Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

 

Whether we realize it or not, each of us is a teacher—a model of how to live out the faith we proclaim. We are guides to the generations who are currently germinating their lifestyle patterns and heart convictions. Whether we have kids and teens under our roof, around us in our neighborhoods, or grandkids on the weekends, we are portraying a picture of what Christianity is. From where we find our identity to how we spend our money, time, and energy, we are constantly teaching the children and teens in our lives what it means to follow Christ. Often without saying a word.

Children watch our walk. Absorb our attitudes. Perceive our priorities.

Unfortunately, our actions are often contrary to what we hope to project. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to our spiritual life. Droves of young adults are leaving the church because they see our inconsistencies. Generations of children who grew up in church have abandoned the faith of their fathers because it never became their own.

Of course, there are men and women who grew up in loving, authentic Christian homes and still chose to walk away, but the majority of those who walk away do so because they were taught behavior modification without a relationship with God and submission to the rules without a love for or study of who God is.

What hope is there for change? God is always bigger than our mess-ups. But we can also take a good hard look at our lives and walk forward in repentance and allow God to transform our places of inconsistencies. As we do, we model the life of humility and change that marks the life of a true believer in Christ.

Here are several inconsistencies we may be unwittingly giving the next generation of potential followers of Christ:

Inconsistency #1: The body of Christ can be helpful, but following Christ is primarily an individual pursuit.

Yes, we each have choices to make for ourselves. Yes, our faith must be our own. But the notion that “me and God are good” without a need for His people is contrary to Scripture. A vast majority of the exhortations in Scripture assume the reader is gathering with a local body of believers. The idea that you could be a true Christian and not be an integral part of the church is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Following Christ is a corporate pursuit. You and I need the body of Christ in order to fully know and follow Christ.

Inconsistency #2: A deep commitment to the local church is more of a liability and a nuisance than a lifeline and a need.

I get it. People are messy. My husband is a pastor, and I’ve seen the ugly side of church life. But the call of a Christian to love and serve the body of Christ is not negated when the body is broken. Going to church is not about “me.” Too many of us live as if we believe that loving one another is impossible. And it may be, on our own strength. But what a testimony it is to the power of God if we choose to love those who are hard to love. (Not to mention, often we are the hard-to-love-people who need the love of the church.) Our call to lay down our lives for one another is independent of the responses and neglect of others. When we serve one another, we serve Christ.

Inconsistency #3: God created everyone equal, but not everyone is safe.

If we say that God loves and cherishes all people — red and yellow, black and white — but remain fearful or disrespectful of other colors and cultures, we teach an inconsistency. We need to love and respect people of every nation, epidermis color, and economic status, even if that “threatens” our own comfort and safety. We need to shape our views and values primarily on what the Bible teaches about the dignity of every human being — over and against any other preference. Let’s be driven by biblical values more than personal, cultural, and/or political ones and teach the younger generations that upholding God’s way is more important than any other societal structure.

Inconsistency #4: My home is in heaven, but I’m going to prioritize earthly comforts over eternal pursuits.

So often we live as if our plans, dreams, and needs are more important than God’s plan for our lives. We live with a need to be needed over needing Biblical truth. We seek our security in hefty bank accounts and sturdy plans instead of the presence and provision of God. We are more concerned with our outward appearance over our eternal rewards. If we say we follow Christ, the Bible is clear that we are sojourners on this earth with a mission to carry out until we get there. We ought not to live a life of settling down. We are called to a life of reaching out to the lost and dying souls around us.

Inconsistency #5: Bible study is a nice idea but the Word of God is not an absolute necessity for the Christian.

Ultimately, each of these inconsistencies points to how we treat the Word of God. Because if we see the Word of God as a book of nice suggestions useful to decorate a coffee cup instead of filled with truth that is imprinted onto our lives, then we will live out a pseudo-Christianity that is weak, powerless, and, frankly, Pharisaic. If our everyday lives are devoid of the truth of the Bible, it is also devoid of the power of the God of the Bible.

Do we see the Bible as the very word of God?

Do we know what those words from God contain?

Do we believe that His way spelled out in those words is indeed God’s best plan for us?

Do we believe that God’s best plan is for all of God’s people?

Do we believe that God has enabled all of His people to follow His plan?

You see, if we don’t understand that the way of God is clearly spelled out in the Word of God and if we don’t believe that the word of God is authoritative and inerrant and given to us for our good, then we will never be able to live the Christian life to its fullness. And if we don’t know what the word of God says and actually follow it — if we don’t understand that following the way of God is our greatest purpose here on this earth — what hope do the generations behind us have in learning this way from us?

We must love and follow God for the sake of our own good. But we must also love and follow God for the sake of those little eyes and tender hearts who are watching how we treat God’s Word, God’s people, and the lost in need of a Savior. We must pursue a life of obedience and worship so that we can experience the fullness of God’s presence in our everyday life, but also because of the young souls who themselves are searching to experience fulfillment and security — which they will only find through Christ.

Let’s be Christians who consistently point to the glory of God and the goodness of His Word, through lives that display the character of Christ. And pray that the children and teens in our lives see Christ is such a way that it transforms their lives forever.

Lord, help us.

This post was originally published on LifeWay Voices.

As soon as I closed the door to my oldest’s kindergarten class the tears started flowing. With a pinched face, I desperately tried to control my breathing and keep the deluge of emotions down so I could make it to the car before I completely crumbled.

I was a mess of emotions.

My breakdown wasn’t primarily because I was sad to not have him by my side, or that fact that I wasn’t ready for him to grow up just yet. I was torn up because I was disappointed in myself. I had spent months and months of researching and planning toward homeschooling. I’d built it up in my mind as the best option for our family of five. It was what the super-moms did—the really strong, spiritual ones kept their kids at home and shaped their hearts and minds in the best way possible.

We had attempted a trial month that summer to test the homeschooling waters. It was a miserable failure. What I had idealized and idolized was an absolute nightmare. My five-year-old had the attention span of an excitable dog with a squirrel nearby. My three-year-old was as clingy and sassy as could be. And my one-year-old was into EVERYTHING and continually fought for the seat in my lap that the three-year-old just wouldn’t give up.

It was a nightmare.

THE LIES

As I completed the walk of shame back to my car on that first day of kindergarten, feelings of failure overwhelmed me. Even though I knew my child was supposed to be in the public school that year (because the other option = mental breakdown), a great disappointment plagued me. I wasn’t enough. I was a bad mom. My kids were going to be less-than because I couldn’t get it together enough to homeschool them.

Yikes. The destruction and falsehood of these lies are clear to me now. And whether it is about your school choices, food choices, discipline choices, or any-other-thing-related-to-parenting choices, my guess is that you’ve listened to these lies as well:

“I’m not ______ enough for my kids.”

“I’m a bad mom.”

“My kids are going to suffer because I can’t get it together enough to ___________.”

Ladies, we must kill these lies. Our thought-life is a breeding ground for either destruction or victory in every area of our lives. If we allow lies to run rampant and reign our inner life, everything else about our reality will be affected. We must fight for freedom from these lies.

DON’T FIGHT THE LIES ALONE

I’ve learned to be engaged in this fight—the long journey toward healthy thinking—and it is certainly not over. I still worry about whether or not the choices we are making are right and best. I still wonder how I am messing up my kids by doing or not doing something. I still forget that their development and growth is not all up to me.

Perhaps that last one is the kicker: It’s not all up to me.

Today, as I walk into my tenth school year as a mom, though the lies don’t hold as much power over me as they did, I still hear their siren call. I still have to grab them, throw them down, and tell them to flee. Then I have to replace these lies with truth:

I am not defined by the type or quality of mother I am.
I have choices (in food, school, etc.). That fact is evidence of great blessing.
I am not enough, and will never be enough. But I don’t need to be.

My kids need to find sufficiency in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their security in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their significance in Christ, not me.

God is in control…even if I get the choices all wrong.
God loves my kids infinitely more than I do.
God is working in my kids in ways I never could.

His faithfulness is not dependent on my actions.
His goodness is not something I have to earn.
His provision and protection for me and my children are steadfast. Always.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE; TRUST THE LORD

I’ve also learned to take it a kid at a time and a year at a time. Every choice I make is not immutable. We can change our path at any time. We’ve moved twice since that first day of school and have been in and out of different schooling options. I’ve been all sorts of types of a mom. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Work-outside-of-the-home mom. Homeschool mom. Public school mom. Car-line mom. Bus-rider-kids mom. Baseball mom. Theater mom. Band mom. This year, for the first time, I’ll be a virtual school mom for my middle child.

Along the way, each stage had its benefits and downsides, its joys and pains. But as I look back through all our changes, I can see the unchanging and faithful hand of God leading and guiding us as we make these important decisions. More importantly, I can see the faithful hand of God changing us in the process.

Lord, as we navigate aaaaall the choices we face as parents, will you remind us of who you are. Help us cling to the truth of what the Bible tells us about you, more than we hold to the social norms and what’s “best” for our kids. Don’t allow us to put our kids at the center of our lives. Instead, keep our focus centered on you.

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.

For many moms, it can often feel as if everything is defined by their “pre-kid” life and their “mom” life. Our wardrobe and furniture choices are different; hairstyles and hormones have changed. The dinner on our plate, the money in our wallet…even the time needed to use the restroom is no longer our own. There is a very clear delineation of what was “normal” life before and after having kids.

This has certainly been true for me as I look on the timeline of my own life, and while much had indeed changed forever, one of the most difficult transitions for me has been my time with God. Pre-kids, I could enjoy a slow, QUIET, and relatively uninterrupted time in the Bible. Once my first bundle of joy arrived, all of that neatness went out the window. It led to some dark days as I had to rearrange my expectations of what a “successful” time in the Word looked like, but the roadblocks I encountered through sleepless nights, constant chaos, and incessant interruptions have been the best thing that has happened to my spiritual life.

As we approach Mother’s Day—as much as we moms LOVE our kids—it is a temptation to look back and long for the simpler, quieter days before kids changed everything. Weariness will do that to the best of us. Instead of wondering if life will ever return to normal, what if we shifted our focus to the goodness and beauty of this new-normal?Instead of lamenting all that’s been lost—especially when it comes to our spiritual life—let’s focus on and celebrate how God has and will continue to use the formidable moments of motherhood to move us closer to His presence.

Here are five ways motherhood has shaped my walk with Jesus forever—for the better.

1. My devotional prayer life is better

As a woman without kids, I had a tendency to silo my relationship with God into the one-hour time slot I had scheduled. That hour was awesome, but I treated it as if that was the only appropriate time to spend with God. I did not invite Him into the rest of my day. I didn’t pray much outside of that “quiet time.” The disruption of my “perfect” little God-appointment showed me that I lacked meeting with Him continually through each moment of my day. This caused me to see that I need not be so dependent on an hour slot in my schedule to experience God. He is always near. I can talk to Him any time, anywhere.

2. The paralysis of perfectionism doesn’t paralyze me as easily.

“If I can’t do it right, then I shouldn’t do it at all” was my mantra. I had unknowingly been living this way and it was suffocating my spiritual life. Suddenly, in the motherhood stage of life, there wasn’t much that I could do “just right” anymore. Pre-kid Katie could control her environment, plan perfect days, and color-code her prayer journal and study notes. Post-kid Katie was drowning in failure until she learned to kick perfectionism to the curb; the “all-or-nothing” era has ended. (This has also made me much more patient with others and their less-than-perfect attempts at life!)

3. I’ve learned how to go deeper into the Bible quicker.

Before kids, I used all the Bible study tools I could find. All of them. Becoming a mom forced me to be more selective in how I spent my “quiet time.” I had to learn to utilize the tools that give me the most “bang for my buck” in helping me understand the Word. I still try to enjoy a more leisurely time with God when I can, but most days I take what I can get once I open my Bible—which may only be 15 minutes. This time-crunch has made me think more critically about the tools I’d gathered and whether or not they actually helped me understand the Bible better. Just because so-and-so does it doesn’t mean I have to as well.

4. I’ve learned my desperate need for more and more (and more) of Jesus.

Oh, how I need Jesus! There is nothing like the stress of three kids bickering in the car over something completely insignificant or the frustration of trying to create a perfect family moment through reading the Bible together…only to have kids fight over who gets to sit in my lap while I get kicked in the face in the process. My lack of sacrificial love, enduring patience, and unconditional kindness is on full display through my feeble motherhood efforts. Motherhood has been a mirror which continues to shed light on the ugliest parts of me. These are the places that need the redemption and transformation that only the power and grace of Jesus can handle.

5. Scripture memory has become an essential delight.

Perhaps as a culminating effect of all of the above, motherhood has driven me to hide God’s Word in my heart. Through the ingestion of my Bible through slow and steady memory work, the essential truths contained in Scripture—who God is, who I am because of Jesus, and how I am to respond in worship to Him in my everyday moments—are being infused forever into my soul. The words of God are becoming a part of who I am and the Bible is available to me even when my hands are busy with all things motherhood.

There are more ways that motherhood has changed me forever, but I am most thankful for these five transformations—changes that are certainly not complete!

So if you are a mom struggling to get in the Word because you just can’t seem to do things the way you used to, or you feel like the mom-life just isn’t the season for a closer walk with Jesus, lay down these lies! You can enjoy the Word, even with littles wandering around you. You don’t have to sacrifice depth for time. Quit focusing on what you feel you can’t do, and focus on what you deep-down want to do—because even the “want to want to” is something.

Let go of the Instagram ideals and Pinterest perfection, fix your eyes on Jesus, and ask Him to stir up an even greater desire to become more like Him. He has begun a good work in you and He promises to complete it (Phil. 1:6). Motherhood might very well be the vehicle He is using to do just that.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Valentine’s Day is here, and whether this holiday is part of your yearly festivities, or you find it a ridiculous excuse for consumerism, it gives couples a chance to evaluate the state of their relationship. One of the biggest area of a married relationship is that of the sexual connection—or lack thereof. Wives, I want to address you specifically today. Husbands, listen in. This post, though directed at the woman’s heart, might be a source of insight for you to understand the struggles your wife faces when it comes to physical intimacy.

I’ve led small groups for, discipled, and taught many women over decades of ministry. Inevitably, the topic of sex comes up. For some, it is an area filled with great dread coupled with a negative attitude all around. Others hold a more positive air toward the issue yet are suffocated by the tension between what her heart tells her is right and what her tired mind and exhausted body desires. Rare is the woman who naturally enjoys sex with her husband and regularly initiates intimacy with him.

Within the married Christian culture, there seems to be an overarching view of sex as a chore to be completed in order to keep husbands from committing adultery. Deep down, women know that it is important for husband and wife to connect physically, but the acknowledgment of this reality and the regular enjoyment of that sexual connection are two very different things. There is a disconnect with what she recognizes to be right and what the rest of her being desires.

This is a complex topic, especially considering that most bring baggage into marriage which the evil one often uses to sabotage a couples’ journey toward healthy physical intimacy before it even starts. If there is abuse in your past, I encourage you to seek out professional help to sort through that trauma as it might be affecting your ability to enjoy this area of your life as God intends. If you are currently experiencing an abusive relationship, please get help right away.

For those not in an abusive relationship, here are several significant gifts you can give to your husband this Valentine’s Day as you take steps toward pursuing a healthier sex life.

1. GIVE HIM YOUR RESPECT

Be careful about how you talk about your husband with others. If you find yourself regularly complaining about your marriage with other women, find a way to divert the conversations before (or once) they start. Refuse to commiserate with others about the quirks and weaknesses of your husband. Do everything you can to discourage an environment where you and your friends complain about your husbands.

Focus on what you love about your husband instead of what is difficult. In other words: be kind or be quiet. Our words are powerful, and when we allow negativity to fester—even if it is something as small as the trash not being taken out—it will affect the way you respond to your husband in every other way. It might also be good to remember that we, too, have many failures and flaws.

2. GIVE HIM YOUR COMMITMENT AND FORETHOUGHT

Just like other areas of our lives, if we don’t choose to make this a priority, our desire for sexual engagement will get pushed to the back-burner. Communicate with your husband about this. Let him know you want to make regular connection a priority, but you are struggling to do so. Share any specific roadblocks you can identify. Come up with a plan together. Many couples find that scheduling a special evening once a month or making sexual connection a regular weekly event has proved fruitful. Figure out what making it a priority looks like for you, then be ready mentally, physically, and spiritually to follow through.

3. GIVE HIM YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION

This is one of the biggest struggles for many women. The thought-life of a woman is much like an internet browser with 24 tabs open and running in the background. We are always thinking about…everything! While it is difficult to silence the voices of all the responsibilities you carry, it is not impossible. This is going to look different depending on your personality, but do what you need to in order to clear your mind to be able to engage as completely as possible.

4. GIVE HIM YOUR HONEST (YET GENTLE) THOUGHTS

Before I got married, I’d heard stories of couples splitting up after 20+ years of marriage. Many cited that they were married to a stranger. They’d lost touch of one another. They had become roommates, no longer lovers. How this could happen was such a mystery to me…and then I got married. And like most newlyweds we struggled to communicate. All the “intense conversations” were exhausting. It took work to keep connecting with one another, and there were many days I just wanted to ignore the problems and pretend to be happy. But we listened to the biblical advice to not go to bed angry, and (though we lost hours and hours of sleep) we muddled through the difficult conversations until we were able to hear each other’s hearts. Instead of retreating—which eventually severs emotional ties—we fought to understand and do better next time.

Whether you need to have a conversation about your sex-life or a tough conversation about another area of your relationship that is troubling you, don’t put off. Avoiding difficult conversations is counterproductive and ultimately leads to being strangers in the same bed. The goal of this physical connection is a holistic intimacy. Physical, spiritual, and emotional oneness is what we get to enjoy as a married couple. Your husband doesn’t just want your body. He wants to enjoy you. Every part of you. If we are holding back what’s on our mind, it will hide a piece of us from our spouse. And if you are holding back emotionally, it is most likely one of the reasons why there is a hesitation toward your husband physically.

5. GIVE HIM YOUR PRAYERS

Oh, how I forget the power of prayer! I get so caught up in the realities of now, that I neglect to remember that God is for us in all areas of our marriage. It is His perfect will for all married couples to experience a deep intimacy on every level of the relationship. Healthy, happy, holy marriages reflect the glory of God. Yet our sin continually clouds and distorts that picture. We can never produce the perfect marriage on our own. Every couple struggles, but victory is near through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

So, let us pray with confidence, asking the God of the universe to do only what He can do. Pray for specific heart change for both you and your husband. Pray for good communication. Pray for intimacy in every area of your marriage. Pray for grace and strength to walk forward in obedience as He leads. Pray for God to be glorified through your unity.

Sex ought not be not an activity we dread, nor is it simply a duty for the Christian woman to fulfill. Married sex is a gift from a very good God, designed for our mutual delight. As we pursue health in this area of life, we will not only enjoy the benefits of a greater, holistic intimacy with our spouse, we will also enjoy the pleasure of God himself as we glorify Him in this area of our lives.

This post was first published over at LifeWay Voices.

My oldest approached me a few days ago and asked if we could meet as a family every morning and have our “quiet times” together. For months now, he’s been trying to find a time and a place in his day to spend time with God. He and I started going to breakfast on Wednesday’s before school and I’ve been teaching him how to study the Bible using an inductive study method. But he wants more. He wants to be in the Bible every day and there isn’t much more that makes this momma’s heart sing.

Thought I certainly don’t have this parenting thing down, and I’m sure we have some tumultuous years ahead of us in these last 9 years we have as parents with kids in the house, we are beginning to see both the holes caused from our parenting failures as well as the good and sweet fruit of our labors. With the clarity of hindsight, I can now see how the Lord has faithfully led us to take several actions with our kids when it comes to the Bible. Here are five we’ve seen begin to bear beautiful fruit.

MODEL AND INVITE

It is really tempting to study behind closed (and locked) doors, especially when they were younger…. Allowing them to stay was an invite for them to be a part of what mom was doing.

UPLOAD AND HAVE FUN

I cannot count how many times we (unsuccessfully) tried to have some sort of family devotion time that ended in kicking and screaming and me losing it in absolute frustration that my kids could not get with the program! Looking back, I can see that I was asking them to do something they were not developmentally ready for. There was, however, something I was doing right all along …

BUILD THE HABIT AND INVEST IN THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH

There is no way I can impart everything they need to know about God and the Bible while under my roof. And even if I did, it will mean little if they don’t choose to make it their own relationship, their own faith, their own pursuit. While I cannot chose for them, I can set them up for success by inviting them to make time with God part of their everyday lives through providing opportunities and tools to help them do so.

DISCUSS WHAT YOU ARE LEARNING

Chat about what you are learning in your own time in the Bible. Ask them what they’ve been reading…. Make it normal to talk about and enjoy the Word of God in your everyday life.

PRAY, PRAY, AND PRAY SOME MORE

There are no guarantees that they will grow to love the Word, but just as a plant needs the right environment to grow, so does a spiritual life. As we do the work to till the soil, water, fertilize, and pull the weeds, we must also pray for the Light of the World to illumine the hearts of our precious seedlings. Without His work in their hearts, our labor is in vain.

(Read more about each tip in my post over at LifeWay Voices!)


One of the ways we are doing this in our family recently, is through the Brave Roots Boxes. My kids have LOVED their boxes. All three have faithfully sat down to do their “quiet time” using the simple yet significant Bible studies that come in the box. You can learn more about the Brave Roots Boxes here. (This is an affiliate link. Because we love them so much, we want to share about them! At no additional cost to you, I receive a portion of your purchase if you make one. Thanks!)


 

Advent is right around the corner and this is a great time for us to set our minds on Jesus, you know, the reason for the season! I’ve collected many advent plans and studies along the years. Here’s a list of studies I’ve done—or have wanted to do!

Advent Bible studies for women

Love Comes Near Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • 25-day Bible study from Jenni Keller
  • Includes a bonus Family Advent Experience
  • Learn more about Love Comes Near Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

He Is Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • An Advent Bible study from Becky Kiser
  • 20 Bible Study days on the attributes of God written by 20 guest writers (including me!)
  • Includes a 5 Advent Candle Bible Study and Instruction days
  • Learn more about He Is Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

Then Came Jesus Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • A 4-week Bible study by Lara Williams
  • Each week organized into a 5-day study plan
  • Suggested Scripture memory passages for each week
  • Each day includes an optional “Family Idea”
  • Learn more about Then Came Jesus Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

advent bible studies for women

free advent reading plans for women

Adore Him Reading Plan

Advent Reading Plan

Born Is The King

  • A free 28 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

Christ Was Born for This 

  • A free 29 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

Joy to the World

  • A free 29 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

advent reading plans free

kids advent calendars

Kid’s Advent Calendar and Reading Plan

  • This looks like a load of fun!
  • A 24 day reading plan and activity guide for families from Not Consumed
  • Learn more

Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible

  • A 24 day plan through the Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (our fav!!)
  • Includes Bible verses to read alongside the Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Simply grab your copy of  Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! and download her free reading plan!

The Littlest Watchman – Advent Calendar Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • Includes an Advent Calendar and Devotional Booklet Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Gives suggestions on how to make your own “Jesse tree”
  • Has an accompanying book: The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • We used this last year and enjoyed it!
  • Order your copy here Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

kids advent calendars


Looking for online bible studies for women?online bible studies for women

I was born in Long Beach, California. My mother was an ER nurse and my father worked for McDonell-Douglass. We lived in Cerritos, near Anaheim. (And, yes, we visited Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm often.) I remember walking a few blocks over to watch the 1984 Olympic cyclists fly by us on the freeway. The main streets in Cerritos were lined with purple Agapanthus (one of my favorite plants today), and the pet goldfish I had for about a week is buried in the flowerbed in the front yard. (Well, it was buried. A couple weeks later, I got curious about what he looked like, so I tried to exhume him … but couldn’t find him. Maybe the neighborhood cat go to him first?)

When I was in 2nd grade we moved up to what is known as the High Desert, and lived there until I graduated from high school in 1996. This past spring, I had a speaking engagement that brought me back to the area and it was an emotionally charged visit. (More on that later.) Some of my most cherished memories are of afternoons roaming the neighborhood, making blanket forts in the boy’s room, weekend trips to visit Grackey and Papa’s, and the epic summer road trips we took as a family.

I’m not what you would call a cryer, nor am I super-sappy, but I’m realizing how much of my childhood is etched in my mind as precious. I find myself wanting to give my kids the same experiences … though I might unintentionally take it up a notch. The first time we took Kenneth to The Magic Kingdom, I cried. Walking down Main Street was magical, and I was sure this was going to be Kenneth’s first special memory. Who knows, though. He was only 4.

But our Magic Kingdom visits are nothing compared to the National Parks. My guess is, my parents took us to somewhere around 10 National Parks. I remember my brother James being so puzzled when we reached the Petrified Forest. He wanted to know where all the trees were. (He was about 6.) At the Chickamauga Battlefield in Tennessee, as a teenager, I had the attitude of a lifetime (and the family picture to prove it) because it was HOT and HUMID (something this SoCal girl knew nothing about) and BORING. Yet, deep down, I loved all those parks and I do even more so today. The redwoods and caves, deserts and mountains, forts and battlefields are symbols of our time together as The Landrums.

Fast forward 25 years, and I am now an official all-out nerd when it comes to the National Parks. We go out of our way to stop and visit the parks. We’re on our second National Parks passport (the first one didn’t have enough spaces for all our cancellation stamps.) The kids do the Junior Ranger programs at each park we visit (if they have one), and receive badges for their work. I’ve lost count on how many parks we’ve visited … but the kids have well over 20 badges. Each. We’re taking a trip up to Kentucky soon, as Chris will be officiating a wedding for a sweet couple from our previous church. The plan is to hit two parks in South Carolina on the way up, and Chickamauga on the way home.

Redemption!

I’m not sure if my obsession with making our trips memorable, and for our kids to have experiences together, is shaped more by the wonderful memories I have or the fact that my brother is dead and no longer around to make new memories. I’m sure it’s a mixture of both. Carrying some of these traditions is a celebration of what my parents provided for me and my siblings: a good, safe, and solid childhood. And I’m so grateful for all they sacrificed to make it so. I know all-too-well now the temptation of being a lazy parent. It would be much easier and a HECK of a lot cheaper to just stay home and let the kids play video games all summer. But I want them to have the memories I have to hold on to. I want them to have these centering trips that force us to interact with one another, get to know each other better, and to just be The Orr Family. Together.

I have yet another excerpt from a fun resource for you today! My almost ten-year-old, Anna was SO excited when we got our copy of the Big & Little Coloring Devotional from Rachel Swanson. Michael, my 7-year-old, has enjoyed it as well. I’ve used it one-on-one, as well as letting both of them color while I read aloud. The devotionals give us a conversation starter to use while we color. It’s a sweet way to enjoy some quality time together. (Don’t miss the giveaway below!)

So, what makes this book different from other coloring books on the market? Rachel shares her heart behind what makes the Big & Little Coloring Devotional so special.

  1. This book is not just a “mommy and me” book, but geared for daddy’s, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or any “big” person who knows what it’s like to care for a child. Therefore, the devotionals and illustrations are carefully crafted so that boy’s and daddy’s love it too! (It’s not all flowers and butterflies.)
  2. The pages lay opposite enabling face-to-face coloring! No more elbows in the way or left-handed woes. This layout encourages eye-contact, conversation, and connection.
  3. The devotionals are SHORT! Just enough to open your mind to the context of the verse.
  4. The binding and pages are high-quality and for the price, you simply can’t beat it.
  5. The child illustrations are simple while the adult illustrations are slightly more intricate, making coloring just right for both parties involved.

Here is a devotional excerpt from Big & Little Coloring Devotional. Enjoy!


I slumped down in tears, overwhelmed.

It was just too much. All of it. The dirty house. The crazy kids. The never-ending demands, responsibilities, and non-existent thanks. I secretly wanted to run away from it all.

My phone chirped. A text from a friend checking in on my day. I laughed sarcastically, at the timing.

I lightly shared how it could be better. After a few more pleasantries exchanged, I couldn’t help but be real and let it all pour out. Instead of guilt I received elegant grace through words—the encouragement I was longing for and needing to hear.

How beautiful it is when words are spoken at just the right time. So don’t hold back, you never know when you’re random text is being received at the perfect time.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Prov. 25:11 NASB)


How can you see yourself using this tool? Leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy! Next week I’ll choose a random winner from the comments!

Don’t want to wait for the giveaway to end? Order your copy of Big & Little Coloring Devotional here on Amazon or wherever books are sold!

Affiliate links present – at no additional cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchase. Thanks for your support!

 

Over decades of ministry I’ve noticed quite a few trends that have been true in every station the Lord has led us. From the 19-year-old college student to the seasoned 91-year-old, the area of prayer is one where many people want to pray but don’t know how. Most either remain silent or default to a string of words they’ve heard someone else utter—and I totally GET THIS! I used to be terrified when it came to prayer. I didn’t want to pray out loud, and my private prayers were short and aimless.

There is a great void for most Christians when it comes to praying specific, Biblical, and powerful prayers. I’m so grateful for my friend (and fellow Auburn fan!) Teri Lynne and this GIFT she has given us in the area of prayer. Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most is her earnest and engaging invitation for moms to join her — not as perfect pray-ers but as humble daughters of the perfect Father, interceding on behalf of the girls they love.

WITH TERI LYNNE AS A GUIDE, PRAYING FOR GIRLS EQUIPS MOMS

  • to identify and understand five key areas of their daughters’ lives
  • to apply biblical truth to challenges and obstacles their daughters will encounter
  • to pray with boldness and confidence using Scripture as the solid foundation for their prayers
  • to engage their daughters in understanding and applying biblical truth to their own lives

Containing 200 Bible-based prayers as well as suggested activities and conversation starters, Praying for Girls is a must-have tool in every mom’s arsenal. Though this book is for “girl-moms” there is much that can be applied to our own hearts. I’m excited to share an excerpt from this new, incredible resource.


Every morning I move, bleary-eyed and stumbling, from my bedroom to the kitchen where Scott already has the coffee brewed. In our home there are no less than six ways to make coffee. Hands down, the best coffee is from a percolator. Remember those? You put the water in and it bubbles up through the coffee grounds.  Since it takes longer to percolate coffee than it does to brew it in the coffee pot, we don’t use ours all the time. But when we do, it’s definitely worth the extra time.

As a little girl, I faithfully memorized Bible verses for Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. Honestly, I know very few of those verses today. The process was sort of like using my Keurig—quick and effective. I love my Keurig. I am thankful to be able to make a cup of coffee in just a couple of minutes because some days that is all I have.

But renewed minds are like percolated coffee. It’s a slower process than simply memorizing Scripture. The Word, like the water in the percolator, moves through our minds, touching each thought, desire, and dream.

When we allow the Word to percolate inside our mind, it saturates every part of us.

Over the years, I’ve found there are few simple ways I can keep myself on track in this area.

1. Read. It sounds incredibly basic; but, I’ve learned that there are a whole lot of women who don’t regularly read the Bible. Not because they don’t want to or don’t think it’s valuable, but because of time. But because we get busy or distracted and never sit down to do it.  Here is where technology is our friend—we can listen to Scripture on our phones while we do dishes, nurse a baby, or drive to work.

2. Rewind. If I am reading a passage and it doesn’t make sense, I go back a little farther. Reading the verses or even chapters around what I’m studying help give context I need to make sense of what I’m studying.

3. Reflect. I give myself space to reflect on what I’m learning. I don’t go from one Bible study to the next with no time in between. In fact, the deeper I’ve studied, the more time I give myself to reflect on what I’ve learned before I jump into the next study. It is important to give ourselves time to reflect. I often use Saturday mornings for this practice.

4. Repeat. One of my favorite ways to dig deep into a passage or book is simply to read it over and over. Repetition is a great way to let the Word sink deep into our hearts and minds.

5. Restart. Let’s be honest here, sometimes this is where we are. We’ve gotten off track for whatever reason and we don’t need guilt. We just need to pick up our Bibles and restart.

When we are faithful to invest time in learning the Word and to allow our minds to be renewed and shaped by what we read, our children will learn from our example.

Whether my coffee is percolated, brewed, or fixed in my Keurig, it is always good. So, on the days when you have lots of time to let the Word simmer and soak in deep, cherish it. And when you are in a grab and go season, trust the sufficiency of the Word to meet you where you are and accomplish what God intends. And for the days in between (which are really most of our days), savor the Word and allow your mind to be renewed by the truth God offers. And invite your children to grow in those same habits.

Prayers

Lord, in a culture that esteems conformity, may _________________ choose to be transformed into Your image. May she seek the renewal of mind You offer that she will be able to understand and live in Your will for her. (Romans 12:2)

Lord, I pray You will put Your Word deep inside _________________. Write it on her heart, embed it in her mind. I pray she will know the beauty of being Yours, of knowing You are her God. (Hebrews 8:10)

This excerpt is from Teri Lynne Underwood, Praying for Girls, Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017, and used by permission.

 

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Teri Lynne Underwood is a pastor’s wife, ministry speaker, and Bible teacher. As the mother of a teenage daughter and the founder of Prayers for Girls, a popular online community for mothers of daughters, Teri Lynne is a cheerleader for girl moms and the author of Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most. You can connect with Teri Lynne on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

Order your copy of Prayers for Girls here on Amazon or wherever books are sold!

Affiliate links present – at no additional cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchase. Thanks for your support!