Four Spiritual Lessons Learned from My Daughter’s First Swim Meet

“But I don’t want to go!” My seven-year-old Rebekah screamed as I woke her up at the crack of dawn for her very first swim meet of the summer season. She hid under her covers in a ball.

“Let’s go.”  I said. “We’re going right now. Everyone’s waiting in the car.”

“I don’t want to. I don’t want to!”

I pulled off her purple and white floral sheets and looked into her blue/green eyes. “Rebekah, you’ve practiced. You’re ready for this. Your coach Brenda says you’re ready too. Will you trust us?”

“But what if I can’t swim the whole lap? The water is going to be cold. No. I’m not doing it!”

After lots of dialogue and struggle, we drove to the meet. She remained nervous and anxious when we arrived and refused to let me help her put her cap on. I grew unsure of what we committed to. Will she back out of racing because she’s too scared?

In no time, my friend Trisha scooped Bekah up in her arms and carried her to the tent where she’d wait for her heat to be called. Coach Brenda let Rebekah be her “helper” and she coached her on what it would be like on the starting block. She showed her exactly what to do.

After “Swimmer’s, take your mark!” and the buzzer went off she jumped into the water and swam the 25 Freestyle. She didn’t stop at all and had a smile on her face at the end. I felt relieved and was so proud of her for overcoming her fears.

She swam her backstroke and relay races with no complaints. Getting a free sugary snow cone from winning a heat helped too. This new experience taught me a whole lot about our faith in Jesus- more than I even realized. Here are a few lessons:

1. We must be willing to risk something. 

Signing my child up for swim league took a risk on my part. What if she doesn’t like it? What if she can’t do the hard work? What if, what if, what if… At some point, we just had to commit, and I needed cooperation from her. Rebekah had to risk diving into unchartered territory of the unknown.

When we put our trust in Jesus, we don’t always know what he will ask of us. Will he ask me to give up an addiction, lifestyle, or way of living? Will he ask me to step out of my comfort zone and love on someone different than me? Will I have to suffer or struggle for a season of my life? Whatever Jesus calls us to do, we have to embrace risk and not run from it in fear. If we’re not risking something, we’re not fully living.

2. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others.

I found myself looking at the seasoned swimmers. I’d been a swimmer my whole life and knew Rebekah would enjoy it too, but I had to remember this was her first meet. Butterflies were in her stomach, there were lots of people cheering on the bleachers, and anything new can bring anxiety. She had to swim her race – not anyone else’s. And thankfully a few seasoned moms shared with me their own stories of their kids at one point needing a barf bag before races! It made me feel better that we weren’t necessarily unique.

In our faith, we’re all on different journeys. We struggle to various degrees. Our spiritual gifting and disciplines are all unique and that’s how God intended it to be. We need to be content with where we’re at and not wish we were in another person’s lane. God has us right where he wants us and is growing us in his timing.

3. We need each other.

Before my daughter’s first race, there was only so much I could do as her mom to encourage her heart to be strong. It was because of the help of my friends and her coach (and prayer!) that ultimately gave her the courage to work through her fears.

In our faith, we’re crazy to think we can walk this life without anyone by our side. On the days we think we’re crazy for following this man Jesus, we need to know that we’re not, in fact, lunatics. God has given us the gift of each other to remind us of his goodness and love and that we’re placing our faith in the person of Jesus. He is with us. He uses others to show us his grace in amazing ways. There’s such a beauty in leaning on others for help and strength. It’s up to us to accept that support.

4. We’re racing to win the prize.

Just as swimmers race to win or beat their previous time, in our faith we’re called to win the prize. Throughout scripture the Apostle Paul talks about the need for self-discipline. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he says to run the race of faith in such a way to win the prize. He says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Following Jesus and placing our faith in him requires strict training – yes, this is contrary to popular theology today. We aren’t running this race of faith aimlessly, to always “feel good” or with an apathetic attitude. We have a goal to share the gospel with others and to live it out until the Lord takes us home to be with him forever. We’re racing to win the prize. The race is final, not a warm-up before the real thing. Our calling as believers is indeed a high calling and we’re not racing for a temporary crown, but an imperishable crown. And our final goal is Jesus himself.

A few days after the swim meet, Rebekah received her first medal. “Ohhh!” she said as I handed it to her. She put it around her neck and smiled at it. She now understood that her hard work in all those practices resulted in something.

The initial risk was now a reward to behold.

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

Subscribe to SamanthaKrieger.com & receive weekly encouragement:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

One Surprising Word in 12 Years of Marriage

In our early years of marriage, Jeremiah and I served in an apartment ministry where we built relationships with residents and provided meals once a week in order to build community retention. One evening when we were hosting one of our largest meals for well over 100 residents, we got in a fight while he was making his way into the room with dishes and I was working in the kitchen. My blood boiled inside and I launched a wheat dinner roll at his face.

Jeremiah yelled. I yelled, and the incident got really heated before it got any better. We both felt blindsided with pride, and friends were arriving soon. Nothing like two Christians loving each other unconditionally!

The arguments and quarrels we got into our first few years of marriage were pretty silly and petty, but so revealing of our selfish sinful natures as two young lovers. And make no mistake, my sinful nature is still alive and well just as it was then, but with time I feel like something has changed.

I’ve grown to appreciate the man I married for who he is, not who I want him to be or who I think he should be. I’m slowly learning selflessness instead of being self-serving. Especially after a traumatic shooting accident last year at a nearby rifle range where my husband’s life was almost taken, I’m learning to trust God in his sovereign plans for us. Through all this, the word JOY comes to my mind after crossing our 12 year mark on December 17, 2017. According to Theopedia.com,

Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.

It’s amazing that in the trenches of pain, struggle, and challenges of marriage that God can still produce our character and shape us into who he longs for us to be and that if we’d just hold on a little longer our pain can actually birth in us a contagious joy. Joy that isn’t fleeting and temporary like butterflies-in-my-stomach happiness, but is rooted and grounded in the biblical and sacrificial love of the Gospel.

The power of the Gospel

Over time I’ve become even more aware of the areas in my life where I fall short. I’ve come to understand my own weaknesses. As my failures have shown through the years, my experience of God’s grace has grown with equal measure. Through Jesus I have experienced forgiveness. In his shed blood, I have acceptance. He tells me I am worthy when I feel worthless. As he does this for me, he also empowers me to share this gift with my husband. My husband shares it with me. God turns isolation and separation from our brokenness into the joy of redemption and restoration.

I appreciate and respect my husband more than I ever have and it’s all by grace. The love I have for him is much deeper and richer than it ever was. Marriage to him gives me great joy. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that he loves me in spite of the “messy me” stained by sin, baggage, past hurts, and crazy hormones. The other day I was in a cranky mood but he kept wanting me to relax and watch our favorite series. I texted from upstairs while he was on the couch downstairs:

Do you still want me even though I’ve been mean?

Of course. I love you. Come down.

How humbling. It blows my mind that he sees every part of me and still desires me. It is how Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her not because of any good thing she had to offer but purely out of unconditional love and acceptance rooted in God’s character.

Joy has birthed from twelve years of marriage through confessing our sins to one another, doing the hard work of communicating, learning to let go expectations, prioritizing sexual intimacy (yes!), allowing others into our relationship to give us counsel and biblical insight, learning to cherish one another, forgiving faults daily, putting our relationship above the kids, weathering trials together and not against each other, and above all, allowing Christ to inform and direct our relationship.

Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on how to have a thriving marriage, but it’s something that doesn’t come immediately like cooking chicken in your insta-pot. You have to give it lots of time and patience to work– more like a crock pot! You have to be willing to patiently strive for the peace, love, and contentment you desperately desire.

The final (& surprising) word on joy:

If our goal is to first please Jesus and glorify him as best we can in our marriages,  joy is what pushes us to endure the challenges we will face:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  – Hebrews 12:2

Thankfully, after the flying dinner roll episode in our apartment community, Jeremiah and I were able to cool down, reconcile, and remember why we were there – to serve others. We became a team again. In spite of the painful, hard work, I’ll always remember that special season in our journey. And I’m thankful for the real truths that it reminds us of today.


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. Through personal stories and scripture, she is passionate about helping women live out their faith in real life. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. 

 

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to SamanthaKrieger.com & receive weekly encouragement:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

Why You Should Find Time to do Absolutely Nothing This Christmas

A few days ago, I came home and collapsed on our brown leather couch. I just sat there– didn’t even stare at my phone for the latest news, cute photos of friends’ kids, or even check our bank account. I just rested my mind and body. Prior to that day, I organized a cookie exchange and fellowship for the women in our church, attended a “muffins with mom” at my daughter’s preschool, met several writing deadlines, labeled and addressed Christmas cards, and helped my husband with several work projects. Not to mention being up at night with our kids wetting their beds from the hot chocolate they drank at our town’s parade. Needless to say, I was spent.

That sacred time on the couch being absolutely useless gave me time to think and reflect on life and what was going on around me. I began to actually hear from the Lord and to understand what my soul was craving. It didn’t need the peppermint chocolate Hershey’s kisses in the mason jar next to me or the better-get-it-now Amazon deal, but my heart needed sweet time with Jesus in prayer and His word. My soul was craving what we all have inside us- a hole that can only be filled by God alone. No matter how much we try to satisfy it with what the world or our flesh has to offer, we’ll still be left wanting more. He is the only path to true, lasting, infinite peace and joy.

Honestly, I want to do…

… Continue Reading the rest of this post over on Kirk Cameron’s website TheCourage

What I Want My Daughters to Know About Beauty & Worth

IMG_3481_blog

“Momma, I need some lips,” my 3 1/2 year old daughter Hannah exclaims while we are shopping the aisles at our grocery store. “Lips” is our word for lipstick. She heads over to the makeup section and grabs a lipstick off the shelf.

“I need this one,” she says. I smile as she chooses the bright red colored one, like Taylor Swift’s choice lipstick color.

I could use that color, I think to myself knowing that I will end up using it more than Hannah will. I’ve always had a lipstick-lip gloss obsession.

What Really Makes You Beautiful

Now that I’m a mom of four – two that are girls – who are looking up to me as I put on my makeup in the mirror each morning, I’m realizing the great responsibility I have in raising them to understand what really makes us beautiful and worthy as women. Is it the bronze powdered blush, the lengthy eyelashes, the shiny lip gloss, the wavy hair, and flattering outfits? Is it being, trim, fit, fashionable, and attractive?

In a culture that is obsessed with image, how do I communicate to my girls that beauty is only skin deep as the cliche goes? I remember the feelings I had in middle school seeing the magazine covers and trying to measure up to a standard of beauty, only to fail. I remember wanting all the clothes that were in style – staring into the mirror and wondering if I looked anything like the gorgeous, airbrushed model staring back at me.

Many times when I tell our girls they are pretty, I will follow up and say, “You’re beautiful, but did you know what? Your heart is even more beautiful and what’s inside is what matters most.”

IMG_3457

I’m not sure if they’re getting it yet – they’re young – but I am praying these truths will sink in as they grow older. I want them to know that they are beautiful masterpieces in God’s sight and that they don’t need to chase the world’s affirmation for that or a boy’s approval. They don’t have to compare to an instagram feed, another person’s selfie, or the magazines at the checkout counter. They don’t have to look for love in all the wrong places because they are already deeply loved and accepted by their heavenly Father.

Heart, Soul, & Spirit

I want my daughters to know that the hidden person of the heart is where imperishable beauty is found. The beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is what we should desire most (rather than how the world is telling us to act or be). It is what is most precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4). I love that Scripture is not murky in this area but is crystal clear that we’re to work diligently on our hearts and inward beauty regarding:

  • Our character & values
  • Our attitudes
  • Our thought-life
  • What we allow to consume & influence us
  • What directs & shapes our heart
  • Our strength in times of testing/adversity
  • The core of our very soul

This doesn’t mean we don’t take good care of ourselves, wear nice clothes, and desire to look acceptable and even beautiful. I think we all desire and aim for that. I strive to take good care of myself for my husband and children, family, and friends. I love makeup, jewelry, and a nice tan. The problem is when it’s an obsession that consumes me and when I put more work into my outward appearance rather than my heart, then I need to change and consider where I’m placing my identity and value.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Prov. 31:30

IMG_2861

Jesus Makes You Radiant

I’ve certainly had mornings where I was all dressed up and ready to go, but my heart was far from the Lord. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks and my words weren’t pretty. My inner beauty was lacking and my children and husband saw my sour attitude and felt it. I’ve told my husband many times, “I need to get in the Word before I start this day. I need to say Good Morning, Lord, before I say Good Morning to anything else!”

We’ve all encountered women at some point in our lives who were drop-dead gorgeous, but nasty and ugly in character and attitude. We’ve also known women who might not be considered pretty by the world’s standards, but their heart, character, and happy smile made them so, so incredibly beautiful. Their inward joy radiates into the lives of others.

If there’s anything I really want my daughters to grasp, it is that they don’t have to be on a constant chase, like I was so often growing up. Even raised in a loving, Christian home, I didn’t always rest in the truth that love was right there with me and it was in Jesus – the author of love and absolute perfection. I want my daughters to know that it is Christ in us, who ultimately makes us radiant as his spirit is lived out in our lives. It is in Christ where we find all the fullness of love, acceptance, worth, joy, and hope.

As women, we are made in his image. Created by him no matter what shape, size, and features he has given us. We are his. Working on the inner beauty of our heart is worth every effort, no matter how difficult our days may be and even when our pride says not to do the hard work of focusing on our inner person.

Make no mistake, the inward beauty of your heart will eventually spill out into the lives of other people and it will be contagious.

You are seen. You are Known. You are Loved.

Blessings,

Samantha

When There are No Words, but Tears and Hope {Reflections on the Life of Cassidy Hale}

IMG_9223

Last Wednesday, I had just arrived at church for a prayer meeting when I heard that a serious accident happened just a minute away on County Road 41. It was a fatality.

My heart raced as I learned more about the family and their daughter, Cassidy Hale, who had just been hit by a pick-up truck while on a walk with a friend. She was only 15 1/2 years old. I had never met this beautiful family but immediately I began tearing up as we prayed for them. I couldn’t imagine the pain they were experiencing. One of our church members Roger told me had just seen her just a little bit ago.

My mind and heart immediately reflected back to when I was a freshman in high school in North Carolina and lost two classmates from a car accident weeks before school was about to let out for the summer. The same ache I had for them struck me thinking about Cassidy and her family. I couldn’t stop thinking and praying for them all week.

When I woke up yesterday, a dense fog hovered over our town. My heart had been anxious for this day. It was the day of Cassidy’s funeral. I got showered, the kids all dressed, and dropped them off to my neighbor Jill’s (my brave friend willing to take on a lot of kids!). My husband was there early among other pastors to help where needed.

As I parked and made my way into our town’s event center where the funeral was being held, I saw parents and students supporting one another, huddled in circles and crying on each other’s shoulders. They walked by the table to see Cassidy’s artwork and baby photos up until she was a teenager.

IMG_0522I then saw her casket over to the left. After signing the guestbook, I made my way over and saw her beautiful lifeless body. The moment felt surreal as if I was in a dream and my heart couldn’t keep up with what my eyes were seeing. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at her picture frame on top of the casket.

As I sat down, Christian hymns were played on the piano while people were being seated. “All in All,” is the one that hit me the most. As the funeral began, a family member read a piece that Cassidy’s dad wrote about her love for superheroes, overcoming the daily grind of life, and always putting a smile on people’s faces. The pastor spoke about her life and how she was a light, a ray of sunshine to all who knew her. She knew Jesus and was now with him and would want us to know how much He too, loves us. Many came up for prayer after the invitation and showed love and support to her family. About 700 people filled the room.

IMG_1353I never knew Cassidy, as we’ve only lived here a few months, but her life and this whole tragedy has impacted me deeply. Many people would say her life was cut short. And that is true, but she lived a full life, evidence from those who knew her best. In the short amount of time she lived, her impact will reach farther and wider than most people. Because of her life, others came to know the Lord this week. Because of her life, others were encouraged to shine their light brighter too.

It is so difficult to understand the why’s. I have found myself rethinking the accident scene and how it happened and why. I have driven by it a few times. There are no words to say about her sweet young life being cut so short and the pain and suffering her mom and dad and sister are bearing. It is an unimaginable grief.

While at the graveyard, I broke down in tears watching Cassidy’s mom, dad, and sister set their roses on top of her casket. As a mother to four children, my heart ached most for her mom as I watched the pain she was enduring for her first born child. Her precious daughter that she raised and loved and sacrificed for. It was an image forever seared in my mind that I will never forget.

The hope in the midst of such a heartbreaking tragedy is that this earth is not our home. This earth and everything in it will pass away. We have all been given a dash. Cassidy’s was from March 14, 2000 – September 16, 2015. God has an appointed time for me and you. We must be ready for that time because we never know when it will be.

Do you know Jesus? Not just know of him, but do you know him intimately? Do you have a personal relationship with him and are confident that when you die you will meet him face to face and will have to give an account of your life spent on earth? Do you know how crazy in love he is with you, so much that he suffered and died on a cross to save you from your sins? Are you ready to accept his free gift of salvation and choose him as your Savior?

These are the questions Cassidy would want us to confidently answer.

In reflecting on this tragedy and Cassidy’s life, I’ve also seen that there is so much hope and light seen when a community comes together and genuinely supports each other. We hear the news immediately. We pray on the spot. We show love through serving. No matter how well we know the person, we mourn together. It is an ache that does not go away.

IMG_1349There is hope when we know that one day God is going to redeem all that has been lost from us. There is hope because we know The story isn’t over. There is hope that one day Jesus is going to wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will indeed be no more suffering. For those who know Jesus and knew Cassidy, there will one day be rejoicing in heaven together.

After the fog lifted off our little town the day of her funeral, the sun peered through the clouds and there was a gentle breeze. It was as if God was letting us see the light to remind us of the brilliant sunshine that Cassidy was to so many people in our town. And to also remind us that it is only through that we will find everlasting life.

You are thought of constantly and remembered, Cassidy Hale. You are in my prayers Jackie, Randy, and Tayler.

My One Word Resolution

track

Thanks to the inspiration from MyOneWord.org, I’m losing the long list of resolutions this year and choosing just one word as a theme for the year.

D I S C I P L I N E

It’s the word that keeps coming to my mind, even though it’s not a popular one.

To take it a little deeper, I desire more discipline in…

speaking less and listening more

cultivating deeper relationships

relying less on caffeine

journaling about everyday life

affirming and uplifting my husband

not comparing myself to others

knowing Scripture

sitting on the floor with my children

wisely/intentionally stewarding the gifts and resources God has entrusted to me

putting letters in the mail

my personal time with Jesus

realistically working off baby weight

sharing stories of God’s love and grace

joyfully serving my husband and children

consuming less and creating more

giving my anxiety struggles to the Lord

controlling my emotions

being bold in sharing my faith

laughing more and stressing less

… and more as I continue to reflect on the theme of discipline in 2014.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Have you made any resolutions or considered choosing one word you’d like to focus on?

One Fact in Motherhood: Some Days Everything Falls Apart

1382804_10101105680245278_1366800723_n

my baby boy (2 mos)

{written last night}

Today was a circus.

The 5 year old, almost 3 year old, 1 year old, and baby were all cranky from the moment their toes hit the floor. Okay so not the baby’s toes exactly. But anyway, constant noise, screams, and whines echoed through the walls all day long. The 5 year old lied three times and threw some verbal punches at his sister. Careless words I’d never heard before. Pinching, hitting, crying, and the like. No one napped on schedule like they usually do.

We converted the almost 3 year old’s crib into her big girl bed and what was supposed to be a joyous occasion was quite interesting. Jeremiah had spent most of the day getting a new mattress and box spring up north and putting it all together when he got home. Our precious little girl seemed thankful and excited for a short time but ended up throwing fits and calling Daddy and Mommy names.

While all that was happening, the 5 year old was out playing wonderfully with the 1 year old and then he decides to push her in the one spot of the yard with mud. Her face and arms are caked with mud. More discipline came after that and then I scrubbed her off in the tub. Meanwhile, the 2 month old baby is fussy and needing all my attention and dinner needs to be served next, but the chicken chili is too hot and the older kids are complaining they don’t like it. (They liked it a few months ago.)

My head is spinning and I feel like I’m going to pass out from being up 3 times the night before. It’s all I can do to focus on the next task.

And then Daddy and Mommy have about had it with all the noise and fuss and start getting on each other and World War III (like the Sara Groves song) is about to erupt in the kitchen. Oh wait, it sort of already did amongst the dishes and debris. All little eyes are staring us down.

So Mommy runs upstairs to escape the chaos and have a good cry because let’s be honest, if that didn’t happen, all you know what would have broke out because when Mama’s not happy, nobody is. I didn’t want to hear the word “mommy” one more time.

Yes, this is reality some days. Thank goodness days like today aren’t this bad. I wish it was prettier. I wish I could say I got through the day because I thought about how I would miss this when they’re teenagers or that I got through the day because of the blessings and joys of being a mom regardless of the challenges. Or that it goes by so fast and I need to enjoy it.

But it wasn’t like that today.

Nope.

It was survival mode from the minute my feet hit the floor. I barely had time for a shower. No time for makeup. My husband and I have barely looked each other in the eyes today and it was his day off.

And right now, I’m so glad they’re all in bed and I can breathe and hear my fingers hit the keyboard as I write this.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, Jeremiah,” I said to my husband a few minutes ago.

He gets it because he’s right with me through it all. The emotions, physical exhaustion, the spiritual battles, the sleep deprivation, the demands… There is so much that goes into loving and raising our children that we had no clue about before kids.

And I think to myself, is this what we signed up for? Holy cow. Four kids all still so young. God, you really think I can handle this?

After bellies are full, thing simmer down, and I’m able to think I ask my husband for forgiveness and we reconcile. I ask my older kids for forgiveness and we hug and talk about the conflict.

And that’s when the only thing that comes to mind is grace and God’s goodness. That’s all I’m left with at the end of the day. When all the happenings in my home are squeezing the life out of me and it’s all I can do to hold back tears from being so overwhelmed, God’s still voice says:

Anyone in these circumstances would struggle, Samantha.

It’s not going to be easy.

This is your sanctification.

But, I’ve got you.

Motherhood is your mission.

There is purpose in this.

I’m with you.

I’ll help you hold on.

Everyone’s going to survive.

I will use this for good.

I love you.

Even in times of brokenness, chaos, feelings of failure, shame and absolute exhaustion, His arms are open wide to carry the burden for me.

And I am so thankful for that tonight.

He is who I will cling to when my head hits the pillow. It is He who I will ask to help me better love my children the next day. It is He who I will trust to bring new mercies and change me in the beautiful, messy, joyful, necessary, difficult, rewarding, purposeful work of motherhood.

7 Years of Marriage, Newtown & Faith for the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to love louder and unashamedly share the gospel.

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

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

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

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

To Marvel and Mend This Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I am reminded again of why Jesus came…

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

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

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

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

Switch to desktop version