The Necessity to Shine {when this world drives you crazy}

I was reading a friend’s status update a few days ago about one of her neighbors. She was in her alley (most Texas homes have back alleys) and out of nowhere she heard a man screaming at the top of his lungs:

“I hate this world!!!”

She couldn’t believe it and asked her friends to pray for this man. Obviously, bitterness and hatred were brewing in his heart toward someone or something.

I’ve had days where I’ve seen a darkness and insensitivity in this world from people who have no regard for one another. Co-workers who slander and devour each other, nasty people in checkout lines, off-the-wall thinking, critical and judgmental people, all around negativity from people across the board, and more.

I’ve had days where people have really gotten to me and the world seems like a depressing place to live. Sometimes random and unexpected situations have happened that have affected my attitude. I think to myself:

The only hope in this mean and crazy world is Jesus. What do people do who don’t have that hope? I would go crazy without it.

And it’s not too long after that I’m reminded of who I am in Christ and what I’ve been sent on this earth to do as his disciple. He reminds me that indeed, this world can be a dark, cold and lonely place but there is a solution to the darkness.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matt. 5:14-16

My natural inclination is to run and hide from darkness and not confront it, especially if I have been hurt by someone else’s sin. But how will my light shine if I don’t forgive and genuinely love that person who’s so incredibly unlovable? How will they hear about God’s forgiveness and healing if I don’t tell them?

If “hurting people hurt people” as the saying goes, then there’s got to be a reason behind every offense. How will my light shine if I return evil for evil? It won’t. My light will shine when I choose to love and let God help me overcome the darkness.

When God’s light shines through us, people can’t help but notice something different. They can’t help but want to know what makes us love rather than hate. They want to know what gives us hope. Love is how people will come to know and understand that the Lord is real and active in the world today.

The man who screamed out in the alley is a picture of how many people feel. They harbor pain and they feel hopeless. These are the people God wants us to seek out and shine our light to. There is no plan B.

And no matter how dark the world continues to get, we are still the light of the world.

Do you find it difficult to shine and show love among the darkness? 

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Article: On Affirming & Building Up Your Man

This article just went live on  StartMarriageRight.com. This is a topic I’m really passionate about and learning a ton about in our marriage. Feel free to let me know what you think.

I was in Target’s parking lot a few months ago and noticed a good-looking couple walking towards the store as my husband Jeremiah and I headed out to our car. I noticed they had wedding rings on.

The woman was talking loudly in her husband’s face and waving her hands around. She eventually started chewing him out. It was evident, just in what little I heard, that this husband didn’t do what his wife had wanted him to do. She had no shame letting everyone else hear about her disappointment. As she yelled, this poor guy just kept walking and looking down at the pavement like a poor, pitiful puppy dog. I felt so sorry for him.

Jeremiah and I got into our car and I told him how I couldn’t believe how that wife had treated her husband. She made him look like a wimp who couldn’t stand up for himself. And the crazy thing is that it made her look even worse.

Loving your husband for who he is
That story had me thinking about the times I had regretfully embarrassed my husband, said inappropriate words, and didn’t build him up in private or in public.

Read the rest here…

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When Your Ceiling Caves In: Thoughts on Being First Time Homebuyers

My husband Jeremiah and I were super excited, but not naive. Enough trusted people in our lives had told us how much work goes into owning a home. This was going to be our very first home that we would close on in just a few hours.

We did the walk-thru with our realtor, Susan, making sure repairs had been made and that all was well and it was… until… we made our way upstairs and opened the door to the attic.

“Babe, can you walk across there and take down those tacky white curtains hanging in the dormers?”

They had been annoying me for a while now, especially because they were visible from the road. Jeremiah takes his first few steps, slowly. I had this odd feeling something was about to happen.

If you remember Chevy Chase in the classic movie, Christmas Vacation, you probably recall him falling through the ceiling while reminiscing over old home videos. Well, that’s basically what went down yesterday.

Jeremiah took another step and part of the floor caved in. It happened to be the dining room ceiling.

My godly, soon-to-be seminary graduate was in shock. “I’m not sure if I want to cuss or laugh! So I think I’ll laugh,” he said.

My eyebrows were raised the whole time, and then I just started cracking up. We knew we wanted the house. We were just about to close. But, really? The ceiling? Oh dear. Should we still close on this house?

Susan couldn’t believe what she was seeing either. “Well, it looks like this is going to be your first repair,” she said. All of us laughed together.

As we walked out of the door, Jeremiah assured me that regardless of the circumstances, this was what we were supposed to do and better that this happened now than later with kiddos around. On our way to the title company, we were laughing so hard about the whole situation. He was already formulating a plan on how he would fix it and what he would need to get at Home Depot.

“Maybe this will encourage you when it comes to fixing all the other future repairs and updates,” I said trying to look on the bright side.

He smiled and assured me that he was up for the task. I had no doubt he would get it done and do it well.

Well, yesterday was just the beginning of our first home buying experience. We chose a two-story house about 10 minutes away from the city, close to Jeremiah’s work. It was built in 1964 and hasn’t had any major updates, but has a ton of potential- nothing a little paint can’t fix! The house is awesome space-wise as everyone will have their own room. It’s going to take a lot of cleaning practice making sure 5 bedrooms are in order.

We were able to get an incredible deal on the home as well. It’s only a few miles away from one of our favorite lakes for running and biking and it’s near a beautiful botanical garden that everyone in Dallas seems to frequent. Not to mention, a park and playground that the kids love are five houses down.

But like I said, the house is older so with that comes a lot of work. And I can only naturally relate this whole house experience to life because it has taught me so much already. Having the ability to own a home and fill it with good things is a gift, but it will not satisfy the deepest cravings in my heart. Only God will be able to satisfy those needs.

Our new house will also, in one way or another, disappoint us. Stuff will break. Pipes will leak. There will always be work. There will be new challenges that didn’t exist in an apartment and there will be new worries and fears.

But Lord willing, God will use this house as a place to show his love, be hospitable, share the gospel, disciple our children, grow our marriage, nurture authentic relationships, make friends and family feel welcome, and teach us more about Himself. And I am definitely excited about that. Most of all, my prayer is that this home will glorify God and that it will be a place where His purposes are accomplished in our family and among the people we will live near.

Until we move out of seminary housing at the end of April, we will be painting, getting appliances, and doing lots of dirty work. Well that is, mostly my husband, family, and friends since I shouldn’t be around paint being pregnant.

Oh yeah and we’ll also be praying that nobody else falls through the ceiling.

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“Resting” in the Writing World

Today before John’s nap we read the book I Knew You Could by Craig Dorfman. It’s a children’s book I highly recommend full of inspiration and encouragement similar to the classic, The Little Engine That Could. But I beg to say it’s even better.

The words at the end rang true for me today:

When your belief in yourself doesn’t feel quite so pure, and your “I think I can” doesn’t sound quite so sure.

That’s when to push and to strive and to strain, to show the world you’re not a giving-up train. And you’re wise if you know that doing your best means that sometimes you should just slow down and rest.

Speeding through your whole trip will bring only sorrow, so slow down today to be happy tomorrow.

I’m such a dreamer and often want things now. Starting this new site and recently accepting offers for new writing responsibilities has been so exciting. I could write all day if there was time. But my priorities are the Lord, my husband, children, and managing my home.

All of which means that writing comes after all of that. And I know that in order to do my best in the writing world requires me to slow down and rest. Dreams take time and the most important things in life can’t be sacrificed.

I’ve seen the opposite happen (dreams happening fast at the expense of spouse/children) in lives of highly talented and successful people. Some are still making it but some have crumbled and it’s so sad.

As I enter a new season of writing, my prayer is to strive and strain towards my goals but to slow down and rest simultaneously so that I’ll be able to stay at writing for the long haul. If that makes any sense at all.

What about you… How do you balance your dreams with reality? Do you find it easy or hard to rest?

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From the Archives: An Anthem of His Faithfulness

Every seat in the chapel was filled. The doors on each side stayed open for Michigan’s August breeze to make its way in. I looked for a place to sit and found a spot on the end of a pew. As I sat down, I felt relieved that my husband was keeping the kids so I could have some time to sit and be still. Besides, this was my vacation.

God, I want to hear you tonight, prayedIt’s so hard to hear you when the daily grind can get so noisy.

Sara Groves started playing the piano and singing:

I can’t remember a trial or a pain He did not recycle to bring me gain

I can’t remember one single regret In serving God only, and trusting His hand

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

I tried to recollect a time when God was unfaithful to me and I simply could not. Even at a point in my life when I chose the temporal pleasures of sin over following Him, He remained faithful- patiently pursuing me and calling me to his side.

And all the needs I have ever had, great or small, he has provided regardless of my worry and doubt.

I thought about the concerns and fears I have with the future and I was comforted that God knew those too, but my uncertainties don’t change the fact of Who He Is. And if I had to follow Him all over again, in the joys and the hardships, I would still surrender my life to Him.

Sara played on and transitioned into the old hymn:

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

A man in his 60s stood up as she sang. I imagined his life and the possible trials he’d probably faced. I thought about how he’s further along in the journey than I. Then another person in the distance stood and then another. I got goosebumps. Before I knew it, handfuls of people were standing.

Knots grew tight in my throat. God had been so faithful to me and rarely did I thank Him and stand upon that. I felt such conviction. My pride tried to keep me planted in that hard wooden pew, but I rose to my feet anyway. Tears filled my eyes and I confessed to God where I had fallen short.

God, forgive me for not regularly expressing gratitude to you for all you have done. Change me.

I observed all that was happening around me and soon enough, everyone was standing. Some lifted their hands in humbleness. God’s presence filled the air and it was heavenly and so sweet. It didn’t matter what journey any of us had traveled, this was our anthem together.

An anthem of His faithfulness.

The Final Winner of Not Another Dating Book…

Thanks to everyone who commented and entered the book giveaway for Renee Fisher’s new book, Not Another Dating Book.

I’m excited to announce that the winner is Lauren Boardman!

Congrats, Lauren. I pray that God will use Renee’s book in a great way to impact the Senior high girls you mentioned in your comment.

Thanks again to Renee and Harvest House for providing the book.

* The draw was determined using Random.org’s Sequence Generator

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Not Another Dating Book- An Interview with Author Renee Fisher

When I was single, my college roommate suggested I read Tommy Nelson’s book, The Book of Romance. I had never read a book about dating and relationships and was a little skeptical. But I read it in a few days and was hooked. I started reading a bunch of other books about relationships after that to be encouraged in the seemingly never-ending waiting process of finding Mr. Right (or rather God finding him for me).

Now, as a married woman, I still love knowing what is fresh and relevant on the market regarding relationships. I love being able to share about books and authors that I believe in and can recommend to my friends and readers.

About a month ago, I was able to connect with author Renee Fisher, also known as “Devotional Diva.” I first heard about Renee on Twitter and then realized that my friend and former co-worker Lonnie Smith had done an endorsement for her new book. Renee and I also discovered we knew a lot of the same people in the writing world.

I have grown to admire Renee’s enthusiasm and love for people. The fact that she’s a devotional writer is my cup of tea as well. I asked Renee if she’d be willing to share with us more about herself and her most recent book, Not Another Dating Book. She said she’d love to because she is just so cool like that. I think you’ll agree too.

An Interview with Renee Fisher about Not Another Dating Book

Samantha: I can’t help but ask… How did you and your publisher land on such a brilliant title?

Renee: It just came to me one day. I was frustrated with the lack of relevant books on the topic of relationships. I knew I wanted my book to stand out as “Not Another Dating Book” and it stuck!

Samantha: Can you share a little bit about how the book was birthed and the process in writing it? What did God teach you while you were writing?

Renee: Oh man. Do you have ALL day? I’m kidding! The book was birthed through a process of being single my whole life. I knew God had strongly promised me a husband when I was 15 and somehow I never let go of that promise. After the success of my first book, “Faithbook of Jesus” I jumped at the chance to write something that was super important to me, my heart, and my friends who were on the same search for significance in all their relationships.

Samantha: I love that Not Another Dating Book really isn’t just a dating book. You’ve included scriptural insight, prayers, journaling space, and questions for reflection within each devotional. How do you foresee readers being impacted by a book they can actually interact with on a really personal level?

Renee: This is something I’ve only dreamed and prayed about. My hope is that it becomes YOUR love story. I don’t like it when books give formulas on how you can find Mr. or Mrs. Right. Get your own love story! This is my attempt at giving you the keys. It’s just a tool and it is my hope that God uses it mightily in the lives of so many young people.

Samantha: What was your favorite chapter to write, and why?

Renee: When It’s Over. I love my ending of “Remain. Remain. Remain.” That was the biggest lesson I learned while writing that book. I never knew how God would honor His promise by bringing a man into my life, but I just knew I had to remain in Him to find out!

Samantha: What is the overall takeaway you want young adults to leave with after they’ve read the book?

Renee: HA! Part of my personality is to say something as I said before of, “get your own love story!” But I also love being highly interactive so if nothing else I hope it causes them to wrestle with God as much as I did!

Samantha: Are you working on any future projects?

Renee: I am. I just finished the rough draft for my third book yesterday, actually. It’s on the topic of forgiving yourself and I felt it would be a nice follow up to a book on relationships. Once you get in one, you find out quickly how easily you can hurt others and be hurt yourself!

Fore more information on Renee, visit her website at DevotionalDiva.com.

Renee and Harvest House Publishers have provided a copy of her book to give away. To enter for a chance to win:

  • Leave a blog comment that answers: “I’m single/dating and would like to know _____ about marriage” OR “I’m married and I wish I knew _____ before marriage.”
The contest closes on February 20th and the winner will be determined using Random.org.

 

Renee Johnson Fisher is a spirited speaker and writer to twenty-somethings. She graduated from Biola University and worked with nationally known Christian speakers and writers at Outreach Events. Her devotional blog reaches hundreds of readers. Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God.

 Her first book, “Faithbook of Jesus” released Spring of 2010 with NavPress won the support of over 30+ endorsers in the Christian community including Josh McDowell, Miles McPherson, Eric Bryant, Shawn Wood, and Anne Jackson. Renee’s second book, “Not Another Dating Book” releases February, 2012 with Harvest House Publishers. With her trademark wit and enthusiasm Renee urges young adults to take a closer look at the way they relate to God and others, showing them that every relationship finds its perfect example in Christ.

Find her book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Harvest House

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Article: Enjoying the Gift of Sex in Your Marriage

When my husband and I moved to Dallas five years ago, we joined a church that stressed the importance of living in authentic community. We plugged into a small group that consisted of couples who’d been married 1-3 years. Our mentor couple paved the way for us to be open and accountable in all areas of our marriage, including the often-taboo topic of sex.

One evening around the table in confidentiality

Head on over to StartMarriageRight.com to read my latest article on enjoying the gift of sex in marriage.

 

 

 

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The Words “I Love You”

While I was washing the dishes a few nights ago, John walks up to me in adult-like fashion and says:

“Momma?”

I turn to him wondering what his next words will be. I assumed he needed something.

“I love you.”

My eyes lit up and I was pleasantly surprised especially after the kind of day it had been. My heart filled with joy that even though I’m a far-from-perfect Momma, my three year old still loves me and hopefully knows that he is loved deeply too.

“I love you too, John.”

He gave a big grin and went about his business playing.

God spoke truth to me that evening through my son. I love how God often has a way of intervening in our lives to show us how deeply He loves us. I don’t know about you but it seems like when I am the most unlovely, He shows his unconditional love all the more and I’m humbled. How does such a sinner like me deserve so much grace and love?

Yet he continues to love because He is Love. 

And he shows his love in unexpected ways: through Scripture, prayer, the Church, other people, creation, whispers, “aha” moments, circumstances, discipline, trials, and more.

But the truth is that he doesn’t have to continue showing his love. He has already proven his love by suffering and dying on the cross. He loved us while we were still sinners, in all our filthiness and ugliness. The cross sealed the deal and there is no greater love that exists.

But why do I often live like I need to be reassured of His love? Or sometimes I’m insecure of his love. I only need to look to the cross.

When it comes to love it’s no wonder that the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan strikes such a chord with so many people deep within. It’s a song that chokes me up and reminds me of His faithfulness. No matter what kind of hurt, pain, or trial we are going through, we follow a God who loves us and who cares about our frustrations and let-downs.

And he is indeed jealous for us.

He wants us to know that, yes, we are broken people and yes we will mess up sometimes but that doesn’t change anything about His love. He is ready and willing to show us that love if we will listen and obey.

I’ve remembered John’s words a few times this week. They have helped me through my daily struggles and they continue to remind me that those are the exact words God is saying to me.

“I love you.”

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Welcome to the new site! – Migrating to the Standard Theme

For over a year now, I’ve wanted to convert my blog to the Standard Theme. I first heard about it on Michael Hyatt’s leadership blog and was very impressed with the layout and look.

What caught my eye was the crisp, clean look and how they designed the theme to focus on your content. I didn’t want my blog to have a lot of clutter. I also liked the admin panel and how features like sharing buttons and widgets were easier to activate. I was impressed with the Search Engine Optimizations stats, ad placement, and more.

But when it came down to actually installing the Standard Theme, it was much harder than I thought! I learned that I had to migrate my wordpress.com blog to wordpress.org (3.0 version) so that the Standard Theme would work. I had to dig into self-hosting and domain stuff which I knew very little about.

One night, my husband and I spent three hours trying to figure out how to migrate the site and we just couldn’t get it. I had heard from other people that it wasn’t easy. I grew really frustrated and found myself wasting hours on trying to figure it out.

Thankfully, we found a guy who my husband is in seminary with, Jonathan Huizingh,who is a web developer. He came over and was able to help us within an hour or less! He’s a genius. From there on out, my husband worked with him on all the behind the scenes stuff on the site.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the pages in addition to connecting with my friend, Katie Bowman, to create a header that would go well with the theme’s design. After working with pixels, fonts, and images, I love what Katie designed. And believe it or not, it was her first stab at creating one. She’s amazing. Let me know if you’d like to connect with her for any design work.

Just last night, we launched the site and I have been pretty pleased. Of course, there is always more to be done and added but that will come in due time. I hope that you like it too.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe through email in the right sidebar or through Google Reader at the top. ** To my knowledge, those of you who were subscribed to the old site will have to resubscribe to this site. Sorry to hassle you with that. **

Special Thanks again to my husband, Jeremiah Krieger, and to Jonathan Huizingh and Katie Bowman for putting in the hours to make this a reality. So grateful to each of you.

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