happy valentine’s day

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Valentine’s Day:  A holiday that some love and others love to hate.  A day where your Facebook and Instagram feeds will be filled with pictures of happy looking couples and posts about gifts and probably even an engagement or two.  Seeing all of this can ignite negative emotions for some.  If you’re in a relationship, it may make you feel upset because someone else’s partner did something more than yours.  If you’re single, it may make you feel alone, insecure, or unwanted.

I thought a lot about what to write for a Valentine’s day post.  So I’ll just start with a confession:  I’ve never had a Valentine.  There have been times when I’ve bemoaned that fact.  I’ve sat at home feeling lonely and upset more times than I’d care to admit because all my friends were out with their significant others.  But over the years, I’ve truly begun to learn and lean on the love of Jesus.  The only real, true, and flawless love we will ever know.

One of my absolute favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Hosea. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.  In the story, the Lord asked Hosea to go and love a promiscuous woman.  To bring her to himself and love her as God loves his people.  He had him do this as a parallel to His love to “promiscuous” Israel.  So Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who many scholars believe was a prostitute.  Gomer had a few children by Hosea and was unfaithful to him.  At first, God seems very harsh in how he punishes her.  He speaks of taking away everything He’s given to her because she doesn’t realize that it is the Lord who has given her everything she’s had until now (Hosea 2:8).  So there’s half a chapter dedicated to everything the Lord is taking away from her(and when he is speaking of “her” he is really referencing his own rebellious people in this parallel).  Then, halfway through chapter 2 in one of my favorite verses, he flips the script.

 “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14).

 He goes on from there to say that he will give her everything back and will take her to be His wife forever.

 “I will take you to be My wife forever.  I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.  I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.”  (Hosea 2:19-20).

This is the kind of love that is hard to even fathom!
And certainly not a love that is able to truly live in the flesh of men.  This type of sacrificial, sometimes unrequited love is only able to come from the true lover of our souls.  Our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord.  Gomer in this story is every single one of us.  She is the one who has been unfaithful to her husband.  She is the one who has made idols of work and legalism.  She is the one who has put her love life or her marriage on a pedestal above her true King.  She is the one who has sat at home on Valentine’s day bemoaning her single life instead of reveling in the Love she already has.

Gomer is all of us.

My challenge to you this Valentine’s day, no matter where you are or who you’re with, is to remember this story.  Remember the love that our God has for us, that no matter what we do, how we behave, He is ready and waiting to lead each of us into the wilderness to speak tenderly to us. So while you’re getting ready for your Valentine’s dates or girls nights, put on some worship music and praise Him.  If you’re home alone, consider spending at least part of your evening in prayer and reading about the immense love God has for you. That is what earthly men can only ever strive for.

 You will never know a more sacrificial or righteously jealous love.
You will never know another lover who will want you back,
after you’ve turned so far away from Him.
You will never know a love so great as the love of God.
Let Him love you, dear sister.
On this Valentine’s day and every day.

Love,
Ashley

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