A Year Long Holiday Spirit

My newest piece, “A Year Long Holiday Spirit,” is up over at Darling Magazine. I love Christmastime, and this article explores how we can make intentional choices that enable us to live every day of the year with joy, generosity, and intentionality. It was a lovely piece to get to write, and I hope that you’ll take the time to read it at Darling Magazine!

Keeping the Spirit of Christmas in our

The holiday season is here; lights flicker on trees and in windows, friends and family feast together, and the sense of excitement — even of joy — rests on these days.

What is it that makes these weeks so special, so transcendent? The parties? The food? The gifts? Perhaps. But maybe the holiday cheer that hangs like a twinkling veil over this time of year has less to do with these things and more to do with the intentional choices that this time of year births in us. Maybe the incandescence of the holiday season happens because we are choosing to live in a manner that is outwardly-focused … and that makes all the difference.

Below are three themes that the holidays tend to portray. These are aspects of the season that we can carry into every month of the year if our hearts are open and willing.

Generosity
The holidays are all about giving. Gifts are exchanged and as nice as it is to receive gifts, we all know the truth that little compares to the joy of giving meaningful gifts to those we love. Their excitement, their surprise, their thankfulness — that is a gift in and of itself. Many of us also give to charities and organizations that we care about during this time of year. In light of the needs of the world and the spirit of the season, we are moved to share what we have, whether it is little or much, with those who have less than we do. Often, what the holidays help open our eyes to is how much we really do have, while at the same time awakening our hearts to the joy of generosity.

Generosity is less of a financial choice than a mental choice. If we have a mindset of generosity, we can be generous with others in every circumstance, year-round. Donating to a food pantry, volunteering our time at a soup kitchen, babysitting a friend’s child, tutoring students — the opportunities are endless. The good thing is that we can carry this generosity throughout the year. By giving to our favorite charity on a recurring basis or by choosing birthday or wedding gifts for our friends that also give back, we can make a without the holidays prompting us.

Read about Intentionality and Joy over at Darling Magazine right here!

Faith is Spelled R-I-S-K

“Faith,” I heard a pastor say several years ago, “is spelled R-I-S-K.”

Scripture, of course, gets the final word on defining faith, and the book of Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But I see the connection between the Scripture and the words of my pastor, because being “convicted of something we do not see” requires a certain amount of risk. Think of Abraham with a knife in his hand, holding it over his son, Isaac. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refusing to worship an idol and being flung into the blazing furnace. Think of Daniel continuing to pray even though he knew there was a pit of lions waiting. Think of Esther approaching the king without being summoned. Think of Mary, unwed, saying yes to carrying the Savior. Think of Matthew, leaving the tax booth and a steady job to follow a poor rabbi. And think of Jesus, hanging on a cross for sins that were not his. All of these men and women risked: they risked their security, they risked their reputations, and they risked their very lives because they believed. Because they were people of faith.

But risking is scary business. I can’t imagine that Abraham wasn’t shaking when he held that knife overhead, or that Daniel wasn’t knocking his knees when he faced the lions. Mary was probably afraid of what her family—and the town—would think when her belly started growing. And Jesus himself was so overwhelmed in the garden that he was sweating drops of blood before his betrayer came.

Faith is spelled RISK

In my own life, too, faith and risk seem to go hand-in-hand. Several years ago, when God called my husband into full-time ministry, our church was unable to pay him—and wouldn’t be able to pay him for at least five months. God was asking us to step out in faith, trust him, and take the job anyway. I was scared; it was risky. We had a mortgage and bills, but we said yes. And God met us in our need. He provided.

And a little while ago, my daughter and I were circling the grocery store. As we passed one of the employees, I felt a nudge from God. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes, feeling the social awkwardness of breaking the silence between two strangers and—gulp—trying to talk about Jesus.

Finally, I walked up to her.

“I’m sorry; I know this is kind of random, but I’m a Christian, and I really feel like God wants you to know that he loves you.”

She looked at me, and immediate tears came to her eyes—and mine. I felt the love and presence of God there in that aisle in the grocery store. And I knew that Jesus loved this woman more than I could ever have imagined.

“Wow,” she said quietly. And then, “thank you.”

I nodded. We chatted a bit longer and talked about faith and Jesus; I invited her to church.

At the grocery store that day, God was asking me to step out in faith and take the risk of not knowing what to say or how she would respond.

But even in that small risk, I met Jesus in that place.

So when we walk into our daily risks of faith with our hands shaking and our knees knocking and our bank accounts dwindling and our grocery carts circling, we don’t have to go with great confidence.

We just need to go, fear and all.

Because we will meet Jesus there.

10 Things Every Newlywed Should Know

Newlywed

My newest piece, "10 Things Every Newlywed Should Know," is up at RELEVANT Magazine. It's a letter I wrote to my newlywed self--one I wish I'd had for those early months and years of marriage. It's also one that I would do well to re-read every day, … [Continue reading]

Climbing: A Piece for Weavings

Meteora Greece

My most recent article is up at Weavings blog--a reflection on my time in Meteora, Greece, and what it taught me about relationship with God. Meteora is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and the monasteries that sit on the tops of … [Continue reading]

Relationship with God: My Newest Piece at RELEVANT Magazine

Relationship with God

My most recent piece about relationship with God is up at RELEVANT Magazine. I'd love for you to check it out!   "Having a personal relationship with God”—it’s a phrase that gets tossed around in many Christian circles. But what does … [Continue reading]

Perspectives on Motherhood: A Guest Post

Perspectives-Ann

I am so honored that fellow blogger Emily Gardner asked me to be a part of her latest series, "Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing." She asked great questions about what writing looks like in the season of motherhood. I'd love for you to click … [Continue reading]