8 favorite things & last minute gifts of 2016

My middle son says I’d make a great “commercialer”. It’s just that when I love something, I can’t help but tell people. I want them to experience the same excitement, blessing, or shortcut that I’ve discovered. Zachary will walk into a conversation when I’m sharing with a friend and immediately blush, shake his head, and whisper, “Here she goes in commercial mode.”

I have a few favorite things this year that I must share with you. And some of these favorites might just be what you need to fill a last minute gift.

Instant Pot

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The Instant Pot has changed my kitchen life. It has made me dread cooking less. It’s made dinner planning, prep, and execution less stressful, faster, more organized, and cleaner.

Many dinners I can throw the ingredients in the pot and the meal is ready in minutes. If I forget to thaw out meat, it’s ok. If I planned a crock pot meal and didn’t start on time, I can use the instant pot and have the same meal in a fraction of the time. I can do all things in one pot. Saute the veggies, brown the meat, cook the meal, and have one pot for an easy clean up.

For some reason food simply tastes better in the instant pot.

I do love kitchen gadgets that make life simpler. This pot replaces many of my kitchen tools.  I gave away 2 rice cookers, 2 crock pots, and a roaster because the Instant Pot gives me everything I need in one package.

On my Pinterest board, I’ve pinned lots of recipes you can check out. I’ve also learned to convert just about all of my recipes to the Instant Pot.

Audible

I love to read. My boys love to read. We all enjoy being read to. And we spend a good deal of time in the car. I tried a free trial membership with Audible thinking I would get the free books and cancel my membership eventually because I was sure I wouldn’t use it near enough. I was so very wrong.

I’m funny about audiobooks. If the narrator is good, I can pay attention, but if the narrator is bad, my mind wanders. Audible uses wonderful narrators. Through many of them I am able to connect with the characters of the story they are reading. They bring them to life and really tell the story rather than simply read it. Audible is not just a reading of a book.

I’m also enjoy developing my auditory skills through more listening. I’m a very visual learner, so listening to books is helping me develop my weaker learning style.

For me personally, I have less time now to sit and read, so this allows me to put in my headphones and listen to a good book while the kids are playing and I’m folding laundry, cooking dinner, or going about my daily chores.

For the kids it’s so fun for us to listen to good books together on both long and short car rides. I’m able to broaden their interests by selecting books they’d likely not select on their own based on a bad cover. This way we just jump into books together.

Reading together sparks amazing conversations and really provides a great platform for bonding.

I strongly encourage you to try out an Audible membership. You get a 30 day free trial and 2 free books. If you keep your membership after the trial, you get 1 credit a month and 30% off Audible books. You download the free Audible app to listen to the books you download. It works seamlessly with Kindle so you can actually switch back and forth between Audible and Kindle (though I don’t enjoy electronic reading because I’m old fashioned).

You can gift Audible books even if someone doesn’t have an Audible membership. The Audible app is free. You can purchase an Audible book and send the egift. All they need to do is download the app. You can purchase Audible books without a membership. I like the membership because I will use what I pay for.  Also Audible members get a discount.

And reading more is simply a good idea and worth the investment.

Great, great gift to the reader on your list you are still waiting to find the right gift for.

Dollar Shave Club

Ok- this I simply love for so many reasons. It’s really nice to have fresh razors show up in my mailbox for a fraction of what I normally paid at the store. And the razors are my favorite. Much better than any brand I’ve found. While it originally marketed men, they now see that women don’t need a pink razor to enjoy a good shave.

Looking for a great gift- this is it. It can even be a great his/her gift. You choose the razor and the amount of months you want to gift to the recipient. Or gift an e-card and let them choose.

Homeschooling

I can’t think of anything that has turned my world upside down like homeschooling. Well, outside of becoming a parent to begin with. And certainly doesn’t compare to tragedies that alter life. But on a day-to-day basis and a look at seasons of life, homeschooling has been the most beautifully hard thing I’ve ever attempted.

I’ll be writing more about this soon, but in looking back over this year, homeschooling was an unexpected gift from God. And it looks nothing like I imagined it looking. It makes the favorites list.

Kombucha

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Another surprising discovery of this year. My sister has been trying to get me to make my own for years, telling me of the health benefits. But I haven’t taken the leap into making my own just yet. For now I buy and ration out (because it’s expensive) GTS Kombucha.

While there is a lot of unconfirmed research about Kombucha, after the boys and I started drinking it, my stomach pains went away that I’d been treating by eliminating food groups. I’m now eating all food groups just fine. One of my boys who was very fatigued and low energy found increased energy and alertness. Strong immune systems and a good dosing of probiotics has benefited all of us.

Every afternoon, we grab our Kombucha and read together.

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

 

Don’t let the cover turn you away because it doesn’t match up to the super cute, new story Bibles on the market. This Bible is wonderful for kids (and adults) of all ages. Each morning during Bible, I read a section of this to the boys. It’s amazing how much I learn from a children’s Bible. It’s a step up from the simplified children’s Bibles of today that tell only the big picture idea. This story Bible gives more detail and digs deeper.

Wal-Mart Online Grocery Shopping

You would think with homeschooling I have more time. Not so. I have drastically less time, which is why I LOVE this service. It’s free. It’s convenient. It saves me so much money from impulse buying.

I hop online when the kids are in bed. I sit with my grocery list and I plug it in. I select my Wal-Mart store and pick up time. I arrive in my time slot and use the free app to check in (or call the number listed at the parking spot to let them know you arrived) and they bring out your groceries with a smile on their face.

I don’t buy a whole lot of groceries at Wal-Mart because I buy the bulk at Trader Joe’s. But I get our fill in items at Wal-Mart plus household and personal items. How awesome to dump all these in the online cart and swing by and pick up.

Seriously has changed my life. This and the Instant Pot win the award of the year for simplifying the Robinson household.

The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theater

This remains on the favorites list. We’ve had this collection for years. Jacob received it for Christmas when he was 5 or 6 and it remains well loved. It’s not your typical audio book. It’s a complete theatrical performance.

A great family gift!

I’d love to hear some of your favorites from 2016 as well!

 

*********This post contains affiliate links**********

 

 

When We See Too Much of People

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Last post I shared why I’m fasting from social media. As I pondered how different life feels right now, a verse popped into my head.

Proverbs 25:17

KJV Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

NLT Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.

As I neared my time of breaking away from social media, I felt wearied. Wearied of people and certain they were wearied of me. Goodness, I was wearied of me!

Social media allows us to enter our neighbor’s house 24 hours a day. We enter the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. We enter their cars. We are with them always. A door is open all the time and we enter with or without invitation.

I began to form thoughts about people that I knew were ungodly. Sin began to breed within me. Judgements formed because I saw snapshots of someone without seeing the context of the glimpse offered.

My thoughts startled me. I’d scroll and come across a post that I felt was boastful or showy in an inappropriate way and instantly form a negative thought about that person. I’d read the follow up gushing statements of affirmation and flattery and find myself agitated that people couldn’t see through the posts. I didn’t like what was coming out of my heart.

I was seeing too much of some people. I needed better guards up so I could love them the way I’m called to love them. I was allowing my online neighbors to enter my house too often.

A diet of social media lessened my love for people, increased my cynicism, and gave birth to thoughts and feelings that felt unfamiliar.

I’ve shared all of this before on past posts through my Unseen series.

I think sometimes we forget that what we post on social media is us entering the house of our neighbor. And this is dangerous to forget, especially for women. What we post will be in the private places of the husband of another. If we wouldn’t physically enter the house of a neighbor in a particular way, we should exercise extreme caution over what we share that will essentially take us into the house of a friend.

This break is good for my heart. It’s a time to examine what I’ve allowed to enter and what I’ve allowed to form and grow. It’s a time to re-examine, evaluate. End of years are good for that. The assessment of what worked and what didn’t work. A time to hit a reset button and start fresh in the New Year. A time to ponder and reflect, plan and prepare.

 

Breaking My Phone Addiction and Experiencing Freedom

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In October I wrote a post titled The Noise of Social Media and the Silence of God. I had reached my limit. I needed off and out of social media. I needed to hear the silence in my head again so I could hear the whispers of God. I desperately needed the break and hesitantly rejoined the world again a few weeks later when God directed me back.

In 2015 I wrote a blog series titled Unseen – Because we were made for more than a like, which I had planned to be a book. You can read all posts here:

Part 1- The Unseen – Because we were made for more than a like

Part 2 – The battle that wages

Part 3 – The silent competition

Part 4 – Satisfy me

Part 5 – Am I accepted?

Part 6 – Freedom from slavery of likes

Part 7 – Am I Seen?

Part 8- Like Me

Part 9 – Overcoming the Comparison Trap

Part 10 – Wrapping Up

At Thanksgiving I felt more stressed than I should feel. My heart seemed to race all the time. I was snappy and irritable. My thoughts felt fuzzy, unclear. My head seemed cluttered.  I found myself losing my train of thought repeatedly. Internally, I felt this rushing, frantic pace. A race with no end. Constantly remembering what I’d forgotten to do.

At the same time, my phone was in my hands at all times. It was the first thing I reached for in the morning. It was the last thing I looked at before going to bed. It received my first thoughts and my last. During the day something was pulling at me from inside, drawing me into my phone. A wondering of what was happening in the world. Who was saying what now. Who was spreading or believing which lies now.

Everything my kids did, my first thought went to sharing it with the world on social media. It was so cute, so funny, so…..anything. Everything the Lord showed me I felt compelled to share through social media. Never taking a moment to ponder my intents, motives, or the need for privacy or protection of my family. Simply habits I’d been establishing. Sharing my life with the world. Reading every detail of the lives of too many people. Absorbing too much information for one soul to possibly bear with joy.

My phone went everywhere I went. If I needed to go the bathroom, my phone went with me. So in every 30 second slot of my day, my phone was by my side. I found myself looking for escapes from my day. Social media happily awaits any soul awaiting an escape from the reality and stress of life. It offers a replacement of a true refuge. A fleeing into God became nonexistent. When life became stressful, rather than hitting my knees, I hit the phone. When I didn’t want to deal with life, I picked up my phone. If I had a pocket of unfilled time, I scrolled. I skimmed. I absorbed. And I fed my soul without realizing it. I fed my soul dangerous food. And a little bit at a time, the poison began to work.

My sister shared she was giving up social media for Advent. I had planned to fast in another way. One morning I sat for my quiet time with the Lord. A time that has been so sacred to me and realized I’d picked up and checked my phone so many times that before I realized it, my hour was gone and I’d heard not a word from the Lord. I couldn’t tell you what I read. Nothing good soaked into my heart for the day.

I had an idol. My idol needed to go. I thought back to my sister and decided I would follow her lead. This time I didn’t announce a break. I simply disappeared. I didn’t post an announcement. I didn’t worry what other people thought. “Did they wonder why I stopped liking their posts?” “Did they think something’s wrong?” I let all those thoughts fall aside.

The first week I experienced withdrawals. Almost a depression of sorts. A sense of isolation, loneliness. Disconnected and excluded. The second week I turned a corner. I no longer reached for my phone. In fact, I didn’t even know where my phone was half the time. If we arrived home, my phone stayed in my purse. I had no need for it anymore.

I began to tuck back into my privacy. Grateful that the world didn’t see inside my life so frequently (though I was the one inviting the world in). I began to cherish in my heart what I saw in my kids rather than sharing it with the world.

I’ve been off social media for almost 3 weeks now, and I feel like a brand new person. I feel free. Truly free. I feel like I have my life back. My phone no longer owns me. My head is clear and crisp. The physical racing heart has slowed. And I’m not exaggerating. My heart raced through the day. I’m more mentally present in life now. My thoughts are not distracted and split between the ones I’m with and this false-connection to the outside world.

I miss the posts of a handful of friends. But what I’ve gained surpasses what I’m missing out on. These people here. They are here today, gone tomorrow. I’ve realized that I’m with my kids more now than ever before, but until this social media fast, I’ve been less emotionally with them than ever before. Enter the tension that shouldn’t exist. My soul is being torn, twisted and pulled in so many directions.

When I wake up, my hands don’t reach for the phone. My eyes open and my thoughts go to the Lord. To greet Him with a good morning. To allow Him to fill my heart and head before I hear from anyone else. I allow Him to settle my spirit before the world tries to shake up my peace. And it does. The world shakes me. Circumstances grind me. But now. I run to Him. Because there is nowhere else to hide or escape to. There is no social media outlet to numb me. No place for me to vent or seek fulfillment. No fishing for likes and affirmations. No. Now it’s just Him. He is all I need. He is all I want. He is filling my soul from the information overload of the last year.

I don’t know if and when I’ll reengage. For now I’m enjoying this new freedom. I’ll write on my blog like the old days. When it was pretty much just a blog. I’ll post the link on Facebook. But I won’t be reading newsfeeds. I’ve deleted everything from my phone. I’ll check messenger periodically. I’ll check notifications periodically to see if I need to respond to anything. Outside of that, I’ll continue to anticipate the celebration of our Savior’s birth. I’ll tuck into the quiet here and treasure up these fleeting days.

 

 

My Complete Booklist of 2016 for Adults, Kids, and sometimes both

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At the end of 2015 I realized I missed reading good books for no other reason than fun. I allowed busyness to be my excuse for not having time to read. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how I could fit in pleasure reading. Something made me feel guilty about using any pockets of time for anything not necessarily productive or spiritually beneficial. But I decided for 2016 I would at least attempt to read more for pleasure in an effort to try to relax a little more. Something I simply don’t make time for often enough.

I read primarily for knowledge. I love learning new things. I read lots of non-fiction and christian living. Somehow I’d convinced myself that reading for sheer pleasure or relaxation simply wasn’t priority. If I could read one pleasure book a month, I would be happy with my progress in 2016.

Last week I looked back at 2016 stunned that one intentional decision resulted in a list that far exceeded my expectations. My quest to read more fiction led to more of everything.

Here’s a list of the books I read this year in case you are looking for a few good books to add to your queue.

I’ve broken the books down based on books I read or books I read aloud to the kids. Some we listened to as audiobooks (a great way to read more books).

The books I listed as read-alouds could be read independently by my boys with no problem. However, I love reading to them. It’s bonding time for us. It sparks interesting conversations. We grow together. As long as they will listen, I will never stop reading to them.

This post would be way too long to give a synopsis of each book, but some I simply had to. You will discover which reads were my favorite of the year.

Family Read-Alouds

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“When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.”

We received this as a Christmas gift last year and I read a chapter aloud to the boys before school as they ate breakfast. They got ready faster to be sure we had time to read before heading out the door. Some chapters had us doubled over in fits of laughter. Some chapters we will never forget. Some stories left a mark that changed our hearts forever. Love Does was truly unique in the christian living genre. Hilarious yet moving to both children and adults.

I read these to my 13 and 11 year old boys. The 8 year old could likely handle it, but my older boys devour these books.

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We have this in many versions. Regular hardcover, student edition, preschool edition, and audio cd. The audio cd is our favorite. Read dramatically, The Story, is a perfect companion for carpooling, road trips, etc. We listened from beginning to end TWICE in 2016. It’s 26 hours of audio. A family favorite!!!

My kids did not want to read this. I’ll just be honest. But I forced them. Let’s just say, they loved it and are about to start the 2nd book in the series. Spiritual warfare in a way they can understand and grasp.

Every question your kid asks about Heaven. I learned so much! We listened to this with Audible.

While this was for the kids, I’ll never forget the story. A story of deep, unending friendship. Beautiful and tragic. I cried the last two days of this book. Ridiculous cries. The ugly, ugly cries.

If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, read it first. You will love Corrie Ten Boom so much that you  will naturally read the follow up. And it’s equally as good.

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Jotham’s Journey – A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide

Adult Fiction

Hidden Places by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is one of my favorite authors. I tend to fall in love with her characters. They are so real and alive to me. I read this book through several snowed in days at the beginning of 2016 and still think back to the characters that became near friends to me.

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow

The Ambition by Lee Strobel

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Goes down as one of my all time favorite books. I will never, ever, ever forget this story.

Family of Jesus by Karen Kinsbury

A perfect advent read. Or anytime.

A Bride Most Begrudging by DeAnne Gist

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

This is the first non Christian book I’ve read in several years. Over the years, I’ve gotten to where I simply can’t read a book that isn’t written by a christian author for various reasons. Language, inappropriate relationships, etc.  I have a few thoughts on this book that I might share later. Pretty typical Nicholas Sparks though.

Christian Living

Fearless by Max Lucado

Women of the Word How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts And Minds by Jen Wilken

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet – Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty

I really loved this book. I love the writing style. I love the message. A quick read. I found myself drawn into the author’s story. And though I couldn’t relate to her year’s of infertility, I found I related to her story despite different life circumstance’s.

Teaching from Rest – A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

If you are homeschooling or thinking about it, this is a must read.

Pursuit of God by A.W Tozer

This book is a complete life changer. Truly, it is. You must read it slowly. Each sentence is full of depth you can consume only in bite size pieces.

 

The “Best of” Christmas Posts – Tips to simplify, celebrate, serve, cherish, and give

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I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of my most popular or favorite posts from the past Christmas seasons. Enjoy these over several days. I’ll be sharing new posts soon. Currently we are wrapping up our first semester of homeschooling. I have much to share with you on what the Lord has been working in my heart.

I pray your Christmas season is off to a beautiful start!!

18 Ways Your Family Can Serve Others At Christmas

The Christmas season seems to blow in like a blizzard and bury us with piles of to-do’s. The key for me is to plan ahead just a little. To determine before life gets too hectic what our family will do.

Give the Gift They Don’t Know To Ask For

“I have come to realize that my boys only retain a small portion of what I speak to them. My words are granted only a few seconds to slip in before the door of opportunity slams. Written words aren’t blocked by doors, they slide under the crack of the door. There they remain and can be taken in slowly over time and multiple times.

A letter from a parent to a child is a tool that plants words deep into the soil of the soul. Those words remain with them for life. When the words are most needed, they are waiting to be unearthed. Resurrected to life in the heart of the child.”

My Favorite Christmas TraditionA Father’s Blessing ( For single mothers and widows, a mother’s blessing is equally as powerful and life-giving)

It’s a gift slipped into the Christmas tree. A letter. Words. To be opened with care and treasured for life. A gift that won’t be quickly forgotten. A gift that might not hold the wow factor, but a gift that will give more than we ever actually realize.

When You Are Weighed Down By Getting it Right at Christmas

Christmas can be simpler than we make it. There is freedom in walking in simple ways. In our home some things we do every year, and some things change each year. A tradition is a gift when it is enjoyed, but when it ties you down, it’s no longer a gift. This post shares a few books and activities we enjoyed one Christmas.

How To Not Miss Christmas

“We’ve all had that kind of Christmas. The one that seems to rush by only for you to look back and feel you missed it all. The one that you feel you are on the Christmas treadmill, checking off the list, racing from obligation to obligation, panting for air.

Then you wonder, did you miss Christmas? Did you show your kids what Christmas really means?

Here’s the secret to not missing Christmas. The absolute certain way that you will not miss it.”

Fighting the Christmas Pressure to Impress

“When we fall to the pressure of our culture in our gift giving, it becomes about us.  The attention is taken from the gift recipient and placed back on us. We might earn favor or impress, but we lost our humility. Christmas is the greatest picture of humility the world has ever seen.

If we want to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, it starts with modeling humility.”

When Your Christmas Season Doesn’t Go As Planned

Sometimes when our Christmas looks nothing like we planned, we experience Him like we never imagined. Isn’t that the real gift of Christmas?

15 Non-Toy Gifts To Give At Christmas – a most popular post!! The title says it all.

When It’s Time To Break Tradition -Why The Wish List Needs To Go Away

“He came to do. He doesn’t need our to-do’s.

Instead of filling our to-do’s with finding the perfect gifts for our kids, planning magical surprises to delight, scouring social media for the latest, newest, creative expression of Christmas magic, turn it over to him. Let go of the pressure to create magic. The magic is here. Waiting to be found. Hunt for it rather than burden yourself with creating it.”

25 Advent Calendar Days of Memories and Experiences

I’ve found a secret to fighting this type of Christmas stress.

Simplify.

With our advent calendar, we have simplified our Christmas, while making our season more meaningful and intentional. It only takes a little extra planning the first year, then each year that follows, you will thank yourself for making your holiday less stressful and more memorable.

Gifts for the True Gift of Christmas

Room in the Inn of Our Hearts

Dear Boys, When You Compare What You Get For Christmas With What Someone Else Gets

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

 

What Really Happens When We Flatter Our Friends on Social Media

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Proverbs 29:5

A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.

A friend does something nice for someone. It is posted on social media for the world to see. The “likes” abound. The flattery rains down. The person doing the nice deed is covered in praise and adoration. At first glance there seems to be nothing wrong with this, right? Or is there? Are we actively laying a net for our friend?

What is the difference between encouragement, praise, and flattery? Is there really anything wrong with publicly praising a friend? Possibly.

There is a secret part within us that craves approval. We want to be known, loved, and accepted. Social media intensifies this craving by feeding us likes and tangible approvals. It tells us we are loved, valued, accepted. We are cool, not different. We fit in, we are popular. When the likes pile up, we feel validated and accepted. We are given fake food for our soul. Our giftedness is displayed and recognized.

When we post praises in the form of flattery to another, we are actively laying the net for our friend. And in some cases, we are laying a trap for ourselves. In some cases, we aren’t truly praising out of the goodness of our heart. Rather, there is something hiding in our own hearts that finds its way out in an attempt to cover what is hiding in our hearts.

When I am on the brink of posting a public flattering praise of another, I must ask myself what my real motive is. Am I seeking attention for my own self by showing the world my goodness in encouraging the good in another? This might sound harsh, but upon examination of the deception in each of our hearts, we may be surprised at what we find hiding.

At times we use social media flattery to gain the approval and affection of the person in some way. I believe we do this not realizing it’s what we are doing.

Sometimes it’s our jealousy that drives us to publicly flatter a person. It covers our hidden jealousy and makes us appear better on the outside than we feel on the inside. If I’m stepping on your toes, I’m sorry. Everything I’m writing, I’ve done myself. I’m not writing in judgement. I’m writing from conviction. The Lord recently opened my eyes to what I was doing when I flattered friends and family rather than seek to encourage them.

At times we subconsciously praise another online because that is what we ourselves want. We desire the public affirmation and accolades. So we do what we want. We are in some way enticing others to praise us back.

Again, I’m writing out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my own life. Recently, I posted on Instagram and Facebook this happy birthday post to my husband. It was full of flattery words and sentiments. I meant every word. I don’t believe I held impure motives. However, did I not lay a net for him? Did I not feed the part within him that could crave more and more the attention and approval of others? Possibly.

A friend sent me a beautiful gift. I posted her praise as I boasted of my gift. What was my motive in that? Is there a motive in hiding? A hidden sin? Possibly.

Psalm 12: 1-3

Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully.

Flatter:

verb (used with object)
1.to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention.

2.to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively:

She flatters him by constantly praising his books.

3.to represent favorably; gratify by falsification:

The portrait flatters her.

4.to show to advantage:

a hairstyle that flatters the face.

5.to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile:

They flattered him into contributing heavily to the foundation.

6.to please or gratify by compliments or attentions:

I was flattered by their invitation.

7.to feel satisfaction with (oneself), especially with reference to an accomplishment, act, or occasion:

He flattered himself that the dinner had gone well.

When you read the definitions of flattery, it doesn’t leave a good feeling. Notice in definition 5 the use of the flattery – to get something from the other. Or in definition 1 to try to please. The use of flattery is usually manipulation in hiding or an attempt to gain favor or approval.

Satan takes what is good and twists it into something he can use. That is what he’s done with the rampant social media petting of others.

Social media praise, excessive praise of another, and petting and coddling of a friend’s goodness, generosity, and kindness is not encouragement.  It is flattery. The Bible warns us of flattery and flatterers.

The most loving thing we can do for that friend is to refuse to flatter them and feed an appetite within them that craves the applause of man and leads to a life driven by the fear of man rather than the fear of God.

Luke 20:20-26

20 They[a] watched closely and sent spies who pretended to be righteous,[b] so they could catch Him in what He said,[c] to hand Him over to the governor’s rule and authority. 21 They questioned Him, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You don’t show partiality,[d] but teach truthfully the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 But detecting their craftiness, He said to them,[e] 24 “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?”

“Caesar’s,” they said.

25 “Well then,” He told them, “give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

26 They were not able to catch Him in what He said[f] in public,[g] and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Please notice the use of flattery here. “Teacher, we know you speak and teach correctly and you don’t show partiality.” They came with an agenda, they began with flattery. Flattery was used to attempt to disarm Jesus. To make Him less effective. Jesus recognized their use of flattery as a means of manipulating Him into giving an answer that would trap Him.

You see flattery clouds our senses. Its perfumed words cover the intention in hiding. I’d go so far as to say the majority of us flattering others on social media aren’t even aware of our hidden agendas when we display this. But the Lord will reveal if you ask Him. He will poke and poke.

Romans 16:18 “for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.”

The spirit of flattery should be ripped to shreds. It’s a most powerful secret weapon of satan and my desire is to bring into light what is hiding in the darkness. The trap we are laying for our friends and the trap we are walking into ourselves.

Here’s where I have wrestled through this. One of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. How do I know the difference between encouragement and flattery? Along the same lines, another gift I have is discernment. There is a fine line between being discerning and judgemental. Similarly, there is a fine line between being a flatterer and an encourager.

Here’s a great article on the difference between encouragement and flattery.

Scripture on flattery:

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness– nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Psalm 12:2 They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.

Proverbs 7:21-23 With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.

I’m not suggesting we stop using kind words to build up our friends. Flattery is not simply kind words that build another up. Encouragement builds, flattery breaks.

Proverbs 16:4 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Sharing a kind word is offering a sweet gift. But a kind word shared in secret may protect our friend more than a public display of affection that starts a chain reaction.

Sharing a word of encouragement is crucial to the body. We should never stop building up others. But we must test our motives and our methods. Are we speaking the truth for the benefit and good of our friend with nothing to gain or advantage for ourselves? If so, we should encourage away. If there is the slightest twinge that we are flattering rather than encouraging, we should stop, pray, and seek the wisdom of the Lord.

When My Tradition is at the Expense of Another’s Family

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My sister told me a story that I can’t get out of my head. She was paying for her groceries at Wal-Mart. She began asking the woman scanning her groceries about her Thanksgiving plans, her work schedule, and the frenzy of shopping around the corner that would take place at Wal-Mart.

The woman began to share about her personal family situation- divorce, split families, a 44-year-old single mom. Because of the volume of business at Wal-Mart, she would be required to work over the Thanksgiving holidays. She would be working Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Her 14 year-old will sit at home by himself while she works Thanksgiving Day from 10-7. She has no other place for him to go. She requested off, she’s worked there 21 years. The answer was no. Mandatory for all.

I’m not upset at Wal-Mart, or any store for that matter. They didn’t create this. We did. Our materialism. Our focus on gifts. Our clinging to traditions. That is what has created a scenario for the stores that places them in a position to capitalize on the opportunity.

In my mind, I’ve created a picture of this woman and her son. I see her 14-year-old like I picture my Jacob and my heart breaks. God won’t let me shake this image I’ve painted. For this particular woman, maybe I’m off. Maybe I’ve romanticized her story in my heart. Maybe not. Regardless of this one story, I think God won’t let me shake it because our world is full of stories like this we fail to see.

I tend to live in my own little bubble at times. Thankful for my little world, focusing on the blessings that abound in my home. But there is a larger world outside my little bubble that breaks my heart when I allow myself to go there. It’s easier to live blind to the hurting world around us. I’m certain that is not the way of Jesus.

Right now I’m sitting in a cozy guest room at my mom’s house in Georgia. I’ve enjoyed days of lounging, laughing, and feasting, surrounded by the love of family. It’s easy for me to focus right here. To thank God for these blessings. But He keeps bringing back the picture of this woman and her son. He loves them as He loves me.

Thanksgiving Day on social media we will see feeds filled with beautiful family photos. The captions will say “Thankful” “Blessed” “Family”. I will love scrolling and seeing these beautiful pictures filling my feed. But there are others all around us who don’t have the picture perfect looking family. Many will feel thankful still. Many will not. Many will feel blessed minus the Rockwell portrait, many will not.

I was reading in Matthew this morning as I reflected on how thankful I am today. Thankful for my family near and far. I read this and then God brought to mind the lady I’ve never met from Wal-Mart.

Matthew 12:46-50

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

I don’t know if this woman is a believer or not. I don’t know anything about her. But I know that she has captured my heart.

Until 4 years ago, one of my favorite days of the entire year was Black Friday. Every year as long as I can remember I shopped on Black Friday. Either with my mom, sister, or friends. I rarely missed one. Thanksgiving night we’d scour the sale ads, make our strategic mapping of the course, then spend an entire day shopping.

Three years ago Seeking Christmas was published. I thought I was writing Seeking Christmas to help families discover the true magic of Christmas by giving tools to create traditions that focused on what Christmas really means. Today I look back and see that Seeking Christmas changed me. It was a pivotal turning point. The changing process wasn’t overnight. It’s been over years.

Part of why I wrote Seeking Christmas was to counter the commercialism and materialism of our culture. It creeps into our families in an effort to entangle us. While I’m a huge proponent of traditions, I also am a fan of breaking traditions and creating new ones. Sometimes we cling to something because we believe we can’t break tradition. It’s what we’ve done forever, so we must continue on. When we stay in that place, we miss out on creating more meaningful moments. The clinging to tradition can be stifling. It can choke out what might have been.

The year Seeking Christmas was published I attempted the traditional Black Friday shopping, but my spirit was unsettled. Each store I went into I saw all that is wrong with Christmas. The carts filled to overflowing with gifts, the maxed out credit cards, the pushing and shoving to make sure you get the item you came for with no thoughts to the others wanting the same item, the honked horns at stolen parking spaces. For the first year in my shopping life, I left Black Friday without buying a single thing. And I felt sad. I was sad at what had always been that I’d not clearly seen. I was sad that I spent my morning out supporting the very thing I hoped to change within families.

The year after Seeking Christmas was published, I broke my Black Friday tradition for the first time ever. The reason is that it didn’t coincide with the heart of my message. How could I write about celebrating what Christmas is truly about and then spend a day shopping and feeding the very thing that is wrong with Christmas? That year we created a new tradition instead of going out shopping, we would stay in creating. We crafted and made handmade gifts. Each year since has been a little different.

I thought I would grieve the giving up of Black Friday. I thought I would feel I was missing out. The opposite happened. It freed me. Over the past several years, we’ve focused less and less on material gifts. Yes, we give our kids plenty of gifts, but we give more experiences than toys. We give them gifts of opportunities, memories, and trips. These usually aren’t bought in the store.

Five years ago you never would’ve convinced me I would ever give up Black Friday shopping. Like many things, when we feel the prick of God in our spirit and we act on it, He blesses us.

I’m not saying Black Friday shopping is wrong. But there are times God will poke us and He is calling us to something that will cause us to walk against the current we are living in. That is what He did in my life and continues to do.

God continues to poke me at things that others freely enjoy and He gives me the option of listening to Him or following what others seem free to do. I’ve found that my soul rests still when I listen to the poke of God. When I resist the poke and go along with everyone else, the gratification is temporary. And the poke comes back.

This Thanksgiving would you consider the lady in Wal-Mart who is required to work because the demand for store hours is such that she will work 3 straight mandatory days? If there is any way you can not shop on Thursday or Friday, would you kindly consider it? Our dollars send the loudest message of all to stores. When we spend, we tell them we like what they are doing. When we don’t spend, we tell them we want to see change.

Family is the heart of civilization. Family is the beautiful gift our Creator gave us. What is most important is family. And according to Jesus, our “family” isn’t only by blood or marriage relations, it’s by those who follow the will of the Father.

To honor family, we must honor all families. To cherish our own at the sake of another seems selfish. To spend our money on a day or days that others are forced to work when they should be home loving on their own family seems unfair.

If God has poked your spirit over Black Friday shopping, may this be the year you follow the poke? It’s only two days of prolonging the purchase. Waiting until Saturday. Delaying our desires for the sake of another. It seems small and insignificant. Like our few dollars make any difference. But they do. I believe God multiplies our offering of restraint to bless the families at work on these days from our spending.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe a new tradition is going out on Black Friday, but not spending a dime. And all we do is go to the people, the ones working, and bless them in some way. Pray with them or over them. Hand them a gift, take them a plate of food, give them a gift card. If you love being out on Black Friday, but you have felt a poke, maybe it’s time to create a new tradition.