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Breaking Out of the Material Mold

I used to spend money like a deranged Rockefeller every time the holidays rolled by. The only way to go, in my opinion was all out, so I did. Anything less seemed like not keeping up with the season.

Indeed, one did not skimp at Christmas. If it had a designer label, was (about) the right size, and could be returned, I’d snap it up. The important thing was that come December 25th there were elaborate presents for everyone I knew under my tree. Going into hock this time of the year was expected, and all my friends reciprocated. I’m not quite sure how and when the custom started. (Was I the ring leader?) It was just something we all did.

Worse still, this all-consuming-shop-until-you-drop tradition clashed with the slow-down-and-savor-the-sights-and-wonder of the season…and won. So sharing the spirit of Christmas was totally out of the question. There was too much buying and wrapping to do.

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to leave my job and go out on my own just as a shakeup hit the publishing world. As publishers pulled in their belts, my work slowed. And while I waited to hear about this book or that, my rainy day funds trickled down and evaporated. When Christmas was upon us, I had pretty much drained all my reserves. I thought this would be the worst Christmas of my life. But as it turned out, it was not only the best, but also made every holiday since (including this one) more meaningful.

See, because I had no money, I had to call friends and, with a face redder than Santa’s suit, announce there would be no presents. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.       To my surprise, though, collective sighs of relief greeted me. What’s more, I actually turned out a hero. Seems everyone’s pocketbooks had moths in them that year. So nobody really had money to burn. Yet no one wanted to be the first to come out and say so. That made me wonder how many times before I had inadvertently put pressure on friends to buy presents they couldn’t afford.

Lesson Number One: Being a good friend has nothing to do with buying expensive gifts.

It was then our group decided to break out of the material mold for good. We made a pact to stop the shopping frenzy, forgo the hoopla, and instead, spend some quality time together. We had a pot luck gab fest at my house instead. We drank mulled cider, and ate the tidbits everyone brought. And you know what? We each still got a pretty nice Christmas gift in the bargain. Only this time, it didn’t strap us financially …since the gift we gave was the gift of ourselves.

Lesson Number Two: Giving the gift of yourself is better than any you can buy in the store.

Canceling the Christmas gift-off proved better than I had imagined in other ways as well. It left me free to enjoy holiday happenings like Christmas tree lightings and the singing of the Messiah at the neighborhood high school.

Then, too, without all the pressures of gift-buying, I was able to concentrate more on what this holiday is intended to commemorate: the birth of Christ. I thought about how awesome it was that the King of Kings would even consider leaving his throne in heaven to come into a world like ours. I thought of Him being born a helpless baby, in a cold stable, without even a crib for His bed. I thought of the love He must have for us, and how that love shines far and away brighter than any bauble I could own or give. I thought about how His love will be the one present that’s as new tomorrow and every day after as it is on Christmas Day.

Lesson number three: God’s love is the best gift of all. It doesn’t break and it won’t wear out.

Indeed, stepping out of the material mold has taught me a lot. And as my friends and I get ready for our Annual No-Gifts-Allowed Get-together, I hope this new custom will be the norm for years to come. What’s more, last night, when I sat down to breathe in the scent of pine, and enjoy the twinkling lights, I thanked God that there was nothing but a tiny stable under my Christmas tree.

– Allia Zobel Nolan

Be sure to check out Allia’s newest Faithgirlz release, Whatever Is Lovely: a 90-Day Devotional!

This article is used by permission. copyright © 2016 Allia Zobel Nolan

An Attitude of Gratitude


[God said,] What I want from you is your true thanks;

I want your promises fulfilled.

I want you to trust me in your times of trouble,

so I can rescue you and you and you can give me glory.

– Psalm 50:14 TLB 

  AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE                                        

         Whatever the circumstances, no matter what, we should always remember to have “Thank you, God” on our minds. After all, the Lord has given us our life, parents, our BFFs, pets, nature, health. We can see, hear, speak, smell, taste, and feel. (We could go on forever, but you get the picture.) Let’s just say, (and the Bible has) that “Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven.” (James 1:17 ). What’s more, on top of it all, God has given us the perfect gift: his Son.

Jesus continually thanked his Father for everything. That tells us how important an attitude of gratitude must be.

On the hill, in front of a hungry crowd he would feed with a few loaves and fish… “Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people who were sitting there.” (John 6:11).

Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me.” (John 11:41 MSG).

Even at the last supper, when his thoughts must have been filled with the terror of what was to come, Jesus “gave thanks,” before he ate and drank with his disciples.” (Mark: 14: 22, 23)

Okay, but if we get a “F” on our finals, don’t make the cheerleading team, or our parents divorce, though, we certainly can’t think Gee, thanks, God for that.

Oh, but we can, and we should! The Bible says “give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and that’s a good habit to form for some very good reasons:

It shows God we trust him—not just when things are going our way—but when the bad stuff comes along too. It proves we believe he’s a loving Father who has a plan for us, and though we might not understand what it’s all about, he does. It shows him we have faith that everything he sends, will, in the long run, be to our benefit.

See, what we’re trying to do is to get to the point where we’re thinking Thank You, God, not…. Oh my God….automatically, even when we can’t imagine what good can possibly come of a situation.

The Bible says, “all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” (Romans 8:28 TLB)

And we just have one thing to say about that: “Thank You, God.”

P.S. Jesus healed ten lepers. But only one returned to thank him. When God does something spectacular in your life, do you say thank you?

From WHATEVER IS LOVELY: a 90-day Devotional Journal, from the FaithGirlz collection, written by Allia Zobel Nolan, and available December 9 @ e Zobel Nolan is the author of close to 200 titles. She writes mainly about God and cats. Visit her @






Breaking the Worry Habit: 10 Things You Can Do To Get a Grip and Trust God More – Part 2

By Faithgirlz Author, Allia Zobel Nolan 10TIPS-WORRY-PT2

Last week, we looked at a few tips to work to rid yourself of worry. This week, we’ll explore five more things you can do to get a grip and trust God more.

6. Be Your Own Disaster Master
Worrying is a choice. You can choose not to do it. Once you catch yourself, you can say “Okay, I know all I’m doing is going around in circles. So I’m getting off this bus.  I’m not going to do this to myself.” Then get completely absorbed with something that requires your total mental attention: do a Saduko puzzle, rearrange your clothes closet, write a book on Twitter, work on a scrapbook project, or file your computer photos.         

7. Stop Playing God
You can’t plan for
everything. So worrisome thinking—such as— If this, happens, I’ll do this. If that happens, I’ll do that. If this and that happens, I’ll do this and that, will only drive you up the wall. Truth is, you don’t know what will happen five minutes from now, let alone tomorrow. The Bible says it in a nutshell:  “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. (James 4:13-14).  So stop trying to do God’s job. Things will evolve according to what’s in His day planner, not yours.         

8. Don’t Try to Control Others with Your Worries
Worrying about others wastes a lot of time. It can also make your friends frustrated with you.  Let people be who they are. Stop forcing them to do what will make you feel better, instead of what they want.  If you’re anxious about your friend riding a bike to school, remember God is in charge.  Don’t transfer your fears to your BFF by saying something like, “I really worry when you’re late for class because you ride that stupid bike. Can’t you just walk to school with us instead?”  Now your BFF might enjoy riding her bike, so don’t spoil it for her…she’s not worried. So don’t you be.  God has a plan for your BFF, and your worrying won’t change that. So hand over your fears to God and let him handle them.  

9. Reign in Your Imagination
Romans8-28Many worriers are gifted with super-duper imaginations. Don’t use yours against yourself. Don’t create images of doom and gloom….painting a picture of the bad things that could happen. For example, thinking: 
I know I’m going to fail this test; Math is my worst subject. Yeah, I studied, but I just know I’ll freeze up and go blank. Then mom will take away my phone privileges, and yada, yada, yada.

Instead, use your imagination to visualize the best possible positive outcome: (I’m going to ace this test. Mom will be so proud of me.)  Remember, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) So why worry? 

10. Practice and Pretend
All of us have a little “actress” in us.  And the perfect time to use that skill is when you’re worried.  Acting “as if” you’re not anxious when, in fact, you are, interrupts the worry cycle. Showing yourself that you can function in the face of your anxieties—pushing worry to the side side—while you go about your business as usual, will train your mind to function despite feeling uncomfortable.  Then after you survive a series of nail-biting experiences that turn out to have been nothing to fret about, your mind will say, “See I told you so.”  Practice and pretend not to worry, and in time, your anxieties won’t paralyze you.    

One more thing: remember, like any training program, we can’t do it once, forget it, and expect results. It takes dedication.  But will I worry about it? Will I make myself anxious?  I think not.  

Faithgirlz Author Allia Zobel NolanAllia Zobel Nolan is the author of 

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Breaking the Worry Habit: 10 Things You Can Do To Get a Grip and Trust God More – Part 1

By Faithgirlz Author, Allia Zobel Nolan 

I admit it.  I’m a worrywart. I’ve been one all my life. In fact, worrying IS my life. And recent world events haven’t helped matters.   You name it; I worry about it. I’m anxious over terrorism, hurricanes, global warming, meteorites, bridge collapses, falling elevators, Ebola, lightning, and eclipses. Of course, I also worry about deer ticks, ingrown toenails, my cats leaving me, and that investigators will someday discover the amount of calories in a one-hundred calorie yogurt is actually 350.  I’m anxious for family, friends, relatives—all of mankind—even strangers. I fret about the past, the present, the
pluperfect.  And that’s just a drop in my sea of jitters.

So where is God while I’m wringing my hands?  Probably in his office, with a “Don’t worry. Be happy” sign on his desk.  I can see Him now, sitting there, shaking His head, thinking: 

Where’s her trust? Doesn’t she realize I’m in charge?  Doesn’t she know all the worrying in the world—even by a professional like her—is moot? Haven’t I told her over and over (365 times in the Bible to be precise) “Do not be afraid”?  Didn’t my Son explain about the lilies, the birds of the field, the rock and the bread, the snake and the fish? What gives?  What do I have to do to make her understand?

Okay, so I know I shouldn’t worry. But I do. I’m still a work-in-progress. But I’ve done some research and even written a book about it. Here are a few tips to help manage all the worry.

1. Let There Be No Crisis before its Time
Don’t worry about something that will take place in a week, a day, or even an hour. The variables will be different then than they are today. If you have to make a decision on Friday, wait until Friday, and see what the day brings. Remember, Jesus said, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

2. Don’t Let Possessions Possess You
When you let material things rule you, you give them power.  For example, if you can’t find your favorite earrings, don’t let that spoil your day. You can buy another pair, but you can’t get back another day. Jesus reminds us “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

3. Set Worry Limits
If you feel yourself falling into the worry trap, but find it hard to control, do the next best thing: establish limits.  Set a timer or a phone alarm for 15 minutes. Tell yourself: “I feel the need to think about this (my split ends; my lack of Facebook friends; the bully in PE, whatever).  But I’ll only do it for 15 minutes.” When the time is up, the alarm will be a tangible reminder to let the worry go. Schedule this time when you have something important to do immediately afterwards (like meeting your BFF to go shopping, or doing an errand for your mom).  This way, you’ll have to drop worry and refocus fast.   

4. Stay Grounded in the Present
Imagine: You’re at the movies and a worrisome thought crosses your mind.   Oh my goodness, I was supposed to meet Ginger today after lab to give her the notes she wanted. I, like, totally forgot. She’s going to hate me. That thought leads to another: Maybe I can text her now and tell her I can bring the notes to her house tomorrow. In the meantime, you’ve missed half the movie. Quash worrying thoughts such as these with some questions:  

  • Can this wait?
  • Do I have to stop what I’m doing and fix this immediately?
  • Can I solve this problem right now, right this minute?”

If the answer is “No,” then stay in the present moment and make a note to “fix” the problem later.

5. Keep a Worry Journal
journalingJot down what you are worried about, the date, and how much time you spend on the worry-go-round.  For example, “I’m joining my church’s teen choir on Wednesday. What if the others think I’m a dork? What if my voice cracks?  I spent all day, on and off, worrying about this. May 10, 2015.”   Then, the following Wednesday, when you return from choir after having an awesome time, you’ll realize your fears were all in your head.  

Do this with all your anxieties and you’ll see how many of the things you worried about actually happened, and how many didn’t.  Referring to this journal often will show you how much time you waste worrying needlessly.

Start working on your worries by trying out some of the tips above. Check back next week for more advice on eliminating worry from Faithgirlz Author Allia Zobel NolanZobel Nolan is the author of Whatever:  Livin’ the True, Noble, Totally Excellent Life, The Worrywart’s Prayer Book, Angels in the Bible Storybook, a contributing author of The Beauty of Believing: 365 Devotions that Will Change Your Life, and over 170 other titles . Visit her at


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