Devotional: His Countenance Upon You (Day 6)

Father and childDay 6 of 7 Devotionals I wrote for the Spring 2013 Issue of Heart Magazine. Scroll down for the previous days.

His Countenance Upon You

Numbers 6:24-26

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Chances are you’ve read in Scripture or heard the above blessing before as it’s commonly quoted in benedictions across churches today. These encouraging words were a Hebrew blessing that priests prayed over their people every morning after the sacrifices at the temple. It was their “sending out” and a prayer for God’s present and future peace.

The words, “May the Lord lift up his countenance (or face) toward you…” provides a picture of God holding us up high in his arms and looking up into our eyes with great love and care as a father would to his child. It is a picture of pure delight, both for the child and for the father.

In the Lord’s presence, we find peace for today and peace that is to come. He alone is our peace when everything else around us is uncertain. Not only do we need this blessing prayed over us before we exit the church walls, but we need his light, grace, and peace in our lives every hour of the day.

You are his child. Let his face shine upon you.

Devotional: Casting Your Cares (Day 5)

1415692_17326232Day 5 of 7 Devotionals I wrote for the Spring 2013 Issue of Heart Magazine. Scroll down for the previous days.

Day 5

Casting Your Cares

1 Peter 5:6-8

If there is one great lie I believe Satan tempts us with it is this: God doesn’t care for you. Especially when we enter seasons of great struggle and difficulty, it’s far too easy to believe that lie and doubt God’s love and care for us.

There is also a temptation to lay our burdens down elsewhere- on a person, filling that void with a possession or addiction, succumbing to the lusts of our flesh or whatever idols we struggle with. But Truth tells us to throw our heavy loads and struggles onto the Lord for God to take care of. When we cast them upon him, He promises to sustain us.

Our lives are to be marked by being sober and vigilant so we can recognize the Enemy when we see him as he seeks to destroy all oneness with God. All of this requires humility on our part to recognize that God is God. He is good. He cares deeply for us. He’s intimately involved in all that we do. And he can be trusted no matter how great the storms of life beat against us.

Know the Enemy’s schemes. Submit to God. Embrace his love for you.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8

Devotional: All for Good (Day 4)


1212536_open_bible Day 4

All For Good

Romans 8:28-30

By the time I entered college I knew I loved people and writing. I also loved learning about God’s word. So I majored in English, minored in Psychology and got my Master’s in Religion. During all that time of intense study, I often wondered how all the pieces would fit together exactly. Some days were really hard in trusting God’s plan. Now being almost eight years out of school, it’s been humbling to see how God was truly preparing me. I’m able to see some of the fruit of that discipline and how all the “knowledge” I gained then is being applied in my daily life now.

The apostle Paul says that those who love and obey God have many promises and one of those is that all things will work together for their good. This is not a promise that our lives will be free of pain and suffering and trial, but a promise that in all the things God allows into our lives, they will ultimately work for good. Why? Because we are in his hands. It is his working and his working is good.

By his grace, God has called us and chosen us for his purposes and plans. And if we are his, he will see us through to the end to our complete conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. In whatever circumstances and situations that come into your life, lean into God’s plan that he is working for the good even when you may not feel it.

Your life and ministry to others really does matter.

Devotional: Spread the Light (Day 3)

1412403_58877221Day 3 of Seven Devotionals I wrote for Heart Magazine’s Spring 2013 Issue. Scroll down on the blog to see Days 1 & 2.

Day 3

Spread the Light

Col 1:13-14

At the beginning of our church’s Christmas Eve service last year, everyone was given a candle and at the end of the message, our pastor lit the first candle to a man up front. In the dark auditorium, that man passed his light on to the next person and so on. Watching our entire church fill up with pure, radiant light was a powerful expression of how God uses people to pass on His light.

Because of our hope in Christ and the forgiveness we know, we have a responsibility and privilege to share the gospel and carry that hope to others. If you’ve been discouraged in sharing your faith and building and investing into the lives of others, remember that it’s God’s work and power through you to give you the boldness and desire.

If you ask for that boldness, God will grant it to you in unexpected and amazing ways. And being obedient to his command to go and make disciples becomes an exciting adventure. Believe it or not, the more you share His love with other people, the more contagious it is and your own faith is strengthened.

You are the Light of the world. Give your light away to one person today.

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

Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 1.17.29 PM

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?

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