Where to look when the grass is greener somewhere else

We moved to our small town three years ago this past summer and one of the features we noticed right away were the pristine lawns. Our neighbors take pride in a healthy and vibrant lawn. Every once in a while, I’m tempted to let the one brown spot that sneaks up in my lawn to drive me crazy, especially if no one else’s lawn is dried up near me. It sticks out! I’ll think:

Wow, their grass sure is greener. What’s wrong with ours?

How telling is this in our own lives when we just aren’t content with our current circumstances. The grass looks greener in someone else’s yard and we deceive ourselves into thinking God is neglecting us. Why do I have to struggle financially? Why won’t my children obey? Why does my friend’s husband know her needs better than mine? Why does everyone love their job but me?

Why do I have to wait so long for God’s will? Will he ever fulfill my personal goals and dreams? How come everyone’s social media feeds are blemish-free, when my real life is full of blots?

The list goes on, doesn’t it?

A longing for something better

Someone else’s grass often looks greener when we dwell on the ache in our own soul for something different… Better… Life-giving. And somehow their life has made our shortcomings more obvious! Envy is a sickness in the soul and God knows it robs us of joy, peace, satisfaction, and more.

When my son John was seven, we were playing one day and he told me: “Mom, everything you see is a memory.”

His words were so simple yet profound. If everything in front of us is eventually a memory, that prods me to truly savor it as best I can. If I don’t embrace the life God has given me I’ll miss out on so many blessings – yes even when they feel like heavy burdens. I’ll miss out on what the Lord longs to teach me through my current struggles. I’ll waste precious time and those minutes then transform into a mere memory – never to be experienced again in the flesh but only in my mind and heart.

Psalm 90:12 encourages us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. I’ve always loved this verse especially as I think about friends and loved ones who’ve gone to be with Jesus. Numbering our days means no day ever created by God is wasted. It’s always purposeful. No day, no matter how depressing or discouraging, is worthless in God’s sight. I think of a talk I listened to recently by Ann Voskamp and she said, “God takes our hideous ashes and makes holy art.”

Look at the days God has given you

Wisdom tells you not to covet the life and days of another person, but to treasure the days God has given you. No matter what your circumstances are right now, there’s a blessing to be found somewhere even if it’s just the breath in your lungs.

The truth is at some point, all of us long for something different and better. Our hearts aren’t at home here- they were made for heaven. We all experience the ache from time to time.

The truth is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Everyone gets brown spots and has bad days.

But when we trust in Jesus to give us the contentment that he alone can give, we embrace the life right in front of us. We trust him to do something beautiful and life-giving in our circumstances. Through a process, we learn to count our days and our blessings rather than another person’s. When our eyes are open and our hearts are listening, we’ll find miracles in the mess that we didn’t notice before.

Even when we’re tempted to think God didn’t get it right with us, we remember that He’s still good regardless of our fickle feelings. Step by step, we push back the lies that God doesn’t see us or hear our cries. We choose to believe the truth –  that Jesus cares, he knows, he’s working, he’s trustworthy and all our days are held in his nail-scarred hands.

Blessings to you and yours,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Article: 5 Words That Could Mean Life or Death to Your Marriage

Last week was an exciting week being able to share an article I wrote that was inspired by a photo I saw. It was a blessing to hear from readers on Start Marriage Right and KirkCameron.com

If you haven’t read it yet I hope you will be encouraged as well.

A few weeks ago, my friend Charity wrote on Facebook that a photo of her friend’s grandparents had made The Huffington Post. I clicked on the link and saw the breathtaking image of this husband and wife. I was instantly caught up in the beauty and tragedy of it.

I imagined what was going through the wife’s mind as she held the fragile hand of her dying husband. I imagined the memories they shared together—the joys and challenges. I imagined the birth of their first child and raising a family in their home. I pictured his strength and her beauty at a young age…

Continue Reading…

My One Word Resolution

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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?

Book Review & Giveaway – Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

booked

A while back, my former college professor and friend, Karen Swallow Prior, sent me a copy of her new book to read and review. She also gave me a copy to giveaway on my blog. I’m excited to finally share this with you as Karen is very dear to me.

Review – Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me 

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me author and beloved friend Karen Swallow Prior writes a beautiful and insightful memoir connecting her love for literature to her own life experiences and personal faith in God. From a very young age, books (and animals) have been an integral part of Karen’s life so it’s only natural that her first published book is titled Booked.

In each chapter, Karen skillfully weaves a great literature classic (Charlotte’s Web, Great Expectations, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Gulliver’s Travel and Jane Eyre to name a few) and relates the main and subtle themes of the novel to her life. Karen helps you see these classics through a biblical lens, ultimately leading you to a greater discovery of self and ultimately God.

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Whether you’re familiar with classic literature or not, you’ll fall in love with Karen’s humor, intellect, story-telling, authenticity, depth, and ability to “show” rather than tell a life story. It’s as if you were there with her in every emotion and experience. It’s difficult not to read on to the next chapter.

Having sat under Karen’s teaching for four years as a college student, Booked brought me back to my undergraduate years in Liberty University’s English Department where I fondly remember her contagious passion for the written word and for students to truly grasp just how much words have the power to change a life.

When you finish reading Booked you’ll be encouraged by the truth that God will meet you anywhere at anytime. As Karen writes, “He met me where I was. In the books.” And He reveals Himself in such a way for the purpose of redemption and life transformation.

priorAbout the author: Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She and her husband live on a 100-year old homestead in central Virginia with horses, dogs, and chickens. And lots of books.

** To enter to win a free copy of Booked, please leave a comment on this post. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on Monday. 

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.

Grace to An Imperfect Mom

225386_898597816168_55713931_42724790_2476659_nYesterday was just one of those days in motherhood. My three kiddos were extremely demanding, whiny, needy, disobedient, and hard to handle.

And I didn’t have much to give them. I have felt that way a lot lately being 29 weeks pregnant. I have felt like the imperfect mom a lot. But God always has a way of saving us when we feel like we’re at the end of our rope.

I remembered I had a bridesmaid dress fitting for my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding. So last minute I asked my wonderful neighbors Angela and Aimee if they could help watch the kids. They got back to me immediately, were over in just a few hours, and held down the fort. Within only 10 minutes of driving down the interstate alone, I felt relief and like I could actually be a good mom when I returned.

That day I had also been struggling with lonliness and body image- two things I don’t struggle with regularly but do every once in a while. When I got to Alfred Angelo and tried on my dress, I opened the fitting room door to show the lady who did my alterations. We talked about how this was my fourth pregnancy and how my belly would grow more in the next few weeks before the wedding. A mom with her daughter overheard us and yells over at me, “This is your fourth pregnancy?” Her jaw dropped.

I wasn’t sure what she was meaning in her tone of voice.

“Yes it is, do you think that’s crazy?” I asked.

“No, you look so good!” she responded. “It looks like this is your first! I can’t believe it!”

I laughed and said thank you. It was reassuring that maybe I didn’t look like a whale afterall. The drive on the way back home was so pleasant and when I walked in the door, Angela and Aimee surprised me and had cleaned the whole downstairs of my house! They picked up everything on the floor, folded 2 big baskets of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned my daughter’s nursery, picked up the entire playroom, organized books and crafts on the shelf, and more.

They did all of this while watching their kids and mine (a total of 6 little ones).

My husband had also gotten home and picked up some needed groceries and surprised me with a dozen red roses.

I was amazed at Angela and Aimee’s generosity and thoughtfulness. They served me with their time and mad cleaning skills and helped lift me up. And who doesn’t always appreciate flowers from their husband to know he really does care?

I had no idea all of that was coming my way, but God did. He reminded me that He was there and working and cared about how I felt and the neverending demands of raising and investing in your children.

I don’t know where you’re at in your motherhood journey but I’m guessing that if you’re like me, you need more time to yourself. You need more time with your husband. Maybe you struggle with yelling, anger, impatience, balancing work and being at home, depression, finding real community, or comparing yourself to other moms and friends.

Maybe you struggle with all the expectations that come with Mother’s Day approaching. The reality is that our kids don’t always show their love and obedience to us even on that day. And we might even get in an argument with our husband on the way to church. I’m pretty sure that happened to us last Mother’s Day.

I think it’s safe to say that as Mommas we need to let go of expectations, our failures, insecurities, and our dreams of perfection and allow God’s grace to shower us like a cool, refreshing rain after the scorching summer heat.

His love is there to draw upon whenever we need it and it is in Him where we find our full satisfaction and joy. He knows we are weak too. We fall short every day. That is why we need him. That is why we need the body of Christ and each other. We need his grace to change us from the inside out and to give us hope.

Well by the time bedtime came, I didn’t have to do anything except help put my kids to bed. I felt renewed to love them again and give them the attention they deserve. Thankfulness flooded my heart. I laid my head down and slept the best 8 hours I’ve slept in a long time.

A Letter to My Son, On Manhood, Mission, & Meaning in Life

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This letter was inspired by the sadness in my heart from the recent headlines regarding young men in our city and culture as a whole.

Dear John Samuel,

I consider my role as your Momma and the time I have on this earth to raise you a serious responsibility and privilege to which I will be held accountable to God.

Every day I get to spend with you reading books, playing in the yard, cuddling on the couch, nourishing your belly, going on adventures, meeting people, having conversations with you about Jesus, writing letters and numbers, playing soccer, answering your questions, listening to your fears and concerns, disciplining you and more is a gift to invest in your precious life.

When I look at you I don’t always see the handsome 4-year-old, brown eyed boy that you are, but I see the man you will be one day.

That vision puts a healthy fear inside my heart to love and nurture you well.

As your Momma, right alongside Daddy, I promise to teach you as best I know how what it means to honor and cherish the women in your life. To treat them with love, gentleness and respect. To practice self-control, integrity, and perseverance. To be a man of character, commitment, and discernment.

I will help you understand what it means to stand up when everyone else around you cowards. To be a servant leader whose life is marked by humility, honesty and love- not pride, position, and power. To be a man who is stable, responsible and teachable. To follow and obey God’s commands to value and treasure all human life because He is our Creator and the ultimate authority.

As you grow older, you’ll realize how difficult it is to do the right thing. This world and your flesh will tempt you to neglect God’s goodness and follow your own passions and lusts. Don’t give in to these lies. The wide road will trip you up and lead to danger, destruction or even death. Follow the narrow road where you’ll find joy, wholeness, meaning, peace and abundant life in Christ.

As your Momma, I know I’ll fail you at times and let you down because I’m not perfect. I struggle at times to do what is right. You already know that. But God is perfect and will never fail you. He is the one who will help you become a man who influences others and brings peace, joy, and life to everyone around him. Not chaos, sadness, and harm.

In God’s strength, I will do my best to help you understand the purpose God has for you here on earth. I’ll do my best to teach you that meaning in life is found in Christ. When you know Him personally, you will see that He heals brokenness, redeems the ugliest situations, raises the dead to life and transforms the hardest hearts.

arrows

3 arrows representing her 3 boys. Painting by my dear friend, Laura Short

I also believe that our home is the training ground for the mission you’ll be on one day. I believe that the discipline, love, security, and boundaries that happen in our home will greatly impact the man you’ll become. God has given you and your sisters (and brother on the way) as arrows for your Daddy and I to aim and shoot in the right direction.

One day, we’ll have to release you into battle where you’ll make your own decisions and choices. You’ll have the choice to put all that you learned about God’s word, life, and love into practice. And all Mommy and Daddy will be able to do is pray for you.

Until then, my precious child, allow the Lord to direct your steps. Follow His path and pursue holiness and righteousness. This world needs your voice. Your heart. Your life. Your leadership. Your God.

I love you and I’m cheering you on, son.

All of my love,

Momma

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court. – Psalm 127:3-5

New Article: I Love You, But How Do I Like You?

0035This week, I’m over at Start Marriage Right sharing some practical thoughts on loving your spouse for the long haul.

After my husband asked me out on our first date, we were inseparable. We couldn’t get enough of each other’s company. Our dating days were filled with joy, delight, anticipation, passion, and little conflict. But after we got married, into the newlywed years and beyond we started to grow familiar with each other… 

Read the rest on Start Marriage Right

Contributing to the Book, Take the Date Night Challenge by Greg & Erin Smalley

888243oLast week Focus on the Family contacted me and asked permission to publish part of my article, Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People, in their upcoming book Take the Date Night Challenge by Greg and Erin Smalley.

The book is based off the Focus on the Family event, “The Date Night Challenge.”

First, I’m super excited and grateful for this opportunity because I love contributing to good books. Second, I’m a huge fan of the Smalley’s and we have a lot of books on our shelf written by Gary Smalley. And third, this book is going to be a great read that will apply directly to our marriages. I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have really needed some ideas to freshen up our date nights. And we’ve actually been a little slack lately on making sure we’re going on date nights consistently.

I look forward to reading the different ideas and tools so that our date nights can be more creative and fun. It will release in a few months and I’ll most likely do a review and giveaway so stay tuned!

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