Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People

My husband, Jeremiah, and I always had a desire for our marriage to make a  difference in the lives of others. We knew that God brought us together for a greater purpose beyond “us.”

Early in our marriage we had the opportunity to serve in an apartment ministry together. Our responsibilities were to facilitate community among residents, build relationships, host dinners and events, and share the love of Christ. We invested in our residents for two years and most of them were non-Christians…

Continue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com… I’d love to hear your thoughts over there!

Why You Need Others to Speak Truth Into Your Life

Recently, I tried on some black pants to go with my new black glittery TOMS that I got for my birthday. I looked in the mirror and felt pretty good about the pants.

I opened the dressing room door and took a good look in the big mirror. I asked the college-aged girl a few feet in front of me if she would give me her honest opinion about my pants. She stared at them for a while and said:

“I don’t LOVE them. You know, you and me, we kind of have short legs, and I don’t know. I don’t LOVE them.”

I was a little surprised by her response but took in what she was saying.

“Okay, yeah, thanks for being honest. I really appreciate it.”

She nodded her head and went back into her dressing room. My pride was a little crushed but I loved her honesty.

The black pants I had on were skinny jeans and I happened to have several pairs in my closet that I wear regularly. I went back into my dressing room and took a harder look in the mirror. I discovered that the black pants really weren’t flattering on me. And none of the skinny jeans I’d owned fit that t.i.g.h.t.!

The college girl was right after all.

The more I live my life, the more grateful I am to have others who will tell me not just what I want to hear, but who will tell me the truth in love. Even if it stings a little. Okay, a lot.

Because when we know the Truth, it guides us closer to healing.

Let me share a story.

One of my closest friends, Julia, and her husband Jay, were over for dinner at our place one night several years ago. We were laughing and having a good time. But in the course of our time together, at one point, my actions and tone of voice were very disrespectful to my husband Jeremiah.

The evening carried on and before Jay and Julia were about to leave, Julia approached me one on one and said she noticed my behavior and how it made Jeremiah look bad. In a loving, caring way, she helped open my eyes to my sin.

It hurt deeply to hear her words. I felt exposed and it was humbling. But I was able to tell her flat out that I struggled with disrespect and not knowing how to communicate my frustrations with my husband.

Julia encouraged me to talk to Jeremiah and really work on that area in my life. I asked her to hold me accountable. I knew how serious it was to find healing from this sin in my marriage.

Her willingness to speak truth into my life brought me closer to grappling with my sin and fighting it.

Over the years, I often remember that life-changing evening and as a wonderful friend, Julia has consistently held me accountable and I appreciate how open our relationship is. While I’m still imperfect at times, I’ve been able to see my sin clearer and make the necessary changes to build up our marriage, instead of tearing it down.

Indeed, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is our ultimate healer, but by His grace He chooses to use other people in our life to help fashion us more into his image.

Are you speaking the truth to those you love? Are you allowing them to tell you the truth? Maybe you have a story of your own…

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Prov. 27:17


The Stuff That Satisfies (Hint: It’s Not Stuff)

photo: G&B's Art Gallery

Downtown Dallas sits proudly right outside our window. Every morning, I look forward to opening the blinds and watching the sun rise over the skyscrapers. We’re among a few of our friends who have a stunning view in seminary housing. We feel pretty blessed to live in an apartment that people typically pay big bucks for.

But don’t be fooled. On a tight seminary budget we aren’t rolling in the dough by any means!

And that’s just where my heart often longs for more especially since the discipline of being frugal can get old. While all my needs are being met in addition to my wants and then some, the sinful part of me believes that stuff will satisfy my deepest longings. And I’m not just talking about the “big” stuff. The silly, little stuff too.

God desires to bless me and to give me good things but it’s the coveting, obsession, mismanaging, greed, lack of contentment and making comparisons that are like poison to the soul.

True life and contentment can only be found in a person and that person is Jesus. Life cannot be found in material possessions or gadgets or other goodies. I’ve looked and I just can’t seem to find it. Life just doesn’t exist there.

I don’t need to worry about the stuff that will fill up my life on a daily basis either. As always, Jesus has a way of gently shooting straight to the core:

Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, yet they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! – Luke 12:24

Will God take care of me and even give me my deepest desires? Certainly. They might look different than what I thought but he promises to provide for me. And a raven… A bird that isn’t attractive or special… God has his eye on and cares for.

God is much more concerned about the details of my life than a raven.

He knows about the stuff I long, but he wants me to learn to lean on Him before I try to put my trust in things that have the potential to greatly disappoint and that aren’t eternal.

Even though our budget might not look like anyone else’s right now, the truth is that I have more than I could ever imagine materially and spiritually. Above all, I have Jesus, my ultimate joy and satisfaction in life. And He is enough.

Do you ever long for more stuff? Is there anything stealing your satisfaction in Christ?

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

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, I prayed. It’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 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 has 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.

Remembering Scott McCreedy: Friend & Faithful Reader

Scott McCreedy left a mark on so many lives with his smile, genuine spirit, and servant’s heart. I met Scott in the 6th grade at Southwest Middle School in High Point, NC.

I remember taking classes with Scott, that he was a gifted soccer player, was one of the first guys in our class to grow facial hair, and that everyone liked Scott (especially the girls!).

I graduated from high school with him in 2000. From 2000-2009, I didn’t know Scott but when we reconnected on Facebook a few years ago, I found out he had served our country in the Navy as a rescue swimmer and I was so proud of him.

In July 2009, he sent a Facebook message to me out of the blue that I had saved. Here’s what it said:

Thanks.

Hey Samantha,

I just wanted to let you know that I am really enjoying reading your Blogs… I am going through a tough transition in my life and your thoughts/words are really helpful… thanks and god bless…. keep reaching out, there are alot out there who need it.

Best for you and your family,

Scott

I didn’t know Scott was reading my blog and ironically, I was going through a time where I wanted to quit blogging. His note encouraged me to keep pressing on and that God was speaking to his heart. Just a few weeks ago, he “liked” a new Facebook page I had created and a quote I posted by A.W. Tozer. I was very appreciative of his continued support and encouragement with my writing.

That was the last I really “heard” from him and yesterday I found out the shocking news that he had taken his life. I had trouble sleeping last night and my heart just breaks again today. My husband has been helping me process it all.

Scott’s father wrote a very thoughtful post on Facebook explaining Scott’s struggle with depression and his request that we pray for God’s mercy and love. I appreciated that his father took the time to share his heart. It helped bring peace to my heart.

Many people I know battle with depression, anxiety, and hopelessness on a daily basis. I have dealt with some anxiety and depression (postpartum) after having my second child. No one ever fully knows a person’s situation or struggle and the darkness they feel. I think it’s important to be compassionate and not judgmental towards those who are experiencing such inner turmoil and pain.

I am thankful that on the cross, Jesus crushed sin and death once and for all and that today, our ultimate hope is in Him. The historical resurrection of Christ is our present hope that Jesus will fulfill his promises in the future when he will heal the hurting hearts and bring life to those who love and trust in Him.

I believe that Scott is with His Savior and that all his tears and pain have been wiped away. My heart is sad because his life has been cut short, but I’m looking forward to when we will all experience a fullness and an abundance to life that none of us have yet seen or known.

We love you Scott and you will be missed greatly.

** Additional resources if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one:

Coping with Death and Grief- Focus on the Family article

What Happens When You Die? John Piper Audio Sermon and article

A Christian Perspective on Grief– audio

When You Long for Transformation

Sometimes I wonder why God chooses to use me. While I follow Christ and aim to surrender my life to Him daily, I still struggle at times with pride, control, selfishness, anger, anxiety, fear, and more.

I often fear sharing my story and who God is to others because well, I don’t feel worthy because of my struggles. I try to carry unnecessary burdens and I’ve told God a few times:

“I’m so weak! Why do you need me anyway, God?”

In her book, Faith That Does Not Falter, Elisabeth Elliot says:

Jesus does not by any means disregard the sort of person we are when He calls us to do His will. He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. He knows the weaknesses and strengths, the tastes and fears and prejudices and ignorance and experience of each of us. What He wants to make of us, if we are willing to be made over, is sure to bear a relationship to what we are when we first come to Him. It is within His power to transform. It is for us to submit to the transformation.

I feel so far from what I desire to be, but I’m so encouraged that if I’m willing to be transformed, God is more than ready to do His work through me. He can transform the anger and pride and anxiety into gentleness, humility, and trust. He can do so much more than what I ask. He already knows what I can’t even express.

He knows my weaknesses and still loves me. He believes I’m worthy because of his Son. He lifts the heavy burdens off my back.

So today, I believe the greatest stumbling block to me living a full, abundant, Christ-exalting life is myself. And nothing else. My prayer is that God would help me give up the rights to myself.

And no matter what it takes, I submit to the transformation.

What areas in your life need real transformation?

What if Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops


Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I heard the lyrics to this song “Blessings” by Laura Story, writer of the worship hit “Indescribable,” for the first time on my way home the other day and it was as if the world stopped and God spoke straight into my heart.

I often pray for comfort, peace, blessing, and for suffering to cease but as I reflect on my life, it’s been the trials and struggles that have humbled me, shaped who I am today, and drawn me closer to Jesus. When I think of “raindrops” that were blessings in disguise, I think of just a few:

  • Dating relationships that never worked out… the unbelievable blessing in God giving me Jeremiah
  • My dad’s two surgeries on a brain tumor… teaching me reliance on the Lord and how to pray
  • Jeremiah’s job loss 3 months into our marriage… leading us to a better place geographically, emotionally and spiritually as newlyweds
  • Broken sleep, postpartum symptoms, and the daily sacrifices as a mother… so I can learn to die to myself and help other moms who also struggle
  • Dealing and wrestling through my hurts, habits, and hangups… so that God can continue to heal the sinful parts in me so I can best glorify him as a wife and mother
  • The excruciating pain, tears and suffering in having two natural births… and the reward of staring into the eyes and holding my precious children

The difficulties in life have also taught me and will continue to teach me how to serve and have compassion on other people because you never fully understand the shoes of another person. Above all, they have taught me to continue to hope for something more.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ]

Read the story behind the song

Life in the Formative Years

John

The formative years. I’ve been told they are the most critical years in a child’s life and I’m quickly learning that they are tough.

Time-outs, spankings, constantly on the go, changing diapers, saying “no”, reading books, cuddling throughout the day, praying for friends at bed-time, learning numbers and the alphabet, potty training, playing trains and trucks, filling up sippy cups, making meals right on the clock, learning new words, encouraging his right choices, watching Veggie Tales and Thomas together, helping him learn from wrong choices, steering him away from danger, playing horsy, singing songs about Jesus, playing with friends, wiping off mud and cleaning up crumbs…

This is a little glimpse of life with my two year old.

Teething, cooing, smiling, laughing, playing peek-a-boo, picking up toys, crawling attempts, feedings, napping, crying, changing more diapers, rolling on her back, cleaning up spit-up and blow-outs, talking and smiling into her big blue eyes, holding her tightly, kissing her cheeks all day long, letting her know I am there, taking naps in the big bed together, telling her how gorgeous and sweet she is, watching her admire Daddy and Mommy and her big brother…

This is a little glimpse of life with my 5 month old.

I confess that I am no super mom. In fact, I’ve learned even more about my depravity as a sinful human being. But on the days that have been so hard, I often go to sleep realizing how desperate I am for God’s help. Motherhood has shown me this dependance. And on the days I wish the two’s would just be done, I remember that it all happens in a blink.

That is the wisdom I’ve been told. And it really is flying by.

God gives me each day to glorify Him by investing in my children. I won’t get these days back and I will most likely look back on them one day and miss them tremendously.

The great investment that’s being poured into their lives is worth more than money can buy. They are the future. They will lead us one day and their eternal destiny has much to do with how I will choose to invest right now.

God, I pray for continued strength in these formative years and that the hard work now will be seen in years to come. Forgive me when I have failed. I pray I will cherish my children to the fullest, remembering that when I am weak, I can rest in You.


Rebekah

What You Really Have is Him

As I dragged myself out of bed onto the floor to respond to the cries of my newborn, I knew this particular day would be hard. The morning hours passed by and she continued to fuss and fuss and fuss and my toddler was at my ankles, whining constantly. I felt like being mean because I was so sleep deprived. And my husband was the first to hear all my complaints and how I wish I could hire out a Mommy for the day or go into work for him.

How am I supposed to get through another day? I asked God. How am I supposed to be the godly person I want to be when I’m absolutely spent?

And that’s when His gentle, quiet voice whispered: I am with you. And I started remembering that…

When we are weary and can’t move on, that is when God says He will give us strength and lift up our heads.

When we want to throw in the towel, that is when God wraps us in his steadfast love and renews us.

When we do not feel his presence, that is when God reminds us of the truth that He is here.

Because it is in the times where we feel like we are struggling to survive in a sun-scorched desert, that we start lifting our hands to heaven for help. We have no other choice but to rely on Christ because without him, we would die. However, we cannot be afraid to ask Him (regarding the big and little struggles of life) and tell him our concerns. He is always willing and ready to answer our prayers.

While I have felt sleep deprived again this week and have a sore throat and a cold (along with the rest of my family), I’ve been able to better lean on the truth that He really is with me. He is for me and understands what it’s like to be physically exhausted and what it’s like to struggle.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. – Psalm 55:22

My legs hit the floor again at 4:00 AM this morning so I could care for my son who has a bad cough. While I reached over to give him water and tylenol, I trusted in the fact that a day is coming where I will have rest and that God is using my struggles and the gift of raising my children to teach me a greater dependence upon Him.

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