Make 2017 a Great Year

Happy New Year 2017 | encouragement for busy moms

Happy new year 2017!

My Facebook feed this week has been filled with friends bemoaning the last year. Apparently, it’s been hard for a lot of people — filled with stress, sadness, and hardship. The Bernard family has had our share of challenges, too.

So — I’m excited about the new year ahead! 2017 is gonna rock, and we’ll encourage one another to make it the BEST year yet. Where do you need encouragement for a great year? In what area do you most struggle? How can I help you?

Is it spiritual discipline? Is it health? Relationships? Job and money? Stress and anxiety?

Whatever it is, I want to work with you and encourage you to help you THRIVE in 2017.

Join me beginning January 1 on my blog Facebook page for a happy new year 2017. I’m going to take the first 17 days of January to share 17 ways to make your 2017 *SPARKLE*. I’ll post a brief video each day to share some ideas and encouragement.

Make sure you LIKE and FOLLOW my Facebook page so you can join the fun.

Because we all need more *SPARKLE* in our lives, right?

Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

Some days just feel so — well — ordinary. Get up, dress, eat, work, clean clothes and dishes, tuck everyone in, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. Advent worship | Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

I’ve spent much of my adult years whining and upset about the fact that I haven’t yet done anything “extraordinary.” The year I turned 40, I was depressed for six months because I felt that all my “best years” were behind me and I had little to show for it.

Do you ever feel that you’re just “ordinary” — nothing extra special with little to offer? I do.

Here’s the truth of the matter, though. We are “ordinary,” in the sense that we are the created, but the desire — that longing for something bigger and greater than ourselves — is not wrong. The desire for greatness in fact points to a greater reality (it’s the whining and complaining and self-centeredness that’s wrong and for which we must repent).

God in his wisdom and mercy uses the ordinary to do the most extraordinary things! Think about it; that is his primary mode of action today. The Bible talks of all the “ordinary” people he called into his service. He uses men and women to affect change.

So I’m not surprised at all that he chose the most ordinary of ordinary humans to first notify of Jesus’ birth. After all, Jesus himself became so very ordinary — being born as a helpless baby to a young couple in a barn — that I dare say we should expect nothing else.

When I think of shepherds and the way that Jesus came into the world, I’m encouraged. I’m assured that in God’s economy we are all useful, even if we see ourselves, our situations, and our gifts as “ordinary.”

That brings me joy, indeed.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. You can light the third candle on the Advent wreath and lead the family in a brief time of worship as suggested below. For more ideas for celebrating Advent and Christmas with your kids, check out my new free ebook, A Different Christmas This Year.

ordinary | Advent worship | Christmas traditions | different Christmas this yearThird Sunday of Advent: The Shepherds 

Gather around the Advent wreath. Briefly explain how shepherds were regarded in Jesus’ day: People didn’t like shepherds very much. They thought they were dirty and lowly. They considered their job kind of gross: they were in fields for a long time with smelly sheep. But God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first! He didn’t go to the Kings and Queens or even the church leaders. He chose ordinary people to receive the news.

Why is it significant that God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first? Why should that give us joy?

Advent Sunday #3: Candle of Joy
Read Luke 2:14-17 and light the first and second purple candles and the pink candle: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

 

Advent worship | Second Sunday of Advent | Christmas traditionIt’s not even December as I write this, but our holiday season has taken off like a rocket ship launched into outer space. This week alone, we have daily wrestling practice, soccer practice, two wrestling matches, two basketball (cheer) games, cheer practice, dance class, youth group, band practice, all-day band event at school, and a soccer game. That doesn’t even include dental appointments that I had to cancel because who has time for oral hygiene and dental care?

Chaos. How, why are our lives so crazy? How in the world do we even enjoy Christmas?

We did get our decorations up this weekend, which was a fun family activity, plus I have a slew of cheesy Christmas Hallmark movies on the DVR recorded from the free cable on Thanksgiving weekend. Those things do help bring a sense of calming to an otherwise insane week at our house. (Of course, who has time to watch movies? Maybe I’ll get through them before Easter.)

The other thing we aim to do is light our Advent wreath and have a brief time of family worship most nights of the week. I’ve also subscribed to receive a daily Advent prayer from one of my church’s pastors. You can sign up, too, if you like. Click here.

It’s hard to stay on track and out of the insanity this time of year. It is super-hard — not gonna lie. But it is our goal.

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I’m Starving. Are You? Seeking Simplicity in a Culture of Excess

Seeking Simplicity in a Culture of Excess

My heart is screaming for simplicity.

The other night my daughter whined at me, “Mom, why didn’t you buy the ‘Cheer Mom’ t-shirt? It’s so cute!”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Because if I were to buy every t-shirt offered, we’d have taken out a second mortgage by now!”

Really — there’s a t-shirt (or three) for every activity, event, club, competition, team, and game at my kids’ school. Not to mention tumblers, socks, lanyards, and hoodies.

Choice fatigue is everywhere, and I am so sick of it.

It’s one reason why I love shopping at Aldi. For most items, there’s one brand and a size or two. Period. Decision made.

Our culture is cannibalizing itself on excess in just about every sphere. Hundreds of TV channels, blogs, and social media sites scream to inundate us with connection and entertainment.

If our kids want to dance or play a sport, they need not limit themselves to a couple of hours a week. No – they can, literally, devote more time (and money) to their extracurricular life than some folks give college studies, part-time jobs, and marriages.

Our culture is a sea of excess. The mentality is that if “a little” is good, then “a lot” must be great!

But I think this is a dangerous lie that is detrimental to us in many ways.

  • We have insatiable appetites. When we are fed on less-than-satisfying fare, we remain hungry. Munching on popcorn and cotton candy is oh-so-delicious for a time but ultimately leads to a greater depletion and more hunger. Then when we survey all the beautiful offerings at the carnival stand, we are fooled into thinking that this or that shiny treat will satisfy. All of the attractive choices and options in our culture only make us more needy, less fulfilled, and take us farther away from true satiation.
  • We are distracted to the point of paralysis. All of these choices make me lazy and motionless. When I have so many seemingly “worthy” options for spending my money, my free time, and my energy, I often choose a convenient distraction or get lost in a mindless activity that deceptively promises to fill me up. In my life, this distraction is the ultimate disrupter to an abundant life lived with and for Christ, which means the Enemy is all too pleased. Distraction keeps me from doing the things of God, including worship and service.
  • Just because we can doesn’t mean we should — or that it’s good for us. Our choice culture — which includes 8 different brands and styles of toilet paper or 10 different combo meals that can be ordered “your way” in any size you’d like — perpetuates a destructive lie. We believe that we are living full and abundant lives, but the cycle of discard/upgrade/customize is actually a wicked mirage. It’s a never-ending give and take that bankrupts its victims in every way.

Have you experienced this? Are you weary of simply making decisions? Are you tired of trying to juggle everything? Are you sick of buying junk to contain your junk?

I know I feel suffocated. I want simplicity.

Our family feels a little bit “stuck” right now. We feel the tug of the world to join in the craziness — to buy into the delusions that “things” and activities are the keys to fulfillment.

Yet we know better.

Where is true fulfillment? Who ultimately satisfies? Who became nothing so that we can — TRULY — have everything?

The answer is in Christ. When we die to self, and seek him, we find rest, peace, joy, and contentment.

In him, we are empowered to boldly scream at the bondage of excess, “You lie to me and will not have control over me anymore.”

That’s far more satisfying than anything a super-sized meal deal can offer.

Establish the Work of My Hands

establish the work of my handsI’ve been washing dishes by hand for several weeks now. Our dishwasher broke a few months ago, and it’s not repairable. We need a new one but have put off the purchase until we can find a great bargain and save up enough cash to buy one.

I don’t mind terribly dish washing by hand (don’t get me wrong,though; I’d love to have a working dishwasher again!) because I recognize there’s a real benefit in doing manual labor with your hands.

What is it about working with our hands that can be revelatory, inspirational, insightful, and, ultimately, healing?

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

My Top 10 Parenting “Pearls”

Top Ten Parenting PearlsRecently, a friend asked me to share my top ten list of parenting “pearls”—you know, those ten phrases you’re saying over and over again; those most important things you’re always praying about or discussing with your spouse.

It was actually harder than I thought it would be. So much of parenting is intuitive and boiling down my “pearls” to a list of ten was helpful for me to see exactly where my parenting is currently. I definitely want to continue emphasizing those parenting areas where we’ve been.

But looking over the list also showed me a few areas where I want to address more intentionally, too.

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

What I Learned Through Fasting

Fasting - What I Learned Through Fasting

Fasting from food is a common spiritual practice found in Scripture. Time and again, believers “fast and pray” as they worship and seek the Lord. Jesus himself goes into the wilderness and fasts  for 40 days and 40 nights.

So, what about fasting for us as modern-day believers? What’s it like to deprive oneself of food for a set period of time in order to seek God, to petition him, and to become more like Christ?

I remember as a young woman when a friend told me that she routinely fasted when she was struggling with something difficult. I remember she said something along the lines of “I get answers really quickly.”

Fast forward a few years and our entire (small) church committed to fasting for a church member who was awaiting a medical diagnosis. (All turned out well.)

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Good Friday

Good Friday

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

What Lies Do You Believe?

truth lies single woman lies

Have you ever given much thought about the power that lies have in your life?

Maybe it’s that persistent thought that, “I’m just not good enough.” Or what about the idea that surely God’s forgotten about you or that your past can’t be forgiven.

Sometimes the lies become so loud and so frequent that we start to actually believe them. That’s when we must offset lies by turning to God’s Word for truth. It’s this battle that is the subject of a new book by my friend, Allison Flexer.

Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press) is targeted at Christian women who long to be married and have children but who remain single.

[Read more…]

Waiting for Empty Laundry Baskets

Waiting for Empty Laundry BasketsDoing laundry drives me a little bit crazy.

Tell me you get this. I mean, we wash, we wear, we wash, we wear. Over. And over. And over again.

The monotony of household chores, in general, bores me to tears. More than once, I’ve raised my hands to God to say, “Why? Why the same thing over and over?”

My family members, especially, are not good stewards of their dirty laundry. They do not alert me to stubborn stains. They do not separate whites and colors as they stack dirty clothes in piles. My daughter often wears layers and pulls everything off at once, leaving me a tangled mess to unravel at the washer—socks and inside-out pants, underwear, tanks, and tees. And my husband rolls up all his dirty clothes at once into a ball. I have often found a surprise black sock in a load of whites because it was tucked into an undershirt.

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.