…An Embrace of Freedom

i am free

My prayer, today, is that we embrace the freedom we’ve been given, as a gift, in Christ. May we boldly receive His forgiveness, declare “I am free”, live in it and love one another through it. Press play to hear the song on my heart.

You’re the reason I have hope / You’re everything I need and more / You made me / You made me free 

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1 (MSG)

…Friend that You Wish to Have and Keep

Friendship Quote

As my husband and I have rejoiced over the new, wonderful season we’re walking into, many of our closest friends have in turn rejoiced with and for us. Recently, NS gifted us with a wonderfully, wise book; LM surprised me with a pretty bouquet of flowers in my favorite color; SH followed up with an Edible Arrangement that I didn’t know I needed in my life (until that moment); KS thought enough of us to speak such life and encouragement via text at the crack of dawn one morning; BS & VS have given their hearts and unending support; and amongst other caring gestures, we’re so thankful that countless friends have offered their prayers and extreme excitement (specific shout out to my CF for her shouts).

I’ve mentioned before that I have the greatest friends, here. In the last several weeks, their aforementioned expressions of love have reminded me of just that. It’s both funny and heart warming to think that just years ago, I actually prayed for genuine, ride or die and selfless friends. It was at a time that I felt as if a lot of those that I called friends didn’t have the same heart for me, and a time when I did not have any ‘true’ friends in my local vicinity. But, boy, has God answered in ways that have far exceeding my expectations. For lack of a better term, He weeded out the people who were less than the greatest influences with ease – just because I asked; He revealed to me the hearts of longterm friends and He gave me an amazing, new addition of friends – just because I asked.

All in all, I am grateful for my true, loving, lasting, fruitful relationships. And, as with each gift, comes the responsibility of stewarding over it well. To consistently be the friend that I wish to have and keep, is my goal, and to in turn, actively appreciate the gifts God has given me.

Some time ago, my college roomie, EE, shared with me practical ways that her Pastor encourages us to be the type of friend we’ve been called to be. These practices have influenced and blessed my life, and helped me to strive toward my goal. Therefore, as we ask and thank God for the meaningful relationships that we have, let’s be motivated to continually be the following kind of friend.

Note: These tips have been loosely adapted from the Pastor’s guidance.

  • Committed – There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (NLT)
  • Confidential – A gossip can’t be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence. Proverbs 11:13 (MSG)
  • Honest – An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT); An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship. Proverbs 24:26 (NLT)
  • Edifying – Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
  • Enhancing – As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
  • Prayerful – …Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
  • ForgivingLove prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)
  • Loving & Selfless – There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NLT)

To each of my friends chosen family, you are literally an answer to my prayer. Thank you for exactly who you are and the role you play in my life. I pray that I am the friend to you, that you are to me. Love you mucho.

…Return & Exchange Policy

JBA Gift Return & Exchange PolicySo, after giving and receiving some pretty lovely gifts last week, my next mission involved the return and exchange of a few. Those that were either the wrong size or simply uglier in person than they were on the screen, had to go.

As my husband and I mapped out our store-tackling strategy, noted each store’s return & exchange policy and hunted down all of the necessary receipts, we added up the dinero we’d get back and the upgrades we could swap for. As lucrative and worthwhile as all of this returning and exchanging would prove itself to be, it reminded me of an even greater exchange that took place for you and me.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

God allowed and purposed Christ to come to take away death from each of us and, in return, give us an abundant life. Sounds like an awesome exchange opportunity to me. Who wouldn’t want to surrender their junk and receive treasure?

So, today, I’m choosing to take my self-doubt, my anxiety, my condemnation, my impatience, my lack of faith and my timidness to the only One who can replace it with greater things.

What do you need to return in exchange for His acceptance, peace, forgiveness, patience, trust, boldness, goodness and love?

In faith, I encourage you to give it to Him. He already gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20).

SM.

Jesus be a gift return & exchange policy.

…Gift

JBA Gift
Between my loving husband, caring family and awesome friends, I received such wonderful gifts this Christmas. Between the memories of hosting our first Christmas; the abundance of thoughtful cards and text messages; that cross-body bag that I really wanted; that quality time with my Mommy that I always look forward to; and those gifts that I would have never thought to ask for, I was completely and overwhelmingly blessed. I can only hope that the presents we gave were and will be enjoyed just as much on their receiving end. (They were all quite thoughtful gifts, if you ask me.)

In all of the hustle and bustle of making and fulfilling wish lists in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I recognized true favor. Although there were some frivolous things that I wanted, there was nothing that I needed, and my husband and I were able to freely give.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:9-11

No matter how seemingly great the material gifts we gave or received during this holiday were, God gave and gives His best, which is the crème de la crème. Each day, He gives us grace and goodness that we do not deserve. Every morning, He renews His mercies. At every opportunity, He’s giving us another (and another) chance…and the breath that we’re breathing.

But, even in the plentitude of His blessings – those we do and don’t even ask for; those we do and don’t even express thanks for – God still desires to give us more.

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines. 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4, 7-11

In His love, and because we are His, we are entitled to some über-amazing gifts. And, these gifts of the Spirit are the kind of gifts that keep on giving. He wants to distribute them to each one of us, so that we may be a blessing to others.

In this case, it seems that we must receive in order to give. Now that we know, all we have to do is ask.

Let’s ask. And, let’s have the heart to give what we receive!

SM.

…Merry Christmas

Jesus in a manger

SH and I wish you a Merry Christmas! ¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël!

As you enjoy this day with family and friends, our prayer is that you’ll experience and share the wonders of His love; that you’ll be mindful of the good gifts that He gives us each and every day; that you’ll realize the miracle and meaning of His birth.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

Love,

SM.