Finding My Way

Yesterday, I walked to our local Starbucks with my little ones to try a mocha coconut latte. A few minutes into our walk, I noticed a man following close behind me. I pulled off into the grass with my stroller so he could pass us.

“Oh, thank you. I’m just trying to find my way!” he said in a long, drawn-out voice.

He glanced down at a piece of paper and had a pencil in his hand. He asked me where Worth Street was and I guided him to it.

He went on his way and I immediately thought about how much I related to his words. In life I often feel like I’m trying to find my way. I wonder if God is taking me down the right path. Does he really know my deepest dreams and desires for the future? Is He with me?

My prayers in college were to marry a godly man, have children, be involved in ministry/be on mission, and write. And I’m so thankful that at 28 years old, God has brought all of those to me and so much more. I’ve been living those dreams for several years now, day in and day out.

But often in the back of my mind I still think I need to “arrive” in life.

The truth is that I have all I need right now, and God is finding the way for me. He’s finding those dreams in the deepest recesses of my heart and he’s fulfilling them. I don’t have to figure them out or manipulate them to come true. He’s working even when I don’t see it.

He’s answering prayers according to His will, even if his ways aren’t exactly what I planned. He always knows best. He’s proved his faithfulness in the past and will continue to prove his future grace.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. – Prov. 3:5-6

Do you ever feel like you have to “arrive”?

Mama, Let Your Light Shine

How is changing diapers, cleaning up messes, and doing it all over again the next day making a difference? Can I be influential, even when I struggle? How can God use me to be on mission with my children? What does God expect from me as a mom?

These were a few questions my husband Jeremiah helped answer in his sermon this past Sunday called “Mama, Let Your Light Shine.”

And let me just tell you…

This message was one of my favorite mother’s day sermons I’ve ever heard! And I promise you I’m not biased. I’ve heard a lot of great messages from some really great pastors.

In November, we started interning at a church plant in a Dallas suburb and the pastor has been kind to give Jeremiah several opportunities to teach God’s word. This was Jeremiah’s first official sermon preached in front of a congregation (not a classroom) since being a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. After he delivered the message, several mothers went up to him saying how much they loved it. One mom asked me, “Why didn’t your husband tell us to bring our kleenex?”

Jeremiah works as an R.N. and one of his patients, who happens to be a famous female actress (I wish I could tell you who!), wanted to listen to it while in her hospital bed and she loved it.

Okay, so enough of me bragging on my husband. I wanted to post the link here for you to download and be encouraged in your mission as a mother. Even if you’re not a mother, I think you’ll be encouraged in your faith.

Download: “Mama, Let Your Light Shine” (38 min., mp3 file)

Who is your God?

Recently I took John to Barnes & Noble to play with the Thomas Train table in the children’s section and on our way out after playing trains, I saw the book god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens as one of the featured sellers.

I haven’t read the book. I’m familiar with the author from Apologetics classes I took in seminary. But the title got my mind thinking and when I got home, I decided to write down who God really is…

My God is Great.

He is Creator. Redeemer. Healer.

He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

He is all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere.

He understands suffering because He suffered on the cross.

He is Father to the fatherless and near to the brokenhearted.

He is Living Water to the prostitute.

He is full of compassion, mercy, and will judge sin.

He is a God of grace.

He forgives all sins.

He is a rock to those who take refuge in Him.

He formed the mountains. He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

He is able to keep us from failing.

He is to be feared.

He is mighty to save. He is King.

He is our song. He is our light. He is Life.

He proved His love by dying on the cross.

He is Savior of the World.

He is the way, the truth, and the life.

He is deliverer. He has washed us clean of our sins.

He searches the heart.

He is our hope. He makes all things new.

He turns ashes into beauty.

He is coming back for his own.

He loves you, and me, and Christopher Hitchens.

That is our God. And He is Great. And I have not even scratched the surface.


Life in the Formative Years

John

The formative years. I’ve been told they are the most critical years in a child’s life and I’m quickly learning that they are tough.

Time-outs, spankings, constantly on the go, changing diapers, saying “no”, reading books, cuddling throughout the day, praying for friends at bed-time, learning numbers and the alphabet, potty training, playing trains and trucks, filling up sippy cups, making meals right on the clock, learning new words, encouraging his right choices, watching Veggie Tales and Thomas together, helping him learn from wrong choices, steering him away from danger, playing horsy, singing songs about Jesus, playing with friends, wiping off mud and cleaning up crumbs…

This is a little glimpse of life with my two year old.

Teething, cooing, smiling, laughing, playing peek-a-boo, picking up toys, crawling attempts, feedings, napping, crying, changing more diapers, rolling on her back, cleaning up spit-up and blow-outs, talking and smiling into her big blue eyes, holding her tightly, kissing her cheeks all day long, letting her know I am there, taking naps in the big bed together, telling her how gorgeous and sweet she is, watching her admire Daddy and Mommy and her big brother…

This is a little glimpse of life with my 5 month old.

I confess that I am no super mom. In fact, I’ve learned even more about my depravity as a sinful human being. But on the days that have been so hard, I often go to sleep realizing how desperate I am for God’s help. Motherhood has shown me this dependance. And on the days I wish the two’s would just be done, I remember that it all happens in a blink.

That is the wisdom I’ve been told. And it really is flying by.

God gives me each day to glorify Him by investing in my children. I won’t get these days back and I will most likely look back on them one day and miss them tremendously.

The great investment that’s being poured into their lives is worth more than money can buy. They are the future. They will lead us one day and their eternal destiny has much to do with how I will choose to invest right now.

God, I pray for continued strength in these formative years and that the hard work now will be seen in years to come. Forgive me when I have failed. I pray I will cherish my children to the fullest, remembering that when I am weak, I can rest in You.


Rebekah

What I saw in Whole Foods

Last week I went to Whole Foods to grab some drinks and trail mix for our afternoon at the lake. I hurried to the express lane and waited behind a heavy-set woman with long, tangly light brown hair sitting in a power scooter. She was digging through her purse trying to find the exact change.

The cashier rolled her eyes waiting for her. The people behind me stood impatiently and it was one of those moments where all eyes were on this lady including my own. I was thinking, Are you serious? Come on. I started to judge her based on her appearance and grew impatient with her.

There was another checkout station in front of her so I was called to that one. The lady continued rummaging through her big purse. I started to realize that my attitude had been wrong towards her. I needed to serve her. So I asked, “Do you need any money?”

I thought that maybe she couldn’t find any. The cashier looked at her for a response. “Oh, no. I’m fine,” she replied in a drawn out voice. I nodded my head, said okay and headed back to the car.

On the way to the lake I started to wonder if that lady was a beautiful, savvy, well-dressed woman who stood tall, if she would have been treated differently. I thought about how I didn’t have a servant’s heart initially. I followed Christ and needed to have patience towards her.

I look at what’s on the outside way too much and form my opinions and conclusions. I sometimes esteem someone greater because of their good looks or awesome abilities. But how shallow is that? I know the cliche that beauty is only skin deep.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. – 1 Sam. 16:7

The heart is where we find the whole person: the thoughts, the motives, the sin, the hurts, the struggles, the hopes, the dreams, and the joys. The heart is where the wellspring of life is kept and it is a most precious thing.

The outward appearance, whether beautiful or ugly, can deceive. I’ve had my own days where I kept a certain image on the outside, but inwardly I was experiencing pain no one else knew. Outwardly, I’d smile, laugh, and continue to act how I wanted to be. But there was something more to the story.

It was definitely frustrating to wait in line behind this lady, but who knows what she was going through and  where she stood with God. Why would her appearance then matter so much? The bottom line is that God is her Creator. She was made in His image and has needs like all of us. She needs the gospel lived out in her life like all of us. She needs to be shown patience and compassion.

So who am I to think I am any better? The make-up on my face, my sporty outfit, and nice purse don’t show a full picture of my heart. Frankly, they don’t really mean anything.

I’ve been called by God to love and serve all people, especially those who seem difficult to love. And while I feel very far from this, I’m thankful God can help me do it.

I never got to know this lady at all and I hope she found her change, but God used that incident to help show me what’s in my own heart. I pray God will bring more people into my life like that so he can use them to help change me.

Author/Editor Interview: Brandy Bruce

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Bruce. Brandy and I went to the same college and interned together in book publishing at Focus on the Family in 2003. She is a special friend of mine and an up-and-coming Young Adult Fiction writer. She recently published her first book Looks Like Love with Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson.

I thought her writing journey would be helpful to those of you interested in publishing/self-publishing, and of course, I wanted you to get to know her and her book. If you have any questions for Brandy, leave them in the comment section below.

Samantha Krieger Interviewing Brandy Bruce:

Samantha: So, tell us what your book Looks Like Love is all about.

Brandy: Looks Like Love is about a twenty-something marketing consultant, Kasey Addison, who’s starting over. After a devastating break-up, everything Kasey thought she knew about love suddenly feels like a lie. So she takes off on a journey to rediscover life and faith and love. Her adventure begins in London while she’s visiting her best friend. When her little whirlwind trip to England is over, she comes home to find herself suddenly on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. When LETA decides to release their very first fragrance, Kasey’s challenged to find out what love looks like and find a way to sell it. Along the way, Kasey learns that love looks like what she least expected

Samantha: What is the main takeaway for readers after reading your book?

Brandy: That love doesn’t always come wrapped in neat little packages. It can be messy; it can be painful; it can be hard. But it’s worth it. And that no matter what we go through in life, God’s love is always available to us.

Samantha: When I read and edited your book, I saw a lot of your preferences in the main character, Kasey Addison (coffee and cheesecake just to name a few!). Was this intentional? Explain a little bit about those similarities.

Brandy: I’m sure some of my personal characteristics come through in Kasey, but it wasn’t intentional. My characters weren’t inspired by real people or anything like that–just small characteristics. For example, I used to know a guy whose eyes either looked blue or green, depending on what he was wearing. I gave that quality to Lincoln. Once, when my dad came home from a trip overseas, he brought me a Toblerone bar of white chocolate. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make Kasey a white-chocolate lover. Little things like that were inspired by real experiences. But the story as a whole and the characters were all just dreamed up.

Samantha: Talk a little bit about your publishing  journey.

Brandy: I actually wrote Looks Like Love several years ago. Once I finished it, I showed it to an agent (Chip MacGregor) who liked it and signed me as one of his authors. That was a great day. Then came the hard part—selling it. We came really close with a couple of publishers and got some great feedback, but just weren’t able to sell it. Because I’d received such positive feedback from editors I know and respect, I really didn’t want to give up on my book. So I told Chip I wanted to self-publish it, and he was totally supportive. Working in the industry myself, I know how difficult it can be for new people to break into the business. So I self-published with WestBow Press and it’s been a wonderful experience. I had a few authors come alongside me and give me some great endorsements. I had editorial help from fellow editors (like my wonderful friend Samantha!) as I polished my story. So I felt really blessed with all the support and encouragement I received. Now the book is out there and I am thrilled with the final product.

Samantha: What advice would you give to Christian writers/bloggers interested in both traditional publishing and/or self-publishing?

Brandy: I would say “Go for it!” But understand that it’s a tough business to get into and you’ve got options if it seems as though doors are closing for you. Try traditional publishing first. Create a spectacular book proposal and go to writers conferences. Pitch your proposal to agents and take their feedback seriously. Join a critique group. And really think about what your goals in publishing are. Do you want to make a living from writing? Is publishing a book just one goal on a bucket list you have? Are you hoping to be rich and famous and see your name on the New York Times’ best-seller list? Do you just have a story in your head that you love and would like to see in print, regardless of how many copies are sold? Are you doing everything you can to build your platform now (such as blogging and being active online)?

Samantha: So with being active online via Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other forms of social media, do you think it’s easier than ever for writers to build a platform and brand for themselves? How so?

Brandy: I definitely think those outlets are good for building a platform, but it takes work. Lots of time spent online, which can be hard to come by when you’ve already got a busy life. But being an active blogger and making your presence known online can definitely help get your name out there to people who might not otherwise hear of you.

Samantha: And finally, what projects are you working on for the future?

Brandy: Well, as an editor, I’m currently juggling two book projects. That takes a lot of my time. But I’m also working in a little time to write. My sister and I have been working together, co-authoring a fantasy YA (young adult) novel. I’m super excited about it!

Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She currently works as a developmental book editor for Focus on the Family. When she’s not chasing after her two-year-old daughter, she spends much of her time reading, editing, working with authors, and trying to keep up with deadlines. She’s the author of the newly released contemporary novel Looks Like Love. Brandy makes her home with her husband and daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Check out the book

The Joy of Being on Mission- Letting God Use You Wherever You Go

On Sunday, God answered a prayer I began praying two years ago for a young woman named *Allison.

Two years ago I was deeply stirred and convicted that I can be salt and light wherever I go: at the grocery store, the park, the mall, Chick-fil-a, wherever… There were people all around me that desperately needed to hear the hope of the gospel. I knew I needed to start being more intentional with people and stop making excuses.

I started thinking about the people in my path on a regular basis and Allison instantly came to mind. She was one of the sitters at our gym’s childcare. I saw her consistently and she had a great affection for my son John. He loved seeing her too. From the moment I met Allison, I got this feeling that she had pain in her life. There was something in her eyes and in the way she carried herself that said it. I felt like God wanted to use me, by his grace, to show her love when I had the opportunity.

On the days I dropped my son off at the gym, I would engage with her by asking about her day and about herself. One day I made banana bread for her and the staff there. I knew simple facts that she had a daughter and lived nearby but that was it. Our time was often cut short with me having to round up the kids.

There were days I got so frustrated because the right timing hadn’t come for me to share Christ with her or invite her to church. But somehow I would always go back to the fact that all I needed to focus on was building a friendship with her and showing Christ’s love. So that’s what I did over a span of two years.

Well about a month ago, I called to set up a childcare appointment and our conversation naturally flowed into me asking if she’d like to come to church with our family. To my amazement, she said she’d love to and we planned to meet in the morning. But morning came and she had to cancel. I was a little upset because I was so excited about it. The next Sunday we had planned to meet again, but her daughter ended up getting sick and my kids got sick too.

I grew discouraged thinking she’d never make it to church with us. I wondered if God really would make it happen. Then out of the blue and not in my timing at all, on our flight home from VA Beach this past Saturday, Allison texted me saying she wanted to join us for church. I was a little doubtful it would happen especially because we weren’t even sure we were going after a long day of traveling, but I trusted the Lord and we planned a time.

I texted her that morning to see if she thought it would work and she was ready to go! We met and she followed us in our van. When we arrived, Jeremiah took the kids and checked them in and I helped her check in her daughter. This was her daughter’s first time to church and she was so excited. When it was time for worship, we got our coffee and seats and the music played. We all stood to sing. I glanced over at Allison and she was blotting her eyes with tissue. She told me midway through how much she loved the songs.

When our young adult pastor, JP, gave the message, I felt like it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard. It was on being a light that shines bright among the darkness and the gospel was clearly presented.

After the service, Allison told me she loved it and wanted to come back next week. Her daughter also loved her class. We went out to lunch after, along with a couple in our community group and Jeremiah’s sister. Amidst the craziness of kids at the table, we learned a little more about her. She felt the freedom to share that she was adopted and her adopted dad died when she was a little girl. Several years ago she was in a very bad relationship, where she was beaten and the man killed the 8 month old baby in her womb.

I had never heard anything so tragic and I was amazed by all that she had gone through and that was only a small part of her story. Allison had experienced tremendous loss. But I was so encouraged that she heard the true gospel and she desired to come back to church. She experienced love from the body of Christ and I believe she knows that Jesus can heal her of all those hurts. I am praying for more opportunities to follow up with her and continue to encourage her toward a relationship with Christ.

As I write this, my eyes fill with tears because God is intervening in Allison’s life. While she may not fully know it yet, I believe it’s clear that he is working. We serve a God who cares deeply for people’s hurts and that they would be reconciled back to Him. We serve a God who wants to use us in every day life as we yield to His Spirit while we’re on mission for Him.

I look forward to seeing what God does with Allison’s life in the future. I’ll be sure to update you.

* name changed to protect privacy

Taking Time to Rest

I don’t feel like the word “rest” has been in my vocabulary for a long time since our precious little girl entered the world four months ago. Rest has been really hard to come by having a newborn and a toddler, but this week I have finally found some.

On Saturday, we flew from Dallas to Virginia Beach to vist my sister Stefanie so she could meet Rebekah for the first time. We’re also here during Jeremiah’s Spring Break from seminary. Flying with children is never easy, but once we got here and settled in on a routine, I have been so refreshed. There’s just something about getting away from what’s familar and from your own home and being in a completely different environment.

A lot of my rest also has to do with the help I’ve had. Even my five year old nephew is able to do small things and my sister and husband have cooked, cleaned, and been an extra hand. We’ve been able to get out at night and shop while the babies are down and have some “me” time. I’ve been able to spice up my wardrobe a little which I’m most excited about.

We have 3 days left of our vacation and I’m just trying to soak every minute up- especially with my sister and her family. My plan is to continue to not think too hard or do too much, but to rest, relax, and listen closely to what God might want to show me away from home.

Well, that’s all for now. Nothing too deep. Since the whole house is napping, I think it’s my turn to hit the couch.

Have you been able to take some kind of break away from the familiar so you can find rest?

Take Heart (He has overcome the world)

My heart has been heavy since hearing about the death of 28-year-old pastor, Clint Dobson, who was killed in his church office last week. It happened about 30 min. away from where I live. Yesterday while I was walking my kids around campus of the seminary my husband attends, I kept thinking about Clint and the brevity of life.

As a believer in Christ living in a fallen world, I’m not guaranteed that good things will happen or that I will live to see the next day. This truth has humbled me and last night I was encouraged by Jesus’ words in John:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

Jesus’ body was about to be broken and his blood would be poured out for all the world to see, but he would soon defeat sin and death once and for all. He prepares the disciples ahead of time to take heart. His death and resurrection would change the world so much that they would have to scatter because their very lives would be in danger as followers of Christ.

John MacArthur says, “Through His impending death, He rendered the world’s opposition null and void. While the world continues to attack His people, such attacks fall harmlessly, for Christ’s victory has already accomplished a smashing defeat of the whole evil rebellious system.”

Trials, tribulation, pain and suffering would surely come the disciples’ way, but it would be okay because God had already won. Even though they would be scattered from persecution and other forms of evil, Jesus would be with them. Their hope was that they could persevere and endure until the end.

And this is our same hope today.

Although I wish we could, we can’t escape trouble in our lives and in this world. But we can trust that God has already overcome the world and will continue to overcome it. He isn’t sitting idle on his throne. He will bring justice in his perfect timing.

While my heart still breaks for Clint Dobson and his wife Laura and his family, I have found a peace knowing that he died faithfully serving the Lord and he’s finally where he was created to be, where pain and suffering does not exist.

New Header Design by Tekeme Studios

A few months ago, I had asked you for some feedback on this blog. Your comments were so helpful and encouraging. I was able to find more clarity and direction for what I write in this little space.

Along with your feedback, I was keeping a new header design in mind- a design that would reflect what this blog is about. About a year ago, I heard about Tekeme Studios through a tweet by author Mary DeMuth. I saw samples of their work and was so impressed by their creativity. This past December, I contacted them and began the process of creating a brand new header.

Husband and wife duo, George and Ashley Weis, worked with me to design the header and had me fill out a detailed questionnaire about my passions, what this blog is about, the look and feel I wanted to create, my preferred color schemes and more. I wanted a look that represented growth, life, and faith. I wanted the feel to be warm, inviting, and calm.

A few weeks ago, George (the designer) finished the header. I think he hit the nail on the head and I’m really happy with the end result. If you want a new design for your blog or website, I highly recommend checking out Tekeme Studios and looking into the services they offer.

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