The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents

When I first read Becky Harling's new book title, The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents, I assumed the book was another positive parenting book that helped parents praise their children for 30 days.  I am all about speaking words of life, positivity, and praise over my girls so I was eager to read it.  This lovely little book arrived a few weeks ago and oh my, how far off my assumptions were!  The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents is not about praising your children, it is about praising your children's Creator.  Hello Wendy! 

What if we spent 20 minutes a day praising God for thirty days? What if we took our concerns for our children's future, relationships, finances, health, faith... ALL our worries, and instead of trying to worry and work our way through these topics we praised our mighty God who actually has planned their future, knows their relationships, can heal them... and most importantly knows them because He created them! Becky Harling has created a beautiful book that guides parents through such a journey. 

Selah, my friends



The word Selah appears 74 times in the Old Testament.  It's exact meaning is unknown but two common definitions are:

  • pause and think of that,
  • a form of underlining in preparation for what comes next.  

I love both of those definitions.  I think they go hand in hand.  Having run the grueling marathon of the end of school year and the days grown warm and long, my heart whispers - Selah.  

Selah, let's stop, just stop and think of that... think of the school year that has ended, think of the ways my girls have sprouted up and grown up, think of how my new job going, how my family is doing, how my marriage is fairing... yes, yes, yes... all of it.  I want to just stop and think of that.  

Selah, let's stop, and prepare for what comes next.  Something is always on the horizon, changes, opportunities, challenges, a pause to prepare for them mentally, relationally, and most importantly spiritually is a gift a believe God wants us to have.  He is ready to whisper encouragement, comfort, and guidance for the coming season if only we are willing to stop and listen.  

Welcome to the new Celebrated Family Website!

Welcome friends... 

I am so excited to welcome you to the new Celebrated Family website.  This site has been in the works for several months and I have been looking forward to sharing it with you all.  Thank you to the super talented Fara Lippincott of F.A.L Design Photography for the pictures of my family and I.  

I have the same wishes for this site as I do for my home.  I hope this site will be a place where you will know you are welcome,  you'll feel encouraged, and you'll find community.  So pour a cup of tea - hot, sweet, or green - and take some time to look around the new site.  There is new information about my speaking ministry, easier ways to connect through social media, and a place to sign up to receive the blog (I'll even send you a thank you gift from my family to yours.) 

So welcome, welcome my friends.  I am glad you are here! 

Tripping over ankles and other mommy comparisons

Welcome to the world little Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.  The world is so happy to meet you.   How many billions of times has the picture of you leaving the hospital with mum and dad already been shown around the world?  The world softly gasped an loving, "awww" on Saturday.  But cover your ears sweet princess because by today most moms are looking at your mum and thinking,

"What the %$^!" 

Giveaway Winner: All Mascara is Not Created Equal

Thank you for everyone who left a comment on the blog or Facebook page this week.  I loved reading your tidbits of advice and comments about friends you would like to share this book with.

I am excited to announce Cindy is the winner!  Thank you for leaving the following comment:

 I would love to share this book with a friend who is going through a difficult divorce right now. She needs all the affirmation and encouragement she can get.

Congratulations Cindy!  Please send me your mailing address through the Contact Me button above and I will mail it off to you!

All Mascara is Not Created Equal: Family Faith Resource Series

I am excited to share Jessica Landmon's new book All Mascara is Not Created Equal this month as part of our Family Faith Resource Series.  I met Jessica last summer at a women's conference.  She is one of those down to earth, easy to talk to, real woman who are such a pleasure to befriend.  She shared with me a book she was working on for woman that was a collection of tweet-like posts on "spiritual, practical, and humorous topics".  I couldn't wait to read it, and to share it with my daughter Sarah.

Earlier this month Jessica sent me a copy of the book.  I was so excited to sit down with a cup of coffee and read it - but that didn't happen, you see Sarah spotted it and the book was immediately whisked away to her room.  For the next few days Sarah kept telling me how great the book was.  When I went in her room to put away some clothes, I noticed she had written out several of Jessica's quotes on her dry erase board.  Oh how it warmed my heart to have Sarah filling her room with wisdom from a godly woman!  A few days later Sarah's friend suffered a concussion and was out of school for several days.  Sarah made the friend a card with quotes from "her new book."  This book is a hit around here!

Well I can now happily say I have had a chance to pour that cup of coffee and read All Mascara is Not Created Equal.  It is wonderful!  First, it is a lovely book to read through.  The layout and design are beautiful.  Each turn of the page is a treat.  Jessica wisely and playfully weaves tips on the importance of voting, with travel, and faith all on one page keeping her advise from sounding preachy but instead making it feel like you are talking with a friend.  I appreciate the advice Jessica shares for young women on topics such as gossip, individuality, and kindness.  Here are a few of my favorites:

"Women are on the same team.  Stop undermining each other and start supporting one another." 

"You are no one's doormat.  Make sure you let people know that." 

"If you aren't intentionally trying to draw near to God then you are intentionally falling away."  

With Mother's Day and graduations just around the corner I think this is the perfect book to bless another woman (young or old) with.  Jessica has generously sent me a second copy of the book for you!  In the spirit passing on tidbits of wisdom, leave me a comment with a piece of advice, or the name of a woman you would like to share this book with and you will be entered in the give-away.  I will draw a winner on Friday May 1st.  

To learn more about Jessica please visit her at Women Get Real .  You can also purchase her book from her site.  

I can't wait to read your tidbits of advice ladies!  Let's hear it! 

MidLife Joy Challenge #3: The Long Haul

The first two months of the MidLife Joy Challenge focused on throwing off, and letting go of the things that wrongly insnare us.  The next three challenges all have to do with relationships.  The April challenge is The Long Haul, let's look at who we are investing in as friends for the long haul - 10, 20, 40 years of our life.

Nearly 22 years ago the Lord gave me these ladies, my Miami Girls.

We spent the four years of college as rotating roommates, teammates, friends, and ultimately sisters.  We spent four years in the same college, doing the same things, and then we started to scatter - and I do mean scatter: geographically, spiritually, family dynamic wise, career wise... you name it we are a diverse bunch these days.  But we are in it for the long haul.  Do you have friends you are in it for the long haul with?

What does the long haul mean?  For us it has meant 6 marriages and a divorce, 13 kids and 3 miscarriages, 16 moves across three continents, religious conversions, cancer, and career changes.  The long haul has meant saying hard things out loud, and asking for forgiveness from one another. It has meant sacrificing money, and weekends to get together once a year (not always all of us - but we try). It means things have not always been rosey or fabulous.  The above picture was a girls weekend that was not all roses and sprinkles for me.  It was a hard season of big shifts happening within our group, and it made me face my insecurities, as well as some not awesome things in my own life.  

But that is what the long haul is about - creating friends who become your sisters.  The women who know your stuff and don't walk away.   These ladies KNOW MY STUFF! They can call BS quicker than anyone in my life because they can see through the veil of a smile and "I'm fine," that can so easily deceive an acquaintance or casual friend.  

In the world of Facebook where we all have 300+ "friends," and transient lives that move us across the country and world, it is easy to get our thinking wrong about what it means to be a friend for the long haul.  It means we are going to invest in 10, 20 or 40 years of friendship.  It means we will work through the painful pieces and still love one another.  It means we don't have to be in the same stage of life together, but can celebrate each other's stages.  It means picking up the phone and calling each other regularly.  It means putting a date and place on the calendar to get together - and then actually doing it.  It means choosing - actively choosing-  to have lived a life together.  

I have what I call my situational friends, and I love them too.  They are women with whom I am sharing this particular season of life.  I used to have a group of homeschool moms in Denver who met every month at my house for coffee.  What a life line they were to me during those days! I have moved now and no longer homeschool.  Those friendship naturally faded, not out of any ill intent but because their purpose was for a season - they were not meant to be long haul friends.  But to live a life of JOY I truly believe every women needs a few long haul friends. The women you can count on no matter what.  There is such JOY in knowing you are not alone.  

For this month's challenge, I challenge you to decide what friends you choose for the long haul. Make time to pick up the phone once a month and call them.  Make a plan to get together once in the next 12 months.  If you are reading this and thinking you do not have any long term friends - maybe you just have a string of women you have friended and then drifted away from, start praying that the Lord would show you who to invest in, and that He would strengthen and grow you so that you can be a long haul friend even when things get hard.  Just because you may be sitting at 40 years old without a long haul friend does not mean you need to sit at 60 years old without one.  Choose today to start becoming a long haul friend.  

Last weekend - celebrating 40 with four of my Miami Girls - We missed you Jenn! 
 I'd love to hear about your Long Haul Friends.  How do you stay connected?  Do you plan Girl's Weekends?  If so, tell us about your favorite one.

A Peek at our Holy Week

My dear friends,  Holy Week is here.  I'd like to invite you into our home and give you a  peek at how we will be celebrating this week.  It is our mix of secular and faithful, new and old, made up and passed down.  I pray your family will have a wonderful week remembering the saving work of Jesus Christ. 
Our family room mantle - Thank you Carole for our Shepherd's Vase

The girls did a great job on our chalkboard
My grandmother's bunnies, a favorite scripture and a reminder of the reason for it all! 

Our sweet friend's the Harris family blessed us with this yesterday.  So sweet! 

My parents are visiting for a few days - egg dying is under way

Thursday we will be remembering Jesus's last meal at our Passover Seder 

Friday we will remember that Christ died for US! 

Friday and Saturday we will burn our Disciple's Candle to remember the Disciple's wait
Sunday morning we'll be celebrating with our faith family @ The Point Church.
We'd love for you to join us.

Celebrating a Christian Passover Seder

One of Pete and I's spiritual goals for our family this year is to celebrate the major feasts of the Old Testament.  We'd love your family to join us.  Before each feast I will be posting some "how to" info as well as some information on the feast in the context of the Christian life.  If you would like to study this more in depth I recommend the study Feast: Finding your place at the seat of Tradition by Derek Leman.  

Passover is a time commanded by God to remember His work in bringing His people out of slavery in Egypt.  A time to remember how God heard his people's suffering, and made a path to save them from slavery and set them apart as His own people.  The Seder is a meal during Passover at which the story of the Exodus is retold, fulfilling God's instruction to remember and tell the next generation of His saving work.  But the Passover Seder is not just about God saving His people from Egypt, it carried a promise of a time that the Messiah would come and complete God's promise to save His people from their slavery to sin and death.

What Christian's call the Last Supper, was the Passover Seder that Jesus shared with his disciples.  He used the elements of the wine and bread, that generations had shared at Passover, to teach his disciples that his blood and body would be given as a sacrifice for our salvation.  It was during the Seder that we received The Lord's Supper, or Communion.

Pretty awesome huh?  Celebrating the Passover Seder with our girls last year was on of the most significant spiritual experiences we have had as a family.  And I can't wait to do it again this year!  Since Jesus celebrated the Seder with His disciples the night before His death, our family holds our Seder on the Thursday before Easter.  If this night does not work for you, I encourage you to pick any night between now and Easter.  We are not trying to follow a strict law, or create new laws here, we are trying to remember, and teach our children, God's great work in our lives, so any night will do.

How do you have a Seder?  Seder's include two main components; a ceremonial meal and a regular meal.  The ceremonial meal is done first and follows a Haggadah (which means "telling").  There are a wide variety of Haggadah out there that you can purchase.  It is important to use one that is from a Christian perspective as it will tie in how Jesus was the Messiah.  We use my friend Cindy Finley's, which you can find here with a complete shopping list and instructions.  Thank you Cindy!

A Haggadah is basically a script that each part of your family will take part in reading.  I copied Cindy's into Microsoft Word and put each family member's name in the parts so we all knew what to read.  We printed a copy for each person and put it at their plate.

You will also need a Seder plate.  Here is a great explanation of what goes into that.  I got really stuck last year on not having a "proper" Seder plate with cute little areas to put the elements into.  But I found something that worked great.  I bet you have something too - a big plate will do.  Through the Seder plate your family will taste and smell their way through the story of the Exodus.  Each element has significance that will help your children remember elements of the story. My girls are still talking about how we took WAY too big of a bite of horseradish last year and literally all wept at the table!

After the ceremonial part of the Seder you will need a real dinner.  This is the feast piece.  I had no idea how long the first part would take us, and did not want to stress about dinner burning up in the kitchen, so last year I served pot roast with potatoes and vegetables that I did in the Crock Pot and a green salad.  I think that is as unPassover as you can get, but it worked great for me as dinner was hot and not burned when we were ready for it.

We chose to make the night "fancy" as my youngest called it.  We decorated the table with palm branches and flowers from our yard.  Fancy makes my girls and I happy, if it doesn't make you happy go with paper plates and sit around the coffee table, it really doesn't matter.  

It took me three years to work up the courage to actually have a Seder.  I worried about doing "it wrong."  I worried that it was too weird.  I worried that the kids and Pete would find it boring and hate it.  If you feel a stirring in your heart to incorporate a Seder into your family's Easter celebrations let me just encourage you to go for it!  You can't do it "wrong,"  maybe your kids will be bored, but make it fun, and make food they enjoy for the feast and chances are they won't.  If your family schedule is like ours, a lingered family dinner in the midst of our crazy lives is a win in itself.  I pray this experience will deepen your understanding and awe of Easter and all Jesus did to be our final sacrifice, to fulfill the Passover, and to be our way out of the slavery of sin and death for all eternity.  

Let it Go: MidLifeJoy Challege #2

Sing along with me mommas, "Let it go! Let it go!"   You know you want to!  Okay maybe you actually don't want to let it go, and that's the reason for this month's MidLifeJoy Challenge.  What is the "it" I am referring to?  This month's challenge is to let go of the things the Lord has not given you influence over.  One of life's greatest joy stealers is when we put our emotional energy into trying to influence people, and or, situations that the Lord has not given us influence over.   I like the way my boss Jeremy puts it, he says,  "Play in your own sandbox."  By that he means, do the job you have been given to do, and don't go getting all involved in someone else's job.  It's a great analogy, isn't it. So many times we act like perpetual children wishing for the toys in someone else's sandbox, ignoring, or being dissatisfied with all the toys we already have.  

This is the sandbox the Lord has given me in this season of my life.

  • I am Sarah and Emily's mom
  • I oversee our church's family ministries 
  • I am solely responsible for The Celebrated Family ministry
  • I run my own Young Living business 
That's it folks, and frankly it's plenty!  Even though there is plenty to do in my sandbox, my natural inclination is to try to look at what is going on in everyone else's sandboxes too.  I can so easily get all emotionally involved in situations I have been given no control over. 
  • That decision at my girl's school that I don't agree with. 
  • The neighbor who parks 3 cars on the street every day. 
  • The co-worker who could do his job so much better if he just did it my way. 
I can expend all sorts of energy on things that I have zero control over.  Zero.  I can't fix any of these situations because the Lord has not given me influence to speak into them in a way that will effect change. 
  • I have no voice at my girl's school
  • The neighbor is breaking no HOA or city rules.
  • The co-worker is a peer not a employee. 
I can make one of two choices.  I can waste my energy on situations I can not effect, or I can Let It Go, and put all that energy and time into making sure I am the best possible steward of what the Lord has given me influence over.   The Lord will never expand our influence just because we try to wrestle it into our hands through our own efforts.  Jesus clearly taught that those who are good stewards of what the Lord has given them will be given more to steward over. (Matthew 25: 14-30) Jesus also showed the disappoint He feels when we fuss and worry about things that are not that important. (Luke 10:38-42)  Oh Martha, just let it go!

This month's challenge is to prayerfully ask God to show you where you need to let go.  What areas of your life, that you do not have influence over, are you allowing to suck your energy, passion, mental space, and time away from what God HAS given you influence over. If we waste our limited resources of time and energy fussing about someone else's sandbox, what will we have left to take care of our own?  We won't have enough, and that starts a vicious cycle of of dissatisfaction, helplessness, anger, overwhelmedness (pretend that's a word), and exhaustion.  A cycle that is the very opposite of living a life of JOY! 

Sarah made this image - isn't is great!
One practical way I have implemented this is at my girl's school.  I have spent years being dissatisfied with my girl's school.  There is a lot I would like to change, but nobody is frankly interested in hearing or implementing any of my ideas.  Last spring Pete issued me a "pee or get off the pot" ultimatum.  Either find a better school, or stop complaining.  I took the later, because there are no perfect schools.  This year I have taken a "year of silence" from the school.  I don't attend meetings.  I don't get upset about things I'd like to change.  I just LET IT GO!  Instead I have focused my energy on letting my girl's teachers and coaches know I appreciate them - which I really do!  I have had a great year! The one time I allowed myself to be talked into breaking my year of silence, no good came from my input, and I was hurt in the process.  Just another reminder from God to me - to LET IT GO- and to focus my energy and time on things He has asked me to influence.  

I still have a long way to go on this challenge.  The Lord seems to weekly point out situations that I need to let go. What areas of your life is God calling you to let go?  I would love to be praying for you.  


Be Box Family Devotions

For seven years I have dreamed of a little craft Family Devotions Fairy who will arrive at my house with an appropriate bible verse,  craft project (with necessary glitter), and will whip my kids into a frenzy of excitement about doing said family devotion.   It's a lovely dream isn't it?  Because we all know that our intentions for family devotions exceed our reality, and when our creativity does get cranking we inevitably get half way through a crafty devotion only to realize that we are missing some essential item - and the whole thing ends in tears.

Guess what arrived at our house earlier this month?    A box from the Family Devotion Fairies! 
 (Insert the Hallelujah Chorus)

This month we were blessed with a # Be Box from Be: Kids Mobile, a new monthly family devotion and craft subscription.  Let me tell you I haven't been as excited for a family faith product since The Jesus Storybook Bible came out.  (If you know me or have ever heard me speak you know that I'm excited!) Better than little fairies, this awesome concept comes from a team of three moms - whose vision is to help equip parents to live on mission, invade communities with love, and make a generational change in society.  Pretty awesome vision huh?   And God bless them  - since they are moms -  they know well enough to put everything you are going to need in that box! 

So's what's in the box?  Awesomeness! 

Everything you need for a month of intentional family discipleship.  And I mean everything!  Each month has a theme.  This month is Be Courageous! Our box includes a variety of activities including a matching game, a helmet craft, blow up swords (how cool!), and cups.  What do we do with all this? 

In a parent envelope there is a sheet for each week.  Each day you are given four touching points including awesome lunch box notes.  Each day has a scripture to read, and conversation starters. Each week uses one of the activities in the box as an application activity.   It is incredible.

If your intentions for family devotions have been greater than your reality of implementing them, I would encourage you to order a Be Box.  They are $25 or $30 a month depending on how many kids you have.  (you didn't think they would only send you one sword for your three kids did you?)  You need to order by the 20th of each month to receive the following month's box.

I'd love to have your family join us in April.  If you are a grandparent this would be a wonderful way to bless your children and grandchildren and encourage a legacy of faith to be passed down.

Family Faith Resources: The Master Designer - The Song

 This month the girls joined me in a little family movie night to preview The Master Designer - The Song by Exploration Films  for our Family Faith Resources series.  We loved this movie, and a few weeks after viewing it, the girls are still talking about curious facts, and interesting things they learned from this film.

The Master Designer weaves together history, legend, and science to share the incredible stories of six animals:  bees, wolves, bison, camels, elk, and crickets.  Who knew the role bees played in the Revolutionary War or camels played in the Mexican/American War?  I had no idea why bee hives don't collapse under the weight of honey or why wolves feet don't get frostbite. The beautiful cinematography and unique story lines made this movie a big hit in our house.  

You can view the movie trailer here (dear email readers click the link to see the trailer)

For my older daughter this was a great follow up to seeing God's Not Dead with me last year.  It raises the core question of:  How did our world come to be?  Was it through a random process or intelligent design?

Exploration Films also sent me Redemption of the Commons.  This fiction film follows the story of Victor whose life and business dreams have fallen apart.  Victor returns home to face his past and ask the question - does everyone have a God given purpose. The themes of this film make it more appropriate for an adult audience.  You can click here to watch the trailer.

50 Shades of Grey is not about your tired marriage

I have been bombarded this week by FB posts of friends excited about the 50 Shades of Grey movie.  These married women act as if this movie is nothing more than a boost for their tired marriage.  I rarely blog on anything to do with sex because 1) my mom reads my blog and 2)  my dad reads my blog.  But friends, I'm fired up on this one, so here's your warning - this post contains both sexual content, and curse words, if you're not game to that, stop reading - if you are then read on.

Dear suburban housewives,
50 Shades of Grey is not about your tired marriage.  This movie is about much more important matters - here are three of them:

1.  White rich men living under a different moral code than the rest of us. 

Think that's a bunch of liberal crap?  Okay, let's play a little game.  Let's change the setting of 50 Shades, to a trailer park in the deep south and Christian Grey is actually an African American young man named John.  John works at 7-11 and has a secret room in the back of his trailer.  Sexy?  Or maybe Christian Grey is actually named Jose Ramero and he lives in the projects of any major city.  He manages a McDonalds where he recently started seeing the new young cashier.  He controls which days she wears underwear and which days she doesn't.  Hot?

Make Christian, John, or Jose and my dear suburban housewife you aren't so turned on are you?  You're grossed out, and outraged.  You might actually call the police.  Why?  Because somehow we think when a rich white man controls a woman it's sexy and powerful, when a poor black man does it - its abuse.

50 Shades of Grey is not about spicing up your marriage, it's about giving your approval to the idea that whatever rich white men do with their power is hot, entertaining, and most importantly - okay.  Haven't we had enough Penn State's?  Haven't we had enough stories of local football stars gang raping girls?  I know I have. I am not interested in encouraging the rise of any more Christian Greys.

My friend posted this week that 50 Shades of Grey is 50 steps back for women. Without a doubt it is, but it's also 50 steps back to a time when the actions of rich white men were viewed through a different legal and moral lens than the rest of our society.

2.  It's about teenage girls trying to define love.  

I have two daughters that in a blink of an eye, are going to be out in the world looking for love.  This morning our devotion was from Song of Songs.  It's an awkward breakfast table read.  Using words like lover with a 9 year old makes this momma blush.  But here's the thing -  I am praying one day she finds her Lover, and he calls her, and treats her, like his Beloved.

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.
~ Beloved (the woman) speaking about her Lover Song of Songs 2:4 

I pray that my girls will find great love in their life.  I pray that they will be treasured, and cherished, and loved, and that they in return will know how to equally, treasure, and cherish, and love their husbands.  I'm not so delusional as to think my daughters are going to develop their thoughts about love, and passion from the Bible.  I know I didn't - I learned it from popular media of the 80's.  
I watched the blockbuster hits of my teenage years and I dreamed of a Westley and and a pink prom dress.  I wanted a love story directed by John Hughes.  As misguided and ill informed as I may have been, my definition of love was molded in large part by Hollywood's choices during my youth.  

Young girls and teenagers will always dream of love.  There's a generation of girls today looking to Hollywood to figure out what that means.   When 50 Shades comes out next week (on freaking Valentine's Day of all days) millions of teenage girls will watch that movie and take in those images and think this is what it means to be loved.  

Just like we dreamed of this: 

They will dream of this (and that pretty much breaks my heart):  

While you might think that this movie is about you learning some new tricks to spice up a stale bedroom, what actually is happening is that a generation of teenage girls is learning that to be controlled, hurt, or hit is to be cared about.  To have your cell phone tracked is to be loved.  That the price of being in a relationship is putting up with the moody whims of an emotionally damaged person. 

I think all the women over the age of 30 who have read this book, or will go see this movie collectively owe an apology to our younger sisters.  We've sold you out for an orgasm, and we're sorry.  

3. It's about teenage boys trying to figure out how to be men:

I can't imagine the awkward pressure placed on teenage boys.  Somehow they have to figure out how to be a man - with all that comes with.  How do I court a girl?  How can I be an awesome lover?  Pair that with the fact that innately all teenagers dream of obtaining power, wealth, and respect.  Teenage boys are looking role models,  and they too are looking to society and media to find their mentors.  (I wish it wasn't that way but it is!)  

Come Feb 14 they can find power, wealth, and the sexiness that women apparently can't say no to - all wrapped up in one package - Christian Grey.  

You see ladies, while you are fantasying about having sex with Christian Grey, teenage boys across America are fantasying about being him.  When you pay your $14 to go see this movie and pack the theaters in the coming weeks - I want you to look down the row at the teenage and college aged young men who are there with their dates.  For many of them there's a length of rope and a gag out waiting in the car.  That's what women like right?  Your presence filling the theaters confirms that for them.  

As if the epidemic of 1 in 4 woman being raped in America isn't bad enough - let's teach a whole new generation of young men who are just trying to figure out what the hell it means to be a man - that control is sexy, and pain is erotic, and gagging and tying up your date in the back of your car is what Valentine's Day now means in America.  

Throw off the Yokes - Mid Life JOY Challenge #1

Each month this year I will be posting a challenge in our Mid Life Joy series.  February brings our first challenge: Throw off the yokes!  Sisters we are not starting this series off easy!

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
~  Jesus Christ to the Galatians in Matthew 11: 29-30

The word yoke has several meanings.  A yoke can be something placed on the neck of cattle used to pull something or work a field.  At the time of Jesus the word yoke was also used to refer to the laws or teachings of a specific rabbi.  When a disciple was chose to follow a rabbi, that disciple would be "taking on the yoke" of his rabbi - he would follow all the extra laws, teachings, and interpretations of that rabbi.   Taking on the yoke of a rabbi was difficult.  Following the Law is hard, really hard, actually it's impossible, now add on top of that the burden of additional laws, and teachings, and interpretations that normally went along with following a rabbi at that time.  It was a very heavy burden.   Yet Jesus calls us to take on His yoke and to learn from Him.  He called his yoke easy.  The comparison was striking.
The rabbis taught
Law + more laws+ personal preferences + personal ways and restrictions = possibly pleasing God. 

Jesus taught
Follow me + nothing = intimacy with God and eternal salvation.  

It's easy to be a bystander to history and desire to shout out to those Galatians - pick Jesus!  Pick Jesus -the rabbis are wrong!  It seems like such a clear choice.  Who would pick the teachings and misery of the yoke of the rabbis?  Who wouldn't pick Jesus?  But fast forward two thousand years and Christian culture today is full of some scary similarities.  In the world of celebrity pastors, best selling authors, and bible study teachers, we are right back in the same position as those Galatians.

Popular Christianity teaches: 
Follow Jesus + Edith Schaeffer + Beth Moore + Jen Hatmaker* = possibly pleasing God and having eternal salvation.

Jesus STILL teaches: 
Follow me + nothing = intimacy with God and eternal salvation.  

Many of us do exactly what the Galatians did - we don't pick Jesus.   We love our media darlings.  They are witty, bright, beautiful, and we want to be just like them, so we pick up their yokes and throw them around our necks.

Jesus + the lastest book + the latest study = ? 

The problem is that those yokes are attached to different agendas that pull and wear on us.  Edith Schaeffer was called to work joyfully at home.  Beth Moore is called to teach the Word.  Jen Hatmaker is called to plant churches, adopt children, and a dizzying list of other wonderful things.  These are the things they have been called to, and they have faithfully shared those personal experiences through books, and classes, and videos.  Christian culture has taken those personal messages and twisted them into modern day rabbi yokes.  Our unprecedented access to information, resources, and people has turned us into a people that take on yoke, after yoke, after yoke.  We mistakenly think the next yoke will bring: happiness, less stress, contentment, holiness, peace...  The list goes on and on, but with each extra set of teachings, each extra set of self imposed expectations, each new list of things we "should do," we get farther and farther from what we are looking for.  We get farther and father from Jesus.

 If you saw an oxen struggling under the weight of multiple heavy yokes you would be outraged at the abuse, wouldn't you?
My dear sisters, can I ask, " how many yokes are you wearing?"  

What burdens have added, and added, and added on to yourself?  Burdens the Lord has never asked you to take on.  Burdens that not only steal your JOY, but are exhausting you, leaving you weary.

This month's challenge is to look at the yokes you have taken on - and throw off all but Christ's. Throw off the yokes that have been wrongly placed on you by people around you, or by you yourself.

How do we do that?

Step 1:  Pray that God would open your eyes to false yokes you have taken on.
Step 2:  In a journal write out all the things that would complete this sentence.

Following Jesus + _______________ = Pleasing God
              For example:  dressing conservatively, leading a bible study, adopting a child, serving at the                                      food bank, homeschooling my kids, going back to work to help us get out of                                          debt,  allowing my mother to move in with us.    Small or large - list it out!                                            Add to your list as you find things coming to mind.  

Step 3:  Study God's word.  I suggest reading slowly through the book of Galatians.  We aren't the first people to deal with some extra yokes.  Study a few verses a day.  Try the SOAP method - journal out the Scripture, your Observations, your Application, and a Prayer.

Step 4:  Pray that God would show you what from your list is not something He has asked of you - but is an extra yoke you have taken on, or the world has given to you.

Step 5: Throw off those yokes! I'll share later this month a tangible way I have done this recently.

This is not an easy challenge, but I believe it is a crucial start to finding JOY in our lives - middle aged or not. :)  Jesus promised His followers something as a result of taking on His yoke (His alone), something I believe we all desire.   We can find it just a little farther up in our passage in verse 28, Jesus says.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."   

I pray His rest on each of you who are weary and burdened.  I will be praying that God speaks clearly to you this month as you take on this challenge.  

* Please note I do not mean to be picking on these particular women, nor I believe it is their set intention to pull woman away from following Christ in any way.  I name them only for their popularity is a variety of segments of Christian culture. 

Celebrating a Year of Feasts

Each year, Pete and I look at how we will disciple our girls.  What things are we keeping?  What have they grown out of?   What do we want to try to add?  This year we have decided to celebrate the major Old Testament feasts as a family.  Last year we celebrated Passover with a Seder on the Thursday before Easter.  It add so much to our holiday - making the weekend truly holy days - that we want to do it again and add in a few more.

We'd like to invite your family to join us.  I am sharing our calendar with you so you can start planning ahead as well.  Prior to each feast I will share  a post about the history of the feast and how we are planning on celebrating/observing it.  Afterwards I will share photos - because we all love some photos right.

Please understand that our desire is to remember the works of the Lord and to tell them to our children - a command repeated throughout the Old Testament.  It is not our intent to try to observe Old Testament feasts as any sort attempt to keep the Law, that through Jesus we are no longer under.  Our salvation and freedom come through the blood of Christ alone, not through the keeping of feasts, law, or ritual.

Two resources that I will be drawing from are;  Finding Your Place at the Table of Tradition by Derek Leman (a wonderful study I recommend to all), and Walk with Y'shua Through the Jewish Year by Janie-sue Wertheim and Kathy Shapiro ( a wonderful family resource provided through Jews for Jesus).

Here is the calendar.  Our family will attempt to celebrate as close to these dates as possible, but since we are not observing these feasts as Law, we are going to offer ourselves a lot of grace.

Passover:  April 3rd-11th.  We will have our family Seder on Maundy Thursday which is April 2.
Shavuot:  May 23-25
Rosh Hashanah:  Sept 13-15
Yom Kipper:  Sept 22-23
Sukkot: Sept 27- Oct 4th
Hanukkah:  Dec 6th -14th

Has your family ever celebrated any of these feasts?  I would love to hear your experiences.  Please comment below or email me at

The Mid Life Joy Challenge #midlifeJOY

God recently had a little smack down talk with me.   In light of my impending 40th birthday, God had a question for me:

 "If you're not happy now, with all I have given you, when will you be happy?"  

I didn't have an answer.
You see, I live my life chasing happiness on the tail of one little word -  WHEN.  

I will be happy WHEN I am married - CHECK
I will be happy WHEN we have a child - CHECK, CHECK
I will be happy WHEN we move to that house - CHECK
I will be happy WHEN we make XX amount a year - CHECK
I will be happy WHEN I have a good career - CHECK

There's a never ending list of WHEN's you can chase.  I have more freedom, luxury, security, love, and pleasure than 99% of the world's population. I have been saved for eternity by the blood of my Savior.  Yet when people ask "How are you?" my most common answers are;  busy, tired, or fine.  If I'm honest, I have to admit that I'm not a very happy person.  You see there's still a list:

I will be happy WHEN I lose 50 lbs - 
I will be happy WHEN we are out of debt -
I will be happy WHEN ...

So, I had no answer for God.

Sitting in the silence of our conversation He whispered a new word to me:  JOY.  
Joy?  That surprised me.  Not contentment, or even happiness?   He whispered JOY.   He whispered it into my ear like a reminder, an assignment, a challenge.  God wants me, His daughter, to be full of JOY now, not later, not WHEN, but now, because it's already been given to me.  You see JOY is very different than happiness.  

Happiness is a feeling human's seek, JOY is a gift God has given us. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Happiness is fleeting, JOY is eternal (John 14:1-3) 
Happiness is self-centered, JOY is God-centered.  (Psalm 1:23)
Happiness is fragile, JOY is strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)

I've accepted the challenge to start living out a life of joy.  I'd like to invite you to join me.  
This year-long project will consist of monthly themes that will force us to take a look into areas of our lives that are stealing our Joy.  We'll look at what God says about these areas, memorize truth-giving scripture, and then walk out these truth with a challenge.  Each month I will post at the beginning of the month about the theme and challenge, at the end of the month I will post a personal recap of how I walked out the challenge.  

The challenge for January is to decide to join me in the Mid Life Joy Challenge.  If you are not subscribed to The Celebrated Family - you can do so on the right hand side of the website.  With the remaining days of January share a picture on Twitter, Instagram, of Facebook with the tag #midlifeJOY.  Let's keep our eyes open for JOY and share it with one another.  

Devotions for a Healthier You

Today kicks off our Family Faith Resources series.  We all have limited time and money to put into finding great resources for our family, so I aim to help you this year with reviews of great new books and movies ... and I'm giving them away!

Fellow mommas,  today's resource is just for you.  Katie Farrell's Devotions for a Healthier You is a treasure of a book.  It is lovely. It's the type of book that reassures me that the art form of book publishing is alive and well.

After seeing too many bad books out there that try to combine health, weight, and Jesus, I have to admit I am leery of the Christian health genre.  I'm just not interested in another "pray the weight away," product.   Devotions for a Healthier You could not be farther from that cliché.  Katie Farrell has crafted devotions to help woman dive into the Word of God to find their true beauty, strength, and health.  Devotions cover such topics as:  knowing who we are, finding contentment, people pleasing, and laying your burdens down.  The fact that Katie genuinely seeks to find her identity and beauty in Christ is evident throughout the book.  These are not hollow words she writes. You can hear her story here.

Each devotions is based on scripture and ends with prayer.  These short devotions would pair well with journaling, or would be a great mid-day break for busy mommas who just aren't going to get in a 45 minute Beth Moore study each day.  This book is going to be one of my go-to gifts this year.  I know it will bless my friends and fellow mommas.

Sprinkled throughout the devotions are recipes and "dashes of inspiration" which make the book a treat to thumb through over a cup of tea.  The book also includes prayers for health, and identity scriptures, which would both be great for memory work or written out on a sticky note on your mirror or desk.  The book concludes with a sample week meal plan.  (If this leaves you wanting more, you can find it on her website Dashing Dish)

We are a few weeks in to the New Year.  Do you have the goal of making 2015 a healthier year, be it physically, spiritually, or both?  Farrell writes, "Living a healthy lifestyle does not have to be hard work or a drastic change.  The best place to start is by making small changes in your everyday life."  (pg vii)

One of the changes I am making this year is making appointments to exercise on my calendar, and treating those appointments as valuable as work appointments. What one change are you planning on making?  Maybe it's to have a regular time to read the Word?  Maybe it's to start eating healthier?  I'd love to hear your changes in the comment section below.    On Friday Jan 16th, I will select one reader from the comments to receive a free copy of this beautiful book.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year friends,
I hope your holidays held their share of fun, family, and faith.  Here is a peak into what my family has been doing for the last three weeks....

Yep - pretty awesome.  We have been enjoying a lot of sun, family, friends and downtime in the Bahamas.  But now we are home and there are some exciting things happening that I have been bursting to tell you about!

2015 finds our family joining a new church family.  I will be serving as the Director of Family Ministries at The Point Church.  The Point Church is a multi-site church with locations in Raleigh, Cary, and Apex.  Their leadership has an incredible heart for pointing people to Jesus - our whole family is excited to join this growing, dynamic, and diverse faith family.

There are exciting plans for The Celebrated Family as well.  My mission is to encourage and equip parents to grow in and pass on their faith to the next generation.  This year there will be three year-long projects happening on the blog to help reach that mission.  I hope you will be as excited as I am!

1.  Encourage - Mid Life Joy Series #midlifeJOY.  In three three I turn 40!  That's right, I am solidly middle aged now, no getting around it.  Over the last few years I have struggled with being stressed and grumpy.  Anyone else?  The thought occured to me sitting on that beach pictured above, "If I am not happy now, when do I think I will be?"  Mid Life Joy will be a monthly series looking at the things that steal our joy and challenges to help us choose to live a life of abundant JOY!

2.  Equip - Family Faith Resources.  I have been invited to be part of a new blogger community reviewing new resources for Christian parents and families.  Wherever I speak parents are always looking for good resource suggestions.  This year I will have more than suggestions - thanks to the generosity of some great publishing houses I will be giving away new books and movies every month!

3.  Pass on your Faith - A Year of Biblical Feasts.  Pete and I are taking our family on a journey this year through the Jewish calendar - and we want you to come along.  We are going to celebrate the major Old Testament feasts with our girls this year.  I will be posting background info on each one before the feast so you can join in, and a post after each one so you can see how it went.

It all kicks off next week with a fun giveaway - see you then!

New Seasons

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new church year, and with it found our family sitting in a new church.  Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent, and as we lit the first candle I was reminded that a new season has begun, not just in our year, but in our family's life.  I once posted here that if I post often life is going smoothly, if I go silent, something is up, and indeed something has been up over the last few months.  Thanks for bearing with my silence.

Has God ever thrown a scripture at you?  Literally thrown it in your face? Painted in on the billboard near your house?  Plastered it across every blog, devotion, and book you read until you have to throw up your hands and say, "Okay I hear you!"

For the last nine months the Lord has done this with a couple of scriptures for me.

"Be alert, be present.  I'm about to do something brand new.  It's bursting out.  Don't you see it?"  
~  Isaiah 43: 19  ( The Message)

"The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still."  
~  Exodus 14:14  (NIV)

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." 
~ Psalm 37: 3-7a  (NIV) 

For months I heard what seemed like conflicting messages to me:  change was coming and I was to be still and do nothing about it.  

Ugh.  Can I tell you how much I stink at being quiet and doing nothing!  But I did.  I was still.  I have been very quiet in multiple ways.  I have waited on the Lord and leaned not on my own understanding.  In the last two months the Lord has unfurled something new for our family, something new for me professionally.  It is something I would not have sought on my own,  He has clearly delivered it.  

So last Sunday, on the last Sunday in the church calendar, we said our goodbyes to our Bay Leaf Church family.  We are not moving, but we have been called to move on.  Yesterday we worshipped with our new congregation with hearts full of a mixture of anticipation for the new, and loss over the old, and the supreme knowledge that God is God over all of it.  

As we enter into this new season of Advent, and also draw 2014 to a close, what is the Lord whispering (or shouting) to you?   Is He calling you to lean close to Him this season of Immanuel?  Is He asking you to leave something behind with 2014 so you can move unburdened into a new year?  Perhaps in the hectic-ness of life, your quiet time with the Lord has been pushed aside and squeezed out so that you haven't felt that you've heard anything for the Lord in a long time.  May I invite you to join me this month and lean in to the story of the season?  May I challenge you to take time on these dark December nights to quietly listen for the Lord, to read and reread His Word, to be still in a season of busy long enough to hear His voice and to allow His plans for you to unfurl.  They are good plans my friends, so let's not miss any of them.  

I look forward to sharing soon with you our "something new."