Monday, December 30, 2013

Changing Seasons and a Special Message for You from Our Team

A lot of things have happened in the lives of our Cherish the Call team members this year. Some of them are exciting, some of them heart-wrenching, all of them are life-changing.

This blog from its earliest days has always been about encouraging you as a Christian woman in your roles and relationships. We are acknowledging that some of our roles and relationships are requiring more of us.

We tried to band together this year to give you quality content. We hope you were encouraged, inspired and challenged by the messages the Lord laid on our hearts.

We have found that we are just stretching ourselves too thin and trying to be too many places at one time. While we have loved ministering to you through this blog, it is just not in the best interest of our families and our larger purposes in life to continue providing new content.

We will leave the blog up for you to read old articles, but we will not be updating it this year. Be advised that the blog has reverted from the custom domain to when you return.

We would still love for you to keep in touch with us. Some of us are still writing individually, and we would love to hear from you how God is working in your life and home. As you remove Cherish the Call from your list of blogs to read, we would love for you to add these to your list instead:

Jennifer L Self
Jennifer Self is writing (mostly) twice a week in this space to help work-at-home, homeschooling moms to simplify and enrich their lives. Even if you don't work at home or homeschool, she hopes that you stop by because she tries to offer encouragement for all women and mothers.

Contented at Home
Judy Hoch writes here about all things homeschooling. Give her a bit of grace on frequency as she just gave birth to her eighth little blessing from the Lord! She offers a wealth of information on homeschooling, particularly in Pennsylvania with its rigid requirements, and large family living. Judy also lists free Kindle books, so stop by often to snag those.

It's the Little Things
Jessica Geise offers insight to mothers through her updates here. She shares from her heart and her own struggles to give you inspiration as you care for your own children. Jessica loves to review products that help her in her parenting and homeschool, so stop by frequently for information on great resources.

The LaVans
Joanna LaVan has had an eventful year as the Lord led her and her husband to a new ministry opportunity in April. When the dust settles a bit more, she will give updates here on her family blog about their family and ministry.

The Shepherd's Fold
Marion Yoder works alongside her husband at their farm which they aspire to run by God's principles of good stewardship. They provide their family and community with excellent produce, meats and more. Stop by here to see what they have to offer and what's new on the farm.

Stewards 4 Christ
Shawna Wright has much to offer with her pen, but she has devoted the last few years of life to supporting and caring for her husband as he is walking the tough pathway of cancer. Her husband, Michael, gives updates on his cancer journey here. They would appreciate it if you would hold them up in prayer during this difficult time.

We trust that you have a beautiful, God-honoring 2014. May He richly bless you as you guide your homes and families this year!

Jennifer, Judy, Jessica, Joanna, Marion and Shawna

Monday, December 9, 2013

Is Condemnation Tagging Along in Your Walk With the Spirit?

Condemnation. It is something we gave up when we began  this walk in the Spirit. The thing we surrendered in exchange for peace and freedom from sin and guilt.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." -Romans 8:1, KJV
Condemnation. It is something that the Blood-washed mama reaches to pick up again. As though it is a habit so ingrained that years of walking with the Savior cannot keep it from treading on the tender places of your heart.

No? Tell me the last time it whispered in the darkness as you laid your exhausted head on the pillow. Did you reject it? Or did you pause in your Spirit-walk to lament the dishes that didn't get washed, the phone calls that didn't get made, the game that you didn't play with your children, the diet you failed to follow and the Pinterest-depicted homes that look nothing like yours?

Why can we walk in the Spirit and forgive our neighbor but fail so hopelessly to forgive ourselves? Why can we accept the grace that erases the shame of our past but fail to carry that grace into our present? How can we stand redeemed before the Savior but bow in self-deprecation before the woman wearing a dress with single digits on its tag?

Condemnation. It slinks beside us in our Spirit-walk. Always threatening. Always present. Whispers of the Law we gave up for Love, stealing from our peace.

We gave up hatred for self-loathing. We turned our back on lust, yet we desire the approval of our broken sisters more than the approval of our Broken Savior. We surrendered cheating others in order to cheat ourselves of His acceptance.

Because we are accepted.....we are righteous. Not in a painted way where our sin hides behind an imagined cloak. As if the omniscient God can overlook something that broke His heart and the Body of His Son! No, we are accepted because we walk with Him and He lives within us and all is forgiven and our present is saturated with the Presence of One Who writes His Law on our hearts. Because sin is gone and with it condemnation!

Condemnation. It is false. It is Satan's ruse to keep us in the ways of our past even though we walk righteous, clean, pure with the Spirit. He cannot draw our eyes to sin because we have given it up. He can instead draw our eyes to others and our supposed inadequacies.. Is it time we give those up as well?

I came across this verse in my reading this morning:
"For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou (surround) him as with a shield."
- Psalm 5:12, KJV (clarifying word added)
Did you see that word favor? Jesus not only loves you: the righteous, the saved. He is pleased with You! He is not condemning you because He sees your heart. He sees your motive to please Him, and He reciprocates with His smile of approval.

But my favorite part? He takes His favor and surrounds you with it. Surrounds your vulnerable heart because the barbs of disapproval will come. From others. From yourself. From your perceptions, real or imagined, of what others think of you.

Condemnation. When we walk in the Spirit, it cannot touch us. He is pleased with us....not our performance or our position or our Pinterest boards. No, we have His favor.....and we are wrapped in it!

The barbs of "less than" and "not enough"? They bounce off the shield. And we just keep walking, reflecting His smile of approval because all other is deflected by our ever-present shield...our ever-present Savior.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Giving!

Here we are full swing into the Holiday Season.  Maybe some of you are "plan ahead geniuses" who started your Christmas shopping right after Christmas was over last year and are all done.  However, probably most of us are still in the process of buying the perfect gifts for our friends and loved ones.  For most of us, things are probably a little tighter financially this year but we still want something nice to give.  Here are a few great gift ideas that won't leave you destitute at the end of the Season... :0)

Once again, I went to the source of all good ideas... Pinterest!  There, I found some cute and practical "Do It Yourself" Christmas gifts to share with you!

First, you make (or buy if your not into sewing) a cutesy apron and roll it up and place inside a Mason Jar.  Wrap with a pretty bow, include a recipe on the gift tag, and you have a wonderful gift!

Next, is my personal favorite.  Nothing quite says "personalized" like a photo.  For this gift, you'll need your favorite photo of your family printed on vellum, a glass vase, some mod podge, and a votive candle.  For all the instructions visit this site at A Family Affair.

Last, but not least...a candy dish/ votive candle holder.  You hand paint it so it has a personal touch.  You can do it as pictured, or paint it to coordinate with the decor of the individual.  Place candy inside, or a votive candle, and you have a personalized gift!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with your loved ones!  

Joanna LaVan

Monday, November 18, 2013

One Family's Journey in Celebrating Christmas

How should a Christian family celebrate Christmas? Or should they? In our day and age those have come to be million-dollar questions :-) Our journey has been a long one, from which we have learned much, and I would like to share it with you :-)

My husband grew up Amish, they really didn't celebrate Christmas, just took a day off work and ate a big dinner :-) I was raised a Christian home, but it was not always so. My parents were both saved when I was a young child, my mother earlier on, my dad when I was about 10. 

By the time I was 12, our Christmas celebration had become Christ-centered :-) We would talk about how the components of a typical American Christmas represented Christ. An evergreen tree for the everlasting life He gave us, white lights for the stars in the sky when He was born, gifts for others to represent the gifts given by the Magi. It was beautiful, but we were still doing just what everyone else was.

christmas gifts
When I was in my teens, we briefly considered not celebrating Christmas at all, drawn by the claim that December 25th is actually a pagan holiday, and not the date of His birth. After much prayer, we concluded that it didn't matter when we celebrated, but it would be wrong to NOT celebrate the greatest moment in the history of the world. We don't know when He was born, so why not celebrate it in December? It's just as good as July :-) What matters is not when, but what and how we celebrate.

We hit a new obstacle when we found this passage in Jeremiah 10:2-3:
"Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not."
Whoa! That sure sounded like the modern American Christmas tree, didn't it? We ditched ours. Instead, we decorated a window with lights, and set up a table under it with a nativity scene, cross, and a treasure chest and two bottles to represent gold, francincense and myrrh. Over the years, we have gotten our hands on the real stuff, and set that out every year with the rest of the display. Later, reading the passage above in context, we found that it is speaking of the construction of a wooden idol, carved ("the work of the hands of the workman") and decorated, not a Christmas tree.

Evergreens have been a symbol of Christ ever since a missionary to Germania challenged their god Thor by chopping down the "thunder oak". They expected him to drop dead, but when the tree fell instead, he used it to show that their god was not real, and then told them of the sacrifice Christ had made for them. When the oak fell the only tree left standing around it was a small fir. Our missionary pointed it out to them as a symbol of Christ, ever-living, and taking the place of Thor and his "thunder oak". 

The first to bring a fir tree inside and decorate it for Christmas was actually Martin Luther. He was so struck by the picture of a fir in the woods, with the stars shining behind it, that he brought one inside and loaded it with candles, as a reminder of the light and life brought to a dark and deadened world by the coming of Christ. Wow! Makes me want to have a Christmas tree again :-)

Jesse Tree
Since we've had our own children, we have started using an advent calendar. Not those junky cardboard things with chocolate Santas every day, but a homemade hanging pocket calendar. We stretch the Christmas story out over the whole month, reading a bit each day, and having activities to go along with each passage. We used to start with the prophesies, and then work our way through to His coming :-) 

The last two years we've used Ann Voskamp's version of the Jesse_Tree as a guideline. We had a Jesse Tree ornament swap last year with several other families. We read about someone in the story of Christ, then hang the matching ornament in the window. We start at the bottom, with Adam, working our way through Noah, Rahab, Ruth, Jesse, David, and all the others, and finishing with the crowning glory of His-story, the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. It's a beautiful walk through the Bible, and the children get to see how God used everyone in it to bring about His plan for us :-) Even the littlest ones learn so much!  

No matter how or when you celebrate Christmas, Celebrate! Make it a time to glorify Christ! He is the greatest thing that ever happened to this world, dare we ignore His coming? Dare we let the world take over the most precious of holy-days? Make memories, and make them all about Him, all about what He has done, all about the Gift we didn't deserve.

Finally, a Christmas blessing we received ten years ago as newlyweds:

May yours be the joy of the angels,
proclaiming that first Christmas day.
May yours be the faith of the wise men,
as they journeyed to where Jesus lay.
May yours be the awe of the shepherds,
as they followed a voice from above.
May yours be the blessing of Christmas,
and always the gift of His love!
Only by His merciful grace. 

-Marion Yoder

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Where I Was in October

I know I was a little quiet here on the blog last month. The reason is I was writing a series on my personal blog. I wrote about Blending Work, School and Home for 31 days straight....a new record for me. If you would like to read more about it, a complete list of the 31 posts is here. I would love to have you stop by!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life Beautiful Magazine Free Issue

Do you enjoy looking through magazines for decorating ideas, but hate all the added "junk" you have to flip past first?  I know I do.  So when I found this Christian based magazine that shares decorating, cooking and life tips I was thrilled!  The articles they produce cover various subjects such as: Family, Finances, Decorating, Cooking, Media and Faith.  If you would like to receive a copy of this magazine, we are happy to announce we can GIVE AWAY one free issue to one of our faithful blog family members! That means, one of YOU!  In order to enter to win, just leave a comment on this post.  We will draw the winner on Saturday at midnight! 

Welcome Fall!

My porch seems to be a relatively safe place for decor...

 Fall... When I think of this beautiful season, my mind envisions steaming cups of Apple Cider, crackling campfires, hay rides, pumpkins, and scenery bursting with color ... I LOVE fall!  I used to decorate pretty extensively in my house for my favorite season.  However, since a precious little girl was sent to our Home, I've taken a different approach to my decorating style.  Oh I still decorate... but things get placed on a higher level than before. (Although recently I'm discovering that approach may not be working out quite as well as I thought... hmmm... maybe I can just place my decor on top of the fridge?) Oh how much excitement children bring to a home!! 
I think I'd rather have her over decorations any day...
  So, due to my lack of  fall decorations INSIDE my house... my wonderful sister-in-law bailed me out and allowed me to photograph her lovely home for this post.  I have noticed that one of the popular items used for indoor fall decor (as well as outside sometimes) is a lantern.  It is a wonderful way to add warmth and light to your decorations without having an open flame.

 Table centerpieces have also gone by the wayside at my house lately... seems the challenge of climbing the chairs to get onto the table top has been conquered quite well by a certain little lady in our house.  Thus, we go to Aunt Elizabeth's house once again for help in this area.  She artistically placed various items to create a lovely centerpiece.  I particularly love the use of the wooden words.  A nice reminder of the truly important things in life.

I believe, that among other things, the way you decorate reflects the stage of life you are in right now.  For me right now that means less decorations and more toys and books.  However, for you that may mean lovely pieces scattered artfully around your Home.  We all are at different stages of life, and we all have different tastes.  Wherever you are right now on that scale, enjoy it.  I have learned that time passes too quickly, and too often we fail to enjoy the season we are currently in.  So if your a Mama right now wishing you could have your "pretties" back out... just wait...that day will come, and you'll miss these days I guarantee it.... For those of you who HAVE your "pretties" out... you don't know what excitement your missing!! :0)  But enjoy it...

Happy Fall!!
Joanna LaVan