It’s A Wonderful Life In Mount Olive: How I Launched Into a Full-Time Writing Business in 2021

In 1946, Frank Capra told a story about how the life of one ordinary man in one typical small town made a difference that impacted the world. This story went on to become an icon of the holiday season and a movie many of us watch every year, but this year became the year I lived it.

For eight and a half years, I taught proudly at Wayne Community College. It was a job I had prayed for and thanked God for daily. Then Covid-19 happened, and we all shifted to working remotely. I worked primarily from home but went into my office occasionally. When I did, everything had changed. Fellowship was truncated. Everyone kept masked in their separate offices and rarely socialized anymore. Covid-19 stole the heart of our connection to each other. That impacted me more than I realized.

I thought the grass was greener in other departments, but I had no opportunity to move there. Then I thought the grass was greener outside the pasture, and I left Wayne Community College.

It was a golden opportunity that promised to pay me double what I made teaching and let me stay home all day building curriculum. Within three months, I was putting down money on land and finally building my house. Before the land was fully in my name and the contractor was hired, I was fired.

Closed Doors = Opportunities

I didn’t see it coming, and I was in shock. Then I got angry. God and I had a few choice words as I walked my property and realized I couldn’t move forward with the dream and everything I had longed for was on hold once more.

I felt so foolish. If I had known it would end like this, I would have never left Wayne Community College. Sitting in a field full of weeds looking like I’d lost my mind, I cried out to God for answers.

God didn’t answer me in that moment or even the next ten, but He did answer. First of all, He showed me that the cost of building during Covid was so high that I would have been upended if I started the house build when I wanted to. It was better to let the ground rest for now.

Secondly, He showed me that He had to let me go through all that to pull me out of my comfort zone and into my calling as a writer. As a teacher, I didn’t make time for writing. I thought I would just wait till I retired. God said, “nope, I need you now.”

The Difference One Life Can Make

What proceeded to happen was a series of open doors that only could have happened by God’s hand. I walked into small businesses, corporate offices, and local government and found favor to tell stories about all sorts of people and places. The blog grew to an international readership in over 30 countries with over 10,000 views. That gave me a platform to talk about social issues and advocate for change on a national and global level. All of a sudden, this little ordinary girl in a little ordinary town was making a big world difference.

Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay you back monetarily. In fact, this year closes out on the lowest bottom-line in my bank. But what God and I have built together this year on faith is something I couldn’t have imagined with thousands of dollars and plenty of job security.

What God Saw That I Couldn’t

In the Fall, parents across the country were enraged with Covid-19 restrictions hurting learning for their kids, LGBTQ agendas forced into education, and Critical Race Theory being taught in school. Even at the college level now, curricula are being rewritten to divide people over issues of race and sexuality. As I watched the news unfold, God spoke to me:

If you had stayed in that curriculum creation job, you would have been forced to write something you didn’t agree with. I took you out before that could happen.


I was contacted by a K-12 school in Minnesota. The administrator and I had met in a small group online, and she had been reading my work at The Bohemian Princess Journal. She called and asked me to write her school’s entire curriculum.

With 75 committed families on the line, it just got serious. God started putting people in my path to partner with me in the vision. All of a sudden, I knew what to do and who to pull in to help make the best curricula possible for them. The biggest project of 2022 will be creating this curriculum.

Simultaneously over the summer and fall, I was busy networking with small businesses, local government, and non-profit organizations. God opened doors for me to walk into places I never thought I would go, and He gave me favor with important people when I went there. Out of those meetings came paying writing gigs and networking connections that would build into 2022 and beyond. From those opportunities came bigger opportunities to help my town and community in tangible ways including partnerships with Wayne Community College to bring classes into the community. That’s when God revealed another truth.

Your time at Wayne Community College in the specific department you were in was strategic. I needed you to have those relationships to form the alliances we need now in ministry to the community. Your faithfulness there created a bridge here now that will help people in crisis as well as your friends back at the college, and that couldn’t have happened without removing you from your comfort zone and putting you in this place of complete dependency on me.


What’s Next…

This year didn’t start out to be anything I thought it would be and, like George Bailey, I had some dark moments where I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. But God saw me and all the talents I was hiding and called me out of hiding forevermore. Rebecca J. Whitman Writing Services and The Bohemian Princess Journal are here to stay. I can truly say, now, that it is a wonderful life in Mount Olive.

I am not sure about God’s timing, but this year has taught me to discern God’s voice and follow it no matter what it tells me to do because there is always a reason for it. God has sent me on some crazy adventures this year and shown His hand in more ways than I can count. Here are some of the adventures slated for 2022:

  • Build a non-denominational Christian curricula for K-12 instruction that is also applicable to Adult Education
  • Launch The Bohemian Princess Journal into weekly podcasts on Mondays.
  • Streamline the content and change the look of the website; make blog posts follow a theme and post once a week on Fridays.
  • Work with non-profits, churches, and small businesses to write promotional materials and branch into social media marketing.

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May you be blessed and may God shake your own foundations and send you on new adventures in 2022.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:6-18, NIV

Christmas With The Chosen

If you haven’t heard of it already, The Chosen is the first ever television series based on the life of Christ. It presents the Gospel in a way that makes the characters real and approachable. For example, there is a scene when Joseph comes to Bethlehem with Mary and there is no room for them anywhere. In The Chosen, Joseph gets angry at the lack of accommodations but makes the best of it in a stable. We see him shoveling out animal feces to make room for the birth of the Savior of the World. It is thought-provoking, humbling, and human.

The Chosen is intentional about this. It’s goal is to present God as a relationship not a set of rules we must follow. I will let the creator, Dallas Jenkins, explain it more. The following are the first and second Christmas specials with The Chosen. As it approaches its third season fully funded by the fans, there are a lot of reasons to celebrate.

Join us as we celebrate the Christmas season with other artists you may know on the set of The Chosen.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

5 Last Minute Free or Low-Cost Gift Ideas For The Procrastinating Shopper

We are hours away from Christmas today, and excitement is filling the air. If you are not quite done shopping, that excitement feels more like panic. No one wants to get to Christmas without presents for the ones they love. In this post, we will discuss some ideas you may not have thought about and some ideas that cost nothing but your time.

1. Time

The one thing your loved ones want more than anything on their Christmas Wish List is your time. The following are some creative ideas to give your time as a gift. To make it a present for them to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Do something they have asked you to do for a while such as fixing a door or baking a specific dish they love.
  2. Turn off your phone and devices to spend a certain number of quality hours with them in person.
  3. Complete an act of service for them such as grocery shopping or cleaning the kitchen.
  4. Make dinner (Bonus: Make it dinner and a movie!)

2. Talent

The gifts that have the most “wow” factor are the gifts that are well made by hand. Think of what you do well either as a hobby or business, and turn that into a product you can wrap and give away. The following are some creative ideas to give your talent as a gift.

  1. Make jewelry specific to their style, features, and interests.
  2. Make recycled art. Everything from jewelry to clothing to journals and more is trendy when it is made from discarded wrappers, pop cans, plastics, and other odds and ends.
  3. Make a work of art (painting, drawing, song, poem, wooden craft, etc.) specifically for them.
  4. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating something they enjoy or some of your best memories together.

3. Treasure

The gift your loved ones won’t expect at Christmas is the gift that requires you to sacrifice something you own and love. Think of what you have that they have commented on and/or may be something they will enjoy. Look for the gifts that are a little hard to give away not the ones that you got all the goodie out of and should rather throw away. The following are some creative ideas to give your treasure as a gift.

  1. Can you wear the same size? Give away some of your favorite clothing pieces. Don’t give the worn out pieces; give the pieces you put in special storage to protect.
  2. Give tech. Some of us have extra devices and accessories beyond what we actually use on a daily basis. Give your excess away–especially if it is still relevant (not your 8-track player from the 80s).
  3. Raid your storage. It’s amazing all the gently used gifts (kitchenware, house goods, etc.) that can come out of boxes and totes you’ve stored away for some future time and space.
  4. Gift your sparkles. Thin out your jewelry collection of the pieces you don’t really wear. Clean them up and package them nicely to give away. You can make a very professional looking card with some precut cardstock, holiday washi tape, and a hole punch. I wrap carded jewelry in individual jewelry boxes, small bags, or treat bags.

4. Adventure

For the adrenaline junkies and all those who can’t sit still, the gift you need to give is an experience. This type of gift pairs well with gifts of your time because most adventurers really would rather do life with you than on their own. The following are some creative ideas to give an experience as a gift. To make it a present for them to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Buy tickets to a play, concert, or museum. Go on a musical adventure through the Museum of the Bible with For King and Country. Tour the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York. Sit down with your favorite recording artist for Christmas. Many events are streaming online to a whole group of people for a single ticket price. Others are available online for free.
  2. Give a scavenger hunt. Whether you lead them to hidden or buried treasure from gift idea number 3 or to something completely new, the gifts they have to hunt for will be the gifts you are still talking about years later. I made the mistake of doing this one year for my sister. I buried her collected treasure in our backyard’s sandy soil. By the time she went hunting it, the gift had sunk lower into the ground, and she had to dig a 6 foot hole to get to it. Lesson to learn from this: Put buried gifts in black trash bags to protect them and bury them closer to the surface.
  3. Go on Groupon or AirBnB. Tickets to all sorts of events from Broadway shows to dancing to sky-diving get cheaper on Groupon than anywhere else. Unique classes and experiences (like horse trekking in Ireland) and places to stay (like an exotic island treehouse) can be found around the world on AirBnB.
  4. Give the gift of learning. Masterclass and other platforms offer short classes with famous professionals on a range of subjects from cooking to dance, sports, and writing. You can learn how to write a children’s book with Judy Blume or a mystery/thriller with James Patterson. For book nerds like this writer, just being in the room with a best-selling author is a dream come true much less in a class with them.

5. Memorials

If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who wants nothing at all, give the gift of giving in their stead to a charity they would appreciate. Be careful who you give this gift to, however. Givers are often giving from their love language and want something that is just for them too. The person that appreciates a memorial gift is not necessarily your typical giving, humanitarian friend.

This type of gift can also be used to honor the memory of someone you have lost. Whether it is your first Christmas without them or your 7th, a gift in memory of a lost loved one can be a way to keep them a part of your life and honor the causes they championed while they were with you. The following are some creative ideas to give a memorial contribution as a gift. To make it a present for someone to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Give to education. Whether to a place they worked, attended, or admired, giving to education can establish scholarships in honor of the person you are gifting or honoring. Depending on the organization, those scholarships can be given to specific needs or groups of graduates. For example, a scholarship could be established to sponsor all emerging entrepreneurs with a 3.5 GPA. Note: Establishing a scholarship takes time, so this really isn’t a last minute gift. However, you can print a certificate stating your plans to establish it in the coming year.
  2. Give to veterans. The Wounded Warrior Project and the Disabled American Veterans are two places I would recommend to honor past military service. They are good stewards of your investment and use it help real veterans. To give to active duty military and their families, consider a contribution to the USO.
  3. Give to those in crisis. There are a lot of organizations that help people in their time of greatest need whether they lost everything in a storm or they are hiding from an abusive relationship. If you want to keep your support in specific communities, find a church or non-profit that is stewarding their resources well and servicing the people you want to help. There are too many of those to count, but you can find some we love in the Humanitarian Causes part of the Bohemian Princess Journal. For national and international support, give to the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, 700 Club, or Joyce Meyer Ministries.
  4. Give to the forgotten. Whether it is a single parent, an orphaned child, a homeless person, or the elderly, we will always have the needy among us. Find a charity whose cause you believe in and give a gift in honor of the person you want to gift this Christmas. We like to give in this area to our local church or denomination because we know how they use the funds, but you can also choose to give to a non-profit making an admirable difference. Two of our favorite non-profits are The 4 Day Movement and Hope Centers. (Look for more about both organizations soon on the Bohemian Princess Journal.)

Hopefully these ideas got your creative pot stirring. May you find creative ways to give life and love this Christmas, and may you be challenged to give sacrificially to show the love of Christ this Christmas.

We would love to hear how these ideas impacted your Christmas. Leave a comment below if you use one of these ideas. Let us know what you did and how it was received.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Get Used To Different: The Pivot of Hope During Covid-19 and the Heart of The Bohemian Princess Journal

“Get Used To Different” by Mandisa

When Covid-19 happened, the world was turned on its head. People turned against each other and made a cause to fight even if there wasn’t one.

The buzz word everywhere became pivot. We all had to learn to think on our feet and be willing to change quickly to stay relevant. Our culture was evolving into a global one at levels of interdependence we had not experienced before. Instead of a few countries in partnership with each other, the entire world got hit with an invisible enemy and the need to work together to crush it.

In some ways, this was a good thing. People spent more time at home and got a reset on their values. Business increased as more people shopped online. The supply couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with the demand and now, going into 2022, we have shortages effecting every corner of the market. That means opportunities for work are opening across the globe in ways we haven’t seen before in years…perhaps even my lifetime.

We have seen the good and bad in humanity during Covid-19. While all these opportunities are presenting themselves, we also face them with polarized views about health-care, politics, race, and religion. Across the globe, human trafficking, domestic violence, and genocide have increased because of our isolation.

But hope still exists. International dependence also creates International awareness. We don’t have to struggle alone in the dark anymore. The world really is your oyster.

The Catfish Who Was Neither Cat Nor Fish

One morning I got a message through social media from a man I had never met before. I was used to men trying to catfish me on social media, so I had pulled my picture off all my accounts save this one. I approached the message a little guarded. What sort of person messages a lady at 2:00 in the morning that is NOT a catfisher? I thought. As it turns out, a married man on the other side of the world would.

E reached out to me from hiding in Afghanistan. He saw my connection to the Afghan Coalition and hoped I could help them get out. E was in the media during US occupation in Afghanistan, and he was actively promoting equal rights and democracy for his country. His wife, N, was a human rights activist helping women get legal protection from abusive marriages and education to start small businesses. If Wonder Woman were real, I imagine she would be like N.

I vetted my new friends, E and N, through channels of aid who could verify they were who they said they were and who could connect them to help evacuating the country. If I am honest, however, I was already invested in caring about them and wanting to tell their story to anyone who could help or make a difference.

We knew it was just a matter of time before the Taliban found and “detained” E and N. I feared the worst and worried that every word I wrote them in English risked their life. Thankfully, E was smart enough to delete the messages…but I still worry that our friendship is a threat to his safety.

After the Taliban assassinated his father-in-law and threatened him to stop advocating for western ideas in the media, E and N left their home and went into hiding. They have been living off their savings every since. This week, I asked E how much money he had left to live on and he told me: one month. One month before communication stops. One month before hunger becomes so real your body feels like it is eating you from the inside out. One month before two heroes fighting for the lives of their people cease to be.

Then E told me he had two gold rings he could sell to buy another month. I didn’t want to ask–I already knew–but he confirmed it. He would have to sell their wedding rings to buy more food.

Something about that just broke me. I couldn’t stop crying. For a whole day, I went to Christmas parties with my friends and shopping in the local stores all in a fog thinking about him. All the hustle and bustle of Christmas felt meaningless in the light of real suffering and loss on the other side of the world.

E never asks me for money. He blesses me and thanks me for my heart. Talking to me gives him a glimmer of hope in humanity. Talking to him reminds me why this blog exists.

Why The Bohemian Princess Journal Exists

There is beauty in multi-cultural awareness. God did not create us to live in silos or see the world through our own narrow set of lenses. There is so much more color in the world.

Like Jason Aaron’s version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, there is greater richness and understanding of the heart of God when we embrace other cultures in love. Embracing cultures–trying different foods and traditions not other religions–is at the heart of what Jesus Christ did when he walked the Earth. He loved on people in tangible ways and called people out on their faults when it was necessary. We need to do that too. Loving like Jesus opens the door for conversations that will lead to change, but it all has to start with that intentional hand reaching down to the drowning Peter and helping him up.

What would it look like if all the world were your oyster not your cage?

What could you do for Christ if you thought about life with a Kingdom mindset on a global scale?

For me, those answers became my writing business and the heart of this blog. I chose to become more intentional in my writing and use this platform to make a difference and inspire change. So far, we have been able to reach into over 30 countries with our message, and we look forward to God using us to inspire others for many more years to come.

A Poetic & Auditory Response to A Silent Night at Museum of the Bible

The bleak midwinter settles

in layers of flurries without and within

Crackling fire and a boy hold

a protected book in a one room cabin

Creaking floors and hinges, rattle open

Footsteps in the snow lead

lanterns to a stage floor

where percussion explodes…

Lift up your head! See

the percussion army dance, swing

wide from the shores of burning ships, sink

deep to the lost and hopeless, feel

the heart beats of hope again, watch

footsteps cross continents to bow

on National Mall in Washington DC, dare

to imagine a world where history

comes alive

celebrates The Word of light, the babe

born king, unpretentious, sets

the world ablaze with purpose.

No pit of darkness stands,

when Jesus Christ is in command.

Your army of artists surrender

Pens–Voices–Sticks–Vessels to Your hand.

For King and Country’s Christmas Special is a Partnership with the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Tickets give you 4 hour access to the 1 hour performance. The show is available for a short time only from December 10-17.

It is a show that blends all the arts–music, theater, writing, and more–to bring to life one of the most important events in world history. Pick up a ticket online before this opportunity passes and grab your headphones for a repeat show. You don’t want to miss this in surround sound.

A Microwave Is Not A Slow Cooker: How to Get Along With Difficult People

Story softens us. Even when your stories differ, they still matter because you can learn from them. Threads of someone else’s story can inform your own.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

There is something powerful about sharing stories–especially personal ones. It’s why we gravitate to memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction. It’s why we watch and rewatch movies about the underdog finally getting his chance and winning. It’s why we gather in small groups and open our hearts with people that used to be strangers. There is something in all of us that wants to be heard, known, and accepted by others.

But what do you do when you are face to face with someone that is polar opposite to you? How do you interact peacefully with microwave personalities if you are a slow cooker?

Microwave vs. Slow Cooker Personalities

It’s hard to imagine the modern world without a microwave but, believe it or not, I still remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have one. If you wanted to pop popcorn, you had to cook it slowly on the stove or over a fire. If you wanted a baked potato, you had to prep it and but it in the oven for over an hour. It took time to get to the value we wanted, but it was worth it. Some would argue it even tasted better because of it.

People are like that too. Some people are like microwaves; they have no filter and tell the story of their life to anyone who will listen in person or at a distance through their social media. Others are like slow cookers; they are extremely selective about what they tell and how they tell it and only a select trusted few know the full truth of what is going on with them. Though neither approach is right or wrong, it causes great strife and comparison in relationships.

Personalities Collide

I love family dinners at grandmama Whitman’s house. She pulls out all the stops. Sometimes my uncle puts some meat on the grill or smoker on the porch. Most times, it’s grandmama putting all her tools to use and pacing herself through days to get the work done. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, air fryers, refridgerators, the oven, and the microwave team up to cook country food at its finest, and the counters fill with the fruit of their efforts. Yellow squash and onions. Tomato roast with home canned tomatoes. Pork chops and gravy. Vegetable beef stew. Crispy fried chicken wings. Fresh and hot loaded potato wedges. Warm rolls. Fresh pecan pie with double the pecans. Blueberry or peach cobbler with crispy buttery crusts. Butterscotch pudding with a pecan cookie crust and layers of cream cheese goodness. Rice and tomatoes with more home canned tomatoes. Stewed potatoes and kale. Butter beans. Field peas.. All with a little bacon grease for flavoring.

What would those family dinners look like if the pressure cookers suddenly decided they refused to work with the air fryers? What would we miss if our appliances decided to cop an attitude and refuse to sit in the same room much less partner together with someone who cares for food differently than them? I doubt a single dish would make it to the counter; there would be too much infighting.

People are like that too. We let the differences in our personalities and values dictate how we interact with each other. We dismiss people entirely if we disagree with their lifestyle, but we rarely pause to ask about their story. We rarely listen to the experiences that led them to be who and where they are today. How different would the world be if we listened more with curiosity and kindness than fear and judgment?

Making Peace With The Enemy

We have to get to the place where we can sit around the table with people that are hard to love and realize: I am worthy and so are you and that cannot be disputed.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

If you are stuck looking at the world through your own values, it is easy to dismiss people as your enemies who don’t measure up to them. You can even feel justified and holy doing so, but that isn’t Christianity. In Christianity, we are taught to be more like Christ because we are the image of him left on the Earth. We emulate Christ by studying how he lived his life, learning from those studies, and practicing faith and generosity in our daily lives. When I study the life of Christ, I don’t see him spending all his time with people that agreed with him. Yes, he shared his closest thoughts with friends he trusted who believed in him, but the majority of his time was spent with people who doubted him, lived ungodly lifestyles, and followed other gods. He came to heal the sick and broken and mentor leaders for them not isolate with the ones already healed and believing.

How does that translate into relationships today? How does this have anything to do with getting along with difficult people at work or around the table with you this holiday? It has everything to do with it.

The first step to dealing with difficult people is realizing you don’t know everything and that someone else’s story has value too.

You can’t put yourself on a pedestal and dismiss others. Jesus didn’t. Stop justifying the ways you are better than someone else and own the fact that you have been hurtful too.

  • Apologize with true heartfelt words if that is possible and necessary; don’t let discord become a root of bitterness in your home or family.
  • Recognize the value of stories and invite the “enemy” into thoughtful discussion, but put a pin in it before the talks turn heated.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and generosity within boundaries. You don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle to show them love, nor do you have to empty your bank account to be Jesus to others. Set limits for how much you do for free and how much disagreeable behavior you put up with, and don’t let yourself be pressured to give past those limits.

Different is Just Different, Don’t Make It Worse

Just like all the different kitchen appliances serve their purpose and work together to prepare feasts at grandmama’s house, so do people work together in the family of God to bring to life the Kingdom of God on this Earth.

We are all broken vessels and imperfect people, but God loves to work through brokenness and imperfection because (as the Apostle Paul said) “his power is made perfect in our weakness”.

It is tempting to see ourselves as better than others when our values don’t align. But if you are both serving the same God to the best of your ability, how can competition with each other make you more beneficial to the Kingdom? It doesn’t. In fact, infighting amongst Christians actually has been documented as one of the chief causes of pushing people away from God and the church. Outsiders use that struggle as evidence that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t worth it because he clearly isn’t helping you have a better attitude or be a better person.

Don’t be the one giving an unbeliever reasons to turn further from God. Be the bigger person. Forgive and forget offenses and strive for peaceful interactions within boundaries.

Memorial Day Gifts

A guest post by Rev. Shelton Whitman

On this legal holiday that so many have turned into the day to start their summer vacations, backyard barbecues, or simply another day off, I’ve wondered if the original reason for the day has been horribly obscured.

I was in a local store recently and noticed a few flags and wreaths meant to decorate grave sites. There were markedly fewer of these then I remember in the past years.

We have been celebrating Decoration Day since the days following the Civil War, but Congress made it an official holiday in 1971. This day was meant to be a day to commemorate those who gave their ultimate sacrifice— there lives—for our freedom.

Our veterans have contributed to our freedom about as much as our Charlotte’s Web friend, Wilbur, has contributed to our breakfast meal of bacon and eggs. Plainly, there would be no freedom to enjoy without the veterans’ contribution.

Memorial day is a time to remember those that sacrifice for our freedom. I include the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, in this too because if it wasn’t for his willingness to lay down his life for us, we would not have the hope of Heaven.

Christ committed his life to us just like our troops commit their lives to us every time they step out in service. Take time to remember and be thankful.

Breaking Up at Christmas

One Thanksgiving I was excitedly making plans for my boyfriend to come visit for the holidays. He was from out of state, and we didn’t see each other much. Coming together on a holiday was a BIG deal. It meant sharing families, sharing lives, and sacrificing traditions that were important to us. The deal was that he would come see me for Thanksgiving, and I would go to him for Christmas.

As excited as I was to have him come and share my home, though, I remember feeling pressured and embarrassed. My home was not fancy, nor was it as pristine and spacious as what my boyfriend was used to. I felt pressure to make everything perfect for his arrival, but there were some things I could not change. For example, I could not add on extra rooms to provide separate spaces for all the family coming home for the holidays. When my boyfriend stepped off the plane, he stepped into a whirlwind of holiday activities, cooking, and guests packed so tightly in that they were sleeping on couches and floors.

While he kept his polite composure through most of the holiday, he flew home, called me, and broke up with me thereafter. His reasoning went something along the lines of “we have too many different values” and “I don’t see this going anywhere”. I should have considered it a sign that I felt like I had to struggle to measure up for him. How can you really love someone when you are always looking through them to the person you want them to become? Still, I stayed and ignored all my own red flags until I had grown so acceptant that the breakup hit me like an unexpected car crash.

My head swirled from the accident, and I struggled for the right words to say back to him. I was convinced that only a coldhearted, miserly Scrooge would break up with someone at Christmas, and I poised and email to tell him just that. Before I hit send, I read it to my grandma. Grandma Irene was well known and admired for the fact that she never said an unkind word to anyone. She listened to my email, put down her needlepoint, smiled at me, and said that was not the way I should use my words. No matter how badly he hurt me, she said, I should not strike back. In the midst of my pain–and her own disappointment with the man that caused it, she encouraged me to check the motives of my heart and make godly choices.

Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, the opportunities we take, and the obstacles we shake.

Break ups are especially hard on holidays. Movies, stores, family, and friends all work overtime to find you someone to love and a box with a diamond ring in it for Christmas. But as much as we want to believe that only a Scrooge would break up with us at Christmas, that’s simply not true. There is no good time for a break up. When you know that a break up is inevitable, you just want to get it over with as soon as possible. In fact, it can seem even more cruel to hang onto a relationship through the holidays knowing all along that you want to break up with them. It can come off like you just held onto the person for more presents.

I love presents. Anyone that knows me knows I put a lot of thought into them. I search throughout the year for just the right gifts to buy at just the right deals, and I make handmade gifts too. I enjoy making gifts that surprise people and bring them joy. Most of my Christmases are ready before December ever arrives because I am on this perpetual elf duty. Some people say that holiday break ups happen to save money on gifts, but a break up at Christmas costs me time and money.

Knowing all of this, I still chose to break up a nearly five year relationship at Christmas. I loved the man with all my heart and planned to marry him. He was warm, romantic, and passionate and he loved me purely, the way a woman only dreams of. But for five years I listened to him promise me things and never follow through with them. For five years I watched him live his life in a circle; he was always fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I began to wonder if five more years with him wouldn’t just be five more years of circles.

When you love someone enough to plan a home and future with them, you don’t want to let them go. Nevertheless, when you have loved someone that seems to be a waste of your time, you are anxious to end it so you have the chance to find a working relationship elsewhere.

My Thanksgiving Scrooge wasted no time getting back on the market. He went online before the dust settled from our relationship and met another woman. He married and divorced her within a year of dropping me. He reached out to me, thereafter, asking for a second chance. Fresh from the break up, I would have said “yes!” in a minute. Years down the road, I had the insight to see that I didn’t want to be his wife number three. It’s funny how time has a way of bringing such clarity.

We talked for a while as casual friends after that. That was another thing we could not have done fresh out of the break up. When emotions are fresh and raw, talking to an ex just keeps the wound open and alive. You can’t heal and, nine times out of ten, you end up going back to him.

Loneliness creates a powerful hunger in a person. You will convince yourself things weren’t so bad and you’ll take back even the most abusive ex if you think it will save you from the dark abyss of loneliness.

I am old enough now to feel the tick of the biological clock and the fear of loneliness that comes with it. Most of my peers are married with children. Children are having children now before me. I feel dangerously close to spinsterhood in a house full of cats, yet I will not pick up the phone and text my ex or go see him again. As hard as it is to close the door to a man that passionately loved me, I have done it. Now what?

I have a lot of questions for God on this subject. Like much of my life, I felt God had a hand in my relationship. I was committed to working through our issues and getting married. I was committed to being patient with him to change. I was convinced this was what God wanted for me, and yet I couldn’t understand why God would saddle me with a man as disrespectful of my views as Hosea’s prostitute wife. I yelled and screamed at God for giving me a man that so repeatedly disrespected me.

Did you catch that? I loved a man so much that I stayed with him past all good Christian sense. I fought God about him and never once considered that all the warning signs were God’s voice telling me to leave not stay.

There is a thing in Biblical theology called the “revealed will” of God. It means there are things we already know are right and wrong because of the Bible, and we are expected to be obedient to those clear instructions. When we know the truth and don’t do it, we step in clear defiance of that instruction and build barriers around ourselves that block other opportunities from getting through. God’s specific will for our lives in relationships works in connection with the revealed will of His Word. More specifically, God is not going to ask me to stay in a dating relationship with someone that doesn’t honor the same values as I do, nor will he expect me to be patiently dating a man that is not actively pursuing God more than anything else in his life.

A break up is a horrible, heart wrenching thing, but it is also a learning opportunity. Every break up gives us the opportunity to evaluate ourselves, realize our strengths, learn from our weaknesses, and reset our priorities. With a truthful eye, you can evaluate your self and learn what kind of person you truly are. Analyzing the types of people you gravitate towards dating can also reveal your expectations and what you think you are.

I learned a lot about myself from breakups.

I learned I am a strong, beautiful woman with a big heart and patient endurance. I am an optimist, and I believe in what can be far more than what is. I have always doubted the transparency of my value, so I have settled for troubled men believing that they would rise to their potential…eventually. While it is true that people change with time, our love should be for who they are as they are whether or not they ever change. Unfortunately, I have not loved like that. I hope I get the chance to love better in the future.

In the meantime, I am determined to live as happy and fulfilled as I can as a single woman. I will surround myself with friends and family, and I will pursue my God-given purpose and leave it up to God to figure out the husband, house, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. 😏

Santa, Dickens, And The Real Meaning Of Christmas

I remember the first Christmas when I started to wake up from the belief in Santa. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know from the house we were in that I was about in the third grade. Kids were mean back then, as they inevitably always are, so I had most likely been bullied by some classmate for my faith in Old Saint Nick.

The room that I shared with my sister was an enormous one. On the side nearest the hall and the rest of the house was an attached bath with a three-dimensional plaque on the wall of Big Bird from Sesame Street smiling down at me. Opposite the bath was a large bay window that looked out into the yard. Between the two walls were our bunk beds and shelves stuffed with linens, clothes, and toys.  I loved that room.

I remember feeling dismally sad when Christmas Eve came. My sister and I were scurried off to our beds with the advisory that can only be given at Christmas: “You must be in your beds before Santa comes or you may not get your presents”. I was dismally sad because I wasn’t sure there was a Santa to be bringing me presents. I desperately wanted to believe, but I was losing my belief.

At just that moment, I heard sleigh bells coming from the roof of my house! I ran to the bay window in my room and heard them again–louder. This time it sounded like hooves may have been with them. What doubts I had vanished. I flew into bed and pulled the covers over my head, so Santa would find a good girl at my house and leave her presents. Some parents may have climbed on roofs and shaked bells to help their children believe, but mine didn’t. What I heard was as real as it ever could be, and it came at a time when I desperately needed it. Children need to believe in Santa.

There is a wonder and magic to Christmas that hovers in the airy notes of Christmas songs and tastes sweet with Christmas goodies and hot chocolate. It twinkles in the lights on houses and trees. It reflects in the image of every treasured ornament. It laughs with families as they gather and share meals, and as they create tornadoes of torn paper from unwrapped presents. At Christmas it feels like all your best and brightest hopes and dreams can come true. For a moment, they actually do.

But what happens when a child stops believing in Santa Clause? What happens is the child loses their sense of awe and wonder about the world. They can’t dream or aspire to greatness because they can’t imagine a world beyond what they can see or create. They are harder to please and tend to expect everything to be handed to them. They worry constantly about what others think of them, so they spend more time in social media then they do face-to-face and unplugged. Does this sound familiar? We have a lot of Scrooge-like children–and adults–in the world today.

I think the trouble starts when greedy parents want all the glory for the gifts they are giving. They tell the child that they are the ones that bought the gifts with the “from Santa” tags. They tell them this for no other reason than to see all the thankfulness for the gifts be directed to the true person who provided for them.

Another contributing factor to this epidemic is the misguided Christians who tell their children not to believe in Santa because they feel his presence takes away from that of the Christ child. They see the commercialism that comes with Santa as feeding the proverbial sweet tooth of want that most kids have. As the wish lists grow longer, kids step farther away from the true meaning of Christmas and into their own caverns of selfishness and want. I wonder how different Christmas could be if we let it be a learning opportunity to interact with our kids. What if the kind, generous man called Santa giving gifts to others became a spotlight on the fact that God gave the ultimate gift of his Son to the Earth?

I don’t know where Santa is these days, but I know where he isn’t. He’s not in a store increasing sales numbers. He’s not in a movie with no other lines than “ho, ho, ho.” He isn’t in a chapel reveared as a god, nor is he on a name tag borrowed by boozy elves filled with too much Christmas “spirit”. Wherever Santa is, I bet he’s looking at a digitised naughty and nice list–he’s cool with techie stuff like that. I bet he is still eating Mrs. Clause’s cookies with eggnog and giving too many samples to Rudolph and his friends. I bet he is more than a little disappointed by the people on his naughty list and how much longer that list is than the other one. But Santa is nothing if not optimistic; he is still holding out hope for us Scrooges to change.

In the same way, God is holding out hope too. He never intended for us to become embittered by Christmas or enraged by it to rally to a cause. God doesn’t expect his people to tear Santa out of Christmas or, as some are in the habit of doing, refuse to celebrate it altogether. He expects us to love each other and approach the world with childlike innocence and wonder.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:1-4, NIV

This is the lesson Scrooge learned himself in the end of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

This Christmas, may you find yourself learning to see the world through the eyes of a child. May that sense of Christian wonder, awe, and charity guide you through the coming year.

The Love That Came At Christmas To Heal Us

Around the world right now, trees are decorated with lights, precious trinkets we call ornaments, and wrapped boxes we are anxious to open. Music and food we reserve for just this time of year are shared and relished with family and friends. We hurry to shops and parties we don’t bother with the rest of the year. Then we slow down with a cup of cocoa, a blanket, and a Hallmark movie to feel the magic that anything truly can happen this time of the year. We take longer baths, we sleep in and read books in bed, and we dream of snow all to pamper ourselves. Now is the time of year when we relish the things we have accomplished and the ones we hold dear and seek to show them our love with our gifts and our time.

But none of this gift would be ours without Jesus.

Once upon a time two thousand or so years ago, there was a baby born in a barn because there was no room for him elsewhere. He was wrapped in rags and laid in a feed trough because it was the closest thing to a cradle and diapers in a barn back then.

He was no ordinary baby because he had no ordinary father. His mother was a woman so young that she was practically a child herself. She became pregnant while she was engaged to another man; she became pregnant by God.

I imagine she was a beautiful woman, but beauty would not have been enough to save her from the shame and punishment of an unwed pregnancy. Still, her betrothed loved her dearly and chose to protect her when he was told the news. Not only did he protect her, but he believed with her that the baby was a gift from God not a betrayal with another man. He accepted the role of a stepfather and chose to love the son she carried like it was his own.

A wicked king got word that a baby was coming that would be a greater king than any on Earth, a king of all kings. He didn’t like that, so he made a decree that all the male children in the land should be killed. Many innocent babies were slaughtered, but the young king of kings escaped unscathed.

The young king was born in meager surroundings to parents who could never offer him the riches of a palace. He came at an unexpected time in the middle of a journey to a destination that had to change when news of the wicked king’s evil plans reached his parents. Before he was a minute old, he was challenging and changing their world.

I imagine it was not easy to raise a son knowing he was also the son of your God. How could they instruct the one who was there when the Earth was formed from the black void of the heavens? What could they possibly teach him that he didn’t already know himself? They taught him love. His stepfather taught him the tools and skills of his trade, carpentry. His mother likely taught him manners and social skills. If he knew better than they, he did not show it. He chose humility and obeyed them.

The God child did not come into the world for a fun adventure. He came to meet specific people in history and fulfill a prophesy to restore right relationship between God himself and mankind. He didn’t care about taking any king’s throne; he cared about making a way for all kings and commoners to approach God again (something they could not do when sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden).

The God child, Jesus Christ, chose to die a tortured death with his hands and feet nailed to a Roman cross with nails the size of railroad spikes. It was a death reserved for the worst of criminals, but he did not do anything to deserve it. He chose to die in this way so that he could symbolically suffer for the sins of all mankind and pay the penalty of their sin in their stead.

The sacrifice worked, but it did not come easy. As he pressed against the nails and broken bones, he struggled to breath and slowly suffocated. In a dry voice barely more than a whisper, he said, “it is finished.” The earth shook violently as he breathed his last breath. Inside the temple where religious ceremonies were performed, the veil representing the separation between God and man was ripped in two from the top down. Heaven and earth were echoing the victory of the dead king of kings.

Jesus Christ was buried in a stone tomb large enough to bury a man’s whole family. A giant boulder was rolled in front of the entrance and guards were made to stay behind and keep anyone from coming and trying to steal the body away.

If the story ended here, the redemption would have ended there too because no one outside a certain group of people knew his story. God had bigger plans; he wanted to save the whole entire Earth–including people who didn’t know him yet and people like me and you who weren’t born yet. He would have to do that through the testimony of people that knew him, people that had scattered to the four winds in fear and hiding when he was crucified. He had to find them again and tell them what he wanted them to do.

For three days, Christ laid in the tomb cold, lifeless, and wrapped in nothing but rags much like the day when he was born. On the third day, the tomb burst open from the inside. Warrior angels rolled away the stone and Christ walked out, fully alive and robbed in white.

Christ found his hidden followers and spent forty days with them before he went back home to Heaven. He spent those forty days with them so there would be no doubt in their minds that he was fully alive again. He told them to go into the rest of the world and tell people about him and the hope of forgiveness and love he had restored for them. The followers did what he asked them to do.
This Christmas as you celebrate the holidays with joy, remember that the Christ in Christmas came to save your life too. If you have not chosen him as the leader of your life, it is not too late to do so now. He said that we all fall short of what we are supposed to be and cannot be made right without him. He said that if we confess what we have done wrong, he is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.  Open your heart and talk to God today.

Merry Christmas!

A Grown-up Christmas Morn

*Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was resting, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung on the walker with care,

as it rolled through the house…everywhere.

Us grown-ups were waiting in our own recliners,

While visions of gift wrap filled trash can liners.

And dad in his blanket, and I in ice packs,

were switching the channels and eating up snacks.

When out in the yard, there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.

I flew like a flash, away to the hatch;

I turned the brass handle and opened the latch.

The sun on the breast of the sandy farm rows,

gave a lustrous illusion of Christmas’ snows.

Then what to my wondering ears did I hear?

But the curling of ribbon. Presents are near!

With a jolly ol’ lady so lovely and quick,

I knew in a moment she must be Mrs. St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles her scissors did fly,

As she lifted her voice in carols to the sky:

“Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more. Through the years we all will be together if the fate allow. So hang a shining star upon the highest bough, and have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.”

Her voice mingles with scissors, ribbon, and tape;

a melody of sweet holiday escape.

As leaves before a hurricane, she flies;

when faced with an obstacle she takes to the skies.

Surrounded by supplies she’s having a blast

of making grown-up wishes happy at last.

And then in a twinkling I heard from the room,

a crack and a clackle; a monstrous boom!

Just as I got up and began to move around,

Out of the room Mrs. St. Nick came with a bound.

She wore a simple gown with fur at the collar.

She looked frazzled and about to hollar.

A bundle of ribbons were stuck to her back,

and she looked like a jokester just stole her pack.

Her eyes–how they twinkled! Her dimples, how merry!

Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!

Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

and the hair on her head was like silvery snow.

The stump of a pen she held tight in her teeth,

and the ink, it encircled her mouth like a wreath.

She had a broad face and a little round belly,

that shook when she laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

She was chubby and plump, a right jolly ol’ elf!

And I laughed when I saw her in spite of myself.

The wink in her eye and the twist in her head,

told me I had nothing to dread.

She spoke not a word, she went straight to her work;

filling the tree with presents then she turned with a jerk.

Then laying her finger aside of her nose,

and giving a nod, up the chimney she rose.

She sprang to the sleigh and to her team gave a whistle,

and away they all flew like the down on a thistle.

But I heard her exclaim ere she drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

*This poem was written this morning inspired by the activity in my home and by a few familiar classics. I hope you enjoyed it.

Christmas Time Blues, Doubts, And A Hard Lesson In Valuing Your Health

This Christmas is not setting itself up to be one of my best ones, and it’s not because of what I’m about to tell you. It’s because so far this Christmas season, I have bought all my presents but not wrapped a one. I never found an ugly Christmas sweater to wear to the party, so I was completely left out of the photos. I’ve missed almost every Christmas song on the radio, been too busy-or sick-to decorate, and lost out on all my Christmas parties (even the ones I planned myself). It’s warmer than Autumn, most days this December, it’s not feeling like Christmas at all.

Christmas starts to feel like Christmas to me when the first cup of cider is poured in November, and the craft bazaars start popping up everywhere for early shoppers. This is my favorite time of year, and it excites me almost as much as Christmas morning, because this is the time I get to support local artists and buy gifts for the ones that I love. When we gather and give thanks at Thanksgiving, it just preps my heart more for the appreciation and love to come. The bright lights, the displays, and the holiday specials all feel magical to me. Christmas music and movies on constant play while I’m swimming in hot chocolate and gift wrap is…well…divine. Without all this cheer, all I hear is, “I’ll have a blue…Christmas.”

A Serious Wake Up Call

In the middle of my bustling, busy life, I got a serious wake-up call. I walked out the door, ten days before Christmas, excited to finally be going to a Christmas party, and my leg gave way beneath me. I fall on the steps and cried out for help. Help comes running, and I got back up only to feel my legs crumble again inside the house. I rested a moment, and looked at the clock; I was missing the party.

The shades of blue deepened in my heart. Again I tried to get up and leave. This time I made it to my car and fell completely on the cold, hard ground. I could feel the cold but nothing more, and I got scared. This falling business could be serious. I pulled myself up with a cane and my car wheel, but couldn’t hold it. My right leg was complete jello. All the strength of my left side was not enough to pick up Humpty Dumpty again. This time my cry for help would require a team of EMS workers to lift me.

With the arms of EMS gripped around me, I thought of my students. So many of them have expressed a desire to be EMS someday. I held on to the man closest to me–a volunteer first responder, a neighbor whose name I still don’t know. I let him be my legs that would get me to the stretcher and the ambulance and the hospital while I text work and my students what to do while their teacher missed class.

All Too Familiar

Six months before this moment, I was doing the same thing only much more damaged and covered in blood. I was hit by a van and spun down the highway three times. My brand new car was totalled. My face was cut and permanently scarred. My back was severely shaken out of alignment. Yet, I survived.

I remember thinking, in those few seconds of white as I spun down the road, “God, is this going to be it? This can’t be it. I’ve got so much left to do in the world.”

Then I thought about the tractor-trailer. Where was it? It had been right behind me before I was hit. I closed my eyes and braced for a second impact. “Oh God, Oh Jesus, please help me!”

I knew I would most likely not survive that blow. As my car spun out, I thought about my loved ones and how it would hurt them. I thought of all the things I left unsaid. I thought about my job, my goals, and my dreams. I wasn’t ready for the end.

Then suddenly, the car stopped. I opened my car door and tried to get out as quickly as possible. If I was still in the road, I didn’t want to be hit again. But I was not in the road. Somehow, I had been spun around enough to put me facing oncoming traffic but resting safely on the side grass a few feet beside the road sign.

This was God’s answer: Not yet.

Temptation To Doubt God

Landing back in the hospital, my thoughts spiraled.

“Are you sure, God? If I have a purpose not yet done in this world, why bring me more pain and suffering? How can that further your cause?”

I questioned God, but I didn’t get angry. I didn’t understand the purpose in the pain, but I remembered that we were never promised a struggle-free life.

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. –John 16:33 NIV

Four hours later lying immobile in the hospital bed, a CT scan revealed that I had a herniated disc in my lumbar spine. I left with heavy drugs, possible surgery, and weeks of required time off work. When it was all said and done, my body reset itself, and I learned a hard lesson in paying attention to my health.

But in the moment…all I had was the hope that God really was in control.

I wrote this poem:

Now my Christmas may be less active and bright.

I may be seeing your lights from a distance tonight.

I will be sending you gifts of hope and cheer,

while you celebrate with all who are near.

As you open your gifts, there’s one gift I hope we can share:

It’s the gift of the Christ child on Calvary’s snare.

What meant to kill and steal him from the Earth,

Gave to us our second birth.

Merry Christmas!