Guest Post

The Gift of Prayer

It’s an honor to invite a fellow writer to share their work, especially when they have just published their first book.  Jennifer’s energy and spunk will delight you as she takes you on a journey through the book of Luke in Counting Up to Christmas: Twenty-Four Gifts from the Gospel of Luke.  Today she is sharing with us on The Gift of Prayer and she has included all kinds of fun extras!  It’s my pleasure to welcome Jennifer to the blog today! 

The Gift of Prayer – Jennifer Elwood 

“And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.” – Luke 1:10, ESV

Have you ever missed seeing a wrapped package tucked into the layers of a Christmas tree? Or perhaps like the Red-Rider BB gun from one of my favorite Christmas movies, the gift was held back purposefully and revealed with great fanfare. The excitement of the morning waned and the floor was covered in a colorful mess of paper and boxes . . . but there was one last, special gift waiting just for you.

As I wrote my new book, Counting Up To Christmas: 24 Gifts from the Gospel of Luke, I discovered this is how I felt about Luke 1:10. In a detail-filled chapter which contains so many astounding events, it’s sitting right in front of us, beautifully wrapped. It’s not only something we want, but desperately need to open: the gift of prayer.

To understand the significance of this simple but powerful gift, let’s open the scene where Luke 1 took place. Let’s consider how that day may have looked as a woman in the Jerusalem crowd more than 2,000 years ago.

I was up before the sun rose that morning in our simple home on the outskirts of Jerusalem. My family is among the faithful continuing to hope in the Lord, but 400 years have passed with no prophetic message in Israel. Our souls are dry. It was quiet in my home as I prepared for my family to rise, but across the city, the Temple bustled with activity. A family clan[1] within a division of about 5,000 priests[2] purified themselves and prepared for the day’s tasks while I cooked breakfast. 

I set out with children in tow, and we climbed up to the Temple just as the sun broke over the horizon. It wasn’t just a few hundred people we were joining—the whole assemblage was present in prayer that day. We squeezed in and repetitively bowed in prayer.

Inside the Temple, the third lot of the day was cast to choose which priest would light the incense in the Holy Place.[3] Zechariah was the one chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime task. “The blessing of Heaven-sent bounty and prosperity”[4] was on its way.

Or was it? Suddenly we heard news whispered through the streets: the priest who offered the incense could not speak! Those passing on his gestured message told us he experienced a vision. We wondered what it could mean.

About six months later, rumors revealed that the elderly priest’s wife Elizabeth was pregnant. The offering of incense, a representation of prayer, was the conduit to answer their prayer for a baby. We wondered: Could it be that this extraordinary child was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy?

            “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight

            in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 40:3, NIV

Her hope in the Lord was not in vain. The one to precede the Messiah was there, and little did she know, Jesus was on His way. Devout prayer was not only a gift to Zechariah and Elizabeth, but for her—and for us.

Is prayer just as important to us now as it was then? It should be. We need prayer in a desperate way, particularly as we approach a more-challenging-than-usual holiday season. Christmas is wonderful, joyous, and highly anticipated. However, decorating, baking, pressure to purchase all the things—and additionally this year, cancelled activities we typically enjoy—can distract and unnerve us if we allow them to.

Instead of spending this season burdened by stress, let’s daily ignite our internal incense and have intentional, unrushed prayer. Let’s weave our words into rising praise and gratitude. From that place, we can find grace for others that would be impossible on our own.

I encourage you to write your own prayer to set the tone for the month of Christmas. In mine, I followed the format of Mary’s Magnificat.

My soul sings praise to the Lord! I rejoice in You, Jesus. I am fortunate that You look at my mess and have kind thoughts of me. I am grateful that You, Lord, are holy and mighty. You are merciful to every person who ever lived. You are mighty and strong and Your justice is perfect. Thank You for giving me a heart for the Church and for the land and people of Israel. I worship You and am grateful that You are helpful and wise. Thank You for sending Your Son so that all who believe will live with You forever. Amen!

It is my honor to invite you to Count Up To Christmas in the Gospel of Luke with my new book and a fun, encouraging on-line community. Here are the links you need. I hope you’ll join me!


I’m also including a recipe for Challah from my Counting Up To Christmas Recipe Book, which is available when you subscribe to my blog. Perhaps our friend in Jerusalem all those years ago had bread, similar to Challah, prepared for her family’s breakfast. I typically make them as our bread for Christmas—shaped into the symbol for Christ. Enjoy!

To purchase the book on Amazon:

Freebies for the book, including the complete Counting Up To Christmas Recipe Book subscriber benefit, at:

Counting Up To Christmas FB group:

Counting Up To Christmas on Instagram:

An online shop with “true peace” gift items:

Challah: adapted from “The Nosher” {}


1 1/8 cups warm water

1 Tbsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

4 1/2 cups flour (I prefer Caputo European flour, ordered from Amazon)

1/2 Tbsp salt

1/4 cup sugar (I typically cut this out or use coconut crystals. If you like sweet bread, go for it.)

2 eggs, plus an extra for glazing later

1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Put the water, yeast and 1t sugar in a small bowl and mix. Allow bubbles to form so you know the yeast is working.
  2. In a larger mixing bowl, give the eggs a whisk, then add the oil, sugar, and salt and mix again. Then, add the bowl of liquified yeast. Add the flour bit by bit until is it well incorporated.
  3. Now, you have a choice. You can knead with your hands on a floured surface for about 15 minutes or use a dough hook on your mixer for about 10 minutes. The point is to develop the gluten, which makes the dough stretchy. You should be able to stretch a piece of dough and have it not break. (Look up a ‘window test’ on YouTube if you’re unfamiliar with making bread.)
  4. Pour a little oil over the bread to lightly coat it and cover the bowl with a clean towel. Put in a warm place for about an hour until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Punch down that beautifully puffed up dough and knead again for a few minutes. Divide the dough in two.
  6. Prepare the dough to braid and place a non-stick mat or parchment paper on your baking sheets. I gently roll each lump of dough into three strands for braiding. You can do a simple braid, or after you’ve made this a few times look up some fancy configurations and give them a try! Let the dough again rise for an hour. Set a timer so you don’t forget to pre-heat the oven to 350 about 10 minutes before you need to put the bread in.
  7. Brush the dough with a beaten egg, that’s what makes it shine. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds to add a little crunch.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes. You may salivate as you wait—that’s ok. It’s to be expected. When the top is a lovely golden color, and a tap on the bottom of the loaf reveals a hollow sounding knock, it’s ready! L’chaim! 

[1] A Day in the Life of the Holy Temple – Part I. (2020, March 16). Retrieved July 25, 2020, from

[2] Dobson, K. (2014). Luke 1.8 Zechariah’s division. In NIV First-Century Study Bible: Explore Scripture in its Jewish and Early Christian Context (p. 1287). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] A Day in the Life of the Holy Temple – Part 7. (2020, March 16). Retrieved July 25, 2020, from

[4] ibid.

Jennifer Elwood resides in Yakima, Washington. She is a lover of Jesus, wife of Tom, mom of three, and bonus mom and grandma of many. She enjoys rich coffee, European chocolate, and the color orange. Going to Israel for the first time in 2015 sparked her desire to write and she has not stopped since. Counting Up to Christmas: Twenty-Four Gifts from the Gospel of Luke is her first book. Stay up to date with her, download freebies, and receive the recipe book that accompanies Counting Up To Christmas, at

Guest Post · Mama Bear

8 Prayers for Our Children

I am excited to welcome Stacey Pardoe, a dear writer friend, to the blog today.   Stacey  is the mama of two, a lover of the woods, and she does a little writing on the side.

She is also a wife and certified special education teacher.  She is passionate about walking closely with Christ and sharing his love with a broken world.

She writes weekly at You’ll  want to give this wise gal a follow!

Today she is going to be our guide as she walks us through 8 Prayers to Pray over Our Children. 

Development Course (2)

How do we pray for our children when the wellspring of words runs dry?  How do we faithfully lift them before the Lord with confidence that our prayers match the desires of His heart?  When we’re not sure of how to pray, God’s Word enables us to stand in agreement with him and lift our children before his throne with confidence.

As a parent, I long to pray for my kids with devoted faithfulness.  I long to stand in agreement with my Savior and pray bold and powerful prayers for my kids.  But sometimes I get stuck.  Sometimes I can’t find the words.  Paul’s words to the Colossian church offer eight direct spiritual truths to pray over my children.  Offering these prayers for my kids daily has centered my focus and blessed my prayer life:

Illustrated Twigs and Leaves Social Media Post

  1. Pray they will be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).

Jesus models this prayer when asked how we ought to pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  When we follow his example and pray that our children will know God’s will, we pray according to the example set by Christ himself.

  1. Pray they will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10).

While it’s tempting for parents to spend excessive time praying for the behavior of our children, we honor God when we remember to pray that their behavior will honor him.  This goes for our spouses, friends, parents, and other loved ones as well.  When we ask God to intrude in their lives in such a way that they honor him in the way they live, we are praying godly prayers for godly behavior with godly motives.

  1. Pray they will please God in all respects (Colossians 1:10).

I have prayed this prayer often during seasons when my children were struggling with sin.  Whether it’s a child with a sudden inclination to fabricate information, a child who is struggling with an ungodly temptation, or a little one who is struggling with sadness, this is a powerful prayer.  It’s a prayer God honors, because it is the desire of his heart as well.

  1. Pray they will bear fruit (Colossians 1:10).

When the good deeds of our lives overflow with positive outcomes, we bear good fruit.  When I pray for my kids to bear fruit in their works, I pray for each of them differently.  I pray my daughter will interact with her schoolmates with compassion and kindness.  I pray my toddler will see the benefits of treating others with love and respect.

  1. Pray they will increase in their knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).

Increasing in our knowledge of God ultimately leads to loving him more deeply.  I want nothing more for my children than to see them in a deeper love relationship with God.  As we come to know God more deeply, our love for him grows.  As our love for him grows, he transforms the way we see others and the way we live.  We begin to live out of his endless love for us and no longer crave the affirmation and acceptance of the world.

  1. Pray they will be strengthened with all power, according to God’s glorious might (Colossians 1:11).

We all need strength.  Whether it’s strength to stand up to the bully at school, strength to walk away from temptation, or strength to witness boldly for our faith, we rely on God’s strength.  When God’s strength flows through us, we are able to give without burning out, stand in fiery trials, and endure through the valleys of life.  This is what we want for our children, regardless of their season of life.

  1. Pray they will have steadfastness and patience (Colossians 1:11).

Many people have quoted the claim that we shouldn’t pray for patience, because praying for patience is like asking God to bring patience-testing moments into our days.  I disagree.  Whether or not we pray to bear the fruit of patience, life will test our patience.  We should pray to God to help us die to our self-centered impatience and bear his fruit of a patient heart.  We are called to pray this for our children as well.

  1. Pray they will be filled with joy and thanksgiving (Colossians 1:12).

My daughter loves it when I pray for her joy to abound.  We all want more joy.  Let’s bless our children by praying they will have greater joy and greater thanksgiving, which go hand-in-hand.  Joy is a beautiful fruit of a life deeply rooted in God’s love.   When we learn to see all things as representations of God’s goodness, we move deeper into joy.

I cling to the confidence that God’s Word never returns empty, and I see the fruit of my prayers often in the midst of our everyday life.  May you be encouraged to dig into God’s Word and pray these powerful prayers over your children as well.

This post was originally published at Desiring God.



You can find Stacey at

Guest Post

Yes and Amen

It is my joy to welcome my heart sister and friend, Ginny Massaro to the blog today.  I have never met one more passionate, or one more intentional in pursuing the Lord.

Her heartbeat has always been to lead children into a deeply rooted relationship with Jesus.  To know Him, really know Him.   Over the years the Lord has expanded her heartbeat to women as well.

When I think of her, I think of a spark, a spark that bursts forth and lights flames for Jesus, until we are all burning bushes.

Enjoy today my friends!  Soon, Lord willing, we will be following her on her very own blog!


Y—He is the YES AND AMEN

 I long for God.  I hunger to know Him more.  I thirst for Him. I desire His Presence and His Touch.   I think the Shulamite woman had it right…

“….when I found the one my heart loves.

 I held him and would not let him go…

song of songs 3:4b

 There is a longing deep within my heart for children to understand the Word of God.  To fall in love with Jesus while their hearts are pure and their innocence is not lost.   I can still remember that knocking on my hearts door.  I did not understand what it was. I did not realize that Jesus was wooing me to him as a little tiny girl.  I could only cry.  (To this day—I can only cry 😊)  My spirit is so moved that I cannot speak of Him without tears burning my eyes.  BUT when I found the one my heart loves—-I held Him and I will NOT let Him go.

All of that said so you know that one of my quests in this life is to find tools for kids that are not Noah and the Ark with cartoon animals.  (—the story of Noah was far from a cute little theme for us to run with!)  I believe that we short change kids from growing into teens who become adults that have no roots deep in Him.  We think they will not understand the Word of God. So we tell the same stories over and over in a babyfied fashion!  ☹

“Feed them” that is what I know the Lord has always whispered to my heart when I was/am preparing to teach the kids.  Which leads me to this past summer…….

 I came across a children’s book that I fell in love with.

I call it church camp for babies and toddlers.  It is called THE BIGGEST STORY, ABC   It takes the alphabet and spells out the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation.  I cannot stop reading it.  As a matter of fact, I am so in love with it—I keep a copy on my nightstand just so I can look at it.


There is not one letter that I do not love!

A—in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve

M-They needed a Messiah to make things right

Q-Until finally, God seemed to be Quiet for hundreds of years

Z-one day we will live forever in Zion, the new world God is preparing for those who love Him.

I won’t ruin the entire book for you.  (My kids say I looove to do that!)

But I have settled in on Y.

YBut more importantly He Is the YES and Amen to all of God’s Promises!

YES and AMEN. 

The YES. 

The Amen!

I find myself saying it over and over…

You are the YES and the AMEN!

All of Your Promises are True and I say YES!

To You.

To Your Will.

To Your Way!


“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but has proved to be “Yes” in Him [true and faithful, the divine “Yes” affirming God’s promises]. For as many as are the promises of God, in Christ they are [all answered] “Yes.”  2 Corinthians 1:20

So, through Him we say our “Amen” to the glory of God.”  Amplified

 “These are the words of the Amen, the trusted and faithful and true Witness, the Beginning and Origin of God’s creation”  Revelation 3:14

You are not a wishy-washy Lord!
But you are the FULFILLMENT of all God’s promises!

More IMPORTANTLY You are proof of the Living God! And to all of what you say and do it is AMEN

You are the
so, let it be

 For me (for you) I do not have to be afraid or worry or concern myself with those thoughts that torment my mind.  It is so difficult to let go of disappointment-sadness-regret-worry-pain-insecurity-loneliness-desire—self-pity—-FEAR

BUT—-THE YES AND AMEN tells me –

“Do NOT fear, for I AM with you; I WILL strengthen you, surely I WILL help you, surely I WILL help you, surely I WILL uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41_10

Not only is HE the YES AND AMEN!
But I say YES and AMEN to Him!

 How could I not for the following reasons:

All of God’s promises in Christ Jesus are YES and AMEN! 

I am covered in the blood of Jesus.  (Romans 4:7)

My sins are forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

I am salt and light to the earth. (Matthew 5:14)

He is the Hope and Anchor for my soul.  (Hebrews 6:18)

He bought me with a price.  (1 Cor. 6:20)

My God is the Beginning and the End.  (Rev. 22:13)

He Is coming back one day to take me to Him.  (1 Thes. 4:16)

His left arm is under my head.  (Song of Songs 3:6)

Shall I go on and on and on…


The fulfillment and the let it be!
 Y—He is the YES AND AMEN
And for that I am grounded.
I am secure
I am satisfied

I am waiting—for the return of the YES and the AMEN 


Ginny   Ginny