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Fulfilling Traditions by Rachael Ritchey

When I was a kid, we moved far from my big extended family with whom we celebrated Christmas every year. From then on, it was always just the four of us. That wasn’t so bad, and we had traditions we continued, like decorating the tree after Thanksgiving, eating turkey, marking the advent calendar, and devouring the yummiest green Jell-O in the world. Growing up, I loved participating in these things, but the holidays look different for each of us.

Some of us don’t like the idea of doing something just because it’s always been done, but traditions don’t need to be rote or boring. Traditions are beliefs, customs, and actions passed down from generation to generation.

As believers, we have a unique and special opportunity to not only teach the next generation the reason for our joy, but we get to remind ourselves and each other what we’ve been given.

Jonathan Edwards once said, “The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.” Traditions we have with our families during the holidays can be the spark that brings us alive and reminds us of what really satisfies the soul. Even if we don’t all make the same cookies or eat a turkey, we can all look to traditions that ground us in the truth of God’s Word.

With the commercialization of the holidays, I’ve sometimes struggled at finding joy in this season, and sharing the traditions that I love has often felt more like tasks to get done.

It can be hard to remember why we celebrate in the midst of grocery shopping, gift buying, and driving down the road with blow-up Santas lining the way. But the best tradition is the truth of God incarnate, our Emmanuel, come to save us all.

Making him the center of the season is the key to finding joy in the midst of chilly days, too many yummy snacks shared at the office, that humbug person down the way, or the long lines of tired shoppers at the store.

Of course, maybe you’re thinking, “I already know this,” but is it what carries you through the holiday? I know I haven’t always made the effort to keep Jesus at the forefront of my mind in the hubbub of the season.

Being purposeful, making the time, and inviting others to share the season with us are what help us to focus on Christ at Christmas. It’s not enough to say Jesus is the light of the world. We need to shine it, so that’s what the Christmas season is all about!

Taking a little (or a lot of) time every day to consider who Jesus is in light of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and the promise of his coming again will only help center thoughts on the purpose for the holiday. While we celebrate God becoming man—humbling himself to experience our humanity from the beginning as a baby—we truly rejoice at Christmas for all that he has done and what he will do.

And I think that’s why I continue to love advent calendars. Marking the calendar leading up to Christmas can be a gentle, daily reminder of why (and who) we’re celebrating. For twenty-four days, opening an advent calendar, or reading a verse, or giving a small gift is a slow anticipation of the arrival of our salvation, a daily reminder that Jesus is more than a baby in a manger. He is our light and our salvation. That’s the very best our tradition offers, and it is worth celebrating.

When gifts are piled high, the smell of cider fills the air, and the bedecked tree twinkles, we can find joy in these simple things knowing the best gift has already been given, and it’s not exclusive to one person, it’s for everybody. No matter where I am or who I’m with, whether a huge extended family or my dog, tradition can be a spark for joy. What traditions do you have that help you rejoice at this time of year?

Besides an advent calendar, my family will enjoy some of our simple traditions, including my favorite green Jell-O. If you’re curious about trying something new, here’s the recipe:

Green Jell-O
6 oz. Lime Jell-O (or gelatin) package
2 cups boiling/hot water
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 can crushed (or tidbit) pineapple (drained)
1 container Cool Whip
Directions: Dissolve Jell-O in hot water. Add softened cream cheese and allow to melt, stirring as needed. Add Miracle Whip and mix with an electric hand-mixer. Add pineapple and stir. Fold in Cool Whip. Refrigerate a minimum of three hours.

About Rachael Ritchey

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*Written by Indie Author, Rachael Ritchey. To read more of her works, including her published pieces, follow her at:

Website: rachaelritchey.com 

Twitter: Rachael Ritchey

Facebook: WritingRaci

The Almighty Quarter: 3 Ways to Make Creative Time in a Busy Day

Quarters are amazing! You can do so many activities with quarters. You can do laundry, you can play a game at an arcade with enough quarters (are those even a thing in today’s world?). You can purchase a cheap, hot cup of liquid motivation on your way to work with quarters.

Once upon a time, you could make a phone call in a phone booth with a quarter. Packs of chewing gum used to be a quarter!

I mean I could go on and on about how great quarters are!

My favorite quarters, however, are those within a day, made up of minutes and seconds. In a single day, you have twenty-four hours, forty-eight half hours and ninety-six  QUARTERS! Nintey-six! Now, you are probably thinking, “What is the big deal?”

“Time does not play fair. It plays mind tricks. More often than not, it will rob you, trick you and leave you frustrated…if you let it.”

Here it is, as creative beings, who have full-time commitments away from our crafts, finding the time to cultivate our craft seems like an impossible feat. It never fails that the excuse of “I don’t have enough time.” is used.

I am guilty of that.

Time is a formidable foe indeed. Time does not play fair. It plays mind tricks. More often than not, it will rob you, trick you and leave you frustrated…if you let it.

Here are a few ways to make time for your craft during a busy work week when it seems that extra time is simply and understandably out of reach:

1. Don’t allow time to oppress you: If you, like me, have ever bought into the lie that you don’t have enough time to write, to draw, to compose, to do whatever it is that you feel a creative hunger for just remember you have ninety-six quarters at your disposal.

Yes, some of them are already accounted for, but when you consider taking four of those ninety-six quarters a day and dedicating them to your craft, you would be amazed at what you can achieve.

Even if you can only spare two or even one at the most, still your creative muscles will be strengthened.

You know what it is like to be hangry. The same rules apply when we are starved of creative release.

2. Use breaks between committed tasks as creative intermissions: A great way to be fresh during the workday as you go from task to task (besides taking a nap which is also a good thing) is to do some mental cleansing.

Doodling or jotting down ideas in a journal or sketchbook for a few minutes can help defrag your thoughts and get you ready for the next phase of your day.

Think of it as palate-cleansing between courses.

3. Break your quarters into dimes or even nickels: Maybe you are really pressed for time, but if you allow yourself five or ten minutes to do a quick sketch or jot down your idea, you will be branding the overall concept to your memory in a way that it will be easier to revisit later.

Five minutes here, ten minutes there and the synopsis for a short story or full-length novel, or the preliminary sketch for your next drawing or painting is done.

You may be thinking that a quarter just isn’t enough, but something is always better than nothing.

Consider how a kid under the age of ten goes bananas for a dollar. College students living off of Roman Noodles feel like they’ve hit the jackpot if they find a single quarter laying around. We need to have the same attitude as they do about our quarters of time.

Take the quarters you have, count them up, and dedicate a few of them to your craft. Even if it is just one quarter, set it aside to do what your soul is pushing you to do, and don’t spend that quarter on anything else. You will be amazed and enriched by the beauty you can achieve.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*This is a revision of an article written January 12, 2014

Thanksgiving in Every Step

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord And He delights in his way.” ~PSALM 37:23

The beauty of living our lives to the glory of Christ is that we can rest in the full assurance that no matter where our foot may fall, whether circumstances seem good, bad, or neutral, that our steps are ordered by God our Father.

Now don’t misunderstand. This doesn’t mean that we, in our ‘good intentions’ can’t get ourselves off track and go places God never ordained or intended, because the truth is that we all have.

What it means is that, if we find that we have made a bad step, the Lord is not only able but faithful to work that step to our good (ROMANS 8:28). He is able to turn what our own misguided direction wrought into something good.

Let us give thanks for that!

Let us give thanks that because we are now His righteousness through faith (II COR. 5:21, we are assured of always gaining victory. Let us give thanks that our repentance, turning away from one bad footfall or mindset or habit, is something that we are blessed to do daily and freely.

Let us give thanks that He is God enough to have already known that we would, at times, make mistakes and still have room to make those mistakes into miracles.

Your Heavenly Father delights in your way as you walk in faith in Him. Give thanks that by His grace you are going to get where He has called you and ordained you to be, just keep taking your steps. He delights in them!

~Poiema, Poetry in Motion

*Revised from November 18, 2018

 

The Triumph in the Trial by Briana Lassiter

When trials come at us it feels very overwhelming in the midst of it, and the unpredictability of whether or not we will make it through can try to weigh on us and make it feel impossible to ever come through at all, much less successfully.

However before we ever even entered the trial, we have the predicted outcome already set, as it says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the aroma of his knowledge by us in every place.”

We can trust Him no matter what we are dealing with today, that in every situation He has an outcome of triumph for us.

We can trust Him that whatever impossible situations we may face, nothing is impossible for Him, and He works all things together for our good because He loves us and has called us according to His purposes.

Trust Him today to get you to your triumph, and allow the truth of what He Himself said to wash over you and your situation as you wait for Him to move on your behalf.

By Briana Lassiter

Bri Small headshotI’m married to my dearest friend of 8 years and mom to an energetic 6-year-old. My greatest joys come from traveling with my little family, cooking for appreciative recipients, learning herbalism and natural medicine, and every experience I get to have in prayer ministry. I’m an avid tea and book lover and can’t get enough of either. I love Jesus and the daily adventure that comes from walking in friendship with him as he arranges and rearranges my story.

Picture This!: Capturing 2020 with 20/20

Twenty-nineteen is almost at its end. And if we are honest, we can say that this year has gone by with a flash! Like with years past, we prepare to tackle the holiday season with knives and forks as if this will be our last indulgence before the clock strikes midnight for the last time on this side of the calendar year. For then, then we must set our goals, put on our workout gear and run ourselves to the gym with the single purpose of being beach-ready several warm months from now.

For those of us who are focused on pursuing our creative callings, our goals tend to involve a different kind of exercise with a completely different destination in mind.

“Success is not one size fits all and therefore requires a unique pattern.”

For me, the goals that I have in the crosshairs are goals that I have been striving toward for several years now. But as I set out to take hold of them this year I am doing so while letting ‘peace be my umpire‘. Thank you, Victoria Osteen for that!

Let me digress for just a moment to explain what that means for me. Allowing peace to be my umpire means I am no longer going to allow projects and methodologies of action to rob me of peace. If I feel unsettled or shackled by them I am either:

  • Taking on something that is outside of its season for me
  • Need to let certain things go or put them down for a time
  • using a methodology of execution that is not natural for me

This has nothing to do with ‘comfort,’ for the truth is, any real growth requires a certain level of discomfort. But what I learned in my ‘doing’ this past year and the years prior, is that I subconsciously began to do things how other successful people had done them thinking that their way was the only way to gain the desired level of success I was aiming for.

“Let peace be your umpire.”~Victoria Osteen

That idea for me is no more! Success is not one size fits all and therefore requires a unique pattern.

hello-revival-jt-dSOpBUMw-unsplash.jpgBut in conjunction with this truth, the reality that this new year is different from others is also a big gamechanger. We are not just on the brink of a new calendar year but we are stepping into an entirely new decade.

Which requires a whole new game plan for vision casting.

WHAT ARE YOU ENVISIONING FOR 2020 AND THE NEW DECADE?

Planning for what we would like the next year to look like is an adventure already, but have you considered setting markers and milestones for the next decade?

Here are some questions to prayerfully consider as you make your plans for the new year as well as the next ten years:

  • Whose report are you going to believe? (ISA. 53:1) Often times we find that we have lost our battles for the future and even the present just because we have chosen to believe the lies of the enemy over the truth of our Heavenly Father and Savior. No matter the odds that may seem stacked against you, in Christ, you are still an overcomer. You just have to determine to believe that as you take your steps in faith for your future. (See Choose Your Own Adventure for more encouragement.)
  • What are you seeking from the Lord?: Knowing or having an idea of what we want for our future is the second step in planning for our future. We have to first believe that we have the right to plan but also know what it is that we want to plan for. (PSALM 21:2)
  • If there were no limits what would you do?: Our Heavenly Father is the God of the impossible, and He is on our side. Have you ever considered that He has purposed for you to be the conduit for His glorious power to be at work for others to see? Don’t let limits keep you from giving voice to the impossible dreams that are within you! (EPHESIANS 3:20-21)
  • Write the Vision: Take the time to seriously image what it is that you would like to see happen in your life and through your life next year and the decade ahead. Put your childlike faith to action and WRITE IT DOWN. Vision boards or journals are such powerful faith tools. In Habakkuk 2:2-4 we are instructed to, “write the vision.” After you have prayed and imagined, write down what it is that you have in your heart and allow the Lord to lead you to it and through it with faith and expectation!

So that is it in a nutshell. Let’s all get to road-mapping our adventures with 20/20 for 2020 and beyond!. I hope you will journey along with me, continue to lend your advice and share your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:12, NIV) “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Stay creative and keep your peace along the way!

SCRIPTURES FOR MEDITATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT

ISAIAH 58:11

ISAIAH 43:18-19

EXODUS 34:10

ZECHARIAH 9:12

PSALM 20:4, 5

PSALM 21:2

PROVERBS 10:22, 24

PROVERBS 16:3

*Revised from January 16, 2017

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Healthy Holiday Hot Chocolate by Briana Lassiter

During the holiday months, sweets are eaten and drunk more often than any other time of the year, and the extra sugar can really do a number on an already struggling immune system.

This cocoa recipe is our current favorite because not only does it satisfy that craving for a steaming cup of something sweet, it also boosts the immune system with ginger cinnamon and cloves which are all-powerful antivirals, additionally it’ll boost energy levels with the reishi and the super vitamin moringa and help you stay feeling great all season long!

Hot cocoa

• heated almond milk
• 1 tbsp organic cocoa
• 2 tsp of honey
• 1 scoop collagen powder
• 1/8 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp reishi mushroom powder
• 1/8 tsp ginger
• dash of cloves
• 1/8 tsp moringa

Blend all and enjoy!

By Briana Lassiter

Bri Small headshotI’m married to my dearest friend of 8 years and mom to an energetic 6-year-old. My greatest joys come from traveling with my little family, cooking for appreciative recipients, learning herbalism and natural medicine, and every experience I get to have in prayer ministry. I’m an avid tea and book lover and can’t get enough of either. I love Jesus and the daily adventure that comes from walking in friendship with him as he arranges and rearranges my story.

Thanks in Everything: The Art of Thanks Giving by Briana Lassiter

Lately, the Lord has really been dealing with me on thanksgiving. Really it’s been about a straight year of Him actively teaching me about this topic and I kind of thought I had the hang of it until a couple weeks ago when He asked me to start thanking Him for the things that are not in my life.

As a child of God there are things that God daily keeps from entering your life and harming you. In Psalms 91 He says that He gives His angels charge over you lest you strike your feet on a stone. He also says again in Psalms 121 that He is your keeper, He keeps your life and He keeps you from all evil.

Sometimes it’s really easy to focus our prayers on the facts that we aren’t where we want to be yet or we still have healing to receive in certain areas that are causing us pain, and we forget to thank Him for the things that He has kept or removed from us. Whether it be harmful relationships, additional sickness, and pain, or just forgetting the things we’ve already been delivered and healed from that are no longer an issue in our lives.

I feel like a lot of God’s people have just moved out of a season of intense purging where the Lord removed and delivered us from so much junk. As we move forward let’s not get so caught up in the facts that we have more healing and deliverance to receive that it keeps us from the truth that He has already done SO much for us. Let’s take time to stop and from the heart thank Him for the miraculous power that He has already moved in on our behalf.

Let’s thank Him for the things we don’t have anymore and the burdens and issues that once seemed immovable that He has rendered null and void in His great love for us. In this season that focuses on giving thanks for everything we have, let’s also take a minute to thank Him for the things we don’t have that He’s removed from our lives because He cares for us.

Let’s take our thanksgiving to a deeper level and thank Him for everything He has done, everything He has not done, and everything He has yet to do. Let’s acknowledge today and thank Him for the loving Father that He is, that He is never passive towards us and for all the times He intentionally acts and does not act on our behalf.

Let’s not halfheartedly come before Him, but instead, take a true inventory of our lives and allow the exercise of thanks to draw us deeper in faith as we let God reveal Himself as the intentional Father that He is to us every day.

By Briana Lassiter

Bri Small headshotI’m married to my dearest friend of 8 years and mom to an energetic 6-year-old. My greatest joys come from traveling with my little family, cooking for appreciative recipients, learning herbalism and natural medicine, and every experience I get to have in prayer ministry. I’m an avid tea and book lover and can’t get enough of either. I love Jesus and the daily adventure that comes from walking in friendship with him as he arranges and rearranges my story.

Cultivating Steadfast Trust

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” ~ISAIAH 26:3

Steadfast. The word itself may evoke the feeling of self-effort, that you have to exert some strenuous force in order to accomplish some task or goal. And unfortunately, man has made the things of God, things meant to be freeing, into things that bind with the yoke of self-effort and righteousness.

But the peace that I gain in this word, having steadfast trust, is birthed out of the truth that steadfast trust comes from a mind that is focused on the Lord.

When we love someone, it is no great effort to gaze upon them, to sit in their presence. It is no great thing or effort to bask in their love and devotion and give that in return.

The Lord Jesus invites us to abide in and with Him (JOHN 15). He tells us that He stands at the door of our hearts and wishes to dine with us (REVELATION 3:20).

Just by reading these passages, we can’t help but see that the effort is all in His doing and our consent. We consent to His invitation to abide with Him. We consent to His invitation to dine.

CULTIVATING STEADFASTNESS

Our part of being steadfast is all in our showing up. We show up, not just on Sunday the first day of the week, or Saturday, the Sabbath, but every day. And we don’t just show up daily, but we show up often during our day, inviting Him in and bringing His presence into everything that we set our hearts to do. We consider Him.

We consider:

  • His Name: His Name is Holy. His Name is Wonderful. His Name literally is Salvation. His Name is Daddy God, and unlike earthly Fathers, He does not fail (ISAIAH 9:6)
  • His Character: He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. His character is that of victory and perfect sacrificial love and faithfulness. (HEBREWS 13:8)
  • His Promises: His Word doesn’t return void and that which He promises to do He will do because His promises are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus (II COR. 1:20).

When we know these truths of Who He is and see them proven in our own faith-walks, trust is developed and continues to flourish within us. Because of trust, no matter the circumstances, our minds remember and remain focused on His eternal goodness.

And even in those times that we need Him to remind us when doubt rears its ugly head, His grace overcomes on our behalf and He proves Himself anew. Our hearts and minds are set upon Him and peace springs forth, little by little. We are blessed to know and understand that He loves us greatly and that He is on our side.

Steadfast. Our part is to gaze upon Him and be blown away by His goodness time and time again. And in that our trust is cultivated.

~Poiema, Poetry in Motion

Jesus in the Leaves: Seeing Christ in the Season of Transition by Regina Hernandez

Autumn and Spring are my two favorite seasons.
I love them for so many reasons but mostly because they both represent transformation.

My one complaint about Autumn is: it feels like the shortest of all the seasons, especially in the south where it seems to last only a week or two at best.

One of my favorite facts about autumn is: the green in leaves of trees comes from the chlorophyll; so when a tree begins the process of dying for winter and produces less and less chlorophyll, the yellow and orange we see are the true colors of the tree’s leaves.  In the process of a tree dying, of losing life, we see it’s true colors.

Those colors have always been there, they have just been hidden by the overabundance of life-giving chlorophyll. Even better yet, those true colors are a little different from year to year depending on how much the sun, heat, weather, and other factors have played a role in that tree’s life for the past three seasons.

When I enter a season of transformation that includes dying… dying to flesh …dying to self …it gives me an opportunity to see the true colors of who I am.  It reminds me of why I need His life-giving presence in my life. It reminds me that while I am beautiful by myself, He sustains me.

Without his life-giving abundance, I may have beautiful colors, but I do not have God’s chlorophyll running through my veins.  I need Him to live. I abide in him, and he in me…and about the time I that see I still need Him, the next best fact about autumn and color-changing leaves comes into play.

Red. Leaves are naturally yellow and orange. Green is present because of life… food… nutrients… but what about red?

Red is created by anthocyanins.  When the tree realizes it is exposed, it begins to produce anthocyanins that come in to protect the leaves.  They soak up over-radiant light to prevent damage to the exposed leaves and protect the little bit of chlorophyll that is present.

Isn’t this what Jesus does?  He comes in when we are exposed and covers us with his blood to protect us and reduce the damage from outside elements as we transform.  He knows what it’s like to die, exposed for everyone to see. So, as we die into Winter, he sits with us… covers us… protects us…

Every autumn I see the changing colors in the leaves, and I feel this sense of peace.  I reflect on the times when God has pulled back and Jesus’s covering has transformed the real parts of me that are exposed.

Autumn marks a time of full maturity and what better way to grasp the maturity of our hearts than to see Jesus in the leaves.

 

FB_IMG_1541335866152Regina Hernandez: I am a woman on an adventurous journey of fully stepping into the identity Christ has spoken over me. I am wife to a most amazing man, and we have two children: a joyous two-year-old little boy and a sweet six-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum. Together, we are destined for greatness, and once our testimony is fulfilled, the power of Christ will be undeniable to anyone who hears it. The Holy Spirit has blessed me with the most amazing gifts of creativity, communication, and prophecy. My desire in life is to combine these gifts in hopes of encouraging others to embrace their God-given identity, find true free

Rules versus Mighty Revelation

*Revised from June 16, 2014

I have since I can remember, held firm to the belief that in any form of art, one must know the rules before they can properly break them, (thank you, Pablo Picasso). Being a person that is still learning to go through the process of things, I find that I often remind myself of this truth; learn the rules and then break them. Break them through revelation.

In art, in writing, there are set rules for the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s.’ Why does this color go with this one? Why must I tone my canvas before starting to paint? Why do I need to be concerned with the first-person narrative versus the third person?

You get the drift.

Creating, and being good at it, involves knowledge but it also includes a great level of instinct. Both go hand in hand. Rules will only take you so far but instinct powered by Revelation can take you to heights you never dreamed of.

So what is the difference between the two; Rules and Revelation?

RULE:

  1.  principle governing conduct: an authoritative principle set forth to guide behavior or action the rules of the game
  2.  usual condition: a prevailing condition or quality *

REVELATION:      

  1.   information revealed: information that is newly disclosed, especially surprising or valuable information
  2.  surprising thing: a surprisingly good or valuable experience
  3.  disclosure: the revealing of something previously hidden or secret

In short, Rules are there to set safe boundaries, make sure you are building on a firm foundation.  Revelation comes to show us how to safely go beyond those boundaries into depths we have not known. (Come on, be honest, how many of us really follow the rules when we play Monopoly? My point exactly! Each family has its own fantastic revelation on how to play the game despite the written rules.)

For the last several years, I, as a rule, have set June aside as a month to push myself beyond my limits and write like a mad person to reach a goal…have a novel within 30 days from start to finish. RULE.

But ever since I went to Europe I have purposed and thrived in flowing with the Revelation that I can create and I can do it well through faith in Christ Jesus. That even though striving to honor the rule is ‘honorable’ for lack of a better word, following instinct and thus taking hold of greater Revelation, is far more valuable. More beauty comes from my craft through the vehicle of Revelation.

The beauty of both is that the certain rules giver birth to revelations about the abilities inside of me.

I like to think of Rules as Gravity while Revelation is Aerodynamics: gravity says what goes up must come down or stay grounded and tethered. Aerodynamics says take flight and only land when you are out of gas!

One law is greater than the other even though both are relevant. It is up to each of us to use them wisely.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*Definitions found via Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.