When You Find Yourself in a Season of “Stuck”

My three-year-old has been obsessed with going to his room and dressing himself multiple times a day. Recently, I heard a bloodcurdling scream in our living room. I ran to Will as he yelled, “I can’t ge-t-t-it. It’s stu-u-u-ck!” He couldn’t pull the zipper up on his shorts – it was stuck on the fabric. Tears streamed down his eyes.

“Mommy can help you. This isn’t as bad as you think,” I said.

I zipped up his shorts and dried his tears. He ran off to play trains and I was thankful for a drama-free resolve that didn’t include blood or else I would’ve passed out.

In our own lives, what is it about being stuck that makes us feel like we’re screaming inside? Maybe you’ve found yourself sitting on the sidelines waiting to get in the game. You’re not progressing like you want to in parenting your defiant children, career success, marital health, in-law issues, finances, weight loss, and more. You’re simply unsure of what to do next.

I don’t know about you but when I’m not seeing the completion of a process, I feel like a failure and that I’m not doing enough. Is it even okay to be in the in-between?

After publishing my first book, I’m continually asking God what is next? I’m cautious about what big project I jump into next and how it might impact my family and sanity with young children. I’m sometimes fearful of tackling the unknown and something altogether new.

Lately, I’m remembering the mantra my mom often tells me from one of her favorite authors and spiritual mentors, the late Elisabeth Elliott: Do the Next Thing. To which I translate: Do something. Just show up. Don’t stress about a future that isn’t here yet. Be obedient to God’s word and to prayer. Be present and available in the tasks he has before you right now. Don’t detest those baby steps.

“Doing the next thing” is an action that means moving forward. So, I’m writing the next article, pursuing publishing contacts, growing my relationships with author friends, and continuing to write for my local paper and other websites. I’m surprising weary moms with my book in a goodie box (my favorite part!).

God is working in the still spots and He isn’t aloof to my desires. He’s here. He’s more concerned about my contentment and trust in him than the outcomes I want.

This season of “stuck” for you? It won’t last forever just as the overcast April rains soon bring us clear blue skies. Maybe your next thing will be to seek the support of a trusted friend, join that financial peace class, schedule to meet with a counselor, begin writing that book burning wildly in your heart, quit your 9-5 job and create a business from scratch, download a good fitness app to keep on track, or pursue healing with your spouse.

As I was there to help my son’s zipper situation and calm his tantrum so he could get on with playing, God will come to your aid in just the right time and lift you up in the perfect way He sees fit.

Blessings to you,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mama to 4. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

 

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Three Simple Ways to Cultivate Faith in Your Child During the Season of Lent {with Katie Bowman}

Research shows that more than half of Christian kids are walking away from the faith once they are college age. I don’t know about you, but I am unwilling that even one of my three kid’s hearts would be lost. The encouraging news is that experts say that what makes the difference is cultivating their faith little by little, day by day. Or as Deuteronomy 6:7 puts it, “Talk about [God’s commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk [or drive] along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Thankfully, elaborate lesson plans and Pinterest perfect crafts aren’t listed in Deuteronomy. Can I get an “AMEN”?!

Even though it’s the day by day that really matters, it’s so easy to let the daily things of life crowd out the meaningful. Early wake up calls from little feet, seemingly never ending to do lists, literally NEVER ENDING bedtime routines, you get it. You live it too.

That’s why I’m so grateful for seasons and times of the year that call us out beyond what we’ve settled into. Lent, or the 40 or so days leading up to Easter have been a part of the church calendar for centuries. For centuries Christians have taken the days leading up to Easter to refocus their eyes on what matters, to be intentional about weeding out distractions.

This season is a great time to think about how I can go a little bit deeper and take my kids with me into that. It not only challenges me to evaluate the way I am teaching them but also helps me focus the posture of my own heart. I can’t lead my kids to places I have never been. I want them to know Christ deeply, so I must go deeper still.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to set up monuments. When life was routine, these monuments would remind them of God’s faithfulness. In the same way, I hope to build traditions into different seasons of our life. Not to neglect the daily discipleship, but to deepen it.

I have a 6 year old, 3 year old and a 10 month old so I know how hard it is to fit in daily time with the Lord, let alone go above and beyond. But here are some traditions I have found work for us.

Resurrection Garden: God takes dead things and causes new life.

1. Read the Word everyday from now until Easter.

No other book carries the promises of God’s Word. Your time spent in it will not return void. Honestly, I was struggling with this BIG TIME. I have found that waking up 30 minutes before my kids is the best time for me. Sometimes little feet make their way into
the dining room where I am reading. I made sure to set up expectations beforehand that Mommy is not available to meet your needs while I am spending time with God. Instead I read out loud to them or keep a children’s Bible beside me that they can look at quietly.

More than anything, I want them to grow up with the memories of their Mom pouring over the Word. Two practical ways that have made it easy to stay the course are: (1) the She Reads Truth App (2) Leaving a Bible in a place that is accessible, for me that is on the far end of our dining room table where I usually do my quiet time.

2. Give up something for Lent. 

Even though Lent already started you can still make a commitment to put away a distraction from now until Easter. Last year I gave up TV/scrolling my phone in the evenings. It has stuck and instead of doing something that wasn’t feeding my soul (in fact, I found it was life-sucking for me) I started reading character forming books (I could write an entire blog post on how LIFE GIVING this has been for me).

This year I gave up sleep. Just 30 minutes in the morning like I mentioned above. The key is not just giving something up but filling that space with something that is life-giving and draws you closer to Jesus.

Each egg has a meaning on the Easter tree.

3. Find one Easter tradition that will be meaningful to your family.

We have actually found two that we REALLY love. The first is a resurrection garden. I love how we can not only talk about the empty tomb but also how God takes dead things (seeds) and causes new life. You can see what you’ll need to make one over on my blog. The second is an Easter Tree. I didn’t anticipate the big hit this one would be. My kids LOVE learning more about what each egg represents. We have had some fun discussions that we would have never had otherwise. I also love that it can grow with my kids. The older and more mature they become the deeper we can dive into the meaning of each egg.

To cultivate means to foster growth. Gardens don’t grow just by planting alone. They need the loving care of the gardener who studies what each individual plant needs in her care. While praying that God will bring the sunshine and rain, the gardener must study the best times to plant, the best ways to fertilize and protect her crops and when to reap the harvest.

Some seasons call for hard work, some for rest and others still for study and prayer. In the same way, we must be diligent to teach our children the Word and trust God to do what we cannot and cause faith to take root in their hearts. The season of Lent is a great time to put in some extra hard work, all for the sake of growing God’s kingdom in our children’s hearts.

What are some ways that you’re cultivating faith into the hearts of your children?

About Katie Bowman

Katie Bowman has been married to her best friend, Adam, for ten years. She graduated from Liberty University and Dallas Seminary.

She loves being able to stay home with her three kids. Second only to passing on her faith, she hopes to pass on her love of books to her children. For fun she likes to take naps and go to the bathroom alone. She leads this glamorous life in Dallas, Tx. 

 

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A Prayer for the Weary, Worn-Out Mama

Oh Lord, thank you for who you are and that I’m always welcome to approach your throne in confidence and boldness, no matter how much I’ve failed you. No matter how exhausted I am. I confess to you today that my heart and soul is malnourished and deprived of the nutrients and sustenance that only you can give.

I have tried to manage life on my own, only to fall every time. I’ve tried to control my husband, home life, and children apart from you, and I’m so grateful you’re reminding me today that the only person I can put my hope in is you.

I’m worn out from “doing” when I should be focused on “being” who you’ve called me to be. I’m struggling, Lord, because I don’t want my identity to be in anything else other than you but the temptations and the gradual pull to place my hope in temporary, non-eternal things is a constant tug of war match.

I’m weary from the high calling you have given me as a mother to my children, who I love with all my heart. I don’t always know what I’m doing in shepherding their hearts. I don’t always love them well or know how to handle their sinful nature, nor my own. I call upon you for the help that you are always ready and willing to give in abundance. Humble me so that I will call on your name more.

I know that when I surrender to you and release control, you will take over and that you always lead me to streams of living water. You always bring me satisfaction and joy. For there is rest in you and your yoke is easy – not burdensome.

Please lift the afflictions and grievances off my back so that I may live freely for you today. Rid me of my selfishness and teach me what your love is like so that I may love others well. Teach me how to be the mama you’re calling me to be. Thank you that your love is better than life and I can trust in your unfailing love for me now and into eternity.

In your precious and holy name I pray,

Amen

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mama to 4. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

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Guilt vs. Grace: Battling the Never-ending Voices of Motherhood

Last night when I was picking up my 3 and 4 year old from Awana, before I could realize it, they darted out into the church parking lot. I yelled at them to “Stop!” and was fuming with anger. Headlights beamed and cars were making their way out.

I ran as fast as I could to grab them. Other kids were watching my kids in their disobedience. I rebuked them and disciplined them for not listening to Mommy. My heart beat fast as we made our way home and I told them they were in big trouble.

After the incident, I beat myself up pretty bad about what could’ve been done differently. Did I not do a good job at telling them what to expect? Do they need more discipline? (yes, always!) I was embarrassed. I prayed and cried and honestly just felt like a failure. I already have major anxiety with my kids in parking lots and streets.

You see, it is this subtle voice after a long day’s work of child-rearing, managing daily responsibilities, making sure the wheels on the house are running smoothly, disciplining defiant children, and more, that says:

You’re not good enough. You’re not the mom you should be. Your kids are a reflection of you. When will you get it together?

The voice of guilt. The voice of condemnation. It’s a cunning voice that sneaks into the cracks of unexpected places with the potential to freeze me from doing anything worthy. Now don’t get me wrong. Guilt can be a very good thing – to show us our offense and to make us keenly aware of our need for repentance. In this situation however, it was a false guilt.

It took my eyes off Jesus and his ability to carry me, and had me focusing on myself, my weaknesses, my struggles, and my incapabilities. It took my eyes off gratitude and filled my heart with negativity, self-pity, and depression. I never once thought of the blessing that I could run fast enough to catch them!

Lisa Terkeurst says,

Learn to be more thankful for what you are than guilty for what you’re not. Cut the threads of guilt with grace.

Grace- God’s unmerited favor, goodwill, and loving-kindness toward us as imperfect sinners. Grace says that God is for us. He loves us and wants to teach us a better way to live. He’s not angry and waiting for us to get our act together, but he is patient and guides us as our loving Father.

  • In the name of grace, there is no condemnation or a constant beating over the head. “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1 
  • In the name of grace, there is no fear in His perfect love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18 
  • In the name of grace, God is sanctifying and purifying us to be holy. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

I don’t know if you’ve felt the grip of guilt on your heart but may I encourage you to let God take it off of your chest – just for today? Don’t worry about tomorrow. Allow him to shower you with his grace in your present situation. His love for you is not contingent on what you do or don’t do as a mom.

And the way your children behave at times that’s out of your control? That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom nor is that where your identity is found.

The voice of guilt and the voice of grace are always at odds, battling it out with each other on a daily basis. As you begin to listen to them more and see them for what they are, you will see that the voice of grace is always greater.

It is the voice of freedom.

Striving in grace with you,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

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What I Want My Sons to Know About Being Bold & Brave in a Hurting & Hostile Culture

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A few months ago before bedtime, my oldest son John expressed to me that a friend at his school was struggling.

“Mom, he told me on the playground that he thinks God hates him.”

I was shocked by those words coming from a young child.

“So I told him that God does love him and that I could bring him a Bible.”

I smiled and told John how brave he was to encourage his friend like that. And it got me thinking how I need to be praying more for both my boys to grow into men who will stand up for truth, have courage, and love others well in a world that is hurting and hostile toward God.

I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough in preparing and training my children but I know it’s never too late to begin fervently praying for them. I pray that my boys will grow into men who will:

  • Fear the Lord and seek his wisdom from a young age
  • Stand up for what is right even when no-one else is
  • Live a life of purity where the women in their life are valued, treasured, and honored
  • Know how to turn their eyes away from lustful things that seek to deceive and harm them
  • Love their future wives as Christ loved the church– unconditionally, sacrificially, and with whole-hearted devotion
  • Confess their sin and turn to the Lord all of the days of their life

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There’s no doubt that it’s a bit fearful and intimidating as we consider beginning with the end in mind in parenting our boys. What kind of men do we want them to become? How can we begin to help them live like the men we desire them to be?

I want them to know they can be brave and bold right now in a world that’s hurting and in need of the hope that is found in Jesus.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12

I pray they’ll be confident leaders who speak the truth in love and understand that true leadership is service– it is not lording it over people in their pride, position and power but is that of humility, strength, and selflessness.

In a world that screams hate, violence, and craves conflict and strife, I pray my boys will return their words and actions with love, peace, and hope in the midst of chaos. I pray they will be givers, and not takers. That they would trust in Jesus when it gets really tough.

In a world that’s rejecting God as their sovereign Creator, I want my boys to know that Jesus is our perfect example who took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples, who entrusted his life to the Father and waited on His timing for everything. Who didn’t entrust himself to men because he knew the evil in their hearts. Yet he pursued them in their mess of sin and loved them still.

I want my boys to know when they look to Jesus they’ll never be disappointed.

samanthakrieger.com

Not many days after our bedtime conversation, I volunteered in John’s classroom and his friend who’d shared those feelings about God happened to be in my reading group. The lesson was on friendship and the discussion questions led into him telling me that a family member of his had died.

“Yeah, we’ve been going through a lot lately,” he said.

One of his pets had died too. My heart ached for him and it all made sense as to why he felt that God was not for him.

He shared some more and had such a heart of compassion. It made me realize there are endless opportunities to love on the people God puts on our path and seek to understand where they’re coming from.

In a culture that’s in need of Jesus’ love, great opportunity lies ahead as we teach our boys how to be the men God desires them to be – even when we feel inadequate. As their mommas, may we be their biggest prayer warriors.

Cheering you on in the trenches,

Samantha

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Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

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The One Thing You Probably Need Most Today

It is often at the end of the day, where I feel most attacked in motherhood. Satan whispers lies: You’re not doing this right. You’re going to screw up your kids. You’re unqualified. You’ll never overcome the anger, control, pride, and more. You don’t have what it takes.

Lately, I’ve been realizing that this is all a very works-based mentality. That if I could just “do” more and be “better” as a wife and mom, then the path will be straight and God will love me.

Oh, but this is far from the truth because it leaves out one word out that I desperately need daily:

G R A C E

Grace comes to us as God’s undeserving gift and kindness. It is not something we earn or have to work hard for. It is not something that if we just get our act together, the odds will be in our favor. It is not conditional as to whether we meet a certain standard of righteousness. It is not how we often treat our children: If you do this, then I will love you. If not, then you have fallen short of my standard and I will like you less.

Another word for grace is also mercies. His mercies are new each and every day. The slate is wiped clean. I don’t know about you, but that is good news.

In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah was under intense affliction, wandering, and pain. He says, “My soul is downcast within me” (vs. 20). Yet in the next verse he reveals, “Yes this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (vs. 21) – the steadfast love of the Lord is what spurs him on in the midst of trouble.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)

Because of God’s unwavering, unconditional, steadfast love, we won’t drown in despair. When we end the day feeling battle-worn, wondering if the morning will be any different, we have great hope because his grace and mercy toward us are always moving in strength, like a raging waterfall – regardless of how well we have done. We can trust him to carry us in the deepest of valley’s, brokenness, and suffering. Because that is what our Father does for his children.

Because his great love for you never ceases, his grace doesn’t either. Grab hold of it today – knowing He has covered your guilt, shame, dissatisfaction, self-sufficiency, self-loathing, and more. He has covered the lies that tempt you. He will give you what you need just for this very moment.

Most of all, let his grace and love captivate your heart unlike anything else in your life.

Questions for Reflection: Is there anything in your life you feel God could never forgive? How can you better cling tight to his grace, instead of a works-based acceptance mindset?

I was lost
I was in chains
The world had a hold of me

My heart was a stone
I was covered in shame
When He came for me

I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence
I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me
Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me

(“Jesus Loves Me” by Chris Tomlin)

 

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

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The Courage to be You, Bravely, in 2017

It’s funny how sayings stick in your head. “Be You, Bravely” was the theme for my Mother’s of Preschooler’s group (MOPS) in Dallas a few years ago and I have reflected on it a lot the last several months.

Whether it comes through scrolling down the highlight reels of friends on Facebook and Instagram or comparing myself to what another person has in her life, God is teaching me to be me. And me alone.

The temptation is to believe that other friends have it better, are more gifted, and suitable for their work. But the truth is that we all have challenges in our lives – some obvious, some unseen. We’re all gifted uniquely for God’s purposes – fashioned according to His will.

Purpose in Publishing

Recently, I was given an exciting opportunity from a Christian publishing company to be one of three writers to submit writing for an upcoming project they are working on with a respected author. They seemed very interested in my sample writing and was hoping I would move forward in letting the author see my samples. The problem was that I thought it was going to be a co-write and soon learned that it was a ghost-write. My heart immediately became unsettled.

If you aren’t familiar with ghostwriting, you are hired by a publisher to write the story/content that is officially credited to another person – in this case it was someone quite famous in the Christian world. In ghostwriting, you take on their voice but you receive no credit on the cover and you cannot reveal it in your portfolio. You’re usually given a good sum of money in ghostwriting, too. There are pros and cons to it.

I know writers that ghostwrite and I don’t judge them. But in my heart, I didn’t feel it was right for me. It also wasn’t in line with my personal goals in my writing career. It was hard to let the publisher know I wasn’t interested in moving forward, but I felt peace.

God had purpose in that experience as it led me to write my own book and collaborate with like-minded friends and it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, especially hearing from readers and friends who have found hope and encouragement through it.

Boasting in Our Weaknesses

I believe that staying true to who we are takes a lot of courage, indeed. Not only staying true to our calling in Christ and who he has created us to be, but also not hiding who we are in our brokenness and weaknesses.

I love what the Apostle Paul says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Cor. 12:9

Paul gladly boasted in his weaknesses. He didn’t exactly have a stellar resume before Christ met him on the road to Damascus. He didn’t pride himself in who he was, because he knew what he was before Christ, and it wasn’t pretty. Being true to who we are requires that we take a good look inside our hearts and our own shortcomings. We are not self-sufficient, but Christ-sufficient.

When we acknowledge and admit we are powerless over our struggles and sin, we give God room to work. We allow him to search who we really are. I know when I allow him to do that, I find that I am utterly dependent on him for any good thing. I rarely can do good apart from him. Even on my best day, I still fall short.

A Great Opportunity 

It takes courage to be You. And no one else. It’s much easier to be busy about what others are doing, instead of taking a good hard look inside your own heart and seeing what God is doing in you. Who has he made you to be? What dreams has he given you? What scars and brokenness do you have that can be shared for the benefit of another friend?

In a culture where social media offers “all the feels” as Jen Wilkin recently wrote in her article Beware the Instagram Bible in 2017“It [the Instagram gospel] preaches good news in part, but we need the whole. It may move us in the moment, but it cannot sustain us through the storm.”

As women who follow Jesus, we have a great opportunity in 2017 to shine the light into who we truly are. We have a great opportunity to get to know our friends in real time, beyond the mere scrolling of our thumb on a phone screen. We have an opportunity, like never before, to come out of hiding and show others how great our God is.

 

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.  

 

We All Have to Grow Up

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photo: Katie Bowman, 2012

Rebekah has looked up to her big brother John since the day she was born. In fact, he is the one who named her “Bekah” after he couldn’t say her full name Rebekah. John was her first friend, her first fight, and her first fun! She has never known life apart from him and oh does she love him and look up to him fiercely.

It’s hard to believe that on Thursday, John will show her the ropes in his school. It will now be her school – they will go together. Actually, when Bekah was in her three’s and four’s (the hardest years ever for me), I often wished for her to be a little older so I could manage the meltdowns better. I struggled so much and I had no idea how fast it would go by and that it was only a season, soon to change. When I saw our recent church photo, I realized just how much our family is growing up. Kindergarten has come and it came so fast.churchfamilyphoto

In the same way that we don’t keep returning to preschool year after year, relearning the basics over and over again, we’re also called to grow up in our faith.

Do you ever feel that resistance not to want to change? I would rather stay in Neverland. I have been reminded of this a lot lately as I see my struggles, hurts, and habits for what they truly are in the bright light – kind of ugly – an insecurity, unforgiveness, or slothfulness in different areas. When I see sinfulness inside me, I’m reminded that I have a lot of maturing to do.

1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 says,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

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Just as a child only has a limited frame of reference and understanding, spiritually we are the same. We can only see life from a limited point of view here on earth. Like my own children, my understanding is imperfect and I have much to learn about God. It’s like trying to see through a mirror that is smudged, cloudy, scratched, dirty, and even broken. My perspective isn’t what it should be.

But soon, we won’t see through a jacked up mirror. We will see face to face the glory and majesty of God and we will eventually know what we don’t yet know right now. Not partially, but fully. 

I’m thankful that while I have so much growing up to do, one day, I will see things as God sees them in its fullest. I will see his people the way he sees them. I will see his plan how he sees it. In heaven, the things we valued and were obsessed about here on earth will be a shadow compared to the beauty and light of Jesus, who is the only one who satisfies our souls.

Growing up and maturing is never easy. I might cry on Thursday or I might be happy and thankful for the break – probably both. But moving ahead is a necessity. When we move past the basics spiritually, we are changed. And it is then that we do begin seeing a little more how heaven sees and we are fine leaving Neverland in order to grow deeper and stronger in our faith.

My One Word Resolution for 2016

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Several years ago, I ditched writing down the long list of New Year’s resolutions and instead adopted the idea of sticking to a one word theme for the whole year thanks to the website MyOneWord.org. It’s not that I didn’t fulfill my goals in past years, but when I fell short on them, I felt like a failure. Plus, I needed more simplicity and something different.

I loved the idea of choosing one word to inspire you the whole year and throughout each day. On our way driving back from Christmas vacation in the Midwest, I saw a church sign that read:

Daily devotion is better than a New Year’s Resolution.

That really struck a chord with me. I want to be devoted daily to the disciplines and responsibilities that are required of me right now, rather than being so committed to a pie in the sky resolution that isn’t specific or realistic.

In 2014, I chose to go with the word discipline. In 2015, I picked the word joy. And this year, it took me a few days to decide on the word C L E A N. I don’t know about you, but there are areas in my life that need some cleaning. I’m naturally a bit messy. I have to work hard at organization. My brain just doesn’t function in an orderly manner all the time. I want to be clean in the respect of my home.

Spiritually, I desire to have a clean heart and lips. I want my heart to be pure so I can more clearly hear from the Lord. I want to build others up this year with my words. I also want to have clean eating – less foods that include preservatives and additives and more foods made from scratch. I’m sure as the year progresses, I’ll find more areas that involve the word  C L E A N.

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In case you set some New Year’s Resolutions and are finding it difficult to stay committed to them, may I suggest that you choose one word for your 2016 instead? Some ideas for your word could be: balance, contentment, freedom, strength, trust, courage, prayer, simplicity, service, perseverance, peace, healthy, community, creativity, and more. It might take some time to think about which word suits you well. Once you have the word, write down why you chose it and what you hope to gain from committing to that word. You could go even further and paste it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror so it’s easily visible. The important thing is that you allow yourself to be regularly reminded of it so you can take daily action.

2016 is a clean slate and a time to start from scratch. May you have a great beginning, daily devoting yourself to the tasks in front of you right now.

Have you already chosen your one word? What word do you think suits you well for 2016?

Blessings,

Samantha

Why You Should Practice the “F” Word

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“Rebekah, stop saying mean words to your sister Hannah! She loves you,” I corrected my oldest daughter a few days ago. We have had quite the battles with the tongue lately.

“Noooo! She does not love me!” Rebekah shouted.

“When I was little, she took my paci out of my mouth and it was sooo rude!”

I looked at Rebekah and had to laugh as it reminded me of her pacifier obsession a few years ago. Weaning her from those green rubber suckers was such a work-out! She found them no matter how well Jeremiah and I hid them. I had no idea she remembered Hannah trying to steal them from her.

The conversation reminded me that some things just don’t die off in life or are that easily forgivable even to a young child. Whether it’s a hurtful word or action, an unmet expectation, or a harm done against us that we just can’t seem to move past, forgiveness is really, really hard. It is an act of the will. It is a choice that we are commanded of in Scripture because we have been forgiven of so much. But that doesn’t mean the sting and pain will disappear over night.

I love what Atlanta-based pastor Charles Stanley once said:

Forgiveness does not recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.

IMG_0368_blogWhen we remain in bitterness, anger, and resentment, we remain in our chains. But when we choose to break off those chains, rolling our burdens onto the Lord, we find freedom because He is carrying the load for us. We find peace, love, patience, gentleness, joy, abundant life, transformation and more.

It is only in Jesus’ strength that we can truly forgive someone who has deeply wounded us. It is only by His hands that we can walk through the fires that seek to destroy our hearts. And sometimes he asks us to do hard things: To confess our harbored bitterness or go to the person who has offended us. Sometimes, we have to be really brave and forgive ourselves.

Do your wounds run deep from pain inflicted on you or pain that you have caused? They may not be quite as small as a pacifier offense, but don’t neglect that the hurt is real. Last year, I went through a 12-step recovery ministry at our church in Dallas called Regeneration.  Our leadership from the front strongly encourages people to go through the program because we all have areas where we struggle. During my time, I had to participate in a personal moral inventory where I had to write down every sin committed against me and every sin I have committed against another.

It was a grueling process. And not only that, I had to confess it to two trusted mentor friends. I somewhat dreaded the evening I was to confess. I was a bit terrified of what my friends would think but to my surprise, it was one of the most freeing and healing moments of my 32 years of life. I was accepted, not judged, and met with compassion and understanding. There was just something about writing my sins down and knowing that Jesus had died for every one of them. My sins were why he had to come. And he loved me unconditionally. And not only my sins, but the sins of the whole world. It was also in that process where I was able to see more clearly what I needed to forgive.

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The truth is that forgiveness isn’t always a one time deal. It is something we need a great deal of help on and it doesn’t always mean slapping a band-aid on the wound and saying, “Just forgive. Get over it.” The wounds have to be exposed, brought into the light, and cleaned out deeply before they can fully heal.

Forgiveness is also something that has to be practiced. It’s something of a discipline. All I really know is that it’s something of a God-thing. It is only by His power that we can truly forgive.

Remember that Jesus is always there for you when you need to confess: I hurt. I can’t carry this burden of bitterness anymore. Please help me forgive so that I may live a life of freedom and help others in turn.

What do you need to forgive today? Are you practicing the command to forgive?

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