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.

 

The Social Media Comparison Struggle

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Last week I met with my friend Katie for evening coffee at our local Starbucks. We’ve known each other for almost seven years. She’s one of the most gifted people I know. She started her own Etsy shop that’s grown to be very successful, her entire home looks like a Pinterest explosion, she takes breathtaking photos, she’s a talented blogger, gifted thrifter, DIY crafter, creates amazing design work, and has two strikingly adorable kids and a hard working husband.

Basically anything Katie puts her heart to, she gets it done very well. What I love most about her is her love for Jesus and ministry. I also love that she makes me gut laugh.

While she sipped on her hot chocolate and I nursed my tea latte, we got on the topic of comparing ourselves to our friends on Facebook and Instagram.

“Yeah, I look at all the activities my friends are doing with their kids each day and then I think about what I’m not doing and feel like being at home is not enough,” she said.

I didn’t know she struggled with comparisons too. I mentioned how I’ve been working on a writing project that has kept me more distant from social media and how the break has been nice. I’ve felt more content.

“But, you know, I’ve compared myself to you too,” I told Katie. “I look at my house and wish I was as talented as you to decorate mine like yours… I’m nowhere near as gifted as you are!”

We laughed and talked about how there are two sides to every story and agreed how hard it is not to compare yourself to your friends. Facebook news feeds and Instagram photos are usually filled with the highlights of life – rarely the struggle. And these are your friends, not just random people. These are friends you love and care for.

In news feeds you don’t typically read, My amazing husband surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a night at a hotel and then we got into a knock-down, drag-out fight the next week. 

You don’t see videos of your friends’ kids being defiant, disobedient, and calling names. You don’t see deep-seeded thoughts about loneliness or depression. You don’t see sweat pants, unbrushed hair, and no make-up. You don’t see tears, anger, and exhaustion. You don’t see spiritual warfare or a crisis of faith. Or real battles with this or that struggle. There are just some issues that need to be kept private but that’s another blog post.

We have to be really careful about what we assume. Numerous times, I’ve been tempted to think a friend’s life is better or perfect, free of struggles. Many times I’ve grown discontent with my own life or felt insecure. This can all happen in person too so it’s more a matter of the heart:

Am I satisfied with all the blessings God has given me and where He has me? Am I truly thankful? Can I celebrate others rather than compare? Am I running to God to meet all my needs?

We’re still going to use social media outlets but since they aren’t the full picture of reality, I think we can have a better perspective on the affect it it has on our relationships. Here are 5 practices I’ve found helpful:

1.) Invite others into your story- the beautiful and broken. Most of us value connecting with friends in an honest way. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your mountain of laundry, trials, ways you’ve failed or lessons learned. Your friends will relate and most people like to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle.

2.) Praise the gifts and talents you see in your friends. We’re called to encourage and edify one another. If you see a gift active and alive in your friend, praise it and celebrate it. Help her draw out her gifts so she can serve others better and help make a difference in this world. She may never know she has the gift until you recognize it. A little praise can go a long way.

3.) Invest in relationships right where you are. Be intentional about getting together with the friends you have close by in real life. Chances are you’ll see the full story and will be less likely to compare so much. You’ll realize that no one has it all together and you’ll be thankful for the strengths you do have. You may have the opportunity to encourage a hurting friend and be encouraged yourself.

4.) If it’s a stumbling block, cut it off. It’s great to keep up with friends online, but as mentioned above, if you notice heart or sin issues arising like covetousness, ungratefulness, unhealthy comparisons, extreme lows, or starting to get too attached or addicted, cutting it off and taking a break will serve you well and help set you free from the struggle.

5.) Confess your comparison struggles. It’s hard to be honest but it was good to tell Katie I had been comparing myself to her and other friends. She was the first to be open and that encouraged me to be more vulnerable. We also learned that we’re not alone. When we confess we acknowledge it’s not right to be consumed with comparisons because it steals the abundant life that God desires for us to have.

Our relationship with Christ and each other is much more valuable than being caught up in comparison struggles so it’s definitely worth fighting against them in order to maintain love, joy, and oneness in our relationships.

Grace, Life, & Finding Order in the Chaos


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This past week has been difficult. All my kids were sick, we were up multiple times a night, I caught a stomach bug, had multiple pediatrician appointments, dealt with overwhelming (think rip your hair out) demands in motherhood, and had a flat tire.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I begin to “get ahead,” as in things are feeling somewhat smooth and then conflict and major struggle comes on the scene out of nowhere. In these times it’s so tempting to throw in the towel and quit. To not read my Bible, to be short with those I love, to complain, to say “why me?,” to take a few extra bites of that chocolate than I should, to blame, to be angry, to isolate, and to be undisciplined all around.

Discouragement settles in and spiritual attack is difficult to overcome especially being sleep deprived.

Thank goodness, Sunday rolled around and John Piper preached at our church and Phil Wickham led us in worship. They were both helping lead the Linger Conference here in Dallas. Piper preached beautifully on God’s grace and the theme of grace was also interwoven in Wickham’s songs. These lyrics have been stuck in my head since Sunday:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s easy for me to think of the words “Who brings our chaos back into order” as a one time deal – in the moment I trusted God for my salvation and surrendered my life to Him. And it certainly is that. But I was thinking yesterday how I just can’t leave it at the moment I put my faith and trust in Christ.

I need God to find order for me still today. Order in my relationship to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and in whatever life throws at me. And it is certainly a process.

We need to know that God is here with us. He cares about the brokenness in our daily lives – whatever it might look like – and He’s here to do something about it. He knows we struggle – sometimes deeply struggle – and need His intervention. And even if we have thrown in the towel, He’s there to pick it back up. 

When we need order, we run to Jesus and we find it in him alone. And we remember that we desperately need him in the joys and trials of life.

These truths have been enough to help me get back in the Word, get our home cleaned up again, love my family better, be thankful, practice moderation, serve others, and be known.

Everything isn’t made whole yet. Creation. This sin-cursed world. This sin-nature. But one day all of it will be. And that is our hope. Until then, we can lean into his precious grace not just for today but also for tomorrow.

 

Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace Music Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRjr_x-yxU&feature=kp

 

Why You Don’t Need to Write or Live to Please Anyone

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photo: shutterstock

A few months ago, I poured my heart out into an article and submitted it to the website’s editor to review. After clicking send, feelings of doubt washed over me and I started dissecting the words over and over in my mind.

What if no one can relate?

What if I offend someone?

I’m definitely not perfect

Was I being too honest and vulnerable?

Is my writing good enough?

The other day while my husband was driving and I had a few minutes of peace, I read some encouraging words from a writer and author I’ve followed for a while now. Jeff Goins wrote about the subtle, dangerous temptation to write for recognition:

We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.

As I read those words it was like my soul was being exposed. As a writer, it can be so difficult to spend hours upon hours creating words only to later fear what your audience will think of them. I have worried about that many times.

But the truth is that I write because I love it. It’s a part of who I am. I write to tell a story, share biblical truth, encourage, and instill life and hope into others. I write because I feel closest to God when I do. I don’t know any other way to make sense of life than to write. That’s probably why I’ve had 13 journals since middle school.

If I have an audience, great. That’s a privilege in and of itself. And I always keep the reader in mind. But I shouldn’t be writing to please anyone.

Naturally, this flows into my spiritual life. In fact, it’s dug down deep in the roots of my sinful nature. You’d think at 31 years of age this would have taken care of itself but insecurities are difficult to beat. Just ask my husband.

People pleasing in life and as a writer is dangerous because it’s man-centered, not God-centered. Living for the approval and admiration of man is an idol. Paul knew it well:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Gal. 1:10

It places the concern of people above God’s. It elevates them and not Him. And that’s a struggle that must be worked through.

But I know I’m human and in need of God’s grace. I need His discernment and love to guide me as I strive to bring him glory.

My article ended up going live at the first of the year. I prayed that God would use it how he wished and I was blown away by its positive response. Some readers contacted me through email and Facebook and we were able to encourage each other. Because it reached a broad range of people, I also had readers who misunderstood me.

One reader projected her pain onto me as the writer and she wasn’t nice.

I was tempted to get upset and dwell on her words. But I prayed for thick skin. And God gently reminded me that the audience I need to be most concerned about is the Audience of One.

The writing life is hard work, just like our faith journey. But it is love that motivates us to stay the course.

Do you find any of the above true in your own life? Feel free to share in the comments. 

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