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Monday, December 8, 2014

My Favorite Party of the Year

   I posted a pic on Instagram Friday about my annual Christmas party that I host each year.  I promised a blog post with details because so many of you were intrigued.  Well, here it is.  I morphed together several blog posts over the years so you could read lots of examples of some of the gifts that have been given.  The very first post I wrote about it three years ago explains the origin of the party and how it came about for those who wanted to know.  This year's party is at the end of the post.

Several ladies have already let me know they have started hosting these parties too.  That blesses my heart SO MUCH!  I love seeing God's people giving Him glory for what He's done and is doing!

Y'all come on in and welcome to my favorite party of the year!
Where we give gifts that tell our story and bring Him glory!

**Repost from Three years ago**

Y'all know I love a party!
If you know me personally or been following my blog for any amount of time, then you know we throw parties around here for just about anything. I don't know if it's my Louisiana roots or what...but I don't need much of an excuse to whoooop it up big time!

But this past Tuesday, I hosted my favorite party.  I look forward to it all year!
I call it my "Keepin Jesus the Reason for the Season" Party.

The Lord birthed it in my heart many years ago when my husband was pastoring our first church. I was working in a friends boutique a couple days of week to help her during the holiday season. Her store was a-maz-ing. It was one of the very first of its kind and it was filled from floor to ceiling with quirky, trendy, one of a kind, amazing GORGEOUSNESS!!  I mean everything in there sparkled and glittered  and it all screamed.."you know you want gotta have know you can't live without me" in every corner you turned in this shop!

Well, don't get me wrong...I don't think there is a thing wrong with sparkly, pretty things....but as I was surrounded by it..saturated with it..  seeing the hunger of the people each day wanting MORE and spending SO much money to get it...well the Lord began to work in my heart that year about reminding me of getting back to the basics of Christmas...
back to the TRUTH of Christmas...

** I didn't share when I first wrote this post, that part of what inspired me was a particular customer who had come into the store on a regular basis and would spend money like water on decorations and gifts.  She had come in one day and was wanting a gift for a Christmas party where they would be exchanging Dirty Santa gifts….you know…where you can steal a gift from another person.  Well she said she wanted to get THE gift that everyone would want to steal.  She told me she had to have the best and didn't care what she spent on it…to just  make sure it was to die for.  Well….that resonated in my heart and just burdened me.  I still think about her 13 years later.

So... I threw my first "Keepin Jesus the Reason for the Season Party" that year.
I invited all the ladies and asked them to bring a simple gift that represented their walk with the Lord during the year...something that would reflect what He was doing in their lives and how He was at work in their hearts.   Well, let me tell you...that night rocked my world!!  
What a blessing to hear testimony after testimony of what the Lord had been doing!

As the ladies came in with their gifts, I would put a sticker with a number on it and put it under the tree.  After we ate and fellowshipped awhile, I  have each lady draw a number from a bag (one number for however many gifts were brought).  The lady who drew #1 would then open it and then the lady who had brought that gift would then share the meaning behind it and why she chose it.   We do this until each gift has been opened and all the ladies have shared.

The creativity of the ladies was incredible!  
One of my best friends, who is like a tenacious little bulldog when it comes to her boldness for the Lord, …well, she brought a turtle pin one year and it represented how the Lord was teaching her how important consistency was in her be slow and steady like the tortoise and not to be super fast and burn out while serving Him. 
 Consistency…. to finish her race WELL.
I now can't see a turtle and not think of her and that spiritual nugget of wisdom!

I could go on and on with examples of the creativity over the years but it would take forever, so I am gonna take you to my party...

 This was from last year but I have it sitting out and I love and treasure it.
It was from Ms Pat.. she shared that she wanted to desire more and more of pant for Him as the deer pants at the water brooks as Psalm 42 says.

She made it herself and I love the vintagey feel of it.
It's a such a great reminder to me as to what I am desiring most...

 This year, I received this...

 A planner from Janet. She told us she almost brought a plate to represent that how "full her plate" is but went with the planner cuz the Lord is teaching her about prioritizing her time...only saying yes to things HE has designed for her...learning its OK to say no if she hasn't heard from Him on a matter...and desiring to fill her calender with things that have eternal value.

Well, the Lord in His sovereignty made sure the planner AND the meaning behind it ended up with me!  As I dive into this new year..I want the same thing! To quit wasting time on what He hasn't ordained for me and do what will last throughout eternity!!
(Plus, I have a wedding to daughter has chosen APRIL.
 Yes I know that is only 4 months. sigh.)

It was a wonderful night. A refreshing night.
We shed tears...lots of them.
We laughed....really hard.
And we cried some more.
We ended the night in prayer, thanking Him for transforming our lives and that He would choose to come to this world so many years ago and humble Himself so that we can experience the freedom and joy of salvation in Him.
  WOWZA! How incredible.

As I said,  this is THE party of the year for me.  
I love hearing how great our God is and how He is at work. 
 Seeing the ladies growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord  is the best gift ever.
(2 Peter 3:18)

****Two years Ago***
  This gift that someone brought just blessed me so much. It represented the freedom from years and years of unforgivness she had harbored in her heart toward someone and how when she repented of that, through God's grace in her life, she felt like a bird being set free from a cage!   I loved it!  And it had been such a blessing seeing the Lord restore this relationship!  

This was the gift I received last year and it was one of my all time faves.  I'm not gonna lie, when I opened it I was like, huh?  A silver walnut?  
But then Kate began to share the meaning behind it and oh my goodness.  I loved it.

She and her husband were newly married last year and she shared that celebrating family traditions had become so important to her. She was wanting to start some new traditions with her husband but also carry on some old traditions she had growing up.   Her granddad always gave them a painted walnut each year.  She said the first year he did it, she was six years old and she was so upset because it was a measly little walnut.  But little did she know what was inside…  

A $100 dollar bill!
He wanted to teach them the value of not judging everything by what you can only see on the outside.  And that it's what is on the inside that counts.  This wise old grandpa kept up the tradition until he passed away in January of 2006.  

Kate didn't have a $100 dollar bill inside hers of course but the impact was the same.
Such a great lesson.
And such a great tradition.

***Last Year's Party***

 We were few in number but God's presence was so strong.
This was my gift that I brought. I forgot to take a picture of it before I wrapped it.

 But what was inside was a mirror
The kind of mirror that magnifies stuff 10 times. The kind that exposes all the blemishes and nothing is hidden from sight when you look into it. It can startle you when you see yourself that up close.  And that's exactly what God did recently  to me using an indecent in my life.  It cause due to look closer at my hear and it really exposed some gross and yucky stuff and attitudes that I needed to see  for what they really were… sin.  It made me think of Hebrews 4:12-13… "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and joints  and marrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."   I am so thankful He doesn't leave me to myself but in His mercy He exposes my sin and pours grace into my life and changes me to be more like Him.  Hallelujah!   (I also had it wrapped in a dish towel because part of what He revealed to me is that I need to be more of a hands on_get dirty washing the feet of the disciples _ kind of servant.) 

And last thing before I go…
This is the gift I received!
A mini flashlight!

Sweet Mama Rob who brought it is one of the greatest examples of a servant I know! She is always doing for others. Always.  She is always asking how she can help…she doesn't wait until you come to her.  I want to be more like her.   I pray I am even half as active as she is when I am 78 years old like her.

What blessed me is the verse that prompted her to choose a flashlight as her gift.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5 :16
Aghh.. So perfect.  It couldn't have been more perfectly chosen for me.
I so want to make Him known with all that I do.

And the sweet thing about these fellowships…year after year…Each lady goes home with a gift that ministers to her heart and has a tangible reminder of the message every time she looks at or uses the gift.  It's sooo good.  We always close out the night in prayer thanking the Lord for the work He is doing in our lives  with great anticipation of the year ahead.

Now on to this year's party!

We had a grand time as usual.  One thing I loved about this year is seeing the spiritual growth in the ladies in the things they shared.  I am so blessed to have them in my life and to learn from them as they walk through the things the Lord has brought them through this past year.

Again, I don't have time to share all of what was brought but here are a few of them.

One of the ladies, Janet, is a teacher on a college campus.  She loves her students and is just as concerned about their lives outside of her classroom as she is inside her classroom.  But even the best of teachers often need reminders to help them stay focused on what a good teacher is all about.   She chose this necklace made from a rock.  But it wasn't just any rock.
An actual friend of hers finds regular old rocks that the average eye would just pass over and leave lying in the yard.  But she knows that once these "ugly" rocks are cared for and polished with the right tools they can become something beautiful so she and her granddaughter keep their eyes open and are searching all the time for rocks they can transform. Well Janet said the Lord really challenged her this past year to be intentional about her studentsto not see them at face value but to look past their "issues" and see the person.  To see the person they can become with the right encouragement, and people in their life "polishing" them.   I LOVE that.  So awesome.

One lady brought a box sugar because she had gone through some really difficult times this year but the Lord was still just as good (sweet) in those rough times as He was in the good times.  And that He truly is getting sweeter and sweeter to her the longer she serves Him with each passing year.    So good.  So true.

Another brought a card full of cash.  She has had an extremely difficult year this year.  She battled cancer along with some other tough situations and she has blessed me more than she will ever know watching her trust the Lord through it all.  She shared that she has learned that Jesus is the ONLY place that she can find her hope from.  Not even her family, who she loves so fiercely, can be her source for hope. So she brought money and said to whoever ended up with it to just know that whatever they spend it on…groceries, a gift, clothes, whatever…that the satisfaction it brings only lasts for a moment.   Jesus is the only lasting satisfaction we can truly have.    Sooooo good.  It had an impact.  

Our sweet Carolyn brought prayer journals as her gift which was so fitting because she is such a prayer warrior.  The gift she received was a hoot though!  Here she is opening it.  Carolyn is a die hard Ole Miss fan.  Her gift was a MSU Bulldog bath bomb.  It turns your water maroon and once it completely dissolves, it leaves a little cowbell in the tub with you.  She was convinced it was gonna turn into "Ole Miss" though. lol.  The funniest is when she opened it she didn't know what it was so Boo (sitting next to her) had to explain that it was a bath bomb.  If you could have seen Carolyn's face and reaction… She said "A BOMB?!?!"   lol.  Bless her heart.  We died laughing.
And if you're wondering how a bath bomb has a spiritual application, Boo said it represented peace and calming and tranquility. She is a newlywed this year and explained that is exactly what being married to Brandon, her husband,  has brought into her life….peace.  I have loved watching them settle so well into married life this year.  So good.

For times sake I'll wrap it up with my gift and what I brought…
Only part of my gift could fit in this box.

The real gift was hanging on my door as they walked in.
This wreath that I made.

I wanted something to represent all of the doors the Lord has opened for me to share His story this past year.  It has been a whirlwind full of surprises.  He has had me speak at conferences, retreats, virtual retreats via video (which was totally new for me).  He's opened doors for me to share His goodness and truth to people from all over the world who have emailed me and I've been able to share bits and pieces of my story with them.  And He's connected my heart with thousands of people through social media.  I never went looking for that platform of influence but it is a door He has chosen to open for me and I don't take that lightly.

So I wanted something to represent all these doors.  The fact that is was a fresh wreath was good too.  I always want to have a fresh work that the Lord is doing in my life that I can give away and share with others.  I'm thankful for those ebeneezers in my past that I can go back to a recall His faithfulness but I don' t want to rely on that as my only source of what I can share with others.  I want to be seeking Him daily and gaining fresh insights to give away and bless others.

The other part of my gift that was in the box were these socks.
They represent "HOW" I should walk through the doors God opens for me.  They are fun and outlandish and a little over the top….exactly how I want to be as I share what He has done for me. The world is watching and I want them to see joy…even during the not so great circumstances in my life. 
 I want them to see me having fun.  Because living for Jesus is fun.  His people are fun.  And I want to be outlandish for Him. I want to be brave and do hard things and not be afraid to stand out looking different for His sake.  I want to walk through each door with a twinkle in my eye and a skip in my step that makes the world around me want what I have.  Cuz what I have is good y'all.

The funny thing is God likes to make sure we are walking the walk that we talk.
I shared this about opened doors on Friday.  
Nick started feeling sick that night and began to run fever and get all achy.
He never left the couch Saturday.  But he just knew he'd feel better by Sunday.

Long story short.  He didn't feel better by Sunday.  And EMCC, our local community college, was playing for the National Football Championship in their division and a lot of our church is on staff there.  So they were all out of town at the game…along with our worship leader and many of the men who lead.  SO…that left me.  Nick asked if I would give a testimony and  share about the Christmas party and the meanings behind the gifts with our congregation.  So I was gonna have to teach my ladies Sunday school class, then lead worship and give a testimony afterwords…pretty much have the entire service on my shoulders.  

I thought about what I just shared a couple of nights before and knew I had to walk through this unexpected open door with great confidence in Him.  So, I rallied some of my friends and family to be lifting me up in prayer, then I threw on my most outlandish pair of tights, grabbed my bible and headed out the door.

God was faithful.  I survived and He was glorified.  But I definitely have a renewed appreciation for my husband and all pastors and worship leaders everywhere!

Back to the party before I go….if you have any questions just send me an email.  I'd love for you to host one wherever the Lord has you  planted.  If you do, please let me know.  I'd love to hear all about it.


  1. Oh gosh I love you girl! I'd love to host a party like that! I am going to remember it for next year! And preaching…you go girl!

  2. What an amazing idea! Love it! I am thinking on an encouragement party around Valentines day--card writing and such. Found you through Nick's Instagram, and I've been so blessed by both of your messages. Thank you!

  3. Stephanie, This is just astoundingly beautiful. I met you and your sweet family years ago through mutual friends, Jason & Sherri, Laurie & Natalie, and recently found your blog & I.G. account as well as your daughters' and Pastor Nick's accounts. So encouraged and inspired by all of you. Hope to see you soon & give you a hug! You are pointing so many lives to Him - how exciting! Much Love ~Dene Moore

  4. I'm so glad he opened that door for you, you are such an inspiration to me and so many others.

  5. love this so!
    wish i had read it earlier.
    will do this next year, for sure.
    you inspire me to the moon & back!
    virginia (your pal on insta)


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