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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sharing the Gospel - You Can Do it Too

“I have a story. A story of how God didn't answer my prayer. I prayed for my friend to get better and he didn't. He died.” - 9 year old boy.

Before I could even respond someone else piped in. “Oh I have one like that too. My little sister died when she was a baby. And my parents were praying for her too.”

My mind raced. How do I respond to that? How do I respond to these statements from 10 year olds?!

It was Vacation Bible School and I was a 'crew leader'. A crew leader of a group of very bright and very 'Bible knowledgeable' kids around the age of 9 year olds. One was the Pastor's kid, one was the kid of the leader of the VBS program. These kids knew the Bible. They knew all the stories. They had memory verses memorized, Bible songs down pat, and they knew the exact words to say when praying aloud. They are raised in good Christian homes. Very good homes. And of course, they have the hardest questions.

These statements came in response to a question that we were to answer as a group. The question? “How have you seen God answer your prayers?” Instead of finding ways where God has been working, my kids decided to show me ways in which they felt God was not working.

Part of me wanted to say 'Go talk to your Dad' to the Pastor's kid. Part of me wanted to say 'That wasn't the question'. Part of me wanted to look for a different leader and ask them to take over.

Because me? I can't explain this to these kids. I am not equipped. I am insufficient to talk about this. I don't know my Bible as well as other leaders, as well as their parents, as well as people who are way more knowledgeable than me. I will probably say the wrong thing and what if I lead them away from Christ? It is probably best I say nothing.

I can't ACTUALLY explain about God's love and share the gospel. Can I? Oh wait. That is my purpose. That is the great commission. That is what I am called to do. (Matt.28:18-20)

Time was ticking and the teacher was moving on to the next part of the activity. I told the kids we would talk about this later and made a mental note to get back to this. And then I prayed. “God, please give me the words.”

After a few more activities, when there was some quiet time again and we were supposed to talk about a new set of questions, I took a deep breath and I brought it up. In Christ's strength and the Holy Spirit's boldness I shared about how God is good...all the time. God is so good. He is always good. These are truths we can believe. Bad things happen. I don't know why. But God DOES hear us. And He DOES love us. I can promise you this. I have no answers to why those people had to die, but I do know one thing. I know that God is good. I know that He is love. And I know His Word is truth. And I will hold on to those truths forever.  (Check out this post on Her View From Home -- And If Not, Is He Still Good? for more on this!)

Really? All I did was share my heart. I shared what I know in my heart. That is all I needed to do. And I did it with God's strength and with His power. None of it was about my abilities or myself. After all, it is always about Christ and what He has done.

That is all that sharing the gospel is about. That is what God calls us to do. Simply, share our heart.

Not just the Pastor can do that.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"I'll Pray for You"

"I'll Pray for You."

Hope.  Oh such hope.

Sometimes all we can do is pray for each other.  All we can do is lift each other up to the Lord in desperate need.  But actually?  This is the most we can do.

After a year of struggle with my little baby, I have come to learn the immense hope that is found through praying believers within Christ Jesus.  I truly cannot imagine going through this very situation without the way my family has been lifted up in prayer - constantly.

As believers, we have so much hope.  The most that an unbeliever could ever say to me this past year in terms of encouragement?  "Good Luck" or "Crossing my Fingers".  Two phrases that have left me feeling empty and lost.  Phrases that are nothing more than words to say, words to fill the awkward and incredibly difficult silence.  Phrases with no meaning.

"I'll Pray For You."

Words that bring meaning back into the situation that seems so desperate.  Words that point to God, instead of staying on our self and our own struggles.  Words that give purpose.  Words that mean everything.

I sometimes hear people say they wish they could do more.  Truly, the most you can do is pray.  Those four words may sometimes seem so insignificant and yet they are the most significant. It is to Him we must go to again and again and again.  He can do so much more than any of us could ever do for each other, and therefore the most loving we can be to each other is to lift each other up to Him; to give it to our Loving and Sovereign Father.

"I'll Pray For You."

Don't be afraid to say those words.  Don't hold back in responding to people's hurts in this way.  With the power of Christ in us, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to bring God's hope in the ways of prayer to Him.  There is no better encouragement or hope we can possibly give someone who is suffering than the hope of Christ Himself.

So go.  Tell that person in pain.  Remind the person struggling.  And then?  
Pray for them, expectantly. And see the power of God work. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

5 Ways to Start Your Day with a Soft Heart

I have had a terrible realization.

Today was not an easy day. The minute my toddler called 'Mommy' from her bed she began to whine. Whine and whine and whine. Whine for milk, and then whine for a cookie (“No honey, it's almost time for breakfast.”) Whine for Mommy to carry her while the baby is crying. Whine for Mommy to read more books when it was time to start breakfast. Whine that she didn't want to eat her breakfast and whine that she didn't want to get ready. It goes on and on and on and on. In the meantime, her baby sister is crying, arching her back, extremely upset because of a double ear infection and bad reflux pains. I had, what should have been, enough time to get ready for a play date but didn't get there until an hour later. The afternoon did not go much better and by the end of the day I was in pure exhaustion. Not even having 5 minutes to my self I was frustrated, annoyed, and my heart had grown hard.

My heart had grown hard.

What makes a heart grow hard in the first place? Time away from God. Sure exhaustion, no quiet time or enough time at all, and the demands of my little ones contribute, but no matter what my circumstances are, time away from God is the root of a hard heart. Throughout my entire day I maybe said one prayer. And scripture was far from my mind. Why? My reasoning is obvious; I was way too busy and way too needed by my girls for that.

Shame on me.

In days like these, because we all have them as mothers, how can I keep my house a place that is glorifying to God? My kids may be having horrible days but it is my job to keep directing them to the glory of God; to the love of Christ. And there is no way I can do that with a hard heart.

Keeping my heart soft even on these tough days is challenging but definitely not impossible. Here are some ways I am changing my days around...for my girls, for myself and above all for the glory of God.

1. Start the day in prayer. Even before my feet hit the ground I need to give the day up to my Lord. I need to bring my focus to where it should be. With both of my girls getting up in the middle of the night and both of them extremely early risers, I am unable to wake up before them right now (though if you do have that option I highly recommend it… read my post Benefits of Waking Up Early). Yet even while they are calling me from their beds, I can take 2-5 minutes to bring my day to the Lord. Keeping a verse beside my bed at all times (switching it up every other week or so) helps me keep my prayers focused.

2. Start the day in prayer. Yes, again. This time – with my toddler. Even though she wakes up extremely early (some days as early as 5:30 am) she has a tough time facing the day. The whines start pretty much as soon as I walk in her door. Taking a minute to pray with her for the day may just relax and calm her, bringing us into the presence of our Saviour. And honestly? She loves it. As she folds her hands and we thank God for the day ahead of us, she has a big smile on her face and the morning feels a bit easier to get through for both of us.

3. Scripture at Breakfast. Reading a Bible story at breakfast with the girls never crossed my mind until now. This again brings our focus back to the One who loves us and desires us to glorify Him in all things. This also means a longer breakfast. But as a stay-at-home mom I am blessed to be able to have this slow time in the morning and instead of using it to do extra chores or to hurry my girls up, I can use it to slow us down in reminder of who and what my days are really meant for.

4. Worship Music. Play it throughout the day. Keep it going all day long. Dance to it, have it playing in the back ground, sing to it, worship. Through those baby cries that worship music can get you through with thoughts that are pleasing to our Father rather than thoughts of negativity and complaints.

5. Scripture Memorization. My husband and I have decided to keep a verse up in our kitchen that we work on memorizing together. We try to switch it up every week, but both of us have to have it memorized before we do so. My girl is only 2 and a half. But no age is too young to teach scripture to. I strongly believe this. So, slowly I am teaching her memorization of scripture as well. For we must store scriptures in our hearts. Scripture is from the Holy Spirit. It is truth and it is life.

Surrounding my days with prayer and scripture (even when the time feels so limited) are the only ways I will be able to use my days to truly glorify God. Once again – I need to be reminded to abide. That is all we are asked - simply to abide. May I truly begin to abide, even and especially in the hardest and longest days of motherhood.

*Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.*

Monday, May 29, 2017

Embracing the Unpredictability

Do you ever feel like you are stressed all day to stay on schedule?  You want to be sure your kids will not get whiny, or that you complete the tasks you had planned? Perhaps you are stressing about perfecting your days in the way that makes you feel good about them.

Even though I am not necessarily the most planned or organized person (as much as I try to be), I desperately struggle with this.  I stress out when my toddler falls asleep in the car and all bets are off if she will keep napping at home.  I get frustrated when I do not have a good chunk of quiet time for myself or my baby wakes up early from her nap.  My irritability scale goes up and up as the day goes on and it reflects in how I treat my children, how I get through the day, and my job and calling as a mom.

Schedule is great.  I believe routine to be so important.  (I have talked about how much I believe in routine so much already!) But when it is overtaking your chance to enjoy each moment with your children or even simply each moment of the day as it is, it is becoming TOO important.

God needs to be ahead of our schedule and above our own plans.  When our plans start to take over anything else, we are putting our plans and ideas ahead of God's.  We are trying to take control, when God is always the one in control.

I have to constantly remind myself throughout the day that it is okay if we take naps a little later today.  It is okay if my toddler spends all morning playing with blocks instead of doing another activity I had planned.  It is okay if my toddler wants me to sit and read with her all afternoon even though I had laundry and dishes to get done.  It is even okay when my girls don't nap at the same time and I don't have specific 'me' time. (As much as I might crave it.)

It is so key to be reminded of the unpredictability that can happen in our days as moms and how this does not have to be an annoyance but something to embrace.  By allowing your heart to be open to this you can allow so much more joy into your days.  Even though it sounds ironic - we need to start our days expecting them to be different than what we plan.

To Be Expectant.  Expectant to whatever God might throw your way that day. 

Let us give our day to God today and embrace the unpredictability...because really... do we ever truly know what is going to happen in our days with our little rascals? ;)

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Social Media Addiction

Yes, it is true. I am obsessed...addicted...whatever you want to call it. From constantly checking my phone in between my baby's cries, to wasting an hour nap time browsing Instagram with no purpose in mind.

It all hit me once again. This time I am not ignoring it. I had yelled at my toddler to 'hold on a minute because Mommy is busy' when really I was just checking the latest news on Facebook, probably for the 10th time that day (and it was only 9 am). Then there was my baby. My littlest was standing at a play table, babbling away. She had only begun to stand at anything about 4 days ago but I thought I would just quickly check my phone once again, just for one minute. Well of course, in that 'one minute' my little baby fell and hit her head smack on the floor. While perhaps I could not have prevented this, my reactions could have been quicker, my arms could have been open to grab her, and I simply would not have been distracted, had I not been on my phone for no good reason. My sweet little girls needed my attention and I chose to ignore them yet again. Why? Simply to disappear in a world of 'likes' and 'comments'. A world separate from making snacks, wiping bums and cleaning up messes and all the other 'mundane' and 'boring' tasks that a stay-at-home mom has.

I am truly obsessed. And while I am completely ashamed to admit it, I am admitting it. I am going out with it, because it needs to stop.

My addiction is taking over. My addiction is turning me into a less loving Mom and a much more distant one. My addiction is taking me away from precious moments with my two beautiful little girls. It is stealing my time and robbing me of true joy. Most of all? My addiction is against God's will for the way I spend my time and for how He wants me to live my life. (Ps. 90:12 - 'So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom')

It is talked about a lot. The Social Media Addiction…ways to combat it, why it is so horrible, how awful those moms are staring at their phones while their kids are at their feet. Judge me all you want – I judge myself. Because what I am doing IS terribly selfish and incredibly wrong.

I want to put this out in the open. Perhaps to remind another mom that you are not alone in this addiction, perhaps to speak up in a community of others who also struggle, or perhaps to simply encourage a community of support between us Moms.

It is true and obvious – motherhood is not easy. Staying at home with my beautiful children is tough. It can be long, boring, exhausting, and lonely. And yes, social media 'helps' in so many ways with these feelings. It makes me feel connected. It takes me away from the long days, allowing me to escape for 5 minutes. It brings me into another reality, apart from the one I am in that can feel so draining. I think that we all know this. I wonder though, is this really a help or a hindrance to our work as moms?

Does it truly fulfill? Does it take away my feelings of loneliness and my dissatisfaction? Not in the least. I try to fulfill this emptiness in my heart with 'likes' and 'comments' on Facebook or following someone else's life on Instagram, yet I am only left wanting something else. I am left feeling just as lonely and dissatisfied as I was at the start. Yet I try again and again and again…

Through planning and accountability and continually working at it, I can try to overcome this addiction. But in truth, there is only one way that I will overcome it. Through total surrender to Christ. Instead of filling a void with Social Media, I can and I need to fully fill this void through the love of my Saviour, by giving it up to Him and leaning on Him for that fulfillment that I need so desperately. 

I am positive that I am not the only mom struggling with this 'addiction'. I am sure that because I am not alone in this, I have sisters in Christ who are here working along side me combating this. If you are also struggling with this, are interested to know how I am working on surrendering this to Christ, interested in working along side me to combat this, or have any sound advice as to how to overcome this struggle, please do reach out.  Let us not let this 'small thing' become a big thing that takes over the joy we can have as mothers.

Romans 15:13 - 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.

**For some tips read my post 5 Ways to Get Unplugged 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Making Devotional Time Count

Devotional time can, at times, feel daunting.  You sit down with a hot cup of coffee, the sun is just coming up and the rest of the house is sleeping.  Peace to start your day.  Or perhaps it is the afternoon nap time and you finally have a minute to sit and think.  Or maybe it is bedtime and the day has just been one thing after another and finally you have a minute to read... or sleep?

If you don't have a plan as to where to open God's word, you may feel stuck.  You may even feel too exhausted to even bother trying to figure out where to start.  So you either open the Bible at random, pick a quick passage, pray and move on with your day.  Or maybe you find a passage you know well, read it, pray and again move on with your day.  Or perhaps you feel too overwhelmed to think about where to read and so you don't even bother.

You need a plan.  

There are so many awesome devotionals out there, which I am sure many of you know about (If you need any tips on these give me a shout).  But there is something good and something righteous about coming straight to the Word of God; Letting Him speak to you through His words directly.  While devotionals are great guides, it is the Word of God that needs to be penetrating our hearts more than anything.

It was when I read through the Psalms that I really began to read God's word in a way that had a huge impact on my life.

I used to have a difficult time reading through the Psalms specifically.  While the writing is incredibly beautiful, at times I felt I could not relate.  How wrong was I!  Once I started reading through the Psalms differently I saw how relatable they really are, and how much God uses them to speak to us.  God opened up my eyes to see the beauty of the words written.

How I really began to see the Psalms differently was by praying the Psalms.  Whether it be a Psalm of praise or of crying out to God, this is how I saw much of the Psalms beginning to have an impact on my every day life.  Once I began reading the Psalms this way I started seeing more of how God was speaking to me through the text.

Here is an example of steps I now take when reading a Psalm (or any passage in the Bible):

1.  Pray that God would reveal to you His will, His desire, and His love for you through the Psalm.

2.  Read over the Psalm once.

3.  Go back through the Psalm and underline every word that describes God.  Use this to be reminded of the truths of who God is and how you can praise Him that day.

4.  Go back again through the Psalm and underline (in another color perhaps) any word that may describe yourself.  This isn't always applicable but it can help you to see yourself and your current situation in the text.

4.  Pray that God would show you those truths and remind you of those truths in whatever circumstance you are in.  Often when praying in this way God would reveal to me something I had been missing or had forgotten about His truths in either a specific situation or simply in my every day living.

God's glory has been made known through the Psalmists and it is incredibly beautiful to recognize and be able to relate to in our own lives.  I challenge you to pick a book of the Bible and begin an intentional study of that book, so that you truly begin to see God's words come to life in your daily living.

See my post Regular Devotions are NOT Easy for another idea of how you can make devotion time count.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Your Spouse Needs You

Your spouse needs you.  

All day long you are filling the demands and requests of these little people that fill your home. From snacks to diaper changes to spilled milk to band aids. From clean ups to cooking to laundry. From hugs and kisses to time outs. After all that, your husband comes home from a long day at work and the first thing you want to do is blurt out everything that went wrong in your day and the last thing you want to do is serve him. Yet that is what we are called to do. As mothers and as wives we are called to serve. That is what your husband needs from you, his helper, and that is what God requires from you.

His helper. Yes, his helper – that is what you are. And what a beauty that is. God has called you to be there for your husband and only you.

But honestly? Who has the energy for that!? By 5 O'clock my energy levels are down to .5 and I am in no mood to hear about his day. In fact 5 minutes late and instead he gets the brunt of my grumpiness taken out on him after his long commute. Poor guy.

Seriously though. Poor guy. Does he deserve that? No. Definitely not. He deserves so much better and more than that – He needs so much more. Specifically, he needs so much more from me.

Does that sound like just another responsibility, another duty, another task, another thing to do? At times it does for me too. Oh, how we need to rethink we need to be reminded of the beauty and joy that serving our spouses can be if we let it.

Instead of it being another task, think of it as being an honor. An honor meant only for you. This is an honor and a service that does not have to seem overwhelming. Because when he comes home from a long day at work, all he really needs from you? A hug, a kiss, and possibly a small acknowledgment that shows him he matters to you, he's worth it. The funny thing about that? You need that too. From him. You need that 5 minutes to reconnect, to be reminded that you are each others and only each others. You need to be reminded that no matter what happened throughout that day and whatever will happen that evening, you have each others backs and each others love.

While the kids may be screaming, the toddler may be whining, the baby may be crying, and the dinner may be burning, when your husband walks through the front door, come to him first. With an exhausted hug and perhaps a passionate kiss, these will be the best ways to start your evening – reminding him and reminding your self where this all began in the first place and how that must stay firm throughout the chaos. Instead of spilling your complaints all over him when he opens that door, I challenge you to take 5 minutes to just be with him and find your peace and love with him, the man God created for you. This is how you can begin to serve your man after a long day and really, in the end you are being served as well. And perhaps, after beginning your evening with this small act, it will set the rhythm of service for the rest of the evening. For it so often comes twofold and this very small service that you begin for your husband may take on a much greater impact on your self, your marriage, and even your kids.