The Reason for the Season| By Emily Lawson

I’m a procrastinator. Majorly! Doomed forever into a life of rushing and running ragged. 

Though usually much better in previous years, this last week, I’ve done ALL of my Christmas shopping (we buy for around forty people!) and put up the Christmas tree. Like I said, I’m a procrastinator! 

My mind has been on what this person would like, where this present needs to go, how much wrapping paper I need to get, do I have bows, do I have enough flour for cookies, what day is that happening? 

But when I took the time to read the story of Jesus’ birth recently, I realized something I had missed. 

I hadn’t taken the time to appreciate the meaning of the season. 

In previous years, I have been able to enjoy the week before Christmas. Seeing the lights, liking my tree, wrapping the gifts, baking cookies, and starting to think about the season and its actual meaning. 

Christ’s birth. The salvation plan beginning.

This past weekend, my church’s youth group had a Christmas play based on the Innkeeper’s perspective of the birth of Jesus, and all the regrets he had after that night. 

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

A thirty minute play, and the moral of the story being that the world STILL makes no room for Jesus. 

We are rushing to get to work. We are rushing to get home. We are rushing to make time for friends, family, get togethers, birthday parties, and more. 

And, the world has forgotten that this life is about more than “going”. 

Think about it, they didn’t have ultrasounds and pregnancy apps when Mary was pregnant. She knew that pregnancy was about nine months and she was due soon, but they still had to go pay taxes. 

And the Bible says in Luke 2:6 that “while they were there, the days were accomplished”. Can you imagine the panic of finding some place to have your baby? And a first time mom, wanting everything to be perfect? The anxiety that must have been going through her as she had to resort to a manger to birth the SON OF GOD! That definitely was NOT in the birth plan she had made! 

However, I also know, that as soon as that baby was born, she knew that all was okay. She knew that it didn’t matter where he was born, and she knew exactly where her priorities were. She was saved by His presence. Stolen away from the anxiety, worry, and worldly needs and wants of the moment. 

Good news! This world can be also! 

Being in his presence is the best present of all this holiday season.

Let Him wash that anxiety of getting everything perfect for the holidays away, and let Him set your focus. His birth is the reason for the season, and everything else falls behind. 

Giving is a wonderful thing to do for Christmas each year, but let’s also each TAKE the time this holiday season to sit with Him and thank Him for the gift of His coming!

Millennial Mom, a Million Worries| By Tori Savoy

I always knew motherhood could be overwhelming, but little did I know that it began as soon as you become pregnant.

I thought, “I have a whole nine months to prepare.” 

However, nine months is not enough. 

There are so many things to consider and worry about when it comes to growing a life inside you. They tell you to keep your weight within a certain range, and each time you step on the scale you want to cry in defeat. My pregnancy book says to eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to make sure my baby gets the proper nutrients. I start each day planning to do this, but in the beginning, the nausea was overwhelming and all I wanted was to drive and get some french fries. Now that I am later in my pregnancy, I am too tired to grocery shop or meal prep. 

Somehow I expect myself to workout just as hard and often as I did before pregnancy. Several other moms have done it, right? But what about this paralyzing headache, lack of energy, and oh, the occasional cramps? Could I hurt my baby more with my intense workouts?

The mom guilt is real, and the pressure is on.

Then there are all the things to consider for when the baby arrives. What carrier is safest? Breastfed versus formula? Is your baby’s mattress free of chemicals? 

Do not even ask for other mom’s opinions on the best stroller, you will get 20 completely different suggestions. 

Preparing for motherhood is even more stressful in this day and age with social media glamorizing motherhood or trolls demeaning mothers on their choices. Not to mention the ever-changing research you can find online for just about every topic.

Be sure to get your vaccines while pregnant and have everyone around you vaccinate, or you are dooming your child to death. 

Having a son? Be ready to be mom-shamed or called a “monster” over your circumcision choice. 

Bonus points if you post a breastfeeding photo to your instagram to empower women. 

However, be ready for negative comments no matter what side of these arguments you fall on. 

Before you know it, your due date is quickly approaching, and your to-do list is several pages long. You have baskets full of clothes to wash (who knew you needed to wash brand new clothes??), last minute items to shop for, and your “pinterest-perfect” nursery to complete. 

With all these lists and expectations, it is so hard to enjoy the beauty that comes with pregnancy like the sweet little kicks, imagining who your little one will grow up to be and who he/she will look like, and the excitement of becoming a mother. 

While I am a fan of making lists, sometimes it really does take some of the fun out of things.

I must admit, it is so easy for lists, expectations and other people’s opinions to directly impact my everyday walk with God. 

I make lists of how I think I need to live my life (30-minutes of intimate worship, three Bible chapters a day, long-drawn out prayer time). But ultimately, this can quickly become overwhelming, and also puts God in a box.

I can easily spend hours reading other people’s opinions on God’s word, Christian life, and even politics. When I compare my Christian walk with others, I either end up feeling prideful or incompetent, quite like when we compare ourselves to other mothers.

Instead, I should be soaking up every moment God has created. While He is in that 30-minutes of quiet time I set aside, I have to be always listening in the simple and mundane tasks of each day. 

Sometimes, we just need to throw out lists, expectations and the opinions of others that so easily overwhelm and just soak up the beauty of being a child of God. 

Psalms 46:10, God says “Be still and know that I am God.”

He is there in the stillness, not the checklists that keep us busy or our ability to be a “perfect Christian.”

Whether you are overwhelmed by pregnancy and motherhood, or your walk as a Christian, I want to encourage you to just take a moment to soak up each and every moment. Deplug from your mommy forums or pull away from those to-do lists. You are doing the best you can, and what matters the most is that you are present in the moment. 

Your child is not going to spontaneously combust because you do not use 100 percent organic products, and God is not going to strike you down because you chose to skip tonight’s reading for some much needed worship time.

Your child needs your affection more than a spotless house, and God wants your heart over how many chapters you can breeze through in your Bible plan. 

Drop the lists and all the overwhelming opinions, and be still. You got this momma! 

“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” Psalms 142:3 (NIV)

Tidal Waves| By Stephanie Cain

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Over the last year, almost every area of my life has been stretched, prodded, or flat out attacked – especially my faith. A few days ago I was watching my son play in his walker corner when I had a flashback. A few years ago my husband’s family decided to go to the beach together. On that day, the water was rough – not enough for red flags but enough that children did not leave the shallows. However, as adults, we ventured out to chest height and jumped into the tidal waves as they rolled in.

One time I did not jump soon enough, and the wave swept over me. Suddenly, I was tumbling under the water with no clue what was up or down. My feet found the ocean bottom, and I pushed up, gasping for air as soon as the next wave rolled in. I was immediately toppling under the water again desperately trying to find the surface for air. This happened two more times until finally my husband caught me and helped me stand. It was such a scary experience that I stayed in the shallows after that.

Where I am now in life feels a lot like that beach. As soon as I find my footing and catch my breath, a new wave is rolling in on top of me sending me spinning again. However, Jesus reminded me of something He did while here on earth.

Mark 4:35-41 chronicles the time when Jesus and His disciples were in rough waters because of a storm. Jesus spoke to the storm and said “Peace! Be still!” The winds and waves obeyed him and stopped. Jesus reminded me that He does not just calm physical storms, but He can calm the waves in our lives. If we listen to Him as He speaks through the Holy Spirit to us, “Peace! Be still!”, we will see the waves that were engulfing are now a soothing ripple. This is not to say that we will not have storms. Of course we will! There may be times in our lives that the winds and waves are so loud and big that you can’t hear the Lord’s still, small whisper of peace.

Another time in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 6:45-52), His disciples were in a boat rowing against the wind. This time, rather than calm the wind with His words, the Lord walked on top of the water. He invited Peter onto the water with Him, and as long as Peter kept His eyes on the Lord, He walked over the waves too. This is HUGE! In those times when we cannot hear Jesus speaking peace in our situation, we look to Him and trust Him for every step onto the waves.

In my life, that looks like this:

A problem arises. I see no possible solution. Anxiety swells. Rather than allowing it to topple over me I say, “I can’t see a way, but I trust you Lord. I know you have a plan, a purpose, and it is for my good.” Take a deep breath. Move forward with my life one step at a time.

My hope is that these words encourage you today. Whether you are in the storm of life or not, I pray that you keep your eyes focused on Him because walking on the water is a much bigger adventure than hiding in the shallows.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

A Mother’s Redemption| By Amanda Maduell

image2 (2)As I lay and watch my two-year-old sleep, it is hard to believe that not long ago he started out as a tiny “blip” on the monitor. As I laid on the exam table at my OBGYN office, tears of guilt, shame, and fear rolled down my cheeks. This is not the reaction that any woman deserves to have as she experiences the expected arrival of her first child. A woman’s heart should be full of joy, love, and excitement during this time. My story is not the same.

For I know the plans I have for you ,”declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Everyone knows this Bible verse as it has become so incredibly popular, but it is so much more to me. This verse was my bread and butter. I had it saved on my phone screen saver for my entire pregnancy. Every time I was in despair, God reminded me of this message.

When I was encouraged by the father of my child to have an abortion, I turned to God and this verse.

I would think to myself, “God created this life inside of me, and He already knows the plans for it! How could someone want to throw this away?”

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

I knew from the beginning that abortion was never an option for me, but I could not convince the father of my child to feel the same way. I thank God everyday for giving me His strength to see through and overcome that. I agreed that I would trust God, and I would wear the shame of my sin in front of me, whether the father of my child was willing to stand by me or not.

I have to admit that it was not easy.

At times, the enemy convinced me to believe that it was me. That I was not good enough or worthy enough for this person, and that this is what I deserved for committing these sins. But again that was just the enemy.

I felt lonely from the outright rejection that was displayed toward my unborn child, and I was immersed in pain. I wanted nothing more than to be loved, appreciated, and respected by the person whom I had created life with. I experienced just the opposite.

I remember coming home from working one of my two jobs and crying so hard in my bathroom that I would vomit. I lived alone, and I was too ashamed to reach out to many of my friends, I felt as though I had, “brought this upon myself.” I was scared of the unknown, I was scared of what people would think of me for having a baby without a father, I was scared of being another, “single mom statistic”, and worst of all, I was scared that I would never be able to trust or love again.

I was disappointed in myself for taking a chance on someone who had consecutively lied about his commitment. I had become so consumed in sins of the flesh. Although I considering myself a “Christian”, I still thought it was okay to have sex with my ex-boyfriend. I justified it by telling myself, “we were in love”, and because we, as adults, have “needs.”

However, I was reminded that God has a purpose for us. Although we may not always understand it, the Bible clearly states that His plan is solid. God knows before we sin against Him, and He still sends His love and grace down upon us in ways we don’t even realize in the moment. For some, like myself, it takes “struggles” like this for us to see God’s unfailing love and mercy for us.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2

Before my son was born, I picked the name Jonah after reading the short book of Jonah in the Bible. In Jonah’s story, he disobeyed God, and he was swallowed by a big fish. He prayed to God and asked for forgiveness from inside the fish. After three days, the Lord had the fish spit Jonah out, and he was forgiven.

Jonah knew that he was disobeying God by not following his instructions to go to the city of Nineveh and speak out against its wickedness. Just as I knew that I was disobeying God by continuing a sinful relationship with my son’s father. I felt as though going through an unplanned pregnancy without the father was my storm.

However, the birth of my son was my forgiveness, my redemption, and my second chance. We are children of a loving and forgiving God. I cried out to him at my lowest point, when I experienced the rejection, fear, and disappointment, He forgave me and restored me by allowing me to be the mother of one of His precious children.

After the birth of Jonah, The Lord continued to be the father that my child and I deserve, time and time again. Just when I reach my breaking point he catches me and says, “Trust me.”

Two years later, my son and I are doing great. I am blessed with phenomenal parents who were there for me during my pregnancy and birth of my son and also now. I am part of a women’s group, and I just signed a mortgage on our first home. All of this is possible because we are the children of a perfect and faithful God who has a perfect way for us, even when we can see no way for ourselves. 

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