The 12 Days of Christmas - The Gift of Contentment

I have learned the secret of being content.
Philippians 4:12

Months of planning lies in haphazard piles. Weeks of dreaming vanish like a breath. Hours of wrapping litter the floor. 

Christmas is a holiday that takes monumental time to architect and almost no time to execute. No matter how low you try to set your expectations, there exists a natural gap between the effort you put in and the satisfaction that comes out. For many, the late hours of Christmas day leave us feeling...empty.

I find it ironic that contentment contains the word content. Because it's when we focus on the content of our lives or event that we find contentment most elusive. The secret of being content lies in not focusing on content. Instead we have to shift our view from that which passes to that which lasts. 

Moments with Jesus build mountains of faith.

Minutes of prayer bring eternal results.

This Christmas why not steal away with Jesus before the first present is opened? As we shift our hearts from a single day on the calendar to the Eternal One, we move from content to contentment. Let's unwrap this gift lasts.

The 12 Days of Christmas - The Gift of Creativity

So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

A couple years ago I began a new tradition with my kids. Every day from when school lets out until Christmas dawns, my children and I do a special activity together. We've made Christmas journals, decorated ornaments and written special messages on puzzles. We've failed at making a rice crispy house and successfully constructed a sleigh. 

I do these projects with my kids for more than just passing the time. 

I want them to feel the pleasure of giving a gift made from their own hands.

I want them to enjoy time spent doing things together.

I want them to experience the joy of creativity.

We were made with the mark of the Master in our hearts. Deep within each of us is a desire to create. We may make music or string words like popcorn. We might whittle away wood or our pantry stock. We may construct spreadsheets or toys. But I believe we all have creativity tucked within the folds of our inner being.

Creativity is hard to give away. When we give what we make, we risk being misunderstood or underappreciated. But when we give what we make, we gain satisfaction that comes with giving no store-bought gift.

As we continue these days of Christmas, I wonder if you'd consider giving a piece of yourself away this year. 

Would you share your sense of style by selecting a signature color for your mom?

Could you spread your knowledge of cooking by penning a favorite recipe for a friend?

Are you willing to give away your gift of organization by offering to clean your sister's house?

The splendor of God's creation is multiplied when creativity is gifted from you. (Care to tweet that? -->

What has God uniquely gifted you to give this Christmas?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Consistency

The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.
1 Samuel 26:23

I never question if he'll do what he says. He is as reliable and faithful as the turning of the seasons. This is one of the many things my husband does to build trust in our marriage. 

If he tells me he'll be home for dinner at 7, I get worried at 7:05.

If he sets a budget, he stays within it.

My husband regularly gives me the gift of consistency.

We've all known people who try to compensate on Christmas morning for what they didn't give the others days that year. Consistency isn't like that. It can't be packaged up and placed under the tree one day of the year. Consistency is something you day, one decision, one promise at a time.

Consistency is something I need to give more often to my family and I don't have to wait for Christmas to give it. I can start right now. 

How would your primary relationships look different if you gave the gift of consistency this year?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Simplicity

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, 
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7

Each December, on more than one evening, our family piles in the old four wheel drive sleigh and heads out to look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we pay to enter a city-sponsored spectacle which, here in the South, nearly always includes a manger scene. Other times we meander through neighborhoods looking for glimpses of Jesus among the sparkle. 

But the most spectacular display of lights we see each year isn't in someone's front yard or a city-owned park, it's in the sanctuary of a church. One light bends to another as 5000 candles slowly come alive and flicker to the One born under a great light to be the greatest light. Silent Night is whispered from reverent lips. A holy hush settles over our hearts and we lift high the One who brought Himself low. (Want to quote this on Twitter? Click here -->

Christmas can be so complicated. Multiple social gatherings get scheduled for the same night. Packages and deliveries come and go at a frenzied pace. Cookies are baked, brought, bought and eaten. Sometimes I get tired such thinking of the details.

On this fourth day of Christmas gifts, I can choose to give myself and my family a present - the gift of simplicity. 

A simple dinner served on festive paper plates with every person preparing one dish.

Stockings filled with prayers from each family member to the others.

A morning spent leisurely engaging in Presence instead of tearing into presents.

A simple, uncomplicated Christmas rocks to the rhythm of Jesus' manger cradle.  (Want to tweet this? Click here --> This Christmas come join Him there. Away from the crowds. Away from complication. Away in a manger.

The gift of simplicity.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Sacrifice

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

For the last two weeks I've been dusting my face with an empty bottle of foundation. 

For the last two years I've been plucking my own eyebrows.

For the last two decades I've been short on sleep and long on worry.

As a parent these are just a few of the sacrifices I've made. Sacrifice comes with the job description. It takes shape in my finances, my emotions and sometimes even my physical well-being. But can I be really honest for a minute?

Sometimes I get tired of sacrifice. 

The other day I was grumbling and complaining to God about this (clearly I'd temporarily forgotten the truth of Philippians 2:14). As I did, I felt a nudge in my heart. It was as if God asked me, "What if I felt that way? What if I got tired of sacrifice? I paid the ultimate price for your well-being and yet you tire so quickly of sacrificing yours for others."

Sacrifice is the costliest of gifts. It's price is more than monetary. It demands a part of me. 

This Christmas I want to give the gift of sacrifice...without grumbling and complaining.

I want to give because He first gave to me.

I want to count the blessing instead of the cost.

I want to live simply so others can simply live.

Each of us contain sacrifices only we can give. Every day that I pour out these words it is a sacrifice. It is a love offering first to God but second to all of you. 

Will you open with me the gift of sacrifice this year and give of yourself to others?

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Being

I'm counting down the presents I have left as I wrap them. This year each one gets a box, some wrapping paper and a circle of curly ribbon. These packages are marathon distance from the wrapping queen I started my adult life as. 

I used to spend hours (and tons of money) making every gift perfectly coordinated and wrapped imaginatively. I thought the outside of the package should invoke as much delight as the inside. I'll admit my Christmas tree had an extra degree of festive back then but I can't actually recall someone even noticing the wrapping...they were all about what was inside.

Sometimes I get so busy doing things for my loved ones, I fail to be with my loved ones.

My kids would rather wrap imperfect presents with me today than unwrap perfect presents in two weeks.

My hubby would rather me snuggle with him on the couch than watch me struggle to adorn his Christmas present.

They don't care so much about my doing...they are interested in my being.

Today as we continue the 12 Days of Christmas,  I want us all to unwrap the gift of being.

Let's give ourselves time with our families.

Let's give ourselves grace to giggle at our imperfections.

Let's give ourselves permission to execute a perfectly, imperfect Christmas.

Most importantly, let's give ourselves the gift of being alone with the One whose birth is at the center of our party planning.

Stop doing; start being. It's a gift you give to others by first giving to yourself.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - The Gift of Belonging

Let us not give up meeting together, 
as some are in the habit of doing, 
but let us encourage one another
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

I wish I could sit down with every one of you this Christmas. I want us to share a cup of cocoa or coffee, to chat and to hear each other's Christmas dreams. But since I can't be with most of you in person this December, I wanted to give you a gift this year. In fact I'm giving you 12 of them. Each day - Monday through Friday for the next 12 days, I will be sharing with you the 12 gifts I most want you to have this Christmas season.

The first is the gift of belonging.

Three years ago today I wasn't trimming a tree; I was trimming our household belongings as I prepared to downsize and move from Dallas to Memphis. My hubby had already made his way here. Soon the movers would pack up my memories as I packed up our children, and move us hundreds of miles away...just in time for Christmas.

I know I purchased and wrapped Christmas presents that year but frankly I can't remember any of them. Because...

More than any toy...

Better than the latest fashion...

I wanted to give my family one gift for Christmas - the gift of belonging.

That year we attended Christmas Eve service with strangers. We unwrapped our hearts in the presence of the unknown. We stepped out in faith into a community where we knew no one.

We needed the gift of belonging.

Belonging doesn't just happen. It's one of those gifts I have to give myself. I have to choose to make time for a women's Bible study. I have schedule the hours to attend a small group. I need to select an hour to get to know Christian friends. I can only truly belong with others if I first belong to Him.

The thing is I'm not the only one who needs the gift of belonging. You need it too.

Will you let me give you this gift this year? Will you let yourself be more authentic and less concerned with appearances? Will you make time for relationships that matter and let go of ones that don't? It may require attending Christmas Eve service with strangers but if you choose belonging and stay the course, eventually belonging will choose you too.

Not Away in a Manger

This Christmas I want Jesus to be born in me.

No I can't go back in time and switch places with Mary. But I don't want Jesus away in a manger. I Him resting in the manger of my heart.

I'm posting today over at Keeping It Personal and I'd love for you to join me there as you let Jesus be born in you...

When the Bough Breaks

For almost a decade I've been decorating two Christmas trees. Like the DoubleMint Gum ads, it's double the pleasure and double the fun. Something happened to my trees over the summer though. They went into the attic in the prime of life and emerged senior citizens.

One had a major bough malfunction - snapped at the neck as it were. There was no redemption; He was put out to pasture after almost 20 faithful years of service. The other had a major wardrobe malfunction - about half of his prelit lights burned out requiring him to be strung with new lights. 

If I had penned my perfect Christmas, that definitely would not be the first chapter. In fact, I started decorating at Thanksgiving and still have boxes cluttering my family room. It's feels like a broken Christmas.

I've had broken Christmases before. Some due to tragedy but most due to expectations that register a 10 on the unrealistic scale. Even though my Christmas is off to a broken start, I don't have to let it break me.

When the bough of your Christmas, starts to break...

Focus on the light - As a child I would sit and look at the Christmas tree for hours. I was mesmerized by the way the lights danced around the room. Things in my life looked different - more magical - under the tree. The same is true of Jesus' light. When I get in His presence, my life looks different - less stressful and more manageable - in His arms.

Let go - Ornaments are precious to me. They represent history, memories and little pieces of my heart. But every year some are broken by my children. The first time this happened my breath twisted around my heart...and then I let it go. I decided my kids were more precious than the bobbles they broke. When we let go of our expectations, we grasp peace.

I pray everything goes according to plan for Christmas celebration this year but if it doesn't don't let the bough break you.

What unrealistic expectation do you need to let go of this Christmas?

God Wants Me to Run

“Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has delivered him.”
2 Samuel 18:19

Saturday afternoon I finished a race I started ten years ago.

26.2 Miles & we're still smiling!
For over a decade I dreamed of running a marathon but...

The training seemed daunting.

My time seemed limited.

My body seemed ill-equipped.

Last May I decided I would no longer allow myself the luxury of excuses. I committed to train in rain, heat and cold. I chose to put in the hours and miles. Saturday my dedication paid off when I crossed the finish line.

Yesterday as I celebrated my run with my brother, he joked he was afraid my marathon experience might turn out like the first one ever run. It is reported that in about 500 BC an urgent military message was sent from Sparta to Athens via a runner. He ran the distance, delivered the news and died from exhaustion.

As I contemplated my accomplishment so long in coming, it occurred to me that while I didn't die Saturday sometimes my message does.

A friend mentions a need...and I don't run to pray for her.

God does something amazing in my life...and I don't run to share it with my kids.

I realize I've wronged my husband...and I don't run to ask his forgiveness.

What has God done in your life today? Who should run to and share His goodness?

His Presence Overcomes

He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Proverbs 2:7-8

We've taken a long journey toward emotional well-being. We've discovered the benefit of getting moving. We've fed our minds and even gotten to know ourselves better. But there is one more vital step to becoming emotionally well. We must overcome difficulty.

Overcoming isn't a matter of the size of my struggle.

Overcoming isn't influenced by the number of my problems.

My ability to overcome is correlated with only one thing - how quickly and how decidedly I invite His presence into my struggle.

I cannot forgive outside the design of the Architect of forgiveness. (Want to tweet that? Click here -->

I cannot heal without the care of the Great Physician.

I cannot experience peace beyond the presence of the Prince of Peace.

I do not know how big your battle has been. I don't know how deep your wounds cut. I only know His presence will make the difference.

How could inviting God's presence into your struggle transform your life?

Today I'm visiting with a friend, Angela Mackey of Rethinking My Thinking. We're talking about a baby...who changes everything. For more hope and encouragement on experiencing change in the struggle in your life, head over and visit us both:

Distracted Driving

Whether you turn to the right or the left, 
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 
"This is the way; walk in it."
Isaiah 30:21

With four kids, no cell phone is required to ensure I am a distracted driver. Even on the rare occasion I'm alone in the car, I tend to be distracted. 

I order and eat fast food.

I get drive through coffee.

I apply cuticle oil to my nails.

I file my nails.

I brush my hair.

I apply makeup.

Yes. I am that driver. 

I was driving along this morning programming the GPS, fixing my pony tail and retrieving something from the floor board when it occurred to me the car isn't the only place in my life where distracted driving plagues me. 

I lose spiritual focus just as easily.

God whispers the way but His voice gets drowned out by the honking of the urgent. Have you ever arrived at your destination with no recollection of the trip that got you there? It is just as easy to begin making turns in life and wonder how you ended up at your particular destination.

If I don't want to meander through life spiritually, I need to eliminate some distractions. 

No Makeup Required - I need to stop covering my blemishes with makeup on the drive of life. Humility goes a long way toward hearing God's quiet whispers. When I readily admit my shortcomings, He shortens the path of coming to Him. (You might want to tweet that! -->

Put Down the Hair Brush - Sometimes I try to tug until I work out my own knots. Working in my strength bullhorns the voice of God but relying totally on Him clears communication. I need to put down the hair brush and lean on Him to work out the knots in my life.

No More Drive Through - Just as fast food is rarely the best choice for my body, a fast-paced life is not the best choice for my spirit. I need to slow down to hear God's voice. When I move at His pace, I regain spiritual focus.

I don't want to swerve around to the left or the right. I want to hear the whisper of the One who knows the way. This is the way...walk (or drive) in it.

The Behavior of Belonging

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, 
for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.
Isaiah 25:1

"When I marry, Milholland will become my middle name, right Mommy?" piped up my seven year old last week. 

"Yes, honey, just like Mommy you will get a new name when you get married."

Clara then proceeded trying out the last name of every boy she knows that she finds even remotely appealing. Suddenly some of these boys became more or less attractive on the sole basis of how good their last name sounded with her first. This little exercise reminded me of the time in college when I met a very handsome, friendly and godly young man whom I repelled the second I found out his last name was Shannon. There was absolutely no way I was going through life as a perpetual stutter. 

Hi. I'm Shannon Shannon.

That was definitely NOT going to work for me. 

But eventually I did find a name that fit and not because it sounded good with Shannon (although I think it kind of does). It fit because I was inspired by the one who bore that name. He is my guy and I want to be a credit to his name. I belong to him and he belongs to me. 

Belonging should influence my behavior. 

Because my children are mine, I give them grace.

Because my husband is mine, I speak kindly about him.

Because my friend is mine, I keep her confidence.

But the truth is I'm not always a credit to my husband's name. Sometimes I undermine his authority with our kids. Or I overspend even when I know better. Or I tell a story better left unsaid because I want the laugh more than I want him to feel respected. My track record isn't spotless in my other relationships either.

And sometimes I'm not the one who does a poor job at belonging.

You give your child the very best of your heart and home, only to have him walk away from it and not return.

You give your spouse the best years of your life, only to have her leave you.

You give your friend your time, only to have her take advantage of your kindness.

So how can I allow belonging to influence my behavior? By relying on His perfect faithfulness. When I glorify His name, He gives my mind patience to deal with another request from my kids. When I exalt Him, He gives my heart room to love my husband another day. When I adore him, He me the confidence to be a better friend.

O Lord, You are my God. When I choose Him, I choose faithfulness. Belonging influences my behavior.

Less Than Thanksgiving

Loneliness stole my energy as stabbed my heart. It was the first time I’d been away from my kids since my August divorce. They were headed for a week to see their dad. They needed to be there. It was the right thing for them but their absence left a space not just in my home. It cratered my heart.

It was the day after Christmas. I was supposed to still be making merry. I made a box of Scooby Doo Mac-n-cheese instead.

Does the expectation to face the holidays with gladness and cheer ever drag you down?

The reality is holidays can be draining.

They remind us of loved ones whose absence leaves us longing.
They throw us together with difficult personalities.
They slap us with the reality of fractured relationships.

So how can we find joy, when glad tidings threaten to take us down the drain? I found my answer in Psalm 95.

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care

This passage instructs my heart to engage with God in three specific ways:

Through Music (Verse 2) – God designed our souls to be moved by music. Melodies move our hearts toward His. Harmonies head our mind in His direction. Turn on some music and you’ll turn off negative thoughts.

Through Creation (Verses 4-5) – God’s handiwork calls to God’s unique imprint on each one of us. No matter how cold it is outside, something changes within us when get out in the world God made. Move out under His canopy and get enveloped in His love.

Through Worship (Verse 6) – Worship turns our sight from us to Him. It dials our hearts from the present to His presence. Exclaim His greatness and suddenly your problems seem small.

Come before Him with thanksgiving and Thanksgiving and will find you.

True Friends Make Me Truly Thankful

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.
1 Samuel 18:1

I'm penning this post at 3:00 am. Whenever I'm up in the middle of the night like this I think about crises even if I'm not having one. I ponder whom I could call if I needed someone to come stay with my kids if I had to rush to the hospital. I contemplate who would be first to volunteer their help if Scott's cancer returned. I wonder who loves me enough to gently unveil the current growth opportunities in my life.

Most of us have very few people we could count in those categories but friends like these - true friends - are absolutely essential for our emotional well-being. Forging deep friendship was my second to last step on my journey to emotional health

Because I moved around frequently both as a child and an adult, it's been difficult for me to foster lasting, meaningful relationships. It seemed like too much investment for a short time period and it was easier to guard my heart than risk getting heart. But I wasn't well until I had heartfelt friends with whom I could share my faults, failures and finer features. I, like all of us, needed people to know the authentic me.

...The one who's really a kid at heart.

...The one with a quick but albeit not always appropriate comeback.

...The one who enjoys working nerdy logic problems.

Today, among so many other blessings, I am thankful for true friends. You have taught me about myself. You have been God's healing hands. You have stood by me through extraordinary circumstances, mood swings and moves.

For you I am truly thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to you! Whom are you thankful for today?

Remote Control

You have made your way around this hill country long enough; 
now turn north.
Deuteronomy 2:3

As women our controlling tendencies can crop up before we can even tie our shoes. 

Like one of Carynne's best friends about whom her mom said, 'Avery is a really bossy "teacher". Nobody gets skittles. Everybody gets yelled at. And everybody gets told that they need to "think about their attitude".' Or my oldest, Hannah, who named her first baby doll no-no probably because those are the words she heard me say most frequently.

I wouldn't have called myself controlling. I'd have called it something more palatable like driven or high-achieving but when I took my friend, Karen Ehman's, "Are You Controlling?" quiz in her new book Let. It. Go., I scored way higher than I wanted to. I'm a girl who loves to ace a test and get gold star on my paper but that was one test I was hoping to fail...

You might not consider yourself controlling either but here's a couple descriptions of the softer, subtler side of control you might want to ponder (summarized from Let. It. Go.):

The Soft Spoken Saint  - This girl rarely says no and she won't let you down. She's super kind and someone on whom others both rely and feel they owe something to. She quietly controls others with her kindness.

The Enabler - She is her kids backup plan for forgotten lunches and papers and they call on her to do so regularly. She finds herself excusing the behavior of her kids and smoothing things over in her relationships both in the house and out in the community. She wants her family to have a good reputation and image control is her key to obtaining it.

The Victim or Martyr - She will let you know what she wants with subtle pouts and sighs. Her facial expression is sunny 99% of the time. You know you're in trouble when it's overcast at home. Because she's usually so upbeat, she gets her way with even slightest threat of bad weather.

The People Pleaser - She sees the best in other people and let's them know it. She listens carefully to know what is expected of her and will say the right thing in any situation. She's the most well-spoken-of person on staff or the PTA or in your Bible Study. Because she's so well liked, others do what she requests with no questions asked.

I thought I wasn't controlling but I saw myself in all four of these. I am more of what I'll call a remote controller. I'm not all up right in front of the television changing the channel for all to see, I'm quietly pushing the buttons and no one (often including me) even knows it.

As stated in today's scripture, I've circled this mountain long enough. It's time for me to turn north. I need a different Remote Control. My kids, hubby and friends need me to let go so God can step in to do what only He's qualified to do - run my life. So today I'm going to pry the fingers from the remote control and give Him control but I'm also going to implement the godly wisdom Karen so freely shared in her book. 

Want to join me on the road to freedom as we stop running the show and start walking in faith? Share a comment below and enter to win a FREE copy of Karen's book as well as be entered to win a Kindle Fire!

Want another chance to win a Kindle Fire? Sign up for Karen's 5 day Let.It.Go. Christmas Challenge. Get more info here:

When My Heart Finds Christmas

Behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? 
For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 (ESV)

I'm one of those people.

I sometimes buy my kids Christmas Eve pajamas on sale in January.
I'm on the prowl for stocking stuffers in March.
I search for bargains any month that will have me.

I have a Christmas app on my phone so there's rarely a time when I'm not planning, shopping or tracking my Christmas purchases. Besides Christmas, we have four family birthdays spaced out at two week increments around the holidays so the majority of our gift giving expense hits in a relatively short period of time. My strategy to compensate is to purchase gifts all year long.

I'm constantly on the hunt for that unique item my kids won't expect.
I'm consistently on the lookout for something that will really bless my hubby.
I look for Christmas all year long.

When I was in college, I was completely smitten with Harry Connick, Jr. and his smooth crooner's voice. I saw him in concert multiple times. I purchased every album he put out but my most cherished were his Christmas tunes. My favorite, When My Heart Finds Christmas, declares his shared love for the holiday. He's looking for Christmas and finds it in his love. 

I look for Christmas all year long but I don't really find it until I, like the wise men, look for Jesus. When my heart finds Christmas, my heart finds LOVE.

Have you been on the hunt for a special gift this season? Why not give yourself a gift by looking for Him?

In case you've never sampled the delight, here's the video to Harry Connick Jr.'s When My Heart Finds Christmas. At the time, I wished he would look for me. He found a Victoria Secrets model instead!


For in Him we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:28


It conjurs a picture of slothlike movements. I imagine a indescript person aimlessly adrift in life. I never thought I wanted to be described as listless. Until I read this description of Jesus in Weird by Craig Groeschel:

He was busy but never hurried. He was productive but never overwhelmed. He accomplished everything God wanted him to do and still spent long, refreshing days in fellowship alone with his Father.

Jesus lived, moved and had His being in His Father, His heart securely fastened there. He took up residency and refused to entertain a for sale sign no matter how loudly life's difficulties growled at the perimeter of His heart's property. He taught us to abide in Him because He knew we could nothing without Him (John 15).

Sometimes during the holidays, I imagine myself wrapping up a gift for Jesus. He doesn't care how fancy the paper or elegant the bow. His only concern is the contents. This Christmas I want to offer Jesus an unexpected gift - to be list-less.

Instead of proving my worth by the number of items depending on me to cross them off...

Instead of slaving for the scratch of the pen...

Instead of finding significance in what I do..

I want to be list-less in His arms. I want to live, move and have my being celebrating the One who listed my name on His hands and His heart.

I want to be busy but never hurried.

Productive but never overwhelmed.

To accomplish everything He asks while still spending long, refreshing days in fellowship with Him.

Absolutely. List-less.

If you could give Jesus a gift for Christmas, what would you choose?

Christmas, Come Early

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: 
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, 
and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

Christmas comes earlier every year. This year we noticed our seasonal snack cakes were traded out before the end of October, completing bypassing the fall holidays. I hear lots of people complain about this fact with lots of mention of commercialism and materialism.

I choose to view Christmas' early arrival through another lens. Might it be because it is the second most significant event in all human history? Doesn't something of this magnitude deserve as much air time as possible?

Could the crowds at the store remind us of the significance we worship?

Should the endless decorations nudge us to wrap our lives up in Him?

Do the packages and bows encourage me to give Him the very biggest of my gifts?

I want Christmas to come early and often to my heart. I want to celebrate the One who came as a baby and lived every one of His 12000 days with one goal in mind - to spread His arms wide with the miracle of redemption.

How would your November look different if you let Jesus come early to your heart this year?

Until We All Come Home

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: 
to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
James 1:27

My heart beat wildly in my chest while I waited to reply. Seconds ticked off as hours as we inched toward the home I shared with two precious beauties, 4 and 7. He had an important question to ask them.

As he took their tiny hands in his, I could see his love reflected in their eyes. I still remember the day he shared his secret with me. He had fallen in love with my daughters. Now, finally, he could openly declare his love.

"Will you be my daughters?"

A chorus of yes echoed around the room as they rejoiced. Tiny feet danced and celebrated. My heart joined their rhythm. There was no way I'd refuse his proposal. We would become a family.

We made room in our hearts for each other and soon welcomed two more daughters. But to my husband, Scott, there's no distinction. He prayed for all four of our kids. God chose two different delivery methods and both made a direct hit in his heart.

While my husband and I have never had the privilege of adoption, we both imagine this is what adoptive parents experience - a supernatural love for your child delivered to you whatever delivery method God uses. I recently read Until We All Come Home by Kim De Blecourt. In it she recounts an amazing, God-led journey to adopt her son from Ukraine. 

As I read this book, I was called again to the heart of God. God has deep, abiding, love for those overlooked in our world. He wants us to have the same.

I know this because when I read or study God's word, I take special note of phrases or themes that frequent the pages of God's story. His love for orphans lines hundreds. 

God may not have called all of us to be the one to go and literally rescue the fatherless but He desires all of us to be a part of heart's work. I'd like to recommend to each of you to read this book. While you do so, ask God what role He's asking you to play in reaching out to parentless children.

Does He want you to pray?
Does He want you to give?
Does He want you to serve?
Does He want you to rescue?

What will you do...until they all come home?

Today I am giving away a copy of Until We All Come Home. Entering is easy - just leave a comment below and tell who you'd like to win a copy for and why.