We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Nativity

If you’re reading, may we wish you a Merry Christmas. May the true reason for today’s celebration be evident in your home and meaningful to your heart.

We’ll be back in one short week. Until then, we pray blessings over your day and all the days to come.
Merry Christmas!

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

~ I Timothy 3:16

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part VI)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

Solomon of old was offered anything he wanted. He asked for wisdom. I figure if it was good enough for him, who am I to differ? Before we launch into another year filled with a multitude of lessons for me to learn, it might be beneficial to ask the Lord to spread some of that goodness my way. Wisdom is always needed, and much appreciated.

Have you ever experienced those moments, either in the darkest of dreams or when the enemy chooses a particular moment to attack, when your past comes back to haunt you? Words you’ve spoken you wish you could delete from anyone’s memory, especially your own; decisions made without enough thought; poor choices; and the like. So have I. While the bad news is I cannot go back and change these missteps, the good news is I can learn from them and ask the Lord to protect my future decisions. I can ask for wisdom.

In fact, ask might be too weak a word. Begging would be a good idea. I do not want to take another step without the Holy Spirit guiding me each and every day. No decision is too small. There is nothing I want to do on my own. I surrender everything that I might gain a better understanding of what is good and right.

As we move through the remainder of this Christmas holiday, I pray the Lord would grant my request and give me wisdom. I pray I would use that understanding to better minister to those around me, and help me to reflect His glory. May I not allow my past to define what I am, but instead move forward in confidence as an example of what God’s goodness can do in a willing heart.

Pop Quiz… How many wise men brought gifts to Jesus?

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. …”
~  Proverbs 3:13-18

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part V)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

Never mind the holiday madness, my life is busy. Your life is busy. Our lives are packed to the gills with wonderful things. Perhaps overly stuffed. We have filled our days to the point that taking on one more task feels overwhelming and impossible. But what if that one more thing is an incredible opportunity to be used by God?

This Christmas, I’d love to be gifted with a heart to serve the Lord. In truth, He is using me right now, where I am. But if I’m honest, I’m not always as gracious about it as I’d like to be. And definitely not as gracious as I ought to be. I lose sight of His vision and replace it with my own warped image of what I think I ought to be doing. My eagerness to serve can sometimes find me adding more to my plate than the Lord is asking of me. Thus when He does bring ministry my way, I make excuses. I don’t have the time, I can’t possibly go where He is leading, or I find myself incapable. Excuses of the first order.

Please don’t think I take this lightly. Being willing to serve the Lord no matter where He leads is a leap of faith and obedience. While we might have visions of television opportunities, grand book deals, or concerts which amaze thousands, God might have better use for us in a remote jungle or in the slums of big cities. Humbler still; He might not ask us to move at all, but to remain quietly where we are because this is where we are needed. This, too, can be hard. Serving is not meant to bring us glory or fame, but to draw others close to the Father. In addition, serving whole-heartedly might also cost. Our lives, our security, and our comfort are all surrendered in order to carry out His mission.

Before I ask the Lord to bless me with ministry, I would do well to ask for a heart to serve and a willingness to follow wherever He leads. I would ask for wisdom, both in knowing when to say “yes” and “no”. I pray for courage to step out in faith; obedience to stand no matter the call; and an overwhelming desire to do what is right. May I serve the Lord with all that is in me, holding nothing back.

We’re curious… Do you have a least favorite chore? Mine is coming up with what’s on the week’s menu. I love the cooking, but hate figuring out what everyone is willing to eat!

“How can you tell if you have a servant attitude? By the way you react when you are treated like one.”
~ Unknown

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part IV)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

It’s happened again. That moment when I realize I’ve not only stopped listening to what my friend is saying, but have been rude enough to interrupt in order to express my own opinion on the matter at hand. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen often. But it occurs more than I’d like to admit. Thus, the fourth gift on my Christmas Wish List is the ability to listen better.

I want to see people as Christ sees them, and I want them to leave my presence feeling as if they matter. One of the simplest ways to do this – though not always the easiest – is to listen. To hear not only when they speak, but the volumes communicated when they remain silent. There is restorative power and edification in being given the opportunity to bare our burdens and joys with someone who is willing to hear us out. I want to be that person.

Unfortunately while I may start off with the intention of listening, open to this person sharing with me, I often end up trying to “fix” the problem with words of advice or wisdom. Perhaps an example of having gone through the same thing so my friend understands I relate. It took me some years to realize this was not always desired. In fact, sometimes it can be a turn-off for the person trying to communicate. They aren’t looking to hear from me. They are looking for a listening ear.

Thankfully I seem to have gracious friends who overlook my fault, or at the very least have never confronted me on the matter. I’ll be completely honest and say it doesn’t bother me when I’ve been interrupted. I understand. However, for the sake of those who are offended and out of a desire to be considerate, I should make an attempt at being self-aware of this issue.

What I’d like to do is approach conversation with the intent to only listen. I want to ask questions, and seek to know the other person better. My desire is to wait upon the Lord and His wisdom when is the right time to speak. Then pray the Lord would give me the right words, in the right moment.

As we gather with friends and family this Christmas season, my desire is that each person I come into contact with would feel the love of Christ, and understand their importance in my life. I pray I would have the heart to listen and the wisdom to speak only in the right moment. May this holiday, and all the days to come be less about what I have to say and more about leading people to God; the only one worth listening to.

Share with us… What are you listening to right now; perhaps music, a podcast, or a Christmas movie running in the background?

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
~ James 1:19

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part III)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

As I bustle along the busy streets, a man is standing on the corner hoping for a meal. A friend just lost her house to a local fire. Being a single mother, another friend could use a babysitter so she can catch up on housework and take a moment to breathe. Everywhere we turn there is someone who could use a helping hand. You guessed it, the third item on our Christmas Wish List is to see those in need.

Now when we say “see those in need”, we’re not talking about my eyes literally noticing a person. I am generally not that blind. Seeing goes beyond the physical and touches upon the heart. I desire to see people as God sees them. I want to recognize a need when it is presented to me, and have a heart to do something about it.

This can be a challenge to be sure. In the first place, my heart has to open to seeing people. My own critical nature can get in the way, passing judgement on people I don’t even know; making assumptions about why there is a need in the first place. Second, selfishness wants to sweep in telling me I don’t have time – money, experience, ability, etc. – to meet this need. Third, truthfully, previous hurts make me hesitant to help. No one likes being taken advantage of.

It’s funny. I’ve noticed the closer I draw to the Lord, the less these things matter. Instead of allowing these issues to weigh on my mind, I give them over to God and simply ask what He wants me to do. I seek wisdom. In some cases, He leads me to be the lending hand. In others, my part is to pray or lead them to the person who can help. I cannot do all things, but God can help those in need.

God isn’t asking me to overextend myself, but He often will ask me to step out of my comfort zone in order to be useful. As we hustle through this Christmas season, I ask the Lord to give me eyes to see people as He sees them; with love. I desire that He gift me with a heart to serve those in need; this Christmas and always.

We’d like to know… How can we pray for you this season?

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
~ Proverbs 20:35

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part II)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

It’s there on the tip of my tongue. My internal critic has made an appearance, and she has a desire to express her displeasure with this particular moment. The lights are not as grand as last year; the weather is not crisp enough for her seasonal pleasure; and perhaps that cocoa wasn’t quite as rich as she prefers. Following my desire for a grateful heart, the second item on my Christmas Wish List is a tongue which speaks kindness.

I’m all for expressing opinions and sharing ideas. But there comes a point when “expressing myself” has now launched into complaining. I think, if we’re honest with one another, we all know when we’ve crossed this line. Observation becomes finding fault. I am not speaking with the intent of edification, sharing in the moment, or even learning a lesson. I am unhappy with something – or someone – and I am using this as an opportunity to unleash my inner critic.

Outside of the fact that this does literally no good, it is actually causing harm. I am allowing a root of bitterness to have a place in my heart which will bond to other areas of displeasure already allowed to find a foothold, and before I know it I am a sharp-tongued mama who has nothing pleasant to say. Speaking of this mom, what is this teaching my children? If I am being critical, my children will mimic this trait and develop into adults who have formed this bad habit.

Often it is not what we say, but how we say it. Thus I might point out that the hot cocoa could use a tad more chocolate, but it in a manner which expresses thanks for what I have been given while playfully addressing my addiction to the cocoa bean. And in those moments when there is absolutely no way to make what I feel like saying palatable for other people’s ears, this is the perfect moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to minister to the condition of my heart.

As we move quickly through this Christmas season, my desire is to not only be grateful for what I have, but to purposefully choose kindness. I want my tone to be kind, my words to be sweet, and the intention of my heart pure. While we move through the hustle and bustle of the season, these “gifts” will only enhance our celebrations. They also bring the added benefit of remaining with us throughout the year to come as we continue on in our homeschooling and parenting adventures.

We’d like to know… Which does your palate prefer: white, milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate?

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
~ Proverbs 31:26

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All I Want for Christmas Is…

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

There is so much about this season which is wonderful. Cheerful music follows us wherever we go. Sweets and goodies are everywhere. Twinkling lights and trees are magical. Family comes together, and friends make a point of reconnecting. But, let’s face it, underneath all the glamour and sparkle lies a subtle message. You need this to be happy. You must have this to make Christmas complete. How can we call this Christmas if we aren’t participating in said activity? While none of these things are wrong, I want to be careful that my desire to have does not outweigh a heart of thanks for what is already received. This Christmas, the first item on my wish list is simply a grateful heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s not magical because of the multitude of reasons listed above or the many I could have overwhelmed you with. Christmas is a miracle because of why we celebrate. The birth of our Savior. If we sift through all the shimmer floating on top and get to the gem inside, there lies our reason for the season. Jesus Christ. When I put aside what I see, hear, and smell – lovely as they might be – and focus on the real value of Christmas, I cannot help but be grateful. I am so loved by the Creator of the world that He sent His Son. I am cared for, redeemed, and have a place in heaven. I have been given health, family, friends, and a home. There is much to be thankful for.

Perhaps you might be thinking, “Of course you can be content with gratefulness, Cristina. I’ve seen your Instagram posts, after all. You can’t possibly know what I’m going through.” Oh, my friend, hear me out. While I do not know the details, I truly understand. My mother struggled as the only provider and single parent for years. Some Christmases the only reason we had a tree is because one was given; our presents were cute pencils and pads of paper. Even as an adult there have been years when the Dollar Tree has been my best friend and putting a roof over our children’s heads stretched us to almost breaking. Now, not every year was that rough; true. But one thing I’ve learned, both through my incredible mother and adulthood, is that how we choose to view our circumstances is a matter of the heart. Even when it might have seemed like we had “nothing”, we had everything. We learned to be content and grateful wherever the Lord had us because we had what we needed. Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds, my fondest desire is be filled with gratefulness. My heart is for the Lord to remove anything which prevents me from seeing His beauty and provision; leaving room only for Himself. May my life be overflowing with gratefulness so I may pour out His love to the world around me, continually singing His praise.

We’d like to know… What are you most thankful for this season?

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13

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Write Your Own Story

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books.”
― Louisa May Alcott

What’s in a name? Think of your favorite author. Just hearing their name conjures vivid mental images of stories read, lessons learned, and creativity inspired. If they’ve written long enough and well enough, their name becomes their brand and, often, sells before the book can hit the market. A name is a powerful thing.

Our third, and final, book recommendation for this season is not a book at all. It’s the idea of a book. A bare book! Pages of empty space waiting to be filled. Hard back, soft; made for little hands to explore.

Hard-covered books filled with blank pages, bare books are available in several sizes. They come with covers in ready-to-be-colored designs or with a blank cover for our own creativity. Have a youngster who isn’t quite ready for paper yet? They have board books, too! For those of us who haven’t mastered the writing process, helpful line guides are available for purchase.

Over the years our children have completed dozens of bare books. We keep a shelf in the study just for their creations. Our collection is quite eclectic. We’ve covered everything from fashion designs to scientific inventions to fictional stories. Oh, the memories!

Christmas is almost upon us. Before the season ends, let’s take a moment to write our own story. Nab a bare book and create a holiday treat for the kids to enjoy on Christmas morning, or whenever. The possibilities are endless.

🎄Time to Chime In: You’ve set about writing a book, will it be fiction or non?

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The Radiance of the Glory of God

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

~ Hebrews 1:3

What must it be like, being so holy that even looking upon your face would mean death? Being unholy creatures, the radiance of the glory of God is truly remarkable. God is beyond anything we could possibly imagine.

Devotion – In Exodus 33, Moses asked God if he could see His face. The Lord replied that He would go before His people; He would allow Moses to see his goodness, but to look upon the face of God would have meant death. Here in Hebrews, we are reminded that Christ is the radiance of the glory of God; He is the brilliant ‘light’ which reflects all that is Godly.

“There is surrounding God a glorious brilliance. The glory of God so bright that man cannot perceive it. Brilliant to see; a light unapproachable by man we are told, this shining forth of God. In heaven we’re not going to need any light of the sun or the moon, for the Lamb shall be the light. The glory, the outshining of God, through Jesus Christ will light up heaven. There’ll just be a glow about everything. Everything will just be glowing as you get there. Glowing with the presence of God, the Shekinah of God that lit the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle in the Old Testament.”

– Chuck Smith, C2000 Series on Hebrews 1-2

Activity – To better help our children understand the radiance of Christ, now would be the perfect time to do a mini-study on the sun and light! How does light work and how do objects reflect that brilliance? As Christians this would also be a good opportunity to discuss how we are to reflect the glory of God. While we are not perfect ‘mirrors’ of His love and goodness, we can shine for His glory and reflect a glimmer of His essence to the world.

For hands-on application, order Sun Paper and make imprints! (Bringing the children back to our verse in Hebrews.) Have the children pick any object which light cannot penetrate, place it on your sun paper, and watch the fun begin.

Prayer – Father in Heaven, Your glory is beyond anything we could imagine. We long to be in Your presence daily, and have Yourself made known to us. Be with us now and always. Help us to shine for You, in a world desperately in need of Light. Amen

🎄Time to Chime In: Where has the Lord asked you to shine His light this Christmas?

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Angelina Ballerina’s Christmas Crafts

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“Here are some ideas for holiday baking and crafts for you to do with a parent… don’t worry if yours looks different – the memory of doing something together is what makes each activity special.
~ Angelina

What’s in a name? Just saying the name “Angelina Ballerina” conjures images of little girls in tutus prancing around the dance studio and books littering our living room floors. Our girls were massive fans of the book series, the mouse herself, and all things ballet.

Our second book recommendation in the ‘What’s In a Name‘ series is Angelina Ballerina’s Christmas Crafts. If you, or your children, have enjoyed the traditional series, we know you’ll want to read this book as well. Angelina_Ballerina's_Christmas_Crafts

Twenty-five crafts and baking activities await the family. (One for each day of December ’till Christmas!) Each activity is complete with step-by-step instructions, a photo of what the finished product should look like, and adorable quotes from Angelina herself.

A few of our favorites are the Soap Snowmouse, the Snow Palace, Shining Star Ornaments, and Sweet Spice Ornaments. There are so many great activities to choose from. Following along with one activity per day is the perfect way to make sure none get missed.

Christmas might be almost upon us, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this book. Find a copy and let the fun begin. Don’t forget! Join us each Friday during our ‘What’s In a Name’ series as we review favorite Christmas tales!

🎄Time to Chime In: Name your favorite Christmas craft!

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