - Himself in human form!  What joy, what gladness should have been there to accept Christ onto the earth!

Instead, the exact opposite happened.

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." -Isaiah 53:5-6

Jesus came as the perfect gift.  The gift that would save us for all eternity.  And we rejected Him!  We turned our backs and said, "I wanted something else, God.  I'm not satisfied with this gift."  How utterly selfish!  How miserably shortsighted!

When Jesus gave Himself on the cross, I wonder what God was feeling.  Did His heart ache as we rejected His Son?  Did He feel sorrow that we so foolishly overlooked our Savior?  Did tears fall down His face when Jesus took the beatings, the curses, and the nails without a word of complaint?  Jesus was not only the perfect gift.  He was a shattered gift; broken to bring us salvation.


This holiday is so much more than we can ever know or imagine.  It is deeper than our minds can even fathom.  God came down in flesh to live among us and to save us from our sins.  That is the best gift ever given.

Let us not merely "keep Christ in Christmas" or say "Jesus is the reason for the season."  Let us live this out.  Let us give Christ the gift of ourselves.  Let us realize how amazing His love is and live out that love for others.

This Christmas, may we not focus on our own desires and plans.  Oh, that we would give ourselves as gifts into His hand!  If He has given us so much, why wouldn't we give Him everything in return?

How are you going to show your thankfulness to God this Christmas?  How can we point to Him instead of ourselves?  Comment Below!

Dec 16, 2016

Secret Blessings, Hidden Gifts

...we moved...

I don't know what else to say.  Exactly one week ago was our first day here in a new house with new neighbors and a new town.  Our "purple" home, as my baby sister calls it.  (Our bedroom is purple on three walls and mint-colored on the last one - thus the whole house is dubbed as "our purple home") =)

Moving was a new experience for me.  The last time I moved was when I was a toddler; I don't even remember it.  So how can I describe this process to you?

It was crazy.  Stressful.  Exhausting.  Emotional.  Tiring.  Oh yes, it was all of those and more.  But it was also fun.  Character-building.  Faith-stretching.  Family bonding.  There were some terrible days, but there were some amazing days.  While moving was just as hard as I expected, it was also so much better than I expected.  Though Satan threw some hard obstacles in our way, I think I can safely say that we overcame them through Christ.  We cried, fell down, and got hurt, but we got back up again - holding Jesus' hand.

What I want to say is thank you so much to everyone who prayed for us.  You and I might never know what those prayers did, but thank you.  They truly made a difference.

There's so much I could talk about here...but I want to focus on the many hidden blessings God gave us during this time.  And, in the comments, I want to hear about your own life.  How has God been showing Himself strong to you? blessed we were by all the amazing people around us!  During the first few days, our house was full of people who made meals for us, cleaned, organized, put up cabinets, and did everything in between.  But even before moving, friend came over to help us move, put together beds, take apart our trampoline, and just make the job less stressful.  They made us laugh even when we were having a bad day.  My online friends offered constant encouragement and prayed for us during this time.  What a blessing it is that God has given us such great friends. ♥

Last Friday as we prepared to leave, one cat decided that he would not come with us.  My little sister was heartbroken.  We tried everything to get her to come out from under the shed.  Food, coaxing, kind words...nothing worked.  But *somehow*, after I sent one last desperate plea to God, the cat walked right out from under the shed.  He seriously came up to me and let me pet him and pick him up.  He doesn't even like me!  But that cat went right into a cage and is now safe and happy here in our new house.  Can anyone say that it wasn't a miracle?!?

The hardest part of leaving is saying goodbye.  Looking at something or someone knowing that you might not ever see them again hurts.  It leaves a hole in your heart.  This was the part of moving that I feared the most:  saying goodbye to the home that I've lived in.  The home full of memories, laughter and tears.  But God let me avoid that trial.  As I got into the car to watch the landscape roll by one last time, it just so happened that it was my job to hold our border collie on my lap.  Did I have time to be emotional and sad?  Uh, not at all.  Instead, I tried to keep our dog from falling off the seat, hoping she wouldn't get carsick on our windy roads. (Praise God that she didn't!)  As she fell asleep on my lap, I was thankful for that hidden, God-given blessing.

There are so many other hidden gifts that I could share.  Across the road, there is a potential new friend...someone I might be able to pour into and point to Jesus.  Our bedroom is perfect for us and very similar to our old one; we already love sleeping in it!  Our family's sickness is going away.  Though we had some issues with stray dogs, I think they are ended.  I got my first letter in the mail and a gift from a friend.  Blessing...blessing...blessing.   ♥

Don't get me wrong; it's still hard.  If you get anything out of this post, know this:  hard times will come.  But God allows them to enter our lives to strengthen us and make us grow.  When you fall apart, look to Him for your strength.  He will always give it.

Psalm 46:1-3, 10 reads,

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah ... Be still, and know that I am God."

Now I want to know...

How has God been working in your life?  What are some of the secret blessings in your life?  Comment below!

p.s.  Please forgive me for not responding to messages and comments as fast as normal.  I'm still trying to get back to "normal" life through all this busyness. =)  Thank you!

Dec 13, 2016

True Friendships

Her phone buzzed.  She pressed the screen, watching as four words appeared.

"Hi.  How are you?"

With a sigh, she stared down at the sentence.  A million things popped into her mind.  I'm tired.  Ready to give up.  No one sees, and no one cares.  Instead, she put on her pretend attitude.  Her perfectness.  No one truly knew who she was because they didn't try to get to know her.  Even her waiting "friend" was just wanting to spill out her own thoughts out about herself.

"I'm fine."  It was what she expected after all.  She couldn't be vulnerable.  She couldn't let the "friend" see her weakness.  Her pain.  Her exhaustion.

I think most of us know the difference between a true friend and a "friend."  There are people in our lives who truly care about us.  Friends who want to hear our struggles, doubts, and fears.  Friends who won't make fun of us for being weak but will encourage us and point us to God.  But there are definitely others in our life who seem to walk alongside us without ever becoming that intimate friend.  People who give quick, thoughtless answers.  People who just don't care.  They are along for the ride - as long as it remains easy and fun.  If you go through a hard time, they might just fall off and disappear as they find another person to "hook up" with.

It's kind of like the modern view of marriage.  Many people think that if their partner becomes "boring" or "uninteresting", they can drop them and find another.  Divorces are skyrocketing because the world doesn't see a need for "till death do us part" relationships.  We find someone we like, and if they do their part, we'll do ours.  If not, we're gone!

Godly friendship is an important topic.  We have to interact with people.  That's just how life works.  Sure, there are some individuals who really don't have any friends, but most likely you and I have at least a few.  How can we relate to others in a God honoring way?  What is my job as a friend?  Is it better to have many friends or just a few intimate ones?

I am going to share my thoughts based off of some Bible verses I found on this topic.  This blog post is actually more for me than for you all.  I want to know what my relationship with others should look like.  And where should we look other than the manual for Christian living?

Are friendships important?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up."

John 15:12 - "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Friendships are important.  They are even Biblical!  What would we do if we fell without someone to help us up?  Taking this more into a modern sense, what do we do when we fail, feel miserable, and give up?  A friend is someone who will take our hand, pull us back to our feet, and walk alongside us with his hand on our shoulder.  Even Jesus had friends.  He chose 12 disciples to accompany Him wherever He went.  Was this only to encourage and teach them?  Possibly, but I think that Jesus enjoyed having the company.  People who could relate to Him.  People He could pour into.

Does it really matter who our friends are?

Proverbs 12:26 - "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray."

Proverbs 22:24-25 - "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul."

1 Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" 

Having the wrong friends can be disastrous!  There are many different physiological studies that show how people react differently based off of who they hang around.  (and I did not enjoy my psychology class, so we won't go any further on that subject)  Peer pressure is so normal that we don't even realize it.

If we befriend godly friends who point us to Jesus, we will likewise grow stronger in our faith.  If we choose our companions to be unbelievers who accept sin as acceptable, our moral standards will likely drop, and we will find ourselves becoming more like them.  A Chinese proverb says, "Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends whom we choose."

This definitely does not mean that we shouldn't befriend unbelievers!  I am not meaning to imply that at all.  We should be reaching out to and loving the lost so that we can encourage them to turn to Jesus.  However, our best friends, the ones who we share our deepest secrets with, ask prayer from, and talk with the most, should be strong believers who share our passion for God.  If our friends are any less, we might be in danger of losing focus.

How can I be a good friend?

Proverbs 17:9 - "He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends."

1 Corinthians 10:24 - "Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being."

1 Peter 4:8 - "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins."

There are so many different aspects of how to be a good friend, but those verses share a few important reminders.  First of all, we should not ignore sin (transgression).  If we see a brother or sister in Christ who is living in sin, we need to confront them of it in love.  Too often we think "maybe they will be upset at me" or "maybe God didn't convict them of it yet...He might bring someone else to do the job."  This is a really touchy subject, and I don't have time to get into all of it.  But one vital aspect of being a friend is being willing to lovingly bring up tough issues and talk through them.  (of course, don't jump on every single fault and failure they might have...this has to be done with the right intentions and with the right heart.)

Secondly, if the person does make a mistake, don't keep bringing it up.  Don't tease people about some imperfection they have.  Realize that everyone is human.  I make mistakes, and you make mistakes.  Be kind, and don't repeat the matter.

Another aspect of being a good friend is seeking each other's well-being.  Consider others as more important than yourself.  Be willing to give time, prayer, and love to others.  Selfish friends aren't friends at all.  Thus, we need to realize that if we want to be a good friend, we need to take the time to invest in others.

Lastly, one of the most important aspects of being a friend is to have LOVE for one another.  The definition of true love can be found in 1 Corinthians 13.  I encourage you to at least read the list from verses 4-7.  If you are a loving friend, you will be patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, etc.

These are just a few of the many important aspects of friendship.  I'm sure I could write many more blog posts about this topic, but I hope this general overview proves to be helpful.  We need to diligently examine our lives and see if the people we hang out with are the people we would want to be like.

I want my friendships to be like Jonathan and David's from 1 Samuel. 

1 Samuel 18:1-3  "...the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him (David) that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul."

From such a simple beginning, two young men became fast friends.  Though Jonathan's father plotted David's death, they remained true friends to the end.  Jonathan saved his friend's life more than once.  At one point, Jonathan's father was seeking David to kill him.  Jonathan found David in the forest.  This last time they saw each other on earth (at least the last time that was recorded in the Bible), Jonathan "strengthened his hand in God."  During their darkest moments, they encouraged, prayed for, and loved one another.  THAT is true friendship.

I'll close with one last verse, but this time from the Message Bible.  =)  

Proverbs 18:24 (The Message) - "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family."

I encourage every believer to study their relationships with others.  Are they God glorifying?  Are they lifting you up in encouragement or tearing you down in sin?

Do you have a true friend like Jonathan was to David?  What are your thoughts on friendships?  Comment below! 

Dec 6, 2016

God's Not Dead 2 movie review

My family watched God's Not Dead 2 during the beginning of the school year. It was perfect timing! As I began several college classes, I was wondering, "how open should I be about sharing my faith through these classes?" This movie answered my question. There isn't a place to be radical and a place to be quiet. We should always be sharing Jesus. We should always be shining His love.

From the college classroom of God's Not Dead to the public square in God's Not Dead 2, the name of Jesus is welcomed less and less with each passing day. If Christians don’t take a stand today, will we even have a choice tomorrow?

Welcome back to Hope Springs…home not only of Hadleigh University, but also Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where beloved teacher Grace Wesley helps students understand and enjoy history. Her love of teaching, her love for her students, and her love of life all come from the same place: her love of Christ.

So when Brooke, a hurting student grieving the loss of her brother, reaches out to Grace, their coffee-shop conversation naturally leads to Grace sharing the hope she finds in Christ.

When Brooke later asks an honest question about Jesus in the classroom, Grace’s reasoned response lands her in big trouble—almost before she even finishes giving her answer.

With the principal and superintendent joining forces with a zealous civil liberties group, Grace faces an epic court case that could cost her the career she loves and expel God from the classroom—and the public square—once and for all!

Negative Elements:

The only negative element in this movie that stood out to me were several low-cut shirts on one of the main female characters. This didn't bother us extremely, but it's good to be aware of. =)

No characters take the Lord's name in vain, nor are there other examples of foul language. There are some slightly crude words for younger viewers, but it didn't prove to be a problem. (aka, "stupid" and "shut up")

My Review:

After watching God's Not Dead, my family was excited to view this sequel. I think we can all say that we enjoyed it better than the first! God's Not Dead 2 follows the story of a teacher who shares the truth about Jesus in her classroom and ends up being brought to court to answer for her "crimes." There are several side plots as well which made the story that much more interesting.

The acting in this movie is superb! Parts of it made me so happy...and other parts made me so angry. Lol. I found myself drawn into the movie, and it really impacted me to stand up for my own faith even in the face of persecution or trials.

We also enjoyed seeing some popular figures in Christian circles such as the Newsboys, Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ), and J. Warner Wallace (Christian apologist, homicide detective, and author). Lee Strobel shared evidence to why Christianity is indeed true, which was very cool. =)
Overall, my family loved this movie. It is a great, family-friendly film that has a motivating message – to stand up for our faith. I already want to watch it again. This is one of the few movies that actually made a difference in my life...I would definitely recommend it!

Other Notes:

An awesome quote... ;)

Have you watched God's Not Dead or the sequel? How have you stood up for your faith? Comment below!