Tired Mamas Pray is Here!!

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I am SO excited to share with you all, my brand new book, Tired Mamas Pray. This book will revolutionize your prayer life, even as a tired mama. It was written for you!

Seven years ago, when my twin boys were one year old and my daughter was not yet two, I sat down three nights a week and I wrote ten prayers at a time.

Taking scriptures that had leapt off the pages of my Bible, I turned them into prayers for my babies. Seven years later, I am seeing the fruition of this dream come to pass. It is such an exciting time to finally share them with you.

These prayers, inspired by a doctor’s diagnosis over my son by a maternal fetal medicine specialist, I learned first hand the POWER of praying scripture.

Today, I hand this powerful tool over to you and to all the women in the world who are just as tired as me.

As a gift for your friends and family for Christmas, Mothers’ day or a baby shower – or for yourself – this book will be a blessing to all the tired mamas out there who long to pray while wondering where they will find the time.

Here is a quick peek at the back cover:

Sleep-Deprived. Overstimulated. Overwhelmed.

As a tired mama, it can be hard to balance family life with your ideal prayer life. Laundry, chores, cleaning, school runs, screaming, and snuggles all contribute to the day’s pressing concerns to choke out your deepest desire: to pray for your children.

If you become overwhelmed just thinking about it because you have no idea where to start, what to say, or how to fit it in to your mama schedule, Tired Mamas Pray was written for you.

By keeping it simple, author Leslie N. Crouse shares her secret to a vivacious prayer life as a busy mama. Tired Mamas Pray takes the timeless strategy of praying biblical scripture and makes it so easy you need less than sixty seconds to do it. No more struggling to find the time. No more searching for the words to pray.

Tired Mamas Pray provides 90 daily prayers for your children that will keep you praying for their:

  • Relationship with God
  • Character development
  • Discernment
  • Friendships and relationships
  • Relationship with the Church
  • Purpose

Powerful, effective prayers are within your reach. No more overthinking this. Just focus on two to three scriptures each day and personalize them to your children in less than sixty seconds.

Buy it today at any of these stores:

The Wise Men

by Leslie Crouse

Four magi came to his office and bowed low. “Lord Belteshazzar. As you have requested, we have searched for information among all Zoroaster’s scrolls. But Sir, this new sword-shaped star is not found in our records.” Belteshazzar stared out his window considering the magi’s report.

His window overlooked the Parthian Gardens, which were renowned for their beauty. But right now, it was the brilliant shining star that captivated his attention. The star that was so bright it could be seen in the day and looked like a cloud of living fire shimmering with gold flakes. Should he call it a star? It was far too close. This star was in complete defiance of the cosmos.

Belteshazzar ran his hand down his manicured beard and said, “What of the ancient Babylonian writings? There was once a Magian Chief who was very wise. He predicted many things that have come to pass. His name was also Belteshazzar, but you would likely find the scrolls under his native Hebrew name Daniel. Search in the time of Nebuchadnezzar or Darius the Mede. Go.”

Belteshazzar had a secret obsession with Daniel. The Magus had been legendary walking in both miracles and prophecies. He had been the best of all Babylonian Magi. Ever since Belteshazzar discovered the shared connection he had with Daniel, he gloried in it. He too, had worked his way up to become the Chief of the Magi and this star would send him into infamy as well. Whatever they discovered, Belteshazzar was certain Daniel was the key to this cloud of glittering fire that danced like a sword in the sky.

The next day, Belteshazzar choked on his wine when Arash’s voice suddenly broke into his peaceful morning thoughts. “Sir! We have found it among Daniel’s writings!” The man marched into his office and belatedly bowed low. Belteshazzar said, “Rise. Tell me what it is you have discovered.”

“Daniel refers to it as Shekinah. It is the glory of the LORD, Israel’s Most High God. A cloud of shimmering fire that physically dwells among men. But it rarely appears. Only for events of magnitude.” Belteshazzar waited as Arash searched for the exact words of Daniel. “It says we will see the Shekinah Glory of the Lord dwell among men as the Son of Man is,

‘given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’

Arash pointed again to the star, “That is the Glory of the Most High, the Shekinah is the sign that marks the birth of this eternal king! A king has been born!”

“Arash,” Belteshazzar said, “send word to the Great King. We have his answer.”

Hours later, Belteshazzar was summoned into the throne room of Phraates IV, Great King of the Parthian Empire. “Belteshzzar, you have done well to solve the mystery of this star dwelling in our Empire. I have read through your report and made my decision.”  

Belteshazzar continued to bow low before the Great King. “If the birth of this new king is powerful enough to defy the cosmos,” Phraates IV continued, “and create this Shekinah, then we know his kingdom will be greater than any that has ever been. If we are to survive this rising kingdom, we must humble ourselves now. We must pay homage and acknowledge his superiority with many gifts. It will be a humbling act of obeisance, but perhaps, if we become his friends, we too, will share in the dominion and greatness of his kingdom. Rise.”

Belteshazzar rose before the Great King and waited for his orders. “You will prepare an entourage of Magi immediately. We will bring all the best gifts suitable to a king. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. We will welcome this new King of the Jews. Affirm his throne. Confirm our military support against any who dare to defy his claim. Take three hundred of our best soldiers with you to illustrate the strength of our kingdom and the friendship we offer. You have two weeks to prepare.” Belteshazzar bowed low and began to back away when the king’s voice stopped his retreat. “And Belteshazzar, beware of King Herod.”

Cultivating Hope in the Home

As parents, it is our honor to cultivate the hope of Jesus in our homes and in the hearts of our children. What if during this holiday season, friends and family who stepped over the threshold of our homes encountered the life-changing power of hope? Would they leave changed? Would they feel they had stepped into the presence of God and yearn for more?

Yet, what do we say most often? I do not want to get my hopes up. Or, Well, I do not want to Jinx it. We dare not hope because we want to protect our hearts from disappointment. But what if most disappointments are ushered into existence simply because we refuse to allow the power of God’s hope to take effect? Job said, “That which I have feared has come upon me.”

Did you know the Hebrew word for hope literally means a rope? A tangible lifeline in the turbulent sea of life. God gave us hope to carry us through the heartaches and heartbreaks, the seasons of silent waiting, a rope to grab onto as we fix our eyes on His faithfulness.

The very reason God gives us Hope is to preserve us from fear and defeat, to see us through dark times, to raise us up out of the ashes to conquer. To pursue the victory. As the world and all it’s worries fade away, Hope is one of three that remain.

Stop and think about that for a moment. When all else fades away faith, hope, and love remain. Which means there is a life-changing, eternal power in hope we should be tapping into.

God’s Word has much to say on all that is accomplished by hope. Here are a few:


Hope

Steadfast Anchor

Unashamed

God’s Full Attention

Fearless

Source of Joy

Strength

Tree of Life

Victory


Christmas fast approaches and there will be many coffee mugs, pillows, and ornaments with the word hope written in calligraphy. Commercialism desensitizes us. But, this Christmas I challenge you to take hold of the lifeline God has forged for you and hold tight to the faith we profess and meditate on the power of Jesus, our living hope. Let hope sink deep into your heart and home.

Teach hope to your children. Teach them to be in awe of the miracle that gives us access to this powerful four letter word: the Creator of heaven and earth abandoning his throne of eternal splendor to sacrifice himself for us so that we might awaken from our ashen slumber and come alive once again. That we might live with hope.

For afterall, if nothing is impossible with God, who else has more authority to possess an unrealistic hope than a Christian?

Fun facts:

If you are of a curious nature like me, you have likely wondered, What is a Jinx? And why must I be afraid of it?

Loosely paraphrased, a “Jinx” is rooted in Arabian culture and legends. It is a demonic spirit that preys upon, steals, deceives, kills and tortures people. Much effort was spent in this culture avoiding any contact with or attention from a Jinx.

Which means that we, by denying God’s hope in an effort to avoid drawing attention from a Jinx to our situation, proclaim the boundaries of our faith and declare through action who we believe is more powerful.

Do I credit the legend of the Jinx? Well, I am less concerned about legends as I am cultivating faith. I am however, fully aware of the spiritual battle my family and I fight constantly and how it is effected by our words and actions. As Paul said, our “fight is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” I do not care what name it goes by or what myths it has wrapped itself in.

If God’s hope is a powerful weapon that guards our hearts against one on a mission to kill, steal and destroy, I’ll take God’s hope and I will fly his banner high.

12 Weeks of Christmas: #8 Road to Bethlehem

Ein Karem

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from An Angry Father.

Mary’s time with Elizabeth, in Ein Karem, had come to a close. Father would be here soon to escort her back to Nazareth. This little Judean town had been a sanctuary for her. Elizabeth had been the only friend who rejoiced at the miracle she carried. And Elizabeth had given birth to a beautiful son! Zechariah and Elizabeth named him John, causing quite the scandal at the synagogue. But it had earned Zechariah his voice back and given him new ears to hear too.

Gabriel. Mary still had a hard time equating the kind, joyful angel she had met in the stable as being the same angel responsible for Zechariah’s missing voice. She did, however, know that years without children had made Zechariah cynical toward God. She wondered if there was more to the story than Zechariah was telling. Mary remembered her father’s voice saying, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

As Mary washed John’s baby clothes her thoughts turned toward her father. He had visited her a month into her visit, delivering Joseph’s letter. Her father, Hezekiah, had asked forgiveness for his actions, anger and accusations. Yet, tears still filled her eyes at the memory of him slapping her. She had always been her father’s little girl. They’d had a special relationship and his rejection had hurt more than any physical pain in that moment. She had forgiven him, but trust came harder.    

Joseph had believed in her more than her father had. The incident had both given her an unshakable confidence in the LORD’s faithfulness while fracturing her childlike confidence in people. Humanity was broken. Even those who were godly made serious mistakes only the LORD could heal and make right. Would her son – God’s Son – heal this broken world? Would Jesus be the key to finding peace amidst the storm?

Best gird your loins, she thought to herself. You have yet to face those in Nazareth. Mary lifted her chin. God had made a way for her. It would not be easy, but it would be safe. Joseph had written they would marry upon her arrival. But, he would not consummate the marriage until after the birth. Her cheeks burned with the thought. He had gone on to explain that to the world, they would appear married. By law they would still only be betrothed. She knew his intent was to protect her and Jesus.

Suddenly, she was very grateful for Joseph.

~Sixth Months Later~

Joseph could not believe the injustice of Caesar. The man’s greed had no end. Apparently, Caesar needed money to pay for the expansion of his kingdom and maintain the Roman roads he was so proud of. So, in true form, Caesar cunningly mandated a census. All people were forced to travel and register in their hometown. Then, Caesar charged them a toll to travel the roads. It is extortion! He thought angrily to himself.

Joseph packed three day’s worth of supplies planning to leave in the morning. Mary could give birth any day now. It was a two day journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth, but he must be prepared for every possibility. He prayed the trip would not be too taxing for her.

His father, had encouraged him to take Balaam. He would have to fight that cursed creature the whole way. Balaam only responded to a whip and Mary would never allow it. Jospeh smiled. It seems I am to struggle with a stubborn beast and stubborn woman the whole way. It was worth it. He would not ask her to walk so far at this stage. They would take the cart he hauled his furniture in. Mary had a touch with animals. Perhaps she could tame Balaam’s cantankerous spirit.

At sunrise, Joseph held Mary’s hand and helped her up. They set out and turned onto the main road. Outside the city, Joseph paid their first toll. When would there be justice in the world? Joseph was a black and white kind of man. He did not live in grey. Romans lived in the grey area. It allowed them to justify every false action.

Joseph hungered for a new kingdom. A King that defended the weak and governed with righteousness and justice. Would his adopted son, Jesus, share his passion for injustice too? What would he do when he found the temple charging worshippers triple for sacrifices? Lost in his thoughts of the Messianic kingdom, he did not realize his worst nightmare had begun.

Over halfway to Bethlehem, Mary’s pains began. He had thought pains gradually increased, but Mary’s were hard and fast with longer breaks in between. But what do I know?! What can I do? Mary decided she wanted to walk for a bit. They rested when the intensity started building and walked once the pains relaxed. This was the progression of their trip. Joseph was desperate as he watched his wife and thought, There are lions in Judea. We cannot risk her giving birth out here in the open.

Joseph prayed.  LORD! My God! This is beyond me. I am useless to her. Be our strength, be our shield! Joseph looked over and saw Mary was ready to start walking again. “Mary, you are doing so well. We are almost there,” he encouraged. Mary seemed to be handling the affair with a cool head. Maybe that midwife she had assisted was more than a gossip after all, Joseph thought wryly.

Joseph looked up to see lights in the distance. “Mary! We have made it! We will find help soon.” Mary gave him a nod, and he caught the words of her favorite psalm.

During her time back in Nazareth, Mary had clung to the scriptures and found much comfort in the Psalms. As a married couple, they had read them together every morning. It had been awkward as they found their footing together being pseudo-married and pregnant, but their shared love for the Word of the Lord bound them together in spirit.

Once in the town of Bethlehem Joseph knocked on every door. Every. Single. Door. Did no one have compassion? Finally, when he knocked on the last door a huge man stepped out into the evening.

“Shalom! Sir, I beg of you, I must find a place to stay tonight. My wife’s pains have begun. I fear we do not have long. I have asked everywhere. Please say there is a place for us.” Joseph said.

“Shalom my friend. I see you are in need of… much.” The large man took in Mary’s dilemma. Joseph watched several emotions cross his face. But unlike the others, he did not turn them away. At least, not completely. He introduced himself as Hananiah and led them toward his stable.

Parenting Sibling Rejection

“But I want to play with you!” “No! Only Esther and Tess are allowed to play!”

Some wounds from childhood cut deep enough to stay with us for decades. Rejection is leaves scars and warps identity and relationships.

If it’s not fun for one, the game is done.

When I see our children playing at the expense of sibling, I immediately remind them of their identity. “We are Crouses. We work together. Play together. Love each other. When we fight, we forgive each other. And no matter where we are, or who we are with, our brothers and sisters will always be our best friends and welcome to join in.” It requires frequent reminders. But, I have seen it play out heartachingly beautifully. 

Train them up in God’s love. In school, playground can often be hurtful battlegrounds. But if a sibling is in view, there should be a sense of refuge there. A safe place to run an be accepted. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Rejection and rivalry wrecks havoc in our homes. As parents, we often pick our battles. I believe, this should be one of them that we as parents should fight tirelessly. The wounds of rejection grow to beliefs about personal value and love. It changes the way we see ourselves. For a child it becomes a part of the fabric of his or her identity and can warp their relationships far into the future, leaking from the home into our churches and our society as well.

God’s family is full of people from different backgrounds, languages, cultures and values and he bonds them together in the unity of love. When it comes to the blended and diverse families, there is none larger than the family of God. We find in His word the key to bringing our family into unity. He even made it into a family creed:

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4

What is your family creed that binds you together? When divisions arise and the spirit of Rejection steals into your home, do you have a truth you speak over your children to keep them rooted and grounded in love? If you need a few ideas, here are several great places to look: Read Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and pray Ephesians 3:14-19.

Ephesians 3:17-19

Father, give my family a spirit of unity and love. Lead us to be “rooted and grounded in love” that we may all  know “with strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Let your love permeate and define our family so that rejection and division have no place in our home.

An Angry Father

Joseph’s Decision

by Leslie Crouse

Joseph planted his feet and stared him down. “Balaam, I will not tolerate your stubborn antics.” He hated this donkey. The typical, rebellious gleam was in Balaam’s eyes. Every time Joseph needed him, the creature would dig his back hooves into the ground making a stubborn last stand. Or sit, if he were being realistic. And if Joseph did not keep one eye upon him, Balaam would take a bite out of his back side.

The sound of banging on the stable door interrupted the battle of wills. Hezekiah, Mary’s father, stormed in. The peaceful man was like a second father to him and had never worn such a murderous look. Stepping out of the reach of Balaam’s teeth, Joseph turned his full attention to Hezekiah.

Face mottled with red, Hezekiah marched up to Joseph jabbing his finger into Joseph’s chest. Nose to nose Hezekiah screamed, “How DARE you! How dare you touch my daughter before the wedding! Do you know what you have done?! You worthless son of a carpenter! You have defiled her!”

Joseph stepped back, brow furrowing as he took in Hezekiah’s words. His first thought was that this had to be a joke, but his soon to be father-in-law was shaking with barely constrained rage. Facts. I need the facts.

“Mary is with child? How long?” Joseph asked. “HOW LONG?!” Hezekiah waved his arms. “YOU should know! Her belly will be showing soon!” Hezekiah’s finger jabbed again, “You will fix this Joseph son of Jacob! NOW. Before anyone knows. Because if you do not do your duty by her, the village will stone her.” Hezekiah’s voice lowered to barely a whisper, “And then I will kill you.”  

Joseph was stunned. Mary? His Mary? Who had done this to her? Joseph had loved Mary since they were children. Her fiery spirit and flawless integrity had always drawn him to her. He knew she would never betray the LORD. Someone has hurt her! Who dared touch my Mary?

White hot rage consumed him. He clenched his fists and looked Hezekiah in the eye, “I will not take responsibility for that which I did not do. Your daughter is a woman of integrity,” now pointing his finger at Hezekiah, “as you well know, and if she is with child it is because someone has done a grievous thing to her.” Joseph crossed his arms and turned his back. Through gritted teeth he said, “I must think on this. It changes everything.” Joseph turned back around as Hezekiah stared hard at him. Joseph did not know if Hezekiah believed him or not, but one thing was for certain. There was murder in his eyes.

Joseph put down his tools and climbed to the rooftop of his house to pray. He wept for what had been done to Mary. He wept for dreams lost. None of it was to be. If he married her to save her reputation, he would lose his.

All his life he had walked in integrity. Earned his place of respect among the men of Nazareth. If he married her, he would be taking her disgrace and making it his own. No. He would not do that to his family. His father, Jacob, would be turned out from the city gate. There were more people involved in this than just himself.

If he publicly broke the betrothal Mary would be disgraced in front of all. They might not stone her, since she had been violated, but they would use her as a public spectacle, teaching other young women the dangers awaiting them. He gritted his teeth. It was not just. To take a victim and use their pain as a teaching for others. He hated injustice. He would not publicly break the betrothal.

Could he raise another’s child? He loved her enough to. But the thought of another with her churned his stomach with acid.

For hours Joseph’s mind circled the options. For hours he prayed and wept and raged. For hours he heard nothing from the LORD but silence. Physically and emotionally spent, Joseph decided he would not expose her to the public. He would quietly break the betrothal and allow her to be free to make her own choices. She deserved to have some say in what would befall her future. Mulling over the decision, Joseph fell into a troubled sleep and dreamed.

In his dream, he saw Mary walking down a dusty, lonely road as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. He reached out to comfort her but then pulled his hand back, knowing his decision would separate them forever. She was no longer his to comfort or protect.

Suddenly, in his dream, Mary looked straight into his eyes. Though her cheeks were tear-stained, her eyes were full of fire and his heart skipped a beat. Then, he saw a massive heavenly host armed for war, escorting her down the road.

A huge angel appeared and began speaking to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph’s eyes popped open and he bolted upright. Joy battled with astonishment. WHAT?

A plan formed as Joseph sat down and began writing. He would send the letter to Ein Karem with his next load of furniture bound for Jerusalem.

~~~~

To continue reading the Christmas Mini-Series, look for my next story The Wise Men.

Why We Don’t Celebrate Halloween

Last week my kindergartner was asked what she will be for Halloween. She said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween.” Her sweet friend then exclaimed, “WHAT? You don’t love Jesus?!” 

Friends, the American church has major problems if our children think Halloween is about Jesus. It never was and it never will be.

Light and Darkness

Every Fall I find myself sitting around a table discussing a shared love: God’s Word. And as October 31 approaches, new Christians and long time believers inevitably discuss Halloween. My heart sinks as the new believer sits in shock as someone speaks about their Halloween plans.

“You celebrate Halloween? I thought Christians didn’t do that?”

I watch as the new believer scrambles to reconcile Halloween’s evil, death, fear, murder, mutilation, and sexual perversion with their new life in Jesus: God’s love, truth, redemption, gentleness, peace and light, set free from sin and death by choosing Jesus and leaving the old behind. Can the two coexist?

Nervous looks pass around the table as people feel called out by the crystal clear perspective of a newbie. It’s a viable question as old as the city of Corinth.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Satan? – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Parenting Discernment

Discerning truth is becoming harder in today’s world. We live in a culture that celebrates the many shades of grey. As Christian parents we need to teach our children how to discern light from darkness, truth from lie, good from evil and how to be the arrow that points people to God. By participating in Halloween we build a friendship with the unholy that hinders our discernment and befuddles our purpose.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9 … “[Priests] are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” – Ezekiel 44:23

If we want to raise our children to hear the voice of the Lord, we must teach them how to keep their hearts pure and untainted by the world.

Satan is ruthless and he is after our children. Fear is a high ranking spirit in the kingdom of darkness and the devastation is more widespread than most suspect. We must guard our hearts and minds and train up our children in the ways of the Lord. Why would I willingly hand them over to the demonic spirit of Fear? Are we willing to compromise our inheritance, our new life in Jesus, our children’s inheritance in Jesus, for a bag of candy? God forbid. At least Esau was starving when he tossed his inheritance aside for a legit bowl of soup.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23

FOMO

Speaking of fear, many participate in Halloween because they fear their kids will rebel later if they miss out. Don’t make decisions out of a spirit of fear. Some of the worst decisions sprout from FOMO or the fear of missing out. It is our aim to teach our children how to overcome this weakness of human nature and not be a slave to fear – of any kind. We are creative, independent thinkers. Not governed by FOMO. And when they are old enough to make these choices for themselves, each child will have a spirit that is honed with the sensitivity they need to discern the holy from the profane.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ – Philippians 1:9-10

A Witness for Christ

I have more honest conversations with people about why we do not celebrate Halloween than at any other time of year. It is the mark of Christ that separates us from the world. Frankly speaking, I find nothing in Halloween worthy of my time, honor, worship, attention, money or recognition. We believe in life, truth, hope, forgiveness, healing, deliverance and all things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and noble. We do things that ignite God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Teaching children how to stand apart from the crowd is a powerful lesson all children need.

Choosing Christ will be their own decision, but our children need never be a victim of group think. Give your children the powerful gift of knowing what it looks like to stand firm in convictions and make sacrifices for them. If you seek an opportunity to be a witness to the love of God, I urge you to separate your family from the Halloween world. Be ready with an answer when they ask why.

Praying Scripture

Father, help us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [our hearts]; yet [help us] do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when [we] are slandered, those who revile [our] good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:15-17

12 Weeks of Christmas: #10 Mary’s Visitor

…continued from Mary’s Hiding Place.

~ SIX MONTHS LATER ~

For the last several months the only prayer in Mary’s heart had been for Elizabeth and the new thing the LORD was doing. That night, while in the stable deep in her prayers, she heard a voice. Looking up to see a bright shining angel, she began to shake with fear.

“Greetings, O favored one, the LORD is with you!” FavoredGod is not a respecter of men. Is this an angel of light? Mary attempted to discern the greeting. She knew Darkness often masqueraded as angels of light.

The angel spoke again more gently this time, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Ah. An angel of light. Darkness would use my fear against me. Giving her time to discern his greeting, the angel continued, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Oh! A grin split her face in a marvelous smile. Would the LORD allow her a part in His plan!? Wait – what? Wide-eyed, Mary stammered, “H-how will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel smiled, clearly enjoying his role in this birth announcement. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Mind whirling, Mary could not take it all in. But the angel did not pause this time.

“And behold,” Mary looked up from her thoughts and saw a scene playing out in front of her. Her barren cousin Elizabeth waddled around her house with –thanks to midwife training – what appeared to be six months of baby in her belly!

The angel continued, “…your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing is impossible with God.” The angel’s joy made him beam with light. What was his name? Gabriel. Mary looked him in the eye, then bowed her head and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The angel nodded and disappeared.

Gabriel liked the common folk. They were not arrogant like those tedious priests. He thought again of Zechariah and grimaced. Truly, silence was the only solution for a priest who questioned Yahweh. Yet, Yahweh in His mercy had restrained Gabriel’s hand and limited Zechariah’s silence to nine months. Yahweh remembered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s pain and granted His mercy freely.



Mary bolted from the hay loft to the house. Nearly tripping, she paused before the threshold and took a deep breath. First, she must brave her parents and tell them all the angel had said. She could not do any of this alone. Confident in the LORD, Mary squared her shoulders and waited for a quiet moment alone with her parents.

Their “discussions” had woken everyone in the house. Mother believed her. Father had struck her for the first time. When she denied any wrong doing, he had yelled, “I will not abide your falsehoods! I know men! How could you be so stupid daughter?! Unless Joseph marries you NOW, they will kill you! Before our very eyes!” Ready to call Joseph to account, her father stormed to the door intent upon the carpenter’s home. Mary stood in stunned silence, her cheek stinging from her father’s hand. Then, her mother intervened and suggested a new plan.

“Send Mary to Ein Karem to stay with Elizabeth until the woman gives birth. Perhaps Mary’s midwife training may be useful to her. Mary’s absence would buy us time to address this issue with Joseph and find a way forward. And, if Mary suffers from pregnancy in those first three months, no one will be wise to it.”

Father glared angrily at Mary. “Pack your bags young lady. You are no longer a daughter of mine. You will not return to my house. I wash my hands of you.” Heartbroken, a river of tears was her only companion as she prepared for Ein Karem. Surely God would mend this? She looked South toward Ein Karem and prayed she would find sanctuary among this little town in the Judean hills.

Mary left before dawn. Her father would not see her off. Her mother had asked a friend who had business in Jerusalem to escort Mary. “Tell no one,” mother had said. Mary walked in silence preparing her heart for the coming storm of more unbelief, accusations, anger and discipline.

Father was right. An unwed mother would not be tolerated in the village. Unless Joseph acknowledged an act that was not his, she would be stoned to death. Joseph. She knew him to be a righteous man who cherished the law. What would he do?

Fear circled about her, like a carrion bird over its prey, telling her all the ways an unwed mother could die. It’s menacing laugh echoed in the her recesses of her mind as more tears formed in her eyes. No! I will hold unswervingly to the vow I have made to the LORD. She would be faithful. But she was terrified.

As Mary walked and prayed she sensed the evil straining to be unleashed. It was in these hours, on a lonely, dusty road that Gabriel’s words became entrenched in her heart; a lifelong mantra she would end up clinging to in all her darkest hours.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Look for Joseph’s story next in the 12 Weeks of Christmas: #9 An Angry Father. If you love these stories, share them with your friends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

12 Weeks of Christmas: #11 Mary’s Hiding Place

Mary’s Hiding Place

BY LESLIE CROUSE

~ FIFTEEN MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST ~

Mary fell back into the fresh hay finding comfort in the clean, grassy scent of her father’s stable. Every morning before dawn she came to the stable to pray. Few understood it. But her mother, Sarah, allowed her this time of solitude. When the sun shone upon the roof Joseph would arrive to escort her to the midwife for another day of tedious house calls.  

She could see her mother watching from the window. The moment Mary had begun signs of womanhood, Sarah had insisted she train with Nazareth’s midwife. “You are to assist and learn all you can about the female body and birthing process,” she had instructed Mary. “One never knows the turns life can take.” Mother believed in equipping her daughters.

Mary did not like midwifery, but she had already learned much. Her family lacked money for a midwife’s expertise, so her sisters took turns assisting the local midwife in an exchange for services when needed. But those worries belonged to the daylight hours. The pre-dawn hours were hers alone.

In the stable Mary could set it all aside and bask in the presence of the LORD. Every morning Mary came to the stable to find privacy and freedom for prayer. Her father called it intercession. Mary was no spiritual giant. All she knew is that she burned with the need to cry out for others. So she prayed until peace replaced the urgency. Today, her cousin Elizabeth was heavy upon her heart.

Something was shifting in the spiritual realm. She could sense it. There was an eagerness inside of her. An excitement she could hardly contain. The LORD was doing a new thing! An urgency to pray harder gripped her. Whatever the LORD’s plans, she wanted to be a part of it. For her, the LORD was a pearl of great value, worth any price.

Mary had no idea what was going on, but she knew Herod to be Judea’s arrogant, unpredictable king and Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, a priest in the temple. An explosive combination. What forces were at play?

A knock on the post below interrupted her thoughts. No! Has an hour gone by already? She peeked down into the breezeway. She covered her face with her hands and cringed. Joseph. As children he had played in the neighbor’s pond, caught frogs from local streams, and had helped her with her lambs. Her best friend. But he had gone and changed everything when he asked her father’s permission to marry her. Which means he knew. Mary stifled a groan.

How humiliating! Jonas, her wretched brother, had told Joseph she had begun her monthlies and was of marriageable age now. Her face burned with embarrassment. Joseph was not her idea of a husband! Regardless, one discussion led to another and now they were legally betrothed.

In celebration of the betrothal, Joseph had built her a handcrafted manger for the lambs she raised. Everyone thought it odd. Mary, however, had been begrudgingly moved by it. Together they had saved that struggling lamb. When he gave her the manger he whispered, “May we never forget our unblemished lamb.” Joseph is a good man. And as my husband, he understands my need to pray. At that last thought, her eyes lit up.



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12 Weeks of Christmas

#12: The Innkeeper

by Leslie Crouse

Hananiah sat amidst the noisy dinner guests watching them fight over the last of Evie’s famous challah bread. His wife was the best cook in Bethlehem and he was big enough to prove it. Evie’s heart was even bigger. He watched her serve their guests with that soft smile and sparkling eyes. After twenty years together, he loved her deeper than he could have imagined.

Over the din he heard, “Where are your children? I do not believe I have seen them running around here with my own.” He cringed and glanced at his wife Evie. Silence fell in the room as Hananiah watched a flood of sorrow overtake Evie’s eyes before she nodded at him and ducked into the kitchen.

He cleared the lump forming in his throat at the sight of his wife’s pain and answered, “The LORD will bless us in His time.” This was no new question. Small talk always led this direction and over the years Evie had learned to let him answer while she avoided the knowing looks.

That quick flash of pain in her eyes was the only indication of their deep sorrow. Does not God hear their cry? Does he not see what a wonderful mother she would make? Anger fought to fill his heart but he pushed it back down. God knew best. Over the years Evie had not hardened her heart and he would honor her by doing the same.

God had blessed them in so many ways and he was not ungrateful. Having been born here, they did not need to travel during this ridiculous census. Hananiah and Evie had been able to stay put and collect the income brought on by Caesar’s decree. Pompous man. If he were God fearing he would know strength is not found in numbers but in the name of El Shaddai. Ah! He must shake this dismal mood or his guests would suffer for it.

At the sound of a knock or, rather a bang on the door, Hananiah began the task of standing up. Difficult after another of Evie’s fine meals. He kissed her cheek as he walked by and whispered something in her ear that made her smile and swat his arm.

Outside stood a young man wringing his hands. “Shalom! Sir, I beg of you, I must find a place to stay tonight. My wife’s pains have begun and I fear we do not have long. I have asked everywhere. Please say there is a place for us.” Hananiah looked at the woman and took a double take. Wife? This was a mere girl! Something did not seem right here. Why can Evie and he not find joy in children while this undeserving couple did? LORD! It is not right! Well, whatever she was, clearly she was in labor.

Hananiah gritted his teeth. He wanted help, but the inn had been full for days and there was no way he would ask a family to leave. Refunds were impossible. They had already spent the rental income on linens, supplies and fresh grain for the animals. With town as busy as it was, food and supplies were scarce and greedy men had raised prices. Again.

The city square was no place for a woman to give birth. Where could they go? He must think.



“Shalom my friend. I see you are in need of… much.” He began leading them to the stable but the young woman paused to brace herself – one hand against the wall and another wrapped around her large belly – suppressing a low groan. She was embarrassed and obviously this was her first or she would have been better prepared.

Where was her mother? Maid? He set them up in the stable with fresh water for them as well as their animals and told them he would return shortly with blankets and food. It was the least he could do. Wasn’t it?

As he walked back toward the inn he heard another of her cries and the sound launched him back in time to when his baby sister was born. He was the second son of nine and had listened to births before.

He supposed he could let them have Evie and his room. It was in the back, separate from the others. But what a noisy business! Messy too. No. I will not do that to Evie. I will not make Evie watch a girl give birth in her own bed and then clean up after her too. Besides, if the other guests are disturbed our inn will always be remembered as such and destroy any future business. It is decided then. The barn it is. Evie would not approve but he would do what he must. His wife and his business needed to be priority.

Another cry pierced the night pulling him from his searing conscience and justifications.  The more he thought about it the more urgent the girl’s need became. This girl needs a midwife now! Where is that servant boy?

“Jacob, go get the midwife and bring her to the stable as fast as you can!” Hananiah yelled.

“But Sir! Grandmother Anna left for her hometown day before last. She isn’t – ” Jacob said.

“Then knock on every door and find one! We have no time!” Hananiah interrupted. At the rate she was going that baby may be here before the boy made it back. He watched Jacob, race down the dusty street. Truly, at this point any midwife would do. Any experienced mother.

Bitterness welled up again. Evie would not hesitate to help but she did not have the knowledge needed. He must tell her about the situation though. Maybe he could put it off until after the baby was born. She had her hands full with their guests. And if the guests caught wind that couple would never get any privacy.

“HANANIAH BEN JOHN! What do you think you are DOING? You told that poor girl to give birth in a barn? A BARN!” Fists planted on her hips, Eve skewered him with that fiery look of hers that withers every argument. She was on a war path now and was coming straight for him.

He had known she would not approve, but he had done the only thing he could. Right? That Jacob and his big mouth! What was done was done and right now they did not have time to argue.

“Eve, you must know given everything going on this was the best option. I will not argue with you about it. There is too much to do.” Eve whirled away in a fury. She began slamming open cupboards and ripping out all the brand new linens he had just purchased for their guests. He turned to get fresh water when he heard a ripping sound and his eyes grew round.

“Evie!” Hananiah’s face blanched as Eve ruthlessly tore their new linens to shreds. Never had he seen her so angry. It gave him pause. He turned his back and took a deep breath searching his heart one more time. Why had the barn seemed like such a good idea again? It is much too dirty for a woman giving birth. He knew that!

Before he could remember his arguments, His shame was punctuated by a loud smack as Eve stormed out the kitchen door arms full of the most expensive rags he had ever seen.



3 Ways to Master Angry Words

3 Ways to Master Angry Words

Learn how to master your angry words because your family relationships need to be protected. Especially your relationship with your children and your spouse.

He was in tears and I was apologizing. Again. Impatience and frustration had clouded my judgement for the third time in 24 hours. I retreated to my bedroom and swung in my hanging macramé chair, twisting and twirling as I silently cried out to God asking, “How will I ever tame my tongue? Is it even possible?” Then I heard it. God in his characteristic simplicity whispered into the secret places of my heart:

Stop talking.

As I twirled and swirled in my chair, I rolled the words around in my head and I thought, “What? Like a vow of silence monks used to do in the 1500s? Impossible. I am a busy mama.” But the thought brought a lightness to my heart I could not describe and before I knew it, I had decided I would try it. What I did not know is that I would be amazed.

Raising a family is not easy. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed means you may be short-tempered too. But does that mean life has to be tainted with angry words? That it just is what it is, or is there something more? I vote for more. My God does the impossible and his word says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.”

When we use food for the wrong reasons, we fast. When we develop an unhealthy relationship with social media, we pause our accounts and delete our apps. And if we battle an unhealthy relationship with words, we stop talking.

I know this last one sounds bizarre. Especially as it is coming from a mama who runs with five little children all day. But this is such an incredible and simple strategy I had to pass it along to you. Here are 3 simple steps to mastering angry words:

Choose a Time

Create Hand Signals

Stop Talking

Choose a Time

Pick a time that requires interaction. I chose to begin with one hour. Choose the hour before school or before dinner. Your purpose is to interact with your family without allowing angry words to get in the way. Tell your family BEFORE you begin. Be honest by apologizing for using angry words and tell them that you are going to do something new. “Soon I will not be using words and it will be your turn to speak and my turn to listen.”

Create Hand Signals

Life is still in swing and you will need a way to communicate with your family. Luckily, they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. Before you begin, create with your family some basic hand signals to communicate things like, “time to go” or “time to eat” or “bedtime.” Keep it simple. Personally, I tend to talk with my hands so my kids already knew the motion for “hurry up.” Ha!

Stop Talking

Warn them first, then zip it friend. No talking, humming, singing, emailing, texting or journaling. You are silencing your words and that means all of them. Spoken and written. This is your time to receive input, not give create output. (I highly recommend this for prayer, too!)

What should I expect?

Here are a few things that happened while I practiced fasting my words:

  • The kids tuned into my every move. No more telling them to do something 2-3 times, ending in a screamed instruction. They had to watch me for cues and they were so responsive!
  • They handled their own squabbles. Oh, they tried to get me to be judge between them. But since I wasn’t speaking, it empowered them to solve their own disputes. Praise Jesus.
  • The kids were empowered to demonstrate all they had learned. They have been trained well. But for some reason, my kids love to be told every move to make. This was a chance for them to show me how mature and capable they have become.
  • Rest. You may not realize it, but sometimes us mamas contribute to the chaos more than we realize. Choosing to put a pause on speaking gave me a rest from the endless questions, the repeated instructions and the the mental process of always directing and responding. I demonstrated my love through hugs and kisses and saw my family with a new perspective.
  • No regrets! Best of all, God spared my family from my angry words. I distinctly remember 4 incidents I would have prematurely reacted to, but in my silence I had no regrets. My original goal had been one hour, but it was such a lovely experience I ended up doing 2.5 hours.
  • More walking. You can’t yell at your kids to come in, come down stairs, or come to dinner… so there is that. It’s a small price to pay.

3 Tips for Teaching kids about God

“Tell us a Bible story, Mom!”

3 Tips for teaching Bible Stories

Are you looking for new ways to teach your kids about God? Tell them a Bible story!

Any time my husband travels, the kids and I sit at our dinner table grieving his empty chair until a perky, little voice asks for Bible stories! Now I share my stories with you so that you, too, can teach your kids about God!

People in the Bible have the same thoughts, feelings and reactions that we do, and through stories your kids will see how their favorite Bible characters chose to follow God. Christ taught through stories and so can you!

Here are 3 tips for Teaching your kids about God through Bible stories:

Ask them who they want to learn about

Read the story and pay close attention to thoughts, feelings & actions of each character

Have fun with it! Get into character and make the Bible come alive!

Need some inspiration? Read 12 of my own Bible stories that I have written for adults here and sign up on my Bible Fiction page for new stories delivered straight to your inbox!

Sibling Rivalry and Squabbles

Are the kids fighting all the time? Being cooped up in the house together can cause a few… shall we call them disagreements? Children fight for their place in the proverbial pecking order by continually cutting each other down and demonstrating their strength over one another. Be it physical, emotional or intellectual this childhood struggle is the source of the many scars we wear today as adults.

However, we are called to defy this natural tendency, to give comfort when we see a family member down. Nature may push us towards self-promotion and self-preservation but God calls us to do family different.

When our children struggle we correct them and then invite them to come near and find comfort and consolation. When it comes to siblings, we teach our children to come alongside and build each other up. Never do we celebrate their loss, nor puff up our pride at their fatigue or grief.

As parents we often find ourselves delivering justice and sorting through the mess of hurt feelings and broken pride. It is an opportunity to correct one while having the other say something to bring comfort or consolation.

We are shaping hearts here. Perhaps some reflective time is needed before true comfort can find its way through. Walk your son or daughter through their feelings. Appreciating and maintaining justice is good, but celebrating someone else’s set back is an issue of the heart that also needs shaping.

By asking the offended party to respond to the apology with comfort and grace, we are training our children to be full of compassion and restoration. We are also preventing shame and condemnation from creeping in. There is no shame or condemnation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read 2 Corinthians1:3-4, Romans 8:1 and pray 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.

2 Corinthians 2:7-8

Jesus, teach our family to “turn to forgive and comfort” each other so that no one “may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Let us always “reaffirm [our] love for him [or her].”

12 Weeks of Christmas: #7 The Innkeeper’s Wife

The Innkeeper’s Wife

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Innkeeper.

“That MAN! What was he thinking?!” Outside Evie took a deep breath and then another. She knew what Hananiah had been thinking. That infuriating, practical, wonderful man of hers was thinking of her. She saw that look in his eye at dinner. For twenty, long years they had weathered barrenness together but the pain never really lost its edge. When had her pain become so crippling that her husband felt he needed to protect her even at the cost of compassion?

Eve. What had her parents been thinking? Eve meant life. Mother of the living. Thirty-seven years with nothing to show but two heartbreaking miscarriages. Her name added irony to her pain. Expectations never met. A daily reminder of shriveled dreams. But not tonight. She refused to be swallowed up by self-pity. El Roi saw her. Heard her. She and Hananiah had the LORD and each other. Besides, tonight was not about her. And what better way to step out from one’s own pain than by serving another?

Evie looked up at the stars. She always felt closer to the God of Israel when she saw them. Strange. Tonight the stars looked extraordinarily bright. Glorious even. Like they were singing. Though the ever present pain remained a powerful peace entered her soul.

Quietly she slipped toward the barn door and listened. The tell-tale sound of a tiny mewling cry escalated into gusty wails that only a newborn could make. Time to move. She was none too early with these cloths. At least they were clean! She held back a smile at the look on Hananiah’s face when she ripped them up. Serves him right for putting business before compassion.

The young man looked up at her, wild eyed with hair sticking up in every direction. Relief flooding his face, he ran to her and said “I have no idea how to do this! I have wrapped him up four times but his arms keep escaping! Every time he just screams louder and louder.”

Evie smiled. This she could do. Gently she approached the young girl, who was trembling from exhaustion. Compassion overwhelmed her. Vaguely she heard the barn door open and close as Hananiah sheepishly came in with more hot water, blankets and a earthen bowl of warm broth for the young woman. He flicked a glance at Evie as he approached. His face guarded, unsure of where they stood at the moment. Evie knew he would nurse his pride for a bit, but he was a good sort and she loved him.

Finishing a perfect swaddle she glanced up at Hananiah and smiled as a peace offering. Surveying her handy work and the now content baby, she picked up the sweet boy and with Joseph’s permission and cooed to him. She walked over to Hananiah and together they looked into the most amazing dark, grey eyes they had ever seen.  

As she locked eyes with the infant, something broke inside of her. A flood of tears. Sobbing she could feel the healing take place. Deep within her heart all the names she had been called, the accusations that had been launched, the scars she had lived with for so long melted powerless. A warmth began to grow inside her. Beginning in her belly, the heat spread like a fire throughout her entire body. Shaking with the power she felt surging through her, she handed the little boy to Hananiah who was also weeping – with joy it seemed.

Eagerly he took the baby. Holding him high, laughing and weeping at the same time. A glow she had never seen in him shone from his eyes. In this singular moment, she saw Hananiah changed. The anger and bitterness he tried so hard to hide was gone. Replaced with unspeakable joy. Peace. In awe, Hananiah again looked into the face of this little child and Evie knew that he knew. They glanced at each other and again at the baby. It made no sense, but with absolute certainty Evie knew this tiny, red face was the face of God.

Sensitive to the sacred moment taking place between man and wife, Joseph gently reached for the child and said, “His name is Joshua. Or – Jesus, as Caesar’s register will say. For he will save us from our sin.”

Evie watched Joseph as he laid the boy in a feeding trough beside Mary so that he could spoon feed the broth to her. Jesus. What miracles had just taken place! Marveling at the baby in the trough, and the heat that still vibrated through her body, Evie turned to Hananiah as he put his arm around her and led her back to the house.

When they entered all was still. The guests had retired and the lamps burned low. Had hours passed? As they prepared for bed on this silent, holy night they discussed in excited whispers all they had witnessed. Each had experienced the overwhelming power of God’s love when they held little Jesus.

“How can the full strength of God’s love dwell in a tiny baby?” Hananiah asked.

“And how God’s love burns like fire! I am hot all over.” Evie said excitedly while rubbing her tingling fingertips. Hananiah laughed with her.

“It is a miracle! I could not decide if I wanted to shout for joy or fall to my knees in worship! Evie, there is immeasurable treasure in our stable right now. Why us? Why our stable? I was prepared to move them inside, but somehow, I sensed that is where El Shaddai wanted them.” Hananiah said.

That night, Hananiah and Evie fell asleep as he held her close. A once brokenhearted couple basking in God’s overwhelming love.

Almost one year later…

Evie smiled at the sound of her baby’s cries. Hananiah’s eyes were so full of pride and joy as he looked at his first born and then Evie. In a look they shared their remembrance of Jesus, the child who changed their world with one powerful encounter of love. Then Hananiah addressed their family and friends saying, “His name is Samuel because the LORD God has heard.”

…continue reading my Christmas Mini-Series with The Shepherd on December 14, 2020.

Book Review: Labyrinth of Lies

Labyrinth of Lies is the latest book of award winning author Irene Hannon. With over sixty novels, Hannon has put her skill into weaving another modern, romance thriller. Second book in the Triple Threat series, Labyrinth of Lies follows the story of undercover agents Cate Reilly and Zeke Sloan.

When the daughter of a wealthy businessman goes missing, there is more going on than meets the eye on the posh Ivy Hill Academy campus. When traces of a cartel ring are made known, Cate suspects the girl did not runaway with her boyfriend as initially believed. When the different angles of this case forces Cate and Zeke to work together, the sparks begin to fly. Again. Regret, anger, distrust and attraction all crash together to fuel a raging fire.

Labyrinth of Lies has a decent plot. Cartel activity on an elite, private all-girls school campus? Who is behind it? And what happened to the girl? This novel was very much the book version of every average action movie in my opinion. Suspense, physical encounters and fights, danger, love interest. It was okay. As a reader, I did not identify with either character, so it felt like being outside the story a bit. For me, this was not a book I read deep into the night, but I did finish it. So there is that.

Three stars.

Leslie