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!

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Anxiety, Christian Living, Encouragement, Health, Love Your Neighbor, Mental Health, Relationships

When service has left you empty

The word “serve” can evoke many types of emotions – good and bad.

If I am at a restaurant: I am glad for that waiter who serves.  And I expect good service.

man and woman wearing black and white striped aprons cooking

But if I am doing the third load of laundry of the day and one of my children walks in with mud from toe to teeth – I then serve my family with clean laundry. Oddly enough, that type of service can sometimes rub the wrong way.

We can often find ourselves struggling with the day to day and trying to find joy in the work of the mundane. We often feel unseen. We know we are needed, because often some things don’t get done until we do them. But we wonder if anyone would miss us if we were gone, or they would just wonder where their clean clothes went to. Often those mundane task are also necessary. We are performing a service that is needed and maybe even appreciated, though never put into words.

photo of woman standing inside the laundromat

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she touches on a similar feeling:

Whenever man is made the center of things he becomes the storm-center of trouble.  The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause…When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it’s true, I think I am due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy.  But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks for Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all…the work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) gives us more:

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

This is part of our problem – we are looking for something in return.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Our days will be filled with service in one form or another. And we won’t necessarily get something in return for the work that we do.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Click To Tweet

Sometimes we may even yearn for a simple thank you, but those may be lacking, as well.

But Jesus served.  He loved.  And he didn’t look for anything in return.

I’m reminded of the story in Luke 17 where he healed 10 lepers.

Ten mean were healed … and only one came back to thank him.  It makes one pause to consider how often thank yous were actually said to Jesus.

a man greeting an elderly woman

But as the verse in Ephesians says, love by giving everything.  When we envision a life of serving and giving without expectation, then we will be to a point that at the end of the day we will be empty.

Emptied – so that He can fill us back up.

When we give of ourselves completely, everyday, our life may look like this at the end of the day:

  • worn out body
  • messy living room
  • laundry still needing to be folded
  • dirty dishes stacked by the sink

Your first thought may be that nothing was actually completed. But look at what was accomplished:

  • quality conversations made with the 13-year-old
  • snuggle on the couch with the 3-year-old
  • meaningful time with the husband
  • heart warmed from relationships built just a bit stronger

The world tells us to look out for, and save time for, ourselves. That is a valid point. We can’t serve if we are worn out, empty, and unhealthy.

But to be filled up, our “me time” needs to be more “God time” – time we spend with Him to fill us up when our tank is running on empty. God is the owner of unlimited resources, He has the power to give you the stamina you need to live out the calling He has led you to. When we pull our energy from the true source, instead of what the world tells us we need, we can find the stamina we didn’t think we had.

back view of a person walking on a forest path

When we take this perspective on service and how we use our time, it can soften our hearts towards those we are asked to serve. When some one disrupts our plans, throws off our schedule, or makes us have to redo what we just completed, we can remind ourselves that Jesus’s love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. We can love like that.

Because when we serve others we are ultimately serving God and not man – when we are serving without looking for anything in return.

And that kind of service can make all the difference.

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

Purchase the digital download of Prepare Him Room: an Intentional Advent devotional and also receive the free devotional Intentional Heart.

handwritten thank you on craft paper
Encouragement, Health, Mental Health, Relationships

Rewiring your brain with gratitude

Growing up, my mom made us sit down and write thank you notes to family members for birthday and Christmas gifts. As a young kid, I found it a chore. It seemed silly, writing a thank you note when I had already thanked them for the gift in person! But, I’d do it anyway. 

handwritten thank you on craft paper

And, though I found the exercise tedious, I must admit I felt an uplift in my spirit as I sealed the envelope and dropped the letter in the mailbox. It seemed the act of thinking back on something, and showing gratitude for it, made my heart feel a little lighter.

Though my mom hadn’t read the research, she was on to something. 

A few years back, a study was conducted at U of C, Berkeley. They followed the mental health path of 300 adults as they sought counseling for depression. The group was split up into three parts. The first part, along with counseling, was assigned to write a note of gratitude to a different individual each week for 3 weeks. The second group was asked to list their deepest complaints and grievances. The third attended counseling without either assignment (Brown & Wong, 2017).

It was discovered that the group who expressed gratitude through their writing practice, reported better mental health at 4 and 12 weeks, over the other two groups. So, not only did expressing gratitude help them feel better in the moment, it also had effects long afterwards as well (Brown & Wong, 2017).

They continued the research further and found some more surprising things about gratitude.

To read the full article, visit Kingdom Edge Magazine, who featured my article.

Rewiring your brain with gratitude –> read more here. Click To Tweet
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
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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
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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.

brown and black wooden chairs inside room
Encouragement

An open letter for the start of school

This letter was originally written when my oldest, now a sophomore in high school, started kindergarten. Though the letter’s focus is towards kids, there are reminders in there for all of us, regardless of our ages. If you know of a friend that needs this reminder too – please share it with them!

brown and black wooden chairs inside room
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Dear Child,

You are a treasured child of the King.  The world is going to tell you that you are going to lose, but take heart – THEY DON’T KNOW THE RULES.

Don’t take it personally when some kid makes fun of your mismatched-on-purpose clothing choices or the stuffed animal that you brought in for show-in-tell or calls you some name that brings tears to your eyes.  They only call you that to make their own selves feel better.  There is something about you that threatens them.  And by calling you out on your ‘lameness’ somehow makes them feel like you are back to their level.

I want you, dear child, to be sure of yourself, knowing God has created you as a unique individual, with unique qualities and tastes.  The best person you can be is YOU, not an imitation of someone else.

People’s valuation of you should not matter, only God’s valuation of you should.  Measure yourself by His ruler, by His Word, not by the measuring stick of your peers.

Love God, show others God’s love, despite their actions toward you.  Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends that you can be certain of. 

selective focus photography of bookshelf with books
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There will always be someone richer, cooler, smarter than you.  That’s just life.  But there will also be others who are poorer, wallflowers, back of the class.  That’s life, too.  

But God doesn’t play favorites and you shouldn’t either. 

 Treat each peer as an equal, someone who is loved by Jesus, and in need of Jesus’ love. 

THIS is what I want you to know before you go to school, dear child. 

 It would save you a world of heartache.  But I know you, like me, will have to discover this for your own self.  I can only hope you figure it out sooner than I did. 

You are so excited to start school and I love your excitement for learning.  May it continue to grow and to motivate you to learn more, not only about your world, but about others, about God, and about who you can be for Him.

I love you fiercely,

Mom

Download your own free customizable and printable letter HERE!

https://livewithintent.org/resources/
selective focus photography of child s hand
Encouragement, Intentional, Relationships

4 ways God is not your dad

For over a decade I have worked in the social service field. A recurring theme among the cases that I work with is absent fathers. Children are being raised by single moms, the father long out of the picture. Sometimes a dad will show up at court, but usually because rights are going to be terminated and he wants to try to stop the proceeding. Other times the father is in the picture, but he is neglectful or abusive, creating a level of trauma for the children that will leave scars – both physically and emotionally.

Perhaps you have your own story of absent fatherhood. Nearly 25 percent of American households are mother-only homes. Maybe your father has always been in your life but there are hurts from your childhood, even ones your dad is unaware of, that still stick with you today.

Because fathers are part of humanity, they are also prone to the sin nature we all possess. And with the high amount of fatherless children, many can get the distorted idea that all fathers are prone to this – even our heavenly Father. It can be difficult to believe that a God who calls Himself our Father could do any better than the actions of the dads we know. We project our hurt from our own fathers onto Him and assume the worst.

But our God can stand up to these allegations and is the perfect example of Fatherhood. Scripture is full of the promise of this. The following are just 4 of the ways that God is a good, good Father.

family of four walking at the street
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com
  1. His patience knows no end. 

There are times that we may have felt like we have used up our dad’s patience and have gotten “on his last nerve.” Thankfully, we do not have to worry about this with our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103:17 says “from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” And Psalm 106:1 says “for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Not only does God’s patience and kindness never wear out, but God’s ability to forgive you never runs out either. We never have to worry about our Heavenly Father berating us with our past failings and mess-ups. Psalm 103:12 assures us “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” 

2. He loves you no matter what. 

Some fathers cause their children to feel like they need to earn their father’s love and respect by accomplishing great things to make him proud. Thankfully, God is not a father like that. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still sinners, messing up and not measuring up. When we were still oblivious to Him and His love, God sent His Son to die in our place. This unconditional, sacrificial love is unlike anything you can experience on this earth. God is a Father who chose to love us and we didn’t do a thing to earn it.

photo of man in raising baby under blue sky
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

3. He is always available.

God never has a bad day, is never in a sour mood, and is never too busy or distracted for His child. When you are in relationship with His Son, Christ Jesus, you have complete access to your Heavenly Father’s ear, His heart, His focused attention. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In Zephaniah 3:17 we have the promise that “the Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

4. His discipline is for love and protection.

If you were disciplined out of anger and impatience, this one can be hard to understand. How can a loving God show discipline without also inflicting pain and suffering? In Proverbs 3:11-12 we are reminded: “do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Have you ever had a circumstance in life where God does not give you what you are asking for? Or a time when something you love is taken away? Because God’s ways are always perfect and He can see your entire life laid out before Him, we can trust that our Heavenly Father was either protecting you from something or disciplining you out of love, or both.

selective focus photography of child s hand
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As we think on God as a father, in what areas of our life have we projected negative attributes from earthly fathers onto our Heavenly Father? Do we have hurt and scars from our own experience that is causing us to not completely trust God to be the perfect Father to us?

If you have a positive relationship with your dad, be sure to encourage him in his role, thanking him for the love and example he gave you. If you have pain from your dad, or your dad is no longer around, take your wounds to Jesus. Ask Him to redeem the scars and hurt, to turn the ashes of your past abuse into beauty for His glory. Take your doubts and hurts to the Heavenly Father, the One who is truly capable – and willing – to listen, heal, and restore.

Encouragement, Intentional, Relationships

How are you smelling?

A few years ago, when my grandparents were moving from their home into an Assisted Living facility, I helped them sort through their things in storage. I came across some old pillowcases and sheets and thought they could be repurposed into a craft project someday. They gladly passed them on to me.

Not long after, I pulled out one of the pillowcases from my grandparents’ home. I loved the vintage flower pattern and I could remember summer nights, falling asleep on that pillow, listening to the peaceful sounds of the country and farm life.

In preparing to use the fabric for my project, I needed to iron it. As I pressed the iron to the material, a sweet scent wafted up from the fabric – the scent of my grandparents’ house.

The scent was so reminiscent that it stopped me in the middle of my activity. I stood there at the ironing board and cried.

wildflowers with quote

It was such a nostalgic, beautiful scent that it took me back to the nights I would snuggle under one of my grandparents’ comforters, falling asleep on their couch. It evoked happy memories with cousins and the security of my grandparent’s home.

It brought back so many wonderful memories of time spent at their house.

In II Corinthians 2:14-16 Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (ESV)

quotes with wilflowers

In the Old Testament, priests would offer up sacrifices to God for the sins of the people. The aroma of a good sacrifice would be pleasing to God. It wasn’t so much what was actually burning on the altar that created the pleasing aroma, it was more about what the sacrifice represented – substitutionary atonement for sins. The shedding of blood is required as a payment for sins and the animal sacrifice was given as a substitute for the sinner themselves. The same was said for the grain offerings, those given as the first-fruits back to the Lord in thanksgiving. These sacrifices, when given with a humble heart, were a pleasing aroma to God.

Jesus came and fulfilled the Law by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins. And we, when claiming Jesus as our Savior, claim that ultimate sacrifice to cover our own transgressions. And, in doing so, we become part of that pleasing aroma of Christ to God.

So, how are we smelling? Just as Paul was encouraging the Corinthians, are we “spreading the fragrance of knowledge of Christ” in how we live? What aroma do we give off when we are living our daily lives and the pressure and heat of life, like an iron, is pressed upon us. When we encounter other people are we giving off a pleasing aroma or one that stinks and causes the other to wish they had just stayed away? Are our actions ones that reflect our Jesus; grace-filled and loving? Our actions and words are born out of where our heart is rooted. Our truest nature comes out when we are put under pressure or the heat is turned up. It’s not difficult to be a pleasant and loving aroma towards those who compliment us, make us happy, or fulfill a need. But when someone makes us late, misunderstands a conversation, or takes from us without permission it can be challenging to continue to give off the aroma of grace. In order to be a pleasing aroma to those around us, we need to have our heart’s scent rooted in Truth and Love.

flowers in bloom with quote

Is our scent one that reminds others of Jesus? Does it fill other believers with joy, and maybe a few happy tears, as they long for their home in heaven? Does your aroma give life to other believers, encouraging them on their journey?

If we are truly living for Christ, our aroma will be a sweet reminder to our fellow believers that our Jesus is a living and redeeming God. It can also smell sweet to those who do not yet believe, but have a soft heart, ready to receive the Truth. They smell that sweet fragrance and want to have that aroma, too.

Just like how that little bit of material’s scent reminded me of happy memories, I want my aroma to be pleasing to God; a scent that glorifies Him.

So, how are you smelling these days?

quote with wildflowers in bloom

This post originally was published with Kingdom Edge Magazine.

Encouragement

when you’re not the first choice

“I feel like I am never anyone’s first choice.”

Those words broke my heart. Not only because they came from the mouth of my own child, but because they were words that often echo in my own heart as well. Friendships can be hard to navigate. I thought by the time I was 40 that it would be simple and straightforward, not like the precarious friendships of middle school. Maturity and age do help, but it turns out that the trials that make friendships tricky are still there, it’s just looks different.

With the fast pace of life and the jammed-packed schedules of families, it’s easy to assume that everyone is just busy. But then you hear of other women getting together and you wonder, “what about me?” You may get asked occasionally, but usually it’s because everyone else was unavailable. You’re never the first choice. You’re on the B list.

There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is competing with a step-mother for the first spot on a certain woman’s speed dial.  Certain actions and words puts them in this woman’s good graces and therefore, #1 spot on the phone list.  There’s jockeying and threats that go on between Jerry and the stepmom and a general unease that they know at any moment they could lose that spot to each other….or to another.

We can laugh through the silliness of the whole thing. I mean, who really cares if you are #1 on someone’s speed dial? And, to be honest, how many people these days even know what speed dial is? But, if we take a more serious look at it, when the laughter dies down, we realize that we may have fought, though inwardly, with a very similar kind of feeling.

Because you have never been #1 on anyone’s speed dial.

Many people can point out friendships that were pivotal for their young years. Those best friends who, when they had great news to share, were the first person they wanted to tell. Friends that they knew always had their back. Those besties that, if you found one, you always found the other. Either you were one of those, and didn’t realize how great you had it, or you were one who was watching from the sideline, wondering what you were doing wrong – the B-list friends.

The B-list friends were those who you would call your friends, but not best friends. They were nice and polite. They were good for an occasional sleepover or a birthday party. If you look at snapshots of a group hanging out in the bleachers, they were 2 rows above, a slight smile, trying to not look too awkward or out of place.

There are a lot of things about school that are far, far in the past, praise the Lord. But, shouldn’t mid-life friendships be easier? It seems we’re still hanging out in the back row, trying not to look awkward.

Because when the good news comes, we’re not #1 on the speed dial. We aren’t the first person anyone thinks of when they want to share good news. We aren’t the person that someone is calling because they finally have a free morning and they want to catch up. We aren’t the shoulder that someone is looking for when they need a good cry. But, we really would like to be.

This is a reality for many. It can feel isolating, as if you are the only one. As if everyone is hanging out without you.

What do we do? Do we wallow in self pity? Complain to our spouse? Scroll social media and feed our insecurities? Those are all natural responses that will breed only jealousy and contempt.

As I sat on the couch, trying to come up with the words to comfort my daughter after she uttered those jarring words above, I honestly felt at a loss. Because I needed comforting words spoken to me, too.

So, I started with the first response I have whenever I’m stuck on how to act and what to do: follow Jesus’s example.

  1. If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. Jesus approached His friendships as a servant. He made Himself available to help others. Offer to make a meal for someone who’s struggling. Remember birthdays and send cards or texts. When you ask someone, “how’re you doing?” mean it and wait and listen for the answer. These aren’t done to manipulate people into liking you, but rather to show genuine love and caring for other human beings.
  2. Make a “U”, not an “O.” Be inclusive. If you happen to be standing with a group of people, be sure to leave room for more. Look around outside your circle and see if there is someone standing alone. Invite them in. They may refuse, but most appreciate the invite nonetheless. Though Jesus had his 12 disciples, He never turned away someone who wanted to be a part. In fact, He was constantly inviting.
  3. Be the initiator. We can wait around for someone to reach out to us, but in reality, there are a lot of others out there waiting for the same thing. It may take some courage and even a few false starts, but boldness in Christ’s grace has broken down many doors. If God has placed someone on your heart or mind, don’t hesitate. Offer the hand of friendship, praying as you go, seeking God’s glory in the relationship. Jesus invited many to be fishers of men for the Kingdom. We can’t ask people to follow us, we don’t have the glorified position or authority, but we can invite others into our lives, share the Light with them, and encourage them to walk after Jesus as well.
  4. Pray. Though this is listed last, it doesn’t mean it should be the last resort. If you are feeling lonely, left out, or forgotten, take it to Jesus first. He understands all those feelings because He has been there Himself. Ask God to reveal to you why you feel this way. Is your loneliness misplaced? Perhaps your eyes need opened to the friendships right in front of you that you aren’t even aware of. Pray that you may have a heart for those that also ache for friendship and that He would be the One to first fill that need in you so that you can go out and be a friend to others.

Father, I know you have made us for community. Our hearts long to be included, accepted, and loved by others. Help me to not misplace this desire. I pray that I long to be included, accepted, and loved by You first before all others. Give me a heart for the hurting and open my eyes to the needs of others around me. I know in order to have friends, I need to be a friend. Give me opportunities to be a friend to others. May it be a way for me to shine Your light and give you glory.

Free Download of the pdf version of the prayer HERE

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2 verses for when life is overwhelming

This past week our school community has suffered a great loss. Our head basketball coach, a man who exemplified Godly character, strength, and grace, passed away from cancer. It was a long, hard fight and he continued to tell the story of God’s salvation and the hope of heaven to every person he came in contact with, including on the basketball court.

His loss has left a huge void in our school. I pray that the example he left will live on in the lives of the students, faculty, and families that he touched. His message to not fear, find your strength in the Lord, and do all things for His glory.

As I process his passing, I think of many scripture verses from Psalm as comfort. Psalm 93:3-4 is just one of them. It’s applicable to this circumstance, but I believe it can be applicable to whatever circumstance you are going through as well.

Between work, family, personal obligations, medical diagnosis, and the daily news, there are countless things coming at us that can make it feel like the flood waters and waves are lifting up their voices and overtaking us. The constant barrage can be overwhelming.

The activity all around us can begin to seem like a roar, drowning out the calming voice of Peace. 

I love the contrast of Psalm 93:3 to Psalm 93:4. 

Verse 3 is the cry.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.

The soul is overwhelmed. The flood waters keep coming and there seems to be no end. The sound of the roaring waves is deafening, drowning out anything else that we are trying to tune our ears in to.

But verse 4 is the promise

Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!

Those waves may seem strong, but we have a God that is mightier. Life’s distractions and roar can be thundering, but we serve a God whose calm, peaceful voice can break through all that.

Are you feeling overwhelmed today? 

Most likely the roar of the waves of life are bearing down strong on you. Here is a gentle reminder to go to the One who is mightier than any wave. Just like He calms the stormy seas of Galilee, He can also speak peace to your heart when it feels like the waves are over taking it.

Take a moment in the middle of your storm to be still. Speak the promise of Psalm 93:4 out loud.

“Mightier than the thunders of the waters and mightier that the waves of the sea is our God on High!”

Be encouraged, friend. He is still calming waters today.

It feels fitting to end this with the reminder of the hope and power of our Lord, in the words of the late Coach Marc Davidson:“…Our hope has never been in a doctor’s report. My hope is set firmly on the finished work of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Whether in this life or in Heaven, because of Jesus, I am more than a conqueror! I remain steadfast in my commitment to honor Him with every breath He gives me. May the name of the Lord be praised!”