The Santa Dilemma

I never believed in Santa as a real person.  From the time I was little, my parents taught me Santa was make-believe and a fun game that everyone played around Christmas.  Their explanation was that they wanted me to believe in Jesus, who was intangible and unseen with human eyes.  If I later found out Santa wasn’t real after believing he was, would I also question the existence of Jesus?

It worked for our family and was my game plan for when I had my own children.

Until I was introduced to an adorable 2-year-old who I would later adopt.  The issue?  He already had been told that Santa was real.  He was “all-in” on the fantasy.  He still is as a 3rd grader.  How was I going to strip him of that belief when he’d already had so much turmoil and loss in his short life?

This is probably his last year believing in Santa as a real person. He has started to ask questions about the practicality of delivering gifts around the world. He’s letting us know there are some kids in his class that don’t believe in Santa. He’s paying attention to movies more and is questioning how Buddy the Elf fixes the sleigh or Tim Allen becomes Santa after falling off the roof.

He’s asking about if I believe in Santa.

I’m verbally bobbing and weaving; not lying, but definitely not telling him the truth.  I’m in a grey area that has me super worried about how he’ll take the news that Santa isn’t real.  Will he resent us for letting him believe? Will he accept that it’s a “game” everyone plays?

But most important to me, how will he maintain his belief in Jesus when Santa is no longer a real dude?  I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV).  As a Christian parent, I’m doing my very best to raise him up in the way he should go, but frankly, the Santa dilemma has me concerned.

“Belief”

This is the newest word that is front and center on my prayer board.  It’s on the cover of my prayer journal. It’s a post-it on my dashboard.

It has become my single word prayer over the last week.  I’m praying with all my might that this little guy will have true and wholehearted belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior.  That the news of Santa will not de-rail that child-like faith he possesses.  I pray that he holds fast to his belief.

If you have time this week, please join me on the porch praying for all the littles of the world to know Jesus…to have belief in Christ…to balance faith with earthly knowledge.

~Emily

Father God, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son as our Savior.  Please let the children of the world have an opportunity to accept this gift and to know your love.  Let their belief in you be bigger and bolder than the beliefs in worldly concepts, like Santa.  We pray these things in your holy name. Amen.

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“I Know”

“Make sure you wash your hair in the shower.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old

“Today’s the day you need to turn in your globe project at school.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old.

If I said, “Neil Armstrong did Michael Jackson’s moon-walk while defending Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and discussing Thomas Edison’s impact on the death penalty in 2019, my son would say ‘I know.’”

It’s enough to drive a mother crazy!

How many of us ask God for guidance and then tell Him “I know”?  I’d venture to guess that most of us have told our Heavenly Father “I know” on several occasions. In fact, I’d argue there are two different types of “I know” that we tell God.

The first is similar to what our children say.  “I know” implies, I already have that information and you aren’t sharing anything new with me.  Often in human form, it is accompanied by an eye roll or heavy sigh.  An example of this is when God gives us a nudge, usually in regards to something we are doing that is displeasing to Him, and we reply with the “I know.”  For example, you are harboring unforgiveness towards someone for a perceived slight.  You feel convicted, as though you should reach out to that person.  You respond with the “I know, I know.  I should speak to this person and offer forgiveness. But….

This type of “I Know” does not always include action.  In fact, sometimes, this “I know” isn’t really acknowledging knowledge at all.  Rather, it’s a phrase to make the other person feel like you agree with them.  News flash: God knows you don’t really know…just like a mother knows that about her child.

The second “I know” comes with an exclamation point and often a bit of emphasis that indicates that we’ve just figured out the solution to a perplexing issue.  Essentially it’s the EUREKA of the “I know” world. An example of this is when we ask God’s guidance on a situation but then we implement our own solution with an “I know…I’ll do this or that.”

This type of “I Know!” often includes making a bigger mess.  We haven’t waited on God, but rather try to solve issues on our own. News flash: We tend to mess things up more with our tracts of solutions.

Whether we are answering “I know” to something He’s asked of us, or we say “I know!” like we’ve come up with our own answer to prayer requests, we are not honoring God or our parents with our know-it-all attitude.

A look at Scripture reveals that one of the best ways to determine if God is telling us to do something is to see if it is consistent with God’s teachings.  John 16:13 teaches, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In other words, God’s Spirit will only guide you to do things that are consistent with what God has already taught as truth.

Another way to know when God is telling you to do something is through prayer.   James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” If we are uncertain, we are to pray and ask for wisdom from God.

Rather than thinking you know, seek the Lord through scripture or through prayer.  If God’s Word is consistent with where you are being led and your prayers appear to confirm that leading, then maybe God is revealing a course of action for you…one that you don’t know about.

~Emily

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Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Snow Boots and A Mother’s Love

My Mom told me the rules.

She warned me.

She told me the consequences.

She tried to train me to remember.

And yet, when I was 8-years-old, I still forgot my snow boots at school on the last day before Christmas break.

The consequence?  Without the boots, I wasn’t going to be allowed to play in the snow for the whole duration of the school break.

God does that with us too.  He tells us the rules, then gives a warning complete with consequences in an effort to train us.

It started as early as the Garden of Eden with the forbidden fruit and continues today.  The standards and discipline come from a place of complete and total love. Those rules and consequences are spelled out in His Holy Word, the Bible.

Like our loving Father’s action to assist in the teaching of His children, my Mom used the forgotten snow boots as a lesson.

She could have made me endure two weeks of snow-related exile.  Instead, as the sky darkened and snow continued to fall, she walked back to the elementary school with me.  As we walked, she explained that there was a strong likelihood that the school would be dark and locked up.  She told me that rules were in place to help me grow into a responsible adult.  She didn’t yell or scold, rather she explained and rationalized.  It seemed like the longest walk ever.

There was one bank of lights on in the elementary school.  After pounding on the door repeatedly, a janitor came and let us in so that I could retrieve my boots.  I don’t remember a single snowman, snow angel or snowball fight from that Christmas vacation.  But I remember my mom’s lesson to keep track of your things.

I love my mom dearly.  And I love the lessons she taught me as a young child and even now as an adult.  As we get closer to Mother’s Day 2019, come to the porch and tell us your favorite life lesson from a maternal figure in your life.

~Emily

“The whole training and education of children.” ~ Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)

Snow Boots

Seasons of Life

I saw a meme several times this week that expressed dislike for calling attention to a “season of being single.” Essentially, the meme is highlighting the unnecessary hurt caused by labeling singleness as a season.

It got me thinking about the different phases I’ve had in my life.  There was a season of being a new believer.  The phase of being a newlywed.  The time of being deliberately disobedient to God.  The time of military service. The part about of infertility disappointments.  The transition to retirement.

I thought about my own season of singleness in my mid-30s, which admittedly was really awesome at times and really sucked at others.  I’ve concluded that every single phase of life each of us faces has highlights and lowlights.  Parts of each season are incredible, which counters the parts that are cloudy darkness.

In the days leading up to Easter celebrations this last week, this meme against “single seasons” also got me wondering about the seasons that Jesus’ mother, Mary, faced in her life.

Her season of being an unwed teen pregnancy statistic. Her season of being a newlywed with an infant.  Her season of her son “running away” to the temple. Her season of learning more from her child than He learned from her.  Her season of watching His trial…of watching Him die.

How incredibly heart wrenching each of Mary’s phases must have been.  On the counter, how incredibly enriching each phase would have been.

In Luke 2:39-53, we read about how Joseph and Mary would travel to Jerusalem annually for the Feast of Passover.  Imagine how she felt when at age 12, Jesus disappeared from her sight and they don’t even notice until they are already on their way home to Galilee.  Everyone is searching frantically for him, issuing the equivalent of an “Amber Alert” 2000 years ago.  Three days later they find him in the temple sitting among the teachers.

This would have been Mary’s season of panic. Panic over a lost child.  Panic over realizing He was more knowledgeable then they could even imagine.  Panic over the thoughts of a future, which would include the child learner becoming the grown-man teacher.

This time of panic would have been laced with joy. There could have been joy and pride at seeing the child learning so intently.  Pride to hear the teachers of the temple praising Jesus’ attentiveness. A maternal love when sensing that the child was about to embark on His destiny.

In Luke 2:51, after rebuking Jesus for worrying His parents, we read “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary had to make sense of what she was seeing in her child.  She knew of Gabriel’s announcement, of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s prophecies, and of course, she had experienced her own divine appointment with the Lord through the immaculate conception.  Imagine this question facing Mary:  How do you raise a child you believe is the Messiah?

When one looks at seasons of their own life, there is a give and take between the good and the bad of those phases.  Mary saw that first hand through the seasons of motherhood.

If Mary’s transitions offer us a glimpse into seeing both sides of a scenario, shouldn’t we be able to apply that to our own walk with Christ?   I believe that if we look at our own seasons we can discern positive qualities as well as negative qualities in each.  As in Mary’s time, this look at our “seasons of life” allows us a moment of reflection on what God is trying to teach us.

No matter the phase we are in, we are still learning.   Imagine we’re sitting in the temple at the foot of the great teacher.

I encourage you this week to reflect on your current season.  What are the negative and positive attributes of this time?

~Emily

 

 

 

When God Calls Your Name Twice

All children fear the dreaded call of both the first and middle names.  I still think I’m in peril of getting a swatting if I hear “Emily Elizabeth!”

I knew I was in serious trouble if Mama yelled both names.  God help me, if it was my Dad yelling both.

That role switches slightly when you become a parent. The constant “Mom-Mom,” “Mama-Mama,” “Mommy-Mommy” is a double name call that takes on a whole new meaning. You become skilled at interpreting if the double name call is an emergency, boredom, or revelation.

God calls our names twice too. When he calls our name twice, there is typically a reason.  Perhaps it’s a test and trial of faith.  Sometimes it’s to grab our attention.  Sometimes it’s an emergency.  On multiple occasions throughout the Bible, God calls someone’s name twice. In each instance, a significant teaching ensues.

In Genesis 22: 11-13, we see God call “Abraham! Abraham!” as Abraham is ready to obey God in sacrificing his child, Isaac.  In this scenario, Abraham is faithful and has passed a trial of faith. God is calling his name twice to stop Abraham’s actions before he actually sacrifices his son.

When Jacob finds out that his son Joseph hasn’t died, but rather he’s in Egypt, Jacob has a vision.  In Genesis 46:1-4, the vision includes God calling, “Jacob! Jacob!” when he tells him not to be afraid.

In Luke 10:41, we read “Martha! Martha!” In Exodus 3:1-10, we see “Moses! Moses!” Within the text of 1 Samuel 3:1-10, we read of God saying “Samuel! Samuel!” Jesus calls Simon Peter “Simon, Simon” in Luke 22:31-32.  “Saul, Saul” is called when Paul is blinded by the vision of a risen Jesus in Acts 9. Even Jesus calls on the Lord from the cross, “My God! My God!”

No matter who is being called twice, it gets our attention.  Something significant is occurring if a name is called twice.  Immediately, the occasion is elevated when names are called twice.  The double call requires that we understand the significance and respond.

Consider this:

  1. Has God called your name twice? When? And for what reason?
  2. Are you paying attention to when God calls your name twice?
  3. Have you heard God call someone else’s name twice?

Much like being a young child with your first and middle name called by a parent, the calling of your name by God should get your attention…for any reason.  As a sibling, I would also pay attention if I heard both my brother’s names called.  Perhaps we should also be paying attention to when God calls twice to those around us.

~Emily

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Drugs, Mental Health & Self-Worth

I can’t even imagine some of the battles that women face daily.

I can’t imagine being in an abusive relationship.  I can’t imagine being homeless.  I can’t imagine being an unwed mother.  I can’t imagine another broken heart.

And yet, I can relate.

I can’t imagine being a drug addict. I can’t imagine contemplating suicide.  I can’t imagine choosing which bills to cover.  I can’t imagine constant depression.

And yet, I can relate.

I can relate because I’ve seen other women battle those demons.  Often the battles that one woman faces, impacts the battles of another woman.

There is a young lady that I love very much. She struggles with drugs, with mental health, and with self-worth.  She’s so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see that because of the demons that she battles.

Her mama worries about her constantly. She’s had to bail her out of jail. She’s had to draw hard lines between support and not becoming co-dependent.  This mama is so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see it because of the demons she battles.

This girl could be anyone’s daughter.  This mama could be anyone’s friend.

These two women aren’t just anyone’s daughter or friend.  She’s is my step-daughter from a previous marriage and I consider her mom a friend.

I worry about them both.  When I don’t hear from my step-daughter for weeks, I message her mom.  And then I hold my breath, praying that the answer is not “jail, hospital, or morgue.”

Here are three women – a gal in her twenties, and her mom and step-mom.  All meshed together by the strings of our heart, all facing battles that are interwoven.  Battles that are faced alone and together.  Battles laced with worry.

Jesus told us in Luke 12:25 (NIV), “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I hear you Jesus.  I should stop worrying.  And yet the human condition often prevails…and we worry, we doubt, we seek other refuge, we become anxious, and often we forget that Jesus can handle all of the battles.

When I find myself worrying about these two women, I simply pray. Usually, I have distinct prayers of request for their particular situations. Sometimes, I tell God that I don’t know the scenarios, but I need Him to intervene on their behalf. Occasionally, I simply request for Him to take away my own anxiety and worry over them.

When you have battles to fight; pray.  When you notice other women fighting battles; pray. When your battles overlap with others; pray.  We aren’t going to add any time to our lives, but we certainly can turn over the anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Each one of us is smart, beautiful, and so loved.  Let’s see those attributes past the battles.

~Emily

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” ~Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

kiyana