When You Need More Grace in Your Holidays

How to find grace this Christmas

When my daughter Avery Grace was six, she turned her big brown eyes up at me and asked, “Why does Santa check his list twice?” She paused, then said, “Wait, I know. Is it because anyone can change?” I stood dumbstruck for a moment, awed that such little-girl cuteness could offer such old-soul wisdom.

Anyone can change.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately—how it’s so much bigger than we think. How it can cover everything and make us new over and over again. In late October my mother and I had the privilege of spending a weekend with 800 wonderful women in the Midwest, talking about “Overflowing Grace.” And earlier that month, I spent a Saturday afternoon with 200 vibrant ladies in West Palm Beach, Florida, seeking God’s kindness and grace in our waiting seasons—along the way we found quite a few laughs and tears. (Scroll down to see pictures and to find information about speaking availability in 2018—next year’s calendar is filling up fast!)

How are you doing with grace lately? It’s hard, right? We want to accept it, we ache to feel it. . . but so many times, we walk around still haunted by guilt. And when we’re dogged by guilt ourselves, we show less grace to others, a painful cycle. This holiday season, I pray you experience God’s grace more fully—and share it more generously.

Here are three simple ways to experience more grace this December (and always!):

How to find grace this Christmas

-Have an encouraging devotional time with your family. So many times we focus our family devotional times on areas where our families need to grow, highlighting our weaknesses—not this time! Your only goal in this devotional is to encourage your kids like crazy. Go around the room and be as specific as you can with each child, praising them for who they are—what you love and like in their personality and character; all the ways you enjoy and admire them—and also tell them specific ways you have seen them serve or grow or give. Kevin and I had a devotional time like this with our kids a few months ago, and it was wonderful.

-Take time to notice God’s encouragements to you—His small graces—each day. Pay closer attention to his small gifts and kindnesses. They are always there, those gentle signs that say, “I’m here and I care,” but we rarely slow down long enough to notice and appreciate them. Did He give you peace when you were anxious? Did He prompt a friend to send you a reassuring text message just after you prayed for encouragement? Did He help you find your lost keys? Try writing down three ways God showed you kindness at the end of every day—I bet you’ll have a hard time stopping at just three!

-Share some of the grace God has given you. Write a card, share a meal, give a gift. Or offer grace of the forgiveness kind, forgiving someone who has hurt you even though they don’t fully “get” how much you hurt. (Can any of us fully “get” how much our sin has hurt Jesus?!) We all know it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)—Jesus taught us that—but something beautiful happens in our hearts when we give grace. Giving grace softens us, humbles us, and opens us up. The more we give grace, the better we are able to receive it from others. Try it. . .you’ll see what I mean!

I wish you a grace-filled, joy-filled holiday season!



If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

My newslettersign up here to receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to do around the breakfast table with your family!

Have a Mary Christmas (More Sitting, Less Stressing!)

Everything You Need for Lice and Godliness (a rather unfortunate Christmas story)

By This Time Next Year (our family’s Christmas miracle story)

My new book, When God Says, “Wait”

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

My 2018 speaking calendar is filling up fast!

I only have a few speaking slots left for this winter/spring (only one date left in January/February; March is full; April and May have a few openings), so please contact me ASAP if you’d like me to come visit your church or group! I’d love to meet you in person. You can find a list of speaking topics here

Here are a few pictures from October’s events, “Grace Overflowing” and “When God Says ‘Wait'”:

Contact me about speaking here.

Sign up for my newsletter and receive your free gift, 7 Days of Two-Minute Devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!

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When You Want to Have Faith, But You Have Questions

when Christians doubt the Bible

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Confession: Faith has never come easy for me.

I have lived most of my Christian life with a constant voice in the back of my head saying, “But what if it’s not true?” These days, the voice is mostly just a whisper (some days I don’t hear it at all); at other times, it’s been a full-on shout.

The voice started in high school, in Mr. Gus’s class, where we explored the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Mr. Gus dared us to answer hard questions, to prove why we believed what we believed. His questions made me stop and think, “Why do I believe these things? Is this really my faith, or have I blindly adopted my parents’ faith?”

I came home asking questions—lots of them. I am forever thankful for my parents’ wisdom. They didn’t freak out: “How dare you doubt God and the Bible?!” They didn’t panic: “Oh, no! Our daughter is falling away from God!” They didn’t blow me off: “Huh. Those are hard questions. Good luck figuring things out.” They didn’t write me off: “You’re just going through a weird teenage phase—it will go away in a week or two.”

Bible holding hands

Photo credit: Sara Engel

They took me seriously, and let me dive deep. They didn’t offer quick, shallow answers. My dad, who has wrestled with a number of faith questions himself, said, “I understand why you have those questions—I’ve had them too! So let’s study them out together.” He gave me books to read, and gave me freedom to ask all my questions. We worked through them one by one, step by step. There was no pressure, no guilt, and no rush. I went back and forth on some of these questions for months—some for years—and Mom and Dad were always there to listen, to discuss, to reason, and to point me to helpful resources. And it’s not like I grew up and stopped asking questions—I still ask a ton of questions, but now I know enough about the Bible and apologetics that I know where to turn when questions crop up.

Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to over the years—maybe they will encourage you if you find faith difficult:

1.It’s okay to have questions about faith—in fact, questions are good. Doubt means you are thinking. Doubt means you don’t just blindly accept everything you hear from the pulpit or from popular Christian culture. God encourages us to love him “with all [our] minds” (Mark 12:30)—he doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door when we become Christians! Thinking and study are an integral part of our faith. Doubt only becomes a problem if we don’t take the time to address it—if we are lazy and unwilling to put the time in to read and study and seek answers.

bible (1 of 1)

Photo credit: Sara Engel

2.I’m not the first person to have this question. Whatever question I am asking, some other Christian has asked it before me. Which means: 1) I’m not weird or sinful for having this question, and 2) I can find helpful writings (and podcasts and videos) on this topic. Chances are, great Christian thinkers and apologists have already produced a wealth of material on this exact question, and somewhere in their words, I can find the help I need. (My go-to person for faith questions is my longtime friend Dr. Douglas Jacoby, whose website is a vast resource for Christians with questions.)

3.Faith is a long journey—embrace the twists and turns. There will be times in our lives when faith is harder: maybe a painful experience is bringing up doubts; maybe a disappointment or loss has rocked us; maybe God seems distant or silent. Times like these don’t need to destroy our faith—in fact, they can strengthen it if we tackle our questions and doubts honestly, and with Scripture. (Random shout-out: If God feels far away, read Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? MIND-BLOWING. LIFE-CHANGING.)

Want my free ebook, How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard?

Sign up for my newsletter here to claim your free book! 

4. We don’t have to accept the easy answer. Some questions about God and the Bible do not have quick, easy answers. Warfare in the Bible? Senseless suffering? Predestination? These are hard, complex topics. Simple blanket statements like “Just have faith” or “Just trust God” won’t do it for questions like these.

I need more than pat answers to keep my faith healthy: I need Scriptures. Logic. Honest analysis of the contradictions and difficulties. And you know what? God designed me this way! He made me to think. To question. To explore. He doesn’t expect me to settle for easy answers to hard questions. If you’re like me, and you’re a thinker, a questioner, a wonder-er, that’s not a bad thing. Let’s embrace who we are, and take joy in the journey of working out our faith.

5.It’s okay to live with some questions and uncertainty. I have come to realize that some of our faith-related questions may never be completely resolved. The big questions are resolved: Do I believe in God? YES. Was Jesus really the Son of God, and did he die for sins and resurrect from the dead? YES. Can I trust God with my life? YES. (But even in those questions, doubt can occasionally resurface, and we have to go back and remind ourselves: This is what I believe, and why.)

But some other questions—about tough topics like suffering, or predestination, or how God’s will works in daily life—are up for debate. God hasn’t explained every nuance of who he is and how he works—if he tried, the Bible would be a gazillion pages long (plus, our brains might explode). We can keep thinking, keep reading, keep debating and discussing, but we might have to settle for “This is the best answer I can come up with for now. And I reserve the right to change my thinking on it over time.”

6.Faith is an adventure. I used to feel guilty when a new doubt or question cropped up; now I see those moments as opportunities to study and grow. Questions are a chance to dig in to Scripture and some new books, and to have some deep conversations with trusted thinker-friends. Doubts are an opportunity to be honest with God about what we’re working through, and to ask him to point us in the right direction.

Let’s take comfort and joy from Jesus’ words to Thomas, our fellow doubter, because they are written about you and me (how cool is that?!): “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28).

Okay, your turn: What faith questions do you have? Do you view doubt as a weakness, or an opportunity for growth and exploration? If your kids have questions about God, how do you plan to handle them?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

My book When God Says, “Wait”

When Kids Understand God Better than We Do

Everything We Need for Lice and Godliness

When Being a Grown-up Means You’re Still Growing Up

13 Back-to-School Scriptures for Kids

13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter

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Staying Close to God When You’ve Got Young Kids

staying close to God when you have young children

How can we maintain a thriving relationship with God as busy parents?

How can we impart a lasting love for God and His word to our children?

What are the biggest challenges faced by Christian parents today?

Is it a good idea to have three kids in three years? (Short answer: NO. Heh heh.)

And how in the name of all that is good and holy can moms find ten minutes to ourselves to read and pray?!

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk about the joys and challenges of Christian parenting with Jon Sherwood, of JonSherwood.com.

You can watch the video here. (It’s only 16 minutes long, so I recommend giving the kids a bowlful of Cheerios, and locking yourself in the bathroom for some extended “me time…”) 

Hope you enjoy! And check out Jon’s website while you’re there—it’s a fantastic, faith-building resource!

For more on Christian parenting and family life, check out: 

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

The LizzyLife YouTube Channel 

5 Bible Stories Boys Love

13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter

13 Back-to-School Scriptures

How We Helped Our Son Overcome a Gaming Obsession

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