How to Restore the Brokenness in Your Marriage – from TheCourage.com

This week, I’m excited to be writing over on The Courage – a new digital destination meant to inspire, give hope, and call people to something better, especially in the areas of faith, family, and culture (founded by Kirk Cameron). It’s an honor to be a regular contributor and I hope you’ll check out the site and “like” them on social media. I think you’ll love what they’re doing!

One of my favorite parts on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” is when Chip and Joanna walk to the back of a garage, shed, or attic of the house they’re working on and discover something useful to implement into the remodel. What looks like an old pile of wood, happens to be a stack of doors that once provided privacy in the home.

Once Chip and Joanna decide to use the doors and refinish the glass, it might be used on an indoor cabinet or in the front windows of the home. The doorknobs are even used as creative design elements. Reclaiming what appears to be old, good-for-nothing junk is as natural as breathing for them. Nothing is wasted. They restore and renew what most people would readily abandon.

In their years of experience working on fixer uppers, they know you don’t ignore the cast-offs. You figure out their potential and how they can be made effective again.

In marriage, when the going gets tough, we can be tempted to throw the marriage away like those cast-offs... CONTINUE READING on TheCourage.com

The Courage to be You, Bravely, in 2017

It’s funny how sayings stick in your head. “Be You, Bravely” was the theme for my Mother’s of Preschooler’s group (MOPS) in Dallas a few years ago and I have reflected on it a lot the last several months.

Whether it comes through scrolling down the highlight reels of friends on Facebook and Instagram or comparing myself to what another person has in her life, God is teaching me to be me. And me alone.

The temptation is to believe that other friends have it better, are more gifted, and suitable for their work. But the truth is that we all have challenges in our lives – some obvious, some unseen. We’re all gifted uniquely for God’s purposes – fashioned according to His will.

Purpose in Publishing

Recently, I was given an exciting opportunity from a Christian publishing company to be one of three writers to submit writing for an upcoming project they are working on with a respected author. They seemed very interested in my sample writing and was hoping I would move forward in letting the author see my samples. The problem was that I thought it was going to be a co-write and soon learned that it was a ghost-write. My heart immediately became unsettled.

If you aren’t familiar with ghostwriting, you are hired by a publisher to write the story/content that is officially credited to another person – in this case it was someone quite famous in the Christian world. In ghostwriting, you take on their voice but you receive no credit on the cover and you cannot reveal it in your portfolio. You’re usually given a good sum of money in ghostwriting, too. There are pros and cons to it.

I know writers that ghostwrite and I don’t judge them. But in my heart, I didn’t feel it was right for me. It also wasn’t in line with my personal goals in my writing career. It was hard to let the publisher know I wasn’t interested in moving forward, but I felt peace.

God had purpose in that experience as it led me to write my own book and collaborate with like-minded friends and it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, especially hearing from readers and friends who have found hope and encouragement through it.

Boasting in Our Weaknesses

I believe that staying true to who we are takes a lot of courage, indeed. Not only staying true to our calling in Christ and who he has created us to be, but also not hiding who we are in our brokenness and weaknesses.

I love what the Apostle Paul says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Cor. 12:9

Paul gladly boasted in his weaknesses. He didn’t exactly have a stellar resume before Christ met him on the road to Damascus. He didn’t pride himself in who he was, because he knew what he was before Christ, and it wasn’t pretty. Being true to who we are requires that we take a good look inside our hearts and our own shortcomings. We are not self-sufficient, but Christ-sufficient.

When we acknowledge and admit we are powerless over our struggles and sin, we give God room to work. We allow him to search who we really are. I know when I allow him to do that, I find that I am utterly dependent on him for any good thing. I rarely can do good apart from him. Even on my best day, I still fall short.

A Great Opportunity 

It takes courage to be You. And no one else. It’s much easier to be busy about what others are doing, instead of taking a good hard look inside your own heart and seeing what God is doing in you. Who has he made you to be? What dreams has he given you? What scars and brokenness do you have that can be shared for the benefit of another friend?

In a culture where social media offers “all the feels” as Jen Wilkin recently wrote in her article Beware the Instagram Bible in 2017“It [the Instagram gospel] preaches good news in part, but we need the whole. It may move us in the moment, but it cannot sustain us through the storm.”

As women who follow Jesus, we have a great opportunity in 2017 to shine the light into who we truly are. We have a great opportunity to get to know our friends in real time, beyond the mere scrolling of our thumb on a phone screen. We have an opportunity, like never before, to come out of hiding and show others how great our God is.

 

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.  

 

What to do With Miley

credit: eonline.com

photo credit: eonline.com

You’ve probably heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance last night at MTV’s VMAs. I didn’t watch the VMAs but I saw a clip on CNN and that was enough to know why everyone is shocked. My jaw definitely dropped. This morning I was debating about tweeting, “Mommas and Daddy’s: Don’t let your babies grow up to be like Miley.”

Then I thought long and hard about those words and I chose not to tweet them. I needed to shut my mouth and pray for her and really look beyond the show of it all and see the obvious brokenness. My heart grew sad for her because God wants so much more for her life.

Author and blogger Annie Downs wrote today:

While today’s headlines are tearing her [Miley] to shreds, we as Christians HAVE to sound different than the world. We HAVE to yell a different chant in her direction about how God made her on purpose and how she is valuable because of WHO she is, not WHAT she does. I’m not saying we ignore the influence she is having, but if we want to help her [and that is the question titling this post after all], then we have to look at her with eyes of compassion and have our words sound from there.

Eyes of compassion is definitely something I need because I’m initially judgmental and angry over things like this. I mean, rightfully so, right? But then I have to remember what God has saved me from and is saving me from. I’m no different than Miley, just a sinner saved by grace. And I sure need compassion from others every day.

My brokenness might not be manifested on a stage for all the world to see, but God sure knows my sins, struggles, and areas where I have yet to be Christ-like in. And the Lord knows that without him, I am a mess. I constantly need his forgiveness and grace.

I pray that Miley will come to know Jesus. I pray that Christians will extend unconditional love to her and help bring her to the One who can heal her brokenness.

A Prayer for Thankfulness in Times of Pain

Father God,

We acknowledge that you are the giver of all good things. We live and breathe because of you. From your hands, You supply all that we need and so much more. But we confess that sometimes we are:

ungrateful…

unthankful…

selfish…

sinful…

hurting people…

I confess that at times I don’t see all the gifts you have given, are giving, and continue to give in my life. I confess that my ungratefulness at times has left me angry, bitter, and wanting. My unthankfulness has made me blind to all that I have. And even as I approach this Thanksgiving, I know my heart needs radical change.

Some of us are unthankful because we’ve experienced a great amount of pain and suffering this year. We’ve lost loved ones and unborn children. Our marriages and relationships are broken. We’re dealing with sickness, injustice, and depression. We’re struggling financially and need a miracle. Circumstances don’t seem to be in our favor. Ever. Some of us wonder why in the world you work the way that you do.

I confess that at times I have caused my own pain and have projected that hurt onto other people.

God, help us to lean into your grace when we’re weak and feel like giving up. Because Lord we are so frail apart from you. Help us to give you thanks because when we choose not to we know that our wounds and pain only grow deeper.

Will you teach us and show us that you are good regardless of the pain and hurt we may feel in this life? You are worthy to be praised in the valley and on the mountaintop. Remind us that you still:

turn ashes into beauty.

instill life into dead bones.

give the oil of joy for mourning.

soften the hardest of hearts.

change sinners into saints.

transform brokenness into wholeness.

wash our sins and make them white as snow.

redeem and restore the years the enemy has stolen.

And let us remember that you have already endured the ultimate shame and suffering on the cross for your glory and our good. Help us to persevere to the end until we see you face to face.

In the meantime, may today, this week and all of November give us a renewed sense of genuine Thanksgiving in each of our hearts regardless of our circumstances. We love you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Why Your Broken Prayers Are Enough

This article (originally a blog post) was published in my column “Faith in Real Life” for Dallas Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012 Issue 2. You can view the PDF here on pg. 5. 

It’s interesting how the word “prayer” conjures up many emotions and feelings for people. You might view your prayer life as a delight, a duty, or both. Maybe it just depends on what kind of day you’re having.

The demands of seminary, working, raising children, serving in ministry, and making our marriage a priority often leaves my husband and me with no choice but to fall on our knees before God. Our prayer lives have been forced to grow as our responsibilities have increased over the years, and I admit that much of my strength has come from confessing my absolute brokenness.

The Sweet Word Abba

When I was single, I had a more designated time for prayer, but now my prayers are more unscheduled, short, and spontaneous. And lately the prayer I offer most to God is help! I’ve also had times when the only words I could offer were tears. And of course the most pivotal prayer of all was when I asked Jesus to save me.

But most of the time I still feel this pressure to offer drawn-out, formal prayers to God, and if I don’t do that, I’m not spiritual. But it’s interesting to note that in Romans, Paul says that in our spirit we cry out, “Abba, Father” in our adoption as His children. And that’s a short prayer if I’ve seen one.

Being Natural with God

I’ve been reading the 30-day devotional book called Prayer by Charles Spurgeon, and in it he says, “I think this sweet word Abba was chosen to show us that we are to be very natural with God, not stilted and formal.” Spurgeon goes on to say that sometimes our prayers to God are more like groans and longings, and that when we cry Abba, “The cry in our hearts is not only childlike, but the tone and manner of utterance are equally so.”

I can just picture the tone and manner of the word “D-a-d-d-y” when a child is in great danger or in need of help, and how when we cry “A-b-b-a” to our Heavenly Father, it is the same.

Embracing a Child-like Faith

Spurgeon’s words have reminded me that it’s okay to offer such a short, broken prayer when that’s all I can do. They’ve also reminded me that lots of things keep me from being natural and real with God, among them pride, stubbornness, fear, my inability to trust Him with everything, and my failure to believe that He loves me.

But when I come to God as my Abba, tell him all that He already knows, and be real with Him, I’m amazed at how He shows Himself and works in my heart. My heart is overwhelmed with joy because I learn more about His grace and patience toward me. It’s as if He’s saying, “I love being your Abba.”

My true desire is to be more open with God and to not hide so much. In child-like faith, I want to crawl up in His lap and be in His presence. And in the coming days where I’m sure I’ll have to offer up one-worded prayers again, I can be honest and trust that He is listening—because I am His child and He is my Abba.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

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.

 

 

 

On Loving People for Who They Are: Meet Danny

Danny bags groceries at the Kroger we shop at every week. He’s in his 30s and has a disability where he speaks and walks slowly. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to help show my two-year-old John that people like Danny are to be acknowledged and treated just like anyone else, no matter if they look or act differently.

So, I would whisper into John’s little ear: “Can you say hi to Danny, John?”

“Hi, Danny!” he would say and Danny would smile.

One day we had two carts of groceries to haul out and John told me he wanted Danny to push the cart he was sitting in. Not Momma. It was precious. Danny took the cart and John was absolutely delighted.

Yesterday, as soon as we got to Kroger, John asked where Danny was and I thought to myself:

John gets it

I realize the innocence in John’s heart. He sees the world in a lens that my tainted eyes do not see. He is a child and doesn’t fully understand the differences in people, but I believe he comprehends more than I think. He has a unique sensitivity towards Danny that is convicting.

The truth is that “Danny’s” are everywhere. God has been really impressing upon my heart to be intentional about loving people who are different than me and who I wouldn’t naturally start up a conversation with or even hang out with. He is teaching me about compassion and mercy.

People, no matter their race, differences, or disabilities deserve to be loved because they are created in the image of God. And as a Christian, I’ve been called to love all people, especially the unlovable.

I have to admit that I struggle at times with elevating myself or judging someone based on external appearances. And I know that it’s not only shallow, but it’s sinful. I’ve been moved by the verse:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:42

This verse has not only challenged me when it comes to watching my judgmental thoughts towards people, but it has shown me that I have my own set of issues, habits, quirks, inconsistencies, disabilities and more. They might not be so obvious, but they still exist. Most of all, I’m learning about my own brokenness and God’s perfection.

Through a process, and I mean process, God is helping me to get the big, fat plank out of my own eye. Did I mention it’s big? He’s continuing to use people like Danny to teach me some big truths about the meaning of love.

The innocence and purity I get to see in John’s heart is what I need desperately and I’m willing to let God really mess with me so that I’ll truly love people for who they are. Plain and simple.

Has anyone stumbled upon your path that you need to love unconditionally? Do you have a “Danny” story?

* Name changed to Danny to protect privacy

Why brokenness is what I need

Well I want to thank you for your emails and comments of encouragement the past few weeks. I strive to be authentic on this blog, and sometimes it’s tempting to ignore the harsher realities of life and just write about well… prettier things!

But I want to be real with you.

The other day on my way home from a busy day at work, the words of an old worship song, Take My Life, randomly popped into my head:

Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I long for
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I need
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what You want for me

Those words shot straight to the core of me. I need to be broken before God in order to be used by him. I need to be broken so that any pride that exists can slowly fade away. As I sang those words aloud as cars passed by me, I knew God was showing me that this is where he wants me. 

To be broken over the things that break his heart. To be broken over my sin and how it affects others. To allow Christ to break me so that I can better reflect his image to the world around me. To be broken enough so that I realize life is just not all about me (something I really struggle with).

I then started to sing the Chorus:

Take my Heart and mold it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours (to Yours) oh, Lord

I’m so thankful that I can give to him my heart, mind, and will so that he can do what he pleases in my life, even if that means quite a bit of brokenness.

Marriage: why it’s hard work

Recently, Jeremiah and I have been going through 1 Peter together before bed. After I turned out the light last night, I asked him in frustration:

“Honey, why does marriage have to be such hard work?”

This question was birthed out of the petty arguments we had that morning on the way to church (an argument I started). He thought about it for a minute.

“Because I’m screwed up. And you’re screwed up.”

I laughed and couldn’t agree more.

“Do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard?” I asked, really really wanting to know.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Dead people.”

Well… next Thursday will be our four year anniversary (we’re so excited) and this is the year I think I’ve figured out why marriage is hard work. More than ever, I’ve realized that I’m broken, sinful, and selfish. I don’t always love God and if you had the supernatural ability to open the blinds to my house from the outside in, you wouldn’t always see a pretty woman.

You wouldn’t always see someone who’s allowing the Spirit to control my life, but it’s what I desire.

The Apostle Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-23)

God has given me everything I need for life and godliness and his Spirit is in me to empower me to love my husband and to love those closest to me. I am thankful that God is patient with me. He knows I’m in a process of sanctification. He’s come to set me free from my sin and brokenness- to embrace the gift of marriage as part of his will to conform me into his image.

He’s given me my best friend, lover, soul-mate and the only person in this world I want to be with as a gift to steward, love, respect, and serve well.

Marriage is really hard work because of me.

Sinful. Fallen. Human. But through Christ’s strength and empowerment, my marriage can be beautiful. It has been. It is. And it will be.

And I don’t have to wait until I’m dead for it to be that way either. And that is so encouraging.

So what about you… do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard work?

Why all human life is precious

3878374083_406d9a0872Recently, I was stopped at a green stoplight. Two policemen were blocking me from going through the light because of a homeless man off to the side of the road.

The police got out of their cars to approach the man. I had a feeling they might jerk him around or in anger, ask him what in the world he was doing.

But none of that happened. They spoke a few words. He listened. He spoke a few words. They were patient to hear him. Then they gently turned him around and put plastic cuffs around his wrists, and signaled me to go ahead.

Sitting comfortably in my car with a place to go home to, I thought about how much God loves that homeless guy. No matter where he had been or what he had done, God made him in his image and wants a relationship with him.

All human life is precious to God because he created us in his image to bring glory to him, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not- All human life that’s yet to be born, all life that is breathing right now on earth, all human life with disorders, disabilities, mental problems, diseases, brokenness, life that might appear useless… All of it matters to God and it should matter to us.

My heart is beginning to change when it comes to the homeless people I see on the streets of Dallas every day. While I’m not always able to meet their needs physically, especially as a young woman by myself, I think one of the issues in my heart is whether I have love and compassion for them. Do I realize they were created in the image of God? And that God is deeply concerned for them as he is for every person’s life?

I’m really thankful I was stopped at a green light that day.


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