Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Celebrate Hanukkah: How-To for Newbies Plus Gift Ideas

If you are unfamiliar with Hanukkah, it may seem strange celebrating a "Jewish" holiday when you aren't Jewish. However, in the Bible the feasts were called the "feasts of the Lord" and were extended to the aliens in the land (that's the non-Jews). The feasts of the Lord hold incredible teaching opportunities for us as well as great spiritual truths. Plus, Christ honored them so why shouldn't we? Even though Hanukkah was not one of the original feasts in the Old Testament that were required to be celebrated, it is still an important part of Christianity's history and a brilliant reminder of God's provision.

Hanukkah is referred to as The feast of Lights or The feast of Dedication in the New Testament. John chapter 10 speaks of Christ being in Jerusalem during the feast. Shortly before this, he had given his famous "light of the world" message, which not so coincidentally would prepare the hearts of those celebrating the up and coming feast. Hopefully as they saw the lights, they would remember His words and their eyes would be opened to the truth. So, why celebrate Hanukkah if he's fulfilled the feast as the light of the world? Simple. It reminds us, inspires us and honors Him. 

So what were they celebrating exactly? Quick history lesson: the temple where God's people worshiped had been desecrated by heathens and was not functioning as God intended it to. A very brave clan with the name of the Maccabees stepped up and started a revolt. The temple of God was taken back and re-dedicated to God, hence the name Feast of "Dedication". The priests lit the lamps (menorahs) as they'd been commanded of God, but there was a problem - there was only enough consecrated oil to last three days and it would take a week to receive more. The priests had been commanded to never let the lights go out, so they would not be able to keep their requirements. Or would they? This is where the miracle comes in. The lights remained lit until the new supply of consecrated oil arrived - eight days. When God commands us do something, he makes sure we are equipped! He is the ultimate provider! I LOVE this story! It reminds me that no matter how crazy or impossible somethings seems, if God has called me to do it - he will give the provision! He's amazing like that!

Hanukkah starts on Thanksgiving day this year! How appropriate is that? On the day we give thanks, we can give thanks for his provision while celebrating the holiday that reminds us of just that! So if you are as smitten with this holiday as I am and are ready to give your best shot at "eight crazy nights", here is a simple how-to and a few small gift ideas. Don't become overwhelmed. Keep it simple and enjoy!

Simple How-to:

1. Get a menorah or make one. You can go all out and buy a beautiful Hanukkiah( a menorah specially for Hanukkah) or you can simply grab 9 tea lights or candles and line them in a row. Get creative with this! You will use the middle candle every night to light the candles, it is called the "servant candle" and represents Christ. You will start from the right end of the candles or menorah and, using the servant candle light the number of candles that correspond to that night of Hanukah. (ex. the fourth night of Hanukah, you will light the four candles starting from the right end- the servant candle remains lit as well).

2. Tell the story of Hanukkah. We celebrate to be reminded, so make sure you prepare your heart and the hearts of your children with the "why" of the holiday! This can be as simple or in depth as you want it. I will provide links to printables below.

3. Enjoy the Culture! Indulge in traditional Hanukkah goodies such as donuts or latkes. (recipes below)

4. Have some fun! Play dreidel! Target has dreidels and gelt (gold wrapped chocolate made to look like coins) in their dollar section. The game is easy and fun - the kids will love it! Make Hanukah crafts!  Use print outs for the kids to color or make Hanukah crafts!

Gift Ideas:

When you are buying gifts for eight nights, the cost can add up quickly. Small gifts are wise, especially if you also celebrate Christmas. Our family chooses to only give gifts the first night and the budget is around $5. We also only give to the kids. Don't feel pressured to stick to any certain traditions, make it your own.  Here are a few inexpensive gift ideas:

Gift cards - grab a $5 giftcard for Starbucks, Sonic, etc. Everyone loves these and it doesn't break the bank!

Dreidel and gelt - This will be a big hit with the kiddos and it's a fun activity to boot!

Movie night box - Grab a cheap movie and throw in some popcorn and candy! Voila! You have a family movie night!

Ornament - If you celebrate Christmas as well, this is a fun time to give a new ornament, since Hanukkah typically falls, or a tleast starts, before Christmas. 

Socks - This one is great for women and children! Make it more sophisticated by adding a nice foot cream or lotion. 

When buying for young children, think about age and gender. Girls tend to love nail polish, lip gloss, polly pockets, etc. Those items are inexpensive and still a delight! For boys, think small lego sets, Hot Wheels, etc. 

I tend to think "stocking stuffer" size gifts for Hanukkah. This is a good rule and makes gift buying easier! 

 Remember to make this holiday your own, creating personal traditions and memories! The importance is being reminded of God's goodness and all else is extra! Have fun and God bless! 



Hanukah story printable:

Activities/crafts for kid:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being Thankful Even When it Hurts

Today's post is a contribution to The Thankful Project from fellow blogger, Mandy Kelly. Mandy has poured her heart out and written a beautiful, candid story. If you've ever suffered from infertility, not only will you relate to her story, I believe you will be ministered to and inspired!  Please check out her bio below. 

Everywhere I turn, they are there. I can’t seem to escape them. From my own family, to my Facebook wall, they haunted me. The desire within my heart almost had me sick to my stomach.
Babies. Beautiful, miracles from God. Ten tiny fingers and toes. Oh, how I long for a sweet infant of my own.
Yet, outside of a miracle from the Lord, I will not have any.
I have always wanted to be a Momma – and I love being Momma to my three blessings. My husband, whom I married just over a year ago, was a widow. He had three children who had lost their Momma. I get to be their Momma now. I have so much to be thankful for. Three beautiful children who call me the name I longed to hear. 
I have learned that the job and title of Mommy is given from God. It is nothing something you get when you get a positive pregnancy test, a hospital visit, or even adoption papers. It is a job that is given to you by the Lord. The Bible says that children are a reward from Him – they are our heritage (Psalm 127:3). It is my highest calling to be their Mom. 
Yet, this doesn’t mean I don’t long for children of my own. Yet, medical science says no. I pray the prayers of Hannah- asking that if the Lord will just give me a child in my womb, I promise them for Him. That I will them for His glory and for His service.
He gently whispers to do that with the ones He has entrusted me with.
He tells me that it is a high calling to raise another woman’s children. 
The cost of discipleship is high in this world. 
So, I am reminded to be thankful. Even when my heart is broken over what will never be- in all situations I am to be thankful.  He has taught me to be thankful for the beauty in His timing and in His plan. I know I will never replace the ache that that the children (especially my oldest who will remember her birth Mom) will have in their heart- but I get to show them how to be thankful.  We get to process this life together. 
So today, as I look at the pictures of the newborn babies, and as I hold my new niece, I am thankful. For my children’s health. For their personalities. For the ways that they are like me. For how her hand fits into mine. For evening cuddles and bedtime stories and prayers. I am thankful for devotions in the morning, and shepherding their young hearts. I am thankful for girl talks and reading the Bible with my oldest.  Most of all, I am thankful for the beautiful name Mommy- and so glad that I can wear it as mine. 

Mandy is passionate about two things: The Word of God and the Souls of Men (and Ladies!). She is a married to her best friend, and gets the privilege to love on their three blessings (who lost their biological momma a few years ago leaving her husband widowed). She loves that the Lord has let her life be an example of delighting in Him and watching Him mold her life to make her desires match His. She spent 9 years in an early childhood classroom, and 4 years in an “in house” seminary program at her home church. She loves everything about being married, and loves to bring God glory through her roles as Christ-follower, Wife and Mother (in that order!) She enjoys women’s ministry, cooking, crafting, and traveling the world. Her greatest desires are to have her marriage bring God ultimate glory, see her children walk in truth, to lead others to the feet of Jesus, and to lead women into deeper and intimate relationship with their Savior through study of the Word of God. Mandy blogs personally about Faith, Marriage, Parenting and More at Women of Worship (www.women-of-worship) and is on the leadership team of Good Morning Girls ( where she encourages women to get into the Word of God daily!

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Am Thankful For Every Minute of Pain

Today's post in a guest post written by my sister, Lanna Webb. Lanna truly knows what it means to learn thanksgiving in the midst of adversity, in particular pain. Is God present in our pain? Does he use it for our good? Read Lanna's story to get a glimpse of one person's thoughts on those questions.

Bear with me during the first couple of paragraphs and make it to the end, please.
  I’m 41 years old.  I’ve spent 16 of my adult years – beginning at 17 – with a migraine-intensity chronic tension headache born of a rare form of headache (yay, me) caused by Occipital Neuralgia. O.N. also causes migraines, including chronic ones.  I was blessed with having those, also, although they came in clusters and sometimes gave me some down time.  Yes, I DID have two different types of migraine-intensity headaches at the same time. 
When I turned 32, I took my dream job as a teacher at Brazosport Christian School teaching Secondary (7-12th grade) students. In addition to the headaches, I also began to have pain in other places. It started in the legs – by 6th period every day I was shuffling instead of walking and had to teach sitting down. Then came pain almost everywhere else. Then came the extreme fatigue – so bad that I would sometimes have to pull over on my 20-minute drive home to catch a catnap so I could make it the rest of the way. Then I started tripping over my own feet. And one day, I realized that I was more and more frequently losing ordinary words during conversation. I know a lot of people struggle with trying to drum up words sometimes, but I was beginning to lose them at an alarming rate. I became so dizzy at times that I weaved and ran into lockers or other people in the hallways and fought blacking out. There were other symptoms, as well, and a bevy of tests that all came back clear or inconclusive. 
And still I taught and even began a career as an administrator serving as Secondary Principal. It was more than a job; it was a very clear manifestation of the use God had planned for me, for which He had worked all those decades to prepare me. 
And then one day I couldn’t read. 
Let me backtrack. I noticed that I was having trouble understanding statements and questions about anything that was not overly familiar to me. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t comprehend; I could not understand the words spoken. It was literally as if the person talking to me were using a foreign language. And then I picked up a book and could no longer read. Oh, I could read each individual word, but I could string no more than two together to form a cohesive idea.  
I’m not going to lie – I totally freaked out. 
Long story cut short: I had to quit my job and leave my students. I grieved as if I had lost my best friend to death. And I grieve to this day. My health tanked so badly I ended up, for all intents and purposes, bed-ridden – I could get up some and on the rare day go places, but mostly I lay in bed. For several weeks, I couldn’t read because I couldn’t understand stuff; I couldn’t watch TV because I couldn’t follow the story line for the duration of the show; and I couldn’t adequately converse with my family and friends because I couldn’t hold my concentration to the end of a thought. 
Gradually it got better. Turns out I had suffered brain trauma similar to that of a mild stroke, trauma brought on by too many stressors – illness, long hours, concern for my school & teachers & students, not to mention keeping up with my family, and the ever-present pain. My brain began to heal but my pain remained and, in fact, grew. I’ll spare you the diagnoses and theories that brought on the various types of chronic pain and bring you to January, 2013 when I could no longer sit in our living room (which I rarely saw) and watch TV with my family because the pain in my back was too intense to allow me to sit through even a 30 minute sit-com. 
Since then, I have had several huge bounds forward and a couple of devastating tugs backward. But one thing remains constant:
My God loves me so much that He bore the pain of watching one of His kids – a child He loves more than we can fathom loving one of our own – watching His child suffer for the vast majority of her adult life. He bore that pain because He is more concerned with her good than her feel-good.
How incredibly amazing is that? He held tight during the really bad times because He refused to sacrifice an eternity of good for a fleeting temporal moment of feel-good. Wow!
There are so many things for which I am thankful – lessons that I know I have learned and areas in which I have profited, all because of the pain I’ve endured. There are so many people for whom I am thankful because of their compassion and service and intercession and love and faith and trust and help, all cultivated because of dealing with a loved one in chronic pain. There are so may relationships for which I am thankful that have grown exponentially tighter and more valuable because of the things we have gone through together because of my pain. There are so many virtues for which I am thankful that I see in my children, virtues that I have no doubt were wrought out of the ordeal of having a mother with chronic pain. 
But I am infinitely more thankful for my God, the Father, the Author of the Universe, who saw all of the pain beforehand and the outcome of afterward and allowed me to go through it all for the sake of good. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, the all-powerful God who could have taken the pain away in much less than the blink of an eye but chose not to do so, all for the sake of good. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, and yet He held off on my healing for the sake of good. 
I’m so thankful and incredibly humbled that the God of the Universe who has so many other things to draw His attention, has firmly placed Holy Spirit between me and all the (Christian) naysayers. God has protected me, provided for me, shown mercy to me, and given me the ultimate gift of not giving in to what so many people tried to tell Him (and me) the He should do in order to make things turn in the direction of what they, in their finite and earthly minds, deemed the good for me.
I am supremely grateful that God is smarter than I and knows that yes, I shall be healed by the stripes of Yeshua my Messiah, but that God’s timing is of utmost importance, that good is more important than feel-good, and that God’s will surpasses all others – for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Yes, I am thankful for every minute of my pain.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankfulness and a Giant God Smack!

Today's guest post is a contribution to The Thankful Project written by new blogger, Heather Nelson. Heather is my sister-in-law and also a close friend of mine. She's a great writer - her personality shines through her words! Check out her bio below and go see what she has to offer on her blog!

When I was a child one of my favorite movies was “Polyanna.”   I seriously could write an entire dissertation about this film and why it is completely awesome, but instead I will just tell you to go and find it and watch it, you will thank me.  The main character, Polyanna, is an orphan who has been raised through many trials.  She constantly plays what she lovingly calls “the glad game.”  It is her goal to always find something to be glad about in every circumstance.  Man, what a lesson!  In thinking about thankfulness through adversity, this was the first place my mind went.  Can I truly find something to not just be glad about, but be thankful for in every circumstance?

So, here I am thinking of writing a piece on thankfulness through adversity.  In my mind I started scouring through at least a dozen different situations in my past where a specific adversity or “trial” had occurred and tried to think of how I could write and encourage thankfulness in all things.

In doing this, I began to unearth a pattern that I was not prepared for.  God's funny like that, right?  So instead of telling you what a great Christ follower I am when faced with trials, I am going to tell you, ugly blistering sores and all, the truth.  The truth is, I flipped out. Every. Single. Time.  Oh, I was thankful.  I was ALWAYS thankful when it seemed the trial was over, or when God pulled me out, or provided. Man was I thankful for Him then.  But in the middle of ugly, in the smack dab center of hurt, pain, and worry, I was not thankful... I was fearful.  Though I know that having fear in my heart for provisions is not having faith that God will provide ( Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!) I still have struggled through the years with surrendering to His care.
For the most part, the pattern essentially ended up looking like this (and I will use examples of actual trials I have faced).

Trial  -struggled with infertility - My response:  Flip out (depression, a lot of crying, hopelessness, jealousy of other pregnant women, anger at God,).... After God Delivered (opened my womb and allowed me to be pregnant) : I was so thankful.
Trial  -marriage separation- My response: Flip out  (depression, anger, hopelessness. I did eventually learn to completely lean on God and He did allow me one of the sweetest times of communion with Him at that point. )...... After God Delivered (my husband and I were reunited and began to work hard on our union) : I was so thankful.
Trial - Financial hardship - My response:  Flip out... After God delivered (provided): I was so thankful.
Trial -  Lost job, move to smaller place - My response: Flip out.  After God delivered: I was so thankful.
Trial - YADA YADA YADA you get the point.

Wow.  And this is where God did His thing to me that I am very familiar with.  I can describe it as a full fledged smack in the forehead, like an “I should've had a V-8” moment.  Can somebody say “CONVICTION”??  Yeah. Conviction.  Well that was SO NOT what I was planning on for this article.  Ok then, lets take a big fat look at what's going on right now shall we?  I'm in the middle of a financial hardship again.  Things are, well, really tight.  We have to fully rely on God for everything. For those of you who've been there, you know that this type of struggle can put a strain on many of other areas of your life, thus creating a bunch of little hairy mini trials.  THEN- just tonight (hahaha, go figure) I fell and injured my knee, as in, going to get an xray tomorrow type of injury- ugh.  So, my first reaction to this, were the following thoughts.... 1. are you serious? How can I be such a klutz?  2.  I'm so mad, I am 36 years old, not 80 for crying out loud.  3.  I'm trying to lose weight and being unable to work out is really going to make this harder.  4.  We do not have the money for this. 
Yeah, not a great example to list here IN THE MIDST of me working on this.  Then I sit down to start writing about thankfulness and my V-8 moment is back.  Back this time with a flashing light. I just totally wrecked that up God.  Please forgive me.

These are not life ending, cancer ridden problems I'm dealing with here people, I totally get that.  But, they are MY problems.  So I am forced to take a better look.  I don't want to be in this pattern anymore!  I want a new pattern, and you know what?   I think that's what God wants too.  In fact, I KNOW that's what He wants, and here's why:
1.  Colossians 3:14-17  14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in      perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  

2.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

So, my new pattern should look like this:  Trial - My response: Thank God for his faithfulness, rejoice in His sovereignty and grace. Trust - If God delivers – Praise him.  If He doesn't – Praise Him. Because, I know He is in control of ALL things, and I KNOW that I can rest in His Sovereignty.

Wow, so easy right?  NOT!  I know I will have to revisit this every single time, because in my own will I will not ever rise up to this.  Here's the deal folks,  I need Jesus, and I need Him B-A-D.  So then, what do I do?  I pray.  I pray a lot.  I read His word, a lot.  I seek to glorify Him, because ultimately, all of my pleasure, my joy, my life, regardless of my circumstances, will come through Christ being magnified.

Heather is a wife of 16 years, a mom of 4, and a big fat sinner saved by grace. In her minimal spare time after running kids to baseball or cheerleading practice, going to games of all kinds, and attempting to keep her house clean...she writes a bit.  For fun she loves camping and karaoke and is working on a way to do both at the same time.  You can check out her ramblings at

Monday, November 4, 2013

Finding Gratitude in Messy Moments

I am happy to introduce today's guest blogger, my friend Dayna Bickham. Dayna is an incredibly talented story teller and writer, all around. She is the author of " No More Lies" which is available through her website, and has more projects in the works! Be sure to check out her bio below for more info!

Today Dayna is sharing a story on learning thanksgiving in adversity as a contribution towards The Thankful Project. 

gratitude quotes photo: BASIS 2 AA gratitude-frontcdcover.jpgShe yells and screams at me, “I hate you!” and something inside me breaks. How did we come to this? This place where all we ever seem to do is fight and all we ever see in the other are the things we do not like?
Parenting teens is difficult. Any parent who tells you they don’t worry or wonder about their kids a little bit more than they did before they turned into hormonal, easily aggravated and somewhat unbalanced people is either a- not a parent, or b- insane.  For me, parenting teens is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute I feel immense pleasure over who my kid is becoming and in the next moment I want to scream “What did you do to my precious cherub of a child, you hideous monster?!”
Not that I get to yell that.
But boy do I want to.
So, in the midst of all the angst, and between their bouts of yelling and the occasional silent treatment, how can I honestly say I am thankful for my kids?
When it all boils down to it, they have been the catalysts God has used to challenge and change me more than anything else.  For that I am thankful.
I thought I may never get to have children so having two is a bit of a miracle. On top of that, having both of them healthy has been a challenge. We have battled epilepsy, learning disorders, emotional problems, and personal differences.
Through it all I am constantly surprised and generally amazed by them. Even when we are fighting, my girls display so much character and strength. I look at them and I get, in some small way, how God must feel about us.
Even when we are acting like complete rear ends, He manages to love us perfectly. For that, I am also grateful.
So during a month that is both beautiful and beautifully challenging with its busy shopping season, family gatherings, and reflective qualities, I chose to be grateful for the thing that brings the most aggravation into my life: my kids.
Without them, I would feel a little less full. Without them I would be more self-centered, and without them I would probably be a little less tired. But I would not change it. Not for all the rest, money or peace of mind in the world, because in the end, they are the reason I was made. And for that, I am thankful.  Even if I need some Tylenol and a nap.

 Dayna Bickham is a wife and mother. She loves missions work and is passionate about writing. For her, the epitome of a great day is one spent loving on others and a night spent writing about it. She loves bread too much and exercises too little, but now she knows she is the child of the King, and nothing else really matters. Dayna blogs regularly at 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Thankful Project AND "First Friday" linkup

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

~ Psalm 100:4

According to Psalm 100:4, a heart of Praise and Thanksgiving is the correct posture for entering into the presence of the Lord. 

Are you ready for his presence?

 Psalm 84 says that one day in his courts were better than a thousand days anywhere else! The glory of The Lord is responds to the worship on your tongue! 

Your thanksgiving activates God's spirit!

Today is the beginning of The Thankful 


People have submitted their stories of learning to be thankful even in the midst of adversity. I am excited and honored to share them with you! I will be posting them throughout the month of November. Please take time and read their stories as they are encouraging and inspiring! 

To read the stories and/or learn how to submit your own, click here!

Join the "First Friday" linkup here!