December 24, 2016

December 24 and 25: Traditionally

The Laughlin Christmas Tree 2016
Laughlin Christmas Traditions
1. The house is decked inside and out. Dad's beautiful wooden nativity spotlighted in the front yard.
2. Local Christmas events and Nativity musical shows attended and also driving around town to see Christmas lights.
3. Bubble lights are on the Christmas tree.
4. Group photos taken with everyone in dressy clothes.
5. You may open one Christmas Eve gift from parents and all other gifts not from parents, particularly traditional time to open gifts to and from siblings.
6. Christmas morning gifts from parents for kids are laid out on sofas or chairs that are pre-selected by kids.
7. Christmas gifts opened in a fast paced whirlwind of flying paper and ribbon.
8. Lots of singing around the piano. Songs played by pianists of all ages.
9. Lots of snacks and desserts for all day grazing.
10.  Grandchildren enjoying the vintage electric train and other fun games together.

Crawford Christmas Traditions
1. The house is decked inside and out. Cherished vintage lighted nativity stood in the front yard.
2.  Grandma and Aunt Polly participating in The Living Christmas Tree at church. 30 years in a row!
3. Visiting pianist son Dan and/or violinist daughter -in -law Janet participate in First Baptist worship service.
4. Group photos often taken, but no particular dress code requirements.
5. You may open one Christmas Eve gift chosen by Grandma.
6. Attending the Christmas Eve service, a silent Lord's Supper, and the Galaxy of Lights display at the Botanical Gardens.
7. Patient, lengthy present opening on Christmas morning.
8. Lots of singing around the piano. Songs played by pianists of all ages.
9. Yummy breakfast served as an intermission during lengthy present opening.
10. Stockings unpacked after all other gifts were opened.

What fun to combine these traditions lists for our little family. Because we often travel to grandparents' houses for the holidays, we keep both sets of these traditions. . . just alternated every other year.  I am eager to see the list of Christmas season traditions that our kids will compile. As our families grow, new ideas are added and new traditions created. One of my favorites from our Florida years has been visiting the decorated lobbies of Disney hotels or to visit the theme parks for which we have annual passes.We pretend to be tourists and soak in the holiday hub bub- crowds and all. The more the merrier. We all five love it. Yes, we love it all.

No matter what way we celebrate, both Dan and I were taught to make all of the hype and silliness about the worship of the Lord, to celebrate His birth. What an amazing gift we have already received. We teach this to our children as well.

Traditionally, reading the Christmas story from the Bible is not required in our home on Christmas morning, because we are all learning about this big event on a regular basis. It is so helpful however to refocus our attention on the Newborn King in big and small ways. It keeps us joyful instead of stressed. We can then remove the self-centeredness of this gift getting holiday.

Merry Christmas, Friends and Family,
Leigh Ann

December 23, 2016

December 22 & 23: Heart Change

This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after He was raised from the dead. Matthew 20:14

A sincere change of heart
Has found me here today.
The fear I once knew
Was not here to stay.

A year ago, I could not see
What God had planned
For my heart
Or for me.

Seeking but not finding,
My nets wanting more.
God's Word ever faithful,
I rowed over to the shore.

He was waiting for us to arrive.
A smile upon his face.
That beach fire burning bright
For our catch to be placed.

He was giving us instructions
When we didn't know Him
He was guiding us all along
But we didn't know Him.

Now safely on the beach,
Resting in His care.
My strong guard is watching,
I know that He's aware.

"It is the Lord," we all cried out.
I recognize him now.
You know, Lord,  that I love you.
My challenge is showing you how.


December 21, 2016

December 20 & 21: Two for One

We live 8 and 13 and 16 hours from our family members. We have traveled these miles every year for 22 years to spend face time and stay connected with our loved ones. Our three kids are amazing road trippers. We look forward to the time in the car together: Charlotte writing silly songs about our adventures, Will watching movies and asking for a turn to select the music, and Julia on standby to efficiently assist parents and siblings but preferably reading a book that she can't put down.

The annual adventure is usually great. The annual planning and packing is usually taxing. Each year, I plan to not be overwhelmed and stressed. Each year, I set aside a packing day, which is really a laundry day. Each year, I start early, but somehow still have things in the dryer the night before we leave. Each year, we always forget someone's something, including but not limited to pajamas, shoes, a jacket, or a toothbrush. Three years in a row, I forgot to pack socks for myself. I eventually gave my mom replacement socks for all of the pairs I had "borrowed." I chose cute pairs that I would be happy to wear if the need arose.

But my travel conditions are changing. My daughters now pack their own clothes, and Will can pack his own carry on of car entertainment items.  We still have to tell our darling Charlotte, now aged 14, that she has over packed. And Will is following in her footsteps by asking to bring large plastic bins of toys surpassing the size and weight limit for the van's storage area. Now, we count chargers for phones and are even taking two cars, because one of our travelers will return to her dorm instead of her room here at our house. (sigh)

Traveling to be with family during busy holidays is always a trade off. Hectic planning and hurrying to complete local activities and spend time with friends is always rushed. But this pays off when we are all there and settled in for the big celebration. When you stay home alone, your days are not as rushed, but Christmas Day or Easter, traditionally big family events, can be very lonely without the giggles of cousins and crowded couches full of relatives watching movies together. The food prep is simpler, but the menu is not as varied as the one with Granddaddy's special spiced pecans.

Please do not hear melancholy in this post. The trade off is part of life. We are always choosing. We love to travel to Alabama, Georgia, and finally this year to Texas to see our families. We choose to be close even though we are far away. We choose joy in the holidays spent both with and without the crowd. We choose to celebrate rather than just corroborate our lists. Christmas brings perspective. I will finish the list, and then I will sit and watch and absorb the joy of the season. I will celebrate all that God has given me.

Psalm 9:1-2 is my heart's simple honest prayer today: I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you. I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

I missed a post yesterday, so today needs to count as a two for one. I made a choice yesterday to play and be silly with my kids and cousins. Merry Christmas to all! I am so blessed by each one of you reading this.

December 19, 2016

December 19: My Good Good Father

I like answers to questions, fruit on trees, and solutions to problems. I don't mind analysis as long as it does not lead to paralysis.  This easily carries over to my faith walk. When I pray, I am hoping to see God answer my prayers. When I seek, I expect to find. Today, we shall address the dilemma of a Scrooge spirit at Christmastime.

Before you dismiss me as a ridiculous optimist, read these verses from Matthew 7. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 

This is a pep talk from Jesus, encouraging us to ask God for help and for things that we need. He is also modeling how we can treat others. As we Christmas shop for our family members, we first consider what they are asking for, what that person wants.  Sometimes the items on their minds and on their lists are not good for them or not available. But often, we give thoughtful gifts as a way to bless that person. We (usually) joyfully give. When Jesus was explaining how the Father perceives our needs and our requests, I thought of my own imperfect perception. Of course I have given gifts in a less than cheerful way, but I strive to get my heart right before I give. Even if the gift was purchased in a begrudging way, I pray for joy before I deliver it to its recipient. Before you dismiss me as a ridiculous idealist, read this concluding verse - Matthew 7:12. So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 

I know that my Heavenly Father gives generously to those who ask. I know that my Heavenly Father even gave up his only Son for me. My relationship and provision requests are easy for Him. I know that I want to bless my children, family and friends at Christmas. I want to give and receive cheerfully. I want to have generous feelings for them as they have them for me.


December 18, 2016

December 18: Fire

I am having such a lovely time studying the Gospels, rereading each writer's own telling of the Christmas story. As I read over each detail of the nativity story, I rediscover the pieces that are wistful or connected, and I notice that certain details are repeated by several writers. I enjoy stopping to investigate them.
I prayed about the verses below. The topic of the Holy Spirit is always complex. Who is he really? The Father and the Son have clear roles and identities. The Holy Spirit is apparently baptizing with fire. What does that mean anyway?

Read these verses below and then try to find time to read them in context. Think about other references to the Holy Spirit, those describing him as a Counselor and a Comforter.

Remember John the Baptist, cousin of the Messiah, who preached a message of repentance. He prepared the way for Jesus who then, in turn, left us the Holy Spirit. Put all of this together, and see that three books, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all report that John said this about his Messiah cousin:

In Matthew, John announced,  "I baptize you with water for repentance. He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
In Mark, we read: I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
And in Luke: I (John the Baptist) baptize you with water. But . . .He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 

 What does baptism by fire mean to you? Why do you think that the Holy Spirit's realm of influence goes beyond John's? Why do we need water and fire? Let's have lunch and discuss this. 

I know that we need the Son and Savior Jesus, our direct link to the Father. But Jesus knew that we needed the Holy Spirit, our direct link to His power. 


December 17, 2016

December 17: Those who bring good news

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  

How, then,  can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."  Romans 10:13-15

These verses guide us step by step through our responsibilities as believers.
Someone is sent by God. We need to be available for obedience and to simply respond.
Someone is sent to preach the Good News. Just focus on the message being shared. Tell your news.
Someone hears preaching. The Holy Spirit has their attention now.
Someone believes. They receive their greatest Christmas gift.

Now they are telling others the good news. And wow, that Scripture is true. Look down; you do have beautiful, beautiful feet. 

December 16, 2016

December 16: Lyrics

On the last day before Christmas break, middle schoolers are full of energy. Make up work from this quarter's absences, online reading quizzes and Christmas charades require all of that exuberance. Today, in my class, we played a game where groups were given cards with lines from popular Christmas songs; the groups acted out lines from Christmas songs. The class was asked to guess the lyrics. Students were quickly, accidentally playing Name that Tune instead of my invented version.

No, we were not looking for the song title. I needed to hear the exact line for which the group was offering clues.

Dashing through the snow.
Not Jingle Bells.

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
Not Away in a Manger.

The lyrics matter. Being specific matters. When we pray, let's pray detailed prayers that honor God and are measurable.  I asked God. He answered me. I praise Him and rejoice in the miracle He provided. --------> My faith and the faith of others around me is strengthened. God is glorified.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:8

December 15: When he speaks

So, as amazing as the miracle births of cousins baby John and baby Jesus are, there is more to the story of Zechariah and his faith story. I always think of Zechariah when I know that the Holy Spirit is asking for my silence. As many of my friends and family know about me, I say more than I am ever asked to say on a given subject. Many Words would be my Native American name. My temptation to over explain is a real struggle. Most of my sin life involves my words. James Chapter 3 teaches about taming the tongue. The Holy Spirit has assigned this to me as homework so. many. times.

Well, I can certainly relate to my amigo Zechariah the priest, who blurted out "How can I be sure of this?" He doubted the miracle message about his barren wife having a baby, and the messenger named Gabriel quickly rebuked him.

"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens. . ."

Today, I want to focus on receiving good news when I hear it. I want to lay aside doubt. I want to listen more and talk less, so that God does not need to require my silence. Remember that the Lord silenced Zechariah only until the baby was born. Then, no restraint was needed. Even "Be still and know that I am God." has a specific purpose and a specific timeline. God is moving. He is breathing life. He is even telling us about it.

But just like a new baby needs to time to grow and develop, the good work that God is doing in our lives may need that too.

December 14, 2016

December 14: Father, Son, and . . .Cousin

As Anna did, many faithful Jews were actively looking for the Messiah's arrival. A priest named Zechariah was an expectant believer. He was awaiting the arrival of the majestic King, but he and his wife Elizabeth were also privately praying for a baby of their own. They received a double blessing.

The Messiah would be a relative, a baby born to Elizabeth's cousin Mary. And their own miracle baby. . .was on the way. As with all Nativity related announcements, an angel was sent to relay the message.

Listen to the angel's amazing announcement from Luke 1: Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

I love this entire description. It's every Christian parent's dream for their son. And if your son happens to be the cousin of the Savior, it would be even more important.

John, the Baptizer, was an answer to prayer for his parents. He lived a consecrated, Holy Spirit filled life. He preached a unique message of repentance and was a revival leader.  John was a part of a family that supported their Messiah-cousin on a whole other level. God chose John to prepare the way for the Lord. What an honor to be a part of this family.

To be continued. . .

December 13, 2016

December 13: Poet-In-Residence

Our poet-in -residence young William wrote some holiday verse that is sure to keep our hearts turned toward the Star of Christmas.  Read these couplets, and remember the background of the most festive spelling list a boy could ask for. Enjoy!

December has Christmas times.
May I share some Christmas rhymes?
God is our Lord and Savior,
And Jesus had the best human behavior.
And is this Savior there the Christ?
2000 years ago on Christmas day, our Messiah came as a prize.
Our next word is Emmanuel.
The Bible is the reason that we all are well.
He was born in Bethlehem.
Angels appeared to the shepherds with great news.
The angels told them about Him. 

- William J. Crawford/ 12-12-16

December 12, 2016

December 12: All Together

Ten empty Christmas CD cases were found. Every Christmas CD we own had gone missing. As I opened each case to check for the discs, I realized what I had done.

Last Christmas before our holiday road trip through Alabama, I bought a nice new CD portfolio case that I filled with our favorites, including the family's Christmas music collection. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Michael W. Smith and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer were safely tucked into the new case. They were never returned to their own individual cases. And a whole year later, I could not find any of them on the day that I wanted to deck my halls with boughs of holly, a tradition usually carried out with loud singing to my favorite Christmas songs.

Yesterday was a busy day celebrating our December daughter. But in a rare quiet moment,  I remembered the portfolio. I rushed to the car, opened the black zipped case and rediscovered the joy of Christmas.

I found the music of the season. All together. That was the secret: I loved sharing these songs with my family at home, with friends at Christmas parties, with brothers and sisters at church, and with strangers at a concert. What unifying power! They bond us together. Instantly, the familiar lyrics transform us into a choir. The festive tunes and words bring us all together.

December 11: In Store

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

What kinds of treasures cannot be stolen? Words, feelings, thoughts, emotions. They are safely tucked within us. Stockpiling tech gifts and gift cards leave us vulnerable to thieves, and we are painfully monitoring our stuff before it decays or is stolen. We are so exposed and stressed trying to protect our pile. There is a better way. 

Although initially your mind may hop over to the Wise Men bringing gifts for Baby Jesus, gifts that far surpass any Target gift registry, stop for a minute and ponder these thieves. We now deal with the true hazards of having treasure in current day life: where there is treasure, there is also someone wanting to take that treasure. We need to stockpile the good gifts of God's Word. They are hidden in our heart, so that we don't sin against God.  (Psalm 119:11) They are hidden in our heart and cannot be taken from us.

The Wise Men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (All three had significant meanings that we may explore another time.) These magi, as they were called, were shrewdly asked by Herod to reveal the baby's location so that "he could also worship this new king." Or not. Protecting the baby showed the treasure of their heart.

Who or what needs your protection from rust and theft? Just tuck these things in your heart, and keep them safe. Store up heavenly treasures. Store up the ideas and plans that God has spoken into your life. There, in your heart, you store Godly treasures, for the day when you need them.

December 10, 2016

December 10: In the land of the living

Meet Anna.
"There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2)
Anna's paragraph in the Bible is tucked into the Christmas story. She recognized the Messiah when she saw him as a young boy at the temple with his parents. From these few verses, we know so much about her faithfulness. We know that she was a worshiper who fasted and prayed. We know that she was a prophet, which means that she was wisely anticipating the arrival of the Messiah. We know that she was grateful when she saw the holy family. We know that she preached. Wow. She immediately told others about the child. She told those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Oh Anna. 
We are thankful that you did not lose heart. You prayerfully waited for Israel's rescue, and you were able to meet the young Jesus. What a thrill for you. 

What a thrill for us.  We will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

December 9, 2016

December 9: Immanuel

-Celebrating Immanuel-
After a rough year or a discouraging decade, we find a certain annual event finds us crazy or leaves us refreshed to start anew in January.

It's Christmas.
It arrives right on time, whether we are ready or not.

God with US.
Immanuel is all about the choice of the Humble King to walk with sinners.

God WITH us.
Day in and day out. The faithfulness of God. His inexplicable desire to be WITH us.

Immanuel is GOD.
GOD is always loving and leading us,
Reminding us that we are not alone.
GOD with us.

Matthew 1:22 and 23: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)

December 8, 2016

December 8: The Heart of Mary

For our Charlotte on your 14th birthday. . .

Mary was your age. She was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. To nurture and protect him in her home. So far, this is not connecting at all, huh? Well let's look again.

What life events of a bright eyed, beautiful, blessed girl such as yourself could compare to that? Well, listen to Mary's own words. Let them be your words too. No matter what you face. Just let God continue to do great things through you. You are already walking with Him, listening to Him, serving Him, and serving the people that He loves. This response of Mary's sounds like your responses. You have the heart of Mary.

Even after hearing a terrifying announcement, Mary replied,  "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

Later, she sang a song of praise to God. "My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." That sounds like you too. You stay in a place of worship. You do not miss what God is saying or doing in your life. You have the heart of Mary.

Happy Birthday to our December girl.

December 7, 2016

December 7: Message Received

Nativity scenes consistently feature the same cast of characters. The three leads are Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus laying in a manger.  When you expand to the full scene, you also see a couple of shepherds along with their fuzzy friends and three or more magi bearing gifts. And who can forget the glorious announcing angel there as well?

All of our characters received a specific message, messages addressed to them individually. Something supernatural happened to cause them to travel great distances in order to worship this tiny, homeless baby. While studying these verses this season, I discovered that each of them embarked on this journey only after being told to do so by an angel or in a dream.

And they all landed at the same place: worshiping an unlikely king in an unlikely place.

I am praying that I do not miss a single message from the Lord asking for my obedience. I am praying that I do not miss a single command of "Fear Not!" or a definitive reminder that "Nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1)

December 6, 2016

December 6: Be loud about the right things

John, the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus. He was loud and odd and shouted "Repent!" to the people that would listen. He was preparing people to meet Jesus. I have been thinking for the past week about this guy. He really is one of my favorite characters in the Gospels.

John had such a serious job, and he took it seriously too. The burden of the message and his love of the people motivated him to persevere. He is the first preacher to talk about confessing your sins or taking your life in a new direction.

I often hear loud people with loud opinions and pray for them to stand up for what it is right. I pray for all of that energy and fervor to be about making His name famous. I personally do not want to be known for my boldness. I want to be known for my message. If I need to be loud, may the message still be clear and not get lost in the volume of my voice and the craziness of my outfit or for the unusual food that I eat.

Listen to how the cousin of Jesus is described in Mark 1:
 And John came baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all of the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message:  After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

December 5, 2016

December 5: The gift of sowing

Another thought on giving from 2 Corinthians 9. . .

My great grandmother was a seamstress who made beautiful formal gowns, but that is not the type of sowing that 2 Corinthians 9 references. Sowing generously, according to verse 6, automatically results in reaping generously. These farming terms are not the common household words that they once were. They are most likely tucked away in the same dictionary that holds my sewing vocabulary. Excuse me while I am make a note to sew a button on something soon before I lose the skill altogether. OK. Let’s return to that generous farmer. That farmer can plan on receiving a generous crop. Whoever sows generously will reap generously. The guy who plants a small garden and sows sparingly should likewise plan on reaping sparingly. Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

It is a simple idea, but it can be hard to live out. Especially when we ourselves are in need. When we are economizing and are living sparingly in most areas, praying to have what we need in the coming days, praying to have enough until the next paycheck arrives, we are careful and thoughtful. It is not our turn to be crazy big flashy givers. That is ok. Instead of feeling accused by this verse, we should try to see how God wants to move us.

Just where does He want us to land on the issue of giving? If we are currently just giving what we can spare, we need to ask God to transform us into hilarious, cheerful givers. I want the gift of giving, a supernatural Holy Spirit led life. A life that comes with a Matthew 6:3 "my right hand doesn’t know what my left hand is giving to those in need" level of sowing. I want to sow into people and ministries that are planning to plant big fields. In these fields, I can be a generous sower. In those big fields, I will have room to grow as a giver.

December 4, 2016

December 4: Christmas Givers

There are only a handful of verses that list what God loves. He loves people. We know that much. Thank you, John 3:16. But why would Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, mention that God loves a cheerful giver?
 I know that I am a Christmas giver. I buy and wrap gifts for others in December, and I am a Christian. But do I qualify as a cheerful giver? 2 Corinthians 9 is a good read. We will look at some other verses in this chapter over the next few days, because I believe that these verses are the heart of the season. Oh no, this chapter doesn't detail the birth of the Savior? No, not exactly. We aren't quite there yet. That nativity story is still a few weeks away. I am referring to the part of this holiday in which believers and non believers both participate.

I refer, of course, to the giving of gifts.

Giving gifts isn't reserved as a Christian activity and is not necessarily a cheerful activity, but it is a Christmas activity. Giving gifts, receiving gifts, who for, how much, and when: these details are all on our minds. We can easily connect with others, even pre-Christians, on this topic. We know how to pray for those stressed out people shopping with us in stores.

We can pray: May God's love pour over us all as we cheerfully give.

As the lines get longer and traffic gets heavier, you can pray this for strangers, for yourself and for those who are out shopping for the gifts that you will receive.

December 3, 2016

December 3: Cleaning and Clearing

Apparently for Americans living outside of Florida, there is a fall season that serves as a transition from summer to winter. This strange season apparently involves clearing away dead leaves from yards at this time of year. While visiting Georgia and North Alabama last month, I was reminded that those beautiful, colorful leaves have fallen, because they have died. They are no longer alive.

Similarly the artificial fall leaves that I bought at Hobby Lobby to adorn my front porch are not alive either. Both are technically non-living things. 

Dead things need to be cleaned up and cleared out. Dead thoughts. Dead ideas. Last year's plans that you can release to make room for new ones.

But whether you were never alive or have fallen away, I know the One who gives life. He clears away the old, and He provides the new. Yes, I, once again, packed up my faux fall wreath. I made room for an evergreen tree, representing a life full of joy and obedience. An abundant life in Him (John 10:10)

*Note: Each of the the ornaments in this month's blog pictures are currently hanging from my family's Christmas tree.

December 2, 2016

December 2: Abundant Goodness

They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Psalm 145:7

Today, let's celebrate Christmas by having another Thanksgiving. Yes, I realize that this is so last week.  
But take this challenge:
Don't just sing. Joyfully sing. 
Don't just notice God's goodness. 
Celebrate His abundant goodness.  

The season of giving fittingly begins with a time of listing our blessings, thanking the people that are investing in our lives, and generously praising our Creator.

On this day, be bold in speaking of the provision of the Lord and of your answered prayers. Boast on the goodness of God. Share. Testify. List specific people and situations. Pray for them by name. Share your stories with a trusted friend. Call your prayer partner and update them on your life. After all of that planting, it is time to enjoy the harvest. 

December 1, 2016

December 1: Starting with Whoville

To begin my December journey, I first asked the Holy Spirit for direction(s). And then I heard: That's the wrong question. And then I defensively responded about my openness to His guidance. And after this prayerful dance concluded, I was sure that I need to start in Whoville. Who do I need to forgive? Today I choose to forgive. I understand that unforgiveness in me blocks God's forgiveness for me. Jesus challenged listeners to stop in the middle of giving a gift at the altar in order to make things right with a brother. (Matthew 5:24) Preparing my heart for Christmas begins with a clean heart towards the people in my life.
 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6: 14-15

OK, Lord. It's December 1. WHO do I need to forgive? 

August 12, 2016

An invitation to read my journal

December is almost here. As my thoughts turned to Bethlehem's celebrity baby, I remembered the usual things about the nativity story. I am a well Sunday-schooled believer who differentiates the tradition of the season from the worship of The Reason for the Season. But, I certainly do love all of it. I truly love how Christians and other Christmas celebrators have stretched this holy day into a worldwide time of peace on Earth and goodwill to men. We all walk around unknowingly quoting Scripture, particularly that angelic announcement found in Luke 2 from the New Testament.

The wishing of so much peace and kindness -without the acknowledgement of God who is the source of those- can be hard to bear sometimes. But Christians should not be offended by that. It's still a remarkable message regardless of whether the messenger can explain its origin. This is the time of year when we, as the too often silent, intimidated believers have opportunities to salt up the season with our faith. It's an easy integration. We shouldn't be sequestering the Christmas fiesta to churches and Bible studies. I want to generously and inclusively share the joy with everyone. I feel the same way about the Good News of salvation, because this is the heart of the Gospel. It starts here at the human birth of the Messiah.

So, I am journalling through the season as God prepares my heart for Him. I am inviting you to read along starting on Thursday, December 1. I will post links on Facebook and blog subscribers will receive each post as an email devotional.

Merry Christmas,
Leigh Ann

New Series for Fall 2016

H2O4 Underwater Sessions

Session 1: Rivers in Deserts
Session 2: Come to the Well
Session 3:  Dehydration
Session 4: Swimming in Freedom

Second Mile Saturday is a once a month women's Bible study in the South Orlando/ Kissimmee area. Email for details and locations.

March 9, 2016

S e c o n d M i l e Saturdays

Life Church Ladies' Bible Study
Kissimmee, FL
2nd Saturday of the month

January- Q: What is the Second Mile mindset? 
A: moving from a life of legalism to a life of love

February- [ M O R E ] Life of Love

March- New Life in Family Time

April- Livelihood: Work & Play for Him and With Him and Through Him

May- The Spirit Filled Life

June- How to Love Your Life