I am not a minimalist.
Not in any way, shape or form.
My family actually laughed when I told them that the subject I was going to be writing about was decluttering. My daughter even teasingly went as far as to say that I like to hoard things.
I certainly do not, I would call myself a "collector". At least I do not hoard "things", anyway.
But there is something I do hoard. It is a quiet, little secret I keep. No one knows it is there...
We moved recently. For those of you who have ever moved, you know it is a great time to purge all the old, unneeded things in your closets, your cupboards, your basement, your garage. A perfect time to minimize what you take with you to your new home. So that is what I spent several months doing. Going through it all-deciding what should be kept and what should be gotten rid of.
So what is it that I discovered during this time that I hoard?
My family might guess it is candles, or washi tape, flea market finds, or all my children's artwork. But it's not. It is something less tangible. Something that often steals my peace. Steals my purpose at times. And perhaps you hoard it too....
Maybe you haven't moved, but perhaps you are decluttering some closets, storage spaces, or cabinets. Maybe, like me, you have gone through buried boxes of memories and trinkets. And maybe, just maybe, you are starting to realize there is more to declutter in your life than just closets.
I realized that while all these "memories" were out of sight, they were still there. So no, I don't hoard washi tape or flea market finds. I don't even hoard those letters and trinkets. What I found was that I do hoard the shame and hurtful words that have been spoken to me in some of them. I have kept them secret. Guarded them carefully. Refusing to let go, allowing them to be etched on a name plate that somehow tells me that is who I am.
I hoard them into my heart.
And as they build up, all jam-packed in there, they squeeze out room for Jesus. They squeeze out space for light, for truth, for an identity in Christ.
I started to feel a little nudge the more I thought about it. Do you feel one too? A gentle prodding that it is time to move, time to throw away all those things that are not good, not true, unkind, and shameful? A nudge that propels us to pitch them into a dumpster and make space for what the Lord wants to fill us with?
We can declutter everything around us and yet forget to do the same within us. And when we forget our heart in this cleaning process, we impede the transforming God wants to do in our lives.
Paul clearly tells us in Philippians 4:8 about the importance of our innermost thoughts, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Let those words be a soft, gentle nudge to encourage us all to make space.
To clean out our hearts. To think on what is true and toss out the lies we have been fed or the ones we tell ourselves.
To throw away the "you're not good enough"s or the "I am not pretty"s.
To toss out the "unloveable"s and the "unforgiveable"s.
To once and for all pitch into the dumpster all the "should have done"s, all the wordly comparisons of what we should look like, what we should have accomplished.
To release all the expectations of perfect parenting, all the the things that have happened in our pasts that have labeled us or have caused us to label ourselves.
To Make space.
To leave only thoughts that are good and right and true and fill our hearts with Jesus.
To leave a space wide open to fill it with these simple truths:
I am redeemed (Romans 3:24)
I am chosen (Ephesians 1:4)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
I am loved (Jeremiah 31:3)
I am wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I am a child of God (John 1:12)
I am firmly rooted and built up in Christ (Colossians 2:7)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35)
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)
I don't know what hurtful words or memories that are still held in your heart, allowing them to take up room, but today? Today, let's take a step together in making new the home of our hearts. Let's start with tossing out just a few things first and begin filling it with peace, an identity in Christ, and the all-surpassing love of God that belongs to each of us!
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23
The hard stuff.
You know those insecurities we don't like to talk about?
The ones we push down and want to forget?
The ones that follow us and we don't want to let the world know about?
That is often the insecurity we need the most freedom from.
Now, I could give you a list of my insecurities, but there is one that is a little harder to put out there than any other. A little harder, for me, to place in front of the world.
Because it holds me back.
Holds me back from kingdom work, from stepping into my calling, from stepping out of my comfort zone. And just maybe I am not the only one who needs freedom from this type of insecurity...
It was true. I had lost my faith.
I had suffered a trauma and I was angry and I ran.
Ran from the pain.
Ran from hope.
Ran from God.
And years later?
I ran back to His good and open arms that had never stopped waiting for me.
A few years ago, someone from my past threw this fact in my face as a means to hurt me. They told me they did not believe I had any faith now because I had run in the past.
They told me my faith was a lie.
I'd like to write that those words didn't bother me.
But they did.
I'd like to say those words didn't plant seeds of insecurity in my faith and in my calling.
But they did.
I stood tall and faced them with as much grace as I could muster at the time, but after? That seed turned into a sprout of insecurity - telling me my faith was not good enough. That it was tainted; not genuine.
Roots started to grow in the wrong direction.
I started to question if my past was too big (or my faith too small) for the calling placed in front of me.
Doubt was planted whether my words could give hope, whether I was right for the task, whether I was worthy of the work, and even if my faith was strong enough to face the potential trials ahead.
Those roots were on the verge of spreading and deepening towards greater insecurity in my calling, rather than who I am in Christ and what God can do.
But in this season, the cross shone ever before me.
Instead of losing faith, instead of running, instead of depending on me and letting those insecurities take over...l looked to GOD.
I RAN to the cross and looked up to the light shining out from it.
I began to spread my roots toward Christ, instead of the insecurity that offered nothing - the insecurity the enemy wanted to use to soak up my Christ-established identity and stop me from saying "yes" to the work God was calling me to.
And you know what? It was in this season that my faith was strengthened, and I felt God's faithfulness overwhelmingly. It was those same words that tried to bury me with insecurity that really sparked me to dig deeper into my faith. It is out of that season that I began to write more intentionally. That I said yes with a renewed fervor. And it is out of that season that I truly accepted the calling placed in front of me.
"For it is God who works in you to his will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Philippians 2:13, NIV
No matter what type of calling it is, when we put our heart out there, insecurity can set in. We may even be scrutinized. Maybe judged. Perhaps disagreed with. But that's ok. Don't let insecurity stop you. Jesus said these things may happen.
"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." John 16:33, NIV
Perhaps today, it is not even insecurity in your calling, but just in the future in general.
Each of these trials is an opportunity to depend on Christ.
Each of these opportunities give us a chance to dig our roots deeper in a secure identity as a child of God.
And now, each time that insecurity creeps in?
I know where to nail it.
There is a cross ever before me, may it be before you, too.
And each time I feel like giving up, each time I think I am not enough, each time I worry that my past is greater than my future, each time I feel that insecurity try to hook me in.... I take that insecurity and I nail it to the cross where it belongs. Because for a moment I may forget, but ultimately, I know that Jesus...
Welcomes back the lost.
Covers our sins.
Turns ashes into beauty.
Uses what has hurt us for good and for His Glory.
Never leaves or forsakes us.
And He equips us!
If you are thinking you are not worthy of your calling, if the future looks uncertain, unknown....remember this: God knows what He is doing. He called you for a reason, He knew this season would happen.
He will lead you, and equip you.
All for His good purpose.
"May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen."
Hebrews 13:21, NLT
May we all nail our insecurities at the cross each time they start to creep in, and then watch with expectation, the work He will do in each of us.
Is there a knock you have been ignoring? One you are afraid to answer? One you know you should answer, but you have a hundred reasons why now is “not a good time”?
Are you even listening?
A few nights ago, I fell asleep on the couch (which isn’t too unusual for me) and forgot to set the alarm on my phone.
At the precise time I should have set my alarm for (4:40am), I heard a loud knock-knock on the front door. It woke me up, startled me really. No one knocks on the door this time of the morning! It caused me to sit up, take notice of the darkness around me, and beckoned me to investigate who was at the door.
I took action when I heard that knock.
I woke up, got up, went to the door, investigated it, and opened it.
There was no one there. At least not that I could see.
I tell this story not because of who was or wasn't at the door, but rather because when I heard the knock, I didn't ignore it, I didn't roll over and go back to sleep, I didn't lay there in fear wondering what was on the other side, I didn't let someone else go to the door. I took action. I answered the call.
Do we do the same when God knocks at the door of our heart? When He calls us down a certain path? When He knocks on the door of an opportunity that we can't quite see the end result of? When He calls us to step out in faith, beyond our comfort zone?
The Bible clearly shows us over and over again, that God wants us to be an ACTIVE part of His plan and purpose. He wants us to take ACTION.
He wants us to listen.
Go to the door.
And open it.
I don’t know if God is knocking softly or loudly on your door. I don't know what is on the other side of that door for you. But I know who does. And you can trust HIM. Whether we answer the knock or not, God's purpose and plan will prevail. We just miss out on being an active part of it...
If Noah hadn't listened to the "knock", he wouldn't have built the ark, and wouldn't have been able to rise above the flood.
If Moses hadn't answered the "knock", he would not have parted the red sea, he would have remained in the palace.
If Abraham hadn't answered the "knock", his family tree would look very different.
If David hadn't answered the "knock", he wouldn't have defeated any giants. He wouldn't have become king.
If Elijah hadn't answered the "knock", he wouldn't have been able to help the widow, or raise a child up from death.
If Paul hadn't answered the "knock", he wouldn't have spread the Gospel like he did.
If Peter hadn't answered the "knock", he would still be fishing...
When you hear a knock today, will you get up and answer it?
Will you be listening for it?
A heart to heart conversation can be difficult.
Sharing scars and hurt is not easy.
But we are called to share our life story for the benefit of others, and for our own hearts as well.
A few weeks ago, as we were driving to church, my husband, my younger boys and I had a conversation in the car. We discussed what a testimony was: our personal story of how we came to know, believe, and trust in the Lord. My husband asked them to give a little testimony of their own and they each did so. Then they asked us what our testimonies were.
To be quite honest, I was taken a little aback by this, not thinking they would want to hear mine as well. While I have given my testimony to other women, even given it front of groups of people, sharing it with my boys seemed even more intimidating, more personal. I didn't feel equipped for it in that very moment.
My husband shared his testimony with our boys, beautifully, in a way that was perfect for their age and understanding. When they asked me next, I told them I would share it a different day.
"What is your testimony?"
It was a question I was not quite prepared to answer, at least to my children.
But it is an important question to be asked.
So, I ask you the same question: What is your testimony? Have you shared it with your children?
Remembrance is an important theme in the Bible. God knows us humans forget easily. Our story is God's story. It helps remind us about who God is, what He has done for us, and who we are in Him. If we forget our story?
We forget who we are.
We forget whose we are.
Passing down our story to future generations is important so that WE remember, and so they can hear about God at work in the lives of real people. Their family. And it becomes a part of their story as well.
Moses told the next generation over and over about what God had done. He didn't want them to forget. In Deuteronomy, when he gave his last and final address to the Israelites, it could have been about so many different things. But what he wanted to etch on their hearts was the importance of remembrance. To never forget what God had done. To tell the story. Their story. To share it with future generations.
"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy 4:9
Maybe you don't feel ready. Or prepared.
I didn't either.
Maybe you don't know how to tell it in a way that is understandable or age appropriate.
I didn't either.
But the question nagged at my heart. And I knew I needed to have a heart to heart conversation with my boys. No matter how difficult, I needed to sit them down at the table, and share how God has worked in my life. How I came to know Him and trust Him. If you are like me, and your story is a difficult one, take a moment to truly consider a way to share it with your children. That is what I have been doing over the last few days. And I decided that this month (February), the month of "love", would be a perfect time to tell them my testimony. To talk to them about the amazing love that our Father has for each of us. To express to them His love displayed in my own life. Although I do not feel equipped, God WILL equip me.
He will do the same for you.
So, before this month is over, I am going to be obedient.
I am going to do the difficult.
I am not only going to remember what God has done in my life, but I am going to share it with my boys. I am going to remember the great, faithful, sacrificial love of a God who sent His Son.
Who sent His Son to redeem. To save. To set free.
To give life-abundantly and eternally.
There is no greater story to tell. No greater love to celebrate.
Let me encourage you to take a moment, sit down at the table and have a heart to heart conversation with your kids, your grandchildren, your nieces or nephews, a child your mentoring. Tell them your story. Tell them about the priceless love Jesus offers them too.
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."
Scroll down for images of a heart themed tablescape idea!
I have fallen more times than I care to admit. Fallen into a "little" sin that seemed to creep in without me realizing it. Fallen quietly without anyone noticing but me.
But other falls?
They have been not so tiny. They have been not so private. And they have been not so quiet.
We all fall.
And whether our "fall" is quiet or deafening, whether it is gradual or rapid, whether it is private or public - the exposing of it can leave us feeling raw; vulnerable; ashamed. Sometimes even hopeless.
I imagine that's how the adulteress felt in John 8 (take a moment to read this chapter if you haven't before). She was a woman caught in the midst of her sin of adultery. Brought by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees to the temple where Jesus was teaching. Brought into the crowd. Brought to a public place. Possibly physically uncovered and exposed. Most certainly emotionally raw, and vulnerable. And more than that I am sure she felt...
Her sin was proclaimed in front of everyone she knew - neighbors, peers, perhaps even family and friends.
And then, while probably in the most humiliating and regretful moment of her life...she was placed in front of, perhaps even thrown at, the feet of Jesus.
Our own sin can place us here as well. When the mask is ripped off, when its revealed, when we no longer can run from it...we often find ourselves at the feet of Jesus.
There in that place, a place she could not run from, turn from, or hide from, they asked Jesus what her punishment should be.
A question we perhaps ask Him in this place too. When we uncover the sin of others. When our own sin in uncovered.
The Mosaic Law stated she should be stoned for her adultery.
I imagine her breathing was labored, or maybe it even stopped for a moment, as she waited with trepidation for the death sentence she anticipated. A feeling many of us can relate to as we feel our own mistakes are beyond repair. A sinking feeling deep in our soul.
And as she was before Jesus, eyes perhaps pleading for mercy, she did not hear the words, "stone her". No, such punitive words did not come from Jesus. Instead, He bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground twice and said this....
John 8:6-8 NIV
"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground."
Not one of them was sinless.
And each one left without casting a stone.
After they had all gone, the woman, whom I am sure felt tattered and broken and alone, was left there with Jesus. It was there is that space, in that chasm of brokenness, frailty and humiliation, that she was forgiven. Forgiveness didn't need to be spoken from her peers, her neighbors, or the Pharisees. Nor did it need to spoken in front of them. It needed to be spoken in that moment when it was just her and Jesus. A moment in which she saw Him and nothing else. A moment when everything else around her stilled except the beat of her heart as she waited to hear what her redeemer would say. A forgiveness that came from HIM.
And we, when we are left alone with Jesus, whether the world has cast stones at us or not, whether we have cast them at ourselves.....we, when we are left alone with Jesus, with just our repentant, exposed hearts....we are forgiven too.
I have been at the feet of Jesus. Broken. Ashamed. Exposed.
I have been at the feet of Jesus waiting for an answer. And He has lifted me up off my knees with His love and redemption. And He will do this for you, too.
I don't know what Jesus wrote on the ground. The passage does not tell us this. But I imagine it was one of the following words, words that your heart may need whispered to it today:
Whatever it was He wrote...it was erased. Erased by Jesus himself, erased by the wind, erased by the trampling of feet or by time.
But these words? GRACE. FORGIVEN. LOVED. REDEEMED. Hear them today.
These words? When He writes them on our hearts as we seek forgiveness from Him?
They are not written in dust or dirt, but with the redemptive power of the cross! And that cannot be erased!
Whatever it is you have been afraid to expose, whatever you might think is unredeemable, whatever hurts to lay bare....lay it at the feet of Jesus. Place it at the cross. For Jesus didn't ask the adultress why she did what she did. He didn't ask what else she had done. He didn't ask her what she could have done to prevent the sin. He simply said,
“Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV)
I hope the woman was able to leave that sin there in the very spot it was exposed. I hope she stepped out into a new life that reflected a redemptive light and a changed heart.
Because it is my hope for each of us. A hope that we accept the beautiful, free gift that cost Jesus so much. A hope that we accept the forgiveness that He offers, that we embrace a new heart and a new start; stepping into a life that seeks to live righteously-casting off the past to be deeply rooted in Christ.
1 Peter 1:18-19
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
Have you ever faced a battle that seemed impossible? One you haven't felt equipped or strong enough for? Perhaps you have faced several. I encourage you to reflect upon those times as you read along....
Let me tell you a brief story about Jonathan. He was Saul's son. And in 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan, along with his armor bearer and against great odds, attacked the philistine army. It was an impossibility for the two of them to have victory over this army, but regardless, they left the safety of Saul's camped army and set out on their own. They left the camp, a camp of men who were afraid to go into battle, and set out in faith. Faith that God would guide them and give them victory. Faith that the battle they were headed into could not be too big for God.
And God? Well He proved them right and honored their faith with an amazing victory!
But what if Jonathan had not had this faith? What if, he had stayed in Saul's camp, afraid and unmoving? What if we, ourselves, stay unmoving. What if we stay where we are and do not step out in faith?
Some battles are never won, not because they can't be won, but because we stay in the safe confines of our "camp".
Some battles we don't see victory over because we skirted around them and never really entered into the battle to begin with.
And other battles, well, some we decide to battle ourselves instead of trusting in God and letting Him be the warrior for us.
What battles are before you? Will you stay in the camp, where fear abounds and the battles looms above you? Where your feet retreat or lead their own way or not move at all? Or will you leave the camp of fear and head into battle with faith like Jonathan? Will you move from the camp, allowing God to guide you into the battle with patience, discernment, trust and victory?
What will you choose today?
For those of you who may have missed it or have not signed up to receive free devotionals, I am sharing Day One of this year's (2019) free Christmas email Devotional Study here with you! Read on for some faith encouragement, not only for the holidays, but for every day. To receive future free devotional studies, you can click the below! Read on and I hope it blesses you...
The Passage: Matthew 2:1-3 NIV
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
Great power does not equal great peace.
Great wealth, kingdoms, and worldly acquisitions do not equal peace either.
Herod was disturbed.
Because Herod was missing something.
Because despite all his power and wealth, Herod didn't have peace.
Being part Jewish, Herod surely knew the prophecy of the Old Testament, and knew about the Messiah. Surely he knew the Jews expected that the Messiah was coming soon (Luke 3:15) and that they expected Him to be a great military leader and political deliverer. The coming of the Messiah, in his worldly knowledge, threatened his kingdom, his power, his wealth. Because no matter how many buildings he built or temples he erected, they couldn't bring him peace. He knew they were not indestructible. That He was not unconquerable. The foundation of his peace was built on the wrong "material". So when the Maji came with their questions, the heart of Herod was easily disturbed and threatened
When - that job, that house, that child, that spouse, that friend, that amount of money, that dress, that vacation - makes us think it will bring us peace?
When the foundation of our security, our dependence, our happiness is on ourselves and/or the world?
Peace will always elude us.
Circumstances will cause us to be anxious, disturbed.
But when our foundation is Christ?
When we are rooted in the assurance that God is in control?
When we have the expectation that God's plan is better than our own?
When we choose to value His love, and his redemptive work in our hearts above all else?
When we have this kind of foundation....then, when we hear the Messiah is coming -we rejoice! We are not threatened by the "what ifs". We run to meet him. Arms outstretched. Heart wide open.
When our foundation is built on solid ground - the Word of God - and constructed with materials that are rooted in who Christ is and who He says we are? When we fully and wholly understand and accept that WE are the temple of the Lord and the Holy Spirit now dwells in us?
Then we stand firm, knowing that the structures of our peace can not be rocked.
Cannot be moved.
That our crown, while it may be knocked crooked at times, cannot be removed.
That, despite the holiday season not turning out as expected, despite missing a loved one, despite all the things on our "to- do" list we feel we need to do....we are not overwhelmed. We are not disturbed. We find a peace amongst the disturbance. A peace that defies our understanding. And therefore, our souls rejoice! For He has come and He will come again.
And if in this holiday season, or in this current season of life, our foundation feels disturbed, our faith seems shaky, our crown has been knocked crooked, and all are hopes are resting in temporary buildings of this world? Search, in prayer and reflection, and begin to build a stronger foundation, perhaps even a new foundation. One not built of stone or wood, but of a baby born in a manager, of a blood stained cross, and of a grave that overcomes even death.
"They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." Luke 6:48
1. Is peace eluding you this holiday season? This season of life your currently in? If so, take an inventory of the foundation of your heart. Is it made with discontentment? Fear? Pride? Insecurity?
2. What temporary "band-aids" from this world are you applying to your life? Are you seeking peace from them? Why do you think that is?
3. Herod not only had the wrong kind of foundation in the life he had built, but he also built pagan temples along with the rebuilding the temple of the Lord. Take a moment to reflect on your own life. Is Jesus truly the most important? Does he come first, or are there other "temples" that you have constructed around you? Temples that you look to more that Jesus for peace, for joy, for contentment? How do you think these affect the way circumstances or trials "disturb" you when they occur?
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To read another post from a past Christmas Devotional Series, click this link...
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I feel it is the perfect time to not only share a tasty Gingerbread Hot Chocolate recipe, but also take a moment to remind you and me that there is more to celebrate than just His birth but to also rejoice for He will come again in greater glory! Read on for a short devotional and to get the recipe...
Luke 12:40 NIV
"You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
The arrival of a notable person, thing or event. An appearance. An emergence. A birth.
That is how the English dictionary describes the word "Advent".
It is a season that is observed by many Christians. It leads up to the Christmas season and is a time of expectancy, anticipation, and preparation. A waiting period for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Advent is a reminder of what God has done and what He will do. A time to remember the longing and waiting that God's people did until finally a baby was born in a manger. Immanuel. God with us. But Advent is also a time to remember that Jesus will come again (Jesus tells us He will). And we will not know the year, the day, the hour.
Our Lord and Savior.
Oh, how we prepare to celebrate!
We put up lights and trees. We buy gifts and wrap them in pretty packages. We watch movies and make cookies. We gather with family and friends. And hopefully we take time to read the Christmas story, to reflect on what Jesus' birth really means, to praise God for sending His son, to fully understand what this celebration means for you, for me, and to spend some time in prayer .
But as the Christmas season leaves, and we take our trees down, put the lights away, finish the last of the cookies and gather for the final time this season...what do we do then?
God prepared His people for Jesus. For the coming of Christ. Sometimes His people actively participated, sometimes not so much. He is preparing us too. Preparing us for the second coming of Christ. The fulfillment of this promise. Sometimes we actively participate. Sometimes not so much.
Celebrations are wonderful and important and beautiful, but our preparing should not stop when the Christmas season is over. Let Advent, let Christmas, be a reminder to each of us to continually prepare our hearts. To spiritually prepare every day for the moment when Jesus returns. Because Jesus will arrive again, He will appear. He will emerge. And we will not know the year, the day, the hour. Will our hearts be focused on Him in the anticipation of that moment when it comes? Will we be prepared?
Let's have an advent heart, not just this season, but every single day.
Gingerbread Hot Chocolate
6 cups of milk (your choice of 1%, 2% or whole)
8 ounces chocolate chips (more if desired)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I like hershey's but any kind will do)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (to your liking)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp molasses
3 tsp ground ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
Whipped Cream (optional)
Candy Cane (optional)
Gingerbread Cookies (optional)
1. Mix the milk, powder, spices, molasses and sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Do not let the milk boil!
3. Mix in chocolate chips, whisk until smooth
4. Top with either whip cream or marshmallows if desired.
5. Add a candy cane if desired and serve with gingerbread cookies if you have them.
6. Sip and enjoy!
I am so glad you stopped by! Your can find more "Mornings With Jesus" and other hot chocolate recipes by clicking the link below.
Mornings with Jesus are back! A little later than usual this season, but better late than never!
Recently, I walked through some difficult seasons of wrestling, and in one of those seasons, the following verse and passage really spoke to my heart. I hope it does the same to you. And well, who doesn't love some Cinnamon Caramel Hot Chocolate? Check out the recipe below!
So go make your favorite hot chocolate, grab a blanket, curl up in your favorite spot, and keep reading for a little faith encouragement this morning.
The Passage: Hebrews 12:11
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
Our prayers move the heart of God.
Did you know that?
Sometimes those prayers come after a difficult season, not before. Some of those prayers are born out of poor decisions we have made, out of trials we are suffering, out of circumstances that bring us back to the Lord or circumstances that shed light on sin. Prayers that bloom out of important lessons. Training that brings us strength. Training that grows peace in the very depths of our soul. Training that builds faith that could not be built quite the same under other circumstances.
These prayers not only move the heart of God. They change us.
And there is not one of us that cannot be changed.
Yes, discipline, training, trials, they are painful, oftentimes VERY painful. But what happens when we turn to a Mighty God out of our own stubborness and willfulness, or out of a painful is situation, is change. A change that glorifies our Father, our Creator, our Teacher.
Let's look at Manessah, in 2 Chronicles 33, who became king when he was 12 and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. I think it is probably safe to say that our list of transgressions aren't quite like his....
- he erected altars to the pagan idol Baal
- he bowed down and worshiped the starry hosts and actually built temples to them in the Lord's temple
- he rebuilt the high places that his father had demolished
- he sacrificed his own children in the fire
- he practiced divination and witchcraft
- he led the people of Judah astray...so much so, that they ended up doing more evil than the nations that went up against the Israelites - you know, the nations God destroyed.
Now, we might not be sacrificing our children or practicing witchcraft, but we certainly do sin at times, often we can have our own "idols", and sometimes we can be like Manasseh in this regard:
When God spoke to Manasseh and the people of Judah, they didn't listen.
Sometimes we don't listen either.
So, what did God do? He brought up Assyria against them. The commanders took Mannessah prisoner. They put a hook in his nose. They shackled him. They took him to Babylon.
And there in his captivity and his distress, Manasseh sought God's favor. The Bible tells us Manasseh humbled himself before God and prayed.
And his prayers moved the heart of God.
Manasseh's prayers, a man who murdered his own children, who openly and defiantly brought idols into the Lord's temple, who led God's people to become worse and worse...those prayers moved the heart of God.
And Manasseh changed.
He was eventually brought back to Jerusalem. He then got rid of all the foreign gods, removed the idols from the temple, rebuilt the wall, restored the altar of the Lord, began offering fellowship and thank offerings, and told Judah to serve the Lord.
Trials, suffering, discipline, they all lead Manasseh to seek God, humble himself, and pray. They do the same for us. And in those seasons, those times, our prayers - though sometimes we may feel they go unheard- DO move the heart of God. Those prayers, prayed through humility, start to change US. And we then begin to take down our own idols, we restore fellowship with Jesus, we start to rebuild our faith, we become thankful, and we start to serve the Lord with our whole hearts.
Yes, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it does produce a harvest. A harvest that brings righteousness and peace for those who allow themselves to be trained by it.
Whatever season your in, whatever trials you are facing, whatever suffering is knocking at your door, whether it is discipline or something that has just happened to you, there is a lesson that can be born out of it all. Will you allow the training to begin? Will you allow it to humble you? Will you fall to your knees in prayer?
Today, let's take a moment to reflect and move the heart of God with our prayers.
Check out the recipe below!
Cinnamon Caramel Hot Chocolate
- your favorite cup of hot chocolate
- ground cinnamon
- caramel sauce
-chocolate chips (milk or dark chocolate), if desired
-marshmallows, if desired
1. Make your cup of hot chocolate the way you that you usually do.
2. Add a pinch of ground cinnamon, a spoonful (or two) of caramel sauce, and 1/8 cup of milk chocolate (or dark chocolate) chips if you want a richer chocolate taste.
3. Mix well and heat if not already hot
4. Add a cinnamon stick.
5. Top with marshmallows and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon if desired.
6. Sip and enjoy!
Your can find more Mornings With Jesus here:
There is one meal I will never forget.
Italian relatives. Do you have them? If you do, you probably understand. This meal was set before us by my Grandfather's cousin. And it wasn't just A meal. I don't remember how many courses there were, but I do know we sat at the table ALL day and into early evening. Course after course after course. There was time to rest inbetween (in which light desserts and snacks were served), but then another course would come out - homemade ravioli or other filling pasta dishes. And when I felt full and couldn't eat another bite? I'd hear "manjia, manjia". And I would find some way to stuff a little more food into my belly so I didn't offend my hostess. And by the very end of that "meal", when the best dessert came out....I couldn't eat a bite of it....
Life can kind of be like that array of Italian food and one long meal.
Displayed in front of us are these things that we "fill" ourselves up with. Some of them good, and some maybe not so healthy. And when we start feeling like maybe we don't have any room left for more of the world, there is a voice that says, "manjia, manjia" (eat!eat!) - eat more of what the world has for us. And so we do. Perhaps because we don't want to miss out, maybe because we think it will satisfy, and sometimes because we don't want to offend anyone.
But what happens when we "eat" so much of the world that our "bellies" become stuffed, we have no room left for Jesus. We save Jesus as the dessert instead of the main course. We feast on everything else, and then try to squeeze time with Jesus in at the very end. Oftentimes, we then find ourselves too tired, too overloaded, too drained, or too stuffed. Just like I couldn't take a bite of that delicious dessert in front of me, we find ourselves not able to partake in the peace and comfort and relationship that can be found in Jesus.
So this season, when we are planning meals, gathering with family and eating all those filling foods...take a moment to stop. Sit at the table with Jesus first. Eat a meal with Him. Take in the bread He is offering you and satisfy your hunger.
I don't want to run out of room for Jesus, and I doubt you do either.
"Give us today our daily bread."
"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Want to dig a little deeper into Jesus being the Bread of our lives? Look up the verses below!
Scroll on down to see my fall tablescape this year for our family Sunday suppers....
Note: Designing tablescapes is one of my FAVORITE things to do, but don't let having the "perfect" setting stop you from having friends and neighbors over! The important thing is to make a place at the table for those whom you will bless with food, and community, and encouragement and love.
Each fall for the past few years I have been searching for just the "right" pumpkin plates and finally found them at Pier 1 (not an affiliate). I liked pairing them with old glasses I had (the brown ones) and the yellow glasses that I had found years ago at Goodwill.
I am so glad you meet me here and spent some time at the table with me. May you fill your plate of life with more and more of Jesus. And whatever season you are in right now, take time to invite someone to your table...let them know there is a place for them.
For more of the "At The Table" series, click below!
Wife. Mother. Writer. Photographer. Child of God. Encouraging others in faith through a lens of grace and seeing beauty in the ashes.
All images and content belong to me (Blue Jean Gypsy), unless otherwise noted. You may use an image ONLY if it is linked back to this blog! Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!
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