The Gospel at Christmas

The Gospel at Christmas

This time of year has always been my favorite.

I love the shows on tv, the songs on the radio, the displays in the stores. I love pretending it’s colder outside than it actually is. I love seeing the trees go up in the malls and the lights go up in the neighborhoods.

Resistance is futile. No matter how I try to fight it, I am totally sucked in by all the pomp and commercialism that surrounds this time of year. So much so that to a certain extent, I've held this season as something sacred.

For as long as I can remember, this time of year has always brought with it the sense of something magical and extraordinary. But what’s alarming about this is that it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Christ.

Love Yourself Less; How the Gospel refutes the lie of self-love

Love Yourself Less; How the Gospel refutes the lie of self-love

It was right around the 7th grade when it began - an unrelenting obsession with a singular object: myself. Without warning, the young girl who had never before cared about what she wore, how her hair looked, or what size her jeans were became fiercely aware of such details. The harsh conclusion I came to was this: I wasn’t enough.

Not thin enough, not popular enough, not smart enough, not funny enough. Over the next several years I was plagued by general feelings of “not-enoughness,” and for some time after I chased some illusive version of myself that was, quite simply, more.  

In all honesty, I still struggle with many of these same insecurities decades later. Yet I’ve grown increasingly at peace with what I am and what I am not as the Gospel has grounded my perspective. However, a quick scroll through my social media news feed highlights many others have not. Almost any given day reveals post after post of self-love exhortations, often inspired by the latest self-love anthem to hit the best seller’s list. 

Whereas the popularity of the self-love movement can be easily understood amongst the secular world, it should lose its momentum the moment it intersects the life of any believer. What should concern us in the church is that overwhelmingly, it has not.  

Christian women have bought into the self-love lie hook, line, and sinker despite the fact the Gospel outright refutes it.  

7 Resources to Help You Disciple Your Children

7 Resources to Help You Disciple Your Children

Listen up, Moms and Dads!  I know I talked a big game in my last post, Disciple Your Children As You Go, but here’s the honest truth…I didn’t invent the wheel.  So, yes, while you will find some excellent advice on discipling your kids by reading my post, I need you to know that I didn’t simply summon all these tactics out of thin air. 

The fact is, I’ve been discipled on how to disciple my children by other parents.  I’ve asked for, and gleefully taken, a lot of advice from the Christian parents I have access to.  I pay close attention to how those who have gone before me have trained up their children “in the way they should go.”  And when I’m faced with a situation I don’t know how to handle, I don’t hesitate to ask.  As Christians, this is how we do life.  Together.  

Parenting is a long, tough road littered with pitfalls and distractions.  We have to keep our eyes keenly trained on our final destination if we ever hope to get there.  AND we have to take help when and where we can get it.  

While I have found that there are absolutely no shortcuts to making Jesus-following disciples out of our children, there are plenty of resources to help us along our way.  I’m a huge fan of help, so let me introduce you to some of my favorite Christian parenting resources.  

On Being a Mother (to the women who aren't)

On Being a Mother                                                                                                   (to the women who aren't)

Almost immediately upon becoming a mother, a part of my heart turned to those women who weren’t.  As surely as my heart grew soft and tender toward the child in my arms, so it has grown toward the women who long be described by that word - mother.

The women whose bodies cannot conceive or bear children.

The women who have lost children.

The women whose life calling does not include having children.

There are so many different names and faces that come to mind as I write this.  It would be impossible to detail each of their nuanced situations here, but I pray their stories echo through these words nonetheless.  

These past years, my life has been inextricably bound to the lives of these women.  I have hugged their necks, they have held my children.  They have worried over my babies' bumps, bruises and runny noses, I have prayed over their early pregnancies, miscarriages and stillborn children.  They have championed my causes, dreams and callings, I have applauded them in theirs.  In and through all this, these women have imparted life into the life of my family. And although the world may not grace them with the title of mother, they have taught me so much about what God purposed in motherhood.

Discipling Your Children As You Go

Discipling Your Children As You Go

As a stay-at-home mom of three young boys, I’ve spent a large majority of the past 9 years in the presence of my children. I’ve gone through phases where this felt good, and right, and the very place I wanted most to be.  I’ve also gone through phases where I felt as if my whole life was passing before my eyes as I changed diapers, calmed tantrums, and wiped little noses.  I’ve cried tears of joy as I watched another little one take his very first steps and I’ve cried tears of frustration at the end of another day where nothing seemed to have been accomplished.  (And I may have, on occasion, cried for both of these reasons on the very same day.)

To be a mother is to be capable of feeling all of these conflicting feelings all at the very same time.  

But through it all, the Lord has graciously grown within me an understanding that what He has put before me at this very stage of life is by far the most important work I’ll be given in this life.  The work of discipling my children. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to make disciples.  To spread the good word of God’s good work far and wide (Matthew 28:19).  And as parents, our children are our primary disciples.  They are the very first ones we usher toward Christ.   

But in the hustle and bustle of everyday living, how do we do that?  How do we live out the Lord’s command that we teach our children to follow Him in the midst of diapers, dinner, and toy dinosaurs?

For the Love of Discipline

Guest post by Sara Wallace

Last year I was an Awana Cubby leader. I had some skin in the game (two Cubbies of my own), so I decided it was only right for me to help out. One night I sat in the back and looked over the sea of little blue preschool vests, the kids wiggling excitedly as they listened to the Bible story from their leader. The leader stopped in the middle of the story to address a couple of distracting Cubbies. “No, Cubbies. We don’t spit on each other. Listen to the story and have self-control.”

I smiled to myself. Good job, teacher, I thought. Don’t let those little troublemakers get away with it. They need to learn self-control now while they’re young. They need to be thoughtful of those around them, respectful of their teacher, and—oh, shoot. Those are my kids.

Discipline always seems easier when we are applying it to someone else’s kids, doesn’t it? When it comes to our own kids, we’re a mess. How do we know if we’re being too hard or too soft? Why does what works for kid number one not work for kid number three? We’re too close to the situation. We’re emotionally and physically drained and headed toward burnout.

I clearly remember a day that I disciplined my three-year-old for throwing a toy in anger. I told him to sit on his bed and think about what we learned about self-control. Situation over, discipline nailed. Right? Not so much. He turned around and said, “No. I will NOT think about ANYTHING.”

Oh, boy. I realized then and there that discipline is not something I can check off my to-do list. It’s an inseparable part of daily parenting – whether I like it or not. After having five boys in exactly seven years, I realized discipline was a train I was not getting off anytime soon.

But at the same time God began showing me that that’s a good thing. I not only want to stay on this train, I want to ride it all the way to its final destination: my kids’ hearts. Discipline allows me to connect with my kids in a personal, precious way. Most importantly, discipline lays the foundation for teaching my kids the gospel.

And now I want to come alongside you parents with a personal and embarrassingly raw account of what God has taught me about the “D” word. What does discipline have to do with the gospel? Theology is wonderful—but how does it help me with my screaming two-year-old in the middle of WalMart? How do we strike the balance between too much discipline and too little, especially when we are exhausted and discouraged?

I didn’t write this book because discipline comes naturally to me. I wrote it because my kid pushed your kid into the pool at swim lessons. I wrote it because last week I had to leave the grocery store early when my kids were wrestling in the aisles. And I wrote it because discipline seems exhausting and discouraging only when we leave out the most important ingredient: the gospel.

If you’re looking for a formula that will turn disobedient kids into perfect little angels, you won’t find it. God doesn’t give us a formula. He gives us principles. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to use those principles to point our kids to Christ. When your kids disobey, they are telling you something. Strain your ears to hear past the tantrums, the rebellious stomping, and the disrespectful tone. They are saying, “Mom . . . I don’t know how to obey on my own. Can you help me?”

This is our time. This is our chance to point our kids to the only thing that matters: the gospel. God has given us the task of discipline not just so we can survive today but to lead our kids to the cross. Discipline is a beautiful privilege and I want to show you how to find joy in it. There is so much more to discipline than creative strategies, checklists, and behavior management. There’s Jesus.

For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs will be released April 30th.  Preorder yours on Amazon today!

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Sara Wallace is a wife, author, and stay-at-home mom. She and her family live in Idaho where they minister in their church plant and homeschool their five little boys. Sara loves to cook, decorate her home, and write about the crazy blessing of parenting.

A God Who Gives Faith

A God Who Gives Faith

I was nine months pregnant with our third son when I discovered the lump on Jacob’s sternum. 

Jacob was 20 months old at the time, and he had held his mama’s heart in his chubby little hands since the moment he arrived.  Our second born, he entered this world all beat up and bruised after what would be my most difficult labor.  I struggled and pushed and pleaded, but my body simply could not deliver him.  The doctor finally forced him out, tugging his little head with a device that looked better suited for medieval torture than modern labor.   As rudimentary as the method was, it did the trick. 

Out he came, and another perfect baby was was placed in my arms. Jacob’s strength gained as mine abated.  The loss of blood had been immense.  I passed out cold while gazing at my husband holding our newest son. 

Several hours and one blood transfusion later, I was as good as new, and Jacob and I both survived to face even bigger battles together.  

I thought of those very first moments with Jacob often during that two week period in late October of 2011.  He and I had stopped off for a quick trip at Target before picking up big brother Cole at pre-school.  I hoisted him as high as my short, swollen body would allow and settled him into the shopping cart seat.  His shirt pulled up above his belly as I lifted him, and there it was.  About the size and shape of an egg right there in the middle of his chest.  Inexplicably and suddenly.  Just there.  

Love's Labor's Lost

Love's Labor's Lost

Today's the day.

Today masses of people ponder one of the most precious gifts God has given with more intensity than on any other day of the year. Today people ponder love.

Say what you will about the necessity or validity of this commercially produced and sponsored holiday.  Perhaps you're a Valentine's Day hater like myself, or maybe you adore everything about February 14th - heart shaped pancakes and all. Whichever way your sentiments toward this holiday lean, the net effect the day has on each of us is the same, it begs us to consider love.

And because love is so certainly a gift worthy of consideration, I decided to lay my cynicism towards Valentine's Day aside so I could do just that. While I was at it, I also gave some thought to why this particular holiday - a holiday built around the notion of love - has always given me such pause.  The conclusion I've reached is really quite simple: 

Love can be downright terrifying.

Fitting the Same Old Things into a Brand New Year

Fitting the Same Old Things into a Brand New Year

I stumbled all the way through that long December month like a blind man just trying to find his way home. Groping, searching, and staggering, each December day forced me further along until finally, I limped into January with all the bumps and bruises that the previous year inflicted.

With one quick flip of a calendar page, January 1 turns us to a new year and it's time to begin yet again.

Behind me, the months past are reduced to nothing more than history, memories, and a few well-learned lessons.  Up ahead, a new year beckons me onward. I take a deep breath in and hold it for several seconds as I prepare to go under once more.  I get tired just thinking about it. I don't feel ready to begin again.

How do you start a new year when you still haven't recovered from the last?

How do you begin anew when you're still the exact same person that the last year left behind?

The Shepherds Return

The Shepherds Return

The Christmas decorations in our home come down within days (sometimes hours) of the 26th. 

I’m not one to sit and linger in the afterglow of Christmas.  A fanatic organizer, picker-upper, and self-proclaimed windex-er extraordinaire, I insist that every Christmas themed item in the house be packed up and tucked back deep into the recesses of the attic well before January makes its debut. 

As much as I anxiously await setting Christmas up in the days following Thanksgiving each year, I am always quick to put everything back into place after the presents have been opened and the carols have been sung.  Those few December weeks preceding Christmas Day have always been my favorite part of the season; all the hope, excitement, and anticipation of what Christmas means, and the slow building up to it, has always trumped the events of the day itself - gifts and cookies included.

Odd as it may seem, in my mind, Christmas Day actually marks the beginning of the end of all things Christmas for a whole 11 months.  Pessimistic, I know, but these last several years, as the babies have grown into toddlers and then into pre-schoolers and beyond, there has been a sharp emotional fall in the weeks after I unplug the Christmas tree.