Christmas is not over!

advent candles

If you are feeling the after-Christmas let-down, it’s okay to keep singing the carols, looking at the lights, and watching the Hallmark movies (haha). According to the liturgical calendar that is used in many Christian churches, Christmas is really celebrated until epiphany on January 6. That’s the day that commemorates the wise men visiting Jesus. Even though I never grew up with the liturgical calendar myself (I have always gone to independent churches), I have enjoyed observing the holiday season that way this year.

I ordered my family a rustic candle holder from Germany on Etsy. When I say rustic, I mean rustic. It is wobbly, and someone could get a splinter from the bottom. I thought about sending it back because the workmanship was, ahem, poor. Then I decided to just put some candles in it and use it for Advent anyway. That wonky candle holder really grew on me as my family gathered around it each evening to light candles, read a small Bible passage, and say a prayer every evening of Advent, from December 2 to 24 this year. I used all white candles instead of the three purple and one pink that are more traditional. As Christmas approached, the candle holder started looking pretty to me. Then I realized: Jesus himself was placed in a manger when he was born. That was not fancy either, but it was just right in the grand design of things.

When it was getting close to bed time, we would have my son open a window on our German-style Advent calendar. I like to incorporate some German traditions into our celebrations since I have some German heritage. Then we would gather around the little wonky candle holder. My son would repeat back parts of the short prayer, and then he would do his favorite part: blow out the candles! Since he’s only five, observing Advent this way really helped my son understand when Christmas was going to arrive and what we would be celebrating. Honestly, it was something I looked forward to every evening myself. It made the season feel special, and it was a peaceful way to end each day.

Advent cardsWe are going to continue lighting the candles and saying a prayer until January 6. This a link to where we got our prayers and readings (the cards are sold out this year, but I would guess it will be available again next year). If you have never heard of this tradition of observing Advent and then celebrating Christmas for an extended time, it’s really not too late to get into it. We are going to celebrate Christmas for 12 days. We will sing carols, light the candles, say special prayers as a family, and really appreciate the decorations and the spirit of the season. I am still thinking about how I will commemorate this in my Journaling Bible. I definitely will do some kind of Bible Journaling about it because this really has been special for us.

Exploring the Christmas story this year, Elizabeth stood out to me in particular. She waited so long for something, prayed for it often, and then gave up — and that’s when God said it was not too late. His timing was different and unexpected, but the timing was right for John the Baptist (cousin of Jesus) to be born of Elizabeth. John prepared the way for Jesus. If you’ve never thought much about Elizabeth, check out this sermon about her. It is an excellent sermon!

On a lighter note (and going back to the Hallmark movies, lol) my favorite television Christmas movie was not even from Hallmark. It was from Lifetime. It was called A Very Nutty Christmas; it was hilarious and heart-warming. A nutcracker comes to life in time to help a bakery owner (Melissa Joan Hart) get into the holiday spirit. Check it out if you get a chance. My close second favorite television Christmas movie was A Shoe Addict’s Christmas. As with any Hallmark movie, the cheese factor was pretty high, but I love it.

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This is a new decoration I added to my house this year. I can take the red ribbon off and use it year-round!

Merry Christmas, and God bless you!

Looking for Something That Will Renew Your Mindset?

I am going to be posting some more Bible Journaling soon, but I want to share a couple of resources that I really like. I am not affiliated with these resources in any way, but I do listen to them regularly. By the way, be sure to enter my Tori Kelly CD giveaway between now and Sept. 12.

Your Move with Andy Stanley

ymthumbI listen to this as a weekly podcast while I’m walking or driving, and it is very good. You can also watch the episodes online. Andy Stanley shares God-given wisdom for living. I have had a lot of “ah-ha” moments listening to him. He knows what it means to share God’s truth in a loving way.

Move The Mountains

This is a wonderful resource for Bible Journaling tutorials, challenges, and studies. Before I had ever even heard of Bible Journaling, Amanda posted a Journaling Bible giveaway online. She was just getting her website started. I entered and won a Journaling Bible. When I opened it, it was so pretty that I felt nervous about making art in it. The Bible I won from Amanda is the same Bible that I journal in for the site that you are reading right now. I don’t know Amanda personally, but I am glad I won that giveaway about two years ago!

Simple

The Simple podcast is thought-provoking. It challenges you to go beyond the mainstream. This is a podcast for anyone, Christian or not, who wants to live with more purpose and simplicity. Even though it is not a religion-based podcast, I think it appeals to many Christians who realize that we must go beyond the consumer mindset to live authentically in this life. This is a podcast for intelligent people who see through the status quo. It also gives a global perspective, which I enjoy.

God Centered Mom Podcast

This is a Christian podcast that I’ve found to be very encouraging when I’m walking, driving, or even cleaning the house. God’s truth is presented in a way that is powerful, insightful, and very approachable.

A Playlist

If you’re building a Spotify playlist of worship music, remember some Mandisa! I love her music and her testimony.

I encourage you to upgrade your week by checking out one of the resources I mentioned. All of the podcasts are on Stitcher and other podcast apps. The Andy Stanley broadcasts are also available as videos on his site, and Amanda is active on YouTube and Instagram. These free resources for life and faith will uplift and challenge you, I promise.

🙂 Teresa

 

 

Grand Canyon + Journaling Bible = An Epic Bible Journaling Journey

restoreWhat do you get when you open your Journaling Bible to reflect on a bucket list experience? It’s an epic Bible Journaling Journey! For me, that experience was my family’s trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona this summer. A couple spots at the Grand Canyon had short verses, mainly from Psalm, posted at them, so in honor of that, I decided to use a passage from Psalm for my Bible journaling page. I thought of how the trip felt like a restorative time of admiring God’s creation.

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 23:3

The expanse of rock has etched itself unforgettably into my memories. The canyon seems to go on and on in a way that the mind almost cannot make sense of at first. As I stood and gazed from many view points, including Hermit’s Rest, Desert View, and the area near the Bright Angel Lodge, I had to remind myself that what I was seeing was real. I heard others around me say it too: I have to keep telling myself this is not a scene from a movie or a picture of Mars. It is real, and my mind cannot completely wrap itself around it.

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Do I mind feeling small? Not really. I know I am small in the *grand* scheme of life. Yet, I have a God who created something so wild and beautiful that it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. Do I know exactly how He did it? Nope. I am okay with that (even though it sounds like Grand Canyon Ministries has some theories if I decide to seek that out). Just experiencing the beauty was plenty to fill my heart and mind for now.

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As you view the canyon from different spots, it takes on whole new looks and shows different parts of its personality. For me, Desert View in the early morning was my very, very favorite. We woke up at 4 a.m. to get there really early before the crowds, way before the Desert View tower opens to visitors. Seeing it in the quiet of morning was so spectacular. For me, personally, the views that included the river were always my favorite because they looked more refreshing.

Hermits Rest View

My second favorite spot was Hermit’s Rest because we made it there on our very first day at the canyon in the extreme heat of the day — and it really felt like a restful spot. My son took a nap on my husband in front of the giant fireplace that Mary Colter (an architect who left a beautiful mark on the south rim with a few structures that seem to pair really well with the particular view where she placed them) designed while I walked away from the crowds to see some beautiful views. Yes, you might be noticing, I am not a huge “crowds” person (lol). Introvert alert. The nice thing is that the canyon is so big, and if you time it right, you don’t really have to be overwhelmed by crowds. I never felt like it was really crowded, even at the peak times, but it just took longer to wait for the free buses to have room for riders.

My words and the pictures cannot do the Grand Canyon justice. Pictures cannot really capture it.

It’s not the perfect place. It is really, really hot this time of year. Even the bugs don’t want to live there because it’s so hot (seriously, don’t bother packing bug spray this time of year). We literally saw dead prickly pear cacti. It was so dry that even some of the cacti were dying! For me, it felt like a place of extremes — extreme heat, extreme beauty, extreme heights, extremely harsh in some aspects. I am used to living in a place where it rains a lot, so it was just different for me in that way. The dry heat dried out my nose, throat, and skin to the point that I wished I had a good saline spray and body lotion with me; it also gave my son nose bleeds by the end of the week. Yet, less-than-ideal aspects still felt small in relation to what we were getting to experience.

We saw lots of elk — their stature is regal compared to the deer I am used to seeing — and also jack rabbits with tall ears, squirrels that looked a little different from the ones at home, and one long horned sheep that was on the move. Besides the canyon itself, a highlight of the trip for us was seeing lots of pueblo ruins from the 1100s. In America, our opportunities to see historic sites rarely go back that far. It gave me chills to walk along the different ruins and think about how this was someone’s home long ago. We went to the Wupatki and Wukoki pueblos, along with the Tusayan ruins close to the canyon, and the dwellings of Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff. These structures are still recent compared to the history and people we read of in the Bible.

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Sometimes I like to think about how many other people throughout history have walked the same paths that I am walking; in the Bible we can think about the spiritual paths people have taken, how they are similar or different from our own. It creates a sense of connection.

Bible Journaling Challenge: Think of a place or time that you felt restored. The New International Version of the verse says “refreshes.” Looking at Psalm 23, create a journaling page based on a memory of being restored or refreshed. Especially in the heat of summer or in a “desert season” in your life, the moments of refreshment are encouraging.