Posts tagged spiritual growth
Celebrating our Children's Spiritual Birthdays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Am I Distracting my Child from Their Purpose?

Sitting in church on a cold February morning, the Pastor was making his way through the book of Ecclesiastes.  And then it hit me. As I was listening to a message on things that distract us from the meaning of life, I was convicted.  Before I share with you what specifically I was challenged with in my life, let me first be honest. 

I am enamored with "things." I struggle with wanting a bigger house, more furniture, more clothes, more jewelry. In fact, these are things I deeply desire and even can justify why I should have.  Maybe you can relate? And "things" aren't bad. Living a lavish lifestyle and having plenty, in and of itself, is not bad. Abraham, one of the most prominent men in the Bible, was just one of many whom God blessed with "stuff." Wealth is not bad. God Himself pours out His blessings and provides not only essentials, but abundance for His children.

But something struck me in a new and fresh way that wintry Sunday morning.

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As the snow softly fell outside the window, I heard an ungodly statistic fall on my ears. The amount of excess that is disposed of and thrown away by American families is insane. American children have more toys than all of the other children in the world, and yet we don't even value the surplus and abundance we have. So not only is there a gratefulness issue of not appreciating and valuing what God blesses us with, there is a distraction issue. Again, let me be honest. Truth be told, my children have abundance when it comes to things. Their toy room has looked like a freaking toy store at times. Each one of my girls has always had a heart of gratitude and they appreciate and value what they have been blessed with. They go to great lengths to take care of and not destroy the toys they have been given.

Toys serve a great purpose. Independent play and imaginary play are born with dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals.  Sensory skills, coordination, and manipulation, as well as creativity, are mastered when playing with Legos or play-doh. My conviction has less to do with the abundance and more to do with the heart. 

The first challenge is obvious. Are we giving our children an abundance out of our desire for them to live lavish lifestyles to the point that we are not teaching them gratitude? Are we filling their rooms and closets with so much stuff that we neglect to teach them to be grateful and to be stewards of what they have been entrusted with. Do we teach them to take care of their belongings and to have hearts that are thankful, recognizing that they are not entitled to a plethora of toys, books, clothes, or electronics?  We have a generation that is demanding because our children have been taught to be entitled since birth.  We feed their sense of self and then wonder why they are so entitled, selfish, and ungrateful. This leads to my bigger concern as a mother. 

Am I distracting and hindering my children from their intended purpose? Am I contributing to their demise? You see, if I actually believe that my children (and myself) have been created for a purpose, then I must know what that purpose is. I believe the Bible clearly states that God has created each and every one of us with a purpose.  And while each of our individual skill sets look differently and our gifts vary, our purpose is the same. The Bible tells us that ALL of creation was created for the glory of God. God's desire in creating mankind was to bring Him glory and for us to have fellowship with Him. My purpose, and my children's purpose, is to know God and to make Him known--to bring Him glory. That is when it hit me. 

At what point am I contributing to distracting my children from their intended purpose in being created?  Am I giving my children so much that I am feeding their desire to serve self? Am I giving my children in abundance to the point that they are not lacking, but are instead feeding pride, and a sense of entitlement that they deserve what they have? Do I keep my kids so busy, so distracted, surrounded by so much "stuff" that I am actually contributing to their demanding that self is put on the throne of their lives instead of God?  By giving them abundance, am I teaching them that the world revolves around them? 

We are all at war. We are at war and in constant battle to fight for who will win control of our heart. Where is our affection? Satan would love nothing more than for us to stay distracted. Because when we are distracted and are feeding self, we are not making room for God.  We are placing ourselves on the throne of our lives, serving self, and making ourselves gods. But we cannot serve two masters. As a mother, I am challenged to make sure I am feeding what I want to actually want to grow.  I am convicted in areas where I am contributing to teaching my children to feed self, rather than living out their purpose for which they have been created. 

Why Just Reading the Bible to Your Kids is Not Enough

I recently read an article talking about the growing popularity of witchcraft among teens and millennials in America. The article said that while interest in Christianity and religion is decreasing every year, belief in horoscopes, tarot cards and palm reading is increasing. Not only do more and more people feel that it is ok, studies show that over 50% of millennials believe that astrology is a science and read their horoscopes daily. I believe that part of this acceptance is due to the normalcy that modern culture puts on New-Age references. Board games, computer games, children’s-fiction, video games, TV shows and other forms of entertainment make the occult seem normal and permissible. 

However, I believe that there is a much larger reason as to why so many teenagers and millennials are leaning towards witchcraft (or other similar mediums) for guidance. I believe it is because we are created to look to the supernatural for direction, and many are not finding it in the Church. 

As human beings, we have a deep sense that there must be something beyond us. Even though many Americans would say they are not religious, a recent study said that 89% of Americans still say they believe in a god or a universal spirit.  It is in our very DNA to long for something beyond us, and we crave a connection to the supernatural. Almost every person still prays to something when her or she is about to get into a car accident or a close friend is dying. All humans are desperate for something beyond them, and yet, so often in modern churches, people go to a church service and leave without ever connecting to the supernatural. Christianity to many people is a good, moral worldview, but in reality, seems absent of any sort of real power. 

It makes sense that people who are actually desperate for a real power beyond themselves may have gone to a church and left because they didn’t find it there. It may not be that they like the idea of Satan over God, but more so that they see the evidence of something beyond them in witchcraft and just a bunch people doing “good things” church. If they are already struggling with how to get through life in their own power, a worldview comprised primarily of a list of rules is not what they need. They need something real.

So how, as Christians, do we help prevent our children from falling into this same trap? Do we try to scare our kids into obedience by forbidding them to interact with anything associated to the devil or the demonic? I don’t think so. In fact, in many ways I feel that this approach does more harm than good, because it is giving off the impression that Satan is stronger than God. 1 John 4:4 says, “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world!” Instead of just telling our kids to avoid Satan, we have to show our kids an even greater power-- the power of Jesus Christ. Once they actually encounter the greater power, they will be able to recognize the counterfeit power that the enemy offers as fool’s gold compared to true gold.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” Light is always stronger than darkness. You cannot turn on the light in the room and have darkness decide to stay--it must leave. We should not be afraid of Satan, but rather, he should be afraid of us! The problem is not whether God is more powerful than Satan, but whether we are actually giving God opportunities to show his power.

Our churches need to be places where people come in and encounter something that is beyond themselves. We have to start asking him to speak and learning how to listen. We have to start praying and expecting God to answer. We have to start asking for miracles and sharing testimonies-- and this will only become real in our churches when it becomes normal in our homes. True encounters with God start around your dinner table, in your car while driving to soccer practice and in your kids’ bedrooms at night when you pray.

Some practical ways to lead your kids to actually encounter a real and living God are as follows: 

1. Pray for real things and share testimonies around the dinner table about how God is actually responding to your prayers. All too often we pray for things at night with our kids but don’t report back on how God answers or how He is responding to our prayers. This makes God look like an unresponsive statue-- when in reality he is more real than anything around us! We need to teach them how to listen as they pray and look for answers to their prayers over the next few days and weeks. 

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”- James 5:16

2. Read Scripture together as a family every day, and teach your children how to hear God’s voice through it. All too often we just study the Word like a textbook, but don’t learn how to let God actually speak to us through it. Have them ask God questions, and then as you read scripture together, have them share what God was putting on their heart in response to the passage.

“Direct my footsteps according to your word…”- Psalm 119:113

“For the word of God is alive and active.”- Hebrews 4:12

3. Teach your kids how to encounter God during worship. All too often our children think that worship is just singing songs about God-- when in reality it is so much more. Teach them how to actually connect their hearts to their Creator and respond to what He is doing in their lives with an overflow of worship. One way you can do this is put on worship music at home, give them some crayons and have them draw what comes to mind as they hear the words of the song and share what they felt God was speaking to them through the lyrics. You can also have them write out a list of things they saw God do in their life over the past week before they enter into worship so they actually have something to worship Him about. Another idea is to ask and encourage them to write their own worship songs, or write out prayers during worship rather than just singing someone else’s lyrics. 

“Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will praise You.”- Psalm 63:2-3

4. Teach them to ask God for ideas. When they are struggling with something, have them ask God to put an idea in their mind and share that idea with you so that you can help guide them with whether the idea lines up with scripture. If they don’t learn to ask God for ideas, they will begin to want to go to other sources such as horoscopes, tarot readings and astrology for guidance. God loves to speak to his children, and loves to respond when we ask Him for wisdom!

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.”- Psalm 138:3

5. Teach them how to walk with God. Take time regularly to pray as a family, and have each person ask God to put someone on their mind or heart to reach out to as well as what they should do for that person. They may have an idea to call a grandparent, or feel like God wants them to write an encouraging note to the homeless guy on the corner. Once everyone shares their ideas, go out and do them and then report back what happened. By teaching them how to live in response to the urgings of the Holy Spirit, they will learn that life with God is so much more exciting and real than just living a life trying to make themselves happy. 

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."- Isaiah 30:21

Most of all, pray for your children. Pray that they will encounter the presence and power of God in a real way. Pray that they will get to know his voice, follow his promptings, and be a light in the darkness. Pray that they become a force to be reckoned with, and that whenever Satan hears their footsteps, he will tremble and flee. Knowing the reality of a powerful God not only means that they can resist the temptation of a lower power, but also that they will be the ones charging the darkness with the light of Christ. Parents, do not be afraid, but instead, lead your kids to experience the reality of the truth that our God is stronger!

A Mother’s Sabbath Rest

Don't you just love your kids?  Aren't they one of the very best gifts God has ever given you? As much as we love our kids, they do wear us out.  Now let me ask you this, how is your energy level?  When was the last time you stopped to take some time of rest for you?  No, I'm not talking about a nap, or asking your husband or friend to watch/carpool around your kids so you could get a break, but a true rest, a sabbath?  If you can’t remember, read on.

One of the best things I did as a young mom was to begin taking a Sabbath rest.  Did I have time for it?  No.  Was it a necessity?  I learned the answer to that question was YES!  When my third child was about 12 months, I was overwhelmed.  This wasn’t the first time I was overwhelmed as a mom, but this time I was about ready to give up.  My temper was getting short, my patience low and my energy level was below zero! Have you ever been there?  Don't get me wrong, I loved being a stay at home mom, but I was EXHAUSTED.  What could I do?  I couldn’t see an end in sight where I could refuel.

Guess who had the answer?  My sweet and thoughtful husband.  He said to me one night when he could see my desperation, "Hon, why don't I book you a hotel room next weekend?  I'll set it all up, watch the kids and you go take a break."  My immediate response was ”What? Really?  Oh, that sounds like heaven, but I can't do that." My husband said, “Why not? I'm booking it for you right now.  You need this.  Let me do it for you.”

So, after praying and getting over the guilty feelings I had for leaving my kids and husband for the weekend, I was out the door and off on my very first two day/two-night mommy Sabbath rest.  It was a bit of a strange feeling at first walking into the hotel room, alone.  How would I spend all this free time?  Free time had now become foreign to me, but here is a glimpse into my weekend.  I got to sleep (uninterrupted), eat (uninterrupted), shower (uninterrupted), enjoy a TV show (uninterrupted), shop (uninterrupted), go to the bathroom…are you starting to see a pattern here? It was amazing!  All the simple things I used to take for granted before kids now felt like heaven. Can you sense my spirit changing from exhausted, impatient, and short tempered to peaceful, restful, and thankful?

Without a doubt, the most meaningful part of my weekend was the sweet (uninterrupted) time with my Savior.  I was in the middle of a Bible study called Captivating with my close girlfriends. Being away from the kids, I could spend as much time as I wanted working on this study which led me into reading my Bible, singing praise songs, praying, and just hanging out with Jesus.  It was AWESOME!  While using the Captivating study to direct my God Time that weekend, the Lord met me right in my current struggles of motherhood of exhaustion and feeling like I was not enough for this overwhelming role as a mom and wife.  Jesus encouraged my soul in the most personal ways.  My homework for Captivating that week was to ask God why He thinks I am beautiful.  As I asked God that one question and began to journal, the result was page after page of encouragement to my soul from what I sensed was the Holy Spirit putting thoughts in my heart and mind.  He spoke loud and clear to me (not audibly of course) through His Word, my prayers and my journaling.  He told me ‘Laurel, you are enough just as you are.  You’re beautiful.  You’re Mine.  You’re enough.”  The truths He taught me that weekend have been a source of strength for me in my role as a mom ever since.

A Sabbath is not a set of rules to keep, but it is a reminder of our dependence on God.  We need Him, and we can find rest in Christ amidst the chaos that our world can bring.  Jesus even gave us a personal invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  Sabbath is a reminder to abide daily in His rest and His Spirit.  Jesus Himself IS our Sabbath rest.  Sabbath is not only when you take extended times of rest, but can also be the intentional act of pausing in your day to rest, to spend time with Jesus whether in prayer, reading the Bible or worship.  The Hebrew word sabat means “to rest or stop or cease from work”.  God even modeled this rest for us. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)   Remember, we are made in His image.  God knew we would need a time of rest as He did, and commanded us to build it into our lives not only for physical needs, but also for spiritual needs.

My Sabbath rest at the hotel renewed me, refreshed me, gave me physical rest, lifted my spirit of perseverance, and gave me a longing to be back with my family when my rest was over.  Ultimately though, this time reminded me that Jesus Himself is my source for rest.  Have you made time to stop, get alone for a few days and rest?  Maybe this would give God another opportunity to encourage your soul right where you are at in your current stage of motherhood and get some much-needed physical rest?  Why not? 

Several thoughts might be running through your head right now:  *I don't have the time?  Be intentional in making time for rest, it will almost never just appear.  *I have no one to watch my kids?  Pray and ask God to provide a way for a mother’s Sabbath rest for you.  Ask your husband if he will watch the kids or swap kids with a friend, each providing an extended rest for the other.  *We don't have the money to go to a hotel.  You do not have to go to a hotel.  Be creative, you can spend the day at a park, a lake, Starbucks, the library, your church, shopping, meeting a friend, etc. and return after the kids are in bed and then repeat the next day.  Or better yet, ask a friend if you can stay in her guest bedroom and tell her to pretend you are not there! I know you are creative and you'll think of some great alternatives.  Ask God to show you.  He will!

Ever since my first mother’s Sabbath rest I have taken many more.  They have all looked a little different.  Some were alone, just Jesus and I all weekend.  Some were taken with special girlfriends.  Sometimes I didn't feel like I really needed it, but my husband encouraged me to do it anyway, and I was glad I listened.  God has used these extended Sabbath rests to speak truth into my life, touch my heart in personal and unforgettable ways to strengthen my faith, and refresh my spirit and attitude.  This reminds me, I'm ready for another one!

So, are you ready?  What are you waiting for?