A Simple Advent

Welcome to Advent Season 2015!

Celebrating advent is a new thing for me. I didn’t grow up doing any kind of advent activity or devotion. I had a wooden shadow box that I counted down to Christmas by putting cute little miniatures in every day, and that was it.

Since having kids, I’ve tried various Advent activates, always beginning with much excitement and enthusiasm but fizzling out long before Christmas arrived.

The year I began my blog, I did a simple alphabetical devotional series in honor of funny quotes my kids said. After that the ABC theme was still in my head at Christmas time. I wanted to do something that talked about other Bible stories than just the manger scene. I wanted to open the Word with my kids and let them see His character. I wanted something simple, something I wouldn’t feel bad about not doing every single day, something I could travel with, and something guests could join in on too.

This is what I came up with.

There are 26 letters of the alphabet and 25 countdown days until Christmas. Official days anyway. I wondered if I could find a character quality of God in each of the letters. We began with A on December 1 and looked up ALL. The next day was B and we looked up the Bread of Life. We continued on till the day after Christmas and the letter Z, finding that yes, the letters of the alphabet give Him glory and share with us a glimpse of His character.

The more I learned, the more I saw how much more there is to learn. But the process brought the stories of the Bible alive to me.

When I started my kids were ages 3, 6, & 9. Now they are 6, 9, & 12. My 3 year old didn’t understand everything, but he at least heard the stories and I tried to give him things to feel apart as well.

This will be our 3rd year of following this.  Last year we changed a few words by looking in the bible concordance. Sometimes I would let my kids pick a word if they could think of one. For those who could read, I let them read the passage.

But most importantly, I found this to be flexible…we could spend 20 min together on it or 5 minutes. We could be around the kitchen table or in bed or in the car, by our self, or with friends or family. So I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy…and let me know what you think!

Just click the link below to download an ornament for each 26 letters of the alphabet and coordinating verses/story for that day. I’ve also included a day-by-day simple outline with extra verses to read and an optional activity for the days you have time. 

And please, if you like it, share it with your friends!

Click HERE to Download the Simple Advent

Here’s an updated explanation of each day…advent-updated-2016. You will still need the pictures from the the first link.

26 Daysof Advent (1)

How We Can Act Like the Body

If you’ve done any running you know there’s a lot of techniques out there. Get the right shoes, have the right form, relax your arms, that sort of thing.

I try to run regularly. Sometimes I pay attention to these things and sometimes I don’t. This particular day I did. I noticed toward the end of my route that I used my arms more than usual. Pumping them back and forth in sync with the rhythm of my body propelled me along faster without tiring out as quickly as in previous days.

I immediately thought of the body of Christ. When the arm swings in unison with the legs running, in time with the heart beating, the breath going in and out of the lungs, the feet pounding the surface at just the right time and angle – the body is working smoothly and effectively.

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When Doing Big Things for God Went Bad

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but last week crickets were chirping rather than words being posted here on this blog.

“Did she finally run out of words?” you may have wondered.

Oh no. It wasn’t that. It’s the continual battle I have with what to do with these words! I’ll admit it again – I can have BIG dreams and as I posted last time, I easily grab the wheel of life and steer the ship myself when I think God is taking too long.

The question “Are you satisfied in ME?” really challenged me. I didn’t want to take it lightly and brush it off too quickly.

Honestly, I felt the prompt in my Spirit to stop publishing posts for a week and just listen. So I did. Then as a family, we read the story of Jehu.

Jehu could be classified as one of those “Yay-Hoos” for the Lord. Even the way he was anointed King was crazy. Read for yourself:

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When Are We Truly Satisfied?

“If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God.” Oswald Chambers, Utmost for His Highest Aug 5

Somehow last week I started charting my own course, trying again to control my destination. I think it started by cramming way too many writing assignments into a space already jam packed with house remodel projects, laundry, time with friends, and keeping all my thoughts and priorities in correct alignment in my head.

Plus, I dropped off my daughter to an overnight church camp for the first time! Pre-teen camp. Since when did she turn into a pre-teenager? And where did she get this bravery to spend 4 days at a camp without knowing anyone else there very well?

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What if the Alarm Clock Fails and You’re Late Again?

Before turning out the lights to end the day, I had Adam set the alarm for 7 a.m. My parents are in town and my dad wanted to go jogging with me in the morning.

Being able to hear the birds sing rather than dodging two way traffic is my preference, so getting out the earlier, the better. At 5:30 my body jolted up, peering through blurred, squinty eyes to see what time the clock said. “In case the alarm forgets to go off,” I thought, “I need to wake myself up.” I did it again at 6…and again at 6:30…finally at 6:45 I thought, “The alarm is set, just trust that it will work.” Sure enough at 7:00, the alarm rang!

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What if I Just Want to be with You?

 I’ve had a long standing rule in my house that “wake up” time is at 7:00 a.m. I need my sleep and space in the morning so everyone is to stay in their room till then.
Before my oldest son turned three, I had a clock in his room with stars marking the 7 and 12. I followed this timely gift with a conversation about when the little hand points to the 7 and the big hand points to the 12, that means it’s 7:00 and you can wake up!
For the most part it worked. At times, even now, one of the kids will push the envelope and crack open the living room door at 6:55, just to check the validity of this invisible boundary. I usually let it slide, but then in a couple days, 6:55 turns to 6:50 and then to 6:45.

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Created for a Purpose

Have you ever created something? A painting or sculpture, crocheted a hat or a blanket? Have you ever made dinner or lunch for guests or just family? What about a cake – carefully crafted the icing to celebrate an important event? Maybe you’ve written an essay, turned in a report, prepared a speech for a conference, convention, bible study, 3rd grade class or business meeting. Perhaps you’ve held a piece of wood in your hands and envisioned a jewelry box or the beginnings to a table or chair.

Whatever the craft, each of these things were created for a purpose. Artwork is displayed on a window ledge or on a wall for others to observe and admire. Blankets and hats adorn our head and cover our cold bodies in the winter while we curl up with loved ones and watch a movie or read a book. Dinner is…well, eaten, yes in less than half the time it took to make it, but the food’s purpose was to nourish our bodies. Cakes are eaten also, but only after they finish sitting as a centerpiece decoration for the momentous occasion.  Written projects may be turned in for a grade, or merely read, sometimes out loud and then digested through our minds and their applications eventually dispersed through-out our body. The carefully, delicately carved wooden jewelry box sits on a dresser and holds the sparkly diamonds and jewels we girls love to wear. Again, these things were created for a purpose.

And so are we.

We are God’s creation, designed with a purpose. What is that purpose? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve wondered the same thing!

Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I wrote about the previous two verses in that Ephesians chapter last week in There’s Nothing Wrong with Vanilla!  Being an ice cream/frozen yogurt (really any kind of food) connoisseur, I love the idea of a foundation of flavor, like chocolate and vanilla. Simple? Yes, just like our foundation of faith in Jesus. But, now that we have that foundation laid solidly, we’re ready to make some new flavors.  Now remember, it’s not because chocolate & vanilla aren’t enough, but rather because they are perfectly enough, our lives now are sprinkled and drizzled with these extra qualities!

So what kinds of “good works” have been prepared for us to do? And does this mean that those who do more “good works” (have more sprinkles and caramel syrup) are better Christians than me?

2 Peter 1:5-8 says this, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I see these like a nesting doll…

The itty bitty baby one is faith, then swallowing that one up is goodness, then you open the next one and find knowledge, the next one, self-control, then follows perseverance, kindness, brotherly kindness, godliness and finally to hold them all together, love.

I don’t know about you, but I would love to find a way to keep me from being and feeling ineffective and unproductive! And I don’t read anything in that verse about levels and anyone being better Christian than anyone else!

Think about the flavor difference added to our lives when life brings us a friend who’s let us down, who’s really hurt us. Because of my foundation of faith, I can choose to add some brotherly kindness and probably a shot of perseverance to meet this challenging relationship. Because of my faith, when life slaps me in the face, perhaps literally, or through a disappointment or a broken dream, I have the option to reach for the handle of God’s knowledge of the situation. He has all-knowing Sovereignty and I can ask for His self-controlto handle it. When my children drain every ounce of energy from me, I can choose to pull the lever of love, because of my faith, and add Jesus’ love to me.

As much as I love the simplicity of a chocolate and vanilla faith, I don’t think we’re meant to be bland Christians. We should be the most flavorful people anyone could meet! It’s not just anyone who can meet circumstances like those above with an attitude like I described. Why can we? Why does the Bible instruct us to? Because we were created with a purpose, and that purpose is to know God and make Him known. We get to know Him through reading His Word and prayer, then because we know Him, we make Him known… we show His love and character (those things we’ve learned) to others! That’s the flavor! Then people are left going, “Wow! I can’t believe she can love and forgive that person for what they did to her. How can I have that kind of love and peace in life?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you…You were created for a purpose!

 Here’s a favorite song of mine from Steven Curtis Chapman called “Only One and Only You.” (click the title)

Coffee with Jesus

I wish I could just meet Jesus for coffee. Except, I don’t drink coffee – for Him I’m willing to make an exception. Sometimes, I just want to hear His voice, see His smile, smell His clothes.

I know I have the living Christ within me and all the power that rose Him from the dead. I know I can call to Him in prayer anytime and He is always available. I know I have God’s written word – more than any of the prophets or apostles had. I know I have Bible Studies, podcasts and endless book on How to Find God. Yet, sometimes I wish I could meet Jesus face to face at the local Subway and talk about life over a sandwich. 

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There’s nothing wrong with Vanilla!

I have married a very simple guy. On our date nights, we usually stop by the local frozen yogurt shop where I love to try all the new flavors. Yes, I also have my “usual”, but I get excited at the new options. As we check out I look at the bowl next to mine on the counter and see that Adam has again, chosen chocolate and vanilla. Every time. Just chocolate and vanilla.

I started thinking about life through a chocolate and vanilla lens. It’s a perfect, pure foundation – one that all great flavors are created from.

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Day with Dads

  

Adam and I served alongside some dear friends at a prison unit recently, facilitation something called “Day with Dads”. Here, convicts, separated by their families, have the opportunity to fully embrace their loved ones. We served lunch and played games.

Had it not been for the white uniforms and guards present, you’d forget this was a prison. To see the faces of the Dads when their son or daughter walked in that room…there are no words, but tears streamed down my cheeks. Through-out the day, the families continued to offer their gratitude for this program and the opportunity twice a year to see their loved one who’s living with the consequences of their choices. The end of the day came, and the good-byes held more tears than the “hellos”, for both parties knew it would be many months before this would happen again. The young children did not understand why Daddy can’t be home.

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