christmas

Reason for the Season - A Christmas Devotional Series on Instagram

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My dear friend Ella Connolly came up with a brilliant idea this Advent season — gather writers from around the world together and have them share thoughts on Instagram about Scripture, Christmas, and Christ. We each took one day leading up to Christmas Eve, sharing briefly about what the Lord was teaching us, hoping to encourage others and shine a light on Him.

It was such an honor and a joy to take part in this fun project, especially as the first one to post and get things going! I wanted to gather up all of the posts to share in one place — they are beautiful and deeply meaningful. I know I’ll want to return to them in years to come as reminders of His peace, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.

Enjoy!


day one:

by me!


day two:

by Manda Carpenter


day three:

by Bridgette Brandon

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Matthew 5:14-16 recently and what it has to do with Christmas, but let’s be honest, pretty much everything has to do with Christmas because hello, Jesus! Anyway, the scripture goes, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” I really love this because it’s an invitation to follow in Jesus footsteps, to follow His example and be a light—The moon, a reflection of the Son. When we sit and think about all we want to do this next year, I think adding that to the list is a good idea. Sure, not hiding our light takes bravery, it takes guts, but the best part is, it’s so practical and honestly simple. When you’re at the store, love on the cashier. When you go home and you’ve gotta spend two weeks with your crazy family, listen to their stories and be sweet to em. Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you. Text that person you’ve been thinking about an encouraging word. It’s simple. Be a light. What are some ways you can be a light this season—Be a reflection of Jesus? | This is Day 3 in the Reason for The Season devo series, I’ve tagged all the other ladies involved in the photo! Follow along in my stories to catch the rest of the days.

A post shared by Bridgette Brandon (@alwaysaugust) on


Day four:

by Jena Holliday


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I’m mindful this season of Mary’s unwavering faith in the goodness of God. I can’t confidently say that had I received the news she did about giving birth to Jesus I would have responded with the grace and confidence she did. "I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” I can’t help but wonder if she had already resolved deep down that she was neither accidental nor incidental to the story. I believe she knew she had a roll to play and that God would equip her to play it, regardless of factor or feeling. I’m challenged by her gumption to stand strong in our own fields. To stand strong in order that those lost or seeking within the very fields that we are planted in can witness something on our lives that will set them free. I believe now more than ever, the world needs to see a Church that is upright. It needs to see a church that is peaceful — where Peace has been set a-sail. A people who are resolute and unshakeable. I pray in this new year, we’d be a people who learn how to take authority of our own space, mind, soul, and spirit. I pray we live overshadowed by the same Spirit that was at the critical juncture where we see Mary's life come into play. I pray we remain under the shadow of the almighty all the days of our lives and that it would set in motion the mandate that has been placed upon us for such a time as this. I pray all of these things for you, and for me. x

A post shared by Olivia Holland Klefeker (@oaholland) on


Day six:

by Ella Connolly (the genius behind this whole idea!)


Day seven:

by Faith


Day eight:

by Natasshia Neary

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As the days become shorter, and nights grow longer, I find myself seeking for more light. Sure, this time of year, we light candles, decorate the tree with twinkling lights and are mesmerized by the flame of a fire. However, I feel that my heart aches for more than just the superficial light; it seeks for something more profound. Thankfully, there is hope. During this season of darkness, we can be reminded that Jesus was born and lived to be our guiding light. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) If your heart also feels lost, or your entire being yearns for a sense of direction, then let me pray alongside you today. I pray that God’s light will shine down on us to cast the darkness away. Let us believe that He has already set aside all our fears and made way for our hopes and dreams. That He is walking alongside us as we forge into our adventure, willingly shining His light forward. This I pray to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, Amen. ✨ . If you need more encouragement during this time of year, I invite you to visit the pages of these lion hearted women I’ve partnered with for this project. I certainly have been inspired by working alongside them 💕 . @racheladawson @mandacarpenter @ellascribbles @livingbyyfaith.blog @alwaysaugust @aspoonfuloffaith @oaholland @emmakateacton @samanthaecollin @abounding.grace . #reasonfortheseason18

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Day nine:

by Ronja


My Christmas Wishlist

My Christmas Wishlist

When your love language is gift-giving (anyone else?!), you LOVE holidays like Christmas. It’s the biggest, best love fest! It makes me the happiest. But, I really do NOT love surprises.

A Gift Guide for Bookworms

A Gift Guide for Bookworms

I've gathered up a bunch of fun little giftable things the book lovers in your life are sure to adore, as well as a bunch of books perfect for all different kinds of people in your life.

A Coffee Date // December 12

A Coffee Date // December 12

I shared a few fun little letters on Friday, but let's dive into the real stuff today. These virtual coffee dates are my favorite way to share heart to hearts with you!

Gifts You Can Feel Good About

Gifts You Can Feel Good About

As I shop for gifts this year, I not only want to give my loved ones amazing things, but ALSO give back and make the world a little better. Join me?

12 Days of Love Letter Writing

12 Days of Love Letter Writing

It's no surprise that I adore writing letters and sending mail. I think it's a lost art and a beautiful, tangible way to express love in a way that can be held on to forever and ever.

This Sweet Advent Season

This Sweet Advent Season

This season, my soul rests in Him. This Advent, my soul longs for Him. Each morning, I read the words that tell His story, and I engrave them on my heart bit by bit. 

The Best Books to Give as Gifts

The Best Books to Give as Gifts

I'm one of those people who reads good books and then wants EVERYONE ELSE to read them SAP. So... I've rounded up the best books for gifts this Christmas for you and all the different kinds of people in your life!

A Gift Guide for Good

I'm all about giving back to organizations that are making the world a better place, and getting to do that while also buying gifts?! WIN-WIN, PEOPLE.

Craving A Slow Season

This season, I want slow. Mugs of creamy coffee turned cold because conversation rambled on instead. Evenings spent curled up on the couch staring at the tree, lights blurring in sleepy eyes. Mornings surrounded by Bibles and books and pages full of slanted script.

Our hearts needs slow. We don't need more, we don't need hurry, we don't need busy. We need rest, peace, slow, quiet. The songs sing it, our voices join in, but do we welcome it? Do we open up to the silent night, the holy night? Or does the frenzy take us over?

The best of winter, the best of Christmas, is the way it draws us in and close. Around fireplaces, around bright trees, around a manger scene, around a kitchen table, around a living room, around a sanctuary. The cold is outside, harsh and bitter, but we are welcomed in toward the warmth, toward the heart of all goodness and glory. We are invited in to the stillness, the silence of that holy night, invited to shed our stresses as we shed our coats, and sit before a Savior as he sleeps.

The nativity scene isn't a decoration, it's a declaration: our King has come. The infinite as an infant. The Savior as a swaddled babe.

Let's rest in that. Sit slow as that truth floods us. Gather together with the ones we love and share the sweetness of this season. 

Our souls need this. I've never felt that so strongly as now, that we need this rest, this waiting, this expectant anticipation. We try to race to Christmas, rushing through December, but it burns us out and steals our joy. Like the ones who traveled slow and steady to visit a family far away gathered around a manger, let's journey slow and steady to Christmas, absorbing the beauty and the truth and the mystery of it all.

The Giving Back Gift Guide

This year, I made it my intentional mission to support organizations, businesses and individuals that give back and are supporting great causes around the world. I firmly believe that where and how we spend our money matters so much, and I want my money to support what I believe in: freedom, empowerment, self-sufficiency, an end to hunger and disease, sustainability, etc.

Now, I want to share with you the best of the best that I've found and fallen in love with! With Christmas just around the corner, I'm sure you are shopping for gifts and I strongly encourage you to be intentional with your purchases. These items are unique, beautiful, well-made, and just plain good all around, and they're all under $60!

Go ahead- give back as you give gifts this Christmas!


The Giving Back Gift Guide

Women's Spread Bliss Scoop Neck Shirt- $25    This   women's shirt   from   Braided Bliss   is cute and comfortable. I have one and absolutely love it! $1 from every purchase is donated to  Rewrite Beautiful , a revolution working to change how girls see themselves. Each shirt also comes with a little message in the bottle!

Women's Spread Bliss Scoop Neck Shirt- $25

This women's shirt from Braided Bliss is cute and comfortable. I have one and absolutely love it! $1 from every purchase is donated to Rewrite Beautiful, a revolution working to change how girls see themselves. Each shirt also comes with a little message in the bottle!


Harlow Shimmer necklace - $58    This necklace  is one of my favorites from the new  31Bits  holiday collection. Their jewelry is made from beads crafted from recycled paper by women in Uganda who are being empowered through their work to rise above poverty. I have several necklaces and a few bracelets from 31Bits and absolutely love them all!

Harlow Shimmer necklace - $58

This necklace is one of my favorites from the new 31Bits holiday collection. Their jewelry is made from beads crafted from recycled paper by women in Uganda who are being empowered through their work to rise above poverty. I have several necklaces and a few bracelets from 31Bits and absolutely love them all!


Gold Dipped Wine Holder- $25     This wine holder  from  Rose & Fitzgerald  is fun and funky and handmade in Uganda. It  helps preserve artistic tradition and provide economic opportunity for Ugandan artisans--and who wouldn't like having this to display their vino?

Gold Dipped Wine Holder- $25

This wine holder from Rose & Fitzgerald is fun and funky and handmade in Uganda. It helps preserve artistic tradition and provide economic opportunity for Ugandan artisans--and who wouldn't like having this to display their vino?


Bluegrass and Juniper candle- $30     This candle  made by  Sydney Hale Co.  smells AWESOME (I bought one for a host/hostess gift and couldn't stop sniffing it!), they are handmade in small batches by a family here in VA, and 10% of every purchase to dog rescue. Win, win, and win.

Bluegrass and Juniper candle- $30

This candle made by Sydney Hale Co. smells AWESOME (I bought one for a host/hostess gift and couldn't stop sniffing it!), they are handmade in small batches by a family here in VA, and 10% of every purchase to dog rescue. Win, win, and win.


Wire Wrap Bracelet- $34    This bracelet  from  Miriam Designs  is a great addition to any arm party (I have it and get more compliments on it than any other bracelet I wear!). All of their jewelry is created by woman in Nashville who have overcome lives of addiction. They even have a  monthly subscription  where you get one piece of jewelry for just $20 every month...it's one of the best things I've ever subscribed to. Love each of their pieces.

Wire Wrap Bracelet- $34

This bracelet from Miriam Designs is a great addition to any arm party (I have it and get more compliments on it than any other bracelet I wear!). All of their jewelry is created by woman in Nashville who have overcome lives of addiction. They even have a monthly subscription where you get one piece of jewelry for just $20 every month...it's one of the best things I've ever subscribed to. Love each of their pieces.


The ABLE Scarf- $48    This scarf  by  fashionABLE  is handwoven in Ethipoia, and screen printed in Nashville with the beautiful words from women who have been empowered with jobs through this wonderful company. This scarf truly tells a story of what these women were ABLE to do when they were given the opportunity to do so-- how cool is that? I have two other scarves from fashionABLE and love them so much.

The ABLE Scarf- $48

This scarf by fashionABLE is handwoven in Ethipoia, and screen printed in Nashville with the beautiful words from women who have been empowered with jobs through this wonderful company. This scarf truly tells a story of what these women were ABLE to do when they were given the opportunity to do so-- how cool is that? I have two other scarves from fashionABLE and love them so much.


The Donner fitted beanie- $24.95    This beanie  from  Krochet Kids intl.  would look awesome on any guy. They are handmade in Uganda through a sustainable model of empowerment and employment, and each item you purchase comes with a handwritten note from the woman who made it. Their campaign  #knowwhomadeit  is awesome and makes it all so personal and real. Love that.

The Donner fitted beanie- $24.95

This beanie from Krochet Kids intl. would look awesome on any guy. They are handmade in Uganda through a sustainable model of empowerment and employment, and each item you purchase comes with a handwritten note from the woman who made it. Their campaign #knowwhomadeit is awesome and makes it all so personal and real. Love that.


The Giving Keys Classic Pendant- $35    These pendants  from  The Giving Keys  can be engraved with a variety of words from fearless (that's what mine says!) to believe to courage to faith to even a word of your choice. These necklaces are made from real repurposed keys engraved by people in LA who were once homeless but now are working toward self-sufficiency. The whole idea is to embody the word on your necklace and then to pass it on to someone else who may need that word more than you do. It's all about giving, and I can't wait to pass mine on to someone who needs to find their fearlessness.

The Giving Keys Classic Pendant- $35

These pendants from The Giving Keys can be engraved with a variety of words from fearless (that's what mine says!) to believe to courage to faith to even a word of your choice. These necklaces are made from real repurposed keys engraved by people in LA who were once homeless but now are working toward self-sufficiency. The whole idea is to embody the word on your necklace and then to pass it on to someone else who may need that word more than you do. It's all about giving, and I can't wait to pass mine on to someone who needs to find their fearlessness.


Darling Magazine Quarterly Subscription- $20    Darling Magazine  is absolutely lovely in every way. The photography, the stories, the mission...it's all about the art of being a woman and each one is truly a work of art, not cheap and disposable like so many other magazines. The magazine is segmented to feature different types of women: dreamer, hostess, confidant, stylist, explorer, beautician, intellectual, and achiever. It's the perfect magazine for every woman.

Darling Magazine Quarterly Subscription- $20

Darling Magazine is absolutely lovely in every way. The photography, the stories, the mission...it's all about the art of being a woman and each one is truly a work of art, not cheap and disposable like so many other magazines. The magazine is segmented to feature different types of women: dreamer, hostess, confidant, stylist, explorer, beautician, intellectual, and achiever. It's the perfect magazine for every woman.


Bravery Badge Tee- $24    This shirt  is one of many varieties from  Sevenly  benefiting this week's charity, Muscular Dystrophy Association. Every seven days, Sevenly sells a new batch of products (with some products always on sale) with $7 of each purchase going to that week's charity. If this shirt sells out, browse around Sevenly-- you'll find TONS of awesome products for a variety of incredible charities. Check out their new  CauseBox  too-- for just $49.95 a quarter, you get a big box of socially conscious products worth over $150! I signed up the day the announced it. Too good.

Bravery Badge Tee- $24

This shirt is one of many varieties from Sevenly benefiting this week's charity, Muscular Dystrophy Association. Every seven days, Sevenly sells a new batch of products (with some products always on sale) with $7 of each purchase going to that week's charity. If this shirt sells out, browse around Sevenly-- you'll find TONS of awesome products for a variety of incredible charities. Check out their new CauseBox too-- for just $49.95 a quarter, you get a big box of socially conscious products worth over $150! I signed up the day the announced it. Too good.


Handmade Cards- Emerald/Gold Broken Chevron- $10    These cards  from  JOYN  are handmade (even the paper!) in India and come in a 6-pack with envelopes. They helps provide employment, educational opportunities and medical care to artisans in the Himalayas and are GORGEOUS. Granted, I'm a sucker for anything that's emerald green...but these would be perfect for sending some holiday snail mail!

Handmade Cards- Emerald/Gold Broken Chevron- $10

These cards from JOYN are handmade (even the paper!) in India and come in a 6-pack with envelopes. They helps provide employment, educational opportunities and medical care to artisans in the Himalayas and are GORGEOUS. Granted, I'm a sucker for anything that's emerald green...but these would be perfect for sending some holiday snail mail!


THE CLASSIC in Silver- $34    This necklace  from  Half United  is made from recycled bullet casing to represent the fight against hunger, and purchasing this will provide 5 meals! I have one that's silver with an orange band-- these are great for guys OR girls. Fighting hunger with killer jewelry? Yes please.

THE CLASSIC in Silver- $34

This necklace from Half United is made from recycled bullet casing to represent the fight against hunger, and purchasing this will provide 5 meals! I have one that's silver with an orange band-- these are great for guys OR girls. Fighting hunger with killer jewelry? Yes please.


Thoughts from the Corner Cafe

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The rain is pouring down, the kind of cold, misty, constant rain that reminds me so much of my England days. I've always liked this kind of weather, always adamantly defended cities like London and Seattle with all their gray and rainy days. They're peaceful, cozy, relaxing, I argue. They aren't depressing. They aren't annoying. These days are the best days.

These are the days where it just makes sense to put on your brother's big old flannel and chunky socks under your worn-in, favorite boots. It makes sense to drive in the wild rain to the best corner cafe in Shockoe Bottom, the one with the massive windows more than twice as tall as you are. It makes sense to order the large soy chai latte instead of your usual small...it's just that kind of day. The best kind of day.

The rain won't let you forget it today. It eases up at times and passersby tuck their collapsed umbrellas under their arms and peel the hoods of their rain jackets back. But then it dumps down again with vengeance, slowing every car to a painfully slow crawl and forcing everyone under the cover of awnings and umbrellas again. 

This rain will bring winter here to stay. The last leaves are slipping off the trees, having given up hope of holding on much longer. With the Christmas music already taking over the radio and every store's sound system, the holidays seem unavoidable. This rain would be snow if we were just a few states away, and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that.

I have long held onto the belief that all things Christmas should be contained in the month of December. It shouldn't spill over into November, that's Thanksgiving's month to shine. 

This year, though, I've surprised myself. I found myself cooking dinner with Frank Sinatra crooning his Christmas classics in the background. I couldn't help but listen to JOHNNYSWIM's new Christmas album when it came out, and Pentatonix's new version of Mary, Did You Know played through my computer more times than I would like to admit. Even now, as I sit here under the warm glow of lights hanging from exposed wooden beams, Michael Buble is singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in my ears.

This rainy day makes it all make sense. This weather is the kind that seems to fit so well with the songs of the holidays. While the scene outside of these windows is still one of falling leaves instead of snow, it seems to be welcoming me to winter. It seems to make sense that I've made an exception to my usually strict rule this year and let Christmas creep in early.

This is the best kind of day. The kind where the words are plenty and the ideas are endless. The kind where every conversation around me is hushed and gentle, like none of us want to spoil the magic of these moments. The kind where big bowls of soup are on every table next to our foam-filled mugs. The kind of day where only couches or coffeeshops seem appropriate and I'm glad I've found them both.

Call the rain depressing, call this day a typical Monday, call me crazy, but I firmly believe this is the very best kind of day.

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