Highly Favored

By Molly Kennedy

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When I think about a woman in the Bible who was deemed “highly favored,” my initial thoughts go to the woman from Proverbs 31--a woman who is worth more than diamonds, trusted by her husband, respected by her children. She’s a businesswoman, a seamstress, a cook. She has a good attitude and is kind and wise. She always looks like she is coming from a modeling appointment. Clearly, she has the hand of God on her life. I can almost hear her singing with the animals while she’s weaving her purple cloth. If only she would have written a book on personal growth.

And yet...the woman in the Bible who was considered highly favored was Mary, the mother of Jesus. What does a highly favored life look like in the Bible?

  • Pregnancy as a young teenager

  • By God

  • A fiance who was contemplating divorce

  • Raising a perfect son

  • Having your heart torn apart when your son is arrested, beaten, and crucified

The highly favored life is not always an easy life. I think this is especially true for moms in 2019. When we get on social media and see other moms doing it better. When we are so tired with a brand new baby that the thought of having to go to the store makes us cry. When we run carpool in our pajamas and hope we don’t get pulled over. When our kids’ choices make us hit our knees and beg for deliverance.

And yet...God doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t put you in this generation with these kids and cross his fingers. He knew you could do it. He knew you could do it on your best days when your kids look up at you with love in their eyes. He knew you could do it on your worst days when you yell and belittle.

Psalm 8:3-4 (MSG) says,

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry. Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?

Why indeed? Because we are highly favored. You, my friend, are highly favored.

What is the best thing that is happening to you right now as a mom? Do you know why that’s happening? Because you are highly favored.

What is the hardest thing that you are going through right now as a mom? Do you know why that’s happening? Because you are highly favored.

The dictionary defines “favored” as preferred or recommended. According to biblestudytools.com, the original Greek word is charitoo, which means to honor with blessings or to compass with favor--how gorgeous is that?

You are highly favored by the most interesting, most powerful, most beautiful King in the world. Just sit in that for a minute. He is absolutely crazy in love with you. So straighten your crown, sister. And no matter what is happening with your kids today, smile and rest in the fact that you are chosen, adored, and absolutely enveloped in God’s favor.

And so are your kids.


7 Ways to Show Your Husband Love

By Brittany Rust

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When you’re married and have kiddos, Valentine’s Day is often a bit harder to make happen. Ryan and I use to make these grand plans on V-Day, get all dressed up, and go out on the town. The two years we’ve had a kid we haven’t gone out once. True story. Both years at least one of us has been sick on the day we were going to celebrate and couldn’t get a sitter to reschedule. So, we’ve had to get creative!

Here are some fun ways to love on each other at home and special ways to show your man some attention.

How to love your husband this week (and every week).

1. Make a special V-Day breakfast.

Start the day off with a little love in the house! And this is something your kids can join in to feel special as well. Maybe make some heart shaped pancakes or your husband’s favorite breakfast. You can also leave a note and gift at each place setting that is unique to each person in your family. Your family will no doubt start the day off feeling loved.

2. Meet your husband for a romantic lunch.

If your kids are in school or with a sitter, make plans to celebrate a romantic Valentine’s Day over lunch. It worked for Pam and Jim, although you might want to hold back on that much booze! This can be a nice opportunity to have some one-on-one time without fighting the crowds, sitter schedules, and sky-high dinner prices.

3. Flirt throughout the day.

This is a must! Guys like to flirt and love it when a wife gets a bit flirty—it makes them feel like a man. Put a special note in your husband’s lunch. Send some sexy texts (pics included)! Call him and just say you’re thinking about him. This will get your husband incredibly excited to get home to you!

4. Plan a special dinner.

Somewhat like breakfast, this can be a special meal for the whole family. A favorite meal or special entree not usually on the menu. Both years we haven’t been able to go out we’ve stayed in and made fondue. It’s easy, yummy, Roman gets a kick out of it, and there is an element of romance in it. And don’t forget dessert!

5. Tell him how much you respect and appreciate his hard work.

The words men often most cherish are respectful and express gratitude for hard work. Guys can put so much of their worth in work and feel the burden to take care of the family financially. Look your husband in the eye, tell him how much you respect him, and appreciate all the hard work he invests to take care of the family.

6. Put on something special and see where the night goes.

Am I going to talk about sex? Yes! And why? Because sexual intimacy is incredibly valuable in a marriage and we don’t talk about it enough in the Christian world. Sex is part of a healthy marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul wrote that a husband and wife should fulfill their partners sexual needs and not abstain unless for a short and agreed upon time to pray.

If the fire has been dwindling, now is a perfect time to reignite the passion. Put the kids to bed, put on something you feel sexy and confident in, and enjoy each other.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
— Proverbs 5:18-19

Honestly—just read Song of Solomon (which is packed full of love between a man and woman) and you’ll see the importance (and excitement) of sexual intimacy with your husband.

7. Share in emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual intimacy.

There’s more than just physical intimacy—and we all prefer certain intimacies over others. Connect with intertwined bodies but also connect by sharing your deeply felt emotions, over intellectual conversation, and in prayer together. There are many ways to find each other’s souls and connect—find what your husband prefers and seek to connect with him there.

It goes without saying but hard to do—show special attention to your husband on all the normal, average days as well. You’re tired and depleted—yes. But if you don’t invest into your marriage now when the littles are running around, there may not be much of a marriage to enjoy when they’re grown and gone. Your husband and marriage must be a priority if you’re going to grow old together in a world that seems to do nothing but tear you apart.

The same goes for your wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs.
— 1 Peter 3:1

The Get Outta Debt Dance

By Lindsey Racz

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In a survey published with CNBC in 2017, it was reported that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Not just the lower and middle class, though; even ten percent of Americans who make over 100k report having trouble making ends meet. Debt has become a way of life in our culture. More often than not, accumulating debt is the only way to live up to what are considered cultural norms—you know, shiny cars, vaulted ceilings and pretty Pinterest chandeliers and the like—but I am here to tell you, folks, there really is another way!

The reasons to get out of debt are numerous. For us, following biblical principles, seeking financial peace, being able to give freely to others in need, and teaching our children financial wisdom rank among the very top. This is our debt story—at least part one of it.

When I married the love of my life, Matt, he had 40k in student loans leftover from a bachelor’s he’d received from a private university. I had an expensive graduate degree from the same university and 20k of student loan debt left to repay myself.  We both loved the university and our respective experiences there; we both hated the debt. And because when “two become one flesh” nothing is left out, we started our life together with a whopping 60k in student loans that carried payment obligations of over 500 a month. Ouch.

I’m exhausted when I think about where we were just four years ago. We both worked full time; my husband worked a full-time day job and owned his own freelance graphic design firm. I had a good job on staff with a local college. We were raising two children, clocking lots of hours at the office, and falling into bed utterly spent each night. And still, after all our efforts, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We were still working toward our original goals of paying off our student loans, but life didn’t always go as planned. We would pay off our phones only to have a car break down. We would pay off a student loan and then have a child break a foot and add back double the amount of the loan in medical bills. We had a pregnancy that had complications and a baby that requires consistent medical care.  It was two steps forward, one step back. Okay, more like five steps back. My dream of working less and spending more time investing in our kids seemed to be slipping further and further away.

 It's no surprise that we felt like slaves. God warns us about debt in Proverbs 22:7,

The rich rule over the poor; the borrower is a slave to the lender

No sugar coating there. If you choose debt, you’re a slave. Simple math. Yes, we had at one point allowed ourselves to become slaves. But by God’s grace and wisdom, He had plans to change all that. It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thankfully, Matt and I each had goals to work toward being debt free even before we met one another. I had knocked some debt out, he had knocked some debt out, and most importantly, we had like minds when it came to our dislike for debt. We both studied and followed some principles of financial guru, Dave Ramsey. We knew how to work hard and, most importantly, we were ready to take some risks and get creative to reach our ultimate goals of living a debt free lifestyle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Fast forward four years. That was then, this is now. Let me paint a picture for you of how things have changed.  One month from now we are on track to be 100% debt free (excluding a mortgage which we always factor in as an investment). We will have a three to six-month emergency fund fully funded. I will continue to work part-time—one day out of my practice and a couple of days from home teaching online psychology classes. We will soon welcome our 4th child, and we will be ready to begin saving for future goals of retirement, building our own house, and most importantly, being able to give cheerfully and generously when we come across another’s need. 

Please don’t let me come across like this journey has been a cake walk. It’s been anything but! On my next post, “The Get Outta Debt Dance Part II- How?”, I will break down how this miraculous transformation in our finances has occurred. Let me be clear—there was no magic lottery ticket and no massive promotions that came to the rescue. We have never made six-digit salaries, even with our income combined! We know there are some who may shake their heads as we bare this much information about our personal finances, but we know there are even more who are out there drowning in debt and stress and pressure to keep up with current culture. It’s the second group of people to whom we write this post and the next. Take heart and have hope; if we succeeded at learning the get outta debt dance, you most certainly can too!

To read HOW in part 2, head over to Lindsey’s website here or by using the button below.


Expecting Your Child to Act Like an Adult

By Brittany Rust

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It was time to change yet another diaper and I certainly didn’t enjoy it any more than he did, but it’s part of the life of a toddler. Roman hates—and I mean HATES—diaper changes. It was a poopy one and as I opened up the diaper, Roman started flopping around in protest. I then proceeded to say, “You do know that when you fight me it takes longer, right.”

You can fit on both hands the number of words he can say so expecting him to understand the complexity of what was happening was too much to ask for this 19 month old.

So often I find myself expecting Roman to act older than he really is. I attempt to rationalize and convince him to be beyond his years. At times, I snap or yell in frustration because he doesn’t understand. I’m expecting him to act like an adult and in response, often end up acting like a child.

How often have you found yourself treating your child beyond his or her years? We don’t plan on it, do we? But in the trenches when patience wears thin, sometimes we find ourselves expecting too much from our little ones. Or our children or even teenagers. We want them to be on our level—or at least, on a more mature level—that they just aren’t at yet. And in response to their lack of maturity, we lash out with an attitude that is more like that of a child.

Remember: you are the parent. You are the mature one. You mustn’t expect your child to be beyond their years and act in a way you struggle to act yourself at that moment. I’m not an expert in maintaining poise in these tense moments but I do know we must watch our responses. Walk away, take a deep breath, and return to respond appropriately.

Your child is but a child for a short time—don’t make them grow up too soon. Let them live in their child-like wonder while they can. And you—well, if you want to embrace the posture of a child in any way, then do so with the faith and humility a child has. Now that would be the exception.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
— Matthew 18:1-4

Parenting is hard and we all have our moments that we’d like to redo or at least, forget. But as we talk about often here, there is grace and strength for your moments of weakness. Let your kid be a kid. And act like a child in faith and humility.


In My Weakness: The Truth About (im)Perfection

By Gabi Kelley

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Hey moms, you don’t have to be perfect. No, really. There’s no need to be spending your time and sanity trying to do everything right...stressing about things like, “Has my kid done enough creative things today? Is she getting too much screen time? Should I feed him a different snack? Am I spending enough time sitting on the floor playing with them? What if they’re not getting enough brain stimulation? Am I reading the right books, disciplining them properly, letting them get away with too much?”

Seriously, we can’t do this to ourselves anymore. Because here’s the deal—what your kids want and need is a happy mommy who loves them. And listen, I know you LOVE your kids, but are you happy? Or are you so bogged down by doing everything right (in parenting and life) that parenting has become a heavy weight you wish you could escape?

Let me tell you this: I will never judge you as a parent. I have been walking through enough hiccups and surprises with things our kids are going through, things our family has had to carry, that my sympathy/empathy/no-judgment level is through the roof. If your kids are angelic and clean and polite, then I celebrate you because you are doing awesome. You’ve been consistent and patient and kind, and you’ve had to work through plenty of things to have this good day with these good kids. And if your kids are having massive meltdowns and screaming their heads off in the middle of a grocery store, and they have chocolate stains all over their shirts, and you give them the iPad to play with just to calm them down, I celebrate you because you’re doing awesome. You’re there and you didn’t run out the door and I’m sure the things you and your kids are facing at home or elsewhere are more challenging than anyone in your life can understand. Regardless, those kids are all gonna grow up remembering that their mommy was with them. On the good days and the bad days, the thing that will stick with them is that you were there. They won’t care if they had salmon or pizza for dinner, they will care if you were present and engaged while they were eating it.

There are enough things in life to cause us stress, let’s not make parenting competition and comparison one of them. Your kids are YOUR kids, and God gave them to YOU—you with your quirks and your temperament and your skills and your sense of humor—and He knew the challenges you would have in your life (both parenting and non-parenting related). He knew the specific special needs your kids would deal with and decided that you (yes, YOU) were the one who would be able to handle them. He knew YOU would be mom to YOUR KIDS.

 I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow good advice or throw training our kids out the window. We have to train them, and it will be hard. But doing specific things just because you’re worried about being perfect or not messing up is not the right motivation. Press into Jesus. Trust the grace He has for you today. Believe that He catches all the things that fall through the cracks and rest in the fact that the strength He has given you today is enough for what you and your kids need. So if you don’t get everything done you “needed” to get done, or if your kids watch an extra movie because you just can’t do anymore, it’s ok. You’re ok mama. And you know what? You’re doing awesome and you were made for this.

In fact, one of the very greatest promises in the Bible is this:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
— 1 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

I know you’ve heard this verse a million times, that it’s one you can likely recite from memory, but let’s not take it for granted. Go back and read it one more time, slowly, and take it all in.

Seriously, if we can wrap our minds around this verse as moms, the heavy burdens of self-condemnation, competition, and guilt could be greatly lifted off of our shoulders. Because guess what? We have something that super-moms don’t have – God’s power.

Whoa whoa whoa—hold on, slow down. Does this perhaps mean that on those days when you really JUST CAN’T, the days when you KNOW there was a whole list of you completely messed up on or skipped or missed or just threw out the window—the days when your WEAKNESS is prevalent—that God gets to show up in the most special way?!

I think YES. Because those are the days (and the hours and minutes) when you get to fall directly into the outstretched grace arms of Christ and let Him do His thing.

We hang on to control so tightly, we work so hard, we strive and strive to be perfect, to be everything to everyone, but these, in fact, could be the very things holding us (and our kids) back from truly experiencing the power of God.

(Dang girl, this is good stuff!)

If you’re not sold yet, let’s take a look at this same Scripture in The Passion Translation together:

My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.

My power finds its full expression through your weakness.

Wow, I don’t know about you, but this brings tears to my eyes and kind of makes me want to fall on my knees and say, “Thank you, Jesus.” This is a beautiful, incredible promise we’ve been given! This is who our Jesus is. The same One whose most painful, most broken moment resulted in the most magnificent glory will do the same in us.

Maybe your apology to your kid after you lost your temper is more powerful and healing for his heart than if you hadn’t lost it at all.

Maybe it’s during those mornings when you turn on cartoons and roll over to go back to sleep that God is healing your soul.

Maybe it’s on the days when you all eat Pop Tarts for dinner because you forgot to go grocery shopping that will make your children feel deeply, intimately loved, because instead of cooking and cleaning, you laughed about the meal and you talked and played and looked each other in the eye, all enjoying the unique togetherness of the “OOPS.”

Maybe it’s those moments with your special-needs child when you are completely at a loss about what to do that God gets to step in to parent your child’s spirit because you’ve had to surrender.

Maybe it’s that season of grief and loss and pain that you’ve had to walk through, making it hard to be engaged as a mom, when the grace and power of Christ are at work in your spirit and the spirits of your kids, making faith roots go down deep. Roots that will sustain each of you in the future, displaying the glory of God in your lives.

Maybe it’s exactly when you DON’T have it all together, when you’re NOT super-mom, when you actually can’t do all the things you’re “supposed” to do for your kids that you get to learn true humility and genuinely experience the incredible, grace-filled power of God flowing in and through your life and onto your kids.

Except I don’t think God would say MAYBE.

I think He’d say DEFINITELY.

He’s a good God; a God of rest, and the true Father of us and our children. So lay down your burdens, reveal to Him your weaknesses, jump into His grace, and watch Him do miracles in your family’s life over the years that you never could have dreamed.


God's Compassion Towards His Children

By CarrieBeth Sherwood

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A few weeks ago I was lying between both of my boys; my husband was out of town so they seized the opportunity for a sleepover. I have two, one 6 and one 7. They are total opposites in every way. While both are incredibly sweet, one tends to have more trouble obeying and doing the right thing (with a happy heart).

While I was between them--one curling up and falling straight to sleep and the other one pretty much happily jumping on the bed, not doing what he was supposed to do--I had a thought. Technically, the one who obeys most of the time should be my favorite. Now, I know parents don’t choose favorites, but some demeanors and attitudes are just easier to work with. Anyway, it would seem that a child who was obeying and trying to please should be the most appreciated, but what I noted at that moment was that, although it is nice to have a child who obeys, I also feel so much compassion and love toward the one who struggles to obey. It sometimes breaks my heart, but in the sweetest way, prompting me to pray for him often and seek out wisdom on the best way to parent him. One of the children is easy, but one of them causes me to seek after God in an even more real and desperate way.

One of my favorite parenting books ever is “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. She says,

We think that compliant children will teach us about his grace and the gospel, and they can. Compliant, believing children are frequently reflections of his great kindness. But The Lord also teaches us of his grace and the gospel through difficult children. We learn what it is like to love like he loved. We learn to walk in his footsteps, and it is there, in our personal 'upper room', where we learn how to wash the feet of those who are betraying us. It is there, kneeling before our rebellious children, that the real power of God is demonstrated.”

Parenting a difficult child is a perfect reflection of how God feels about parenting us, his adult children who are often just as difficult, if not more, as a rebellious child. Psalms 86:15 says,

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.

We can take away two things from this verse and this lesson that the Lord revealed to me.

  1. God’s unconditional love and compassion for us does not depend on if we act perfectly or not. He loves us and wants to be with us even, and especially when, we are struggling to obey or live the life He has called us to live.

  2. It is also a great reminder that when our children aren’t being perfect (isn’t that daily???), that God loves us in our imperfections so we can let that love flow through us to our children.


New Mama Mercies for the New Year

By Becky Beresford

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I became a mama on the cusp of the New Year. We actually prayed our son would be the first baby born in 2011 because then we could score some major swag, including a year’s supply of diapers. It’s totally a thing.

But we learned right away that parenthood would never follow our premeditated plans. After twenty-five hours of labor and three hours of pushing, I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section. Baby’s vitals were dropping, as well as my own, and before I knew it, I was gazing into the eyes of this tiny human who made me a mommy.

I’m sure I cried. At least, I think I did. I was so physically drained and out of it, everything had become a blur. But through the drug-induced daze, I remember my husband bringing our son to my side. I couldn’t believe how perfect he was. As I leaned towards him in wonder, I whispered my first words as a new parent. “Hey there little boy…I’m your mama.”  He turned towards my face and pressed his soft mouth against my cheek. It was our first kiss, and I knew, right then and there, it was worth it. It would all be worth it.

The next few days were spent making sure baby and I were recovering well. I kept waiting for the ‘new mom euphoria’ to kick in, for the fog to clear and the pain to subside. But all I felt was exhaustion. Becoming a mom was nothing like I expected. The movies were wrong. TV had lied to me. Nobody told me about the aftermath of birth or the raging hormones. Sweet Jesus, the hormones!  All I knew was that I never felt more unqualified to do anything in my entire life. I didn’t know how to take care of a newborn. I didn’t know how to raise a child. I didn’t know if I was enough.

Discharge day arrived, and as they wheeled me to the hospital entrance, I was handed finely-tuned instructions in a perfect little bag. All papers and rules and schedules to follow. But I never received what my heart needed most: Grace in all its abundance. In those raw moments before heading home, I wish a fellow mama could have grabbed me by the hand. She would have smiled and told me it was going to be okay. Not because I’d learn how to keep it all together, but because my God would hold me tight when things fell far apart. Sweet friend, I can’t rewind the clock to the moment you became a mom. But I can offer you words from the One who was standing there:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.
— Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

 

No matter how many years we have roamed the halls of motherhood, we all need to be refreshed by the truth of His mercies. So, I made you a list. It should have been included in your newbie mom bag. But to be honest, its relevance rings true each and every single day. 

Claim Your Mama Mercies for the New Year:

In your weakness, He is strong. The pressure is off, girl. You don’t have to fear weakness or failure because our good God has you covered. In every area, no matter how many times we fall, He will be there not only to pick us up, but to build us up! You can do this because HE can do this through you. 

You are one righteous mother. For real. You may not feel like it sometimes (*or most of the time*), but the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which means everything in it is true. So, when God says He made Jesus, “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” we can accept it as a divine fact!  2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)  We mess up. Hard. No mama will ever be perfect, but the moment we start to tear ourselves down, we need to remind ourselves to look up. We need to cast our gaze towards heaven and claim Christ’s righteousness as our own. We are in Him. We are clothed in white, completely holy and pure. When God sees us, He doesn’t see our mistakes. He sees our majesty. Remember that, mama.

You are chosen and you matter. Many days you may feel unappreciated and overlooked. The demands of motherhood may seem, at best, mundane. But in reality, you are doing sacred work. You are raising a generation of warriors and worshippers. You are fulfilling the greatest commandment and the great commission. You are loving unconditionally and giving unceasingly, all for the sake of building up God’s kingdom within the walls of your own home. There is no greater calling. There is no greater thing. Your family is your heartbeat and continually pointing your littles towards their Savior will inevitably change the world. You were chosen for this role. You were born to be their mom. And you’re doing a great job.

You are deeply loved. By God. By your families. And we hope you know you are loved by us… a sisterhood of women who are in the diaper-filled trenches, holding each other up, speaking life into the beautiful and hard places. No matter what we have or haven’t done, our worth remains the same in our Father’s eyes. We were fought for and forgiven at the cross, before we could do anything to try and earn God’s favor. It is finished, mama. He has already given us His heart, and now it is up to us to let His love into ours.

May His mercies cover you each morning. And fill all the moments in between.  

Happy New Year, friends.


ICYMI: Top Ten Mama Articles From 2018

2018 brought the launch of For the Mama Heart and we are overwhelmed with how God is using this resource to encourage mama hearts all over the world. Our team of writers are moms just like you, learning to navigate this crazy journey of parenthood. We had a lot of fantastic articles since our launch in June, but here are the top ten most read articles of 2018.

 
 

What is the True Meaning of Christmas

By Brittany Rust

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Christmas truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year. For many, there are warm parties, cozy homes, fond traditions to celebrate, and gifts to be shared. It’s a joyous time of celebration. However, sometimes we get lost in the season and forget the reason we celebrate it, to begin with. Among the hustle and bustle, our focus is lost and priorities are misaligned.

Most people can tell you the origins of Christmas—that it’s a remembrance of the birth of Christ. But either that’s the extent of their knowledge or they lose sight of this in the busyness of the holiday. Why do we truly celebrate Christmas? Not Santa Claus, or the Christmas tree, or any other of the various traditions wrapped up into Christmas. Why do we celebrate this occasion—what is its true meaning?

Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus. When God became flesh and lived among us on Earth.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
— Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

For thousands of years mankind waited for the coming of Christ; they longed for their King to arrive and free them from oppression. The Old Testament is full of prophecies, including this one from Isaiah 9. The Bible is full of Scripture pointing directly to the One who would save mankind from their sins. When Isaiah described His coming, he described His coming as an infant. But this child would grow and establish a Kingdom of righteousness forevermore. When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the moment in history when prophecy was fulfilled. God came to be with us.

But it was so much more than a birth. It was hope. It was cause for celebration.

Because when Jesus came, he also left us with the gift of salvation. His birth is significant because of His death. For thirty-three years Jesus lived a life free from sin so that He could be the perfect sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins. On Calvary, Christ paid the price and overcame death so that we could have victory over sin and condemnation. So, when that precious baby was born and placed in the manger, it wasn’t just another birth. It was the beginning of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. An act He didn’t have to take part in but He chose to out of love.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

We remember the birth of Christ on Christmas because it’s a celebration of when God entered this world.

This very act of humility and his choice to die on the cross is cause for bowed knees and lifted hands. I know the busyness of the season can cause time to fly and before we know it, the holiday has passed and we have forgotten to celebrate why we are celebrating it in the first place. But don’t get sidetracked—get perspective. Choose reverence and give honor where honor is due.

Take time this holiday season to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by glorifying the One who gave it all. A child was born in humble circumstances and his sacrificial death reflected the same, however, both were significant for humanity. Without the death of Christ, salvation isn’t possible. So without His birth, neither is it possible. Jesus coming to Earth that night changed everything and it’s a moment we should celebrate with all our hearts.

Certainly, enjoy the parties and food and gifts, but don’t forget to point your heart, family, and those around you to Christmas' true meaning: Christ came with a plan for our redemption.


This article was originally written for and posted on Crosswalk.

Wrestling With Your Identity

By Joy O’Neal

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I know the normal thing in this season is to write about the beauty of Christmas and the birth of our Savior but for a moment I would like to press pause. I want to discuss a topic that has been a recurring wrestle in my motherhood journey. I’m talking about identity. Throughout the many waves and seasons of motherhood, I continually find myself asking questions around true identity. When did it become such a big deal? Why does my flesh hunger for it? Why do I continue to search for it?

All these questions came flooding in while sitting on the porch with my dad on a warm South Carolina night. Casually, my dad asked, “What’s on your heart; what’s God been saying to you?” Without hesitation, the words poured out. “Dad, I am so confused by this obsession both for myself and those around me over identity.” You see moms, it felt as though everywhere I turned I was surrounded with the concerns of what others thought, who they said I was and how I appeared to be. Also, during this season of my life, it seemed like I needed to prove worthiness. Everywhere I looked, identity appeared to be lost. The question of HOW are you was replaced with WHO are you.

There is no other place where my personal identity has felt attacked more than in motherhood. As mothers, we want so deeply to get it right and since we’ve never held the title of mom until we hold our first child, it sparks a season of seeking. We research, question and, in true times of desperation, we Google. In the midst of this search, I believe there can be a dangerous shift that takes place. This shift somehow creeps in through thoughts of doubt and before we know it we are doing it as Sally does and how Jamie does and … well, the unique identity that was given to us and ONLY us is lost. Hence the start of a journey to lost identity.

Reeling over these thoughts I began to blame it on social media and the way our society lives a life on display, then my dad stopped me. What he said next gave me a revelation I’ll never forget around identity. He said, “Joy, this is no new thing! Go to Genesis. What is the first thing God said after the lies of doubt—when the first identity theft took place?”

I found it in Genesis 3:11; the first time identity was stolen. Genesis 3:11 “Who told you that…” Again my dad explained scripture in a way that comes straight from the Holy Spirit. I saw it, felt it and understood. The enemy inserted doubt to the God-given identity of Adam and Eve which caused a desire to cover themselves. They began to glean from the wrong source.

My soul made the connection in an instant and through the lens of grace, I began to see the search for significance for exactly what it was. The moms around me and myself were simply covering ourselves with “the perfect way” because somewhere along the line we started to listen to the wrong source.

After this conversation with my dad, I went on a journey. I asked God the deeper questions of my heart. How do I avoid the trap of lost identity? How do I silence the voices of doubt? How do I quiet pride and the desire to be seen and heard? And the biggest question, if my identity is in You then how do I see myself as You do?

The answers to these questions brought confusion at first because it was two names that rose to the surface of my quest. Mary and Rahab. I had to laugh! I wasn’t sure how the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab were going to come together but I was willing to dive into scripture and find out. I found two very different women living very different lives with very different identities but somehow uttering the exact same sentence.

The first proclamation is in Joshua when the two spies speak with Rahab about the plans of attack on her city. Joshua 2:21,

‘Let it be as you say.’

The second is in Luke after the angel appears to Mary and tells her she will be the mother of Jesus. Luke 1:38,

I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.

If the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab could arrive at the same mindset then possibly there is something here for us too.

Musing over the previous conversation with my dad on the topic of identity and this new parallel it was beginning to come together. God had already declared Adam and Eve’s true identity. They had no knowledge of nakedness until they listened to the words of doubt. Their desire to cover came directly from listening and believing the voice of confusion. Their source was wrong. Oppositely, Mary and Rahab were able to boldly declare, “Let it be as you say” simply because they listened and believed the right source.

As moms, I’m positive our identity will continue to be challenged. Reminding ourselves to remain confident in what scripture says about us is the strongest weapon in fighting against the identity crisis that seems to meet us at each new season. Just as God did in the garden, can I challenge you to ask yourself the question, “who told me that?” When you feel the urge to cover with accomplishments, credentials, degrees and labels, pause and remember who God says you are. And just like Mary and Rahab, when truth speaks be women that are ready to boldly declare, Let it be as you say!

Merry Christmas mamas!