The last few weeks we’ve been preparing our house to prepare for Christmas. I know that may sound silly. We’ve had a list of home projects we wanted to cross off before the end of the year, including painting our living room and fireplace—the location for our beloved Christmas tree.
I knew if I procrastinated the project, the list would not get finished with the tree up and decorated. So, I diligently painted and scrubbed for days (painting judges paneling is no joke). On the last day of painting, I realized my mind, effort, and energy was so focused on finishing the project to prepare for Christmas that I'd neglected quality time with our son.
So like any mother, I asked what he wanted to do. His response: “Griffin’s Kwismas Tree.” He’d watched me put grit and time into preparing for a tree, so a tree he was going to get. We put it up the very next day. The ornaments he chose gave him such joy, and the ambiance from the lights serves as a perfect new night light for his bedroom. The tree is small, but it's his, and we did it together.
I cried tears of joy as I watched him sleep beside the tree that night. I also couldn't help but feel guilty. All my sweet boy needed was a small tree, a few ornaments, and some quality time with his mom.
We have commercialized Christmas so much in the last several decades. We prepare to prepare for Christmas. We spend hours and money to decorate for the season, buy endless gifts, and consume ourselves with holiday festivities.
But what’s at the core of Christmas? A man and a pregnant woman who were scared, but faithful. A barn, a manger, and the love of God. The greatest Christmas of all didn't include lights, presents, ornaments, and rich food. Mary and Joseph weren't painting their living room to prepare for a lavish Christmas tree. They were pouring their hearts out to God. They were keeping hope for a safe delivery of the Savior of the World. They were humbling themselves for the eternal roles they were about to play.
Like my sweet boy, God doesn't need all the frills of Christmas to stir our hearts. He just needs our faithfulness, our dependence, and quality time spent with Him. He longs to remind us of the joy and peace this season brings;joy that has nothing to do with freshly painted walls, and peace that comes despite lights or gifts.
I'm thankful that Christmas is such a big holiday for so many. But I'm even more grateful for God’s message to me just before the holiday season unfolds. The gift of Christ’s birth came to a poor, lowly couple who had nothing but love in their hearts and faith in a God promising to do big things. So whether we’re blessed with much or little, my hope is that we festively celebrate this season for all it stands for. I pray we all try to place ourselves in the shoes of Mary and Joseph.
In the midst of gifts, parties, and presents, let’s stop to remember that Christ is our hope, joy, and future. Let’s pause to realize the depth and privilege of parenting our children— gifts given to us by the same God who gave us the Prince of Peace. May we focus our hearts on what's most important, and on those around us who need quality love, time, and affection while we “prepare to prepare” for the greatest time of year.
May love and peace find you in simple moments when it's easiest to hear God’s whispers, and give you hope that the joy of Christmas is only a prayer away.
Word of the Day:
She gave birth to her firstborn son; she wrapped him in cloths and lay him in a manger because there was no room available to them. (Luke 2:7)
Thank You for the miracle of Jesus. Thank You for reminding us that Christmas takes place with or without all the bells and whistles. I pray we seek out moments that show your goodness and mercy this holiday season. I pray You humble us with the true meaning of Christmas and help us find gratefulness for the opportunity to celebrate the Savior of the World. Thank you for giving us the same privilege as Mary and Joseph. may we embody their faithfulness and love of Your son.
Author: Candace Koon
This season brings warm fuzzies with a swirl of nostalgia. The holidays entice us to hold tight to those we love in the midst of pumpkin scents and the future ambiance of Christmas lights. It's my favorite time of year: Time to count your blessings and bask in God’s goodness.
Everywhere we look, there are decorations, commercials, cards that remind us to “be thankful.” Okay, yep, thankful… got it! Thanksgiving and Christmas sort of force us to grasp the concept… Right?
But are we truly grateful for ALL things right now? I bet you every Mama has a slight hoarding of stress in the back of her mind. Let's be authentic. We are entering the season of chauffeuring our families to every holiday party, racking up credit card bills with Christmas presents, and stressing over cooking for umpteen people for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Let’s not forget that pesky elf on the shelf we obligate ourselves to partake in with creative, new adventures every night. I deem myself a “Holiday Queen,” but I'm just as guilty as the next person for having holiday meltdowns.
If we’re honest, there will be plenty of moments in the coming weeks for us to forget all about that “Be Thankful” message and explode in frustration with Christmas glitter flying and burnt turkeys shoved into the outside garbage can. We will inevitably refrain from praising God in the midst of Christmas budgets or frantic, angry shopping and travel on Black Friday.
But why? Why does this magical, amazing season sometimes leave us empty? Why do we lose sight of what’s most important: Having a grateful heart when we truly need it most?
Maybe we overwhelm ourselves with showing thankfulness and proving our holiday spirit instead of stopping to let God into our hearts and focusing our eyes on the Holy Spirit. Isn't He the core of why we should be thankful? Isn’t He the “reason for the season?”
This is the season of blessings. So instead of concentrating so much on decorations, food, and the perfect gift, perhaps we should focus on the process of having a grateful heart through any circumstance. Maybe we should stop “counting our blessings” and seek out those who haven't been as blessed. Having a grateful heart isn't just thanking God for our material wealth and for those around us but rather for using God’s gift of undeserved grace to fuel us into action for others.
Whether we have a little or a lot, my prayer is for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus this holiday season. After all, serving others sheds light on all we have to be thankful for. Yes, get in the holiday spirit. Yes, celebrate Jesus and all He’s done in our lives.
But stop to thank Him for the challenges as well. Pause and reflect on what a privilege it is to be stressed over the holiday season. When you are teetering with a holiday meltdown, ask God to make you truly grateful for the moments that can leave you empty. Pray for Him to use that emptiness to fill up another's cup. Let's decide what we are going to do to use this season’s blessings to simply bless someone else.
“Give thanks to God in all circumstances. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Thank You. Thank You for all the holidays bring: cheer, adventure, decorations, time with family and friends. Help us to have grateful hearts and to acknowledge those blessings, but also to seek You in the moments we struggle to find joy. God, guide our thoughts and actions to help others this holiday as an exchange of gratitude for all You’ve done. Father, help us to stop when we find ourselves on the edge of complaint or feeling overwhelmed with all this season entails. May we use that pause to find friend or foe who could use a touch of the love and grace You've extended to us all year round.
May You be the reason for every season.
Author: Candace Koon
There are times during motherhood when we are digging in the trenches. It happens during several phases of life, but the feeling that accompanies remains the same: defeat. We feel like we're preparing for battle daily, but often with little to shield us from the pain, frustration, guilt, and desperation.
I've realized there’s only one true source to provide shelter from the assaults Satan can throw our way… adorning the armor of God.
We each have our own personal battlefield: grocery stores filled with screaming tantrums, sticky floors and scattered messes that leave us feeling desolate and incompetent, even the bedroom of a teenager with walls echoing “I hate you” and “You are the meanest mother ever.” Wherever we are when the devil seeks to destroy our faith and steal our joy… there’s refuge and redemption when we drop our guard, pick up our cross, and cover ourselves with the means of protection coming only from the Lord.
Ephesians 6:13 (NIV) says, “Therefore put on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
God has a formula for the armor He intends for us to use, so we may walk into our respective battlefields with confidence in His faithfulness and guidance. Ephesians goes on to tell us God has made readily available the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, readiness from the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the spirit, being the word of God (6:14-17).
We often look at our circumstances, feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and void of victory. But our victory comes from the Lord and our ability to use every piece of the armor He’s given us. He instills a sense of resiliency and perseverance in our hearts when we focus on Him and not the battle or the enemy. We must prepare ourselves daily by consuming ourselves with His word and His truth.
We can also move forward in the battle against doubt and tribulation when we welcome reminders of God’s salvation for our souls. He wants to lead us to a life victorious over our burdens, shame, and self-doubt by showering us with His love and the mercy He gave through the sacrifice of Jesus dying for our transgressions. Let the words of salvation ring as our fight song: Buried with Christ, risen to walk in new life with Him.New life. New strength. New courage. New redemption for every battle we face, small and large.
So, whatever struggle you’re facing that threatens your faith and joy in the Lord, look to Him, cover yourself in the shield of His mercy, and march forward with confidence that He is charging alongside you; no true leader sends His people out to fight without crawling beside them through the trenches. He’s given us all we need to come out victorious and with ability to serve those around us with the same grace and compassion He so easily gives.
Word of the Day
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Let us not be fearful or doubtful of the struggles we face, but confident in Your faithfulness and ability to provide the tools necessary to overcome obstacles of frustration, pride, inadequacy, doubt, or pain. May we suit up in the armor You've provided with love and endearment. Remind us that Your grace extends as protection and purpose in our journey each day. May we look to You for leadership, wisdom, and redemption. With gratefulness and perseverance, Amen
Author: Candace Koon
My first year as a new mom, I truly struggled. I listened to other moms talk about their schedules falling into place, having girls’ nights on occasion, dates with their husbands, and babies who slept through the night at six weeks. They not only had a firm grasp on their households and parenting but also on their own resolutions outside motherhood. Others seemed to juggle life more efficiently than I did.
I struggled with breastfeeding for six months, did not frequent a gym, run a mile, or see the first girls’ night at the ten month mark. My son was still sleeping in our room, and we couldn't nail down a steady schedule for the life of us. I couldn't understand feeling such purpose in this new, precious, little soul yet feeling so lost simultaneously.
I felt envy and inadequacy in comparison to those around me, and furthermore, guilt for “not getting it right” for the tiny baby who deserved more than I could give.
I battled guilt for craving time alone, to have purpose outside my home, and attempting to balance being a working mom who yearned for more time with her child. I felt unexplainable exhilaration, but drained. Full, yet empty. I was overjoyed with the most amazing baby boy, but overwhelmed with all I needed to do, but hadn't; things I wanted to achieve, but felt guilt-ridden for dreaming of.
Becoming a mom can force new perspective: there’s such gratitude and sense of duty to give your whole self in exchange for the privilege of mothering such a special little person. However, the same sense of gratitude can encourage beliefs that we no longer matter to God.
I found myself constantly saying, “It's not about me anymore.” There’s truth to that, but also much omittance. When we become parents, our world becomes startlingly different. A tiny person depends on us for every need: sleep, nutrition, bathing, comfort, protection, and affection. We are responsible for their every happiness and well-being.
The deluging, lifelong task can, at times, seem daunting with feelings of uncertainty. When we question our value in comparison to our job at hand, it's imperative we remember God is our Father.
We desire to adequately parent, love, and provide for our children; to see them grow in success and love. God wants the same ideals for us, His beloved daughters.
We never want our children to feel unworthy of God’s provision and purpose for their lives. In the same way, God hurts when we make the assumption that we no longer matter.
He’s written stories for each of our children, but also for us. He’s intentionally transcribed our pages with love, growth, and redemption. Our stories of salvation and purpose extend with the addition of our children...they don't narrow.
Our Christ-marked narratives don't end the moment children enter our lives. Although, we form the most integral part of their development and the relationship they will ensue with Jesus, we must also routinely refocus ourselves on the chapters composed for our story.
It’s okay to be mothers who long to serve others, grow ourselves, and to need help sometimes because He offers peace when we struggle to get this mom thing right. He shows love and compassion when our heads hinder our hearts.
Jesus heals all things, including the tiny pieces that chip off as we mother our babies, whether from exhaustion, confusion, and/or doubt. When we allow healing from His truth, grace, and persevering pursuit, we acquire greater peace in having more than one purpose… or at least one with many extensions.
The greatest Author calls us onto His lap and whispers reassurances that we do, in fact, matter. He pulls out our handwritten biographies and invites us to join Him for the remaining chapters as we turn each page to reveal His unfailing love and our own story worth living.
Word of the Day:
For you are God’s handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, in which God created in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Thank You for the privilege of mothering our children, for making them our biggest ministry, but also continuing our stories beyond motherhood. Help us put down feelings of guilt and choose gratefulness that You continue to write pages of purpose for our own lives. God, thank You for letting our children be extensions of our stories. May motherhood give us even more reason to use our spiritual gifts for Your glory. In Your name, Amen.
Author: Candace Koon
One of the most prominent challenges we face as children of God is letting go of the things we hold most dear in order to grow and receive Him in our journey. As a mom, I am frequently troubled with the decision to “let go and let God.” The struggle for control can be too much to bear.
I want to hold on to my child for fear of what could happen when he’s out of my grasp (physically and emotionally). I cling tightly to the doubts that cloud my mind while battling God’s constant pursuit of my whole heart. And I let fear determine my stronghold on the plans I’ve drawn up for myself, my marriage, and my children when God promises a future with much more value, both in this life and eternally.
I can't help but equate God’s desire for abandonment of self to my toddler’s newest challenge for peace as we fight to get rid of his pacifier. We have finally taken it away to allow his teeth to align properly and make another step towards independence; he is heartbroken. His biggest comfort is his “paci.” He falls asleep to its rhythmic suck; it calms his fears when he’s anxious, and brings peace on long car rides. We didn't realize the depth of his attachment to the pacifier until we started this process.
As an exhausted mom who is desperately trying to fill the void of his paci, we've begun praying each night over letting go. It was in that first night of prayer I felt God offer answers to questions in my own heart as He was summoned to comfort Griffin’s. I prayed:
God, please bring comfort, peace, and healing to Griffin’s heart. Please show Griffin that it's okay to let go of the paci. For, his greatest comfort will come from You. Lord, please break the chains his paci has placed on him, so he may grow in Your presence and embrace his journey as a maturing little boy. Amen
I found myself crying as we rocked: tears in exchange for the tiny drops falling from Griffin’s eyes in desperation for his greatest comfort, but also tears of my own. As much as I pray for Griffin to let go of things that could hold him back from growth, maturation, and full-dependence on God, I should be praying those same things for myself.
Our hearts long for comfort and peace. Sometimes we assume peace derives from what's easiest or most convenient. We refuse to let go of our own goals, worries, and shame because we don't trust God enough to make everything okay, better even. The life God can give us holds waves of promise and joy, strength and success...if we only release what is sometimes the most difficult. Let’s not stand in God’s way of delivering His promises for a future of hope and goodness.
Letting go does not void us of struggle and maybe some magnitude of change. But I assure you, He will never leave nor forsake us. God longs to be our biggest source of comfort and the most prominent provider of peace as we let go and let Him sort through our doubts while paving our path to greater places. Trusting in His faithfulness will help us relinquish those things that bound us like chains. God alone can and will break the links around our hearts if we allow Him the opportunity.
So, I'll continue to pray for my son as we proceed with the process of helping him to let go of his most “prized possession.” And, I'll pray for myself and all of you as we drop our burdens to grab the hand of the Father and walk towards perfect peace.
Word of the Day
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Let us come to You for ultimate comfort and peace. God, help us to let go of the things that bind our hearts and emotions to take Your hand and walk with You. God help us relinquish our doubts, fear, shame, and possessions we hold onto with greater intensity than we hold onto You. Help us seek the face of Jesus for perspective and purpose instead of what's easiest or most convenient. Amen
Author: Candace Koon