A Total Eclipse of My Heart

My Sweetness,

You’re six months old.

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My running joke while pregnant with you was that you were inside making me be the person I wish I could be. I showed up on time. I ate vegetables. I read the Bible every morning.

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Well, your magic hasn’t stopped. I bought your Halloween costume. In August. It’s in my possession. You, Wren, will dress up as a member of the bird family because I can’t let this joke die.


Sidenote: I considered getting you a Dalmatian costume since your brother will probably* be a firefighter, but your dad vetoed that idea because “Wren isn’t a prop.” I guess we know who the real feminist in the family is…

*”Probably” because I still haven’t bought his costume because you two obviously have different mothers.

You continue to dominate in all areas. You sleep beautifully. You do this scrunch nose laugh thing that turns me into a puddle. You’re army crawling with finesse. You get into everything. You chase the cats like a regular Pepe le Pew. In related news, the cats kind of hate you.


You’ve started eating solids. Your Lola is a little terrified of you choking which means she waters the rice cereal down to near breastmilk consistency. Well, Wrenny don’t play that, and you looked at your Lola like…

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She added a bit more powder, and once your order was correct you went to town.


In a nutshell, you’re the very best thing to happen in 2017. I love you more than a total eclipse in the backyard.




Mother of Stuffed Giraffes

Hi Wrenny Girl,
You are 5 months old.


This whole thing is flying by, and it’s making me weepy. Sorry. I swear I will stop crying one day…


You’re rolling over and trying desperately to crawl. You actually get around pretty well despite not having any ‘forward gears,’ as your dad has pointed out. We have got to say that your homeschool grade for Grit is probably going to be an ‘A.’

(Just kidding. We don’t believe in grades.)

The other day we were driving to Panera, and I heard Otis sing from the backseat, “I got your giraffe, Wrenny! I got your giraffe!”

And then I heard you, Wren Faith of the House of Oates, Mother of Dragons Stuffed Giraffe.


You started crying. It wasn’t the hungry cry. Or the tired cry. It was the “Fool, you best give me back my things before I hit you up side your head” cry.

And I was in the front seat like:


Because seriously, dude. Who steals toys from babies?!?!

Anyways, you’re 5 months old and I’m beyond proud of the baby-sized woman you are.

Love you forever, Little One!

Next time won’t you sing with me…


You are four months old.

You started rolling over on to your belly this month. Most any time you are put down (which isn’t often) you make your way to your belly. And then you cry. Our best guess is that you’re frustrated that you aren’t crawling yet.

I know I’m not supposed to talk about how beautiful you are, but my goodness.

I also don’t want to always talk about your brother, but we’re 4 months into this sibling thing and my mind is blown. See, you love it when your brother talks to you. Like, you straight up squeal with delight when he pays you any attention whatsoever:

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(Sidenote: I love that I gave birth to two squeal-with-delighters. I’m probably going to put it on my resume. If I had a resume.)

And now that you’re interested in him, he’s interested in you. And this is where things get crazy. The other day I asked him to sing you a song and figured I’d get an Otis standard, like a lazy version of The Wheels on the Bus.

But for you? For you he busted out the entire Alphabet Song. Correctly.

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We’ve had this child in our home for 6 years. Two thousand one hundred and ninety days. And he has never, not once, ever sang the entire Alphabet Song correctly. You show up and do what we COULD NEVER DO in, like, 100 days.

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One day you’ll find out I’m prone to exaggeration, especially when I need blog material. But I mean this from the bottom of my mushy heart:

You make us better. Thank you, Wrenny Fire.



Open Letter to That Mom

To that Mom at Lowes…

I see you.

7 months pregnant and wandering the aisles of Lowe’s happily with your little boy. I see that smile on your face. You’re killing this mom thing. Your kid? He’s amazing. Your ability to make him feel safe and loved? No one can compare.

I’ve actually been stalking you all day. This morning at the park? The loving way you figured out how to avert the tantrum over how the cookie crumbled when you opened the package? My goodness, Woman. You amaze us all.

He just noticed the Paw Patrol Night Light display. Your boy sure does love to shop. Add your guilt about being a working mom and it’s the perfect recipe for having a house full of crap, but I digress…

Oh look, he wants a Paw Patrol Night Light. OF COURSE! He’s been amazing, and your face lights up at the chance to give him a little something that he thinks is the coolest thing ever invented only to toss into the abyss known as the toy corner.

Again. I digress.

Wait. What did he just say? Did he just say that he wanted all of them? All of the night lights? You don’t even have that many outlets in your 1,400 sf home…

Hold up. Did I just hear you say “no”? On purpose?

Bravo, young lady. Bra. Vo.

Oh, wait. He’s screaming.

I see the panic on your face.

What’s going on here? Where’s the off switch? Can you just walk away? No, not you. You’re an awesome mother. You’re going to get on eye level and talk to him. Calm him down with the super powers you read about in that gentle parenting article on Facebook.

Did he just tell you to shut up? IN PUBLIC?

Nope, nope, nope/.,,l;

I see you. You want to give in. Make all the noise stop. Maybe he’s right? Maybe you do need a Paw Patrol light in every outlet…but there’s one problem. You looked up and made eye contact with that other mom who was mouth open, staring at your child’s… performance art.

You can’t let him win. Not with an audience.

You walk away. Well, waddle. You’re seven months pregnant after all…

The 5 year old love of your life is chasing you screaming, “WHY ARE YOU LEAVING ME?”

Victim blaming. Ain’t that some $#*+…

You keep walking. He runs faster. Tears streaming down his face. The cries getting less demanding and more pleading. You look like a real douche, Amazing Mom. But you can’t stop. You know what happens if you stop…

You’re about to cross the parking lot. A tantrum parade if there ever was one. You give secret nervous glances behind you to make sure he’s ok because he’s never crossed the street alone when he does it…


Oh, dear God, Woman. How did it get this out of control so fast? You can’t just leave him there! Turn around! Turn around!

I see you go back. Your pregnant self grabs one leg and one arm and DRAGS his butt across the parking lot.

I see you, Pregnant Lady. Dragging your child across a parking lot with every single pair of eyes looking at you eager to get a FB status up about how they’d never let a scene like that play out on their watch while sharing a viral video from that mom that insists parents shouldn’t be friends with their kids.

I see the fear that you can’t do this. That the one you have is more than enough. That you’re not mom enough. Maybe you should just go back to the life you were good at: keeping up with celebrity gossip and french fries.

I see you sit down with a scared, panicking little boy who has no clue why he’s even upset anymore, but he’s determined to feel in control of something, even if it’s you.

I see you. I am you.

No, seriously. It’s me. You’re talking to yourself again. Finish brushing your teeth, and get out the door, Marie. You’re gonna be late for work.

Fire it Up

Dear Wren,
You’re 3 months old today! The weirdest part about that is that it feels like you’ve always been here, always been a part of us.

I tell everyone you are the perfect baby, and that this amazing-ness is sure to be repaid during your teen years…
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But seriously, you are delightful. You wake up smiling every single day. And you’re just so chill. The world will literally be crashing down around us with wailing and gnashing of teeth from one of our  team members #nonames, and you’re just relaxing like the gangster that you are.
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You’ve got some pretty insane neck control, and can hoist that 90th percentile noggin like the pro that you are.

Here’s one thing that I see you doing that I hope you do for the rest of your life. From day one you would nurse and then get off the boob and just start shaking your head like
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I would try to force you back on but you wouldn’t have any of it. I would burp you figuring you were done, and as soon as you burped you’d start crying so I’d put you back on the boob where you’d happily finish your meal.

From day one, sweet girl, you have known what you needed and you haven’t been afraid to demand it. You’re going to get confused and people are going to share their opinions about what you need in your life. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut, Wrenny Fire*. You’ve got this. I promise.

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All the love my heart can hold,

*Your brother has nicknamed you Wrenny Fire, and I kind of love that he already recognizes your fierceness.


Dear Mom,
Wren here. Yeah, with the Big Kahuna you wrote letters to him, but I’m a new baby with different needs and abilities. So this time I am writing to you.

I’m adorable. Like a-close the front door-able. You are clearly made to produce cute human beings so feel free to make more, especially since I have obvious leadership ability and am not cut out for the role of ‘the youngest.’ Or, ‘the middle’ when I think about it. Actually, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to submit my resume for the position of ‘the oldest.’

I’m straightforward. Unlike the Big Kahuna I’m not going to make you guess about what I want. Remember that day you started blowing your tongue at me? LOVED IT! Best joke I’ve heard in ages. And your delivery? Are you related to Lucille Ball because you’re clearly a comedic genius. I want more of that, and I’ll let you know by doing an adorable baby attempt at blowing my tongue back. at. you!

I’m a team player. I know that I’m not the only one with needs in this family, and I can chill while you deal with the Big Kahuna. Speaking of the Big Kahuna, we had a talk. You’re gushing over how he’s been great about my arrival, and I just want you to know that I gave him a little… pep talk while you were in the bathroom. Like Dubya and Cheney, I might be #2, but we all know who the real boss is, um, I mean… Team player. I’m definitely a team player.

My poop doesn’t stink. At least not to you. You keep telling people that it smells ‘sweet.’ FYI, you don’t have to suck up to me, Mom. You’re already my favorite because milk. So you can chill with the, “I love her poop!” Honestly? It’s weird.

Listen, I know I’m the new guy in town, but I really feel like I’ve improved this family considerably (refer to the bullet points in my resume). You guys are clearly happier since my arrival. And I’ve filled this Wren-shaped hole you didn’t know you had. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

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Wren “The Oldest” Oates

Just an Irritation

“Soooo, my water just broke,” I said to my mom as I packed Otis’s things and shuffled him out the door.

“Your water broke? Marie, call your doctor. Let’s go to the hospital.”

“No, I’m fine. I just need to get home. Otis, get in the car. I will call the midwives when I get home. OTIS GET IN THE CAR!”



“Why don’t you listen to me?”

“It’ll be fine.”

Otis and I got home. Mark got Otis to bed and I called the midwives. I had 24 hours to see if labor would start on its own before I had to head to the hospital. They also wanted me to drop by the midwife office in the morning to make sure it was my water that broke. Since this was starting out very similar to Otis’s labor story I felt strangely calm. One of my biggest anxieties was that Wren’s delivery would be totally different so the similarities gave me some peace and a sense that I knew what to expect.

I ended up awake most of the night because of very light contractions. Nothing to write home about, but when everyone talks about how ‘fast’ the second baby comes I was a little on edge. At my mom’s urging I called the hospital around 7AM to talk to a midwife and see what they thought about the “contractions” I thought I was having. The midwife on duty was… wait for it… Margaret! Margaret said I sounded fine (any woman carrying on a conversation while “in labor” is medically defined as fine), but to trust my gut and come in. She promised that if it didn’t seem like labor had started that she wouldn’t keep me there and she’d still give me the full 24 hours.

We get to the hospital around 8AM, and they get me set up in the triage room and start monitoring the contractions I had been having.

“It looks like contractions haven’t started,” said the sweet nurse.
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Oh. These things that have kept me up all night are not contractions?

“It looks like you’re having some irritations. But labor hasn’t started. I’ll go get the midwife so we can talk about what to do next.”


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Margaret the Midwife came in, and agreed that labor had not started, but we had lots of options so that I could get the birth I wanted in my birth plan.

In my what?

“I read your entire birth plan so if you guys want to head home to see if labor starts naturally I think that would be great. If we try to induce you probably won’t be able to deliver on all fours like you want.”

“Um. I don’t need to labor on all fours…”

Margaret looks at her papers. “Oh! Wrong McKinney! So how do you want to do this? Induce now? Go home? What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that if these are ‘irritations’ I’m screwed. I have energy now, we’re already here, let’s go ahead and get the induction started.”

“Great! And I’m not going to worry about checking how dilated you are especially since you’re water broke. No need to risk infection. We’ll do that once you’re in your room.”

They unhooked me from the monitors and I stood up to walk to our room when all of a sudden I was on my knees in pain.

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These irritations were no joke. I walked to my room silently beating myself up for not even being strong enough to handle irritations. By the time I walked in I told the nurse to go ahead and order the epidural. If these were irritations there was no one way in heck I would survive a real contraction.

I would have to wait for the IV before I could get the epidural so I breathed and relaxed into each of the irritations. I closed my eyes and made horrible noises and prayed that I wouldn’t die and then cried because irritations were enough to kill me.

True story: The only thing that made the pain go away was bearing down like I was pushing. So I did. But I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared they’d cancel my epidural order, and that was not going to happen.

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The epidural dealers came in and I gave a long speech to Mark about how this was the last baby I would ever have. There was no Baby Number 3. I don’t care how much he begged. See, the pain of the irritations had me delusional and thinking that Mark wanted Baby Number 2. Or Baby Number 1. Mark asked if anyone could record this speech. Just in case I changed my mind.

Which I did.

As soon as the most perfect epidural ever was completed, I was like, “I could have a billion babies! Do you want a billion babies, Mark? Please! We need a billion babies.”

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Once the epidural was finished Margaret the Midwife came in with her bag of pitocin for inducing purposes.

“Let’s find out how far you are!”

Her eyes got big.

“Forget the pitocin. You’re ready to go. And she has a lot of hair.”

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I was “10 plus 1” or something like that. An internet search says that it meant I was all the way dilated and Wren was making her way down the birth canal which is why Margaret the Midwife could tell me about Wren’s hairstyle.

I started pushing (with the medical team’s consent this time), and 20 minutes later at 11:30AM I was holding little Wren Faith Oates. And I fell madly in love with 8 pounds 14 ounces of pure joy, light, happiness, and faith.

Lots and lots of faith.

And this is just hilarious:

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Wren the Dream Bird

Dear Not-Margaret,

Almost a year ago your dad and I had this text conversation:


You are my dream baby. Literally AND figuratively.

I have not written to you the way I wrote to your brother because, well, you’re the second child. I think this is just how it goes.

But I think you’ll be making your appearance sooner rather than later. So I wanted to let you know a couple of things.

This pregnancy has been pure bliss (from Week 14 on)
The first trimester was hell. It was like having an on-again, off-again stomach virus. I hated it. But one day I prayed about what to eat and I heard God tell me to eat a salad which is NOT the first thing I think ever, but it’s especially not what I think when I’m pretty sure the meal will be coming back up (I can’t imagine anything worse than throwing up lettuce). But I started eating salads and I have felt amazing ever since. You have been a dream of a tenant. Thank you.

You move a lot
We were done with Otis’s ultrasound in, like, 15 minutes. He stayed still nearly the entire time. Your ultrasound? Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha. We were there for nearly an hour with the tech trying to get all of your measurements. She tried to get a ‘decent’ pic of you, but you just never stopped and she had a full day of appointments and she was like, “Y’all gotta go. This kid won’t stop moving. This is the best I can do.” At my last appointment with the midwives they got me on the fetal heart monitor thing because your heart rate was a little high. The midwife observed you for 20 minutes before shrugging her shoulders and saying, “I think she’s just a little on the wild side.”


You not being still:


You love scripture and prayer
I was in love with worship when I was pregnant with Otis. I was a hand raising, crying fool nearly every Sunday. Today your brother sings along during worship EVEN WHEN IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A CHOIR MEMBER’S SOLO.

My entire pregnancy with you I have been a praying fiend. Everything gets taken to God in prayer. And I’m on like Day 160 of the Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year plan. I wake up excited to read the Bible. I don’t recognize myself, but my guess is it’s because this is the you part rubbing off on me. (And don’t think I can’t feel you shaking your head and telling me that this theory is in no way biblically sound. I’m your mom. Shut up.)

I had lots of weird dreams
I won’t go into detail, but I have felt like a prophet for the last 8 months. There have been a number of dreams during this pregnancy, mine and friends of mine, that have spooked me a little. And when your dad suggested we name you Wren which the Druids consider a bird of prophecy? Done and done.

Also, the grandmother that basically raised your Pa was named Birdie. Like, that was on her birth certificate. Birdie.


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If your dad wasn’t going to let me name you Bernadette then I guess this will do…

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I have been terrified of you
I have been terrified to fall in love with you almost this entire pregnancy. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s been a dream, and I’m terrified to wake up and find out you aren’t real.

I am terrified to be a mom to a girl. It might not make sense, but raising a woman feels like such a huge responsibility. I already believe you, like most of the women in my life, are a force. I love it and I can’t wait to cheer you on as you learn what you’re going to do with all of this power, but again… terrified.

Also? I am terrified that you won’t like me. Boys love their moms. Forever. They’re like little koala bears. But I already know you’re probably the most amazing female I know. I already know you are the ultimate cool girl in my universe. I know because I watch other moms of girls look at their daughters in awe. I know because of how your Lola talks about me, as if I could do or be anything I want to be. And it’s a leetle intimidating to know you’re about to hang out with the coolest girl in school for the rest of your life, and that her respect won’t be given it will be earned. I’m praying I’m up to the challenge of being the mom I know you deserve.

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But I’m also so in love
I can’t wait to see how much my heart grows. How much your dad’s heart grows. How much your brother’s heart grows. You are landing into a family filled with so much love and excitement about you, it’s a little nutty. While I don’t know how you’ll fit into our family, I have no doubt that you will. You were made for us, and we were made for you, and oh my goodness isn’t life beautiful?

(Yes, I anticipate having the same reaction to you as Kristen Bell had to meeting a sloth.)

I cannot wait to meet you, Baby Bird!

Mama Bird

2016: Answered


At the beginning of 2016 I made myself a little vision board in a Google doc. Nothing fancy, nothing special. Just a visual representation of things I wanted to see happen in 2016:2016-goals

  • A car
  • A trip to Disney World
  • A pregnancy
  • A prayer life
  • A Grammy

I made it back in January and, like most ‘resolutions,’ had forgotten about it before spring started. I stumbled upon the document last week as I did my yearly cleanup, and was stunned that 3 of my 5 things actually came into fruition.

I got pregnant. This one is especially funny because by February I had given up/surrendered this ‘dream.’ I want to write more about this later, but I had moved on from Baby #2 being how God was going to grow our family was happily waiting to see how He would make sure Otis wasn’t going to spend Christmas 2046 alone. But God.

I got a car. This one happened ‘ right before the buzzer.’ A couple of weeks before Christmas my car ‘died’ on the way home from work. A couple of weeks prior to that I had made a spreadsheet with My Plan. We had a nugget of cash I wanted to start squirreling away, pretending it was a car payment, so that in 2018 we would a) be in the habit of making a car payment and b) have a downpayment/head start on said car payment. God thought that plan was dumb-ish, and instead just gave us a car via my in-laws. Yeah. My in-laws gave us their car. I didn’t know what to say either. I want to write more about this one, too.

I got a prayer life. I started taking God seriously this year. I no longer wanted to be this Meh Christian that believed that God existed, but led a life that didn’t look that different from people that believed God was spaghetti monster. If I believed in a God that rose from the dead and healed the blind and was bigger than any pharaoh or president, then my life would look different. And if I believed that that same God was my Father and that I had the same access to Him that Ivanka has to the Donald, then my life would look powerful. I started a Read the Bible in a Year plan and I’m farther than I’ve ever been (Day 120). I wake up excited to read the Bible. And I’m bringing everything to God in prayer. EVERYTHING. I cannot explain how this has changed my marriage. And while I forgot that I had put the War Room lady’s pic on my ‘vision board’ I have thought numerous times throughout the year that I don’t get to be an old lady with thousands of stories of how God showed up if I don’t start praying today.

And there were things I didn’t ‘get.’ Otis didn’t get to go to Disney World. But I still want that so badly for him. Otis is physically unable to hide his emotions, and while this causes more than enough grief (hello, Temper Tantrums) this characteristic also brings me so much joy. When this little guy is happy he cannot even. And I’m 99% he would weep with joy if he got to see Woody from Toy Story in person.

And we didn’t win any Grammys. And by ‘we’ I obviously mean Mark. But after a year of praying, I’ve never felt more confident that his musical talents are going to be used the way God wants them to be used, Grammy or no Grammy.

I don’t look at God like He’s some magical genie. One thing I repeat to myself over and over and over again is, “He’s God and He is loving even if you don’t get what you want.” But when He does bless me and my family? When I get a positive pregnancy test after years of thinking it wouldn’t happen? When I get car keys handed to me by in-laws that love me like they raised me? When I get to spend every morning learning more about the heart of the Creator of the Universe because He wrote an entire history of love letters to us? Well, I’m going to write a blog post and whisper, “Thank you, Lord. For everything.”

Amen, in Jesus name I accept my blessings of desires in abundance of immeasurable proportion, I accept salvation by confessing with my mouth that you my Lord Jesus, King of kings are my Lord and Savior, my God, because of you father everything I speak comes to fruition commanded by the Holy Ghost, through the everlasting love of Jesus Christ, embraced in Gods mercy and grace. Amen...  Lisa Christiansen, child of the one true king ΙΧΘΥΣ :

Give It Back

Santa is my favorite.I loved Santa as a kid, and I probably love Santa even more now as a parent. The twinkle in Otis’s eyes when we talk about what toys the elves are making or practice what he’ll say when we visit him at the mall is basically my heroin.

That said, I’m also pretty dedicated to the reason why we as the Church celebrate this Season.

I believe God sent His son down in the form of  a little baby to a virgin named Mary and her fiancee, Joseph. And for a long time that’s about all I celebrated. I mean, it’s a pretty amazing miracle. God of the universe steps down from his heavenly throne to take on the form of the weakest human on earth via a woman who hasn’t done it, yet. It’s an awe-inspiring miracle for sure.

But there are so many awe-inspiring miracles in the Bible. There’s seas that part and set slaves free. There are donkeys that talk. There are women who should be in retirement homes giving birth to entire nations. There is walking on water and turning water into wine and making a little boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands (with leftovers!).

Why does this miracle deserve a celebration? Why does this miracle matter so much?

A few months ago I was driving to work thinking about all the blessings in my life, thinking about how God has redeemed so many things. I thought about how I can look at the story of my little family starting with the end of another family. How it’s possible that this beautiful marriage I have is a result of Mark holding up the ashes of his first marriage and begging and believing God could make something good out of it. And He did.

“That’s because Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals,” I heard the Holy Spirit whisper as I praised God for my family.

A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life—life that is full and good. John 10:10

Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals. It has been my prayer in so many areas. Areas that I believed with my entire human heart were dead I started holding up the ashes and begging God to redeem them, begging Him to come back and with His power get back what Satan has stolen.

And it worked. He worked. He is working and rescuing and redeeming and I’m feeling a little like someone standing in front of a parted sea or talking to a donkey or eating the leftovers of a little boy’s lunch.


So this season. God coming to earth in the form of a little baby via a teenager who hasn’t had sex. It’s a miracle, yes. But it’s really THE miracle.

It’s the miracle that starts His final rescue plan. Satan stole us in the Garden. He convinced us that maybe we didn’t need a God that loved us, that we’d be fine on our own. And by doing that Satan stole our identity as children of God. He stole peace and love and generosity and hope. He stole our connection to an all-powerful God that created us in His image, that delights in us.

And that little baby in the manger is THE miracle of God saying, “I want them back.”

Because Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals.

HAPPY Holidays: Free Christmas Printables: