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Celebrating the Church Year

by guest author, Jessica Snell

The Lord is always with us. We are never out of His presence, never hidden from His eyes.
But it’s hard for us to remember that.
Where He is omniscient, and never sleeps, never slumbers, we are distracted and busy and fallible.
Though He is always mindful of us, it is hard for us to keep our thoughts constantly turned towards Him.

A Way for Us to Remember
Throughout history, Christians have taken advantage of the regular turning of the seasons as a way to remind themselves of the mercies of God.
It can be easy to ignore heavenly things, but it’s hard to ignore autumn turning into winter. It can be easy to forget to pray, but it’s hard to ignore the day turning into night.
And so Christians have traditionally attached feasts and fasts and prayer-times to these regular events: sunrise, sunset, and the changing of the week, and month, and year.

The Church Year Week-by-Week
We all come from different denominations and traditions, but most of our churches have in their heritage a tradition of morning and evening prayer. The rising and setting of the sun can serve as reminders to pray – reminders more constant and steady than any alarm clock!
And all Christian traditions celebrate a weekly service together, held on Sunday. And why Sunday? Because it’s the day that Christ rose from the dead. Observing a seven-day week reminds us of the created order – all time is God’s time, and all the world is God’s world – and crowning that week with a Sunday worship service reminds us of Christ’s triumph: death no longer rules us. God has come and offered us life.

The Yearly Cycle of Feasts
The daily and weekly rhythms of prayer and work and rest I just talked about are probably familiar to you. But these days, fewer of us are familiar with the fact that not just our days and weeks, but our entire year has a Christian shape.
The traditional church year follows the shape of the gospel story. The church year begins with Advent, in late November or early December, when we prepare for the Christ child’s arrival. This is the same place the
gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark start their stories.
Then on December 25th  we celebrate Christmas. The Messiah has arrived!
The church year continues through the seasons of Epiphany (Jesus is baptized and begins His ministry), Lent (the preparation for the crucifixion), Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Good Friday and Holy Saturday), Easter (yay!), Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit), and Ordinary Time (just regular time – the time we’re in now).
Going through this cycle every year keeps us from forgetting. It keeps the story of God’s goodness fresh in our mind. There are so many small and big traditions attached to these seasons – too many to go into here! – but even just being aware that the seasons exist, and that we’re moving through them day by day, can help us to remember the Lord, to remember His presence and goodness, and to remember that He loves us.

About the book:  Why do we celebrate seasons in the church? How can we do it well? And what does it mean for you?

Thousands of Christians wrestle with these questions, and others like them, every year — even every season. In this series of books, these questions are answered!

Written for Christians who want to embrace the historic traditions of the church, and whose desire is to bring them into their daily lives and homes, Let Us Keep the Feast seeks to provide explanation, guidance, and resources for richer, fuller practices for living the Church Year at home.

About the Author:Jessica Snell is a mom of four who makes her home in sunny Southern California. She loves celebrating the traditional Christian feasts and fasts, and helping others do the same! She’s the editor of "Let Us Keep the Feast", and blogs at Homemaking Through the Church Year.


Get Up and Move

by Rebecca Carey Lyles

I’m sitting in a chair as I write this, but I shouldn’t be. Why? Because a recent Swedish study concluded we need to move every few minutes to maintain our health. So, I just stood up and touched my toes five times, then did a couple lunges. Now, I’m back at it.

The Swedish study, combined with others, found that lack of movement is harmful to our health. Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, says, “Sitting is a risk factor, not a disease. It's comparable to obesity, and it's almost to the level of smoking.” Dr. Joseph Mercola of writes: “Mounting research suggests that even if you exercise regularly, you might still succumb to the ill effects of too much sitting.” What are those ill effects? Heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, shortened lifespan... Shortened lifespan? Yikes!

Author Becky Lyles
For years, we’ve been told regular exercise leads to improved health. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, I exercise every day for at least half an hour. Isn’t that enough? Evidently not—because, as the authors of the Swedish study point out, no matter how vigorously we exercise, that burst of exertion only involves a tiny portion of our 24-hour day. Dr. Mercola explains the problem by quoting David Dunstan of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia. He says the lack of muscle contraction caused by sitting decreases blood flow throughout our bodies, thereby “reducing the efficiency of biological processes.”

I hate to say this, but housekeeping is good for us, as is washing cars, raking leaves, mowing lawns and tending gardens. Your house may be spotless, like mine (just joking…), and your lawn has gone dormant for the winter; plus, it’s too cold to wash your car. What can we do around the house (or the office) to move our muscles?

Dr. Mercola sets an online timer to ring every 15 minutes. He takes a 30-60 second standing break and may do stretches or squats or posture exercises. If your house or building has stairs, you could run up and down a couple times and do some calf stretches—or heel stretches on one stair. Those with wood or tile floors might skip around the house (or the office, if you’re daring).

Sweep your front porch. Do jumping jacks on your deck. Set your laptop or tablet on a counter and work while standing. Use a doorframe to stretch arm and shoulder muscles. Yoga moves and isometric exercises are also great options. Even standing and rolling your head from side to side can be beneficial.

In nonmedical terminology from a nonmedical person, I think the idea is to keep our blood flowing. Remember, writers’ brains crave fresh blood as much as our muscles do. Stand up, stretch, march in place, sit down and write!

About Becky:
Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the setting for her Kate Neilson novels. She currently lives Winds of Freedom is the sequel to the award-winning first book in the Kate Neilson series, Winds of Wyoming.

She currently lives in Idaho, where she serves as an editor and a mentor for aspiring authors and as a coach for women transitioning from prison to life on “the outside.”

About Becky's Book: Winds of Freedom
Winter storms blast across the Whispering Pines Guest Ranch, and a cold wind blows through Kate Neilson’s soul. Despite her pain, Kate’s well-being takes a backseat to the needs of loved ones: her best friend, who’s been ensnared by evil; her failing great-aunt, whose dementia care keeps Kate guessing; and Laura and Mike Duncan, whose ranch and livelihood are threatened by a land-grabbing neighbor.

Connect with Becky:
Facebook: Rebecca Carey Lyles  or Becky Carey Lyles
Twitter: @BeckyLyles



Homework (or Homeschool) Pledge

At the Gardner household, we've grown weary of daily homework battles. If your home resembles ours, you spend three-quarters of your weekday evenings making statements similar to these:

"Stop twirling in your seat and focus."
"Does this joke have anything to do with science?"
"No more gas noises."
"You went to the bathroom seven minutes ago!"
"Mop up those tears. Spelling isn't worth crying over."
"If you're not done writing that paragraph in five minutes, you're going to be grounded from Playstation until
you're twenty-three!"

These and many others were regulars around our place. And I repeated them EVERY evening. That is, until I realized that I had never set established clear-cut expectations. There's something miraculous about writing down rules, posting them in a public place, and referring to them as needed.

When I discovered this, I searched online for a homework pledge but found absolutely nothing. So I set out to create my own. Hubby and I conferred over its content, then we had a family meeting. All points were discussed and all parties signed,,stating that they understood and would abide by the pledge--or suffer the consequences!

Yes, parents have consequences too. We don't get a time-out or T.V. restriction. No, our consequences are much worse--we suffer from whiny, grumpy children who drag their homework into a four-hour event. It's well worth my effort to keep this list at the forefront of our minds.

Does this pledge solve every problem? Have we had an angelic atmosphere in the home since signing it?


But, I can tell you this--we regress only when I forget to keep us all accountable.

I've pasted it below for you, but feel free to tweak it according to your family's needs.

Happy homeworking! (hopefully...)


As a student, while doing my homework, I pledge to:

1.       Not sing, make noises, or talk/ask questions about things that do not pertain to homework.
2.       Not get up without permission.
3.       Work diligently and apply myself until the tasks are finished.
4.       Work so that my homework gets done in the timeliest manner possible.
5.       Have a good attitude. This excludes whining, scowling, tossing things about in frustration or anger, defacing my homework pages with scribbles, or any other display of unhappiness at either my parents or my homework.
6.       Speak in calm and respectful tones with my parents.
7.       Be neat and use proper capitalization and punctuation at all times.

I understand that each infraction will deny me ________________________________ once my homework is done.

Signed: ______________________ Dated: ______________________

As a parent, I pledge to abide by the following while my child is doing homework:

1.       Be patient at all times.
2.       Speak in calm and respectful tones to my child.
3.       Answer to the best of my ability all questions pertaining to homework.
4.       Keep my child accountable to diligently following his/her Homework Pledge.
5.       Apply correction consistently in order to maintain structure and a pleasant home environment.
Signed: ______________________ Dated: ______________________


Crippled by RA at 29, Running for God at 35

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in April 2007, the month I turned twenty-nine. Soon after, there reached a point I could barely function. Life came to a screeching halt, and (as far as I knew) would never be the same again. I recall saying to my sister, "This disease is eventually going to kill me." At the rate my health was declining, the statement wasn't a stretch.

But enough of that. There's no sense dwelling on what was when I can praise God for what is.

And what is, is full health.

Lots of drugs and prayer later, I do what I want, go where I want, and am only occasionally reminded that I have a degenerative disease. RA will go to the grave with me, and there's no promise of health tomorrow. But today, I'm running for God.

Quite literally.

In October, my friend Celese encouraged me to take on the Run for God 5K Challenge. My first thought? I can't do that. I have RA! My second thought? But wouldn't it be amazing if I could...? Celese didn't listen to my excuses, so I stopped making them and decided to give it a try. All I could do was fail, right? And no one would fault someone with RA for quitting on account of pain... :-)

So, I joined her and began running.

Three months (and zero pain) later, I crossed the finish line, utterly stunned at what my body had accomplished. At what God had accomplished in and through me. How He'd taken me from complete dependence on myself, to complete dependence on HIM. Both then, and now.

I wouldn't trade those pain-riddled years and the lessons learned for anything!

The 5K bumper sticker I earned adorns the lid of my laptop. Every time I open it to write, I remind myself what God can do. That He took me from crippled to running. That He can do whatever He pleases with my words and with my life.

And that I'll gladly let Him.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17


The Best of 2013--Captured by Moonlight by guest, Christine Lindsey

Everyone's sharing their favorite book of 2013 and having all the fun without me. So I thought I'd get in on the action and tell you about the one book this year that, six months later, still has me spellbound.

Christine Lindsey's "Captured by Moonlight" truly captured my mind. This is the second of her books to completely fascinate me. Her stories become part of who I am, and I can't hear the word "India" without thinking of them. I blame the mixture of exotic setting (British Raj in India), historical detail, and true-to-life heroes.

I've invited Christine to be with us today. What she shares is sure to inspire you, as it did me. Below, you'll find a bit more about her books. And, most importantly, how to buy it!


What This Wife Learned in 2013?
by Christine Lindsay

New Years—a time for reflection.

What was God trying to teach me last year? And did I "get it"? 

Last June I bumped into two sets of ladies. One group of women warmly reminisced about camping holidays with their husbands. The other group sadly informed me of the sudden passing of their dear spouses.

We don’t know how much time we will have with our loved ones. After hearing those stories I decided to buy a travel trailer for my husband and me to get away alone together.

God has blessed me with a writing and speaking career. It’s been a joy to see this long-prayed-for and desired ministry, but I felt the Lord also tell me to slow down, to enjoy each moment with my spouse.
These days I’m speaking less, selling less books because I’m marketing less, and writing is slower. But I know I am doing what God wants me to do.

Wave if you see my husband and me driving past on the freeway. Blessings on your 2014, and love the ones God gave you.

What was God trying to teach YOU last year? And did you "get it"?

Learn more about Christine Lindsay and how to purchase her books.

About Captured by Moonlight, Book 2 of the series Twilight of the British Raj.
Two women, one Indian, one English, flee to the tropical south of India only to be captured and imprisoned by their respective pasts—Eshana by her traditional Hindu uncle for her faith in Christ, the other, Lieutenant Laine Harkness by her former fiancĂ© who crushed her heart years ago. Amid cyclones and epidemics, tigers and tiger cubs, clashing faiths and consequences of war, will the love of the True Master give hope to these searching hearts?

Book 1 Shadowed in Silk purchase link
Book 2 Captured by Moonlight


Assigned Gift Wrap Saves Time, Increases Suspense

Save the hassle and expense of gift tags by choosing one gift wrap per child or family member. Keep to yourself who goes with which wrap and have them guessing until Christmas morning. 


For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6


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