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Posts tagged ‘Holidays’

Setting Yourself Up For An Amazing Year.


Allison Vesterfelt

This blog post first appeared over at – you can read more about Allison there! 

You never know how much stuff you have until you put it all in a box.

I say this (and write it) all the time, but it’s true. Most of us feel we’re packing pretty lightly, that our life doesn’t include a ton of excess, that we don’t own too much or buy too much or eat too much or socialize too much or criticize ourselves too much — until we see our life from an objective perspective.

Once we start pulling things out of the closet, once we begin organizing the drawers, once we try to pack it all into a cardboard box — that’s when we realize just how cluttered our life really is.

What we really need to do is take an inventory.

new-yearPhoto Credit: Amodiovalerio Verde , Creative Commons

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you start thinking about what you want next year to look like. You may have considered some New Year’s Resolutions, or you may be boycotting resolutions. Either way, I’m guessing you’ve spent at least a little time thinking about how you want 2014 to look differently from 2013.

The problem is, most of us spend a good portion of time thinking about what we want to add to our lives without first considered what already exists in them.

I thought about this recently while I was reflecting on the last year of my life.

The thought came to me accidentally, to tell you the truth. I was scrolling through my phone, looking at pictures, when all of a sudden I realized: the last 12 months of my life has been so full.

So much had happened, I realized. So much has changed.

I’ve published a book, moved to Nashville, been to Europe on vacation with my husband. I’ve made new friends, traveled through a dozen states (at least), turned 30 years old, raised $30,000 (with your help) to build a classroom in Uganda, spent time with family, visited Guatemala with Food for the Hungry, run a 10k, and watched people I love have babies and get married.

It’s been a full year; and I don’t say that to brag.

I say that because, my guess is, your year has been really full, too.

Something incredible happens when you just spend a little time taking inventory. You realize how much you had in the first place.
You never realize how much you have until you put it in a box.

There are a few reasons taking inventory is so valuable as we try to move forward into our next year.

First, we realize how “rich” we really are.

When I go through my closet to clear out old clothes, I realize the complaint that I have “nothing to wear” is really unfounded. I have so much to wear, I forget I have most of it.

The same is true for events and achievements in life. Next time you catch yourself thinking the last year of your life has been a waste, go through your Instagram profile. In the place we tend to record our most proud moments, chances are you’ll find memories of the most lovely, wonderful things that have happened to you in the past 12 months.

We are all more blessed than we realize. Our lives are really full.

Second, an honest inventory points to our priorities.

When I spend time to determine where I’ve invested my time, money and energy, I discover what matters to me most. Not what I say matters, but what really matters. I might not like what I find there, but if I’m willing to be honest about it, the information can be incredibly valuable.

Am I spending my time, energy or money on things that really matter?

Is there a disconnect between what I say matters to me; and what really does?

When we take an honest inventory of our lives, we’re able to see how we want to move ahead differently in the future. For example, in my own honest inventory, I realize I spent way too much time, energy and stress over my e-mail inbox. What a waste. I’m not going to do that again next year.

What would it look like for you to take an honest inventory of your last 12 months?


How to Make the Most of Your Holiday Time Off.


Family chaos
(Stock Free Images)

You finally get to use that vacation time and have some time away from work to spend over the holidays. What will you do?

Before you go planning a thousand things and overwhelming yourself, make sure some quality, fun and relaxing family time is included. You should make the most of your family time during this time. Here’s how.

1. Be flexible. You may work from a rigid schedule at work, but now is not the time for that. Throw that out the window. During this time, be flexible and even spontaneous. Be prepared to go with the (family) flow.

2. Be intentional. No matter what you do, try to include your family as much as possible. They are going to be so excited and looking forward to a lot of uninterrupted time with you. But if you are not engaged with them, they’ll be very disappointed. Even without planning everything, you can be intentional and focused on making family time a priority.

3. Be relaxed. Your main goal is to love on your family well. And let them love on you too.  So take it easy, relax and don’t pressure yourself to do a whole lot.

4. Be creative. If you live where it snows, you have some great opportunities for winter fun. You can go sledding, ice skating or even skiing. Date nights can get more creative in the winter. Think outside the box and do some fun, creative things with your family.

5. Be fun. Above all else, have fun and be fun for your family. Making this time full of family and fun will have you ready to go back to work and take on the world when your time off ends. Just be sure not to overschedule your family.

What will you do to make the most of your time off over the holidays?


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Faith, Hope and Love: Three Gifts That Keep Giving.

girl looking in a big wrapped present
Sometimes the gifts that continue to impact another person’s life don’t come in a box. (© Sonifo

“Let’s wrap up boxes and books and put them under the tree,” my mom said one night. I was six-years-old and didn’t think anything was odd about wrapping up books and empty boxes. I was excited about the idea of spending time with mom who was busy working from early in the morning as a farm laborer. Most of the time she was asleep when I got home from school.

My little brother and sister were excited about the brightly wrapped presents with shiny bows under the sparkling tinsel tree. I realized that the reason we wrapped those gifts is because she had no money to buy presents. I kept that secret until mom told us we would open our gifts after we came back from grandma and grandpa’s house.

Thinking back on that Christmas, she was trying to feed three kids on a farm laborer’s wage. I remember we had to stand in line with food stamps to buy groceries, which was really embarrassing. We had no presents that year from mom but in later years I gained three gifts that have proven priceless over and over again.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

The gift of faith. My grandpa picked us up that day. On the way to his house, a police car pulled up behind him with flashing lights. He didn’t understand why he was getting pulled over since he always drove under the speed limit. The policeman asked him how many children were in the car. He went back to his car and returned with an arm full of presents.

We weren’t Christians but I believed that my mom had faith that something good was going to happen that day despite the despair of trying to feed her children on farm laborer’s wages and the shame of receiving welfare checks and food stamps. My mom became a Christian many years later but she always had this incredible optimism and faith in her.

The unexpected presents from an unexpected source are like the gifts that God brings everyday. We take these gifts for granted — the gift of a relationship, the gift of a job in a bad economy or the gift of a child’s love. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 We can carry God’s faith into our holiday gatherings.

My mom taught me to live by faith and that lesson brought me unexpected scholarships that I didn’t apply for to get into college.

The gift of hope. Fast forward many years and I’m college student paying my own way in Hawaii. I have no money to buy presents and my family lives in California. I pray and ask God for creative ideas for presents for my friends and family. I pray for each person that I want to give a gift to and suddenly I get an idea for writing a story about how that person reminds me of a character in the Bible.

Each person receives a story with pictures in a little booklet. Every person I gave that booklet to say that was the best gift they had ever received. Through those stories, I gave them the gift of hope. I gave the gift that they are becoming someone who Jesus intended to them to be. I stirred up the flame of destiny in them through the words on that page. The cost for that present was my time seeking the Lord on their behalf. We can give the gift of hope in this holiday season by being a vessel for Him to speak His words of life and hope to others.

The gift of love. My friend Faith calls me right before Christmas in 1998. I’m fighting depression after my mom died. I’m hopeless and this dark cloud sits over me. I have a wonderful Christian husband, two beautiful little boys, a gorgeous home, and great job but can’t enjoy any of it because of the depression. Faith says she wants to fly me from Columbia, MO. to West Palm Beach to go with her to some revival services.

Right after New Year‘s, I fly to West Palm Beach. Faith takes me to revival services at her church and I receive an incredible touch from God. That time prepares me for my visit to the Smithton Outpouring in February where I’m set free from depression. Hope and faith come back with the love of my friend. Faith gave me the gift of love that set me in the right direction at that time.

Demonstrate God’s love during this holiday season. Love is the engine of faith and hope in action carrying His presence into the room. Call that person who needs His love. Or take them to lunch or dinner. Above all, take action. Don’t let another Christmas pass by without reaching out to that person who has been on your heart.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Give the gifts that keep giving after Christmas – the gift of faith, hope and love.



Leilani Haywood is the editor of SpiritLed Woman and a frequent contributor to Charisma. She is an award-winning writer who has been published in The Kansas City Star, Focus on the Family, Metrovoice Newspaper and many other publications.

Don’t Miss the Merry .

The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared.
Titus 2:11

Recommended Reading
Psalm 100:3-5 ( )

Newspaper columnist Joseph Szalay wrote of serving with the 102nd Infantry Division during World War II. Christmas 1944 found him in combat in Germany. He gave gifts to the men in his section. The gifts were his personal possessions wrapped with paper from packages from home. “It was a Christmas I’ll long remember,” he said. “All we prayed for was to see another Christmas.”

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His next Christmas was spent at sea in a terrible storm. “We prayed we would live through it,” he wrote. Arriving home in January of 1946, he celebrated a late Christmas with the family he hadn’t seen in two years. “This was the happiest Christmas I can remember,” he said. “I haven’t missed Christmas with my family since then and I thank God for all the Christmases since coming home from the war.”

Our hearts ache for those who miss Christmas because of distance; but it’s far worse to miss Christmas because of disinterest. Make this the merriest Christmas you can remember. Be thankful for every little thing about the holiday this year, and praise God each day of the season.

Hebrews 1-4

By David Jeremiah.

How Gratitude Is the Key to a Healthier Life.

Thanksgiving prayer
An attitude of gratefulness is important to all areas of your life. (Paul Armstrong/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Simply saying the word fills the air with the comforting aroma of my mom’s homemade stuffing and floods my mind with images of orange-yellow leaves drifting down from treetops and forming crunchy piles underfoot. I can envision the gigantic Turkey Float making its way through Manhattan during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and hear the men of my family cheering on the Dallas Cowboys in the TV room.

But what if Thanksgiving was more than just a holiday revolving around festive parades, football games and the daylong activity I like to call “Gobble ‘til you wobble”? What if it was more than an elaborate meal around which we say grace and thank God for the blessings of friends, family and freedom? What if we made Thanksgiving—or, in verb form, “giving thanks”—a daily exercise?

As it turns out, showing gratitude is more like exercise than we might expect. It offers a cornucopia of health benefits that can radically improve our mental, emotional and physical states. Here are a few reasons you should consider making “Thank you” a favorite phrase:

1. You’ll Exercise More
In an experimental comparison, psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough found that those who kept weekly gratitude journals exercised more regularly and felt better about their lives as a whole. They were even more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to the non-journaling group.

Being optimistic, as many of you may know, is a biblical principle that teaches us to seek the good in life and to focus on it. Making a concerted effort to think on our blessings and give thanks for them automatically places our hearts and minds in a position poised to exude life-altering positivity.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8, NLT).

2. You’ll Have a Greater Sense of Well-Being
Emmons and McCollough also noted that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction and vitality and lower levels of depression and stress. It’s pointed out that grateful people don’t deny or ignore the dreary aspects of life, but their thankful attitude overpowers unpleasant emotions and enhances positive ones.

Job was a righteous man who lost everything: all of his possessions, his health, even his 10 children and the faith of his wife who told him to “curse God and die.” But somehow, despite his physical suffering and spiritual affliction, Job lifted up his shaven, sore-covered head and steadfastly praised God. Even though his faith was challenged, it was never destroyed. After everything had been stripped away, he chose to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Because we’re told in chapter 1 that Job was upright and blameless when he had much, it’s safe to assume he was probably also a thankful man. Being grateful in the good times gave him faith to endure the hard times and place his hope—his very life—in God’s hands. We can likewise equip ourselves to weather life’s storms when we show gratitude while sailing on smooth seas, when we look up at the clear night sky and thank our Captain for His guidance, protection and provision.

3. You’ll Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
What is also interesting about Emmons and McCollough’s research is the striking evidence that grateful individuals place less importance on material goods. The participants’ weekly records of gratitudeshifted their focus from possessions to personal goals and from anxiety to appreciation. The result was that they became less envious of others. They were even more likely to be more generous with their own possessions than their “less grateful” counterparts.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul began comparing himself to the other apostles, calling himself the least among them. He said he was not even worthy to be called an apostle because of his shameful past as a persecutor of the church. This unhealthy comparison swiftly comes to a halt when Paul’s thoughts return to thankfulness:

“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Paul remembered how blessed he’d been by the grace of God, and the burden of condemnation that had crept onto his shoulders quickly evaporated. When we replace words of self-pity with songs of praise and rebuke toxic thoughts of comparison with reminders of our righteousness through Christ, the roots of envy are suffocated and the fruits of the Spirit begin to blossom once again.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Prov. 14:30, NIV).

This Thanksgiving, when you’re gathered around the family and friends (and food!) you hold dearest, I challenge you to commit to carrying the spirit of gratitude and gratefulness with you, long after the holiday season has faded into the dawn of the new year. I challenge you to make thanksgiving a daily celebration of God’s grace, an endless feast upon His eternal promises, and a constant chorus of thanks for the finished work of His Son.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1, NLT).



Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House’s Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman’s Guide to Total Fitness. Her popular website can be found at, and she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925. Diana can be reached on Twitter. This article was originally posted to her blog.

Thanksgiving: Why I Am Thankful By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo.


For those in America and those who embrace its sensibilities, today is Thanksgiving.   I am thankful that the people’s servants are throwing away their umbrellas for the brooms. Let the rain fall on the kings and the queens, I guess. Now is the time to sweep, I suppose. Or are they just itching for somewhere to sit, cross their legs and pick their teeth?

I am thankful that I know why the fallen lizard nods its head.

I am thankful that the circle is almost complete. A president has gone to Mecca. A president has visited Jerusalem.  What’s left is a president that will visit Okija Shrine.

I am thankful that I don’t say “nothing spoil.” When something is spoiled, I say it is spoiled.

I am thankful that Nigeria’s economy is growing at over 6%. So are the strikes, the unemployment, the crime and the remuneration of political office holders.

I am thankful that I am a stakeholder. So is the beggar, the truck pusher and the market woman. We are all entitled to an equal part of the stake.

I am thankful that subjugated ghosts of our past are creeping out of the graveyard. They deserve salvation, too.

I am thankful that I know that if those with the knives all chop small small, nothing will be left for the children yet unborn to chop.

I am thankful that we know that power comes from the guts of those who want it so badly. It doesn’t drop like Manna from heaven.

I am thankful that I am true to myself. That is the ultimate commandment.

I am thankful that we know that we cannot move the nation forward without touching the so-called untouchables- the so-called anointed. They are the ones whose roots are holding the nation back.

I am thankful that I am relatively happy in spite of all the madness around me.

I am thankful that we dey – the same way God dey, Sun dey, moon dey. Each one must do its own thing to keep the circle of life going.

I am thankful that I express myself without the fear of being wrong, even when I am the only voice.

I am thankful that we work hard and still find the time to pause and laugh. Laughter rejuvenates the worn out muscles.

I am thankful that my friends still consider me their friend even when I do not keep in touch as I used to.

I am thankful that we have all agreed that we cannot worship people and still hold them accountable.

I am thankful that my flaws do not eat up my self-esteem. They should not eat up yours. Everyone counts, including you.

I am thankful that those who can bend their knees down enough allow the blanket of life to cover their whole body.

I am thankful that I know how much I need to know before I know how little I know.

I am thankful that the mountains and valleys of our lives are just flyovers and subways to the city in the sun.

I am thankful that my marriage was not made in heaven but in the heart of a special woman, Edna, who I can reach with smiles, tears and fears.   I am thankful for the impression of me as an all-knowing, all-powerful, wealthy man that my kids, Ijeamaka and Ogonna, have.   I am thankful for my parents, J. C. and Madam J. C for teaching me how to think for myself.   I am thankful for my siblings who pick up the slack as I strive to pick up the flak.   I am thankful I am able to make sacrifices in spite of the embarrassing moral authority they try to confer on me.   I am thankful for my annoying habits. Otherwise, I would think I am perfect.   I am thankful for those who curse me out. They love me. Even though neither them nor I often believe it.   I am thankful I am good at something. I just have to find out what the hell that thing is.

Happy Thanksgiving.


A Happy Father’s Day.

Jerry Vines
Psalms 128

This is Father’s Day. I remind all of the fathers that we take second place on this very special day. The biggest day is not Father’s Day, but the biggest day is Mother’s Day. You do understand that, don’t you? If you don’t understand that, there’s an article in the newspaper today that will help you just a little bit.

Seventy two percent of Americans plan to celebrate Father’s Day. Eighty one point eight percent celebrated Mother’s Day. Seventy four point three percent of consumers say that they will buy dad a greeting card. Thirty six percent will buy a necktie. Forty one point six percent plan a special outing with dad. Eight billion or so will be spent on fathers. Ten point four three billion was spent on mothers. The average cost of a Father’s Day gift is forty two dollars. The average cost of a Mother’s Day gift is sixty three dollars. Dads, we don’t get a whole lot of respect. You know that, don’t you?

We are more and more understanding the importance of a father in the family. Recent studies have made clear what we have known all along and what the Bible has taught all along. God intends in the ideal family for there to be a godly mother and also for there to be a godly father. This is the way God has designed marriage. This is the way God intends for it to be.

According to the Bible, marriage is to be a union between a man and a woman. In the ideal family, God intends for there to be a mother and a father for those children. That is the way the Bible has designed it. When you want to know what the father is supposed to be, then you go to the Bible to try to find out what a father is intended to be.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that the Bible tells us the real. It also tells us the ideal. You find the real in the Bible. You find fathers that were good fathers and you find fathers that were bad fathers. The author of many of the Psalms in the Bible was David. He was one of the greatest men in the Bible and recorded history, and yet when you study the life of David you will find that he was a success as a king but he was a failure as a father. The Bible tells the real in a situation.

The Bible also presents us the ideal. It shows us in the Bible principles and models and examples of how a father is intended to be, what God wants a father to be.

When I go to the Word of God, I want to get some help for you dads. I want to set out the ideal, though none of us ever reach the ideal. It is something for us to strive for.

I. Give Attention to Your Faith.
This morning I’m looking at what I call the “Happy Father’s Day Psalm.” If you want to be a happy father and if you want to have a happy Father’s Day, the first thing this Psalm points out to us is that you have to give attention to your faith.

You will notice in the opening two verses of this Psalm that it talks about faith and a man’s fai …

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