The Rocking Horse

by Penelope Carlevato

Every year Christmas at my house gets crazy. I love Christmas and want a “Martha Stewart” type of holiday.  And besides wanting all the décor and gourmet foods ready for the season, I try to attend all the local Christmas Concerts, boutiques, craft shows, and flea markets.

I mentioned how caught up I get before Christmas to a group of friends. They felt the same way and were also feeling the squeeze of the Christmas rush. We decided to be accountable to one another and encourage each other to try and keep Jesus the “Reason for the Season.”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

We had a great object lesson that year. Everyone wanted to get a “jump-start” on being prepared for the Holiday Season. One of our group was always ahead of the game. Her Christmas cards were ready to mail before Thanksgiving, and all her gifts were bought and wrapped months ahead for any occasion. We decided to follow her example; this year would be different. We would all be able to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas. We asked God to help us with our priorities.

By Thanksgiving, most of us had completed our shopping and were feeling pretty good about our accomplishments. We had planned to attend the annual “Holiday Homes Tour and Tea” as our special treat the following Saturday.

However, we received an urgent S.O.S. from our very organized friend.

She found herself with extra time on her hands and did a winter deep-cleaning. Unwanted items were sold at a garage sale. Too late she realized she may have been a little overzealous and needed our help in replacing a much-loved possession. A wooden rocking horse that had been in the family for many years had been sold! Her five-year-old daughter was devastated.

The neighbor, who purchased the horse at the garage sale, had been contacted, but not soon enough. It was being ridden and loved in its new home, several hundred miles away. They’d given to their grandson, whose mother was a single parent on a limited income. The grandparents didn’t feel they could abduct the rocking horse. They hoped she would understand.

Feeling rather foolish about selling the horse in the first place, she called our group and asked if we could please pray for a miracle. And would we mind skipping the “Holiday Home Tour and Tea” and spend the day going to garage sales and thrift stores? She needed us. We had to find a replacement rocking horse.

“So, I say to you:  ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 NIV

On that chilly Saturday morning, we scoured neighborhood garage sales, looking for a fifty-year-old plus wooden rocking horse! Unfortunately, none were found.  Nor could we find one on the internet or a trip to Toys-R-Us. Rocking horses were hard to find. They were no longer carved from wood but molded in plastic. We all agreed that we had done our best, even giving up that Christmas tea. We hoped that God would answer in an unexpected way.

On Christmas morning, our friend called with fabulous news. The original rocking horse sat on her front pouch with a big red ribbon and a note tied to the reins that simply said: “Merry Christmas.” God had faithfully answered our prayers.

That’s what Christmas is all about.  Not about being prepared, decorated and “shopped til you dropped”, but about hearts being sensitive to the needs of others. That year, the true meaning of Christmas was found in a neighbor’s special sensitivity to a little girl’s heart.

Will we all be prepared this Christmas season with everything finished ahead of schedule? Maybe, but efficiency (or a lack of it!) must never get in the way of the true spirit of Christmas.   

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Penelope Carlevato was born in England and shares her passion through her writing and speaking. Her niche’ topic of hospitality and tea (Hospitali-tea) are combined with her passions for history, travel, and etiquette. She has created a large following for her four books: Tea on the Titanic, First Class Etiquette, The Art of Afternoon Tea, and Tea Lover’s Journal. She received the Evangelical Press Association’s award for her column in Leading Hearts Magazine and is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Bureau and The Titanic Speakers Bureau. She is also a Registered Nurse and writes articles for medical magazines. A love of the Edwardian era and the traditions of that period provide the motivation for her books. She and her husband, Norm, recently moved back to their home state of South Dakota. They are the grandparents of 11 and great grands of 5.

Join the conversation: Has something happened in your past that helped you remember the true meaning of Christmas?

Torn Between Two Fathers

by Ginny Dent Brant @ginnybrant

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:33-34 NKJV

I grew up a card-carrying daddy’s girl who followed wherever her father went. For me that meant political rallies, the Capitol, and eventually the White House; my father served a Senator and three Presidents. He taught me how to dance, and we cut the rug to the same beat for many years.

That rug was pulled out from underneath me, when my father’s career caused me to move again. This devastating move motivated me to look beyond myself for answers to life’s disappointments. I got involved in Young Life, gave my life to Jesus, and began to grow in spiritual ways my parents did not understand. My father felt my dedication was misguided. He feared I might become a “gosh awful missionary” who lived in poverty.

Motivated by love, he blocked my path. He forbid me to attend a Bible College I felt God was leading me to. I was torn between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. I wanted to please my father, but how should I deal with my spiritual promptings?

In the midst of my tears, my Heavenly Father brought Matthew 6:33 to comfort and guide me.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (NKJ).

I’d grown up in a life doused with worldly success. I’d never been at a crossroads where my faith in God and doing His will put me at odds with my own father. Yet this verse was instructing me not in man’s ways, but in God’s ways. His Kingdom and his desires must be first in my life—not my father’s worldly definition of success. This verse gave me the courage to step out in faith in obedience to God. It also gave me assurance that God would take care of “all these things”—in this case my concerns as I obeyed.

As I continued down the forbidden path and attended that Bible College, my dad continued to express his disapproving warning: “You’ll never be success in this world.” It was hard to say no to a man who advised presidents. It was devastating to realize my father and I were no longer dancing to the same beat.

My Heavenly Father was teaching me to dance to His  beat—a radically different definition of success. The dance with my Heavenly Father was so wonderful, I wanted my father to share in the joy and eternal significance I had found. Yet, we continued to twirl in different directions.

In desperation, I barraged the gates of Heaven for my dad. I endured subtle persecution. I sought the counsel of a wise professor. He advised me to keep praying, live my life as a witness and allow God to work in my dad’s life. I heeded his advice, prayed daily, and strived to let Dad see Jesus in me.

Looking back, I now realize God was working from the first moments I began to pray. One night, I left a plaque under his pillow that read, “The purpose of life is to serve God.” In 1978, my father surrendered his life to Christ. He gave up his political career to enter full-time ministry. The logo of his ministry came from that plaque. To get his training, my father entered the same Bible College he had forbidden me to attend!

When my father put God and His Kingdom first, He transformed my father from a political strategist to a Kingdom strategist—a man who would help the underground churches and the Romania come to freedom after Communism. My father became that missionary he’d once forbidden me to be.

My father and I were finally dancing to the same tune again. I was no longer torn between two fathers. We’d both learned the eternal significance of putting God and His kingdom first and dancing to His beat. It’s a lesson we struggle with daily. My heart continues to overflow with praise to God—even after my father’s passing to Heaven from Alzheimer’s disease. One day, we will dance again in eternity.

Torn Between Two Fathers – encouragement for #FollowingGod from @GinnyBrant on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate,

and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Learn more at   

Join the conversation: Have you ever experienced a conflict in guidance between the Lord and someone you respected? What did you do?

Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I’m not going to lie, I allowed my kids to make a few bad hair decisions as they were growing up. I did it for two reasons. 1) I knew I would be able to show them the pictures years later and tease them mercilessly, and 2) if everything was all hair perfection for them growing up, how would they ever learn to be funny?

May I say now, “well-done, me.” Because I have pictures. And the laughter is very satisfying. And also, all my kids are hilarious.

I’m also big enough to admit that sometimes when we look at those pictures, the bad hair is mine. I’d rather call it a bad mousse day. Or as I’ve come to more often refer to it, “Serendipity-Do”—since I never knew exactly how that hair would turn out. Or how the gel would come off.

When I say that I’m big enough to admit it, sometimes I mean my hair was big enough. Big enough for whatever. Oh my, the sheer “bigness” of that hair. I look at the photos of those three-story bangs and wonder how it all held up without girders and trusses. I think the highest hair stood with a lot of teasing, spraying, wishing and even more worrying. Plus another jar and a half of the gel-mousse-plaster-of-Paris of the day.

Back then I also worried on windy days that those bangs might accidentally achieve enough thrust, drag, weight, lift and hairspray to fly me a couple of counties over. Oh the worries of heavy-duty aerodynamic bangs (hair-o-dynamic?). It’s enough to…well…make your hair stand on end. Or turn it gray.

Worry in all aspects of life can be as sticky as cheap mousse. It’s even sneaky. I often convince myself that worry works. After all, most of the things I worry about don’t happen. Doesn’t that mean it’s working?

Even in all its slick sneakiness, there’s something we can do with worry. When we feel we’re coming unglued (not a hair reference), and we don’t know what to do, we have a choice. We can trade in that worry. “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (Philippians 4:6, CSB).

Trading worry for prayer, petition and thanksgiving? It’s the most amazing exchange. And you’re not even going to believe what comes along with it. A gloriously unexpected peace. We’re told about it in the very next verse. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, CSB). A heart-and-mind-guarding peace straight from Jesus Himself!

Seeking Jesus—heart and mind on Him—is the key. He said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow.” He preceded that command with, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33, CSB). When His peace rules, the fears that seem three stories tall one minute, appear appropriately minuscule the next. Is there any worry—anything at all—that can stand up against the perfect peace of God?

God’s peace has proven its ability to stand up against the biggest heartbreaks, the highest life-threats, or even the smallest and goofiest hair events—even events with pictures.

On the pics topic, I’m backing off my kids a hair. Possibly because for every shot I take at one of their styles, they can always pull out a Glamour Shot of mine.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.                                                                                                 Isaiah 41:10 NASB

Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head – Encouragement from @RhondaRhea (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-CaffeinatedWhen the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic. 

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep your worrying under control?