Tag: holidays

His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” — Titus 2:11-13, ESV

Continuing the thought from the last few weeks, let us take a closer look at why Jesus came. What was His mission, His purpose?

Way back in Eden after the dreadful plague called sin entered our world, humanity was separated from our loving Lord and Creator (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus came to bridge that gap, to bring reconciliation and redemption. (Romans 3:23-25) After all, the ultimate penalty of sin is death, but through His life, death, and resurrection, Christ conquered sin and offers the gift of eternal life to all who accept it. (Romans 6:23)

The Bible also promises that one day soon, He will return again to purge the world of sin and bring complete restoration. (Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21, 22) This is our blessed hope! This hope gives us peace and strength to face a world filled with trials, sorrows, tragedies, death.

 

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

‘And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”‘ — Luke 2:10-14, ESV

This time of year can get busy with festive parties, decorating, various holiday activities, rushing to secure presents for loved ones, enjoying traditions, and visiting family and friends. To some it might even be stressful as you try to balance all of these extra activities on top of your usual routines. While many find this time of year to be filled with joy and love, it can also be emotionally challenging for others.

Christmas is only days away and I am so tired.

Unlike previous years, I am not taking any extra time off so I am only getting the official holidays provided by my workplace. This is for two reasons: I used the majority of my vacation hours back in November for the family trip, and I’m trying to accrue as many new hours as possible so I can use them towards the end of January before our second son is born.

Working all day, trying to doing at least some holiday stuff during the few hours available in the evenings while playing with our toddler, finding gifts for everyone while staying in budget, sending out cards (very late), trying to make holiday desserts, and whipping together a last-minute wiseman outfit for Peanut for this Sabbath’s special Christmas program — it is not easy.

I now understand why some people get holiday burnout.

But as much fun (or stressful, depending on your experience!) as the holidays can be, I always try to take time away from the hustle and bustle. Quiet time to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Because He is the promised Messiah, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. He left heaven to come to earth, taking on our humanity so that He would share in our trials, all to save us from our sins. (Philippians 2:8-10) Through His perfect life and willing sacrifice, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10).

Why? Because God loves us— loves you!— that much. So no matter what you are going through, whether you are worn out or stressed or sad or lonely, always remember that God is with you. That, after all, is one of the titles of Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And that, my friend, is worth celebrating! That is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that night so long ago.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” — John 1:14 & 16, ESV

In twelve short days, a significant portion of the world’s population will celebrate, in some way, December 25th. While many call this day Christmas, it has not always been associated with Christianity. The pre-existing winter solstice celebrations were eventually adopted into mainstream Christianity as a holy day associated with Jesus’ birth. Over the centuries, many traditions from different origins have merged to create the modern holiday we are familiar with.

While it may be hard to believe nowadays, Christianity has actually had a love-hate relationship with this holiday from its introduction. Due to the pagan origins of the celebrations and most traditions, there have been and continue to be heated debates within some Christian circles on whether or not this holiday should even be celebrated. (The Puritans, for example, outlawed its celebration.)

Interestingly, the Bible does not give us a date for the birth of Jesus. It does give us some clues as to the year and general season, but not an exact date. Why? Perhaps it is because the Word of God places more emphasis on why Jesus came to earth instead of the when. Though His birth was cause for great celebration in heaven and among those on earth who were aware of it (Luke 2:8-20) due to the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies (Matthew 2:1-12), the main focus is on who Jesus is and His mission, His purpose.

Today’s encouraging verse reminds us that Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” … “for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Jesus left His glory in heaven to take on our sinful humanity. He lived a life tempted just as we are, yet He did not commit sin (Hebrews 4:15), so that He could bear the penalty of our sin on Himself. All so that we may have the opportunity to be reconciled with God.

Why would He do such a thing? Why would He leave His glory, leave heaven, to suffer and die in our place? Why not just scrap the whole “humanity” project, erase all trace of sin from the universe, and start over? Because He loves us that much! “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [reconciliation, reparation, peace offering] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

He loves YOU that much!

No matter your stance on Christmas, what traditions you keep or eschew, there is no denying that this time of year gives us a very unique opportunity to share the love of Christ with family, friends, and neighbors. Individuals who are usually closed off to religious matters and conversations may be a little more open during this unique season. They may even ask you about your holiday traditions or beliefs. We are encouraged to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV).

We should not miss this opportunity! Let us not be so focused on ourselves that we forget to share the message of Christ with those who desperately need to hear it, through our compassion, our words, and our actions! “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:19, ESV

Last week, I confessed to struggling with turning my burdens and worries over to the Lord during times of high stress. I would venture to say that a lot of us wrestle with the inclination to try to do it all ourselves, forgetting that we need to surrender it all to our Lord.

Well, when the circumstances of life seem especially difficult, it often happens that our focus begins to shift. That narrowed concentration on the negatives will influence our attitude, our behavior, and even our normal thinking patterns until we only see the rain clouds.

We may even start to exaggerate our circumstances by using broad-sweeping generalizations, harboring thoughts like “Everything is going wrong right now.” or “I cannot do anything right!” or “I can never…” or “Why me? Why now?”

We are like Peter, who began to sink beneath the waves when he removed his eyes from Jesus. He was filled with terror at the sight of the wind and waves all around him. Why? Because he had allowed his focus, though not consciously, to be drawn away from what was most important: the Lord. He desperately cried out: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus, in His love and mercy, did just that with a very gentle rebuke: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (See Matthew 14:19-31.)

Why did you doubt? This is what Jesus asks you and I today. Why do I doubt that the Lord has my life and situation under control? Why do I take so long before asking the Lord for His help and guidance? Why do I try to fix things on my own? Why do I continually treat prayer as a last resort instead of the first (and only) option?

No matter what circumstances you are facing, what worries are bogging you down, or how overwhelmed you may be feeling, today’s verse is gentle reminder that we need to keep our focus on the Lord. Even in the midst of the biggest, darkest storms of life, our Lord is right there with us.

We need to know that “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Instead of focusing on the wind and waves battering your life, focus on the blessings He has given to you, whether big or small.

When I begin to really stress out, the Lord often brings to my mind a song that Bing Cosby sang in the old movie White Christmas (1954) called “Count Your Blessings.” (Listen to it.) The simple words of this song are very humbling and remind me to count my blessings, giving thanks to the Lord for each and every one.

When I am thanking the Lord for every blessing, I realize how many more blessings there are in my life than trials. The wind dies down, the waves calm, and the rain clouds dissipate.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

Here in the United States, we are now in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and with December only a few days away, many of us have turned our minds to purchasing presents. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and some stores offering deals all week long, a lot of people are eagerly on the hunt for the best sales.

There are plenty of holiday parties with family, friends, or even at the office to attend soon, and many may include secret santa or white elephant style gift exchanges. Charities and various non-profits are also upping their advertising in hopes of getting more donations. There are also adopt-a-child and adopt-a-family style programs to help the less fortunate in our local communities.

With the social expectation of lavish gift giving during this time of year, how does the budget conscience person stay within budget?

I recently read an article on CNBC that shared approximately half of Americans surveyed went into debt to finance their 2016 holiday shopping — and many are still paying it off!

Don't go into debt this holiday season! Here are 10 tips to stay within budget. Click To Tweet

While we have always tried to keep to a reasonable budget during the holidays, this year we are having to tighten our financial belts even more. We have transitioned to a single income household and due to a few unforeseeable emergency expenses over the last few months, it is has been a bit of a struggle to maintain our “normal”. We had to dip into our savings more than I would have liked and have not been able to replenish it (yet).

So this year, we are on a very tight Christmas budget. Here are 10 tips we will be following on staying within budget this holiday season.

1. Set your budget in stone.

Decide on how much you can afford this holiday season. Be sure to think about all aspects of the holidays: gifts, dinners out, parties, decorations, food ingredients, charitable giving, etc. Be realistic but firm in your budget decision. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stay within your budget no matter what amazing “deals” you might see advertised or who asks for donations.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

All joking aside, seriously sit down and make a list of everyone that you would like to give a gift to and/or situation that may require a gift. Set a price limit for each gift and evaluate the total estimated cost. Then prune your list down as far as you can possibly go — both the recipients and the cost per gift.

3. Give a thoughtful card rather than a gift.

In some situations, a nice seasonal card with a personalized note could replace a more expensive gift. If you are like me, then you probably have blank holiday cards left over from previous years so you may not have to buy any new ones! It just costs you a little bit of time to write the note and maybe the cost of postage (if mailing).

4. Make a list and shop carefully.

This is the time of year that retailers and shops use many (often successful) tactics to convince you to overspend. Do not fall for their marketing gimmicks or get sucked into buying more than you need because of “good deals”.

Know what you are going to buy before you walk in the store and stick to that list.

5. Shop dollar stores.

You might just be surprised by all of the things now available at dollar stores. This should be the go-to-stop for the frugal shopper. For example, why spend all of that money on expensive gift baskets when you can put together your own, customized gift basket using items from dollar stores?

6. Shop secondhand.

Not everything has to be bought brand new, in the original packaging and with price tags still attached. There are many thrift and secondhand stores that sell interesting or unique items of good quality at affordable prices.

7. Re-gift.

There are times for birthdays and holidays when we might receive a nice gift that we already have or cannot use for some reason. The thought behind the present is extremely meaningful so why not pass these unused items on to bless others? Just be sure you do not accidentally re-gift an item back to the original gift-giver — that might lead to an awkward conversation!

8. Shop in your home.

While similar to the last tip, this one is even more personal. Who among us is not trying to simplify our lives and declutter our homes? I know we are!

During the purging process, we sometimes find items that we really love or have used previously but no longer need or have a place for. Instead of donating these items to strangers, why not give them as a gift to someone you know (or hope) will appreciate it? To make the gift extra special, write a nice note about what the item means to you and why you are giving it to that person.

9. Re-use gift bags and wrappings.

I started collecting birthday, special occasion, and holiday themed bags and gift wrappings a few years ago when my husband and I married. We even save tissue paper if it is in good condition. (I fold tissue paper neatly for storage.) This has been a lifesaver when it comes to saving a little money on the “wrappings”.

If you don’t have any bags to re-use, go for a fun vintage feel by wrapping your gifts with old newspaper or brown paper from grocery bags.

10. Be honest with family and friends.

If you are going to be changing your giving habits noticeably, be sure to let your family and friends know ahead of time that this year you do not have much to spend and will be cutting back to stay on budget. You do not need to go into detail, but be honest and genuine. Most people will be more than understanding.

Bonus Tip: Homemade gifts

Inspired by the comment below from our friend, Trisha, if you are crafty in any way maybe you had make a few gifts yourself! Handmade gifts are treasures to keep for years to come! Depending upon how crafty you are, you may already have plenty of things lying around your house that you can use to make a homemade gift.

The perfect gift can be anything from a card to an ornament to a home decor piece or framed drawing/painting or going to a local print shop and printing photos, canvas, mousepads, etc. You could put the ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa or cookie recipe in a mason jar and write cooking directions on a little label. If you are not sure what to do, browsing Pinterest is a good place to get ideas!

 

It is our intention that, by following these ten tips ourselves, we will be able to stay within our meager holiday budget without having to sacrifice the joy that comes with gift-giving. It will take careful planning and a commitment to our budget, but if we can do it, so can you!

Six Healthy Holiday Fare

Six Healthy Holiday Fare

I recently read that the average American gains one to two pounds during the winter holidays, from Thanksgiving through New Years. With the hearty traditional dishes and scrumptious desserts that usually grace the dinner table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holidays, that weight gain is to be expected. It is not even necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that most Americans never lose the pound or two they gained over the holidays, which means that they could gain one to two pounds every year just from their holiday feasting.

What can we do to avoid the holiday weight gain? Moderate exercise and portion control are always recommended, but perhaps you can substitute a not-so-healthy traditional dish with a healthier alternative.

Here are six delicious alternatives to some classic holiday dishes that will let you enjoy yourself.

Fresh Green Beans

Instead of the fat and calorie heavy green bean casserole, serve up fresh green beans. Buy two pounds of green beans from the store, trim the ends, and cut in half or thirds (if you don’t want long beans).

Steam covered on high in a large pan with a few centimeters of water. When the water is almost gone, test the green beans to see if the texture is soft enough. If you prefer softer, add a little more water, cover, and wait until the water is almost gone again. If the beans are to your liking, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the beans with onion and garlic.

Add salt and other seasonings (parsley, crushed red pepper, and basil) to taste. You can add a dash of soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (gluten-free) or a bit of lemon juice as well. Serve up nice and hot!

Oven-roasted Sweet Potatoes

Can it be the holidays without mashed potatoes? Certainly! You can replace regular potatoes with sweet potatoes for a healthier option, but don’t drown it in milk, butter or maple sugar and marshmallows. Slice the sweet potatoes in half-inch rounds or one-inch cubes (depending on the look you want), add some onion, drizzle with a little olive oil, add salt and sage, toss well, and roast in the oven until edges are browned or crispy.

Not only is this dish gorgeous, it is delicious!

Veggie Stuffing

Instead of getting your stuffing from a box, make your own at home and add some extra veggies to it! All you need is day old bread – go even healthier by using a whole wheat, cornbread, or gluten-free bread of your choice.

If you want to limit or avoid the bread, why not try substituting half of the bread with a squash (like butternut), using a brown or wild rice or even quinoa?

Saute the veggies of your choice in a little bit of olive oil. I really like onion, celery, and carrots but I have seen people add water chestnuts, brussel sprouts, other veggies, cranberries and even apples! Mix the veggies with your bread or bread substitute, add vegetable broth and traditional stuffing spices (salt, sage, thyme, pepper, etc.), and mix well.

Pop it in the oven to bake!

Oven-roasted Veggie Delight

Not into the candied or glazed vegetables? Trying to limit the extra sugar (and extra pounds)? Substitute the sugary glazed veggies with savory oven-roasted Veggie Delight! All you need is parsnips, carrots, red onion, and brussel sprouts. Cut the brussel sprouts in four (half and then half again) and then cut the remaining veggies in a similar size.

Drizzle with olive oil, lightly season with salt, sage, thyme, and basil, and toss. Put it in the oven to roast.

Spinach and Butternut Squash

Another delicious veggie combo you could try is butternut squash (cubed) cooked with some olive oil, fresh spinach, and dried cranberries. Sprinkling with some salt and pepper, and you have a wonderful (and colorful) side dish.

Need more protein? Sprinkle in some rinsed black beans.

Cauliflower Risotto

Looking to replace the carb-heavy potatoes and/or stuffing? Why not give this Cauliflower Risotto a try? It uses cauliflower, leeks, garlic, quinoa and a broth made from miso, nutritional yeast, and veggie broth to create a hearty and fluffy risotto.

 

So what is your favorite holiday dish? How do you try to substitute more healthy options into your holiday meals?