Category Archives: by Jennifer Ebenhack

What is Christmas all about again?

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This is going to sound a little crazy.

I’ve set up a beautiful Christmas tree, I’ve shopped for my kids and extended family, I’ve baked Christmas cookies, and I’m kind of excited to find out what’s in the package my husband put under the tree for me. (That wasn’t the crazy part.)

While a big part of me gets on-board with traditional Christmas cheer each year, I remain a little conflicted.

Why?

Well, because there’s just nothing glitzy, fancy, and self-gratifying about Jesus making the epic sacrifice of being born in a stable, all for the purpose of growing up to die on the cross for me.

In light of such astounding love, where should my heart be right now?

Join me at The Better Mom where I talk about how feeling conflicted about Christmas leads us to what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Confessions Day 4: “Worried and bothered about so many things”

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I’m just gonna throw this out there and make an assumption that I’m not the only one who is “worried and bothered about so many things” today (Luke 10:41b).

There’s the basic workload – work, cook, wash clothes, parent…

Then there’s another layer of responsibilities – Christmas shopping, mailing packages, deep-cleaning the house, baking…

And on top of that is extra socializing – Christmas programs, get-togethers, parties…

By the end of the day yesterday, I’d nearly forgotten about God.

All that mattered was a bunch of clutter and a persistent odor in the bedroom carpet. As I rug-doctored, heaving furniture to and fro, my thoughts centered around how very much work children are, how small our house feels with seven people in it, and how appalling all our “stuff” is.

Things like “I’m never going to have time to write again!,” “Who has been training these kids anyway?,” “I can understand the benefits of having only one child,” and “If our house burned down I wouldn’t have to sort through all this mess” danced through my head. You know, visions of sugarplums…

When an obnoxious crate-style metal shelving unit broke for the umpteenth time, the lottery ticket line I inadvertantly stood in to rent the rug doctor came to mind… Hmmm, if I won the lottery, I could buy some real shelves. That’s every lotto player’s dream, right?

And then, after I ditched the crates, dumped the dirty rug-doctor water, cleaned the toilet, started another load of laundry, tidied the kitchen, and tiptoed past my sleeping husband to get ready for bed, I saw a facebook message from a sweet lady asking if I could have lunch with her tomorrow.

I want to, but… I… have… so… much… to… DO!

And then the God that I’d nearly forgotten showed me who I was.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…” (Luke 10:41-42)

His Word…

Time at His feet…

Investments in relationships, in matters of the soul…

My confession today is that all my fleshly heart cares about is my own agenda:

  • I want my house clean.
  • I want my own time.
  • I don’t want my kids to pester me.
  • I want to finish my to do list!

My sinful nature doesn’t want to sacrifice.

My worried and bothered heart doesn’t have time to sit and listen to Jesus!

As if my agenda is more important than His.

As if He doesn’t know what it’s like to sacrifice and obey the will of the Father.

I need Him to open my eyes, my ears, my heart.

I need Him to “make me lie down in green pastures,”  to sit at His feet, to do the one thing that is necessary.

Lord Jesus, thank you for stepping down from Heaven and pursuing our souls. Help us today as our schedules and responsibilities overwhelm us; help us yield to Your Holy Spirit instead of our selfish, sinful hearts. Enable us to see what really matters and what doesn’t. Please give us grace to do the mundane for your glory.

*I know many of us are in the same boat today! And some of you are facing the kind of battles that make cluttered houses and smelly carpets look like a walk in the park. How can I pray for you today?

Christmas Confessions Day 3: [Mis]Judging my Husband

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My third confession is that I’ve judged my husband.

(What? Judge not that you be not judged?)

I’m married to a hard worker, a wise parent, a dedicated Christ-follower, and a caring, sensitive husband.

And for the record, I’ve read tons of marriage books, I’ve learned about the pivotal issues of love and respect, and I’ve enjoyed a wonderful marriage for fourteen-and-one-half years.

Yet, in my heart of hearts… how much I’ve judged.

When he’s working too hard — He’s becoming a workaholic.

When he relaxes on the couch — Doesn’t he care about all the work I have left?

When I need parenting help — I wish he would handle this.

When he steps in to handle something — That is NOT the right approach for this situation.

When there’s not time for family devotions — He just doesn’t see the spiritual needs in our family like I do.

When he creates a routine for family devotions — Why does he have to be so rigid?

Oh yes, from my lofty vantage point, I have [mis]judged him to be selfish, uncaring, and decidedly less spiritual.

Well, God dropped a book in my lap last week that I now highly recommend — What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You by David Murrow.

And… Wow.

I’ve gained a profound understanding of the why’s… the working, the parenting, and the spiritual leadership, just to name a few.

I look back (at um, a few days ago) and am horrified that my goal has so often been to conform my husband to my “godly,” feminine way of life.

The God-given instincts to protect and provide, the differences in the male brain, the changes in society, especially since the Industrial Revolution, and the way we Western Christians “do church” provide significant answers to the great mysteries (and in the female mind, the CRIMES) of men.

I am truly grateful for fresh insight into the various aspects of my husband (and sons), but even if I hadn’t been provided with the results of such incredible study, I would have been accountable for my judgmental heart. Some other profound words have been around for quite a while…

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Maybe you can relate. Will you pray with me?

Jesus, I’m sorry for my own self-righteousness. I’m sorry I’ve so often assumed the worst about the incredible husband you gave me. Thank you for creating him in your image — for creating him to be so different than me. Help me to honor and respect him, to understand him better, and to love him – not puffing myself up, not assuming evil, but bearing all things, believing all things, and hoping all things. I admit again how much I need YOU to change my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen

*Don’t forget to check out David Murrow’s book. Maybe you can add it to your Christmas list! I promise you will learn something you’ve never learned before!

But before you do, let me know… what are you learning these days about loving, respecting and believing the best about your husband?

Christmas Confessions Day 2 — Thankful or Discontent?

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I celebrated Thanksgiving a few short days ago.

How thankful should I be? Infinitely.
How thankful am I? Pathetically.

My confession today is my discontent.

I thank God for all the good with my lips, but my greedy heart clamors for better

  • A better couch
  • A prettier face
  • A heftier bank account
  • A cleaner house
  • A more successful blog

On and on it goes.

Anyone on the face of the earth could find reason to envy me… that’s how blessed I am. But am I truly grateful?

Only sometimes.

In my ebook Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear, I wrote about giving thanks even in the midst of darkness:

More than a distracting mantra, thanks-giving is a sacrifice. We lay down
our rights for “more.” Yes, we realize our neediness, and we remember
that God knows too; yet, in the middle of suffering we take our eyes off
ourselves and acknowledge all we already possess. “I will offer to You the
sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the Name of the Lord” (Psalm
116:17 NKJV).

Furthermore, we are told that giving thanks “in all circumstances” is
indeed “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).
Gratitude is an act of faith; we are telling God we remember what He has
done, we see what He is doing, and we trust Him with our future.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV), and
without gratitude, it will be impossible for us to recognize God’s hand at
work.

Our enemy knows the transformative power of gratitude. Think about how hard he works (or doesn’t have to work) to stir the discontent in our hearts — especially at this time of year.

I used to be surprised by the inclusion of “ungrateful” in this list of sins, but as I look at the world around me (and the deceitful heart inside of me) it makes more and more sense:

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power… (2 Timothy 3:2-3)

My discontent, my lack of gratitude denies the power of God in my life.

Lord Jesus, I confess to you my ingratitude. Please forgive me of this lust for more, for better. Turn my eyes away from “greener pastures” that are only the enemy’s mirage, and turn my focus instead to you and the blessings I often ignore. 

For my friend who is struggling because her burden is so great today, please show her your relentless love — the love the changes everything and merits our eternal gratitude.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*How are you battling discontent and keeping a thankful heart today?

Christmas Confessions Day 1: Not perfect

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Every time I share with you, my blog friend, I long to be perfect.

I want to express myself clearly, share just the right amount of struggle, and come to an encouraging conclusion.

What happens when I’m not thinking clearly? Experiencing too much struggle? Not yet at my encouraging conclusion?

Silence.

But I shouldn’t be writing to impress.
We’re friends.
We’re pilgrims traveling this rough road together.
You don’t need me to have all the answers. In fact, I may need the answers from you.

We’ll never stop needing to point each other to the One, Only Answer.
Jesus.

Lately, I’ve been realizing afresh just how imperfect I am.

My sinfulness trips me up, shuts me up, and leaves me wondering what could I possibly be qualified to say?

But though the enemy whispers that I’ll never be perfect enough, the Holy Spirit turns my gaze to a star… a manger… a cross.

Christmas is all about me not being perfect — me seeing, confessing, and forsaking my sin; me falling before my perfect, fully adequate, merciful Savior.

Through December, I’ll be writing short confessions.

Simple reflections that reveal my need for the Savior whose arrival we celebrate.
And prayers. A lifting up of myself and of you, my friend.

As a fellow pilgrim, I can’t offer you perfect prose or perfect answers.

But I can walk beside you, sharing the truth of my neediness and His sufficiency, sharing a moment before His throne together.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you welcome the needy, sinful, and broken with open arms. I praise you for the gift of your perfect, all-sufficient Son, who cleanses me from sin and your Holy Spirit who empowers me to walk in the light.

Please give me — and my friend — eyes to see our sin for what it is. Let us not be deceived into believing we’re fine without you. Break down our facades of perfection and give us courage to admit our desperate need for you.

Don’t let us celebrate your arrival, your sacrifice unchanged.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*Has your sin or a facade of perfection been holding you back from something? How can I pray for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

What every non-runner needs to learn about the race

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I live with a bunch of runners. (Note my careful choice of words.)

My husband coaches cross-country and track and can’t resist discipling our own 8-14 year-olds in the art of running in his free time. My eight year-old ran two 5ks in the past two days. They are all putting me to shame.

But though I don’t count myself among these dedicated athletes, I’m learning a couple valuable lessons from them.

First of all, serious runners don’t have an “off season.”

  • When one season is done, they condition for the next.
  • They eat wisely year-round.
  • They go to bed early each night so they’re ready for those pre-dawn workouts.

After all, to stop training is to lose ground.

Secondly, running requires self-discipline: a throwing off of hindrances and entanglements.

Real runners resist the temptations that are accepted as “normal” to everyone else:

  • soft drinks
  • excessive sugar
  • late nights
  • injury-inducing activities

Runners have a goal in mind and persevere to that end.

It’s easy to forget we’re in a spiritual race, isn’t it? Yet it’s SO easy to be hindered, to become entangled.

When others indulge in whatever makes them happy, we look at our well-worn running shoes and our narrow path and wonder what would be so wrong with a break.

Why not enjoy an off season?

Wouldn’t it feel great to sleep in? Put our feet up? Eat without restrictions?

How easily we veer off course when our eyes are fixed on the fun everyone else is having.

But how different the perspective when we are instead,

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3

There is lasting joy set before us too!

If we stay on course, persevere, cast aside the weights and entanglements, our sacrifices will pale in comparison to the reward.

I don’t want to be disqualified.

I don’t want to lose heart.

I want to say with Paul and so many of the witnesses who have gone before me:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7

Jesus, please strengthen our “feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb. 12:12). Help us fix our eyes on YOU!

*How’s your race going today? Any words of encouragement to add to your fellow runners?

Doing hard things

The funny thing about hard stuff is that we didn’t believe it would be this hard.

Ministry.

Adoption.

Marriage.

Parenting.

Walking by faith.

Those of us living in a first world country are especially confused by hard. We watch commercials promising the easy life, sure that if we buy or do the right things, we’ll be able to avoid hard.

But aren’t all our best memories connected to the hard stuff?

A race won.

A baby born.

A degree earned.

What’s your hard thing?

About eleven years ago, mine was moving to a fourth-world country and becoming an instant mom to three… eventually mom to five.

Around three years ago, it was fighting panic and adrenal fatigue — pushing through life even though I wanted to hide in a safe little corner.

Today it’s being faithful at home, while also letting my light shine a little further. It’s putting myself on my blog, in a book, and even on a speaking platform.

Each hard thing has been scary. Today is scary. And exhausting. Did I mention hard stuff is exhausting?!

BUT

Every single time I want to go live in those life-made-easy commercials, God gets involved.

He elbows me in the ribs and just won’t let up until I’ve gotten the point:

  • blogs…
  • verses…
  • songs…
  • homeschool curriculum…
  • sermons…

They all say the same thing:

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I don’t know what the future holds; God might take me from hard to easier, or maybe from hard to harder. But even in my fear and wimpiness, I’m motivated to press on by a couple huge things:

1) I know there will eventually be a permanent end to all that is hard. Hallelujah!

And at that end we will be rewarded for our perseverance.

“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:37

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

2) I don’t have to do a single thing in my own strength!

God promises to empower and equip me for each challenge.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Isaiah 4113

Here’s the deal: God has specific tasks in mind for each of us. We’ve been uniquely designed for our own hard stuff.

Jesus saved us — completing the ultimate overwhelming job. And He sustains us. He empowers us.

Our time here is limited. Will we do what He’s created us and saved us to do?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Alright, now it’s your turn to share. What hard thing is God asking you to do?

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