Taking on the Burden

My family and I are huge Lord of the Rings fans and have re-watched the movies several times. After all these years, I am still learning new things and comparing it to the Christian life. One example was in the Fellowship of the Ring when a group of four hobbits, two men, one elf, one dwarf, and a wizard gathered to decide the fate of the one ring “to rule them all.” Anyone of those members could have taken the ring and carry it all the way to Mordor where it can be destroyed. But it had to be the one hobbit, the youngest and most unpredictable choice to take on the task.

At first, one would be quick to point out the selfishness and cowardice of the rest of the fellowship. I admit, if my boss at work would suddenly give me a major task that required a lot of responsibility and leadership, I would absolutely hesitate, no doubt. I’d prefer someone else to do it for me. What if something goes wrong? What if I fail? I want to avoid the hardship at all costs, and let someone else go through that. When Jesus was talking concerning the Pharisees and their hypocritical, boastful behavior, He said, ”’They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them”’ (NIV). It’s easy to let others do the work. Yet in reality, we are getting nowhere but making ourselves look worse in front of God.

On the other hand, I can see that those who decided to not take on the task did so in fear of not being able to take on such a burden or not being chosen. Maybe they felt they would be tempted along the way or use it for the wrong purpose. Moreover, maybe they did not feel like it was their burden to take. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). A burden can bring us to our knees but knowing God, there is always something good that comes out of it. As for having fear, any burden we are called to carry will be a frightful journey. We just gotta rely on God.

Most importantly, when an individual carries a burden, they should not have to do it alone. In the fellowship, all participated in the protection of Frodo and kept him company the whole way, especially his friend Sam. There are people all around us who can help carry burdens. Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV). And above all, we have the Lord who will always be there to carry it for us. Psalm 55:22 confirms this: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (ESV).

I admire those who are willing to take on a task that is not expected of them. But God is fully aware of who can do it and who can’t, who is willing and who won’t. Sometimes it is a small, young individual who is stronger than a fighter.

Spiritual Growth – Fellowship

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Continuing in our series on spiritual growth, today’s focus is about mentoring and fellowship.

  1. Commitment
  2. Prayer
  3. Study
  4. Mentoring/Fellowship
  5. Serving

We aren’t meant to do life alone. From the very beginning, God designed us for company. He didn’t leave Adam alone; He created Eve. Community is critical to your spiritual growth. I can easily overlook or intentionally ignore something but thanks to a great group of spiritual friends, I am kept on track. When I am discouraged or heartbroken, my friends lift me up in prayer.

This year has been the toughest one to date and without the fellowship of my church and close friends, it would have been so much worse. People avoid church because they’ve been hurt by the church or they think it’s full of hypocrites.

The church is filled with imperfect people – I fit right in and so do you. The important thing is to find a church community that will best help you to grow. There is no such thing as a perfect church – at least not here on earth. Find one that is based on biblical truth and makes you feel welcome. Find a place where there are opportunities to serve.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7

We need each other. Watching a sermon online is good but not if that’s your church replacement. There’s more than just the fellowship aspect, there’s mentoring. Fellowship provides you with an opportunity to be mentored by someone who is further ahead in their spiritual journey AND it provides you to mentor someone who is behind you in their spiritual journey. Remember that age doesn’t equal spiritual maturity.

Paul is a great example of the mentoring cycle. When Paul first became a believer, he had his friend Barnabas there to guide him and help him. As Paul grew in faith, he began to mentor Timothy. Timothy also mentored others and Paul advised him: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

Don’t do life alone. Get involved in a life group at church. Surround yourself with friends who can provide you with the spiritual support you need. Life is tough – people make it easier. Comment below and let us know how you make sure you have fellowship ❤

“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13 NIV

Since graduating from high school, I have had many friends drift from their faith. They have lost their way and have done things that are unfaithful to the Lord. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with one of them about what has been going on in our lives. I was greatly disappointed that nothing in her life seemed to be glorifying God. Although we shared our struggles and situation, the conversation was very worldly, covering problems of this life without God. After the conversation, I felt so empty. This friend of mine used to share such wisdom and godly insight including Scripture to help her advice be more credible. Within a few years, she changed so much.

Of all the people we will encounter on this earth, unfortunately, not everyone will remain faithful to the Lord. There are those who continually seek God and obey Him but still are imperfect. Yet others, they fall and never get back up. The Lord knows of our imperfections and He knows of our human nature which is why He continually reminds us to remain faithful to Him. So we have no excuse for our unfaithfulness. Therefore, if I could say something that is 100% true, it is this: if we follow God wholeheartedly, He will remain faithful. He will.

Take Caleb for example. There is not a lot of information about him other than the fact that he and Joshua from the Old Testament were the only two that made it to the promised land of the men who had spied out the land before (Numbers 14:38). And why did Caleb make it if there is so little about him? Well, what is said about him is enough information to know that this man was a man of God. The Lord says in Numbers 14:24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (NIV).

On the unfortunate side of our human nature, what happens when we are unfaithful to God. If Caleb and Joshua were the only ones to live in the promised land because they were faithful, imagine what happened to the ones who were not faithful. They obviously didn’t make it to the promised land. Instead, Numbers 14:37 says, “…these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord” (NIV). They had lied about the promised land which lead to their death.

For my friends whose relationship with God has dwindled, I have hope because God is still faithful even when we are not. Although it is discouraging and saddening to know what lifestyles my friends have chosen, it is even harder not to follow in that path. The unfaithful are highly influential and highly abundant which is maybe why many Christians around the world feel like they are alone in their faith. And don’t get me wrong, the choice to remain faithful to God is inconsistent with our actions. We are broken, sinful people. But it is no excuse to keep us from pursuing a righteous and faithful relationship with the Lord.

Spiritual Growth: Study, Study Study

Continuing in our series on spiritual growth, today’s focus is about studying God’s word.

  1. Commitment
  2. Prayer
  3. Study
  4. Mentoring/Fellowship
  5. Serving

I know that this might not seem like the most exciting series but it is vital for our spiritual life, that we make sure we grow. Being a Christian is a lifelong journey that is meant to change us. It’s critical to your journey that you are growing and spiritual growth doesn’t happen by accident. We’re all works in progress.

I have a confession: I am the nerd who loves books and can relate to Hermione’s need to study and race to the library for answers.

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I enjoy studying but sometimes I find studying the Bible to be overwhelming. According to a study by Lifeway Research, only 19% of people polled read the Bible everyday.” Are you one of the 19% or do you fall in the 81% category? Which category do you want to belong to?

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Personally, my goal was to read His word every day. Most days, I was successful in making this part of my daily routine. It became a habit. Studying His word should be a daily habit. When I committed my life to Christ I was overwhelmed by the Bible. Where do I begin? What does it mean? Why do they have to have such weird names? Why does this matter? These are just a handful of questions that plagued me. I wanted to study His word but my method of reading from the beginning didn’t make sense.

Recognizing my own shortcomings, I researched and visited my local Christian bookstore. There, I uncovered the wonderful world of bible studies. It was a very large section and I was able to select an excellent bible study. My first year of studying the word relied heavily on bible studies by Kelly Minter, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and many more. They helped me develop my daily study habit and guided me through my readings until I was able to study on my own. I like studying different authors and listening to different preachers, because I believe it’s important to get different perspectives and I still use them to supplement and enhance my personal study time. Recently, I’ve discovered She Reads Truth and A Godly Lady study resources, which are a bit more independent. I also use plans from YouVersion, which are free!

Jesus studied the word and it was His knowledge of scripture that allowed Him to overcome the devil’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-17).   The Word is a basis for battling the enemy’s lies. In fact we’re commanded to arm ourselves with scripture.

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:16-17

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Studying on my own was a bit of a learning curve. I began with The Gospel of Matthew and studied a chapter a night. I read it 3 times: 1. Comprehension, 2. Themes or things that stood out to me, 3. Foot notes from my study bible. Then I went through and paraphrased the chapter in a journal with my thoughts on them. I let the Holy Spirit reveal things to me and I gained a huge appreciation for His Word. I alternate between New and Old Testament to make sure I am focusing on all areas of His Word. In addition, I found it helped to purchase a One a Year Bible, which helps keep me accountable and on track.

I love that I can read scripture and find something new every time. The Holy Spirit has revealed so much to me when I am intentional in my studies. Let’s me real, there are days that I don’t read the Word and as long as it’s a one off thing and not a habit, I am okay with it. One of my goals for 2017 is to be more intentional in studying the Word. How can I spend 4+ hours on a Netflix binge and then be “too tired” to read the Bible or only spend 20 minutes with God? That seems a bit backwards to me. This year my goal is to spend more time with God than binge watching my favorite shows. I can’t wait to see how that impacts me and I want the same for you. I pray that you feel passionate and fired up to study the Bible.

If anyone is interested in joining me on this journey of intentionality or want some more information, please use the “Contact Us” tab or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com. I will invite you to join a Facebook Group to keep us accountable and discuss our reading. Hope to have you there with us. ❤

Spiritual Growth: Prayer

Last week, we started a series on spiritual maturity and the five components. As a refresher, they are:

  1. Commitment
  2. Prayer
  3. Study
  4. Mentoring/Fellowship
  5. Serving

Today, we’re continuing our series with a focus on prayer. There are a lot of different ways to define prayer but the simplest one is that prayer is a conversation with God. I want you to think about the best conversation you’ve had. Who was it with? What was it like? What was it about? Take a minute and think about it.

Now think about the best conversation you’ve had with God. What was it like? What was it about? Compare it to the first conversation I asked you to remember. What was different?

Did you know that Jesus prayed? It seems to me that if it’s good for Jesus, it’s good for us. There are many times that Jesus went to pray.

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” – Matthew 14:23

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’” – Matthew 26:36

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.’” – Mark 1:35

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I am going to be transparent – prayer feels challenging to me because even though I am talking or writing, I feel like it’s one-sided. It’s more of a monologue than a dialogue. I have also wondered why I am talking to someone who knows everything. I don’t need to tell Him where my struggles are because He knows. And God does know – that isn’t the point of prayer. The point is to remember that we depend on God for everything and that the focus is our relationship with the Lord. He is supposed to be our best friend and Father but for that to be real, we need to communicate with Him. We can talk to Him about our lives but to hear from Him, we need to study His word and listen.

There are so many different methods that be utilized to pray. Some people pray out loud, some kneel, and some write. Personally, I utilize a prayer journal to write my prayers down. It’s been a great way to track some of the blessings and answered prayers He’s provided, as well as patterns of areas I struggle in. Do what works for you.

There are different ways to pray; for people just starting out it can be useful to use an outline, like the one below:

  • A.C.T.S. – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
  • Following an outline like The Lords Prayer (Matthew 6:5-13)
  • Praise and Thanksgiving, Confession, Others and Self

I recommend looking into different methods of prayer to determine what works for you. Prayer is your communication with God and is a highly personal decision. It is important to make sure that your prayer life is balanced. You need to make sure that you’re not treating God like a genie who exists to answer your every desire. God is the almighty creator of the universe and we exist for Him. It is important that you praise Him, confess your sins and pray for the needs of others.

Remember, prayer is partly our talking to the Lord and partly listening to His word. Our next post will focus on studying His word.

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Today’s challenge is to examine your prayer life and come up with a plan of action. Are you praying regularly? Is your prayer life on-track or could it use a revamp? Do you use a prayer journal – if so, we’d love to see a picture of it. Comment below or contact us through the contact page and let us know how you pray. ❤

Giving Your Thoughts to Christ

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

Last week, I was finally able to set up a gym membership at my job. During the winter, it is too cold to run and running is one of the few things I do to release stress and any mental junk that builds up. I can’t help fall into thoughts that are not of God whether they are about myself, work, family, and the future. Even in my daily life, I have to be careful what I let inside my mind and what I dwell on. I have stress about my future and what the Lord wants me to do. I have worries of my family. It’s a constant thought after another, and I reached the point where I could not let those kinds of thoughts control me. Moreover, when I run, I speak to God, and I am releasing all that is not shared.

Firstly, our thoughts should not control us. They are not more powerful than us unless we let them be. God is obviously more powerful than our thoughts which is why He wants us to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” What we think can contradict what the Bible says and therefore brings up many spiritual battles. When I was in college, I was so driven to achieve a high GPA that I missed out a lot on social outings. Although God has blessed me with many friendships throughout college, I wonder if I could have contributed more if I had not been so focused on my grades. Even at one point, getting high grades led me to a period of high anxiety and stress. There were a couple of nights when I could not sleep at all because I was planning out the next week! Eventually, by my senior year, I let God carry my burdens and ended up finishing well with less stress.

Secondly, God knows our thinking. Davids says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” (NIV). When we think that God might not understand and might be unaware of what goes on in our mind, He can already determine the rest of the thoughts we will ever have in our lifetime. This is a good thing because He understands us; He created the human mind. Even His Son was human! He is fully aware that the mind can be dangerous. Look at all the mental disorders that are diagnosed in the States. Are we really allowing God to take our thoughts captive? Or do our thoughts take us captive?

Lastly, our understanding is not always accurate. We are humans, and we make mistakes. A coworker of mine has strong opinions of people based on one or two observations. She immediately treats them differently if there is something she doesn’t like. Eventually she sees another observation and changes her mind about the individual. Very inconsistent. But God is consistent. That’s why we must rely on the understanding of the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV). If we rely on the Lord, trust in Him, He will guide us and lead us to wise and holy thoughts, a mentality of Christ.

Spiritual Maturity: Commitment

“The Savior is not looking for men and women who will give their spare evenings to Him or their weekends or their years of retirement. Rather He seeks those who will give Him first place in their lives.” – William MacDonald

What is spiritual maturity? Spiritual maturity is learning to live like Jesus Christ and walk in obedience to God. It is not determined by the amount of time you’ve been a Christian or how religious you appear. It is, however, a vital part of a Christian’s life and is something that needs to be monitored. If you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind. It’s not possible to stay the same. We’re supposed to long for spiritual maturity:

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” – 1 Peter 2:2

To grow in spiritual maturity takes work and effort. People do not excel at something without putting effort into it, and the same is true of our relationship with God. There are five main components that people need to focus on in order to grow:

  1. Commitment
  2. Prayer
  3. Study
  4. Mentoring
  5. Serving

 

Today is Day 1 in a five part series to address the five components of spiritual growth and is going to focus on commitment and what that looks like. Commitment is defined as “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” Synonyms for committed included dedicated, devoted, loyal, or faithful. Being committed to growing means that you are actively dedicated to Christ. You cannot be lukewarm about God. It is all-in or all-out.

I didn’t understand how God felt about lukewarm Christians until I stumbled upon this bible verse: “So, because you are lukewarm –neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelations 3:16 (NIV). That’s pretty clear. We cannot go to church on Sunday and back to worldly ways on Monday and think God’s okay with it.

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Being committed to Christ means giving up some things that the world calls normal. It means taking care of the poor, the orphaned, the oppressed and the widowed. Sometimes, it will involve words but a lot of times we just need actions. I can talk all day long about the poor but if I don’t donate my time or my money, then what good am I doing?

Commitment means sacrificing time to focus on doing what God calls me to do instead of what I desire. It might look like getting up early to volunteer at a soup kitchen when you really wanted to sleep in on a Saturday. I personally love sleep but sleep doesn’t help my relationship with the Lord grow.

How can you gauge your commitment? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time do I spend with the Lord (prayer, reading the Bible, church, serving, etc?)
  • Do I spend more time on social media than on spiritual matters?
  • Has my time commitment to the Lord grown in the past 12 months, stayed the same or decreased?
  • Am I involved in a church or Christian community?
  • Am I serving anywhere?
  • Are you making sacrifices as a result of your beliefs?
  • Do I have a daily quiet time?

We all have areas we can improve on, so if this revealed some weaknesses to you, that’s okay. Identify one or two areas and come up with a plan to make those weaknesses strengths.

            We’d really love to hear from you guys so please comment below or contact us at ah.taylor413@gmail.com and let us know if you’d like more posts like this. ❤

Do Not Be Afraid

“Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord who is great and glorious.”

– Nehemiah 4:14

Fear is a common issue for people today that manifests in a variety of ways ranging from anxiety and panic attacks to Agoraphobia. We are afraid of the unknown and the known. According to statisticbrain.com, 74% of the US population has a fear of public speaking. Yes, I am one of them and yet, nothing terrible has ever happened when I have had to speak publicly. In fact, most of the time, it has been a good experience. What are you afraid of?   What is the worst that can actually happen if these things happen? It is unlikely that what you fear is going to pass or if it does that it is as terrible as you think it will be.

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I love this reminder. God doesn’t want us to live our lives in fear. He has bigger plans for us. We limit ourselves when we focus on the things that scare us. The devil loves fear. It paralyzes so many of us and keeps us from reaching our true potential. Fear limits. So how do you combat fear? What is the antidote for fear?

“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” – Mark 5:36

            Faith in the Lord is the answer.  God tells us how to live. He tells us to believe in Him and to trust Him. He is our answer. When we forget to focus on God and live by faith, the thing we fear the most, grows and overwhelms us. It sucks the joy out of us and keeps us stuck. Being afraid isn’t bad but allowing the fear to control you or become your focus is a problem.

Look at what is standing in your way of accomplishing what you need to do. Come up with ways to address the fear and face it head on. Remember, David defeated Goliath because he knew God was more powerful.  No one else believed David would win because all they saw was a young boy and a giant.  David saw an all-powerful God and a giant.  No matter what fear you’re battling now, God is bigger and can defeat it.

Comment below and let us know how we can pray for you. Hope everyone has a great week ❤

Submitting to authority…even when we don’t want to

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” ~ Romans 13:1 NIV

A close friend of mine recently contacted me venting about her frustrations of the company she is working for. She shared that almost every night after work, she comes home and cries. To make matters worse, her boss is immature and rude. As she was telling me this, I could understand her frustration. I wanted to tell her to confront her boss about the problems going on. However, at the same time, I have to take into account the culture difference—if that is acceptable or not—since she is from another country. In addition, I don’t know the whole situation and cannot take any sides. Instead, I shared with her the Romans 13 passage.

As humans, both uncontrollable and inconsistent, we need to be governed. Without authority, there is no organization and stability. We have authority in our lives for a reason. Unfortunately, it’s easy to hate authority and even refuse to obey. But if we question the purpose of authority, we question why God has it in the first place. The second verse of Romans 13 says, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (NIV).

So now that we are aware that God instituted authority, we are now required to submit to it. Although our parents are not perfect people, the Lord still commands us to “honor them” (Exodus 20:12). For our boss at work…well, I cannot tell my friend how she should treat her boss. But what I can remind her is that we are not here to work for people but for the Lord. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (NIV).

I remember a time when I was staying up late working almost all day grading papers for all of the students I was teaching. I reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so frustrated for my boss having me do all this work alone since I was the only native English teacher at the time. Then the Lord led me to this verse and all the frustration vanished. When I began to imagine me doing this work for God, I felt such joy. Doing what my boss told me to do was not me obeying my boss but obeying God. I would work for the Lord any day. And if I would work for the Lord any day, then I must submit to the authority He has placed in my life.

If God instituted authority, then we are to submit to authority. If we submit to authority, our authority notices our respect for them. If the authority notices that, the people around us will too. 1 Peter 2:13-25 is another example of submitting to authority. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (NIV).

Remember, we are doing this for the “Lord’s sake” because it is “God’s will.” If we “fear God” we must “live as servants.” Even if our boss is not a believer and is a horrible example in the workplace, you be the example to follow because of your fear of the Lord.

Are you a Grinch or a Griswold?

I have a confession to make – I tend to relate more to the Grinch than the Griswolds. I am thankful that Jesus was born but Christmas today doesn’t always remember to keep Jesus at the center. I don’t like Christmas parties or decorations and I do not like Christmas music or movies, with very few exceptions (Home Alone or the Grinch anyone?)

 

Despite being Grinch-like, I’m surrounded by Griswold type people. The ones who decorate their tree on Thanksgiving and have their cards out by December 1st. The ones who have Christmas accessories and wear them…and not as a joke.  I’m sure you know one too, and if you don’t then it’s probably you!

My Grinchy-self would say that 2016 has been the toughest year to date. It has been filled with medical emergencies, the death of my youngest brother, and dreams put on hold. It’s been a struggle, but it’s also been filled with so many blessings. Miracles, new friendships, an amazing church, spiritual growth, and lots of family bonding.

Most things are a mix of good and bad.  Life is more grey than black and white, so I challenged myself to look at Christmas in a different light. To put aside all the reasons I didn’t like the season and focus on the things that I do like about it. I love hearing about Jesus’ birth. I love people being a little kinder to each other. I love Christmas teas at my church. I love people being more generous and giving to the poor. I love the beautiful lights on houses and the food. I am all about some good food!

Christmas isn’t about the commercialism or the gifts or the sales or even the good. It’s not the family drama but about the hope that Jesus Christ brought to us when He was born to Mary. Christmas is a reminder of the gift God gave us and an example of how we should be every day of the year. We should be expressing His love and showing His generosity 365 days a year.

So whether you’re a Grinch or a Griswold, remember that the Christmas season is about Jesus and it’s supposed to last all year long. Let me know what your thoughts are and whether you’re more of a Grinch or a Griswold! ❤