A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Author: Janel Breitenstein (page 1 of 32)

Christmas, Unplugged

In all its celebration of the best, Christmas still has a way of exposing…reality.

Take last Wednesday. The goal: 12 canning jars of sand-art brownies for my kids’ teachers. And of course, to make a memory.

But as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes my memory-making can go a little differently than I saw it going in my head. In this case, I struggled to hear Pandora’s Christmas music above, oh, my children yelling at each other. (And, uh, me raising my voice back.) And my cries of “Don’t eat that! You don’t want to give your teachers the gift of sickness! Go wash your hands with soap!”

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Christian, Married–and Attracted Elsewhere

Hey.

Thanks for being open with me.

Over your latte, I saw the concern in your eyes. I know this isn’t who you want to be; that you’re afraid of your own heart. But I know longing runs deep.

If only “I do” meant our eyes–or especially our spouse’s eyes, right?–never swiveled from our mate’s. But reality is, though marriage helps keep our attraction in one place, it doesn’t flip that switch for us.

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Holiday Rerun: Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Practical Ways to Teach Simplicity

One of my favorite aspects of my African lifestyle wass a lean muscularity of simplicity. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. You are the Joneses, when your kids are going to play with kids whose families (who may or may not be literate or have lost a child) live in one room, which may or may not have electricity and running water.

So people expect my light fixtures to, say, look like I swiped them from my church in the eighties. They anticipate that when I serve lemonade, it will cascade from an ugly plastic pitcher.

Perspective is everything.

Randy Alcorn explains in his (highly-recommended) The Treasure Principle“The more things we own—the greater their total mass, the more they grip us, setting us in orbit around them.”

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How Not to Read God’s Mind

How not to read God's mindLet me put it bluntly. Upon returning from Uganda and starting my own business as a freelancer, I was hoping for a little more…easy success. I was leaving such a good fit for the way I was made–my technicolor dream–at what felt like sacrifice. And I’ve been writing for so long. I just hoped there’d be a few more supernatural wins involved, you know? I admit to thinking of it a little formulaically: Obey God = Find “favor”.

Hmm. Favor. I mean, you could back that up with verses like “Anyone who comes to him must believe…he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” But as I type, I’m realizing I had a somewhat concrete vision of what that might look like.

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FREEBIE FRIDAY: Printable Watercolor Scripture Memory Cards, Colossians 3

I’ve written a lot lately about spiritual disciplines for real families (check out the series here for lots of practical ideas).

Because I want this in my own family, I spent a bit of last Saturday scouring Pinterest for some Scripture memory cards (they’re great for wallets and pockets, but great scotch-taped inside the medicine cabinet and the cupboard, too, or even dropped in a lunchbox). It’s harder for me to find Scripture memory cards where you don’t have to subscribe to a site. So today, a few pretty Scripture memory cards for you from Colossians 3:1-6, 12-17.

Colossians 3 Scripture memory printable

PRINT THEM HERE.

 

Speaking of a generous grace–I owe these lovely free watercolor graphics to Angie Makes. Her work is incredible!

 

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Sweet Self-pity: On Burying Martyrdom

It was on my birthday that I was finally convicted: Something needed to change.

So my birthday falls on a holiday. As much fun as that sounds to people under the age of twelve–it can mean celebration is an afterthought in a blizzard of school activities and family hoopla. Somehow, as an adult, that translates into a level of embarrassment: wishing for a slice of that pie on a day already blurred with excitement.

So that morning, we added to our run-of-the-mill morning chaos all the other to-do’s we were cramming into our schedule. That’s on top of what you probably face in your own morning: the compulsory sibling squabble, at least one bad attitude (with six of us, including one hormonal cycle and one teenager, odds are always good), one miscommunique, one child leaving early for choir practice. Despite the tender well-wishes of my kids and husband, when the door closed on a silent house and sinkful of dirty dishes, I confess to thinking, I hate my birthday. I hated a somewhat unreasonable desire expectation for more.

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Quick-tips Holiday Survival Guide to Awkward Family Situations

Holiday gatherings with family can be fraught with frustration, hurt, and old habits–right alongside the pumpkin pie. Here, a few ideas to help you cook up a happier, freer Thanksgiving and beyond.

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A Guest Post: FREE Printable Thanksgiving Scripture Art!

Editor’s note: This is a guest post of Personal Creations, who wanted to extend their printable Scripture art to you! Just one more thing to be grateful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving! – Janel

When it comes to Thanksgiving, we gather around the table to enjoy a the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the all-American green-bean casserole–and to celebrate each other’s company. Before carving the turkey and piling the plates with food, take the time to say a special thanks to the Ultimate Giver: God.

While prayers of gratitude have been around far before Thanksgiving in 1620, all early celebrations of thanks began with God at the center. Across many unique celebrations, people praise Him as a way to say thanks for the all the good that He’s given…and given…and given.

Illuminating the many acts of thanks and praise to God in the Bible, Personal Creations wanted to create Thanksgiving Psalms to use at your Thanksgiving feast, and for many celebrations to come. Print them here!

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Self-deprecation–and other “stupid” thoughts

self-deprecation and other "stupid" thoughtsMy friend gazed at me through FaceTime, a kind smile on her face. “I just want to let you know that I just counted you saying the word ‘stupid’ six times when talking about yourself.”

Yikes.

She grinned. “I’m telling you this for your sanctification.” A little church-girl humor there. I thanked her.

I was surprised not that I did it, but maybe how frequently. I know that self-deprecation is part of the stressed version of myself; it’s one of my “tells”. And as I’ve written, my behavior has been more in that vulnerable state lately. Unmoored. Tippy.

I’ve gotten better about not making jokes about my body, at least. (Body issues of mine have a thick and convoluted history; read here and here.) To my sister a few years ago, I shook my head–made a comment about my hulking German shoulders making me look like a linebacker from the back. She countered me, all seriousness: “Would you ever talk that way around your daughter?” Honestly, I wouldn’t. (If you vocalize your body image issues around your kids, don’t miss this brief video–which yes, my sister passed on.) But I had to wonder: Was it a problem to say it openly to a friend?

All of this makes me wonder why I’m more comfortable with self-deprecation than talking about my strengths. Which, healthy as it is, still feels about as natural as swallowing a tennis shoe.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Ideas to Help you Build Submission and Respect

Like this series? Get more of these here.

I’ve been putting this post off.

It’s pretty much because creating a sense of respect in my kids still makes me want to tear my hair out.  Admittedly, my oldest is now 13, so we’re breaking new ground in this area.

Um, honestly? American culture demands very little of kids in this area. Our country was actually founded on some degree of…rebellion. Ugandans, for one, are mildly horrified by the manners of many American children toward their parents. But then again, African cultures are largely shame-based. I think you can solidly establish respect without shaming children–but it is harder without wielding shame. Yet they are not mutually exclusive in my book.

Our kids are going to be under authority their entire lives. With the exception of a few horrid dictators of suffering countries, everyone on this planet is under authority of some kind. (Jesus is, too.) Offering our kids the gift of submission is one of those keys that opens doors for the rest of their lives.

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