Mommas Need Good Friday Too

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I don’t remember exactly what my son had done that afternoon, but it involved disobedience. I remember where we were – in our backyard on a hot summer’s day in Texas. He was pushing my buttons at just the right time. He continued with his defiance and it was in that moment that I grabbed him and lashed out at him, yelling and all. There is a point as mommas when we discipline for correction and there is a line that we cross when we break a child’s spirit. I had done the latter.

Anger filled my heart. And I was done. I wanted to throw in the towel. Guilt and shame flooded my soul for the way I had hurt him – my precious first born baby whom I loved with all my heart and soul.

After cooling off and just wanting to hide in a corner, I confessed my sin to the Lord and to my son. “I’m sorry, John. Mom is struggling and the way I treated you was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course, Mom. I love you,” were his words.

Oh the forgiveness that I did not deserve. But with welcoming, child-like faith my son accepted my apology. He loved me anyway and our relationship was restored.

I don’t know where you are in your journey in motherhood, but perhaps like me you’ve been there. Maybe today. You see your brokenness, humanity, and sinful nature for what it is and it ain’t pretty. You would rather isolate and not expose it for what it is. You carry burdens of shame and guilt. You don’t know how to manage it. You know that you simply can’t on your own. I get it.

Jesus does too.

By His Wounds You are Healed

Because of the costly price of our sin, Jesus took care of the enormous debt we could not pay. Because of our sin and weakness, he willingly went to the cross to be crucified. He suffered, he bled, and he died a criminal’s death.

His love ran red for you. His blood on the cross took care of your sin problem. And by his wounds, you are healed.

His wounds save you from the outbursts of anger, the covetousness, the discontentment, the cursing, the lusts of your flesh, the struggle with control, the need for approval, the desire to have more, the need to be successful, the intense struggle with your children, the pride and more.

You see, Good Friday is not just for the church-goer on Sunday morning but doesn’t yet have a real faith in Jesus, but it is for the one who is broken. It is for those who know their great and desperate need for a Savior. Good Friday is not only for the businessman, social worker, doctor, teacher, politician, and more but it is also for the Momma who is weary and trembling in her calling to raise up her children in the way they should go.

Mommas need Good Friday too. And Jesus was thinking of you on the cross. He understands your struggle and suffering too. The truth is that we can’t manage our sin in motherhood, but Jesus can. The truth is that we don’t have it all together and we need his grace every hour.

Stop Doubting & Believe

After Jesus’ victory over death and sin and after he rose from the dead, doubting Thomas still struggled to believe that Jesus was who he said he was – the Messiah. The Savior of the world. More importantly, his personal Savior.

After the resurrection when Jesus was with his disciples, he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

And Thomas responded: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas had touched his Savior’s wounds. The proof was before his eyes. Jesus was the Son of God. He had no excuse not to believe.

And Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:26-29).

He is for You

There is much we don’t see in our calling as mommas, but do we still believe that Jesus is who he said he is? Do we believe that his wounds have set us free in our struggle with sin and will continue to set us free in the hard days to come?

The good news, Momma, is that the burdens of shame and guilt that you carry have been covered by Jesus’ blood on the cross. I know it’s hard to believe, but you can live in victory over your sin by his strength and in his power. And he is fully able to help make you the Momma you desire to be.

He sees you. He knows you. He is for you as you shepherd the hearts of your children.

And it is in fact, a very, very, Good Friday.

Blessings to you,

Samantha

 

Writing Platform: Staying True to Who You Are

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If you’ve followed along with me for some time in this little space, you may remember that my husband and I submitted a book proposal on marriage to one of my favorite Christian publishers in 2015. After one of my articles went viral in 2013, the publisher reached out and asked about my interest in writing a book. Some of you have asked about the status of the project and I felt I should update you here.

The whole experience has been such an honor talking with the Associate Publisher, brainstorming ideas, conducting interviews, doing research, writing the proposal, dreaming of it impacting our audience, and sending it off. After months and months of waiting, we heard back and were told that as first-time authors the publisher was going to have trouble getting the proposal through the publishing board who looks carefully at prior book sales and author platform. We were so far in the process and were sad to receive that news, but we accepted that this may not be the right timing. Or the right project. I had peace in my heart because I knew God was in control. We had played our part.

Many wonderful authors today experienced rejection after rejection before their idea sold. Part of the back story on this proposal is that I had submitted another one prior to it that didn’t make it. So that makes two rejections. I remember the words from my chancellor in college,

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or his wealth or his education. But you determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.”

The publisher mentioned other options as far as us putting our book online chapter by chapter, and soliciting feedback and building an audience for the book before it is published. I have thought about shopping the proposal to different publishers or coming up with a whole new idea for a different audience. An author friend of mine said she would be happy to pass the proposal on to her literary agent which I’m highly considering.

But as of now I’m praying about the direction to go as I don’t want to give up on the idea. There are no books currently on the market like it. And platform? Well, platform is a big deal in the publishing industry. It’s important to have a large audience and influence for book sales. Your book has to make money after all and publishers take great risks. But I also know that God is the ultimate one who builds my platform. It is not something that I craft or manipulate with my own hands. That’s not to say I don’t play my part, but I leave the results to the Lord.

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My husband has been a testament to this as I’ve watched him wait on the Lord for many years until God fulfilled his plan for him in full-time ministry and to now see his faithfulness rewarded as he is now leading a wonderful congregation of believers as lead pastor. As his wife, I’ve witnessed his platform in the home and in the workplace and it has been one of service, patience, love, faithfulness, integrity, humility, perseverance, and more. To me, platform is about serving others. As Jesus says, “the greatest must become the least.” So in whatever capacity God gives me to serve, I will accept it as my platform.

I also have to stay true to who I am in my dream to author books and do my part in working diligently. I can’t allow a “no” to discourage me from God’s calling on my life to keep writing. It sure is tempting though to give up and just focus on the writing assignments I have at hand. It is tempting to make excuses and say I’m too busy, have too many kids, or just simply can’t balance it all. Which is all true, but I still don’t want to give up on my dream. I know the hard work isn’t in vain.

My five-year-old daughter Rebekah reminds me of someone who is absolutely true to herself. She doesn’t mold into someone she is not. She lives on the edge, walking barefoot near the road (it drives me crazy). She will often get out a piece of paper and her paint brushes and create the most beautiful picture from her imagination. She is artistic, spicy, smart, and introverted. God has specific plans for her gifting as I know he does for me. I don’t think she is the least bit worried in how God will choose to use her either. She inspires me in her childlike faith.

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Recently, our friend Scott who has traveled the writing journey with us and leads one of the largest pre-marital ministries in the country emailed a few weeks ago saying to keep going and not give up. He has read just about every Christian marriage book on the planet. He strongly believes in our idea, writing, and his words were just what I needed to hear to get me back on the road again. I love how God uses the body of Christ when we need a gentle push.

Well right now, the proposal sits on my computer but I plan on taking action with it in the coming weeks. I would love your prayers as I seek to know if God has further plans for it. If he doesn’t have a plan for this particular project, I’m okay with that. I will continue writing. But I want to be faithful to at least keep trying and to not let any discouragement keep me down.

Thank you for reading!

Samantha

 

3 Reasons Why Being “Bored” Helps Your Kids Thrive

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Navigating the tricky waters with four kids, 7 and under, I often hear the oldest two express after school, on a day off, or on the weekend: “Mom, I’m so bored!”

So I begin to think about a really good response for my kids. In our culture today, it’s like it’s a sin to be bored. With technology at our fingertips and where everyone and every thing is producing and occupied by something, how is it okay to simply not do anything? To simply be?

I eventually come up with a suitable response: “Good, that’s a good thing. It is good to be bored!” I say with confidence – pronouncing the “good” – not wanting to give into the temptation to let them play a game on my phone.

My son looks at me strange but by the second week…

Read the rest of the article on For the Family. 

5 Things I Learned in January

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I’ve always been someone who needs to reflect and process the world around me. Sometimes I feel like I have lost the moment if I don’t think and write about what just occurred. Perhaps that’s why I have 15 journals since middle school. So when I recently saw how author Emily Freeman regularly practices the art of “looking back” on her blog, I thought it would be a great discipline for me to implement once in a while in my own writing space.

Here are five simple things I learned in January:

1. I would rather be faithful to Jesus than successful in the world’s eyes.

Do you ever feel that deep drive for success – to be known, good at what you do, and appreciated by others? I think that’s a natural feeling most of us have inside us. But Jesus views success in a much different light than the world – not by numbers, praise, accomplishment, getting even, climbing to the top and more. He got down on his knees and washed – probably scrubbed in that day – the dirty, smelly feet of his disciples. He came to serve and not to be served – to give his life as a ransom for many. At the end of my life, I don’t want others to say I was successful, but that I was faithful in what God gave me to do.

2. I’m often quick to tell God what should happen, instead of allowing him to lead.

When my son John was five he came to an understanding that Jesus died for his sins and that he needed a Savior. I had always wondered when he’d be ready to be baptized, but I felt he needed to wait until he was older and truly understood it. I feared that we would make a mistake in the timing as parents. He is now seven and my husband has been working with him on understanding the meaning and why we do it.

Last week, Jeremiah said that John was ready to show our community of faith that he has trusted in his Savior. We’re so excited that John will be baptized at the end of this month among others in our church who want to publicly declare Jesus as their Savior. We’re confident in the timing and God is teaching me to trust his plans and that He knows best, even in the midst of my fears and concerns.

3. I need to get back up.

Just because I wrote down my one-word resolution “Clean” for the year doesn’t mean it will happen perfectly each day. I have already failed at my aim for clean eating when I ate my child’s preservative filled Welch’s pack of gummies yesterday. They were good! I’ve failed to have clean lips at times. I’ve failed to build up my husband and children with my words.

When I sin, the important thing is that I get back up and dust the dirt off my feet. Instead of wallowing in shame or in my sin, I need to do the next thing that’s required of me and seek reconciliation. When I hurt those closest to me, I need to ask forgiveness and own my part in the conflict. Living in this truth every day is life changing knowing that His grace allows me to start fresh again.

4. Life is too serious not to laugh.

I can be a pretty serious and sensitive person. In our ten years of marriage, my husband has helped me find the humor in things that I simply cannot find on my own. In my Tuesday morning Bible study, we usually don’t get through the serious stuff in our book without a good laugh or at least a good laugh at ourselves.

Life is already heavy, isn’t it? It is hard. The burdens we carry are sometimes so unbearable. Proverbs says that a cheerful heart is good medicine for the soul. I love what my friend wrote in a text recently, Just give yourself grace. It reminded me that I take myself too seriously sometimes.

 5. Contentment is great gain.

When it’s winter, we long for the flowers to bloom. When it’s summer, we wish for the leaves to fall. When our babies are young, we want them grown up. When they’re older, we wish they were young again. After moving to Colorado, we left behind a stunning master bath Jeremiah had remodeled. It was my place of retreat at the end of the day and the gorgeous tub was my “push present” after delivering my son Will.

I miss that jacuzzi tub with the inline heater so much. But I know I can’t dwell on the past but I can be thankful for all the many blessings God has given us in our new home and town. The Lord is teaching me to be content in all circumstances and to be present in the now.

There are many other things I learned in January, but those stick out the most. I think that when I reflect on my life years from now I’ll be thankful I took the time to practice the art of looking back.

What did you learn in January? Is there anything that comes to mind that you don’t want to forget?

Finding Your Tuesday People: Out of Loneliness and into Community

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About six months into my family and I being settled into our new home in a brand new state, I expressed to my husband that I felt really lonely. I was loving everything about where God had put us. The serenity, beauty, community, our church, and the simple way of life had my heart (still does!), but I still felt like something was missing. Solid relationships and friendships have been important to me since I was a child.

“Well, I think you’re going to have to be intentional in reaching out,” my husband responded being the logical man that he is.

I pouted a bit about it. “Well, I kind of want them to invite me…” I replied.

Then I remembered the popular phrase that goes something like this,

To make a friend you have to first be a friend. 

IMG_1956Deep down, I was waiting for an invitation. And the funny thing is that I already had several invitations from others but I was focusing on the negative and just in a “poor me” state of mind. Have you ever been there? I began praying that God would help me in those feelings of loneliness and I asked him to sort them out for me. I started inviting others for lunch or coffee and began to minister to others, instead of being focused on myself and waiting for others to come to me.

There happened to be two moms who I consistently rubbed shoulders with and enjoyed their company. Out of the blue, I got a text from one who invited me to coffee at her home. I felt like a kid again, excited to be included and invited. The three of us met and talked about life, struggles, and hopes. From that meeting, they asked me about my interest in leading a Bible study. At first I was nervous about starting it from scratch, but I was definitely up for the challenge. I loved that they asked because I’m not sure if I would have without their prodding.

We eventually landed on a book to go through and yesterday we finished our third meeting. There are five us who meet and a few who are considering joining in the future. Over coffee (a must!) and a sweet snack, we dive into Scripture, pray, and discover how the truths in the book relate to our everyday life. It is a highlight of my week and keeps me accountable to reading.

282540_SimplyTuesdayFreeman_pins5In the wonderful book, Simply Tuesday, author Emily Freeman shares about the importance of having your “Tuesday people.” Tuesday is the most ordinary day of the week. We need those friends that we can share life with in the mundane, small moments of life. Friends that we can be comfortable with letting our insecurities out on the table. We need people who will pull up a chair or sit on a bench beside us and listen to our stories.

While we are still getting to know each other, this group has been that for me and I have been blessed because of it. Ironically, we meet on Tuesday mornings too so they are my Tuesday people in this season of life. Our time together has helped get me out of the lonely zone and into community where people can know who I am and where I can in turn, know who they are.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in a funk of loneliness, know that you really aren’t alone. Maybe for you, it will mean sending that text and inviting someone into your home. Maybe it will mean inviting someone to lunch or dinner. It could mean offering to watch someone’s kids so they can have a break. Maybe it will require being very intentional in the sphere of influence God has put you.

We live in a well-connected society digitally, yet many of us remain disconnected and lonely in our relationships. The good thing is that we can do something about it by extending a hand and inviting someone to sit on the bench with us in the real, ordinary days of life.

Who knows, maybe God will do something great in your relationships as you first seek to be a friend to someone else.

My One Word Resolution for 2016

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Several years ago, I ditched writing down the long list of New Year’s resolutions and instead adopted the idea of sticking to a one word theme for the whole year thanks to the website MyOneWord.org. It’s not that I didn’t fulfill my goals in past years, but when I fell short on them, I felt like a failure. Plus, I needed more simplicity and something different.

I loved the idea of choosing one word to inspire you the whole year and throughout each day. On our way driving back from Christmas vacation in the Midwest, I saw a church sign that read:

Daily devotion is better than a New Year’s Resolution.

That really struck a chord with me. I want to be devoted daily to the disciplines and responsibilities that are required of me right now, rather than being so committed to a pie in the sky resolution that isn’t specific or realistic.

In 2014, I chose to go with the word discipline. In 2015, I picked the word joy. And this year, it took me a few days to decide on the word C L E A N. I don’t know about you, but there are areas in my life that need some cleaning. I’m naturally a bit messy. I have to work hard at organization. My brain just doesn’t function in an orderly manner all the time. I want to be clean in the respect of my home.

Spiritually, I desire to have a clean heart and lips. I want my heart to be pure so I can more clearly hear from the Lord. I want to build others up this year with my words. I also want to have clean eating – less foods that include preservatives and additives and more foods made from scratch. I’m sure as the year progresses, I’ll find more areas that involve the word  C L E A N.

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In case you set some New Year’s Resolutions and are finding it difficult to stay committed to them, may I suggest that you choose one word for your 2016 instead? Some ideas for your word could be: balance, contentment, freedom, strength, trust, courage, prayer, simplicity, service, perseverance, peace, healthy, community, creativity, and more. It might take some time to think about which word suits you well. Once you have the word, write down why you chose it and what you hope to gain from committing to that word. You could go even further and paste it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror so it’s easily visible. The important thing is that you allow yourself to be regularly reminded of it so you can take daily action.

2016 is a clean slate and a time to start from scratch. May you have a great beginning, daily devoting yourself to the tasks in front of you right now.

Have you already chosen your one word? What word do you think suits you well for 2016?

Blessings,

Samantha

Fighting For Your Family

boxing_wallpaper1337Several Sundays ago, we were getting ready for church and from across the hallway you could hear screaming and yelling. There was an all out brawl in our living room over which child took the other’s pink story Bible.

“No, it’s mine!” my five-year-old daughter yells.

“No, I want it! I want it!” my three-year-old daughter yells back. After some hair pulling and name calling, the three-year-old then runs from her sister and into our bedroom hiding from her sister with a sneaky face.

I still had to do my hair and finish putting my mascara on because you know, we had to be at church in 20 minutes. I was still waking up too because I’m not a morning person. I could barely handle the noise level and sibling rivalry. The yells and screams were shattering to my ears. After some discipline and working out the conflict, I assured my three-year-old that she’d get her own Bible one day and that was enough to dissolve the chaos…

Read the rest of the article over at FortheFamily.org. 

Why You Should Practice the “F” Word

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“Rebekah, stop saying mean words to your sister Hannah! She loves you,” I corrected my oldest daughter a few days ago. We have had quite the battles with the tongue lately.

“Noooo! She does not love me!” Rebekah shouted.

“When I was little, she took my paci out of my mouth and it was sooo rude!”

I looked at Rebekah and had to laugh as it reminded me of her pacifier obsession a few years ago. Weaning her from those green rubber suckers was such a work-out! She found them no matter how well Jeremiah and I hid them. I had no idea she remembered Hannah trying to steal them from her.

The conversation reminded me that some things just don’t die off in life or are that easily forgivable even to a young child. Whether it’s a hurtful word or action, an unmet expectation, or a harm done against us that we just can’t seem to move past, forgiveness is really, really hard. It is an act of the will. It is a choice that we are commanded of in Scripture because we have been forgiven of so much. But that doesn’t mean the sting and pain will disappear over night.

I love what Atlanta-based pastor Charles Stanley once said:

Forgiveness does not recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.

IMG_0368_blogWhen we remain in bitterness, anger, and resentment, we remain in our chains. But when we choose to break off those chains, rolling our burdens onto the Lord, we find freedom because He is carrying the load for us. We find peace, love, patience, gentleness, joy, abundant life, transformation and more.

It is only in Jesus’ strength that we can truly forgive someone who has deeply wounded us. It is only by His hands that we can walk through the fires that seek to destroy our hearts. And sometimes he asks us to do hard things: To confess our harbored bitterness or go to the person who has offended us. Sometimes, we have to be really brave and forgive ourselves.

Do your wounds run deep from pain inflicted on you or pain that you have caused? They may not be quite as small as a pacifier offense, but don’t neglect that the hurt is real. Last year, I went through a 12-step recovery ministry at our church in Dallas called Regeneration.  Our leadership from the front strongly encourages people to go through the program because we all have areas where we struggle. During my time, I had to participate in a personal moral inventory where I had to write down every sin committed against me and every sin I have committed against another.

It was a grueling process. And not only that, I had to confess it to two trusted mentor friends. I somewhat dreaded the evening I was to confess. I was a bit terrified of what my friends would think but to my surprise, it was one of the most freeing and healing moments of my 32 years of life. I was accepted, not judged, and met with compassion and understanding. There was just something about writing my sins down and knowing that Jesus had died for every one of them. My sins were why he had to come. And he loved me unconditionally. And not only my sins, but the sins of the whole world. It was also in that process where I was able to see more clearly what I needed to forgive.

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The truth is that forgiveness isn’t always a one time deal. It is something we need a great deal of help on and it doesn’t always mean slapping a band-aid on the wound and saying, “Just forgive. Get over it.” The wounds have to be exposed, brought into the light, and cleaned out deeply before they can fully heal.

Forgiveness is also something that has to be practiced. It’s something of a discipline. All I really know is that it’s something of a God-thing. It is only by His power that we can truly forgive.

Remember that Jesus is always there for you when you need to confess: I hurt. I can’t carry this burden of bitterness anymore. Please help me forgive so that I may live a life of freedom and help others in turn.

What do you need to forgive today? Are you practicing the command to forgive?

For the Love of October

This article was originally published in Samantha’s Salt in The Holyoke Enterprise – October 22, 2015 (photos included in this post only).

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when you can wear long sleeves & go barefoot

If there were a month out of the year I couldn’t live without, it would be October. And it’s not just because I was born at the beginning of the month, along with my husband and two oldest children who are late October babies, but I’ve always loved and anticipated this change of season and all of its splendor.

I love the way the wind blows the leaves and they fall patiently to the ground. I love how the trees pop with reds, browns, and golds like a crown of glory. I love the cooler mornings and the warmth of the late afternoon sun. And I don’t think your front porch could ever have too many orange pumpkins or that you could have a shortage of anything pumpkin-spiced.

Just this past weekend while I was at Homesteader’s Park taking some family photos, I was instantly caught up in the beauty of my surroundings – everything from the sun’s golden rays, the shadows, the yellow leaves coming through on the trees, the green landscape, and the slight breeze against my skin. I would’ve planted myself there all morning if I didn’t have responsibilities at home.

In the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne declares: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill—several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.”

IMG_9848Don’t you just love Anne’s words? “Thrill” couldn’t be a more perfect description of autumn. Each morning I step outside and see the colors changing and notice new trees shining in their brilliance, I sense that thrill and rush. The beauty is revitalizing and inspiring.

On Tuesday, my daughter Rebekah was playing in our front yard and picking the leaves off the tree while she waited for her ride to preschool. “Momma look – a heart-shaped one,” she said as she brought the leaf up to my face. The sun sparkled in her light blue eyes and she smiled while she continued to pick them off one by one. “Look Mom – another one!”

I told her that we needed to keep them on the tree so we could enjoy them. I soaked up the sweetness in our moment together, remembering these were her last few weeks as a four-year-old. It was hard to believe another October had arrived.

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Rebekah’s joy and excitement gave me the opportunity to celebrate the stillness of the moment. It reminded me of God’s goodness in my favorite season and in every season knowing that in no time the multicolored leaves will soon grow brown. They will cover our yards and be thrown into bags. Winter will bring its chill and barrenness and will have us waiting for the spring flowers to bloom.

IMG_0064 (1)No matter the doubts, struggles, anxieties, and fears we have at times­­– even in the midst of such a beautiful time of year, the Lord gently assures us that He is here. His creation, handiwork, and creativity are all around us and they are ours for the keeping to enjoy to the absolute fullest, similar in the way that He desires for all of us to live our lives (John 10:10). May this season of coolness usher in the warmth of God’s nearness to your life.

Well, it appears you are finished with this column. What are you waiting for? Get outside!

 

Strong God, Strong Mom

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At the beginning of the year, my husband and I were asked to speak for my mother’s group on the topic of marriage. During our talk, I shared some stories on how our kids have impacted our relationship and how I struggle at times with anger and control in raising our four young children. Sharing the more raw details of life can be a scary risk that involves vulnerability but I always figure that if it can help someone else, being authentic is worth it.

Well after our talk, one of my mom friends who I respected and was a “super mom” in my eyes, came up to me and said how much she related to what I had to say.

“Really?” I asked her…

Read the rest on FortheFamily.org

 

 

 

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