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Designed to Flourish aims to inspire, encourage and uplift the women of Hampton Roads.
Oh, virtuous daughter of the KING, your worth is far above rubies. You are a joint-heir with Christ. Beautifully and wonderfully made. You walk in wisdom and kindness and carry yourself with poise, dignity and compassion. You gird yourself with grace and strength; You extend your hand to the poor and needy. You are clothed in fine linen and purple. Wisdom and kindness are continually on your tongue. You fear the Lord and give Him praise with all you are. He gives you good gifts from His hand, and has called you as ROYALTY for such a time as this.
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Did you know that you are a princess? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This time of year we can celebrate the fact that the Creator of the universe donned human skin, in true humility, to bring us into His Kingdom. “Emmanuel, which means God with us, was born of a virgin, Mary” (Matthew 1:23). Mary was a teenage girl, plucked from the dusty back roads of Jerusalem, answering a call to destiny. Now there was a young woman who knew who she was, despite what others might say. Then, of course, there is our humble Jesus. Can you imagine leaving the holy presence of heaven, being the very Creator who spoke the world into existence—to then come to earth as a helpless baby? Complete with diaper changes, nose wipes and probably even getting the proverbial “no” from Mary 1,000 times (a day) after trying to get into his father’s wood tools. (Hey, maybe He still had some creativity to unleash?) Jesus left the gold-paved streets, jewel-encrusted throne and the majestic, live angelic praise choir just to be acquainted with us, our grief, and all our “mess.” I don’t know about you, but I have a few relatives for whom I’d almost rather not even leave my humble home to go visit for a short holiday dinner (can you say drama?), let alone go move on in with them—if you catch my parallel. But not Jesus. He knew “living among us” is what it would take to defeat the enemy on our behalf, and He was more than willing. He knew the cross would one day stand before Him. But He also knew that it was the only way to reconcile a lost humanity to a right relationship with God. Once He paid that penalty for our sin, it meant that we became children of the most High, “in whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15). Wow, take that in for a second. Jesus saw us as His worthy, valuable, inheritance—despite all of our “humanity.” Not sure about you, but I could take a lesson from His humility this season. Too, some of us seldom think of ourselves as very royal either. “I’m too old, too overweight, too many mistakes, too this, too that . . . .” The devil is a liar! So, we act like the prodigal son, running around with the “pigs” having turned our back on our own inheritance. But God is saying, you are an heir with me (Romans 8:16). You are amazing and beautiful (Psalm 139), and I’ve given you gifts (Ephesians 4:7) that are like beautiful jewels to display my glory to the nations (Malachi 3:17). I love you, I died for you, I call you whole. I’ve given you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to know who we are in Him so that we can walk worthy of the calling for which we have been apprehended (Philippians 3:12, KJV). Can I see a little “swagger” please? You know it takes some deep-down chutzpah and spunk to be a powerful princess, ladies—and that only comes from knowing who you are in Him! So, amidst all the glitter, gifts and glam of the holiday season, let’s remember the most important gift. That of our salvation and the miracle of how Jesus lifted each one of us out of our “station.” He gave us gifts to allow us to sparkle with the light of Christ. He made us beautiful, redeemed, royal, beautiful princesses with a call upon our lives and empowerment to bring His kingdom to the earth; to co-labor with Christ and walk in His kingly authority to see the works of the enemy destroyed. Pretty powerful stuff. In fact, it makes me feel differently about myself. Gives a pep in my step and a dignity I didn’t know I could possess. Makes me look at others differently too. No longer do the labels the world may try to give stick. Instead it is … Princess. Dignified. Powerful. Beautiful. Godly. Daughter of the Most High. How beautiful to “unwrap” us and others this season, seeing and appreciating all that we really are underneath the surface! He wants us to know that we are special in His sight, so that we can walk with honor, strength and respect—living forth that for which we have been called. May we continually live in that tension between being “royalty,” yet walking in heaven-styled humility. It is one of the keys to living this gift of life, just like Mary and Jesus did, as ones who fulfilled an amazing heavenly purpose … for such a time as this. Enjoy your blessings this season and always!
“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8). Designed to Flourish Magazine is for Hampton Roads Christian singles, wives, moms, friends, daughters . . . women. It is for those aspiring to be all they were created to be—their most beautiful and fulfilled selves. It is for women who desire to sparkle with the light of Christ in their relationships, roles, finances, life goals and all areas of life. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). This includes being a Proverbs 31 woman! 224 Springbrook Lane Chesapeake, VA 23320 757-348-5664 iflourishonline.com Publisher/Executive Editor Kelly Head Senior Editor Cresta Shawver Design Director Nicole Knight Graphic Design Assistant Chanelle Holloman Flourish Ad Design Francisco Afanador, Chanelle Holloman Senior Copyeditor Belinda Elliott Editorial Assistants Elizabeth Bergman and Pam Floyd Contributing Writers Jennifer Avis, Rebecca Brittingham, Theresa Ceniccola, Penny Crowell, Belinda Elliott, Kelly Head, Nathalie Jeter, Pam Johnson, Phyllis Johnson, Jacqueline Maples, Dr. Linda Mintle, Lisa Marshall, Cresta Brooke Shawver, Amy Volk, Jenn Wakefield and Joy Wansley Photographer Keith Cephus Special Thanks All the wonderful supporters, advertisers and contributors. Thank you!
Designed to Flourish Magazine is published six times a year by Flourishing Media, LLC. No portion may be reproduced without the written consent of the publishers. The opinions of the contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the publishers. Flourishing Media LLC, assumes no liability for products, services or statements made by advertisers. The publishers reserve the right to refuse advertisements that do not meet the publication’s standards. Have your Designed to Flourish Magazine delivered for $18 annually to cover the cost of shipping & processing. Visit www.theflourishmagazine. com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved.
In This Issue 3
Editor’s Note: Do you know that you’re a princess?
5 Perspectives: Live Good Minutes 6 Joys of Style: Accessories bring out your holiday party sparkle and shine
7 Lindsay Cates: Divinly inspired to make children’s jewelry that lasts Smart Cents: Gift buying on a budget
8 Calvary Revival’s Pastor Janeen McBath. Flourish gets up close with the Lady behind the pastor
Mintle Heath: Cherish the gift you already have. Flourish Fitness expert Lisa Marshall tells us how to keep weight gain at bay this season. lourish Profiles: Two local writers share F hope for love and life in their new books.
Help us spread the ministry of Designed to Flourish! Please pick up extra copies and pass them along to the women in your life. Our goal is to steward the copies by getting them directly into the hands of the Christian women of Hampton Roads. Also, are we available at your church, Christian conference, Bible study or other event? We would love to be! Email email@example.com. We are looking for people with a heart for the Christian women of our community. We currently are looking for volunteer help with online media marketing, administration, proofreading and distribution. Come be a part of our ambassador program or an officer in our newly forming Flourishing Ladies leadership committee. Email firstname.lastname@example.org today. Please review the writing submission guidelines prior to sending submissions at www.iflourishonline.com.
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implified Living: Top ten holiday de-stress tips S Let it glow winter skincare solutions About the Cover Artist
13 Mompreneur: Five Sunday Strategies for
work-at-home moms balancing faith and family
Had she never been born. Second generation holocost survivor Linda Olmert’s heartwrenching story.
Single? Hurting? Some ways to add the happy back into your holidays.
Family Traditions: Creating Shining Family Moments
Local moms share what they do to make happy holiday memories
20 Palette: Pass the cheese, please.
How to throw an elegant cheese party Fun, budget-conscious handcrafted gifts
22 The Flourish: Wide-eyed with wonder
Knowing who you are as a daughter of God
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Joella Skilleter is predominately a self-taught artist. For many years, she focused her attention on watercolors, as it suited her nomadic lifestyle. After settling in New Zealand for a number of years, she began to explore the acrylic medium. In recent years, she has developed an interest in painting during times of worship and prayer. Joella currently resides in the United States. You can explore her range of paintings at www.joellaskilleter.com
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Good Minute By Pam Johnson
Rushing through life a few years ago, I picked up my ringing phone at my office and said a cheerful, “Good minute.” The caller responded with a confused chuckle. “Good minute?” Realizing the humor in my accidental greeting, I told the caller, “I thought I was going day by day, but I think the Lord is calling me to minute by minute!” We both laughed at the idea, and the caller went on with his day. But for me, a seed was
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sown, and I have pondered the thought since that conversation.
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Life has a way of coming at us fast . . . full speed, non-stop. Everyone is going for all the gusto we can get, making every day count, multitasking our way from one project to the next, writing our “to-do list”
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and checking it twice. We never miss an opportunity and make sure to be the best at everything we do, all the time—to our families, our church, our husband, children, friends, career, coworkers—and the days fly by. Even our children are saying, “Where has the time gone?” Instead of each new day being filled with “good minutes,” we may find ourselves just rushing through to reach the completion of each goal/task that we are undertaking. Whether it is large or small accomplishments (i.e. raising our children versus finishing a project for our employer), if we are not careful we will get to the end of the journey and realize we have missed the most important part . . . enjoying and savoring each moment. Everyone needs a reminder to take life in small increments. We should take a minute to be aware of our emotional state and not rush through life with a huge stress load. Our attitudes
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and actions during the minutes of each day can change people’s lives, including our most important relationships. With a heart purposed to making “good minutes,” we will be more cognizant to share the joys of life with others as well as an awareness of the stress, the pain and the overload that others may be enduring. Walking with such an attitude will create a joy and peace for us that cannot help but radiate to others. A smile to a stranger walking past us,
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a larger than usual tip for a meal to a server who may be having a bad day, a word of encouragement, a card sent to a friend, or a call or text just to say, “I’m thinking about you.” All of these things take less than a minute, yet you can change the course of a life by making the minutes of your life good ones! The world will be a different place if we all decide to answer the calls of our life one minute at a time. Are you willing? When you get to the end of your life , will it be filled with the results of “good minutes?” Can look back and say, “I really enjoyed my journey Lord!” He will say, “Well done my good and
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faithful servant!” May I suggest He will also say, “Well lived my friend!” Let’s make all of our minutes good minutes! Pam is a highly skilled and caring realtor who helps people make their housing dreams a reality. Get in touch with Pam for a “good minute” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Joys of Style
Accessories: Sparkle & Shine The holidays are quickly approaching! Maybe you have a work/ neighborhood party to attend, your child’s school play to go to, or that date you have been waiting on has finally arrived. So what do you wear? You have no time to shop all over town for that “perfect outfit!” Hmm, what should you do? DO NOT PANIC! The following items may already be in the deep abyss called your closet. Reach in and see how we can sparkle you up to dazzle your friends and family. Did you know that you don’t have to spend a bundle on an entirely new outfit? It’s the accent that makes all the difference in the world! Just call me a “mixologist,” because I love to mix different garments together to create a story with my outfit. No matter what you are trying to say with your outfit, remember: have fun, be creative, be glamorous, step outside your box and add a POP OF COLOR! Let Your Sparkle Shine!
Here are a few tricks of style: Take a basic sleeveless (or not) sheath dress (preferably black, it can be any solid color) that fits your body proportions and shape properly in all of the right ways: length, fabric, frame, neckline and, most importantly, price point. Shoes are so important because they give the outfit balance, intrigue and sophistication. okay, who are we kidding— it gives plain old COMFORT! Choose a color, pattern, texture, heel, height and thickness that adds interest to the outfit but does not say, ‘Hey, stare at my feet!” Shoes bring enough of pizzazz that makes you feel sassy, sultry, whimsical or just tres chic! Wearing hosiery is solely up to you. Pattern hosiery is vogue right now; however, it really depends on the shoes you are wearing. If you can go without them, that is fine. Do not overdo it in terms of the hue or pattern; be daring but not gauche! Let’s talk ACCESSORIES, or shall we say bling! Of course, you could play it safe with the usual pearls or diamond accents, but why go that route? Try statement pieces like rhinestone pins or colorful beaded jewelry. Don’t forget hair accessories, if you want to emulate Princess Kate in any way. Try a bejeweled hair pin, a colorful fastener, or a satin /printed headband. Statement jewelry comes in all shapes and sizes from necklaces, rings and bracelets. Handbags for the fall/winter season run a full gamut of styles, colors and textures from totes, clutches, envelope bags, hobos, hardware accents and prints galore! Here is that extra somethin’-somethin’ that is going to take you from “desk-to-dinner.” It is your piéce de rèsistance either to chase away that evening chill or to keep you business-ready until you decide to slip it off for an evening of elegance. Try a pashmina/shawl, a shrug or a faux fur accent. There are a variety of colors and fabrics to choose from that will accent your beauty for the day or evening. I am not saying to wear all of these at the same time; however, you can accomplish different looks depending on what you want to focus on.
Enjoy Your Joys of Style!
Flourish’s resident fashionista, Joy Wansley has a passion for fashion and an eye for style whether vintage or new. Her ‘Joys of Style’ will entice you and transform your thinking about how the world of fashion can be fun! Joy is a 20-year professional in the fashion/retail industry in areas of styling, merchandising, buying, sales, leadership, management, operations, brand marketing, coaching, staff development and consulting.
Divinely Inspired to Make Jewelry that Lasts Phyllis Johnson
as there a necklace during your childhood that you loved dearly but didn’t last long enough? Sadly, for me that was too often the case. I remember having cross necklaces with chains that either broke soon after I got them or they knotted up beyond untangling. For years, children’s jewelry was something that didn’t stand the test of time. Imagine finding jewelry for your little girl that is not only beautiful but also durable. Virginia Beach resident Lindsey Cates, creator of Aidah Jewelry, has succeeded in making such a line for children. Beginning her studies in the craft in Florence, Italy, she got her degree in metalsmithing/jewelry at Old Dominion University. Her skill and interest in the subject has grown over time and expanded to include pieces for those of a more tender age. With the philosophy that children should have the same level of quality in their accessories as adults, she designed a jewelry line to complement any young girl’s wardrobe of play and dress clothes. Using her God-given gift of jewelry making, she wanted to bring dignity to the concept of children’s jewelry. “I designed this line inspired by my daughter, Aidah. Now three and a half, she chooses my beautiful, well-made designs over the cheaply made jewelry often available in stores. She cares for it the way I would, instead of letting it lie broken and unused in a toy box,” explained Lindsey. “The name Aidah was selected for my jewelry line because it’s both my daughter’s and my grandmother’s name. It actually means ‘to adorn.’ My tagline is ‘to adorn,’ a lucky coincidence.” Emphasizing the point that with God’s
unique design, children all have styles of their own, she further adds that her jewelry pieces capture the child’s creative essence for those from age three and up. Her necklaces and bracelets can last beyond childhood for years to come and, in time, becoming mementos of youth. Quality conscious, Lindsey ensures that if an item breaks because of the construction, she’ll be happy to replace it. This is jewelry that your child is sure to cherish for years to come. She puts a lot of time and thought into each piece and thanks God for the talent and skills she’s been given. “It’s important for mothers to be in touch with the gifts God gave them. My business has given me the opportunity to be an example to my children as a light in the marketplace.” Lindsey’s desire is for her children and other mothers to pursue God’s plan for them. “Having my children see me fulfilled in the creative gift God gave me is important to me. I want them to pursue God’s will for their lives too. I also hope to inspire mothers to follow their dreams and pursue them, whether it’s learning to play a new instrument, learning a second language, starting a new business or finding their identities in Christ.” Lindsey plans to contribute to nonprofit organizations supporting women and children. “I want to be in touch with the Holy Spirit and listen as He guides me on how best to use my gift. There’s no greater joy than to personally know the Potter who is forming this clay.” Phyllis Johnson is a local author and photojournalist. She has five books to her credit, including four poetry books and a co-written suspense novel titled, inkBLOT. www.phyllisjohnson.net
I love Christmas, but feel disappointed in January when the bills come in from the spending and I wonder if my family even remembers what they received. What could I do differently this year? It is not uncommon to feel this way. There is so much hype in December about shopping and getting quantity (not necessarily quality). When people subscribe to the hype they often feel disappointed after the holiday and feel determined to do it different next year. Well “next year” is here! So here are some suggestions to do things different this time:
Consider involving your family in making gifts for loved ones and friends instead of purchasing gifts.
Give things that keep giving all year instead of a gift that is opened once: Tickets to a Broadway show, annual passes to your family’s favorite amusement park, family membership to a local museum or zoo.
Create family memories instead of buying stuff: Go ice skating together, take a trip to NYC to take in all the Christmas decorations and shows. They don’t have to be expensive trips; we’ve created some memories like going hiking on Christmas Eve
day as a family. My sister-in-law has five children, so instead of buying each of them a gift, we’ve taken them all out for a nice meal and then gone bowling together, or one year we all went to Color Me Mine and each of them chose something to paint. It was a great way to spend time together, plus they now have something to remember the day with.
If you want to start teaching your children about money and investing, buy a stock from a company that they’re interested in like Disney or Wrigley. That way every time they watch a Disney movie or buy a Disney toy or chew a piece of Wrigley gum, they’ll be reminded that they own the company and remember your gift. Or you could start a savings account for them or buy a savings bond. These types of gifts are teaching tools throughout the year.
One client of mine wanted to leave a legacy for her grandchildren and wanted them to remember her each year . . . even after she was gone. So she purchased a life insurance policy that earns cash value for each of her grandchildren on their birthdays.
Among local jewelry designer Lindsay Cates fashions are a necklace and bracelet set named Rock Candy. This design is a rainbow blend of non-toxic wooden beads and a red and amber cut glass bead Lindsey describes as a candy feast for tiny eyes. Necklaces measure about fourteen and a half inches and bracelets are about six inches in length. “My necklaces should fit your child whether she’s three years old or nine or ten. Just remember to measure before you order,” said Lindsey, ”and make sure you measure for bracelets, too.” Visit aidahjewelry.com for more information.
That way every year on the grandchild’s birthday for the rest of his/her life, he’ll get an annual statement on his account and will remember his grandmother who purchased that for him. She said it was like being able to give a gift to her grandchildren every year of their lives . . . even though she wouldn’t be around to celebrate with them. You could use that idea as a Christmas gift instead of birthday. I think the key to avoiding the big financial let down after Christmas is to create a budget and stick to it! Whether you choose to implement any of the above ideas or you decide to just go for the big quantity of stuff again this year, as long as you stick to your budget, you will feel better. And here’s an idea for next year: Save a little each month, so in December you can pay cash and not rack up credit card bills. Or buy a couple of gifts each month and store them so by December most of your shopping is finished and you can relax and enjoy the season and create those family memories. Lastly, and most importantly, remember the real reason for the season. It really isn’t about all those gifts anyway. It’s really about the most precious gift ever given, Jesus Christ. Yes, Christmas is almost here and now it is “next year” . . . so what are you going to do differently this year? Penny Crowell is a Registered Principal and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC., Member SIPC. Supervision Office: 222 Central Park Avenue, Suite 1100, Virginia Beach, VA 23462 (757) 490-9041
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Janeen L. McBath | Co-pastor of Calvary Revival Church CEO/President of Lady J Enterprises, LLC | President and CEO of House of Esther Ministries Owner of The Queenâ€™s Chamber clothing boutique and Private Moments Day Spa
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Some 20 years ago, Janeen McBath followed her husband’s lead to move hundreds of miles away from their home in Tennessee and begin a church in a land she had never before visited—Norfolk, Virginia. Though unsure of her specific part in the new ministry, Janeen believed with her husband, Courtney, that God was sending their family to begin what is now Calvary Revival Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the region. Upon moving to Hampton Roads and settling into her role as co-pastor, Janeen had some tough decisions to make. She had long dreamed of a career in the fashion industry, but knew that God had called her to stay at home with her children, placing her dreams of working in the fashion and business arenas on hold. “Parenting takes a lot of work and patience,” says Janeen. She realized early on that each of her five children was different and had different gift mixes. Raising them was her number one priority. “I had to let a lot of jobs go because I felt that staying home with my kids was what I needed to do at that time.” Managing a seven-member household is no easy feat, and Janeen laughs as she recalls leaving her infant son on the kitchen table in his car seat while the rest of the family left for church. Thankfully, she and her husband quickly realized their hilarious error, and the baby was spared an afternoon of being left home alone. Living in the McBath household was a lot of fun. “We’re really big on family outings and just spending quality family time together. Our house was and still is always filled with kids,” Janeen states. “We make home fun.” Parenting her five children also came with some hardships such as when her children became teenagers and sometimes challenged the values of their Christian upbringing. I heard my own mother’s voice when Janeen explained to me the response she gave her children: “This is not so-and-so’s house, and that’s not how we do things here.” Thankfully, her hard work and patient dedication has paid off. To date, her oldest son is a working Hollywood actor, her daughter and son-inlaw recently welcomed a baby and are active leaders in the family’s church, her third son just graduated college and is working in his field, and her two youngest boys are in college. “The godly woman will make her family her first priority. If you look at the biblical pattern for women, they always took care of their husbands and children first.” And ladies, you can’t do it all by yourselves! “Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help!” Pastor Janeen reminded me. This is true, check it out for yourself. That woman had servants, managers and surely a housekeeper. Whether a woman works full time outside of her home or chooses to stay at home, the makings of a godly woman are the same: family first. Now that her children are grown and don’t require as much of her time, Pastor Janeen is now free to pick up those dreams from 20 years ago. Enter “Lady J.” Lady J owns two businesses, a clothing boutique appropriately named The Queen’s Chamber and Private Moments Day Spa, a full-service spa parlor. She also is the President and CEO of House of Esther Ministries, a non-profit maternity home she founded along with her husband to help unwed teenage mothers facing crisis pregnancies.
It’s all about timing. “I know this is my season now,” remarks Janeen. When she’s not busy taking care of her home, helping to lead her church or managing her businesses, Lady J likes to simply relax with a cup of Chai tea (one pump of vanilla, please!) and just be herself. She loves to read, hang out and participate in sports. She’s even recently taken up golf (as evident by the golf attire she wore on our interview). Anyone who knows Lady J knows that not only is she a lover of fashion, but she is a woman of prayer. “Being a pastor’s wife, you can’t necessarily share everything with everybody, but I know I can always talk to God. I’ve found him to be such a friend. Prayer and meditation are a great means of solitude for me,” she reflects. At the end of the day, Lady J wants to be known as a woman who gave her life and energy to helping people become their best. She feels her legacy is to help others birth their dreams. And that, in a nutshell, is the call of every mother, wife, leader and pastor. There is more than meets the eye with Janeen McBath, for behind the pastor and businesswoman extraordinaire is a lady of great wisdom, love and purpose.
Notes from Lady J Currently reading: One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer and Rules of Engagement: The Art of Strategic Prayer and Spiritual Warfare by Cindy Trimm.
Singing in the shower: Donald Lawrence’s Your Righteous Mind album. This album is really ministering to me right now in some challenges I’m facing in my own faith walk.
Favorite Scripture: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7, NASB). Best advice for marriage: Communicate and don’t be afraid to get help. Keep things in the open and never stop talking. Many couples fail at marriage because of a breakdown in communication. They stop talking, stop praying and have little to no accountability. Christian couples must realize ministry can’t come before your marriage.
Number one fashion tip: I believe Christian women should be beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside. Every woman should have a nice pair of shoes (or two!) and a bottle of cologne. Favorite family holiday tradition: Christmas! I go all out with the decorations and cook a huge meal. I love Christmas because I can spend my husband’s money and give even more!
Tips for getting along with family members during the holidays:
Holidays are a great time to bring people together. Put down the defenses, and use this time to love each other in spite of your differences. Be sure to make great memories, and relax and laugh a little. Be Christlike by accepting each other’s differences.
Dana Williams’ life’s passion is to see broken people restored. She is currently working on young adult novels touching on social justice issues and inspiring readers to renew hope in God. Dana resides in Virginia Beach with her husband and four children.
Linda Mintle, Ph.D.
Cherish the Gift You Already Have
TREASURE Yourself as the GIFT You Are This Holiday Season Lisa Marshall
For years, my children did not know there was a large shopping bag overstuffed with presents secretly stashed away in my bedroom closet. By the time December hit, I had a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and technical toys to die for tucked away on a shelf. My preplanned efforts spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped avoid the last minute holiday shopping rush. Sounds like a plan, right? Well something happened years ago that made me rethink my supposedly genius strategy. Buying throughout the year, I lost track of how much I accumulated. It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse! As I gazed at the packages all in a row, I was aghast! The tree looked bulimic due to my past. I slumped to the floor and grabbed hold of my man, “We have only two children. There’s enough here for ten!” We stared at the swollen pile of goodies. One by one we picked through the pile. This present can wait for a birthday, this one for next Christmas, this one for a special reward . . . finally, after a great deal of triage, the stack looked sensible. That year, we made a decision. Christmas gifts were limited to three types: 1) A gift desired 2) Something needed 3) Something educational. Of course, our children hated the idea and hoped that we would eventually come to our senses. We haven’t, and we’ve seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of “wants” with a focus on how much someone gets. As I listen to teens move through the hallways of our home, I hear the chatter of “more.” Not only is the meaning of Christmas grossly distorted but materialism creates ungrateful kids. So this holiday season, consider changing your focus. Instead of a new gaming system, take your kids to a soup kitchen and let them serve. Visit a homeless shelter or a hospital children’s ward and put things in perspective. I know that what I am saying isn’t new, but most of us need to be reminded about our tendency to overindulge. Whether it is food, enjoyment or shopping, we live in a culture that reinforces the need for more. As we examine what motivates us to spend, we can ask, is it related to guilt from being absent or unavailable, an attempt to communicate love, a competitive attitude with others, a way to garnish an identity and look successful, materialism, a lack of self-restraint, and/or misguided thinking? As I watch children quickly open disposable presents and throw them off to the side without even a thank you, I know something is very wrong. When little Suzie tells me Christmas was no fun because she didn’t get what she wanted, I think, the Grinch hasn’t stolen Christmas, our ungratefulness has. Christmas is about God giving His Son as a glorious gift to mankind. Don’t clutter that gift with so many others that the important gift becomes lost in the fray. Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in clinical practice for over 30 years. She is a best-selling author whose latest book is Letting Go of Worry (see page 11.) Follow her on Facebook (Dr Linda Mintle, author and speaker), Twitter (drlinadhelps) and her daily blog on Beliefnet.com (Doing Life Together). For more about Dr. Linda, check out her website-- www.drlindahelps.com.
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The holiday season seems to take on a life of its own. Disciplines of daily life are abandoned; priorities are skewed. Stress levels escalate as we are overwhelmed with cooking, entertaining, traveling and shopping. Thanksgiving and Christmas comprise the season in which we celebrate our blessings of friends and family, and of the birth of our Lord Jesus. It’s a time for serving and giving, but so often we take care of others at great personal cost and demote ourselves to last place on our priorities list. In this season of giving, remember that you are a gift to your family and friends. Take care of yourself for their sake and for yours. Maintaining exercise and a healthy diet as priorities will sustain a sense of normalcy amid the often chaotic season as well as alleviate stress, prevent weight gain, increase energy and keep you feeling your best. Below are some tips to help you stay on track this holiday season; remember, you’re worth the effort! Schedule it. Set your exercise plan for each week, and lock those appointments with yourself into your calendar. Circuit train. This method is more intense and requires less time because exercises are done without resting in between. Exercises may be done for time (i.e. 30 sec.) or for reps (i.e. 8-12). A balanced workout includes about ten exercises that target each major muscle group. Depending on your fitness level, do 1-3 circuits. Expand your horizons. The gym is not the only place to exercise. Make shopping your workout if that’s all time allows. Walk through the mall briskly with your bags. Always take the stairs. If there are escalators, walk up them, don’t ride. Park far from the mall entrance. Shop online. This may seem counter intuitive since it requires sitting at the computer, but the time you save shopping online instead of at the mall can be spent exercising at the gym. Make exercise a family affair. Take the gang out for a walk after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Make it a new tradition. Get everyone involved in a game of football or go ice skating. Wonderful memories can be created while being active with those you love! Prevent weight gain. Eat small meals throughout the day or plan healthy snacks between meals (especially if you’ll be shopping for several hours). Keeping your blood sugar levels steady will reduce the temptation to overeat. Load up on salads full of veggies before holiday meals. The high fiber and water content will fill you up. May this holiday season be one of great joy and health for you and your loved ones! Lisa Marshall is a certified personal trainer who approaches fitness from the fact that we are spirit, soul and body. Her passion is to cultivate fitness inside and out so that her clients reach their fitness goals and live their best lives. Find her at: www.optimumlifefitness.com.
Flourish Profiles: ‘Princesses Don’t Get Cancer’ offers hope and help While showering one day, Hope Jordan discovered a lump in her breast. Her first thought: “But princesses don’t get cancer.” Like so many other women, she saw her life as a fairy tale. As her diamond tiara washed down the drain, Hope readied herself for a heroic battle that had the potential to end her fairy tale and her life. Princesses Don’t Get Cancer tells Hope’s story, but from the perspective
of the health battle shared by many families. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed form of cancer detected in women. Diagnosis, treatment and healing are long processes, but they are also opportunities for personal growth, as Hope quickly discovered. Faith and humor carried her through her process, along with endless optimism. Hope’s difficult journey is chronicled in her book, as she addresses practical
issues from choosing a doctor and buying a wig to reactions of family and friends and how they dealt with watching a loved one suffer through sickness. Cancer is a long, thorny path. It is true, we cannot choose our paths in life, but we can choose how we respond to difficulties we face. Hope Jordan stands by her mantra of holding tight to good people and good experiences, while keeping God at the center of it all! Hope Jordan has over 30 years of experience in the field of education
and has or co-authored several articles and books. She is currently a professor at Regent University. However, she considers her most important roles to be those of wife, mother, grandmother and “survivor.” If you have had a recent diagnosis and are navigating all the thoughts and feelings associated with it, this book can bring encouragement, hope and help as you make sense of it all. Princesses Don’t Get Cancer is available through Crossbooks for $10.99 (crossbooks.com).
Flourish Profiles: Carlos Garcia pens poetry collection ‘I Choose You’ Hampton Roads Author Carlos Garcia — Husband, Father, Minister, and… hopeless romantic, has just released his book of poems to bring hope and healing to women. Married for 15 years to his wife Liz, and father of three, Carlos still writes his wife love letters. His book I Choose You, is born out of his own love story that began even before he met his wife. The poems will encourage women of all ages, addressing such topics as the beauty of purity, the expectation of wedding bells and the bliss of marriage.
“My biggest surprise regarding my book was finding out that my poems are not limited to a particular demographic. Teens will be blessed by it, married women were awed by it and older women were ministered to by I Choose You.” Carlos has been ministering to the hurting for nearly twenty years, and his experiences have given him a heart to see women loved, cherished and joyful, which is evident through the poems in I Choose You.” “I’m also particularly proud of the new
“I want readers to walk away knowing that they are not alone in this world.”
chapter I wrote for the book called, ‘To Daughters.’ I was inspired by Jada, my precious four-year-old. I would never want her to be without the guidance and wisdom that a father can provide. This group of poems speak to the daughters of absent fathers, to speak healing to low self-worth and to know they are loved of the Father, and that they have great value and purpose.” A great gift idea for all, teen, single, married or widowed, I Choose You by Carlos Garcia is available online at www.bn.com and www.amazon.com.
You Don’t Have to Worry Does worry have you in it’s grip? Best selling author, national speaker and therapist Dr. Linda Mintle’s latest book, Letting Go of Worry provides doable steps for spiritual and emotional change. Available in bookstores and online now.
“Dr. Linda shows us God’s tools for letting go of worry.” Ruth Graham Dr. Linda Mintle lives in Hampton Roads and is available to speak at your church, conference or event. Follow her daily blog, Doing Life Together.
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Let It Glow, Let It Glow, Let It Glow! Jacqueline Maples, LME, LE
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Need some pointers in how to have that fresh, rosy, holiday glow? T Use a skincare product that has fruit enzymes or a mild AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) in it. Dull, dry skin will gently slough off. Remember the key word here is “mild.” Leave the higher percent peels to the professionals. T Though it may be a countdown until the holidays, remember not to skip over using your moisturizer on a daily basis. Skin needs that hydration to keep it supple. Summer may be gone, but don’t forget the SPF. T H20…can’t get enough! It’s always the answer for dehydration. During this busy season grab a bottle of water for the internal and a hydrating toner for the external. Keep it in your purse and mist your skin often, it will thank you. So will your makeup application from earlier. “No dry creases here!”
Top 10 Holiday Destress Tips
T How about working that body for just 15 minutes? Slip on those sneakers and go. Do some light stretching in the morning and take a brisk walk. The blood is pumping, circulation is going, and before you know it your body is pulsating with life.
With the holidays quickly approaching, it can feel like you’re on a fast moving train without a conductor! Added to our plate of “things to do” are shopping, cooking, baking, company and wrapping from all the shopping we did. Not to mention traveling and Christmas cards to send out! To give some order to the season and lighten the load, I came up with a list to help you de-stress. Starting now, use this list to plan out all that you have to do during the holiday season.
T Spend time daily with your Heavenly Father for He knew you before He fearfully and wonderfully formed you in your mom’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). His thoughts are precious toward you and outnumber the sand (Psalm 139:17-18). But wait, there is more . . . T Meditate on the brightest glow of all, Jesus. Remember the Light of the World and the time of His entry 2,000 years ago. Take daily time with Him and enter into the presence of His Holy Spirit. So sing every day to this Great Lover of your soul. Find that song in your heart and let it out! Don’t you know you are a bride in the making? And we all know how brides glow. Remain in the presence of His sweet Spirit this holiday season as your lives emanate Him. let it glow, let it glow, let it glow!
Start clearing the clutter now! Have kids donate five current toys to make room for new ones. Have one afternoon of family decluttering where all the “public” areas of the home are swept through and cleared out. This will make way for the decorations.
Make a three-ring binder planner for the holiday season. Include plastic pocket dividers and a pencil pouch. Photo pages work great for recipe cards. Keep your gift lists, shopping lists, recipes, guest lists, card supplies and all holiday ideas in one easy place. You can take it with you everywhere you go!
Jacqueline Maples is the owner of The Well Watered Garden – bringing her skincare expertise to the Hampton Roads area. Looking for that rosy glow for your skin? Check her out at: www.thewellwateredgarden.net.
Do your cards early. Make a decision to have them purchased or ordered by December 1st. If you are super busy, have preprinted cards made that includes all of the names in your family. Kids can stuff and lick envelopes and even apply return address labels. Do a few per day until they are all sent. If things get nutty, consider New Year cards!
Start shopping now. Make your gift list and pick up gifts as you see them. Don’t plan a power shopping day; that can be exhausting and you are usually fighting big crowds. Most online retailers are offering free shipping for early season shoppers.
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Buy some extra gifts, gift wrap them, and keep them unlabeled. When unexpected company comes or a quick gift is needed, simply add a label and you are set without having to run around. Some examples are restaurant gift cards, movies rental cards, movie tickets or scented candles.
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If you are hosting the big holiday meal, make the menu early and stick to it. Keep the printed or written menu in your binder or on the fridge so no detail is forgotten. Buy ingredients early and set a designated space aside for storing those ingredients. You won’t be stressed when it’s time to cook because you will have everything you need!
If a big holiday meal feels too overwhelming, consider a dinner party with heavy hors d’oeuvres. Enlist as many helpers as you can, or assign each family member to bring their own special appetizer.
If you are traveling for holidays, consider ordering as many gifts as possible online and having them shipped to your travel destination. This lightens your load, especially when flying. Then just plan on wrapping those gifts when you get there.
When buying gifts, assign a plastic container to each person you are buying for. This will allow you to organize your gift buying and assess the purchases for each person. This makes gift wrapping much easier because your gifts are already sorted. As you purchase a gift for say, Suzy, place that gift in Suzy’s container. Opaque containers with lids are a good idea. Keep these in an inconspicuous place like an attic or basement.
Start your holiday planning in late October or early November. Using your holiday calendar, carefully consider all the invites you receive and say “yes” to only those that don’t add stress to your life. Map out times you can shop, times you can bake and cook, times you will set aside to spend with relatives and neighbors, and times to make preparations. Pick the week you will decorate and do a little each day. As always, saying “yes” to less and “no” to more will significantly lessen the stress of a high demand season.
Simplified Living LLC founder Amy Volk has a passion for creating beautiful, clutter-free homes and corporate environments. She helps people learn to live more simply. Visit her at www.simplifiedliving.org.
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Sunday Strategies for Mompreneurs
As a mom and an entrepreneur, taking a day off is not in my nature. I don’t have time for a day off. Heck – I don’t even have time to eat sitting down! When I wake up with a scratchy throat, my first reaction is a panic prayer: “Dear God, please don’t let me be sick —I don’t have time for this!” Often I get so absorbed in the urgency of my responsibilities, that slowing down seems like giving up. But keeping holy the Sabbath day is actually a habit that helps me recharge and prepare for the week to come. Here are five simple strategies I use to make the most of my weekly day of rest. (If your business requires you to work on Sunday, then try implementing these strategies another day of the week!) Screen-Free Sunday: The rule in our house on Sunday is to unplug. This means no computer, no TV (except during football season or the Tour de France), no Nintendo DS, no Blackberry surfing or any other activity that involves a screen. It’s a huge challenge for me, and I certainly have been known to make exceptions. (That’s my way of saying I break the rule!) But I try to honor the basic principle that Sundays are for connecting F2F (face to face). By unplugging on Sunday, I give myself permission to not respond immediately. I revoke the self-imposed edict that requires me to drop everything and answer a text message or reply to an email. It’s a liberating feeling to ignore that vibrating Blackberry and know that the world will not fall apart. Like starting a new workout routine, it’s painful at first, but after awhile it becomes a welcome habit. Sunday Summit: Many people go through life on autopilot, moving from task to task, job to job, activity to activity . . . without giving much thought to how they are living their lives or why they are making certain choices. One simple strategy I use to ensure that I am living with awareness and purpose is to hold a weekly meeting to reflect and plan—first with myself, then with my family. The “Sunday Summit” phrase comes from my mentor Christine Kane, and I love how it keeps me in the routine of planning for the week. I set aside 30 minutes on Sunday morning to journal about the week that has passed and any thoughts, feelings or plans for the week ahead. My journal usually takes the form of prayers in which I thank the Lord for the blessings of the previous week and ask for courage, wisdom and grace to take on the challenges of the coming week. I consider my business goals for the week and jot them down in my business journal. At dinnertime, I also review the calendar with my family, making sure everyone knows what is on the schedule so there are no last-minute surprises. We discuss the transportation schedule, childcare arrangements, errands, assignments, special occasions or activities for the week. Sunday Safeguard: Sundays have traditionally been a family day for me, but as my children grow older, it becomes more difficult to honor that tradition. Other than church, there are not any routine Sunday commitments on the calendar. But inevitably we receive an invitation to a birthday party, a family gathering, a meeting or some other activity. The temptation is to accept all of these invitations—how could we possibly say no when we don’t have any other plans? But here’s the thing: it’s good to have no plans once a week. It’s rewarding and rejuvenating to simply enjoy togetherness and nothingness for one afternoon a week.
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The key to safeguarding family time is to learn the art of saying no with grace and clarity—and without guilt. This doesn’t mean I turn down every Sunday invitation, but it enables me to examine each event with a critical eye. I ask myself: Does this event support my goals to spend Sunday time as a family? Will this event cause additional stress in my life? Oftentimes, I realize that my reasons for attending have more to do with obligation than with anything else. As long as I keep in mind my priority of protecting family time, I am able to decline invitations that do not serve our family for whatever reason. My personal “Say No Without Guilt” process is this: Make a decision and respond quickly. Most of the time, I know right away if we are able to attend. If I wait to respond, the decision becomes a drain on my mental energy—and it usually doesn’t change my response. Do not feel pressure to explain. A simple, graceful “no, thank you” is all that is required. The more “reasons” I share, the more they begin to sound like excuses. Be very clear. If I know for certain that I don’t plan to attend, I am clear in my language when I decline. I don’t leave it open by saying, “We’ll try to stop by” or “Can we play it by ear?” This only creates false expectations and more negative energy for me to carry around. Don’t worry. Be happy. With clarity and purpose, I can gracefully decline any invitation. But I need to let go of the reaction of others. I can’t waste valuable energy worrying about what others think of my decision. If I’ve made the choice based on my personal and family priorities, I take heart in knowing that I am honoring this time as a family. Don’t look back. Once I make a decision, I am confident in my choice. Even if I am disappointed, I let go of the belief that I am missing out on something. And I have faith that there will always be another invitation. Sunday Solitude: With all the free time I create by turning off my computer and keeping my schedule open, I am able to find time for myself. As a busy mom of three, I treasure any time I spend alone. So every Sunday, I carve out a few minutes of solitude to journal, read a good book, practice yoga, get a pedicure or take a bath. My favorite solo activity is sleeping in. Sunday Funnies: When I was a child, I loved reading the funny pages. My favorite cartoons were Family Circus and Cathy. (Perhaps that says something about my life path! ) Nowadays I don’t always read the Sunday paper until later in the week, but the gift of the comics is in the laughter therapy. So I create an opportunity to laugh on Sundays—perhaps it’s a family outing or a game. I know I am biased, but I happen to think my kids are the funniest people on the planet. And my husband is hilarious in his own way. So spending time with them always leaves me doubled over with laughter, which relieves stress better than any massage. So, next Sunday, when you are trying to decide if you should run to the grocery store or finish that proposal you’ve been working on, imagine yourself instead—quietly writing in your journal or laughing with your kids. If you think you don’t have time for it, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. You may discover the benefits of a Simple Sunday.
Heidi Mashaw | 757.572.1479 | www.mythirtyone.com/65590 | Heidisthirty_one@yahoo.com
Theresa Ceniccola is the Christian Mompreneur – a mentor to Moms Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. Read her inspiring ezine: www.theresaceniccola.com.
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Had She Never Been Born Rebecca Brittingham
Linda Olmert, sister-in-law of Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (in office from 2006-2009) regularly speaks on behalf of Israel, but it’s a miracle that she was ever born. In 1945 her father, Haim Rozamity, was sentenced to be exterminated at the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland. Linda’s mother, Rivka Rozmaity, had also been forced on the Nazi Death March, with barely enough clothes, in the middle of winter. Linda’s parents were still at the Auschwitz Prison Camp in Poland when it was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27th, 1945. Her parents had somehow survived among just a few thousand, mainly very sick, who remained in the camp. The miracle of Linda’s existence is that her father had been at Auschwitz for two years and was scheduled for extermination, but the camp was liberated just in time. While Linda’s parents survived physically, Linda grew up as an only child in her parents house in Toronto where the memories of Auschwitz still cast its dark shadows of death. Home became a place of brokenness, pain, suffering and loneliness that left Linda feeling that she had to be “strong” for her parents. Growing up, fearful screams and endless sobbing often echoed throughout her home. Linda explains, “My strongest memory I have of my father is waking up at night to his screams and crying. I don’t remember my dad laughing. I don’t remember my dad talking.”
Linda shares that people who survived the holocaust lived through six years of inhumane persecution and humiliation. “It wasn’t clear at all if they were going to survive. The people that did survive, lost everything that a human being has to lose. They lost their property and families, and faith in human beings. There was nothing a Jew could do in order to live. There was no value to their life. The purpose of their slavery was for them to die” she said. Although very young, Linda understood that there was a connection between her father’s deathly spirit and the number on his arm. When she was four years old she gathered all the cleaning products and brillo pads in an attempt to scrub the number off her father’s arm, hoping to end his somberness. However, she soon learned that the number could not be scrubbed off. She soon began to understand that his dark memories had left the most permanent stain of all. While Linda saw first hand how hurtful memories can stay imprinted on people’s souls and impact relationships with others, she also decided that we are also free to choose how we want to respond to our painful memories. This truth, and a desire to help bring peace to Israel, is what has spurred Linda to share her experiences as a second-generation holocaust survivor. While her parents lived a nightmare, Linda determined she could be an extension of that memory for a good purpose. Despite the heartache and pain that Linda was born into that stole much of her childhood joy, she now speaks with passion to unlock hidden memories of the Jewish people in an
These people, the ones that did survive lost everything that a human being has to lose. They lost their property and families, and faith in human beings. Even the holiday seasons ushered in loneliness. Mealtimes were often cold, dark and quiet. Even the abundance of good food could not replace the fact that Linda was starving for affection from her parents. Linda reflects back to a family gathering, Her parents were there physically, but were living in memories of family that had been lost in another world, she said.
attempt to keep the stories and truth alive in an effort to see peace come to her nation. Many years ago, Linda would never have dreamt that she would speak to Christians. Nor would she have imagined that Christians and Jews could stand together in one accord. Linda always had the impression that Christians were determined to either convert or completely
exterminate the Jewish people. However, she shared how one day she met an American couple visiting Israel during a time when it was deemed too dangerous for tourists. The couple shared with her that there were thousands of Christians who embraced the Jewish people and supported Israel. This, and learning about people such as Oskar Schindler, who hid Jews from Germans in Poland in an effort to save their lives, impacted the way Linda viewed Christians. Today, Linda speaks to Christian audiences on a regular basis, urging them to stand with Israel in the fight against radical Islam, which she feels threatens to destroy the Jewish way of life. “I love taking with people who are so interested in the history [of the Jewish people] and knowing what happened to us, and then creating an experience so that they can move from not only knowing about and appreciating us, but to where we actually become partners in that history and memory and partners in trying to bring our Judeo-Christian values forward. It is critical. to understanding each other, partnering together and dispelling myths,” she said.
Jennifer Brittingham shares about her visit to Israel to last summer. During my time meeting Linda and in Israel, my heart was completely broken for the Jewish people. For many years, I had heard that we as Christians needed to support Israel, but I didn’t truly understand the significance. However, as I walked through the Holy Land and interacted with the Jewish people, I saw for the first time God’s chosen people as a group that desperately needs our support. Often we as Christians, like myself, do not understand the biblical mandate to support Israel. We may feel that the best way we can support the Jews is by converting them. However, today more than ever, Israel needs our loving support. We have an opportunity and privilege to make a difference in the lives of the Jewish people. Many Jews like Linda have been in a long battle, fighting to preserve their heritage and stand strong even in the midst of the rising antiSemitic spirit that continually threatens to destroy their very existence. I had an opportunity to meet with many Jews, and
LEFT Insets: Young Haim Rozamity and Rivka Rozmaity. Above: Linda Olmert and her parents Haim and Rivka.
what surprised me most was how much hatred they have had to fight against. It is time for Christians and Jews to stand together in unity. He is calling us to stand with Israel, the apple of God’s eye. I believe that today, our greatest defense against radical Islamic persecution is to stand in the gap through prayer for Israel and show our support. When we choose to support Israel, we are not only embracing a country dear to the Lord’s heart, but we are also embracing God’s biblical mandate to support His chosen people! Jennifer Brittingham is a Regent University Journalism student who visited Israel last summer with Eagles Wings ministry. She desires to see the Lord's will done in the Nations, especially Israel.
What Should I Know About Israel?
Actions you can take to “stand up” for Israel
In Genesis 12:3, the Lord says in the covenant He makes with Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This relates not only to a people (the Jews), but it also relates to a land (Israel).
1. Equip yourself with reliable information, avoiding bigotry and disallowing “blind spots.” Recognize the disposition of the popular press. Assess reports cautiously but not with paranoia. Become familiar with the basics of history in the Middle East, and understand the past century.
Scripture declares that, spiritually speaking, when you receive the Lord, you become a Jew (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:26-29). If you are a believer, you cannot be consistent with the whole of Scripture and take a position that is passive toward the Jews and Israel.
2. Accept with continuing faithfulness the Bible’s call to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), and pray that our Nation will govern in the light of Genesis 12:1-3 ”I will bless those who bless you”
The forces opposed to Israel are not simply those of people who don’t like Jews. We are caught in the stream of spiritual forces greater than humanity, forces that cannot be overthrown politically or by the power of persuasion. These forces can only be broken by intercessory prayer where principalities and powers are cast down. (Eph. 6:12).
3. Prayerfully consider visiting Israel as a point of practical support. 4. Show friendship toward Jewish friends. Uphold that you, as a believer, stand with Israel as a point of your Bible-based commitment to God. 5. While acknowledging the terrorist habits of radical Muslims, be gracious to others.
The same spirit driving these animosities is equally opposed to Christians as to Jews, and will eventually bring persecution to both.
Excerpt from article by Dr. Jack Hayford. For more read “Watchman on the Wall Training Manual” by coauthors Miriam Rodlyn Park, Robert Stearns, and Dr. Jack Hayford
To stand with Israel is not to oppose Arab peoples. God has no disposition against any human being, We are always to walk in love.
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Single And Still Having A Happy Holiday Jenn Wakefield There are more than 99 million unmarried adults in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For many, the holidays are their absolute favorite time of the year. This is time for families to get together, celebrate their relationships and, most importantly, the birth of Christ. For those of us without a large family, or perhaps missing someone this Christmas that was here the last, this time of the year can be very difficult. Rather than being depressed or eating an extra bucket of homemade fudge you might be upset at yourself for eating later, here are my top ten suggestions for making the most out of the season. 10/ Create a new tradition. This could be as simple as trying a new recipe or doing something special for yourself – like a restful getaway. Everyone needs a break, and what better time than now? There are bus companies that will send you all over the country for under $100. 9/ Take this time to heal, regardless if you are newly single, a widow, or going through a tough divorce. Chances are you need healing, and that is okay. Give yourself what you need so that you can heal both emotionally and spiritually. Find a good book, curl up by the fireplace and relax sans guilt on what you or others may think you “should” be doing. 8/ Spend some quality time at the gym. Rather than the New Year’s resolution to get rid of those holiday pounds, get a head start and feel great. Exercising is a way to get rid of pent-up aggression and also will help you feel amazing. 7/ Reconnect with someone with whom you’ve lost touch. This could bring all sorts of joy; there is no better season than this one to forgive and move on. With the many forms of social networking today, it is fairly easy to find someone you’ve lost touch with. 6/ Plan a get together for other single friends. This could include a gift exchange, potluck dinner, maybe even a Christmas movie. You can play fun games and spread cheer with others in similar situations in life. See, you don’t have to be alone during the holidays or wait for your life to “start.” 5/ If you have the means, pick up some inexpensive gifts and drop them off to the children’s hospital. Remember, the gifts must be new and in the original package. They cannot accept stuffed animals for health reasons. This would be rewarding personally, while giving back. 4/ Reinvent yourself. A new look, new wardrobe and, most importantly, a new outlook in life. A fresh start right before the New Year could be wonderful. Can you say empowerment? 3/ Remember the REAL reason for the season, the gift of Jesus’ presence in our lives! Your relationship with Jesus can be your miracle and encouragement this Christmas! “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” What better time than as we celebrate the birth of Christ. 2/ Get to know yourself all over again. Write a letter to your future self, make new goals, pick up where you left off with old ones, and realize that a bright and happy future starts with you. 1/ Give back in our community. Your church likely has some opportunities to let you know about. Or, we have provided 10 local opportunities (see sidebar) to serve others this holiday season. This can allow you to enrich your life and others. Getting outside our situations often helps us to realize our many blessings and keep our focus on what we do have—which brings incredible joy to us and those we share His love with.
VOLUNTEER If you are looking to give to those in need this holiday season, it will bless you as much as those whom you serve. Here are some places you may want to call to see about volunteering this holiday season. Hampton Veterans
Association Hospital 757-728-3124 Meals on Wheels Hope House
757-625-6161 Union Missions Ministry
757-627-8686 Food Bank of SE Hampton Roads
757-314-4576 M.E.X Cox Center for Elder Day Care
757-340-4388 USO Holiday Party for Military families
757-764-5232 Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation
757-686-8684 Life Builders Inc
757-952-6236 The Ronald McDonald House of Norfolk
Jenn Wakefield is an Ohio native and U.S. Navy veteran. She is a student at Regent University studying substance abuse counseling. She considers herself a modern day abolitionist, spending every moment she can to fight injustice and help the hurting. Decision Making • Organization • Time Management • Self-Control
Christian Oriented • Bilingual (Spanish) Performing Arts • Co-Ed Ages 2-10 Offering children a learning environment that is nurturing, consistent, safe and peaceful. We serve the total developmental needs of children, building academic, emotional, moral and social skills.
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When sisters Susan and Dottie Unger* first met their “Angel” from Angel Care Private Duty Nursing Services, they were badly in need of some relief. The ladies were ragged after months of caring for mom and dad, whose declining health had them both bedbound and in need of constant care. The daughters were loving and very helpful, but just needed a break for their own mental health. That’s when someone told them about Angel Care. Susan and Dottie were amazed that they could just call the day before for services and didn’t even have to be committed to a contract or set number of hours! They were also very grateful and relieved to find someone they could trust. Angel Care gave them the break they desperately needed. Then, a few months later, mom passed away. It was hard on the sisters, but they also were very stressed about who would stay with their father the day of the funeral. Again the sisters rang for an Angel. Later they expressed how they couldn’t have asked for better service. “The caregivers are just so caring and professional. We will definitely refer others to Angel Care” -- Dottie and Susan Unger. *names changed to protect privacy
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The Brilliance of Family Holiday Traditions
With so much glitz and glory on every corner, it is a challenge for any mother to keep her household grounded in the true spirit of the season. How does one make the simple things shine brighter than the enticing commercials, which lead to a boatload of Christmas treasure under every tree? The answer lies in Revelation 21:11: “Having the glory of God. Her radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Thankfulness, togetherness and humbleness are the dusty gems that mom so desperately wants to make brilliant during the holidays. First, she considers her family traditions. They are moments, hours and even days shining in her heart. They are actions, objects or trinkets that bring the best out of everyone, making the season brighter. Mom knows all of Nathalie Jeter Photo Courteosy too well that ritual and tradition are her answers despite extra traffic, longer lines and grumpy people coming out of the woodwork. Mom knows that the value within each ritual comes from what it provides for her home. Family traditions are the diamonds in the rough; the very things that are timeless, delivering everlasting joy. According to Meg Cox in The Book of New Family Traditions, “Family rituals are things families do over and over as a way to celebrate over time. Rituals build bonds and actively define relationships.” The old cliché “mom knows best” is true when mom plans, or schedules or prompts these personal traditions, which intensify family ties. Family rituals and traditions are in many ways the key to remembering why the Lord sent His only Son. They make a strong environment that observes peace, love and hope—the very conditions that bring us the brightest of diamonds, Jesus Christ. As a mother of three young children, I constantly strive to seek out family treasures, particularly during the holidays. I always find them in the little things we do. To the rest of the world, they may be simple. To us, they are priceless indeed. My husband and I have transferred old, traditional favorites from Photo Courteosy of a Flourish Reader when we were growing up to practicing them with our children. I still make Dad’s sugar cookies, and all the children still decorate them however messy and overly sweet they may be. My husband still reads The Night Before Christmas after Christmas Eve Mass. And we always sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus before opening our gifts on Christmas morning. Our holiday list goes on and on, old and new, and it brings me great joy to know everyone in our home thinks tradition is important. Everyone participates. Everyone shines. That’s what counts! In these modern times when there is barely enough time to
preserve one tradition, let alone two Photo Courteosy of a Flou rish Reader or three, moms can help inspire their families. They can help soften the not so great parts of the holidays, which fragment and disconnect meaning and relationships. In essence, mom can be her own diamond, shining above nonsense to catch even the littlest eyes. Sure life is busy. Life is menacing at times. People aren’t always upbeat. However, after talking with random moms around our town, I am here to tell you that family tradition still holds true, reaping all things bright and beautiful. If you find yourself seeking the Lord in all the holiday hustle and bustle, go to your heart where you are deeply rooted. Find the common sparks amongst your family members, and make them burn brighter. Stay connected. Be consistent. Add tons of weighted love in all that you do together, and wow! You have diamonds. On these pages are some stories from women in our local area sharing what they do to make their Christmas season special for their families each holiday season–let it inspire you!
(Read more and post your own at www.iflourishonline.com).
Mary Copeland (mother of 3) Virginia Beach “As a child growing up, I always knew my mother did all she could to make sure my brothers and I had what we needed, not what we wanted for Christmas. We were below middle class but above the poverty line for our generation. It was important that we were together. Today this holds true for my family. It really does not matter what is under the tree. We attend Mass as a family. We discuss the true meaning of Christmas as a celebration of ones life. We have a birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. My children receive only three gifts from Santa, in representation of what Jesus received. My husband and I place our children’s needs before our own and do not exchange presents. We read the same Christmas stories that were read to us as children, leave a plate of cookies by the fire place, and leave reindeer feed for the reindeer. Santa always leaves a note for the boys telling them how proud he is of their school work and home life. Last year, my oldest son wanted a holiday party for his friends. It was his idea to collect toys for children who were less fortunate than he. We will continue this year with some sort of toy drive or collection for those who are less fortunate than us.”
Jennifer Avis is the author of Morty the Meerkat has Autism. She has a M.S. Ed with a post graduate degree from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Devoted wife and mom, she writes for children and their families. You can find her humble blog Memoirs of a Challenge on Facebook, written for The Elijah Foundation.
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Sage(mother of 3) Chesapeake
“My husband is real big on Christmas lights. It takes him a whole day! We’ve now s recruited all the kids to help out and it’ e become a big event in our home. I mak rds a pot of something warm, then afterwa for nt we all go out to a nearby restaura warm, yummy desserts as a family.”
Kathy (mother of 2) Norfolk
“We have a blessing book . It’s a journal that’s been spruced up by my sister, the artistic one. Every year, we think of three blessings tha t have graced our families. We then write them in the book . It’s fun to look back and see all the blessings from years before too!”
Keller (mother of 2) Virginia Beach
“It is tradition for each family member to write something they are deeply thankful for. We write our personal messages on paper and place them in a box. At Thanksgiving, each prayer of thanks is read aloud. Every year, it is the center of attention and conversation at our table.”
olk nify Mary (mother of 5)g,Noevrferyone gets a quote in their cupdtoousig r “Every Thanksgivin read them aloud to each other, an a glass half full. We lifted afterwards.” spirits are always up
burg, VA. Christine (mother of 3) Williams a family trying to
e as “Every year, we spend tim lp. The children help he s find a family who need t year, and also go decide who we will help tha en we deliver them to with us to choose gifts. Th en remember what the family. It helps our childr mas is, but also instills the true meaning of Christ helping people in in them the importance of not just once a year.” need, whenever possible,
Karen (mother of 4) Norfolk
“Every year, I make a playlist of soft Christmas music. We then pick a night and ride around town looking at everyone’s lights in the dark calm of our car. It brings us such peace, and by the end, we are always talking about the birth of our Lord.”
Michelle (mother of 2) Chesapeake
“We set up our Spirit Tree about a week before Thanksgiving. Each decoration is white, and there is an open-winged dove at its pinnacle to signify peace, hope and love. It twinkles with white lights as my children and I read meaningful bedtime stories underneath it throughout the season.”
Holly (mother of 6) Virginia Beach “We do the Twelve Days of Giving in our home. Our two college-aged girls have now started this with their friends at school. Every day, we all have to do something meaningful and giving to someone else. That may mean an extra hug, saying something you’ve held back, helping someone out or shelling out extra dollars to help a cause. We put it on the calendar and we’ve seen the idea grow deeper through the years.”
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Throw a Cheese Party! By Nathalie Jeeter
Looking for a holiday showstopper? Take a page from the French playbook and host a fabulous cheese party. The French are simply mad about cheese. In preparing a meal, a French hostess carefully researches and selects each cheese for the indispensable cheese course she will present to her guests. This simple guide shows you how to pull cheese out of its supporting role and make it the star of the show. And the best part? No cooking required.
A Cheese-Lover’s Mini Glossary
Picking cheeses for a cheese board is a little like arranging flowers in a vase: you need a theme or strategy before getting started. Step One: Typically, you’ll want to display several cheeses Select the in a variety of different colors, textures, tastes Cheeses and smells. For example, I like to offer a soft cheese such as brie or goat, a firm cheese like aged or smoked cheddar, a spreadable cheese like boursin (a creamy garlic and herb cheese), and a nice, veiny bleu cheese like roquefort. You could also try: • A single cheese, like a bleu, from several different countries • Fewer types of a more expensive cheese or more varieties of cheaper cheeses • Cheeses from different animals: cow cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese and (if you’re up for an adventure) yak cheese • A variety of locally-made artisanal cheeses As a good hostess, you’ll want to get to know your cheeses and be able to speak fluently about them—not all the cheese in the world, but the cheeses you’ve selected. Find out the cheese’s “back story”: • Where does it come from (i.e. Finland, not “the grocery store”)? • What is its history and heritage? • How would you describe its taste? • Why did you pick it? • Do you have a travel experience to share with the story, like where you first tasted this cheese? Selecting cheeses takes a bit of art and
skill, but the main thing to remember is that you want to tempt and tantalize your guests’ taste buds and broaden their cheese horizons. Above all, avoid boring. Once you’ve selected the cheeses—the stars of the show —you’ll want to pick some breads that will show off the tastes and textures of the cheeses you’ve chosen. Step Two: Again, assortment is key: for starters, choose a good quality Choose the French bread (whether a Breads baguette or round loaf) with crusty outside and soft, pillowy inside. Play around with other types of bread like rye, sourdough, multi-grain and ciabatta. Then turn your attention to crackers and select one or two different types—the varieties are endless! Provide a range of pairing possibilities for your guests, playing around with the size and shape of cheese to cracker (squares of cheddar for square crackers, small rounds of goat cheese for sliced baguette), and offering mild breads for tangy cheeses or herby multi-grain crackers for smooth, plain cheeses. This is the part where you can really have fun. Step Three: The saltiness and smoothness of cheese Pick beg for contrast: the Pairings sweetness of dried fruit, the crunchiness of nuts, or the tartness of gherkins.
Let your imagination go wild as you consider the whole spectrum of flavor possibilities. • Tart: Granny Smith apple wedges, green grapes, gherkins, cornichons • Sweet: chutney, jam, red grapes, strawberries • Savory/salty: salami, paté • Mild: smoked salmon • Bold: Cajun crab dip • Spicy: chorizo sausage The result of these pairings will be simply sensational. You’ll want to show off each of your “stars” to best advantage. If you want to display all your cheeses together, pick a wooden, marble, or ceramic board that is large enough to keep the cheeses from touching. Choose a plate of unique or Step Four: original design for the accompaniments. Garnish Presenting each plate and platter, the Whole keeping it simple: a sprig of flat leaf parsley, a fig cut in half, a cluster of grapes. Don’t go crazy over garnishes or you could easily spend more money on garnish than on cheese! I like to write pairing suggestions on small cards by the cheese, like: “Try the herbed crackers with a slice of brie and a dollop of chutney” or “Try smoked salmon and goat cheese on french bread.” You can also display cheeses under an elegant glass cloche, or cheese bell. Collect and use interesting cheese knives and serve each cheese with its own knife.
Affinage—Process of aging cheese to its optimum maturity. A person specializing in this art is an affineur.
Fresh Cheese—Unaged cheese with a mild, milky, tangy flavor. Examples include Mascarpone, mozzarella, ricotta, queso blanco.
Aroma—Cheese’s scent, which can be described by a connoisseur using a host of terms such as “faint,” “fresh,” “pungent,” “nutty” and “mushroomy.”
Fromage—French for “cheese.”
Washed-Rind Cheese—Strong to very strong semisoft cheese distinguished by a strong aroma and pinkish or orange-colored rinds and a savory, nutty, salty flavor. Examples include Muenster and Taleggio.
Artisanal Cheese—Hand-crafted, small batch cheeses made with treasured, often secret, recipes and techniques. Blue-veined Cheese or Bleu Cheese—Cheese containing distinctive blue veining as a result of the aging process. It is usually earthy, salty and pungent with medium-strong to very strong flavor. Examples include gorgonzola, stilton, Danish bleu, roquefort. Cheesemonger—Merchant who sells cheese.
Hard (or Firm) Cheese—Cheese that has been aged for the longest period, usually resulting in a salty, nutty, sharp taste. These cheeses are primarily intended for grating. Examples include asiago, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino romano. Rind—Hard outside layer of a cheese, which protects the cheese from its environment. Semi-Firm (or Semi-Hard or Pressed) Cheese—Medium-strong cheese containing less humidity than the soft- or semi-soft variety and therefore firmer. Usually tastes buttery, earthy and fruity. Examples include raclette, fontina, manchego, cheddar, gouda, gruyère, emmenthaler, monterey jack.
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Sharp—Term used to describe the full-bodied, sharp, biting flavor of aged cheeses. Examples include cheddar and parmigiano-reggiano. Typically, the more the cheese is aged, the sharper the flavor. Silky or Satiny—Term used to describe the feel of a soft cheese, like a spreadable cheese or aged brie or camembert, in the mouth. Soft (or Soft-Ripened) Cheese—Unpressed cheese aged for a relatively short period and containing high moisture. Examples are camembert and brie. Tangy—Term used to describe a cheese with higher acid content, such as goat’s milk cheese.
reasonable expectations as to what they can and cannot eat. Throwing a cheese party can seem like a daunting task, but simply keep in mind that it’s all about the senses; the smell, taste, texture and look of each cheese plays
It’s all about the cheese!
a special role. Do your homework, using the resources at your disposal—whether it’s the label on the cheese, the cheesemonger at the grocery store, or that infinite source of knowledge and information, the Internet. Bon appétit and Vive le fromage! Nathalie Jeter was born in Paris, France, where Charles de Gaulle once exclaimed, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” Her mother says that as a child she would refuse ice cream and ask for cheese instead. Strange child.
Cheese Party FAQ
A Note on Allergies
If you know that some of your guests are lactose or gluten intolerant, provide a few options for them like glutenfree crackers and gluten-free, lactose-free sides like fruit and nuts. However, given the fact that they’ve accepted the invitation to your cheese party, they should have
Q: How much cheese will I need? A: Typically, a pound of cheese will feed about five people. Q: What cheese should I avoid serving? A: In most circumstances, you would never see parmesan, mozzarella, American, Colby or pepperjack cheese on a gourmet cheese platter.
Q: Should I take cheese out at the last minute to keep it cool? A: No; cheese is best at room temperature. Q: How do I know when bleu cheese is bad? A: It develops a different kind of mold. Blue cheese contains an edible kind of mold, but you’ll want to throw it away if it develops any color (yellow, green, brown) other than blue and white.
Homemade Holiday Gifts! By Cresta Brooke Shawver Handmade gifts can bring such meaning to the holidays! Whether you’re a “craftinista” or you have never heard of a glue gun, you can give gifts that are special, easy and inexpensive! Here are a couple ideas; find more at iflourishonline.com!
Beautiful Lace Pottery Difficulty Level: Craftinista Lace pottery, made popular by Maggie Weldon of LacePottery. com, is a beautiful, timeless look. You can order some online, but wouldn’t it be extra special to make your own with grandma’s doilies? Take no-fire craft clay (available from hobbylobby. com for $7.99) and roll it out on a flat surface between sheets of waxed paper to approximately ¼ inch thickness. Remove wax paper and press your doily gently, but with even firmness into the clay. Use a sharp clay tool or X-Acto knife to cut away the excess clay from the edges. Remove the doily. Lift the clay gently into a bowl or platter that is the same shape/depth you’d like your lace pottery to become. Let the clay dry according to manufacturer’s directions—about 24 hours. Then paint and glaze with the appropriate paints. If you chose a food-safe glaze, you can even serve Christmas cookies in your bowl or platter! Tools Needed: Sharp-tipped clay tool, paintbrush, paint, craft porcelain, flat doilies. Total Time: 30 minutes, plus dry time. Total Cost: Approximatly $10 per piece.
Christmas Cookie Mix in a Jar Difficulty Level: Kid Friendly Christmas Cookie Mix in a Jar is a perfect gift for teachers, Secret Santa or stocking stuffers. For a holiday touch, use holiday colored M&M’s! Print the instructions for baking on sticky labels and attach to the back of the jar or on a hanging gift tag (pictured). If you’re a scrapbook fan, there are lots of options out there to make your gift tags personal. Get creative! Multiple this recipe for as many jars as you need. • 1 (4 C) wide-mouth quart canning jar with lid and ring • ¼ C sugar • 1 ¼ C chocolate chips or M&M’s candies • 2 C all-purpose flour • ½ tsp baking soda • ¾ C brown sugar, packed • ¼ tsp baking powder MIX together flour, soda and baking powder. Layer flour mixture, brown sugar, granulated sugar and M&Ms-brand candies in jar. A special funnel for wide-mouth canning jars can be found in the stores near the jars. This will help you get everything in the jar neatly, especially if you have little helpers! Pack each layer firmly.
CUT appropriate number of 7-inch circles from cotton fabric. Top each jar with fabric circle, and tie with ribbon. PRINT gift tags with recipe instructions. Cut gift tags out and attach with ribbon, or glue to the front of the jar. Recipe Instructions (include on gift tag): Empty jar of cookie mix into mixing bowl; blend thoroughly. Add ½ C butter or margarine, softened, 1 beaten egg and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Roll into 1-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until edges are lightly browned, about 12 – 14 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies. Tools Needed: Glass Mason or Ball Jars and lids, Inexpensive fabric, paper, baking items. Total Time: Less than an hour. Total Cost: >$4 each.
Wide-Eyed with Wonder By Belinda Elliott I have a confession. For the last few years, I’ve been caught up in the Christmas rat race. Yes, I’ve been one of those people that you loathe at this time of year. I’ve raced through malls at breakneck speed, looking for the perfect gift. I’ve rushed into stores at closing time on Christmas Eve to finish my shopping. I’ve even bought presents on the way out of town to visit family members and wrapped them in the car as my husband sped down the interstate to get us there on time. Each year it has seemed like Christmas is one big race to the finish line, and I’m always rushing to catch up. But it wasn’t always that way. I remember the Christmases of my childhood. Our neighborhood turned into a sea of Christmas lights and decorations, and we would drive around to see them all. Our house was a tranquil setting filled with green garland and holly berries, twinkling lights, stockings hung on a mantle, and a tall tree adorned with beautiful ornaments. In the days leading up to Christmas, I would lie in front of our fireplace at night and gaze at our living room lit up only by the small, colorful lights on our Christmas tree. As I wondered at the beauty of it all, I decided this was my favorite time of the year. It was a delightful holiday that seemed to last for weeks. Why does it seem like Christmas loses that magical quality as we get older? Perhaps it is because as adults, we are now responsible for all the things we never had to worry about as kids. Brainstorming for the perfect gift for each of our loved ones, fighting the traffic and crowded malls to spend hours shopping, writing Christmas cards until our hands cramp, decorating the house, cooking for numerous Christmas parties or family gatherings— the list goes on and on and leaves us feeling harried, stressed and too tired to truly enjoy ourselves. But not this year. This year I realized the error of my ways and decided to change my approach to Christmas. This year I would not let the Christmas preparations and shopping get the better of me. I decided that this year I would truly enjoy the holiday and take time to remember the reason for the season. But how? I wondered.
Lord, help me to keep You at the center of all that I do for Christmas this year.
I knew that I would still need to get everything done just like every year before, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t caught up in the commercialism or stress as in past Christmas seasons. I wanted to recapture that amazement and wonder that I had felt during the holiday as a child. So I began with a simple prayer. Lord, help me to keep You at the center of all that I do for Christmas this year. It was only a few days later that I was struck by a verse in Ephesians. I had just started studying the book a few weeks earlier. I was intrigued as I read part of Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). That’s it, I thought! I want my eyes to be opened again to the hope and glorious inheritance that we find in Christ Jesus. That’s where the true magic of Christmas lies. We celebrate Christmas because the baby born in a manger so many years ago brought us hope and salvation. We give gifts to those we love because we remember the greatest gift that God gave to us, a way to have a relationship with Him through Christ who forgives our sins. And as Christ’s adopted sons and daughters, we have heaven to look forward to, where He is preparing a place for us. These are truths that we all know as Christians, but they can often get lost in the Christmas rush. I decided to not let these thoughts fall to the sidelines this year. As I’ve kept these things at the forefront of my mind, an interesting thing has happened. The season has become magical once again. Christmas lights seem brighter, people seem merrier, and weeks leading up to December 25th are full of Christmas cheer. And what’s even more amazing is that as I’ve focused on Christ, the details that usually have me stressing out at this time of year are also nicely falling into place. Our house is more decorated than it has ever been in years past. I’m almost finished with my Christmas shopping. And I even have most of the presents that I’ve purchased wrapped already. The best part is that I have my Christmas joy back. Rather than approaching the holiday with dread because of all I have to do, I’ve found myself approaching it with the wide-eyed wonder of a child once again. This year December 25th will truly be a special day as I spend time with family and reflect on the marvelous love and grace that Christ gives us. Are you in the midst of the Christmas rat race? Slow down and let Christ take back Christmas in your life. You will find that you can once again truly enjoy this wondrous season. Belinda Elliott is a freelance writer from Chesapeake, Va. She has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Regent University. Her articles have been published in several magazines including Church Libraries, The Christian Communicator, Advanced Christian Writer and The Secret Place.
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Woman of God: Reminder That a Woman is Much More Than Societal Conventions By Jennifer Avis I sit comfortably with a magazine on my lap, one of my favorite pastimes. I flip through its multiple pages, each one with a different girl who seems perfect. These full-lipped, no-mess, sultry-eyed, gold-toned beauties imprint on my mind. Suddenly, I’m not so comfortable. I’m restless, feeling as if there is something I need to do—something to make me look better, feel better and be better. The next thing I know, I am watching a movie, and there it goes again. Images of a woman’s body are never missed—some obscene and others tactful—but enhanced nonetheless. A perfect shot of her here or there, a sensual smile, a provocative gesture; it’s all there, personifying pleasure and accentuating the smallest aspect of who I really am. So many days I have felt the power of ugliness, of being swooned and outcast, of being tired and spent, of being challenged and misunderstood. I have second guessed the way I look. I have compromised my intellectual capabilities. I have failed to see the true beauty that gets buried deep inside, like the goodness that I am or the compassion that I feel for the world around me. Too many times, I am caught up in the faceted world, which bisects my nature and turns it into something tarnished or flawed. I realize that I am far from the kind of woman society hails, or Hollywood for that matter, and there is a part of me that rebels, sometimes at the expense of me and other times at the expense of others. And then, there is a ray of light streaming my way. It is the Lord reminding me that I am much more than I give myself credit for. Society is a loud place, and more times than not I am humbled and quieted, struggling to keep face and knowing the honesty I owe myself. Inside the folds of my skin, my heart beats for the world to make it a better place. There is a soul within this body, aching to help and to inspire anyone who will listen. I am the very breath of the space that is around me, which in and of itself is gold. These are the things I have to remember—the things I must cherish in order to rise above nonsense. I am woman, worthy of respect. I am your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, your girlfriend, your friend. I am a creator, a thinker, a fighter, a nurturer, a powerhouse, steered by God, and in that, I am significant—worthy of every wonderful thing this world has to offer. The deep love I acquire for myself, the respect I uphold for myself, the gifts I choose to radiate outward: they are by God, for God and of God—a blessing beyond any measure of this world. Jennifer Avis is the author of Morty the Meerkat has Autism. She has a M.S. Ed with a post graduate degree from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Devoted wife and mom, she writes for children and their families. You can find her humble blog Memoirs of a Challenge on Facebook, written for The Elijah Foundation.
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