We took the kids to look at Christmas lights tonight. Me, my sister, our husbands and our children. It was gonna be GREAT. I imagined a quiet stroll down Peacock Lane and pictures in front of the Grinch house. Yeah. It didn’t exactly go down like that. If you’re wondering if all this Christmas “fussing” is worth it, listen in, and be encouraged.
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- John 14:1-6
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Hey, everybody. Merry Christmas! This is Heidi St. John. Today is Friday, December the 6th. This is episode number 854, and I am stopping in today just to encourage your heart and remind you that all of this Christmas fuss really is worth it. Stick around. I think you’re going to be encouraged.
All right, you guys. Well, I’m excited that you’ve joined me today at my little corner of the internet. Thank you so much for tuning in. Lots of stuff has been happening in our house lately, not the least of which is we took our daughter, Sierra, to the airport the day before Thanksgiving. She flew all the way around the world to Europe and ended up in Dublin, Ireland where she’s going to be spending the next couple of months kind of gallivanting around Europe, as young adults do when they don’t have a family and have that season of their life.
But, I got to tell you guys, dropping her off at the airport … I mean, she’s over there with a friend and she’s going to be fine. I’m not worried about her safety. But I’ll tell you, even though she’s a grown woman coming up on 30 years old, for goodness sake, I was like, “Really? You got to go at Thanksgiving?” I grieved over it. I know a lot of you are struggling with your kids are getting older. Seasons are changing. Some of you guys are have been brand new babies and you’re just coming into the season of your life where you’ve got little kids all around you and you feel overwhelmed by that. Then there are others like me who I’ve still got kids at home. I’m down to three now from the seven. But I’ll tell you what, you guys. Change happens, and it happens very quickly. And sometimes I think it’s hard for us to adapt to the change. So I’m going to be talking a little bit about that today, but also just how we can embrace the mess and the fuss that is the Christmas season without getting overrun by it.
Before I start, I just want to say I’m really excited because tonight I am going to be joining a very special group of women at Godspeak Calvary Chapel for the annual Christmas tea, and I cannot wait to be with you ladies. So I will be there this evening. And in fact, I am on my way as this podcast is airing flying down to LAX, and I just cannot wait for that.
Also, coming up on my calendar, in January, things really start picking up for me again. My speaking season typically starts in January the 4th through the 12th. I will be at the FPEA marriage cruise. Really excited about that. My husband and I are going to be joining my friend Todd Wilson and his wife Debbie for a fantastic event. If you want more information about that, check out the Florida Parent-Educators Association and just Google cruise. The marriage cruise will come up.
The 24th through the 25th, I will be participating in the THSC Homeschool Moms Winter Summit in Frisco, Texas. The following weekend, I’ll be in Houston for the Winter Summit. So excited to see so many of you guys as my speaking season begins again. If you are interested in bringing me to your neck of the woods, my 2020 schedule is pretty well full. We’re booking into 2021 right now. But we would love to hear from you. There’s a speaking tab. I’ll link back to it in the show notes today. But I love to come out and encourage you to get off the bench and onto the battlefield.
Because really, that’s what this whole thing is about, right? That’s why we’re podcasting. That’s why we started the Firmly Planted homeschool resource center. We’re trying to get a generation of parents to engage, engage, engage, and be the salt and the light that God wants you to be. That’s the reason why I do the Faith that Speaks conference, my women’s conference, speaking of which I will be in Lakeland, Florida again. This is our third year in a row for Faith that Speaks. That’s my women’s conference February 21st through the 22nd. I hope you guys will come.
I also want to say thank you so much for leaving reviews for the podcast over at iTunes, for reviewing Becoming MomStrong over at Amazon. It really helps us just to let people know the heart behind the ministry here and to encourage other moms to get off the bench and onto the battlefield.
We’ve got a brand new study right now. We’ve just started over at MomStrong International, and it’s, I think, going to be one of my favorite studies that we’ve ever done. Picture Abraham and Isaac going up that mountain, the side of the mountain, and God has asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son that he has waited his whole life for. I picture this story often, Abraham walking ahead of Isaac. “Come on, Isaac. We’ve got to hurry.” And Isaac saying, “But, Dad, Father, where is our sacrifice? We’ve got wood, and we’ve got our supplies, but there’s no lamb.” “Isaac, God will provide our sacrifice.” “But how, Father? Aren’t we unprepared?” More than you know, son. But God will provide.”
And if God has ever asked you to take a step of obedience that threatened to undo your sense of security and belonging, you’re not alone. This month at MomStrong International, we’re going to look at Genesis 22 and read the amazing story of young Isaac and his father Abraham as they practice the cost of obeying and trusting God together as they trudged up that mountain.
Imagine climbing Mount Moriah, right? Abraham is battling for emotional footing in a very unfamiliar territory, and it’s unfamiliar because God was requiring the unthinkable from Abraham. He was asking him to sacrifice his long awaited child of promise. Unfamiliar because Abraham didn’t know the outcome. You guys ever been there? God’s got you walking through deep water, and you don’t know the outcome. I’ve been there a lot in my life.
A very, very precious friend of mine just found out that she is battling breast cancer for the second time. She messaged me the other day, and my heart just broke. I remember looking at my husband just saying, “This life is just so unsafe. It feels so frightening.” And yet God said, “I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.” Even though in this story of Abraham and Isaac we’re just being introduced to Isaac, we can see in him a heart of surrender to God’s will. You know how he was learning that? He was learning it from his father. He was learning it from his father. And it is mind-blowing to think of Abraham’s trust and his resolve in the midst of what had to be unsettling, upsetting.
You see, God had already worked miracles in his life, right? He had allowed Sarah to conceive, and He promised this childless couple that the child that they were going to bring forth into the world will be the beginning of a family tree that was greater than the stars in the heavens. How often do we see God bring part A around and then find ourselves doubting part B? You guys ever been there? I’ve been there.
I’m imagining Abraham wrestling with, God, “our own child, our own flesh and blood.” It’s enough to make us weep with the gravity of it. The story of Abraham is teaching us how to walk in faith and obey our heavenly Father even at great costs. You guys, the sacrifice of following God comes at a cost. And this month, at MomStrong International, we’re going to look at the extraordinary peace that God offers in the midst of struggle, in the midst of trial. And we’re going to ask a question that reveals our heart. Where do we run for sanctuary when life is difficult? Do we trust that God knows what he’s doing even when we don’t understand?
I don’t know if you guys have been following along the story of TobyMac whose son died. I think it’s been about a month ago now. I’ve been amazed. I’ve followed his public posts on Instagram and on Facebook, and I’m totally amazed. He had the funeral for his son. And in the midst of all of the struggle that they’re going through and all of the pain, they are turning the eyes of the people around them to Jesus.
They said last week, “From the valley of the shadow of death, we pray a flood of thankfulness will rise this week.” How is he able to say that as he’s burying his oldest son? He’s able to say it because he knows the living God. And when God said, “I’ll never leave you, and I’ll never forsake you,” He meant it.
So this month at MomStrong International, we’re going to study what it means to live inside the sanctuary that is our relationship with the Lord Jesus. It’s a precious gift. We’re going to learn to follow him wherever he leads and to tell of his kindness to our children and to their children. God wants us to do that.
The study of this month is called Sanctuary. If you guys haven’t joined me yet, you can join me at MomStrong International. We do three weeks of study. And then of course we do the scripture writing challenge. This is a great time because we just jumped into it. I do a live teaching every week on Facebook. This week. I came to you from my little sanctuary. We took our family to Leavenworth, Washington. If you guys have never been to Leavenworth, I got to tell you, if you live in Washington state … I’ve been to … So, Switzerland. Because if your name is Heidi, you have to go to Switzerland at least once in your life, right? So I’ve been to Switzerland. I’ve also been, obviously, to Leavenworth, Washington, which is about five hours from where I live. And if you guys are like, “Man, we can never afford to go to Switzerland,” you don’t need to. Just go to Leavenworth because it’s just as beautiful and it’s less expensive. You guys will love it. Take my word for it. We try to go there with our kids every couple of years or so. We took a huge chunk of our family this year, so had a great time. I was able to do some live teaching from our little hideaway in the Washington version of Switzerland over in Leavenworth, Washington.
But, I do those teachings every Wednesday. Our heart is just to encourage you to walk in right relationship with the Lord no matter where you are in your life. I know that some of you are really struggling with the Christmas season. I know because I’m hearing from you. I want to just take a moment today. Normally I have a guest on today, but I decided, no, I’m going to take a moment and just talk to the tired mom especially, or the tired dad who is just like, “This Christmas thing. Are you kidding me right now?” We have it in our head what Christmas is going to look like. Pinterest kind of puffs it up for us, and we’re all excited.
First of all, homeschool mom, can I just talk to you for a second? You don’t have to school your kids all the way through December. We usually stop at about the second week and we take the rest of December off. We try to pull back a little bit. I remember several years ago when we took our kids to see the Christmas lights. It was me. It was my sister, our husbands, our kids. We thought, “This is going to be great! It’s going to be great.” I imagined a quiet stroll down Peacock Lane and the pictures our family would take in front of the Grinch house, but didn’t exactly go down like that. That’s right. Moment of silence for how it never goes down how we think it’s going to go down.
I don’t even know why, right? I used to go to Peacock Lane with my grandparents when I was a kid, and I remember it as nothing less than perfect. I’m not going to lie to you. There was some sibling bickering in my car on the way there. A certain four-year-old was bothering her brothers by singing Christmas carols off key. Somebody ate somebody else’s candy cane. On and on it went. Somebody got cold. Somebody got hungry. Somebody had to go potty. The street we love to visit was crowded. But I looked at my husband, who was clearly getting irritated as I was, and I was like, “But we’re making memories. Come on, you guys. We got this,” and so out we piled, right?
A few times along the way we had to stop and take a headcount. It wasn’t relaxing. Two of the kids told me they’d rather be home. And yeah, I would rather be here with you guys listening to you bicker when I could be home taking a well-deserved hot shower. But whatever. I digress.
Here’s the reason I’m telling you guys the way it is. This thing you’re doing, this parenting you’re doing, this struggling to get your Christmas lights up, trying to figure out how you’re going to get all the things in that you want to do, it’s not easy. My husband and I have been going at it now for, oh, 30. This will be our 31st Christmas. And in 28 years of parenting, I can testify to the fact that there are very few precious, perfect moments in family life. They hardly ever happen. And as moms, we live and breathe for those moments. Someone please just tell us it’s not for nothing. We just want to know that it’s working, this investment of time, this love, and energy, all these things that we’re pouring into our family.
And we wonder why we’re trying so hard. Is all the fuss really worth it? Why are we making sugar cookies? Why are we watching the Miracle on 34th Street for the 15th time? The kids don’t seem to appreciate it. Even my husband is doubting whether or not anyone cares. Is it important? You guys, I’m here to tell you that it is. One day, your children are going to appreciate the fact that you made them stand in front of that wooden Grinch cutout for a family picture. Not too long from now, they’ll understand the sacrifice that you’re making so they can have a few traditions to share with their own families. You guys, blink, and your teens will be young adults who will cherish the pictures that they argued with you about taking. I’m telling myself that right now.
I told myself that as I dropped off our daughter the day before Thanksgiving to go spend the holidays, and her birthday, and so many other cherished things that we do as a family over with other people on the other side of the world. Jay and I were like, “This is what we raised them to do.” I’m always telling people we’re raising adults. We’re not raising children. And we’ve got to let go of this idea that things have to be like something out of a Better Homes & Gardens layout. The turkey doesn’t have to turn out just right. You don’t have to have a hundred presents under the tree. Your kids don’t need a bunch of presents that they won’t remember in a month, and especially if you can’t afford it. But you know what they do need, you guys? They do need you.
I’m just preaching to myself right now. You guys don’t even have to listen. I’m going to talk to myself. Christmas comes just once a year, and I say let’s make a fuss. It’s the birth of our savior, and it’s worth it. It’s a chance to get out from underneath the daily routine and be thankful. It’s a chance to give back. And in the age of the internet, in the age of this crazy political environment that we’re living in, in the age of screen time and Facebook, Christmas offers us a chance to step away. We can step away, look at Christmas lights, watch some old movies. And while we’re doing it, we can assess where we’re going and what we’re sowing. Because we’re sowing. You guys, you’re sewing. Every single memory that you’re making with your children is an investment into their lives.
A precious friend of mine told me about six months ago he came to visit us at the Homeschool Resource Center here in Vancouver. He’s having some trouble with some of his adult kids. Really painful stuff going on. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, and he said, “Heidi, never prioritize opportunities over obligation.” I’m going to say that again. Never prioritize opportunity over obligation. It sounds like a terrible word, obligation, but what he meant was put your family first. Put your family first. You’ll always have opportunities. You can always go to that holiday party at work. You can always spend time on Facebook.
So many of us, and myself included … I understand, right? We’re tired, and so we just want to sort of check out. And we check out in so many ways. Can I just encourage you guys, as the Lord’s encouraging me, don’t check out. The fuss is worth it. We are sowing into the lives of our kids. You’re trying so hard because of love. Love builds something. Love imagines a memory five years from now and sees it as precious in the moment, too. Love says, “This matters.”
You see, real Christmas memories are made on nights like the night that I took my kids to Peacock Lane and everybody fought in the car on the way there. Somebody sat on someone else’s donut, but that’s another story for another time. I’m telling myself this is real life. It’s not going to look like Pinterest, and that’s okay. And please don’t spend money that you don’t have. But you know what you can do? You can put your kids on your lap, and you can read to him. I’m going to link back to a whole bunch of Christmas books that are our favorites. My husband and I over the last 30 years have been building up a library. If you guys live in Vancouver and you’re anywhere, or in the Portland metropolitan area, come to the Homeschool Resource Center Monday through Friday from about 10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. We have tons of Christmas books here. And you can start a library for like a buck 50 a book.
Get some books. Read to your children. Start making hot chocolate in the evening. Take the night off of the internet. Get off of Facebook. Play a game with your kids. Get out Candyland, or UNO, or whatever it is you’d like to do. And remind yourself, right? Keep telling yourself, “Nevermind. My grown children remind me of what I need to know to keep going.” The little ones, the tweens, the teens, one of these days, you guys, they’re going to get it.
And come to think of it, now that I look back, I bet you anything it was as hard on my grandparents when they took me to see the lights of Peacock Lane. It’s just that I don’t remember it. I only remember the feel of my in my grandmother’s gloves. I remember telling my grandpa how much I loved him, and I remember grandpa telling me how hard it must be for Santa to get all the way up to some of those chimneys. I remember the hot chocolate. I bet we argued. I bet we spilled our hot chocolate. I bet my grandparents fell into bed and wondered if it was worth it. And when I think about them, I believe it’s true. The fuss is worth it. The fuss is worth it.
So hang in there, you guys. Get your priorities in line. Start thinking, because it’s … Today’s only the sixth. You’ve got time. We’ve got time. You know what we’ got time to do? We got time to not ruin it. We got time. We got time to say, “You know, we don’t have to jampack our schedule every single night. We don’t have to do all the things.” But you know what we want to do? We want to focus on our children. And if the focusing on your kids for you is making sugar cookies, make sugar cookies. If it’s going to Costco …
By the way, we make a gingerbread house every year. Long time ago, before Pinterest was a thing, I wanted to do … We made the gingerbread. We did. Now I’m like, “Oh my goodness! Look at that.” Costco has a pre put together gingerbread house, and all we got to do is decorate it. Then no one can cry because their chimney fell off and the walls won’t stay glued together, and blah, blah, blah. And actually, a couple of years before that, my sister Haley had an even more brilliant idea, and that was this. We made the gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, and we glued them together with hot glue. Brilliant!
My point is, even when the kids are crying, even when they’re frustrated, you guys, your kids are going to grow up. They’re going to leave your home. They’re going to take their memories of you with them. Invest in your kids. Everything you’re doing right now is worth it, all right? I just want to encourage you. Take a step back, and think about what your kids are going to remember 15 years from now. And I promise you, the fighting, and the arguing, and the who spilled who’s hot chocolate and all that, it will pale in comparison to the fact that you took time and you loved on your families, all right?
So love on them this Christmas. I’m going to remember to do the same thing. Please don’t forget to send me Christmas cards. I want to see your Christmas cards here at Firmly Planted Family. You can send them to me at 11100 Northeast 34th Circle, Vancouver, Washington, 98682. I hope you guys are having a fantastic Christmas season. Get out there. Enjoy the weekend with your families. And I’ll see you back here on Monday.
Write to Heidi:
Heidi St. John
c/o Firmly Planted Family
11100 NE 34th Cir, Vancouver, WA 98682
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