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.

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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?

Summer in Holyoke: A Little Taste of Heaven

I was recently offered the opportunity to write a column for our local newspaper. It has been so much fun! This article was originally published in my column: Samantha’s Salt in The Holyoke Enterprise – September 3, 2015 (photos included in this blog post only).

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Jeremiah caught this rainbow a few weeks ago. Our new church home: First Baptist Church Holyoke (side & back view)

Before my husband began the interview process for his job in Holyoke, we never knew such a town existed on the map. The mountains were all we’d experienced in Colorado so it was a surprise to learn of the Northeastern plains. When we drove in for the first time and saw the cornfields, water tower, parks, elementary school, and nicely manicured lawns, I could sense it was a special place. The serenity is what struck me most.

I didn’t grow up in a small, rural town. I moved twice in my childhood and my dad’s work brought us to medium-sized cities on the east coast. During my summer breaks in college, I traveled overseas and did several out of state publishing internships. After I met my husband at seminary in Virginia, we moved to Dallas for more schooling. The big city has been our life for the past eight years.

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Breaking in our new yard. This will be the year of the John Deer 🙂

In June, when our big yellow Penske truck made its way to our driveway, I felt the baseline stress of the big city falling off my shoulders. The air was clean. The wide-open spaces refreshed my spirit. The slow pace of life was new to me and was what my soul had been craving. The orange, yellow, pink, and red radiant bursts of color in the sky at sundown gave me something to look forward to each evening.

Before we moved out, I wondered how the adjustment would go. Would I go into shock not having access to all the “stuff” and entertainment? Would it be difficult living somewhere more remote?

I miss those conveniences occasionally. But the majority of the time I appreciate fewer choices and less stuff. Less temptation is present to hit the Starbucks and Chick-fil-a drive thru. Amazon Prime has been my best friend. You can’t beat free two day shipping. We have taken a few trips out to the surrounding cities and it’s always nice to return.

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Will in the field of dandelions behind our house

My kids have found joy in exploring new swimming pools, lakes, parks, dirt roads, animals, and farms. My son got to ride on a combine for the first time and learn about harvesting. Our new church family has opened up their arms to us and is becoming the family we couldn’t bring with us.

The ability to hop on our bikes and ride to Subway, Heidi’s (the dirty chai tea latte is my favorite), mail a package without waiting in a long line, or peruse The Oak Tree is something I’ve never had before. And a 1-minute drive to the marketplace… it doesn’t get any better than that when you practically live at the grocery store with four young mouths to feed.

I realize the story I’m writing may be different when the streets are blanketed with ice and snow and all I’ll want to do is hibernate under the covers. Since it’s human nature, I will probably grow familiar with the charm and hidden blessings this little town has to offer. I know it’s not a perfect town- no place is. No people are.

12032349_10102246540751678_1138077519_nBut I pray that my heart will always find something to be grateful for here. Many people would love to live in such a place where you get the kind of “feel” you just don’t have on city streets. Where you meet some really special people who genuinely care for others – whether it’s found in a friendly wave, a genuine conversation, or in a surprise vegetable delivery on your front porch.

I definitely realize your perspective may be different than mine, especially if you’ve lived here all your life. I’m an outsider looking in. I find it amazing that you could stay planted somewhere for so long. But now I understand why. You’re in Holyoke.

As the leaves will soon fall to the ground and the air grows crisp, I will remember and be thankful for what this town meant to our family this summer – a little taste of heaven in the midst of a big transition.

And as the Lord wills, we do plan on staying a while.

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What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part II

kriegerfamilyphoto2015This post is continued from my husband’s blog today, “What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part I.”

This past weekend, we traveled to the golden plains of Northeast Colorado for Jeremiah to preach at First Baptist Church Holyoke. For the past several months he has been interviewing with them for the Senior Pastor position as what has become their first choice candidate. And in that time we have been in much prayer about the next steps for our life and ministry as Jeremiah mentioned. Since the time we were dating, 11 years ago now, we have both sensed a strong desire for full-time ministry but we weren’t sure how that would be fulfilled and when that might happen. So after we got married, getting the right training and preparation was the most natural next step.

Dallas Theological Seminary was where we landed in 2006. We got plugged into our beloved church, Watermark, and were involved in an apartment outreach for two years. During this time, Jeremiah was a nurse and student part-time. We had our first child, John in 2008. We began developing some of the richest friendships we have ever had with our community group at church and fellow friends in seminary. Seminary was one of the most rewarding and challenging times of our life. We continued to grow our family and before we knew it, Jeremiah completed his Master’s in Theology in May 2012, we had our third baby and bought our first home in East Dallas. The desire for ministry remained in our hearts but we knew we needed a sabbatical so we stayed put.

Jeremiah was faithful to get his resume out there and Dallas Seminary started sending his information directly to churches. One of those churches was First Baptist Holyoke. From the get go, they were excellent in their communication (this is huge these days) and Jeremiah began the interview process through Skype calls. They flew us out in March to see the town and to gauge whether it might be a place we’d like to be permanently. They were sensitive to the fact that I didn’t grow up in a super small town and wanted to make sure I felt comfortable there.

The search committee made welcome bags with home-made cookies, coloring books and crayons for our kids. They gave us a great tour of the area and we attended the church to get a feel for it. We felt refreshed by the church body and sensed a connection with the people. They are using their gifts in a great way and have a heart to reach their town with the gospel. They have a brand new building on land and remained debt free through the building process. By the end of that trip, I felt like it was definitely a place I could see us serving in. While it is a very small town, it has a lot to offer young families. A few weeks later, Jeremiah was invited to come back and preach. The congregation would vote on him as to whether or not to extend a call for him to be the next pastor.

This past weekend he preached their Saturday night and Sunday morning services and did a greeting at the Spanish evening service. He did a wonderful job preaching out of Hebrews. I was pretty nervous during that time, but he wasn’t! The members of the church finished casting their vote on Sunday night, the search committee called him in, and let us know that the vote was very favorable and he was offered the position for Senior Pastor. Everything felt surreal and we accepted the offer, knowing this was where God was leading us. We are humbled by God’s goodness in seeing a desire and dream come to fruition that was birthed in our hearts over a decade ago.

As we embark on this new opportunity in finding out what God desires to do in and through us in Holyoke, CO, we value your prayers and support for the work that lies ahead. We know it won’t be easy, but God will be with us. We are excited for the change ahead, but of course, it is bittersweet leaving behind our family, friends, and church in Dallas.

I feel a little like Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. She was once a city girl turned country. She has four kids and is also a writer and blogger. I am not exactly an exceptional cook though! I am looking forward to supporting my husband, new friendships, wide open spaces, sunsets, stars at night, fresh air, and a little more quiet (outside our crazy house, of course). 🙂

Thank you for hearing our hearts and walking alongside us. We appreciate it so much!

– Samantha & Jeremiah

 

The Love Song {That Changes Everything}

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Last night, my husband and I had one of those out of the ordinary evenings where we stayed up late in bed together talking, reminiscing about our college and dating days, and how we were so thankful God gave us one another when we least expected it. We reflected on our wedding day and all that led up to it.

“It’s kind of sad… we never really had a song,” Jeremiah said.

I thought about it for a minute and it was kind of sad.

“We just chose one because we had to for our first dance,” he said.

He was right. We dated for seven months and were engaged for six. Everything happened so fast. I thought about the beautiful song we chose (or that he let me choose!), “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban and some of the words in it:

“And this journey that we are on. How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. And when you say you love me, that’s all you have to say. I’ll always feel this way…”

Our wedding day was just the beginning of our journey together. We weren’t that “far” into it yet. Like our vows, we didn’t fully understand the words of that song or that a day might come when we’d be tempted to throw in the towel. That there might be a day when our burning, unquenchable love wouldn’t “always feel this way.”

“I think the journey we’ve been on is our song,” I told Jeremiah. “It tells the real story better than any mere love song could. Plus, our song is still being written.”

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The journey of our marriage sings the song that no matter what, through thick and thin, we are committed to one another and will fight for our marriage. We will persevere through adversity because we promised, “Until death do us part” to God and to our loved ones.

The lyrics over our last nine years tell a story of lost dreams, disappointments, job promotions, job losses, accidents, lessons learned, poor communication, passion, romance, pursuit, isolation, intimacy struggles, financial pressure, adventure,  forgiveness, reconciliation, suffering, unconditional love, friendship, unmet expectations, unexplainable joy, and more.

Our relationship has been filled with mountain tops and valleys. Marriage is a battlefield, not always the bed of roses we often dream of. It’s more about strapping up your boots and putting on your armor to fight against your flesh and sinful nature.

Our nine years of marriage have told a story of our sin exposed to the bone, but also of unconditional love, acceptance, and grace – where we have seen our Savior’s love shine brighter than the love we share. We’ve experienced a Savior who sought us in our messy sin – who didn’t wait for us to clean up.

We know a Savior whose blood was shed for our freedom and righteousness. We worship a Savior who has rescued us out of darkness and into light and who is restoring and making all things new.

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We live for a Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s son, who has reconciled us to himself – not because of anything we have done but because of everything He has done. We surrender to a Savior who cares deeply for our relationship so that His song would be a melody for others to join in and be inspired by. So that ultimately others would know what His love is really like.

Patient. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Gentle. Kind. Humble. Selfless. Strong. True. Perfect. Enduring. Everlasting. And so much more.

The truth is that we’ve always had a song – the song of redemption. It was lived out as two imperfect young lovers anticipating the day we would say “I do.” It’s been lived out every year we’ve tried to love the best we know how, yet still come up so short. It has met us in our biggest fights and shameful behaviors. It sings louder than all other songs written by human, finite hands.

This song of redemption – Christ’s rescuing and restoring of broken people back to Himself – is for every marriage to behold and know personally. It is far greater than any song shared solely between two lovers because it invites others to share its glory and splendor.

It changes everything. And it is yours to sing too.

My One Word Resolution for 2015

Last year, I ditched the long list of resolutions and clung to a one word resolution instead. As we approach the end of 2014, I’m happy to report that I loved honing in on one word and remembering it throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, historically I’ve been a goal setter and definitely believe in beginning with the end in mind but as a busy wife and momma, I did so much better last year focusing on one key word to implement in my life.

Discipline was the word I chose last year and it came to mind often. I have seen discipline in my life when it comes to: reading and studying the Bible, committing to a running routine/accountability partner, writing 2 book proposals, meeting weekly with my community group girls, and home organization. I didn’t do so great at journaling, putting letters in the mail or relying less on caffeine.

When I look at what I want 2015 to hold, the word JOY is inescapable for me. Theopedia defines joy as:

A state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. It appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books; 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books…

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Joy is actually an area that I struggle with particularly in motherhood. The daily demands of meeting my children’s needs is often overwhelming, especially at their ages. It is a serious job indeed, but I don’t think I laugh or smile enough. Sometimes the daily grind affects my relationship with my husband when I really don’t want it to. Too often, I allow the pressures, trials, and temptations of life in general to steal my joy. And it shouldn’t be that way.

For a while, I thought I was the only one who needed more joy in my life until I talked with my friend Amy over coffee a few months ago and she boldly shared that she was praying for this in her life as well. I would’ve never guessed she was praying for more joy too. We talked about some joy stealers:

  • Comparing yourself/children/husband to others
  • Discontentment with where God has you
  • Unmet expectations
  • Coveting what someone else has
  • Unforgiveness
  • Constantly giving of yourself and no time for solitude
  • Resentment
  • Self-pity
  • Loss of purpose
  • Thinking God didn’t get it right
  • Finding hope in yourself instead of God and more…

I realize that joy will not come by my own strength or will, either. It is not something I can create with my own hands or wish for. This second fruit of the spirit is only found in Jesus as he produces this spirit inside me as I submit to him. It is not dictated by circumstances or experiences. It is a condition of the heart and it remains even in the midst of great suffering and adversity.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

I don’t know what 2015 will hold, but I know Who holds the future. When I’m tempted to worry of fear about tomorrow, I can instead place my hope and joy in Christ. I’m confident that He will give me what I need and that joy can actually be more real and evident in my life than ever before.

Have you made any resolutions or considered choosing one word you’d like to focus on? If you struggle with joy, let’s team up and fight for it together this coming year.

 

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