Plastered on the Front Pew

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony,. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love.” Psalms 6:2-4 New International Version

 

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Reeking of gin, one Sunday morning, I stumbled past the usher with glazed eyes. “If I had to be at church then it’s going to require some ‘liquid courage,”’ I thought.  I didn’t care if anyone could tell. A part of me dared them to confront me. I would have thought someone would’ve smelled it on my breath or at least felt something was off and ask, “What in Heaven’s name is going on Liz?” But no one did. Can you believe that? Furthermore, what makes this more ludicrous…

I am the pastor’s wife.

Picture it… the pastor’s wife plastered on the front pew.

Numerous times I’ve showed up for my son or daughter’s high school sport’s games with my “to-go-cup” of wine or tequila and lemonade. Alone, I’d sat in the bleachers and got sauced. My husband was also the principal of the private Christian school they attended. My behavior begged someone…anyone… to care enough to help me by noticing my shocking shenanigans. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but I can now.

You’re probably wondering, why would a pastor’s wife behave this way? It can be summed up in one word.

Pain.

Some people can handle drinking out of pleasure, but I couldn’t. I felt so much pain. I drank to numb it. You heard the old cliché, “when it rains, it pours,” well, I’d change that to when it “pains it pours”.  I suffered from childhood sexual abuse, a failing marriage, two miscarriages, and feeling abandoned by God. It left me reeling. While life poured on the pain, I poured another drink.

“Be very careful, then how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:15-18 New International Version.

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Crazy thing, I wasn’t a drinker. My early forties introduced me to alcohol. Prior to that, I relieved my pain by doing all the “right things,” to please God. In evangelical circles this is called Legalism. Legalism is following rules to please God without having a “real relationship” with Him. Legalism wrapped its tentacles around my view of God, choking out the truth of His grace. The false doctrine states, it’s up to you whether you’ll receive God’s blessings; it is contingent on your obedience. Those who disobey receive only God’s wrath, leading them to question their own salvation.

I fed the beast with performing, trying hard to be a good Christian girl, by reading and studying my Bible, forgiving the unforgivable, never questioning what the church taught about God, and a whole-hearted trust if I did these things, God would come through for me. I believed God would bless my deeds with my desires and take away my pain. I banked my life on it. Yet, after 15 years of begging God for joy, the pain continued to pour. Over and over, Legalism twisted truth until it enslaved me within its coils. Its constant hissing blocked the voice of Truth and Grace with taunts like, “Aren’t you done trying to please God? God’s not who you think He is. You might as well give up.”

The enemy, Satan, crafted a plan to use pain to steal my joy in living an abundant life, to kill hope that my circumstances would change, and ultimately to destroy my faith in God. None are exempt from Satan’s attempt to deceive and destroy.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

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Yesterday, I called a high school friend named Jason. These days, we keep up on Facebook; but I wanted to talk about his life-long struggle with alcohol and opioid addiction, and I knew he could shed light on the subject. Jason’s parents worked in ministry, so at times he sat plastered in the pew as well. Around 18 years old, he attended a beach getaway that included church friends, and for the first time, drank until he passed out.

“Alcohol was my escape,” he said. “It was like an elixir that made me open up. It fit like a glove, a second skin; and it became like my shadow.” Within the first year of binge drinking, Jason was charged with a DUI. He admitted to using alcohol to numb the pain. “Since middle school, I was bombarded with suicidal thoughts; I hoped that the Lord would take me in the middle of the night. Every night, I would ritually recite the Lord’s prayer just before bed.”

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Jason Umidi

In high school, while playing quarterback on the football team, Jason suffered a back injury requiring a few surgeries. After one surgery failed, he began washing down his opioids with alcohol to relieve himself of the constant physical and emotional pain. While enjoying success as an actor/model in NYC, his hometown girlfriend announced she was pregnant, so he returned home to do the “right thing” and marry her. He hoped that by doing so, it would bring blessings from God.  They gave birth to a daughter diagnosed with a rare disease which left her wheelchair bound.

“The constant stress coupled with my addictions became too much for my young wife and I to bear, so we separated and divorced,” he’d said.

Within ten years, Jason suffered five critical back surgeries, a divorce, a bankruptcy, and losing his home. Furthermore, he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, and suicidal ideation. “I felt like I had no purpose anymore, I became completely isolated and very angry with God.  My life had fallen apart; If I had died during my addiction, so be it!” Jason heard that same hissing voice as I. The enemy’s message spat doom, failure, enduring pain, and pointed accusations to a God who refused to rescue.

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalms 3:1-3 NIV

But as I listened to his story, I had to know what was the last straw that led to his sobriety, so I asked him.

“The last straw was me landing in NYC, so inebriated I couldn’t find my way out of the airport. That night somehow, I managed to get into an Uber and on the ride home texted my Dad and said, ‘I’m an alcoholic. I need help. I’m going to rehab.’”

“The next day I checked myself into detox. Internally, I knew this was it; it’s now or never. My time had come. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Jason has been sober for three years. Through the intensive inpatient program, he gained the tools which enabled him to battle through one full month of rehab, then attended 45 AA meetings in 45 days. For the last three years, he’s been grinding it out every day to stay sober. He shared his source of strength is found in Jesus. A true miracle took place as each new day God gave Jason an attitude of gratitude. Where he used to feel self-condemnation, loathing, shame, and anger over making bad decisions, he now experiences grace and gratefulness.

“I’m thankful to have a job, a roof over my head, a home for my family, a family who stuck by me, for being sober, and for being alive. I’m grateful God did not abandon me, and I can honestly say that I am thankful for the struggle, for where I am today, and for the grace and protection of God. He has given me real joy that is only found in Jesus and it’s a joy that can’t be taken away.” Jason credits the tools and habits he learned through AA and finds peace in reciting the serenity prayer multiple times a day. He feels that he has a new calling on his life, and is in the process of becoming a nationally certified recovery coach.

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But God,

God had not abandoned Jason. And He never left me alone either.

In fact, God pursued me.

Read part 2 tomorrow to find out how…

 

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Introducing Elizabeth Hammond a contributing writer at The Hallelujah House. Elizabeth’s passion is ministering to others out of her own God-story where He’s rescued her life and continues to restore her family. She desires to fulfill God’s purpose in her life in encouraging women by sharing her own story, through Bible study, and intimate friendships. You can read the rest of her bio at the top of the homepage by clicking the word “Team

Elizabeth can be contacted at elizabethhammond8@gmail.com.

Note: Thank you to Jason Umidi for agreeing to be interviewed for this story. If. you’d like to leave Jason a comment you can find him on Facebook.

 

When God Awakens You to Pray

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Stranded on a country road, I’d asked my mother, “What good is prayer going to do anyhow?”

She shot me her look, “You just wait and see,” she said.

I waited. I saw.

I was around 11 years old when I learned about the power of prayer, in a broken-down car waiting for God to answer my mother’s plea for help. After a few minutes, an elderly gentleman showed up with a can full of gas. It turned out, we had a broken gas gauge and gas was all we needed to get back on the road. We didn’t know that…but God did. Looking back, I know God has since been teaching me a life-long lesson on the importance of prayer.

Although, I admit there have been many times I’ve doubted God would answer my prayers. One of the lowest points in my life was during my divorce. I felt abandoned not only by my husband, but by my Heavenly Father. On one particular night, overcome by the sadness of my predicament, I thought God had forgotten about me. I glanced at my cell phone and received a message from a friend in Nashville, Tennessee named Laurie who knew my situation. At that time, I lived in Hawaii which placed miles and a five-hour time difference between us. She texted she was praying for me. I thanked her before confessing I felt God had forgotten about me.

“Kim,” she texted back. “He woke me up at 4 am to pray for you.” Her admission made a lasting impression on me. Throughout those painful months, I thought about it many times, as I still do. The God of all creation loved me enough to wake someone up to pray for me. God called Laurie to pray and she obeyed.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b (New International Version)

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My dear friend Tricia, who passed away 12/19/2014.

During my divorce a friend named Tricia Baines who was like a little sister to me was dying from breast cancer. I’d prayed so long for God’s healing I no longer knew what to pray for. I began praying for her to have peace. One night on the phone I told her I prayed God would give her peace. She told me she truly felt it and asked me to keep praying. Philippians 4:7 states, “And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

God answers prayers. Although, not always the way we want. In Tricia’s case, God did heal her on December 19, 2014 when He took her home.

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Sometimes, God calls us to pray.

More recent, an acquaintance of mine who was pregnant, experienced a terrible car accident. I don’t know her well, so it surprised me when God kept me awake through the night praying for her and her baby, as did others. Through incredible odds, she and her unborn child survived that accident. She continues to heal while holding her new infant. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

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My mother, Carolyn Williams.

God continues to teach me about prayer. Quite often, I’m the one in need of it. Everyone who’s accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has a calling or a special life assignment from God, for some it’s teaching the Word, others it may be to visit the sick, or minister to children, I know my calling is in prayer. God began teaching me about its power through my godly mother when I was 11 years old on a road; and just like that rural road, it’s a solitary, quiet calling, without accolades or a podium, but its power is rooted in a God who listens and is faithful.

“Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11: 24 (NIV)

rs=w-776,h-388,cg-true Introducing Kimberly Williams Standridge–one of our content writers at The Hallelujah House. Kimberly’s passion for ministry is in prayer. She feels this is God’s calling on her life. When she’s burdened for others, she quietly becomes a prayer warrior on their behalf. This article includes some examples of her amazing photography. She is the owner of Sunrise Photography. If you’d like anyone to pray for you at the Hallelujah House please feel free to contact us via email.

 

Tammy’s Note: If you’re in a season of doubting in the power of prayer, keeping a prayer journal is a great tool to use, and something you can later show your children to reveal how God has answered prayers in your own life.

I purchased a great one from the girls at www.coffeeandbibletime.com.

A great movie to watch about the power of prayer is The War Room which can be purchased on DVD from Amazon by clicking here: The War Room.

And a great book on the power of prayer is by Max Lucado, Before Amen which can be purchased from Amazon by clicking here: Before Amen.

 

Are You Experiencing a Spiritual Attack?

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Trapped in a barn stall I couldn’t see it, but I felt it’s hot breath on my skin. It snarled and loomed over me. I spun around feeling for the door to escape, but there was none. I flailed my arms to push it away from me but felt air as it darted out of the way reappearing behind me.  I woke up screaming.

That same morning around 5 am, I found my husband, Jay, sitting on the sofa, staring into his coffee cup. He’d asked why I was up so early, and when I told him, his eyes widened.

He’d had the same dream, only in his version he was in a small garage.

Days later, a misunderstanding arose at my husband’s employment, gossip and backbiting ensued, and Jay experienced so much fear over our financial future and doubt in what God had told him to do, it landed him on the kitchen floor dry heaving in the middle of the night. There he surrendered his financial future to his Heavenly Father. Afterwards, he resigned from his position, and God quickly paved the path for him to open his own business. For what Satan uses to kill us, God uses to resurrect us.

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I’d lost my sister the year before, and we’d used much of our savings to build a farmhouse, after a season of prayer and confirmation it was what God wanted. As soon as the farmhouse sat completely furnished the enemy struck. Many times, the enemy attacks after an act of obedience, especially if it is one that makes you step out of your comfort zone. So, I knew in the middle of our adversity it was more than a physical attack.

This was spiritual.

What I didn’t realize at the time was God allowed it to strengthen our faith in His provision.

There are ways to recognize when you are in the middle of spiritual warfare. The following are signs or symptoms you may be under a spiritual attack.

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  1. Indecisive Behavior:

Like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who can’t seem to make up his mind on which direction to go, this could be you. You pray but can’t seem to hear the Father on a major decision you’re making for your life. You’re told conflicting advice by your friends and loved ones which only makes you more confused. If you find yourself in this dilemma, recognize the enemy is the creator of confusion. He loves to muddy the waters.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” I Corinthians 14:33 (English Standard Version.)

If you can’t make a clear-cut, God-guided decision then do nothing. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10a. (ESV)

In our culture, indecision or waiting is looked upon as a weakness, but God is clear He calls us at times to be still. Don’t snatch the reins or run ahead; but allow God time to reveal an answer. It’s in the waiting faith germinates.

 

  1. Fear and Anxiety:

If you feel chronic fear or anxiety you could be experiencing a spiritual attack. The enemy uses fear to stop us from moving forward. When I set out to design the farmhouse, I wanted a quaint little place, but Jay knew God wanted us to build a larger home. I became riddled with fear and anxiety over spending our cash in building what I began calling the “ark.” Jay insisted God told him to build a house that future generations could use as a safe haven in case of a financial collapse. I set out praying for confirmation and peace. One Sunday after our house’s foundation had been laid, I went to church while Jay stayed behind with our sick daughter. I prayed in the pew that if it wasn’t God’s will for the ark to be built He would cause something to happen to stop it.  Pastor Chuck Carter at First Baptist Windermere took the podium, opened his Bible, and read, “By faith Noah being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Hebrews 11:7 ESV. God spoke directly into my fear and anxiety and gave me the peace of mind to move forward.

I underlined that verse and wrote in my Bible “Farmhouse confirmation.” God has a word to calm any fear and settle any anxiety. Don’t know where to start? You can find many of the calming verses right in the middle of your Bible in the book of Psalms. Just let it fall open.

We may never see our farmhouse used for the reason it was built, but we have seen it used for His purposes in the interim as a place to minister to others.

 

  1. Loss:

Are you in a season of loss? Loss of health, a death of a loved one, depleted finances, a straying spouse, loss of peace in your home, loss of hope. All of these and more could be indicative of a spiritual attack. If you find yourself in a season of loss as I have, cling to God’s promises.

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3 (ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

 

  1. Insecurity:

If you’re experiencing a painful season of feeling inadequate in your appearance, talents, skill set, employment, or relationships, you could be listening to the enemy. Satan loves to make us feel as if we don’t belong, we don’t have what it takes, or we don’t look like we should because that will keep us from progressing in whatever God has called us to do. While God amplifies our potential, Satan magnifies our deficit. Tune out the enemy by keeping your mind and heart focused on the Father. Abide in Him.  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forevermore, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26: 3- 4 (ESV)

 

  1. Guilt:

The enemy uses our past to enslave us. Do you find yourself constantly digging up past mistakes and wallowing in them? This is another way the enemy stops us from living the life of freedom God intended. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

If you find yourself rehashing past mistakes that you’ve already asked forgiveness for, you’re not believing what Christ did on the cross was enough. I have a friend who rebelled for a period of time when she asked God for forgiveness for all she’d done, she stated immediately she felt light and freedom from the heavy burdens she’d been carrying. Upon her return to church, some in the church felt she didn’t look guilty enough, but she refused to walk with a hung head. God forgave her. She stood firm on His promises.

If our sin hurts someone else we need to ask forgiveness from all the persons affected by our mistakes, but the enemy will use others who were not affected to peel back the scabs of old wounds. Stand firm in the promise of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 (ESV)

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These are just some of the signs the enemy is meddling in your life. As with all things, an attack has to first slip through the fingers of God to reach us. If you are experiencing one, remember God has allowed it. There are many reasons God uses spiritual warfare in our lives some are to strengthen us, shape our Christ-like character, help us learn to rely on Him, build our discernment between good and evil, and learn how to overcome the enemy. Remember, without facing an opponent we will never fully utilize God’s power within us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome 2020!

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Everyone at the Hallelujah House would like to wish you a blessed New Year! We’ve had a nice holiday respite and ready to provide our readers with some great content in 2020.

In January our theme is Spiritual Warfare. We will start off this month by examining the signs of a spiritual attack. Mid-month we will focus an entire week on the armor of God and the job of each of the spiritual armors. We have two articles on prayer: one will illustrate the power of prayer and fasting, the other will focus on when you are called to pray. We also will look at alcoholism and the rise of the functioning alcoholic. In honor of Martin Luther King we will offer an article on my journey of being raised a racist to raising bi-racial children. January is going to be a productive month.

In February our theme is Relationships. Some of the articles we have scheduled are what it’s like to be a divorced female in the church, an article on a resurrected marriage, building teamwork in a marriage, small groups in the church and why they are important, and an article on the rise of pastoral depression and suicide.

Looking ahead to March, we will focus on the difficult topics of our culture. Some of the subjects are abortion, assisted suicide, the rise of emotionalism, and vision boards and other self manifestation practices that arose out of the New Age Movement.

In April our focus will be on preparing for the rain and the drought. We will offer practical articles from how to prepare your heart for whatever God may allow to tips for preparing your home for a financial crisis. We will also examine if preparing is a sign you lack faith in the great Provider or being a wise steward.

We look forward to offering our readers useful content in this new year ahead. We hope that you will take the time to click on the follow me bar, that seems to float on cell phones as you scroll through an article. Once you click on that, type your email in the space provided,  then go to your inbox and click the confirmation. This way, whenever a new article is posted you will receive it directly in your inbox and won’t miss any of  what the Hallelujah House has to offer.

Thank you to those who have been faithfully following this blog year after year. We so appreciate our readers. God bless you guys and we will roll up our sleeves and get to work tackling Spiritual Warfare on Monday.

See you then!

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The Three Ingredient Gift:

Preparing the Harvest

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Can you believe Christmas is here again? Where does the time go?

Some of you are probably in the thick of madness that can rob you of  joy during this holiday season.  Scrambling for those last minute gifts causes unneeded stress. However, if you’re in that hustle and bustle this is the  perfect time to share God’s grace with others. It can be as simple as a compliment, holding the door open for someone, wishing them a Merry Christmas, or even just a friendly smile. Simple gestures  remind people what this season really means.

Buying something off a shelf has been less appealing to me than cracking open my craft box for a bit of DIY gifting. I love including my children when crafting because it instills in them the mindset of giving.

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Homemade, (in my humble opinion) is  the way to go! Nothing spreads a smile across someone’s face like receiving a gift made with TLC.

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This peppermint sugar scrub whips up quick,  and I promise it won’t break the bank. Several of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry. To make this simple recipe that will leave your hands and feet feeling soft and smooth you will need the following:

1 cup sugar

1 cup organic coconut oil (melted)

8-10 drops of peppermint essential oil (or any essential oil of your choice)

  1. Mix together sugar and melted coconut oil until well combined.
  2. Add 8-10 drops of peppermint essential oil

Packaging is key! I’m obsessed with mason jars so anything that I can put in them makes me excited. Grab some twine or ribbon maybe a sprig of rosemary, a twig off your tree, a candy cane, or anything else you can find to give it that special little extra touch. Its all in the details so get a little creative and have fun with it!

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Lisa Sciacca is a contributing writer at The Hallelujah House. Her passion is her family and telling her story through photos. Lisa enjoys connecting with other moms and exchanging information and encouragement. You can see examples of Lisa’s work on instagram @Life_inPieces. Here, along with her photography, she shares what she’s learned along the way from recipes to quick teaching strategies. If you would like to connect with Lisa her email is life_in pieces@yahoo.com. You can see her complete profile in the menu “The Team” above.

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A Gift for God

Preparing the Heart

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Growing up, my parents often invited people over for dinner the pastor’s family, people from our church, and missionaries traveling into town—sometimes they stayed for weeks. Looking back, I marvel how momma handled this with ease. I’ve lacked that talent for being hospitable. I become a stress case thinking about cooking dinner for anyone outside my family. What if I burn something or something gets cold while I’m making something else. How in the world do you time it all? What if…I poison someone! Welcome to my internal dialogue.

I’m embarrassed to admit the first dinner I made for my husband (we were dating at the time) was boiled chicken. It boiled up and over the pot and made the biggest mess. I plunked that flavorless white chunk of boiled-mess on the plate. Immediately, he ran out and purchased me an engagement ring in an attempt to save me from starvation. (Just kidding here, hmm…but possibly)

In my defense, I can set a beautiful table, but I suppose no one’s going to remember that beautiful table unless there’s something to eat on it.

This insecurity has allowed me to buy into the lie that I don’t have to cook dinner for anyone, and I’ve gone long periods of time without one dinner guest. It’s as if that southern culture my momma created fizzled out in me. I’ve bought into the lie that it’s not my talent therefore let other’s do the inviting and the feeding, but this has come at a cost. Throughout Christ’s ministry many times the personal relationships He developed were over a meal, think about it…the last supper, at Mary and Martha’s house, at the beach when He cooked fish for the disciples.

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L to R: Christian, Colin, Me, Nick, and little Bella

 

I read an article not too long ago that stated God wants us to be hospitable. The writer pointed out we must have a willing heart even if it’s something we are naturally not good at because first it’s a sign of our faith (walking forward in uncertainty) and secondly, an act of worship.

Throughout this Christmas season I’ve reflected on Mary’s willing heart. When the angel Gabriel visited her and told her she was to give birth to the Messiah, she asked one question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” At first glance, one would think she was doubting what the angel Gabriel told her, but because of the angel’s response to her we know it wasn’t doubt in God’s power, but innocent curiosity. I love this because it shows God sees the heart of a person and knows us. He understood Mary’s limited experience in her mere thirteen years (or so) of life.

The opposite is true in Zechariah. When Gabriel told him he and Elizabeth would have a child and they were to name him John. Zechariah questioned how he could be sure this would happen since he and Elizabeth were so old. Zechariah wanted proof. This angered God because first—pointing out the obvious—God sent an angel to tell him the news. Wouldn’t that be proof enough? Secondly, Zechariah was a priest and knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. He knew God blessed Abraham and Sarah in their advanced years with their son Isaac. God held a higher expectation from an older priest than a young girl; causing God to take away Zechariah’s ability to speak until after John was born in response to his lack of faith.

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Once Mary heard the Holy Spirit would overcome her and impregnate her, she stated simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary was willing to carry the Christ child even though it was against the law for her to be with child and unmarried. She knew she could’ve been stoned to death, but she was willing.

Four years ago, I felt God impressing upon me I would be speaking. I journaled it as I do when I feel God is trying to tell me something. I can talk the cows to sleep, as my Momma so eloquently will tell you, but I hate speaking. Soon after, I journaled this, the leader from MOPS asked me to speak about Finding Joy in a Sorrowful Season. I had an hour to speak. I walked up to the podium gripping a barf bag. As soon as I began to speak God took over for me, and midway through I watched a tissue box being passed around between the young moms.

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Our tree in Orlando

Before opening Hallelujah House, I felt the Father impressing on me I would be making videos and speaking in them. This is way out of my comfort zone, so I’ve tried to negotiate my way out of it. One morning preparing for my next Bible study on The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, somewhere in the middle of the workbook page I felt His nudging again.

“Why now? Why didn’t you call me in my thirties?” I prayed. “You don’t see 50- year old’s on You Tube!” Not only that—I’m losing my hair from my double mastectomy. I imagined the criticisms that would pour in. The enemy whispered in my ear and filled me with angst. I compromised I’d speak—but off camera, yet I knew in order for the watcher to feel a connection with you and your story they need to see who’s doing the talking. I told myself I imagined it all. God isn’t asking this of me, besides I’m a writer. He wouldn’t ask me to do something I’m not inclined to do. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)

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Just then my computer screen flashed a tweet by the very person who wrote the study I was working on. Priscilla Shirer tweeted, “Just Obey.” The words hung suspended glaring at me and seared my heart.

I sank in my chair.

I penciled in the date my son and I would do the filming. I pinned my hair back so it wouldn’t flap around in the wind and I sat in front of the camera in a barn stall on a hot morning with a wool wrap on (sweating bullets) and told the message God put on my heart, The Best Gifts Come in Ugly Wrappings. You can see the video here: https://videopress.com/v/0WpWDM7z

In God’s word, the Christmas story not only illustrates a willing heart but a mind inclined to obedience. What if Joseph didn’t take Mary to be his wife after finding out she was pregnant? Or if he chose not to obey when the angel told him to get up and flee to Bethlehem? Or if the wisemen chose not to go home another way as God told them to? Without a heart that’s willing and a mind focused on obedience we could fall out of God’s protection and blessings over our lives.

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My good looking husband Jay and our kids.

Are we willing? Are we willing to do whatever it is God has called us to do no matter how uncomfortable, embarrassing, or risky it is? God blesses a willing heart and an obedient mindset. As we face the New Year the best gift we can give the Savior for His birthday is a willing heart and obedience to His call on our lives. Whatever He asks us to do it’s already bursting forth to bring a harvest. He’s gone ahead of us and paved the path to completion; we just need to relinquish our reluctant spirit.

Please note: We will have one more blog written by Lisa Sciacco  posted Monday on how to make an easy last minute homemade gift for your loved ones. After that, Hallelujah House will be taking a break through the Christmas holidays. In January our theme will be… drum roll….Spiritual Warfare, so get ready to get on your spiritual armor. We’ve got some great things planned.  I’ll catch you on the other side.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bests Gifts Can Come in Ugly Wrappings.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV

Throughout the two days shooting these clips, my son Nick was running a fever.  I was suffering from a broke toe and sore hip from a fall down the stairs…almost wiped out on that fence. LOL! Drone wouldn’t work. Animals were not doing what I was telling them to do, but through it all, I prayed and told God You make the video what you want it to be. So, He’s the One who pulled this one together.

The kicker mistake was leaving out the “for good” in the Bible verse, but it is what it is when you’re talking off the top of your head.

The music is perfect though. The songs O Come, O Come Emanuel and Still Still Still are performed by The Piano Guys. If you’ve never seen them in concert, I highly recommend it. You can purchase their Christmas album, A Family Christmas with these songs and more from I Tunes.

Special Thanks to my farm family for putting up with my mess, especially for cleaning Generator’s stall for me. (Sorry I forgot to go back and do that) And of course Nick Adams for putting up with your Momma bossing you around. Proud of your talent!

Also our animal actors Generator–my favorite–stubborn as a mule– love bug  and Franklin our sweet farm dog.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Unwrapping Jesus

Preparing the Heart and Harvest

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I wasn’t allowed to believe in Santa growing up, my father didn’t want to ever lie to us or allow Santa more attention than Jesus. Since I wasn’t allowed to believe, I felt I missed out a bit, so I’ll confess my sin right now… I’ve become a deceiver and allowed my kids to believe in the fat intruder. In hindsight, as fun as it can be, it’s also proven to be a big headache. For example, I buy special wrapping paper that only Santa presents get wrapped in, and once I’m done wrapping all the leftovers go in the trash for fear my daughter (the only believer now) will see it and figure it all out.

Over Thanksgiving break, her cousins told her Santa only brings one gift, because that’s what they do in their house…one gift from Santa…the rest from their Mommy and Papa. So, this has become a mess, and I realize now we should have had a parent conference and conferred on the whole how many gifts thing, so we can get our stories straight.

Another problem is explaining the Christmas shoe boxes to my little girl and the Angel tree. After telling her some kids don’t get as much for Christmas, so we are going bless them with some presents, she thought for a minute before stating, “But Momma Santa goes all over the world. He’ll take care of them.”

And let me just add here, parents who move around an elf at night, don’t let your kids tell Bella an elf visits them because I’m just going to have to tell her that your kids are naughty most of the time, so Santa sent an elf to see if they are getting coal or presents.

Stop the madness already!

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Even though I don’t have my Daddy’s sense of integrity, I do want my children to realize the reason for the season came wrapped in a manger one night in Bethlehem. I’ve learned to incorporate traditions in our home to instill the true meaning of Christmas, in the hopes some of the following suggestions could help you unwrap Jesus for your children.

  1. Encourage your daughter to raid the scarves and wraps in your closet and dress up like Mary or your boys dress like the shepherds and wise men and talk about the story as they do. Growing up, my sister and I did this, and my Bella loves to do it as well.
  2. Keep baby Jesus hidden. In our home, baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas morning. After placing Him in His rightful place, we pray and thank Him for sharing His birthday with us before any presents are handed out.
  3. Pick a family to bless this Christmas. Each year, we pick a family or several people to give gifts to that probably wouldn’t get as much otherwise. Our children learn Christmas is not just about receiving but giving as well. We emphasize that we are blessed to be a blessing to others.
  4. On Christmas Eve night read the story of Jesus’ birth in the book of Luke. This has been a tradition of mine since I was a wee one.
  5. During the month of December light a candle each night of the Advent and read a Christmas devotional. I purchased an advent wreath from Ann Voskamp and her children’s devotional book. (To be honest, she writes beautifully but a little heavy for my brood) You can see the advent wreath at this link: https://joywares.ca/collections/wreaths/products/cradle-to-cross-wreath-cherry.
  6. Watch a nativity movie. Tired of those Christmas Hallmark movies with the same plot lines yet? There are some great Nativity movies out there, and for your little ones some great cartoons that emphasize the birth of Jesus like, The Star.
  7. Take your children to see a Nativity play.

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The greatest gift we can give our children is Jesus Christ. He is the eternal, everlasting gift, the present that doesn’t break or require batteries to work. I hope we all take the time to find ways to unwrap Him and keep Christ the center of our Christmas.

What about you? What are some ways you unwrap Jesus for your children? I’d love to hear them.