Wishing you all the best!

From all of us in Women's Life . . .

Today's post is a practical, encouraging post by David Schrock at the Gospel Coalition. We hope it revitalizes you as much as it did for us!

For many, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas leave us grateful but gassed. In the name of holiday festivities, December means attending multiple Christmas parties, traveling to see family and friends, and standing in line to get the ever-elusive "perfect gift."
As much joy as Christmas brings, if we aren't careful, holiday cheer can sap our energy and steal our joy. It is a great irony that the season of light often feels heavy. What can we do to find rest in this annual merry-thon?

Unlikely Christmas Verse

Though we don't think of Matthew 11:28 as a Christmas verse, it is. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" tells us why Jesus came. Although earthly labor is a good thing, in a fallen world our best works leave us tired and increase our unrighteousness before a holy God (Isa. 64:6) Therefore, like drinking water from the Dead Sea, our greatest efforts to find rest leave us thirsty.
To this universal problem, Jesus offers a solution. He invites us to come, that in service to him we may work under his easy and light yoke. Such a promise of rest is at the core of his gospel and fundamental to his incarnation.

Significantly, Jesus' invitation follows the announcement of his arrival. Earlier in Matthew 11, a weary sinner sends a message to Jesus asking about his identity. The inquirer is John the Baptist, and his good works have successfully landed him in Herod's jail. Of course, John isn't perceived to be a "sinner" like the woman in Luke 7. He is a faithful prophet of God who suffered much for the sake of righteousness. In Jesus' own estimation John is the cream of the old covenant crop (Matt. 11:11). Nevertheless, as a fallen son of Adam, he is weary and heavy laden.

So John sends his disciples to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect another?" Jesus replies with a Christmas catena—not cantata (those come later)—of Old Testament verses. Citing Isaiah's "gospel," he declares: "The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matt. 11:5; cf. Isa. 26:18-19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 53:4; 61:1).

To read the rest of this uplifting post, visit the Gospel Coalition here: Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

Christmas Traditions {Part 4}

The Christmas season is upon us!  Walking Worthy is bringing you posts full of Christmas traditions from our very own Southeastern family.  This week, Tara Dew shares some of the Christmas books that her family reads each year.  Enjoy!

I have been a lover of Children's books for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my Mom would take us to the bookstore on special occasions and I vividly recall buying a chapter book (like Ramona & Beezus, Socks, Charlotte's Web, etc.) and reading it until the cover would fall off.  As I grew older and my desire to become a teacher grew stronger, my quest for children's books only heightened. I would scour used book sales, yard sales, and the Scholastic News book flyers were my favorite, especially with Teacher discounts!  

Well, some things never change! I still love books and I love sharing the joy of reading with my children. There is nothing better than getting all 4 of mine on the couch on a rainy afternoon and reading a good book! During this Christmas season, our Christmas books line our tree skirt so that they are easily accessible for eager readers.  At times, I'll come into the living room to find some (or all) sitting there "reading" one of our Christmas books! Makes my heart so happy :)

So, I thought it'd be fun to share some of our Christmas favorites, and then hear from you about yours :) I'm always on the look-out for a good book!!!

Without further ado, here are some of my current Christmas favorites:

And some of my other favorites, which are not pictured include:

Okay, so now its your turn! Please share your favorite kids Christmas books...

Ready, set, comment!Smiles,

Christmas Traditions {Part 3}

The Christmas season is upon us!  For the next few weeks, Walking Worthy will bring you posts full of Christmas traditions from our very own Southeastern family.  This week, Amy Whitfield shares a tradition that has been her family's favorite for 9 years.  Enjoy!

In the fall of 2003, Crossway Books published Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper.  It was a straightforward work that laid out the beauty of telling our family the story of redemption through the traditions we set up and the memories we make.  At any time in my life, I would have enjoyed this book, but that particular season was perfect for me.  We were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child, Mary, who would come to us four months later.  I devoured everything that was described in that book.

Some practices she laid out found a place in our family experience, while others were replaced by similar traditions, but with their own “Whitfield flair.”  One very specific tradition rose to the top.  It was a simple Advent exercise, complete with props, that she had appropriately named “The Noel Calendar.” J

I loved this idea so much that I was thrilled to learn the exact calendar she had designed was available for purchase, and I promptly ordered my own to begin using in December of 2004.*  Since Mary was born in January, her first Christmas was a wonderful experience.  She was eleven months old and very aware of her surroundings.  She moved around, laughed, and enjoyed the lights.  

{My son had a very different experience for his first Christmas—at not quite four months, Drew was forced to pose for endless pictures by the tree when all he wanted was to eat!}  

For Mary, the traditions we started were something that we could watch her experience.  We knew she might be too young to remember her first experience with them down the road, but she wasn’t too young to experience delight on that day.

When we pulled out the Noel calendar the first year, the simplicity was the most striking feature.  We hung up a large piece of burlap with a pattern of numbered Velcro patches and prepared the 25 figures of wood and plastic that would eventually compose a full 3-D picture of the Nativity.  The figures were big enough that Mary could see them and touch them and stick them on the cloth in their places with our help each night.
More important than the activity, we were building a story.  The companion booklet called for us to retell the story every night, just adding a bit more every time.  By Christmas Day, we tell the entire story of Jesus’ birth.  Every night would get a little longer, and we would always begin with these words:

“Jesus is the greatest Treasure of all.  This is the story of how he came to us!”

That first Christmas was so exciting.  We held her at the calendar every night and recited the story, even as we knew she didn’t understand it all.  But we repeated it just the same.  As wonderful as that “first Christmas” memory is for Keith and for me, things are even more meaningful nine years later.  Because now, when I begin the story, Mary and Drew are reciting it right along with me.  Even though it has been a year since we last did this, when I start reading each night and pause at key words, they jump right in.  They get excited when it is their turn to put a figure on the calendar.  They talk about how our Mary has the same name as the mother of Jesus, and they are happy that there are two angels so they both get to have a turn placing them in the scene.  But most of all, they know the story.

Our Noel calendar isn’t fancy.  It isn’t elaborate and it wasn’t expensive.  But it’s our favorite Nativity scene in the house.  And on Christmas morning, before we even go near the tree to exchange any gifts, Mary and Drew come to our room.  We get the calendar down, and we read the story.  And at the end Keith lays the figure that represents Jesus as a baby in the manger, and we all read,

“When Jesus grew up, he died and rose from the dead to save us from our sins.  He is our greatest Treasure!”

Yes, we have what seems like a million favorite things to do at this time of year.  We love to look at lights, to play music, to eat special foods, and to watch fun movies.  But our favorite tradition comes on a piece of burlap.  Amidst all the hectic moments of the season, it does what we need so desperately—it keeps the true story of Christmas in view.

*The Noel Calendar is no longer available for purchase.  However, this post from Noel Piper’s blog shares the story as she wrote it and is a great help for anyone who would like to make their own version.

The Christmas season is upon us!  For the next few weeks, Walking Worthy will bring you posts full of Christmas traditions from our very own Southeastern family.  This week, Page Mathias tells us all about celebrating St. Nicholas Day.  Enjoy!

{It was December 6, 1984}—the day before my 13th birthday.  I was living in the Tyrol region of Austria with my family for the year and enjoying life on a dairy farm.  My engineer father was helping build a plant in the area.  The family who owned our little house had jokingly threatened that if I wasn’t good, St. Nicholas would bring me switches and a bag of coal instead of gifts on his saint day, December 6.  On the morning of the sixth, I woke up to find a special gift at my front door.  Just as they said, there was a giant bundle of apple branches tied up with a bow and a small sack of coal powder.  This was my initiation into celebrating St. Nicholas Day in Austria.

Our neighbors in the little village of Kundl had all kinds of special customs surrounding St. Nicholas Day, including giving small gifts to the kids, a parade, and house-to-house visiting.  It seemed to me that celebrating Nicholas’s saint day let us focus on gift-giving early in the Advent season so that Christmas Day could be all about honoring the Christ Child.  I mentally filed all this away in my middle school brain thinking that maybe one day I would celebrate these traditions with my own family.

{Fast-forward 20 years}—I was married to Greg with a 2 year old daughter living in the Middle East, right in the center of a desert, trying to build relationships with Muslim neighbors and relate our faith to them in a way they would understand.  We realized early on that our friends loved celebrations and were curious about how we celebrated our American holidays.  The ladies I befriended didn’t often show much interest in talking about faith issues, so I was always praying and asking the Holy Spirit to show me ways I could talk about my faith in a natural way.  When Greg and I put these two things together, we found that being really vocal and excited about our Christian celebrations gave us great opportunities to talk about our faith.  We started with having an Advent/Christmas party for all the neighbor ladies and kids.  I was able to use the Advent wreath and the meaning of each candle to tell the story of the need for a Messiah.  The party was a success. 

From then on, we looked for every opportunity to include our friends in our celebrations—Advent, St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.  Every celebration always involved taking lots of food to our neighbors’ houses.  We added tons of new traditions to our family celebrations, which helped us think about the life of Jesus and the Gospel story in a really meaningful way.  I remember specifically doing some acts of service with our family on St. Nicholas Day while living in the Middle East.  This served as a witness to our neighbors as we explained why we were doing it.  The day was a teaching tool for us as we learned to serve and give like Jesus.

{I did a lot of reading about St. Nicholas during our time overseas.  A great resource is this website, which has anything you could possibly want to know about the life of Nicholas.  The website also includes crafts and recipes.}

Legends abound about the kind and generous bishop who lived in the 300s in Myra, which is present day Turkey.  Most of the legends are about him giving to the poor, the needy, and the suffering as an act of obedience to the Lord.  We love talking about his kind and merciful heart with our 4 girls.

As soon as Thanksgiving passes, our girls start talking about St. Nicholas Day.  They each leave a shoe out on the night of December 5th, and when they wake up, they know they will find chocolate coins, St. Nicholas chocolates, and whatever else the Aldi candy aisle is offering that week.  We always have breakfast by candlelight and enjoy cinnamon rolls and bacon.  {Don’t worry; I do not make the cinnamon rolls from scratch. J}  

We always talk about how St. Nicholas was a real man who was a Christ-follower who dedicated his life to caring for those in need.  Some years {when I get things together} we do a secret act of service for someone in our neighborhood and encourage the girls to do something kind for one another.  

I find that simple things done consistently year after year can really make an impression on kids {and their parents}.  This year I read about the idea of encouraging your kids to clean out the toys they no longer play with and donating them along with a new toy or two to a family in need on December 6.

I encourage you to look into how you might incorporate St. Nicholas Day into your family’s Advent celebration.  You can even jump in a day or two late.  

Happy St. Nicholas Day!     

The Christmas season is upon us!  For the next few weeks, Walking Worthy will bring you posts full of Christmas traditions from our very own Southeastern family.  To kick off this series, Leah Finn will share one of her family’s traditions: Jesse Tree ornaments.  Read on, dear sisters!

Christmas is a special time of celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and looking forward to his second coming.  One of the ways my family is building anticipation for Christmas and Christ’s eventual return is through the use of Jesse Tree ornaments.  
The name and basis for the Jesse Tree is found in Isaiah 11:1-3:

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear.”

The Jesse Tree tells the story of redemption and God’s plan to redeem the world from the very beginning of time.  This plan is traced through key figures in Jesus’ “family tree” and other stories.  It is portrayed in basic symbols/ornaments that remind you of the story. On each day leading up to December 25, a new ornament is put out, and a scripture passage is read to explain the story.

The visual symbols along with repeated telling of the grand narrative of Scripture help to focus our hearts on Christ during the Christmas season.  Children especially resonate with basic, colorful ornaments that symbolize different parts of the greatest story of all time—i.e., a whale for Jonah, a crown for King David, or three gifts for the wise men.
This year, I participated in a Jesse Tree Ornament Swap with several other ladies in the Wake Forest area.  We followed the storyline explained at this site.  

{If you have a chance to peruse this site, it contains many helpful suggestions for incorporating your Jesse Tree into your daily rhythm, as well as an e-book with a devotional guide for each day of the Jesse Tree.  You can also find a devotional guide and printable ornaments to follow the devotional guide.

In addition, the Jesus Storybook Bible has a schedule of reading that is very similar to the Jesse Tree.  I would encourage you to find something that works for your family!  (There are many Jesse Tree or Advent readings that you can follow.  For the most part they are the same, but there might be differences in order or in what stories are included.)}  

Each person participating in the Wake Forest Jesse Tree Ornament Swap picked a story/symbol and then made 26 copies of the same ornament.  Shortly before Thanksgiving, all of the ornaments were ‘swapped,’ and each participant now has a full set of Jesse Tree ornaments without having to make all of them!

The ornament my family and I made represents Queen Esther.  My older children helped me to paint the ornament bases (simple wooden circles that we purchased in bulk), I stenciled on the crown and the scepter, and my kids “bejeweled” them.  It was a fun craft project, and they feel a sense of ownership of the ornaments.  
It was such a treat to receive the complete set, and to see how everyone interpreted their chosen symbol.  The different types of materials used and the variations between beautifully simple and elaborately detailed make this quite a colorful collection.  We will not be setting up a real tree for the ornaments, though that is an option.  We will be hanging our ornaments from cord strung across our fireplace—a place of prominence, easily viewed and therefore easily remembered.

You may feel like it is too late to begin a Jesse Tree now, but it is easy to catch up on the readings by doubling up for a few days (we will be doing that ourselves, as December caught us off guard).  You do not have to make ornaments if that is not your inclination, but you may find it to be a fun family activity. Take a few minutes to search for “Printable Jesse Tree ornaments” and you will find many sets that you can print and have your kids color.  What a fun way to get the kids involved in telling the story! If you are new to the Jesse Tree tradition and would like a jump-start, you can even purchase ornaments here

I hope that this Advent season will be one of great anticipation, of celebrating the birth of our Savior, of looking forward to his return, and of teaching our children the greatest story ever told.

Congratulations to our BWI graduates!

Thursday in chapel, we will be honoring the incredible ladies who completed one of the four BWI tracks this semester. Join us as we congratulate them!

Spring classes for the Biblical Women's Institute are now available, too! Be sure to check out the course list below and register today.

Spring 2014 Course Descriptions

Term 3: January 20th  through March 13th

WST0130: Christian Doctrine
Carrie Gilliam, Saturday, February 15th & Saturday, March 8th 8am-5pm
This class is designed to introduce the student to the broad concepts of systematic theology. This will be accomplished through weekly required reading in the text book, and through weekly lectures designed to provide a summary of the general areas of systematic theology. Also offered online.

WST0400: Church Planting I  
Dr. George Robinson, Thursday Afternoons, 3:30-6:20pm
This course is a basic orientation to the biblical, theological, sociological, and practical dimensions of starting new churches.

WST0310:  Counseling Women
Kathy King, Tuesday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
This course will examine life’s problems and solutions through a biblical worldview while addressing specific women’s issues. The class will help the student to understand the nature and importance of “biblical counseling” and how it is distinct from all other counseling. The student will also become familiar with biblical counseling resources that are available.

WST0120: New Testament Survey I
Dave Kerr, Thursday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
Together, New Testament 1 & 2 are designed to be an overview of the books of the New Testament. NT 1 will serve as an introduction to the Second Temple period, the New Testament world, the four gospels, and the life of Christ. Also offered online.

WST0210:  Old Testament Book Study
Zach Mullis, Thursday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
This will be a study of the book of Jonah.

WST0230: Women and Evangelism 
Debbie Stephenson, Saturday February 8th & Saturday February 22nd 8am-5pm
This course will prepare women to share their faith with other women. The apologetics part of the course is designed to assist women heading to the mission field by helping them learn how to evangelize people from other worldviews and religions. The majority of our time together in the apologetics portion will focus on covering apologetics in general.
Also offered online.

WST0520:  Worldviews:  Apologetics & Philosophy
Rion Bell, Tuesday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
This course is designed to equip the Christian with fundamental knowledge of a range of worldviews and religions. The goal of the course is to gain conversational ability with some basic Christian doctrine, as well as that of other worldviews, keeping the aim of evangelism in view.

Term 4: March 17th through May 9th

WST0410: Church Planting II
Dr. George Robinson, Thursday Afternoons, 3:30-6:20pm
This course is a continuation of Church Planting I.

WST0260: Family Life
Dr. Daniel Akin, Friday, April 4th 6-9pm & Saturday, April 5th 9am-12pm
This course will help students understand Biblical standards for marriage and how to apply these standards in their own marriage and family life.

WST0370:  Intro to Biblical Languages
Instructor to be determined, Tuesday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
This course is designed to provide an overview of language, concentrating on the biblical languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The course will compare and contrast the biblical languages to English with a focus on understanding basic linguistic ideas such as grammar, syntax, style, genre, and others. The course will also address issues in translation and introduce students to tools for study in the original languages.

WST0550:  Living on a Limited Income
Instructor to be determined, Thursday Evenings, 7pm-9pm

WST0160:  Ministering to Women in the Local Church
Chris Adams/Denise O’Donoghue, Saturday, March 22nd 8am-5pm and Saturday, April 26th 8am-5pm
This course is designed to provide you with an overview of God’s design and purpose for women’s ministries in the local church as demonstrated throughout Scripture.  Both Old and New Testament teachings will form the basis for our study models. Application will be made to the church setting, and will be practical in nature. Class sessions will include lectures on the theology of women’s ministry as well as providing ideas and plans for women’s ministry.
Also offered online.

WST0122: New Testament Survey II
Dave Kerr, Thursday Evenings, 7pm-9pm
Together, New Testament 1 & 2 are designed to be an overview of the books of the New Testament. NT 2 is a continuation of WST0120 and includes the biblical history of the Apostolic period, Apostolic epistolary literature, and the Apocalypse.
Also offered online.