Tag Archives: Faith

A Pre-Christmas Makeover

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My friend, author Amanda Flinn, really knows how to speak to the heart of mamas. In this guest post, she shares five ways to perform a spiritual makeover, just in time to really appreciate the Christmas season and prepare for the New Year. Be sure to check out Amanda’s blog for more encouragement.


 

At this time last year, I was really in a funk about life.

Not depressed or anything, just overwhelmed, out of routine and really just out of sorts. I was using the cold, dark mornings as an excuse to skip my workouts and my daily quiet time, which definitely added to my sour mood. My marriage was struggling, my gig as a stay at home mom was exhausting and my efforts to follow my dreams were slower than I had hoped. I was basically going through the motions, attempting to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, but not truly engaged. And my feelings were spilling over into my journal entries.

Check out this sad little snippet from November 19, 2017.

“Friendsgiving last night. Nice time, but I also felt tired and a bit disconnected. Aside from eating too much, not sure why.”

Have you been there?

Have you ever spent so much time taking care of others that you have forgotten to take care of yourself? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life, that you are at the party, but not truly present? Have you ever been so mentally and physically exhausted that you have started medicating with Netflix rather than the Word of God?

That is where I was last year.  And that is where I know so many mommas are at today.

The holiday season is busy and demanding and often times overstimulating, with added pressures to make everything perfect for our families and our friends. We are bombarded by extra activities, extra spending and extra calories and before we know it our schedule, bank account and waistline have been zapped.

What we need, and what I began last year, is a pre-Christmas makeover. A reset of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self. A re-boost of our entire being. A reminder that it is important to take care of ourselves and that by doing so, we can better care for others, especially during the holidays.

Here are five simple challenges to start today and get your pre-Christmas makeover in motion:

 

Get Up.

Even if you already wake up early, try getting up thirty minutes earlier than normal. Time alone in the morning is vital to your success. This process starts by telling yourself the night before that you will get up on time, no matter what. If you know you are getting up earlier, then you may need to go to bed earlier. Adjust it out and make it happen.

 

Get Silent.

Just be still. Be present. If God speaks to you then listen, but do not talk. Set a timer and just be in the presence of your Creator. I find that sitting by a fireplace, or a candle, or a lit Christmas tree helps set the mood. I do not recommend staying in bed, under the covers. Trust me on this one.

 

Get Gratitude.

Start with a few gratitude statements. Example: I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my coffee. I am grateful for my kids. Then move on to some “I am” affirmations. Example: I am strong. I am capable. I am worthy of love. And finally a big dream statement. If you have a dream inside of your heart, there is a good chance it was placed inside of you by a God that is bigger than any dream you could ever imagine. What big idea are you sitting on and waiting around for that you need to hand over to the one who created it? Example: I want to write a children’s picture book. (That was mine last year.)

 

Get Reading.

Spending a few minutes in God’s Word at the beginning of each day is a game changer. There are so many places to start and a multitude of reading plans to guide you through. The book and verse does not matter, just an open heart and a willingness to hear from God. I find that journaling about what I’ve read really helps with this process.

 

Get Moving.

This could be a short walk, a few stretches or a thirty second wall sit. Just spend a few minutes moving your body and build from there. Looking back at my journal, this part of my morning was pretty basic for the first two weeks. After that, I was able to challenge myself to actual thirty minute workouts (which pushed me to get up even a few minutes sooner than before).

 

All of these challenges are simple, but they will take commitment and a willingness to care for yourself—your whole self. Speaking from experience, I know how difficult that can be. I also know how wonderful it feels to come out of that pre-Christmas funk. But like any good plan, it doesn’t work unless you work.

So, get to it. I believe in you and you are worth it.

~ By Amanda Flinn of www.amandaflinn.com

Medal in What Matters: A Bride-to-Be’s Perspective on “Stuff,” Living Generously, and Holiday Giving

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Where are your treasures? Where do you spend your time and resources? In the following guest post, my friend, author Kristen Hogrefe, shares some encouraging (and convicting) insight on how we can focus on what matters this holiday season and throughout the year. 


My walk-in guest closet had become a black hole of catch-all, and the time had come to face it. The less “stuff” I have to move after my wedding, the better!

Most of the boxes stacked there centered on my childhood, so maybe that’s why I had put off going through them. Don’t ask me why tossing childhood memorabilia is so hard for me, but it just is.

As I opened a heavy cardboard box, I found myself facing my high school Bible quizzing trophies. I had worked hard to earn them and been so proud of them! However, they’ve been boxed up for years, and I never plan to set them out on a bookshelf again.

Maybe you have your own trophies or keepsakes, and if you’re not ready to part with them yet, that’s okay! Tangible motivation has its time and place. But cleaning out my closet reminded me of a truth or two I don’t want to forget.

 

Realize what matters in the long run.

What matters more than the medals themselves is what they represent. I spent my high school years memorizing chapters and books of God’s Word. Today, I can’t quote the Bible like I used to, but I believe that these Scriptures will not return to me “void” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV) but that the Holy Spirit will bring to my “remembrance” those promises just when I need them (John 14:26).

These medals will ultimately deteriorate (faster now that I’m contributing them to the trash), but those Bible verses will resound in my memory. As Isaiah 40:8 says,

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (NKJV).

 

Choose wisely what we treasure.

As a visual society, we often focus on the tangible. We see our cars, our houses, our vacation (or wedding) plans, and our Christmas gifts under the tree. While those things have their place—and I’m certainly grateful for them—they’re just a shell compared to what’s more important: the spiritual conditions of our hearts.

What do we truly treasure? Oftentimes, we can find the answer by watching how we spend our time and money. That’s some self-examination we all need to do. As we consider our answers, let’s remember Jesus’ words:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

 

Live generously and enjoy God’s blessings today.

Yes, the holidays are upon us, and most of us enjoy giving and receiving presents. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and enjoying gifts, as long as those “things” don’t claim a higher place in our hearts than they should. Regardless of our financial status, we should keep our trust in God alone and enjoy what He has given us. I like how Timothy poses this challenge to his readers:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17 NKJV).

Wow! God gives us all things “richly” to enjoy. Really, that’s no surprise, considering He has also called us to live abundantly (John 10:10 NKVJ).

Paychecks aside, let’s consider how we can bless others this Christmas. Sometimes, the best gift is our time or simple ways we can express thoughtfulness and God’s love.

This holiday season and every day, let’s medal in what really matters: living for God with everything we have.

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, author Kristen Hogrefe shared with us how we can love God volitionally. This week, she wraps up this two-part series by explaining how we can love God with all our strength. If these posts have encouraged your walk with the Lord, please let us know by leaving a comment below.


In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My boyfriend, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, we looked at loving God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my boyfriend chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

 

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

 

Loving God with Our Minds

During one of my friend’s weddings, the bride asked me to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which begins this way:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments …”

That phrase, “the marriage of true minds,” sticks with me, because it suggests a unified purpose, set of values, and life focus. So too, when we love God with our minds, we’re saying we want to live “on the same page” with him.

Once again, Scripture sheds some light on what this unified mindset looks like:

  • We are to bring “every thought” into “captivity” or obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • We are to exercise humility, following Christ’s example (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We are to focus our thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • We are to guard our minds by not looking at something that will tempt us to stumble (Psalm 119:37).
  • We are to study God’s Word, the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sure, there will be days we fall short, way short. That’s why Paul wrote that the goal here on earth is not perfection but to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

 

Desiring to Love God More

When we seek to love God with our all, we love him with every part of ourselves. Preacher and poet Isaac Watts expressed this idea eloquently in his closing lines to the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” He develops the idea of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate love. How can our response be anything less than everything?

“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Lord, may I love you with all that I am, all that I have, and all I can be. 

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com