Posts tagged life
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.

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.   

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.