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Where Does My Help Come From?

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Recently, the scripture, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2) has become a “mantra” for me with robust meaning. I have read and heard that scripture many times in my Christian walk, but lately it has become the start to my days in addition to the prayer in my afternoon, and/or the petition in the quiet of the night. Initially it started with a desperate supplication in the morning, with the simple words — “Lord, I need your help!”

Have you ever felt that way? Lord, I.Need.Your.Help.  If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know this to be true, that we need the Lord’s help. But this has become different from the rudimentary belief that we all need His help. It has become my daily “cry out’ to Him. He wants me to always remember – I. Need. Him.  I cognitively know I need Him, but He is always cementing that in my heart. 

This world is upside down and raising kids is challenging even on the good days. Dealing with hectic schedules, managing multiple relationships, work, church, etc., you know what I mean, is hard. When you add sports injuries, teenage issues, a roof leak, car trouble, teenage issues (yeah, this one is worth repeating), it can be emotionally draining. Have you ever experienced emotionally draining situations? If you have, you know that it affects your whole body physically, in fact, it is down right fatiguing not just to your body but to your soul. 

I have been in a season of emotionally draining situations. The answer I found to cope with it all was and is to cry out to the Lord, with my hands extended to the ceiling (we don’t have mountains in South Florida) and with my face tilted upward. As I look up to the ceiling I ask, “Where does my help come from?” My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. You know what? It’s amazing how He has shown up every time. 

Now, I can’t say that it’s always going to be that way, in the sense that He’s going to answer in a manner of how I want Him to, or how I think He should. But I know He will answer in the way that is perfect with His grace being sufficient for the situation. 

By no means have I perfected this, for lack of better words, this new ritual. However, it has given me peace in the waiting. So the next time that you are feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, hopeless, not knowing what to do, try this:

  1. Extend your hands towards the heavens
  2. Tilt your face upward 
  3. Cry out: “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

And when I’m feeling worshipful (which is always a good thing, to thank Him for all He does for me) I quote (cause I really can’t sing) the words to “Waymaker” by Michael W. Smith: 

“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working 

Even when I can’t feel it, You’re working 

You never stop, You never stop working 

You never stop, You never stop working” 

Friend, you can count on the Maker of heaven and earth to help you and to be working on your behalf!

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

Keep Jesus Among the Tinsel and Holly!

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Christmas evokes so many feelings in us! Our childhood memories, beautiful Christmas carols, holiday movies, unlimited themes for decorating, special foods, gift giving, holiday events in our schools, communities and churches… all this and more are part of Christmas celebrations around the world.  Celebrating Christmas can be overwhelming and expensive and exhausting, especially for moms who carry most of the responsibility for making Christmas momentous for their family. It is easy to create a fabulous celebration but miss the most important role that a mom has at Christmas.

In the Bible, Luke 1 tells a dramatic and beautiful story leading up to the birth of Jesus.  An older couple who are related to Mary the mother of Jesus, receives the blessing of an unexpected pregnancy.  Their child will be John the Baptizer whom God chose to be a forerunner of Jesus. In Luke 1:76-79 the very specific mission of John’s life is prophesied over him:
“And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Praise God for such a beautiful proclamation and purpose in life!  The spiritual preparation of the people of Israel was John’s mission.  His work was not about himself,  but about the people who needed their hearts opened wide, so that when the Messiah came, they would know Him.

Just as John was given a responsibility to prepare the way for Jesus in those ancient days, you, as a Christian mother are a vital forerunner in your family.  The Father has strategically placed you in your child’s life to prepare the way for your children to follow Jesus.  As a mom, you are called to share the knowledge of salvation and to prepare your children for the arrival of Jesus in their lives. Christmas is a beautiful and unique time to prepare our children for the salvation of Jesus in very tangible, fun and meaningful ways.

Prepare Your Heart

In America, Christmas is a very busy season and it is easy to neglect our time for sitting with the Scriptures and asking the Holy Spirit to lead us each day. Let’s be careful to manage our schedule so we each prepare ourselves for Christmas. Don’t allow the stress of many good things to crowd out your heart’s preparation for Christmas.  The gospel of Luke has 24 chapters so you could read one each day of December.  Or there are many great Christmas reading options on the YouVersion Bible app or great Advent books that will prepare you for the arrival of Christmas.

Prepare Your Home

The physical elements of Christmas decorating are so fun and exciting.  Seriously, putting a TREE in our house and decorating it, whether simple or fancy,  is a pretty radical thing to do!  But we make such a fuss of decorating because this season is a unique celebration, different from any other.  Decorating themes are fun, but keep Jesus among the tinsel and holly!

As you prepare your home, place a nativity scene as a focal point to remind that Jesus is the center of all the ways we celebrate.  I loved having a child-friendly nativity that the children could touch and play with, using it to act out the story of Jesus’ birth in their own words. Their own special nativity draws them into the story as you talk with them about the arrival of baby Jesus.  When they outgrow the child-friendly nativity allow older children to participate in choosing a nativity that they especially like and making it a central decoration in your home.

Prepare Your Family

Christmas can get out of control quickly and a mom’s preparation is critical for awareness of Jesus’ coming and why He came.  There are so many ways to prepare our family to celebrate Jesus’ coming.  Think about the music you are playing, the books you read together, the family devotions, the prayers you are praying together, the topics of conversation in the car or at family meals, the generosity you show to those in need.  Almost everything we do at Christmas can somehow relate to Jesus and why He came.

Attending a Christmas Eve service is a great way to celebrate Jesus together.  Another tradition that I love is the First Gift.  Place a tiny baby Jesus or Jesus in a manger, in a beautifully wrapped box under the tree.  (We have a nativity where the baby and the manger are separate so I leave the manger empty before Christmas.)  When gathering for exchanging gifts, read Luke 2.1-20 (or choose a shorter portion for younger children.  Allow one of the children to open the First Gift, and place the baby in the manger.  Then pray and thank the Father for Jesus, the most important gift we ever receive.  Keep your children involved in your traditions and if things are rowdy or a little out of control, its okay! Just keep the celebration joyful!  My mother-in-law loved to have a birthday cake for Jesus with a small nativity atop the cake and the children led us in singing Happy Birthday Jesus.  Be creative and choose something your family will find meaningful.

Prepare for Hope and Peace

What is the outcome of this season we call Christmas? In the prophecy over the baby who would become John the Baptizer, these words were said:

“Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Luke 1:78

Didn’t we see the whole world living in darkness and the shadow of death during the pandemic. It caused us to witness darkness very tangibly and harshly, yet the darkness of sin and death are always in the world.  Yet, in our Father’s merciful compassion, He sent His Son to us, to shine on us as a new dawn, bringing Light, Hope and Peace to all who will follow Him.  He came to guide our lives, to lead and teach us a life of peace and hope. When we follow Him, our feet are guided through the world’s darkness, through the shadow of death, through a pandemic, through loss and grief, but always into the way of peace, knowing that He will lead us through it all.  And through death, to live with Him.

As a mom, are you prepared to be a forerunner for your family? Are you preparing and participating in celebrations that will help your children understand who Jesus is and  why He came and what He has done for us? Now is the time to go before Him this Christmas and prepare the way!

Cynthia Thompson enjoys living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Larry. They have two daughters, two sons-in-love and two grandsons, and one adopted daughter. She loves time with her family, prayer journeys, coffee with friends, and traveling all over the world!

Mom, You Are Enough!

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In our culture today, we are bombarded with the ideas that we are good enough, we are smart enough, and we can do anything we put our minds to. We are told that if we just believe in ourselves, we can accomplish anything. I have learned over the course of my life that, while this self-talk is very positive, it does not reflect the truth of God’s Word. Jesus tells the rich man in the Gospel of Mark (10:18), “No one is good – except God alone.” Then in Romans 3:23 it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We Need Jesus! It has taken many years for this truth to really settle into my heart. 

Sometimes we can have the misunderstanding that we need to look good to be worthy of Jesus. Like there is something we can do to achieve this worth. We think we can be acceptable by doing good works, going to church, serving at church, having obedient kids, having a good marriage or relationships, staying sober, by just being kind, etc. If we “look good” then Jesus will accept us. However, if “no one is good…” as the Bible says, then what can we to do to be acceptable to God? 

I am going to let you in on a big secret that anyone who reads the Bible can know. You are not good, but you are enough! Just like you do not need to wash off before taking a shower, you do not need to clean up your life to come to God. This is true for someone who is seeking God for the first time, someone who had a relationship with Him in the past and is coming back to Him, or someone who walks with Him daily and just made a mistake. 

The definition of enough is: adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire. As a Christian, my purpose in this life is to know God and to make Him known. I am enough for this, sufficient for this purpose. Learning who God is and who He has created us to be doesn’t happen the moment we choose to believe in Him. It takes a lifetime. I chose to believe in Christ as my Savior when I was 8 years old. Since then, I have not always felt like I was enough. Sometimes I am just a mess. Yet, as I learn more truth from God’s Word and apply it to my life, it begins to be a part of who I am. 

One thing that is now a part of who I am is the truth that I am enough. I don’t have to be anything I am not. I don’t have to look good to seek the Lord. He loves me because I am His child, even when I am a mess. This is true for you as well, if you have put your faith in Him. You are enough!

Amy Ellis and her husband are missionaries with Ethnos360. She is a teacher at heart. She taught kindergarten for 5 years before her first daughter was born in 2005. In 2006 she and her husband entered New Tribes Bible Institute, where their second daughter was born in 2007. Then they went through the missionary training program, where their son was born in 2009. They served for 10 years in Tanzania, Africa, and have recently moved back to the States to serve in a training capacity with Ethnos360. They will be living in Missouri beginning in the summer of 2022. Amy loves to share with others what the Lord has been teaching her and desires to see others grow in their knowledge and understanding of who God is and who they are created to be. 

Perpetually Secure

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“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked… I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” – Psalm 140:4, 12

“Are you sure you’re watching him, Mom?”

I don’t know how many times I heard my daughter ask this question when my kids were small. Woven into her DNA is a protective, big sister gene. At the tot lot in the mall, the playground, or the beach, Big Sis wouldn’t play with her friends until she knew her little brother was safe. (Also, I’m realizing she didn’t trust me to watch him … which is a whole other issue!)

Even at 6 years old, my daughter displayed that the assurance of safety is something we strive for. In the world of grown ups, it’s why we lock our doors, wear seatbelts, and pay excessive insurance premiums. It’s not enough for us to feel safe today; we want to be sure that we’ll be safe tomorrow too. And if we’re not careful, the incessant thirst for security will drive us into financial and emotional debt.

When it comes to providing security for ourselves and our loved ones, there’s a thin line between foresight and fear. It’s healthy to pause every once in a while and evaluate whether our careful planning has crossed over into frenzied compulsion. God’s word powerfully sheds light on this for us and realigns our thinking.

King David is the beloved Biblical character who penned the words of Psalm 140. For you and I today, most of the threats we deal with are theoretical. In other words, we feel unsafe based on potential bad news, the what-if scenarios that play on repeat in our minds.

What if harm comes to my child?
What if I face financial ruin?
What if I’m alone for the rest of my life?

What if I’m diagnosed with a debilitating illness?

In David’s case, however, wicked men with evil intentions were actually chasing him. When he prayed for the Lord to keep him safe, he was literally praying for his life to be spared. Look at the confidence David responds with! After asking God to keep him safe, he speaks to himself — reminding his own soul that God is the one who will bring justice and defend his cause. David acknowledges his own position as the one who needs help; he is the poor and needy one. But he also acknowledges that God has power to come to his aid.

What about us? Are we looking to the things that threaten our security more than we are looking to Jesus?

Are we focusing on our own strength — or lack of it— instead of taking our eyes off of ourselves altogether and focusing on how strong God is. Let’s remind ourselves today that it’s God who keeps us safe. The Lord is fully capable to defend us, uphold us, and secure justice for us when we are wronged.

Here’s what we should not take away from this passage: shame. There’s no shame in the struggles we face. Just because we don’t have evil people chasing us while we hide in mountain caves doesn’t mean our anxieties are invalid. Just because we’re not face-to-face with a literal giant doesn’t mean our Goliaths are fictitious. God cares about the anxieties we carry around like heavy packs, and he wants to unload them from our shoulders (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Here’s what we should take away from this passage: security. Exhaling deeply, we can read these words and feel an enormous sense of relief. God secures justice for us. He upholds our cause. He cares about our safety and is powerful to protect us. He has provided through Jesus an opportunity for us unload our anxieties and carry faith like a shield instead (Ephesians 6:16).

My naive 6-year-old daughter worried for her little brother’s safety, but what she didn’t realize was that her mama had things under control. Her little psyche had no idea that because I was older, taller, and more capable of paying attention from afar, I could see where her brother was even when she couldn’t. Not only that, but I had water in case they got thirsty, snacks in case they got hungry and a first aid kit in case they got hurt.

Mama, God can see the whole playground. Nothing is outside of His jurisdiction. And even more than that— he’s got water in case we’re thirsty, food in case we’re hungry and the power to heal in case we get hurt. We may not be able to provide full-proof security for ourselves in this unpredictable world, but we can trust that with our unchanging God, we are perpetually secure.

Special Guest Contributor Nik Greenfield

Nik enjoys life in South Florida with her high school sweetheart, their three beautiful children, and Maisy, their chocolate lab. With experience as a wife (21 years), homeschool mom, foster mom, breast cancer survivor, and expert power napper, Nik is learning to trust God’s goodness within life’s storms. She is passionate about encouraging women to connect to God in the calm, the crazy and the crises of real life. Her children’s book, I Remember: Helping Families Connect God’s Word to Everyday Life, is a character-building picture book complete with suggestions for parentsSnag Nikki’s weekly devotionals at or connect with her on Instagram @nik_greenfield.     

Faith Over Fear

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Faith Over Fear. Over the last couple of years that phrase has been a mantra for several believers in the Christian community. I recently used it while visiting an eye doctor. 

Just to give you a little bit of background, a few months ago during a routine visit with my optometrist, my eye pressure was “through the roof.”  Panicked, she exclaimed, “You need to see an  ophthalmologist right away; you have glaucoma.” Following her instructions I made the appointment (I had to wait a couple months – you all know how that goes). I also did what I normally do when I have a “concern.”  I reached out to my inner circle and asked for prayer. I say “normally” because I recently shared a situation where I did not ask for prayer.

When I finally saw the ophthalmologist, my pressure was just slightly lower. He performed 8 million tests (maybe that is a slight exaggeration). After all those tests and being there for more than five hours, he came to the conclusion that nothing was really wrong with me other than a slightly elevated eye pressure. He prescribed eye drops to be taken at bedtime. Being a good patient and someone who “trusts” doctors, I took my medicine. 

Bear with me while I continue this eye saga. Fast forward a couple more months to my kids’ annual eye checkups. I ask their ophthalmologist about their eye pressure. He said, “It’s fine. Why do you ask?” I explained about my recent high reading. “Wait a minute,” he said, “that doesn’t necessarily mean you have glaucoma. There are two or three other factors that would have to be present.  Taking eye drops for the rest of your life is not necessarily good, unless you know you have glaucoma.” He suggested that I see glaucoma specialist. Again being a good patient and “trusting” the doctor, I took that to heart, I researched online, and found a glaucoma specialist that same day.

I waited four weeks to see the specialist.  During that visit they conducted several tests, including eye pressure — which was lower — because I had been taking drops. By the end of the examination the specialist came to the conclusion that I have a thick cornea (which is my normal). He explained, “If you have a thick cornea, it is hard to accurately measure eye pressure. Your pressure may be normal.” He continued, “Some personality types would say, ‘Keep me on the drops just in case because they want to be sure or are fearful.’” To which I responded, “Faith Over Fear. I am going to trust that you went to school for this and you are a specialist.” Oh my goodness. He looked at me and he said, “Faith over fear? I’ve never heard that before. Did you make that up?” With a smile I responded, “No. I am pretty sure Jesus came up with that!” And y’all – he wrote it down on my chart! 

Could it be … all this for him to hear those three words? I do not have the gift of evangelism but at that moment I felt like I was Billy Graham bringing the Good News. I will be praying for my glaucoma specialist. You can bet on that. I will have faith that not one part of this eye drama was a waste of time. But rather, trusting that God uses anything and everything and believing in Faith Over Fear.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 ESV 

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

I Didn’t Even Pray About It, but He Heard Me

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Have you ever had a situation that really concerned you? Something that you didn’t know what to do about it? You thought, “How am I going to handle this?” 

Recently God came through for me in a big way for something that I needed a solution. Honestly I hadn’t prayed about it. I talked about it with my husband, I talked about it with a couple of my friends, but I didn’t actually pray about it. Yet… God heard me. 

I say this to my kids all the time, “God hears you and He sees you.” Well, He sees me and hears me too. This reminds me of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, who were sent away by Abraham.

Genesis 21:17-19 “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” For context, read the entire passage here:

The passage doesn’t say if Hagar prayed or if Ishmael prayed. It simply states that Hagar was so distraught that “she put the boy under one of the bushes” (Genesis 21:15).  Hagar could not bear to watch her son die. My situation was not as dire as Hagar’s, but it did have to deal with my child and I was concerned. 

Oh, by no means am I saying, “Don’t pray. God will work it out.” Please pray! If you haven’t yet, I encourage to read our blog post “Watch and Pray” at I’m just saying — He hears us and sees us! 

I don’t mean to keep you hanging or be “cryptic” about what God “solved for me.”  Basically, two years ago I started homeschooling, but that’s a whole other blog. We attend a great university model program, but from my perspective it seemed there was a “gap” in the middle school English classes. For a year, I researched how to fill this gap (I really did not want to do an online program). I feel a tremendous responsibility in educating my children, so this English “issue” was really weighing on me. As I said earlier, I talked about this with my husband, my homeschool mom friends, and even my sweet middle school girl! At a social gathering I even whispered to my daughter’s English teacher from last year, “We need another middle school English class!”. But y’all – I never prayed about it. Don’t ask me why. I mean… I pray about getting a spot in front at the grocery store. When I go to HomeGoods I pray about being successful in finding the perfect bookcase. Get the picture? But, not this English class problem. 

But. God. Only Him. As I spoke to my daughter’s current English teacher about a question I had, she brought up in the course of the conversation that she thought there was a gap in the middle school English classes! What the what?! In fact, she and the director of the program talked about it last year. When we were wrapping up, she encouraged me to do what I should have been doing all along — pray

I am sure you can guess how this ends. Yes. There will be a middle school English class added and this sweet teacher is willing to teach it. Hallelujah! 

Again, I am not saying, “Don’t pray.” I AM saying that just like He saw Hagar and Ishmael … He sees and hears is too.

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

Watch and Pray

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Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 NKJV

When I read Matthew 26:40-41, it’s hard for me to imagine that Peter would not listen and obey Jesus. Then I think, “Am I so different?” Do I always pray when the Lord leads me or when circumstances around me demand prayer? This verse took me back six years ago when my daughter entered her teen years. During this season in my life, I had a deep desire to take steps to really change my prayer life with the Lord. I wanted to be intentional with my prayer walk as my children were entering critical years where they would be exposed to many voices. My prayer was that the voice of Jesus would be the loudest in their life. 

I entered a commitment that my days would have many moments of prayer. As I embarked on this journey, I was prompted to ask myself this question, “When my children look at me and my life, do they say ‘My mom is a Jesus follower?'”

The Lord was telling me to watch my steps before them and examine whether my walk with Him was aligned with His words. When you have teenagers (or really kids of any age), they pay more attention to how you act than what you say. They constantly question whether your words match your actions. In your prayer walk with the Lord, lead with asking God to show you where in your life as a mom you need to be more authentic and transparent. It’s easier to look outward and get distracted by the wrongdoing of our kids, than pay attention to ourselves and whether we are walking in the Spirit or flesh.

Who are you watching, and what are you praying for?    

Prayer is surrendering our thoughts and feelings, allowing the Spirit to transform us. Prayer sharpens our senses, molds our heart, and unravels the truth so that we can adapt to the circumstances. 

As we rely on the Lord, He will show us how to parent as He parents us with mercy, grace, and unconditional love. This type of parenting evolves from our personal relationship, daily walk, and worship of the Lord. Every time I choose to chart my own course rather than leaning into His wisdom, I am impulsive in my responses. Or worse, I get caught up in a parenting fad. Parents can experience peer pressure as intensely as teens. In my daily conversations with parents, I always ask them, “Where did you get this advice?” I always get the same response, “From another parent.” I am by no means suggesting that we should not listen to peer advice; just proceed with caution. Watching ourselves closely will also show how our children may be different or similar. 

When I find myself upset or emotional about something in my children’s lives, one habit that has served me well is pausing to pray and share my concerns, fear, burdens, or hurt with the Lord. A new perspective comes from that prayer, allowing me to share my concerns with them in a different tone and insight. This is the verse that I use to prompt me to seek the Lord in my parenting journey: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 NIV

In my life, my dependency on prayer has been transformative in my relationship with my children. Often we hear that children do not come with an instruction manual. I disagree. We have unlimited access to our Father that can lead, equip and show us to parent as He parents us. 

Here is a prayer I often pray for my children. Please take and use it as your own:

Lord, redirect my eyes, heart, and mind to you. Open my eyes to my child’s needs. Lord, prompt my Spirit when a necessity in their life requires divine intervention. Give me the courage to surrender to you those matters in their life that require your power. Remind me of your unconditional love, grace, and mercy for all your children. 

Watch and see all the Lord will do through your prayers!

Ana Anselma is founder of the Social Mind Center providing cognitive-based intervention to equip children and families with social communication skills to connect with peers and build relationships for life. Ana coaches and trains parents to be their child’s most influential advocate. She is married to Jon and has two teenagers Gabriela and Nicholas. Her greatest joy is her family and parenting both of her children.

Make sure to check out the Social Mind Center website:

A Special Christmas Blog

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The words penned by Nancy W. Gavin in “For The Man Who Hated Christmas” sum up my heart for Christmas. More importantly this story challenges me to do a “white envelope” this year not just for the recipients of the gift, or my family but also as an expression of the gratitude for the goodness that comes from knowing the Savior of the World!
May it inspire and challenge you too!

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

“For the Man Who Hated Christmas”

By Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas–oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it–overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

To learn more about honoring a loved one through this special tradition, please visit

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.

Why Do We Observe Thanksgiving?

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Late this summer I had the privilege of traveling through Central Europe. While sightseeing in several beautiful cities, local guides escorted us to a monument, a statue or a church and referred to it as a “thanksgiving memorial” while recounting its accompanying history. The memorials often commemorated a plague, an invasion, a great national victory or an impactful person in that location and culture. Most of the thanksgiving memorials pertained to events that affected the whole population of a nation or region.

As I listened to the historical accounts of great tragedy and victory and saw the effort and expense communities took to create a thanksgiving memorial, I thought about the power of such an act. Decades and centuries later, people are still viewing the monuments, reading the dedicatory inscriptions and hearing the history of WHY this particular piece of architecture, sculpture or artwork was created. Why was it important, after an intense season or event, to create a memorial expressing thanksgiving? While enjoying the beautiful edifices, I wondered if people today approach memorials with gratitude to God for His work in the events of mankind.

The Bible gives us several precedents for these kinds of memorials and their purpose. In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel needed to cross a large river with thousands of families including children, babies, animals, a worship tent and all of its holy articles, with priests and banners for each family tribe to follow. The massive crossing promised to be a daunting undertaking.

As the Israelites began their crossing, God graciously and miraculously pushed back the river’s flow to allow millions of people to walk across on dry ground. God literally ushered the twelve Hebrew tribes across a riverbed and into their new homeland with dry feet! As part of this dramatic event, God told Joshua that each tribe’s leader should collect a boulder from the riverbed and bring it out of the river with them. Joshua assembled the twelve stones into a thanksgiving memorial in a place named Gilgal. He spoke these words of instruction about the memorial:

“In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over… This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty and so that you may always fear the Lord you God.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible, Joshua 4:21-24)

As Joshua commemorated this event that would become a pivotal part of the nation’s history, he explained why there was a memorial built in Gilgal. The memorial would provoke future generations, who did not personally experience this miraculous crossing, to ask about the significance of the memorial. The memorial would give opportunity for God’s blessing story to be told to those who saw the memorial decades and centuries later.

Most memorials carry a story of loss and suffering but also a story of God’s help, perseverance, and survival through difficulty. Joshua’s memorial in Gilgal followed forty frustrating years of travel to this new homeland and the death of an entire generation before they safely crossed the Jordan River. Memorials can bring hope to those who are facing difficulties and challenges because the memorial’s presence recalls God’s faithfulness in times past.

America’s Thanksgiving holiday memorializes the history of Europeans coming to North America in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Over half of the Plymouth pilgrims did not survive the voyage and first winter in Massachusetts. Suffering and death was a constant companion of these families. Yet, a year after landing at New Plymouth, their first harvest festival was purposed to give thanks to God for a good harvest before the winter, due to the aid and goodwill of Native Americans who taught them how to survive. Thanksgiving was named a permanent holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Our memorial is a day set aside for giving thanks to God for His blessings in our land, reflecting back to the pre-colonial days of William Bradford, Samoset and Squanto. Such a significant meaning should be remembered and practiced on Thanksgiving for it is far more than a day of favorite foods, family, friends, parades and football. It is important to recall God’s goodness, even in difficult seasons, and to express our thanksgiving in the presence of our children, our loved ones and our God, being certain that we have not forgotten Him, His grace and His blessings.

In Joshua 4:7 the Hebrew word for “memorial” is translated into English with several similar words and meanings. The translations are:

  • A memorial
  • A sign
  • Something to mark the occasion
  • A reminder
  • A record
  • A memento or memorable thing, day or writing
  • (And if I could take license to add a word to this list, it would be “a witness”)

Thanksgiving 2021 will occur almost two years after the beginning of a world wide pandemic. Many have suffered, a multitude has died and the amount of stress and suffering is incalculable. Yet, God has sovereignly overseen humanity through it all. We have an opportunity as families to create a memorial to thank God for how He has walked alongside us, especially in the dark times of Covid-19.

Can I challenge us to create personal Thanksgiving Memorials this year? Use the words above to help your family memorialize gratitude to God for who He is. And WHY is this important? In the words of Joshua, “This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty and so that you may always *fear the Lord you God.” The HCS Bible explains *fear the Lord your God as, “No single English word conveys every aspect of the word fear in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the God of Israel.”

Our thanksgiving memorials can be a perpetual witness that God is good, powerful, omnipotent and faithful to the people of the earth and that we can trust Him and worship, revere, respect and obey Him. Our prayer at Next Level Moms is that Thanksgiving 2021 is a blessed and meaningful memorial for you and yours!

A final note. An excellent children’s book about God’s sovereignty and Thanksgiving is Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving authored by Eric Metaxes, published by Thomas Nelson.

Cynthia Thompson enjoys living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Larry. They have two daughters, two sons-in-love and two grandsons. She loves prayer journeys, coffee with friends, and mentoring early career pastors and their wives.

Becoming a Waymaker

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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

I think we are all collectively ready for a “new thing” in our world. You may be a mom of a little and you are ready for a new season of toddlerhood. You may be suffering loss incomparable right now and you need a stream of water running through your wasteland to sustain you. Drink deeply of this passage, let this living water sustain you. He will meet you right where you are this very moment and fill you. And after you are filled, get ready. He has plans for you! 

As a Missions Minister I have the privilege of hearing firsthand stories of God making paths in the wilderness all over the world. I’d like to share one of those stories with you today from Moldova. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. A young Moldavian woman named Victoria became a nurse to make a difference in her village. To make enough money to support her family, Victoria got a nursing job in England. She would travel to England and work for 6-8 weeks at a time, then return home to Moldova to see her family. She became increasingly aware of the discrepancies in care that those with disabilities received in England and Moldova. Moldova lacked resources like wheelchairs and walkers. The disabled people in her village were left alone to sit with little hope of living a “normal” life. During one of her stints in England, Victoria noticed that the hospital was throwing away used and “worn out” equipment for the disabled. Victoria approached the hospital management and asked if she could have the equipment for the disabled in her village. She was denied because the hospital insisted the equipment must be thrown away. Victoria prayed for God to make a way. She thought she had found the perfect solution, but she was met with an impossible obstacle. Then Victoria did what any Waymaker would do. She obtained a waste removal license! Now the hospital in England paid her to come and pick up the very same equipment she had requested! She then used the money to have the equipment delivered to the neediest in the villages in Moldova. 

I love this story because it clearly shows how God provides and how He makes a way, but it also distinctly reveals God’s plans to use us, His image-bearers, as Waymakers. My prayer for us is that God would open our eyes to what He is doing around us and help us press into our circumstances to be the Waymakers He’s called us to be!

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.