Our Christmas Offering

Recently I recorded a podcast that will air later this winter. It was an opportunity that I have been excited about for months on months. After the recording call ended I immediately felt two things. First, gratitude. I was, and remain, immensely grateful for the opportunity. Secondly, I began to worry. I second-guessed my performance and replayed in my mind what I would do differently…for days! I even worried about a portion I may have blundered. Real spiritual and mature of me right? That’s what recovering perfectionists do.

It wasn’t until the Sunday after the recording, that a thought hit me. If all I have to offer is myself, then I will always come up short. However, with God, my offering is always enough. 

I think this truth goes for more than my podcast offering. It additionally applies to our Christmas offerings as well. We want our families to remember certain things about their holiday experiences. We know that only a few gifts our children receive will make it into their long term memory, but the environment that we create for them will carryover into adulthood and last a lifetime.

I’m fairly certain that Mary and Joseph felt similarly. Most likely they questioned how they would ever live up to parenting the Messiah. How does one go about raising the Son of God? In offering themselves with God, they were offering exactly what Jesus needed as fully God and fully man. So too, in offering ourselves with God, we offer all that is necessary this Christmas season.

As we seek to provide a warm, rich, holiday experience for our children, let’s remind ourselves this one thing: No matter what our goals are the Christmas season, with God, our Christmas offerings are always enough.

Merry Memory Making,

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Christmas Books to Round Out National Adoption Awareness Month

As we close the last day of National Adoption Awareness Month and turn our eyes towards Christmas, I propose a few more seasonal stories to warm your heart. Tales to remind us of great needs in the world and our abilities to make a change not for every child, but perhaps for just one.

My daughter and I have already listened to and are listening to again, The Christmas Doll. The older kids and I are nearly done with I Saw Three Ships, a new favorite from last year.  I can hardly wait to read aloud Holly and Ivy; a book that spurred me on two Christmases ago just after we met our youngest adopted son and were realizing this would be a long journey. Just how long, we had no idea! Finally, The Matchbox Girl is a beautifully illustrated, sorrowful tale that reminds me of our need to not pass people by. We must look to help in each situation as the Holy Spirit leads us and make a difference in the lives of children God puts in our path.

May you find these stories to be welcome addition to your holiday reading. If you like these, you might also like more of our Christmas favorites over here.

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!

 

 

*If you are reading this in your email head on over to the original post for the book links here.

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A Mom’s Report Card

Let’s face it, most of us graduated long ago, but the truth is, we continue with the practice of grading ourselves and our efforts. Moreover, we grade ourselves on a scale of comparison based on the best we see posted by other moms or based on what we see of moms as poised in public settings. Much of our grading is based on our idealizations about other moms; what we assume to be true about them, and consequently what we know is not true about ourselves. Why can’t we cook like this mom? Have we given our children ample opportunities like this family? Are we doing enough to equip them to succeed in the future?

Our grading scale tends to be based on appearances.

Take for example, the mom profile picture I can post of me at my best verses the crazy-train selfies I send to my husband after a full day of mothering and homeschooling our four little people. Exhibit A, B, and C below.

Mom profile picture.

Text to husband a few months ago: I spend three hours of every day feeding our baby.

Text to my husband last week: Just unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher with baby in pouch.

There are of course more unflattering pictures and texts than this, but like I am going to post those!

When I talk with other moms, many of them sigh a breath of relief after I have confessed to my absolute need to repent of yelling at my children, loosing my temper, needing a mommy time out, or …you name it. We have all been there! Or at least I have been there more frequently than I desire.

There are no perfect mamas. There is only a perfect Savior. Yet, we will take the best we see posted or acted out with other moms and beat ourselves up that we are not meeting those standards.

Of course there are biblical mandates for parents. There are a multitude of resources for parents to seek out for better communication with and disciplining of our kids. However, the point I want to make to we mama’s constantly assessing our rank or status as a parent, is that God looks at our heart not our outward appearances. Lest we forget, in anointing the next king of Israel Samuel fell into a similar trap. He was looking for stature, strength, and a handsome appearance in the man that would be chosen to lead. But God had other qualities in mind:

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
~1 Samuel 16:7, NIV

I think we need to look at our heart this Mother’s Day and lay our report cards at the foot of the cross and our gracious Savior. Yes, some days we will accomplish, excel, and be on our game. Some days our children will behave as we have trained them to and hoped they would. But most days are muddled in the middle of planting, sowing, training, and teaching…repenting and trying again. Most harvest awaits a later day or an eternal time. Patience is a process and parenthood is a sanctification like few others I have ever known.  In the meantime mamas, between now and eternity, we need to look not at our outward appearance, our filtered Instagram or Facebook posts, or the mom next door, but look instead where the gaze of God falls–our hearts.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. ~Psalm 24:3-4, NIV

The idol of comparison and appearances will get us nowhere. Likewise, shaming ourselves into thinking we are the only ones struggling to be the mom we want to be, and yet, can’t measure up to, will only make us feel worse. We must look at our heart, examine it, repent where we are in sin and ask the Holy Spirit to help guide us into the women He wants us to be. We must accept the grace God extends and the refining He provides. All our efforts apart from Christ are in vain.

This Mother’s Day, why don’t you and I rip that imaginary report card to shreds and spend some time thanking God for bringing us this far? We aren’t the same person we were last year, we aren’t the best images of ourselves we see on our social media accounts, nor are we what we see at our worst moments. We are image bearers of the Creator God, washed and forgiven in the blood of Jesus, and He looks not at our outward appearances, but at our heart. Our heart has a report card only God can assess and only eternity will reward.

Happy Mother’s Day,


 

 

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Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale

Once upon a time, there was a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby boy in need of a place to call home. He needed a mom, a dad, and a few siblings to grow alongside.

A few miles away was a family looking for a child to love forever. The family had a mom and a dad and two children searching for a child to coddle, wrestle, chase, kiss, and teach about the love of the King.

One day, after several months of seeking out such a child, the blonde-headed, blue-eyed baby bounced into their place of worship. He was safely held, that is,  in the arms of a family caring for him until such a time as he was matched with his forever family. For the daddy of the family in search of a baby, it was apprehensive love at first sight. For the mommy, it was a bit of confusion because she thought they were called to love a brown-haired, brown-eyed baby girl. More about her later as she wouldn’t come along for another year…but that would be getting ahead in the story.  After one visit with the baby boy in her home, the mommy, also, was forever in love with the blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby boy.

In fairy tales, evil always ensues before the damsel is rescued, the family reunited, or the kingdom saved. Real life mimics fairy tales because fairy tales mimic real life. This little boy’s story had many a dark and looming cloud.

For nine months the boy and the family grew to know and love one another. They shared firsts and celebrated milestones. The mommy and daddy, and the boy’s temporary family, sent e-mails, made phone calls, attended meetings, and petitioned judges before the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy bounced into the family’s home to stay. (Only modern day stories include phone calls and emails, but they are no less valiant, mind you, than decrees and messengers riding through the night to save the kingdom, rescue the damsel, or reunite the family.)

All throughout these months, and the ones which would ensue, a host of people within the Kingdom began to pray and petition the King for the boy to be placed with this family. Countless men, women, and children throughout the land would ask the King to place the boy with the family forever, and, quickly! The petitions of the people were being heard and would be answered in time.

Shortly after the boy came to live with his soon-to-be family, the court discovered an error that had to be addressed for this story to turn a final page into the second portion of its tale. This error would take ten more months to come to light and, thereafter, be rectified.

All this time, the months were accumulating  while the boy was waiting for the royal proclamation to give him a family. It would be thirty months until the proclamation would be granted. Thirty months before the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy would be given his royal name–that name which his family prays is already written in the scrolls of the Kingdom as in this kingdom. Thirty months until…forever.

Thirty months came and went before this big day arrived…

As the boy and his family experienced the declaring of the proclamation that would unite them for all of their life in this kingdom, they thought of how quickly the thirty months passed in retrospect. Like thirty balloons being lifted to the sky and released in a moment’s time with the wave of a hand, the loosing of a grip, the relinquishing of power.

The weight of the wait was intense and a load, at times, seemingly unbearable. But upon the royal decree, the weight instantly became as light as air. All the cares of the past were lifted away to be replaced by a focus on the future and on raising a knight for the Kingdom.

Lest you forget, fairy tales are full of woe before wonder, and this fairy tale will be like the others and, similarly, unlike. Good days and gloomy days lurk ahead, but this day was a day two kingdoms celebrated with thirty balloons and triumphant shouts filling the chasm between. Maybe, just maybe, one of those balloons reached the other side and greeted others who have waited in like fashion.

*This story is a prologue to another story still unfolding. If it weren’t for this one, the later would never be possible. Woe lurks, but wonder is on the other side. The Kingdom prays and the King whispers, Courage dear heart.


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Letting Go of Easter Expectations

“There is no way that I can recreate my childhood’s Easter experiences for my children.”

I nodded in empathetic agreement as my friend uttered the words. The same sentiment had slipped past my lips just a day before. Frilly new Easter attire (in my case handmade), egg hunts with dozens of cousins, and our annual family Resurrection Day feast cannot be recreated hundreds of miles away from family; nor additionally in light of my friend’s and my husband being a pastor and Easter being a major work day.

Your husband may not be a pastor. In fact, you may be a single mom. Either way, if your family lives in a location away from extended family, maintaining Easter traditions in keeping with your nostalgic childhood experiences is most likely an unrealistic expectation.

That’s okay.

The key to celebrating Easter lies in celebrating the Risen Savior.

Both my friend, and my husband, verbalized the truth that, as Christians, we celebrate the resurrection every day. Whether or not my children have new Sunday morning outfits, boys and girls outside of siblings to dye and hunt eggs with, or Easter memories of running amongst their great grandmother’s blue hydrangea bushes, or pink and white dogwood trees, akin to my Easter memories, isn’t the eternal point. Celebrating Jesus and proclaiming the gospel message is the central truth of this annual rememberance.

Our children will have their own Easter memories and traditions; different though they may be from our own.

Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s book, The Lifegiving Home , has wonderful suggestions for cultivating family traditions in every month of the year. Our Easter traditions center around the taking of the Lord’s Supper with our church on the evening of Palm Sunday, the reading of familiar collections of the Easter account (see Five Easter Books for Your Preschooler and Read Aloud Revival’s April Booklist) peppered each year with a few new favorites, dying eggs, and simple seasonal decorations. As I was writing this post, my mother’s annual Easter package arrived. The joy on the children’s faces was evident as our oldest said, Nana sends the best packages. I hope when I am a grandmother I will send such wonderful packages too.

Easter provides an opportunity to outwardly and evangelistically celebrate the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

Easter is a time to seek opportunities to share the truth of who Jesus Christ is with non-believers, in addition to solidifying the gospel message in our children’s hearts (prayerfully) and minds. More people attend church on Christmas and Easter than any other time of the year. Letting go of the expectations to recreate our childhood celebrations and choosing to embrace the opportunity to share teachings of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is the eternal point of Easter. It is a Mary moment for this Martha-like woman to acknowledge these things.

Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!


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Surprised by Five Years

For those of you who are frequent readers of this blog, you’ve probably noticed it has been a few months since I posted. In fact, it was Christmas since I’ve last written. No, I didn’t make it a New Year’s Resolution to stop blogging, although it may certainly seem like that. With the addition of our fourth child I have been back to newborn mode, and, quite honestly, we have been searching for our footing as a family of six.

It isn’t that I haven’t thought about blogging and even started some posts in my head. It’s just that the free time I managed to find was spent soaking in, rather than pouring out content. We parents spend all day every day pouring out don’t we? Especially parents of very small, dependent, wonderful children.

In  confession…

I have contemplated hanging up my writing hat for a while, venturing off on a new mode of communication (does anyone else love podcasts?), or, simply sticking with what works for the present. This afternoon, I was attempting to update a few things on the blog. In so doing, I came to the realization that This Temporary Home turned five in January! I knew I had faithfully typed away in this corner of the internet for some time, but I had no idea it was a celebratory anniversary year! For this homeschooling mama it is the equivalent of approaching either kindergarten or fifth grade graduation. Of course it’s homeschool, so no graduation ceremony, but at least I should take us all out to dinner and bake our favorite desserts, right? Or, maybe I’ll lower expectations and simply write a thank you note as we enter our sixth year.

With that said…

Thank you for subscribing, sharing, pinning, posting, liking, and reading five years of posts. I pray we have grown together. I pray something here has lifted your gaze to Jesus and to heaven–our eternal home. Additionally, I pray we have some roads left to travel together.

Following five months of being a family of six, I am beginning to come back around as an individual. There are a few days when the creative, contemplative juices are flowing enough to once again put fingers to keys and articulate what I am learning and viewing in the world around me. Will you come back and visit This Temporary Home soon? I hope you do!

Until then, home is a place called heaven,


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Bringing Christmas Home: 15 of Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Memories shared around favored Christmas books is one of our most beloved ways to celebrate the season. There are many things to see and do at Christmastime that involve activities outside the home, but books can take you back in time or to another location entirely. Or, perhaps, even allow you to walk in another man…or child’s… shoes. Be it the orphaned child, the homeless family, the shepherd boy, or an elderly woman seeking to catch a glimpse of Christmas magic, you and your family can enter their world and learn empathy and lessons to guide your own steps. Check a few of these out at your local library, favorite thrifted bookstore, or purchase them online and give them a try.

Her spirits, which had been high, fell a little as a sense of time touched her. How slowly it crawled and yet how fast it flew. She had been young and now she was old and the years between had vanished as though they had never been. ~Elizabeth Goudge, I Saw Three Ships

Merry Reading,

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Bringing Christmas Home

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It is all too easy for us to address Christmas as merely a bustle of ribbons and bows, wrapping paper and hot cocoa. However, each of us know that the memories that flood our minds of Christmas’ past encompass much more than that. Holiday movies, family traditions, familiar books, and everyday conversations around twinkling lights are the Christmas gifts we carry with us our lives long.

Our family has developed many traditions starting with our annual visit to Neely Christmas Tree Farm, followed by stringing lights with Dad outside as later mom decorates the tree into the wee hours of the night. Then there is the evenings shared in advent stories and lighting of candles. This year we have an actual advent wreath with candles; last year we merely pretended! A trip to Experience Bethlehem at a local church and a stroll amidst the lights at the botanical gardens are a few traditions that round out our list. These are just a few markings of the season for our family.

We bring Christmas home in the traditions we share and in the sharing of our material and spiritual blessings with others. Providing a shoebox to a child around the world, giving to support a missionary or a local child in need. Praying over the immense needs of people we know and those we read about…our own.

Perhaps my favorite way to bring Christmas home is in the sharing of story. Sitting around the Christmas tree, sipping on cider or cuddled in a cozy blanket, while we share in several familiar and a few new seasonal stories brings me tidings of true comfort and joy.

In all the ways that we celebrate Christmas, there are some central truths to our celebrations. The why behind the what that encompasses our season…

We bring Christmas home, because Christ left His home to dwell with mankind.

We each bring Christmas home, because the King of Kings humbled Himself, born as a babe in the lowliest of places, thereby identifying with the poorest among us both in spirit, body, and in means.

We bring Christmas home, because the Gift birthed for all mankind took on flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)

We bring Christmas home, because we need to ponder all His ways and workings much like Mary pondered the events of His birth.

We bring Christmas home, because we are not home yet, and we await His coming again. The glorious arrival of heaven on earth for all of eternity.

We bring Christmas home, because we have all like sheep gone astray and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

We bring Christmas home, because any given Christmas we are either the shepherds or the wise men: we must follow the evidence of promises yet unseen.

In all the ways we bring Christmas home, they serve a purpose to remind us that the bustle of the season isn’t the business of the season. The Christ-child is the business of the season, and the blessing as well. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus brought Christmas home to us. He is the gift.

Even if your Christmas isn’t swaddled in tradition or swaths of red and green this year, may you bring Christmas home to your heart this season and always.

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Thank You For the Cross Lord

Thank You For the Cross

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

~ Matthew 27:24-26

Many people believe that they are good people. Failing to compare ourselves to God, we can always find someone worse than us. I’ve even had an elderly lady tell me she doesn’t do bad things like those politicians!

Following the example of Pilate, we wash our hands of Jesus blood when our pride blinds us to our sin and we reason that we are good people.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

~Romans 3:23-24

Jesus did not drink the cup of God’s wrath for good people. Rather, when sin entered the world through Eve and Adam eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, good people ceased to exist. All people thereafter became fallen, sinful, lost people separated from their Creator by our sin nature. Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath against sin so that fellowship between God and man could be restored for eternity.

Christ’s sacrifice is not a blanket forgiveness for all people. His blood sacrifice provides forgiveness of sins for those who repent, turn from their sin in confession and action, and believe on Christ Jesus for salvation.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ~Romans 10:9-10

The priests and onlookers shouted out that Christ’s blood be on them and on their children. However, His blood is on each of our hands as we have all sinned against God.

Praise the Lord Jesus Sunday comes after Good Friday. However, today, I am thankful for the cross of Christ Jesus. I am thankful that He would look on a pitiful sinner like myself and lay down His life so that I didn’t have to suffer eternity apart from His Father and all good things.  Let us ponder today the cross and crucifixion of Christ and praise Him for His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. He alone is worthy of our praise.

Thank you for the cross Lord,

*Photo by Hannah Foster, used with permission.

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Celebrating the Coming Kingdom

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My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.  You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world– to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:36-37)

Wonder, amazement, and awe are emotions felt when we pause to consider the coming of Christ. Jesus left his eternal domain of Heaven and took time-capsuled residence among the fallen and flailing.

The King of Kings, Creator of All, clothed in human flesh… the dust of the earth. At the Father’s will He was crushed, stripped, beaten, and pierced for my transgressions: envy, covetousness, pride, slander, anger, ungratefulness, and ungodliness to name a few.

Jesus bore a mocking crown of thorns and accepted blows and insults as a lamb slain for the final sin offering. He is the One whose sacrifice we celebrate as His people freed from our sin.

Each man who had a part in the punishment of Jesus was known to Him by name. He knew everything about them. Likewise, he knows everything about us. All that we have done or will do both for shame and for His glory and yet, even then He chose the most burdensome cross of all: to do the Father’s will and restore relationship between Holy God and wicked man.

The Redeemer came to reunify the created to the Creator. Like the Good Shepherd that goes after the one lost lamb, He came so that all the lost have freedom to choose life. Life not given at first breath, but by means of dying to ourselves. That we may be reborn to new life in Christ that can never die.

Now we may walk with our Savior.

In Isaiah 53, the prophet, Isaiah, prophesied about Jesus, the Messiah, 700 years before His birth and 733 years before His cruel death on the cross. Our God is the Master Author, Scientist, and Historian. He is the more than we could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Bowed as branches we celebrate His triumphal entry, as was His way: riding upon a lowly donkey. May this Sunday’s celebration remind us to eagerly await the second coming of the One who, appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:11-28)

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-62)

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9)

Looking to the clouds and eagerly awaiting our Lord…

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