From My Family to Yours…

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A small Thank You

In the midst of wild emotions, prayer, doubts, questions, and more prayer, God has provided for us and on Friday Jeremiah accepted a full-time position at the same hospital where his unit was closed down. This morning, he started orientation in the Cath lab! Everything happened really fast, and when the managers interviewed him a few weeks ago (for 4 1/2 hours), they were super impressed.

I don’t blame them.

God is so good. In joy, and in difficulty.

We thank the Lord for providing and meeting all of our needs and then some. God continues to show his love in tangible ways and we have learned so much (and will continue to).

I don’t know where we would be if the body of Christ didn’t live out their faith. Whether you’re a reader, just checking this little space out, or a personal friend of mine, thank you for all your love and support and prayers. It helped so much in the waiting period, especially as I was a bit of a basket case.

I’m sure that future blog posts will be impacted by this experience and thus in return, I pray that you will be touched by them.

Thank you again.

Lessons on Receiving

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Every Christmas growing up, my parents gave the best gifts. They were thoughtful, fun, and just what my sister and I asked for. Giving gifts was one of their top love languages and still is today. So naturally, giving gifts became one of my love languages.

But considering our present circumstances mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve had no choice but to pause and step back when it comes to gift giving. It’s been difficult, humbling, and stretching especially since I find so much joy from it in this season.

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This time last year, I would have had most of my gifts purchased and my Christmas cards sent out. But this Christmas, my cards will probably make in just in time for the 25th and the majority of our gifts will probably be purchased last minute. In the meantime, I’m making/creating more of our gifts this year so we don’t have to go into any debt.

God has also provided for me and my family in unexpected ways this week:

A couple in our church who knew about Jeremiah’s job slipped us a check because they felt God leading them to do so.

  • Another man in our church gave us cash to use for groceries.

My friend Katie helped design our Christmas card and the print-outs will be very inexpensive and still adorable!

  • Between my sister and my parents’ constant generosity to us, Christmas is pretty much already taken care of.
  • Many of my friends here in seminary have randomly asked if I needed the exact thing I was already thinking of. And they gave what they had.
  • We got a beautiful 7-ft. pre-lit Christmas tree for free because the man selling it wanted to help us in our situation.

Coming up on six years of marriage, I don’t think we have ever experienced God’s provision in such a tangible way. We’ve always heard stories of people receiving checks out of the blue. But I thought you had to be super spiritual for that and I honestly didn’t think that would ever happen to us because well, we’d rather give anyway!

But surely there is a time to receive too. I’m learning valuable lessons when it comes to stewardship, budgeting, and putting my security in Christ instead of finances or wealth. I want to give more than I ever have before and be sensitive to those in need. I believe these lessons will be stamped on my life forever.

I definitely have my days of doubting God because I just want to know now what He is doing. I’ve struggled with anger and impatience and wondering if God hears us.

But when I’m able to articulate what’s going on and write it down, I can better see that God really is doing something and sometimes it is His perfect will for us to be on the receiving end and to learn humility.

Yesterday Jeremiah told me, “I think this is going to be a really special Christmas that we’ll always remember.”

I pondered his words for a while and came to the conclusion that I think he is right because somehow, God just has a way of redeeming really tough situations. He always comes through for us, even if it’s right down to the wire.

So the challenge still stands: Will I trust him to provide for us, even when I can’t see what’s ahead? Will I be faithful to God because He is good? 

Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People

My husband, Jeremiah, and I always had a desire for our marriage to make a  difference in the lives of others. We knew that God brought us together for a greater purpose beyond “us.”

Early in our marriage we had the opportunity to serve in an apartment ministry together. Our responsibilities were to facilitate community among residents, build relationships, host dinners and events, and share the love of Christ. We invested in our residents for two years and most of them were non-Christians…

Continue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com… I’d love to hear your thoughts over there!

The Best News You’ll Hear All Christmas

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Reflections from Luke 2:1-20

God became a man and lived on earth…

He came by the most humble means and was laid in a manger- a trough or box used to feed animals- very far from a crib in a royal palace. His father and mother, Joseph and Mary, sought a place for Mary to give birth but there was no room in the inn.

After Mary gave birth to the Savior, an angel of the Lord first appeared to shepherds. Humble, lower class citizens of the day and considered unclean- God chose them to be the first to hear the good news of this Savior.

Then that same angel and the heavenly hosts praised God saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

This baby Jesus would bring peace. The peace that mankind had been waiting for all along. His birth would usher in hope and life in the midst of chaos and brokenness.

Then the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem to actually see this Jesus. They saw him, Mary, and Joseph just as they were told. They spread the news to everyone. And everyone was amazed. But Mary hid and treasured all that was going on in her heart. I can only imagine her feelings and thoughts.

Then the shepherds went back to their fields, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard. Finally, the Messiah had come. Not in the way that many expected, but he was here.

So what did this child’s birth mean for all mankind?

Did it mean good cheer, cozy Christmas songs, presents, Santa, snow, a nice manger display on the mantle, parties, charity, family gatherings, and good will toward men?

Those good things are only the outpouring of what this child’s birth means. His birth means so much more for us today.

His birth means that God stepped into history by sending his only son Jesus to earth. Jesus struggled and faced temptation like we do, yet he was sinless. He healed and saved those far from Him. His purpose in coming was to save us from our sins- all our offenses toward God. And they are numerous.

He would come to redeem, restore, renew…

So he did it just as he promised. He proved his love for us on a cross. He died the most shameful, disgusting and horrific death. He screamed. He cried. He agonized. He bled. He asked his father if there was anyway he could save him. But he knew it was God’s will for him to die because it was the only way to save the world.

So he willingly did.

But his death wasn’t the end. He rose again like he said he would. No man has ever raised himself back to life. Only God.

Over 500 witnesses saw his appearing and when his time on earth was finished, he ascended into heaven to be with his father.

Oh but the Christmas story doesn’t end there. Thank goodness. He is coming back for those who know, love, and have committed their life to him. He will one day, judge the living and the dead. And we need to be ready for his coming. We need to revere him and honor him.

Jesus is our hope this Christmas, no matter if we’re jobless, our spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, or we’ve lost a loved one. No matter what we’re going through, He is still our peace. And He is what our hearts are longing for.

Jesus is why we do all that we do in this joyful season. May our hearts be filled with gratitude for the greatest gift that has already been given to us in a manger many years ago.

Big Life Changes and a Never-Changing God

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A few weeks ago, Jeremiah accepted a new position at a well-known hospital where we live. Just a few days into his nursing job, the higher-ups decided to get rid of the entire floor he was working on for budget reasons.

All of the staff including his manager are seeking new jobs, hoping that the recruiters in the hospital can place them on another floor soon.

Of course this came out of nowhere for us. Jeremiah was so excited about his new job and I was happy too. We were excited about the awesome benefits and convenience in him walking to work. Clearly, it was God’s will. How could it not be?

But in an instant, that security vanished like a vapor.

Just before Christmas? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

Not only that, in October, we found out we’re expecting a special little gift at the end of June- our third child to which we are very excited!

A job loss while I’m pregnant? Really, God?

I’ve asked him many times.

And in May, Jeremiah will graduate from seminary and before the summer ends, we will have to move out of seminary housing and know where we are going to live and do ministry.

Where do you want us, Lord?

I’ve asked him many times.

Right now, there have been no clear answers to my questions. But I know it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

And even in the midst of my questioning, a sweet, still voice has spoken truth into my heart. Truth that comes straight from His Word, reminding me that He. Is. God. The God of the Universe who created me and loves me and my family deeply.

When life is crazy and ever-changing, there is no shadow of turning with him as the old hymn says. He is constant, yet fully engaged in the details of our lives.

What I am starting to understand more as He takes me through trials is that he is teaching me God-reliance instead of self-reliance.

Way too often, I love to have the control and to tell him my plans. I’m often wrapped up in self instead of what God is doing. I often forget the bigger picture at hand.

God has proven himself in the past and has always been faithful as I wrote about this past summer, I have no reason to doubt him. It would be foolish to not trust Him this time.

So in this Christmas season, my prayer of course is that Jeremiah will have a job again. Soon! But more than that, my prayer is that God will change me and teach me what it means to cling to Him in the good times and the trying times. I want to look more like Him and give him glory no matter what season of life I’m in.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:5-9

Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom: The Short Story

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John- 3 yrs.

From last week’s blog post You Write the Title, I Write the Post, I decided to tackle Grace Graieg’s title: Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom. Thank you for the great topic/title Grace and for everyone who participated!

My desire to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) came from an early age. My mom was a SAHM to my sister and I for as long as I can remember. She made our lunches every night for school the next day and she was always available if we were sick and needed to come home. She drove me to school and picked me up. When I started riding the bus, she had a snack ready for me when I came home and drove me to swim practice. When I got my license, well, nothing really changed except that I drove myself everywhere!

The impact my mom’s presence in our home had on me from an early age was significant. It was not only her physical presence but her emotional and spiritual one too. Her genuine interest in my day, her prayers, and sweet conversation assured me that I was loved and cared for. And I never doubted her love. She also made a significant impact outside the home among our neighbors and friends. She was always baking something to bring to someone and I remember her sharing the gospel regularly.

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So I guess you could say I always assumed I would wear the same shoes as my Mom. I wanted to make a difference like she had in my life.

After Jeremiah and I found out we were expecting our first child, we decided that after our son was born that we would trade roles and I would work part-time while he took care of John. You can read about my experience transitioning out of my career and into the home in this article I wrote for Ungrind.

Once our second child was on the way, I knew that it was time for me to be full-time at home. From the books I read in my child psychology classes in college, I knew that the formative years (birth- 5 years) were critical to a child’s development and growth and if the proper nurturing, discipline, and love were absent in those years, it could have a far-reaching effect in the future.

Other friends and moms who were further along in the journey than I was encouraged me to be fully engaged in the home as well. I knew in my heart that’s what I wanted so Jeremiah and I made the necessary changes. In August 2010 a few months before my daughter’s birth, I dove right in!

Now about a year and a half into it, I’ve learned that being a SAHM isn’t particularly glorious. In fact, most days it’s not. And I struggle many days with my anger and impatience. My kids can be demanding, needy, whiny, fussy, difficult, and more. Dirty diapers are yucky, having to schedule your world around naps can be annoying, and sometimes you just wonder if the sacrifice is worth it and if you’re really making a difference in this little one’s life.

But regardless of how hard it is raising my kids on a day in and day out basis, I still believe the sacrifice is worth it. And I believe the hard work of being fully present in our home will pay dividends in their life on down the road.

Of course, this is my prayer.

Before I know it, my oldest, John, will be in school and I know I will miss him greatly and will look forward to seeing his handsome smile when he comes home. These formative years will fly by, and I want to be the first one to see all the milestones my children cross. And I believe it’s my role and responsibility to do so.

I want to be the one to give them all my love. I want to build into their self-esteem and teach them how to respect and love all people. By God’s grace and with his help, I want to teach them right from wrong and discipline when it’s needed. I don’t want to look back with any regrets in that I “should” have been there but other commitments took precedence over them. I want to be all there for my children and for them to never doubt my commitment to raising them.

Of course, this all can only be done by God’s grace.

Everyone has their own story and convictions when it comes to being in the home. For me personally, the only way for me to be fully present and to be the best Mom I can be is to be right where my #1 mission field exists.

And of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t regularly schedule girl night outs, date nights with my husband, babysitters, weekend getaways, time to write, to be resourceful and make money, and time to have fun. All the more, I make time for “me” (and sanity) because I need it badly!

Well I just heard a cry. My time to write is up. Until next time…

You Write the Title, I’ll Write the Post

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For my next blog post, I thought it would be fun to include you in the creative process.

I’d love for you to write the title for me! Then, I will write my next post based on your title.

If there is a certain topic you’d like for me to write on, you might want to include it in the title. Here is an article from CopyBlogger on how to write catchy titles. Don’t think too hard though. I want this to be fun for all of us.

Feel free to also go through my Archives to see titles written in the past.

I’ll choose the one I think I can tackle and praise you for your great work.

Ready. Set. Go!

When You Fear People More Than God

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As Christians brought up in the church, this particular young woman and her boyfriend struggled with their purity. Eventually, they found out they were pregnant and considered having an abortion. All kinds of thoughts brewed through their mind:

We know abortion is wrong, but it would be devastating if people in the church found out we were pregnant.

Getting pregnant out of wedlock is the worst sin imaginable.

People would never look or treat us the same again.

We can’t let anyone know we’ve been living in sin and having sex.

Other thoughts ran through their mind and they just couldn’t bare the thought of keeping their baby and the turmoil they would experience from others. They eventually made their decision and sadly ended the life of their innocent child.

This story isn’t a whole lot different than the real-life stories laced throughout Scripture that involve men and women who trusted and put their hope in people more than God. The Bible calls it the “fear of men.”

I’m going through a Bible study with my seminary wives small group on fear and anxiety and I thought these questions were very helpful when it comes to pinpointing what the fear of men might look like in our every day lives. The author of the study, Edwards Welch, asks:

  • Have you ever struggled with peer pressure?
  • Have you ever been overly concerned about your appearance?
  • Have you ever been tempted to get plastic surgery?
  • Do you find that your view of yourself fluctuates on the basis of your achievements or the opinions of others?
  • Do you show favoritism?
  • Do you ever say yes when you should say no?
  • Do your public actions look much better than your private thoughts and behaviors?
  • Have you ever had a difficult time loving someone because you didn’t feel loved by that person?
  • Do you ever struggle with jealousy?
  • Have you ever been scared to talk about Jesus with someone for fear that the person would think differently of you?

From time to time, I struggle with all those questions (some more than others) minus the plastic surgery one because well… that freaks me out.

The danger in fearing other people is that we allow them to control us. We make decisions based on what they think or say. We fear the consequence if we let them down. We put our hope and faith in them instead of what God thinks or would have us do. And it’s a bit of a “subtle” sin.

But thank goodness there is a solution to being obsessed with what other people think of us. And it comes in four beautiful letters:

L O V E

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18

Welch describes it like this: “God took all the initiative. He loved you while you were an enemy of his. He loves you now not because you are great, but because he is love. Such love is unwavering and secure. The Cross of Jesus- the ultimate evidence of God’s love- establishes it.”

God’s unconditional love is our motivation to trust in Him. He knows what is best. He is watching out for us. And he is guiding our path as he desires. And if we ever doubt him, we need only to fix our eyes on the cross that he died upon to remember His love.

When we look to Him, this world and what it “thinks” tends to fade away.

I personally know the young couple who had the abortion. For many years they dealt with guilt, shame, regret, depression, and major emotional, physical, and spiritual turmoil. They eventually learned that the people in the church they’d feared were far from perfect too. They just looked good on the outside and were able to say the right words.

While this couple still naturally carries guilt and shame at times, they have accepted God’s forgiveness and love and have forgiven themselves. They are open about sharing their mistakes and they’re learning what it means to trust in God, rather than in men.

Fearing, Loving, and Reverencing God more than men.

How liberating and God-glorifying to live life in such a way.

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

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On Saturday, I surprised Jeremiah with a boat ride for his birthday. We boarded a beautiful wooden catamaran that seated about 30 people. Scott was our captain. He was super friendly and we knew we were in for a treat on the lake. It was just what we needed after a stressful week.
About 30 minutes into our sail, Scott came by to accept our payment. Jeremiah initiated a conversation with Scott on how he got involved in sailing.

“I got on the computer and Googled ‘how to build a boat,’ ” he said.

“I found all the necessary resources and started building. I never dreamed I’d be taking 35 trips a week and that my business would grow like this…”

Then he said something profound that stuck with both of us:

“I think it’s important to find what you love to do and serve others through it.”

You could tell that Scott had what he wanted in life. He’d been married to his wife of 30+ years, his children were grown and doing well, and he was doing what he absolutely loved. But not only that, he was blessing the lives of a lot of people- every week.

Scott takes a shot of us behind the wheel

During the remainder of the trip, I thought about how God distributes gifts to people and how the purpose of those gifts are to edify and equip the Church. So often it’s easy to get caught up in the what-my-gift-will-do-for-me kind of mentality.

But it’s not about that at all. Certainly, our gifts and passions draw us closer to God, make us come alive, and give us meaning and purpose. But our gifts aren’t supposed to be hoarded and hidden inside our own little box.

We’re supposed to give our gifts away. And if we think anything different, we’re missing the boat.

I don’t know if you’ve found your gift or the one thing you want to spend your life doing. I don’t know if you’re discouraged in that pursuit or if you believe you have something to contribute to this world.

But what I do know is God created you for a purpose and that involves building into the lives of others.

You have something to offer that no one else does and other people need you to draw out your gifts, however that might look and whatever risks that might involve.

When you view your gifts with an outwardly-focused kind of mentality, your life will change drastically. Your perspective will shift off of yourself and onto how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others.

In middle school, I started journaling. It was how I felt closest to the Lord and it was the easiest way for me to write out my prayers and remember them. It also came natural, just like the assignments did in my Creative Writing classes. After receiving my first publishing contract in college (7 or so journals later), I realized that God was starting to call me out of my comfort zone of personal journaling and into riskier territory of writing for an actual audience.

As the years passed and I started writing for other publications and eventually writing Bible study curriculum for churches across the country, I realized even more that writing was my number 1 passion. But the best thing about it was that I could use my writing to serve and encourage other people and help build God’s kingdom. My focus, including my goals, started to shift. Still today, I’m learning what it means to be outwardly-focused and I’ve found so much joy in the journey.

“Find what you love and serve others.”

I’ll always remember the wisdom Captain Scott imparted to us that evening and I hope it will encourage you too.

*From the Archives*- You Might Also Enjoy Reading…

Daring to Risk a Little More

The Joy of Being on Mission

Five Minutes to Let It Shine

Give Yourself Away

 

 

 

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