Isaiah 63:7-8: What We Take With Us

January 1, 2017
First Sunday After Christmas

Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

“I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us…
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” (Isaiah 63:7-8)

Earlier this fall, our neck of the woods–actually, our neck of the coast of South Carolina–took a hit from Hurricane Matthew. As meteorologists made predictions about the path and strength of the storm, our governor (and, perhaps more importantly, our Commanding Officer!) issued a mandatory evacuation order. With one evening’s notice, my husband and a neighbor helped each other put the heavy plywood storm shutters on the windows of our houses. As our home got progressively more cave-like, I roamed from room to room, packing first suitcases of clothes and toiletries, then trying to pick and choose the few family heirlooms, the precious memories, that we simply had to take along. On that night before our departure, I found myself feeling heartbroken, frozen in trying to decide what I could walk away from.

As we enter in to a New Year, I’m still asking myself this question. Instead of looking ahead to plan a resolution for 2017, I’m thinking back over the past year, looking around my “house” at all the stuff I’ve been holding on to, and considering what I need to carry forward. There’s plenty I can let go of without a second thought: the guilt of all the “shoulds” I didn’t do and all the “shouldn’ts” that I did. There are things I can say grace over, and then release from my grasp: the friendships for a season, the phases in my children’s lives.

Finally, there are the things I dare not leave behind: unexpected opportunities that confirmed and expanded my sense of calling. Undeserved mercies that inspired me to pay it forward. Unanswered questions that forced open my narrow opinions.

In all these ways and countless more, God “lifted [us] up and carried [us] all the days of old” (Is. 63:9b), through the year that is now behind us. We all have collections gathering dust, books unread, priceless souvenirs of places we’ve lived and people we’ve loved. We all have heirlooms of God’s faithfulness, scrapbooks full of testimony. The stories of God’s gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts, “all that the Lord has done for us,” are our most precious gifts; we’ll pack them into our suitcases and carry them close, keep them with us wherever the days, months, years ahead may find us. Because the “abundance of God’s steadfast love” isn’t just a season or a phase; it is our past and our future. It is our last year, and it is our new life.

Even if we wanted to, we could never leave it behind.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Living the Nativity: Peace

Sunday, December 25
NATIVITY SUNDAY

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a)

I have always loved writing about Advent. The anticipation embedded in the season is delicious; the yearning toward Messiah is deep, and the spiral of time is a fascinating journey through the “then,” the “now,” and the “not yet” all at once. But Christmas–Nativity–is a different story. Literally. Christmas is nostalgic, as we ugly-cry over our “happy golden days of yore” one too many times. (Or maybe that’s just me!) Christmas is also stress-laden, haunted by ghosts of Christmas Past demanding we redeem their failures and meet their unreachable expectations. Christmas is grungy, especially if we think too hard about the reality of giving birth in a stable, but Christmas is also romantically shined up, with perfect poinsettias around the pulpit, and spotless children singing hymns by candlelight, “no crying they make.”

Christmas is hard to write about! What more can we possibly say about the Messiah’s birth than has been said by all the prophets and gospel-writers and apostles, not to mention the theologians and hymn-lyricists and poets? But at the same time, how can we ever stop talking about the utter wonder of God-With-Us, the Word made flesh, the Prince of Peace? Christmas itself is both an abundance and an impossibility. The truth is too big, and our language too small; yet surely we must speak, sing, write, preach it as often as possible.

Perhaps we speakers, singers, writers, preachers, pray-ers, storytellers can revel in the very gift of Christmas. Christmas, by its nature, is the immeasurable gathered up into the minute: universal authority swaddled in a tiny child. The gift of eternal truth wrapped up in fleeting words. Tiny, temporal words like light, like joy, like peace. Small, simple words that contain the full weight of our hopes every time we stare into the darkness, in every moment we mourn, with every agony of war. Small, simple words that cannot be overstated, and will never be worn out no matter how often we speak and sing and pray them.

We add our voices to the prophets, apostles, and poets celebrating the nostalgia of Christmas, relieving its anxieties, cringing at its realities, and even enjoying its romance. However small our words, God is With Us–at Christmas as always–bringing the Holy One to birth, and in him shining light, provoking joy, and delivering endless peace.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Living the Advent: Receive

Sunday, Dec. 18, Advent 4

Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

“… an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid…” (Matthew 1:20)

This is the season of wishes… and wish lists. With our inboxes overflowing with advertising and our mailboxes jam-packed with catalogues, we practice the Christmas tradition of gift-giving that started with the Magi. From Black Friday onward, the Christmas season is a parade of possibilities for everyone on your shopping list; great gift ideas and great bargains are everywhere. Those trendsetting Wise Men might not recognize the mania they started, but in our best moments of gift giving, we still seek to bring joy to the hearts of those we cherish.

But if Christmas is about giving, perhaps Advent is about receiving.

In Advent, we receive dreams. Joseph dreamed of a messenger from God proclaiming the fulfillment of the community’s hopes for a Messiah. The dreams of a father-to-be and dreams of the people of God were intertwined and would be inseparably met. Advent has us looking ahead, yearning, dreaming of the reign of hope, peace, joy, and love we know is coming. Advent has us imagining, discovering our own role in that future.

In Advent, we receive instructions. Joseph didn’t write off his dream as mere fantasy, the tricks of the subconscious mind. Instead, he trusted the messenger and trusted the message. He saw the way forward for his troubled family; he understood how his own actions would impact not only Mary, and not only the Child, but the ongoing life of his people. Advent has us listening to the callings that move us forward, the call to righteous–if unexpected and even unpopular–redemptive action in a reactive and retributive world.

In Advent, we receive promises. Christmas is coming! Messiah is coming, the Kingdom is coming. New life is coming, God is coming to be with us always. The promise comes to us through prophet and through gospel and through star and through dream: Emmanuel is coming, to save his people from their sins. To save us from our sins. Advent has us reaching out to touch this intangible gift and believing in this invisible sign, for the substance of our hopes and the evidence of the things we cannot see are at the very heart of God’s promise of salvation.

This week we’re winding down our gift-giving preparations for this season, taping down the final corners of wrapping paper, tying the last few bows. May we find moments of silence in the nights ahead, when we can look, and listen, and receive the gifts of Advent. May we look, and listen, and receive the gift of our dreams.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Living the Advent: Proclaim

Sunday, December 11, 2016
Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 146:5-10
Luke 1:46b-55
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead our raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matt. 11:4)

In the first 10 chapters of Matthew, a lot happened. Jesus was born; John wore his camelhair shirt and ate bugs in the wilderness while he summoned people to repentance; John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Then Jesus was tempted in the desert, called his disciples, preached beatitudes, taught about salt and light and law and treasures and asking and seeking and knocking, and healed a whole bunch of people, and calmed down a storm, and brought a little girl back to life.

After all that, John, from his prison cell, sent a message to Jesus: Are you the one we’ve been waiting for?

It seems impossible that John, who’d foretold the Messiah’s arrival, who’d poured the Jordan’s water over Jesus’ head, still had questions about Jesus’ identity, still needed to be certain.

Maybe if they’d had smartphones back then, Jesus would’ve replied with a quick “thumbs up” emoji, or if he were in a snarky mood, a “Duh” meme (#eyeroll).

This is one of several times in the scriptures when the people who were closest to Jesus, who knew him, walked around with him, asked him questions, observed his miracles (and even sometimes participated in them) still weren’t entirely certain who they were dealing with.

I find great comfort in these stories. If Jesus patiently entertained their questions (he was never snarky!), then perhaps he’ll be just as patient with mine. I also find great challenge in these stories. If Jesus accepted the questions of his dearest friends and family, how much more gentle should we be when the people around us are incredulous, even suspicious, of this One they’ve never seen or heard or walked alongside? How are we to answer them? And how do we answer our own uncertainties, our own lingering doubts?

We do what disciples of Jesus have always done: we watch and we listen, then we go and we tell. We go to the places of questioning (even our own), and we go to the people who are looking for answers (even ourselves), and we tell them what we have witnessed, we tell them what we have seen and heard. Not Sunday-School answers or complex PhD-worthy doctrines, but joyful proclamations of the miraculous, everyday, holy, hands-on work of Christ. No flannelgraph figures or intricate theologies can identify the Messiah better than his own words and works in our lives. So we proclaim the wholeness we have witnessed: blindness turned to vision and stillness turned to dancing. We proclaim the healing we have witnessed: sores made well and silence made song. We proclaim the redemption we have witnessed: new life for the grief-stricken and good news for the poverty-stricken.

As disciples of Jesus have always done, we proclaim the Advent: the ever-coming of the One we’ve been waiting for; the One who was, the One who is, the One who is still on the way.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Living the Advent: Prepare

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” (Matt. 3:3)

When my grandparents retired, they moved to a mobile home on a big plot of wooded land in the Missouri Ozarks. We’d visit them twice a year, summertime and Christmastime, and for us suburban kids, going for walks in the woods was the nearest thing to “wilderness” we ever experienced. Behind their house, a trail led through the woods to a rural highway, and we followed that trail as if we were Lewis and Clark, exploring it every time as if it were the first time. In the summer we took walking sticks in case we disturbed any snakes (we never did); in the winter, we wondered what would happen if we got lost among the snowy trees (we never did).

We never did, because someone long before us had nailed bright-colored plastic bottle caps to the trunks of trees every fifteen or twenty yards along the trail. When we went out into that wilderness, we knew what to look for among the rustling greens of summer or in the icy white of winter: bright spots of red, orange, and yellow, reassuring us that we were on the right path, and leading us forward.

Someone we didn’t know had prepared that way for us; someone who didn’t know three kids would come from the city a couple of times a year and explore, imagine, wander, and wonder their way down that wilderness trail and back home again.

John came into the wilderness, recruiting people to prepare the Lord’s way, that path that reaches from God to us. This is still the fundamental calling of the people of God: straighten up the tangled trail, place guiding markers on the path. God comes to us through the wild, and the road connecting us to the Holy One is dotted with the bright bottlecaps of God’s faithfulness. We navigate the way together, helping each other see the way forward, pointing out the markers our companions may overlook. The way of the Lord has been prepared. It is marked with generations of baptisms and communions, with hymns and psalms, with empty tombs and with starlit mangers. Reassuring us, leading us forward.

The voice in the wilderness is still calling us to venture into uncharted territory, tasking us with clearing the trail and marking the way. The signs we leave behind will guide the explorers, imaginers, wanderers, and wonderers who come after us seeking God’s faithfulness along this same rugged way. In the bright bits of plastic, these seemingly insignificant glimpses of grace, they’ll find reassurance: in shared tears, quiet presence, welcoming arms, generous blessing, joy-filled celebration. In the company of this family, siblings traipsing through the woods, they’ll join us on the way of the Lord. The way Home.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Living the Advent: Watch

Sunday, Nov. 27: ADVENT 1

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

“Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42)

By the time you’re mumble-mumble-years-old, like I am, “keeping awake” is not a good thing. Generally, it means you’ve had caffeine too close to bedtime (like, anytime after 2 p.m.), or you are catatonic at your computer screen, clicking through endless Pinterest images and grumbling over trollish Facebook comments. Maybe you’ve stayed up too late watching just one more DVR’ed episode of your current binge show, or maybe you’re just laying there in the dark with your eyes unblinking and your mind spinning.

At this time of year, though, I remember perfectly what it felt like to “keep awake” with excitement. When I was a kid we spent many Christmases visiting my grandparents, and my memories are so clear it’s like watching it in a movie: well after my parents had put us firmly to bed on Christmas Eve, I’d pad across the room ever-so-quietly in my footie pajamas. I’d lift aside the yellowed plastic roll-up window shade (very carefully–those things were unpredictable!), and I’d stare out at the sky, sure that if I were patient enough, and if I watched carefully enough, I would see the red glow of Rudolph’s nose coasting among the stars.

As Advent begins, we turn our attention to the coming–once again–of God’s greatest gift to us, God’s own Self, Jesus, born as one of us to show us how to live in this world. Jesus, born thousands of years ago and a world away. Jesus, born again in the heart of every believer. If our anticipation of Santa Claus once kept us awake with the promise of a new bike, a new doll, a new toy, how much more should our anticipation of the Messiah keep us awake? How much more should our eyes open wide, gazing out into the dark, sure that we will glimpse Jesus, returning to bring to birth a new season, a new earth, a new life?

Now we tell our own kids the same thing that my parents told us: “Santa can’t come until you’re asleep!” But secretly I’m glad that they keep awake, too excited to drop off easily in the days before Christmas. Hopefully some day they’ll remember what it felt like, and they’ll realize that there’s another Visitor worth waiting and watching for, who has already brought gifts beyond imagining, and whose arrival will inspire us–over and over again–to wonder, to love, and to praise.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Giving Thanks: To the One Who Holds Us Together

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Col. 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-42

“In him (Christ) all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:16-17)

For the time between Election Day and Thanksgiving Day, there may be no more appropriate holy day than Reign of Christ Sunday. And there may be no more reassuring scripture–no better song to keep on our lips–than this hymn from the letter to the Colossians.

In case we’ve forgotten–either in our excitement or in our disappointment–Colossians reminds us that our true Leader shares his own strength with us, and by Christ’s own power we are “prepared to endure everything with patience.” (1:11) The old joke, of course, is that one should never pray for patience, but maybe it’s one of those things that goes without saying. In Christ, we need not suffer through the lesson of patience; we can receive it, and we can give thanks!

Colossians reminds us that our true Leader shaped creation out of chaos, and that Christ is still at work bringing reconciliation and peace. (1:20) In Christ, we need not suffer through the dramas and discord swirling around us; we can be reconcilers, we can be peacemakers, and we can give thanks!

Colossians reminds us that our true Leader was established before the darkness and light were ever distinguished, and Christ is still at work rescuing us from darkness, bringing us into the family so we can share in the inheritance of light. (1:13-14) In Christ, we need not suffer through the anxieties of the dark; we can walk in the light, and we can give thanks!

Colossians reminds us that our true Leader was established before the oceans and lands were pushed apart, and Christ is still at work pulling us toward each other, bringing us into unity, holding us together. (1:17) In Christ, we need not suffer through the splintering of our communities; we are gathered together, and we can give thanks!

In Christ, our true Leader, all things are gathered together. Power is gathered into patience. Creation is gathered into order. Time is gathered into eternity. And we are gathered into a people, a family; we are held together as beneficiaries of Christ. And we can give thanks!
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Giving Thanks: To the One Who Brings Peace

Isaiah 65:17-25
Malachi 4:1-2a
2 Thes. 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth… Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.” (Is. 65:17a, 18)

The build-up to this week has been long, dramatic, and difficult; it has felt a bit like a child waiting impatiently for Christmas (only without any hint of Merry or Bright), as if it would never arrive. Now it’s finally Election Eve, and tomorrow we’ll find out if our wishes have been granted, or if our stockings are stuffed with four years’ worth of coal.

Whatever the results, whether we’re thrilled or crushed by what we find under the tree tomorrow, we’ll all have one thing in common: we’ll be on the brink of something new.

Election days, Christmas mornings, and New Years’ ball drops make us pay attention to newness. Birthdays, first days of school, graduation ceremonies, and wedding marches do it, too. We might yearn for the “good old days,” but these milestones remind us of what is true in every single ordinary day of our lives: that God is doing new things in, around, and through us. With every day God is pulling us forward, not for more of the same, but into a future that will look unlike anything we can recall; in fact, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” (65:17b)

Why would we look backward, when God’s new future looks like joy? Why look back, when God’s future looks like delight?

No more weeping or distress. (65:19)
No more infant mortality or short lifespans. (65:20)
Full houses and bountiful vineyards. (65:21)
Honorable and meaningful labors. (65:22-23)
Generations of fruitfulness. (65:23)

Why would we look back, when God’s future looks like peace? It’s a future where predator and prey live side-by-side… and not only tolerate each other, but feast together. (65:25) Every ordinary day, God is pulling us forward to the kind of peace that we can barely imagine when we’re using all our energy just to maintain our predator status, or to avoid becoming prey!

When tomorrow brings whatever newness it will, whether we accept it with eagerness or with dread, God will still be at work. We’ll be able to see that work if we stop looking behind us, if we gaze forward to the places where joy shines through darkness, where healing begins, where wolf and lamb share life together.

And whatever newness tomorrow brings, God will still be calling us to join in that work. In spite of our ugly elections, disappointing holidays, or the birthdays we’d rather not number, God’s promised future comes nearer, and we can be part of it. On this Election Eve—and on the Eves of our Every Days—may God bring joy to this world. Not in spite of us, but in us, around us, and through us, may God bring delight. Not in spite of us, but in, around, and through us, may God bring peace.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Giving Thanks: To the One Who Calls us to Fruitfulness

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Job 19:23-27a
2 Thes. 2:1-5,13-17
Luke 20:27-38

“But we must always give thanks for you… because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:13-14)

As Election Day nears, Thanksgiving seems especially far off. And not just Thanksgiving the holiday, the day off from work and school, the day full of food, family, and football–but the act of thanks-giving. It’s hard to imagine giving thanks for anything amidst the baiting, debating, and hating that seems to characterize this season. Instead, we set thankfulness aside like a child’s sweet but silly game, while we feast instead on anger and fear. We gather together all our troubles, and blame the other side for causing them. Then we armchair-quarterback our way through the political games, spiking the ball with every perceived score for our own team, all the while jeering at our opposition’s cheerleaders and mocking its mascot.

Maybe it’s just not possible to practice thanksgiving when we’re feeling shaken and alarmed (2 Thes. 2:2) by all that “They” say is wrong with the world. We can’t spare any energy for thankfulness when deceivers demand our attention (2:3), and even we may be inclined to give our exaltation to the one who claims to be able to save us (2:4).

The antidote to this poison is the same now as it was for the Christians at Thessalonica: brothers and sisters whose salvation is in the Spirit, not in heads of state, and who have the discernment to distinguish deception from truth. The community that lives so faithfully will produce a bounty of fruits! Faced with the deceiver’s horrific headlines, they abide in the good news that the apostles proclaimed. Promised the greatness of a victorious nation, they seek only the glory of Christ. Instead of relying on the powers of a president, they lean on the love of God; and instead of dreaming of a comfortable living and infallible armies, they yearn for eternal comfort and strengthened hearts (2:16-17).

The antidote to the poison of lies and lawlessness is, and has always been, true thanksgiving. Thanksgiving comes when we recognize the Source of all we receive; no elected official can save us, comfort us, build up our hearts, shape us into communities, nourish us, and give us hope. A president’s promises may be optimistic (at best) or empty (at worst), but our Creator calls us to a full and fruitful life. We already have a Savior, a Comforter, and an eternal Hope who summons us to lives of abundance–not in what we possess, but in what we produce. Let us rejoice in this harvest, giving thanks to God until the day of the Lord comes at last.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Standing the Watch: Habakkuk 2:1

Sunday, October 30, 2016
All Saint’s Day

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Isaiah 1:10-18
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

“I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what God will answer…” (Hab. 2:1)

A few months ago, our family took a road trip to Washington D.C. to celebrate with a friend who was retiring after thirty-four years serving in the U.S. Navy. The Navy loves its rituals; its ceremonies are practically liturgical, and events that take place on dry land retain the shipboard vocabulary of the Navy. (Even our local Navy hospital has “decks,” not floors!) When a Sailor retires, whether from a ship or from a shore command, he or she is officially relieved–for the final time–from the duty of standing watch.

Watchstanding keeps the ship, and by extension, the Navy itself, secure. Watchstanders are ready to troubleshoot, to respond to emergencies, to receive messages, and to keep everything literally shipshape, day or night. On ship or shore, there must always be someone standing watch; watchstanders must never leave the post until they are relieved at the end of the shift, and then a shipmate is already standing by, ready to assume the duty.

When a Sailor retires, relieved for the last time from standing the watch, the question arises: Who will stand the watch?

The prophet Habakkuk stood the watch; not on a metaphorical ship, but on a metaphorical rampart. Patiently, day and night, the prophet awaited a word from God, a response to the prophet’s cry for help. When the Lord’s answer was slow to come, the prophet knew he could not leave his post, for how can vision come to one who abandons the watch? The prophet Habbakuk is gone now, long since retired from the duty of watchstanding, yet we still cry out to God for help. We still suffer, ourselves, and we still experience heartbreak on behalf of the suffering of others. We still await the fulfillment of the Kingdom vision, a world put to rights.

At our friend’s retirement ceremony, the master of ceremonies asked the traditional question: Who will stand the watch?

And throughout the auditorium, one at a time, young Sailors–who had been supervised, mentored, taught, maybe sometimes yelled at, and most certainly cared for by our good friend–stood and responded, simply, “I will stand the watch.” The ship is in trustworthy hands, thanks to the Master Chief’s careful training.

The prophet’s duty of watchstanding has been handed over to us. Who will patiently await the word of God on the decks of our ships, on the ramparts of our city walls? Who will keep awake in the darkest nights? Who will stay alert in the deepest silences? Who will guard over us, never abandoning the post? Who will accept the great responsibilities that those who came before us carried so bravely for so long? Who will call out to God on our behalf, and who will listen–as long as it takes–for the Lord’s reply?

We have heard the traditional question, the liturgical question: Who will stand the watch? Thanks to the careful training of prophets, of disciples, of ancestors, of teachers and preachers and beloved friends and all the saints who surround us, this ship is in trustworthy hands: ours. And we will stand the watch.
 

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.