The Unexpected Christmas

Luke 1:26-38

There’s a piece of garland on my mantle that doesn’t quite look like the rest.  One side hanging down is luscious and full with lights while the other is sparse in its branches with the ribbon a bit crumpled.  I also have a string of lights that keeps falling down so it’s more like the shape of a boot than a beautiful, twinkling border around the peephole to my kitchen.  When I look at the uneven garland or hear the sound of my twinkle lights falling down once again, I get a little agitated.
You see, Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Everything feels magical to me, until the small details don’t quite live up to my expectations.

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When I notice those minute details, I can’t help but almost immediately feel a pang of guilt and think back to our dear sister Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus.  I’m sure she had her small annoyances in life (though I feel confident they looked awfully different than uneven garland).  But when we read about Mary, we read of a girl who had much more than small things not pan out as she expected.  Mary was engaged to be married.  Before her little visit by Gabriel, she and her family were probably excitedly making wedding plans.  She likely imagined that she and Joseph would have children.  That Joseph would spend his days working while she tended to the children.  She would raise them to be warriors, workers, and homemakers and when she had faithfully completed her task of raising the children, she and Joseph would grow old together.  Just a simple, normal existence our young friend probably imagined. What she didn’t dream of?  An angel telling her she would become pregnant—out of wedlock—with a One coming to save the whole world.  Who could imagine something like that?

But that’s just what Mary experienced.  She must have been terrified.  Terrified for what her life would look like, what others would think, what her betrothed would think!  There are many ways she could have responded to that conversation.  In anger, disrespect, or despair she could have replied to Gabriel.  But she had only one question:

 “How?”  As soon as it was explained to her, she quietly submitted and accepted the Lord’s will for her life.  “’I am the Lord’s slave,’ said Mary.  ‘May it be done to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38)

Have you ever been caught off guard by something the Lord has asked of you?  Have you ever had your picture perfect life plan derailed?    Sometimes, we feel disappointed by the way He is asking us to live or the gifts he gives us that we do not necessarily regard as gifts.  In those instances, we can scream and cry and stomp our feet in resistance, or we can quietly accept the Lord’s will for us.  It will not always look perfect, but we can know that our lives are working according to His plan.  Through Mary’s obedience and submission, we were all given a Savior.  A sweet, beautiful, baby boy destined to save the world because one young Jewish girl was obedient to her calling.  During this season, I’ll be sitting back with a cup of hot cider, staring at my boot shaped lights and uneven garland praying that God continues to shatter my “perfect” expectations for life so He can replace them with a more holy path.

Where is He leading your life, sweet sister? Will you follow Him?

Love,
Ashley

To my sister who thinks her prayer life is lame…

I am so with you. I’m blushing at the thought of how inadequate my prayer life is. But then I think, “Compared to what?” Why do I feel a sense of unworthiness when it comes to prayer? Is it because of the way I feel? Probably. No doubt I’ve gone through seasons where I feel like I’m being intimate with God, thinking of others and just being a Xena-hardcore-amazing-prayer-warrior, and that is awesome. But on the reg, the day-to-day, I can’t help thinking that my prayer life sucks.

Most mornings I wake up, start talking to God, and it sounds something like this: “Lord, I am so tired! Please let me have some yoga pants clean because I forgot to shave my legs last night. Help me get out of bed. Or maybe you could think about making the Rapture happen today?”

Y’all might think I’m kidding but I’m 100% serious. I just can’t escape this feeling that I don’t measure up in my prayer life. But then again, what exactly am I trying to measure up to? Hopefully not others, because the Bible makes it pretty clear that we are all equally distant from the Lord and sinful. Maybe I’m comparing myself to Jesus? Well, if I do that it’s a guaranteed failure. Spoiler alert: HE IS PERFECT. Maybe there is no correct comparison.
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I have realized that I am disappointed in the fact that I don’t have an intense emotional and spiritual high every time I talk with God. And yet after typing that out it sounds pretty ridiculous. I don’t get an intense spiritual high every time I talk to my husband even though I love the socks off of him. The root of the problem is not my actual prayer life but my perspective. The way I view prayer has been warped; somehow I view it as a competition. I see it as something I can succeed or fail at. When in reality it’s perfectly ok that I start my day out with silly thoughts directed at God. He accepts me. He knows and loves me and he enjoys it when I reach out to speak with him.

I see the same type of false perspective as I teach Holy Yoga. It’s great fun to introduce others to the practice. For most people, coming to class is a brand new experience. I love hearing from people who feel physical benefits of yoga after the first class or spiritual connection with Jesus during guided meditation. Everyone usually begins the first class feeling self-conscious, wanting to be in the very back of the room but gradually, with encouragement, people start asking questions and taking ownership of their own practice. Each person has a unique physical body and a different emotional status when they come into class. I love seeing all the various ways people can move through the poses and worship God. It would be pointless and insulting if I started comparing people to each other. And yet I do that exact thing with my own prayer life. I’m learning to change my perspective.

Sadly lots of people decide they don’t want to even try yoga. Multiple people have given me these exact words, “Oh, I’d like to do yoga but I’m just not flexible enough.”

I’m sorry, WHAT? ! Do you hear yourself? What kind of logic is that?! It’s like saying “I’m not very strong so I won’t go to the gym” or “I’m not spiritual enough so I won’t read my Bible”. Flexibility is only one tiny part of yoga! Their perspective is flawed. Looking at yoga through the tiniest possible lens, only allows you to see a minuscule portion of what it has to offer. It’s the same with prayer. Feeling like you are inadequate at prayer shouldn’t stop you from doing it. If we are contemplating and judging our prayer life based on our feelings then our perspective is limited! Imagine what we are missing out on!

Prayer is not about being perfect. It’s not a competition. And we can’t always expect to feel the same way each time we pray. Prayer is a journey. It’s a conversation. It’s being yourself and being with God. Just like everyone’s physical body takes a different path through the practice of yoga, every child of God has a prayer life that matches their own soul. Beautiful right? God is awesome. I encourage you to broaden your perspective! Open your heart up to all the wondrous possibilities of prayer.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and over the years have discipled many girls who struggle with bad feelings about prayer. Here are some suggestions anchored in truths from the Word that may help you to feel more freedom and less guilt as you spend time with the Lord.

  • Never compare your prayers to someone else’s. When God wrote “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” in the Bible, He meant it. Our unique personalities and character are a gift from God to be embraced. Being different is not shameful, it’s beautiful! Any florist would tell you that different shapes, sizes and colors make for the most dazzling bouquets. Who would waste their time comparing a sunflower to a rose? 
  • Be with God doing things you like to do.  In Hosea 6:6 God says “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” God wants you to know Him and love Him for who he really is. So be with Him in a way that you can discover who He is without the pressure to be over-spiritual. Go on a hike. Listen to worship music. Sip coffee in a local shop. Surf. Paint. Read. Anything. Share life with Him the same way you share it with your closest friends.
  • Try something new. Psalm 34:8 tells us to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” The day-to-day grind can get stale every now and again. To refresh your routine will be a wonderful adventure! Taste something new. Have you ever done Lectio Divina? Or been guided through meditation on God’s Word? Read through a daily devotional? How about prayer journaling? Give it a try! God is not your funky old grandpa who eats donuts and drinks prune juice every single morning. He is not slow. He is omnipotent! Alive and active and good.
  • Realize that there is no one way or one time or one place to pray. God surrounds us. His Spirit dwells within us and Jesus promised to never leave us. I am fiercely passionate about this one. Do not listen to the person who tells you that you must get up at 4am and have 2 hours of prayer time with God on your knees beside your bed before you start your day and get your butt to work. I’ve struggled with this for years, but I’ve put my foot down recently. I refuse to give God my worst hours of the day. I’ve never been a morning person. Why would I force myself to pray when I can’t even think coherently? I refuse to be guilted into a terrible decision. Jesus prayed at all different times of the day and in all different places! See Luke 6:12 & Mark 1:35. I’m not saying you shouldn’t sacrifice a little sleep if you only have that window of time available to be with God. I’m simply saying that the idea of a strict and rigid “quiet time” every morning may not appeal to each and every Christian. We are not robots. God is a person. He is relational and available. Can I get a whoot whoot for all the night owls!?!?!?! Yeaaahh! (The funny thing is I’m writing this and it’s about 1am Ha!)
  • Never stop crying out to God. Even our precious God-in-the-flesh Jesus never stopped praying, even though He knew His mission was to go to the cross. Hebrews 5:7 says “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.” Prayer is for YOU, to give you peace, to focus your heart on your faith and not your sight, to teach you more about God’s perfect character and to weave your heart even tighter to His, creating a deep and unmoving reverence. Those prayers that Jesus offered up to God the Father gave him the strength to go to the cross and win victory over death.
  • Treat God less like a genie in a lamp and more like a lover. Here is the simplest of ways that you can broaden your perspective. God doesn’t want just our prayer requests. Hosea 2:14-15 makes it obvious that He is in love with you!! “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.”  He displays his affections for His people over and over again. He is relentless! A God who does all that and more wants to know your deepest desires, your dreams, your feelings, your grief, your thoughts about Him.
  • A simple surrender is a magnificent prayer. Let me give you some words more beautiful than my own to bring home this idea:“WHEN YOU LIVE IN GOD, your day begins when you open your eyes, though you have done nothing yourself to open them, and you take your first breath, though there is no reason why this life-giving breeze should be given to you and not to some other. In the dark or in the light, with a stone slab under your back or a feather topper, your day begins when you let God hold you because you do not have the slightest idea how to hold yourself—when you let God raise you up, when you consent to rest to show you get the point, since that is the last thing you would do if you were running the show yourself. When you live in God, your day begins when you lose yourself long enough for God to find you, and when God finds you, to lose yourself again in praise.”

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

There you have it: 7 refreshing thoughts about prayer. I hope and pray your perspective reflects the truth. Keep gleaning the truth of God’s Word wherever you can get it! In fact, it would be great if the comment section of this post were to become a place for you to share scripture about prayer! Encourage one another with HIS words.

Now go and be with the Lord. You can’t fail.

Much love!

KJ

A Gift that Gives Beyond

Sisters,

Whether you’re looking for a Christmas gift, handcrafted goodies, or an epic company that gives back, we have got you covered! We have partnered with beyondBeanie to provide our readers with a great option for gifting this season! In a world where companies are cutting costs and treating employees like dirt to make money, it’s refreshing to see a company that is doing some major good with their business model. This company truly works to help kids in need. Every time you buy a product, your money goes to a worthy cause.

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Currently, beyondBeanie is working with Amanecer Salomon Klein children’s center in Cochabamba, Bolivia to help provide kids with food, medical care and school supplies. If you would like to help this awesome company accomplish their goals, I really encourage you to grab your beanies and accessories while they are in stock! Anything in their store would make a fabulous and meaningful Christmas gift!

After you have received your warm and toasty beanie, feel free to write a letter to the person who made it. After all, you can do that because of what this company stands for. The artisans, women who reside in Bolivia, hand sign their work! These talented women are featured on the website so that you can see who handcrafted your purchase.

beyondBeanie is also incredible because you can be an ambassador! Being an ambassador involves ordering some sweet hand made items, taking a picture with them and putting the pictures and a link on your social media accounts. We have taken advantage of this awesome opportunity to share and support a business worth believing in. It really is that simple.

Our hope is that by sharing this company with you, you would be encouraged to look beyond the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Take a moment to support a worthy cause by giving a gift that spreads hope internationally.

To learn more information, click here and be a part of something globally unique. Use the coupon code ROROMAN to get 15% off of your entire purchase.

Good tidings yall!
–Ro

New in Christ

To my sister who is a new Christian…

First off, I want to say welcome!  I know it can be overwhelming diving into this whole new life, but I promise it is a sweet, sweet ride.  One of the things I love about Christianity is the familial aspect of it.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, so when you come to know the Lord, you also join a worldwide family of believers.

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To give you a little background on my own faith walk, I grew up going to church and claiming the name of Christianity without really having an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.  I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.  I went to church every Sunday, participated in events, and even sang in a church choir.  It wasn’t until I was in my last couple years of college that I really began to take my faith seriously.  One of my best friends invited me to her small group where I was challenged in my faith and really started to grow in it and know Jesus.

I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.

I think that those times were a real shift in my life and it was such a sweet season of getting to know my Father in Heaven.  I also know it was a little overwhelming learning about the “Christian life” and trying to make sure I was doing everything “right” (which is totally impossible and why I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy).
Here are a few things that I learned along the way that may help you out too:

Prayer

You know those people who pray and every word that comes out of their mouth sounds like a sonnet written by angels? Yeah, that’s not me.  That never has been and likely never will be me.  When I first began talking to Jesus, I was very insecure about prayer, ESPECIALLY praying out loud.  (You can talk to my sisters Randall and KJ about that because they were along for that ride with me).  I thought I was no good at praying because I didn’t sound like they did.  I didn’t speak quite so eloquently.  I thought for sure God only listened to the “pretty prayers”, as I like to call them.  But you know what God loves?  He loves prayer.  He loves hearing our voices.  Just as a human father loves hearing from his children no matter how beautifully they speak, our Abba Father loves to hear from us.  So don’t be intimidated to pray!  Think of it just like talking with a friend.  You don’t have to muster up the courage or think of beautiful words to say to have a casual conversation with a friend and it’s the same with Jesus!  Pray for people; pray with people; and most importantly, develop a private prayer life just between you and the Lord.  

The Bible

The Bible can be intimidating, figuring out where to start and what to read and even what it all means!  The bottom line of scripture is simply that the Lord created us, He loves us, and He’s coming back for us.  The entirety of it is just like a love letter to us from our King.  Spending time reading and studying it is so important because it is God’s direct words to His children.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  

Scripture strengthens us.  It inspires us and gives us examples of how to live and love.  If you’ve never really picked up a Bible before, but feel the move of the Holy Spirit in your life, I would suggest starting with the book of John, which really captures the essence of who Jesus is.  If you’ve already read John, give Ephesians a try!  Ephesians shifts to talking about who we are in Christ.  Beyond that, there are so many commentaries and online devotionals to get you started and keep fueling your fire for the Lord! Check out some online, free devotional resources. Whatever you decide, just start somewhere.  He’s promised to give us wisdom and understanding if we ask for it, so just start and pray for the Lord’s guidance!  He will give it to you.

Community

Community is a huge deal for Christians, old and new alike! Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Christian community is essential to life as a believer.  My first suggestion to you is that if you have not already found a church, do so!  Explore those in your area. Ask the Lord to direct your steps and pray for a community where you feel like you belong.  And remember, everyone is a little nervous going to a new church.  Just know that wherever you go, you are already family.  My next suggestion is to find a small group to join.  Most churches offer those with specific categories, whether it’s age range, special interest, gender, or specific life season (single, married, moms, etc).

I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!

Small groups have been so important in my faith walk, and I truly believe that joining one will change, challenge, and grow you.  Plus, you may make some lifelong friends along the way!  I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!  My final thought in regards to community is to pray and seek a mentor, or at least a mentor-like person.  I wouldn’t say I necessarily have one specific mentor, but I have a few women who are older and more experienced than me that I can be honest with and call on in times of confusion or trouble in my walk with Jesus.  Surround yourself with other women who will hold you accountable and help you grow.

Sweet sister, I want you to trust and believe that you are on the most wonderful journey you could ever imagine.  Life is not always easy, and that is not any different for Christians.  The only difference that we have is our hope in Jesus and our knowledge that our lives are more than this world.  But, now is a time to celebrate walking into the arms of your Savior.  All of Heaven rejoiced the moment you said yes to Him.  You are loved more than you could ever imagine.

Love always,

Ashley

Intentionality at its Finest

Scripture Focus:
1 John 4:8 & 19, Matthew 2:1-12 & Luke 2:15-21.

Happy December everyone! It may seem too early in the month to go full out with a Christmas devotional, but Costco was putting up Christmas stuff in late September so really I feel like this post is happening right on time! Can your heart ever be too ready for Christmas? I hope not. Sometimes I need the head start. A dark cloud of “unpreparedness” seems to follow me around this time if year; my camera batteries aren’t charged when I want to take a family photo, my attention to Advent starts about 20 days late or buying gifts is just plain rushed because I forgot to order them like in July. Am I the only one that procrastinates even though I love Christmas? I want to be prepared but sometimes I just fall short. Sometimes I am not the intentional person I want to be.

Intentionality is an incredibly attractive quality to me. Proooooobably because God has it…and I do not. I first realized this about God when I read in Genesis about how he made man in His image and breathed life into the first human ever: Adam. He didn’t breath life into any other living plant or animal, just humans. We are special, and God goes to extreme measures to express that to us. He does everything on purpose, He rules and creates with an agenda.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

What is His agenda you ask? I would vote love. For that is who He is.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Just let that soak in for a second. And let your heart also make a connection between God is love, and God is intentional. That is what leads us to the Christmas story.

So many people have what is traditionally known as a “nativity scene” in their Christmas ensemble, AKA a snapshot of the moments after Jesus’ birth.You can’t drive through a single neighborhood in the Bible Belt mid December without seeing at least one all lit up and beautiful in someone’s front yard. Being a girl who grew up in church, I was in my fair share of Christmas plays, usually cast as an angel or Mother Mary, but the characters that have always been the most intriguing to me are the wise men.

Matthew 2:1-3 gives us a glimpse of their story:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, 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.”

Now I’m not going to even get into the fact that these men came looking for Jesus after he was born. If I did that then the nativity scene would be ruined for you forever. What I will point out is that it was a star that rose in the sky that alerted them to the birth of our Savior Jesus. A star. Some may call it the Star of Bethlehem.

So these wise men were actually high class astronomers! They studied the stars and found something so astonishing in the sky that they traveled across nations to find the one whom they had decided was worth worshiping. Amazing. They must have been very brave and 100% sure they saw, in their own words, his star when it rose. There is a documentary about the star that I watch every year around Christmas time. It’s amazing, and I highly recommend it. It’s called The Star of Bethlehem. You can even watch a low picture-quality version on YouTube. Anyways, I know from watching this documentary that what the wise men saw from earth was actually the King planet Jupiter and the King star Regulus coming into such close conjunction that they appear as one light. To me that says “King of Kings.” Then nine months later Jupiter, the king planet and Venus, the mother planet, stack right beside each other to form the brightest star that anyone alive in that time had ever seen: The Star of Bethlehem!

Lucky for you friend, I took astronomy in high school (so I’m basically a complete expert, wink wink). What I know for sure is that the solar system works like clockwork. Everything spins and rotates in the same fashion today that it did thousands of years ago. The solar system is mathematical. Precise. It is predictable, even to us mere humans. We’ve created software with built-in algorithms that can show us exactly how the sky looked on any given day in the history of time. Yes, I’m for real, Google it. With that being said, think about the fact that God designed the universe. [Genesis 1:1 & 14-18]

He did it all at the very beginning. He knew from the start of creation the exact moment in time when Jesus would be born into our world to save our very souls.

He put the stars in place and set the planets in motion. He intentionally gave His Son a star of his very own and set signs in the sky so that we could know the Lord had come to us in a form we could recognize! He did it all at the very beginning. He knew from the start of creation the exact moment in time when Jesus would be born into our world to save our very souls. He knew. He saw that His beloved Son would die on a cross to pay for our guilty mistakes and He planned for it. His agenda is love. And He is intentional. And that love and intentionality has been directed at us since before we took our first breath as a human race.

Hallelujah.

Wild Rose

Another one of my favorite characters in the nativity scene is Mary, courageous mother of Jesus. Her story is fascinating. I love the way Luke words chapter 2 verse 19:
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

If Mary took the time and effort to treasure and ponder all the wonders of the birth of Jesus I believe we should follow her example, especially around the Christmas season. In doing so we honor the miracle of his birth that was written in the sky by His Father. Our Father. We can store up the treasure of God’s love in our hearts, ready to share it with anyone at a moment’s notice. We can praise God for His abundant love and His perfect ability to fulfill His every intention. God was ready and prepared for Christmas before He even gave life to our universe.

My hope is that you can be in awe of our great God and his love that He has poured out on us. His hand has written the most beautiful love story and Christmas is a special part of it. Learn from the wise men and Mary. Be thoughtful. Be courageous and worship our King!

Good tidings!
KJ

Here are a few questions to meditate on:

What do you know about the Star of Bethlehem?

What do you keep treasured up in your heart? Does it reflect what you want it to?

Listen to “Unto Us” by J.J. Heller

Welcome

The heartbeat of this blog is love. The love of Jesus. Wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you become; you cannot escape the reaches of His love. It knows no bounds and no defeat. This love that restores is what we have experienced and what we aim to share with you. We call you sisters even when we do not know you. We write letters that are filled with wisdom and vulnerability and holiness. We love because he first loved us. We give because he first gave to us.

If you visit this blog, read a post or two, join the newsletter, comment or email us or anything, and you do not feel the love of Christ, then we have failed.  We plan to create a good mix of discipleship and sisterhood, God’s Word and prayer, grace and laughter, every time you join us here.

Receiving love and grace from Jesus will empower you to live your life abiding in Him, pursuing discipleship and seeking Truth. This is powerful. He is powerful. Let’s walk along side of each other in this crazy life of faith. We are incredibly honored to be your sisters in Christ and so thankful you found us.

Love,
The Sisters

Hey y’all!
We are so excited to have this opportunity to share our lives here. We have been dreaming, planning and praying for months, and it is almost time to fully launch!
Our official launch date is December 1st!
We hope you find your way back here time after time. When you do, you will find encouraging words, wisdom, humor and so much more! We hope you feel right at home and a part of this special sisterhood when you are here.

Hope y’all have a happy thanksgiving, yummy food, and feel surrounded by love.
Love,
The Sisters