Dropping my Daughter Off at College was a Blast!

With every passing season, it can be hard to close the chapter and move on to the next season of life. I remember very clearly the night I decided I was nursing Reagan for the very last time; tomorrow she would wake up and we would be officially done with the weaning process. With a sigh that this chapter was ending, it was time to embrace the next season.

Sending my daughters off to grade school for the very first time was also the end of a season of life that I loved and cherished. I loved having my girls home as toddlers 24/7. I loved being the voice of influence and now I would share that time and authority with others. With another season ending, I was no longer the only voice shaping and molding my impressionable daughters.

Moving from Kindergarten through the elementary years, into middle school, and then high school, each season was wonderful. With every chapter closing, there were emotions that I would never get this time of life back, I would never have a "do-over." But with every ending, there was the most beautiful beginning to be enjoyed and cherished. We transitioned from instructing our daughter to sharing profound discussions about life, theology, and morality. Oh, how I missed the days of Reagan in her big white bow, eager to learn in Kindergarten. But now, I had the joy of engaging my daughter in intellectual and weighty conversations about life.

Driving my girl cross-country was no different. Another chapter was ending. She moved out. She moved 24 hours away. She is now an adult doing life on her own. But with another season ending, my only sadness is knowing that I have completed all the seasons of life of having my girl at home. I will never get back the days of nursing and cuddling Reagan as a newborn. I will never get a do-over of the toddler years and school days filled with homework, teachers, and sports. The only sadness is that I loved each season to the fullest that I didn't want it to end. And yet, I did live life to the fullest, I did embrace every season. I have no regrets about each new chapter, because I lived in the moment. And when it was time to turn the page and enter into the wonderful new season of launching, this too has been nothing short of spectacular.

Launching our daughter was a blast! Honestly, it was so much fun! Reagan was incredibly busy during the summer with an internship. So our time was limited for our last summer together. But the week before she needed to be at school, we embarked on the most incredible 2-week journey. We took our time driving across the United States making our way from Virginia to Texas. We made multiple stops, just having fun from theme parks to the Smokey Mountains; from hot springs to the Ozark Mountains. We took our time. We drove. We talked. We had fun. We laughed. We relished our last week being together just my husband, myself, and Reagan.

Decorating her dorm room and saying good-bye was filled with friends, laughter, tears, and blessings. As we stood among the several thousand freshman students and parents, the chaplain asked for the students to open their hands in an act of receiving a blessing while parents laid hands on their children to pray for them. We prayed blessings over our children, entrusting them into our Father's loving care, and we said good-bye.

The journey home was just as fabulous and special as the trip down. There were no tears, no sadness, only laughter and smiles. It was a celebration of gratitude that God had chosen and entrusted us to be Reagan's parents. We have known she is not ours to hold tightly, but rather a gift that would eventually fly. Celebrating each season while embracing the next has allowed us to live in the moment with no regrets. There were so many fun stops along the way home from Austin city limits to the charm of Nashville. My husband and I celebrated the joys of parenting. We made time to celebrate "us". We didn't rush home, instead, we took time to soak up the joys and seasons we had experienced for 18 years. After our children launch, our marriage is what will last. We celebrated God's goodness in allowing us to parent our girls and watch them grow into World Changers.

Trampoline Parenting: Equipping Our Children with Grit To Bounce Back From Adversity

Last weekend, my husband shared with me the trending Hamster/Hampster Twitter thread, knowing that it would grab my attention. The story is about a young 20-something woman in the workplace who is unable to accept correction or criticism from her boss and defaults to calling her mother to be rescued. Regardless of whether this particular story actually occurred or was fabricated to make a social statement, the story is indicative of what is occurring on college campuses and in the workplace. More importantly, the narrative paints a tangible picture of some of the challenges we face as parents today and the pitfalls to avoid as we move forward. (You can read the original Tweet thread here.)  Bottom line, there is an overwhelming number of millennials who continue to rely on their parents to mediate for them and solve the problems that they are not equipped to handle on their own. Or perhaps more accurately, parents have continued to intervene and create dependency in their children instead of equipping them to launch successfully. 

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We live in a society that has rapidly moved past helicopter parenting to snowplow parenting. The helicopter parent hovers relentlessly over the child out of fear and over-protection, micro-managing every move and decision the child makes. The snowplow parent takes it one step further and intervenes -- removing all obstacles, challenges, or problems for the child. These parents have been faulted with writing papers for their children, calling bosses, showing up to interviews, all motivated by a basic principle that their children can do no wrong and all obstacles will be removed in an effort to prevent any discomfort. 

According to one study, only 1 in 4 children are considered resilient. A lack of resiliency is on the rise with many contributing factors as we are parenting the smartphone generation, both hovering and snowplowing, while simultaneously encouraging individualism and celebrating a self-focus. We are setting our children up for failure when we continue to place them on pedestals, treating them as if they can do no wrong. We teach them that if any one tries to correct or challenge them, we will run to their rescue while pointing fingers of accusation at teachers, coaches, referees, even college professors and employers, and blaming them for “mistreating” our child. We have taught our children to undermine authority, reinforcing that the world is out to get them instead of showing gratitude and appreciation for the mentors in their lives who are simply trying to do their jobs. We live in a culture that demands the bare minimum from our children while everyone receives a trophy just for showing up, regardless of attitude or apathy. We have made our children our idols: living life to serve them rather than equipping them with tools for success. 

This is not reality. The real problem is that our children are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will fail, but the fall is a lot harder and farther when they have not been prepared with the grit to fall and bounce back.

As a mother of three myself, I would challenge us as parents to consider that we are missing an incredible opportunity to give our children the gift of providing them a safe place to land when they do make mistakes while providing unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace.

While deeply rooted in love, our parenting styles have shifted from Helicopter (protecting) to Snowplow (removing ALL obstacles), and yet, this kind of parenting is damaging to our children. Our children are being robbed emotionally as we have removed opportunities for them to experience real life and the challenges that shape and help them become resilient. The reality is that life has challenges. We will all face obstacles in life, but children require a Trampoline Parent that teaches them resilience and provides them with the tools needed to bounce back from adversity.  As adults, we know it is our mistakes and failures that have taught us valuable life lessons and how to be resilient.

It is no wonder that between social media and being placed on a pedestal, there is a lot of pressure on a child when they know they aren’t perfect, but are having to live that lie. Our children are having a hard time becoming adults when we have removed all barriers, and created a false sense of reality for them. They don’t know how to handle disappointment, challenges, and failure. 

Due in part to social media, depression and anxiety are soaring while suicide rates have increased. It should be no surprise that only 1 in 4 (only 25%) of young people are considered resilient given the toxic combination of comparison magnified through social media while being incapable of taking correction and failing because they have not been equipped for resiliency.  

While the 20-something referred to in the Twitter thread does NOT represent all millennials, the story does draw attention to a cultural flaw and dangerous path we are headed for as a society. Rather than providing encouragement and discipline, teaching character with humility, or providing a soft place to land when failure inevitably happens, we have been in the business of raising weak “snowflakes” that melt under pressure while we sit in the driver seat operating the snowplow. No wonder millennials are struggling with their identity and are quick to blame others for their own shortcomings and insecurities. Removing all obstacles sends a strong message to our kids that they are not capable and we don’t believe they can succeed on their own. We create a perpetual dependency on us rather than equipping them to launch successfully. 

The home is the most important foundation for building character in our children. Parents should be their children’s biggest supporter, encourager, counselor, and advocate. But, in the process, we can’t miss the opportunity to teach our children unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and character. Teaching our children humility and a willingness to learn and listen to others will instill a respect for those around them. Kids want to know that we believe in them. We must stop sending them the message that they are incapable of success without our hand-holding. We must remove the entitlement mentality that they can do no wrong while blaming others.

Parents must role-model respect to teachers, counselors, and coaches, rather than pretend their child is blameless. Teaching truth in love, we must encourage and challenge our children to become pillars of character standing for truth and justice rather than melting under the pressures of life. We all desire to see our children become successful strong leaders, but we have missed an opportunity in how we have taught these lessons. The most successful leaders in our world are humble, teachable, compassionate leaders willing to learn from others with grit and resilience to bounce back when faced with disappointment. Parents have an incredible opportunity to teach our children resilience and instill character, raising up a generation with a backbone that faces obstacles rather than running from them. 

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

Chimene Shipley Dupler, founder of Passion4Moms, is an author, speaker, and life coach equipping moms to impact the next generation. Introducing and coining the phrase Trampoline Parent, Chimene spends much of her time addressing the Smartphone Generation, culture, and technology and how we can best provide tools for success with grit and character.

Parenting: Roots of Sin

As I was puling weeds on the gorgeous sunny clear morning, the cool 70 degree breeze made the job a little more bearable. With the hardened and dry ground, pulling each weed and overgrown grass was a struggle. I came across a root that was buried just below the surface, but extended several inches into the grass. As I bent over to pull the root seeing just how far it would extend, I was able to bend it just enough to begin breaking it.

But then…

It wasn’t easy to twist in order to fully break and destroy. Rather, what once bent a little, was now a wrestling match twisting round and round but the root too strong and deep from growth that it would not easily be broken. It was then instantly God gave me a picture of how the sin in our lives, when given a place to grow (in darkness) has the opportunity to grow and thrive growing stronger buried in the ground of our lives. I thought of the many parents that I know who are struggling watching sin in the lives of their children taking root and growing deeper and deeper. In secret, what began as small choices and mental decisions now taking root and becoming stronger and deeper having more control over other life choices.

As I wrestled, with every twist in hopes the root would break, my heart began to break for the mothers whose hearts are broken, whose eyes can no longer shed another tear, who hides in fear of being exposed, who pleads to God for her child.

When we give place for sin to take root in our lives, Satan has access into our lives. We must confess and repent of our sin daily recognizing our need for Jesus, our Savior.

As sin is given a place to grow, often in secret and darkness, it becomes stronger and can take over all areas of our lives mentally, physically, emotionally, making life choices based on sin and not on God’s Truth.

I sat there thinking about how I weep for the broken hearts and how I long to come alongside each weeping mother fighting for her child. There is power in prayer. As I pulled with all my might the root that would not fully give, I thought about the power of fighting together…if only I had a friend here to pull and fight this root with me!

As mothers, when we come alongside those who are hurting, we don’t need the details…we just need to commit to pray. Details quickly turn to judgement and gossip. As we fight for our children, committing to storm the gates of Heaven on our knees, this is the best gift of friendship that can be shared.

I began to think about this root now exposed. There is safety when it was still buried and it could not be seen. But now, in the shadows of strong beautiful budding trees full of flowers and fresh blooms, the exposure of a root that is being fought to be destroyed can be embarrassing. When we fight the sins of our lives, we see those who may be in a strong season and place of thriving in their relationship with our Lord and we want to hide. We don’t want to be exposed.

And yet…that big tree that is flourishing once began small, once struggled, once had battles of its own before it could thrive and blossom.

To every parent who is fighting and pleading for their child’s heart to be changed and turned to repentance, don’t give up. Our battles are not of flesh and blood, they are not of this world. Satan and the demonic are active and alive deceiving the hearts and minds of many. We are in warfare—there is a Spiritual battle being fought daily. Our battle is on our knees in prayer and by the power and blood of Jesus.

  1. Fight for your children with the power of prayer. Pray Scripture over them daily. Douse them with the Word as you pray over their mind, heart, eyes, ears, actions.

  2. Allow others to commit to pray with you and for you. Anyone who really cares to pray doesn’t need details.

  3. Humility-remember with every tree (life) that is strong, they have had their own struggles that have made them stronger. Choosing to not be intimated by strength around you, but allowing those who are stronger to pull you up is a gift—not a sign of weakness.

  4. Confess your sin and repent daily, not giving access or entry to the enemy. Unconfessed sin can take root and grow. But when we confess our sin, our good good Father is faithful to forgive us…every.single.day!

We can’t help fight the roots of sin in our children’s lives, if we are bound by the roots of sin in our own lives.

As Easter is upon us and we reflect upon the sacrifice of the cross, let’s not forget the POWER of the resurrection. We don’t just celebrate and rejoice that Jesus, our Savior, sacrificed and gave His life for our salvation, we rejoice in the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Sin is defeated. As children of God, we have authority in the name of Jesus!

It's an Honor!

As I make my way reading through the Bible, I began re-reading the book of Acts. I have written in the margin of my Bible the words "What an honor" next to the words of Acts 1:8.

Should any of us receive the high honor of being "knighted" by the Queen or appointed as an Ambassador for our country, we would stand a little taller. We would most likely carry ourselves with a sense of dignity and purpose, and yet humility knowing we had been chosen to represent not only a person, but a country. This kind of honor comes with not only privilege, but purpose.

A person in this position, recognizes the awesome responsibility they carry and they do so with a sense of duty and integrity so as to not defame the character of those they represent. Once this honor has been granted, they are under the watchful eye of the public. Character matters. One's choice of words, actions, places he visits, who he interacts with, and how he conducts himself is now under scrutiny. With prestige and honor also come responsibility. The chosen representative's behavior no longer reflect only himself, but rather his actions now are a reflection of who he represents.

Jesus, just before ascending into Heaven, appoints His disciples with these words: " But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Once He said this, he was taken in a cloud to God the Father. Before returning to Heaven, He left His followers with the responsibility and duty to now be the testimony and witness of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus.

Have you ever stopped to consider the incredible privilege and honor you were appointed? You, like the disciples, have been chosen! You have been entrusted with an incredible honor to be a witness, like Jesus, of God the Father. Jesus says that we, as Believers, are His witnesses. Like an ambassador, we have been granted the ultimate privilege and honor to be a witness of Christ. Have you thought about that? Okay, maybe this privilege doesn't resonate with you...let me ask, what if you weren't chosen? I dare say, being chosen is an honor we best not take for granted or squander.

Brothers and sisters, hold your head high, walk upright with your shoulders back and represent the God of the universe well! Know who and whose you are! You are chosen. You are equipped. You are called. Get over yourself thinking life is all about you! It's not! Know your mission. Know your purpose...it's to know God and to bring Him glory. We are called to represent Him, not ourselves. Our character, our actions, our words are a reflection of who we have been chosen to represent. As sons and daughters of the King, this privilege carries more weight than being knighted by the Queen. We represent the God who made the Queen and knit her together in her mother's womb. 

We have the Holy Spirit to lead us, direct us, guide us. We have been given authority in the name of Jesus to be ambassadors, witnesses, for the God of the universe. Character matters. May we represent the one who chose us, well. What an honor!

Celebrating our Children's Spiritual Birthdays

It’s no secret that I like to have fun (always). I love to celebrate life, creating a space for making memories regardless of life circumstances or challenges. As a living life-to-the-fullest kind of gal, life is short and yet such a beautiful gift from God, our Creator, that making each day count is really important to me. Celebrating our spiritual life as well as our physical life is a gift we can give to our children.

Today is Reagan and Jordan’s spiritual birthday…13 years old!! They are 13 year old teenagers as daughters of the King! Monday is Riley’s spiritual birthday when she will turn 10…double digits!! January is a big month of celebrating God’s incredible gift of salvation, our redemption, and being reminded of who and whose we are in Him!

Why is it really important to celebrate our children’s spiritual birthdays? Personally, I think it reminds them of who they are in Christ. It reminds us all that this is not our home and that the things of this world pale in comparison of our eternal home. Our days are numbered and one day we will all spend eternity…somewhere. Being able to remind our children of their eternal home and that our days on earth are for God’s glory not our own, is really important to me. We celebrate our daughters physical birthdays in a variety of traditions we have created (I’ll share those another another post), but every January I want my 3 Princesses to be reminded they are royalty! They are daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They are created in the image of God-image bearers. They have been created to bring God glory and reflect Him in their words and actions…not just when they are adults but NOW as children and teens! When we remember who we are and whose name we bear and represent, it reminds us that our words matter, our actions, and behaviors mean something. I could not be more proud of my double digit (on Monday) Riley, and my two teenager daughters Reagan and Jordan and how they shine Jesus well!

Here are 3 practical ways you can celebrate your children’s spiritual birth:

  1. Remember! It seems easy, but just remembering to write down the date they ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of their lives is a big deal. The Bible is full of reminders and admonitions to His people to WRITE things down, TELL them to your children, CREATE stones of remembrance so that you will not forget! Every year, for us January 17 and January 21 we tell our girls Happy Birthday and celebrate their new life in Jesus. (If you or your child does not remember the actual date they asked Jesus into their lives, pick a date close to the time of year it was within the year it occurred, and celebrate that date each year.)

  2. Encourage! Find ways throughout the year to encourage your children spiritual. Make sure you are creating a time and space for them to have Jesus time. For my daughters, they do their own Jesus time independently, but sometimes I like to ask them what they are reading and learning. Make your home a place of continual conversation about Truth (Jesus), life from a Biblical worldview, and a peaceful place of worship with worship music as we point our children to Jesus in our 24/7.

  3. Memorize! Hiding God’s Word in your heart as a child is essential. The verses we know best as adults are the ones we memorized as children. Knowing God’s Word in our hearts will help convict and remind us of His truth in tough and challenging situations.

New Year Resolutions

As we enter a new calendar year, this often compels us to an eager anticipation for a sense of newness—a fresh start.  Whether it is driven by an urgency for change or a comfort in new beginnings, many people use January as a way of re-setting lifestyle choices or patterns they want to implement. The calendar gives us a natural transition into new beginnings. 

I love the distinction I recently heard Senator Ben Sasse offer between habits and addictions. The only difference between habits and addictions is that if it’s something good that we want or desire it’s a habit, but if it is something we don’t want or is bad for us then it is an addiction.

Many of us begin a new year with good intentions for a fresh start with a bold determination for building new muscles of habits we intend to keep, but often we fall back into old patterns and addictions.

The word resolution (n) is a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute. The word resolute (adj) is a firm determination to do something or (v) decide firmly on a course of action. Both words come from the same meaning with a resolve to take a new course of action. But in order for us to build the muscle of “habit” we must be resolved to follow through with a resolution.  Resolutions technically are more than just goals, it is a resolve for action. 

Moms, what does this look like practically in our lives, in our homes, and for our children?

The Bible uses the word resolved on three occasions. All three references refer to a resolve to know Jesus and walk in purity and obedience. 

Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”

Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

David resolves to keep his mouth from sin. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” which tells us this is more than just watching the words that come from our mouth, this is a heart transformation of a life that seeks to know God and reflect the image of God.  Daniel resolved to not defile himself although his place of life and work provided him essentially anything he could have wanted.  He created space and boundaries to look different from the world and honor God. And finally, Paul is resolved to know Jesus fully. He dedicated his life to bask in the presence of the Almighty to know God and make Him known. He was resolved to not let distractions (although probably good things) get in the way of knowing Jesus. 

Moms, I think there is a lot we can learn when it comes to resolutions and how we teach our children about resolutions in life. While healthy eating habits and exercise or ridding our life of addictions is good and keeps us in balance, where we put our resolve each year (each day) should be like the examples set before us.  If I resolve to do anything in life, my resolve is to know the Father heart of God so that my heart and mind are transformed into His likeness. My deepest desire for my daughters is that they are resolved to know God and make Him known living out their purpose in being created. 

As we begin a new year, may we challenge one another to be resolved to know a Father God who loves us and sent His Son to die for our salvation. When this becomes our primary focus in life, and we like Paul, are determined and resolved to know Jesus and make Him known, this allows us to maintain boundaries, protect our homes, and our time as we point our children to Jesus. 

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

It’s been a few years since I have sat beside the absolute stillness of a lake in the wee hours of the morning just as the sun is rising.  When I say stillness, I almost need to add extra adjectives so one grasps how absolutely still the water appeared.  Looking out upon the water, it was if the Lord placed a beautiful mirror upon the surface reflecting back His glory.  This breathtaking view immediately brought me naturally into His presence, as it so clearly was such a display of the grandeur of His creation.  His words kept repeating in my heart…”Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still and dwell upon who God truly is, remember all that He has done and let your heart overflow with thanksgiving towards God who created all this beauty!

As I sat on a bench and enjoyed sipping on my coffee, it was difficult to not just break out in song to our majestic King.  In the silence of my heart I was singing but I was careful not to interrupt the holiness of the silent stillness.  (And I don’t actually sing and didn’t want to cause anyone experiencing this moment to be distracted.)

I didn’t want these moments to end but I knew the stillness would at one point become broken.  I grabbed my iPhone in an attempt to capture the beauty through a lens but of course any digital version pails in comparison to experiencing it with physically with all of your senses.  A photo lacks the true depth of the lake, the changing colors as the sun begins to glisten across the water, the feel of the gentle breeze and the smell of the water.  I want to capture this magnificence into a bottle and continue to live in this moment but I know that I cannot.

I take out my Bible and begin to read and spend some time allowing the Lord to speak to me through His word.  Over time some fish begin to come to the surface and cause a bubble to form, which sends a ripple effect of circles radiating across the water breaking the glasslike water…still beautiful but the perfect stillness was broken.  A few ducks then glide across the surface gracefully creating V’s which follow behind them.  Before I knew it, the breeze picked up and water begins to move with a continuous motion and I know at this point, the stillness of the early morning has left and the day has begun.  Even the boats are beginning to head out onto the water so the natural ebb and flow of the waves will continue until late into the evening.

I want to go back to the stillness but you just can’t calm the water once the movement has begun.

After thinking back on this, the Lord gently reminded me that this is how my heart is often like this.  The Lord wants to meet with me before all the activity of the day begins to disturb the stillness of my heart.  As I wake up each morning, I want my first moments to be taking in His beauty found in His Word without allowing the distractions of the world to lead me astray.

This morning I woke up early before the sun had a chance to rise and I quietly headed downstairs to my favorite table where my Bible, journal and pen awaited me.  I grabbed my coffee and sat down to allow God’s word to fill my heart.  What a glorious time it was to begin the day with the quiet and steadfastness of His Word to fill my mind and heart.

I might not be able to recreate the perfect stillness of a glasslike lake each morning but I can choose to allow God to be the first to enter the recesses of my heart each day.  Too often, I grab my phone first thing in the morning as I sip on my coffee but I am learning how even those few moments of glancing at texts, Instagram and email will cause my heart and mind to wander into “my plans” for the day and it is honestly almost impossible for me to once again to return to the stillness of allowing only God to fill my first moments and lead me into His perfect plans for me.  

Guest Contributor:

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Mary Fahnestock and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

I am Loved

And when I realize this, that the greatest part of my being is that I am deeply and unconditionally loved, it makes me desperate to share the realness and the ability to feel this with those whose greatest feeling in their being right now is a lack of love.

Because this person that I am now, this loved and accepted and grace covered person, is not who I once was.

I spent many days and nights feeling
unloved.
unwanted.
not enough.
overwhelmed.
under qualified.
cast aside.
never good enough.

So to be here, resting in love…it’s surprising.
And yet, so natural. Because I was designed to love and to be loved.
My flaw was in looking to people to fulfill this design.

When I sit at the feet of my Father, I am not at all concerned with who or what Iam.
Because I am HIS.
And He is perfection.
And that is enough.
And I am so caught up in every beautiful thing that He is, that my earthly thoughts of myself fade into the shadow of His wings.
I. am. loved.

I was loved before I realized it.

I had only to open my soul to it.

And now I want nothing more than to pour it out on you.

You. are. loved.

You need only realize it.

Cast your burdens into the shadow of His wings and allow your soul to be enveloped in His love. Find rest. Find healing. Find joy. Find overflow. Find love.

Find LIFE.

Guest Contributor:

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Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

I am a Child of God

Who am I?
I am a child of God.
What does that mean to me?

This evening, when I dropped my three year old off in her children’s ministry environment, she was fussy about it — we’d been traveling, she’d had too much sugar in the past few days, her routine was thrown off, and she just wanted to hunker down and snuggle momma — she didn’t wanna be there.

As our Pastor taught, he mentioned John 14:18 and I had this moment of connection to the angst the disciples must have felt knowing that their leader, their teacher, their beloved, their Messiah, was leaving them.

And I thought of my own children — when I leave them, even though I know it’s temporary — it pains me to see them distraught — and what do I want for them? My hope is that they will have gathered enough courage, comfort, and confidence in their time with me that they go into the environment I’m sending them without hesitation. That they can draw on our time together and what I have taught them, that their spirit is settled in the midst of the unfamiliar because they know who they are and whose they are and they truly believe that I am always coming back to them — so there is no doubt in their precious hearts.

As a child of God — how am I to go into the world, to enter my calling and to encounter all of the mountains, the valleys, and the full spectrum of in between moments, if I’m not spending time with Him? From where will I draw my courage? My comfort? My confidence?
If I am not rooted and established, what will happen when the storms come?
And will I be afraid to step into the blinding sun?
Will I have stored up strength to draw on when it’s just plain dreary?

I find myself praying that I will soak in the confidence, comfort, and courage of my Father daily — learning His ways, absorbing His teaching, and radiating His great love to face this world unafraid, to draw up a peace that passes all understanding, to walk boldly in my calling — knowing both who I am and whose I am.

I, am a child of the King.
the One true God, the Creator of the universe, the Savior of my soul, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Lord, write Your story on my heart that the world You have placed me in might read of Your redeeming grace, Your great love, Your awe inspiring power, and that Your name may be lifted high, Your mighty splendor celebrated, and Your all sufficient holiness adored. ❤ 

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Forced Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29 (NET)

I’m learning a lot about rest lately.  

Rest:  repose, freedom from activity or labor.  Peace of mind or spirit.  A place for resting or lodging.  Something used for support. 

In July the Lord moved our little family to North Dallas, Texas.  This after seven years in the Northern, Virginia/Washington DC area.  It was a massive change for all of us.  We were fully “over-programed” in our big city life.  My hubs was driving a 3 hour round trip commute plus an 11 hour work day.  I was driving the kids 3 hours a day to and from their special school that could help teach them Jesus and accommodate their learning needs.  Our sweet kiddos had some activities, but not as many as most of the children of the land in which we lived.  Mine are kids whose time is spent in therapy and with special doctors, typically a city away.  I was a busy Bible study teacher in our church. It was the joy of my heart, but our life had outgrown us.  As a family we were weary and burdened. 

There was no doubt God called us to Texas.  To a softer life.  A life with a smaller geographical radius, with closer grandparents and helpful schools for our kiddos. And, without notice, He called us to a serious season of rest.   Some stuff we were happy to let go of…we skipped away.  Others we released slowly, sadly.  

To leave my Bible study teaching felt like leaving a piece of my heart in Virginia.  We knew, really deeply knew, God had said, “it’s time to go.”  But it wasn’t easy.  I also knew God was calling me to wait before I jumped into ministry here in Texas.   “One year…”  Kept reverberating in my spirit.  “One year…”  And then, like an exclamation point, I broke my ankle.  

I broke my ankle in two places in November 2017 and it took nearly a year for complete healing.   I started out with a non-walking cast for four weeks, then a boot for six more weeks, followed by three months of physical therapy.   At first, I was in a respectable amount of pain so I didn’t do a lot of moving around.  I thank Jesus profoundly for my bathtub.  And for my husband who did EVERYTHING while I was laid up.  Oh, and my sweet neighbors.  Y’all, Texans line up to bring the food.  Bless them. 

I expected to “work” while I was forced to sit.  I expected to write my Opus Maximus.  Friends said, “I can’t wait to see what God does with this time!”  And I felt the pressure to do something important…at least at first.  But to tell you the truth, after a while I settled into it.  I grew to like certain aspects of my forced rest.  My days were smaller, simpler, cleaner and quieter.  My pain distracted my mind and required a lot of actual physical downtime.  If I were standing up for more than 10 minutes my foot would swell and the toes peeking out of my cast would turn purple.  I had no choice but to sit, foot up, ice on.  I read a lot.  I listened to audio books.  I colored in my daughters “adult” coloring book.  I ordered all of our Christmas presents and most of our groceries online.  I was a late adaptor to Downton Abbey so I caught the first two seasons.  I learned binge watching could be delicious!  Did I mention my bathtub?  

During this season Jesus was speaking to me, asking me to reframe how I see my life.  I see life as a full plate.  Busy, loaded.  If something new comes, I just shuffle things around so everything can fit.  I bet you do too.  I see rest taking up a very small space on that plate.  Like an olive.  Or a pickle.  It’s a garnish, not a main component of my day.  And when I indulge in it, I tend to feel a little extravagant, wasteful even guilty.  

My full plate got tipped over.  During my recuperation life was not a full plate with moments of rest.  Life was full rest with moments of activity.  It flipped.  I lived the inverse of my previous existence.  Of course it was situational, temporary.  We can’t live on the couch and we aren’t called to.  But it taught me something.  I am not the sum of my activities.  I simply am.  To Jesus that is enough.  It’s enough.  This is the starting point.  Add to your life carefully from here. 

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus is talking to the crowds.  Folks who were burdened with guilt and laboring hard under pharisaical laws.  Many laws, requiring strict observance, and impossible to follow.  These people were hamstrung, trapped.  There was no real path to rest for them.  In Jesus’ time the oxen’s yoke had become a metaphor for Jewish law.  It was heavy hard work to carry this yoke.  Everyone knew what you meant when you talked about the yoke of the law. In Bible times, it was the chief work of a carpenter to craft yokes.  Jesus knew about yokes.  And here He is, the gentle carpenter, with a message of rest.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The words spoken here are ours to claim.  He beckons us to come to Him.  That is the initial action we must take.  To come means to put our trust in him.  To give Him our strained and swollen lives.  To open our hands and drop our burdens at his feet and trust him for what’s next.  

What’s next? He gives rest.  Physical rest?  Maybe.  Most of us need that.  Spiritual rest?  Definitely.   We trust - Jesus gives.  It’s His eternal exchange.  Don’t you love Him for it? 

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

First we come, next we take His yoke.  His will for our lives.  His path for our days.  After our initial moment of trust we pursue Him through life.  Yoked to Him, seeking him, letting Him guide the easy days and the hard ones.  Life with Christ becomes, not easy, but easier than doing life on our own.  Now, our rest isn’t given…it’s found.  We find rest in living a life close to Jesus.  Why?  Because a life close to Jesus is a life covered in grace.  Trust and grace lived out, that’s rest.  That’s peace.  

In Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander Maclaren phrases it this way, “The 'coming' is an initial act which makes a man Christ's companion. And the 'Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me,' is the continuous act by which that companionship is manifested and preserved.” 

Initial then continual. A friendship holy, intimate, and blessed. 

Let’s not miss this, Jesus makes Himself gentle and humble in heart voluntarily.  He bends low to share this yoke of life with us.  It’s not his divine nature to be lowly.  He does it for us.  

So what does this look like practically?  To live a life yoked with Jesus?  To find pockets of rest and grace among the clatter of our lives?  How do we get there?  

We go to Him. 

Here’s an idea.  Spend some time alone with the Lord in prayer.  

“Lord, I come to you trusting.  I’m tired.  I need rest.  Your rest.  I long for the assurance that you are with me, guiding my days.  I take your yoke upon me.  Teach me how to be gentle and humble like you.  Show me the path of grace.  Help me find rest for my soul.”

Now sit in silence. (Keep a notepad and pen handy to write down and dismiss all distracting thoughts that come your way.  Use shorthand.  Ex: swch laundry,  p.u. kids)   

Ask the Lord:

1) Where do I need to trust you more?
2) What is my heart longing to do for you?  
3) What is one next step I can take? 

That’s it my sister.  Put time in your schedule and come back to this often.  Block it off in your smart phone.   

Amy Carmichael, the amazing missionary to India in the 1900s, said, “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit, which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

Know that great things come from resting.  You are not wasting your time.  God uses rest to prime our hearts for the next good thing.  Those things left on your plate, some of them won’t be so important anymore, they’ll fall off.  Others will get the time and attention they need.  

Yesterday, I had a hard day.  My ankle hurt and so did everything else.  I felt sore and stiff.  It’s ok.  It’s what comes from months of limping.  So, I took a rest day.  I stayed home.  Took a slow walk.  Got back in my bath.  And Jesus, my yokefellow, was there saying, “Remember what you learned on the couch.  Come to me.  Trust me.  I’ve got this.” 

*Forced Rest first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

Julianna Mathers.jpg

Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

Proverbs 31-ing

I read this blog post recently and it really resonated with me.

The limitlessness of our modern culture often leaves us either paralyzed by too many choices or continuously burning the candle at both ends trying to do it all, be it all, know it all.
Neither is healthy nor really productive.

I’ve certainly found myself at odds with the image of the Proverbs 31 woman — but the reality is, girl had PURPOSE. She did *specific* things, not all things. She was FOCUSED.

How often do we side track from our calling trying to make sure we’re not missing out on something that “could be it”?
Refuse to move because we haven’t fully analyzed all possible outcomes and balanced how we would react to them?

What if we missed something??

I know I personally struggle with fear rooted in a perfectionist mindset and with wanting to try everything out there instead of honing in on a few things I’m already passionate about and building margin into my life to *be* rather than just *do*… virtue may express itself through our actions but not all action is virtuous… if God Himself took time to rest and enjoy His creation, why do I tend to think I’m above that?

I simply cannot possibly be everything to everyone at all times — and I’m learning to be thankful for that rather than trying to ‘overcome’ it.

His power is made perfect in my weakness. His grace is sufficient for me.

“God has given us enough time in each day to be who He created us to be and do what He wants us to do.” He has equipped me for His calling. I need only embrace His presence. I don’t know about you, but for me, that requires some stillness. And I believe that in that stillness, as I quiet my heart before Him, He will continue to reveal to me my calling and to call me to the actions that most honor what He has created me for and bring Him the greatest glory.

I was designed with intention. And if I will allow myself to clear the clutter and connect to that, then I will be empowered to be much more intentional with how I spend the time that the good Lord has given me.

Wow. Talk about a lesson in time management.
Thank you, Father, for that sweet revelation.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

A New Creation

There are so many facets to this small but meaningful piece of my story I’m about to try to share, that I say try because I don’t even know where to start.

A little over a year ago, God led my husband and I to a new town, in a new state, just a few hours away from the place we had spent much of our childhood and called home for the past 7 years.

So many things were at play with this move, which I will begin to share more of later…I started to write them out but they’re not all directly relevant to the point I’m trying to get to here so, I copy/pasted them into a different draft for a different time — you’re welcome 😉

One of the biggest things God pressed on me in this new season was to really study the Bible, independently, {meaning not as part of a devotional or a sermon series, but just for the sake of reading His Word, with fluidity, and seeing what He had to speak to me personally}, and to begin to discern for myself what true faith looked like, what being a follower of Jesus really meant, and what He intended for the church to be about.

You see, I grew up in church, with all of the traditional stories and hymns, and I thought I knew what my faith was based on, thought I knew the Bible, thought I was “doing it right”… {you can read more of my testimony here}. I had faithfully attended and served the church since college {there was an interesting familial turn of events in my high school years that resulted in me getting a weekend job rather than attending church, thus the gap until college}, and I was even on staff for a few years at the church we moved away from last year. It was at that church that I began to face some of my demons, that my perspective was shifted on some important issues, that I worked through some fresh wounds, that I was for the first time a part of true biblical community, and that I grew exponentially in my faith and in my understanding of both biblical truths and church design. As a result, I believed that *this* was what church was supposed to look like.

Church — literally, a movement of God.

As if you can put God in a box labeled {name of church} and determine this is how He moves best, anywhere and everywhere. Naive I know — but I think there are many who have struggled with this misunderstanding, coming to and falling away from their relationship with God in direct correlation to their perceptions of a particular Local Church — a group of people meeting in a building, under the leadership of a smaller group of people.

I had a large amount of trust for the leadership of our home church, and I still do, despite some hiccups in our journey. They are laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. However, they’re still people. Not Jesus. Not God. Not perfect.

As God’s humor would have it, we ended up finding a church here in our new home state that was basically the exact opposite of the church we came from — not in their quality but in their strengths and weaknesses as an organization. They are still laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. They just have a much different method for accomplishing the same goals. As they should — they’re in a different community, with different needs. However, the needs of ours that had been met in our previous church were left wanting here, while the needs that had been left wanting in our previous church, are being met here. And I certainly think that’s intentional on God’s part because He’s teaching us to lean into Him more than we lean into a church. Ouch. But we were {at least I was} absolutely guilty of that previously. I leaned harder into the work of/for God than I did into God Himself.

So here — He challenged me to really get to know HIM. Not just His church. Not just the perspectives of the teachers and shepherds He’s appointed. But first and foremost, HIM.

I’m sure I’ll also be sharing more about that journey {that’s lifelong and has really only just begun} but the primary, and I know obvious, ways of going about this were through reading His Word and surrounding that, and other facets of my life, in prayer, while staying active in our local church.

He speaks.
I just have to be an active listener.

I also read a couple of books {namely Radical and The Explicit Gospel} that really rattled what I thought I knew — and I found them {sometimes to my disappointment} to be backed soundly by scripture as I continued to study God’s Word.

And so I found myself faced with this question — do I really want to be a follower of Jesus?
When I really begin to understand what that looks like, when I dig into scripture while also expanding my world view beyond American Christianity, it’s astounding how much more there was to what I thought I knew, and how much heavier it weighed.

To be completely honest, for a moment in time, I really wasn’t sure.
I wrestled with the whys and the hows and the what ifs of it all. I struggled with feeling like I really didn’t understand what I was getting myself into when I declared myself a Christian however many years ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted everything that actually came with it.

But through the grace of God, I realized that even if somehow it ended up being all wrong, if at the end of the day, at the end of the universe, we really are just one big cosmic accident and all of the miracles and life change and beautiful design we see as evidence of a living and loving God are fabricated in our coincidental minds, the effort and the sacrifice and the fulfillment of trying to honor Him and display His glory is all worth it. That this is what I want from my life, more than anything else I could dream up. That I’m willing to trade in a feel-good, self-centered, ego-driven, culturally-relevant worldview for what I believe to be a universal truth — regardless of what anyone around me believes or supports. That I don’t have to have all the answers. That I don’t want to serve a God I can understand. And that the risk is worth the potential reward. Yes, even just the possibility of one day kneeling before this God I have come to love and know that I am loved by, Who has shown Himself true so many times in my beautiful mess of a life, is worth giving up all other ground for.

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what I was doing. As a  seven year old seeking approval and “fire insurance” {and I’m pretty sure church membership}, I went before a congregation and was baptized in a white robe signifying a choice to believe in Jesus. And that experience told me that I had made the decision to be a Christ follower. Not that being baptized had saved me but that in a way, if I followed through with baptism, then God must believe that I really meant that prayer I desperately prayed over and over again as a child — that prayer that was supposed to save me.
That’s what I held onto until it unraveled. That’s what I stumbled over as it fell apart.

A few weeks ago, after having spent several years falling in love with the character of God, and several months questioning and studying it, I surrendered to the redesign of what had formerly unraveled and allowed Him to pick up the pieces and begin weaving a new tapestry that’s beyond what I can imagine. I reconciled in my heart being okay with not knowing what He’s doing but just wanting to be a part of it, and went out into the bay with my husband, before just our 2 daughters, to be baptized in murky, cold water, solidifying my decision to strive daily to die to myself and rise in Him. For Him.
This time, the experience was the result of having made a fully aware decision to follow Jesus, no holding back, no turning back. This was the snapshot in time when I declared that I really believe in the God I pray to over and over again as His child — that He has done so much more than save me,  that He continues to redeem me, and that He is what I will choose to hold onto, no matter what unravels around me, no matter how I stumble or what falls apart. He alone is worthy.

I always considered baptism to be like a wedding band, an outward symbol of an inward decision, meant to show the world that we’re bold enough to display what we believe. But in this decision, I called forth the example of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, who didn’t have a congregation to stand before or a camera crew there to record his symbolism, send photos to his loved ones, and upload this evidence of life change to Facebook.
This moment wasn’t for anyone else.
{Though, yes, I do hope that our daughters can look back on it and it will help them on some level in their own walk to know Jesus, and I do pray that sharing my story somehow helps others along their journey}.
But this moment.

This was a declaration before the Lord that I am willing to forsake all else. That I choose Him. That I was drawing a line in the sand of my own personal shore. That I don’t desire the option to turn back. I have fully activated my free will and determined I don’t need worldly balance. That my greatest joy comes from belonging to Him. That He is greater than all of my fears. That He is greater than all of my blessings. That He is my beginning and that my end is safe with Him, and but a beautiful new beginning. ❤

Hear me — I don’t believe that this baptism {or my first} saved me — any more than I believe that there’s a magical prayer one can pray to secure eternity. I don’t even consider this a ‘rededication’ of my life, as I have been seeking to follow Christ, and growing in my relationship with Him, for many years now. But there is a world of difference between that little girl in a baptist church, and the woman who today proclaims Jesus as her Savior. My understanding of what it means to be a Christian has completely shifted, over the course of several new revelations from college through this year. And though I know I’ll continue to grow and learn and struggle and overcome, I also realized that what I thought I knew when I was baptized as a child was nothing of the Jesus I know now, the one I have surrendered my life to — and I want to be obedient to the call of the gospel in being baptized as a result of choosing to follow Him, now that I truly know Him.
Then, I was checking a box. Now, I’ve stepped outside of the box. ❤

If I’ve stirred up questions in you with what I’ve written, I would love to talk to you about it. I don’t have all the answers but I also know it’s so hard to put into one post every bit of what I mean, and the last thing I want to do is leave someone confused. I’m also lucky enough to be connected to a lot of people with more wisdom and knowledge than myself if you have complex questions I’m not able to answer personally 🙂

xoxo

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Once Upon a Time

Back then, I didn’t know Jesus.

I knew *of* Him…

I was real scared of hell and a big fan of Jesus.

But I hadn’t actually encountered Him yet.

I had no idea what it looked like to follow Him outside of the checkboxes of religion — and y’all, I really like checkboxes. As much as I can rebel against being told what to do, I love to know what to do and get to cross it off my list!

But I really only had one checkbox that connected to my emotional being at the time — so I prayed that “magical” prayer over and over again, terrified that I hadn’t “meant it” enough the time before.

I think if I had understood the relational side of being a Christian — you know, the only side that really matters — then all of the rest of it would have come alive for me. But until I could get there, God really had me stuck on that prayer. Because in my soul, I had to know that it wasn’t about the specific words to a single prayer, and how desperately I prayed them because it was what I was supposed to do or it was my ticket out of this messy complicated life. That it was about so much more — that the change I was seeking would literally alter my life, on this side of heaven. That I would never be the same again. That I would never have to feel alone again. That I would desire to live for something and someone other than myself. And that I wouldn’t just be okay with that but I could find joy in it. That I could have a life beyond being ‘fine’ — that it would be hard but life is hard anyway and it could also be so amazingly beautiful.

So for me, it wasn’t a ‘lightbulb moment’ that just clicked on one day and I’ll remember it forever — apparently I’m a slow learner 😉

It was a gradual development of learning more and more about the character of our great God — much like falling in love…only the distance between enamored and invested took more time than I’d really like to admit 😛

And for me at least, I really think the key that unlocked my relationship was getting around other people who already had one and discovering what it could look like — and then committing to my own spiritual awakening, allowing my unique perspective to feed into establishing that connection so I could really let the Holy Spirit engage my soul and begin the ever growing process of being rooted and established in His life changing love.

That’s the beginning of my story — for a twenty-something church girl, it seemed to take a lifetime to find my lifeline.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Reflections on Father’s Day: 40 Years as a Child of God

Everyone is called by a name, but few get the honor to call someone by such a personal, intimate name like father or daddy.  It does not require a personal relationship to call a man by their given name such as David, Paul, or Michael. But calling someone father or daddy, this is personal. This is reserved for a special relationship, a unique privilege for a son or daughter. 

Contributing to “the act” of a baby coming into this world can be relatively easy, fun, and enjoyable. It doesn’t take necessarily a strong man to make this kind of contribution. But fathering a baby is not being a father. Fatherhood is an honor. Fatherhood is a responsibility that requires great sacrifice. 

This year, Father’s Day is particularly meaningful and personal for me. Today, I celebrate 40 years of calling God my Father—having a personal relationship with God as my Father and being His child. As a young six year old girl on a Father’s Day Sunday afternoon, I knelt beside my parent’s bed with my parents on either side of me, and gave Jesus my life and entered into the family of God. Calling God, the Creator of heaven and earth, father or daddy is extremely personal for me. It is not a formal relationship, but rather a father/daughter relationship with on-going conversation that is 24/7. A lot of people refer to God as God, but they do not have a personal relationship to call Him Father or Daddy.

Father’s Day can illicit a plethora of emotions ranging from an extraordinary appreciation or deep love to an indescribable pain or hurt. One’s relationship with their father in many ways has a direct impact on who we are today. The father/child relationship influences all relationships we have in life. The significance of this relationship colors the world we live in and how we see life and others. Whether you were deeply hurt by your father or were held by loving arms of a father, we see the world through the lens of this relationship. Over the last 25 years of doing ministry, one thing I have observed is the fact that many men “father” children, but not all are committed to the sacrifice and honor that fatherhood requires.  

Our society does not value the family. And fathers walking out on their families is rampant. While it doesn’t take a strong man to contribute to birthing a child, it take an extraordinary strong man to stay and embrace the sacrifice of fatherhood and commitment to one’s family. My heart is broken to watch men walk away from the commitment of fatherhood. 

Fatherhood provides a tangible visual for us to embrace the father-heart of God. Although imperfect in our humanity, there are distinct ways we can get a glimpse of God’s love in the gift of fatherhood. Fatherhood is an honor. It is a sacred relationship that has the potential to reflect the image of God as Father. While there are many qualities that fatherhood embodies, there are 5 that I think are essential and allow us to see God as a Father: Unconditional Love, Protection, Discipline, Faithfulness, and Forgiveness.

Each and everyone of us long to be loved with an unconditional love. We will never measure up by our actions or behaviors. We will all make mistakes. A good father will love us when we mess up. His love will never be conditional. It won’t matter what kind of grades we make, how we perform on the field, or how successful we are in our profession. A father that loves unconditionally gives the gift of loving us because of who we are, not what we have to offer. Unconditional love celebrates who we have been created to be loving us no matter what—regardless of our failures. 

We live in a world of good vs evil, strong vs weak. A father that provides protection and defends his sons and daughters teaches his children that there is safety at home. There is safety in a father’s loving arms. That protection and security a father can provide allows his children the carefree freedom to explore and thrive knowing their father will rescue, defend, and protect them at all cost.

Love provides discipline. Discipline is a gift given to those we love and want to see successful in life. It is nurturing correction that allows a child to learn right from wrong. It is a way for a child to feel safe and loved because there are boundaries in place to keep them from harm. Discipline is not done in anger, but rather love. No correction is enjoyable at the time, but a child that has been provided loving discipline will thrive and be confident able to discern right from wrong. A child that is disciplined is blessed. 

Faithfulness is the gift given to a family of not giving up or walking out when times are hard. Faithfulness provides a stability and safety for children to experience in the home. Faithfulness is a picture of a love that never ends. All families will experience hardships. In a broken world, it is impossible to live together as a family and not experience pain, brokenness, and heartache. But a father who never leaves and withstands the storms of life holding hands with his bride and children by his side is a man of courage.  A man of strength never leaves or abandons those he has been entrusted to keep safe in the midst of life’s storms. A good father never leaves. 

Life is riddled with choices from the moment our eyes open in a sun-lit room to the time we drift off in slumber at night. With every decision there are consequences. When we make wise decisions, there are blessings that fill our lives. And likewise, when we make the wrong decision, we have to live with the consequences of our choices. A father that navigates and helps guide his children with wisdom, but is there to hold and comfort, teach and correct a child when poor choices have been made is the epitome of forgiveness. There is not a person who is alive and breathing that does not need the gift of forgiveness. We all are desperate for forgiveness because we all mess up. A father who can calmly teach and correct a child through their painful mistakes is a father who loves deeply. Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences or discipline. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift a father can give recognizing that we all are in need of grace. 

It is in our humanity that we are all reminded that the best of us struggle with providing any of these five qualities with excellence. Our selfishness and pride often stand in the way of articulating and executing any of these qualities successfully. There are many who read through a list like this and are reminded of all the ways their father has failed them. Walking out on their mother and siblings, remind them of the hurt they can’t seem to move past. Estranged relationships leave so many in pain due to abuse and mis-management of the role of fatherhood. However, many of us do have fathers that have loved us well and modeled many of these traits with excellence. There are fathers, while not perfect, who do strive to provide these qualities to their families. 

And there is hope. Regardless of the kind of experience you had with your father, there is one thing for certain—no father is perfect. That is, all but one. God’s love is unconditional. He has given us the ultimate gift of love by giving His Son, Jesus, as the sacrifice for our sin which separates us from His perfection. He is a Father that loves us as sons and daughters. He is our protection. He is our defender. He is our shield. He is there to pick us up when we fall down. He is there to hold us tight as the Father who lovingly embraces and holds as His child. He is perfect, without sin, and yet it is His loving discipline that calls us to repentances and relationship with Him. God’s faithfulness is the promise of never leaving us or forsaking us. He never walks out or abandons us. It is His faithfulness that is always standing with open arms to receive us, welcome us, and hold us despite our shortcomings. 

And because of His great love for us, it is His forgiveness that creates the bridge of reconciliation from our humanity to the family of God. It is the sacrifice God offered by giving His one and only Son to become sin and the sacrifice for mankind to enter into the loving family of God. That kind of sacrifice can only be offered by a true, loving, and perfect Father. This is the gift of fatherhood that only God Himself has the power or authority to offer. 

It is the chasm of selfishness and pride that we find ourselves, which prevents us from receiving this gift of true Fatherhood He offers. Regardless of the relationship we have had with our earthly father, we are all offered the gift of a perfect Father that offers unconditional love, protection, discipline, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Today, I celebrate Father’s Day honoring my earthly father, and father of my daughters, but most of all 40 years as a daughter of the King. A Father’s Day that provides us a home in eternity offering us unconditional love and forgiveness because of the gift of His Son, Jesus. The gift of calling our Creator, Father, is the ultimate celebration of Father’s Day. This is Fatherhood. 

Enough

:: to the one struggling to feel like you are enough ::

Dear individual feeling like you’re not enough,

You are not.

Now breathe a deep sigh of relief with me.

Because you were never intended to be.

***

You see the images and the statuses plastered around your social network, well intentioned and meant to encourage you, telling you that YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. !

You want so badly to take heart with that mantra, to find empowerment and belief in yourself through it…but instead, you find yourself wondering…am I?
What makes me enough? What am I enough of? And to whom?

You’re weighed down by the questions of how many aspects of your life this should apply to? And where does that leave personal development? Should you stop trying then? Or is it in your trying that you’ve reached this nebulous state of being ‘enough’? Who is determining the enough that you are?
If you are enough socially, culturally, then why don’t you feel like it?
If you are enough individually, then why are you still struggling to own it?

Sometimes it’s not even enough to just be enough.
You are occasionally given the assurance that you are *more* than enough!

I don’t know about you, but I was finding it difficult just to wrap my mind around the concept that being enough of anything or everything to anyone or everyone was something actually attainable. Which makes this idea quite intimidating that I’m surrounded by powerful individuals who aren’t just enough. They’re more than enough…
How do they do that?!

I don’t even know how to be just enough or what I’m supposed to be enough of or how many people I should be enough for. Just myself? My husband? My kids? My extended family? Friends?

And what happens when the notion that I should be enough collides with the realization that I can’t possibly be everything to everyone?
Why does the idea of my perceived ability to be MORE than enough leave me feeling more like a failure than a fortress?

Instead of empowering me with freedom and independence, I find this concept chaining me to the perfection complexion I’ve been battling for what feels like my whole life, encouraging me to think that I am fully capable of being everything I want to be to anyone I want to be it to… and then feeling completely deflated when that comes crashing down around me because it just. isn’t. true.

Maybe I’m the only one who’s struggled with this.
But just in case I’m not.

I thought I’d share with you the clarity that I’ve received over why this  “You Are Enough” movement has been bothering me.

It’s not the people  I see promoting it — they are loving and encouraging and beautiful and talented and driven, trying to be a positive force in a broken world!

But if you read the memes and you feel less than encouraged, then this letter is for you.
Even if you love the memes and you have the tattoo and you totally get what’s trying to be said, this is for you too. Because my guess is that at some point you will come to feel like you aren’t measuring up or like you don’t even understand the standards by which you are being measured, let alone how it is you’re doing.

Can I tell you a secret?
A beautiful assurance that at face value seems harsh but brings with it so much grace and beauty…

You are not enough.

And that is okay.
In fact, it’s more than okay.
It’s intentional and God-breathed and it may be the most freeing realization you’ll ever have.

Are you independent?
I’m sure.
Can you do hard things?
Absolutely.

But you were not meant to do this life thing on your own.

You were designed to be in relationship with a loving Creator, merciful Savior, empowering Holy Spirit, all sustaining God! Called to a higher purpose than you can achieve alone, meant to walk this life in community with others — pulling the best out of one another, holding each other up through the hard times, celebrating together through the good times, learning to love like Jesus more and more each day, and all for the glory of God. To be a disciple and to help disciple — to love and to be loved.
In a culture that worships independence, it’s a radically counter cultural mindset — it is intrinsically relational. We cannot do it alone.
That weight is man made.
It is not for you to carry.
Only HE is enough.
And only through Him will you ever find the fulfillment and satisfaction and wholeness you crave.

I would love to see a movement that tries to teach our sisters and our daughters — ourselves — that WE are HIS and THAT is ENOUGH.

I am not enough.
but —
I’m with Him.
And He is ALWAYS enough.
MORE than enough.

He is the Alpha and the Omega.
The Beginning and the End.
The Creator and the Sustainer.
The Author and the Perfecter.
HIs name should be bold on the binding *and* inscribed within.
This is HIS story.
It’s by HIS grace we are saved.
By HIS hand we are delivered.
By HIS Holy Spirit we are ordained, anointed, appointed, and fueled.

That is a truth worth declaring.
Louder than any other declaration my heart longs to make for itself.

It can be a struggle, to get out of my own way and to give HIM the glory and the honor and the power. But that’s why I need a tribe who isn’t afraid to tell me that I’ll never be enough — and to show me how stunningly beautiful that is. So today, I hope to be that person for you — who helps you to walk in the freedom that there is a Redeemer Who is more than capable of supplying all your needs and of doing more than you could ever ask or imagine on Your own. His grace is sufficient for you. His power is perfected in your weakness. You don’t have to be enough. He’s got you covered. ❤

Guest Contributor:

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Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Desiring God's Presence

Exodus 33: 15 ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.’”

Having moved 2000 miles from VA to TX, I dove into the study of Moses and I assumed the Lord would ask me to stop my complaining.  I just survived a hot Houston summer, bugs the size of small rodents, and a record flood and hurricane season, but hey who is complaining? Of course the passages on the grumbling Israelites would put me in my place.  Much to my surprise, the Lord had a bigger issue in my heart, which needed tending to.

Week after week, I was continually drawn to Moses himself as so many aspects of his life and his walk I admired and desired to strive towards.  I spent many hours thinking about how desperately Moses desired the Lord’s presence above all and it was this very thing, his intimate face-to-face relationship with the Lord, which made the difference in his life.  The Lord promised Moses victory over his enemies, promised him land flowing with milk and honey BUT Moses knew the better choice. Moses was willing to give up all those things and stay camped in the desert if the Lord refused to go on with them.  Moses wanted the Lord’s presence!

This made me really think about where my heart truly was.  If I was promised victory over my battles or promised days filled with peace, joy, contentment, self-control, comfort, and security; however, I was given the caveat that the Lord’s presence would not be with me.  How would I respond?  Do I truly want Christ and only Christ?  Is He truly where my complete satisfaction lies?  Or deep in my heart do I desire more…  

The year started off very smoothly and I was feeling quite proud of myself, and how quickly I seemed to have settled into this new life as a Texan.   Then I encountered some rough waters and began to struggle, as I faced a depression, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  The Lord began showing me that in my impatience for the Lord to bring healing to my heart, I began to build my own boat to set sail in.  Needless to say, I’m not very good at building boats.  I was trying to re-create what I had before. Signing up for everything and anything where maybe I could meet a friend and hoping to try to fit in and feel apart of something.  I found myself decorating and re-decorating my house but with no one to entertain, working out until my knees gave way, serving my family beyond what I should and in all of this trying to feel purposeful once again.  One by one idols where being created, attempting to fill the void only God should fill.  So one by one God began taking apart this boat that I had built leaving me floating on the water with Him alone.  That’s exactly where He wanted me.

Like Moses desperately desiring the Lord’s presence, Christ wants me to desperately seek after Him.  He desires that I find my purpose and fulfillment in Him alone. Christ wants to be the boat that I climb into each day.  He will enable me to ride the tossing waves of adversity, to be still while floating on the tranquil waters of patiently waiting, to not fear when the storms clouds of uncertainty roll in and to be anchored firmly when my doubts want to pull me away.  Unlike all those other boats I try to construct, Christ is the only one who fills my heart with true satisfaction.  My circumstances will change but when I am finding fulfillment and purpose in my perfect redeemer, Jesus Christ, I am able to remain anchored securely.

What boat are you setting sail in today?

Guest Contributor:

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Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

"I am Singing over You" Love, God

Years ago, while going through a season where my perception of God’s love for me was challenged, there were several days that I had a few lines from a song stuck in my head.  That is not that unusual; we’ve all had that happen.  What was unusual, was that I hadn’t heard this particular song in years, not even it’s melody had come across my path.  Just a few lines from the song kept repeating in my mind.  I’m not even sure I could recall the rest of the song; it was obscure and I had only ever heard it a few times, at best.  

After a few days while humming it and going about mundane tasks, I felt that still, small voice speak to my spirit and I was thunderstruck.  “Meg, you are hearing the song I am singing over you.”  A passage in scripture, that always makes me smile is Zephaniah 3: 17 where the prophet says the Lord will rejoice over His people with singing.  You see, in my period of doubt, doubt that My heavenly Father could love me as much as others He chose to favor with what I desperately longed for, but lacked, I was hearing, continually, Paul Simon’s song Father and Daughter.  The lines I kept hearing were, “I’m going to watch you shine, gonna watch you grow….and as long as one and one is two there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.”

Oh, what we will hear if we listen, if we inquire after the Lord, and we wait upon Him!   In Daniel 2:28 Daniel declares that there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, mysteries if you will.  He longs to show us more of Him, reveal His nature that we may know Him.  He does that primarily through scripture, His Word, His love letter to us, the greatest love story ever told.  As we get into His Word, get before Him in prayer, which is not only unloading our cares and requests on Him, but surrendering our will to His, waiting upon Him, and listening, He will “show us great and mighty things” which we do not know. (Jer.33:3)

I began to ask that He would reveal to me what He was singing over me, when I needed to hear to it most, and the for wisdom to know, when it was just a song stuck in my head.   He has answered a handful of times, always in surprising ways, and always timely and personally.  I am so grateful for the heavenly Father who knows me intimately, and desires for me to know Him just as personally.

The truth that Daniel proclaimed to King Nebuchadnezzar, that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, is unchanging.  What do you need to know, how the God of the universe truly feels about you, how He sees you?  Press into Him, ask, seek, knock, and as you wait upon Him, be listening.  (Phil 3:14; Luke 11:9)

Miracle Red Cowboy Boots

When the Lord first moved our family to Dallas we lived on my husband’s military pension while he looked for the job that would launch his second career.  We were so blessed to have the resources that permitted us to move, plant ourselves in a wonderful neighborhood close to family, and provide our kids with a private school that accommodates their different learning styles.  Our needs were fully met, but we had to watch our pennies.  We had to put little luxuries on hold, just for a season.  Our discretionary abilities were on restriction.  Life became smaller, and in some ways sweeter. 

In my daily prayers for my husband, one of the things I would ask for was peace and confidence in his provision of our family.   Looking for a job is hard on a man and I didn’t want to knowingly add stress to his burden to provide.  So I prayed, and God helped me imperfectly live out my intensions.  This season was hard for me.  My friends who know me well could tell you why.  I want stuff.  I know, we all want stuff, but some of us are better at putting our desires on the back burner.  I’m not so good at it.  We had a new home and I’m one of those who loves to fuss – a little coat of paint, a few new light fixtures, maybe a rug here, maybe a lamp there.  Curtailed, for a season.  In prayer the Lord said, “this phase seems like a test for your husband but it is also a discipline for you, to prune away unnecessary desires that won’t satisfy you…can’t satisfy you.”  

The words of 1 Timothy 6 reverberated in my spirit, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

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And so we set our minds on contentment.  Our kids had to grow in this area too.  I have a tween daughter.  She’s a very tweeny tween.  She has had a very nice life.  And because she is a child, she has no idea how nice it has been.  So when we chose to curtail expenditures, well, it was a bummer for her.  One afternoon we were playing tourists in our own town during a “staycation” Spring Break.  It was a Western sort of day at the Fort Worth Stockyards.  I don’t know why I did this, but I let my daughter amble into a cowboy boot store.  Real cowboy boots, not the ones from Target.  Beautifully stitched, butter soft leather, expensive cowboy boots.  And, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I let her try some on.  I have to admit they were cool - red, with elaborate stitching.  She looked cool, she felt cool…and then she looked at me in anticipation.  “No, not today.”  The answer was predictable of course.  But it didn’t sit well with her.  She proceeded to have what we lovingly call “a hissy fit” in our family.  And it was a loud one.   She was hoping to embarrass me into buying boots that were too expensive for most of us, including me.  What she actually did was embarrass herself.  I took her outside as fast as I could get those pretty boots off her feet and we had a little talk.   She was so certain those boots were vital to her happiness.  And here I was denying her the key that would unlock the answer to all her fashion problems.  

“Look,” I said, “you are not the first young woman who decided the only thing she needed was the one thing she lacked.  Eve with her apple was the first.  We will let these boots go and you will survive the disappointment…be better for it.”  But the lesson couldn’t stop there.  I told her about my prayer for her daddy, who was working hard daily, building his network, and searching out a new way to provide for us.  I told her my prayer was peace and confidence for her daddy.  Was her ingratitude fostering that?  Was she helping?   “Oh no, mom.  I didn’t think about that.  I don’t need those boots.  Never mind…”  

My girl and I love garage sales, thrift stores, and antique barns.  We love the hunt.  God is so faithful. Wouldn’t you know the very next day we were passing one of our favorite resale shops and decided to stop.  Can you guess what was right up front, displayed and waiting for her?  Yep, an almost new pair of butter soft red leather cowboy boots…in her size…at a small fraction of the price of the originals!   At first I wasn’t sure why the Lord had decided to answer my daughter’s “hissy fit” with the very thing she was longing for, but I do not pretend to understand all His ways.  His sweetness in response to our sourness continues to astound me.  I can’t be sure, but I think He was showing my daughter that God meets our needs…and sometimes our wants…if we open our hands and bend our will to His choices.  I think He was showing all of us…

Read with me in First John Chapter 2: 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

This sounds like an order or a command, and a tough one at that.  How do I not love the world?  The lust of the flesh, our physical cravings.  The lust of the eyes, our longing for things.  The pride of life, our confidence in earthly resources.  These things seem to rule me. How to I resist?  

The answer is simple and complex all at once.  I think maybe this isn’t a command at all.  Maybe it’s really it’s an explanation.  Do not love the world…because the world will not satisfy. It cannot satisfy.  Sure we can buy the new boots and we can over-extend our finances to do so.  But you know what that leaves us with?  Fancy feet and the same old sick soul.  Nothing changes.  Boots wear out.  But when we trust the Lord for our salvation, our provision, our direction on this journey, then everything changes. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  This, friends, is the secret to a happy life.  It’s like a code.  That thing you want, that thing you can’t live without? Eve’s apple, my daughter’s boots, or my new lamps…it’s not the fix we’re hoping for.  Jesus is the fix.  Only Jesus. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

*Miracle Red Cowboy Boots first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

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Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

It’s Really All About Jesus Anyway, Isn’t It?

Have you read the Bible from beginning to end?  I am sorry to say that I have not, despite being a Christian my entire life.  (Nothing like starting off with a huge confession, right?)  I have read parts of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament, but I have not read the entire Bible.  It’s interesting now to reflect on why I haven’t.  

I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible from start to finish.  My parents had given me my first nice leather Bible for Christmas when I was in 4th or 5th grade.  This was way back before there were as many translation options as there are today, and my new Bible was the King James Version.  It probably won’t surprise you to know that I barely made it past Noah and the Ark!  

As an adult, I purchased the NIV translation of a “Read the Bible Through in a Year.”  I remember keeping up with it for a couple of months, but I found that reading several chapters of the Old Testament, then a couple chapters of Psalms and Proverbs, before skipping over to the New Testament each day was cumbersome.  Maybe it was something about me, but I found it difficult to pick up the next day where I had left off in 3 different places!  

Amid my attempts to read the Bible from start to finish, the majority of my group and individual Bible studies were more “topical” in nature and based on the New Testament.  Topical studies were more appealing, I think, because I could choose what I wanted God to speak to me about.  Although I enjoyed Psalms and Proverbs, I came to believe that there really wasn’t anything pertinent I was missing from the Old Testament.  It’s really all about Jesus anyway, right?  But, I’ve also recently learned that there’s a whole lot to learn from the OT and it IS relevant to today!  

Some time towards the end of last year, I felt the desire to begin with Genesis and read through the entire Bible- start to finish.  This time, I chose a modern translation (New Living) that takes the reader through the Bible chronologically, with no skipping around.  And there is a daily summary, as well as a practical application commentary, that has satisfied my need for the topical part of Bible study.  What I have learned is that the insights, encouragements, and lessons from reading the Old Testament are every bit as relevant and applicable to anything that I have learned from the New Testament! 

This is a big transitional year for our family.  My daughter, Emily, will enter middle school next year and for the last several years, my husband and I have been considering moving both of our girls out of public school to a private Christian school, where they can obtain a faith-based education.  To us, it makes sense that if we are going to move to a new school system, the time to do it would be when Emily is moving to a new school anyway. Along with this decision has been another to possibly to move from our current neighborhood to another.  We have had our eye on another neighborhood for years and now that the girls will be changing schools, it seems like a good time to decide whether we should move or not.  Now, I went into this idea of reading the Bible through without really thinking there would be anything God would say to me about these decisions in the Old Testament.  Turns out I was wrong.  

In Genesis 12:1-4, God calls Abram (Abraham) to pick up and leave his native country and to move his family.  Abram was obedient and did what God told him to do, but what’s most interesting about this passage is that Abram didn’t know where God was telling him to move!  Hebrews 11:8 says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land… He went without knowing where He was going.”  Abraham exhibited true faith and I felt like I was being encouraged to do the same: God was telling me that we just need to keep our eyes on Him and follow where He leads—even if that means staying where we are.  But wait, there’s more!  

God makes a promise to Abraham that his descendants will be many and also that he and Sarah, who were both really old at this point, would have a son of their own.  God repeats His promise many times, but time passes and nothing happens.  So, Sarah and Abraham get impatient and take matters into their own hands.  Abraham and Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceive a son and this creates a situation that brings much heartbreak.  (Genesis 15-17)  God does eventually fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah, but the consequences of their impatience impacted them for years.  

Meanwhile, although there were a few “hiccups” with the private school application process, God continued to lead us forward.  However, the process of looking around at houses became overwhelming.  Initially we were considering just one neighborhood, but then one house/builder lead to another, and we started looking at several other neighborhoods.  With so many possibilities, it was hard to discern if God was leading us to any of them.   Many times along this journey, builders and agents would have loved some money and a signed contract, but so far, we haven’t felt God’s hand on any of the houses/neighborhoods we have seen (nice as they are!).  This passage about how Abraham and Sarah failed to wait upon God came at the exact time that I was feeling the most overwhelmed.  Abraham and Sarah took the control from God and the consequences of this lasted for years.  This passage served as a strong reminder for us to walk with God through this process, and not to run ahead.  

How amazing is it that God knows us and loves us so intimately that He speaks to us about exactly what we are dealing with in life and at the perfect time!  I will admit that I have not read my Bible according to plan every single day, so I’m a little behind.  In spite of this, God brought the right message at the perfect time.  It is it now May and I am still so encouraged!  Now, I will admit that Leviticus is a challenge (smile!), but I continue to believe God is using the Old Testament to speak into my everyday life.    

What about you?  Whatever part of the Bible you are studying, I pray you are hearing God speak to you, too.  And if you haven’t read the Bible all the way through, I hope you are encouraged to pick up whatever translation/plan inspires you, and get started— you don’t even have to wait until January! 

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Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia. She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work. Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years. Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9). When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.

Hope-Filled Brokenness

Romans 15:13 “Now 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.”  

When we had first moved to Houston, I was struggling to adjust to my new normal and the Lord gave me a word picture of how He wanted me to live my life. It was a very broken and cracked vase, which had definitely seen and experienced a lot of life.  It was so cracked that it could not hold water.  As water was poured into the vase, it would begin trickling out of some smaller cracks and gushing out of the larger cracks.  This vase appeared quite useless and without a real purpose, other than as a new décor piece for a mantle.  This was not really the look I was aiming for however at this point, I definitely felt like that broken vase.  I felt quite tired and useless being placed here in Houston far away from family and friends.  The easiest thing would be to stay on the mantle and reflect on all the wonderful memories but the Lord wanted me off the shelf to be used once again.  This is always easier said than done.  

So I allowed the Lord to take me off that shelf and begin to use me in little ways as I stepped out here and there.  The more the Lord chose to use me, the more water would leak from my cracks.  So I found myself beginning to try to patch the cracks in my vase with various things.  I felt like if I looked prettier on the outside, perhaps my cracks would not be noticed.  New hairstyles, new outfits and a newly decorated house only ended up making me fall deeper into a pit of comparison and broke my vase in additional places.  My increased insecurities welcomed in some emotional eating, where food became another coping mechanism to help distract me from the loneliness that was filling my heart.  The additional pounds that I added to my waistline only created more cracks in my shell of insecurity, causing me to want to jump right back onto that shelf and hide.  But the Lord kept pulling me off that shelf and showing me the things I had filled my life with in order to “fix my brokenness”.

Situation after situation came into my life, which brought additional brokenness into my heart.  Emotions, which I thought were placed behind me, came reeling back to me again.  A few dreams that I once held dear needed to be let go and grieved which required me to fully trust the Lord’s plans for me and my family.  The only thing I could really do was spend extra time really filling myself with His truths.  I prayed fervently, I read His Word voraciously and I cried out to the Lord for answers to how to walk in this brokenness, which I was feeling.  Over time as I sought Him, I began to sense that He was not asking me to walk in brokenness but instead was showing me that He wanted me to walk in HOPE FILLED brokenness!  Just two simple words with ten letters but that made all the difference.

When I walk in this type of brokenness, His hope is pouring out of me, rather than my emotions, my sadness or my despair.  Jesus is my true and lasting hope.  He is the One who shines in my life and enables me to love others despite how I may be feeling. I want my heart to overflow with the hope of His return, I want to cling loosely to the things of this world and I want to be filled with the hope of Christ and all that entails.  When this hope is filling my heart, my focus is on Christ and not on myself.  This is the hope He is asking to walk in and to be filled with so when He chooses to uses me, as I am … a broken and worn vase…. His hope would overflow from me by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Are you feeling broken and unable to be used by the Lord?  Know that Jesus desires to shine His light brightly through your cracks as you cling tightly to Him and choose to walk in His hope.  Christ is our lasting hope and He desires that we live our lives hope filled even on those days when we are feeling broken.

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.