top view of a family praying before christmas dinner
Advent, Christian Living, Intentional, Relationships

A dinner of hope and celebration – a Slavic Christmas tradition

Sauerkraut, peas, cream of wheat, and evergreen stems on the table – not the first thing you think of when someone is referring to a Christmas dinner. But, in my husband’s family, it’s a yearly tradition.

Vilija dinner foods

Passed down through generations

Twenty years ago I married into the Suvar family. I knew that they had family roots from the Czech Republic and Slovakia but didn’t know how much of that had carried forward from the move to America. But, like many traditions that get passed along through families – food and holiday traditions were part of it.

A tradition that has become special to me is the Vilija dinner that we enjoy together every Christmas. There are specific decorations used and certain foods that we eat. Each part points to the story of Jesus in some way and I love the reflection that comes with it as we gather together as a family to commemorate Christ’s birth.

As with every great meal, the prep starts way beforehand. Special nut breads are made called Kolace – grandma teaches the grandkids how to make them – and the whole house fills with the scent of fresh baked bread. Everyone joins in with the setting of the table and going down the list to make sure everything is accounted for. The house is warm, the noise is high, and the kids bounce around with excitement knowing gifts are coming later that evening.

The Vilija Dinner

The Vilija Dinner is like a Passover Supper. Everything we eat and do has a special meaning. To begin, a candle is lit in the window to tell the Holy Family that they are welcome in our home. The table is covered in a white cloth, signifying Christ’s purity and how He covers us with His righteousness.

Down the center of the table is placed hay – to represent the manger Jesus was laid in, evergreens – to represent eternal life, candles – to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world, and money – to remind us that all good and perfect gifts come from God. There is an empty place set at the table to help us remember the less fortunate and that we should always open our hearts and homes to those in need.

A Slavic Christmas —> hold your own Vilija Dinner – a free downloadable resource! Click To Tweet

The dinner is traditionally held on Christmas Eve, when the first star appears. This reminds us of the star that guided the Wisemen who sought after the King.

Connecting it to Christ

Twelve dishes are served at this dinner – to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus. In Slovakia, foods varied depending on what village you lived in, especially since the mountain villages were so remote.

To begin, the oldest son leads the family in a prayer of thanks and a blessing for the meal. He then takes honey and makes a cross with it on everyone’s forehead wishing them a sweet new year. Oplatky, a thin wafer used for communion is shared. One large one is passed around the table, each person breaking off a piece and wishing each other Merry Christmas. Then each person gets their own oplatky to eat with honey and drink with wine. This is done in remembrance of Passover and Communion.

The oldest son picks up an apple and cuts it in half. If the seeds form a star, then the family will have a healthy year. The apple is cut into slices and shared around the table. Three walnuts, still in their shells, are placed at each person’s plate. Everyone takes turns opening them up. Good nuts mean a good year ahead, bad nuts mean hardship.

Dinner is shared

After this, the rest of the dishes are passed around and shared.

There is no doubt that our Vilija dinner does not look like the Vilija dinners from generations before, tucked away in the cold, snowy Slovakia mountains. But, for certain, the meaning remains. Family gathers, joy is shared, Jesus is celebrated, and hope continues. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate Christ’s First Coming while we wait in hopeful anticipation of His Second.

If you want to try out your own Vilija dinner, there is a free download available below!

Want to celebrate your own Vilija dinner?

Get your own free printable instructions – recipes included!

silhouette of trees under starry night
Advent, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

When there is one less this Christmas season

silhouette of trees under starry night

The first holiday after a family death is disorienting. The usual practices of the seasons are happening around you – parties, gatherings, celebrations – but you find that sometimes you either go through the motions or want to just run and hide from it all.

Gathering together when your family is fractured by death feels out of sync. The usual rhythms that you were once used to have to be re-coordinated, new roles assumed, and traditions shift.

In times like these, when you are no longer as you once were and those who remain are trying to find their way – this is a time to gather in holy defiance.

When there is one less this Christmas season: In times like these, when you are no longer as you once were and those who remain are trying to find their way – this is a time to gather in holy defiance. Click To Tweet

Death, though it has lost it’s final battle over eternity, still gets it’s punches in while we walk this earth. The enemy continues to pull us away from hope and the promise of life in heaven. It likes to tug at us in our grief, pulling us into despair.

We could choose to let the Christmas celebrations go to the wayside. We may very well want to stay away from the cheery crowds and joyful celebrations. Or perhaps you’re joining in the merriment – the cookie making, the gift giving, and the carol singing. You’re going through the motions but they’re not necessarily coming from the heart.

And that can make the feeling even worse because you know the real reason to celebrate. You know that Jesus is the reason for the season. You know it but you just aren’t feeling it.

Believe it or not, this season is for you. This is exactly why Jesus came.

He didn’t come for the happy, the healthy, and the no-care-in-the-world.

He came for the sorrowful, the sick, and the low.

It was for those walking in darkness – THEY saw a great Light. It was for the poor in spirit, the downtrodden, and those who have lost hope.

He didn’t come for the happy, the healthy, and the no-care-in-the-world.He came for the sorrowful, the sick, and the low.It was for those walking in darkness – THEY saw a great Light. It was for the poor in spirit, the downtrodden,… Click To Tweet

What if we saw our choice to gather, despite our feelings, as an act of holy defiance? A stand-up against all the things the enemy wants our life to be consumed with? He wants isolation, pain, loneliness, and heartache. We can choose fellowship, hope, and healing.

If you’re feeling low, if this Christmas is a bit harder to conjure up the cheer, please, take heart. Spend a moment in quiet, celebrating in stillness the joy of a Savior made flesh, dwelling among us. Allow yourself time to grieve what once was. There is goodness found even in the house of mourning. He brought hope in the dark, quiet night all those years ago in Bethlehem. And He can bring hope to your heart, too. Jesus isn’t looking for the most festive and joyful Christmas spirit. He desires the hearts that come to Him broken, knowing He can heal.

top view of a family praying before christmas dinner

He wants hearts tuned to him, even when they’re broken. Hearts looking to Him, the true joy-giver. Hearts that know that the only hope, the only path to healing, is found in the Hope of Jesus. Hope came all those years ago in a small stable, and it’s still available for each of today.

So, this year, will you join with us who keep going forward despite the heartache? Who look up to the sky with expectant hope of our coming Jesus? Will you celebrate this Christmas in holy defiance to all that the enemy is trying to steal?

We may do it with tears glistening in our eyes, but we’ll also have a spark of joy in our hearts. Because we can take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming Messiah with the same holy defiance, despite the darkness that surrounded him –

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone ✨ Isaiah 9:2

pexels-photo-90639.jpeg
Christian Living, Encouragement, Help, Intentional

What to do in the waiting

pexels-photo-90639.jpeg

Even as I said the prayer out loud, alone in the car, I imagined the words hitting the ceiling and bouncing back down. Not heard. Forgotten.

It’s how my heart felt as I had been crying out the same prayer over and over for years and still there was no change.

Did God even care? I imagined him sitting up there, arms crossed, a smirk on his face. He knows He can do something about it, but He won’t. Like a judge  who has the ability to let someone go but instead smirks and slams the gavel for a more worse fate.

It wasn’t a pretty image. And I knew in the deepest parts of my heart that it wasn’t true. But the seemingly endless years of an unanswered prayer was weighing heavy.

But I know this truth: He who promised is faithful. The sun rose this morning and it will set this evening. It is unwavering in its progression across the sky and in its setting on the horizon. Just as our God is faithful. And he’s not the uncaring judge, but in fact is the loving Father. He isn’t withholding for His own amusement. Instead He is providing exactly what we need when we are supposed to have it. We have a limited view. We only see the present and a bit in the past. However, God’s omniscience means He sees along the whole timeline of the ages, knows how it’s all supposed to work out, even when we do not.

We have a limited view. We only see the present and a bit in the past. However, God’s omniscience means He sees along the whole timeline of the ages, knows how it’s all supposed to work out, even when we do not. Click To Tweet

Maybe you’re in the middle of heartache, unanswered prayers, and waiting. What do we do in the middle of all of this?

I have found encouragement in Hebrews 10:23-25:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

1. Hold fast to your confession of hope – for He who promised is faithful


2. Stir one another on to love and good works


3. Meet together with friends and encourage one another

It won’t make the prayer become answered or the waiting end, but it will remind us of the hope of our salvation, help us to get the focus off ourselves while we serve others, and remind us that we are not alone as we gather with friends.

family having picnic on terrace

God is not afraid of our angry questions. Take them to Him and sprinkle a bit of Hebrews 10 into your day as well.

Through these 3 steps we’ll find that perhaps, without us realizing it, God has been answering our prayers all along. Just not in the ways that we had imagined.

person running on dirt road
Anxiety, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Mental Health

Ditch the ‘just’

person running on dirt road

For the last 10 years I have been training for and running half marathons. My husband and I always do a specific one every October, going back to the city where we first lived as newlyweds. I pretty much run 3 days a week year round.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a runner.

Since elementary I have loved to write. I would always get excited for any writing assignment that was given. While the rest of the class groaned, I grinned. As an adult, I have been writing on a blog for over a decade and even self-published an Advent devotional a couple years ago.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a writer.

Because I’m not the fastest, haven’t taken home any awards, and don’t really have a runner’s physique, I disqualify myself from the “runner” category. Because a large publishing house hasn’t taken an interest in my book, I lack confidence that my writing is good. It feels too self-serving to call myself a writer so I disqualify myself from that category as well.

And I’m not alone in this. We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often downplay it by putting the word “just” in front of it. Just part-time. Just a stay at home mom. Just a small business. Just a hobby.

We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often… Click To Tweet

Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t do this to us?

When we come to Him with a repentant heart, desiring a change, and seeking Christ’s blood for our atonement, then we find mercy, forgiveness, and love. We become a child of God. Even when we stumble, lose trust, forget who is in charge, and do a poor job of representing Jesus, we are still a child of God. Even if someone is doing it better than us, yet we still remain His.

What word are you putting just in front of? Why do you downplay that in your life? Is this thing a gift that God has given you? Is this a way that you can glorify God?

Colossians 3:17 ESV says,”And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


woman wearing white top

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

— Colossians 3:17 ESV

Whether you work part-time, are a stay-at-home mom, run a small business, run races, or write blog posts. Each one is something that can bring glory to God. 

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things.

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things. Click To Tweet

Because when we continue to think that our lives are not helpful to others and aren’t significant to God, then we downplay it and keep the talents that God has given us hidden.

people walking

Paul encourages fellow believers in Corinth with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58 ESV

When the actions of our daily lives are for God’s glory and not our own, the ‘just’ part of the title is stripped away. Anything done for the Lord is never in vain. The world may not recognize it, but God does. You are a child of God. And there is no ‘just’ in front of that.

person giving a gift box
Christian Living, Intentional, Money

3 ways to rein in that Christmas budget

Americans spend approximately $1,000 on Christmas each year.
 
41% of Americans are willing to take on debt due to gift shopping.
 
In 2019, 56.3% of Americans set a Christmas budget, yet only 64% actually stuck to it.
 
$15.2 billion is the estimated total of unwanted presents.

A number of years ago, as a family, we took a closer look at how we were spending our money. More specifically, we reigned in the spending and looked at ways that we could be more intentional with where our money went. We held firm to the belief that the money we had was on loan from God and we were called to be good stewards with what He has entrusted to us.
 
The process was not flawless and even today I can’t admit to being 100% intentional with my spending all the time. 
 
But, one area that we made an intentional focus with, and have stuck with it, was our Christmas spending budget. It can be so easy to overspend for the holidays. There always seems to be one more gift to purchase. Inevitably we end up buying gifts that we are unsure about simply because we feel like we need to. What results is frivolous over spending.
 
With Christmas just around the corner, (and some already starting their shopping for it!), the following are 3 ways that we can be intentional with our Christmas spending this year:

close up shot of two people holding a wrapped gift with a ribbon
Photo by Antoni Shkraba on Pexels.com

Create a budget. Be specific on who and how much. Then stick to it. I have created a simple excel budget sheet, available below, that will visually show you how much you have to spend and how much you have left – just plug in your numbers!
 
If it was good for the wise men… When it comes to purchasing gifts for your kids, stick to the number 3. Years ago we implemented: 1 need, 1 want, 1 book. It forces us to get creative but also gives a parameter to keep spending and consumerism in line.
 
Purchase gifts that give back. When you’re at a loss on what to spend, look for companies and items that do more with your purchases. Do they give a portion of each sale to mission work? Does your purchase support a small, local business? Often these gifts carry more meaning when the recipient knows the gift goes just beyond them.

3 ways to rein in that Christmas budget –> When you're at a loss on what to spend, look for companies and items that do more with your purchases. Do they give a portion of each sale to mission work? Does your purchase support a… Click To Tweet

As we are entering the “season of giving,” let’s consider these words from “God and Money.” This book was paramount in our pursuit of spending less on ourselves so that we could give more to others.

 
“Intentional and regular practices of generosity have been associated with the release of a slew of good chemicals, including oxytocin, dopamine, and various endorphins. These chemicals are the same ones released after a hard workout or after a particularly pleasurable experience…. Giving, it turns out, lifts up the human health as much as aspirin protects the heart. Giving even activates the same portion of the brain that lights up when you get a raise. You may not be able to control when you get a raise, but you can feel just as good simply by engaging in regular, consistent generosity.

Gregory Baumer and John Cortines

crop unrecognizable female psychologist and patient discussing mental problems during session
Christian Living, Encouragement, Intentional, Relationships

Who are you listening to?

When faced with decisions, who are you listening to?

Your sphere of influence determines your thought patterns.

crop unrecognizable female psychologist and patient discussing mental problems during session
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

In I Kings 3, Solomon’s first response when he became king was to offer sacrifices to God. He came with a humble heart and asked for discernment to serve his people well. He was surrounded by David’s advisers, men who had been positively influenced by King David himself. Though Solomon eventually drifted away from this positive sphere, as long as he was in this place, the kingdom prospered.

In contrast, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, went in a different direction. He became king in tumultuous times. Many tribes were frustrated with Solomon’s handling of things and even approached the newly crowned king, asking for reprieve. Rehoboam originally asked wise, experienced men what he should do. But he quickly rejected their advise and instead turned to his real sphere of influence – “the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.”

Their advice ultimately led to the split of the kingdom – only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were left for Rehoboam. The rest left and formed the kingdom of Israel.

Rehoboam’s friends may have told him what he wanted to hear, but it wasn’t what he needed to hear.

Now, your decisions will not end up dividing whole kingdoms or countries. But, it is still important to take a look at how you are making decisions in your life and who you are allowing to speak into them. Are they telling you what you need to hear, or just what you want to hear?

Who are you listening to? It is important to take a look at how you are making decisions in your life and who you are allowing to speak into them. Are they telling you what you need to hear, or just what you want to hear? Click To Tweet

read the full accounts in I Kings 3:7-9 and I Kings 11:7-11

ESV

Think through the five people who you speak with the most each day or week. 

This isn’t going to be necessarily your favorite people or the ones you want to hang out with the most. Instead, this would be the five people who interact with you the most. These five people, whether we want them to be or not, end up being the ones who feed into our decision making. It could be a boss, employee, neighbor, friend, or family member.

person leaning on bike while holding smartphone
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Pexels.com

One influential “person” that may be overlooked, but has a huge effect on our thoughts and actions – Social Media. It is a tricky ‘friend.’ Time spent with them can be short and sweet – like catching up with friends you haven’t seen in a long time. But it also can be time-consuming and discontent-inducing when you find yourself scrolling way too long and wondering how ‘she’ can have it all together.

When you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, it could be time to evaluate your circle. Who are the people you are allowing to speak into your thoughts and days? Do these people make you operate from a point of comparison? Are you doing things because you see others doing it and feel like this should be what you are doing too?

When you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, it could be time to evaluate your circle. Who are the people you are allowing to speak into your thoughts and days? Do these people make you operate from a point of comparison? Are you… Click To Tweet

The people in your circle can lead you towards wisdom, as in the example of Solomon – or towards pride or fear, as in the example of Rehoboam.

This week, let’s take some time to look at our own circle of influence. Who are we allowing to speak into our life? Who are we listening to? If God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit isn’t the first on the list, then we need to start there.

Being intentional with our relationships and evaluating their effects in our own life, can be beneficial for our mental health. If we have people within our circle that we feel are leading us toward negativity and anxiety, we shouldn’t cut them out of our lives. We may actually be the light that they need right now. Instead, think through others in your life that you need to interact with more. The people who are going to encourage you, speak God’s truth, and even call you out if you’re moving off the right path.

Let’s seek to have a heart like Solomon in I Kings 3 – humble and desiring to serve, surrounding himself by wise counsel. And let’s also seek to be that in others’ lives as well.

Believe it or not, it’s not too early to think about Advent!

Looking for a short devotional that will help center your heart on the true reason for the season?

Prepare Him Room: an Intentional Advent welcomes you to come along on this journey of seeking to be intentional with the Advent Season – to look at several areas of our life where we can Prepare Him Room.

man running in marathon
Encouragement, Health, Intentional

You’re not ready

man running in marathon
Photo by Genaro Servín on Pexels.com

In February 2010 I delivered my third – and final – baby via C-section.

Four months prior to that I had seen my husband train, run, and finish his first marathon.

It left me inspired and wanting to also do some kind of big race. Something that felt way out of my comfort zone.

I had done 5K’s before and had run 3 mile races in high school. But it had been at least a decade since I had run anything more than a few steps to catch up to a toddler. And truthfully, I kind of missed the challenge.

Our daughter was born February 1st. And February 2nd, while still sitting in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery, I signed up to run a half marathon.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t ready. In fact, I was far from it.

Recovering from major surgery, it would be 8 weeks before I was even cleared to do more than walk and lift 10 lbs.

The day the doctor gave me the go-ahead, I went out for that first “run.” I barely made it a quarter of a mile. My heart was racing and I could hardly breathe. The stitch in my side caused me to stop, hands on my knees, trying to recover.

As I walked down the sidewalk the thought constantly running through my head was, “What have I signed up for?!”

I had committed to running a 13.1 mile race in 6 months and I was so far from being ready.

Running 13.1 miles doesn’t just happen. It takes time, planning, and a lot of positive self talk. But it also begins with the choice to start.

That following October, when the gun went off and the crowd of runners surged forward, I felt as ready as I could be. I had trained and planned as best as an amateur could do.

But the big kicker to why I was ready? 

Because I had committed to it BEFORE I was ready. I chose to start.

A lot in life never gets done because we keep waiting until “we are ready.”  Something looks kind of difficult or we know it’s going to make us uncomfortable. We may be afraid that we are going to fail, so we put it off for another day – until we’re ready.

But, if you put off these things until you are ready-  

You. Never. Will. Be.

A lot in life never gets done because we keep waiting until "we are ready."  Something looks kind of difficult or we know it's going to make us uncomfortable. We may be afraid that we are going to fail, so we put it off for another… Click To Tweet

Even the healthiest among us still have things that they’ve been thinking that they need to change.  For each of us, let’s ask the question, “What am I putting off because I don’t think I am ready?”  

What can we choose to change, or start, or stop this week that we can commit to, even if we don’t think we are ready to do it?

It doesn’t have to be physical – though it certainly can be! Maybe it’s committing to meal planning so you get those veggies in your diet (not as bad as you think). Maybe you’ve been contemplating taking a social media break (highly recommended!). Or you’ve been talking about quitting the Hulu-watching-binge and go to bed earlier (worth it).

Living a healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual life doesn’t just happen. You need to be intentional about it. This week let’s choose to be intentional with taking that first step towards health, whether we feel we are ready or not.

Cheering for you, friend.


people walking on spacious concrete square
Anxiety, Christian Living, Encouragement, Intentional, Rest

Rest from the endless-effort life

We buy into the lie that we are only worth what we produce.

Without even realizing it, we live this out in our day to day existence.

We create, we produce, we make more. We share it with the world and then wait with expectation, hoping for acknowledgment, desiring someone to tell us they like what we do. Because if someone likes our work, then we matter.

Then we project that same thought process on our relationship with God, telling ourselves that each thing we do will make us better in His sight.

woman sitting in front of macbook
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

We keep striving, doing more, producing more – believing it will fulfill us and define our worth.

But instead of fulfillment, we are exhausted. Instead of worthy, we continue to feel like we fall short.

We’ve taken the lie that we are only worth what we produce and have made it our mantra. And it has left us tired and weary.

How do we fight back? What is the cure for the endless-effort life?

turned off laptop computer
Photo by Ken Tomita on Pexels.com

Do the opposite.

Whenever you feel the need rising up in you to have to prove your worth, or the voice in your head starts telling you that if you aren’t moving ahead then you’re falling behind – then fight the urge and do the opposite.

Do nothing. Rest. Set your work on the shelf. Do something that no one else can acknowledge or see or know. Take a nap. Journal. Go for a walk. Bake muffins and then sit on your porch and eat one warm.

Hebrews 4:9+10 (ESV) is a beautiful invitation to cease from the endless-effort life: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

Fight against the endless-effort life —> Whenever you feel the need rising up in you to have to prove your worth, or the voice in your head starts telling you that if you aren’t moving ahead then you’re falling behind – then fight… Click To Tweet
people walking on spacious concrete square
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When we seek Christ as our Savior, then we can cease from the endless-effort life. We have nothing to prove and no worth to claim. Christ has sacrificed his life for ours and in Him we have our purpose and our worth.

Any work we do and any thing we create are just embellishments. They aren’t needed, but they are welcomed. They are beautiful works that can point back to Jesus.

We are invited into this Sabbath rest, not just on Sundays, but every day. We are invited to rest from our striving in life and instead rest and trust in God to give us our worth and fulfillment.

What part of your endless-effort life can you set aside for a life of Sabbath rest?

Fight against the endless-effort life —> When we seek Christ as our Savior, then we can cease from the endless-effort life. We have nothing to prove and no worth to claim. Christ has sacrificed his life for ours and in Him we have… Click To Tweet

Are you also tired of the endless-effort life? Click for your free download – a guide to Quitting the Endless-Effort Life.

brown grass
Christian Living, Encouragement, Intentional

You have a choice to make

A few years back we moved into a new home. It had a decent sized yard so the first thing my husband wanted to do was start a garden. Unfortunately, the whole yard was grass. There was no previously cut spot of exposed dirt for a garden. We had to start from scratch.

brown grass
Photo by fabio.tsu on Pexels.com

This involved cutting up the sod and tilling up the dirt. Many sweaty and exhausting hours later, we finally had a rectangle of space for our garden! We planned out the rows, decided on what we wanted to plant, and put the seeds in the ground. Within a week or two, the sprouts started to appear. 

But, they weren’t the only ones. The grass wanted to take it’s space back. For a time, we let the grass go, mingling in with the newly sprouted seedlings. But the grass was more aggressive than the beans and peas and we couldn’t let it go any longer.

We took to weeding, pulling out the grass and weeds at their roots. Unfortunately, because the weeds had become so prevalent, it was hard to pull the bad plants out without disturbing the good ones. The weeds would have caused a lot less havoc if we had gotten to them sooner.

selective focus photography of white petaled flower
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

a lesson in the garden

Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to experience the goodness of God without first having to go through the pain of acknowledging our sinful state.

Admitting we are sinful and selfish and of no worth in ourselves is painful. The roots of those thoughts and patterns run deep within us. Like weeds that have grown knee-high, the tendrils have wrapped themselves around the soil of our hearts and it takes more than a two-finger tug to free them. When you rip those weeds out, you end up disturbing the dirt around it. Imagine your heart like that garden dirt and having the weeds of sin and self, with their well-established roots, being ripped from your soul. There is going to be pain. There are going to be tears.

He does it because He loves us

In order to get to the mountaintop of joy, that deep worship experience with your Father, there has to first be pain. This isn’t because God is hateful and vindictive and wants to see us suffer. It’s because He knows, if left to our own self, we will create more havoc and pain than if we would turn to Him and allow Him to work in us. It’s better to fall on the mercy and discipline of a God who knows all, than be subject to the revenge and punishment of a fallen world that is temporal.

If you are relying on your feelings about God to be your basis for why you follow Him, then you are planting your garden before even tilling up the ground. You don’t have to be a green thumb to know that if you plant seeds in a garden that has not been weeded or the ground worked, then those seeds have little chance of getting past the hard earth and overgrown weeds

Be willing to go through hard things

To experience God in His fullness, to know His heart of love and mercy, you need to be willing to let Him do the painful process of tearing out the roots of sin and working the ground of our hearts so that the seeds of Truth can have fertile soil to grow. We can take comfort in knowing that if we bring a humble heart to God, asking Him to root out the sin in our lives, that we will be forgiven and healed. King David knew the experience of admitting sin and falling on the mercy of God. He had committed murder, adultery, and lies – to name a few. And he sings of God’s goodness and speaks of it throughout the Psalms.

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench
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The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

(Psalm 147:3 ESV)

Those who do not think they need healing will not seek a physician. But those who know of their injured and sinful state, desire a Healer.

Those who do not think they need healing will not seek a physician. But those who know of their injured and sinful state, desire a Healer. Click To Tweet

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:31–32 ESV)

The reason we seek after Him matters

We need to be careful that we are not seeking something to just treat the pain, but instead something to heal the sickness. Are we going to God to feel better, to have an experience to play to our feelings? Something that can make us happy in this often-despairing world? If that is what we are after, just like a medication, it will only last until the effects wear off. But, if we seek something to cure our sickness of sin, then we are searching for a good thing. Because Jesus, who dies once for all, has made a way for our sin to be forgiven, for the sickness to be healed, and a path to our Father made clear.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)


So, the question is this: what are you going after? A God who makes you happy or a God who makes you whole?

What are you going after? A God who makes you happy or a God who makes you whole? Click To Tweet
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Anxiety, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Love Your Neighbor, Relationships

3 time-wasting busters

We all like the idea that our time is not wasted, yet how often do we fall into the time warp of distractions: social media, emails, procrastination, streaming videos, and lack of priorities. We know these things can suck up our time, but yet we fall into their traps time and time again. How can we break free? 

With small, intentional moments.

Of the myriad of things we do each day, we want something to count– not just in a quantifiable way, but in a soul-filling, joy-inducing way.

God’s word calls us to be purposeful with our time, even calling us to “redeem” it. To redeem something means that you buy it back. But, how can you take back something that is fleeting and slipping away constantly?

We have an Enemy that wants to distract us, to keep us from our mission of spreading the Gospel and God’s love. Every moment spent distracted from that work is a moment that he has won. So, to redeem the moments we are in right now, we can intentionally take it from the enemy that wants to distract us, and focus these moment on lasting things. We can take a temporal moment and use it to fulfill something on an eternal timeline.

Sounds great, but how?

Be aware that you are an ambassador
Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Even when you don’t think anyone is watching, someone is. It may only be one person, but to that person you may be the hope and encouragement they need to desire to seek a joy-filled life like yours. Keep your words kind and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you.

group of people making toast
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Encourage others with God’s Word
Ephesians 5:19
…Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
The world is full enough of discouragement, be the one to encourage. Find ways to spread the hope of Jesus to your fellow brothers and sisters. Be willing to take the time to listen to another’s hurts, be willing to pray, and to point them back to the hope of Jesus.

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Look for ways to do good
Titus 3:8-9
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 
There is always an opportunity to do good. Prayer, generosity, showing grace, choosing selflessness – these are all excellent and profitable. Choosing to step away from discussions that you know will go nowhere, choosing instead to have those intimate chats with a person’s heart can move more obstacles than a rant on a social feed.

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Your turn. How are ways you can redeem your time this week? Where can you take back the time that the Enemy distracts and use it for furthering God’s Kingdom work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!