Orlando, Radical Faith, & Surrendering Fear

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I heard the news of the Orlando massacre after church on Sunday. My kids were playing in our living room and I was crouched over our kitchen countertop in disbelief as I scrolled through Facebook. Is this real? I thought. Terrorism had once again revealed its evil and ugliness in all its forms.

My seven year old was next to me and I kept the news to myself while he played with his rescue bots. Soon enough, John would begin to understand the evil in our world and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share what I had just learned so I stayed silent, praying for the innocent victims and the horrors of radical Islam. I looked in his brown eyes and thought about his innocent heart.

I began to think about the battle we are engaged in as Christ-followers. It is a spiritual one indeed. Just as Satan disguised himself in the garden and many times throughout Scripture, I believe he too is disguising himself under the name of radical Islam. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus says that He has come to bring us life – abundant life to the fullest. I’m well aware from my Islamic Doctrine class in seminary that these radicals are out to kill everyone – no matter if they’re gay, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and more. I’m well aware that they want to take over the world.

We need to get serious as a nation about the battle being a spiritual one.

Naturally, fears race through my mind and reading Fox News and CNN doesn’t help. The news fuels my fears. What if terrorism continues to increase in America? What about the safety of my children, family, and friends? What if we continue to have spineless leadership in our nation that is unwilling to call it what it is?

Fears plague my heart if I do not surrender them to Jesus. Ironically, I have been reading the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as I was encouraged recently to begin reading biographies. As a German theologian and pastor during the rise of the Nazi’s, Dietrich had much to fear yet in his story, he revealed how the only thing we really should be fearing is God – our Creator.

Bonhoeffer stood up for biblical principles in a time when even the German “Christians” believed in wiping out the Jewish race. He knew that God created all person’s equal. After eventually joining the resistance movement against the wickedness in his day, he was imprisoned and hung.

His faith remained unshakable and radical. He knew that his faith in Jesus was worth dying for. He knew that the only thing in life worth fearing is God. And that God would take care of him until death.

Bonhoeffer’s story is nothing short of inspiring as he clung to his faith in the midst of the horrors of the Nazi regime. It is nothing short of supernatural. Right now in America, we are facing all kinds of other forms of evil invading our land. We too, have the choice to remain steadfast and unmovable in our faith or to cower in fear.

It is in this time that it is tempting to doubt God and his plans. It is tempting to doubt his love for us. For me, it is just tempting to fear continually, on a daily basis if I let the nightmares get to my heart. But I know that Jesus’ perfect love casts out fear and like Bonhoeffer revealed, the only one I truly need to fear is my God – who has the ultimate authority over my life and death.

It is also in these times that prayer is vital. When we feel like all is lost and forsaken, we need to get our knees dirty and shake the dust off our Bibles. We need to be busy in God’s will because the days are short. We need to exchange our fear, worry, and anxiety with trust, peace, and hope in Jesus – the One who will one day, make all things right.

As I look into my girls’ blue eyes and my boys’ brown eyes, I see hope, joy, peace, and a contagious child-like faith. And I certainly need more of what they have.

The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms. – Phil Wickham

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Love Covers a Multitude of Sins – Even in Marriage & Motherhood

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This past Monday, I was a wreck. I went on my morning run to try to get rid of the mess inside of me. But even after listening to encouraging worship songs and working up a good sweat, I was tired, cranky, emotional, and irrational in my thought life. I couldn’t escape it all day long no matter how hard I tried.

If you’ve ever heard of the H.A.L.T. acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, you know that sin is creeping at your door when you have one, two, three, or all of these going on. And that you truly do need to halt! My issue was the T. My husband and children took the grunt of my exhaustion. My words and actions weren’t exactly a portrait of the Proverbs 31 woman.

I felt like giving up as a wife and mom. Tears ran fast and down my pillow that evening.

My sins are numerous, I thought. I just can’t get it together. Everywhere I turn I create a disaster.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there but it can be so discouraging when your sinful nature is not tamed and you feel like some sins you’ll never be able to overcome.

I remembered how tired I was and began to think rational again. I knew many of my reactions were due to that. I played my part by getting God’s word in my heart,  settling down, and asking forgiveness. I remembered the verse:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

I drew upon this truth because the Enemy’s lies in my head were:

You’re not good enough

You can’t handle this

God is ripping you off

You will never overcome

And then in that moment God’s word began to flood my soul with life-giving words:

You are enough

You can handle everything in my strength

I love you

I will help you overcome

Truth tells me that no matter how far I stray, love still covers a multitude of sins. My love for Jesus covers that. My love for those closest to me. And even the acceptance of myself.

Even on our very worst days, love still covers the darkest corners of our homes – the ugliest moments in marriage and motherhood. When we have failed those we love dearly, all the other 1,000 moments of love in a week that we have bestowed on them still trumps the 100 sins that have made us feel like an absolute failure of a wife and mom.

There is no sin that hasn’t been covered by his blood. 

Jesus understands our brokenness and thank goodness, his love never stops covering us – day in and day out. If you’ve found yourself swallowed by your own wake of disaster and exhaustion, know that you are loved, forgiven, bought at a high price, and set free from that sin. His grace is always available to draw upon in your time of need.

And by all means, HALT when you need to.

Cheering you on in the trenches,

Samantha

 

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A Wife & Mother’s Response to Target’s New Bathroom Policy

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waiting for Target’s doors to open – 2013

This blog is about marriage, motherhood, and faith. I prefer to stay out of politics and cultural affairs, but in light of recent news regarding Target’s new bathroom policy allowing transgender guests to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, I cannot stay silent.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t like jumping on the bandwagon of being just another blog post that has something to say. I’m just an ordinary mom with a husband and four children living in a small town. I’m an imperfect sinner saved by grace. I believe in being a light in this dark world and submitting to governing authorities. I believe love covers a multitude of sins – not hate and judgment or attack. I love and respect those with different values.

With that being said, for as long as I’ve been a momma, I have loved me some Target. I can count many a mornings rolling into their parking lot with my stressed-out self, toting four children to the doors, and strapping them tightly into the red kids cart. My first priority being a chai tea latte with a shot of espresso. Target even thought of the cart cupholder. Genius.

Cleaning supplies, adorable kids clothes, jewelry, groceries, cards, toys, a new pair of sunglasses. You name it and I’ve bought it.

While we don’t live in the city anymore and don’t have immediate access to one, Target is still dear to me. I look forward to making the 2 1/2 hour trip to get my hands on one and the Chick-fil-a next to it. Target’s not just another retail giant in my eyes, but it’s a place of refuge, fun, and sanity.

With their recent news, I’m at a loss as to what to do as are many other moms I’ve talked to. I’m saddened. I understand the argument, “Why are we surprised? This is where our culture is headed. The church hasn’t been standing up for truth. Why should we expect the world to have Christian standards?…”  I’m not surprised, either. I am in shock! Do I still shop at Target and just not use the restrooms? (that’s impossible with young kids). Do I pray they will change their policy (yes!) Do I boycott and give someone else the business I would give Target? (I’d rather not).

I know Target doesn’t uphold to biblical standards so I wouldn’t expect them to but still… This policy feels like a dangerous, slippery slope where the line has been crossed.

My main concern is for women and children. Target’s policy will be taken advantage of – it already has in other bathrooms across the country according to news outlets. Three days ago the AFA wrote in Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!,

Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?

It’s not just about being inclusive and welcoming everyone. We know all too well the depravity of the human heart. As parents, we have a great responsibility to protect our children from harm – physical, emotional, and sexual. That has always been our responsibility no matter if we’re in a bathroom stall or at home.

Because Target is the first retail domino to fall, there is an opportunity to send a sound and clear message to all retailers that this America where men are allowed into women’s restrooms and vice versa is not the America we desire. If those who are for privacy and safety in the restrooms are the majority, then that majority must speak out or its voice will be deafened by the silence. Let retailers who stand in favor of public safety and privacy for our children know that we appreciate them and will patronize their efforts on our behalf.

I’ve decided to shop elsewhere in hopes that other retailers won’t follow suit and assume this is what consumers want. Of course that makes this mama-Target-loving heart sad, but I will continue to leave what makes me angry and upset in God’s hands and ask for his help to navigate the ever-changing tides in our culture.

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When God Feels Far: From Barren to Beautiful

13000412_10102547634542308_443667638_oThis morning as I was getting breakfast and glanced outside our kitchen window, I noticed the first few buds beginning to burst with flowers. On Monday when my husband and I left for the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, there was no sign of new life. The trees were barren.

Today, even though it is dark and gloomy outside and thunderstorms and rain are in the forecast, there is an explosion of new life in my yard.

“Look kids! The flowers are budding!” I said.

They jumped out of their seats and ran outside to see. My son John snapped some photos of the new life before his big brown eyes.

During the winter months, the hardened buds and lifelessness from the trees are all we see but we know that in Spring, the buds are set up to blossom again. And much of the deadness all around us in the winter months actually protects the buds so they will sprout again and in the right time.

Similarly, I’ve gone through seasons of intense dryness spiritually where my soul is cold and numb to the things of the Lord. Where I don’t thirst for Jesus, the Living Water, as I should. Where I don’t treasure the gospel like I should and cling to his all-sufficient grace because I’m selfish, full of pride, the difficulties of life have choked me, and idols fill my heart. I have sometimes questioned, “Is God even working in the cold, winter months of my soul? Is he here?”

I’m still in a season of struggle or should I say “struggling well,” where I desire to be closer to Jesus and further away from my sin. But I know He is here just as sure as Spring promises new life.

I may not see the fruit in the waiting, but I know he is working. I may not behold what I want to “now.” I may not see change or growth in my anger, control, and people-pleasing struggles right away but it will come. This process of sanctification changes in each season and it is indeed a process of patience. Motherhood teaches me this every, single day.

We may not think we are growing or becoming a different person right now, but God sees the last paintbrush stroke on the canvas.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

In his grace, God carries us all the way to becoming more like his Son. It is always a gift of grace. And perhaps the greatest truth is that we can’t do it in our own feeble strength. But we can always look to Him for help.

What might appear as barren and cold in our souls, if we wait patiently, might actually be beautiful in due time. Just like the buds are exploding with new life, color, and vibrance, I know that God is fully able to work in our life in a way that we’ve never experienced before.

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What I Want My Daughters to Know About Beauty & Worth

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“Momma, I need some lips,” my 3 1/2 year old daughter Hannah exclaims while we are shopping the aisles at our grocery store. “Lips” is our word for lipstick. She heads over to the makeup section and grabs a lipstick off the shelf.

“I need this one,” she says. I smile as she chooses the bright red colored one, like Taylor Swift’s choice lipstick color.

I could use that color, I think to myself knowing that I will end up using it more than Hannah will. I’ve always had a lipstick-lip gloss obsession.

What Really Makes You Beautiful

Now that I’m a mom of four – two that are girls – who are looking up to me as I put on my makeup in the mirror each morning, I’m realizing the great responsibility I have in raising them to understand what really makes us beautiful and worthy as women. Is it the bronze powdered blush, the lengthy eyelashes, the shiny lip gloss, the wavy hair, and flattering outfits? Is it being, trim, fit, fashionable, and attractive?

In a culture that is obsessed with image, how do I communicate to my girls that beauty is only skin deep as the cliche goes? I remember the feelings I had in middle school seeing the magazine covers and trying to measure up to a standard of beauty, only to fail. I remember wanting all the clothes that were in style – staring into the mirror and wondering if I looked anything like the gorgeous, airbrushed model staring back at me.

Many times when I tell our girls they are pretty, I will follow up and say, “You’re beautiful, but did you know what? Your heart is even more beautiful and what’s inside is what matters most.”

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I’m not sure if they’re getting it yet – they’re young – but I am praying these truths will sink in as they grow older. I want them to know that they are beautiful masterpieces in God’s sight and that they don’t need to chase the world’s affirmation for that or a boy’s approval. They don’t have to compare to an instagram feed, another person’s selfie, or the magazines at the checkout counter. They don’t have to look for love in all the wrong places because they are already deeply loved and accepted by their heavenly Father.

Heart, Soul, & Spirit

I want my daughters to know that the hidden person of the heart is where imperishable beauty is found. The beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is what we should desire most (rather than how the world is telling us to act or be). It is what is most precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4). I love that Scripture is not murky in this area but is crystal clear that we’re to work diligently on our hearts and inward beauty regarding:

  • Our character & values
  • Our attitudes
  • Our thought-life
  • What we allow to consume & influence us
  • What directs & shapes our heart
  • Our strength in times of testing/adversity
  • The core of our very soul

This doesn’t mean we don’t take good care of ourselves, wear nice clothes, and desire to look acceptable and even beautiful. I think we all desire and aim for that. I strive to take good care of myself for my husband and children, family, and friends. I love makeup, jewelry, and a nice tan. The problem is when it’s an obsession that consumes me and when I put more work into my outward appearance rather than my heart, then I need to change and consider where I’m placing my identity and value.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Prov. 31:30

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Jesus Makes You Radiant

I’ve certainly had mornings where I was all dressed up and ready to go, but my heart was far from the Lord. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks and my words weren’t pretty. My inner beauty was lacking and my children and husband saw my sour attitude and felt it. I’ve told my husband many times, “I need to get in the Word before I start this day. I need to say Good Morning, Lord, before I say Good Morning to anything else!”

We’ve all encountered women at some point in our lives who were drop-dead gorgeous, but nasty and ugly in character and attitude. We’ve also known women who might not be considered pretty by the world’s standards, but their heart, character, and happy smile made them so, so incredibly beautiful. Their inward joy radiates into the lives of others.

If there’s anything I really want my daughters to grasp, it is that they don’t have to be on a constant chase, like I was so often growing up. Even raised in a loving, Christian home, I didn’t always rest in the truth that love was right there with me and it was in Jesus – the author of love and absolute perfection. I want my daughters to know that it is Christ in us, who ultimately makes us radiant as his spirit is lived out in our lives. It is in Christ where we find all the fullness of love, acceptance, worth, joy, and hope.

As women, we are made in his image. Created by him no matter what shape, size, and features he has given us. We are his. Working on the inner beauty of our heart is worth every effort, no matter how difficult our days may be and even when our pride says not to do the hard work of focusing on our inner person.

Make no mistake, the inward beauty of your heart will eventually spill out into the lives of other people and it will be contagious.

You are seen. You are Known. You are Loved.

Blessings,

Samantha

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Mommas Need Good Friday Too

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I don’t remember exactly what my son had done that afternoon, but it involved disobedience. I remember where we were – in our backyard on a hot summer’s day in Texas. He was pushing my buttons at just the right time. He continued with his defiance and it was in that moment that I grabbed him and lashed out at him, yelling and all. There is a point as mommas when we discipline for correction and there is a line that we cross when we break a child’s spirit. I had done the latter.

Anger filled my heart. And I was done. I wanted to throw in the towel. Guilt and shame flooded my soul for the way I had hurt him – my precious first born baby whom I loved with all my heart and soul.

After cooling off and just wanting to hide in a corner, I confessed my sin to the Lord and to my son. “I’m sorry, John. Mom is struggling and the way I treated you was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course, Mom. I love you,” were his words.

Oh the forgiveness that I did not deserve. But with welcoming, child-like faith my son accepted my apology. He loved me anyway and our relationship was restored.

I don’t know where you are in your journey in motherhood, but perhaps like me you’ve been there. Maybe today. You see your brokenness, humanity, and sinful nature for what it is and it ain’t pretty. You would rather isolate and not expose it for what it is. You carry burdens of shame and guilt. You don’t know how to manage it. You know that you simply can’t on your own. I get it.

Jesus does too.

By His Wounds You are Healed

Because of the costly price of our sin, Jesus took care of the enormous debt we could not pay. Because of our sin and weakness, he willingly went to the cross to be crucified. He suffered, he bled, and he died a criminal’s death.

His love ran red for you. His blood on the cross took care of your sin problem. And by his wounds, you are healed.

His wounds save you from the outbursts of anger, the covetousness, the discontentment, the cursing, the lusts of your flesh, the struggle with control, the need for approval, the desire to have more, the need to be successful, the intense struggle with your children, the pride and more.

You see, Good Friday is not just for the church-goer on Sunday morning but doesn’t yet have a real faith in Jesus, but it is for the one who is broken. It is for those who know their great and desperate need for a Savior. Good Friday is not only for the businessman, social worker, doctor, teacher, politician, and more but it is also for the Momma who is weary and trembling in her calling to raise up her children in the way they should go.

Mommas need Good Friday too. And Jesus was thinking of you on the cross. He understands your struggle and suffering too. The truth is that we can’t manage our sin in motherhood, but Jesus can. The truth is that we don’t have it all together and we need his grace every hour.

Stop Doubting & Believe

After Jesus’ victory over death and sin and after he rose from the dead, doubting Thomas still struggled to believe that Jesus was who he said he was – the Messiah. The Savior of the world. More importantly, his personal Savior.

After the resurrection when Jesus was with his disciples, he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

And Thomas responded: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas had touched his Savior’s wounds. The proof was before his eyes. Jesus was the Son of God. He had no excuse not to believe.

And Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:26-29).

He is for You

There is much we don’t see in our calling as mommas, but do we still believe that Jesus is who he said he is? Do we believe that his wounds have set us free in our struggle with sin and will continue to set us free in the hard days to come?

The good news, Momma, is that the burdens of shame and guilt that you carry have been covered by Jesus’ blood on the cross. I know it’s hard to believe, but you can live in victory over your sin by his strength and in his power. And he is fully able to help make you the Momma you desire to be.

He sees you. He knows you. He is for you as you shepherd the hearts of your children.

And it is in fact, a very, very, Good Friday.

Blessings to you,

Samantha

 

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Writing Platform: Staying True to Who You Are

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If you’ve followed along with me for some time in this little space, you may remember that my husband and I submitted a book proposal on marriage to one of my favorite Christian publishers in 2015. After one of my articles went viral in 2013, the publisher reached out and asked about my interest in writing a book. Some of you have asked about the status of the project and I felt I should update you here.

The whole experience has been such an honor talking with the Associate Publisher, brainstorming ideas, conducting interviews, doing research, writing the proposal, dreaming of it impacting our audience, and sending it off. After months and months of waiting, we heard back and were told that as first-time authors the publisher was going to have trouble getting the proposal through the publishing board who looks carefully at prior book sales and author platform. We were so far in the process and were sad to receive that news, but we accepted that this may not be the right timing. Or the right project. I had peace in my heart because I knew God was in control. We had played our part.

Many wonderful authors today experienced rejection after rejection before their idea sold. Part of the back story on this proposal is that I had submitted another one prior to it that didn’t make it. So that makes two rejections. I remember the words from my chancellor in college,

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or his wealth or his education. But you determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.”

The publisher mentioned other options as far as us putting our book online chapter by chapter, and soliciting feedback and building an audience for the book before it is published. I have thought about shopping the proposal to different publishers or coming up with a whole new idea for a different audience. An author friend of mine said she would be happy to pass the proposal on to her literary agent which I’m highly considering.

But as of now I’m praying about the direction to go as I don’t want to give up on the idea. There are no books currently on the market like it. And platform? Well, platform is a big deal in the publishing industry. It’s important to have a large audience and influence for book sales. Your book has to make money after all and publishers take great risks. But I also know that God is the ultimate one who builds my platform. It is not something that I craft or manipulate with my own hands. That’s not to say I don’t play my part, but I leave the results to the Lord.

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My husband has been a testament to this as I’ve watched him wait on the Lord for many years until God fulfilled his plan for him in full-time ministry and to now see his faithfulness rewarded as he is now leading a wonderful congregation of believers as lead pastor. As his wife, I’ve witnessed his platform in the home and in the workplace and it has been one of service, patience, love, faithfulness, integrity, humility, perseverance, and more. To me, platform is about serving others. As Jesus says, “the greatest must become the least.” So in whatever capacity God gives me to serve, I will accept it as my platform.

I also have to stay true to who I am in my dream to author books and do my part in working diligently. I can’t allow a “no” to discourage me from God’s calling on my life to keep writing. It sure is tempting though to give up and just focus on the writing assignments I have at hand. It is tempting to make excuses and say I’m too busy, have too many kids, or just simply can’t balance it all. Which is all true, but I still don’t want to give up on my dream. I know the hard work isn’t in vain.

My five-year-old daughter Rebekah reminds me of someone who is absolutely true to herself. She doesn’t mold into someone she is not. She lives on the edge, walking barefoot near the road (it drives me crazy). She will often get out a piece of paper and her paint brushes and create the most beautiful picture from her imagination. She is artistic, spicy, smart, and introverted. God has specific plans for her gifting as I know he does for me. I don’t think she is the least bit worried in how God will choose to use her either. She inspires me in her childlike faith.

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Recently, our friend Scott who has traveled the writing journey with us and leads one of the largest pre-marital ministries in the country emailed a few weeks ago saying to keep going and not give up. He has read just about every Christian marriage book on the planet. He strongly believes in our idea, writing, and his words were just what I needed to hear to get me back on the road again. I love how God uses the body of Christ when we need a gentle push.

Well right now, the proposal sits on my computer but I plan on taking action with it in the coming weeks. I would love your prayers as I seek to know if God has further plans for it. If he doesn’t have a plan for this particular project, I’m okay with that. I will continue writing. But I want to be faithful to at least keep trying and to not let any discouragement keep me down.

Thank you for reading!

Samantha

 

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3 Reasons Why Being “Bored” Helps Your Kids Thrive

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Navigating the tricky waters with four kids, 7 and under, I often hear the oldest two express after school, on a day off, or on the weekend: “Mom, I’m so bored!”

So I begin to think about a really good response for my kids. In our culture today, it’s like it’s a sin to be bored. With technology at our fingertips and where everyone and every thing is producing and occupied by something, how is it okay to simply not do anything? To simply be?

I eventually come up with a suitable response: “Good, that’s a good thing. It is good to be bored!” I say with confidence – pronouncing the “good” – not wanting to give into the temptation to let them play a game on my phone.

My son looks at me strange but by the second week…

Read the rest of the article on For the Family. 

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5 Things I Learned in January

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I’ve always been someone who needs to reflect and process the world around me. Sometimes I feel like I have lost the moment if I don’t think and write about what just occurred. Perhaps that’s why I have 15 journals since middle school. So when I recently saw how author Emily Freeman regularly practices the art of “looking back” on her blog, I thought it would be a great discipline for me to implement once in a while in my own writing space.

Here are five simple things I learned in January:

1. I would rather be faithful to Jesus than successful in the world’s eyes.

Do you ever feel that deep drive for success – to be known, good at what you do, and appreciated by others? I think that’s a natural feeling most of us have inside us. But Jesus views success in a much different light than the world – not by numbers, praise, accomplishment, getting even, climbing to the top and more. He got down on his knees and washed – probably scrubbed in that day – the dirty, smelly feet of his disciples. He came to serve and not to be served – to give his life as a ransom for many. At the end of my life, I don’t want others to say I was successful, but that I was faithful in what God gave me to do.

2. I’m often quick to tell God what should happen, instead of allowing him to lead.

When my son John was five he came to an understanding that Jesus died for his sins and that he needed a Savior. I had always wondered when he’d be ready to be baptized, but I felt he needed to wait until he was older and truly understood it. I feared that we would make a mistake in the timing as parents. He is now seven and my husband has been working with him on understanding the meaning and why we do it.

Last week, Jeremiah said that John was ready to show our community of faith that he has trusted in his Savior. We’re so excited that John will be baptized at the end of this month among others in our church who want to publicly declare Jesus as their Savior. We’re confident in the timing and God is teaching me to trust his plans and that He knows best, even in the midst of my fears and concerns.

3. I need to get back up.

Just because I wrote down my one-word resolution “Clean” for the year doesn’t mean it will happen perfectly each day. I have already failed at my aim for clean eating when I ate my child’s preservative filled Welch’s pack of gummies yesterday. They were good! I’ve failed to have clean lips at times. I’ve failed to build up my husband and children with my words.

When I sin, the important thing is that I get back up and dust the dirt off my feet. Instead of wallowing in shame or in my sin, I need to do the next thing that’s required of me and seek reconciliation. When I hurt those closest to me, I need to ask forgiveness and own my part in the conflict. Living in this truth every day is life changing knowing that His grace allows me to start fresh again.

4. Life is too serious not to laugh.

I can be a pretty serious and sensitive person. In our ten years of marriage, my husband has helped me find the humor in things that I simply cannot find on my own. In my Tuesday morning Bible study, we usually don’t get through the serious stuff in our book without a good laugh or at least a good laugh at ourselves.

Life is already heavy, isn’t it? It is hard. The burdens we carry are sometimes so unbearable. Proverbs says that a cheerful heart is good medicine for the soul. I love what my friend wrote in a text recently, Just give yourself grace. It reminded me that I take myself too seriously sometimes.

 5. Contentment is great gain.

When it’s winter, we long for the flowers to bloom. When it’s summer, we wish for the leaves to fall. When our babies are young, we want them grown up. When they’re older, we wish they were young again. After moving to Colorado, we left behind a stunning master bath Jeremiah had remodeled. It was my place of retreat at the end of the day and the gorgeous tub was my “push present” after delivering my son Will.

I miss that jacuzzi tub with the inline heater so much. But I know I can’t dwell on the past but I can be thankful for all the many blessings God has given us in our new home and town. The Lord is teaching me to be content in all circumstances and to be present in the now.

There are many other things I learned in January, but those stick out the most. I think that when I reflect on my life years from now I’ll be thankful I took the time to practice the art of looking back.

What did you learn in January? Is there anything that comes to mind that you don’t want to forget?

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Finding Your Tuesday People: Out of Loneliness and into Community

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About six months into my family and I being settled into our new home in a brand new state, I expressed to my husband that I felt really lonely. I was loving everything about where God had put us. The serenity, beauty, community, our church, and the simple way of life had my heart (still does!), but I still felt like something was missing. Solid relationships and friendships have been important to me since I was a child.

“Well, I think you’re going to have to be intentional in reaching out,” my husband responded being the logical man that he is.

I pouted a bit about it. “Well, I kind of want them to invite me…” I replied.

Then I remembered the popular phrase that goes something like this,

To make a friend you have to first be a friend. 

IMG_1956Deep down, I was waiting for an invitation. And the funny thing is that I already had several invitations from others but I was focusing on the negative and just in a “poor me” state of mind. Have you ever been there? I began praying that God would help me in those feelings of loneliness and I asked him to sort them out for me. I started inviting others for lunch or coffee and began to minister to others, instead of being focused on myself and waiting for others to come to me.

There happened to be two moms who I consistently rubbed shoulders with and enjoyed their company. Out of the blue, I got a text from one who invited me to coffee at her home. I felt like a kid again, excited to be included and invited. The three of us met and talked about life, struggles, and hopes. From that meeting, they asked me about my interest in leading a Bible study. At first I was nervous about starting it from scratch, but I was definitely up for the challenge. I loved that they asked because I’m not sure if I would have without their prodding.

We eventually landed on a book to go through and yesterday we finished our third meeting. There are five us who meet and a few who are considering joining in the future. Over coffee (a must!) and a sweet snack, we dive into Scripture, pray, and discover how the truths in the book relate to our everyday life. It is a highlight of my week and keeps me accountable to reading.

282540_SimplyTuesdayFreeman_pins5In the wonderful book, Simply Tuesday, author Emily Freeman shares about the importance of having your “Tuesday people.” Tuesday is the most ordinary day of the week. We need those friends that we can share life with in the mundane, small moments of life. Friends that we can be comfortable with letting our insecurities out on the table. We need people who will pull up a chair or sit on a bench beside us and listen to our stories.

While we are still getting to know each other, this group has been that for me and I have been blessed because of it. Ironically, we meet on Tuesday mornings too so they are my Tuesday people in this season of life. Our time together has helped get me out of the lonely zone and into community where people can know who I am and where I can in turn, know who they are.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in a funk of loneliness, know that you really aren’t alone. Maybe for you, it will mean sending that text and inviting someone into your home. Maybe it will mean inviting someone to lunch or dinner. It could mean offering to watch someone’s kids so they can have a break. Maybe it will require being very intentional in the sphere of influence God has put you.

We live in a well-connected society digitally, yet many of us remain disconnected and lonely in our relationships. The good thing is that we can do something about it by extending a hand and inviting someone to sit on the bench with us in the real, ordinary days of life.

Who knows, maybe God will do something great in your relationships as you first seek to be a friend to someone else.

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