5 Simple Ways to Pray for the Hurting

The Christmas season is both beautiful and so incredibly difficult for so many people. Many families might be welcoming a new child via birth or adoption or in-loves through marriages, while others are just trying to get through the holiday season as they grieve the loss of someone special through divorces, failed adoptions, or death.

As we rejoice with those who rejoice this Christmas, let us not forget to mourn with those who mourn. Here are 5 simple ways we can pray for our loved ones who are hurting over the next few days.

boy praying1) Pray for their feelings of anticipation. 

Wondering what Christmas Eve may or may not feel like when one less stocking is hung by the chimney with care, or what it may feel like to wake up Christmas day without a loved one seated at the table, is excruciatingly painful. What you may not realize is that your loved ones have probably been struggling with these feelings of anticipation on, or even before Thanksgiving ever hit.

2) Pray for peace.

When one is grieving it can often feel as though the world is moving around you, while you stand still. The holiday seasons (especially the first) without a loved one is SO difficult, with rapidly changing emotions from despair to panic to stress to anger and everything in between. To find peace in the middle of this emotional chaos is often so difficult.

3) Pray for ALL members of the family. 

Often times some family members will get overlooked during times of grief. A child who may not be able to verbalize their pain. A spouse who doesn’t want to talk about what happened. A parent who is still struggling with the shock of their loss. If you know of a family who is hurting, pray for each family member by name.

4) Pray against Satan attacking your loved one’s weaknesses.

When one is grieving, it is very easy during the Christmas season to look around at what everyone else has and end up in a spiral of emotions.

5) Pray for courage and strength to continue taking one day at a time.

Grief is unpredictable and there is no one way to go through it. Sometimes we must take one day, and sometimes – one hour at a time. Christmas day will likely be one of those one-hour-at-a-time kind of days. As you spend time with your family and friends on Christmas day, take time to pause and pray for others you know who are hurting!

And friends, let me tell you, prayer is AMAZING and your family and friends who are hurting, so desperately need this right now. But, please don’t stop there. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, send a message or pick up the phone and call someone going through a tough situation and let them know you are praying for them. Please don’t feel like you are reminding them of their loss. They are already thinking about it… every hour of every day. Reaching out will mean the world to them as you remember their family and hold them close in your thoughts and prayers!

12 Gifts of Experience

The other day I shared how our family ENJOYS the Christmas season by keeping our gifts simple, yet thoughtful. One of the ideas that resonated with a lot of people was our gift of experience. Many of you asked what our 12 Family Fun Nights would be for next year so I wanted to go into more detail about that today.

gift-490828_1280I will individually wrap 12 envelopes filled with a theme and gift cards/cash that correlate with each activity. Half of the nights will be focused on our family, while the other half will be focused on loving others. We will wrap this gift with calendars for each of the kids and on the first of each month, we will choose a date that works well with our schedules. When it is time for our family night to begin, we will randomly unwrap one of the envelopes and go off on our adventures.

Inside the envelopes will be…

1. $25 GC to purchase indoor snowball fight items. We want the kids to get creative, think outside the box, and most of all have fun with this. We recently made yarn snowballs and the kids have had so much fun with this.

2. $25 Restaurant GC to secretly pay for someone else’s meal.

3. $25 Bed, Bath and Beyond GC to purchase some kind of make-at-home kit. This might be ice cream, s’mores, a gingerbread house, whatever we see that night that sparks an interest.

4. $50 GC to buy food and supplies to bring to a local food pantry.

5. $25 GC to purchase items for Crazy Dinner. Each person chooses what they want to eat for dinner that night and we have a potluck dinner. Most often we end up with something like fruit salad (daughter), cheese balls (son), something frozen (hubby), and dessert (me).

6. $20 in ones and a role of tape to take to a dollar store and secretly tape $1 bills on random items.

7. $25 Movie Theater GC to see a family movie together as a family. This is not something we do regularly, so my hope is this will be a special treat for the kids.

8. $50 GC to put together a couple care packages for deployed military members.

9. 4 small gift cards ($5 each) + names of each member in the family. Each person will draw a name and then purchase a small gift for that person.

10. $25 GC to purchase ingredients to bake cookies and bring our treats to our neighbors.

11. $25 Lime Mexican Grill GC to check out a new restaurant with the family. We actually purchased a $25 GC and received a $5 bonus GC for free!

12. $50 GC to purchase baby items to bring to a local Pregnancy Center.

dollars-426026_1280Our total cost for this gift: $365 – a dollar a day (I really wish I could say that I did that on purpose), or $91.25 per person for a year of monthly adventures.

Three reasons I am super excited about this gift:

1. We are being intentional about spending time together and building memories as a family.

2. The ideas are already thought out, so my husband and I aren’t looking at each other at 6pm going back and forth, wondering what we should do.

3. The family nights are already paid for.

 Three tips for planning a gift of experience like this for your family:

1. Trade in credit card points to receive gift cards for free. (We did this for a few of our gift cards, so our out of pocket expenses were even lower!)

2. Each month in 2015 pick up a gift card and jot down a couple ideas of how your family can do a family night. By doing this, you spread out the expense of this gift over a year and can incorporate this cost into your budget.

3. If you have children, get them involved. Find out what they’d like to go do and make sure there is a family night idea that is something they will be really excited about.

My hope is to blog through our family adventures next year to share with you all the fun, and the unexpected. So, if you aren’t already connected with me on Facebook, I’d love for you to join me! I am truly excited to see how this gift plays out next year and can’t wait to get started.

Let’s get creative. What other family night ideas do you have?

How to ENJOY the Christmas Season

Somehow Thanksgiving has already come and gone, and the mad dash for Christmas gifts has already begun. In the chaos that tends to come of the next 24 days, I wanted to share an excerpt from my newest book (coming soon), What the Bible Says: Oils and Spices Revealed to give you something to consider this Christmas season.

the-three-magi-160632_1280When the Magi came to worship Jesus Christ, they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The gift of gold was a gift of providence for the family of Jesus, but could also have been significant of the Magi paying tribute to Jesus Christ as their King.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. Matthew 2:2

The gift of frankincense was a gift of experience. Known in the Bible to be a symbol of the divinity of God (Song of Solomon 1:3, Malachi 1:11), when Frankincense is burned the aroma is both fragrant and pleasing. Having the wisdom and discernment to understand the foretold prophesies, this gift could have symbolized the Magi’s recognition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

The gift of myrrh would have been a highly unusual gift to give to a child, as it was primarily used in the Bible for embalming the dead. However, this gift could have symbolized the Magi’s recognition that Jesus would fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah and ultimately die to provide salvation to those who would call upon His name.

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.‪ He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.‪ Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.‪ But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5

Our Three Gifts

bow-22254_1280Quite a few years ago my husband and I started a Christmas tradition in our family. Instead of unleashing a torrent of toys on our children, we choose three gifts to give to our kids (in addition to their stockings) on Christmas morning. Following the example set forth by the Magi, we give our children a gift of value (gold), a gift of experience (frankincense) and a gift of practicality (myrrh). As parents, we desire to not only set a tone of gratitude in our children, but to continually point our kids back to God, who gave us the most incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The gift of value might be a toy or item the kids really want or have been asking for. The monetary value doesn’t need to be high, but we look more at the item’s value through the eyes of our child. Last year, this meant Lego® sets for our son whose eyes would go wide any time he saw those tiny middle-of-the-night torture devices. For our daughter, this valuable gift was a children’s educational tablet where she could play games, draw, read, and create her own videos.

The gift of experience is something we can do together as a family. Sometimes this is a gift we use all year long; other times this is a one-time event. Over the last few years, we have chosen experiences such as a family trip, local Zoo or Science Center annual passes, or creating a gift that encompasses all the ideas our kids come up with of, “Mom, can we go…”

This year, we are wrapping up gift cards to create twelve family nights, one to be used each month of 2015. We have gift cards to be silly and goofy, as well as gift cards to look out for the needs of others. For instance, we have a gift card to buy items that can be used to create an indoor “snowball” fight; another gift card to purchase food items and supplies for a local food pantry. Our purpose with the gift of experience is to create life-long memories with our children by spending quality time together and sharing God’s love.

The gift of practicality may seem boring to most, and perhaps may need to become more exciting as our children get older. But for now, we have chosen to give something our children are in need of. This may be a winter jacket, pajamas or a bathrobe, a new outfit, or new comforter/sheet set for their beds.

Celebrating Christmas this way enables our family to ENJOY the Christmas season instead of dreading the weeks of self-induced stress. Our gifts are simple, but well thought out and meaningful! Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This is a day of celebration and joy that we don’t want to rush through or miss because we are consumed by sales, crowds, and the commercialism of Christmas. Instead, we have more time to build gingerbread houses, and decorate cookies, and watch over-the-top sappy Hallmark movies, and spend time together every night Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The pressure is off and our days leading to Christmas are relaxed which allows us to enjoy and soak up the season for what it truly means, instead of what it has become.

I’d love to hear from you, what Christmas traditions does your family have?

Should Christians Use Essential Oils?

I used to be in the camp where I thought essential oils were hippy-dippy-baloney. (Thank you very much Lego Movie for the sweet new phrase).

spice-235219_1920I only knew a few people who used oils and each had a more wholistic and natural approach to health care than I did. Honestly, I thought it was weird that people would rub an oil on their bodies, use herbs to treat illness, or eat dirt as probiotics instead of popping a tylenol or turning to modern medicine. With my medical history, I’d a built up a lifetime of trusting in modern medicine for every ache, pain, and on more than one occasion, my very life.

To further the weirdness I felt for essential oils, my brain automatically translated the word “aromatherapy” to “New Age” and “crystals”.  My ignorance made me uncomfortable because I believed the loudest noise: the ones that talked about finding your “chi”,  or your “energy”, or your “life force”, none of which I knew were lost or why I should be looking for them in the first place! So, I disregarded the voices of well-intentioned people who were trying to offer help in ways I was seeking, but who didn’t provide the answers I thought I was looking for.

Then about 18 months ago, everything changed.

In short, a Jesus-loving friend who did not fit my stereotypical essential oil user shared an oil blend with me to help calm down my son during a serious meltdown in the middle of Disney World. And, it worked AMAZINGLY! In that moment I decided to pull back the curtain of essential oils and take a deeper look. What I found rocked my world as I began to uncover hundreds of references to plants and oils used in the B.I.B.L.E. While I’d read the Bible cover to cover a few times, somehow I’d totally missed this!

As a previous essential oil critic, let me give you 3 reasons why a Christian CAN in a good, clear conscious use essential oils.

1. The problem is NOT with using essential oils, but in having an unclear understanding of where oils came from.

Modern-day essential oils (and even the infused oils used in the Bible) all come from the vegetation God created.

Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation , plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:11-13

In His infinite wisdom, God created plants and trees to be our source of food and to sustain our life.

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:29-31

cherry-167341_1920 lemons-374534_1920

 

 

 

 

 

One could even argue that a plant-based diet might be everything our bodies need for optimum health and wellness; for a plant-based diet is exactly what God gave Adam and Even. It wasn’t until 10 generations later (roughly 1100 years) in the time of Noah (after the flood), that God gives animals to become another source of food for us.

Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Genesis 9:3

2. The problem is NOT with using oils, but in how the use of oils has been distorted.

Since the beginning of time, most of what God has created has found a way to become distorted. Look at sex, marriage, food, relationships; even angels found a way to become corrupt. The problem is not with the essential oils themselves, but the way humans have once again distorted something God called “good”. 

Because many people in the New Age movement encourage people to use essential oils in an ungodly way, it is easy to perceive essential oils as “bad”. And yet, essential oils are the very immune system of plants, protecting the plant from disease and bringing healing when needed. I find no mistake that the very creativity and wisdom of God allows for plants and humans to have a similar structure, creating a unique relationship where plants have the ability to help our human bodies heal themselves. 

3. The problem is NOT with using oils, but in how the oils have become branded.

Most of my first experiences with essential oils were hearing of them being used for “spiritual awakenings” and in ways that are meant for God alone to spiritually uncover. I would hear of people using oils to “guard against negative energy”, to “enhance spirituality”, or to try and bring about visions and dreams. Therefore, this stamped a “brand” of essential oils being “scary” and “bad”, as they were being used more as a form of spiritual manipulation.

However, like many things in life I don’t believe this was God’s original intention!

If we want to re-brand what has become corrupted in the eyes of many, we must educate ourselves with a clear, biblical understanding of where oils came from, how they were used in biblical times, and how we can appropriately use them today. We must also be gentle in the way we respond to the concerns of others and careful in how we market these products. Essential Oils are not meant to replace God, nor are they the answer to every medical problem we face, or miracle “drugs”.

While essential oils can aid our bodies, God created our BODIES to be MIRACULOUS!

Imagine what would happen if our skin never healed itself. We’d walk around with open cuts and wounds oozing blood everywhere we went. (That’s a pretty gross picture, isn’t it?) Now think about how our bodies constantly create blood, can produce different tears based on why we are crying, fight bacteria and viruses, and constantly pump blood through our veins. This happens every second of every day.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts sometimes we still get sick! And, in those times I am so incredibly grateful that we have a God-given natural way to help our bodies heal through essential oils. And, as I keep my eyes on the Maker and Creator of not just these plants, but more importantly my very soul, I find confidence and peace in HIS wisdom and design to give us this incredible resource.

Can You Use Essential Oils Instead of Drugs?

Essential oils are safe, affordable, and an effective alternative to synthetic drugs. While I’m about to explain the difference between essential oils and pharmaceutical drugs, the great thing is essential oils can be used as a complimentary therapy with your medication or can be used a safe and natural alternative therapy. (If you are on any prescribed medication, please be sure to consult your doctor before making ANY changes.)

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are the natural aromatic compounds extracted from plants. The oil comes from the roots, seeds, stems, flowers, resin, bark and other parts of the plant. The essential oil acts as the immune system of the plant protecting it from disease, invaders, and helping the plant to heal itself when needed. Since human chemistry is so similar to the chemistry of plants, essential oils can help our bodies heal and protect itself too!

In this picture, you will see a microscopic image of a peppermint leaf.

Peppermint sacs

The two white sacs are the essential oil sacs which are 50-70 times more powerful than herbs. These oils are very potent and contain powerful healing properties, so a little goes a long way.

How many of you have heard the suggestion of drinking peppermint tea for an upset stomach? Well, just 1 drop of peppermint essential oil in comparison is equal to 28 cups of peppermint tea.

In fact, just one drop of essential contains approximately 40 million-trillion molecules and we have 100 trillion cells in our bodies. Therefore, one small drop of essential oil contains enough molecules to cover every cell in our bodies with 40,000 molecules. You can see why even a small amount of oil can have profound effects on the body, brain, and emotions.

Why do we try Essential Oils first?

Our family is NOT against modern medicine. We still go to the doctors when needed and still seek their advice. If I fall and break a bone, I do not want my husband rubbing an oil on me, I want him to take me to the doctors. However, for most health concerns instead of starting with pharmaceutical drugs, we will try Essential Oils first. Here’s why:

Essential Oils contain hundreds of natural compounds each associated with a difference use. Until recently, I had no idea the pharmaceutical industry actually studies plants and all their compounds. Their hope is to try and isolate specific compounds to create what we know as over the counter or prescription drugs. The problem with isolating these compounds is that we get side effects when they are taken out of their natural, holistic framework.

Ever since coming to this understanding, I find pharmaceutical drug commercials incredibly entertaining. I never noticed how about 1/4 of the commercial describes how the drug can actually help you, while the other 3/4 of the commercial describes all the crazy side-effects. You’ve probably heard them too – all the nausea, vomiting, liver and kidney damage, and little things like death.  I’ve even heard of depression medications causing thoughts of suicide. Does this bother anyone else??

Melaleuca_15mlI have also been so frustrated at times trying to find the balance with OTC’s and modern-day medicines. I attempt to treat one issue, only to have another issue came up as a side effect from the drugs themselves. I would then have to treat the new side effect, which often turned into another side effect until my body finally gained a balance.

Another reason we try Essential Oils as an alternative to synthetic drugs is that they are much less expensive, just pennies per drop as opposed to expensive doctor visits, co-pays and prescriptions. For instance, a few weeks ago one of our kids had an ear infection. I was able to use 2 drops of Melaleuca Essential Oil on a cotton ball which cost us $0.16 and the next day our son was fine, never needing the up to 14 days of antibiotics. I LOVE having the option of trying a natural approach to healthcare first. If it doesn’t work, we always have the option of proceeding with modern medicine.

If you’d like to learn more, I am teaching a FREE Facebook Class starting today (Oct 13-18, 2014). Please follow this LINK, click JOIN and learn with us as I share more info of why we we use essential oils, how they work, and how our family uses them everyday for most of our health concerns!