10 Ideas for Simplifying Christmas

Jesus is God's Best Gift at Christmas and Ten Ways to Simplify Christmas

We’re now in the countdown days to Christmas and many of you might be in panic mode. I remember those days well. I even remember crying to my husband that I just couldn’t do it as our family continued to grow with our four children’s marriages and grandchildren. I needed his help, but he had a bewildered, “I don’t know what to do?” look in his eyes.

I wanted to enjoy Christmas. I was excited about having a large family and grandchildren. When Dave and I married, I went from having one child to four. That was manageable. When the four got married, we doubled. Still doable. Then the precious grandkids started coming and coming and coming, and I was still trying to do all the things I did when we were a small family!

Added to the mix was leading Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, my career, attending seminary for the first few years of our marriage, and writing deadlines!

I was trying too hard to make everything perfect. I was assuming all the responsibility and thinking I could do everything with a family of 21 that I did with a family of two!

As much as I tried to keep my focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season, I was focusing on:

  • trying to keep the same number of gifts for all the grandkids,
  • getting everyone the perfect gifts,
  • decorating the entire house,
  • sending everyone I knew a Christmas card,
  • making amazing Christmas goodies,
  • hosting Christmas parties,
  • trying new recipes,
  • pulling out all the best dishes . . .

You get the picture because you’ve been there . . . maybe you’re there now.

We also had an annual birthday parties for Jesus, and one year 300 people attended in our 1800 square foot home! I tried parceling out some of the work, but you know how that goes when it’s at your house. I loved it. Everyone loved it and still talks about them. But every year I tried to add a new element to the party and come up with even better party favors and different food than I had the year before.

Looking back, I was competing with myself. Could I top the last party? Could we give the grandkids the best gifts? I worried that we weren’t giving them as many pricey gifts as the other grandparents?!

Then it all came to a screeching halt the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started radiation December 17, 2002, two days before our 10th wedding anniversary. Oh yes, did I forget to mention I also planned our wedding on December 19! It seemed like a great idea the first few years, but then adding in an anniversary getaway or celebration in the middle of Christmas preparations added another activity to my already overbooked schedule.

The unexpected breast cancer diagnosis coincided with a kitchen and living room remodel and all the family “coming home for Christmas.” No kitchen counters or sink because they cut the counter tops wrong. The dishwasher was still in its box in the middle of the kitchen! The new hardwood floors were in, but I had no energy to figure out how to protect them with our traditional live Christmas tree. That year changed everything and actually brought sanity to our Christmas.

Here are some changes I made that “radiation Christmas” that might help you too. Don’t think you have to do all of them, but maybe pick a few that give you more time with Jesus and reduces Christmas stress.

  1. We used decorative paper plates, plastic silverware, and paper cups. Everyone loved how easy cleanup was after a meal. (We put a tablecloth over the dishwasher box and the kids joked that I had always wanted an island in the kitchen.)
  2. We set up a small manger scene instead of putting up a Christmas tree. After that year, we switched to a beautiful artificial Christmas tree, but also added a manger scene to emphasize the real meaning of Christmas. The grandkids decorated the tree. To this day, I let the grandkids decorate the Christmas tree. They do a great job!
  3. First grandchildren usually get many presents. You’re so excited to have a grandchild. As more came, we decided on three presents each like the three Wisemen. But as we hit eleven . . . we had to scale down to one nice present each.
  4. Instead of doing the full birthday party for Jesus, which I wrote about last week and in a blog last year, I ordered online children’s costumes for the Christmas story and had the grandchildren play out the manger scene while I read it from a Children’s Bible. Here’s a YOUTube of a live enactment. Then we kept the Birthday Bag for Jesus under the tree and maintained the tradition of having guests fill out a card with a gift they would give Jesus. On Christmas we have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
  5. 5. Scale down your Christmas card list or send by email. I love getting Christmas cards, but noticed we received so many with just a signature, nice but not personal. So I had been writing a poem every year for our Christmas card, but our list seemed to double every year.

  6. When we have a dinner party, it’s potluck. When we first moved to Idaho, we had a small dinner for our “neighbors” in the mountains. Then as we met more people, we started inviting neighbors and friends. Soon, I was back to having large groups that didn’t fit into our house! It’s hard to curtail a sanguine. So now we’re back to small, intimate groups.
  7. I mentioned in the blog post Love Your Body: How to Survive Holiday Eating, that I curtailed the baking frenzy. I make something when we’re invited to a party, but now that we’re empty nesters, we don’t need all the goodies sitting around to tempt us.
  8. I still love to decorate the house and have lights. But I don’t feel like I have to bring out every box, every Christmas, and have something in every crook and cranny of our house. Even still, I always get the comments that our house looks Christmassy, warm, and cozy.
  9. Since we now live an hour from town and shopping, we order many gifts online. I say “we” because I include hubby in the shopping. We also wrap presents together, after all, they are for “our” family, and he’s actually a better wrapper than I am. We put something on TV and sit in front of the fireplace by the Christmas tree. Two are definitely better than one!
  10. Start everyday reading a part of the Christmas story or a Christmas devotional. It helps you focus all the day’s activities around the ONLY reason we celebrate Christmas. It reminds us that Jesus doesn’t want us stressed or in a frenzy. He came into the world for one reason, to offer those who believe in Him eternal life, not to add a burden to our life but to lighten our load: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I’d love to hear how you lighten your burdens and simplify Christmas. Please share with us.

I’ll close with a timeless poem I wrote in 2004. You may have read it in previous years, but sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and read it again.

Time To Sit With You”

CHRISTMAS POEM 2004

Lord, so many things to do,             

No time to sit with you.

There’s presents to buy,

And I must bake a pie!

 

 But isn’t it all about Me?

What’s closed your eyes to see.

The purpose of Christmas day,

Isn’t how much you pay?

 

Lord, each year we hear that said,

Yet, still it comes with dread.

Anticipating all to do,

No time to sit with You!

 

This is MY day.

Don’t I have a say

In how you spend your time?

Remember, you are chosen…Mine!

 

But Lord, relatives will soon be here,

And the lawn Santa still needs reindeer!

There is so much to do,

Still no time to sit with You.

 

Relax and enjoy Me this season,

Let your activities have a reason.

This is My Birthday celebration,

And all I want is your attention.

 

Oh, Lord, we’ll make it all about You.

Do You think we should have fondue?

We’ll read the Christmas Story,

And give You all the glory.

 

Sit down and read My Word.

Your craziness is absurd.

Come spend some time with me,

Forget the Christmas tree.

 

Oh, Lord the cookies are all baked,

I have such a headache.

I know I need to pray,

But I’ve had such a day!

 

Lives are waiting to be saved.

Did you hear Me when you prayed?

It is certainly no wonder

Your world is all asunder.

 

No, God, I didn’t hear a word,

I was busy stuffing the bird.

I want to just slow down,

But I feel I’m losing ground.

 

You’ve made it all about you,

And all your parties too.

My message to the lost,

Overshadowed by homemade cranberry sauce.

 

Lord, that’s not true,

You know I do love You.

It’s just I feel a call,

To make this the best Christmas of all!

 

You’re wasting your time.

Do you think you could top Mine?

I had a virgin birth,

As my entrance to earth.

 

Oh, Lord, I’m beginning to see,

How You want to use me.

Telling Your story to all who will listen,

Is the true Christmas mission.

 

Spending time with Me,

Is the only way to flee

The world’s strangling control

On your time and very soul.

 

Oh, Lord, Your music softly plays,

As the candle glow displays,

The beauty of time spent

With our Gift heaven sent.

 

You’ll go against the flow

Taking time to help a lost soul.

But when the day has come to end,

You’ll have the joy of a new friend.

 

Oh, Lord, forgive me please.

Help me put down my car keys.

It really is so true,

There’s ALWAYS time to sit with You.

Our prayer for our friends and family is that you focus your life on only those things that will have Kingdom value. It’s the only legacy worth leaving. Merry Christmas, Janet & Dave

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My Thanksgiving Prayer from Philippians

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving and Pray like Paul did in Philippians 1

Many of you read my blog regularly, though we’ve never met, and others I know quite well or we’ve had the opportunity to meet and fellowship together. But I want you to know that when I write this Monday Morning Blog,  my monthly newsletter, or any of my books, you are on my mind. I’m wondering what you’re thinking about world events and how I can encourage you with the Word of God.

Often you tell me that a particular blog or book was just what you needed at the time, and we both know that it was God using me as His messenger. To God be the glory!

As I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I noticed that Chapter 1:3-11, 27-28 in the NIV translation has the heading: Thanksgiving and Prayer. I thought how appropriate to personalize this passage as my Thanksgiving prayer for all of you.

Adapted from Paul’s letter to the Philippians Chapter 1

Thanksgiving Prayer (Adapted from Philippians 1:3-11)

I thank my God every time I remember my family, friends, peeps, church family, readers, blog/newsletter followers, brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow authors and speakers . . . . In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy for those who partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in and through you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart whether I am chained to the computer writing the next book, blog, or newsletter . . .  or defending and confirming the gospel and mentoring . . . all of you share in God’s grace and ministry with me spiritually, and sometimes physically, through prayer, communication, and social networking. God can testify how I think of all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best for you and those you love and cherish, and you will remain pure and blameless for the day of Christ. That you will lead, guide, encourage, parent, serve, and mentor others and be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel (Adapted from Philippians 1:27-28)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I know you, or never meet you but only hear about your great work, I will know that we stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose us. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that we will be saved—and that by God.

From Janet

This Thanksgiving, and every day, go and represent Christ to a depraved and fallen world, so that because of your witness and sharing the Good News of Jesus, more will be saved than lost (“destroyed”) when Christ returns.

I thank God in remembrance of each of you.

About His Work with you,

Janet

You can sign up for my monthly online newsletter or weekly blog on my website.

For more on what I’m grateful for this year read the November 2017 issue of About His Work Ministries Newsletter

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*Picture from clipart.org.

Mentoring Can Change the World: Starting with Our Children

Last week, my eleven-year-old granddaughter and her friend were here to participate in a kids’ Drama Camp at our local outdoor theater. Both girls are baptized Christian tweens, at a perfect age for mentoring as they enter into middle school this year. We’ve been doing my Bible study Face-to-Face with Mary and Martha: Sisters in Christ together via SKYPE, or in person, for quite a while. We’ve had lots of discussions where I help them use Scripture from their Bibles to apply to their young lives. They have so many questions and are at a crossroads between not little girls, but not grown ups either. As tweens, they’re soon going to have more freedoms to make decisions—but not the wisdom that comes with maturity.

Every parent has heard the excuse, “But everyone else is doing it.” I remember my parents saying something like, “If everyone jumped off a cliff would you too?” Sadly, today many kids and adults are jumping off the moral and spiritual cliff to fit in with the culture, or they’re afraid to express beliefs that differ from the worldview.

Even children are bullied for supporting America’s president when their accosters usually don’t even understand why they’re reacting so violently. Where do these young bullies learn this reaction? Television, the internet . . . perhaps parents, grandparents, or even teachers?

I watched an interview of high school kids encouraged by their teachers to ditch school and participate in a protest march. Those kids had no clue why they were marching or what they were protesting?! They weren’t trying to change the world; they were being changed by a worldview they didn’t really understand.

We may want to pull the covers over our head and ignore the unrest in the world. But the parting words Jesus gave to His disciples regarding Christians’ place in the world, the Great Commission, reminds us there’s work to do, starting with our children.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

However, the last page in the Bible also foretells that the world will always have good and evil.

Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” Revelations 22:11

We all want our children and grandchildren knowing and doing what is right and holy, even when their peers encourage them to do wrong and vile acts! Parents and grandparents are the ones responsible for teaching and instilling these virtues. We cannot rely on the schools, and sometimes not even our churches.

The important thing is to help them not grow weary or discouraged doing good. Some things have helped me be a world change agent, while not letting the world change me. Maybe these will help you too in guiding and mentoring your children or young mentees.

Use the Word of God and Help Your Children Learn Scripture from Their Own Bible

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT

Teach them to paraphrase if they need to, but God’s Word applies to every area of life in every century (Heb. 13:8). Jesus used Scripture when tempted by Satan in the desert and taught the disciples to pray “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). Help them memorize Scriptures to resist temptation. My granddaughter’s friend said her Dad is teaching her Psalm 23 for when she’s afraid.

Stay Civil and Polite But Stay Firm in Your Convictions

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

Satan is the ruler of this world, so those caught up in the world’s cults, atheism, alternate belief systems or lifestyles, feel compelled to challenge us for our faith in Christ, and they have devised a myriad of unkind words to call us. The hurt runs deep when it’s aimed at our Lord and Savior. So our first impulse is to engage in a debate. If you’ve ever tried arguing or reasoning with someone blinded by the world’s belief system, you know it’s usually futile. I mentor my granddaughter that her best answer is “This is what I believe because the Bible (or God or Jesus) tells me so.”

Other times, believers fall into the same trap the serpent used with Eve when someone asks them, “Did God really say…?” Simply say, “Yes He did, and I’ll find the Scripture for you.” Jesus didn’t come to sanctify the world’s ways, He came to save the world from its ways.

The World is In Darkness So Let Your Light Shine

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. John 3:18-20

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

The world loves darkness. Yet into this dark world came Jesus, the Light of the world, and He has hidden His light in each believer’s heart. Our light must shine brightly, no flickering. When we enter a room, a social media conversation, a family or friendly gathering, work, play, school, as parents, grandparents, employers, employees, kids . . . wherever life takes us . . . our light shines, even if we’re the only light for Jesus. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

We are living in a lost world that is loudly anti-God and anti-Christian and influencing the next generation. We can’t be quiet. Our job as Christians is to be world-changers for Christ. We must worry more about what God thinks about us than what the world thinks. Our job is to put God back in the public square and reach the world with the love of Christ. It may be hard for kids to get this point, but they do need to know that there will be people who won’t like you for not agreeing to do the wrong thing. They may try to bully, dare, entice, make you feel bad, but that’s just because you doing the right thing convicts them for doing the wrong thing.

Don’t Give Up!

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. John 17:15-21

We’ll never have a perfect world until Jesus returns, but as long as we have breath, we’re saved to make a difference in the world. Start your children young believing this means them too! Maybe it’s their friends, sports coaches, unsaved relatives…teach them to pray. Here’s a prayer to start with:

Dear Lord, though the world does not know you, I___________ know you, and I pray that you will let the world know that you have sent me as your servant. Help me make you known to a lost world and I will continue to make you known where you put me so that the love you have for me may be in them also. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to live in my heart. Amen. John 17:25-26 personalized and paraphrased as a prayer.

Just a reminder that my new release Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness has helps, tips, encouragement from Scripture for mentors and mentees from tweens to twilight seasons. It’s available for sale now. If you would like to participate in the Prayer and Launch Team to help spread the message of this book from coast to coast, woman to woman, contact Janet ASAP.

Look for in Christian Bookstore and on

Amazon or Kindle

Or

Signed by the Author

Author Bio

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 books. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. (September 12, 2017)

She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources.

She is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries.

Visit Janet and sign up for her Monday Morning blog and online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com

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Why I Have Hope for Katy Perry

My book Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, is about a prodigal, aka me, raising a prodigal. As I’ve read about Katy Perry’s recent public confessions of why she turned away from her childhood Christian faith, I saw a certain parallel to my life. No, I never became a multimillion dollar, outrageously popular pop star, but I did turn my back on my Christian faith after my divorce and became a very successful businesswoman living a worldly life while raising my prodigal.

Katy’s father is a pastor and her childhood home was faith-filled. In her public therapy session aired on Viceland, she went by her birth name Katheryn Hudson. Faithwire wrote an article from this session, Why Kathy Perry’s Rejection of Her Childhood Faith Should Concern Every Bible-Believing Christian. They quoted Hudson as saying, “I grew up with a lot of born-again Christian beliefs around me, and so I had people around me — like-minded people — and I would say it was a bit of a bubble,” Hudson explained. “I was a very curious person, and the curiosity — sometimes it wasn’t allowed because you had to have faith.”

The article goes on to say that Hudson explained she was “curious about what was going on in the rest of the world, and how they lived, and what they saw as they were living . . . I felt like I was missing out.” She decided to explore her singing career further to “pop [her] own bubble, to get out of [her] own situation.”

“I guess I was just trying to get out of one way of thinking. It was like ‘do as I say, no ifs, ands, or buts. It was based on my religious upbringing… I have so many questions. I ask all the questions in the world, and all the questions in the world have gotten me to where I am at now.” [To read the whole article]

There is so much in that last statement about finding answers in the world, which made her rich and famous, but spiritually bankrupt denouncing her faith and  singing songs with provocative, shocking lyrics and movements that many young girls listen to and imitate.

Why did she turn to the world for answers? Because she couldn’t find answers to her questions in the church. She was raised around born-again Christians, but never actually says she was born-again.

In Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I challenge the church with that same thought: “If we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, the world will teach them not to. Not encumber them with rules easily broken, but guide them toward a relationship they wouldn’t forfeit or jeopardize for anything.” I ask the question: “How many are making sure their children and grandchildren understand, accept, and embrace the Christian lifestyle? How many know, for certain, their children have a personal relationship with Jesus?”

Again I warn in Forsaken God?: “The church failed to reach out to the next generation with a message relevant to the world they live in today, but the secular world was ready and waiting for them. . . .Today, even children from Bible-believing homes may not have the tools or fortitude to equip them to face a liberal world drifting away from the God of the Bible.”

I stress exactly what Katy Perry said she couldn’t get from the Christian “bubble.”

They need mentors and parents to have the tough, honest discussion about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, marriage, same-sex attraction, transgenderism, radical Islam, cults, drugs, alcohol, suicide . . . whatever they’re facing in their world.

My “Katy Perry” Story

When I left my good-girl Christian lifestyle, even though I was a born-again Christian since age eleven, I felt just like Katy that I was missing something “out in the world.” Satan makes sin seem fun and enticing. And there were plenty of people ready to teach me the “world’s ways.” I was naïve enough not to understand how quickly I was being sucked into that lifestyle.

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home like Katy was, but I did have a very devout grandmother who planted the seeds of faith in me. My mother would drop me off at church, but I was on my own. I loved everything about church and did find mentors and “spiritual mothers” to answer my questions until I went away to college and there was no one guiding me not to marry an unbeliever or pray with me about my choices.

What Brought Me Back to the Lord?

After seventeen years of backsliding, I was invited to a Harvest Crusade where Pastor Greg Laurie asked the crowd if they were ready to die that night? The Lord had gradually been bringing me back to Him through attending Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and I knew the answer to Pastor Laurie’s question was, no. I rededicated my life to the Lord that night and God has been using me About His Work ever since.

I think Katy Perry, Katherine Hudson’s, public “therapy” session is her cry for help. I know she feels God on her shoulder calling her back with every provocative move, word, and action she uses to try to separate from Him.

What Can We Do?

Katy Perry’s mother, a minister’s wife, author, and a mentor to many Christian women, has some advice that she shared in an interview by J. Lee Grady, Charisma News, “How Katy Perry’s Mother Praises God Through the Pain.” Grady asks: How does a Christian mother handle it when she sees her daughter drifting so far from the values she taught her?

“The devil definitely tries to steal my joy,” Mary told me. “I sometimes have to fight depression.” A few years ago, Mary anchored her soul to Psalm 113:9, which says, “He gives the barren woman a dwelling, making her the joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!”

“That verse inspired her to write her 2015 book, Joyful Parent, Happy Home. Mary believes if you want your children to live for God, “You have to get happy and stay in the ‘God zone.’ Mary’s close friends also support her unconditionally. And she asks new friends to agree with her in prayer for a miracle turnaround for her daughter . . . Mary believes parents of prodigals must focus on others rather than wallowing in their own pain. For the past 11 years she has poured her life into women who attend her Arise conferences.” The full interview is at CharismaNews.

Mary also mentioned something important that I share in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: show unconditional love to your prodigal, and as much as it is up to you, keep the lines of communication open.

Praise God, both my daughter and I enjoy a wonderful relationship with God and each other. I now have precious grandchildren to help pour into spiritually. I want to make sure I’m not just telling them what to believe, but helping them come to their own conclusions. To feel free to ask us questions and to help them solve their faith problems without giving them the answers we think they should arrive at. To help them develop problem-solving techniques and know where and how to go to the Bible when they question something happening in the world.

When they ask if I know that Katy Perry “used to be a Christian,” we talk about the fact that if she did give her heart to Jesus as a child, she still is a Christian, but she’s not living like one, so let’s pray for her.

The 6/26/17 issue of Time Magazine, quoted Katy’s apology for “criticized acts of cultural appropriation”: “I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong. And sometimes that’s what it takes.” Let’s pray Katy hears from God that she’s been doing wrong and apologizes to Him. Someday, Katy could have an amazing testimony and God will use it for good. Pray it’s soon before she influences more young girls and women for the world.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

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PS I just realized this is the end of June already and should be Love Your Body Monday, but this post was on my heart so I’ll post a Love Your Body blog for the 4th of July week!

Are You The Woman Today You Want Your Daughter to Become?

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know I’ve been writing, editing, and proofing a new book, Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. Last week, I turned in my final proof edit to the publishers, Leafwood Publisher, as I anticipate it’s September 12, 2017 release. Then I learned the exciting news that this book is now on Amazon ready for preorders! You can order now, and as soon as it’s in stock at Amazon, you’ll receive your pre-release copies. The more preorders, the more they bring in stock. Will you help me get this book into the hands of mentors and mentees, those wanting to know how to be a mentor or mentee, and Women’s Ministry Directors to guide women in all seasons of their life.

This book will guide and equip women from tweens to twilight seasons in how to biblically mentor or be a mentee! I think it’s the first book of it’s kind written for both M&M’S! One endorser has already said every Women’s Ministry Director needs this book in her library. As the summer goes on, I’ll share more tidbits about this book for all women.  So drum roll please . . . I’m unveiling the cover!

The Mothering Season

When I speak to women about mentoring, I tell them that their first mentoring responsibility is to their daughters if they have daughters or nieces. They’re the role model for these young girls and they’re mentoring to them what it looks like to be a woman today: either a woman of the world or a woman of the Word. And then, I ask the question: Are you the woman today you want your daughters to become because they’re watching you, and as much as they don’t want to be like you, they will probably become just like you at sometime in their life.

In Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I share how during my backsliding years, my daughter wanted to be just like me. I realized some of the poor choices she was making were a reflection of the poor choices she was watching me make.

That was a huge revelation to me that I needed to make some changes in my life. When I did rededicate my life to the Lord and start living a godly life, she didn’t want any part of it. She liked the way we were living more by the world’s standards than by God’s ways. And that’s the story I talk about in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. I went down on my knees and prayed Scripture for her daily for six years; all the time showing and role modeling for her the blessings of being a rededicated woman of faith.

I’m happy to say our story took a happy turn and Kim did eventually give her heart to Jesus, and she has done a much better job than I did raising her three children in a Christian household. She’s mentored them in character qualities that her two daughters and son are obviously noticing. For a school project, 3rd grader Sienna was to write why her mom should be in People Magazine. I must admit, I was troubled by this teacher’s choice of a magazine that 3rd graders had no business knowing about or writing an article for, so I was relieved when Sienna said she had no idea what People Magazine was, anyway!

But what did impress me were the character qualities Sienna wrote that she saw in her mom. My daughter is a fitness instructor with a fabulous figure, she’s gorgeous, dresses stylishly, and always looks beautiful. So when Sienna decided to write about why her mom should be on the cover of People Magazine, she easily could have talked about these superficial, outward qualities, but at eight-years old this is what she wrote, exactly how she wrote it, no edits from Grammie:

My mom should be on the cover of the People magazine. My mom’s name is Kim Mancini. My mom is medium height, has brown hair, and her eyes are brown. There are so many reasons why my mom should be on the cover of the People Magazine.

One of the amazing things about my mom is that she is trustworthy. My mom trusts me all the time. My mom does not lie. My mom is trustworthy with my whole family. Now you know why my mom is trustworthy.

My mom is the most honest person in the world. She is honest with me. She once said, “Do not be scared that’s not real.” My mom is honest with my grandparents. There is no doubt, my mom should be on the People Magazine because she is so honest.

My mom is so helpful. My mom helps me when I am hurt. My mom helps me with my homework. She helps me get ready for school. My mom should win an award for being the best mom ever. My mom is the best mom in the world.

By Sienna

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Sienna’s mom, is trustworthy, honest, and helpful. Later she wished she had included hardworking. Isn’t that what every mom wants all her children, not just her daughters, to say about her?! Good job Kim.

What would your kids write why you should be on the cover of People Magazine?

The Mancini family. Sienna is next to her brother

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Messy Journey, Offering the Prodigal a Way Home by Lori Wildenberg

I always teach that mentoring the next generation starts with our own family. But what do you do when your children or grandchildren are walking with the world instead of with God? As many of you know, parenting prodigals is dear to my heart and prompted me to share our family’s journey in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents.

Today, my author friend, and licensed parent and family educator Lori Wildenberg offers practical grace- and truth-filled ways of navigating your relationship with a detoured child whether they are rejecting faith, dabbling in sin, or wholeheartedly embracing sinful behavior.

Lori knows the heartache of having a rebel child. Her new release Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home is for parents walking the difficult road with a wayward child. Be inspired to drink the deep waters of peace as you draw closer to the Father of all prodigals. There is hope. After all, their struggle isn’t really with you, it’s with God.

 

MESSY LIFE by Lori Wildenberg

“When her parents discovered she was pregnant, they kicked her out.”

This single mom has defied the odds. She is raising her child, going to college, and working to support the two of them.

Not easy.

I don’t know the details of this woman’s story. I have no clue as to the relationship she had or has with her parents. I don’t know all the times of trouble that led up to this separation.

But…

I do know a number of families in a similar situation who chose to do life differently. They chose to support their unwed pregnant daughter and help her in her time of need. Three of the girls kept their babies. All three are now married (not to the baby daddy), another girl miscarried (now married with kids), and a fifth made an open adoption plan.

During the most difficult time in their life, each young mom knew her parents were there for her. Each woman in the middle of the mess knew she could count on her parents to help stabilize the shaky ground. All girls are now thriving.

As daughter’s of Eve and sons of Adam, we make decisions that are not in our best interest, ones that are not God’s best for us.

Humans have a wandering propensity.

Some young people stray due to an unwed pregnancy, sexual sin, porn, substance abuse, or a rejection of faith. When we have a prodigal, sometimes we are to let ’em go (see Luke 15) and other times we are to chase after our lost sheep (see Luke 15).

Either way, we need to keep the bridge built so our prodigal is able to return.

I have a child who, for a season, stepped away from the family. It was the most painful thing I have ever endured. There were times I chased her down like the shepherd and other times I waited like the dad.

I cried. I prayed.

I was a mess. I was weak.

God was strong.

Praise God, He brought her back to us.

I am thankful I kept the drawbridge down so she could cross it.

If your young person has taken a detour from the way in which he should go, keep the bridge open.

Don’t destroy it, build it.

During a messy life, lay down the planks of unconditional love: grace, humility, mercy, forgiveness, honesty, and truth.

Build the bridge and yes…they will come.

Back.

“Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”
Luke 15:6b (NIV)

Where is God calling you to build or rebuild a relational bridge?

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Lori Wildenberg is passionate about helping families build connections that last a life time. She is a licensed parent-family educator and co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. She has written 4 parenting books with Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home published by New Hope as her most recent. She is a parent consultant, national speaker, and lead Mentor Mom over at the Moms Together Facebook Community Page. Lori is a contributor to a number of on-line magazines. Every Monday you can find her blogging about faith and family. Mostly, Lori is wife to Tom and mom of four. The Wildenberg’s home is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A perfect day in Lori’s world is a hike with her hubby, four kids plus a daughter-in-love, and Murphy the family labradoodle.

Find Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home at Amazon.

Additional Books:
Raising Little Kids with Big Love (for parents of toddlers- 9)
Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love (for parents of tweens-young adults)

www.loriwildenberg.blogspot.com

www.loriwildenberg.com

www.facebook.com/momstogether

www.facebook.com/1Corinthians13Parenting

www.1Corinthians13Parenting.com
https://twitter.com/LoriWildenberg

https://pinterest.com/loriwildenberg/

Instagram: LoriWildenberg

Love Your Body: Revive Sexual Purity

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

My goal for 2017 is staying aware of God’s presence and listening to His warnings. The word the Lord gave me: “Revival.” Today is Love Your Body Monday, and I want to talk about reviving sexual purity.

  1. Last Friday was the March for Life— the rights of the unborn. For the first time in history, a Vice President addressed the crowd and talked about “Life is winning again in America! Society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the unborn. Science is illuminating when life begins!”
  2. Six days prior was the “Women’s March”—the right to kill the unborn by abortion. Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty described that march: “I was blown away by the vulgarity and the young children there!” I discussed that march in last week’s blog, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t: Some Women Are Still Like Eve: Believing the Serpent.

Two marches embodying two opposing concepts:

  • good vs evil
  • life vs death
  • peaceful vs angry
  • a body as God’s creation capable of creating and sustaining life, vs self-rights to use “my” body to create and kill life

In last week’s post, Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and sin entered the world. They immediately knew they were naked. (Genesis 3:2-3) Let’s continue:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

Satan was watching and saw God say:

  • Eve would become the mother of mankind
  • Nakedness should be covered
  • Man would always know good from evil

Satan already knew he could easily deceive man. The stage was set for Satan to do his work as ruler of this world in each of the above areas:

  1. Destroy humankind by having them kill each other in wars, murders, riots, terrorists, and abortion–sanitizing it with a name like “Planned Parenthood.” Slow propagation through infertility, normalizing LGBT lifestyle, redefining marriage, and creating gender confusion.
  2. Exploit and pervert sex, promote promiscuity, adultery, pornography, provocative seductive clothing, immorality, and lust, using media, marketing, entertainment, and Hollywood as the vehicle to idolize, romanticize, and normalize sin to each generation.
  3. Start a political liberal progressive atheistic movement that demonizes purity, virginity, celibacy, monogamy, Christianity, and the sanctity of life—remove God and the Bible from the public squre.

Time has proven that what one generation does in moderation, the next generation does in excess because Satan goes after the children!

Satan’s tactics have worked. Christians talking about abstinence or purity  . . . are laughed at . . . called prudes, dreamers, delusional, judgmental, preachers, and worse. Many give up even trying. Pastors don’t talk about the hazards of sex outside of marriage . . . the moral, sinful, and physical consequences on our bodies . . . God’s precious holy temples.

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh. 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:15:20

Why aren’t pastors telling young people and congregations that when you have sex with another person you become one with them? Hook ups, one-night stands, date sex,  living together, casual sex . . . every person you EVER had sex with . . . your souls united because that’s how God made us “the two become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) in sex.  God meant for it to be in marriage. Satan the great Deceiver would say, God didn’t really mean that. Yes he did.

Let’s Start a Pure Body Revival

One woman wrote to me: My mother gave me birth control pills at 13 so I wouldn’t get pregnant with all the low life boys I would have sex with in my passage into womanhood.

That broke my heart. We need a sexual revival in our country. Let’s start educating our young men and women. Parents, churches, mentors teachers taking the time to teach kids what really happens spiritually when you have sex, not just the physical mechanics, but share verses like those above and ones on purity and holiness, do Bible studies together, and talk about why God wants His people to only have sex in marriage. Explain that sex is not a natural or expected part of a relationship unless you’re married, regardless of how the movies or TV depict it, or what your friends are doing.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word. Psalm 111:9

In Forsaken God? I wrote, “Young people need to hear how to use the Bible as a benchmark to distinguish truth from lies. They don’t need condoms and birth control pills and talks on safe sex; they need to know how to make choices based on eternity, not just avoiding maternity.”

Sexual revival applies to all ages and it won’t be popular, but we can pray for God to empower us and give us the opportunity to spread revival in our sphere of influence. Our culture ridicules men and women who vow celibacy until their wedding night. Rampant casual sex—hook ups, dating sex, friends with benefits, living together—reduces sex to lust, not love. The world, deceived by Satan asks, “What’s love got to do with sex?” Even many Christians choose to be a part of this world rather than set apart and pure for God who tells us “So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” –Lev. 20:7 (NLT)

Single moms and single women this means you too. You must set the example and role model for these young women and girls and for your daughters and sons. I was a single mom and I’ve been on both sides of this discussion. Yes, I was a virgin when I married my daughter’s father. We didn’t have birth control pills when I was a teenager. My mother wasn’t a religious person, but she told me emphatically that sex was for marriage. Sex can make babies. White wedding dresses are for virgins, and no boy or man is worth forfeiting that one-time sacred privilege. I believed her, and I waited, and I’m glad I did. She set a moral compass for me and I stuck to it.

In Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I share how my moral compass shifted in my divorced, single years and I did not set a good role model for my daughter. I’m here to tell you that Satan is a liar. God made our bodies to glorify and honor Him, and praise God He is the God of many chances. For those who feel it’s too late, they aren’t a virgin or are too sexually impure so what difference does it make, God is the God of renewal. We can come before Him and ask for forgiveness for our past, repent, rededicate our life and go and sin no more just like the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well.

Satan makes the sinful life look exciting and enticing, but anyone who has come out of the dark into the light will tell you loving your body the way God loves your body is the only way to a joyful, peaceful life.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

Many will think I’m idealistic and sexual revival is impossible. I’m not naïve enough to think women and men are going to stop having sex outside of marriage, but maybe some will. The theme of this year’s Walk for Life was the Power of One. They stressed the importance of reaching the next generation, which is my passion too.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

I want to share two books: both from the Robertson family of the Ducky Dynasty TV Series. The Robertson’s are vocal about their faith and belief in Jesus Christ and family.

Sadie Robertson was seventeen when she wrote Live Original: How the Duck Commander Teen Keeps It Real and Stays True to her Values and I included this quote in my book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten

When you put your relationship with God first and you also have a great relationship with your family, you can risk having people get upset with you for standing up for your beliefs. You can risk being rejected because of your values, and you can even risk losing a boyfriend if the relationship is not going in a godly direction. You can risk looking or acting different from other people. You can do these things because you know you will be okay without them. You know God is with you and for you, and I hope you can also know your family is standing beside you, but even without your family’s support, you can know that God is there.

Jase Robertson wrote in Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl about his decision as a teenager to remain sexually pure until marriage:

One day after hearing my buddies talking about sexually transmitted diseases and asking my dad about it. I don’t remember the specifics of his speech, but I would never forget the last thing he said. “Son you keep that thing in your pocket until you get married and you’ll never have to worry about it.” He told me. The timing of our conversation was perfect when it came to my staying sexually pure.

I eventually came up with a plan of action. On the first date, I would share my faith with the girl and declare my intention to wait until marriage before having sex. In a way this held me accountable, and it also got rid of any girls who had a quick roll in the hay in mind. I also decided to stay away from the “second look”—noticing a good-looking woman, then dwelling on her for a second, more lustful look. I tried to notice the beauty and feel the attraction to a woman but ultimately pursue their spiritual makeup. . . . God changes us from the inside out, and that helps us look at other people the same way.

Jase did stay sexually pure. He and his wife Missy were both virgins on their wedding night. With God all things are possible!

We need to build a new culture of purity, a new culture of life. A new normal.

Let’s make purity popular again!

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

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An article I wrote for Crosswalk that might be helpful Have You Forgiven Each Other for Premarital Sex?

If you’ve had an abortion, I recommend Pat Layton’s book Surrendering the Secret.

For more thoughts on Revival of Titus 2 Women see this month’s About His Work Newsletter.

A Bible study I wrote for First Place 4 Health goes into depth about keeping our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits pure and holy: God’s Best For Your Life. Study on your own or as a group.

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What If You Didn’t Get to Say Goodbye?

If you read last week’s Monday Morning Blog, 8 Reasons to Make 2017 the Year of New Connections, you know I had an accident on Christmas afternoon. I don’t remember ever having an accident like that before. I stood up with plans to go charge my phone and then get a game started with the grandkids, and the next thing I know I hear a cracking sound and feel my head bang against the edge of a wooden chest. I had no sensation or realization of falling, so I didn’t brace the fall—my head took the full impact.

Standing one moment—Wham the next!

No time to say goodbye . . .

I heard the alarmed cry, “Mom!” as I put my hand up to the dent in my head and brought it away full of blood. An amazing calm came over me as I realized I was not dead. God had spared me. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I wasn’t yet in the presence of Jesus. I was still in my daughter’s living room, and even though everyone was in shock, they would soon move into action. Before we rushed to ER, I could kiss and hug my precious grandchildren, daughter, husband, and son-in-law and tell them how much I loved them.

I also knew that if I had woke up in the presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, my family would know where I was . . . that I loved them . . . and we were good . . . even though we didn’t get to say goodbye. Everyone in that room was saved and would join me someday in Heaven in a glorious reunion.

I couldn’t plan for that accident. No long goodbyes.

In the last few months, we’ve watched celebrities suddenly taken ill on an ice rink, in a plane, in grief, at home . . . and die. Death knows no age, culture, wealth, or time limits. Physical death comes like a thief in the night at some point to everyone . . . the famous and ordinary, rich and poor.

But to those of us who know Jesus as our Savior who has conquered death, this world is not our home. When we die, we will have eternal life in Heaven with Jesus forever.

For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.[b]
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:53-55

This post isn’t meant to depress you, but to mobilize you! It’s so easy to think we’ll have time to share Jesus with a loved one or friend “later” or “when the time is right” or “when they’re ready.” But now is the time. Pray and ask God to give you the opportunity the next time you meet.

If you’re in a mentoring relationship, make it a priority to each pick someone you know who needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s up to Jesus to change their heart, but He wants us to go into all the world and share the Good News (Mark 16:15).

We live in a tumultuous time where everyone is looking for hope in a person, a law, a program, a president, a change in identity or gender  . . . when you and I know they will never have peace until they find their true identity in Christ. Love your family and friends enough to be willing to risk rejection to share with them the only thing that really matters in this life: knowing and believing that our God saves!

Maybe you know people who need to rededicate their life to Christ . . . maybe that person is you. If you’ve read or heard my testimony, you know I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of eleven, but as an adult I backslid spiritually for seventeen years. Then at a Harvest Crusade, I heard Pastor Greg Laurie ask, “Are you ready to die tonight?” I knew I wasn’t then, but I am now. Are you? Is everyone in your sphere of influence? What does God want you to do about it? You can’t read this blog without someone coming to mind. Now what will you do?

A proverb often said at our house is Proverbs 6:4: “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.” (NLT)

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Three Things I’ve Learned in 24 Years of Marriage!

wedding-picture

Yes, as you read today’s Monday Morning Blog, December 19, 2016, hubby and I are celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary! Several of you have mentioned you enjoy learning a little about my life lessons in these Monday mornings blogs, so as I pondered what to share with you so close to Christmas, I thought what better words of wisdom than what God has taught me about loss, life, and love in our marriage. I hope you’ll keep reading, even if you’re not married, because the principles God has taught me can apply to any relationship.

Loss of Expectations

Our wedding, just six days before Christmas, was a second marriage for both of us. Dave had three children and I had one daughter. I was single for seventeen years and Dave only a few years. The kids ranged in age from fifteen to nineteen, so I didn’t anticipate any problems in everyone living happily ever after.

Well, if you’ve blended a family or been around one, you’re probably laughing hysterically about now. Blending didn’t come without its challenges, and we all brought baggage and different ways of doing things from our original families. I learned right away that I was going to have to lower, and in many cases lose, my expectations: we would never be a nuclear family. Christmas or holidays or special occasions would always be a compromise of negotiating between two families, which would only become more complicated as the kids married and added extended families with their own traditions.

I couldn’t control who would be with us on what day or at what time . . . or even at all. There has only been one time since all our grandchildren were born that all four children, their spouses, and the eleven grandchildren were together, and that was at Thanksgiving six years ago at our son’s house—it wasn’t even at our home. For Dave’s 70th birthday last year, I had a dream . . . still hadn’t let go of all those expectations . . . of the whole family celebrating together for a reunion at our home in Idaho, where some had yet to visit. But one family couldn’t join us.

Dave and I have learned to pray about each event, and then enjoy who comes and not worry over who doesn’t. That hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn, but it has been necessary to maintain sanity and family relations. It relieves stress, worry, and disappointment when I let go of my expectations and let God fulfill His.

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

What Divorced Christians Want You To Know

Life Is Ever Evolving

When we were first married, Dave had a wonderful job with great benefits. I was so happy that I would have some relief from the pressures of supporting a family after seventeen years of being a single mom. So after three years, we decided when the last child left home, I could quit my job and go into full-time lay ministry starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Saddleback Church. If you’re not familiar with the term “lay ministry,” it means no pay. I was never on staff at Saddleback. Three months after I quit my job, Dave was laid off from his corporate career and that was the end of a corporate job with benefits and great income . . . forever!

Read more of that story at About His Work Ministries.

Dave eventually found various labor-intensive jobs, until the last one resulted in him having to have reconstructive foot surgery and medically retire, which is how we ended up moving to Idaho. I tell that story, along with his multiple layoffs, in Dear God, He’s Home!: A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-At-Home Man.

Right before Dave’s second layoff, I had my first battle with Breast Cancer and started radiation two days before our 10th wedding anniversary. Little did we know then that I would go on to have breast cancer two more times, and 6 ft. 4 in. Dave would take a job that had him in a uniform crawling on his belly under houses and in attics. But through it all, God has kept me About His Work, and used us in a mighty way. Dave supports me as I write and speak for the Lord. Dave is my helpmate with his techie abilities, helping with the website, and for those of you who receive our newsletter, I write the articles but he puts it together.

Dave now travels with me when I speak, and the women really appreciate how we work as a team with him “manning” the book table. I used to pray that God would send me an assistant . . . I just never expected it to be Dave. Our personalities and gifts are polar opposite, but God has taught us, as life has evolved over these twenty-four years, how to combine our differences into a united effort working together for the Lord. What Satan tries to pull apart and use to separate us, we’ve learned to identify and let God make us stronger and better together.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Love Jesus First

pastor-pete-marrying-us

If you’ve read Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter or Dear God, He’s Home! I talk about a Marriage Builders course taught at the time by Pastor Pete McKenzie who married us [picture above]. On a whiteboard, Pastor Pete would draw a triangle with God at the pinnacle, a stick figure man in one lower triangle corner, and a stick figure woman in the opposite corner. Then he would draw an arrow across the bottom of the triangle explaining that when we have our eyes on each other, we’re the farthest apart. Next he would draw arrows up each side of the triangle, explaining that as we each move closer to God, we move closer together.

triangle-charm

On one of our early anniversaries, Dave had a charm made for me (picture above) symbolizing that triangle with the pearl of God at the top and our birthstones on each corner. Yes, my birthstone is a diamond! As long as Dave and I remember to keep Jesus first in our lives, everything runs smoothly in our marriage, no matter how our expectations are dashed, or how our life is evolving for good or bad. But if we take our eyes off Jesus, even for a moment, chaos can reign in our home.

All relationships have challenges, and so often those magnify at Christmas and holidays. I hope the three lessons I’ve learned in my marriage, will help you maintain peace, joy, and Jesus’s love no matter what your circumstances or challenges this year or in the New Year. They’re definitely not the only three lessons I’ve learned, but they’re definitely at the foundation of all the others.

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Ephesians 6:24

Merry Holy and Blessed Christmas to all my dear friends and family.

wedding-on-boat

 

Who Will Care for the Widows and Fatherless this Christmas?

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27 NLT

Each week I wonder what God will have me share with you in the Monday Morning Blog, and then God shows up. This week it was clear from several sources, even the Book of Job, that God wanted me to address the topic of widows and the fatherless at Christmas.

God has a focus throughout the Bible of making sure His people care for the widows and orphans. Sometimes at Christmas, we become so wrapped up (pun intended) with our own hustle and bustle that we can neglect those who most need the gift of Christmas love. And I don’t just mean the Salvation Army bucket, although supporting them is important too.

While widows and their families need help every day, the holidays magnify their need. Some churches do an outstanding job of caring for these families, and others . . . have forgotten God’s charge to the church.

The definition of being a widow means a woman has lost her husband, and if she is a younger widow, she may have children who have lost their father. The children aren’t orphans, but their mother is emotionally, perhaps physically and spiritually, in such pain and anguish that her children may feel like orphans. The mother they once knew will never be the same again. Maybe friends or relatives try to fill the “Mom void” while she’s going through the sudden, unexpected, and unwanted process of making arrangements to bury her husband . . . their dad . . . while she’s still in a state of shock and unimaginable grief and trauma, but no one will ever replace the parents they had before dad was taken from them.

The First Christmas Without Him

Christmas is fast approaching and Mom wants her children, maybe too young to understand—maybe old enough to go through their own tragic heartbreak—still to have a good Christmas. But she can’t stop crying and wailing and the doctor has given her something to help her sleep and relax until she can grasp the magnitude of this nightmare that isn’t going away.

So friends and family pitch in and set up the Christmas tree, which is heavy laden with presents that first Christmas without him. But nothing fills the emptiness that permeates their home. The presents don’t fill the empty chair at the breakfast table Christmas morning, or the presents he’s not opening, or the prayer he’s not saying before meals, or the toys he’s not putting together, or the presents he didn’t give her, or his stocking that hangs empty on the mantel, and the fire he’s not stoking.

10 Practical Ways to Care for Widows and Fatherless Children this Christmas

  1. Take her children’s Christmas lists, clothes sizes, and do her Christmas shopping, then wrap all her presents. Assure her that only her children need gifts this year. No one else expects or needs anything from her.
  2. If she’s bought presents, wrap them for her.
  3. If she’s already bought presents for her deceased husband, offer to return them for her.
  4. If she’s not going to be with family Christmas Eve or morning, pack up your family and bring your Christmas to her house. Then if she needs to go in her bedroom and cry, her children won’t be opening their presents or crying alone.
  5. Don’t just drop meals off, stay and have the meal with her and the kids.
  6. During Christmas vacation, take her kids on play dates so she can have time alone to cry without fear of upsetting the kids.
  7. Know when her extended family is leaving and line up people from church to stop by and bring meals, pray, comfort her, and see how she and the kids are doing.
  8. Don’t forget older widows. Don’t think that because her husband was elderly that the pain is any less. She loved her husband for many years and they had blended into one heartbeat. Watch for signs of her declining or possibly losing a will to live.
  9. If you don’t have one already, start a support group in your church for widows and one for children who have lost their father. This isn’t just a holiday need, it’s a daily need.
  10. It may be difficult for her to see all the “couples” at church. Invite her to sit with your family during Christmas programs and every Sunday. If you notice she’s not coming to church, pick up the kids, bring them to church, and ask the pastor to stop and visit her. She may be mad at God. Don’t let her stay mad. Shower her with God’s love, and help her understand that God is crying over the loss of her husband too.

Her Husband Will Never Be Home for Christmas or Anytime Again!

Don’t forget about the widow, or the widow and her children, after the first Christmas. Every Christmas will be hard. She’ll always have to lug the Christmas tree home, set it up by herself, try and get the outside lights up for the kids, and make Christmas merry even though her heart is aching. His chair will still be empty, and his side of the bed will still be cold. He was the spiritual leader of the home, and now she’ll have to fill that role as both mother and father to their children.

Don’t expect a widow of any age to “get better” soon. Time will lessen the acute pain, but she’ll always have a aching hole in her heart, so don’t forget her after a month. Remember, she’s still a widow and her children are still fatherless, and she will need help with all the things her husband used to do around the house and her children will need godly male role models in their lives.

The widow will always need the love, support, help, kindness, and prayers of her family, friends, and church family not just at Christmas, but year round.

How do I know what a widow or fatherless child would need? Because my mother was that 32 year-old widow, I was the 10 year-old little girl, and my sister was four when my father, a California Highway Patrolman, was shot with his own gun and murdered one night while on duty on October 8. We went through his first birthday a week later, October 17, and I still remember going with my mother to Penny’s to return the leather jacket she had bought for his birthday. The next month came the first Thanksgiving . . . then the first Christmas without him.

These past few months in the news, we’ve watched policemen gunned down in their cars and each one of those men represented a mother or widow and children who will have that “first Christmas without him.” Or if you live near a military base, there are doubtless widows and fatherless children in your community. Pray for them, and if you live near any of them or go to their churches . . . do something for those families in the name of the Lord. That would be the best gift Jesus would have you give this Christmas. It was the best gift people gave to us.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families . . . . Psalm 68:4-6

camp-picture-with-arrow2

I know this was a sobering post to start the Christmas season, but you all know a widow, a fatherless child, a single mom, a shut-in who needs to see the love of Jesus lived out tangibly. I became a Christian because a year after my father’s death, someone at the camp in the picture above asked me:

“We know you’ve lost your earthly father, but would you like to know a heavenly Father who will never leave or forsake you?” I said, “Oh, Yes,” and my life has never been the same.

You could give that gift to some fatherless child this Christmas too.

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Can you read the name of the photographer’s sign in front of me in the picture?