Adventures: An Advent Devotional for Women

This time of year can get busy and super crazy with all the Christmas gifts to buy, parties to attend, cookies to bake, kids Christmas performances to attend, and so much more.  Sometimes we can lose focus of the main reason we celebrate Christmas.  That’s why I have written an Advent devotion just for you!

Adventures is a great devotional for you to use this Advent season (and it’s free)! This devotion is geared toward women (but men can read it too).  There is a devotion for each day in Advent (Dec. 3-24, 2017). Each day contains a Scripture reading, devotion, worship song, and an Adventure (something you will do each day, some are fun and some are more reflective).  The worship songs are linked to a YouTube video.  Just click on the name of the song (which is in red) and it will take you to the song.  Also, the Adventure for some days is linked to a website.  Just click the red words for those days and it will take you to the site you need.

To download your free copy of this e-book, all you need to do is subscribe to my blog. You’ll see the subscription box at the bottom of this blog post. Just fill in your email address and you’ll be emailed the devotional link to where you can download your own copy!  (Or you can look on the right hand side of this page and fill out the form.  If you are on a phone or tablet, scroll all the way to the bottom where the Adventures book cover image is located to see the subscription box).

I would love for you to read Adventures during Advent as you wait and prepare for the coming of our Savior.  I hope this new resource I have written will help you keep your focus on Jesus this Advent season.

‘Twas the Evening of Christmas Book Review & Giveaway

'Twas the Evening of ChristmasDo you have any Christmas traditions you remember from your childhood?

One I remember from when I was a little girl and continued with my own children was the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.  When my girls were little we would get them all snuggled in bed, trying to calm their excitement, and read to them.  It was always the last thing we did with them on Christmas Eve.  Then they would settle down and close their sleepy eyes, ready for morning to come.

I am excited to share a new book you can begin reading to your children or grandchildren on Christmas Eve.  Glenys Nellist has written a wonderful book called ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas.  This book begins with one of my favorite verses from the birth of Jesus,

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news.  It will bring great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.  He is the Messiah, the Lord.'”    Luke 2:10-11

In this book, Glenys recounts the magnificent story of Jesus’s birth.  From their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were unable to find a normal place to stay, but found refuge in a stable. Shepherds were visited by angels to tell them the good news.  Wisemen followed the star and brought gifts to baby Jesus.  One of the things I love about Glenys’ book is how she calls attention to the animals. The pigeons, cows, doves, mice, oxen, and lambs are all present for the birth of our Savior.  She doesn’t leave out these precious animals who were more than likely present for such a glorious moment.

I read the book to preschool and Kindergarten classes at church.  They all loved it!  When it talked about the animals we stopped and made animal noises (something they quite enjoyed).  When asked if they had ever slept on hay like baby Jesus, they laughed and said, “No, that’s silly!  We sleep on sheets!”  The girls said their favorite part was when the angels came to the shepherds.  They even picked out which angel they loved the best (the illustrations are amazing!).  I think the funniest part was at the end when I asked if they remembered who Jesus’ parents were.  One 3-year old boy said, “Joseph and Judy!”  I laughed so hard at this!  It was a cute moment for sure!

This book is wonderful!  It will make a great bedtime story on Christmas Eve for your little ones.  Go out and grab a copy of this Christmas book for your children!

Or perhaps you can win it!  Zondervan is giving away a copy of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas”!  To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below and tell me your favorite part of the Christmas story. (This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address…no PO boxes).  Winner will be announced Monday, October 9.

To learn more about the book check out this video on YouTube:  ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas

Glenys’ book is blog hopping!  Next week you can find her book featured on the Purposeful Moms website:  http://purposefulmoms.com/

10 Confessions of a Soccer Mom

I am proud to call myself a soccer mom.

I never thought I would say those words, either.

But here I am, a mom of two girls who have a love for the game of soccer.  They have turned me into a mom who loves the sport just as much as they do.  I look forward to the weekends when I get to cheer on both of them.  And with the love of the sport comes the confessions of a mom who feels the need to show you just how much I love the game and enjoy supporting my daughters.  So here goes my confession…

  1. I get into the game

    I admit it….I really get into the game.  I am a yeller.  I come by it honest, though.  I got it from my mom!  She got into  games when I was a kid and she still does today.  I was also a cheerleader, too, so I love to cheer on others.  You may see me get super excited and scream and yell…A LOT…but know that it’s because I absolutely love sports, no matter what game it is, and I love to be able to cheer on the players, whether I know them or not.  I yell even louder when my children score a goal!  Click on the link to hear me screaming when my oldest daughter scored a goal this past spring:  Goal Scoring Screams.  Even our pastor made a comment in a church service one time saying, “Have you ever watched a game with Vanessa?  She really gets into it!”  Yes I do!

  1. I have been told not to yell my child’s name during a game

    Of course, this comes from both of my children.  They might get a little embarrassed by my yelling.  I am not one of those parents who yell negative things at their kids.  But for some reason, me screaming one of their names and telling them to GO, GO, GO, makes them want to crawl in a hole and hide.  I have to defend myself and tell them I yell their name because I am only encouraging them to GO!  They don’t get it.  Maybe one day when they become parents they will.

  1. I always bring a chair to the game, but rarely do I sit in it

    Soccer fields typically provide no place to sit.  A few venues may have one set of bleachers, but usually there is nothing.  Which means you must bring your own chair.  Parents line their chairs along the sidelines and sit down to cheer on their child. I do all of that, but rarely do I sit down in it.  Why?  Well…let’s refer back to number one…I get into the game.  When things are exciting I can’t sit still.  I must move around.  You might see me jumping up and down, pacing the sidelines, or hiding behind another person because I’m too nervous or excited to watch!  The chair is only there if I really need it.

  1. I have been known to yell “Push her back!”

    Soccer is a rough sport.  Girls can get aggressive.  What I think should be a foul, is not.  What I think is not a foul, usually is.  It all depends on the referee.  So, if I see my child getting shoved and pushed around, the mama bear in me comes out.  It’s then that you might hear me yell, “Push her back!  They’re not calling it!”

    I tell my girls to get aggressive, too.  My two children have learned to fight back on the field and not get pushed around.  But, sometimes they want to use their arms and shove.  You can’t do that.  You have to push back with your shoulders.  My youngest has not quite mastered that skill yet.  And that’s the reason she gets many fouls called on her.  In those times, you might hear me (and my husband) yelling at her to “Put your hands down!”  Hopefully she will learn how to use her shoulders better to push back.

  1. I have been known to yell at the referees

    This is not something I do a lot, but usually only do when I believe that the refs aren’t being fair and aren’t calling it both ways.  And before you get the wrong idea, I’m not a “get in your face” kind of parent.  I just might yell from the sidelines something like, “C’mon ref!  That wasn’t a foul!  Call it both ways!”  If the referee ever said anything to me, I would be so mortified and would apologize and then keep my mouth shut.  But, that has never happened, and let’s hope it never will.

  1. I try to encourage, not coach from the sidelines

    At the beginning of every season, the director of our soccer academy tells the parents to please only encourage your child from the sidelines.  Do not try to coach them.  Leave it to them to do the coaching.  We, as parents, need only to yell encouraging words while they are on the field.  It’s also confusing for the players when they are on the field to try to know who they should really listen to. You might tell them one thing, but the coach really wants them to do something else.  We have to remind our children to listen to and respect the coaches.  And I have to remind myself that I am the parent.  I am not the coach.

  1. I’m still learning soccer rules

    Like I said, soccer is a new sport for me.  And even though my children have been playing it for many, many years, there are times when I have to lean over to my husband or friend and say, “What happened?  What did they just call?  Why did they call that?”  I’ll eventually get it all down one day.

  2. I think offsides is the dumbest rule ever

    I have finally learned what it means to be “offsides”.  For those of you non-soccer folks…a player is offsides if they are on the opposing team’s side of the field and are closer to their goal line than the ball and the last opponent.  Basically, you can’t be behind the last defender and have the advantage of scoring.

    I played basketball growing up.  We could be on the opposite side of the court, hurl the ball down to our player on the other end of the court, and they could score without having any defenders around them.  Not so in soccer.

    I get why there is the offsides rule.  Players would just be “hanging around the goal” waiting to score.  Not fair.  I know that.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  1. I’m not a fan of Sunday games

    As a ministry leader, I will say that I am not a fan of Sunday games.  I don’t like the fact that it takes families out of church on Sundays.  The church competes a lot with sports.  And that’s a whole other topic for discussion.  But, mostly, I don’t like Sunday games because I don’t get to see my children play on those days.  I am the Director of Children’s Ministry at my church and my main day is Sunday.  So, when there are games on Sundays (if they are in the morning or late afternoon), I can’t go because I have church services and activities.  And for me that just stinks.  I want to be there to see my children play, but I can’t take off every Sunday to go to their games.

  2. I love our soccer family

    My children played Rec soccer for many years.  It wasn’t until last year that we began playing Academy and Select soccer.  We travel to many different cities every weekend playing games. It’s during those times when you develop relationships with the other parents.  You get to know them well, too.  We have made some wonderful friendships with other parents all because of soccer.  I am so thankful for our soccer family.

As a parent, I will ALWAYS encourage and support my children in whatever sport or extracurricular activity they participate in.  I may get a little into it, but it’s only because I am so proud of my children and because I want them to know that I will always be their biggest fan (no matter how embarrassed they get).  They are my joy and I thank God for the gifts He has given them.

 

Here are some good Scripture verses to share with your child athlete:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Mark 9:23 (NIV)

5 Things to Do in Uncertain Times

Uncertainty is no fun.

In fact, it’s down right miserable.

I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen.  I like for things to be certain…things I know for sure will happen or not happen.

We have all been through something in our lives that we have no idea how it will turn out.  Maybe that’s waiting on test results that will tell you what they found on the MRI.  Maybe that’s going through treatments to get rid of cancer, but not fully knowing if the treatment will work.  Maybe that’s waiting to find that one special man to marry.  Maybe that’s waiting to see if those fertility treatments will work and you will be pregnant. Maybe that’s waiting on a job you really hope to get.  Maybe that’s hoping that the job you just took will work out.  Maybe that’s hoping your children will make wise choices.  Maybe that’s hoping that your children will grow up to be fine young people who continue to faithfully follow the Lord.

All of these things are uncertain.  We have no idea how things will turn out until it happens or it doesn’t happen.  And the agony in the uncertainty comes from the waiting.  And well, I’m just not a good waiter.  Worry and anxiety consume my body to the point that I can’t take it anymore.  I just need to know, Lord!  Please tell me for certain what is going to happen!

But as we all know, we don’t always get the answers we want in the time we want.  We have to wait through the uncertainty.

I want to share with you five things that have really helped me in those uncertain times…in those times when all I seem to be doing is waiting and worrying:

1.  Pray

Some of you may be saying, “Yes, this is a given.  Of course I’m going to pray.”  As a Christian it’s what we do.  But when we go through uncertain times, sometimes we stop praying.  We let our worry and anxious thoughts take over so that all we do is fear.  But, this is the time when we need to be praying.  We don’t need to allow Satan to keep us from going to the Lord in prayer.  We should fight off that worry and get down on our knees daily…praying with all we’ve got. God hears our prayers.

2.  Listen 

Prayer time should also include silence.  We need to listen.  That’s when we will feel God speaking to us.  I was reminded of the importance of this while reading in the book of Joshua this week.  I felt that Joshua 3:9 was God speaking directly to me, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.”  I spend a lot of time talking to the Lord, but little time listening.  God was telling me to come here and listen to Him.  It’s in the silence that we will feel God and hear and feel His peace during this uncertain time.

3.  Read the Word

Whenever I am in the middle of uncertainty, I break out my Bible and read directly from the Word of God.  I need to hear God speaking to me through His Word.  Here are some verses I find very helpful when I feel worry start to creep it’s way into my thoughts:  12 Scriptures for Uncertain Times

4.  Worship

Just this summer I went through an uncertain time.  I had to go back for a 6-month mammogram to see if the place that had raised suspicion last fall was still there or had grown. I dreaded the appointment for weeks.  And I all I seemed to do was think the worst thing possible.  It was so hard to get those thoughts out of my head.  But I had to make a choice:  was I going to let those thoughts take over or was I going to praise God through the uncertainty?  I chose to worship the Lord.  I found peace in listening to my favorite Christian praise songs.  As I sang, I allowed God to wash His peace over my body.  And it was amazing to see how He transformed my weary, worrying soul into a peaceful, calm soul.

5.  Remember all the certain things about the Lord

During those uncertain times, we tend to forget all the CERTAIN things we know about the Lord…the things that God has promised to us.  Some things that come to mind for me are these promises:  He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8), He will bless us (Deuteronomy 28:1-2), He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30), He will work all things for good (Romans 8:28), He calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1), He guides us (Proverbs 3:5-6), He comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), He gives us peace (John 14:27), and so many more.  Go ahead…get out your notebook and start listing all the things you know for certain about the Lord.  Remembering these things can bring us peace when all we can do is think about the uncertainty.

I have walked through uncertain times and it is terrifying.  But, I have found peace through it all only because of God. My prayer is that you will give God all your worries, anxieties, and fears.  Trust in Him because He cares for you.

How To Find Your Birth Verse

Do you know what your birth verse is?

I had never heard of such a thing until I saw an article about it online that led me to a website: Find Your Birth Verse

All you have to do is enter in your birth month and day and it brings up a verse from Scripture that corresponds with the day you were born.

August 1st is my birthday and my birth verse is from Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I love the message from this book that Paul shares with us.  For those of us who believe in Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, there is no punishment.  We are not condemned.  We are free and forgiven.  What a beautiful message this is!

While I absolutely love that verse, I decided to search every book of the Bible and look up the eighth chapter and first verse.  I wanted to see if I could find a verse that really resonated with my life and spoke to me.

And I found it….

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.    Joshua 8:1

I have struggled with fear for a majority of my life.  Even though I was raised in a Christian home and have loved and known Jesus my whole life, I don’t remember ever truly praying through my fears and quoting Scripture to help me through it until just a few years ago.  It has been a comfort to me to be able to find peace through fear in the pages of His Word.  This verse from Joshua is spot on for my life and a great reminder that I am not to be afraid.

I decided to take both of these verses, turn them into a printable image, and place where I can be reminded of them each and every day.

Joshua 8:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your birth verse?  Please leave a comment below and share your verse and what it means to you.

4 Ways to Give God the Glory and Not Yourself

gloryHave you ever been tempted to give yourself the glory for something you did, instead of giving God the glory?

Let’s play out a scenario here… You’ve just finished doing something awesome for the Lord.  Maybe it was lead a Bible study at your church, plan an outreach event for your church that brought in many people, or even led a group of people on a mission trip.  Whatever it was, it was a HUGE success!  Everyone is saying what a great job you did.  The pastor makes you stand up in front of everyone while they applaud you. “Great job!  You are awesome!”  Everyone rises to their feet and gives praise to you for a job well done.  And you love it!  You love the attention. You love that people are giving you credit for all the hard work you did.  You deserve it for sure. Doing this thing that God called you to do wasn’t easy.  Thankfully others recognize that and are giving you praise!

What is wrong with this picture?  Some of you may say nothing.  It’s okay to be recognized.  And you are right.  There is nothing wrong with being recognized.  The problem comes when we are taking the credit for what God has done.  The problem is when our hearts are in it for the wrong reasons.  The problem is when we do what God calls us to do for selfish reasons and not for what God wants us to do. The problem is when we boast of what we have done.  It is NOT right to take credit when all the glory needs to go to God.  God gave you some great gifts in order to do the thing which He called you to do.  God is using those gifts for His purposes and not yours.  You are God’s vessel.  You are being used by God to to share His name with others.  God is using you, yes, but for what He wants and NOT for what you want.

So how do I enjoy the praise, thanks, and pats on the back, without losing sight of God?

Here are four ways you can make sure you give God the glory and not yourself:

1.  Pray   Before you do anything, pray A LOT!  Ask for God’s will to be revealed to you. Ask God to give you wisdom in all you do for Him.

2.  Study Scripture   Dive into the Bible and fill yourself with His words.  Let them flow through you.   It will be helpful to know His Word and it will keep you from washing up on the shore, having forgotten all about God in what you are doing.  A great Scripture to memorize to help you with this is Psalm 115:1:

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and your faithfulness.

3.  Praise God At All Times    In everything you do, thank God.  Thank God for the good things and the bad things in your life.  Everything that happens, God can use to do His will.  Praise God at all times!

4.  Say “Go God!”  A friend of mine says this all the time, especially when she is thanked for doing something.  She says it helps keep her focused on God and what He does through her.  It keeps the emphasis off her and puts it on God, which is exactly where it should be. So the next time you are thanked for something you did for the Lord, just say “Go God!”

God has each of us where we are for a reason.  He has us there to serve HIS purpose.  He wants to do great things through us. However, we must be willing to step out of that spotlight and make sure God shines brightly and not us.  When we learn to do that, God will bless us so much more.

All praise and glory goes to our Lord!

7 Ways Your Family Can Choose to Serve the Lord

serving the LordAs a parent, I strive each day to lead my family in their faith journey and teach them about serving the Lord.  But I’ll be honest….it’s rather difficult.  There are days when I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job and other days when I stink at it.

Yet there is one thing I will not do.

Give up.

I refuse to allow the Enemy to keep me and my family from serving the Lord.  I refuse to stop teaching my kids about Jesus.  I refuse to throw in the towel when life gets hard.  I want my family to serve the Lord.

Here are seven ways I believe that can help my family and your family in serving the Lord:

 1.  Put God First

Joshua 24:15
This sign hangs in my living room as a reminder to our family that we have chosen to serve the Lord.

Parents, first and foremost, must make a conscious decision to put God first in all they do.  They must decide whom they will serve.  Will they serve the world and all its lies and temptations or will they serve the Lord?  I love what Joshua says in Scripture when he is talking to the Israelites:  “Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).  Joshua made a decision that day for his family.  A decision that affected not only his life but the life of his family.  And what a wise decision that was.  We as parents must do the same thing for our family.  We must choose to serve God and put Him first in our life.

2.  Go to Church    

The church was established by God.  He asks us to come together to serve and worship Him.  I love the church, but I know there are families who struggle with going to church for many different reasons.  No matter what your reason, I believe it all boils down to number one above…putting God first.  When God is first in your family’s life, you will naturally want to worship Him, learn more about Him and gather with other fellow believers at church.

3.  Show Kindness

When we show kindness to others we are serving the Lord.  Kindness can be sprinkled over others through our words or actions.  Teach your children to share encouraging words to their siblings (sometimes that’s easier said than done).  Encourage your children in their school work and sports.  Smile.  Be positive.  Do a random act of kindness for someone else together as a family.  Show kindness because that’s what Jesus did.

4.  Forgive Each Other

It’s so important to seek forgiveness from your family.  Repent to the Lord, apologize to your family members, and then move on.  Don’t be bitter about the past.  Don’t say you’ll forgive but you’ll never forget.  What good is that?  Don’t let the hurt keep you from loving each other.  God forgives us and so we need to forgive one another.  Serve the Lord by showing the forgiveness He gives to other people.

5.  Pray Together

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A family that prays together, stays together.”  Maybe a little cheesy for you, but I firmly believe this to be true.  We must not only be praying to the Lord in our own personal walk with Him, but we need to be praying together as a family:  in the car, at the dinner table, before your child plays in a game, at bedtime, and even at random times during the day.  When a family comes together for prayer, it is powerful.

6.  Have a Family Devotion

Serving the Lord can be done together as a family when you take the time to learn more about God and His Word.  This can be done at any time, but probably the easiest time to do it is at the dinner table.  While you are eating, open your Bible and share your favorite Scripture or even just one of your favorite Bible stories.  You can also buy a family devotion book and read from it.  Just spend time together as a family learning about the Lord.

7.  Do a Service Project

Find ways that your family can serve the Lord by serving others in your community.  Take a Saturday to do yard work for a neighbor, pick up trash in your local park, pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, make no-sew blankets for kids in the hospital, bake cookies for local law enforcement.  Service projects are a hands-on way for your family to serve the Lord.

This month on my blog, I will be going into greater detail about each of these ways your family can choose to serve the Lord.  So be on the lookout for more on these!

What are some ways your family chooses to serve the Lord?