New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making and Keeping

Picture of a calendar

When you review 2019, the highs and the lows, the goals you began with and those unexpected yet precious moments experienced along the way, does it change how you view 2020? Does it change what you’ll prioritize and what you’ll release?

It does for me.

I’ve discovered how fleeting grand achievements can be. Last decade, years before I received my first publishing contract, I often dreamed of the “call.” For a time, this longing became my obsession, causing my emotions to rise and fall on every step forward or rejection. And now, nine titles and countless articles later, though I’m grateful for every opportunity God allowed, those accomplishments aren’t what I hold most dear.

Similarly, as a former high school dropout, it took me nearly twenty years to earn my college degree. Twenty years of moves and starting over, of switching majors, juggling motherhood and canceled babysitters and studying and tests. But though my family celebrated—with flourless chocolate cake!— when I finally graduated, that event wouldn’t make my “end of life” list. Too many other, much more monumental and sacred memories will occupy that spot.

On New Year’s Eve, as I sat across from the love of my life and, together, we reminisced on all of our successes and failures, some patterns emerged—patterns of beauty, of growth, of healing. Of heart-purging and filling, adding clarity to my days ahead. I want to live with intentionality, absolutely! But I want to make sure I’m pursuing what matters most, what adds beauty, purpose, and joy.

In 2020 …

  1. I want to prioritize prayer

Each morning, before I write one task on my ever-lengthening to-do list, I want to prayerfully offer each moment to my Savior. I know He has a plan, not just for my life, but for my every day as well. He knows what’s ahead, whom I’ll encounter, and when my loved ones will need an extra hug. Ultimately, I want to live as if God truly is my Lord—my master and my guide.

  1. I want to practice gratitude Gratitude notebook

The other night, my husband said something that briefly took me aback. He said I was a positive person, and this brought me joy, not just because I believe that’s such a godly trait to cultivate, but also because there was a time when he likely would’ve said the opposite. There was a time when my thoughts instantly jumped to the negative and I complained much more frequently than I praised. But as my intimacy with Christ deepened, my perspective changed. My heart changed, and I realized how blessed I truly was. God has given me so much—a husband I adore, a daughter who daily makes me laugh, loved ones who see the best in me, and a faith-family who continually points me to Christ. But even if all of those things were absent, I’d still be abundantly blessed because I always and will forever have my Savior, the One who knows me, sees me, stands beside me, and loved me enough to redeem me.

  1. I’ll take a regular Sabbath rest

If you know me well, you’ve discovered how easily bored I can be. How much enjoyment I receive from productivity, efficiency, and forward momentum. My husband often jokes that I have “ants in my pants,” claiming I can’t even watch television without having other tasks to complete. He’s not wrong. I’m a writer, editor, mentor, ministry leader, teacher, and speaker who often works long hours and ruthlessly eliminates distractions. But amidst all my busyness, I’ve learned to fiercely guard my Sabbaths. Sundays are my rest days and have been since my daughter’s preschool years. Those are the days I set my manuscripts and computer aside, turn my phone to silent, and spend my afternoons and evenings reading or napping.

Those moments of reprieve give me the energy I need to successfully tackle the rest of my week.

  1. I’ll diligently live in grace

I used to waste so much time and energy on guilt and regret. When I’d say something I wished I hadn’t or maybe acted rude rather than loving, I’d rehash the scenario in my brain for days. I routinely lived in shame rather than grace, in essence, elevating my sin above the cross. But no more! Jesus paid much too high a price for me to hold on to my former self. I most honor His death and most clearly represent the gospel when I live in its reality. When I anchor myself so deeply in Christ’s love and forgiveness, that everything else fades so far in my periphery that I forget it entirely.

God doesn’t ask me to live perfectly. He doesn’t expect me to strive or perform. Rather, He invites me to abide and accept, fully and deeply, the precious gift of atonement He granted.

  1. I’ll diligently dish out grace

I cannot simultaneously live in grace while withholding it from others. Whenever I cling to an offense, whenever I harbor bitter thoughts and emotions against another fallible but deeply loved human, I’m demonstrating I’ve lost sight of the cross. I’ve lost sight of my Savior. I’ve lost sight of hope. But when I begin to view others through the same lens through which Christ views me, healing prevails. Christ’s love purifies my heart and draws me closer to Himself and others.

  1. I’ll live generously

God, my Provider and Sustainer, invites me, daily, to live in full dependence on Him. That is where my generosity stems from. When I realize I belong to the God who owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, I find the courage to release my grip on my time and resources. As I do, His joy flows, unhindered through me and my heart and life align more closely with His.

  1. I’ll dance often woman dancing in the sunset

Years ago, my daughter came home from school one afternoon feeling down. I don’t remember why, but it was a situation I had zero control over. I stood there for a moment, saddened by her pain. Then not knowing what else to do, I grabbed her hands and pulled her into a goofy dance. At first, she was stiff, reluctant. I’m sure she rolled her eyes with a huff. But soon, she relaxed, and together we danced about the kitchen, both our days momentarily lightened.

The next day when she returned home, she grabbed my hands and began to dance as I had done with her. I realized how much that silly yet special moment had meant to her. This soon became our tradition—on good days and bad, hard days and those filled with celebration, we learned to hit pause, to intentionally create moments of joy.

  1. I’ll laugh often

Ladies, we often set the tone in our homes. We can sprinkle gloom and frustration or stir our family to laughter. Both types of environments are contagious. One leads to increased tension while the other binds hearts, defuses stress, and infuses our days with life and light.

  1. I’ll guard my peace

We’ll likely face numerous challenges in the year ahead, many we won’t have control over. But that doesn’t mean we must absorb the tension and chaos. We certainly don’t have to reflect it. God invites us to live from a higher plane—seated in the heavenlies with Him (Eph. 2:6). In other words, to remember where our true home lies, where our Power Source resides, and to live, continually, yielded to our guide.

Perhaps God leads us to remove ourselves from certain situations, or maybe He’ll call us to persevere in love. Regardless, when we’re following Him, seeking to honor Him above all else, everything will feel much less consequential. Because our eyes will rise above the drama of today and center on the things of eternity.

  1. I’ll embrace godly risk

Scripture tells me I have the power of the risen Savior living and breathing within me, stirring and empowering me to do His will. I refuse to allow my fears or insecurities to hinder what God might want to do in and through me. I belong to Him, to be used as He wills—for His glory, not mine. When I daily squash my pride to give God’s Spirit free reign, my fears begin to die as the strength and courage birthed through surrender take hold.

God has so much planned for 2020, plans He’s inviting you and I to participate in. He’s not calling us to change the world with superhuman faith. All He’s asking is that we’d yield, live in and breath out His grace, and grab hold of every moment of joy, so that He can change the world through us.

Speaking of moving boldly into 2020 … I invite you to join me for my Faith Over Fear challenge, which I’ll launch next month. Keep an eye out!

Additional resources:

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions by Jennifer Slattery

10 Steps to Help You Think Through Your Goals for the New Year by Jennifer Slattery

More Than a New Year’s Resolution by Girlfriends in God

 

Powerful Truth For When Our Hearts Grow Ill

Quote regarding a life committed to God on colorful background

I can easily become entitled. This can remain hidden when life goes well. But when difficulties hit, I find myself battling a slowly corroding heart, half of which longs to surrender to Christ while the rest fights for “self.”

About a decade ago, our family experienced a period of upheaval that triggered some pretty deep and latent wounds. We’d moved across the country six months prior, something I hadn’t wanted to do. I’d just begun to get settled and connected with the local faith and home school communities, when my husband quit his job. Though the logical side of my brain, which shrunk considerably in that moment, understood why, my insecure child threw a fit.

Soon fear turned into bitterness that morphed into depression. As our savings dwindled and we made plans to move yet again, my anger grew. I found the situation unjust, as if I were a victim to my husband’s decisions.

In short, I determined I deserved better. When my life began to crumble, my sense of entitlement wreaked havoc with my peace and surrender.

Somehow I’d forgotten that all life is a gift. I’d forgotten the beauty of salvation—that years prior, my holy God looked down on rebellious and self-destructing me, and in place of judgement, offered me mercy and grace. Whenever I lose sight of the cross, of who God is and all He’s done, my heart begins to turn. Ugliness seeps in, whispering toxic lies like, “This isn’t fair,” and “You deserve better.” The more I listen, the darker my world becomes.

That winter, I began plunging into a gloom that felt heavy and oppressive and might’ve swallowed up everything precious and right in my life, had God not intervened. But He did, with one simple yet profound question:

“Do you love Me now?”

I understood precisely what He was asking. He wanted to know if my love was based on what He did or didn’t give me. Was it a shallow, conditional love that expanded when blessings came and shrunk during hardships? Or did the One who bled and died for me have my heart?

Tears poured down my face as reality hit—not just regarding my current plight, but of who Christ was, in all His risen glory. He’d given His life so that I might live, and in that moment, I gave mine back to Him. I surrendered.

As I did, peace and joy rushed in, giving me the strength to endure our challenges well as I leaned fully on Him.

Now, when entitlement begins to rise up, I contemplate Scriptures like Psalm 8. Written as a hymn, the words remind me of who God is and who I am in relation to Him.

“Lord, our Lord,” David wrote, calling Him not just Yahweh, the powerful Creator, but Adonia, his master as well.

“How majestic is your name … You have set Your glory in the heavens …” (v. 1). There I pause, for as long as necessary, prayerfully meditating on God’s power and vastness. “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind” or who is Jennifer Slattery “that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” (v. 3-4).

Who am I, sinful and rebellious and often woefully deceived, that You, my Lord, would notice me? That You would die for me?quote from post with colorful background

When I meditate on the cross, everything else begins to fade. And all I can say is, “Thank You.”

Let’s talk about this! When has a sense of entitlement stolen your peace and joy? How did God redirect you back to gratitude, surrender, and praise?

Speaking of tending our hearts, have you checked out Jennifer Slattery’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart? You can find it HERE. And keep an eye out for her upcoming podcast, Faith Over Fear, hosted by Salem communications and her correlating Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan on YouVersion. Both will release in early 2020.

Additional resources:

Entitlement Will Rob You of Rest by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik on Desiring God

The Entitlement Cure: The Path to Jesus by Dr. Townsend

Freedom From Entitlement by Jennifer Slattery

Fighting Discontentment by Jennifer Slattery

The Entitlement Cure by Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

Experiencing Peace When Encountering “Problem” People

Woman experiencing a headacheRelationships can be hard and rewarding, stressful and comforting, this time of year especially. We all probably have at least one person we’d must rather avoid but whom we tend to find ourselves sitting directly across from during Christmas dinner. If you’re anticipating some unpleasant conversations and interactions this season, I hope you’ll find encouragement in my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post.

Experiencing Peace When Encountering Problem People

By Andrea Chatelain

Envision the person you’re least looking forward to seeing this Christmas holiday. Even thinking about them may make you uncomfortable or irritable. Their words may sting, their actions leave disastrous wakes, or perhaps they’re simply insensitive and rude. Perhaps flying to Florida for the holidays sounds pretty good right about now. How can we make sure unenjoyable people don’t ruin our special day? The answer centers less on who we’re annoyed with and everything to do with our relationship with Christ.

When negative thoughts regarding a family member or acquaintance swell, I have to ask myself some questions to get back on track: How has God shown me compassion and patience? How has He forgiven me recently? And how is He asking me to bear with the person I am annoyed with?

I had to do this recently. To be honest, sometimes I get weary of forgiving the same person over and over. I get angry when I stew about their choices and actions. I think it would be easier to avoid them and move on. But when I answer the questions above and ponder the way Jesus has handled my offenses, I’m so grateful He’s ready to pour out an abundance of grace and patience when I mess up? He always gives me another chance.

When I want to love others like Jesus, I remember Colossians 3:12-15. In this passage, Paul, an early church planter wrote, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness,woman in winter gear with quote on "wearing" Christ and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV).

Woah. That one packs a good truth punch. When I want to engage in a disagreement, put someone in their rightful place, or walk away from a relationship out of annoyance, I have to remember I’m chosen and loved, and called to show compassion to others when they don’t deserve it. I’m to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And in doing so, I put on love and help bind my family together in harmony.

When I’m right with Jesus and in tune with all the gifts He gives me, it impacts how I respond to those who annoy me. I’m more gracious and patient because I’m empowered by God’s Spirit and living out of His kindness.

That’s not to say we should never set boundaries for ourselves and our children. Sometimes we do indeed need to distance ourselves from unhealthy behavior. But even then, we must continually check our hearts to ensure we’re following Christ’s leading and not reacting out of bitterness or resentment. We can forgive from afar, love others without inviting or accepting abuse, and  hold tough conversations with grace.

But when emotional or physical safety isn’t involved, when we’re simply dealing with someone we don’t particularly enjoy, Colossians 3:12-15 can help us love well this season.

If you’re struggling with potential holiday encounters Christmas, reflect on the kindness and grace God’s shown you. How can you bear with others in that same compassion and love? Let’s commit to surrendering to Christ in the face of grievances this Christmas so our hearts can experience His peace.

Get to Know Andrea!

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for Wholly Loved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you stay grounded in peace and fitted in love during difficult or stressful situations? Share your thoughts with us, and make sure to grab a copy of Wholly Loved’s Christmas devotional, which Andrea contributed to, Intentional Holidays:

cover image for Wholly Loved's DevotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle; to trade striving and performing for resting and rejoicing.In our photoshopped, Instagram, hyper-publicized culture, it feels like the bar is always rising. Not only must we create that memorable Thanksgiving meal, but it must look Pinterest worthy when we’re done. We rush to find the perfect gift and that gown for that party we feel obligated to attend and wonder how we’ll pay for it all or find the time and energy to get everything done. But Immanuel—God with us—is indeed with us in the middle of our dinner fails and celebrations.This holiday season, each morning, no matter how busy our day or frazzled our heart, God is drawing us near so that we can live filled. We can experience peace in the middle of our crazy through the Prince of Peace, our Savior, Immanuel.

Additional Resources:

The Key to Experiencing Christmas Peace in Your Life Today by John Piper

Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas, on Proverbs 31 Ministries

Five Ways to Exchange Panic for Peace This Christmas, Lifeway

Christmas Dysfunction or Growth and Peace–Your Choice, by Jennifer Slattery

Retaining Our Power of Choice Each Day

sunrise image with quote on surrender(Taken from a lesson cut from Wholly Loved’s Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy study, releasing soon.)

I often decide, before my feet hit the floor, how my day will go. Will I be disappointed and frustrated or at peace and fulfilled? Will I be self-obsessed and therefore prideful or insecure or will I sift everything through a story more beautiful and enduring than anything I could ever dream of or achieve on my own?

We can decide how we will respond before difficulties and frustrations ever hit. When we cultivate a surrendered heart, life feels much easier, more joyful, and we’re less reactive. We can stand strong and faithful, empowered, no matter what we encounter.

So often, we forfeit our joy through default. We behave as if we’re victims to our circumstances and other people’s reactions and forget that God the enormity of God. We forget that He’s in all things, working through all things, andMountain image with quote from post will ultimately redeem all things.

More than that, we allow life’s temporary challenges to overshadow the things of eternity.

My daughter is getting married this spring. By the time this study releases, the wedding, with all its glamor and chaos, laughter and tears, will be over. The vows will have been spoken. The guests, many of them family we see maybe once a year, will have come and gone. Those first dances—between my princess and her prince and my girl and her daddy—will be but memories and captured photographs. The spilled drinks will be mopped up, the trash carted away …

I have no idea what that day will bring, but here’s what I know: I’ll cherish every moment; I’ve already decided this, and I refuse to let temporary circumstances and mishaps steal what’s most precious. Those moments, whether celebrated or bemoaned, that I’ll never be able to get back. Knowing this, I will choose celebration over bemoaning.

I refuse to allow inconsequential details distract me from my part and enjoyment of the bigger story.

I wonder, what might my life, my joy, and my effectiveness might look like if I made this decision daily, no matter the situation? If I began with an attitude of surrender and determined to remain there? If I didn’t allow the problems of today to distract me from the glory of eternity.

When our daughter was young and I felt perpetually insecure, I carried 2 Timothy 2:4 in my pocket. It says: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (NIV). Or to phrase it differently, no one called to serve an eternal king becomes entangled in daily drama. They remain focused on their higher calling.

If you were to pick up any of my copious Bibles stacked on my shelves, you’d likely find one phrase underlined again and again: “a servant of Christ.” That was perhaps Paul’s favorite way to introduce himself. This was the mindset he maintained. More than anything else, more than being a church leader or pastor or traveling evangelist or even husband, he was a slave of Christ. Nothing else mattered, and therefore nothing else had the power to defeat or derail him.

I want to live with such focus, such purpose, each and every day. Thanks to Christ in me, I can.

So can you.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when you chose surrender in a chaotic or unpleasant situation? What helped you make that choice and what was the result? Share your comments, thoughts, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Additional resources:

Freedom From Self-Sufficiency (video)

Choose a Positive Attitude, Pastor Rick McDaniel

Don’t Let a Bad Attitude Rule Your Life (Proverbs 31 Ministries)

 

Finding Strength to Love Well This Christmas

Quote on showing Christ's love with Christmas background

Unfortunately, when I most need Christ’s strength is often when I’m least apt to seek it. When I most feel rushed and overwhelmed, somehow I deceive myself into thinking I can handle the situation and my responses. And perhaps, for a while I can, but the more I rely on myself, the weaker and less loving and grace-filled I become.

As the bustle of Christmas approaches, along with the obligations and gatherings frequently attached to it, I’m reminding myself of this long-verified truth: I am hopeless and helpless without my Savior. Whenever I forget this and allow busyness to steal those precious, soul-fortifying moments I know I need, I reveal though I claim He’s the source of everything good and right within me, somewhere deep within I’ve believed a potentially destructive lie: That I’ve got this, whatever this may be. The longer I operate in that falsehood, the weaker I become and the closer I edge toward hurt and regret.

About five years ago, our family learned a local youth would soon be out of a home, so, though our schedules were full, we took this child in. Though we anticipated challenges, the arrangement proved exponentially more difficult than we could’ve imaged. The teen was hostile, rebellious, and prone to angry outbursts. Our once peaceful home soon morphed into one frequently filled with yelling and slamming doors.

I knew every destructive behavior this teen displayed came from a place of deep pain. I knew Jesus was the only One able to heal this child, and I so longed to continually point to the life-transforming power of Christ. I longed to reveal that power within me, through my words and actions. The problem was, I routinely felt overwhelmed, chasing one responsibility from the next, I had little time for anything other than what I call “shout out” prayers—those frantic requests tossed heavenward as one runs from problem or obligation to the next.

Whenever I put off my time with Christ, I quickly regretted this. I’d respond in frustration rather than grace, reflecting back what I’d received from the child rather than the love of my Savior. Yet each time I pulled away to rest in God’s presence, whether for a moment or ten, His peace washed over me, strengthening and refreshing me as He spoke tenderly to my soul. And almost always, He cleared my vision, giving me a depth of understanding, and with this, compassion, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jesus put this it this way: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4, NIV).

Christ’s words make me think of Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (NIV).

Notice, the writer didn’t say, “Now the Spirit helps Jennifer produce love and joy and self-control.” No, text pulled from post with an image of woman standingit says the Holy Spirit produces these traits within me. As I yield to Him, His power expands within me, giving me strength in place of weakness, patience in place of frustration, and self-control where tempers once flared.

Christmas will be busy. I’ve long since succumbed to this truth, and likely events, recipes, and relational interactions won’t quite go as I’d hoped. I can’t prevent the oven from breaking, my neighbor from fuming, or great-aunt Janice from throwing a fit when traditions aren’t followed as she desires. But I can always draw near to my Savior and yield to His love and grace, flowing first within and then without, me. I’ll likely regret numerous things this holiday season, but I know with certainty I’ll never regret that.

Let’s talk about this. How do you stay connected to Christ during busy and stressful seasons? What are some ways you plan to prioritize your time with Him this Christmas.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

The Beauty of Hard Thanksgivings

radiating Christ's love with image of lighthouse in the night

For some of you, Thanksgiving will be hard. Painful. Maybe chaotic and surrounded by dysfunction. But God can bring such eternal beauty in the midst of your most challenging moments. In fact, the beauty can come precisely because of your hardship.

One fall when we lived in Southern California, I wanted to teach our daughter about the constellations. This proved challenging as the town we lived in remained perpetually lit, allowing us to see only the brightest stars. One evening, my husband and I decided to take a family drive to the desert–we lived on the edge of the Mojave. Once we arrived and looked above, we were awed by the beauty. The night sky glimmered with countless stars, their radiance clear and striking in the black sky.

This is how God shines in us. If we belong to Jesus, Scripture says we are the light of the world. This means we display the radiance and hope and life of Christ, whether or not we speak a word. He remains in us, illuminating our surroundings and relationships with light.

But though He is always shining, sometimes His light shines brighter than others. When we display a supernatural love in text pulled from post on yellow backgroundthe face of hatred, and health and grace amidst dysfunction, our reliance on Him and His power displayed through us magnifies our radiance.

The other day, I spoke to a sweet friend who has experienced more hardship than any other person I know. It seems as if life is hitting her hard, relentlessly, from every angle: health, relational, financial … It will likely be very hard for her to remain thankful this Thanksgiving. With tears in her eyes, she said to me, “It’s hard to see God in all this.” Her voice cracked. “What did I do?”

My reply: “You did nothing wrong.”

To the contrary. Though I know she’s not perfect, she consistently reveals Christ, not only in her words and actions but perhaps most importantly, in her steady reliance on Him. Simply by walking with Him and leaning on Him through her pain, she reveals a God who holds tight, who remains and never lets go. She demonstrates the reality of the gospel.

Just over 2,000 years ago, an ancient church planter named Paul wrote to a group of new believers who had miraculously been rescued from darkness. They lived in Thessalonica, a wealthy Greek and pagan city filled with idolatry. Scripture makes it clear, they also experienced persecution, but despite that, they received the gospel with joy and thus became an example to all.

Paul wrote:

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes. 1:6-10, ESV).

The Thessalonicans were living examples of the power and reality of the gospel. Their lives proclaimed their faith, and others noticed.

As evangelist John Paul Warren states, “Your life is a witness to the world of a loving Savior and His redemptive plan for man.”

Sometimes, oftentimes, that witness shines brightest in the darkest circumstances, so if this Thanksgiving is hard, remember, you did nothing wrong. You may in fact be doing everything right. God may be using you at this moment to create something eternally beautiful: changed lives. So hold tight, draw near to Him, stay embraced in His love and grace, and trust Him to shine brightly and beautifully through you.

You may also enjoy:

My Near Death Experience and Other Things I’m Thankful for by Unshakable Hope

When Thanksgiving Hurts by Jessica Brodie

Gratitude Changes Everything by Sharon Jaynes

When it’s Hard to be Grateful on Thanksgiving by Kristin, Day Spring Devotionals

Getting Through Thanksgiving Weekend by Andrea Chatelain

Finding Lost Thankfulness by Andrea Chatelain

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest newsletter edition! It contains a cut excerpt from my next release, an inspirational message, recipe, and book review. You can find that HERE, and contact her HERE to book her to speak at your next women’s event. (She also speaks to book clubs and MOPS groups via live video.)

Bible reading plan imageYou may also enjoy Jennifer’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart, available on the YouVersion Bible app. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter. You can also find her on Crosswalk.

Grace for Our Imperfect Thanksgivings — Guest Post

Christmas image with a quote on choosing the precious over the perfect.

We’ve all probably allowed ourselves to get so caught up in the event of a thing that we’ve lost sight of that thing all together. I have. When I do, my stress climbs and my attitude tanks. But then God gently helps me shift my priorities back where they should be. Amazingly, when I do, my attitude and inner tranquility follow. I’ve learned, no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving and Christmas will inevitably be imperfect. But I’m also learning, it’s often the imperfections that make those unscripted moments so beautiful.

If you’re beginning to feel the stress of the holidays, or preemptively want to avoid this, I think you’ll find my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post encouraging, and you’ll want to grab a copy of the devotional she contributed to, mentioned at the end.

Grace for the Holidays

by Andrea Chatelain

The turkey was frozen. My mother and I flopped it in the sink and ran warm water over the cold, hard, unappetizing bird. This was the second year in a row this fiasco had happened. All we wanted was the thanksgiving meal magazines touted. Twice baked mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans and bacon with caramelized onion and a golden brown cooked turkey. So maybe our expectations were a little high. But they pointed to an even bigger problem.

Our anxiety was just as high as our expectations.

It’s not bad to want to serve our families well, but when we make perfection our goal we rarely do so with happy hearts. My mom and I grew stressed, there seemed insufficient time or oven space to get everything done in my little galley kitchen. Meanwhile I have no memory of what my kids were doing while I was busy worrying about a thawing turkey.

So I hold tight to Psalm 17:1 ESV during the holidays which reminds us, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house Thanksgiving place setting with text of psalm 17:1full of feasting with strife.”

There are so many instances this is true, but especially when we prepare for big gatherings. I’ve learned it’s better to have store bought stuffing than batches of Pinterest worthy meals if it means I have more time, joy, and peace with the people I love.

But it’s hard to give up the idyllic version of Thanksgiving we have in our minds. How do we stop competing with the invisible and improbable version of our perfect holiday and accept the reality of our time and emotional constraints?

For me, it means squashing my pride and remembering the grace I have in Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to serve perfectly. He never called us to nail the most golden pie crust or win an award for cleanest house. He commands us to love others well with the strength He provides.

When we serve others, we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:10-12, ESV).

Boy do I want to be filled with His glorious might, endurance, patience, and joy this season! I’m not sure if that is what this passage teaches and I don’t have time right now to really dig in to check. Sorry! Can we just cut that part out and use this: When we focus on Jesus, He changes our stressed out minds to servant hearts. We serve and love better when we lean on and are energized by Him.

This reminds me to focus on pleasing Jesus because He will lead me to peace, not anxiety.

The stress and emotions of the holidays are real, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by meals and chaos. We can choose instead to be overwhelmed by the provision and grace of Christ. Focus your heart on Him this season and let go of the idea of perfection, you will experience His peace and joy no matter your circumstances, even if you turkey is frozen.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to prioritize precious moments over expectations for perfection? When you sense yourself prioritizing details over people, what helps you to regain a proper perspective? Share your thoughts, tips, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Andrea!

Andrea's author photoAndrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for WhollyLoved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus. Visit her on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

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Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalhis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.