The Best Gift

>Colossians 3 13
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

When the Wise Men from the East came to worship Jesus, they gave Him gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold. Since that time, people in many different countries have continued the tradition of giving presents to loved ones and friends at Christmas time. In this gift-giving season, we demonstrate our love for others. While celebrating the Messiah’s birth, there are numerous gifts that I could give to family and friends to show how much I care. However, the best present I can offer throughout the year is the gift of forgiveness.
At times loved ones have said hurtful words and done thoughtless actions. When these situations have happened, I have experienced hurt and anger. Sometimes I feel bitter and harbor resentment. I have been trapped and stuck in the muck and mire of my self-pity. Then, I begin to fervently pray for a Godly attitude. With a heavy heart, I seek the Lord and honestly acknowledge my frustration with the flaws of family members and friends. After spending time with my faithful Father, I am reminded of His gift of grace to me. At that pivotal moment, I remember Calvary. God gave His one and only Son to die in my place on the cross. He paid the price for me. Jesus forgave me. Awed by the marvelous grace of God, I exchange resentment for reconciliation. I substitute my fault-finding attitude with heartfelt forgiveness.
When I truly forgive those who have hurt my feelings, I am demonstrating a Christ-like characteristic. Only with the power of God, am I able to pardon and point others to Christ. As family and friends experience my loving kindness, they are curious to know the source of it. My gift of grace encourages them to seek the greatest forgiver of all: Jesus Christ. In Him, they will find His willingness and ability to pardon them of all their sins just as He has graciously forgiven me of all of mine. What a wonderful and eternal gift! It is the best gift!
Father God, help us forgive. Amen.

Christian Life Church Welcomes all to Inaugural Vendor Fair

This article and my interview with Laurie Fanelli, Freelance Reporter, was first published in the Homer Horizon.

Church and community often work hand-in-hand to bring people together. 
On Saturday, Nov. 18, the Christian Life Church in Homer Glen opened its doors to neighbors looking to get a jumpstart on their Christmas shopping with its inaugural Vendor Fair.
After participating in several vendor fairs in the area, congregation member and Homer Glen resident Crystal Turney came up with the idea to host the fall fair as a fundraiser for the church’s community outreach program. 
“We’re hoping to get the word out in the community that the church is here, and everyone is welcome,” she said.
Over a dozen booths offered shoppers a variety of goods, including spiritual books, essential oils, jewelry, apparel and more. Author and speaker Tena DeGraaf was in attendance selling her spiritual book series, “Hidden in My Heart,” “A Heart of Praise” and “A Heart of Wisdom.” Each edition features scripture verses, along with a calendar and journaling segment to help readers reflect on the message of the Bible.
DeGraaf explained how she personally uses the books as tools to dive deeper into scripture. 
“I rewrite each verse in a journal entry because that helps me memorize the verse, think about it, meditate on it and let it resonate with myself,” she said. “Some people also write prayers in the journaling space.”
Along with the vendor sale itself, a bake sale and refreshment area served as a fundraiser for the community outreach program, which places a focus on many of the youngest residents of Homer Glen. 
“We go out into the community and pick up kids for Sunday school in the mornings, so we’ll use the proceeds for that, and we have a lot of events for the kids in the area, as well,” Turney said.
Following the inaugural Vendor Fair, Christian Life Church will be gearing up for one of its biggest community events of the year. It will host a live nativity on Dec. 8 from 7-9 p.m. and Dec. 9 from 6-8 p.m., and admission is free. 
“This is our eighth year doing a live nativity,” the Rev. Perry Walker explained. “This year, we’ve expanded what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It’s a drive-thru with a lighted path, so each vehicle can drive through the parking lot and see live animals and people in costume. It’s a beautiful time.”
Besides church services, Christian Life Church also fosters academic education with its Christian Life Academy, which is sponsoring the live nativity event. 
Walker’s wife, Loretta, is passionate about providing students — kindergarten through 12th grade — with a well-rounded, high-quality classroom experience through the Academy. 
“Children need a safe place where they can be to grow and thrive in the word of God,” she said. “A biblical-based education is what we emphasize, as well as academic excellence, of course. We’re excited to be in our fifth year now.”
“This church is for everyone,” Perry said. “Our services are for people from every race, every social economic background and it’s a tremendous environment for people to experience a better life. It’s a great place.”
Church services are held every Sunday morning at 10 a.m., and a teaching service is also offered on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at Christian Life Church at 5609 W 159th St., Homer Glen. 
A spring Vendor Fair is also already being planned for May 19.

See You at the Pole- September 27, 2017

Today, millions of Christians are gathering around the flagpoles at our schools, lifting up our students in prayer. Join them wherever you are by interceding on behalf of boys and girls you may never meet. What a privilege to pray for others! What can we pray about? What do children struggle with? Here are a few suggestions to help get you started:

Godly Wisdom
Appropriate internet use
Movie, television, and music choices
Fleeing dangerous situations

Healthy Relationships
Listening and obeying God’s voice (Deuteronomy 27:10)
Standing against harmful peer pressure
Developing healthy friendships (Proverbs2:20)
Obeying their parents (Ephesians 6:1)
Respecting those in authority (Titus 3:1-2)

God’s Protection
Spiritual, emotional, and physical protection (John 17:15, Ephesians 6:7-10)
Using God’s Word as a light for their path (Psalm 119:105)

Character Development
Resisting the temptations to lie and cheat
Cultivating Christ-like behavior even when no one is watching
Desiring and developing spiritual, academic, and physical discipline
Developing responsibility
Resisting the tendencies to be lazy and developing a good work ethic

Lord, hear our prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Verses of Peace for International Day of Peace

“The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access” (Wikipedia).

In honor of International Day of Peace, I have listed numerous verses of peace for us to read and meditate on.

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.
Leviticus 9:22

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Agree with God, and be at peace;
thereby good will come to you.
Job 22:21

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Psalm 29:11

Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
Psalm 37:37

In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
Psalm 72:7

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Psalm 119:165

For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
Psalm 122:8

For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given,
And the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
Isaiah 26:12

The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
Isaiah 32:17

This is what the LORD says –
Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
Your peace would have been like a river,
Your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Isaiah 48:17-18

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

“Though the mountains be shaken
And the hills be removed,
Yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
Nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12

He enters into peace;
they rest in their beds
who walk in their uprightness
Isaiah 57:2

“Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”
Isaiah 57:19

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and righteousness your ruler.
Isaiah 60:17

I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream.
Isaiah 66:12

Look, there on the mountains,
the feet of one who brings good news,
who proclaims peace!
Nahum 1:15

And he will be their peace.
Micah 5:5

“And in this place I will grant peace,”
declares the LORD Almighty.
Haggai 2:9

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Mark 9:50

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us[a] from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:76-79

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom
his favor rests.
Luke 2:14

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said,
“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-
but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
Luke 19:41-42

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.
John 14:27

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:7

But glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good.
Romans 2:10

The mind of the sinful man is death,
but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacefully with all.
Romans 12:18

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing
to God and approved by men.
Romans 14:17

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads
to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:19

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

The God of peace be with you all.
Amen.
Romans 15:33

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Romans 16:20

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:3

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
1 Corinthians 14:33

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:2

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:3

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2

For he himself is our peace.
Ephesians 2:14

I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to
walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you
have been called, with all humility and gentleness,
with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3

And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness
given by the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15

Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith,
from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:23

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:2

Do not be anxious about anything,
But in everything, by prayer and petition,
With thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:9

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Colossians 1:2

And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:20

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Colossians 3:15

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
1 Thessalonians 1:1

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:2

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every
Way. The Lord be with all of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers,
intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-
for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all
Godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1-2

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Titus 1:4

Remind the people to be subjects to rulers and authorities,
to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate,
and to show true humility toward all men.
Titus 3:1-2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon 3

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and
peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.
Hebrews 12:14

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal
covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ,
that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will.
Hebrews 13:20

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those
who make peace.
James 3:18

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1 Peter 1:2

He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
1 Peter 3:11

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 Peter 5:14

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this,
make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace
with him.
2 Peter 3:14

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
2 John 3

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Jude 2

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Revelation 1:4-5

For the Love of Literacy

For International Literacy Day which is today, Friday, September 8th, I have asked my very good friend and media specialist, Mrs. Sheri Schubbe, to share how we can influence our children and grandchildren to love reading. May Sheri’s ideas inspire you and the ones you care about to have a love of literacy…

As a school library media specialist and former junior high language arts teacher, I have spent my entire career encouraging students to develop excellent reading skills and appreciate the beauty and power of language. Recently, I was speaking with my curriculum director and he told me something that I’ve always known, but hearing it from him was impactful. He told me that he had attended a conference on the effectiveness of homework with different age groups of students. The presenter told the audience that for students in grades kindergarten through third, homework has few benefits to improving academic achievement. Instead, the most important factor is a child’s exposure to text. As a “professional reader” (as my students call me), of course, I believe that being a reader has benefits that reach far beyond the classroom and one’s school years. Indeed, reading is formative and can have life-changing impact. During school should not be the only time children are exposed to the importance of literacy and reading. Here are some ideas for families who are raising readers to “get the pages turning” at home.

For younger children:

● One of the first steps toward literacy is vocabulary and sequencing. You don’t even need books for this. Look at pictures with your child. If they are from a family gathering or a trip, tell the story of the event as you look at the pictures. Better yet, encourage your child to do it. Picture books are also valuable for this. I remember a weekend many years ago when I took care of my two young nephews. I took pictures of them with my own children throughout the weekend, printed them out, and put them in a little photo album for them to take home and tell the story of their weekend to their parents.

● Talk to your young children, even infants, in complete sentences, using descriptive vocabulary. Throughout the day, tell your children what you’re doing, even if it’s just washing dishes or folding laundry. This encourages language development.

● Have lots of books in your home, and have a specific place to store them. Choice is important. Young children can be taught to carefully handle books and treat them as special possessions. Books can be purchased inexpensively at garage sales, community book sales, or thrift stores. They are also perfect birthday and holiday gifts for children. Have some books in your car, too!

● Some families like to have a reading routine with their children. Reading at the same time of day together or in the same place, like a favorite chair, can be comforting and enjoyable.

● When reading to your child, pause and talk about the illustrations in the book. Ask your child to name different objects or describe how a character might be feeling based on the illustration. Also, read with appropriate expression and voice inflection.

● Encourage your toddler or preschool child to “read” to you. Choose a familiar book and have him/her tell you the story as he/she turns the pages.

● Model reading. No matter how old your child is, he/she learns to be a reader from watching a parent read!

● Visit the local library often. Once your child can read, allow him/her to have a library card. Public libraries offer a wide variety of free children’s programs that not only encourage literacy, but also social development. Also, have a library bag, and fill it with books that your child selects from the library. Check them out and return them regularly.

For older children:

● Talk about what you’re reading with your older children, and ask them about what they’re reading at school and at home. This is important no matter the age of your children. My children are young adults now, and we have great conversations about books they are reading in college and for pleasure. I love hearing their thoughts on various topics.

● Use an ipad for ebooks, animated books, or audiobooks. Of course, I’m a big fan of printed books for younger children, but electronic devices certainly have their place, and can be a fun and motivating reading alternative. Encourage teens to get ebook/audiobook apps on their phones so they can have reading options with them all the time. In my state, two popular apps that are available through many public libraries are Overdrive and Axis360. They are free and offer thousands of titles to check out with a public library card.

● Write notes to your children. Put notes in their rooms or in their lunches for them to read. This can be fun with children of all ages. For younger children, provide paper and writing utensils in a spot that is easily accessible.

● Play word games like Scrabble or Boggle with your children.

Children who grow up in homes that foster literacy tend to do better in school and become lifelong readers. Coupled with the benefits of helping children develop problem-solving skills and empathy for and acceptance of others, reading is essential in a child’s development. Good readers are usually good writers, critical thinkers, and inquisitive seekers of information. It all starts in the home. What amazing potential parents hold in their hands when they open a book and share a story with their child.

Sheri Schubbe
Library Media Specialist

Recipe for a Blessed Marriage


Tena with her son, Mitch, and husband, Steve, at their son, Daniel’s wedding.

While there are many minor elements for a successful marriage, there are three necessary ingredients for a life-long blessed marriage.
Ingredient #1. Pray continually
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
It is God’s Will that we speak directly to the Lord continually. We need prayer everyday. Our marriages require prayer daily. Our husbands benefit from our sacrifice of time in prayer for them. We can help our husbands when we expand our prayer list to our all-powerful God to include:
attitudes, choices, reputations, health, fears, finances, work, relationships, purpose in life, fatherhood, self-image, and any other difficult situation, circumstance, assignment, or trial that they are going through. In addition, husbands benefit when we pray with passion for their discernment whenever they must make a difficult decision.
We also need to be on bended knee for ourselves as wives as well. Often, we need to pray deeply that our attitudes and actions would be a blessing to our loved ones. During those times when we are depleted emotionally and physically, we should petition the Lord to replenish us.
Ask anyone who has faithfully interceded on behalf of her husband, and she will exclaim,
“Pray WORKS!” Develop a richer prayer life for your husband.
Ingredient #2. Forgive daily
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgive you” (NIV).
If we don’t regularly extend this demonstration of love, we will grow bitter. I love what Stormie O’Martian writes, “Forgiveness is a two-way street. God forgives you, and you forgive others. Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes you free.”
When Christ died on the cross, it was not a partial payment for our mistakes and sins. It was a payment in full. When we repent completely of our sins and acknowledge Christ as Savior, we are forgiven completely. Once we have experienced this undeserving forgiveness from Christ, we are capable of extending the same gift of grace to others. We are commanded by God to forgive as Christ pardoned us. Marriages that have spouses who give the gift of forgiveness grow sweeter not bitter.
Ingredient #3. Serve lovingly
Galatians 5:13 says, “Serve one another in love” (NIV).
We live in fast-paced world that that shouts, “Me first, me first!” That me-centered mindset does not work in a marriage. Preoccupation with self separates instead of unites. We must exchange selfishness with selflessness. A couple that stays together through the trials and joys is a couple who puts each other first after God. As Godly wives, Elizabeth George has some helpful advice. She says we can ask two questions of our husbands each day, “What can I do for you today?” And “What can I do to help you make better use of your time today?” This makes our husbands a priority in our lives. We need to season our days with Christ-like service.
Make a fresh commitment to develop the habit of helping your husband.
Three main ingredients for a long-lasting and blessed marriage:
1. Pray continually
2. Forgive daily
3. Serve lovingly
May God bless all of our marriages!
Father God, we ask You to bless our marriages each and every day. Amen.

Dealing with Overwhelm Podcast

The Matters of (1)

Hello Mommas!
Are you feeling overwhelmed as you try to balance all of your different roles and tasks? Then check out the interview I did with Kabrina Budwell on her podcast. I share a few ideas that have worked for me when dealing with feelings of overwhelm. I would also like to hear your suggestions on how you handle those times of overwhelm in the comments below. It is a common feeling for leaders and moms.
Here is the link:

Overwhelm with Tena DeGraaf :: TheMOM

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Jessica of California! She is the winner of a free copy of my Hidden in My Heart video! My next drawing will be Saturday, August 12th! You can be entered by signing up for my newsletter at
http://tenadegraaf.com/site/contact/
AND entered again by liking my Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/tenadegraaf/
until August 12th.
Blessings, Tena

Celebrating Father’s Day


In honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing two poems my dad, Rich Latta, wrote. One is about fathers and the other is about me. What AMAZES me about these poems which were written many years ago is that each of their messages is as true today as the day Dad wrote them. May these poems inspire you to cultivate your creativity, something that my dad was always pursuing.

Fathers
One thinks of fathers
As something permanent
Like weather;
Always there;
Sunny at times.
At times angry
With storms
But most of the time
Just there
How quickly we’ve
Learned otherwise.

Tena
You learned how
to fly with wings.
You’re ready to
soar
where bluebird sings.
But remember it
all takes time and care
to get
from here to there.

Father God, thank you for my dad, although gone from this earth, still speaks to me and others through his written words. Amen.