Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

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I turn seventeen on Friday.

In theory, sixteen and eighteen are both milestone birthdays, and seventeen is just kind of…hanging out in between somewhere. But to be honest, turning seventeen feels like much more of a big deal than turning sixteen did. It seems so much more grown up. It’s your last year of childhood.

In the world’s eyes, growing up is almost a tragedy. Childhood is seen as the best time of life, the simplest time, that will never return again. Now you have to enter the scary world of “adulting” and deal with the fact that the best years of your life are hypothetically over.

But is this the right way to think?

As I was thinking about this more and more, I realized something. Nowhere in the Bible is childhood idolized the way it is in our culture. There is not an ounce of nostalgia or sentimentalism towards childhood in God’s Word.

In fact, the opposite is true. Maturity and adulthood are lauded as good things, great things, things to strive for and look forward to.

Take a look at these passages:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

-Ephesians 4:11-15

When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

-1 Corinthians 13:11

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

-1 Corinthians 14:23

Clearly, Paul does not consider childhood the best time of life. In fact, to him, “childhood” is synonymous for “immaturity”, which is something that all Christians should strive to overcome.

And this was really encouraging to me – childhood is not supposed to be the only good time of our lives. It’s not supposed to be a bad thing to grow up. It is, in fact, supposed to be a very good thing.

This does not mean that we cannot look back on our childhood with nostalgia. It is a wonderful time, certainly! And if you had a wonderful childhood that makes you not want to grow up, be thankful for that gift that God gave you. But you don’t have to feel like the best time of life is over once childhood ends.

Childhood is a training grounds for life. It’s a time for us to learn from the godly adults in our lives as well as learning from the various experiences we have. It’s our chance to make mistakes without the pressure.

But childhood is not the end goal. Here is the end goal:

Epaphras, who is of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 

-Colossians 4:12

In all of these verses, we see that the Bible views growing up as a good thing, not a bad thing; something to look forward to, not something to dread; something to pray for, not something to struggle against.

Once we begin to reach these last years of childhood, we will have mixed feelings, certainly. Looking back, we ought to be grateful to God for the many blessings he gave us while we were still children. But we don’t need to get bogged down in what-ifs and should-haves. You don’t need to feel guilty if you think you didn’t live your childhood to the fullest, use your teen years well, or appreciate what you had while you had it. What God gave you, and what you experienced, was what you were supposed to experience, and it was enough. It was enough to prepare you for the adult that you are going to be, exactly what you needed as training for the rest of your life.

And as you turn your gaze forward into the future, be excited! Trust in God’s wonderful plans for your life, and realize that there will be just as many wonderful gifts in this life stage as in the past one. Look forward to the depths of faith and maturity that will grow and take root as you get older, the deeper and more meaningful relationships, the chance to do even bigger things for God in the world. The end of childhood is not the end of “the good years”. If you are with God, your whole life is good, and it is under His control.

He is with you in the present and the future, just as He was in the past; now take hold of His hand and move forward in faith and confidence.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…

-Hebrews 6:1

love, grace

Another Way to Think About the Christian Life

I wrote a post about works vs. grace a long time ago: Why Be Good if Jesus Died?

Today I want to elaborate on everything I said in that post, and use an illustration that will hopefully help you understand this concept even better. I know that it really helped me.

Because this can be a tough thing to get- if we aren’t saved by our works, why do we then have to live in holiness? What’s the point? If God forgives sin, why do we have to fight against it? Obviously it’s a complicated question with a lot of facets, but here is one way to think about it.

Leviticus talks about several different types of offerings. One is the guilt offering. This was an offering given when someone broke God’s law, in order to cleanse them and restore them to favor with God.

Another type of offerings were thank offerings. These were given to God from gratitude for the many blessings He had provided.

Think of your good works as offerings to God, something that you give Him. As guilt offerings, they will always be temporary and inadequate, just like the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

The good news is that those sacrifices were symbolic of Christ, as I talked about in this post. Each sacrifice was temporary, a shedding of blood to pay for the sins of the people. And then Christ came, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, and His was not temporary. It was eternal. And we have nothing else to do to earn salvation. It is finished. He was the ultimate guilt offering.

But our good works are still offerings. In Christ, they become thank offerings, something that we give to God because of who He is and what He has done, a way of thanking Him for all of His blessings. When we get to know God, we want to please Him. We owe so much to Him for the salvation we have from Christ, and so we seek to live in a way that honors Him because we know He deserves it.

The catch? Both of these lives will look the same on the outside. Whether you are living your life as a guilt offering or a thank offering, the outward form will be pretty much the same. It’s about your heart, your motivation. Are you trying to earn your way to heaven, to pay for your own sins by doing good things? Or are you trusting in God’s salvation and doing your best to live in a way that shows how much you love Him?

What do you think? Do you like this way of thinking about it? How else have you wrestled with this concept? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

June 2017 Month in Review

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Summer is in full swing, and if you’re like me, you suddenly have quite a bit of free time on your hands. I encourage all of you to use some of that free time to get closer to God this summer. Read your Bible more than usual, memorize some verses, spend an hour praying about something close to your heart. Make God a first priority and let Him guide your activities. He can and will make your summer peaceful, fruitful, and enjoyable.

And even if He doesn’t, at least not right now, you can know that He is on your side, and all you have to do is trust Him faithfully. Your life is in His hands. Your summer is in His hands. So go and be at peace, regardless of what storm is raging around you.

Bloggings of the Month

faith in humanity2.jpg the problem with this popular phrase

Image result for heartless reviewing this Alice in Wonderland prequel

Favorites of the Month

I saw For King and Country in concert last night…it was so uplifting and encouraging. This is one of my favorite songs by them, for anytime you’re having a bad day:

Untitled design-46 To the Graduates…yes, this is long, but I’m begging you to read the whole thing. Slowly. Whether you’re a graduate or not. It’s beautiful.

The_Sheer_Awfulness_of_Christianity The Sheer Awfulness of Christianity from Kingdom Pen. Basically if you’re a Christian who writes fiction, you must read this. And then reread it. Like every week and month and year. Pin it to your desktop, print it out and stick it on your bulletin board. THIS is how to write Christian fiction that isn’t sappy or cheesy or overly sentimental. So good!!

This video offers a life-changing perspective:

Purely for fun…bookworm lifehacks that may or may not change everything for you.

Encouraging and insightful:

And finally…this song is incredible. Listen to the words carefully.

Coming Next Month

A new blog schedule! For July and August I will be posting twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I always have more time to write over the summer so I’m excited for that!

While I’m on the twice a week schedule I’ll be writing a review or other entertainment-related post every Saturday. In July I’ll try to give you a movie review, a book review, a music spotlight, and then my post for the Silmarillion Awards Fantasy Celebration. 

I’m turning 17 this summer…and I’ve been thinking a lot about childhood and growing up. I recently had a realization about the Bible’s view of childhood, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

I’ll also hopefully be posting about:

  • another way to think about good works in light of grace
  • teens who think we’re unstoppable
  • ideas for overcoming cell phone addiction (and a challenge for us)

See you on Wednesday to kick off July!

What do you think? What are you looking forward to doing this summer? How will you put God at the center of your summer? 

love, grace

Read more:

7 Childhood Books I Still Love

Podcast Review: Age of Minority

A Peek Inside My Music Library

Why Christians Shouldn’t Have Faith in Humanity

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Classmates shave their heads in solidarity with a sick child.

Someone shares their meal with a homeless man on the street.

A policeman stops to help a little kid tie their shoe.

And the world cries, “Faith in humanity restored!”

Even Christians talk this way without even thinking about it. But I think there’s a problem with Christians using this phrase. Isn’t the fallenness of humanity one of our fundamental beliefs?

Truthfully, we can have no ultimate faith in humanity. 

If our faith is in humanity, our faith is in something that will always ultimately fail us. Back in the Garden of Eden, humanity failed us, in the form of Adam and Eve, and ever since then people have been a mess.

The kid will get bullied. The homeless man will get ignored. The disabled girl will be ridiculed and the bad people will reach the top, no matter how little they deserve it. That one sin back in Genesis started a chain reaction that will continue for the whole history of Earth.

Ultimately people will always fail, and people who put their hope in people will always be disappointed.

But what about all those heartwarming stories, all those people doing genuinely good things? They can’t be discounted completely. They can’t be ignored. If humanity is really in as horrible a state as I’ve described, how do we explain random acts of kindness, acts of service, acts of love?

These things should not restore our faith in humanity. They should restore our faith in God. 

If the Christian looks at the good things in the world and feels restored faith for humanity, they are committing idolatry, putting humans in the place of God. When we look at the good things in the world, our faith in God should be strengthened, increased, heightened.

Because if humanity is really as badly messed up as Christianity believes, the existence of any good at all is proof that God is present, and He is always working.

He is the one prompting people to serve others, changing hearts and changing lives. On our own, humanity can’t get anywhere. We’re stuck in a cycle of anger and fear and hurt and selfishness. But with God, anything is possible. And because of Christ, He can take a broken humanity and bring beautiful things out of it.

So, those “faith in humanity” Pinterest posts and stories on the radio? They should mean so much to the Christian, because we know that the existence of those posts and stories is only because of God’s grace to the world. When we hear them, we should not feel an arrogant faith in the human race. We should feel a humble, grateful faith in God, who is the only source of beauty and goodness, and who can redeem anyone.

Faith in humanity will get us nowhere. Faith in God will.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you ever really thought about this phrase before? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Share in the comments below! 

Read more:

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

Boundaries, Rebellion, and “Living on the Edge”

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

A little while back, I decided that I wanted to read through the whole Bible. No schedule, no obligation, no finishing date, just me reading straight through, as much or as little as I wanted, finishing when I wanted.

I started in Genesis, and was happily reading along. Then I hit the middle of Exodus and things started to get rough.

It must have taken me several months to get through Leviticus and Numbers. I struggled, often simply skimming the tedious passages of Hebrew law just for the sake of having “read” them so I could move on.

And then, as I began Deuteronomy, I decided to try and find passages that I could apply to my life, even when it seemed like there was nothing. And guess what? I found tons of them! Little tiny nuggets of truth that could mean something to me.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Guess what? This verse applies to all of Scripture, not just the things that seem like they directly apply to us. These verses apply to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy too.

There will always be something to learn from the Bible, but you have to be actively engaged in reading, looking for the connections and lessons. You can’t just skim.

Something that has helped me with this is starting to write in my Bible, underlining things and jotting my thoughts in the margins. I love going back and looking at things I’ve written, and it helps me to stay focused on reading.

So, don’t give up on the hard passages of Jewish law. Just because they’re challenging doesn’t mean they aren’t worth reading. There’s always more to learn! And when you find those things that apply to your life, you will discover that the reading is much more enjoyable.

love, grace

This post was originally published on my old blog, Me, You, and God, on June 4, 2015.

 

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

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That afternoon, the motivation wouldn’t come. Homework piled up, not to mention my own list of goals and plans. The guilt set in. The tears came. Dragging myself to dance class was the last thing I wanted to do, but at the last possible second, balled-up tissue in hand, I threw my hair up and gathered my stuff and made myself walk out the door.

It was raining.

My first reaction was disgust. Now, on top of everything else, I had to drive in pouring rain. The weather confirmed my gloomy mood.

But as I got into the car and turned the keys in the ignition, I was reminded of something God had taught me a few days ago, something I could learn from the rain, something I had been so excited to share.

Rain is a wonderful metaphor for the suffering in our lives. No one likes it while it’s around. We see it as depressing, frustrating. But without the rain nothing would grow. We would have no grass, flowers, trees, greenery. The world would be dry and dead. God always knows exactly when to send rain, exactly when the ground needs watering so that things can grow as He wills.

Rain brings growth. 

Suffering is like that. It’s unpleasant, scary, sad. But with suffering comes incredible growth. The sadness of one season is preparation, so that in the coming sunny season we can bloom and grow in glorious shades of green.

And as I drove down the street in the dark, windshield wipers on full blast, I thought about the metaphor and tears began to stream down my face again. But this time it was from fullness, not emptiness. The rain, rather than being one more problem, was a symbol for what God was doing in my heart that night, and I will never forget the feeling once I knew that. As it poured down, it mirrored my tears. And I knew that my heart was being watered, my faith was being deepened, and that the next day would bring the flowers.

“There is no fear in letting tears come. Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need water. Grief is a gift, and after a rain of tears, there is always more of you than before. Rain always brings growth.”

-from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, chapter 11 (“Breaking Into Being Real”)

love, grace

Advent Reflections, part 4: Love

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Tonight, candles flicker in the dim light. Christmas trees are lit. Carols fill the air, voices raised by the thousands in songs of joy.

Tonight we wait for the birthday of Christ.

Christmas: a miracle of love. A celebration of a God who loved us so much that He came down to us in the humblest of circumstances so that we would not have to remain separate from Him.

Christmas is a celebration of love. That is what it’s all about: the decorations, the music, the food, the gifts; everything is a celebration of God’s incredible, abundant love. And what incredible love it was!

The note in my study Bible said that there is a possibility Jesus was born in the open air. The God of the universe, born to a poor couple in a small village in an alley somewhere. He lowered Himself this much because of His love for us.

Here, tonight, the story of salvation begins: a baby born who would grow up to be the Messiah, to die on a cross so that sinners across the ages could be saved. The story begins that will continue through the months and culminate in Easter, in His joyous conquering of death.

So let tonight and tomorrow be a joyous celebration of wondrous love! Christ is born! Hallelujah!

 

Merry Christmas to all of my lovely readers! I hope you have a wonderful day full of love, joy, and peace. 

love, grace

P.S.: 4 Ways to Avoid Holiday Letdown

Advent Reflections, part 3: Perspective, Hope

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Part 1 Part 2

Christmas comes closer, and the world waits, still and silent, for the Advent of its Savior.

As we go about the final preparations, everything takes on a sort of sacredness, as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Christ.

This is the most important thing: that Christ was born God and man in one to live a perfect life and die a perfect death. That in His life and death we are saved. That is what we celebrate on December twenty-fifth.

Day 13: Perspective

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see…

“From Hollywood to Pinterest, the media of this world aggressively schools your soul to see the exact opposite of the way God sees…

“…if it’s mostly the surfaces that absorb us, then we’re mostly superficial. When my priorities aren’t the things seen- when my priorities are rather all things unseen- it’s only then that my life begins to have substance and weight.” (pp 125-127)

Our life can be transformed if we look beyond everything the world sees. If we look past the shallowness of life and into the depth of the life God has given us.

If we don’t have time to read our Bibles, if we don’t have time to do something kind for someone else, if we don’t have time to seek out God’s will for our lives, our priorities are in the wrong place.

Rather, say that you don’t have time to check Pinterest, to watch YouTube, to go to the movies, because you are too busy reading your Bible, being kind to people, seeking God’s will.

Sometimes you may have time for both, but always give priority to the unseen. Never let worldly shallowness outweigh the things of God.

Day 14: Hope

“Christmas can only be found.

“Christmas cannot be bought. Christmas cannot be created. Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up. Christmas can only be found…

“That is the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself.

“The message of Christmas is that this world’s a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.

“For unto us a Child is born…

“And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands. There’s no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you. A Christian never stops living Christmas…

“When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you- they don’t lose it.

“Unless you keep passing on the miracle of hope, you live like Christmas is a myth.

“So light the Advent candles. Light them, light them.

“And you can see it, with every lit candle, sparks of the dawning.

“Hope catching on everything.” (pp 138-140)

The world has made Christmas into a feel-good, do-good time of year, all about peace and love and joy. It looks good on the outside, but the Christian cannot fall for that message. It gets everything wrong, stemming from a belief that humans are good and that we have the capability for perfection all on our own.

No, the real message of Christmas is that sin is dark, humans are wicked, and we cannot save ourselves. The real message of Christmas is that of glorious light breaking through an awful darkness. A miracle.

And if we believe that the light does not come from us, but from God, that gives us so much more hope than the good-feelings spirit of secular Christmas. Because God can do anything, and so there really is hope for anyone. 

Literally anyone. God can break into any life, heal any soul, and restore any spirit. He can bring light into the darkest of dark places, not just hypothetically, but for real.

The true meaning of Christmas is hope and healing for anyone, not through themselves, but through the all-powerful God who can pierce blackness with glorious light.

 

Which of these readings encouraged you the most today? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 2: Peace, Grace, Light

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If you missed it: Part 1 (Wonder, Rest, Laughter)

The season marches on. More and more gifts appear under the tree, goodies appear in the kitchen, lights twinkle on the bushes. Anticipation grows. But are we anticipating the right thing?

Here are three more selections from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp to help you stay saturated in truth this season:

Day 7: Peace

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Perform.

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Produce.

“Every mountain that every Christian ever faces, the Lord levels with sufficient grace: The Lord Will Provide…

“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.

“Peace is belief that exhales.

“Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere- like air.” (pp 59-60)

For a perfectionist worrier like me, trying to remember that God cares and provides can be like trying to walk against the wind. It’s an uphill battle every single day. But it is so important.

As soon as we reduce the Christian life to performance, we miss the whole point of the baby in the manger. He came and lived a perfect life, so we wouldn’t have to. And it is only when we fully embrace God’s provision in our lives that we will fully have His peace.

Day 11: Grace

“Nobody and no situation- no sin, no mess, no decision- meets the diagnosis of despair. Because there’s God’s cure of amazing grace.” (p103)

The glory of Christmas is that no matter how far gone we are, it is never too far for God.

Through His grace, He sent Christ. And Christ’s work can rescue the most broken, the most messed-up, the most imperfect people in the world, and make them beautiful.

There is never such a thing as too far gone.  The voice that tries to whisper in your head that there is no way God could love you now? That is not the voice of truth. That is the voice of Satan. Reject it.

And rest in God’s amazing grace.

Day 12: Light

“…because, for all its supposed sophistication, cynicism is simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks? The radicals…they are the ones on the road, in the fields, on the wall, pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and the Advent coming again. Brilliant people don’t deny the dark; they are the ones who never stop looking for His light in everything.” (pp 113-114)

People think it’s somehow intellectual and profound to talk about how dark the world is. As if that wasn’t obvious for everyone to see. The world is dark, and to see that is not deep. That is surface-level. Anyone can see it.

What is deep and profound and wise is to seek out the light, to look for God’s light even within the brokenness. To have a spirit of joy, not cynicism, that sees the complexity of everything that happens in this world and goes beyond the dark to the light breaking through.

Because there is light breaking through, always, if we look closely enough.

 

Did any of these excerpts particularly encourage you? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 1: Wonder, Rest, Laughter

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As Christmas approaches, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement, the hustle and bustle of preparation, without really thinking about what we are preparing for. We get excited about the season without getting excited about Christ, and that sucks any real meaning out of it.

To combat this, I’ve been reading The Greatest Gift, an advent devotional by Ann Voskamp, and I love it so much! The book captures what the spirit of Christmas should be and presents it in such a beautiful way.

Over this week, I want to share some of my favorite passages with you (not all of them, because I want you to be able to enjoy the book for yourself!) Each post will feature 2-3 quotes and a little elaboration on why I love them. I hope this inspires you and helps you to keep focused on Christ in this season.

And I highly, highly recommend this devotional! These quotes are even more powerful when read in the context of the entire reading, and there is so much more that I won’t be mentioning on here.

Day 2: Wonder

“Ravished with wonder.

“That the earth outside your window is tilted right now at just twenty-three degrees…so the planet’s bulk of six sextillion tons…spins perfectly balanced on an invisible axis…

“So go to the window. Go to the hills, the desert, the corner, the back door, and be ravished and taken and awed, and you who were made by Love, made for love- be still and know and watch love come down.

“The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.” (13-14)

If we love God and appreciate His incredible creation, there will be no room for anxiety in our lives.

The truth is that this world is pretty amazing. Things in our everyday life are gorgeous: fall leaves, spring flowers, the snow, the ocean. Every time I start thinking about space, my mind gets blown. I just don’t understand how anyone can look at something like supernovas, or even just the size of the galaxy, and not believe in a God. His hand is everywhere.

And through Jesus, we are given access to this God, the God who created everything far beyond what we could even fathom. This powerful God loves us and cares for us every day. He is on our side, and if He is on our side, what do we have to lose? 

Day 4: Rest

“While other creeds endeavor to get us out of the world and into heaven, in Christianity, heaven comes down and Christ comes into this world to get us.”  (31)

The big difference between Christianity and Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism…we do not have to do anything. 

Christ’s sacrifice paid everything. There is nothing more we could possibly do to get ourselves into heaven, and nothing more that is necessary. Christ poured out his blood for us, suffering impossible agony. Why would we diminish that by thinking we must add to it?

Christ came to us. We do not have to climb to Him. And so we simply rest. 

Day 6: Laughter

“The gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap…we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear…So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed. Laughter- it’s all oxygenated grace.

“In the press of a dark world, laughter comes…as the reliever and then the reminder- that ache is not the last word for those who believe God. Jesus is. Jesus is the last word, and we rejoice and rejoice again and re-joy again because grace is our oxygen now.” (50-51)

From the gospel, from the Christmas story, comes infinite joy. God is real. He cares for us. We are saved. He loves us with an everlasting love that will never end.

When you feel sad, when you feel insecure, always remember that your sufferings do not have to be the end and that Jesus came to give you infinitely more. Through Him, we may not live perfect lives, but in the midst of the problems and the suffering, we can find joy anyway. That which most defines our lives, the gospel, can never change. 

 

How do you stay focused on Christ during Advent? Which of these excerpts is your favorite? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace