Posts in Spiritual Growth
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:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

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.

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. 

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:

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.

 

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:

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.   

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.

 

Shifting Seasons

This morning, it’s suddenly cold enough for winter coats…
I’ll never get over how short the gorgeous fall season is around here.
We probably have a few warm days to go, interspersed amidst the crisp and the all too chilly ones, as it nears the end of October.

This time of year has often seen our family settling into new seasons of life change. Not every year, but often enough that I looked toward this fall with wonder, expectation, and curiosity over what it would hold. With so many shifts over the past few years, I couldn’t fathom what could change that much for us, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to try.

But instead of a shift into a new season, as the weather around us is so eager to do, it seems God is willing us to settle into a season instead. To hunker down, to get under it, and to allow it to do its work in and through us.

To be honest, my heart is longing to step into a future chapter I feel God has woven the desire for, that from my perspective seems it should be coming sooner rather than later — but that’s not what we’re getting to do right now.

He’s also called us to something different in the here and now that I believe He wants us to focus on first. That doesn’t mean we’re letting go of the desire He’s seeded in our hearts for our possible future — on the contrary, I believe that this isn’t a season of merely waiting, but of preparation for what’s to come — really doubling down on a few things He’s pressing into us about as we await the opening of new doors.

However, He’s also called something seemingly unrelated out of this current season, something that is to be sharing our focus and commitment as we diligently prepare for Him to say GO to our next steps and whatever they may hold. In this present season, He has beautifully and graciously aligned us to really uncover what discipleship in biblical community looks like. To learn to study His word more thoroughly, and to discover how to effectively teach others to do the same.

It’s something that, from a bird’s eye view, and from the perspective of those who know us well, we’ve been told seems like such an obvious fit for us — but it’s not something we’ve ever intentionally pursued before, especially at this level.

And it’s scary.

It’s crazy to me how something so close to what you’ve seen yourself doing practically your whole life and assumed would just come naturally, can kind of terrify you as it’s actually beginning to come to fruition…

It’s not the big audacious visions I’ve had, though those are scary in their own right, they still feel far enough off… It’s the calm, intimate, ‘small scale’ callings that are really showing themselves to be what will have the monumental impact and joy sparking capability in our lives and in the lives of those around us. And so I see simultaneously such beauty and such weight in the reality of what this chapter is bringing.

It’s not a monumental shift our world will watch and comment on, it’s more of a strong & steady progression — something internal being poured out as it’s stirred up. It’s intense and deeply personal.

While we may be settling into a season, what is shifting is my perspective on that season — allowing Him to help me view the work He has called us to, not through the lens of the world and its shallow praise, but through the lens of His Kingdom and the joy of bringing Him glory in any and every facet of this life  — not just the big stuff, not just the stuff we display, not just what our community at large sees — but the relational stuff, the hard stuff, the messy people in a broken world stuff. Because at the end of the season, of the day, of the month, at the end of this life, isn’t that what we want to be able to declare? That it was all for Him? Not just that we did the big things, that we shouted from the rooftops, but sometimes I think even more importantly, that we honored Him in the little things — in the things the world may not shine focus on — because isn’t the world upside down without His presence to filter our priorities through? Maybe what matters most in our ministry is what happens on a small scale…not because the big, bold stuff isn’t important — we absolutely serve a big and bold God — but because there can be so much substance in the “in between” moments, in the personal connections — and we also serve a personal, relational God. I don’t know about you, but I often find those to be the things that are the hardest to focus intentionally on, to work through, to glorify Him in — because they really take the most investment. The things that tend to get the most attention in our culture are the big splashes, temporary and fleeting, but I’m learning to see more and more the immense value in swimming upstream to reach people at a heart level — and to invest my priorities accordingly. The things that really make the biggest impact are the ones that are carried through the shifting seasons, side by side, hand in hand. The ones that have a name. A story. That require the writing of pages together. Sharing this life is about giving and receiving — what I give to others, and how I receive them. I’m starting to believe that ministry isn’t primarily about what we give to others — but that they see Jesus the most in how we receive them — into our circle, into our home, into our moment. Though the situations and depths will vary, I believe that truly serving others is more relational than donational. {and yes I made up that word 😉 }.

Regardless of what I think I have to give, an open hand and heart may be the most effective tools I can possess. It can be easy to get caught up in the going and doing — but who are we really *being* with? That’s where discipleship happens — which is the commission Jesus left us with. And following His example, there’s a lot of togetherness in the building of disciples. So that’s the challenge I’m undertaking in this season. Not something new, or shiny, but something authentic and, for me, a bit uncomfortable — in the most convicting and fulfilling way.

It was a line about 2 minutes and 45 seconds into a live feed of this next song that spoke to me in reference to this post ::

“so many hopes and dreams — I can think of a thousand things, that I’m waiting for — but that doesn’t change, who He is to me. No it doesn’t change who He’ll always be”<3!!! and in another version “your leadership is perfect in my life” — what amazing truths to hold onto!

But if you find yourself in a season of waiting without clarity and your heart needs encouragement, just take 15 minutes to connect with God about it and allow this video to speak to you :

If you are interested in Discipleship, you can learn more here.

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 Mother's Christmas Gift

Christmas season is now under way and excitement is in the air. Homes begin to light up the night with all the beautiful decorations.  With tummies still full from turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, the shopping begins.  It is gift giving season and the search is on for the perfect gifts for those we love.  If you are like me, I enjoy thinking about and planning for the perfect gift for all on my list, especially my children.  What would excite them?  Surprise them?  Wow them?  What have they been keeping their eye on that would make their face light up when they unwrap it from under the tree?  Oh, it is so fun to give! 

Material gifts are fun to think about, shop for and give, but have you given any thought to what eternal gifts you might give your children this Christmas, gifts for the heart?  If we only spent as much time investing in eternal gifts as we do shopping for material gifts, our homes would be calmer and more meaningful at Christmas time.  Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth but in heaven, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19,20)  One eternal gift is spending time with kiddos; baking cookies, retelling the story of Jesus' birth, sharing stories of your childhood Christmas memories, celebrating Advent together and other similar Christmas activities.  I think as moms we do tend to make time to give these special “gifts” to our kids at Christmas time, no matter how busy the season.  But could there be a gift that will give over and over, day after day this Christmas season that could impact them for eternity?

I'm glad you asked.  What about giving the gift to your children of a mom spending daily, intentional time with the Lord Jesus this entire Christmas season?  I believe that is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, the hanging of decorations and Christmas lights, the shopping and wrapping...give your kids devoted time of their mom sitting at the feet of Jesus.  This December, make it the top priority of each day to make time for Him.  It will change your stress level, your shopping, your heart, your own Christmas experience this year, and it will overflow into a gift for your children.  

One of my favorite things to do each December day is get up before anyone in the family is awake, go downstairs and in the dark, turn on only the lights of the Christmas tree.  While sipping coffee and my Bible in my lap, with just the twinkling of the Christmas lights, I spend time with my Savior.   It is such a sweet time.  I look forward to it all year long.  There is just something about staring at the lights of the tree and pondering the God of the universe who chose to come down from heaven Himself, in human flesh, to show us how much He loves us.  Morning after morning, this renews my focus.  This intentional and special time with Jesus fixes my eyes on Him, encourages me to lean in to Him, fills me with His Spirit and helps me keep this season about Jesus and not what the world has made it to be.  This time with Jesus overflows into the rest of my day and becomes a gift to my family.  My heart is full.  My focus is clear.  My joy is real.

My family gets to experience this gift of me spending time with Jesus because what He has taught me that morning often spills into my conversations with them that day.  Taking the time to study the Christmas story from different perspectives teaches us new things and then we want to share.  For example, two years ago a friend of mine gave me the Christmas devotional The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It was a fresh way of reading and studying the lineage of Jesus through the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree.  Walking through Old Testament passages and being reminded of truths each morning from scripture and Ann's devotional made me want to share these Christmas treasures with my kids.  Continuing to point our own hearts and our children's hearts to Jesus during the season of Christmas is a gift that truly is eternal.  It changes how we live each day.  Maybe you want to find a new way to spend time with Jesus in His word this December and allow God to fill your heart, so you can pour into your family the peace and light of Christ.  Psalm 119:130 reminds us "The unfolding of Thy words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple."

Time with Jesus is life giving.  A mom walking with the Lord daily is a mom filled with the Spirit and being led by the Spirit.  A mom spending time with Jesus is ready to give to her family.  Why not give this gift to your kids this Christmas season?  Oh, they may not be able to physically grab it out from under the tree and unwrap it on Christmas morning, but they will unknowingly experience the eternal gift you are giving them...a mom who has put Jesus at the top of her own Christmas list and gives of herself out of the overflow of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

 

Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, it conjures up images of pilgrims, pumpkin pie, football, and maybe even family you only see a few times a year. Whether you are looking forward to Thursday, or attempting to wish it away, I want to pose a challenge. Is it possible to view Thanksgiving, not as only a holiday, but as a choice of our will that directs our attitude? It is easy to forget that thanksgiving is mandated in Scripture. In Philippians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:15 reads, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Some of you may be thinking, “that is easy to recite or type, but you have no idea how difficult my situation is!” No, I don’t, but He does. He knows all of our situations and needs, and He wants to be invited into them. At times, we can be so overwhelmed by our circumstances the thought of being thankful for them, knowing that He sees the end from the beginning, when we can’t, is repugnant to us. I challenge you; I challenge me, to start by bringing our needs to Him. If you can’t yet see anything to be grateful or thankful for in your circumstances, start with transparency and honesty before the One who knows all anyway. He says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find…” So, this Thanksgiving, ask. Ask to be shown things in your life to be grateful for, ask for Him to bring good out of situations where you have yet to see any good, and ask for strength and faith to trust Him more.

One of the definitions of thankfulness is to be conscious of benefits received. Let’s ask Him in prayer this Thanksgiving season, whether things are going great or you are in the hardest season of your life, for a greater awareness of things for which to thank Him. Then do it; thank Him, remembering also that with thankfulness comes the peace of God. Reread those verses from above. God’s own peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus when we come before Him and ask for what we need with a posture of Thanksgiving. 

May you enjoy the Thanksgiving season all year long, from your friends at Passion4Moms.

Coffee and Fellowship

As I sat to write this blog this morning, writer’s block over-whelmed me. I certainly have plenty of things I could write about. My life has been a flurry of activity with a multitude of trials and tribulations as of late.  Should I write about contentment, prodigal children, mental illness, spiritual warfare, marital communication? The potential topic list went on and on in my head.  So, in utter frustration, I prayed that God would give me a word, that He would show me what He wanted me to share, that He would use me as His conduit.  Then, in such an unexpected way, low and behold, He answered my prayer in a mighty way!  

I decided to take a break from the computer and get a bite to eat. After eating my frozen meal (quick and easy so I could get back to “writing“), I went outside to bring in my Amazon delivery and saw an unexpected bag from another store. What was in that bag brought me to tears, gave me the topic for this blog, and reminded me of what God wants us all to remember. In it was a new coffee maker, given in love from dear friends, secretly delivered by them to my front porch.  Why? Because my existing maker has decided to be temperamental, and won’t always work.  And, my friends know me…they know I don’t function well without my coffee… they know what is going on in my life and want to help in any way they can… they care… they love as Christ loves.

Dear ones, we were made to be in relationship, with Him and with others. I know that sounds simple and not very profound, but I can attest to you that it is of utmost importance. It is critical that you surround yourself with people that love you, that are walking in the ways of the Lord, that not only speak the truth, but live the truth. I am not at liberty to share about the events going on in my family’s life right now, but suffice to say that we are experiencing first hand what can happen when you do and when you don’t surround yourself with Christian friends and fellowship. Also, it is so important to be that Godly person for someone else, to share the love of Christ with others, to be a person who is a doer, not only a hearer, of the word. (James 1:22)

When you don’t surround yourself with loving, Godly friends, you leave yourself exposed and vulnerable to the enemy. The enemy is real and he delights in isolating you from your friends, family, and faith. He wants to have you to himself so that he can devour you. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that “…Your adversary the devil prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour”. Even Jesus was alone and isolated when He endured the temptations of the devil, and after that time, He was attended to by angels (Matthew 4:1-11). Like Jesus, we need angels to minister to us in times of trial, and those angels, metaphorically speaking, are our friends and family.  We can not endure without them.

What my friends did for me was so much more than feeding my coffee habit, they fed my soul.  Although their great kindness and generosity made me feel so loved, by them and by Jesus, their prayers and support are even more priceless to me. If you don’t have a community of believers supporting you, may I encourage you to seek them... join a small group or a Bible study, get involved at church, invite others for fellowship, sign up for the P4M discipleship program, do something to get connected.  And if you do have a circle of believing friends, don’t forget to give, not just receive!

 

Staying in the Lane God has Assigned Us

From a very early age, I trained as a runner. As early as first grade all the way through high school, I ran every track meet, from sprints to long distance.  One of my favorite races was the relay races which allowed us to move from competing individually to competing as a team. Regardless of the race being run, one thing was consistently drilled into our heads as competitors: STAY IN YOUR LANE.  

The moment your foot steps across the white line and you veer into someone else's lane you would be disqualified. Why was it so important to not step across that little white line on the hot Texas asphalt? Stepping across the line interfered with the other runners, potentially cause them to trip and fall. Staying in our own lane provided a safe place that allowed us the freedom to do what we had been trained to do, run our race to the best of our ability. 

One thing I learned quickly is that my eyes had a tremendous amount of power over the rest of my body.  By glancing to the left or right or looking over my shoulder to check the distance of the girl in the lane next to me, I would cause my feet to stumble and risk stepping over the line, disqualifying me from the race. My coach would always say to us, "NEVER look over your shoulder, run your own race."  By keeping my eyes straight ahead, I kept my eyes on the prize of that finish line. I was not distracted by those around me; I was motivated, but not distracted. 

I don't know about you, but often times I struggle to keep my eyes on my own race, more often than I would l would like to admit. I take my eyes off of my own race as a mother. I begin to look at how other moms parent their children, or how successful their life appears juggling and multi-tasking the demands of a busy family.  It is particularly hard when I see someone a few steps ahead of me in a season of life; I begin to unfairly compare my life to hers.  

Social media and the world of comparison we live in with "selfies" and documenting the highlights of each day taunts us constantly. It is as if the runners around us flaunt the fact they are running the race better and faster. We become distracted and consumed and our eyes begin to wander. 

Fearing that I am not measuring up to those around me, comparing my parenting to another, and shrinking in insecurity that I can't "do it all," I take my eyes off of my own race. I risk my own race by looking at those around me. I must stay in my own lane. 

Living in the world of comparison paralyzes us from living and living well. The insecurity and comparison tend to fade away when we realize the calling we have before us in the assignment of our own children. My job as a mother becomes my own priority, and I can’t compare myself to you and how you are doing as a mom. I must begin to learn to navigate how to stay in my own lane. I must stop comparing, and begin running in my own lane and own it.

Fear breeds insecurity. Insecurity breeds comparison. Comparison takes our eyes off of Jesus. When I can keep my eyes on my own race, I become consumed with running my race well. I keep my eyes on the finish line when my life is over and I hear my Father say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." My eyes are on eternity. I have a place of influence in the lives of my three daughters and an opportunity to point them to Jesus cheering for them to keep their eyes steady on what God has placed before them. As a family, we are running life as a team, not as individuals.  One day, I will pass the baton off to my girls as they are the next generation. When our eyes are on the finish line and our eternal home with our Savior Jesus Christ, we no longer are distracted or worried about where we are in the race.  Our goal is just to run our race well. Comparison leaves. As I learn to stay in my own lane, I can cheer for you as you run your race. 

Excerpts of this post are from The High Calling of Motherhood by Chimene Shipley Dupler.

Leaving Your Nets and Your Boat: Finding True Peace and Rest

As I have studied the book of Matthew, I have walked alongside the disciples trying to get a glimpse into their hearts.  

I have learned that when Jesus asks me to follow Him I will have to leave my nets, leave my boat and possibly leave my family to follow Him.  Sometimes I may need to leave them immediately!  When Jesus called the disciples, they immediately left their nets and followed Him.  It was the “leaving their nets” that allowed them to walk alongside of Jesus daily, learn from Him and learn about Him.  Leaving their nets enabled them to develop a strong, deep and personal relationship with Jesus.  Doesn’t Jesus want this from each of us?  Sometimes those nets which we tend to want to cling to can distract us from Him.  These nets at one time may have started out as a really good thing however over time even good things can become a hindrance to our walk with Christ.  Is Jesus asking you to leave behind your nets and follow Him more closely? 

Earlier this year, I was asked to leave my nets, my boat, and my family and follow Jesus to a new place to call home.  Our family moved from Virginia to Texas in order for my husband to take a new job.  This always sounds exciting at first, a new adventure and chance to explore as a family a new part of the country.  But I really felt comfortable with my nets and I really enjoyed my boat.  I felt purpose in my ministries, I enjoyed being with my friends, and I loved being close to my family.  I liked living in Virginia and basically I was happy and feeling very content… 

But I kept hearing the word immediately spoken again and again to my heart. Really – now? Shouldn’t I finish up my commitments and join my husband in June?  Immediately, the Lord kept whispering in my heart.  Shouldn’t Matthew finish his school year so he can start in a new school in the fall?  Immediately!  So that is what we did – and things moved very quickly.  Needless to say, I was humbled and stood back in amazement at how the Lord removed obstacle upon obstacle to move us to Texas as tightly fastened doors kept flying open and we just kept walking through the thresholds of opened doors.  There was such blessing experienced in following immediately.  The ways in which we experienced the Lord working on our behalf early on in the move strengthened our faith in preparation for some days of doubt, which would lie ahead.  Trust His perfect plans for you, even when He speaks the word immediately to you.

There were days when I wanted to ask the disciples if they ever looked back, if they missed just being a fisherman or if they missed their friends and families?

Then I hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I have learned that sometimes Jesus asks us to leave our nets and follow Him and learn to depend upon Him and only Him.  It is in this dependence where the sweet blessing is found.  It is in the dependence, when we take His yoke upon us and learn from Jesus that we find true rest for our souls.  Isn’t that what we all are truly looking for? True rest which is found in Christ alone!