Devotional: Taste His Goodness (Day 2)

1223429_16136294Day 2 of 7 Devotionals I wrote for the Spring 2013 Issue of Heart Magazine. Click here for Day 1.

Day 2

Taste His Goodness

Psalm 34:8-14

You’ve probably heard stories in the news about people waiting in line for the latest gadget or toy on Black Friday and all of the sudden a fight breaks out. Anger, impatience and the desire for more strips away any good that is present. And it doesn’t take long to realize that within our culture and within our own hearts apart from Christ, we’re always left wanting. We are never truly satisfied.

The good news is that in Christ, we who follow and fear him lack nothing (vs. 9). We have everything we need because we know that he is good. We have experienced his goodness in our lives and know that there is nothing else better in life than knowing God alone. But following him and fearing him is by no means an arrival. It’s a process throughout our faith journey.

Fearing the Lord and tasting his goodness requires humility and trusting his teaching and discipline in our lives. It requires submission to his spirit and a willingness to sit at the feet of the Good Shepherd and learn. While you may have trouble finding peace in other people or your own heart, you will always find righteousness, peace, and goodness in our God.

Depend on his goodness in times of discord. Turn from evil and pursue righteousness in your life.

Devotional: Free to Ask

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Screenshot- PDF Cover of Heart Mag Spring Issue

I recently wrote 7 days of devotions for Heart Magazine and I wanted to share them on my blog for the next seven week days.

A few months ago through Twitter and my Facebook writing page, I’d asked readers to share their favorite Bible verse. Not only was it so encouraging but there were so many great verses that I based all the devotions off of the verses shared.

If you were able to participate maybe you will see yours!

If you’d like a print form of these devotions and the entire Spring Issue of Heart Magazine, let me know in the comments. The editor is awesome and will send you the issue for free.

Day 1

Free to Ask

Ephesians 3:20-21

My four-year-old son is never shy to ask for the things he desires: a new train, a visit to the park, a play date with his best friend, or help getting dressed. I’m doubtful that he ever thinks, Will Mommy really give me what I need and want?

Yet, as a child of God, I’m quick to think this way toward God. Is it true God that you can do above and beyond what I think, ask or imagine? Will you really give me the desires of my heart?

The truth is that the incredible work that God is willing to do in our lives is not for the sake of our own doing or glory. In His love, He cares about our wants and desires but the end goal in those desires is His glory and fame in this world. It is about His power at work within us.

The apostle Paul encourages us that through our faith in Christ, we can approach God with freedom and confidence knowing He will answer according to his will. We don’t have to be afraid of his answers or wonder if he has our best interest at heart. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And even if his will means suffering, God’s love is present and we can anticipate great things just like a little child.

So go ahead. Ask him anything. He is listening.

A Surprise Baby!

IMG_4679In late November I started to feel dizzy and nauseous and a little off. I thought I had some kind of stomach bug but I didn’t think anything of it until it didn’t go away. Then Jeremiah and I figured I should take a pregnancy test to rule that option out. We made a trip to Target in the evening, I grabbed the test and took it after the kids were down.

Jeremiah sat in the living room and as I anxiously awaited the results. My heart raced but I really didn’t think I was pregnant. Then to my shock and surprise, I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. Not one but two pink lines were popping up.

Are you kidding me? How can this be?

I grew angry and unsure of everything. I had a four month old, had barely gotten my pregnancy weight off, was exclusively breast feeding, and on birth control. With all my other three children, I never got pregnant while nursing.

“It says we’re pregnant Jeremiah! What in the world?” I cried in disbelief.

He was in shock and having difficulty processing it too. I was already quite overwhelmed being a mom to three children under 4 and was really looking forward to taking a break from carrying and delivering a baby. We knew we wanted to complete our family with four children but we wanted to wait a while, like 2 or 3 years.

That night I went to bed shocked, woke up shocked, and felt down the whole week. I didn’t tell any family or friends. I needed time to process and pray and work this one out with God.

Weeks passed and I slowly told our family and close friends. I knew I had the choice to accept this surprise or be bitter and angry. I faced the choice to worry about what people thought and the comments people would make (especially in general public) about being pregnant while holding another baby on my hip.

Ultimately, I’d arrived at a crossroads in my life where I had to surrender my desire to control and give all that I was, and my very body carrying this new life, into the very arms of Christ. This was His doing. Would I trust him?

Thoughts wrestled through my mind for several weeks. I went in for my first doctor appointment and my doctor couldn’t believe it when he saw my name on the schedule but that he was so happy for me. The ultrasound and heartbeat were perfect and I was already 6 weeks along. My due date was looking like July 25 putting this baby and my daughter Hannah 13 months apart!

“This is a miracle, Samantha. You may not see it right now, but God has plans in the future for this baby,” my doctor said confidently.

I held back my tears and smiled.

“Thank you. You’re right.”

My heart was at peace and I was thankful the baby was healthy. A few days after my doctor appointment I finally arrived at a place where I embraced this baby as God’s perfect will- His perfect miracle. This baby was a gift. It wasn’t about me. And that’s what ultimately helped change my perspective.

Initially, I realized more of the shock came from “Oh no, how in the world am I going to handle four children under four?” than it really was about the blessing of this baby. The majority of my fears have to do with motherhood. I’m nowhere near the perfect Mom and if I’ve learned anything with the three children God has already given me it’s that I really don’t have it together. I need the Lord’s grace every single day.

Motherhood has tested me and refined me like nothing else has. It’s also been the greatest joy of my life. I struggle daily to be everything I’m called to be but I do know that God has given me the privilege and responsibility to love and nurture my children and teach them to know and love God.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127:3-5

This mission and calling keeps me going every day. And I’m just praying for the strength and endurance I’m going to desperately need when this sweet baby arrives.

Well on Friday, we had the 16 week ultrasound and everything looked great. We were thinking all along we would make it a surprise delivery since we’ve never done that so during the ultrasound, we didn’t find out but I did ask the tech to write it down and put in an envelope in case we wanted to know later. They don’t keep the gender on file.

IMG_4684I wasn’t planning on keeping the envelope in my purse for very long long because of the obvious temptation to read it. I was thinking about handing it off to a friend. Then I realized during those few hours after the appointment that I really wanted to know. I was getting too stressed about not knowing if it was a boy or girl. So Jeremiah and I opened it together Friday evening. And we loved what we saw in writing- A BOY!

I’d been praying hard all along for another boy so we would have 2 girls and 2 boys and that our boys would be the bookends. I also felt like it could be a boy since this pregnancy has felt similar to my son John’s so it was such an answer to prayer to receive the news. God is so gracious.

What I’m most amazed by at this 16 week mark is how much God has changed my heart. Of course, it has been a process as I’m a work in progress. I know more than ever that I’m not in control of my life as much as I’d like to think I am. I can make plans, but the Lord determines my steps (Prov. 16:9). He is the Creator of life and knows what He is doing. Can I trust him with my very own life? Can I trust him that this is his perfect will for our family? Absolutely. He has never forsaken me.

IMG_4678That doesn’t mean the road ahead will be smooth sailing by any means. Raising a family is hard work. Our home will look pretty crazy with four little ones running around- it already is with 3! But God has made our life so rich and so full with our children.

Thank you for sharing in the joy of our little boy who is on his way very soon!

The Winner of The Quiet Place Devotional!

Thank you to those of you who entered to win the new devotional book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, The Quiet Place. After using the random sequence generator on random.org, the final winner came to Christen Frederickson!

Congratulations Christen! I know you will enjoy it!

Devotional Book Giveaway: The Quiet Place

I don’t know about you, but I can never have enough devotional books. I love reading them alongside my time in God’s word. And I love that you can gain so many nuggets of truth in so little time.

This week, Moody Books sent me The Quiet Place devotional by bestselling author Nancy Leigh DeMoss for a book giveaway. I’ve always known about Nancy through my mom who absolutely loves her teaching on the Revive Our Hearts radio program. When I first heard her teach several years ago, I was hooked. She has a contagious passion to see women transformed by the word of God.

In The Quiet Place, Nancy adapts the core themes of her teaching into 366 days of Bible study and practical application. If you’re struggling with having a consistent quiet time or you just need something to spice up your time with the Lord, I highly recommend diving into The Quiet Place for encouragement and refreshment for your soul.

Nancy has authored fifteen books, including Lies Women BelieveA Place of Quiet Rest, and Seeking Him. More than 2,000,000 copies have been sold, and they continue to transform women’s hearts and lives.

If you’d like to enter to win this devotional or consider it as a gift to someone else (Valentine’s Day is approaching!), please leave a comment. The winner will be announced next Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Sweet Stillness and Future Grace

This morning I woke up to thunder, sleet, and snow. And every time winter rolls around in Dallas and if we’re lucky to have snow on the ground, I’m always reminded to be still. More specifically, to be still about the future and God’s plans for my life.

And on a morning where I planned to go to my exercise class at the gym, I’m now sipping on a cappuccino, watching my son make snowballs and footprints in the snow (he’s always the first child to rise), and thinking about what my morning will look like cozied up inside.

I love how snow also reminds me that I’m not in control.

Part of today’s devotional in Jesus Calling further confirms these truths:

The closer you live to me, the safer you are. Circumstances around you are undulating, and there are treacherous-looking waves in the distance. Fix your eyes on me, the one who never changes. By the time those waves reach you, they will have shrunk to proportions of My design. I am always beside you, helping you face today’s waves. The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future!  Stay close to me. – Jesus Calling, January 15

I don’t know about you, but I think way too much about the future. Where will God lead me and my husband? What plans does he have for my children? Will he take care of all my needs? How will I handle the really difficult days yet to come?

I also think of my daily responsibilities. What about all the laundry piled up on my couch? All the dishes yet to be washed? Meals needing to be made? Love needing to be given? Appointments to set? Emails to answer? Articles to write? Relationships to invest? Gospel needing to be shared?

The daily list goes on.

For today, I just want to be fully where I am and not worry so much about what’s ahead. To stay close to Jesus and hear His sweet, still voice. To love on my children well and be the person God is calling me to be today.

And to know that even in my failures and shortcomings that are possible any day of the week, He is still with me. His grace is always here to draw upon. His grace helps me hand over my future, grandiose plans and surrender them to His will.

Every time I look out our french doors and see the blanket of snow covering our backyard, I’ll be reminded of those awesome truths.

In what ways have you experienced God’s stillness and grace in your life? Do you trust that He is with you?

No Matter What, You Are Loved by God

Yesterday morning my four year old John scooted our bench over to the kitchen countertop so he could stand on it. He wanted to spread his own peanut butter on his toast, which happened to be a first.

“I’m going to make Daddy’s for him too. He will love me for it and give me a kiss on the cheek!”

I thought how sweet that was for him to do and I figured I’d turn his little comment into a teaching opportunity.

“Well John, did you know that you don’t have to do anything to make Daddy love you more? He loves you just for you, no matter what,” I replied.

“Oh,” he said thinking about it.

He continued spreading in between the crust and topped it off with some banana slices and honey, just the way Daddy likes his peanut butter toast.

Then I could only naturally think about God’s love for us.

God loved us while we were still sinners and loves all sinners presently. He doesn’t need us to prove anything to him. And contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing we can do to earn his love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I admit that at times I have a hard time accepting these truths about His love. Sometimes I feel that if I’ve screwed up and failed to be the person God has called me to be, that my behavior changes God’s view of me.

Or sometimes I feel I have to “do” more: read more of my Bible, pray more, do more ministry,  go to church more, walk in the Spirit more, give more… you get the point. Those are all blessings and necessities that come with following Christ- not a checklist or legalistic duty. God uses all those means as gifts and tools to help me love him more and know him more fully. But they don’t for one second change the way He loves me.

The truth that God’s love is a gift of undeserving grace is mind boggling and so incredibly freeing. It’s like the image of grace you’ve probably sung about in David Crowder’s, “How He Loves” song:

And we are His portion and He is our prize,  Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,  If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. 

I don’t know about you but in 2013, I want to know His love more deeply because I haven’t even swam close to the deep end when it comes to understanding his unending grace, love, and redemption. There is so much more my heart has yet to be filled with. And as I get more situated in to this new year, I’m excited about the new truths God has yet to reveal.

Well John got to enjoy his toast with his Daddy and heard words of gratitude for his hard work. Even though later in the day John disobeyed, fought with his sister, and had a few fits, Daddy corrected him and disciplined him and showed him love.

And even as a young child, I think John is able to understand that he’s still loved no matter what he does.

7 Years of Marriage, Newtown & Faith for the Future

Well today marks seven years that I’ve been married to my husband Jeremiah. It’s crazy how much life can change in just seven years and honestly it really doesn’t feel like that many years have passed by.

I’m grateful for the gift of marriage. God continues to use marriage to sanctify me, show me my sin, and teach me selflessness. Daily, I’m humbled that God gave me such a loving, hard-working, godly, selfless leader to follow, who I proudly call my husband. Just like any other couple, we’ve had our share of struggles and trials but God has been faithful through every step and we give him glory for all that he has done.

We are committed to one another till death do us part and we will continue to do what it takes to keep our marriage from merely surviving to thriving. And we have learned over seven years that this is hard work.

Just last night, we were watching the CNN vigil for the community of Newtown, Connecticut. We heard President Obama’s thoughtful speech and watched the slideshow of photos of the children and adults whose lives were taken from this world on Friday.

And I wept in Jeremiah’s arms. Tears were all I had. Tears for those precious children and for our nation as a whole. I thanked God that I had someone to grieve with. My heart ached and I longed for Jesus’ return. I asked the “why’s?” and dealt with the anger.

And today, on our anniversary, that ache is still very present. I’m celebrating these past years with my husband but I’m also praying that God would heal our nation and comfort grieving Newtown. I’m praying that the next seven years Jeremiah and I will have a fervency in our faith like we’ve never had before.

There is work to be done and it starts with us. It starts with the church, whom God uses as a means to bring light into the darkness. And I have needed this wake-up call out of mediocrity and waiting for others to start the conversation.

I want to love louder and unashamedly share the gospel.

There is no other choice and as Obama had said in that speech, “we can do better” as a nation. But I also know that the church can do better too and that it starts with me.

My prayer is that the next seven years will be less about “us and our marriage” and more about Christ and his kingdom and how he can use us to make a difference. Time is running out in reaching this world with the hope that is found in Christ.

And I think more than anything that is where the real ache inside me is coming from.

Until then I hope you will join me and take a look at your own faith and life and how God might use your time, talent, and treasure to make an impact in this world. I promise to do my best to encourage and spur you on as we seek God’s will together as broken, feeble people yet nonetheless people who have been radically changed by Christ.

To Marvel and Mend This Christmas

And this will be the sign. You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12). 

The sign had been fulfilled. The angel’s words were true.

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child (Luke 2:16).

And the shepherds’ desire to see this sign was no Sunday stroll in the park. I can just imagine them running as fast as they could, sweating, hearts racing, maybe even stumbling through the fields because it was night.

I can imagine their hearts pumping through their chests as they reach their destination and look Mary and Joseph and Jesus in the eye for the first time. I doubt many words were uttered on their part but just sheer amazement. And this amazement could only lead them to make known what they had just seen.

The glory of God had just come down from heaven- a shining light in the midst of evil and darkness. Love had come down to save them and set them free from their sins. God had chosen them, lowly shepherds, to be the first to see this humble King lying in a manger.

They couldn’t help but spread the news that Peace was here. They shared the news to everyone and it spread far and wide.

And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:18).

But not only that, all the hearers of this good news marveled too.

And it’s this word “marvel” that jumps out at me today. It’s a word that I can’t skip over when I’m reading Luke’s account of Christ’s words and works.

Do I marvel at the gift of God sending his son Jesus down to this earth to save us? Has this good news so impacted my life that others see it and believe it as well?

Have I taken the time in these days leading up to Christmas to sit, reflect, be still and marvel at the mighty, mysterious works of God?

Because truthfully, I know there is a marveling that needs to be done in my own heart that has yet to happen. And there is a mending of brokenness needing to be done too. Both of which require God’s hand to awaken and heal.

And then I am reminded again of why Jesus came…

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

I want to see Jesus for who He is. To know him more. To put him first. To share his love to everyone he puts in my path. But I have to understand that this can’t be accomplished in my own strength. It has to be his mighty work through me for his glory.

Like the shepherds, when we see Jesus for who he really is, we are changed forever. Light pierces through our darkness. Our lives are radically different. And we can’t help but desire to see that change in other people too.

Congrats to the Winner of Fierce Women – Ashley Pratt!

Thank you for participating in the book giveway last Wednesday for Fierce Women. Using the sequence generator on Random.org, the final winner is:

Ashley Pratt!

Congrats Ashley! Praying this book will have a great impact on your marriage and in your ministry in New York! 

I wish I could give all of you the book, but hopefully you’ll be able to get your hands on it anyway. In the next coming months, I’ll be doing a few more book giveaways so stay tuned.

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