What I’m Into (December 2017)

Christmas is approaching, and it’s been a really wonderful season so far. Our kids’ excitement grows exponentially each year as we continue traditions and make new memories.

This year, I was thrilled to discover The Giving Manger for our holiday season. To be honest, I find it exhausting to take on all of the responsibility of the season, and it seems to grow each year…which is why I love this new tradition. It’s completely a family endeavor.

The premise is for our family to create gifts for others the entire month of Christmas – by doing and saying kind and helpful things. Each time we do something nice, we put a piece of straw in the manger. The intent is to fill the manger with straw for Jesus by Christmas Day.

Already, Connor and Brenna are enamored with the idea and have been setting out to do acts of kindness each day. I love this activity and all that it encompasses, and in particular, how empowering it is for the kids. It shifts the season from what can become “entertain me! surprise me! give me!” to “what can I do for others?” Doesn’t get any better than that!

Here’s a round-up of some of my other favorite things going on this month…

I feel like I’m in the middle of a million and three books right now, and I guess I’ll see what sticks. (I no longer push myself to finish a book if I can’t get into it!) Some notable books that I just finished and recommend include Refugee (kid lit, so gripping!), Ordinary Grace (historical fiction that I flew through) and The Happiness of Pursuit.

I’m in the early stages of How to Raise an Adult and in the middle of the thriller The Break Down right now. I’m also listening to All the Light We Cannot See on audio in my car – a new habit now that the kids are in school and I’m driving by myself!

We also just started Ann Voskamp’s devotional Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as a family for the Christmas season, and it’s so beautiful. 

Wanting to be intentional about your holiday shopping for the kids in your life? My post about purposeful gifts has been hugely popular – here is a comprehensive list of gifts for kids that spark imagination, offer exciting experiences, help others and last beyond Christmas Day!

While we’re on the subject of holidays… we’re doing a lot of reading on holiday topics in our house right now. Here’s a great list of beautiful children’s books that focus on Jesus’ birth for Christmas.

Planning holiday menus? I’m a sucker for a good appetizer. If you’re looking for a new recipe, here are some of my go-to appetizers that get gobbled up immediately: cheesy crab points, pepperoni pizza dip, and buffalo chicken bites. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving. Family. This holiday is quickly becoming one of my favorites!

I got a very sweet date with this handsome kid for his school’s mother/son event! We made slime and participated in a karate lesson 🙂

Packing our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! So proud of these two this year as they both used their own money to purchase items for their shoeboxes…

This was on the fall bucket list for a long time, and we finally got a solid leaf pile-jumping day!

Cutting down our family Christmas tree from my in-laws’ farm. We planted these trees when Connor was born, and now they’re big enough for our living room!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Enjoy this beautiful month of love and giving and celebration!

{Celebrating Beautiful} Perseverance in Waiting, by Tiffany Smiling

In blogging for the last 6 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
I “met” Tiffany Smiling when an email dropped in my inbox. She introduced herself and briefly shared her story and her upcoming book, Your Dream. God’s Plan., and then asked if I might be willing to consider writing an endorsement. The deadline was tight but that ended up not mattering because I couldn’t put her book down! Tiffany has a tremendous testimony and a beautiful heart for giving, and her book is a must-read! It moved my heart so much and connecting with her has been an absolute gift.
Here is Tiffany Smiling on Celebrating Beautiful…

“Celebrate her birthday big this year.”

Those were the words from the head neurosurgeon at one of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals spoken to my parents after I’d been asked to leave the room. And as I approached my eleventh birthday, he’d given me ten months to live.

My family and I fought his death sentence. We couldn’t believe his words to be true. Instead, we stood in faith trusting God that the journey to remove the tumor in my brain would soon come to an end.

But if the truth be told, it was just the beginning.

Over the next six years, I was operated on four times — poked and prodded, stitched and stapled — hopeful to hear promising news. But the reports were only worsening. The tumor was only growing. The cancer was still prominent. And most glaring, I was limboing a tight rope fighting to trust God amidst the lack of progress I was seeing in my life. All I could do was wait. Patiently, wait…. and wait…. and wait even longer.

Waiting for God to move on our behalf is a lonely and weary spot to be in. For me, the uncertainty of when God will answer my prayers terrifies me the most.

But here’s what I didn’t know then that I want to share with you now: perseverance is produced when progress isn’t present.

Have you ever been at a place in your life where you are required to wait on the Lord for an answer?

Maybe a child you are believing in.

Or a broken relationship that you hoped would be healed by now.

Perhaps, a breakthrough in that place that has held you in bondage.

Why is it so hard to continue to trust the Lord when we do not see progress in the middle of our trials?

Because we are humans, we are prone to take matters into our own hands. We tend to see a resolution based on our own understanding of the immediate reality right in front of us. And we give up.

Living in a world of immediate results, our self-satisfying society cannot fathom the concept of waiting. But in God’s economy, waiting is never wasted. Instead, it is intended to strengthen us as we become more like Christ. God uses waiting. It is part of our christian journey. He uses it to teach us how to daily trust in Him. He uses it to prepare us for an even bigger purpose He has ahead of us.

When the opportunity arises to continue to believe even when signs of progress are unseen, the Lord is inviting us to persevere based on His word instead of what we see.

I used to believe perseverance was endurance. Boy, was I wrong! While endurance means tolerating or accepting the obstacles in our lives, perseverance is very different.

It means to press on with the certainty that it WILL happen.
Perseverance is moving forward and growing with Christ, despite the difficulty or delay. Perseverance is walking in the assurance that our Lord has already won the battle. And waiting is the soil where perseverance is grown.

If you are in a place today where your prayers have been unanswered, I challenge you to keep on believing God and His promises. Don’t give up! The perseverance being perfected in your challenging days of waiting will soon be the fuel that lights the way to God’s faithfulness in your trials. God has a plan over your life and will use your season of waiting when you offer it to him!

Tiffany Smiling—writer, speaker, and entrepreneur—is changing the kingdom of God around the globe. She’s a cancer survivor, an injustice fighter and, above all else, she is a devoted follower of Christ. In her book, Your Dream. God’s Plan., Tiffany encourages readers to trade in the broken pieces of their life for God’s greater purpose.

With a heart to rescue the unreached children around the world, she founded the With All My Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to building the global church and caring for vulnerable children. In 2016, she also founded With All Her Heart, an organization equipping woman to fulfill the calling that God has ahead of them. You can connect with Tiffany at www.tiffanysmiling.com or on Instagram!