Tired Mamas Pray is Here!!

Order NOW for great Christmas gifts!

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:

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.

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.

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.

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

#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.



The Shepherd’s Sword: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Shepherd’s Sword

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Shepherd.

Belial had not been informed of Heaven’s plan. But Darkness heard the angel’s announcement. All of creation did. He quickly rallied the powers of Darkness for a counter attack. If it was war Heaven wanted, war it would get. This invasion was not to be tolerated. Darkness would not release its hold on earth so easily and this shepherd with his spindly sword was standing in his way.

~~~~

Shammah took his hand off the door handle. Glanced to the inn. Did no one else sense the Darkness pressing in? Were they all sleeping peacefully while Darkness invaded their city? Jehovah! I am no soldier! A lion or bear here and there, but never this! And why the sword? It’s useless against such… things! Another shepherd, in another time, with another inadequate weapon. The irony.

Or was it? What had David done? Then, like a song on the wind an idea formed. Shammah thrust the sword tip into the ground. Not wishing to attract the attention of the Roman soldiers around the corner, he began to speak in a barely audible voice:

I come in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel… the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s.

Menacing snarls rose from all around him as they paused in their approach. But it did not last. Darkness wanted the baby inside. Shammah dragged his sword tip through the sandy dirt leaving a line behind him as he spoke aloud the only words his mind could form.

” ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...’ ”

Shammah rounded the first corner of the stable and proceeded toward the back as the guttural sounds grew in number. Muscles solid with tension, Shammah punctuated each step with the words scrolling through his mind:

“…you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness…

He turned the third corner of the stable. Almost there. One shadow gnashed his fangs and Shammah’s heart crashed into his ribs. A rancid odor overpowered his thoughts for a moment as he locked eyes with those that glowed red.

“…For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways…”

Shammah was finishing the last words of the psalm just as he was completing the circle around the stable. Lifting the tip of his sword from the sand he noticed a stiff wind began to blow. Over the growls and snarls he heard the ringing of a multitude of swords being unsheathed. Deadly silence reigned for the span of a heartbeat.

Then, a bone-shattering thunder crashed and the earth shook with the force of it. Shammah collapsed with exhaustion.

~~~~

Thwarted! Belial snarled at his defeat. He would come again. Later. But next time he would use men. Men were proud and pride was his greatest weapon. “Yes,” he hissed. Perhaps that buffoon sitting on the throne would be useful. He was already a promising vessel of Darkness. As his plan formed a low, guttural sound escaped into the night. But for now, he would remind that shepherd of his worth. Belial signaled to his servant Rejection and nodded to the sleeping shepherd.

~~~~

Shammah fell into a deep sleep. He floated above as he watched his father approach an infant. Himself he perceived. Eli laid his hand on Shammah’s head and said, “Son, I love you, but from this day forward I cannot look at you for all of my sorrows are upon your head.” Shammah awakened to the familiar weight bearing down on his soul. He sat up rubbing his beard and focused on a huge man who whistled as he went about his morning chores.

“Shalom, my friend! What a glorious morning! Such a silent, holy night last night. Wouldn’t you say? Don’t believe I ever slept better. May write a song about it.” The man laughed with his entire body it seemed. “My name is Hananiah and I am the innkeeper here. Are you ready to meet the Savior of the world? Is that why you have come?”

Shammah sat staring at the jovial man when the other shepherds appeared. Shammah blinked. Did last night happen? Shammah looked around for confirmation and saw it. The line in the sand. He unsheathed his sword and looked at the newly engraved words, THE BATTLE IS THE LORDS. He turned it over. WORD OF GOD glinted in the morning light. Chills spread over his arms and legs making every hair stand on end.

“Best not let the Romans see that sword. May get the wrong idea. Come!” Hananiah led the way to the stable undaunted by Shammah’s mute astonishment.

A baby’s cry penetrated his heavy thoughts as he followed Hananiah in. Finally! The stable he had set out for hours ago. Shammah approached the couple and the woman held out the baby to him. “His name is Jesus.” she said with a smile.

Shammah looked into the eyes of baby Jesus and felt a deeper connection with this child than any other person before. A tear escaped. He could not explain it, but somehow he knew he was looking into the face of another scapegoat.

Baby Jesus’ tiny hand gripped his thumb and in that moment, Shammah wept. Peace flooded his soul. Where darkness had been, light now penetrated every corner and the burdens he had carried for a lifetime were gone.

Then he wept for the boy. He understood what this boy would face. This boy would grow to be a man of many of sorrows. Rejected by men. Acquainted with grief. This tiny boy would trade his peace for the weight of another’s sin and sorrow. Would there also come a day when his father cannot bear to look him and forsakes him as well? As Shammah wept, a tear slipped down the young woman’s face.

Who was this baby? Why had Darkness attacked so forcefully? Would he set the captives of Darkness free too? “Good news of great joy that will be for all people,” the angel had said. “…On earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” Was God pleased with Shammah? Is faith all that was needed? It was all so much to take in.

Of this he was certain: never had he felt such light. Love, peace and joy flooded his heart. Overwhelmed, Shammah bowed his head and worshipped.

~~~~~

Thank you for reading my Christmas Mini-Series! If you like what you read please share the stories with your friends! To continue reading, look for Mary’s Hiding Place next!

-Leslie

The Shepherd: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Shepherd

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Innkeeper’s Wife.

Shammah slid loaves of bread, raisin cakes and dried figs into his pack. Strapping on his canteen and bed roll he was almost ready. He just needed his staff, his rod and his sword. He did not usually carry a sword, but he had a niggling feeling he would need it. Judea was treacherous.

This week they would move the flocks into the Judean mountains near Bethlehem. David’s home town. He had been a shepherd too. Shammah smiled to himself. Perhaps I could learn to master the sling like David. Then Father may take notice.

Eli, his father, stared at the fire refusing to look up. Shammah informed him he was leaving and was granted no more than a grunt in response. Shammah was a blight on the family. Death and ruination had visited them the day he was born and Father had never forgotten.

Father lost everything when the caravan had been raided. After limping home with only his life spared he discovered his wife had died in childbirth as well. Two blows in the span of one day. Grief was indelibly printed on the fabric of their family.

Father held Shammah personally responsible. Ruin he had named him. From the moment he entered the world Shammah had become the family scapegoat bearing the grief, sorrow and sin of others. Thus, father had rejected him and assigned him to shepherding duties. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of trouble.

Shammah did not mind. He was no one’s prize. Shepherding was a dirty business, but he liked to use the oil found on the wool for his beard. He smelled like an animal, but the sheep liked him. Followed him. Knew his voice. Trusted him without question. And he liked the solitude. Better the Judean mountains with their wild animals than my cold father. Resolute in his decision, Shammah refused to look back at the campfire. It was time to move out.

Five days later, Shammah and the other shepherds found what they had been searching for. Green pastures. Quiet waters gliding through the ravines sourced from the higher mountain regions. It had been a grueling journey and everyone was ready to find rest in the meadows. It was no wonder David wrote psalms of worship here. Truly, these remote places restored the soul and brought one closer to Jehovah.

Father had not been a man of faith. But Rachel, their aged servant who raised him, had taught him the words of Jehovah. As a boy, Shammah had hungered for the steadfast love of a father described in the sacred scriptures. As a man, he was not convinced of the reality. But, out here he felt closer to the Presence of Jehovah. Less distraction.

As evening drew near one of the shepherd boys began to play his flute. Music quieted the sheep and the soul while also keeping predators at bay. It was Shammah’s favorite time. In honor of the city of David, the boy was playing one of David’s psalms. Or, at least it sounded like one of David’s.

Shammah gazed at the unusually bright stars and began humming along trying to remember the words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!”

He shut his eyes and hummed the verses he did not remember and picked up again at the end:

“He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for…

The reedy notes abruptly ceased and Shammah opened his eyes. A giant stood before him! He was so big and shone so bright they all cowered in unmanly fear. And then he spoke:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” As suddenly as he appeared with the message he was gone.

Then, a cacophony of singing erupted like he had never heard before. All the heavens. Praise from the highest heights. All his angels. All the hosts. All the shining stars. Jehovah’s word is true! Shammah marveled. The horn of salvation! He is here? Tonight?

Bursting with excitement, Shammah shouted, “We must go see!” But no one answered him. The others lay on the ground, passed out with fear. He did not blame them, but would not wait. He started running down the path to Bethlehem when he forgot his sword. Why did he care?! He wouldn’t need it! Ah! It is like my feet are frozen to the ground! I must get it first.

Forty minutes later Shammah began his descent into the far side of the city. That was when he heard it. A feral, blood-chilling snarl. Judean lions? So close to the city? Hand on his sword he peered into the darkness and once his eyes focused, he froze. Not. Lions. Shammah looked to the hills again. What once had been covered in angels’ songs of praise now had writhing, dark figures coming from all directions slinking toward the stable built into the hillside.

Nearby were two pairs of red, glowing eyes intent upon the stable door. In the light of the moon Shammah saw the glint of unnaturally long fangs. A musky, unclean smell permeated the suddenly very cold air. At the soft cry of a baby from inside, righteous anger welled up within Shammah. He planted his feet and drew his sword.

…to be continued as The Shepherd’s Sword on December 14, 2020.

All quotes taken from The ESV Bible by Crossway Publishers.

The Innkeeper: A Christmas Mini-Series

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.

…Continue reading my new Christmas Mini-series with The Innkeeper’s Wife on December 11, 2020.

Planting Seeds

I have always loved flowers, and I would open a flower shop if it meant I didn’t need to work every holiday.

Today Grace, Ruth, Gabe and I planted some seeds. I prefer perennials because I love to see them grow and multiply each year. They are such a beautiful surprise when the chill of winter wears off and my flowers pop up.

So, today after homeschool – last week woo hoo!! – we trotted around the yard finding sunny spots where Daddy wouldn’t weed-eat them down. (It’s okay Babe, I forgive you for weed-eating my lilies of the valley.) In my head, I envision mounting a blue bird house and placing it in the middle of my Lupine patch. How fun!        …for the cats.

A little sun, soil, water, time and prayer will tell the tale. What was today’s choice seeds? Delphiniums and Lupines. They are similar, but the Lupine you see up top and the Delphiniums are depicted below. Personally, I like to buy the seeds because they are cheaper and we get to watch them grow. Besides, the process adds weight to our science lessons.